When sectarianism mutates into open racism…

The rout of 20 Romanian families out of their homes in south Belfast have brought Northern Ireland back to the screens of the UK and the Republic. It seems like they are destined to get out of Northern Ireland completely. It’s nothing short of a collapse in the health of any community that these kinds of attacks. The involvement of gun indicates an acquiesce of paramilitaries in an area in which it is almost impossible to move (or even talk to the press) without their say so. According to Alan, it’s a shameful episode for the city, but the one bright spot was the lightening response of the local church:

There was no need for a church community consultation. No need for a lengthy risk assessment to evaluate the chances of damage to the fabric of the building or indeed future reprisals. No need for a meeting of office bearers to vote on whether this fitted with the church’s mission and vision statements. No need to check the hall booking spreadsheet to see if it was really free or whether the flower arranging group already had first dibs. No. Someone simply said yes … and then went about making it happen.

As Conall argues that kind of generous and genuinely civic response is severely limited by a micro culture of tight control by local paramilitaries

The racists are not the many. They never have been and the never will be. But here in the North of Ireland we all too often surrender power to the few. Through the troubles entire communities lived under the boot of the IRA, UDA, INLA or UVF. The voice of the many was rarely heard because of the actions of the few.:

He also makes the point that after two years of rooming in the Castle together, Peter Robinson Martin McGuinness have been unable to come up with a coherent community relations strategy, whilst the Executive is compelled to sit on its hands… Leaving the political leadership Northern Ireland mouthing platitudes like ‘this does not represent the vast majority of the people of Belfast’…

If, as some contend, what we blythly call sectarianism is really a form of anti Irish or anti British racism, why is anyone surprised when it transmutates into something more recognisably the real thing?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty