August 10, 2017

Unconscious bias against Ireland's protestants and unionists

A 19th century painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan, depicting Catherine de' Medici (in black) viewing the carnage of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (a day of Catholic mob violence and murder in 1572)

Just because you are gay it does not automatically mean that you believe in government control of the economy and large public spending.

Today we live in an identity-politics world where the conservative and centrist is evil and the progressive left is benevolent and virtuous.

And so it is in Northern Ireland, the unionist is bad, the nationalist is good. As Newton Emerson said: "The special problem with Sinn Fein is its ideological imperative to paint unionists as a community defined by prejudice." Unionists are the "despised tribe" and the "despised hangers-on".


But as Pete Shirlow said at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2017:
"My forebears were anti-sectarian, but they were pro-union. The idea that being pro-union is inherently sectarian is not only wrong it is inherently sectarian."
John Wilson Foster wrote in the Belfast Telegraph:
​"There is an unspoken prevailing cultural assumption, even among our writers. "Be advised," Seamus Heaney told his London editors, "my passport's green./No glass of ours was ever raised/To toast The Queen". 
Were you to read another Northern Ireland poet addressing his Dublin editor: "Be advised/My passport's blue", the slim volume would jolt from your hand. One sentiment is permissible, laudable, even thrilling. The other is naff, infra dig, counter-poetic."
Funnily enough, I wrote a poem called 'My passports are two/One green, one blue' (read in full below).
When I did the @Ireland Twitter account I was told how bigoted protestants and Orangemen were.

One lady tweeted tearfully about how her father-in-law wouldn't step inside the chapel were she was married. This story is sad, no doubt. However this story was told with a righteous indignation that suggested only protestant and Orangemen are capable of such cold behaviour.

But this callous behaviour was official policy of the Catholic church for centuries.

It's on record that on the occasion of the funeral of the first President of Ireland, the episcopalian Douglas Hyde, the Taoiseach and government ministers who were Catholics were not allowed attend the service but sat outside.

On the other hand, Edward Carson and James Craig went to the Catholic funeral of John Remond. I wrote an earlier blog post on 'Catholic Bigotry' (I also wrote about 'The Vatican's Imperialism') I recorded that Sean O'Faolain wrote in The Irish:
"In my youth [the] rigorous priest was commonplace... Any man or woman who married a Protestant was a good as damned. Any catholic who attended a Protestant funeral or marriage was sent direct to the Bishop of his diocese for forgiveness."
Conor Cruise O'Brien in 'Memoir - My Life and Times' said:
"After my father's death, the pressure on my mother to withdraw me from this school must have been strong. Another widow, in a similar position, had withdrawn her boy not long from Sandford. She had been told that by keeping the boy at a Protestant school she was prolonging her late hushand's suffering in purgatory."
In my travels around nationalist Ireland people have told me about the thuggish chants and bigotry they've encountered from loyalists on the streets of Belfast - A Dubliner in New York told me about being called a "fenian" when he got out of his car near Sandyrow; a Belfast woman now in Dublin told me how she was beaten up by a gang of young protestants near Finaghy when she was walking home as a young schoolgirl.

These stories were abhorrent, but once again they were told with a righteous indignation that suggested that only protestants were capable of such calculated nastiness and cruelty.

This is simply not true.

The protestant Irish writer from Belfast, Rosemary Jenkinson shared a similarly dark story in the Irish News:
"I remember, though one day, while I was doing my A-levels, my two friends and I missed our bus from Downpatrick and decided to hop on the Catholic school bus. The boys began booing us and singing The Soldier’s Song. The bus driver was so fearful of what could happen he stopped on a country road and told me and my friends to get off. We made light of it afterwards, but we were glad that we’d all soon be leaving."
Catholics and nationalists regularly retell gruesome stories of the pogroms and expulsion of Catholics from their homes. Gruesome no doubt, but such gruesomeness as also conducted by Catholics upon Protestants, something I never hear about. Jeanette Warke MBE from the Foutain in Londonderry said:
"When the Troubles began the area we lived in was a very mixed community. Everyone got on with their neighbours. We used to go down to the Bogside into our Catholic friend's house and watch the riots down below. Then the buildings began to be set on fire, the CS gas hung in the air, people started to get singled out as Protestant and Catholic. Fear set in, you were looking over your shoulder all the time. 
My husband David worked night shifts. One night as he came home he got caught up in a gun battle between the IRA and the army not far from home. He came in that morning and said that he didn't think we would be able to stay here much longer. Not long afterwards the door started to get banged, men would shout in at all hours for us to 'Get out, you Orange b*******'. It went on nightly. The kids were targeted in the street. One night, not long after Bloody Sunday, they came banging and shouting at the door, faceless men. I was alone, David was on night-shift. I was terrified for my children. I sat huddled on the stairs with my three young children around me, the youngest was just a baby. We moved out that morning as did many of our neighbours. We had bought that house, it was our pride and joy. We had to go and leave everything. 
In the streets around us Protestant people were driven out. There was a huge exodus. We moved out to Newbuildings just outside the city. David and I set up the Cathedral Youth Club, back in the Fountain, in an effort to keep the young people out of the Troubles. The youth club will celebrate 45 years in existence this autumn."
In a piece for EamonnMallie.com I decried the vivid nationalist and republican bias of young southern Irish writers Una Mullally in the Irish Times and Jennifer Hough in the Irish Examiner.

