August 01, 2016

Irish nationalism's xenophobia against long settled Protestants

Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan tweeted:
"Unionists didn't have a problem with immigration when their ancestors descended on Ireland to grab land from the native population..."
While, republicans don't have a problem with immigration, so long as it's not protestant immigration to Ireland of centuries past. As Eoin O'Malley of Dublin City University wrote in the paper 'Populist Nationalists: Sinn Fein and redefining the 'radical right'':
"Nationalism in Ireland cannot sit easily with anti-immigrant bigotry (as long as the immigrants are not long settled Protestants."
Deirdre Nuttall in, ‘Keeping Their Heads Down: Shame and Pride in the Stories of Protestants in the Irish Republic’, wrote:

"To what extent do Irish Protestants consider themselves separate and different today? Most assert their Irishness very proudly, while equally proudly enumerating their many differences. One rural woman from the west describes herself as "100% Irish" but asserts that the Protestants were an ethnic minority before "the Muslims" ever came and should have been as forward in asking for their rights as she believes the Muslim community has been. She says of a report she read about Irish Travellers requesting recognition as a distinct ethnic minority that "if they have a right to it, so do we." In fact, she thinks that the Irish Protestants are even more different, as the Travellers are Catholics. She comments that "the Irish will accommodate the new minorities but find it very hard to do anything for the old minorities in their community". However, while she feels that someone ought to make the case to government for the Irish Protestants achieving recognition as a separate ethnic group, she certainly wouldn't want to be the one to do it. She would prefer to keep her head down, for fear of upsetting or offending the people she knows and respects."
Michael Martin, Fianna Fail leader said:

