Sectarianism in Northern Ireland is common (and popular) across all classes…

Alex Kane has a marvellous take on the Golf Club issue that blew up last week… He argues that Jonathan Bell’s only mistake was to single out golf clubs as singular offenders, and that the DUP should not have backed down… But then he gives the argument a gentle twist:

If you’re looking for evidence of the ‘prejudice and the hatred whispered behind closed doors’ you could begin with most of our political parties. While it is certainly not true that every individual member of the UUP, DUP, SDLP or Sinn Fein is a bigot, with a deep-seated prejudice against political opponents, I have seen enough evidence (much of it behind closed doors) to suggest that most of them do. And I have also been involved in politics—as an activist, columnist, commentator and guest speaker—long enough to know that political parties are broadly reflective of their voters.

Alliance, the one party in Northern Ireland which can claim to be properly non-sectarian, has never been able to shrug off its small party status. It has shown some modest progress in the past three elections (mostly at the expense of the UUP), yet its’ average performance since the 1998 Assembly election remains at under six per cent. Again, I would argue that that indicates that there is no particular electoral demand for the breaking down of barriers or prioritising of a ‘shared future’ agenda.

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  • Sadly, Alex Kane is right, and there’s no appetite for a helthier body politic in these parts. It’s like a drug which people on both sides feel they should break the habit of but would miss terribly if forced to go cold turkey. As to alliance, Ford’s tv appearances on H&M et al show his desperation to promote his party nonstop instead of answering the questions.

  • Greenflag

    What’s the fuss ? Northern Ireland was built on sectarianism and it could not exist otherwise . Thus it follows there will always be sectarianism until such time as the NI State no longer exists or until such time as religious denomination for the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland becomes a thing of the past .

    The important consideration is that the law no longer turns a blind eye to the worst manifestations of sectarianism and this in time will work it’s way through the body politic and make ‘sectarianism ‘ history.

    ‘I would argue that that indicates that there is no particular electoral demand for the breaking down of barriers or prioritising of a ‘shared future’ agenda’

    Alex is correct in his argument .The electoral ‘demand’ such as it is is for a continuation of a trend towards ‘peaceful normality’ The ‘shared future’ is a step down the road at a time when the ‘future ‘ (political and economic )is still seen as problematic and uncertain to a degree that you don’t find in other regions of the UK or the Republic .

    The challenge for NI’s political leaders is to hold glumly on to the steering wheel until such time as they can get around the seemingly never ending bends and twists of the ‘devolutionary road they have taken.

  • Greenflag If Reggie ‘What a bloody awful country’ Maudling were still around, he’d probably call it as an acceptable level of bigotry. As David Dunseith predicted it will take towo generation to finally get rid of sectarianism and by then the ‘statelet’ will already have been in the dustbin of history itself.

  • Greenflag

    David Dunseith probably got it right -Of course it could be worse . Maudling would probably consider it a success story and from the perspective of how much worse it could have been he would be right .

    Before consigning the statelet to history though it ought to be said that NI is not alone in being unsuccessful in narrowing the gap between the haves and have nots . There are Oldhams and Middlesboros in parts of the Republic and Scotland and Wales and I read that the USA is now at the bottom of the list of developed countries for ‘pregnancy ‘ deaths and that a child in the USA has one fifth of the chance of a kid in Iceland of reaching the age of 5 .

    The ‘real ‘differences between people are not resolvable by ‘sectarian ‘ parties or attitudes but then those politicians elected on that basis were not into ‘real solutions ‘ anyway .
    Even if they wanted to they were and many still are trapped by the system they themselves have locked themselves into !

    Not that the established politicos in the rest of the UK or Ireland are doing much better 🙁

    And the G8 goes through the motions of ‘appearances’ for appearances sake while the Greeks get to choose as I saw in this piece.

    http://www.npr.org/2012/05/18/152988941/double-take-toons-the-gordian-nots

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-18142078

  • cynic2

    “t’s like a drug” ….but its themuns fault for gettin us all addicted

  • Alan N/Ards

    Daniel and Greenflag

    Do you really believe that if NI joins with the ROI that sectarianism will go away? I think not. I believe that it could get worse. If that’s possible.

