Northern Ireland’s veneration of past violence

This is the only snippet I could find of Monday night’s programme on UTV. It contains some points worth repeating. Note especially Glenn Patterson’s piece on the contradiction he contends is at the heart of the new dispensation:

This is a place where there was brutal violence used regularly and celebrated: quite a lot of it used against very, very young people right across Belfast and Northern Ireland. I think we do have to look at the problems of policing, but also at our own attitudes violence and our attitudes towards those who have been involved in the violence of the past. If you go to the part of Belfast where I live and you look at the war memorials that have sprouted up all over the place in the last couple of years, and then you look at the names on them, and think about some the deeds they were responsible for, you have to say we have a kind of ambivalence towards violence.

There is a line somewhere in Jung’s vast cannon of theoretical work in which he describes a psychological complex as a secret whose owner has forborne it’s telling for so long that it becomes a secret from himself. Everything that person does becomes driven by that secret. It begins to dwarf the individual’s wants and needs and drives them in ways that they can neither articulate nor understand. The only remedy, according to Jung, is a sharing of the secret. The problem is that by the time it becomes a full blown complex, the victim is often unaware of his/her own drives.

In the last six months three men have been brutally beaten to death by gangs in West Belfast. Patterson’s points to Northern Ireland’s very own dirty little complex, and its outworking is nonetheless shocking, for the progression towards parliamentary democracy on the hill. Peace, as we have tasted it, is undoubtedly richer than war. But some of those now charged with leadership in NI’s divided (and mostly working class) communities are faced with a culture they helped set up and brutally re-enforced for thirty/forty years.

Talking about, however intemperately, has to be more useful than closing all criticism down at all costs.

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  • Another way in which this damaging glorification can flourish is when we confuse perpetrators of violence who have died because of it with genuine victims.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “Northern Ireland’s [b]veneration[/b] of past violence”

    Can I ask Slugger O’Toole Admin what his definition of veneration is? is it honour or worship?

  • jacm

    I digress, but what did anyone think of the programme. Not exactly Newsnight? Was never a great fan of Mike Nesbett but UTV really need a heavy hitter to make a programme like this work.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    This all boils down to one’s definition of a war and whether it is deemed to be just – as mentioned here previously by many posters including myself, there was arguably more justification for the ‘war’ the Provos fought than the the current one being fought by the British in Iraq. There won’t be too many complaints when the returning British army goes marching up and down in London and awarding themselves medals.

  • Shore Road Resident

    So Sammy, your basic point here is that two wrongs make a right, along with a hint of “what about themmuns”. Thanks for the insight.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘perpetrators of violence’……so the british army won’t be bracketed in the victims list. I see.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Shore Road Resident

    if the Englezes can celebrate those that fought in their wars then same should go for the Padz – simple as that

  • Shore Road Resident

    So you do think two wrongs make a right. Thanks for clearly that up.

  • ulsterfan

    Wars can only be fought between nations/countries and fought within well defined rules and protocols.
    War must also be declared by a “competent “party and Ira fail to satisfy any right to call itself at war with anyone .
    They are and will always be a criminal gang which has some support but lacks legitimacy.
    The IRA is still an illegal organisation in Ireland.

  • percy

    both loyalism and republicanism are predicated on violence, certainly in the last 30 years; and its a measure of how difficult it is that the usual suspects on here seek to blame the other side for it; without once, of course looking within.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    SRR, Ulsterfan

    I know it goes against the grain for Unionists but just sometimes you should take your lead from HMG – they let the Provos out of jail, put them into governement, reformed the police etc etc thus effectively legitimising their campaign. It’s time for you guys to take the hit on this one and move on.

  • patrick o’donnell

    Felt totally took on on monday night as the UTV agenda was completely changed at the last moment, felt sorry for the Holland and Mc Greevy families having to watch the hood trying to make fun out of car crime during the intervil, Once bit twice shy!

  • dewi

    “Wars can only be fought between nations/countries and fought within well defined rules and protocols.”

    On an extremely philosophical point – that’s total bullshit – most of the wars in history have avoided “well defined rules and protocols.”

  • majordolittle

    There was no “military war” here. There were ‘Roman Catholic’ death squads (PIRA) killing Protestants and ‘Protestant’ death squads (UFF) killing Roman Catholics. The Police and British Army were caught in the middle trying to stop “civil war”. And they were successful, albeit at a heavy price.

    They, and only they, deserve our thanks and gratitude. End of…
    …hopefully this thread

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    majordolittle

    you forgot a few things – you could also have claimed that the B Specials and RUC were a beacon of impartiality, Non Iron was a totally non sectarian state and those shot dead on Bloody Sunday were clearly on their way to kill Protestants.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Umh,

    It was me (Mick, that is). Given it was a reference to ‘war memorials’ I guess honour would suffice.

    I see the ‘blame wars’ are in full flow. But, for me, the nub of the issue is leadership in context of troubled communities, rather than a wider troubled society.

    Much of the ‘troubles’ currently affecting working class communities are, if not unknown in middle class areas, then certainly not happening at the pitch they were before.

    The point Glenn made on Monday was that the commonality across the board lies in the lionisation of this kind of violence when harnessed to a political cause.

    No amount of good police work can compensate for that. Some openness and honesty might be a start.

