I observed only yesterday that Peter Robinson shares with Irish nationalist counterparts the habit of describing unionism, and nationalism for that matter, as a ‘community’, defined by common religion and a certain prescriptive view of culture. The Irish News’ resident hate monger, Brian Feeney, also uses the word ‘unionism’ to denote a perceived ‘community’, which allows him to confer collective responsibility for any act which he deems to have been perpetrated by a ‘unionist’ upon a broad swathe of society, whilst simultaneously distancing another section of society, to which Brian believes himself to belong, from any share of blame.
Given that Feeney’s venom is almost exclusively targeted towards ‘unionists’, by his definition, he holds in contempt a mass of people who form the majority of the population of Northern Ireland.
Thus, after stumbling upon an idea which makes some sense, i.e. that attacks on Romanian homes are the mirror image of ‘republican’ riots in mid Ulster and “youths on both sides have a lot in common”, Feeney quickly pedals backwards. Whilst a variety of underlying reasons for the violence have been suggested -poverty, lack of education or opportunities, wanton thuggery, racism and so forth - Brian cuts through the nonsense to identify the characteristic which makes these south Belfast teenagers peculiarly inclined to viciously attack Roma homes. You’ve guessed it already. They’re ‘unionists’. Of course they are. They come from a ‘unionist area’ and no doubt, as they revelled in the sounds of crashing glass and crying children, they thought about the Union and how their actions would strengthen it.
Although Feeney hates ‘unionists’ a lot, his most vehement loathing is reserved for a subset of the ‘unionist community’, ‘unionist politicians’. Their cynical, Machiavellian manoeuvrings are what animates the lumpen, unthinking, cultureless Prodletariat. They’ve inculcated a mentality of ‘supremacy and exclusion’ into the ‘unionist community’, a mentality which ‘unionists’ now exclusively exhibit. Whenever ‘unionist politicians’ deplore violence against Roma they are crying ‘crocodile tears’, because it is they who cause the ‘unionist community’ to be violent and racist in the first place.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect to Feeney’s analysis (and certainly its only instructive element), is that the ‘group think’ which seeks to attribute to whole sections of society a label and political opinions, based on their religion or place of birth, is so clearly and demonstrably exhibited. It is the lazy, instinctual tendency to brand people, based on one’s own prejudices and perceptions, as well as a ceaseless need to blame ‘the other lot’, which actually makes Northern Ireland susceptible to racism and xenophobia. As Feeney and Robinson demonstrate, neither ‘community’ has a monopoly on that type of thinking.