A brave new orthodoxy. Whatever you say, say nothing.

Eamonn McCann’s class war may be a touch whiskery these days but it still helps him  punch a big hole in one of our brave new orthodoxies.

A little while ago, a friend attended a session of non-sectarian training sponsored by her employer. Each must respect the “culture” of the other side, it was explained. For example, the Orange Order was an expression of the identity of the Protestant community: to disrespect the order was to disrespect Protestants.

My friend intervened to say that she regarded the order as a bunch of bigots quite undeserving of respect. Shock and dismay all round. Such hostility to the Protestant community was intolerable. “But”, she piped up, “I am a Protestant.”

She was told to take a course in “single-identity work”. She’d have to learn to love her local lodge before she could engage fully in efforts to bring the communities together”

When did this patronising twaddle become compulsory and what can be done to undermine it?   As Gladys rightly says below,” liberal” is a dirty word in Northern Ireland. (Eamonn would agree actually), the kind of liberalism that says a plague on all your communal prisons and doesn’t believe the revolution is just round the corner, even for the sake of argument.

In the 1970s, the entire liberal constituency used to meet in a telephone box in Donegall Place before they blew it up. Eamonn’s Trots probably met in a brown paper bag. In the bad old days, it was plain orthodoxy for the “Liberal elite” (there’s another one for you ) to sneer, show  contempt, patronise , despise even, the lumpenproletariat  of sectarianism. Not nice and a poor analysis  but some kind of therapy was needed and at least we weren’t  killing people.  In its way it was an admission of impotence.  But being in a minority has never stopped Eamonn. He’s right. Polemic is better than sneering.  But taking them seriously with courtesy and acceptance is better than both. Bad for the blood pressure though. Swallowing them whole is a different thing altogether.  Who was that who shouted “Alliance party?”

We’ve a long way to go it seems before  we’re  back in the mid 1960s.


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  • Mick Fealty

    I’m tempted to quote Heaney again, but you can get too much of even a very good thing… I think the truth lies round corners which are not even obvious yet. Most of the platitudes of war (liberal and others) will prove to have been little more than tactical devices…

    Here’s Eamonn waxing on MLK last week…

  • Ruarai

    “When did this patronising twaddle become compulsory and what can be done to undermine it?”

    I’ll tell you when. The moment the hard left realized that (a) Marxian analyses of the economy were snuffed (particularly the proscription elements) and so (b) they adopted identity politics and the courts to take on The Man instead. This is the irony here – liberals are not the problem (if by liberals we simply mean moderates). Progressives are. Specifically the usurpation of the socialist space by Progressives.

    How do you undermine it? Simply ask its shrill advocates to answer even the most basic follow-up questions and, before they do, remind them that, no, you cannot simply dismiss dissent as evidence of false consciousness and the need for reprogramming.

    Anecdote. About 7 years ago I’m attending compulsory Diversity Training in the workplace here in the US. Stated Aim: toleration. Actual aim: Platform for vacuous representatives of the Professional Left to start every sentence and answer with “As a…” as though one’s identity is the equivalent of an argument; a magic cloak that can infuse even the most palpable balderdash with legitimacy and authority. The main women stands up in Day 2 and, after droning on for a few minutes about The Other, she pointedly asked in a tone of implicitly critical urgency: “Can you see the difference between how you all reacted to me as compared to [male colleague’s name].?”

    Silence in the room.

    I ask: “Sorry, I’m not quite following you?”

    Drone: “When he stood, you – as in us all, I presume – all interacted eagerly. When the black woman spoke, there was more skepticism and hesitancy” (I’m paraphrasing – but barely.)

    Me: “Yeah, here’s the thing though. On Day one, your colleague, also a black lady, had this exact same group eating out of her hand. She’s more charismatic than you. As is he.”

    Response: Silence from her.


    Identity politics and questions of inherited privilege aren’t totally stupid but they’re so often hijacked by the empty-headed in an attempt to appropriate gravitas they could otherwise never hope to achieve.

    The solution is debate. It’s always debate.

    The alternative is the progressives’ favorite tactic: change through legal avenues rather than public debate and consensus – so that only encourages them and the general problem of intolerance dressed up as Tolerance.

    But socialists shouldn’t get too prickly about the progressive agenda. It’s basically their legacy. Yes, it’s different and reductive in many ways by comparison with an economic program designed to eradicate extreme poverty and illiteracy but the imprimatur of Progressivism is derived from the socialist well: coercion not persuasion, intolerance of difference and dissent and, not least, a determination to make people think your thoughts, “the right thoughts”.

    When McCann’s colleague’s Thought Enforcer first heard the phrase, “herd of independent minds” she probably thought, “is there a non-job Job Opening for the shepherd?”

  • gendjinn


    Liberal became a dirty word/insult after 1848.


    I believe you are in the DC area, right? Might explain the differential experience you & I have had with diversity training. I’m in software in San Francisco and out here it’s actually not that bad at all.

