“I do apologise for anyone who misunderstood the way I was using the metaphor…”

Two days after the DUP’s Jonathan Bell’s rapid apology for the Northern Ireland Junior Minsters’ two-handed assault on golf clubs.

…speaking at the Community Relations Week conference, Mr Bell said: “Many communities may not paint their kerb stones or put out flags, but scratch the surface and you find the prejudice and the hate whispered behind closed doors or joked about in golf clubs or over dinner parties.”

However, speaking later on BBC NI ‘s Stormont Today, he said it was “a clumsy use of language”.

“Sorry is what I essentially want to say,” he said.

And one day after the intervention by the NI First and deputy First Ministers

…the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described comments by two Stormont junior ministers about hidden sectarianism to be found in golf clubs as “an unfortunate choice of words”.

First Minister Peter Robinson said he’d been in dozens of golf clubs and never heard any bitter or sectarian comments in them.

The local branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland welcomed an apology from the DUP minister Jonathan Bell for the comments made at a community relations conference.

Earlier Sinn Fein had declined to echo the DUP’s direct retraction, instead stressing that sectarianism exists throughout society here.

As Mark Devenport notes on his BBC blog

The speed with which the junior minister performed his U-turn reflected the embarrassment of the DUP over remarks which picked out golf just weeks ahead of the prestigious Irish Open.

Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson hasn’t followed suit as yet – a party spokesperson told the BBC’s Nolan show that “people shouldn’t lose sight” of what the junior ministers were saying.

But we now have that “second apology in golf comments” from Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson.  Except it’s not really an apology to anyone… [There’s that attitude again! – Ed].

Ms Anderson said: “Without doubt I regret the confusion that was caused by the metaphor.”

She added: “Of course I do regret the confusion it has caused. I do apologise for anyone who misunderstood the way I was using the metaphor.”

Let’s look at that metaphor again

[Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson] “There’s attitudes among middle class society here in the north, in the golf clubs that Jonathan referred to and elsewhere.

“Talked about behind closed doors the unspoken and hidden sectarian comments that we may not hear about, but that are doing absolute fundamental damage to our society.

“We have to find a way of bringing about that attitudinal change among the hidden sectors of our society that we do not get an opportunity to engage with.

“And that may be in the golf clubs or in those spaces were there may not be tension as such but there are attitudes there that are doing damage.”

[Is that why “many people within the middle class vote Sinn Féin?” – Ed]  You might very well think that…

To quote Bacon again. [Again?! – Ed] Again.

Idols of the cave have their origin in the individual nature of each man’s mind and body; and also his education, way of life and chance events. This category is varied and complex, and we shall enumerate the cases in which there is the greatest danger and which do most to spoil the calrity of the understanding.

Men fall in love with particular pieces of knowledge and thoughts: either because they believe themselves to be their authors and inventors; or because they have put a great deal of labour into them, and have got very used to them. If such men betake themselves to philosophy and universal speculation, they distort and corrupt them to suit their prior fancies.”

All of which may, or may not, have something to do with why we’re still waiting on the “Cohesion, Sharing and Integration” strategy.  Rebranded, and “watered down” to the “lowest commmon denominator“, or otherwise.

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  • TwilightoftheProds

    I realise that with the current golfing success its an important part of the local ‘feel good’ factor – or at least marketed as such. So it was impolitic of them.

    But come on. Norn Iron football supporters, GAA clubs and fans, ‘Gers and Bhoys, regularly get maligned on this forum and elsewhere as being ‘carriers’ of sectarianism- what makes golfing representatives so superior and so sensitive at the mildest use of their sport as a metaphor for hidden sectarianism.

    They need to stop being so precious for fear of disappearing up their own eighteenth. One can protest too much.

  • I have to say that I found the comments of Mr Bell and Ms Anderson refreshing.
    In fairness to golfers there are many golf clubs which are egalitarian and refreshingly down market allowing the likes of me thru their doors.
    But there are other golf clubs which are exclusive even within Norn Iron. There may be of course golfers who have sectarian thoughts. But they often appear to be rather bigoted in other ways.
    Are there still clubs which do not allow women as full members?
    Are those clubs members of the Golfing Union of Ireland.
    Does the GUI get any government grants?

