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Racism in Belfast June 17, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland, racism.

I have this post up at my own blog, but seeing the amount of publicity the situation has been getting, and the importance of the issue, I thought I’d stick it up here too.

Shocking news that over 100 Romanians have fled their homes after a series of racist attacks in the Lisburn Road area over the past week. There have been a lot of racist attacks in Belfast over the last number of years, leading to it being labelled as Europe’s capital for racist attacks. Most of these attacks have taken place in south Belfast, where most of the immigrants live. This area is near Queen’s University, and most of the previous attacks were in the loyalist village area. The recent attacks were not in the Village, but the attackers seem to have come from there.

While there has been some Combat 18 graffiti in the past, the recent attacks seem to have gone beyond previous ones in the extent to which they were openly Neo-Nazi. The BBC reported that the attackers shouted Combat 18 slogans, and pushed a letter containing text from Mein Kampf through the letterbox. There was also an attack made on a protest rally on the Lisburn Road, although this may or may not have been the same gang. The BBC report linked immediately above suggests that the attackers were heckled by the demonstrators before the attack.

It’s good to see the community stand against the attacks. What is less pleasing is the police response, and the response of unionist politicians, who have been largely silent. The police have said there is no evidence that the attacks were orchestrated. Now, the police may may right; or they may be downplaying the situation to try and keep tensions down. But the idea these attacks were unconnected does seem to stretch credibility a little too much.

Given the fact that the BNP’s call centre is based in Belfast, and that there have been repeated attempts to organise here, it is possible that the recent European elections emboldened the people behind these attacks, although I suspect it is nothing that sophisticated. Whatever the situation, the politicians, police, and community must act to isolate and convict the people responsible. And gaol them for this hate crime.

UPDATE: Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson have visited the familes, a welcome development. There has also been condemnation from unionist politicians and others. Details here and here.

UPDATE 2: The ICTU has released a statement calling for a structured response from politicians, community leaders and statuatory bodies, as well as the allocation to police of resources to deal with the problem.

UPDATE 3: Splintered Sunrise has some thoughts picking up important points I missed, and an issue raised the comments here, namely geography.


1. WorldbyStorm - June 17, 2009

Very much agree with your critique. Good to see at least some leadership from the top but a lot more required.


2. Leveller on the Liffey - June 17, 2009

And effective leadership by loyalist groups (if they aren’t involved or tacitly endorsing these attacks) will have more of an effect than all the statements from anti-racist groups, sound as they are.


3. Justin - June 18, 2009

Paddy Lynn, Workers’ Party representative for South Belfast, has given his full support to those residents of Belgravia Avenue and Wellesley Avenue in South Belfast who have called on the people of the area to protest outside the Mace shop on the Lisburn Rd against continuous racist attacks on Roma families.

Full WP press release here: http://www.workerspartyireland.net/id368.html


4. sonofstan - June 18, 2009

And effective leadership by loyalist groups (if they aren’t involved or tacitly endorsing these attacks) will have more of an effect than all the statements from anti-racist groups, sound as they are.

On the evidence of the guy (Andy McDonald?) interviewed by Tommy Gorman of the RTE News last night, Loyalist groups while ‘totally condemning’ these attacks, think ‘there is an issue that needs to be addressed’ by the housing executive, concerning maintaining the character of the area…….. so ‘tacitly endorsing’ it is then.


Hugh Green - June 18, 2009

The ‘I condemn but there is an issue’ stance of the UDA is identical to that of the BNP on this matter.


5. alastair - June 18, 2009

Don’t think that’s fair at all.

Here’s (Jackie) McDonald in the the Belfast Telly:

Two cars pulled up beside us. Three men stepped out of the first car. One of the men was leading loyalist Jackie McDonald. Colin Halliday and Colin Patton, from the Ulster Political Research Group and Village Re-generation Group, were with him.

We asked McDonald if he thought paramilitaries were involved. He tried to distance racist attacks from sectarianism.

“We have been consistent in our condemnation of these attacks,” he said. “We are calling on the perpetrators to open their eyes to the real world.

“We’re afraid someone will get badly hurt soon. These attacks don’t have anything to do with sectarianism. Take a look at the disturbances in the Holyland area. It’s not about sectarianism. It’s anti-social behaviour that’s the problem.

“The younger people behind these attacks may have wanted to join paramilitary groups when they were younger.

“But now there is nothing there. Where there once was sectarianism they are filling the void with racism. We need to stop treating young people as nuisances and start teaching them about the moral fibre in society.

“Young people need space. They do not need to be led by bigots. Loyalist paramilitaries are starting to shift from sectarianism into racism.”


6. sonofstan - June 18, 2009


The exact quote from Jackie McDonald on the RTE report was “young people round here see someone else has taken over the area – we need to sit down with the housing executive and private landlords and see if we can restore a balance” – you can check it on rte.ie/news from last nights 9 O’Clock news.


7. Garibaldy - June 18, 2009

Of course the young people almost certainly responsible for this do not actually live in the vicinity of where the people who were attacked are living. These houses were on the Lisburn Road in areas that are populated overwhelmingly with students and young workers in rented accomodation not from the area. The Village is close by, but it is not the same area.


8. Garibaldy - June 18, 2009

See the new update above for Splintered Sunrise’s discussion of the geography of this attack, and other important points.


9. alastair - June 18, 2009

I saw the RTE news – I just don’t agree that McDonald was in any way condoning/endorsing (tacitly or otherwise) attacks on the Roma.