  • GF,

    What’s the fuss ? Northern Ireland was built on sectarianism and it could not exist otherwise . Thus it follows there will always be sectarianism until such time as the NI State no longer exists

    Non sequitur. (A causes B) does not imply (not B causes not A).

  • Reader

    Greenflag: that a child in the USA has one fifth of the chance of a kid in Iceland of reaching the age of 5 .
    So US infant mortality is over 80% – I don’t think so!

  • Reader,

    Damn, I should have spotted that myself. Good catch.

  • Greenflag

    @ reader /andrew gallagher,

    ‘Although the under-5 mortality rate in the United States has fallen in recent decades, it is still higher than many other wealthy nations – 2.3 times that of Iceland and more than 75 percent higher than the rate of the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden.

    One in 71 mothers in the United States is likely to lose a child before his or her fifth birthday. A mother in the United States has a 2.5 fold greater risk of experiencing the death of a child than a mother in Iceland, Italy or Japan and is almost 3 times more likely to lose a child than a mother in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

    And this in the ‘richest ‘ country in the world with the most expensive health care system ???

    http://www.mindfully.org/Health/2007/US-Death-Rate1may07.htm

  • Greenflag

    @ Alan N Ards ,

    ‘Do you really believe that if NI joins with the ROI that sectarianism will go away?’

    No -why should it The ‘disease ‘ is endemic within the people -lines on a map are meaningless .Whether in the UK or a UI the ‘disease’ will only disappear when the vast majority of people give up believing in a non existent God who chooses some people over others and who at various times in history has decided to wipe out most of what he i.e God has created as in the Permian mass extinction of life forms 250 million years ago and other mass extinctions including that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago .

    In the matter of wiping out Jews , Protestants , Catholics or Moslems it appears that the Abrahamic God permits the faithful to do the job themselves which if we read our history the leaders and followers of said ‘faiths’ have only been to glad to oblige their Lord and master in their endeavours .

    A load of oul balubas is what it is and nothing else 🙁

  • Greenflag

    @ andrew gallagher ,

    ‘Non sequitur. (A causes B) does not imply (not B causes not A).’

    Sectarianism in it’s mob expression does not follow the laws of semantic logic . It can be a survival extinct in extremis or an outlet for atavistic violence against what is perceived as the ‘other ‘

    Of course every ‘other’ has a mother and a brother or sister and father or tribe and thus the virulence spreads ad infinitum until it will be eventually seen for what it is – mindless bullshit. Not to worry it won’t happen tomorrow or next year or a decade hence but it will in time .

  • derrydave

    Not sure I agree with all the negativity – having lived away from the North for a long time now I can only say that the NI that I see when I visit now is light-years away from the NI I grew up in. It’s no Nirvana, however in Derry today people mix through work much more than was ever the case in my time – the first NI protestant I ever met was in England, whereas my younger brother knows loads through work and football etc There is none of the tension and hatred that there would have been in my time, and instead it is pretty normal for people to have friends from the other side – a lot of this is down to the increase in education and employment and also the fair employment legislation – looks all good from where I stand !

  • GF,

    An n-fold increase in the mortality rate (the exact value of n is by the by) is not the same as an n-fold decrease in the survival rate: 1-nx ≠ (1-x)/n.

    And do you really believe that if people simply stopped going to church sectarianism would go away? Go and read Swift. People will use any convenient excuse to justify their prejudices.

  • GF,

    “The problem is illogical, therefore my reasoning doesn’t have to be logical either”.

    But of course, that is in itself a logical proposition. If you want to throw the rules of logic out, then you’d better stop using the words “if”, “so”, “therefore” and “because”. Good luck.

