What peace process?
September 11, 2005 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Unoticed news: riots in Belfast. I've been surprised that I haven't seen much reporting on the riots in Belfast, especially since it is the second night of rioting. The lack of coverage is probably due to the fact that no one has yet to be killed coupled with the ongoing coverage of both Katrina and John Roberts nomination.
What I find interesting about this is that these riots seem to be the cumulation of increasing sectarian violence. apparently, this is not the first riot to happen in Northern Ireland this year. The Guardian has the best coverage of the events, and points out that both the pressures and rewards of the peace process have been placed and (apparently) granted more toward the Republicans than the Loyalists. The rioting also comes after the "Love Ulster" propaganda campaign started distributing pamphlets all over the province.
This also comes as there is an ongoing feud between Loyalist groups. This apparently paused when the Northern Ireland football (soccer) team beat the British team on their home turf.

Disclaimer: I am an American with some Irish extraction and tend to have very little sympathy for the Loyalist cause.
posted by Hactar (49 comments total)
< i>the Northern Ireland football (soccer) team beat the British team on their home turf >> Hactar, FYI, Northern Ireland is British too.

posted by marvin at 11:00 PM on September 11, 2005

The NYT just did a travel piece on Belfast too, and how they're trying to make it hip and a destination.

was there any violence during last year's marching season? and how do they know the IRA hasn't disarmed? has anyone been shot lately by them? have they taken responsibility for anything?
posted by amberglow at 11:00 PM on September 11, 2005

from Disarm the loyalists too: This was what the sceptics always said would happen. Paramilitaries, officially on ceasefire, would break their word - and unleash a wave of devastating violence. Armed to the teeth, these private armies would reach for the gun the moment they did not get their way. And all the promises made by the respectable political parties that stand alongside them would be exposed as worthless lies.

That's what critics of the Northern Ireland peace process always warned would happen. Except the menace they had in mind was the IRA and the republican movement. It was the Provos who had to be disarmed and disbanded, lest they return to their bloody ways.

What the sceptics did not bank on, what few people even mentioned, were the paramilitaries of loyalism.

posted by amberglow at 11:03 PM on September 11, 2005

Marvin- from the link.
"But it is hard to sustain the claim that this is Ulster's darkest hour when your team has just beaten England at home for the first time in 78 years.

I don't know exactly which league they are in, but what I put in there, (as far as I can deduce from the article) is correct.
posted by Hactar at 11:14 PM on September 11, 2005

Sorry Hactar, yes, all of the above are British. I lived in N Ireland during the '60s and '70's and I get really tetchy when I have to explain ad nauseum to my US bretheren that the "Six Counties" are British, just like Scotland Wales and England etc.
posted by marvin at 11:24 PM on September 11, 2005

I live about 15 minutes away from where this stuff is happening, but it might as well be on the other side of the world. It's not a warzone here (except maybe in the relatively small areas where the worst of the violence occurs), people are just used to it and get on with their lives. At worst there is a slight tension, but that's about it.
posted by speranza at 11:27 PM on September 11, 2005

From the CNN article: "A police spokesman said cars had been hijacked and set alight and there were unconfirmed reports blast bombs had been hurled at police in east Belfast in attacks blamed on the Protestant Orange Order, which supports British rule in Northern Ireland.

"Police have come under sustained attack," a police spokesman said.

Okay, wait, Orangemen attacking a mostly-Protestant police force? And the BBC still calls them "loyalists"? I'd probably be less confused if I'd kept paying attention, but 20 years ago this would have been about rioting Catholics -- alleging the police are closet Orangemen.

Background please, somebody?

Something else I'm wondering: are antigovernment Catholics making common cause with the Orangemen against their common enemy? Even considering it got started over the Parade route, I mean?
posted by davy at 11:37 PM on September 11, 2005

There's a 'British' football team?

Sounds like a game between two British teams...
posted by pompomtom at 11:42 PM on September 11, 2005

Yes, I know my last question might question stupid, but "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is not always a rational way to view things.