Ms Hough said that having studied Irish history shes "always had a keen interest in Northern affairs." But when you read her piece it's clear that she only has an interest in loyalist murals, bigotry, aggression and murder. She continued:
"But there’s nothing in the books that can prepare you for walking around communities living side by side, but divided by generations of mutual hatred, and a mammoth “peace wall”, still standing as a testament to those feelings. 
On the loyalist side of the wall, a huge mural (some have been painted over) of hit man Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag looks down on the community. It’s chilling to see this man, killer of at least 12 Catholic civilians, so proudly remembered. On the other side of the wall, a stone’s throw away, lies a community shrine remembering the burning of Bombay St. I’m ashamed to admit, it was the first time I’d heard of the event in 1969, which saw loyalists burn Catholics out of their homes. The subsequent clashes led to the deployment of the British army to Belfast, and the building of the wall that remains, higher than ever, today."
Why doesn't she look at the republican side of the wall? She then goes on to suggest that the Provisional IRA murder campaign was justified. She wrote:
"It’s likely that calling Bobby Sands a terrorist is not something that would sit easy with most Irish people. If we don’t call Sands a terrorist, then can we call the rest of the people, who fought in what they considered a war, one?"
Yet Eoghan Harris wrote:
"Like most of the political class, I, too, at first I resisted what I saw as O'Brien's retreat from republicanism to unionism. 
But slowly, and somewhat begrudgingly, I realised it was actually an advance to real republicanism. 
The second reason for the Republic's change of heart was the growing moral revulsion against Provo IRA atrocities such as the Kingsmill Massacre. 
That sectarian mass murder left an indelible impression on the psyche of the Irish Republic. We were revolted by RTE's pictures of the pathetic traces of the 10 slain workers - bloody false teeth, lunchboxes, workmen's helmets. 
The proof of that moral impact was the Republic's mixed reaction to the 1981 H-Blocks crisis. 
John A Murphy refused to stand in silence in memory of Bobby Sands at a Munster Hurling final - and survived. 
By 1981, Jack Jones, Ireland's leading pollster, pointed out that IRA violence had created a major revulsion in the Irish Republic against the IRA and against Irish unity."
Christopher Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair in 2004:
"For many centuries, Jews living in Christian societies were well advised to stay indoors at Easter time because violent sermons were preached that blamed them in perpetuity for deicide, or awarded them the collective responsibility for the murder of “the Christ.” (In Greek, this is another word for “the Messiah,” whose first, not second, coming many Jews are still grimly awaiting.) Pogroms and lynchings were incited in the name of Christianity, and vulgar spectacles such as the famous Passion play at Oberammergau, in Bavaria, depicted Jews as sinister, homicidal conspirators. It was not until the time of Pope John XXIII and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in the 1960s, that the Roman Catholic Church explicitly repudiated the “Christ-killer” slur against the Jewish people. That’s a long time to wait when you remember that Rome’s own theology, and almost every other verse of the four Gospels, makes God the Father the true author and designer of the Crucifixion."
In Western history, the term "refugee" was first applied to French Huguenots after the Edict of Fontainebleau (1540) and after the Edict of Nantes revocation (1685) when they were expelled from France.

It is not that Protestant and unionist is guilty, while Catholic and nationalist is virtuous. Protestants are not more bigoted than Catholics, Protestants are as bigoted and biased as Catholics. As Richard Morrock wrote:
"In Derry, William Kelleher noted that Catholics thought they could spot protestants because their eyes were close together, while protestants believed the same thing about Catholics." 
Catholics in a majority position in the countries of Europe oppressed protestant and other minorities in a manner vastly more cruel than that protestants of Ireland oppressed the Catholic majority.

Richard Morrock in ‘The Psychology of Genocide and Violent Oppression: A Study of Mass Crueltywrote:
"In the towns [in Northern Ireland] were Catholics were numerous enough to take office, they discriminated against protestants in turn."
Finally, Robin Aiken wrote in an essay,  'The Despised Tribes:
"The Orangemen of Northern Ireland, and indeed unionists in general, came to feel unloved by the BBC. 
Very few BBC journalists would condone the terrible things the IRA has done, but the underlying politics of Republicanism are generally approved of. There is a great reservoir of sympathy within progressive circles for Irish nationalism, and Sinn Fein and the IRA have cleverly used that predilection to advance their cause. Within the political context of the Northern Ireland conflict it has often been the case that the BBC has presented the republicans as the good guys whose aims are largely justified; by contrast, Unionists are the 'blockers’ standing in the way to progress towards a just settlement. This despite the fact that it was murderous republican violence which in latter years constituted the graver obstacle to achieving peace… 
The BBC is neither loved nor trusted. And unionist exception is well founded. 
Unionists have a good case founded on history and the application of democratic norms - but it is a case somewhat disfigured by past injustices. And often Unionist spokesmen have acted as if their arguments are self-evidently correct. For journalists it was much easier to get nationalists for interview rather than unionists, who often acted as if interviews were superfluous."



My poem:
 ‘My passports are two.
One Green. One blue.
 Born in Ireland. We raised ours to the Queen.
British and Irish, I’m in-between.’
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