Monday, 3 November 2008

Weekend's events graphically illustrate two very different approaches to identity

Gerry Adams unwittingly summed up Sinn Féin’s protest against the homecoming parade yesterday and the deplorable motives behind it. ‘Belfast is Ireland’s second city’, the party’s president growled to a BBC camera, the implication being that therefore self-evidently it should not play host to the British army. Adams’ blood must have been up. It was a rare moment of candour from a republican leader who usually couches his hatred in obfuscating jargon alluding to ‘equality’ and ‘parity of esteem’.

It would have been a timely moment to cut to an interview with a unionist politician, Michael Copeland for example. He might have observed that, certainly, Belfast is Ireland’s second city, but it is also unequivocally part of the UK. He might have explained that the soldiers marching through Belfast yesterday were also predominately Irish, that the largest regiment which took part in the parade is steeped in Irish symbols and tradition, and that the Irish identity of both city and regiment do not contradict or negate their proud contribution to the United Kingdom and to the British army. Instead the report segued to a stereotypical Belfast harridan screaming her Britishness at the camera. Black and white make a simpler narrative for television, but only one of these binary positions was articulated by a political leader and only his words dripped with the politics of exclusion.

The arguments for recognising the courage of our troops, whether we agree with their deployment or not, are now well worn. Shadow secretary of state, Owen Patterson, revisits the contribution of the Royal Irish in Afghanistan in an article stressing the all-island character of the regiment and the distinctive qualities which make Irish troops particularly well equipped to tackle the type of work required in Helmand province. Patterson reminds us of the very real sacrifices which the regiment has made carrying out its operations,

“With horrible symmetry two friends were injured, one a catholic from Dublin the other a protestant from Belfast. Over 70 have been injured and tragically, Ranger Justin Cupples was killed days before the end of the tour. Our thoughts will be with his family and friends as we celebrate our troops’ return.”


From a very different political perspective, Alliance’s Naomi Long has little doubt as to the drivers for republican protests.

“It has….become increasingly clear that much of the political opposition to the homecoming events is less about the rights and wrongs of the Army in foreign conflicts and more about deep-seated resentment at the presence of the British armed services in Belfast.”


Sinn Féin’s actions over the weekend and its rhetoric in the parade’s run-up actually expose the very crude and rudimentary nature of the party’s politics, when they are seen distilled to their essence, rather than cloaked in sophistry and disingenuous semantics. O’Neill delivers a useful synopsis on Unionist Lite of what Sinn Féin’s protest teaches us. The central point is that any allusions the party has made towards ‘engagement’ with unionists are a sham. It is still mired in all-or-nothing identity politics. It is not prepared to respect or recognise the British identity in Ireland, much less to acknowledge that complex, interwoven and interconnected elements of British and Irish identity can coexist without contradiction. Sinn Féin has not yet grasped that accepting the principle of consent entails respecting the wish of the majority to remain within the United Kingdom and that this respect must tolerate certain consequences which flow from that status.

This weekend’s protest has stripped away the cloak in which Sinn Féin has clothed itself in recent times. We saw unalloyed the motivators which drive that party. Intolerance, hatred of everything British, a nasty exclusive form of nationalism which seeks to impose its prescriptive reading of identity. In contrast the Royal Irish Regiment exhibits many of the strengths and nuances implicit in the United Kingdom and in Britishness. Comfortable with its Irish identity, it serves proudly for Britain, encompassing soldiers from the whole island and from a diversity of backgrounds. I know which creed I feel more comfortable signing up to.

16 comments:

kensei said...

Balls balls balls balls balls and you have a fucking cheek to accuse anyone of any kind of one dimensional politics.

The British Army is responsible for over 300 deaths during the Troubles, and countless more low level acts of intimidation and brutality. Between them and the RUC, they were often the face of British rule and it often was not pretty. And you are surprised when people are pissed when a parade is opposed over their heads in a nakedly sectarian bout of triumphalism.

And shock! - no Gerry Adams doesn't believe the British Army should be here, and neither do a most Nationalists. That'd be how Nationalism works. Your problem is you find Nationalism sectarian full stop.


The point that a lot of people do not want the British Army here and have no desire to wave them on is a legitimate one to make. There was no violence, which must have disappointed you. Apparently "parity of esteem" means just sitting in the corner and taking whatever Unionism wants.

Perhaps if it had have been approached with a touch more sensitivity and a promise of a quid pro quo down the line, maybe for the Irish Defense forces or a more relaxed attitude to St Patrick's parade it might well have been handled better. But of course, it's all Nationalism fault.

Piss off.

Ignited said...

Kensei,

God save the Queen.

Uniform Dating said...

The soldiers had every right to be there.

Buster said...

kensei-Irish Defence forces marching on a British street? Why? And why is it that a significant proportion of the RIR are made up of those from the Republic including their CO Ed Freely? Do you consider these men to be "real" Irishmen?

