Getting beyond Belfast’s politics of ‘the biggest bastards always win’…

However you mark it as racism, sectarianism or anti social behaviour, the running out of over 100 Roma from an area just outside The Village area of Belfast has to be one of the largest single mass migrations within Belfast since the early days of the Troubles. But like the Northern Bank robbery, it is the scale not the fact of what actually happened that’s remarkable. As the Daily Mail notes, it’s certainly not racist or even sectarian (via Mike Power) when it has happened to white, presumably UK citizens, who grew up in The Village (and the same applies in dozens of other working class areas, nationalist as well as unionist)…

In The Village, people are taking the law into their own hands. There are countless derelict, boarded-up homes after people have been ‘put out’ – slang for driven from the area. But it’s not just immigrants: many white Northern Irish families have been sent packing as well; anyone, in fact, caught indulging in ‘ antisocial behaviour’ – from having late-night parties to stealing or dealing in drugs.

Back at the Loyalist ‘den’ on wasteland, the youths say they are simply doing what their communities have done for years: policing and punishing the criminals among them. ‘Putting them out of their homes’ can even involve petrol bombs being thrown through the windows.

‘We see them [Roma] sneaking about, looking in our dad’s car windows and eyeing up our bikes,’ said one of the youths, none of whom would give their names. ‘There were fights with some of them a few weeks back. ‘We just can’t be having them doing these sorts of things. We need to stand up and be counted.’

This has become the Belfast way of dealing with ‘people we don’t like’… And it has continued unabated for several generations. The Police response (up until now) has been that it is too politically dangerous to confront the perpetrators. They dutifully do what they have to to get the victims out, sending a clear message to the paramilitaries that this arrangement somehow has the blessing of Northern Ireland’s wider society.

Yet none of us has ever been asked whether we offer that blessing or not. As Newton Emerson notes, our political classes tend to flee at first sight of any substantive policy issue that offers no overtly sectarian or tribal angle.

The Alliance Party’s European candidate Ian Parsley on his own blog notes:

The fact is that too many communities in Northern Ireland are totally ignored – by the media, by our political leaders, by our “influential” classes – until they do something which impacts upon those who do not have to live in them. It is no surprise, therefore, that sectarianism and racism continue to be so poisonous – and it is those shouting loudest about them who need to remember they have the toughest choices to make to stop the contamination. [Emphasis added]

That this story broke just as the Loyalist paramilitaries appear to be disarming serves to emphasise the truth that it is not the presence of guns that is the greatest scourge of such communities, but the idea (a toxic residue of compromises once deemed crucial to the safe working of the Peace Process) that they continue to usurp the role of Northern Ireland’s criminal justice system and policing service with utter impunity.

For now there is no sign that the political powers nor those wider “influential classes” are even prepared to acknowledge that problem, never mind begin to deal with it.

Esther Rantzen’s may just have been ranting on Thursday night when she said of the people Northern Ireland, “it’s as if they don’t know who they are unless they know who they hate…” but until Belfast politics gets beyond “the biggest bastards always win” schtick, and begin to offer some form of civic politics rather than this muted version of the tribal para-politics of old, don’t expect the people of The Village or dozens of other ‘single identity’ communities across Northern Ireland to do anything but continue to put their own needs (real and perceived) first and everyone else’s afterwards.

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  • Ulsters my homeland

    Its the scale which is the problem? Lets find out what that scale is?

    How many homes were attacked?, how many immigrants left their homes due to attacks? how many residents were aware of Richies 6’oclock dealine for free housing the following day?

    how much were the roma people paying for their current accomodation? were they given one house per family?

    ……then we’ll start getting to the real scale of the problem

  • BBC reporting that a derisory 200 people turned out at City Hall this afternoon to protest against the “racist” attacks.

    Oh well, at least the Gypsies will be happy with their free accommodation, tea, sympathy and steady income derived from now discernible form of employment other than vagrancy, accordion playing and Big Issue selling – not to mention the chill out time to mull of the offer of staying here, in seeming contempt of immigration law.