  • Shibboleth

    I would have been more interested in hearing admissions of sectarianism within the political parties. I do recall a former Mayor from a party of which I was then a member using the word “Fenian” quietly of all Catholics and looking all embarrassed as (s)he addressed a political meeting in Greater Belfast. This same individual became a mayor again and is still involved in a council. I wonder if the sectarianism has disappeared.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    It’s unfortunate that Jonathan Bell has allowed himself to be bullied into retracting what was a perfectly straightforward and scarcely disputable observation. It’s to Martina Anderson’s credit that she is resisting such bullying.

    Quite obviously, the point made by both junior ministers relats to middle-class sectarianism, with ‘golf clubs’ and ‘dinner parties’ being easily understood by everyone as metaphors for particular social classes. It’s an important observation, made by both junior ministers, that extreme sectarianism thrives in these classes, just a much as in their kerbstone-painting counterparts.

    It’s interesting to see the way the middle classes, and the media (drawn overwhelmingly from their ranks) have reacted, in slapping down the two ministers – not by actually disputing the truth of their remarks, but by resorting to flagrant dishonesty, pretending to believe the remarks were actually about GOLF, and that Mr Bell and Ms Anderson were having a go at the Golfing Union of Ireland.

    Most of the worst bigots I’ve ever met are from relatively privileged and highly-educated backgrounds, and usually take grave (and genuine) offence at the idea that they have a sectarian bone in their bodies. It’d be nice to think that education always lifts people from the mire of prejudice – and often, it does – but it can also have the opposite effect, equipping bigots with the intellectual tools to rationalize their bigotry, and persuade themselves and others that it’s just ‘common sense,’ or whatever.

    This kind of bigotry is far more intractable than the working class variation – where people are more likely to admit to their sectarianism, and know, deep down, that it’s not a good thing.

    To paraphrase the line from the Usual Suspects: the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was in convincing the Northern Irish middle classes that their bigotry doesn’t exist.

  • iluvni

    Cant Sammy Wilson take an axe to this cushy wee quango, then as well as saving a few quid, better used elsewhere, idiots like Bell and Anderson have one less chance to make arses of themselves.

  • The thrust of the comments was fine and acceptable to me. Shouldn’t have singled golf out, however.

    I see where they are coming from but I doubt those to whom they are referring will ever accept what are very accurate observations.

  • tacapall

    That’s one of the luxury’s of being rich, they can tell a lie and prove it but I don’t believe the DUP like Sinn Fein wouldn’t have rubber stamped those speeches before they uttered the words in public.

  • Mick Fealty

    This whole row put me in mind of Mark Langhammer’s memorable phrase about how the middle class left politics in 1969 and went off to play golf.

    I’m pretty sure there’s some sectarianism in golf clubs. Even more sure there’s class divisions and snobbery amongst some.

    I was, briefly, a youth member of Holywood Golf Club, proposed by a Protestant mate’s father and seconded by a local Catholic chemist. Or maybe it was the other way round.

    The whole thing about captaincy and etiquette on the course can be a little intimidating, but Holywood, even in the 70s, was pretty mixed both in class and religious terms.

    But I think we can allow ourselves some discretion in terms of the degree and the effects of such casual sectarianism. That is if someone, perhaps one of the two junior ministers, can actually find it and demonstrate exactly what they mean by it, and why it matters.

    Certainly degree matters. And, I suspect, in this case, class matters too.

    The middle class didn’t, as a rule perhaps, act upon any sectarian impulse they may have had. Most were too busy bringing up their kids and trying to conduct business in the most trying (and dangerous) of times.

    To this day 90% of public housing is segregated, most mixed communities live in middle class (some of them golf playing) ‘burbs.

    Now sectarianism does exist, and like homophobia it will continue to exist for generations to come. But it is possible to to discriminate between real actions and actual harm and what are merely insulting behaviours.

    On a related note, Peter Tatchell on the Today Programme was pretty trenchant on the reform of Section 5 of the Public Order Act in England:

    What constitutes insults is a very subjective judgement. It’s been used in very different ways.”

    He added: “We may disagree on some those views but I don’t think they should be criminalised in a free and democratic society.

    “We should have the right to speak our minds and I think putting up with insults is one of the prices we pay for that freedom.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18084081

  • Shibboleth

    It’s probably a bit like the Liverpool FC situation. Femway sports were reputedly not enamoured after the Suarez-Evra incident when Dalglish supported Suarez and the shirt sponsor allegedly kicked up.

    OFMDFM quickly spoke out lest the Irish Open and its pursuit of a sponsor would prove impossible as who would want to sponsor a sectarian sport.

  • BIGK

    Its not out of time the golfing set were seen as who they really are.

  • seamus60

    Funny how neither mentioned the issue before now.
    Perhaps they believe they had no right up to now as it was`nt costing the Tax payer,when not sponsoring events. Now that Irish golfing has hit the big times with so many individuals way up there ( who have been at relative ease by all accounts on sharing flags representing both traditions for the world to see). Big business brings big news coverage and they need some way to tap into it.

  • Pete Baker

    “who would want to sponsor a sectarian sport.”

    “Its not out of time the golfing set were seen as who they really are.”

    Hmm…

    As Mick said

    But I think we can allow ourselves some discretion in terms of the degree and the effects of such casual sectarianism. That is if someone, perhaps one of the two junior ministers, can actually find it and demonstrate exactly what they mean by it, and why it matters. [added emphasis]

  • glenda lough

    There may be something in this: a friend of mine was referred to as ‘a Protestant poopy-plop’ in the course of a somewhat tense game of croquet. I hasten to add that I also have Roman Catholic friends.

  • glenda lough

    Sorry I should have continued: who have never been verbally abused in the course of any lawn-based game.

  • Alias

    Glenda, funny post!

  • Harry Flashman

    It’s an important observation, made by both junior ministers, that extreme sectarianism thrives in these classes, just a much as in their kerbstone-painting counterparts.

    This is a common argument and was often evinced by the late David Dunseath, the unfortunate fact is that it simply isn’t true.

    There may well be sectarianism among middle class people, there may well be homophobia, racism and dislike of tinned salmon for all I know but to equate this quiet, rarely discussed and usually politely kept under wraps prejudices with the sort of lowlifes who go out and paint kerbstones and thereby deliberately intimidate their neighbours is simply absurd.

    People’s private opinions are a matter for themselves. It’s fine to be racist or homophobic or sectarian or anything else provided you have the decency and good manners to keep it to yourself and not harm the wellbeing of others, when you fail to do so that’s when the problem starts.

    Trust me in this, the problems of Northern Ireland were not caused by people making off colour remarks over their third G&T at the nineteenth hole.

  • Shibboleth

    With 18 greens and no corresponding balance golf looks a bit one-sided

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree with Billy Pilgrim here, I don’t think J Bell was going after the golf clubs, I think he meant it as a metaphor for the middle and upper classes. People like to think that the middle classes are resisted to the baser urges of religious hate, which is especially ridiculous when you consider that kids who stay in school typically meet very few kids outside of their own religious background while they are at school – and it is the establishment who created and maintain that system.

    Harry,

    This is a common argument and was often evinced by the late David Dunseath, the unfortunate fact is that it simply isn’t true.

    Yes, it is true. You can see it in the election results. Irrespective of class, everyone votes for the same small set of parties with substantially similar views, especially when you consider that electoral turnout tends to be lower in poorer areas.

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: People like to think that the middle classes are resisted to the baser urges of religious hate, which is especially ridiculous when you consider that kids who stay in school typically meet very few kids outside of their own religious background while they are at school – and it is the establishment who created and maintain that system.
    Then they try to send their kids off to university where they will mix with everybody. And the middle classes would sacrifice segregated education long before they would sacrifice academic selection. That’s why the maintained sector is refusing to unilaterally abandon selection, isn’t it?
    But how are the ‘baser urges’ manifested in the middle classes? Is it just that middle class sectarianism is preventing the growth of the core Alliance vote, or is there bad stuff happening after dark in the suburbs?

  • babyface finlayson

    Comrade Stalin
    “Yes, it is true. You can see it in the election results. Irrespective of class, everyone votes for the same small set of parties with substantially similar views, especially when you consider that electoral turnout tends to be lower in poorer areas.”
    Not sure that really proves sectarianism.
    Unionists vote for Unionist parties, Nationalists vote for Nationalist parties.
    Unless you believe Unionism/Nationalism is inherently sectarian?

