NR Greer, a political columnist with the Newsletter was kind enough to omit Slugger’s comment zone from a list of places where is there is still a commonplace perception that there are two sides to the Northern Ireland argument and one is blameless and the other to blame for it all…
FOR decades a key publicity plank of Irish nationalism has been to act the “Mope” (Most oppressed people ever). It has been a successful tactic as the story has been swallowed internationally by a broad swathe of the politically correct liberal left. The Mope myth is reason that smug agitprop comedians feel entitled to make the kind of offensive remarks about Ulster unionists, that had they been made about any other ethnic grouping would have caused uproar.
It is why documentary makers visiting Northern Ireland seem capable of only seeing one side of the story, thus rendering their output little better than propaganda. Believing that all unionists are subhuman violent bigots, the human rights industry frets about the welfare of republican terrorists while turning a blind eye to the thousands that they killed or maimed and dippy Californian girls weep into their organic skinny lattes at the fate of the little Irish babies that the British Army continue to this day to throw under tank tracks. And so it goes on.
At the same time, Henry Kelly (who was Northern editor of the Irish TImes in the early 70s) picks up on Dawn Purvis’s criticism of mainstream unionism’s blind eye to the causes of the troubles and in particular to the parlous quality of living for it’s own Protestant working class:
They (mainstream unionists) deny discrimination existed. They deny that all working-class people but mostly Catholics endured in slums, squalor, poverty and unemployment in order to preserve the power of the political elite . . . You continue to deny working-class children, Protestants, the right to a decent education by holding on and wanting to hold on to academic selection . . . I have to say to you, you are living in denial and have to start looking at what caused the conflict here…
It’s a text book example of what Senator Eoghan Harris calls good authority (ie telling the truth to your own side). But Kelly goes on to ask a question too rarely raised within nationalism (in public at least):
…was the situation in Northern Ireland before 1968 so oppressive for the Catholic minority that they had no choice but to follow the road embarked upon by the civil rights movement later hijacked by the IRA? And was the Protestant working class all that much better-off, with their mothers polishing their doorsteps in case the Queen Mother would pass down their street while their children were going to school in mutton dummies Belfast home-made paper shoes?
Unless, however, we ask ourselves some serious questions about why what happened actually happened and whether we might not have been better led by our politicians, we might just might make the same mistakes again. Dawn Purvis has started a debate. It is to be hoped, though I wont hold my breath, that others might join that discussion. Is there, for example, a Catholic politician who might hold their hand up and suggest that mea culpa might be a couple of words that could wipe a slate clean?
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