"The greatest single barrier to Irish unity has been and will always be Sinn Fein/IRA. The Provisional IRA did enormous damage to the campaign of unity, to Protestants and Catholics. 
Look at Kingsmills, the Shankill bombing and other atrocities. The PIRA killed Protestants because they were Protestants. As a result, they have posed a great barrier to unity."
You can read Eoin O'Malley in full here:
"In the 2002 Irish general election the leader of the Labour party Ruairí Quinn compared Sinn Féin, Ireland’s most aggressively nationalist party, to the French National Front, and claimed that a vote for Sinn Féin candidates was akin to supporting Jean-Marie le Pen in France. He said that Sinn Féin is an ‘extreme nationalist party’ (Observer 12 May 2002). Although this was obviously an electoral strategy, Quinn is not alone in making this comparison. For decades Irish and British politicians have characterised Sinn Féin/ IRA as quasi-fascists. Joe Hendron of the SDLP spoke of Sinn Féin as a ‘fascist organisation’ (Irish Times 29 May 1996) and Ian Paisley, an exemplar of intolerance, talked about the objectives of Sinn Féin/ IRA as ‘the triumph of fascism’ (Irish Times 5 July 2000)."
Eoin O'Malley continued:
"There is prima facia evidence to support this claim. The campaign of its military arm, the IRA, is often sectarian – even if it would deny this – targeting innocent Protestants and British people. The penchant for dressing in black berets, dark glasses and marching with an abundance of national flags is evocative of extreme right-wing organisations. The use of vigilantism and punishment beatings to meek out their form of justice to anti-socials – such as women who fraternised with British soldiers – may be an activity more closely associated with right-wing mobs than leftist revolutionaries. 
However a number of new works do consider the party in normalised politics. Tonge and Murray (2006) look at Sinn Féin policies. Maillot (2005) devotes a good deal of space to studying ‘New Sinn Féin’ and it finds that it is a leftist party with strong equality agenda – she tends to give the party the benefit of the doubt. Another sympathetic study of Sinn Féin found no evidence that it is anything other than a radical left- wing party. Policies which are associated with the right such as Sinn Féin’s use of public- private partnerships to fund education in Northern Ireland in contravention to its stated policy, is an example of the party’s ‘pragmatism,’ (Doyle 2005: 7)."
He said:
"So what is a radical right party and can Sinn Féin really be considered to belong to that party family? Von Beyme (1988: 1) differed between the conservatives, who want to maintain the status quo and ‘right-wing extremists [who] want to restore the status quo ante... if necessary, [to] be achieved by the use of force’. Sinn Féin adheres to this definition quite well in that it attempts to revert to a (mythical) Gaelic united Ireland, and is willing to use violence to achieve this end."
"In one of the most influential books on the topic Kitschelt puts RR parties into four categories:  
welfare chauvinists;
and populist anti-statist
The latter might be where Sinn Féin would sit. And in relation to the important philosophy of physical-force nationalism, again Sinn Féin appears similar to RR parties. Hainsworth (1992: 10) has argued that RR parties’ brand of nationalism is ‘usually aggressive, exclusive, chauvinistic and historically selective’.
He continued to surmise:
"However in many other ways Sinn Féin appears polar opposite to RR parties. Sinn Féin is socialist (it claims), anti-war and antimilitarist (inexplicably) and pro-immigrants and minority rights. It is in favour of state involvement in the economy. 
Radical right parties are sometimes found to be inconsistent in policies terms, displaying a mixture of pro-capitalist, anti-communist sentiment, mixed with protectionism, and support for the welfare state. These hardly seem policies of the right. RR parties also tend to rail against globalisation and the EU. However the distinctive, some would say signature policy of RR parties seems to be the anti-immigrant attitude- although not all of these parties are xenophobic but this is rarely acknowledged. Might it be that these parties are in fact radical populist – willing to do or say anything to follow votes- rather than right-wing parties? 
For populists the will of the people is sovereign regardless of its outcome, so there is no appeal to a political philosophy beyond that it is what the people want. As Riker (1982: 12) puts it: 
According to the populist interpretation of voting, participation in rule-making is necessary for liberty. The rules thus made must be respected as right and proper because they embody that liberty. Were they not so respected, liberty itself might vanish. 
Populist parties will, one would expect, not appear to have strong ideological ties, but will make appeals to people and call for less state power and more power to be devolved locally. Like the radical right, populism will be against the elite-driven European project, but may or may not blame immigrants for problems in society. Crucially populism, as a category can accommodate the inconsistencies in the Radical Right programmes, and go some way to explaining the similarities between Sinn Féin and RR parties. In order to compare Sinn Féin with RR parties it is first useful to look at the party’s roots and development."
"One Provisional was possibly more honest and certainly less subtle in analysing how he felt about Protestants: ‘that’s my dream for Ireland. I would like to see those Orange bastards just wiped out’ (English 2003: 123). For another he saw that the rationale for many trying to join the IRA was ‘just to get stuck in to the Orangies’ (Moloney 2002: 81). Another member, who left and wrote about his experiences, became disillusioned partly at the sectarianism in the organisation. (Collins 1998: 36-7).4 Indeed one of the (more accurate) rallying calls of Sinn Féin was that Catholics in Northern Ireland were being cheated of work and good housing, something the British extreme right also (less accurately) feel (cf. Hainsworth 2000: 11). 
More recently Sinn Féin has removed less subtle sectarian demands. The party also appeals to Wolfe Tone’s spirit, for a separate state in which ‘Catholic Protestant and Dissenter’ would be known just as Irishman. But one would struggle to sustain the argument that the Provisional movement is no longer sectarian. Its use of flags and painted kerbstones is a sectarian device learnt from Protestant paramilitaries. The organised and often violent protests against Orange marches are, like the marches themselves, sectarian in nature and hardly consistent with appeals to pluralism."
And here's some core points:
"Sinn Féin may call for respect of other races, but has little respect for another major tradition on the island of Ireland. That it is essentially a sectarian party can also be seen in its peace strategy. Sinn Féin accepted (and in part designed) the set of institutions to bring a solution to the Troubles- the Belfast Agreement. The Agreement, which is on semi-permanent hiatus, creates sectarian structures to govern Northern Ireland in which people must identify themselves as belonging to one community or another. Indeed its attitude to this, that it is effectively a stepping-stone to a United Ireland would not indicate that either."
"A respected Irish political commentator recently proposed that there are two types of Sinn Féin voter. Traditional anti-British republicans mainly in rural areas and people living in deprived urban working class areas disenchanted with the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy and the established parties (Collins 2003: 34). Where the former may be conservative and Catholic the latter may be more radical. Sinn Féin’s support in the Republic is strongest in rural border counties and in working class areas of Dublin. 
Table 1 shows some demographic characteristics of Sinn Féin votes in the last two elections. Overall we see an increase in support for Sinn Féin. Within that the figures are very much in line with what are usually called radical or extreme right parties. Sinn Féin’s voters are (statistically and substantively) significantly more likely to be working class. There is an obvious and strong relationship with age. Support among the young is four times higher than among over pensioners. The rural urban divide is exists but is less pronounced than one might expect, but this can be accounted by Collins’ observations. Should Sinn Féin voters be similar to radical nationalist party voters one would expect to see a gender gap. This also exists."
He finished:
"Hooge et al (2002) in attempting to explain attitudes to the EU have argued (convincingly) that the left-right definition of politics is essentially meaningless to understanding attitudes to the EU. They argue that parties can be categorised into two types: GAL or TAN. These are Green, alternative, libertarian parties and traditional, authoritarian, nationalist parties. TAN parties are more likely to be anti-European. 
Sinn Féin certainly falls into the TAN type of parties. 
One of the reasons for this puzzling relationship is that the radical right is not consistently right-wing. Many of the BNP policies are leftist. In fact it seems that RR parties are a mix of populism and violent nationalism, and in this way Sinn Féin can fit more neatly into the same category as racists such as Le Pen. Crucially however nationalism in Ireland cannot sit easily with anti-immigrant bigotry (as long as the immigrants are not long settled Protestants), so it is less likely that a xenophobic party could prosper in Ireland."

Read the paper in full here. Analysis on Slugger O'Toole here

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