“It’s a manifestation of social control by people who were able to act with tacit impunity…”

In the Christian Science Monitor, Jason Walsh has a clearer view than most of what is “deliberate, almost formalized cultural chest-thumping”.

Even among many who are glad that the Troubles have ended, blame is beginning to point toward the structure of the peace process itself, specifically how it attempted to defuse the conflict into a culture war. While the Troubles’ zero-sum political conflict – between the competing ideas of a united Ireland and a United Kingdom – has ended, what remains is a split between nationalist and unionist, Irish and British, where the divide isn’t healed, but rather is reinforced annually.

“There is a cultural space for rioting in the Northern Ireland calendar,” says Paddy Hoey, a former journalist who is completing his PhD thesis in the literature of dissident Irish republicanism at the University of Liverpool‘s Institute of Irish Studies. He says that the unrest in interface areas – places where republican and loyalist communities abut – is a “result of the vacuum of the peace process.”

While the political battle has left the streets and entered the halls of government in Northern Ireland, the Troubles’ one-time fighters still remain in control of their districts as “community representatives,” Mr. Hoey says. That leaves them in position to wage the cultural war through annual parades and protests, but without being held to account if the events devolve into riots.

“It’s a manifestation of social control by people who were able to act with tacit impunity,” he says. [added emphasis]

Read the whole thing.

As he goes on to note

“Effectively you have to go out of your way to be offended. It’s a drama without an audience and it’s so predictable. It has none of the shock value of the London and Manchester riots last year,” [Pauline Hadaway, who runs the Belfast Exposed photographic gallery in Donegall Street] says.

But North Belfast resident and writer Daniel Jewesbury argues that some will nonetheless make sure to be offended. “One thing the Orange Order said that is true is that there are some groups who are dedicated to taking offense, but on the the other hand there are some who are dedicated to giving it,” he says.

He also questions the idea that the rioting genuinely represents widespread feeling on the ground – though he acknowledges that it is a popular conception among the rioters.

“There’s still a sense that, despite everyone knowing it’s staged, both sides expect community support” from their own cultural group, as the protesters feel they are acting for their respective communities, Mr. Jewesbury says. “This is the direct result of the peace process. It’s the way this strange architecture of peace is constructed.”

And, of course, “getting righteously offended has become something of a hobby over the last few decades…

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  • the eggman

    The problem lies with a unionist majority spoilt child that had the keys to the sweetie shop , has grown into an uncontrollable spoilt adult which reverts to intimidation to try to subdue the catholic minority why stayed at school and is now well educated and is reeaping the rewards , lets be honest here , spoilt brats cant deal with not being handed the sweeties anymore !

  • Mick Fealty

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    But I do find it odd that people who have been slagging off church teaching, and pointing up the culpability of the church regarding its shameful cover up of the abuse of children by individual clerics (whilst going right out of their way to make sure that any investigation of state involvement is time-bound and limited), suddenly – and almost out of nowhere – set the bar of respect for church building at such a high premium.

    You may not like the Orange (and there is an awful lot not to like about the behaviour of some in there), but setting the power of objection so high is a very dangerous concession. It seems like only yesterday we had the flags and emblems act effectively (and outrageously) outlawing any unofficial display of the tricolour.

    It seems to me we are getting back to a situation where the state is being invited to declare some traditions null and void. I, for one, am not comfortable with that.

  • carl marks

    Mick Fealty
    True Mick but I fail to see how’s it relevant, what are you saying that Catholics/Nationalists should not complain when a group of people with a long history of hatred against them strut their stuff outside a place that the regard as a important part of their lives, because some priests and more than some of the Hierarchy have behaved shamefully.
    What I find strange about you post is that while you seem to expect most nationalists to treat lightly the bigots who love to offend as it’s a catholic church they are being offensive about and sure don’t we all know that catholic priests are all tarred with the one brush (seems to be what you’re saying) but the OO has a few bad eggs and we should not get to excited about it.
    Perhaps you could lets us know what level of anti catholic bigotry should we react to, what is too far, where do they have to pour out their hatred before we can be offended.
    Are their similar limits for racist or homophobic displays?