10. sonofstan - June 18, 2009


You don’t think that the description of an influx of non-local people as being a take- over (or as being capable of being perceived as such) isn’t just a little questionable?


11. alastair - June 18, 2009

There’s a pretty wide gulf between common-or-garden localism/segregation and attacking minority blow-in’s on the back of it. McDonald is quite clear that he’s not supporting/condoning/endorsing the spides on this one.


12. louise price - June 19, 2009

‘It’s not about sectarianism. It’s anti-social behaviour that’s the problem.’

No change then, in the level of blatant denial enjoyed by many over the past 40yrs. Sectarianism IS racism dressed up, as Rosemary Nelson stated days before her murder in ’99.


13. Garibaldy - June 19, 2009

Sectarianism and racism share certain characteristics, but they are not the same thing. Sectarianism is used against people of the same “race”.


14. yourcousin - June 19, 2009

Were the attacks on Romas or on Romanians? The reports say Romanians but people keep talking about Romas and they’re definitely not the same thing. One could possibly make the argument that Romas constitue a seperate race. I wouldn’t buy it but it could be made. Romanians, are not a seperate race. Different ethnic group, yes, different race, not hardly.


15. Garibaldy - June 19, 2009


Roma from Romania it seems. I reckon once one news room went with Romanians the rest followed suit. Terms like ethnic and racism get thrown about over here (GB and Ireland) without the precision they have elsewhere. Basically, ethnic is taken to mean colour, and by extension race. It does confuse the issue when people used to talking about the Balkans try to use the same language with people from these islands.

PS I’ll be getting back to you on the republicanism thread in the next few days. Need to get the time to do it properly.


16. yourcousin - June 19, 2009

It’s not just the Balkans but any traditional sense of ethnicity and identity in 19th/20th century Europe. But especially Eastern Europe where the national borders were redrawn multiple times. I take your point on ethnicity but it seems rather lazy to my eye. It’s not racism, not quite sectarianism and xenophobia seems to fall short of the virulence of the attacks, it makes me wonder…


17. Wednesday - June 19, 2009

Given that race itself is a social construct, surely “racism” means whatever a society itself decides that it means. In the US there’s this common notion that there are only three or four races but over here “race” and “ethnicity” are often used more or less interchangeably. I don’t think either lends itself to a biologically precise definition and it seems to me to be splitting hairs to argue whether group hatred is motivated by race or ethnicity. In practical terms what’s the difference?


18. Garibaldy - June 19, 2009


Yeah, I meant to add for example the Balkans. There have also been a lot of attacks on Poles and Lithuianians. That’s racism too by our definition, even though they are white and often Christian. I have heard of Poles being asked if they are Catholic before being attacked, so there’s a nice combination of the new and the old prejudices.


I think you’re right.


19. louise price - June 19, 2009

The very particular problem in Ireland: partition specifically created a racial state.

‘It is the state which refuses to confront racism and holds to a useless and outmoded ‘community relations’ model. It is the state that does little to prevent racist policing; it is the state which imprisons asylum seekers and teaches the population to fear them; it is the state that denies basic rights to migrant workers (a Ukrainian worker, forced to sleep rough, lost her legs to frostbite); it is the state that colludes in racist violence.’
(review by J.Bourne of Institute of race Relations)

Practical terms? As long as the analysis of sectarianism has been restricted to individual patholgy rather then institutional culpability, the state does not clamp down on racist attacks, in favor of willful denial, as shown here.


20. Garibaldy - June 19, 2009

A racial state in what sense? Catholics with names like Adams are clearly of Scottish origin, the same as protestants with the same name. Did converting to Catholicism or refusing to convert to protestantism change their race (not btw that I accept race as a meaningful category but I’ll use it for the minute)? People used to think there were three enthnicities – native Irish, Scottish, and English. Now we, supposedly, have two – Irish and British. What in fact binds the different groups in NI together is origin in and adherence to the interest of a perceived religious grouping.

You’re right though that sectarianism is an institutional problem – but in social attitudes and practices, as well as in the state.


21. yourcousin - June 19, 2009

Race may at times be a social construct but taking aside social constructs the black guys and the Mexicans I work with are still different races. In practical terms it may matter very little especially when formulating a response to these attacks, but I want to flush it out anyways. I’m not going for biological precision here, just trying to go a little deeper than the headlines in terms of the language used. I suppose it goes back to Orwell in Politics and the English Language, in that muddled language can lead to muddled thoughts (a bad paraphrase, but oh well).

My point is this. If that five year old girl grows up in NI and has kids odds are that they would be assimilated fairly well into NI society and would not be subject to this kind of attack (hopefully). But their race wouldn’t have changed nor their ethnicity, so hypothetically they would still be “the other”. So then “racism” in this case comes down to accents, culture, and immigration status?


Wednesday - June 20, 2009

Pretty much. It’s not that great a leap from what the Irish have traditionally experienced in England, which is frequently referred to as anti-Irish racism. In Scotland it’s usually described as sectarianism but nobody who knows that country well (as I do) harbours any doubts that it’s the Irish specifically, more so than Catholics per se, that the bigots have a problem with.

Basically my point is that the suggestion that it might be racism if they are Roma, but if they’re Romanian it’s only, er, ethnicism (?) is both scientifically shaky and meaningless in real terms.

Re the black/Mexican thing I presume you know that under the American definition of race “Hispanic” is deemed only an ethnicity, so the Mexicans would still have to choose whether they are white, black or whatever. Something many of the Latinos I knew in the US weren’t particularly happy about.