  • Brian Walker

    Eamonn in the clip above posted by Mick as usual shows his strengths as a reporter with a point of view, not a propagandist and there’s one hell of a difference. “Socialism “ at least forces you across the sectarian divide. Eamonn himself is far too much of an individualist to be bound by concrete ideology, although he has always treaded lightly on Republicanism. There is a trade- off over what you say about the forces in your own community if you chose to continue living in it.

    We heard him there dismissing the extreme claims of Catholic victimhood in 1968 -69 (since labelled MOPE – Most Oppressed People Ever) in comparison with the “Negro” civil rights cause. He was doing it even back then when it was quite daring. His must- read piece of contemporary account of the early Troubles War in an Irish Town had one priceless element; it’s honesty about the local campaign. He captured the sheer devilment and thrill of it, the winging and the posturing, without the slightest fear that he was selling the pass.

    Revolution, said Tocqueville or somebody, happens among people on the rise; the dispossessed merely revolt. The relevance of this to my post is that whether the cause is militant or moderate, it’s lost straight away if you fail in the end to be candid and truthful. “Orangeism” has a long way to go before it becomes Orangfest and Republicanism a saunter down Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day. There’s no harm at all in either but they make only a small point, of presenting one vision of the de-fanged past. To represent the symbols of division as its substance is a dangerous delusion and should not be foisted on the people as the ideology of the new State.

    Democratic states do not have ideology. They have law, values and the right to choose.

    Btw, Ruarai, A great rant. I’ll leave it there.

  • wild turkey

    was it Freud who wrote about the ‘narcissism of minor differences;?

    line of the week goes to Ruarai “is there a non-job Job Opening for the shepherd?”….. probably, and it would be one of norn ironlands major employers; The Good Intentions Paving Company

    thanks for the bracing writing, livened up the saturday morn bloody mary shift. you really had your mojo working @ 12:23am. which does beg the question, what were you up to in the hours immediately preceeding midnite?

    anyway one of your best to date. mahalo

  • “To represent the symbols of division as its substance is a dangerous delusion and should not be foisted on the people as the ideology of the new State.”

    I was unaware that a new State had been established, Brian. Were you supping half-pints with Eamonn in the Silver Dog Bar, back in the day? 😉

    The hoped-for socialist revolution that would have swept away the conservative establishments in Belfast and Dublin was never likely to happen; our familiar tramlines have been too well established.

  • David Crookes

    Ruarai, many thanks for that posting.

    I’ll believe there’s a real economic crisis when the various thought police services are all stood down.

  • cynic2

    I will bet she works in the civil service or elsewhere in the public sector

  • cynic2

    Subverting this is difficult but its nothing new. You need to recognize if its a genuine effort or simply a make to to meet some target

    I have a friend who about 10 years ago worked in a big public sector organisation in London and was called in for a seminar based on race. He is actually totally cool on racial issues but hates being patronized. He found himself with a wide cross section of colleagues from different departments and specialisms and two bright and eager evangelical facilitators. .

    Armed with piles of post it notes they opened with they ‘we are all in it together and we all come from different backgrounds and bring different things to the table. so we want to be inclusive. Now fill in 3 post its of what you think you can bring to today and stick them on the wall. Any questions”.

    He put his hand up. Yes? If we are all in together and its all inclusive then why aren’t the canteen staff here?

    Pause, then a reply. “We are focusing on the staff who are part of our core mission”

    “But they are critical to our core mission., They are a vital part of the team., They make all the food and if they didn’t we would really notice it and it would inhibit every other area our work. Its the same with the cleaners and all the other support staff like them, but they aren’t here”

    “Yes but they are facilities people and work for a contractor not directly for us” came the reply.

    He responded “So are most of the IT people but they are here”

    The facilitators weren’t happy about this, especially when other attendees began to mutter support. So they cracked down’ sorry ….but they aren’t part of this you will just have to accept that’

    My friend came back “You do realize that most of the people you are excluding from this are black and/or female. I feel very unhappy at us ignoring their views”

    With rebellion breaking out, shortly after this they called a coffee break. My friend was pulled to one side and told he could go back this office and not return ans he was disruptive. Later his boss called him in and told him to ‘stop taking the piss’ out of the programme but he was senior enough not to worry. He had gamed them and they knew it.

  • Zig70

    The problem with do-gooders is they think they are right and everyone should follow. They don’t stand a chance politically against the power seeking politician. Ulster folk aren’t liberal. Get over it.

  • ayeYerMa

    Is this a parallel universe or has Walker seen the light

  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot for that anecdote, cynic2. One to file away and maybe use in the pulpit.

  • paulG

    Question is, does Eamonn disagree with these exercises in thought control uniformity, only when they don’t mirror his or standard lefty liberal views?

  • amateuranthropology

    The problem with Eamonn’s anecdote is that is sounds apocryphal, with no names, dates or anything else verifiable. Indeed, it reads a little like a Daily Mail article on diversity training.