Friday, March 10, 2006

The left, sectarianism and Northern Ireland

One of the reasons for the name of this blog is my interest in paradox and the way political issues are often not quite as they seem. I like to think that those of us who are on the liberal left of politics will have an enlightened outlook, letting reason be our guide. But all too often, the left (including some Liberals) does little more than mirror the prejudices of the right.

Nowhere is this more true than on the question of Northern Ireland. For centuries it was implicit in British political culture that Roman Catholics in general, and Irish Catholics in particular, were politically backward and driven by superstition not reason. They were always to be regarded as slightly suspect and possibly disloyal. While naked expressions of anti-Catholicism are now beyond the pale, it is idle to pretend that there is no anti-Irish prejudice. Yet among some people on the left there is an anti-Ulster protestant prejudice that is every bit as irrational.

Before the ceasefires, when the bombing and shooting campaigns were at full throttle, I found this manifested itself in the following way among my Lib Dem or Labour supporting acquaintances. While they would condemn all paramilitary violence, they assumed that republican violence was somehow that little bit less bad than its loyalist counterpart. A united Ireland was self-evidently the right solution. Republican terrorism was based on misguided idealism, while loyalist killings were pure sectarian bigotry.

There is a good example of such double standards in an article by the left-wing writer Beatrix Campbell in this week’s New Statesman, on the BBC’s recent Facing the truth series. The programmes brought together victims and perpetrators of paramilitary violence during the Northern Ireland troubles. Campbell
writes:

The republican soldiers' mission was to kill the British state that was denying their right to be human. The loyalist soldiers' mission was to kill Catholics.


But it is not as quite as simple as that. Sectarianism exists on both sides of the divide.
Just a couple of weeks ago a march in Dublin organized by FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives) under the banner LoveUlster had to be abandoned due to riotsapparently organised by fringe Republican groups. As Ruth Dudley Edwards pointed out in a well-argued article in the (Dublin-based) Sunday Independent, FAIR is not entirely free of dodgy loyalist connections. But these events in Dublin show that Ulster protestants can be the victims of, not just responsible for, sectarian attitudes.

2 comments:

Angus J Huck said...

It is deeply ironic that Beatrix Campbell should be apologising for the IRA. Campbell is a lesbian, an atheist and a Marxist, all of which make her utter anathema to a reactionary Roman Catholic peasant movement like Sinn Fein/IRA.

But the enthusiasm of the UK Left for identity politics doesn't stop with Irish nationalism. It is to be found in its current alliance with radical Islam, embodied in the SWP-led "popular front", "Respect", and the drive to immunise Islam from criticism under the banner of "multi-culturalism" (a dangerously elastic term).

And it isn't just the Left which has swallowed Irish nationalist nostrums hook, line and sinker.

Take the one-time Liberal luminary, John Pardoe, whom I recall arguing the IRA cause on "Any Questions".

According to Pardoe, Ulster Protestants have no enitlement to live in Northern Ireland, so their opinions are irrelevant (echoes of the Balfour Declaration). Ireland's problems, he continued, are exclusively the fault of Britain, and the British people should adopt "a collective sense of guilt".

So Pardoe has two things in common with the Judaeo-centrists (such as Wiesel and Cesarani), who deny the Palestinians the right to self-determination on account of their supposed inferiority in the eyes of God, and believe in racial guilt (all Gentiles are to blame for the Holocaust).

If Pardoe had said similar things about blacks or Jews, there would have been uproar (and quite rightly). But Pardoe confined his bile to Ulster Protestants and white Britons, against whom it is evidently legitimate to hurl racist insults.

But don't be deceived by Campbell and her kind. The UK Left doesn't really sympathise with the IRA, and would hate to have to live under the confessional dispensation which Adams and McGuinness want to impose. They are happy to get into bed with anybody, quite literally anybody, be it ultramontaine Catholics, Islamists, or the likes of Stalin and Mao, Fidel Castro, Malcolm X or Milton Obote, so long as they are enemies of Britain and its ruling class. Like Lenin (friend and beneficiary of Imperial Germany), they believe there is no morality in the class struggle.

As a white Briton, what am I entitled to do to Italians to punish them for the crimes of the Roman Empire (including those of the infamous war criminal, Hardian, who built a wall to prevent native people from travelling freely within their own country)?

PS: Beatrix Campbell is a supporter of the so-called "recovered memory" movement, who insist on the reliability of claims of child abuse spoken under hypnosis (she has an unlikely ally in David Icke here). One really has to fear for Campbell's sanity.

Angus J Huck said...

Another point.

The preposterous quote from Campbell about Britain denying IRA gunmen the right to be human suggests that Irish people are incapable of seeing themselves as individuals: they are required to accept a national and confessional identity imposed on them by Adams, McGuinness and their thugs (and this is treated by Campbell as a "right"!!).

I am reminded of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who insisted that Jewish people are required by God to adopt a Jewish identity (supplied by Kahane). If they reject it, they are dust.

Liberals must reject the authoritarian, collectivist prescriptions of Campbell and Kahane. Human beings are individuals first, Roman Catholics, Jews, Irish, Israelis second.