Thursday, October 13, 2005

Victimised?

When de Valera declared the Irish Free State in 1922 as "a Catholic state for a Catholic people" and Carson declared Northern Ireland as "a Protestant state for a Protestant people", the scene was set for a victim culture on both sides of the border. In Northern Ireland, Protestants got the best housing and the best jobs. In the south, it was the Gaelic ascendancy. There's a lot of resentment in the northern Catholic community (as there would be among Protestants in √Čire, if it weren't for the fact that nearly all of them either moved out or married people from the Catholic church which insists offspring be brought up as Catholics).
I see Fr. Alec Reid, the Catholic priest who watched the IRA destroy its weapons recently, has likened last century's Unionist ascendancy to Nazism, saying, "The reality is that the nationalist community in Northern Ireland were treated almost like animals by the unionist community. They were not treated like human beings. It was like the Nazis' treatment of the Jews." He later apologised for his harsh words, claiming he'd lost his temper in the face of antagonism. Indeed, victims leader Willie Frazer took the hump and walked out of the public meeting.

My first reaction when I read this was, "What a load of babies. Grow up". But that's far too simplistic. Why? Because whether Fr. Reid's words were ill-chosen or spot on, whether Mr. Frazer was right or wrong in walking out, and whether Nigel Dodds' and Reg Empey's subsequent cries of 'racist' are justifed or not, the truth is that there's a hell of a lot of hurt on both sides, and we ignore that at our peril.

Whether the resentment is justified or not is a moot point. Personally, I've never seen the police vicimise anyone, and any army patrol that ever stopped me was nothing short of courteous (and I'm blessed with a name that could fall into either camp). But by the law of averages I guess there must have been times when the security forces were heavy-handed, especially with people they knew to be terrorists or those who actively aided and abbetted them. Coupled with the economic disadvantage Catholics suffered, we have a cauldron of hurt in Northern Ireland that the current generation of Protestants should pause to recognise.

Whether or not you take issue with the above, think on this: in 21st century Ulster, feelings are as important as fact. Whether Fr. Alec Reid's statement was true, false or somewhere in between, it's the way he feels - the way his community feels - and it should simply be accepted and recognised. And you know what? I think at this stage people simply want their hurts to be recognised. People know the clocks can't be turned back. But as we enter a new phase of equality and peace, people are aching to be taken seriously. And that's why Willie Frazer - ironically a man well acquainted with suffering - should not have walked out. Had he shown sympathy, he may have received some in return.

You see, we're all victims. Playing down someone else's hurts doesn't lessen your own. And them voicing their hurts doesn't negate yours. I lost several friends to IRA terrorism, but spelling Republican with a small 'r' isn't going to bring them back.

19 Comments:

At 4:08 p.m., Anonymous Rebecca said...

Yes John but likening unionists to nazis as Father Reid has done and the Irish President before him is despicable. Has a unionist government sanctioned the mass murder of 6 million catholics, has a unionist government made catholics wear yellow stars on their coats, Has a unionist government sanctioned the deportation of 12 million catholics to concentration camps, Has a unionist government confiscated the pet animals of catholics? Has a unionist government referred to the catholic population of NI as "vermin"?

It really is horrific to compare unionists to nazis, Willie Frazer was quite right to walk out of the meeting. He has suffered immense personal tragedy at the hands of the IRA and even been threatened himself and he was told that his section of the community were like the nazis? I don't think any amount of apology can suffice.

It was bad enough when the Irish president likened unionists to nazis now the man, the priest no less we are asked to trust concerning the decommissioning of IRA weapons says such a thing. It really beggars belief.

MOPE syndrone indeed, its even more insulting to the millions of Jewish people around the world. As Brian Crowe has posted on the Young Unionist site, its like Father Reid is redefining what happened in the Holocaust.

 
At 4:45 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Thanks, Rebecca. The extent of Unionist hegemony was nothing like Nazi war crimes. It was racial discrimination, though, and don't let's lose sight of how destructive and wrong that is. I think when Fr. Reid apologises and admits he went over the top we should accept it in good grace and move on. BU.

