“Catholic sectarianism does not need to be confronted because it does not exist”

Interesting reworking of a recent Irish Times column by Fintan O’Toole. This time it goes just a bit deeper and cuts into some very dark territory largely hidden by powerful political grand narratives that sheltered many Catholics from the gruesome reality of things that were done in the name of their defence. Accordingly, he argues, Northern Ireland’s Catholics had never had to confront their own sectarian hard wiring, until Darren Graham “had the temerity to punch through the tribal stereotype by playing Gaelic football and not defining himself simply as a Protestant. It took the hate that dares not speak its name to make him one now”.Still, he notes, many cannot understand why Nationalist/Republican violence should in the least compare with the blatantly sectarian campaigns of Loyalist paramilitaries:

Protestants have been told, rightly, that their religious and political attitudes contributed to the twisted mentalities of the Loyalist killers who murdered Catholics throughout the Troubles. Because those killings were categorised as sectarian, no one could argue with any seriousness that they were not, in some sense, manifestations of a wider bigotry that was itself the product of political, cultural and historical forces.

But Catholics have been insulated from the need to confront the same truths by the notion that the UDR men killed by the IRA were only incidentally Protestant. Catholic sectarianism does not need to be confronted because it does not exist. Thus, while Sinn Féin demands – often justly – public inquiries and accountability for the murders of Catholics by Loyalists or the forces of the state, it does not understand why such accountability might apply to itself.


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