    I’d love to see a protest march again all leaches on society, natives or otherwise.

  • *no discernible form…

  • Sneakers O’Toole

    The comments in the thread are a disgrace.

    Whatever some of the people in these Roma families got up to, driving children from their homes in the middle of the night is barbaric; these children will be scarred for life.

    There’s better ways to deal with anti social behaviour than engaging in child abuse.

  • Mick Fealty

    Troll of all shades, pack it in!! Read the links, and comment liberally if you will. But keep your own personal animus’s under control, please?

  • I went to that Daily Mail piece expecting the usual anti-immigration guff, the headline made me wary, but in fact it is a surprisingly balanced piece.

    You have highlighed a real problem, not adequately covered in the Mail article, when you wrote: They dutifully do what they have to to get the victims out, sending a clear message to the paramilitaries that this arrangement somehow has the blessing of Northern Ireland’s wider society.

  • cynic

    “one of the largest single mass migrations within Belfast since the early days of the Troubles”

    Sorry but no. It amounts to 5 families. There have been many bigger movements eg Loyalists in Shankill, Loyalists in Ballysillan, Torrens, etc.

    Still dreadful but lets keep it in perspective too

  • Troll alert

    Where did the native familes who once lived in the Village, University areas go before this wave of immigrants recently arrived?

  • Dave

    The Daily Mail article gets to the gist of the issues. And unlike other commentators, actually bothered to ask local people what the problem is:

    [i]Ian Magill, 45, runs the only shop in The Village, which was once a stronghold for Loyalist terrorists. He is a calm, intelligent man, whose greatest wish is that his three sons do not get into trouble with the law.

    Dominic, his youngest son, was adopted from Croatia, so Mr Magill can hardly be described as someone with a hatred of foreigners.

    But he is under no illusions about why people from his area were involved in the violence.

    ‘People feel like they are under siege because of all the immigrants coming in,’ he said. ‘It’s getting to the stage where people just don’t care any more.

    ‘You get branded a racist if you speak out about the issue of immigration. But I think I’m being a realist, not a racist, when I say that this is something we must address.

    ‘Most of the Polish immigrants work — but these people [Romas] don’t,’ he added.

    ‘They are pretty uneducated and they seem to think that the only way they can survive is to bend the rules.

    ‘But when you are doing this, and carrying out crimes against local people, it becomes a problem. They shouldn’t be here.’

    Not all Mr Magill’s fellow citizens are as considered as he is. At a nearby off-licence, a young, welldressed man of about 30 erupts in anger.

    He says all these ‘foreigners should be burned out of their f****** homes. All we hear about are their problems. For once, why don’t you write about the problems these people cause to us locals’.

    He is referring to a wave of petty crime that has swept Belfast over the past two years — the period in which the Roma have arrived.

    The crimes, confirmed by police, range from ‘mobbing’ elderly ladies at cashpoint machines, distracting them while they steal cash, to using razor blades to slice the straps of handbags and disappear with possessions before anyone knows.

    Roma have also been linked with prostitution and people trafficking. But it is the petty crimes that are causing such fury.

    Countless people I spoke to in The Village reported clothes being stolen from their washing lines — one man claimed to have seen a Roma wearing his distinctive jeans, which had disappeared while hanging out to dry, only for the thief to laugh in his face — and children’s bikes being taken from back yards.[/i]

    It goes on to note:

    [i]The British government, of course, insisted that only 20,000 people would come from Europe. In reality, a staggering 600,000 poured into the United Kingdom, putting a huge strain on health services, housing and jobs.

    But it was the admission of Romania to the EU in 2007 that caused the gravest problems.

    Interpol has since warned that organised criminals among the Romanian immigrants are stealing from indigenous populations on the orders of gangsters back home.

    British police said last year that they were struggling to cope with a staggering 800 per cent increase in crimes, such as pickpocketing.[/i]

    The problem then is uncontrolled immigration under EU law. While the UK still have control via a quota system until 2011 (after which date it will not have any controll over immigration from the EU), it’s own quota system can be circumvented by foreign nationals from the countries under quota declaring themselves to be self-employed. Apparantly, selling the Big Issue means that you are self-employed and can then enter the UK.

