Posts Tagged ‘Orange order’

The shadow of Northern Ireland looms over the last days of the referendum campaign

09/09/2014, 07:55:52 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fascinating essay in the current Demos Quarterly that looks at the various ethnicities in modern Scotland and how these cultural identities may impact on next Thursday’s vote on independence.

The study, written by Richard Webber from the Department of Geography at Kings College London and former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips, draws particular attention to the reaction of ethnically Irish Catholics in Scotland.

The authors reveal that it was much to their “surprise” that “the strongest majority support for independence was not among ‘pure’ historic Scots, but among people of Irish Catholic descent”.

Given Irish Catholic-heritage voters support Labour “more consistently than any other group in Scotland” why are many of them ignoring the party’s entreaties that we’re “Better Together” and opting for independence? As the authors point out:

“When one considers that electors from the same cultural heritage form the backbone of the Sinn Fein vote in West Belfast, this rejection of Labour’s position can be interpreted as a visceral opposition to the Union, to the Tory establishment and to Westminster. Thus ‘Yes’ voters among this group are likely to have very different motivations and to be expressing very different identities than the typical voter with an English or Welsh name; in fact they are supporting independence for the same reasons that they support Labour, a historic sense of oppression. What is significant is that the appeal of independence is driven more strongly by cultural and political considerations than socio-economic ones.”

Our middle class Westminster political and media elite, so utterly bewildered at the turn of events in recent days, simply don’t understand the power of identity and historical grievance in driving working class politics north of the border. (This is, of course, why none of them cares much about what goes on in Northern Ireland).


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As usual, what goes on in Northern Ireland stays in Northern Ireland

14/07/2013, 12:15:47 PM

by Kevin Meagher

So thirty-two police officers were injured, an MP was knocked unconscious by a projectile, hundreds were rioting in the streets, water cannons and baton rounds were used against civilians in a British city and yet it didn’t make the top five news stories on Friday night’s BBC Ten O’Clock News?

Welcome to Northern Ireland; that far-away place full of violent Irish people who seem to actually enjoy fighting and causing trouble. This is at least seems to be the default view of Britain’s political and media classes, that’s of course when they’re not completely ignoring the place.

There’s more attention paid to disturbances on the other side of the world than there is to the same thing happening in our own backyard. British politics long ago became acclimatised to Northern Ireland as a ‘little local difficulty.’ Not an eyelid does it now bat.

Friday was the “Glorious Twelfth” – the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II. It’s a big deal for Ulster’s protestants and marks the high point of the “marching season”. In the rest of Britain, the celebration of royal occasions are either marked by street parties or, better still, studiously ignored.

Not in Northern Ireland, but the historical significance is merely a footnote. It’s unlikely that the loyalists throwing golf balls at police officers are history buffs, despite waving ceremonial swords in defiance of the parades commission’s ruling that a contentious Orange march could not proceed through a nationalist enclave in north Belfast.

This is where Democratic Unionist MP, Nigel Dodds, was struck by a brick and knocked unconscious. He was booted out of the Commons chamber the other day for implying the Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, was lying; so he’s not had a great week. Normally, our politicians are only used to metaphorical brickbats being hurled in their direction. In response, the police fired water cannons at the protestors. In Britain the use of kettling is enough to cause liberal apoplexy.

When blasting high-pressure water jets at civilians is insufficient, the police rely on the wonderfully euphemistic Attenuating Energy Projectile instead. These are sometimes called baton rounds, which is itself a euphemism for plastic bullets. Twenty-two were fired at protestors on Friday night alone. Many of them were children and a 14 year-old was among those eventually arrested. Throughout the Troubles, seventeen people – ten aged under 18 – were killed by plastic bullets, yet their regular tactical use merits little more than a passing remark in the British media.

Last night saw another bout of violence. As the BBC nonchalantly puts it this morning: “Officers were attacked with petrol bombs, fireworks, laser pens and stones in the Woodvale area. Police fired 10 baton rounds and deployed water cannon.”


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