  • carl marks

    Mick Fealty
    It seems to me we are getting back to a situation where the state is being invited to declare some traditions null and void. I, for one, am not comfortable with that.
    Where did this come from nobody but a few crazies with very little support want loyalism or unionism declared null and void, what the vast majority of Nationalist want (and more than a few protestants’) is the OO to show some manners,
    Honestly Mick that line would not look out of place in some of the mopery ridden posts that we see all too often from more than a few of our PUL correspondants.

  • Pete Baker

    As I quoted in the orginal post

    “Effectively you have to go out of your way to be offended. It’s a drama without an audience and it’s so predictable. It has none of the shock value of the London and Manchester riots last year,” [Pauline Hadaway, who runs the Belfast Exposed photographic gallery in Donegall Street] says.

    But North Belfast resident and writer Daniel Jewesbury argues that some will nonetheless make sure to be offended. “One thing the Orange Order said that is true is that there are some groups who are dedicated to taking offense, but on the the other hand there are some who are dedicated to giving it,” he says.

    He also questions the idea that the rioting genuinely represents widespread feeling on the ground – though he acknowledges that it is a popular conception among the rioters.

    “There’s still a sense that, despite everyone knowing it’s staged, both sides expect community support” from their own cultural group, as the protesters feel they are acting for their respective communities, Mr. Jewesbury says. “This is the direct result of the peace process. It’s the way this strange architecture of peace is constructed.”

    And, of course, “getting righteously offended has become something of a hobby over the last few decades…

  • Mick Fealty

    Here’s a legitimate parallel…

    “The global backlash against an anti-Islam video spread to the streets of Dublin as hundreds of protesters marched to Google’s European headquarters and demanded the offensive material be taken offline.

    “The Dublin protests, which passed off quietly to chants of “Islam is peace” and “We love Mohammed”, came days after a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles calling on Google to take the video down from Google-owned YouTube.”

    http://www.independent.ie/national-news/blasphemy-backlash-spreads-to-dublin-as-muslims-march-on-google-headquarters-3243841.html

  • UserAinm

    For those who may not follow the link there is a section in the middle that Pete skips for some reason. I’ve copied it below:

    “Marches and riots

    This summer has been no exception to the cycle of cultural conflict. Marches by the Orange Order and Royal Black Institution, both Protestant fraternal organizations, erupted into violence on July 12 and Aug. 25 when a marching band named Young Conway Volunteers marched outside St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Donegall Street.

    On July 12, the band stopped outside the church and played an anti-Catholic tune named “The Famine Song,” which spurred reactive protests that turned violent later that night in the republican Ardoyne district.

    The Parades Commission, the statutory body which sanctions marches, banned Young Conway Volunteers from the Aug. 25 march, but the group flouted the ban, spurring a further series of disturbances by republican protesters.

    Loyalists have rioted as well. Only yards away from Donegall Street, a republican march commemorating 18th century republican Henry Joy McCracken resulted in three consecutive nights of violence from Sept. 3 to 5, with loyalists attacking police with stones, bricks, and fireworks in objection to the march. Police fired plastic bullets in response.

    Saturday will see another contentious march, this time by pro-British unionists commemorating the 1912 signing of the Ulster Covenant that swore to oppose Irish Home Rule, eventually leading to the formation of the 100,000 strong Ulster Volunteers armed group. The Orange Order estimates the parade will involve 25,000 to 30,000 marchers. The Parades Commission this week ordered that no loyalist supporters accompany the parade as it passes St. Patrick’s church, and that a planned nationalist protest at the church be limited to no more than 150 people.

    ‘Almost street theater’

    But many observers of the violence contend that it is not the result of spontaneous outrage, but rather is deliberate, almost formalized cultural chest-thumping.”

  • Mick Fealty

    Frankly, userainm, you can read that kind of analysis anywhere, any day of the week… The bit Pete’s cut out is the more interesting, counter cyclical (if I might use a buzz word from the financial world) segment of the article.

    We’re all being invited to cleave to our residual distrust of the Orange and ignore the derogation of civil liberties or (as we used to call them in the 60s), rights…

  • UserAinm

    Mick

    Having read the full article a number of times before posting none of it is telling us anything we don’t already know and that’s fine. It’s written to give an insight to people maybe not from here but curious about recent events.

    Maybe I’m more cynical about the edit considering that in the main it excludes anything that could in any way suggest that the Orange had an input in events leading up to the ‘street theater’.