  • Mick Fealty

    CS,

    That’s as much a class structure as sectarianism, surely? I’m not defending it, but I’ve seen what some base strains of sectarianism can do in society and simply ‘not knowing a Catholic’ is nowhere on the same scale.

    If we do put them on to the same scale we’re merely falling into the trap of treating atrocity and thoughtless incivility as the same…

    BTW, I do like the way that Martina managed to blame the ‘misunderstanding’ on the stupidity of the listeners (the CRC? the Press?) and get away with it by apologising for said stupidity…

  • OneNI

    ‘Cant Sammy Wilson take an axe to this cushy wee quango’
    Do you mean the CRC, the Assembly or the DUP?

  • tacapall

    Mick why should Martina apologise for reading a script that was already prepared for her by others, I would give her credit for not allowing herself to be used as a scapegoat by her party or the OFMDFM. Who said you cant piss on people and convince them its raining.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not suggesting she should. Just admiring how she managed to engineer it to look llke one, when it plainly wasn’t..

  • jthree

    To me it reads a bit like Brian Lenihan’s ‘We all partied’ which was an attempt to imply that absolutely everyone is responsible rather than specific people who did specific things.

  • sonofstrongbow

    I often misunderstand when Ms Anderson speaks. I had put it down to her wan accent and her contiuing war against the Saxon Foe by taking every opportunity to strangle the English language into submission hey.

    Her inability to understand what an apology is is simply par for the course.

  • “Dale Farm and Moy Park to sponsor Irish Open says Arlene Foster #balmoral”

    Phew. Crisis over.

  • Harry Flashman

    Comrade I’m not denying that there may well be sectarianism among the middle classes but what I am saying that it is no way near as malevolent as that which exists in working class, as Mick says actually much less mixed, areas.

    Generally, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it wasn’t hordes of Pringle sweater and M&S chino-wearing people called Marjorie and Derek who led the mobs of violent hoods that caused all the aggro over the past half century.

  • Mark

    Like Mick , I was a junior member of a golf club until I turned 18 and the full membership fees were due . At the time a couple of grand seemed a waste of money and the public courses are fine for a round . What is it with this insecurity over Golf Clubs and for some strange reason by association ” the middle classes ” ? I know plenty of Golf Club members who are normal people who happen to enjoy golf as a pastime / hobby and a way to relax and socialise . You’ll always get someone bashing the middle classes and it’s normally to score points and there’s the usual begrudging and envy doing the rounds . The same people who if they met someone on their holidays or away from their home patch would if asked , say they were middle class …..not everyone but quite a few .

    I wounder if you stopped 100 people in the North / Northern Ireland this evening and asked them If they thought they were in anyway sectarian ………how many would say yes ?

  • Rory Carr

    First Minister Peter Robinson said he’d been in dozens of golf clubs and never heard any bitter or sectarian comments in them.

    How terribly disappointing for the man. Would never have happened in the good ol’ days.

    Which, joking aside, really supplies the answer, which is patience and the passage of time. The sectarian, racist, sexist boors will eventually become passé, an emabarrassment barely tolerated and then, if at all, in deference to their advanced years and a piitying remark to the effect that they “don’t know any better”.

  • Brian

    Sectarianism exists in all classes, but usually not in the violent extremism sometimes manifested in the lower classes. This is due to traveling and going to university, and growing up in mixed neighborhoods. It is also due to the fact that unlike some in the lower classes, these see a future for themselves and have material comforts that are too dear for them to risk in some long, ongoing, self-destructive and ultimately pointless blood fued.

  • tacapall

    No Brian your totally wrong. They are the people who fight to the last drop of everybody elses blood, thats due to them not living in the real world, you know, the real mixed neighborhoods where most of the people died for their future. Totally agree with you about the self-destructive and ultimately pointless blood fued.

  • Harry Flashman

    the real world

    No, the middle classes didn’t live in the real world.

    It wasn’t real when they were standing in their shop windows in the middle of the night sweeping the glass on to the street and checking to see what remained of their stock so that they and their employees might have a livelihood in the morning.

    The doctors who rushed into hospital emergency rooms, often from those hellish golf courses, on a Saturday afternoon to try and put together the bits and pieces of eviscerated housewives and wee’ans whose arms and legs were being brought in in plastic bags, weren’t real were they?

