Monday, March 26, 2007

Me-too busyblogging

Rev. P: "Well, Gerry, if your lot hadn't spent the best part of thirty years murdering people, Gerry Fitt could have been sat where you are before the 1970s were out. And he'd probably have had someone like Brian Faulkner sitting here instead of me. I hope it was all worth it."

Hurrah though, anyway.


cian said...

So the prods never murdered anyone?

This is a very peculiar statement, Paulie. Sinn Fein are in a much stronger position than the SDLP were in the 70s, whereas the Unionists are in a fairly weak position (largely of their own, instransigent, making). What's the Rev. P's strongest card? To hold out for joint rule between London and Dublin?

Bob Piper said...

cian, don't be so foolish. The non-loyalist section of the population, being Irish, just don't understand what is in their best interests. Cuddly Brian Faulkner, who presided over the 'province' during internment and bloody Sunday would, of course, have been much more understanding of their needs.

The fact that Gerry Adams has spent 20 years since the start of the Adams-Hume talks trying to create a peace in Ireland will always be overlooked because of his years in the IRA. How ccome Mandela gets such a good press? Perhaps Adams should have sat in Long Kesh for 27 years and then he could have emerged blinking into the daylight, feted by social democrats everywhere.

Paulie said...

I suppose it was a bit optimistic of me to post that one and not get an argument. And I'd like to stick around and argue this one in a conversational way, but I'm flat out at the mo, so all I can do is link to stuff that makes the case that I would.

1. I largely agree with this analysis, though I think it's very simplified for the sake of brevity.

2. Cian, there is implicit in your point - I think - the question of 'who started it'? And there is no question that loyalist discrimination, occassional brutality, and ever-present chauvanism provoked justifiable loud demands for equality among catholics. But a concerted political project to conflate the demands for equality with those of a united Ireland was managed by a wing - and I stress - a wing of the Irish republican movement. I'd agree with Tony Geraghty's analysis of IRA-inspired 'calculated martyrdom', and the disastrous civil war (that the IRA lost hands down, by the way) that followed can be blamed squarely upon those that initiated that strategy and carried it though, throughout the 70s and 80s. Gerry Fitt rejected it, and the Official IRA rejected it on the grounds that it despaired of - and made less possible - a solution based upon cross-community solidarity.

3. Bob, I think that - by comparing Adams and Mandela, you are mistaking Adams in particular, and Sinn Fein in general for a progressive party. I normally don't like it when other bloggers suggest that I should go and read a book, but I'm not in a position to summarise Henry Patterson's excellent 'Politics of Illusion' at the moment, but I would recommend it very strongly. It's easily the best book I've found on the nature of republicanism, and it changed my mind on a lot of things.

Bob Piper said...

Interestingly, Paulie, I read about half of it before I gave up. Not just because of the rather turgid style, but because of the assumptions.

I do think Adams has been progressive, and he has shaped Sinn Fein away from being a narrow-minded nationalist group into a much more socialist republican outlook.

Of course... it could be that you misread Mandela and the ANC, but I will refrain from suggesting some texts which would support this because I know you're busy.

Cian said...

Paulie, actually implicit in my point was the sheer oddness of your using Paisley as a voice to say: ""Well, Gerry, if your lot hadn't spent the best part of thirty years murdering people." Its like quoting approvingly a cartoon where Pol Pot criticises Charlie Manson. Sure Charlie wasn't a nice guy, but...

As for who did what. Missing from your analysis (and presumably from the books that you've read - from what I've seen of Henry Patterson's stuff, this probably applies to him) is any understanding of political/cultural realities on the street. Which includes such things as the scars left on Catholic psyche by the civil war (and the war of independence's settlement), and the fact that Catholics in Northern Ireland did largely want to live in a united Ireland (there's a difference between what you are willing to accept, and what you want). The provisional IRA were pushing against a semi-open door on that one, it only took the damn fool tactics of that moron Brian Faulkner (the best recruiting sergeant the IRA could have hoped for). After Bloody Sunday the Catholics (much as the Palestinians did in similar, if far worse conditions, during the first infatada) decided that peaceful resistance was pretty pointless if all it did was get you killed.