    Because immigration policy between EU states is no longer a mater for UK democracy to decide (since it has surrendered the applicable sovereignty to the EU), democratic debate about uncontrolled immigration is rendered impotent. People may still have such debate but even if they decide that the policy is wrong and must be changed, they now have no means of changing it. Therefore these matters are placed beyond the realm of UK democracy. In that instance, how do people seek the changes to the policy that they want when they have no democratic means of doing us? Well, they reclaim their sovereignty as local groups and they use the only means that is now available to them: violence.

    And because democracy and a legal means of seeking change no longer applies, debate about uncontrolled immigration must be censored by the expedient of branding all who question the EU’s agenda as racists. That’s the reality of it. Good luck with that, but when you deprive people of a democratc means of seeking change, you leave them with only one option. Simply saying “this is EU law and it is beyond your mandate to question it so suck it up” won’t get you anywhere.

  • joeCanuck

    ..it’s certainly not racist or even sectarian..

    A durian by any other name would stink as much.

  • ranter rantzen rants

  • LURIG

    Right wing xenophobic racist pro-Loyalist Daily Mail defends right wing xenophobic racist Loyalists. Well what do you know?????

  • the joxer

    Aparently Tony Roma’s on University Road will be picketed tonight-Romas Go Home!!

  • Driftwood

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/racists-may-plague-tory-europe-group-1710729.html

    Labour will seize on the Tories’ new friends in an attempt to undermine Mr Cameron’s credentials as a moderniser. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday: “The British public should be warned: the Tory European group may contain nuts.”

    Unsure where to place this post, but Europe is becoming a lot closer and I think the Conservatives (including Jim Nicholson) should be a bit wary of where they are going here.

  • SM

    Driftwood

    They do need to be careful but bear in mind that the Italian Fascist Party was due to join the EPP after the elections – yep the successor to Mussolini’s party.

    The problem with EU parliament is that all the groupings have nutters in them – Dan Hannan blogged on some of the crazies in Labour’s grouping – PES – a few months back.

  • lola

    “The problem then is uncontrolled immigration under EU law.”

    Awful rain yesterday, eh Dave? Bloody EU’s fault.

    Immigration rules into the UK for the newly admitted states (Poland, Lithuania, Romania, etc.) are a matter for the UK government. Not the EU.

  • Jimmy

    I agree with ‘Were not Brazil were Northern Ireland’post 2 he tells it like it is and how some are blinded by the dogma of the PC industry. we are rewarding criminals with free housing while other people are stuck on waiting lists for years, does race merit special dispensation?

    The protesters today at City hall are a bunch of self obsessed liberal leftist hypocrites. There has been several sectarian murders over the last few years and no protests, are we so sanitised to sectarianism that they prefer to support a self imposed, unwanted European underclass because it falls somewhere within their warped political correct logic? they came here easily enough they can return easily enough, are we just Transnational social workers?
    Will they support mass immigration when they move into ‘their’ street or go the way of England where ghettos of multinational identities have emerged with no affiliation to their adopted country?.The liberal PC class are the people who are sleepwalking us into a social disaster nightmare.
    If they and others had have had the same attitude toward sectarianism as they do toward racism perhaps we would be living in a better society today.

  • Eurocrat

    The problem here inherently lies at the feet of those people who have effectively taken part in a quasi-legitimate form of human trafficking. The common misconception by people is that people from Romania and Bulgaria, being EU states, are fully entitled to work here. This simply is not the case. Only people who are brought in to work in a certain type of sector (such as farming) are allowed to work here. There are criteria. Many of the Roma community have been brought in via a loophole in that those Romanians who are designated as self-employed can work here freely.