Then too, I've defended ParisParamus' right to be himself, and I'm pretty far to the left around here.
posted by davy at 11:44 PM on September 11, 2005

"I know my last question might question stupid"

And my proofreading ability might vanish. I meant it might sound stupid, as everybody who's not half-asleep must've realized immediately.

posted by davy at 11:47 PM on September 11, 2005

Theyre trying to get the army to stay.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:19 AM on September 12, 2005

Football explanation:

The game in which Norn Iron beat England was a qualifier for the World Cup (both teams are, by coincidence, in the same qualifying group in the European section).

There is no British football team (well, almost) - for various historical reasons, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries.
posted by athenian at 1:09 AM on September 12, 2005

From the article:

"The lesson is pretty clear: the search for peace in Northern Ireland needs to be more balanced. That means spreading the pressure over arms more evenly - to include loyalists - and ensuring the rewards for progress are seen to be spread more evenly, too, to include the very same people."

Good to see that the Guardian is standing firm on the issue of not giving in to terrorists.

Perhaps it's because it all began such a long time ago that we've forgotten that this struggle began because the loyalists were consistently denying the Catholic community things like jobs, houses, civil rights, etc. But hey, why *shouldn't* we be rewarding the people who were denying them those things?


"Something else I'm wondering: are antigovernment Catholics making common cause with the Orangemen against their common enemy?"

Imagine the Ku Klux Klan making common cause with the Black Panthers? It's about as likely as that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:20 AM on September 12, 2005

England >> English
Britain >> British
UK >> ???
posted by pracowity at 1:28 AM on September 12, 2005

England >> English
Britain >> British
UK >> ???

..."from the UK" or "of the UK".
posted by normy at 1:32 AM on September 12, 2005

PeterMcDermott writes:
But hey, why *shouldn't* we be rewarding the people who were denying them [civil rights]?

I hope this is meant to be read straight rather than ironically.

The 'my father did this to your father so I hate you' attitude is the sort of thinking that entrenches conflict and terrorism in the first place. Civil rights issues are issues from the '60s and '70s - the situation today is completely different. To say that the Loyalists must be punished (or not rewarded) for what they (or probably their fathers did) is:
  • 'sins of the fathers unto the fourth generation' thinking; and
  • the sort of thing the Good Friday Agreement and every step of progress in Northern Ireland since 1992 has been trying to move on from.
"No surrender to the IRA" is a football chant not a policy position - handling terrorism means not giving in to specific instances (hostage-taking, etc), while making political moves to split the moderates away from the terrorists and force the terrorists into moderation or disintegration.
posted by athenian at 1:36 AM on September 12, 2005

Scotland, Ireland, North Ireland, England, Wales....what's the 6th region?
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:38 AM on September 12, 2005

Scotland, Ireland, North Ireland, England, Wales....what's the 6th region?

Let's try and finally sort this out.

UK = England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.
(Great) Britain = England, Scotland, Wales.

Northern Ireland is sometimes refered to as "The 6 Counties", because it contains 6 counties. This is popular with Loyalists, because it infers a close tie with the rest of the UK and infer recognize any connection with Ireland.

Ireland is a completely separate nation to the UK. It shares a land border with Northern Ireland.
posted by normy at 1:52 AM on September 12, 2005

...sorry ...because it infers a close tie with the rest of the UK and doesn't recognize any connection with Ireland.

posted by normy at 1:56 AM on September 12, 2005

posted by athenian at 2:02 AM on September 12, 2005

(sorry, that last comment should have had pedant tags around it, but they didn't come out).
posted by athenian at 2:03 AM on September 12, 2005

Scotland, Ireland, North Ireland, England, Wales....what's the 6th region?

6th region of what? If it's a reference to the six counties of Northern Ireland - "Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone". Though people should be aware that Ulster is 9 counties (in order to have a workable state the other 3 counties were left out so that the Protestant population would have a decent majority - democracy in action!)

In regards to the weekends violence... disgusting. So called loyalists have shown their true colours by attacking their army and police force. They would attack their beloved Queen if she stood in their way. It should be understood that the majority of the Police force are still Protestants as is the Army.