 
At 4:56 p.m., Anonymous Rebecca said...

Yes John I do agree that catholics faced discrimination from the unionist ascendency but the more I think about being compared to a nazi the more annoyed I am getting.

Being likened to nazis once, shame on them, being likened twice, shame on us

 
At 6:58 p.m., Blogger Michael Shilliday said...

It wasn't Carson, it was Brooke, and he later legislated support for Catholic teachers for example than would have been expected from the Nationalist revisionism of history

 
At 7:13 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Thanks, Michael. My mistake. BU.

 
At 12:37 p.m., Blogger United Irelander said...

Rebecca

"Has a unionist government referred to the catholic population of NI as "vermin"?"

What if the current leading voice of unionism HAS referred to Catholics as vermin? Does that count? From Ian Paisley and I quote:

""They [Catholics] breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin."

"Being likened to nazis once, shame on them, being likened twice, shame on us"

What a stupid comment that is. Two people use the Nazi example (certainly nothing wrong with McAleese's use of it in my view) and you castigate every single nationalist on the island! Now who's the ignorant one?

Michael Shilliday

"It wasn't Carson, it was Brooke, and he later legislated support for Catholic teachers for example than would have been expected from the Nationalist revisionism of history

'Nationalist revisionism of history'? LOL! Hey Michael, why don't you give us your thoughts on these charming words from Basil Brooke:

"I recommend those people who are loyalists not to employ Roman Catholics, 99 per cent of whom are disloyal"

I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on that.:)

Of course we must all remember that anti-Catholic attitudes are not nearly as bad as anti-Semitic attitudes, isn't that right?

 
At 4:02 p.m., Blogger Deaglan said...

I'm intrigued why many reports and comments have not focused on some of Frazer's wilder accusations including some fearsome stuff towards Reid on the night in question: (that IRA guns were held in Clonard monastery etc etc.). His thinly-veiled accusation that the Catholic Church is some sort of spiritual wing of the republican movement is barking. I'm not surprised Reid lost control.

 
At 5:57 p.m., Blogger Chris Gaskin said...

Frazer is barking and always has been!

 
At 8:34 p.m., Anonymous beano said...

Frazer might well be barking (I don't know the man so can't say), but it would mess with anyone's head losing loved ones to terrorist killers.

But that's no reason for Reid to turn round and prove he can be just as 'barking'.

And UI nobody is suggesting that anti-Catholic attitudes are any better or worse than anti-Semetic ones. Just that the actions taken based on such feeling in NI (encouraging Protestants to employ Protestants, manipulation of the electoral system) is not quite comparable to the actions taken due to anti-Semetism in Nazi Germany (gas chambers, concentration camps etc). It's certainly insulting to Unionists, and I would imagine to Jews, to make such gross comparions.

 
At 8:48 p.m., Blogger Chris Gaskin said...

(encouraging Protestants to employ Protestants, manipulation of the electoral system)

It was a little bit more serious than that Beano

Frazer presents himself and his family as whiter than white, other people have different opinions on that but seeing as I personally don't have any evidence I will not comment.

 
At 10:38 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

"It was a little bit more serious than that Beano"

But nothing along the lines of the nazi genocide.

But I do think it would be a lot better if people said what they actually believe rather than what is PC in the N.Ireland context. Fr Reid and Mary McAleese before him were simply expressing what many Irish nationalists believe about Unionists generally. It's scary that both are highly intelligent people and still they believe this, but in the end they were wrong to apologise for saying what they believe to be the truth.

A peace-process which is built on bullshit and PR won't work. If there is no respect for each other's traditions, culture and history let's at least be honest about it, rather than preaching about " parity of esteem" and an Ireland/Ulster of equals when we mean the opposite

 
At 10:45 p.m., Blogger Chris Gaskin said...

"But nothing along the lines of the nazi genocide"

I agree Paul, many others do not.

That is just something we have to deal with.

"but in the end they were wrong to apologise for saying what they believe to be the truth."

Fr Reid did not apologise for what he said, he apologised for causing offence.