The offical IRA, btw, were a joke (bunch of old men, talking about the good old days).

As for blaming the IRA for not accepting what was on offer in the 70s. Um, the Unionists weren't going to accept it either. It doesn't matter what politicians are offering if those who vote for them aren't willing to accept/back it. Two massive changes that the IRA probably gained, were that the Unionist population has accepted (Grudgingly) power sharing, and the British government are largely sympathetic to much of the Republican cause and institutions such as the RUC are being dismanted as tools of the Protestant hegonomy (as the saying goes, the Catholics had the IRA and the prods had the RUC). The Unionists should have settled in the 70s, their hand has been seriously weakened by the intervening years.

Incidentally, in the Republic, the mainstream politicians are terrified of Sinn Fein. They're building a considerable constituency on the poor estates, and other parts of Ireland which have been left behind by the boom (which the other politicals parties have ignored). And in some areas protestants have been known to vote for Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland as, unlike the Unionists, they're pretty honest. They might not be the autonomist marxist group I'd like them to be, but Irish politics on both sides of the border is a cess pool and Sinn Fein are one of the better parties.

Paulie said...


I've always got time to read recommended books - once the current personal logjam is cleared.

I'm surprised you found Patterson's book turgid though - I was worried that the subject matter (which I thought was fascinating) could be used to sneak a thesis through.


I'm surprised you chose that comparison - I think that the comparison between Adams and Paisley is an odious one (as is comparing both of them to Pol Pot and Charles Manson - you must at least accept that you got that one the wrong way around?).

Paisley may be a reactionary bigot. He may have inspired people to go on to become active in loyalist paramilitary activity, but I don't believe that he has done so intentionally and he's certainly never advocated the murder of innocent civilians, nor has he ever excused it.

I've not seen anything to prove that Adams wouldn't still be doing this today if the IRA hadn't been militarily subdued in the way that it was.

And this business about the 'catholic psyche' sounds like apologetics to me. Most catholics in Northern Ireland didn't have to consort their psyche to know that a continuing campaign of violence was getting them nowhere nearer the equality that they wanted, any more than it was getting them nearer the end of partition that they wanted slightly less.

All of the evidence suggests that nationalist republicanism has been - at best - a lightly held belief among catholics in the six counties for most of the years since the Civil Rights marches. It's taken a 30-year strategy of tension to get catholics to vote for Sinn Fein over the SDLP, and even then, Sinn Fein have had to sign up to a process that effectively dismisses the possibility of a united Ireland in most of our lifetimes in order to become the dominant party of an entrenched catholic nationalist community that mirrors it's Unionist rival. Hardly what anyone would have accepted in advance in 1970, I think?

I know a number of stickies, by the way, and for a large part of the 1970s and 1980s, describing them as 'a bunch of old men talking about the good old days' would have shortened your life expectancy somewhat. It's a while since I've read about this in any detail, but I recall that the British regarded the OIRA as a formidable force for some years after their formal ceasefire.

I don't think that either of us are qualified to run all of the 'what if' possibilities with the alternative scenario 'what if the provos has called a ceasefire and started advocating confidence building cross-community measures in the early 1970s' but I suspect that there would be a much more functioning liberal democracy now in the six counties, we would be as close as we currently are to a united Ireland, a few thousand fewer people would have been murdered by all sides, and hundreds of thousands of people would have had their lives less blighted by a low-level civil war.

As for Sinn Fein's current electoral strength in the Republic, smaller parties are growing in influence all over. I'm not as sure as you are that their electoral trajectory will continue to rise any faster than other similar minority parties. The peculiarities of the Irish electoral system may give them spells of influence, but the same has been true of the PDs, hasn't it?

If anyone can show me that they're a progressive force rather than a communalist one, I'd like to see it. I wish it were true.