I live about 20 minutes walk from the trouble in the east of the city. It's bad, but not a war zone. Driving out of town on Saturday morning was pretty scary, even before the trouble started. At Templemore Avenue groups of thugs and their kids lined the streets. Ugh, will it ever end.

One possible outcome of this is a swing to the Ulster Unionist party from the DUP by moderate Protestants, most of whom I would reckon are pretty disgusted by this.

p.s. any idea why I can't spell check in Safari, never noticed that before?
posted by twistedonion at 2:07 AM on September 12, 2005

Normy is right, except that I've never heard NI referred to as The 6 Counties by loyalists. In fact, it tends to be referred to as The Occupied 6 Counties by nationalists.
posted by speranza at 2:09 AM on September 12, 2005

See also 32 County Sovereignty Movement (a group linked to the so-called Real IRA).
posted by athenian at 2:18 AM on September 12, 2005

athenian - implies, yes, thanks.

speranza - I've never heard NI referred to as The 6 Counties by loyalists
My aunt (deceased, loyalist) used it, but maybe it's fallen from common use or never was that common. It's a long time since I last visited N. Ireland.
posted by normy at 2:19 AM on September 12, 2005

My aunt (deceased, loyalist) used it, but maybe it's fallen from common use or never was that common.

So did my Granda. i think old school loyalists, mainly from the Country, would have called it the six counties. Ulster these days, if you consider yourself a unionist.
posted by twistedonion at 2:27 AM on September 12, 2005

The adjective 'British' is ambiguous - it can be used to refer to either Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) or the whole of the United Kingdom (Great Britain + Northern Ireland) - dictionary.com.

(Maybe similar to those debates as to whether 'American' refers to just the USA or the whole of the Americas?).
posted by plep at 5:11 AM on September 12, 2005

Maybe everyone already knows about it, but Slugger O'Toole is one of the best places I have found for NI info.
posted by jaysus chris at 5:58 AM on September 12, 2005

UK >> ???

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:24 AM on September 12, 2005

Imagine the Ku Klux Klan making common cause with the Black Panthers? It's about as likely as that.

Well, supposedly Elijah Muhammad & George Lincoln Rockwell met and sent out political feelers to eachother, since they shared the goal or racial separation. Tom Metzger has expressed admiration for, and donated money to, Louis Farrakhan. So it's not that farfetched, i guess.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 AM on September 12, 2005

I love the Northern Irish loyalists.

Evangelical Protestant Puritan Christianity, mixed with nostalgia for the glory days of the British Empire, and a profoundly racist hatred of the Irish.

(Yes, they're Irish too. But they won't admit it - they prefer to claim to be "British". Confusing, isn't it?)

I've been lucky enough to get to know several Northern Irish loyalists quite well over the years, and, while they are, to a man (and woman) great folks to go out drinking with (and boy, can they drink), their political views often make Oliver Cromwell look moderate.
posted by cleardawn at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2005

Are you being ironic in saying that you haven't seen much coverage in the news and then linking to news items? It seems like the news has been noticed quite a bit.
posted by haqspan at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2005

It's more that all the news stories I found I had to dig for. There was a small mention on the CNN site, the BBC had it in their Europe section, but not the front page, even the Irish News had it as a subsection. I figured it was slightly more newsworthy than the news organizations were making it, so I assembled the links.
posted by Hactar at 12:26 PM on September 12, 2005

the BBC had it in their Europe section, but not the front page,

Er, it might have been shoved off the frontpage by more important stories like the cricket but it was there. I can assure you it hasn't gone unnoticed by the British media.
posted by ninebelow at 3:19 PM on September 12, 2005

and belfast just made the nytimes travel section... Belfast Is Ready for the Party to Begin -- "The once war-torn city has begun to transform itself into a hip destination, complete with boutique hotels, Michelin-star restaurants and welcoming pubs!" :D
posted by kliuless at 5:20 PM on September 12, 2005

ah, oops :D i'll just add this then! -- "Northern Ireland, which is 99% white, is fast becoming the race-hate capital of Europe. It holds the UK's record for the highest rate of racist attacks: spitting and stoning in the street, human excrement on doorsteps, swastikas on walls, pipe bombs, arson, the ransacking of houses with baseball bats and crow bars, and white supremacist leaflets nailed to front doors."
posted by kliuless at 5:30 PM on September 12, 2005

