Condemnation is not enough

With the Roma persecution, condemnation is essential but not enough. In a clash between our own marginalised and Europe’s most persecuted minorities, there’s no contest. I’m no expert but I’ve talked to Roma and about them in Iasi, Romania where anti-racism is, shall we say, in its infancy and memories of horrific Jewish and Roma massacres in WW2 are underplayed. Roma are not easily assimilable. Some, not all, are travelling people.There are places in Europe where they have much less government support. I felt uneasy watching Jon Snow on his high horse with a PSNI officer a couple of nights ago. Yet Hugh Orde’s defence is plainly inadequate. Stepping down from the TV presenter’s and leader writer’s chairs, it’s more of a complex web of problems to be addressed that an ideological dispute. It’s always easier to describe than prescribe. Even here, language is difficult. Mark is unfairly pilloried for wondering openly if it’s a straightforward story of victimhood. South Belfast is one of few areas where the glaringly unequal live cheek by jowl, and student and immigrant lets abut. Catholics crossed the bog meadows long ago and the Village feels hemmed in. Fionnuala captures it perfectly and wrings her hands (as I would, Wellington Park being my birth place). Newton treats us to his delicious ironies and puts it down to imitating the BNP. Eamonn offers his partly convincing “Catholics up, Protestants down” identity analysis to the ignorant English but as usual fails to describe the socialist remedy that would solve it all. But for me, Mick’s thread

is the discussion that matters.
(It’s) a well oiled reflex, backed by mechanisms administered by the Housing Executive for parcelling victims of paramilitary violence, quickly and seamless out of areas dominated by one particular organisation and (often) into other estates controlled by their paramilitary rivals… It’s a short term tactic that has the positive short term outcome of getting the victim out of harm’s way, but it’s also a tacit admission that the functions of a democratic state are failing whole communities on the ground.
Even if these attacks are not paramilitary- directed, they are in the mindset. Meanwhile the Irish Times as usual in its leaders, looks on the bright side. Are they right? Is this having much of an effect?

Even as more than 100 Romanians were receiving police protection, 20,000 families in 11 communities across Northern Ireland joined in a “shared neighbourhood programme” designed to break down traditional barriers between unionists and nationalists. The scheme is funded by the International Fund and managed by the housing executive and it encourages communities to build shared neighbourhoods where everyone is accepted and respected. It offers hope to those courageous individuals who want to build a lasting peace and stable society where there was once division


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London