22. Ferenka Fred - June 19, 2009

According to the Belfast Telegraph the Workers Party plot in Milltown has been defaced with C18 slogans.
Reading the comments on Slugger O’Toole, which I can only assume are not put there by scrotes from the Village, a good deal of Norn Iron’s amatuer commentariat think the Roma brought it on themselves. The UDA if they wanted, could knock this on the head fairly easily.


23. sonofstan - June 19, 2009

The UDA if they wanted, could knock this on the head fairly easily.

Does anyone else think that part of the problem might be that (ex-?) paramilitaries are seen as community leaders? and that it is assumed they could ‘knock it on the head’ quite easily, and are somehow culpable for not doing so? It’s a long way from any real model of civil society, for sure.


24. alastair - June 19, 2009

I’m sure the UDA could ‘knock it on the head’ – just like they (and the provos) knocked joyriding on the head so successfully. Oh wait…


25. louise price - June 20, 2009

Garibaldy: ‘A racial state in what sense?’

In the sense that any analysis of racism & sectarianism (and their extreme interwoveness) must be located in the colonial history of Ireland, as well as in the inequalities of power & the system which reproduces these inequalities. The history of British Imperialism and it’s attendant racism is still manifest in lots of ways; look at the street names: Bombay St, Kasmir Road. Raison d’etre of N.I was to perpetuate Protestant supremacy through formal democracy. Historical events have long influenced the ideas of everyone. And the position of the state inside the UK & European Union involves it immediately in 2 bundles of racist nationality, immigration & refugee policy.


26. Garibaldy - June 20, 2009

Religion isn’t a race though, so protestant supremacy isn’t a racial one. I’d agree that British imperial history is thoroughly racist.


27. alastair - June 20, 2009

I’m struggling to see how Bombay St and Kasmir Road are evidence of a ‘racial state’. The British Empire is a historical fact recorded in street names, but why should Bombay street imply any manifest racism if Henry street doesn’t imply any manifest Irish peerage system?


28. Ciarán - June 20, 2009

I wouldn’t say those street names are evidence of a racial state, but they’re certainly evidence of a colonial state. Take for example the way that many things in Belfast (streets, bridges, hospitals, shopping complexes, etc.) are named after British monarchs – with the Famine Queen getting name-checked quite often.

The colonial paradigm can be very crude sometimes (depending on who it’s coming from) but it’s still much more accurate than the religious analogy.


29. alastair - June 20, 2009

Dublin has no shortage of streets named after royals too. The only real difference between it and Belfast is that Dublin has a Georgian bias in it’s names, and Belfast has a Victorian one (for the obvious reasons).


30. yourcousin - June 20, 2009

Let me reiterate a few things just so we’re clear. As I stated I don’t buy that Romas constitute a seperate race, only conceded that some could make the argument. Secondly, I’m not making a biological/scientific argument, only a linguistic one. I would agree that in real terms this conversation is meaningless, but we’re not in the real world, we’re exchanging comments on a blog FFS. If this isn’t the place to discuss these kind of things then where is?

As for being Hispanic on official forms in the states. IIRC (and I may not) they don’t ask for race first, then ethinicity, they simply ask for your ethinicity with White, African-American, Hispanic, on down the line to Pacific Islander etc. This actually furthers my point (which was only to draw attention to inconsistencies in the language, not prescribe titles) as here a Roma and myself would not only be counted as the same race, but also as the same ethnicity.


Wednesday - June 21, 2009

First of all, calm down.

Secondly, my objection is to the use of a quasi-biological argument to inform a linguistic argument, ie “it’s not really racism because they’re not a separate race”. There is no word in the English language that conveys the meaning of “negative feelings or actions toward another person or group of people on account of their skin colour, nationality or ethnic identity” as effectively as “racism” does; if somebody can come up with another word I’ll happily consign “racism” to history but until that time it’s simply the most appropriate word to use when talking about things like what’s going on in Belfast at the moment. I also think, and I’m not for a moment suggesting that this is your intention, that allowing oneself to be distracted by questions of are-they-or-aren’t-they-a-separate-race just ends up giving succour to, well, racists who hide behind the linguistic argument. Sort of like the people who try to dodge grounded accusations of anti-semitism by saying “But the Arabs are semites too”.

And you are misremembering about the US categories. They ask one question about race and then in another question they ask are you Hispanic or Non-Hispanic. See here:

I seem to recall that they have a separate question where they ask about other ethnicities.


31. WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2009

Slightly off the point yourcousin, did you see my answer to your question re the This Week i’ll be listening to… where I said yeah, absolutely if you or anyone has anything to contribute to that slot it would be very welcome. Bar Skrewdriver fans.


32. yourcousin - June 20, 2009

Yeah I did see that, and thanks for the response but right now I can’t even handle my real world responsibilities (aside from pouring fuck loads of concrete) so anything besides that has to fall by the wayside right now. Indeed the only reason I’m able to lurk around this morning is that the kid fell asleep for awhile because other than that he’s running a fever and has a stuffy nose so I’m forced into doing Broadway dance lines with stuffed animals while I sing what little I can remember from New York, New York so that my wife can at least get an extra hour of sleep. Besides that, I’m not sure sure that CLR is “ready for the country” ; P


33. WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2009

Whenever you’re ready the CLR is…


34. CL - June 20, 2009

blacks and Mexicans belong to different ‘races’? This is madness. Believing that humans belong to different ‘races’ is the foundation for racism.
Some interesting works on the matter are: Noel Ignatiev’s ‘How the Irish became White’, and Theodore Allen’s ‘The Invention of the White Race’.