    As far as cleaving goes while not uncritical of them I was all for giving the Orders a fair shake this weekend as you’ll see from my posts. I not once suggested marches shouldn’t go ahead, I was supportive of hymns as a compromise and made sure to wish all involved all the best for the day so I feel I tried to approach with an open mind as much as I could. I’m not sure I follow your point about civil liberties.

  • Alias

    “It seems to me we are getting back to a situation where the state is being invited to declare some traditions null and void.”

    I think that’s true. There is a discernible subtext whereby the Catholics are encouraged to view the reformed state as a different means of undermining the Orange culture. I’d guess that it is the Shinners who are encouraging that latent sectarianism, since their own subtext is that their murder campaign had the purpose of destroying the so-called Orange state. They seem to be trying to present ‘the process’ as a continuance of their supposed conflict by other means. At any rate, it keeps some folks distracted from their utter failure to achieve the actual purpose of their murder campaign.

  • carl marks

    mick
    You never answered my question, What level of sectarian abuse is acceptable, would you apply the same standards to incidents of Homophobia or Racism.
    Also I’m interested what civil liberties or rights are being attacked you see I thought that setting out to offend your neighbours and break the law was not a civil liberty or right,
    Are unionists guilty of this as well when they protest about republican parades and have a little riot afterwards?
    Of course the OO and the bands could call the nationalist bluff and behave like adults, stop all the sectarian nonsense that they seem to love so much, then perhaps we would see if you’re really quite strange statement is true.
    “It seems to me we are getting back to a situation where the state is being invited to declare some traditions null and void. I, for one, am not comfortable with that.”
    And i would love to see your proof of this.

  • carl marks

    By the way credit where credit is due,
    I would say that I am heartened by the response of the DUP to the odious Nick Griffen’s outburst and Drew Nelson’s unreserved apology relating to the bandsman’s having a piss at St Matthew’s church.
    Little things like this show us that perhaps in the future we might get to the mutual self respect thing and then maybe parades like the one we have just had won’t be divisive in the future.

  • Mick Fealty

    @Carl and @User

    Well, pissing on the chapel gate is an arrest-able offence. Some kind of signal needs to be sent that some things in any society are not acceptable. Not because of any political content they purport to contain, but because they are, well, just not acceptable behaviour.

    Some of what people find offensive is cultural, some of it if not criminal will already be a serious breach of some civil law. In those cases, the law should be used, or at the very least the authorities need to give notice that the suspension of the law in these cases is over.

    And let me be clear about this, I’m not concerned in the least about the fate of the Orange. I’m concerned about a more general breach of civil liberty. Policing people into public ‘respect’ for traditional institutions is not a clever move.

    I suspect this trouble seeking around the 12th will have its own time limit (when the reflex gets exhausted, or just lose interest). But what else will be compelled to ‘respect’ afterwards? Stormont, the civil service, the Police?

    I’m not suggesting these institutions are not worthy of some respect, but we’re already a situation where if you question orthodoxy out of turn you get marked out as troublesome, or worse, as a dissident.

  • carl marks

    Policing people into public ‘respect’ for traditional institutions is not a clever move.

    No it is not, but policing people so they don’t insult their neighbours is a pretty common thing in democracies,
    Mick this is a two sided sword if one side wants a by ball for sectarian intolerance then the other side will want one as well and to be honest I don’t think that one will fly, however zero tolerance of this sort of thing from both sides backed up by the law might just work.
    The law can’t stop people from being bigots but it can stop them acting like bigots in public, and i address that remark to both sides, Republicans marching or putting on displays that could or do offend their neighbours is equally offensive and since I am a republican deeply shameful for me and any event by my “side” that sets out to do this should of course be banned and that ban will have my full support, is it unreasonable of me to expect that from others?

  • carl marks

    but we’re already a situation where if you question orthodoxy out of turn you get marked out as troublesome, or worse, as a dissident.

    tell me about it, I have been there, but i think what we are talking about here is more to do with respect and manners rather than questioning orthodoxy something i have scant repect for at the best of times

  • changeisneeded

    Correct Carl

    If you not toeing the SF line you must be a dissident terrorist fenian bastard!