The questions are rhetorical....I don't expect a logical, rational response. As long as the likes of you continue to express your exclusive, vitriolic, sectarian (I think you need to look it up)version of identity politics, we'll NEVER be taken in by the hyperbole of SF/IRA. Keep up the good work.

Takezo said...

Oh dear, Kensei. Take a deep breath.
How was the parade a "nakedly sectarian bout of triumphalism"?

Gerry Adams believes the British Army shouldn't be on British streets because it rams home his comrades failed terrorist insurrection, the only legitimate and legal army in this part of the UK was recieving a warm welcome home by fellow Irishmen, women and children. More people want them here than don't, if you want to use figures to back up your rant. I'm glad there was no violence since that would have fallen into militant republican provo hands. It would have overshadowed what was by a large a good day. Its not about nationalism sitting in a corner and "taking whatever Unionism wants" Get over the mopery. This is a democracy we live in, where fellow countrymen wished to welcome home their troops from a bad place in the world, end of. No RAF fly past, to appease violent republicanism. No a regimental colours, to appease militant republicanism. No regimental tunes, to appease the provos. No weapons (with no live ammo of course) to appease paramilitarism. Sensitivity? Ha. Sean Kelly the Shankill bomber in the "protest" Amongst other top IRA sectarian killers. Orgainsing a parade so it directly clashes with this parade? You really want to talk about SENSITIVITY? How many innocent people did the Provos murder? How many were Catholic and or Nationalist? How many off duty UDR/RIR personnel did the Provos shoot in the back whilst their mates paraded by?SENSITIVITY? You wouldn't know what that was if it came up and bit you on the ass!
IDF? Since when is the Irish Defence Forces a part of the UK's Armed Forces? What has ST Patricks Day got to do with this parade or indeed Irish Nationalism??

BTW your wrong this isn't Nationalisms fault, its Provo republicanims's fault and their dissident counterparts. Pond scum.
Get over youself lad.
Piss off? What a rude little man.Don't like what you hear? Stay away from the Unionist blogs it's really that simple. :-)

Takezo said...

BTW Well done to republicanism for galvinising support for the troops from all the community.

Buster said...

Bit of a swordfight going on here......

kensei said...

bluster

kensei-Irish Defence forces marching on a British street? Why?

Because a fair section of ther population are Irish citizens and would look to the Irish Army more than the British. You can raise the question of sovereignty here, yes., but it is perfectly possible with an invite from the Assembly.

And why is it that a significant proportion of the RIR are made up of those from the Republic including their CO Ed Freely? Do you consider these men to be "real" Irishmen?

What a stupid question. Real Irishmen can indeed do things I disagree greatly with, and be wrong. Most Irishmen aren't members of the British Army, and thos ethat do hjoin do so for a variety fo reasons: serving King and Country not particularly high among them.

The questions are rhetorical....I don't expect a logical, rational response. As long as the likes of you continue to express your exclusive, vitriolic, sectarian (I think you need to look it up)version of identity politics, we'll NEVER be taken in by the hyperbole of SF/IRA. Keep up the good work.

No, I think you need to fuck off.

takezo

Oh dear, Kensei. Take a deep breath.
How was the parade a "nakedly sectarian bout of triumphalism"?


Army wants parades. Unionism scrambles for the chance to plaster Belfast in wee Union Jacks knowing the inevitable reaction it'll cause.

Gerry Adams believes the British Army shouldn't be on British streets because it rams home his comrades failed terrorist insurrection, the only legitimate and legal army in this part of the UK was recieving a warm welcome home by fellow Irishmen, women and children.

Please consider how fucking stupid what you are saying is. Why was Adams in the organisation in the first place? Because he doesn't believe in the British presence here - army and all.

More people want them here than don't, if you want to use figures to back up your rant.

Great you have maybe a 5-10% majority. Fuck everyone else! Their sensitivities don't matter. Nevermind everything the British Army has done here. They should just like it!

I'm glad there was no violence since that would have fallen into militant republican provo hands. It would have overshadowed what was by a large a good day.

Nah Unionist here and on slugger would have been dancing a jig of delight if Republicans had have been involved in any violence. They just luurve having their opinions reinforced.

Its not about nationalism sitting in a corner and "taking whatever Unionism wants" Get over the mopery.

This has nothing to do with "mopery". Such lazy, cack argument. Chekov suggested that Nationalism should not be protesting. So - we not allowed make our opposition felt? If not, what are we doing other than shutting up and taking it?

This is a democracy we live in, where fellow countrymen wished to welcome home their troops from a bad place in the world, end of. No RAF fly past, to appease violent republicanism. No a regimental colours, to appease militant republicanism. No regimental tunes, to appease the provos. No weapons (with no live ammo of course) to appease paramilitarism.