35. louise price - June 20, 2009

Garibaldy: ‘Religion isn’t a race though, so protestant supremacy isn’t a racial one.’
Many of the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist tradition under no circumstance consider themselves to be Irish. We are talking here about the relationship between sectarianism and racism, both of which define ‘who’ we are & ‘who’ we are not. Protestant supremacy = British supremacy. Loyalist racist attacks have been ignored by the state as has involvement with the extreme right wing, intervening in only the most blatent instances.You had people like the Rev. Robert Bradford who espoused the beliefs of the British-Israelite Society (that the British race is descended from the lost tribe of Israel). It is a political position that circumscribed the very foundation of the Northern Ireland state.


36. yourcousin - June 20, 2009

Well it would follow that racism couldn’t exist without race. I read “How the Irish Became White” and found it informative, not just for it’s take on race but also on the different experiences of first generation and second plus generation immigrants and their views. I also remember its research has been called into question.


37. louise price - June 20, 2009

The street names that have most characterized sectarian conflict: BOMBAY ST. etc
Anti Racism Protest today outside City Hall Belfast, is identical to City Hall in Durban South Africa.
Our relationship to historical influences shape current ideas, was the point.


38. louise price - June 20, 2009

You are quite accurate to note the changing perceptions and definitions of race, ethnicity, and also the confusion that discussions on the matter gives rise to is a measure of how under defined the terms are, (also sectarianism as a term), because of the political implications academic etc have been reluctant to take it on.

The 2004 citizenship referendum redefined Irishness, overtuned constitutional entitlement based on birth; it is recast in terms of lineage, blood, culture or ethnicity or connection to a country.

See Travelers for another example of shifting status; the British Government granted ethnic group status to be protected by anti-racist legislation (Race Relations Order 97 N.I) This of course in being contested by others.


39. louise price - June 20, 2009

Alister: ‘Dublin has no shortage of streets named after royals too.’

Dublin & the Irish State and Belfast & The British State have many more significant differences, but that is a whole discussion in itself.


40. CL - June 20, 2009

Racism couldn’t exist without the artificial, political, economic, and social construction of humanity into different races.


41. alastair - June 21, 2009

The 2004 citizenship referendum redefined Irishness, overtuned constitutional entitlement based on birth; it is recast in terms of lineage, blood, culture or ethnicity or connection to a country.

That’s funny – ’cause that’s not what I voted for at all. And nor did anyone else.

Irish citizenship is in no way ‘recast’ on cultural or ethnic grounds. Anyone born to a resident of three years has an entitlement to citizenship, and indeed anyone has been living here for 5 years can apply for naturalisation themselves. You can also take up citizenship through marriage. And it’s always been the case that Irish citizenship was an entitlement on the basis of lineage and ‘blood’ (or more loosely, a ‘connection’ to the country through the granny rule). That’s how we’ve pulled together a half-decent football team over the years, and I don’t see any uniform ethnicity at play there.


42. alastair - June 21, 2009

Dublin & the Irish State and Belfast & The British State have many more significant differences, but that is a whole discussion in itself.

Or maybe your ‘street name’ thesis just doesn’t carry any water?


43. louise price - June 21, 2009

alastair: ‘Or maybe your ’street name’ thesis just doesn’t carry any water?’

It is not a thesis. Maybe you are not aware what happened in Bombay Street in ’69? The entire street was burnt to the ground by loyalist gangs while police stood by and watched. It was a watershed for many of that generation.The parish hall was over flowing with refugees from other areas too on that particular night. Between ’69 & ’73 it is estimated that 60,000 six county Catholics were driven from their homes.
Now maybe it’s just me, but when you see a large group of innocent people being intimidated from their homes, in what is some kind of organized effort by loyalists, there is a sense of history, if not exactly repeating, at the very least continuing in a closely related fashion. Yet who has been arrested? Two teenagers I believe.


44. louise price - June 21, 2009

alastair: ‘That’s funny – ’cause that’s not what I voted for at all.’

Since there’s an on-going theme of points being missed, you may if wish self educate on the issue of race, sectarianism & ethnicity in Ireland; one of the best sources being the work of Robbie Mc Veigh.


45. alastair - June 21, 2009

And the relevance of the street name, as far as you’re concerned…?


46. alastair - June 21, 2009

Since there’s an on-going theme of points being missed, you may if wish self educate on the issue of race, sectarianism & ethnicity in Ireland; one of the best sources being the work of Robbie Mc Veigh.

I’d suggest again that you need to ‘self educate’ yourself on the actual changes introduced in the 2004 referendum. Because you’re talking bollocks, regardless of what’s on your reading list.


47. louise price - June 21, 2009

‘And the relevance of the street name, as far as you’re concerned…?’

I’ve already explained what Bombay St. is representative of. Explain how it is not relevant to current attacks?


48. Garibaldy - June 21, 2009


We’ve seen big Ian acknowledge his Irishness as well as people like Ervine and Spence. Things are more complicated than a simple equation between racism and sectarianism being the same thing. On top of that, religion is simply not a “racial” category. It never could have been when the simple act of conversion – or becoming a unionist or nationalist – changed one’s status. The people who founded the NI state did not think they were lost Israelites. That was a tiny minority even during the heyday of Tara. There are some sectarian people who are also racists. But that does not mean sectarianism is the same as racism.

