October 29, 2013

An Open Letter from Northern Ireland

I'm contacting you about the continuing unrest and uncertainty in Northern Ireland.

The context is this. The most cynical and sinister elements in NI society have been very violent and vocal over the last year, at huge cost to the local economy and at huge damage to the reputation of the province. The future looks bleak: squalid sectarian bickering among politicians, a rise in dissident republican activity and loyalist unrest on the streets with a 10,000 person march planned for Belfast city center on November 30 2013 (the busiest shopping day of the year). The march has been organised by a hysterical, hostile and intimidating group. A democratic decision to restrict the flying of the Union flag has been taken. Nothing can be changed. While the grievance is understandable, the march has no legitimate purpose other than the fomentation of tensions.

The problem is this. Sectarian politicians have stood shoulder to shoulder with these most extremist fringe elements of society, pandering and entertaining their most outlandish and outrageous claims. Claims that come straight out of a BNP or EDL press release. The media has also puffed up their cause. This contrasts with a civil and plural Northern Ireland society that has simply chosen to ignore, put up and get on with life.

My reason for reaching out is this. Where in the UK and America, anti-fascist/extremist groups have been established to counter-balance and undermine extremism and the lovers of medievalism, in Northern Ireland no material effort has been made whatsoever to represent, spread and push forward the interests of civil, moderate, plural society.

Violent republicans and loyalists who make intransigence a virtue are exercising arbitrary power over a civilised majority. Apologised on the behalf of and indulged and nurtured by politicians. This can't continue. No power can go on unchecked. It must be resisted. I fear for the young people of Northern Ireland. I feel the fierce urgency of now. It's urgent that we tackle extremism, lest another generation be lost to instability, delinquency and conflict.

If you can provide any advice or suggest how efforts can be made to address extremism in politics and on the streets and how we can create a movement, all help would be appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

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