  • BarneyT

    Mick

    The PSNI has an opportunity to address this urinating incident impartially, as a socially unacceptable action in its own right. It would be a mistake to attach anything else to this “crime”, even if it was a “culturally” or “religiously” motivated.

    Equally if any parades commission ruling was ignored or breeched and these rules are esablished in law, it should be handled simply as a crime in those terms, nothing more.

    The overexhuberant drum playing and swagger is unfortunately and more of an expression of the drummers inadequancies and insecurities, but this sort of posturing demands limited or zero response. I would advise that with most marching incidents.

    If they over-egg the response to either of these incidents, the battle will be lost and it will simply generate “more victims – righteously offended victims” on both sides of the fence.

  • changeisneeded

    There is zero tolerance, no surrender if you you like, coming form the loyalist communities and orders, i mean look what happens when we want to fly our countries flag on Saint Paddys day!

    Yet these sectarian scum wear armbands like this ?
    http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/63191000/jpg/_63191530_photo1.jpg

  • carl marks

    changeisneeded

    A tad harsh the SDLP might have problems with that, but you have a point in that SF is certainly trying to promote itself as the only legit expression of Nationalism.

  • changeisneeded

    Well its gonna get more hardline until the constitutional question is sorted well. The GFA is a “transitional arrangement” and it shows..

  • carl marks

    the above is in response to changeisneeded 11.14

  • BarneyT

    damned typos!

  • carl marks

    BarneyT

    I think my point on the gent with the bladder problem is that for the first time (to my knowledge) a senior member of the OO has even admitted that these thing happen and the fulsome apology given along with the promise of action by the OO on the matter is ground breaking and is to be welcomed. Having said that the police have a duty to as Mick says “at the very least the authorities need to give notice that the suspension of the law in these cases is over.”
    My dad a old soldier used to say “when your Marching you’re not fighting” it would be nice to get to that point.

  • Pete Baker

    As I said in the original post,

    …a clearer view than most of what is ”deliberate, almost formalized cultural chest-thumping”.

  • Rare enough that I comment on something I wrote, but here goes…

    UserAinm is entirely correct when he says “none of it is telling us anything we don’t already know and that’s fine. It’s written to give an insight to people maybe not from here but curious about recent events.”

    Mick pointing to other instances of aggrieved protests (WRT Islam etc.) is also correct.

    Mick points out “We’re all being invited to cleave to our residual distrust of the Orange and ignore the derogation of civil liberties or (as we used to call them in the 60s), rights…” Seems fair enough to me. Rights belong to people one may or may not like, regardless.

    Carl Marks says most people want “the OO to show some manners”. No doubt.

    And also “but we’re already a situation where if you question orthodoxy out of turn you get marked out as troublesome, or worse, as a dissident.” Seems correct to me.

    My personal opinion is not in the story, but changeisneeded says: “Well its gonna get more hardline until the constitutional question is sorted well. The GFA is a “transitional arrangement” and it shows..” and I believe there is some justification for agreeing with this analysis. Tempered, though, with the fact that for most people things are better than before. I know about the fact that segregation has increased, I’ve even noted it myself in other pieces, but the relative absence of killings can’t be ignored.

    In the end violence didn’t occur, for whatever reason, so that’s a plus.

    Before anyone asks, I don’t have any answers. I know a previous piece I co-wrote didn’t go down well around these parts, but I don’t claim to have the answers. If that sounds like a cop-out, I’m sorry.

  • Alias

    As is usual, loyalist reaction is indirectly engineered by Shinner action. To quote Tomás Mac Giolla on how this engineering works: “…the Provisionals have always relied for their influence among Catholics on creating an atmosphere where they can masquerade as the defenders of the Catholic community. They are hoping, therefore, for attacks and retaliation by Protestant paramilitaries so that they can be seen to defend the Catholic community. Time after time they have gone out and engaged in vile sectarian murders knowing that they would provoke a reaction from the paramilitaries leading to more fear and more terror in Catholic areas and leading people to believe that they needed the Provos to protect them.” It is emotionally impossible for the Catholics to now view their ‘selfless protector/parent’ as their self-serving abuser, and it is that mental block that allows the Shinners to continue to use the Catholics for their own ends by masquerading as their defenders.

    The Shinners’ historical revisionism has the purpose of presenting their sectarian murder camapign as a civil rights campaign rather than a campaign about national rights (now formally repudiated) and some daft notion of establishing a socialist state (where, presumably, every worker would have a home in Donegal).

