Tuesday, 5 February 2008

No appetite for BNP here, but their nationalist rhetoric may be familiar.

Periodically there is a story suggesting that far right groups plan to organise in Northern Ireland. In 2003 politicians expressed dismay and outrage when the BNP threatened to contest council elections here. Only last summer we were warned that the same party intended to recruit members at Twelfth of July parades. Today the Newsletter reports that a meeting of 40 “members and their trusted friends” have convened to hear the party’s leader, Nick Griffin, speak and reaffirm that his organisation has ambitions here.

Certainly any attempt to organise in Northern Ireland is unwelcome. But reading between the lines the fact that since announcing its intentions in 1994 and restating that fielding candidates in Northern Ireland was a goal in 2003, that in 2007 there appears to be no progress towards this strongly suggests that the BNP is failing to attract members here. Despite the fact that Northern Ireland has for the first time developed relatively large immigrant communities, there seems little appetite for politics based on the demonisation of these groups.

Whether this disinclination is grounded in tolerance for other cultures and peoples is doubtful. The British National Party’s rhetoric is actually couched in terms with which we are all too familiar, albeit from our own indigenous nationalist parties. Rather than crude racist propaganda, the British far right have learned to disguise their prejudices behind the language of identity. There is a great deal of talk about protecting British culture, British values and British identity. The implication of course is that these attributes are characterised by white skin and Christianity.

Both Ulster and Irish nationalists share this tendency to couch their arguments in terms of culture and identity. Their common characteristic is an exaggerated respect for both. But both forms of nationalism use language which implies that they are protecting something valuable which is passed down by virtue of blood and which must be protected from exterior forces – “the other”. This propensity is shared by the nationalists of the BNP.

5 comments:

Kloot said...

Both Ulster and Irish nationalists share this tendency to couch their arguments in terms of culture and identity. Their common characteristic is an exaggerated respect for both. But both forms of nationalism use language which implies that they are protecting something valuable which is passed down by virtue of blood and which must be protected from exterior forces – “the other”

What a weird statement to make. You mean to say that pro British advocates do not make their arguments in terms of culture and identity? What do they utilised then in their arguments?

Unionism(UK wide) is just another form of nationalism, an identity that is commonly defined in terms of a shared British culture, history and identity. The external enemy, has either been the French, the Germans, the EU or illegal immigrants or what ever may dilute this sense of Britishness.. there are countless numbers of blogs where are British nationalist at heart, where the perceived attacks on UK culture and identity are challenged. Its all nationalism, all thats changed is the allegiance, ie British, Ulster or Irish.

O'Neill said...

Kloot,
The BNP's, Ulster and Irish nationalists' *expression* of their culture and identity tends to be a narrow, exclusive one, unable to countenance any dilution by *outside* influences

British nationalism/patriotism comes in many forms, but exclusivity in terms of identity, culture and ethnicity isn't (and actually logically can't be) a pre-requisite.

Chekov said...

Precisely O'Neill.

Chekov said...

“What a weird statement to make. You mean to say that pro British advocates do not make their arguments in terms of culture and identity? What do they utilised then in their arguments?”

Kloot there are many types of unionists, some of which do fall into the British / Ulster nationalist category (although I would argue that it is not useful to categorise the former as unionists at all), I can only speak for the type of unionism I am advocating. Of course culture and identity play a part, but they do not play the paramount role accorded them by nationalists. The distinction between civic unionists concept of identity and that held by nationalists is that identity is seen by the former as a more malleable and fluid concept. Our sense of identity is more capable of assimilating other cultures and influences (as O’Neill has hinted). All nationalism may not be entirely unbending, but it does adopt as its precept some ideal of a common ethnic, linguistic or religious core, whereas unionism takes as its core adherence to a common set of values and cleavage to a common set of institutions.

I am not attacking Irish nationalists as the only or worst example of the narrowness of nationalism. I am equally critical of nationalists of the Ulster or British variety, but there is a distinction to be drawn between their type of politics and those which inform more civically inclined unionists (although as in all things the lines are blurred).

Chekov said...

"British / Ulster nationalist category (although I would argue that it is not useful to categorise the former as unionists at all)"

The latter, not the former. I include Paisleyite politics in the category Ulster Nationalist.