    I know for a fact that the Romanians who sell the Big Issue are designated as self-employed and sell their labour to a contractor (who is also from Romania but has been living here now for a while) who sets them up with jobs, homes, etc. This person is the centre piece. He is the problem, as he ensures that those he brings into the country have total reliance upon him. This keeps the Romas locking into a cycle of poverty and dependence. They can not, as people often state, “get jobs” or benefits because they are not entitled to them in the same way as other EU citizens would be and this goes back to the terms of the agreement that was made between the UK and Romanian governments before Romania entered the EU. Th UK did not to be flooded by Romanians and set stict criteria for those who enter the UK from there, that how the loophole of registering those that enter as “self-employed” has come to be exploited. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5381990.stm

    It really annoys me when I hear people imply that these Roma people don’t work because they don’t want to; when the fact is they can not work here in the same way someone from France could. I feel terribly sorry for the Romas because they are been exploited by a gangmaster who has brought them here to line his own pockets.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The protesters today at City hall are a bunch of self obsessed liberal leftist hypocrites. There has been several sectarian murders over the last few years and no protests,

    That’s weird. I seem to recall attending several of them.

  • MEDIA COVER-UP

    Recently there were a number of vox-pops with locals in South Belfast. One young girl was on for ten seconds saying she opposed the attacks.

    In fact, she was interviewed for several minutes, during which she related how she had been mugged by one of the Romas and police had taken no action. Strange that such a pertinent testimony was not broadcast.

    This girl is by no means “racist”. If any genuine journalist wants to follow this up, details can be supplied. I won’t hold my breath.

    Meanwhile, a BBC presenter on a six-figure income at licence-payer expense is building a house where he will never have to see an immigrant, unless it’s the cleaner.

  • Eurocrat

    The Hawk> that is such a cop-out. There is no media agenda here. Media coverage has been very balanced.

    I can recall seeing several tv interviews were members of the community said that the Romas have no right to be here and should go home.

    Those people who were on TV who said the Romas should go back are fickle and ignorant. They remind me of the south park episode were people from the future came to south park in search of jobs….prompting the people of south park to shriek “they terk er jobs”. If you haven’t seen it, the parallels are worrying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFG2P-toC6k

  • The Rage

    [Play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Eurocrat

    Well you won that argument “The Rage”

  • The Rage

    How about you play the ball Baker? It’s very convenient that you suddenly decide to close down commenting on a thread about the Irish language isn’t it?

    You’re nothing but a Catholic hating arsehole

  • alan56

    the rage

    Bit extreme comment. ‘catholic hating arsehole’ doesn’t reflect good debate?

  • Eurocrat

    You have just made my point for me. It is one thing to show people as “ignorant” or “prejudiced”, but here was a case of personal testimony to a cowardly crime, which was ignored by BBC luvvies.

    My favourite phone call to Talkback was from a local man married to a Romanian. His wife was furious that these people were being described as Romanians. He was swiftly taken off the air.

  • Eurocrat

    The Rage> maybe you should try to articulate some valid arguments and your post wouldn’t have been deleted. To get personal only represents an admission that you have lost the argument. It’s not enough to say “they terk er jobs”. Maybe you should read my earlier post for some enlightenment- due to an agreement between the Romanian and UK government the Roma community cannot work here FREELY or be on the dole. So no they didn’t take your job or come here to be on the dole, because they are not entitled to do that.

    The Romas are clearly being exploited in a form of human trafficking and you my friend are on the wrong side of the argument.

  • Eurocrat

    If this people are victims of human trafficking, then shouldn’t they be repatriated as soon as possible?

    That would put an end to the suspicion that they have exaggerated these attacks to get themselves free housing and handouts.

    The trotskyite rabble of protesters would, of course, have to find something else to exploit for recruiting purposes.

  • The Rage

    Eurocrat you must be hallucinating or else deliberately skewing the argument to you own advantage – not once throughout my vitriol did I accuse Gypos of ‘taking our jobs’ or claiming benefits Nor did I accuse any ethnic group of doing so, we all know Poles etc do jobs that some lazy tracksuit wearing shites won’t. My point is much clearer: Gypos steal, beg and harass. End of.