I believe Alastair is asking why you attribute significance to the names of Bombay Street and Kashmir Street, not the pogroms carried out there. It seems to me he thinks you are suggesting that the fact it is streets with these names where the pogroms occurred is proof that racism and sectarianism are the same. You might note that the state response to Bombay Street and these attacks are radically different. As is the nature of the state itself now.

I’d also suggest that the nature of these attacks is radically different than those of 1969. For a start there is numbers involved, the scale of violence used, community response etc. As for the arrest of two teenagers. As far as I can tell, the attacks consisted of graffiti, broken windows and an abusive note. Hardly beyond the capacity of teenagers. You can see it most weekends in lots of working-class estate in NI, and further afield.


49. Maddog Wilson - June 21, 2009

Re Post 25

By memory most of those streets were in the older part of town and would have been built during or post, the industrial revolution. There were also street names commerating the Crimean War and other Imperial episodes. Madrid Street in Short Strand is possibly a reference to the British/Spanish alliance against the French.

As councils are responsible for naming streets and i assume were so then, the names almost certainly reflect the preoccupations of the then dominant electorate, which would have been the Protestant Middle Class. These names reflect an intense loyalty to the Empire. India was seen at that time as ” The Jewel In The Crown”. Belfast also enjoyed considerable prosperity as a result of trade and shipbuilding much of which was due to the Empire.

I dont think these names have a racial conotation, though they do denote support for Britsh Imperialism in the context of the time. Of course after 1969 Bombay Street became famous for the events of that year, so i can see where you are coming from on that.


50. yourcousin - June 21, 2009

We’re not on a deserted island recrafting the social contract from nothing. You may cite the divisions within society as artificial but they are real enough for those on the sharp end of the stick.


51. louise price - June 21, 2009

I have already conceded that sectarianism and racism have a closely complex relationship, and perhaps it is more accurate to say they share a common root, or are the two sides to the same coin.

That N.I is founded on sectarianism, & that racism/sectarianism are the modus operandi of British Imperialism, & the inevitable impact on values in northern society, are points that I did NOT expect to have to argue with the readership of a left-wing blog however.

N.I has lagged behind the UK and Europe in outlawing racial discrimination – only passing the Race Relations (NI) Order in 1997. The first race relations legislation in the UK was passed in 1965, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of ‘colour, race, nationality, or ethnic or national origins.’ At the time, the local Northern Ireland government requested it not apply in Northern Ireland for fear that it might offer redress to Catholics experiencing discrimination. It also requested that this legislation not include religion as it would be an anomaly for anti-religious discrimination legislation to apply “everywhere in the UK other than the place where it was needed most.” Hence, government enshrined a legal separation of sectarianism and racism.
Now there is an increasingly explicit acknowledgement within government that the legal separation between racism and sectarianism enshrined in law is no longer tenable.

As for your ‘the attacks consisted of graffiti, a few broken windows and an abusive note’; that would be laughable, if it wasn’t for the fact that you seem to have bought into the general ethos of denial that so plagues this subject. A HUNDRED people do not flee from graffiti,broken windows and a note, most weekends or any other time, even in our shiny, new, improved (?) version of the north.


52. louise price - June 21, 2009

Funny you should mention Madrid Street because I remember it well, before the decimation (or, the whole scale redevelopment) of that community.


53. Garibaldy - June 22, 2009


I am happy to say that they have many similarities, but they are not the same thing. We seem to have reached something approaching consensus on this point. Similarly, we can agree on the importance of sectarianism to the foundation of the NI state, and of racism to any empire. Neither of these things has been in dispute. I would be hesitant to ascribe either racism or sectarianism in Ireland solely to British imperialism. After all, they operate in many countries that do not have an imperial legacy.

You think people don’t flee from broken windows and racist graffiti? It happens all the time, on a smaller scale. All it takes is enough pressure to make people feel vulnerable and unsafe. People have different tolerance levels. If I had a five day old baby in the house I would react differently than if I were on my own. I read somewhere today (the Observer website I think) that the protest organiser has also moved out, but I saw him saying he wouldn’t be intimidated out. I wonder what has happened.

I’m not denying anything btw. I am saying that the evidence does not prove conclusively that this was organised by paramilitaries. I was talking to someone I know from the Village who was suggesting to me that it wasn’t. I don’t know for sure one way or the other. I think it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that it is youths supportive of but not members of paramilitaries.


54. louise price - June 22, 2009

Yes, on a smaller scale, but not a hundred people.
One report did mentioned a woman being shown a gun.
I did not say S&R are solely ascribable to British imperialism but to also to imbalances of power & the structures that uphold those imbalances.
I don’t buy the youths supportive of paramilitaries idea, as they need consent to pull off any stunt that requires numbers and guns.


55. Niall - June 23, 2009

Personally, I don’t really see that there’s much difference between racism and sectarianism. It’s the same psychological mechanisms that lead to the categorising of a perceived group as an ‘out-group’ or as an ‘other’.

While it may be possible to establish whether or not somebody professes belief in a particular creed, adherence to a creed has never been sufficient or necessary when it comes to being a victim of ‘sectarianism’ within the NI context and race lacks any real scientific basis to begin with, so it’s pretty clear that both racism and sectarianism begin in the imagination.