    This bullshit that the only “real” people were the working class mobs who were burning down their streets and murdering their neighbours has had a long enough airing.

    I suppose the middle class people who tried to keep the businesses open, who ran the schools and hospitals, who tried to maintain some form of functioning local government, who worked in cross-community groups, who voted overwhelmingly for peaceful, non-violent political parties, who set up the integrated schools, who just tried to maintain some semblance of a normal society for their families while surrounded by savage lunatics determined to bring the whole lot crashing down in flames weren’t “real” enough.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d add something else. Golf is about individual effort and achievement. We have three world class golfers, two Protestant one Catholic. None of them relied on state intervention to even out the field for them. They just got on and did it.

    In doing so they have broadened the horizons for a whole generation thats coming after them. And they each seem remarkably free of the kind of identity angst so evident in other codes.

    Tacapall,

    I know where you’re coming from.

    It must have been 1978, in Hawthorn Street on our way to the Cumann Cluain Ard when there was a mortar attack on one of the barracks (I think it must have been up on the Springfield) nearby. But I remember seeing a woman coming out of her house shaking from head to foot asking the world in general if anyone had seen her kids.

    She was the most terrified person I’d seen up to then in my young life. I was a juvenile member of that golf club at that time. Only about four/five miles removed, it could have been a universe away. What was inflicted on the community of west Belfast cannot even be hinted at.

    Now, I suspect there are many like you who hold that those of us who did not live in such beleaguered communities were some how the cause of all that year on year misery. I also suspect that that’s what was behind the casual jib at Golf Clubs.

  • DT123

    As a golf club member of over 20 years,I can assure anyone that doesn’t know,that they are a major force for good ,when it comes to the sectarian divisions of this country.

    After a “debate” or two on politics.ie,it is very refreshing to get back to the golf club and “rediscover” that RCs are decent human beings not intent on the death and destruction of their Protestant neighbours.

  • Mick Fealty

    DT,

    It’s my experience that the golf club in Northern Ireland evolved much more quickly to the rising Catholic middle class than did many of the more formal institutions who made to by law…

    In short ability matters more than religion, once the economic barriers are capable of being surmounted…

  • tacapall

    Sounds horrifying Harry, its hard to belittle the sacrifices some people made in the course of earning their bread while all those lower class people were actually the ones who were being sacrificed for the greater good, but sure they only lost their lives, not at all as terrible as having to repair or see the carnage. While the well off slept easily in their beds the lower classes were getting their doors smashed in and murdered in theirs by faceless gunmen armed and controlled by some of the people you would describe as “those who tried to maintain some form of functioning local government” Was it not those same type of people who were the armchair generals, you know those who govern us now up at Stormont who rolled the snowballs for others to throw, was it not those lunatics who made sure there was always an excuse for others to “bring the whole lot crashing down in flames”

  • tacapall

    Mick I have no doubt the well off suffered and did experience casualties and fatalities but not on the scale or barbarity that was inflicted on the lower classes, like being abducted and tortured for hours getting body parts cut off before having their throats cut or families knowing that those upper classes who they depended on to protect them actually were the ones who supplied the guns for others to murder their loved ones. Those same upper classes are the same people who deny they played any part in the past conflict other than doing what they did for the greater good.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, I’m agreeing with you absolutely on the first. But the second is doubly wrong.

    One, everyone living outside west Belfast was not upper class. Certainly there were kids at school living up that way who’s parents had way more disposable income than most Holywood kids I knew…

    Two, that where you live confers guilt in inverse proportion to where more of the damage was done.

  • tacapall

    Well I would not deny Mick that there were individuals from working class areas who financially benefited from the conflict but few and far between and I don’t believe everyone outside West Belfast or other working class areas were upper class, they were just more sheltered from the madness they had some semblance of a normal life.

  • Mick Fealty

    Again, I agree. I knew enough to know that at the time, from friends and family who did live up west.

    But there is a common misperception that somehow those of use who weren’t there were somehow responsible.

    But it is and was people who lived up west who brought and are still bringing misery to the good people of the likes of Hawthorn street to this very day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18113860

  • Martina Anderson may not have realised it but she has unwittingly done the cause of normal politics a bit of a favour by drawing attention to her own classism.