  • Alan N/Ards. I haven’t claimed it would change anything here. Whoever the owner of the property is, the tenants are running a disorderly house and that has to be rectified at some point whatever they choose to call themselves and there’s no sign of the inmates changing their attitudes..

  • Alan N/Ards

    Greenflag

    The mistake that you are making here is equating all of sectarianism with religion. I would argue that there are more politically sectarian people in NI than religiously sectarian.

    I would say that a protestant who openly supported SF or SDLP would be asked to leave ( if he was lucky) a working class loyalist area. The same goes for a unionist supporting catholic in a working class republican area.

    Do you think that the so called peace walls are there to keep the church going protestant and roman catholics apart? They are there to keep the sectarian non church going loyalist and republicans bigots from killing each other.

  • weidm7

    Well, hang on now. According to Wikipedia, Turnout at the 2011 election was 54%, of that, about 9% went to non-sectarian parties (Alliance, Green, PBP, Socialsts and Workers), leaving about 50% of votes to ethnic parties. So, about half of NI could possibly be sectarian, meaning about half could possibly not be. But voting for a party with sectarian members does not necessarily make you sectarian, as with voting for non-sectarian parties.

    In other words, this is all conjecture and none of us should treat it as a serious analysis of sectarianism in NI.

  • lamhdearg2

    Could we nail down whether or not we mean religious sects.

  • Zig70

    The rest of my prejudices are being unfairly discriminated against.

  • BluesJazz

    Alan N/Ards
    Your thesis is seriously compromised.
    You say religion has nothing to do with sectarianism?
    Then equate protestants supporting SF and catholics supporting unionism?
    So what about the educated people who are of no religion/superstition.?
    They include marxists and neo-cons, but have little time for parochial disputes. And a wider agenda that supercedes petty local disputes. Church going people are just sheep. And just as devoid of education as their supposedly ‘working class’ deviants.

  • BluesJazz
  • ThomasMourne

    The idea that we are stuck with sectarianism for another couple of generations has to be strongly resisted.

    Each voter in N.I. has the power to reduce sectarianism by refusing to cast a vote for a sectarian party, ie any of the big 4.

    Those who don’t vote are equally guilty of prolonging the curse of sectarianism in our society.

  • ayeYerMa

    Alan N/Ards, what you term “political sectarianism” will only stop being an issue once our politics catches up with the reality that 90+% are fairly content with Northern Ireland and its place in the Union:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/NILT2010_FUTURE2_pie.png

    This is gradually happening, but will be accelerated by unashamedly voting for Unionist parties.

    ThomasMourne, Alliance is a dishonest party that does more harm than good – feigning agnosticism on our constitutional position, and droning on endlessly about “sectarianism” merely entrenches and builds up the potential for future instability. Peace and stability are only possible through the acceptance of the status quo.

    Religious sectarianism is a different issue altogether. Though in general I find the word “sectarian” to be one that is meaningless and unhelpful, with it being used for two purposes:
    1: for a few middle class Alliance-types to be able to shout to make themselves feel good about themselves
    2. for one “side” being able to have a dig at the other by accusing them of “sectarianism”.

  • babyface finlayson

    It doesn’t follow that because the members of political parties are sectarian, then those who vote for them must also be sectarian.
    Over the years many people here have held their noses and voted for what they believed to be the least worst option, maybe based simply on the constitutional issue.
    Is it sectarian to want a United Ireland?
    Is it sectarian to want to remain in the UK?
    I don’t believe so.
    Furthermore many people have consistently chosen not to vote at all, as weidm7 has pointed out. By Alex Kane’s logic we can count them as non sectarian.

  • quality

    ayeYerMa

    “Peace and stability are only possible through the acceptance of the status quo.”

    That’s a relatively depressing/totalitarian view of the world…

  • Greenflag

    @ andrew gallagher ,

    ‘ People will use any convenient excuse to justify their prejudices.’