All of those things only happen after overwhelming opposition by Nationalism and to reduce the chances of violence -- which SF reciprocated, I might add -- rather than any care for people's sensitivities.

"Democracy" has many forms, by the by. What you want is tyranny of the majority. Most good democarcies have checks and balances against that. We have the mutual veto, and this would have fell flat at the Assembly but was forced through at a lower level over the heads of uniform Nationalist opposition.

Sensitivity? Ha. Sean Kelly the Shankill bomber in the "protest" Amongst other top IRA sectarian killers. Orgainsing a parade so it directly clashes with this parade? You really want to talk about SENSITIVITY? How many innocent people did the Provos murder? How many were Catholic and or Nationalist? How many off duty UDR/RIR personnel did the Provos shoot in the back whilst their mates paraded by?SENSITIVITY? You wouldn't know what that was if it came up and bit you on the ass!

Mindless whataboutery. Get a fucking argument. Sean Kelly wasn't there at formal invite of Belfast City Council, and my rates weren't paying to host him. Or yours. Further, he wouldn't have been on the street if the British Army had not been there in the first place. Unionism instigated the action.

IDF? Since when is the Irish Defence Forces a part of the UK's Armed Forces? What has ST Patricks Day got to do with this parade or indeed Irish Nationalism??

Quid pro quo, kids. I know Unionism has problems with this concept, but guess what -- there are things Nationalism like too. You don't live in a bubble or Northern Ireland in 1955. You want us to bite hard and ignore it -- well, what are you biting hard on for us? Because if there is no quid pro quo and the DUP just nukes anything it doesn't like, then by biting hard we are simply getting screwed. ANd you know, people tend to not put up with it for too long., If SF did they'd be rapidly replaced by a party that didn't.

BTW your wrong this isn't Nationalisms fault, its Provo republicanims's fault and their dissident counterparts. Pond scum.

Fabulous argument. That all you got? Pond scum?

Get over youself lad.

No. You go fuck yourself.

Piss off? What a rude little man.Don't like what you hear? Stay away from the Unionist blogs it's really that simple. :-)

Sorry I forgot, you don't want any outside opinions, any hint that people might think things are different. You'd rather have this blog sitting at 0 comments, and everyone just nodding at how right Chekov is. Who needs to improve their argument? It just is, That's all!

I don't normally go in for contempt, but you are a moron, so I'll make an exception.

Buster said...

kensei-you illustrate my point more clearly than I ever could...

Takezo said...

What a rude little man. :-D Proved my point thou, MOPE. Close the door on the way out now.

kensei said...

What a rude little man. :-D Proved my point thou, MOPE. Close the door on the way out now.

Preferable to being a giant arsehole. Also wasn't aware you ran the site: if Chekov wants to start censoring that his call and I believe not yours. If he does I'd say that if fairly reflective on his own ideology, more than anything else.

So anyway, yeah: Bite me.

Chekov said...

I'll decide on a case by case basis what is and what isn't fair comment on the site, although the petty insults are trying my patience. I've largely let it go, because I do believe that Kensei's response just strengthens the point I was making. I might outline further what I mean at some point today.

dub said...

When unionists grasp the corollary consequences of the agreement, that, even during continuing british rule, nationalists own sense of who they are is to be accorded parity of esteem, then chekov's point will be stronger. He is right in what he says but he is wrong in what he does not say.. he will not hold unionism to the same demands. The response to Kensei's points about IDF in Belfast is a case in point. Unionists do not get to decide who northern nationalists see themselves. Saying that the RIR encompasses an Irish identity is true but it not an Irish identity that northern nationalists would recognise. That does not diminish it but it should not be made into what it is not... ie should not be used to say, see we recognise your irishness. The RIR/st patrick's cross/southerners in the british army irishness is indeed or can be a party of irishness but there are many other parts. When unionism recognises the importance that the other parts be allowed to be symbolically recognised in ni.. then there is parity of esteem, then the gfa has finally kicked into action.

hartley should have gone to the ceremonies and he should have brought a tricolour and union jack with him.

Chekov said...

Nonsense dub. Parity of esteem does not mean parity of political outcome. Republic of Ireland institutions do not have equal status.

Chekov said...

Or rather the Belfast Agreement does not include parity of political outcome. The Principle of Consent applies.

kensei said...

Chekov

Regardless of whether the IDF is invited to Belfast, our laws will continue to be made, by England, for England. The courts will still be British courts. The idea that having some gestures toward nationalist politics is "parity of outcome" is a complete straw man. There are consequences and there are fairly big ones.

It is also naive to believe that one person over that 50% suddenly means that everything is exactly binary, especially when the opponents hold various levers of power. You can try and impose it, but it'll run counter to your aims, more than likely. The world needs a bit of fudge to run correctly, especially in disfunctional places like here.