In response to the rolling unrest in Northern Ireland I made a simple case: That modern Northern Ireland remonstrate and stand against the loyalists and other extremists who have been “chipping away” at our good name. PUP councillor John Kyle responded directly here, elsewhere Winston Ervine criticised me for my “invective” and others have chided me for my “rank snobbishness and arrogance.”In a reply to this I have the following to say.
I can see how my last article could be read as conceited, supercilious, even arrogant. None were my intention. I can also see the hypocrisy in a well-fed moderate having a go at the unionist working classes. So I welcome the points.But this is what I didn’t get.
Firstly, I’m astounded that those who have been associated with people who make violence, vandalism and intimidation the rules of the game start crying when I respond with heavy words.Secondly, my opponents spoke of the hypocrisy of a middle-class person criticizing the working-class who contribute so many men and women to the armed forces. I’m reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Tommy: ‘Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep.’
I get it. But I respect the men and women who defend us while we sleep. But I wasn’t referring to working-class Protestants at large, for whom I have the greatest of sympathy. When I spoke against loyalism, I spoke of the violent, buckfast-in-hand, anarchic brand of loyalism; fully grown men dancing on police land rovers, teenagers attacking the police; the Orange Order striking the police.This is the important distinction. The loyalists seen by the world aren’t men of the armed forces who defend us; these are men who attack the men and women who defend us day and night. It's a VERY VERY odd form of loyalism that attacks the Queen's forces. So I will not have it said that I took an impassioned swipe at disadvantaged unionists. I took a swipe at loyalists who engaged in a pre-meditated campaign of violence overseen by the Orange Order and various illegal organisations, and defended by unionist politicians.
Thirdly, I was told that “Those of us who are established in our careers and positions of influence owe it to them to create employment opportunities, affirm their worth and provide role models and friendship.”On creating jobs and role models – the flag and parades unrest and rolling uncertainty does nothing but destroy jobs and investment. And associated with this, as Newton Emerson said, “paramilitarism is the cause of social disadvantage.” These gangsters are the role models and they have a chokehold on the young people. The men in control don’t want outside role models. They covet the status quo. They don’t want their people to change.
As Christopher Hitchens said:On affirming and working with them - how could anyone help them? I don’t know any well-off unionist, never mind nationalist, who could just walk into one of these areas and try and in any way mingle. It's not rude to say this. It's the reality.
‘The power of this parasitic class was what protracted the fighting in Northern Ireland for years and years after it had become obvious to all that nobody (except the racketeers) could “win”. When it was over, far too many of the racketeers become profiteers of the “peace process” as well.”’
Think of these bonfires, supposed towers of culture. If you’re not in that community and you wanted to take part and enjoy the culture before the 11th night, you’d get chinned. You’d have to speak to one of these self-appointed gatekeepers to get anywhere near the people.I remember trying to speak with a mural artist. His response? A stone, Aztec face, empty eyes and a grunt that said ‘“f” away off’. These are closed people that resent the middle classes. The only way to unlock them is through the gatekeepers and paramilitaries. And so the circle goes on. (I should make it clear that I’ve also met and know some of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever come across who are from the loyalist community.)
Secondly, many in the loyalist community are already helped to no end. They’re an indulged class who’ve been handed tranche after tranche of money, habitually siphoned off and squandered by “gatekeepers”. It’s the same with the Orange Order. As Brian Feeney said, the Orange Order is showered with public money, yet they incite unrest and cost the public purse thousands.
Their indulgence is typified by the learnt helplessness and sense of victimhood – that it’s everyone else’s fault. Like Alex Kane said to the Orange Order, stop blaming everyone else and take some responsibility. We need to end this tremendous steam-bath of self-pity. It’s not about what Northern Ireland can do for you but what you can do for Northern Ireland.Thirdly, I was criticized for my invective and heavy use of language. John Hewitt wrote, “Speak peace and toleration/ Moderate your tone of voice, and everywhere avoid what might provoke/ Good will must be deployed in efforts to restore our balanced state.”