  • majordolittle

    Sammy
    I have stated before, The Paras should not have been in Londonderry that day. They are trained to be dropped in to war zones and kill as many of the enemy as possible before being killed themselves. that is their remit. The people who sent them were guilty of criminal neglicence. As far as i have been told, the B Specials were slightly unfair towards the nationalist community, but that was the height of their ‘crimes’. The RUC were scrupulously fair, and i know some retired high ranking Roman catholic officers who will attest to this.
    Northern Ireland is simply a UK province and sectarianism was/is promoted by a minority of its subjects. Hopefully this balanced post will let us move on .

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    majordolittle,

    I would not go as far as to call your last post balanced but as it a major improvement on your previous offering and I’m fecking knackered I will wish you a good night.

  • The Turning Away

    Looking back on the bombings, shootings, beatings, house raids, riots etc etc which I seen and experienced first hand and how paramilitaries used kids to help them in their dirty murders it gives me some understanding of all the drug abuse/alcoholism which I and many around me are suffering/recovering from today, We didn’t chose that life our peers made us endure it, yet the paramilitaries believe they are the victims.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    When do things move from commemoration to lionisation? Most of the things Glen could be referring to are not lauding the acts but remembering the fallen. If commemorating fallen combatants amounts to lionisation of violence, then its a massive issue on a worldwide scale and way beyond any discussion on the reasons for our local criminality.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    That’s a good question. Niall Ferguson had a good piece in the FT last November (blogged here on Slugger) that touches on the negatives around commemoration. I don’t have a clear answer to that. But here’s a key point from the quote above:

    “…you look at the names on them, and think about some the deeds they were responsible for, you have to say we have a kind of ambivalence towards violence.”

    I guess a fuller, more contemplative means of remembering, is by reading Lost Lives (from cover to cover), which commemorates all the victims rather than the ‘actors’.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Damn. I seem to spend most of my time in ‘admin’, fixing things rather than blogging things!

    Mick

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    There is a big difference between the ‘lionisation’ I queried and the ambivilance that Glen seems to have mentioned. Of course those commemorating fallen protaganists may often have an ambivilance, current or previous, about the use of violence and the nature of that ambivilance may vary but does that mean they lionise violence as it becomes through your understanding?

    Sorry if that seems overly pedantic but it me there is a massive jump from suggested ambivilance to lionisation.

  • Muad’Dib

    I wonder of Majordolittle also once posted as Peace & Justice, the similarities in posting style and choice of phrase are quite similar.

    On topic the conflict in the country was never a ligitimate war, it didn’t follow the rules and regulations for how a war may be carried out. If it was a war then the shootings in Gilbraltar are justified and the Provies have lost the right to moan about their maryters. At a stretch it could be called a civil war.

  • iain

    “Wars can only be fought between nations/countries and fought within well defined rules and protocols”
    posted by Ulsterfan

    i guess the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya wasn’t a war either, hence it was perfectly legitimate for the army to persecute the general population.

  • “There is a big difference between the ‘lionisation’ I queried and the ambivilance that Glen seems to have mentioned. Of course those commemorating fallen protaganists may often have an ambivilance, current or previous, about the use of violence and the nature of that ambivilance may vary but does that mean they lionise violence as it becomes through your understanding?”

    Commemorating “protaganists” (for which we can safely read terrorists) with imagery which glorifies their deeds or indeed refers to them as ‘martyrs’ is lionisation. Memorials, paintings on gable walls etc. are lionising terrorists on both sides.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think the point can be taken even more narrowly than that. Read it against the nature of the deeds now being dealt out by ‘gangs’ in working class areas, and you see that the cultural pathways to arbitrary and vicious violence have been well trodden. And the men who trod them (if not their acts) are indeed venerated, if not lionised.

  • Steve

    Chekov then what is awarding medals to her majesties terrorists? or the plaques or plates or ribbons?

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    Your argument seems to be drifting a little. We were initially discussing commemorations of those involved in conflict and your claims it lionises violence/leads to criminal violence (not Glen’s claim of ambivalence) – I disagree while I feel it demonstrates an ambivalence to violence in certain circumstances.

    But you’ve now moved this into a more general discussion on if a society that has experienced violent conflict and a break down in respect for ‘state’ law and order breeds a general disrespect and violent attitude from those not involved in the political violence when it declines/ends.

    While I broadly agree with the generality on crime and societies in conflict, I can’t agree with the very specific claim of commemorations as a causative.

    Can you clarify why you see commemorations as so central to this issue?

  • patrick o’donnell

    email me mick if you are still in belfast, i met u monday night, no need to publish

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Where did I imply it was causative? And I’m not sure that I do see them as central either. As I said on the original programme some of this stuff happens in other places. I’d be loath to suggest such acts were a direct result of memorials.

    BTW that Ferguson piece is here http://url.ie/bh6. One line that stands out: “…if everything ends up being the object of formal remembrance, perhaps nothing will actually be remembered.”

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry about that again. paddy, you can email me at mick.fealty -at- gmail.com (change “-at-” to “@”).

  • “Chekov then what is awarding medals to her majesties terrorists? or the plaques or plates or ribbons?”

    I don’t know whom you mean by “her majesties (sic) terrorists”. I’ve never heard of such a group.

  • RepublicanStones

    Steve, don’t you know….nationalists/republicans/catholics killed by her majesties armed forces don’t count in the world of some ‘loyal’ serfs.