    Indeed and I’ve read Swift .The important factor for the future of everybody’s politics in Northern Ireland is that the law of the land discourages /outlaws / criminalises acts of religious sectarianism to the extent it can up to and including the various church authorities . To the extent that that has happened in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years the result has been what Derrydave refers to above in his post

    21 May 2012 at 6:04 pm.

  • tacapall

    Greenflag.

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/05/although-sectarianism-is-still-rife-northern-irelands-teenagers-are-gradually-breaking-down-religious-barriers?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nssnews+%28NSS+News%29

    “A survey of Northern Ireland’s teenagers shows that religious and ethnic barriers are being gradually broken down, but another survey in the workplace shows that there is still a long way to go as sectarianism there is still rife.

    The evidence suggests that 16-year-olds increasingly have contact across both the religious and ethnic divides. Only a minority of young people report having no friends from other backgrounds. This reflects an important change since 2003. The comments made by young people suggest that whether someone is like ‘us’ or ‘them’ is not purely based on religion and that friendship patterns are wider than ever before, encompassing both religious and ethnic diversity.”

    But –

    Revealed: the alarming extent of sectarianism in Northern Ireland workplaces

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/revealed-the-alarming-extent-of-sectarianism-in-northern-ireland-workplaces-16158875.html

    “Sectarianism still remains deeply rooted within the private sector workplace in Northern Ireland, a new report has found.

    The report claimed that significant work needs to be carried out to reduce prejudicial attitudes and tackle rising segregation.

    Carried out by Trademark, the research and training agency, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it explored the continued impact of sectarianism in the workplace.”

  • Greenflag

    @ Alan N/Ards .

    ‘The mistake that you are making here is equating all of sectarianism with religion’

    Not my intention and apologies if it came across like that . I would tend to agree with your point ‘that there are more politically sectarian people in NI than religiously sectarian.’

    Although people outside NI notoriously simply the problems there as being Protestant v Catholic the religious nomenclature just serves as a ‘lazy way’ to identify a much more complicated political identity/economic /representational problem which has existed in NI since the States foundation and which now seems to have been resolved to an extent that makes even the restricted form of democracy that NI enjoys today seem normal.

    ‘Do you think that the so called peace walls are there to keep the church going protestant and roman catholics apart? They are there to keep the sectarian non church going loyalist and republicans bigots from killing each other’

    They are there primarily for security purposes . From what I understand the ‘walls ‘ mainly protect working class protestants from working class catholics from venting their political and economic frustrations against the ‘other’ . It appears that the ‘middle classes’ of both denominations can enjoy their less impolite ‘sectarianism ‘ behind closed doors out of harms way .

    Human nature hasn’t changed all that much since Napoleon commented that it’s important for the poor to have ‘religion’ otherwise they’d have no excuse not to kill the rich .

    Looking back I woould argue that the creation of the NI State at least in it’s 6 county format exacerbated the sectarianism that existed prior to 1920 and moreover put ‘protestantism ‘ in NI on the defensive .The subsequent politicisation of ‘protestantism ‘ under the Unionist Party all encompassing banner just added further to the sense of alienation of the large minority community of the time .

    Those consequences are still being worked through and despite the ‘dreary steeples ‘adage always rising up we are living in a fast changing world where denominational religion in Ireland -North and South is in rapid decline .

    On balance I believe that’s a positive for all our futures. Man has created God in his own image and it should be dawning on more people in this day and age with the advances and new learning in the sciences that ‘man’ is certainly no god .
    Sic itur ad astra has to be the hope and even that may in the end not even be physically possible .

  • Greenflag

    @ tacapall ,

    On the one hand and then on the other hand .That’s the way reforms work when implemented .

    Three steps forward and one or two steps backward and then another three steps forward etc etc . Eventually you get a majority of white Americans electing an African American president instead of ‘lynching’ the man for having the audacity to seek political office . Ditto for Northern Ireland .Someday NI may have an RC background FM and it will not be the end of the world either .