    They cannot claim they terminated British rule since, rather obviously, they are now employed by the Crown to assist in the internal administration of British rule. They cannot claim that the Unionist Veto (the separate right of Northern Ireland to self-determination) has been terminated since it, rather obviously, it has now been universally accepted.

    This leaves them trying to present their campaign as having the purpose of terminating the so-called Orange State (never mind that this ended in 1972) when the British government closed Stormont. But the problem here is that the Shinners are also implicitly promoting their own redundancy if the so-called Orange State has been terminated. To get around this, the Shinners are hyping up Orange culture as a threat to the civic rights of the Catholic tribe, with the implicit claim being that the Shinners are still needed to protect the Catholic tribe from this threat – and they can do hard-line protection better than the competing party, the SDLP.

    This also works well for the loyalists since can then present themsleves as defenders of the Protestant tribe, thereby avoiding their own redundancy.

  • Pete Baker

    Jason

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    UserAinm is entirely correct when he says “none of it is telling us anything we don’t already know and that’s fine. It’s written to give an insight to people maybe not from here but curious about recent events.”

    Well, to an extent. You wouldn’t necessarily realise that from other more local media reports, or some of the posts and comments here.

    UserAinm does go on to attempt a spot of mind-reading. It doesn’t work.

    Jason again,

    changeisneeded says: “Well its gonna get more hardline until the constitutional question is sorted well. The GFA is a “transitional arrangement” and it shows..” and I believe there is some justification for agreeing with this analysis.

    Again, to an extent. Some may believe it’s transitional towards their ultimate goal. Politically psychotic though they may be…

    Some may hope it’s transitional towards a more democratic form of government adminstration in Northern Ireland.

    And the journey continues…

  • Hi Pete,

    The GFA and its successors were sold to republican/nationalist voters as, at least potentially, transitional arrangements and to unionists/loyalists as copper-fastenign the union. Seems to me neither is an outright lie, though. The problem is when everything is true, then nothing is true…

    Or, getting off my high horse, I think it’s safe to assume the goal for the British, Irish and US government was settlement, relative peace—whatever you want to call it.

    Some republicans say the GFA etc have copper-fastened partition. Alias above is onto something when he says SF can’t claim to have ended British rule (obviously) or the unionist veto (after all, an NI-specific referendum will be require to abolish the place). I’m not so sure I agree that it’s directly SF’s fault. What else is is SF supposed to do? SF has eclipsed the SDLP, whether or not anyone likes that. SF used to talk a lot about its mandate, and it’s true: they have one (as does the DUP etc.)

    I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. I think a culture war is a lamentable state of affairs, and both sides play it. So if republicans are too easily offended, so are loyalists only to happy to offend. There is a question of rights, the OO etc. are correct about that, but are we to suppose that no-one on the parades enjoys annoying republicans? I don’t think that they get a kick out of it is sufficient reason to ban them, but nor is it reason to pretend it’s all respectable.

    Since when has culture demanded respect, anyway? Lots of culture is disagreeable to lots of people. I don’t care for Aran sweaters, Italo Disco music, relational aesthetics and lots of other things.

    What I am interested in—and I realise that Ireland is an inch-tall compared to other conflicts—is the idea that offence itself is a problem. This is playing out all over the place these days, not just here. It seems to me to be new (relatively) and, to a degree, prototyped here. In the past people objected to oppression, not offence. We all get offended by something, but what does it mean? While we might wish to minimise the offence we each give and take, should the world be re-ordered to avoid it? I don’t think so. And apart from the philosophical component, is it really all that’s at stake? Is it worth fighting over being offended?

    But I can’t get into all of that in a report. It’s too long and well outside my job description and what newspaper reports are supposed to bring to the reader.

  • Apologies for the typos above.

  • Covenanter

    “There is zero tolerance, no surrender if you you like, coming form the loyalist communities and orders, i mean look what happens when we want to fly our countries flag on Saint Paddys day!

    Yet these sectarian scum wear armbands like this ?”

    I read and then re-read that post to see if I could ascertain what its relevance or purpose was. In the end I could only conclude that it simply presented another excuse for a bigot to yet again call Protestants sectarian scum.