Given that in Belfast, and indeed generally in the North, people are used to dividing society into groups and this is viewed as acceptable and good to an extent that it is not in other parts of Ireland and Britain, one might expect that when faced with an influx of foreigners the people of NI would be slightly more predisposed to racism in a way that others might not. Also, in the North, there are communties where self-annointed ‘community leaders’ are well practiced in the art of acting against members of perceived groups in a negative manner, so while the cognitive component of racism may not be radicially different in NI when compared to London, bigots are more likely to act in NI than elsewhere.


56. Jim Monaghan - June 23, 2009

Niall, Your interesting comment does not differentiate between both sections in NI. 90% of rasists incidents come form the Loyalist side. Surely this says something.
I am not saying that Nationalists/Republicans North or South are angels but the statistics must mean something.


57. louise price - June 23, 2009

Worth adding here, statistics from troubles:
some 750 Loyalist killings (80% of all loyalist killings)
150 Republican killings (or 10% of all Republican killings)
were sectarian.


58. alastair - June 23, 2009

Because when you murder a Prod RUC man there’s obviously no sniff of sectarianism at play.


59. Pete - June 23, 2009

I think the best response to postings 56 and 57 are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”


60. Jim Monaghan - June 23, 2009

Hi Pete,
My stats above are from the Observor. Surely with MacDonald not a Republican apologist.
I am not complacent about racism anywhere if that is your implication. I worry about it in the South. Poples reaction to the crisis might not necessarily be Socialist. Hopefully the left forces cansuccessfully channel the legitimate anger of the masses against the system rather than other victims. So far that has been the case by and large, but no room for complacency.
The BNP and UKIP successes across the water are worrying. It is in this context I made my statistical response about racism in the North.
Maybe I got you wrong. Please elucidate.


61. Garibaldy - June 23, 2009

There’s no such thing as a republican sectarian killing because sectarian killing is by definition an anti-republican act. There are however plenty of catholic nationalist sectarian killings.


62. Pete - June 23, 2009

I just wonder about the use of statistics in these circumstances of a subjective act. In the incident with the Roma in Belfast is there not a bit of a case that this form of “community policing” is what can be expected in such areas and to mark it as a completely racist act is pushing people into a context its better not to jump into with both feet. As for MacDonald, I would need to know what his source is as he is not in my view a very trustworthy commentator on any subject. On the Loyalist vs Provo killings complete tosh, in the main one side just had a superior political lie to cover their sectarian violence than the other.


63. Joe - June 23, 2009

On the Loyalist vs Provo killings complete tosh, in the main one side just had a superior political lie to cover their sectarian violence than the other.

Agree 100%.


64. Ferenka Fred - June 23, 2009

‘On the Loyalist vs Provo killings complete tosh, in the main one side just had a superior political lie to cover their sectarian violence than the other.’

How come the majority of the Provo’s victims were state forces- BA, RUC or UDR- while the majority of the Loyalist’s victims were civilians, both Protestant and Catholic?
Now I know Unionists feel differently but to suggest that a UDR or RUC member is just the same as an ordinary Protestant is surely not the case. Secondly the UDA/UVF claimed to be at war with republicans but the majority of their victims were not IRA or SF members. The Provos carried out sectarian killings but they did not make it their raison d’tre. The UDA/UVF did little else- except maybe when the Brits gave them the right addresses.

On the Roma- they don’t live in the Village and they were not forced from the Village- they live in a student area and were targeted by youths from the Village, who don’t target students or others in the area which would suggest racial motivation. Plus no-one has suggested that the Roma were crims- beggars yes and Big Issue sellers but no-one in the Village has come forward and claimed to have been threatened by them. How about the organiased loyalist targeting of the Chinese in south Belfast in 2003-04- more community policing? David Ervine admitted the UVF were involved and there was nothing he could do about it.


65. Joe - June 23, 2009

“How come the majority of the Provo’s victims were state forces- BA, RUC or UDR-”

Amn’t I right in saying that that’s just plain wrong? Is the truth not that the body count shows that the majority of the Provos’ victims were in fact civilians? That is that the Provos killed more civilians than they did BA, RUC and UDR put together?

Anyway Ferenka Fred, in my view you are trying to push, as Pete so perfectly put it, a superior political lie to cover one side’s sectarian violence.


66. Ferenka Fred - June 23, 2009

The Provos killed about 600 civilians and about 1,100 soldiers, police, UDR etc. As it happens I have no interest in covering up the brutality of their campaign. But they are the stats as far as I know them. The loyalists killed over 1,000 people, almost all civilians. The army and police killed about 400 people.
None of the above figures are exact.
I suggest Joe, that you don’t take for granted the line of De Rossa and others in the 90s who used to reel off the line ‘the 3,000 deaths caused by the IRA campaign’ or ‘the Provos killed 3,000 people’.
What they did is bad enough but the majority of their victims were not civilians.


67. Mark P - June 23, 2009

The place to go for statistics on killings in the Troubles is Malcolm Sutton’s “An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland”. Long extracts, including most of the information relevant to this discussion, are available online at http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/book/

The Index originally covered deaths up to 1993, but now goes up to 2002. There can be arguments about the attribution of individual killings, but it certainly gives us a very good idea of the overall picture.

Up to 2002, the Index attributes 1,823 killings to the Provisional IRA. 1,015 were of serving or former members of British forces, including the British Army, UDR, RUC and the Prison Service. Another 35 were loyalist paramilitaries.