    Social change comes dropping slow as we see from the continuing resistance to ‘gay ‘marriages across many parts of the USA . Relative economic decline and an emisserated middle class are having a much greater impact on the institution of ‘marriage’ in western societies than any ‘threats’ emanating form those pushing forward this particular issue- imo.

  • tacapall

    I just see it as a desire to hold on to what one has, the peace walls can also be said to keep the one side from seeing what life is like on the other side and the sectarian marking out of territories with flags etc take the place of those peace walls. We end up living our lives out in a bubble, protected and segregated away from themuns in that other bubble and our lives revolve around what happens in our bubble and and we dont want themuns coming into it or getting any land where they can build more bubbles.

  • Reader

    tacapall; I think you are touching on a point where both traditions are failing to keep up with social change – land ownership doesn’t matter a damn any more. It doesn’t provide either extra political rights or privileges, nor does it realistically confer the ability to exclude themmuns from living somewhere.
    The bad behaviour you listed isn’t even meaningful any more – just stupid and nasty.

  • tacapall

    Reader . “land ownership doesn’t matter a damn any more. It doesn’t provide either extra political rights or privileges, nor does it realistically confer the ability to exclude themmuns from living somewhere.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18162637

    I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s Spotlight programme on the development of Girdwood barracks in north Belfast

    “Everyone will welcome the fact that the parties have got a consensus on the plan for a multi-sports pitch, indoor sports arena and community “hub” in time for a deadline for nearly £10m of European funding.

    It was only last year that the outgoing SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood approved plans for 200 new homes on the site. The expectation was that those houses might make a dent on north Belfast’s overwhelmingly nationalist waiting list for social housing. However, Mr Attwood’s plans were denounced as “deeply destabilising” by the DUP and were immediately reversed by the incoming DUP minister Nelson McCausland.

    Alban Maginness

    The housing need in north Belfast requires and acquires a significant element of the Girdwood site to go to social housing” Mr Maginness argued.

    The scale of need is not fully recognised in the announcement and some may argue that the principle of housing based on need has not prevailed when it comes to the Girdwood site.”

  • Reader

    So everyone was following their own script, as expected, weren’t they?

  • tacapall

    I dont know what you mean by that remark Reader but reading between the lines on the Girdwood announcement this restructuring has more to do with the DUP trying to hold back the Nationalist tide in North Belfast, the sitting MP has very few votes to spare over his SF rival. Its a different type of sectarianism one that would rather go back to the bad old days when housing allocations were based on religion and votes rather than need, take a drive up Cliftonpark Ave and see the many blocked up perfectly fine almost new houses on the protestant, side, there’s really no need nor the demand to build another ghost estate for people not on the waiting list.

  • tapacall Of course you’re right but then McCausland’s interview yesterday on BBC exposed his real miotive for needing the figleaf to cover his rear. This is the second housing reverse he’s had after the business of the contract with HE that time. There will be 200 houses at the site but nelson will have been reshuffled by the time thy’re taken up. Spotlight tonight should throw more light on the case.

  • RyanAdams

    Tacapall,

    A vast majority of the people on the waiting list for housing in North Belfast are already living in and voting in North Belfast. I suspect the go ahead has been given as the DUP will have an extra three thousand votes by the new boundaries (Three Shankill wards coming in) – which is enough to keep MP away from Gerry Kelly’s name permanently.

  • tacapall

    If anyone believes politics is democracy that attitudes have changed or that Unionism has the capacity or the will to embrace equality will be shocked by that Spotlight program about the Girdwood site. Its one of the most blatant examples of sectarian bias not seen since the late 60s in the allocation of housing by a Unionist minister. Its unbelievable Sinn Fein or the SDLP stood by and allowed Nelson McCausland and the DUP to override the recommendations of the NIHE and ignore the urgent housing needs of the catholic population of North Belfast.

