Thursday, September 08, 2011

Riots in Northern Ireland

Belfast Child raised the question of the riots in Northern Ireland and to be sure they were more severe and more severely dealt with. They were different, however, in that there was, at least for many, a political motivation.

Most independent observers took an instant 'gut-reaction' side on what was going on in Northern Ireland and tended to be blind to its own side's foibles. My instant reaction was to side with the Unionists, but I know that those on the left politically and most Americans sided with the Republicans. Mrs Thatcher also favored the Unionists and who can blame her? She lost Ian Gow and Airey Neave from her Cabinet and was herself blown up in Brighton by the IRA. (Airey Neave was the first British escaper from Colditz and ran the Escape operation from Germany for MI9 for the rest of the war.)

When the Irish Troubles began there was undoubtedly an abuse of human rights by the Protestant hierarchy in Northern Ireland. The troops were originally sent in by Harold Wilson to protect the Roman Catholics. In some institutions Catholics were denied jobs and the devolved government favored protestants unfairly. The police force (especially the B specials) was biased and unfit for purpose.

On the other hand what was going on in the Republic, and what the North wanted no part in, was far worse. We now know that priestly celibacy was a running joke, that pedophilia was rampant, the abuse of women was legendary and that a conspiracy between the Roman Catholic church and a corrupt government engineered a cover-up of gigantic proportions. So many Irish men had emigrated to New England that similar wickedness existed there. What we now know about the Kennedy clan disgusts right thinking people. People in Northern Ireland regard Eamon Devalera as the devil incarnate.

The troubles in Northern Ireland have a long history and I know people will point back to the potato blight, absentee landlords and even Cromwell. The point is that whatever the justification nothing can excuse the terrible things that were going on on both sides, nor the breakdown in Law and Order that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Since the Good Friday resolution people who were regarded by the other side as monsters have sat down together and formed a government, putting the past behind them. In some respects they have found a common enemy - secularism. Northern Ireland is the most religious part of the UK; both Protestant and Catholic are anti-abortion and in favor of Holy living. That they have different concepts of quite what that means is not surprising in a modern state, but it surely includes the rule of law. The fundemental differences between each side are not that great; what separates them are the acretions on to each side's religious basis. Segregation of schools is the greatest barrier remaining and for this I hold the Roman Catholic Church to blame.

The British Government has done as much as it could to favor peace and has continued to subsidize the cost of Northern Ireland even more than it subsidizes Scotland. So it should, England is still one of the rishest countries in the world. From John Major's onwards British governments cannot really be faulted in their benevolence.

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