Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blair, protestants and bigotry

A couple of weeks ago I highlighted the tendency on the left towards double standards over political violence, citing Northern Ireland as an example. So all violence is bad but protestant violence against catholics is regarded as sectarian and driven by bigotry; catholic violence against protestants is political and driven by oppression.

It is disappointing to see Tony Blair fall into this trap. One of the positive things Blair has done is move the Labour party away from its previous rather obvious pro-Green and anti-Orange bias on Northern Ireland questions. He should know better.


Joe Otten said...

Blair was saying that the "Protestant bigot" was not a true protestant.

Surely this position, if anything, is a defence of protestantism, just as saying that "Islamist extremists are not true Muslims" is a defence of Islam and Muslims.

Frankly, both sides in Northern Ireland are hypersensitive about language, all the time, on principle. It is part of the bread and butter of their politics. So there is a knee-jerk reaction to the use of the term "protestant extremist" even in the process of disavowing the concept.

Quite how anybody can simultaneously believe both that there is such a thing as a true protestant and that there is such a thing a true muslim, is a question for another time.

Iain said...

Blair is defending protestantism but there is an implied slur on Ulster protestants. I think it is a good rule of thumb on Northern Ireland not to be or appear selective in criticising either side. This is why both sides are hypersensitive about language.

In refering exclusively to the bigotry of one side Blair departs from even-handedness and reinforces the growing sense of victimhood among Unionists.

Blair would have been better to refer to bigotry on both sides of the divide or not to refer to it at all.

Angus J Huck said...

I find Blair's comments a tad confused.

In Northern Ireland we have a situation where identity is determined by religion and race.

To an Irish nationalist, only Roman Catholics who are genetically Irish are entitled to live in Ireland. An Ulster Protestant, on the other hand, typically sees himself as a true follower of Jesus whose Scottish descent makes him racially superior to the native Irish.

The dispute is about identity, which is based first and foremost on confessional preference.

In former Jugoslavia, we witnessed a series of murderous conflicts ostensibly motivated by religions which few of the participants actually practiced.

One might reasonably wonder why a Serb, Croat or Bosnian Moslem who couldn't be bothered to attend church/mosque would feel motivated to go and kill in the name of his religion. The answer is that he killed for his identity, which was based historically on religion.

It's rather analogous to football. Arsenal and Chelsea. Liverpool and Everton. Bristol City and Bristol Rovers. You support your team, even if there is no deep-seated ideological motivation for so doing.

Irish nationalism was created and sustained by the Roman Catholic Church in order to undermine Britain as a Protestant imperial power. Ulster Unionism is essentially a reaction to the threat which Irish nationalism poses.

Now that the RC Church in Ireland has collapsed beneath the weight of child abuse scandals and modern secular liberalism, one wonders how IRA/Sinn Fein can sustain its position.

Well, the answer is partly thuggery and warlordism. It is also a move into mainstream politics. Which is difficult for IRA/Sinn Fein, because it exposes the contradictions between its neo-Marxist and Catholic conservative elements.

All three UK political parties have made a big mistake over the years by refusing to organise in Northern Ireland. The Labour Paty has effectively handed the Protestant working-class over to the DUP and Paramilitary gangsters on a plate.

But let's not be deceived into thinking that the recent decline in religiosity in Ireland will make Ireland any safer in the long-term. If Britain disengages, and IRA/Sinn Fein and the UDA fill the vacuum, Northern Ireland will sink into barbarism just as surely as Jugoslavia.