  • The Hawk> who is to say it was not a romanian who mugged the person, and it is they who are doing the labelling?? Can you tell the different between a Roma and someone from Romania who is not from the Roma community? I’m sure it would be difficult.

    Also in regards to being “repatriated” where to? Romania? If that’s what you think then it contradicts what you have previously said regarding a Romanian womens views to these people. The Roma community are ostacised by many Romanians and the vast majority of Roma would not want to go there. The Roma community need to be allowed to live free from persecution, here, and elsewhere.

    The people in question are of the Roma ethnic group, and that does not necessarily mean they are “romanian”. The Roma hail from Romania where even there they have been persecuted for centuries, all the way back to Vlad the impaler. It’s because of persecution and attacks like this that the Roma are a nomadic group. It’s time that these people were allowed to live in peace.

  • Daphné Tremblz

    [i]Can you tell the different between a Roma and someone from Romania who is not from the Roma community? I’m sure it would be difficult.[/i]

    What planet are you living on? Romas are entirely distinctive and easy to identify, certainly when compared to an ethnic Romanian/Bulgarian etc.

    [i]The Roma community need to be allowed to live free from persecution, here, and elsewhere.[/i]

    What came first, the chicken or the egg? As Romania is now in the EU then it is a job for the latter to ensure that that country’s human rights standards are up to scratch – it is certainly not our job to take their rejects.

    [i]It’s because of persecution and attacks like this that the Roma are a nomadic group. [/i]

    Again, what came first: the chicken or the egg? Maybe if they didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for vagrancy and thieving they wouldn’t be so “persecuted”.

  • Eurocrat

    Daphne Tremblz> you must have the same gift as Nick Griffin of being able to determine the race of a person just by looking at them.

  • Reader

    Eurocrat: The Roma community are ostacised by many Romanians and the vast majority of Roma would not want to go there.
    You have already told us the basis on which Romanians (including the Roma) are admitted to the UK. It wasn’t that they were asylum seekers.
    Does any EU country accept asylum seekers from another EU country?

  • Eurocrat.

    Despite your name, you have clearly done little or no travelling in central/eastern Europe or you would not be making these comments.

  • Daphné Tremblz

    [i]you must have the same gift as Nick Griffin of being able to determine the race of a person just by looking at them. [/i]

    Aww Jesus – it took you less than half a dozen posts before you broke out the ‘Nazi’ brush to paint me with. Well done, seriously well done. That little smear must have taken all your energy and mental strength to come up with.

    Take your head out of your arse. To deny that Romas have distinctive physical characteristics is utter bullshit. It is an even more ludicrous assertion to make when it is made in the context of comparing Romas and ethnic Romanians, as you contend.

  • solstice

    [No sock puppets – edited moderator]

  • Al Pacino

    Eurocrat seems intent on Godwins law.

    NI (and mainland UK) now seems to be the recipient of every lowlife in Europe. This is what happened to Miami in the 70’s (think Scarface)when Castro decided to export his criminal underclass to the USA.

  • Harry Flashman

    “The Roma community need to be allowed to live free from persecution, here, and elsewhere.”

    There you have the conflating of the two very separate issues at the core of this debate. By subtly eliding them you can then brand your opponent as some sort of knuckle-dragging fascist. Thus ending the debate and allowing you rest back on your smug, liberal superior morality.

    Therefore allow me to parse and analyse the sentence;

    “The Roma community need to be allowed to live free from persecution”

    Absolutely spot on, completely correct, I am entirely in agreement with you, couldn’t have put it better myself.

    But then;

    here, and elsewhere.”

    Ah now, here we’ve a wee bit of a problem, whatever about the elsewhere, precisely why should the Roma be allowed to live in Northern Ireland? Should anyone be allowed to live in Northern Ireland? Is there no limit to who should be allowed in? Should there be no social, educational or financial requirements of immigrants to Northern Ireland before they are allowed in?