    Classism and left-right politics go hand in hand. So, more of the same please Martina. Please have a go Employers. Please have a go at those who aspire to earn more money. Please have a go at entrepreneurs. Please defend serial benefit claimants who dont want to be anything else. Please defend Northern Ireland for having the highest percentage of DLA claimants per capita. Oh yes and finally, please attack Rory for touching the Ulster Banner.

  • tacapall

    I dont believe people outside working class areas were responsible for what happened in the past Mick but I do believe they turned a blind eye to some of the causes of the conflict and in some cases actually contributed to it.

    Im wise enough now to sit back before making a judgement on incidents like Hawthorn St the motives are usually more sinister than we think. Like the incidents below, its like dipping our toes in the water before they throw us in.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18108724

  • Mick Fealty

    TBH, I did not stop to ask who was responsible. What’s imprinted on my memory is the terrible state that poor woman was in…

  • tacapall

    I know of a young family who’s children watched as their father was murdered while they stood beside him, they watched as hooded men shot their father in the chest, watched him fall and screamed in horror as the gunmen callously pushed them out of their way so they could pump further bullets into his head. These kids are grown up now in their early 20s and would be classed as being anti social, not conforming to the norm, no-one ever cared to think they obviously and understandably have deep emotional mental problems, people like Sinn Fein, the PSNI or those like Seymour above who would deny they were entitled to special help from the state in the form of DLA because well they weren’t physically injured and their father was nobody important.

  • seamus60

    Now Martins just landed himself in it as well. Plenty of open mouths with no brain in gear.

  • Mick Fealty

    Doubt Martin said any such thing… Or if he did that said sources will come out abpny confirm their version of events…

  • seamus60

    Sorry Mick but he`s hardly left Martina to leave the stage now he`s in hot water over Brady. Martina Purdy having made inquiries into what he said at a justice meeting. He was aparently heard say something to ford in relation to putting pressure on the PSNI to chase after evidence in order to persue charges of with holding information against Brady. He has since denied it but at least 3 other sources there have confirmed what was said. Where will this leave Gerry.

  • seamus60

    Sorry for my earlier post that would have gave the impression Martin had got involved in the Golf issue.

  • seamus60, here’s a link to the McGuinness-Brady story.

  • seamus60

    Thanks Nevin. Aired as breaking news on Radio Ulster tonight that Martina Purdy had spoken to at least 3 others at the meeting who she said confirmed Martin did indeed mention Brady.

  • Pete Baker

    “at least 3 others at the meeting who she said confirmed Martin did indeed mention Brady”

    Which is a long way short of the reported leak from the confidential Executive meeting.

    Unless someone is prepared to stand up and detail chapter and verse of what was said you’re left with a he said/she said report.

    Frankly, at this point, I’m more inclined to believe Sinn Féin’s corrective.

    Not least because the arrogance of McGuinness asking “Mr Ford to ensure the PSNI cooperated with if there was to be a cross-border inquiry” is more believeable.

    Was there any question that they wouldn’t co-operate?

  • Zig70

    I see no issue with the comments that the middle class have sectarian elements. Clumsy maybe. I laughed at the DUP and SF talking about sectarianism. What colour was the elephant? Then the retractions, grow some. In some ways it points to housing as the big sectarian sore that no-one wants to tackle head on as the middle class ghettos don’t paint kerb stones and keep the sectarianism to quiet mutterings, which has got to be an improvement. I’m always telling my kid to watch out for other kids who stir trouble and then sit back to watch the mayhem. It’s in every playground.

  • “The well-placed sources said that at an executive meeting, Mr McGuinness asked asked the justice minister David Ford to formally ask the PSNI about the possibility of prosecution ..”

    Well, we’ll be able to read the details in the OFMDFM minutes 🙂

  • Evolve

    The comments by the two junior ministers seemed reasonable to me. It was surreal that the media immediately went into Golfgate mode.

    I cannot be sure if,this was a dishonest attempt to dodge the charge or if this game does genuinely hold talismanic significance for the middle class. No doubt a funding application is being completed at this moment to find out.

    Sectarian attitudes can lead to a variety of outcomes from the minor to the catastrophic, and if given the choice, I would rather face polite sectarianism than the homicidal variety. It may be though that the violent form needs the at least tacit support of polite sectarianism to operate and gain a level of acceptance.