This was written fictitiously. A jab at the cult of respectability adopted by the coasting middle-classes who decided it best to just shut-up and put-up with the Troubles. Well no, I won’t moderate my voice and I don’t think anyone else should do so for that matter. Softly, softly doesn’t work. I will speak truth to barbarism. I will not be a silent spectator of unfairness and mindlessness. So my use of words was quite right. You cannot pander or indulge such incivility.As William Butler Yeats wrote, ‘Irish poets learn your trade, sing whatever is well made, scorn the sort growing up all out of shape from toe to top.’ I feel it only proper to scorn those who have gone unscorned, unchecked and unaccounted for, for far too long. As John Hewitt said, they’ve been ‘long nurtured, never checked, in ways of hate.’
The time has come to say, as Fintan O’Toole said to the people of Ireland: ‘Enough is Enough’, enough of the pandering and indulgence; and enough of the standing idly by, enough of the fatalism, enough of the cynical inaction, enough of the shutting-up and putting-up. As Fintan wrote:“There is a fatalistic sense that nothing can change. The country needs to encourage participation in, and oversight and knowledge of politics, to make people feel that they have a right to challenge the old party machines and to make a difference. It is their country, after all.”
Yes, Northern Ireland is our country too. We have a culture too. We need to lose the fatalism, contest the lunacy and battle for tolerance. We cannot be held hostage and prisoner to events by a rogue community. Too long we’ve moderated our voice, spoken peace and toleration and everywhere did what would not provoke. Well, enough is enough.And to those who say I have nothing positive to say or to contribute, here are some points for loyalism, unionism and the leadership to consider.
Firstly, it’s quite clear that the unrest is the expression of insecurity and uncertainty, and a deep fear that their culture is being “chipped away”. These are totally understandable concerns, but rioting is not the answer. How so? It’s suicide on a number of levels:One, it’s an own goal against moderate unionism. As Alex Kane said:
"A final thought for now: has moderate unionism simply been replaced with opt -out-couldn’t-care-less-about-the-whole-thing-anymore unionism?"
Three, it’s an own goal against mainland Britain who will continue to tire of the living on of the religious wars of the 17th Century. Theresa Villiers rightly said:Five, the rioting and unrest play into the hands of Sinn Fein. Let it be said very plainly: the rioting, the fear, the insecurity, the paranoia, the unrest and the uncertainty are exactly what Sinn Fein want. The shouting and roaring is exactly what Sinn Fein want loyalism to do. Alex Kane recently quoted a Sinn Fein member who commented on the unrest. He said:
“It’s hard to think of anything more unBritish than wrapping yourself in a union flag and attacking the police who are there to uphold the law."
Four, it's an own goal against tourism and the NI economy. As Theresa Villiers said:
“It’s hard to see how Northern Ireland can reach its full economic potential while sectarian division continues to spill out on the streets with disgraceful scenes of rioting and violence.”
“We can always rely on unionist disarray or paranoia to help us out.”
“The degree of uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the unionist community!”’
“It falls to unionist leaders to explain that the world has changed but not ended.”
To carry on along the track of the status quo would be a suicide and a triumph for idiocy and blinkered radicalism.Fourthly, let’s look to Rosa Luxemburg, a writer who possessed an internationalism so strong that she despised anything to do with lesser or sectarian “identities.” This internationalism led her to oppose the infantile and explosive nationalist claims of her fellow Poles and Jews. She said:
“I feel at home in the entire world, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”
To conclude: Up until now normal, modern Northern Ireland has had no critical faculty. While the agents of intransigence and vandalism have had no faculty for self-criticism. This must change. The young and ambitious must learn to contest and question the endless rolling violence and mutual hatred. They must stand and express a sane voice of opposition that can be heard above the hubbub of tragedy, futility and riotous passions.And if that means raising your voice and employing heavy language, let it be. It’s not rude, arrogant or snobbish. Let's end the cult and soft bigotry towards aspiration, moderation and being middle-class. It sickens me that being middle-class is a pjejorative term in Northern Ireland.
The old politicians are locked in the 70s and 80s. Their minds are locked in a world of green and orange. YOU need to change that. YOU young people need to stand up and make YOUR voice heard.
[Written by Brian John Spencer and originally published on Eamonnmallie.com]