    Is your essential immigration policy one of a complete open door to anyone, anywhere in the world coming to live in Northern Ireland and that those who do come should simply enjoy automatically all the rights and benefits of life in Northern Ireland without limit?

    If your answer is “yes” I think you’re a fool, a naive fool, but a fool nonetheless.

    If your answer is “no” and that a sensible immigration policy should be adopted then I think you will find you are in agreement with all the people whom you so lightly dismiss as potential Nazis and Fascists.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    “Sorry but no. It amounts to 5 families. There have been many bigger movements eg Loyalists in Shankill, Loyalists in Ballysillan, Torrens, etc.”

    And what about Nationalists too Cynic?

    ….or are you fearful of admitting that it happened to Irish Nationalists?

    See this is the whole problem of NI. No one accepts responsibility.

    No one accepts the crimes that their community has committed crimes on the other.

    This Roma debacle has hilighted such attitudes of folk.

    Folk in NI will never change if they don’t accept the crimes that their communities have perpetrated on folk. Living in denial seems to be the status quo.

    Are there any folk at all that see reason?

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    “Sorry but no. It amounts to 5 families. There have been many bigger movements eg Loyalists in Shankill, Loyalists in Ballysillan, Torrens, etc.”

    And what about Nationalists too Cynic?

    ….or are you fearful of admitting that it happened to Irish Nationalists?

    See this is the whole problem of NI. No one accepts responsibility.

    No one accepts that their community has committed crimes on the other.

    This Roma debacle has hilighted such attitudes of folk.

    Folk in NI will never change if they don’t accept the crimes that their communities have perpetrated on folk. Living in denial seems to be the status quo.

    Are there any folk at all that see reason?

  • The Truth

    The goings-on in South Belfast have again shown what unionism is, a filthy blotch on Ireland.

  • soandso

    Eurocrat, fully agree with you about the Roma deserving freedom to live here. With the amount of people living in or even just who bought second homes in Spain and Portugal because of the EU laws we should accept that people from other EU countries will move here. And if you don’t like it go move to the even more xenophobic republic.

    Gragoir O Fraincln, fully agree with you too! No one is willing to sya “yeah we made mistakes” no one is willing to work for the future and no one is willing to deal with the past. Everyone is happy to live in it but no one actually admits to the wrongdoings they did nor do they move on from the wrongdoings that were done to them.

    Esther Rantzen I feel hit the nail on the head. Northern Ireland is the most bigtted place to live in, if it’s not whether or not you are Catholic or Protestant it’s you’re sexualityy or if you have a different skin colour.

    And to all those who say we should send the immigrants back home, should all the Protsetants (not counting Presbyterians) be sent bck to England and Scotland?

  • RepublicanStones

    The Truth….i think the more mature posters should postscript your handle with ‘….a pinch of salt’.

    For you to tar the entire unionist community with the actions of a few idiots puts you in the same demented wheelbarrow as those idiots. BTW thats a wheelbarrow with a flat wheel….going nowhere !

  • soandso

    This is the same South Belfast that is the only European country to have a Chinese born MLA. Unless you count that as filthy blotch on Ireland in which case I don’t think you’d be condemning the attacks…

  • Attacking gypsies is the most popular thing the Loyalists have done in years. Even Fianna Fail are probably applauding in secret.

  • Different Drummer

    Flashers Ulsterish Miscellany

    Must congratulate you on that ‘barristers’ tea time blab on immigration It was a classic Ulsterish combination of Aristotle and Enoch Powell – who himself became and Ulster immigrant albeit from Wolverhamton…..

  • Eurocrat
  • George

    Lola,
    Immigration rules into the UK for the newly admitted states (Poland, Lithuania, Romania, etc.) are a matter for the UK government. Not the EU.

    Only until 2011 as Dave correctly points out. Not that far away you know. After that it will be the EC Treaty that decides the movement of all EU citizens within the EU, regardless of whether they come from Poland or France.

    I should also be added that the activist ECJ has already made clear that EU citizenship, and not national citizenship, is destined to become the primary citizenship.