    Subtle sectarianism may actually be harder to solve. I have had people tell me that they were not sectarian, but they lived in a society where sectarianism exists and so they had to behave in a de facto sectarian manner e.g. hire their own, associate with their own etc. It is sometimes tricky to know where good sense and a concern for self preservation ends and sectarianism begins.

    This discussion suggests two models for the local conflict. In one the conflict is the sum of individual illegal actions and in the other the conflict is societal in scope and as Martina Anderson said those without resources are pushed into the front line. I lean towards this view because it seems generally true of conflict.

  • Harry Flashman

    Tapacall you’re not seriously suggesting that only a few middle class people were killed in the Troubles are you?

    Hundreds of middle class people were murdered in every bit as brutal and shocking a way as working class people were, they also had their businesses bombed and robbed, they also had their homes taken over and their cars stolen while their families were held terrified at gunpoint and countless other horrors inflicted on them in exactly the same way as working class people did.

    Guess who was doing all this killing, hijacking, robbing, bombing, rioting? I’ll give you a clue, it wasn’t Derek and Marjorie from the golf club, it was your working class heroes who were doing it.

    The working classes, no I’ll retract that as few of them had real paying employment, the underclasses were responsible for 95% of the horror in Northern Ireland, it was the genuine working classes and the middle classes who just about pulled the place back from the brink of all out sectarian civil war.

  • Mick Fealty

    Evolve,

    I can go along with some of that rationale. But I do wonder what problem we are trying solve here. What is sectarianism? More particularly what is middle class sectarianism?

    If we are defining it as ‘not right thinking’ it’s not clear in this context what ‘right thinking’ is. Or indeed whether the state should even seek a role in policing the way people think.

  • “Mr McGuinness asked asked the justice minister David Ford to formally ask the PSNI about the possibility of prosecution”

    Why would Ford ask the PSNI about prosecution when the PPS performs that function?

  • tacapall

    tacapall 18 May 2012 at 9:13 am

    “Mick I have no doubt the well off suffered and did experience casualties and fatalities but not on the scale or barbarity that was inflicted on the lower classes”

    Harry where do you get from the lines above that I suggested only a few middle class people were killed in the Troubles? I cant seem to remember they or their children being set up by RUC special branch to serve lengthy jail sentences for crimes they did not commit but I can remember businessmen and politicians attending the funeral of Lenny Murphy the Shankill butcher, the sufferings of his victims didn’t seem to matter when it came to counting votes. The dogs in the street apparently knew who was carrying those barbaric acts out but it was allowed to continue until it became embarrassing for the RUC, you know just like the activities of the Mount Vernon UVF or Scappaticci. The underclass as you call them might have carried out the murders but the upper and middle classes pulled their strings, give them a free hand and turned a blind eye. I don’t know if Derek or Marjorie were there whoever they are, but there was thousands at his funeral and they were not all lower class or underclass as you would label them. Just who are the underclass who you believe were responsible for 95% of the horror ?

    “it was the genuine working classes and the middle classes who just about pulled the place back from the brink of all out sectarian civil war.”

    How and when did this happen ? I believe it was the armchair generals and those that rolled the snowballs for others to throw along with those who supplied the weapons and intelligence for the victims that brought it to an end. Maybe because they are politicians, members of the government, security forces you class them as middle class but believe it or not they were the same people you call underclass before they became protected species and moved up your social ladder.

    Maybe you should just say it was the uneducated who caused 100% of the horrors those with deep ingrained sectarianism and hatred installed into their minds from parents or peers who were upper class, middle class, lower class and of course underclass whoever they are but no matter what way you look at it the lower class and those you would call underclass suffered the brunt of the horror, it was they who lived at the front line.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why would Ford ask the PSNI about prosecution when the PPS performs that function?

    Beside the point really; any citizen can report a crime to the police, the police are required to investigate.

    I’m not completely convinced about the reporting of this matter. McGuinness has party colleagues on the Police Board, I think he knows full well that they are the people to ask. I imagine this was a casual discussion with Ford rather than some sort of formal business.

  • Evolve

    Mick,

    I think that is a very good point. I don’t think the state should have a role in policing private beliefs, even if they are eccentric. Individual liberty in thought and expression has to be protected in a democracy.