68. louise price - June 24, 2009

The stats from my post 57 are from Robbie McVeigh’s ‘Cherishing the Children of the Nation Unequally: Sectarianism in Ireland’. The 80% and 10% being murders that were directly sectarian, in the sense that people were killed simply because they were perceived to be either catholic or protestant.
He goes on to point out that most other deaths were ‘sectarianised, in the sense that the sectarian identity of the victim lent some degree of meaning to her or his death.’
McVeigh’s view is that R & S can be considered the same depending on whether they are both defined ontologically or dialectically; (relating to essence or nature of being, or arriving at truth by exchange of logical arguments). In terms of this discussion Niall has put forward the ontological argument and Garibaly the dialectic one for example.
The confusing, emotive, ill defined and under discussed issue of our sectarian past, is highly relevant to today’s racism, and I agree that it is the system that needs to be challenged.
To get back to what prompted me to get involved in this discussion; there is a level of denial & a growing support for the idea that the north is somehow ‘post-sectarian’ and these attacks on the Romas are mere ‘anti-social behavior’ which is the norm for anywhere normal like..er..England.
In fact BOTH sectarianism and racism are steadily on the rise in NI, and the state formation is such that it HIDES it’s incapacity to address this, under the fig leaf of the ‘good relations’ model (ASF: A shared Future, a document which claims that the underlying problem to be remedied is a ‘culture of intolerance’), where people are bundled into ‘minorities’, ‘majorities’ and ‘communities’ while Belfast city center and docks are turned into a fantasy land of ‘interculturalism’ in which we all share Chinese food and public art.


69. yourcousin - June 24, 2009



70. John O'Neill - June 24, 2009

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland just published a survey that interviewed 1,071 people aged 16 and over, in September 2008. One of their findings was
“Only six percent of respondents said they would mind living next door to an adherent of a different religion.”



71. Joe - June 24, 2009

“Up to 2002, the Index attributes 1,823 killings to the Provisional IRA. 1,015 were of serving or former members of British forces, including the British Army, UDR, RUC and the Prison Service. Another 35 were loyalist paramilitaries.”

Hands up. I stand corrected on that particular statistic.


72. Coffee grower - June 24, 2009

I hear that one hundred of them are leaving. It seems that the working class louts in South Belfast have upset the apple cart.


73. Jim Monaghan - June 24, 2009

It may come as a surprise but teh Provo campaign is over. Fine have an arguement about who they killed and why. My point is that according to the statistics 90% of the Racist attactks come from the Loyalist side. Does this mean that the leaderships amongst nationalist manage to stop/prevent/discourage this or not and the eladerships amongst the Loyalists fail.
“Workinclass louts”
Probably lumpen proletariat louts but still louts.
There is a broader problem that if the real left does not provide leadership and direct the anger then the equivalents of the BNP etc. will fill the vacuum. It may surprise but I feel that the respectablisation of Sinn Fein North and South might open the way to this as well.Proving yourself fit for power comes at a price.
There is a huge and growing alienation amongst those deprived of jobs which is being added too as the recession/depression spreads. We are not near Germany ’32 but we should be careful. Across the water the election results should be a wake up call to the squabbling sects and a bit of a sense of emergency should start. I say early days but the speed and extent of the depression is shocking.


Coffee - June 24, 2009


The incredinblely mainstream Labour party, is replacing SF in Dublin. They are more practical with regards to immigration, it has benefited them, as it meets the needs of the ordinary people. All this talk of ’32 is a distraction. Lets listen to ordinary people rather than labelling them reactionaries or fascists, or the all time classique “lumpen proletariat”.


Wednesdaypost - June 24, 2009

Well I’m not a fan of the BNP. Actually, in a strange way, I think they’re a quite un-British party. We just don’t do flag waving and hyperbole like they do.

I don’t subscribe to their ethnocentric view of the British identity. I wouldn’t exist if they’d had their way.

Unfortunately, a number of things are also true.

First of all, clearly quite a lot of good people are turning to them. The BNP have consistently been a tiny party, often losing their deposits. However in recent elections, especially local elections, they have been coming second and third, even in seats they have never stood in before.

I do not believe that all of a sudden one of the most open minded, tolerant, accepting countries in the world has suddenly become full of racists. Something else is going on.

The fact is that the BNP’s hyperbole often contains more than a grain of truth. We are patently undergoing a massive demographic transformation. The BNP talk about “race replacement”, and indeed, at least quarter of all school children are now non-indigenous. This has happened at a staggering rate, really only since New Labour. You can’t blame people for being alarmed at this. You can’t blame them for being perturbed. Calling them “racist” is to deny a perfectly human response to an alienating and disorientating process and a sense of loss. Surely anyone can see that. Surely you can see that nobody wants to become an ethnic minority in the land of their fathers and grandfathers. Black, white, green or blue, you have to be utterly devoid of empathy to condemn people for a hostile reaction.

I took my son to the park today. English was the minority language. That’s not right. It’s just not right.


Leveller on the Liffey - June 24, 2009


There is no bar on people who speak English taking their kids to the park – if they can be bothered.

Maybe many of those endowed with English as their first language can’t be arsed to drag themselves away from the telly or out of the pub but Mr & Mrs Gupta and Mr & Mrs Zinoviev can because they seem to value active family time with kids and other relatives.

That’s my recent experience of Greenwich Park and Hyde Park. And I’m a white Londoner.


WorldbyStorm - June 24, 2009

“Black, white, green or blue, you have to be utterly devoid of empathy to condemn people for a hostile reaction.”