For many Republicans and Nationalists this Victim mentality Unionism seems to have attached in recent times is deeply frustrating.

Unionism seems to think it was the only side that suffered.

 
At 7:16 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCrea calling Alex Maskay's electorate 5000 subhumans...KAT,I believe means KILL ALL TAIGS,my understanding is that Taigs are catholics...no...this from the still armed unionist terrorists...Bombay street and Kristalnacht, Ian Paisley and the anti christ...I believe he means the Pope (head of the cathoilc church) oh and 'theyre all vermin'...whats all this talk of nazism nonsense...theyre only havin a laff......aren't they?

 
At 10:17 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

"For many Republicans and Nationalists this Victim mentality Unionism seems to have attached in recent times is deeply frustrating.

Unionism seems to think it was the only side that suffered"

Chris,
We don't have a monopoly on this- remove the "Cult of The Irish Victimhood" and a substantial part of modern Irish Republicanism would disappear as well!

I was simply making the point that it's actually healthy if Fr Reid, Mary Mc Aleese and Mr Anonymous above, start to state their honest opinion rather than hide behind the platitudes. If they think we're all Nazis, then so be it. I'll have to remember tell the missus(non-British,non-Prod) she'll be must disturbed to hear she's shacked up with a Stormtrooper ;)

 
At 9:36 a.m., Anonymous Rebecca said...

"Two people use the Nazi example (certainly nothing wrong with McAleese's use of it in my view) and you castigate every single nationalist on the island! Now who's the ignorant one?"

Both people who compared unionists to nazis were completely wrong and extremelly insulting. What bothers me so much is the number of ordinary nationalists all over Northern Ireland who were bleating things like "Yeah well, he's totally right, we're just not allowed to say it"

How can so many people have such a warped view of the past?! I am not denying for a minute that there was discrimination, gerrymandering and that catholics were not treated equally but this is NOT the same as how the Nazis treated the Jewish population of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Unionists did not systematically murder catholics in their millions, they did not segregate catholics into walled in ghettos, the RUC did not go on a night of the broken glass style sabotage of jewish businesses, catholics were not made to wear distinguishing markers (such as yellow stars), catholics were not deported in their millions etc etc I could go on but I won't.

 
At 5:28 p.m., Blogger Crusty Burke said...

Willie Frazer is well able to pass around the Nazi insults himself. He uses his own FAIR website to state that the South and the Nazis were "one and the same cause".

Have a look at http://www.victims.org.uk/nazi.html and judge for yourself.

 
At 10:55 a.m., Anonymous maca said...

You'll also notice that Willie Frazer has misquoted McAleese, on purpose probably.
I read somewhere that Willie's father was a terrorist, any truth to that?


I can't speak for nationalists obviously but I think the point might be that it's not that they think the Unionists were really like nazis but the comparison (as wrong as it is) simply represents the level of hurt they feel. Then again I could be way off.

 
At 9:28 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

I read somewhere that Willie's father was a terrorist, any truth to that?
I don't know, but I'd say it's highly unlikely. BU.

 
At 10:24 p.m., Blogger Southern_Dude said...

Rebecca, McAleese didn't use the word "Protestant/Unionist" once in those remarks, which were taken out of context in a manner that could only happen in the North. She said that the Nazis "gave to their children" and "irrational and unreasonable" hatred of the Jews, "in the same way" that "people" in the North had given their children an irrational and unreasonable hatred of Catholics. She was not accusing the Unionists of sending millions or thousands of Catholics to concentration camps. She was trying to make a general point that sectarianism is bad news. It was the hatred she was referring to, not the scale of the manifestation of that hatred. I am sure she meant to include the word "some". After all, considering the UDA/UVF/LVF, can we really say that no-one in the Protestant community thought of Catholics like the Nazis did of the Jews? They didn't have the aparatus of state necessary to give full vent to their hatreds thankfully, even though some collusion existed. Mary's experience of her family being burnt out of their home in the 1960's may have influenced her to bring up the issue of anti-Catholic bigotry. I think she should be forgiven in that context.

 

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