    If we accept a wide definition of sectarianism, we could say that it is any behaviour or belief that emphasises differences between groups(usually relatively small differences) at the expense of the overall cohesion of society. If this is a perfectly private belief, and it is never expressed then it is only a matter for that individual. The expression of this belief would include activities that stop short of conflict including stereotyping, discrimination and differential supply of services.

    Historically, some of these activities would have been implemented by the middle class. I accept that many current members of the middle class had no part in this.

    I suppose we should also mention an old left wing analysis, where it is claimed that sectarianism was used to maintain the class system. According to this analysis the upper class in the Unionist Party aided by the then middle class highlighted religious and cultural differences in order to prevent the coalescence of the working class. Some on the left now say that the development of micro-politics (politics based on gender, race, sexual orientation etc) is also sectarianism and has the same objective.

    The interesting thing about this news story is that there was no engagement with the issue of sectarianism and instead we had a golf focused response.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I got a few questions about whether I think unionists and nationalists are inherently sectarian.

    My answer is yes, of course they are. Unionism and nationalism represent two sides of the coin; it was a conflict they created and perpetuated. It’s still extremely difficult to get any of them to properly admit to this or even take serious steps to addressing the real, underlying causes of division.

    And did the middle classes play their role in the conflict ? Of course they did. They voted for the conflict; they financed it; a lot of them made money out of legal services, construction business and all the rest. In the earlier days they created it through their hiring and promotion policies in the companies they ran. They were only stopped when legislation was introduced.

    It is a gross inaccuracy to characterize the conflict here as a squabble among the proles while blameless suburbanites looked on in horror.

    Harry :

    who voted overwhelmingly for peaceful, non-violent political parties,

    You’re doing a fair bit of revisionism here. The political parties that have represented Northern Ireland over the past century were not peaceful nor were they non-violent. You seem to be falling into this trap of thinking that anyone who wasn’t caught with a gun or a bomb was not responsible for the conflict. If only it were that simple.

    I’ll always remember the reaction to the IRA ceasefire in 1994. James Molyneaux believed it was a prelude to civil war. Loyalists who were preparing to respond with their own ceasefire later reported that they received phonecalls from leading unionist politicians who tried to discourage them.

    Peaceful my ass.

  • Harry Flashman

    The SDLP and Alliance Party were absolutely peaceful parties, the Official Unionist party was also non-violent.

    Molyneaux was not the leader of the party when he was interviewed about the IRA ceasefire in which he stated the view that was quite commonly held at the time that he suspected there was some form of background negotiating behind the ceasefire, if so many people felt the loyalists would react badly.

    To state an analysis of a situation is not to endorse that situation or support it.

    As to the much quoted, by loyalist paramilitaries, of support from mainstream unionist politicians, they have frequently been challenged to name those politicians (many of whom would now be dead) and to back up their claims.

    Oddly they have signally failed to do so.

    A middle class unionist voting official unionist was voting for a non-violent political policy. To claim otherwise is to libel an entire community.

  • tacapall

    Harry you seem to suggest anyone who voted for those parties, the SDLP , Alliance Party and the Official Unionist party were non violent and did not support violence, are you forgetting the Orange Order was integral to the OUP, they also formed the UVF and the policies they promoted led to the widespread violence in the first place. Are you suggesting the OO played no part in the past conflict, whose grand masters and members etc were also leading members of the OUP.

  • “a lot of them made money”

    It’s an ill wind and all that, CS, but blaming glazing companies for using explosives to break windows is a bit like blaming them for the housing boom.

  • babyface finlayson

    Comrade Stalin
    “I got a few questions about whether I think unionists and nationalists are inherently sectarian.

    My answer is yes, of course they are. Unionism and nationalism represent two sides of the coin; it was a conflict they created and perpetuated.”
    Maybe your definition of sectarian is different from mine. To me there is an element of hatred or bigotry involved rather than a simple difference of opinion.
    Surely it is possible that many people held and voted for Unionist or Nationalist principles without any ill will towards those who disagreed.
    You are accusing more or less everyone here (apart from the Alliance Party voters I presume) of sectarianism, which is rather depressing.

  • Reader

    Decent people vote Alliance – so there…