  • Barnshee

    “Its unbelievable Sinn Fein or the SDLP stood by and allowed Nelson McCausland and the DUP to override the recommendations of the NIHE and ignore the urgent housing needs of the catholic population of North Belfast.”

    There is a wider issue here -Why should ANYBODY expect to be housed at the public expense? What happened to personal responsibility and the securing accomodation prior to setting up home?

    There is also the elephant in the room that everybody normally avoids- roman catholic family size will tend to push the prods behind them in the queue in an allocation via a points system

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/discrimination/gudgin99.htm

    This is the autobiography of Maurice Hayes, formerly town clerk in Downpatrick and later permanent secretary in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and ombudsman for Northern Ireland. Dr. Hayes’ account of the difficulties faced by the nationalist council in Downpatrick are worth repeating.

    Down council attempted a fair allocation of local authority housing in the 1960s and was in Dr. Hayes’ view one of the first councils to introduce a points system. This system favoured larger families and hence Catholics received most houses. To avoid this over-representation the council subsequently introduced two separate lists, one for Catholics and one for Protestants. This in turn had the undesirable consequence that single Protestants were allocated houses while large Catholic families remained on the waiting list. This in turn was viewed as unacceptable and the council reverted to its earlier points system.14 Similar problems may have been responsible for large disproportion in the allocation of council houses in Newry in 1963 where all but 22 of the 765 houses were allocated to Catholics.

    Here we have a conundrum. When a unionist council in Dungannon gave a house to a single Protestant in preference to a Catholic family, the result was the civil rights movement leading eventually onto the ‘troubles’. When a nationalist council did exactly the same, for the best of motives, it attracted no attention whatsoever, either then or since. Despite the fact that Catholics did best in local authority housing, unionist councils as a whole became tarred with the brush of discrimination. Despite Rose’s view that the clearest evidence was of nationalist councils discriminating against Protestants, nationalists attracted little opprobrium.

    Plus ca change toujours la meme chose

  • Barnshee,

    The civil rights movement may have been catalysed by a single incident, but there was more to it than that.

    Rich people have fewer children (on average) than poor people, so is giving subsidised housing to poor people unfair to rich people? Most would argue that’s the entire point. The problem comes when we see an individual beneficiary of the state not as an individual, but foremost as a member of a particular group. Then we are tempted to apply “fairness” to groups, as if each group had a collective right – the separate lists for Catholics and Protestants you mention above is a perfect demonstration of why group entitlements are unfair.

    To come at it from another angle, given any large population it is trivial to divide it into groups so that the groups have an imbalance in some attribute, simply by picking a criterion for group membership that is correlated with that attribute. If we then take a relatively small sample of the most extreme cases then of course the sample will be significantly skewed. The mistake comes in thinking this is anything other than mathematical inevitability.

  • Barnshee

    “To come at it from another angle, given any large population it is trivial to divide it into groups so that the groups have an imbalance in some attribute, simply by picking a criterion for group membership that is correlated with that attribute”

    Sack all those statisticans who analyse populations (in the statistical sense) and use correlation and regression as tools,

    (Roughly translated that means your are writing a load of old cock)

  • “Alliance, the one party in Northern Ireland which can claim to be properly non-sectarian,”

    Peter Robinson has just given APNI a severe tongue lashing!

    The Alliance party only produced a list of so-called “red line” issues at the meeting on Monday despite sitting at the working group since last September.

    He claims that issues such as education and shared housing are not being discussed. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have been lengthy discussions on all these issues including a four hour meeting on Monday and another scheduled for today (Thursday).

    It would have been more constructive if the Alliance party had produced any details at all on their claim of £1billion cost of division when it was requested by the Group. They wouldn’t or couldn’t do this, proving the Alliance party is all bluster and no substance.

    When the Alliance Party claims of being the party of consensus and finding agreement were tested, they failed.

  • BluesJazz

    Where I live. we’re all connected….

    http://humphrysfamilytree.com/ca.irishtimes.html