I’d condemn people for a hostile reaction, and hostile actions. That’s some way from being perturbed which is a different and in some instances understandable emotion. And it’s due to no lack of empathy. What gifts people the right to be hostile to other individuals?

And such a reaction is ‘racist’. As regards the demographics, as has always been true throughout my lifetime (and I was born in London and came back after 25 or so years and lived there during the early 90s) and presumably yours as well, parts of the UK, within London, and within some other cities and towns would have large concentrations of groups. How that works is an entirely different issue. Since it’s easy to demonstrate that overall the demographics point to the opposite of the white population becoming a minority in the land it’s not a great point to make.

As for the park, I too go to my local park. Sometimes in the playground I’m the only one talking English, sometimes I’m not. Depends on the day. So what?


Hugh Green - June 25, 2009



74. alastair - June 24, 2009

I took my son to the park today. English was the minority language. That’s not right. It’s just not right.

Stupid Welsh people – hanging ’round the park, talkin’ their weird and confusing words!

UK ethnicity by 2001 census – 92.1% white, 7.9% from a minority ethnic group. Even allowing for massive immigration increase over the last 7 years, and assuming the usual census difficulty with illegal immigrants, there’s no risk of becoming an ‘ethnic minority in your own land’ anytime soon.


75. Niall - June 24, 2009

Alastair, when you say 92.1% White and 7.9% from a minority ethnic background, does that 92.1% include those from the former Soviet bloc?


76. alastair - June 24, 2009

87.5% defined themselves as ‘White British’ in the same census, so you can allow 4.6% for Eastern European Whites, Irish Whites, Whatever you’re having yourself Whites, etc.


77. Niall - June 24, 2009

Jim, to be honest, I can’t really speculate as to the differences between the nationalist and unionist communities. Certainly, from anecdotal evidence, it would seem that there is a greater amount of traditional racism in loyalist areas, but that’s anecdotal evidence.

On a personal level, I have to admit that I have next to know experience of loyalist or unionst communities, and given the rhetoric that has historically emerged from such communities, I’m probably biased against them, so I don’t really feel in a position to come to any conclusion on why thuggery, sectarianism and racism have always seem to be particularly severe in such areas. It could be the fossilsed remains of an imperial mindset or simply the fact that paramilitaries and vigilantes on the Republican side were more organised and disciplined. It might even be that nationalists have had greater experience of being oppressed as a minority. I can’t really say.


78. WorldbyStorm - June 24, 2009

1 million according to the UK Health Protection Agency arrived in the UK between 2004 and 2007 from the A8 countries (Poland, etc). Which in a population of 61 million comes in at a little over 1.6%. Not too earthshaking.


79. louise price - June 25, 2009

‘But understanding the new forms of popular racism in Northern Ireland means understanding the changing relationship of Loyalism to the state. The Protestant working class has, through globalisation, the peace agreement and the imposition of the market, lost its privileged position. And vicious racism is the response.’

This is the explanation given in this article, already posted here.


80. Jim Monaghan - June 25, 2009

That would also be my conclusion. “their state” is letting them down, rather than socialism as a response, many alas are choosing to add racism to sectarianism.
Down in Dublin we could get complacent. I feel that Labour gains are interesting but I would guess not at the expense of SF. I feel the SF loss is due to the demobilisation of the sections of really demoralised people they used to get out to vote.I have always thought that the rise of SF was their ability to mobilise the traditional ” could not be bothered to vote” rather than inroads on the SDLP and likewise in the South. This applies to Higgins and PBP and to a degree Seamus Healy. They mobilised the really deprived left behind by the tamest left.If the rael left become tame they will open it up to varieties of nasties. Yes, I believe that the propulation down here are as capable of racism as any other population.It is a question of leadrship
For SF this is the danger in the Noryh as well. As they get respectable in order to get the SDLP vote they will leave thir baliwicks behind.
Across the water is there a Labour presence amongst the poor and deprived in any real sense.


81. Leveller on the Liffey - June 25, 2009

Across the water is there a Labour presence amongst the poor and deprived in any real sense?

The BNP got their council seat in Millwall (their first?) with Derek Beackon because Labour had taken their base for granted and did little to effectively represent them; then in stepped the BNP. (That seat was won back off the BNP.)


82. Áth Trasna - June 25, 2009

Labour are dying in Britain’s working class, because they left them behind and they also subjected them to mass immigration and Multi-Culturalism, without ever asking them if they wanted to see their locality transformed. Those further to the left in Britain only complain that the system should be more open to immigration. They have been comprehensively rejected by people over there, and yet they will not stop to listen to people, but will continue on their rants. I can see the left (of all hues) here doing the same, and going down the same road to irrelevance.


83. ejh - June 25, 2009

I would strongly counsel against allowing threads like this (or indeed any other) to be hijacked by concern trolls of dubious provenance.


Áth Trasna - June 25, 2009

I would strongly counsel against allowing debate on threads to be curtailed just because some other posters have an issue with people expressing a view.


84. EamonnCork - June 25, 2009

I took my kids to the Park today and people speaking Irish were in a minority. This made me decide to join some kind of neo-facist movement targetting English people and subjecting them to racial violence.
Actually it didn’t. But then again I’m not a right wing lunatic.


85. skidmarx - June 25, 2009

The BNP got their council seat in Millwall (their first?) with Derek Beackon because Labour had taken their base for granted

I thought it was an occult plot.


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