Friday, 30 November 2007

Identity fetishists defend "right" to tribalise areas

Woe betide the man who puts his head over the parapet in Northern Ireland and argues for integration and neutral spaces. The Alliance Party are subjected to vicious attacks from Brian Feeney and today Newton Emerson has been fielding a broadside on Slugger O’Toole for having the temerity to suggest that a neutral ethos needs to be preserved if the Assembly begins to require social housing provision as part of new developments under the 1991 Planning Order. With the carve-up between the TNA in operation, flaunting your symbols is in, separate but equal apartheid is in and the idea that we should look toward a shared future is certainly out.

Emerton highlights the lack of will to instigate mixed social housing. He points in particular to the Crumlin Road plan, where a wrangle over the development being allocated to one community, may yet see no social housing at all on the site. A genuinely mixed development in Fermanagh was attacked by Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew because it does not cater solely for nationalists (she perceives that community as being in greater need in the area).

Emerton is right to be concerned. But his concern is offensive to the identity fetishists who constantly evoke the “rights” of communities rather than individuals. He is accused of everything from snobbery (for not respecting the so called culture of the “communities”) to infringing the right to self-expression because he wants assurances that tribal markings will not be tolerated. Yes. There is that word again. The “right” to be as sectarian and tribal as you like is rapidly becoming paramount in this society.

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