According to the soc.culture.irish FAQ, "the 6 counties" is a term of nationalists, not loyalists.
There are two more important terms: "republican" and "loyalist". A republican believes in an extreme form of Nationalism, a loyalist believes in an extreme form of Unionism. Both terms are used to describe groups who advocate the use of violence to achieve political aims.

Unionists tend to call Northern Ireland Ulster, even tough this is technically incorrect (Ulster includes three extra counties: Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal). Republicans (here meaning nationalists who sympathise with violent attempts to force union between Northern Ireland and the Republic) often call Northern Ireland "the Six Counties" and the Republic "the Twenty Six Counties" (or, worse, "the Free State", a reference to the original Irish state with limited independence created in 1921).
The following are synonyms in common usage. Some of these terms are politically loaded: the first in each list is the best choice if you want to make yourself clear (without committing yourself to a particular political view).

Northern Ireland; Ulster; the North; the Six Counties

Republic of Ireland; Ireland; the South; the Twenty Six Counties; the Free State
(I recently acquired Irish citizenship, so I've been trying to get this stuff straight.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 6:10 PM on September 12, 2005

This is what NewsFilter posts should be. Excellent post Hactar.
posted by too many notes at 6:21 PM on September 12, 2005

I've only heard of "the six counties" in nationalist/republican contexts. In the [heavily Irish-American] neighborhood where I grew up, "26 + 6 = 1" bumper stickers were very popular.

I've always felt that the Loyalists need as much prodding as the IRA - perhaps more, since they've generally had the support of the British government [more or less openly, depending on the group], and their actions in the peace process make me think that they feel entitled to demand that the IRA give up everything while they do nothing. Unfortunately, I don't think that the Troubles'll really be over until both sides stand down... Been hoping that the IRA will do the right thing for once and verifiably dump their arms. I tend to support the unification of Ireland, but there's far, far more to be gained from trying things the peaceful way, I think, particularly with the international focus on terrorism these days. Of course, the bastards will probably hem and haw and make more empty proclamations and nothing much will change.
posted by ubersturm at 7:36 PM on September 12, 2005

This story is not dissimilar to the case of the guy murdered in the IRA dominated bar earlier this year. I found this quote at the end of the story to be the best way to sum up the problem:

Indeed as long as those loyalist groups remain in existence, they provide a powerful argument for republicans who protest that the IRA cannot disband while there is a latent threat from armed groups on the other side of the sectarian divide.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:50 PM on September 12, 2005

"Imagine the Ku Klux Klan making common cause with the Black Panthers? It's about as likely as that."

Back in the 1980s some White Power bunch, I think Duke's KKK "Empire", made common cause with Farrakhan's bunch, at least to the point of making mutually backslapping speeches: they were both in favor of "separation of the races". I'm about to get ready for bed, so though I know it sounds like cop-out I can't dig up references for you tonight, but if nobody posts substantiation for this half-remembered assertion I'll search up stuff on it for youse tomorrow.

But no, it's not that far-fetched. Before the Patriot Enabling Act of 1933 the Nazis made common cause with the Communists a few times, and I've read reports that the German government did likewise with the Zionists just before and during the war. And don't forget the "Hitler-Stalin" (some say "Molotov-Ribbentrop") pact of 1939! Where do you think the cliche' "politics makes strange bedfellows" comes from after all?

(Oho! On preview I see I didn't see jonmc's comment! Of course there are concrete references out there to be pointed to, and if nobody does it I still will.)

And ubersturm, one big problem with Irish reunification is that at least in the North people can still legally get birth control and abortions. If you could add all the counties under a secular "liberal" regime it wouldn't be so bad; as it is I think the Erse have it arse-backwards, the Northerners should be trying to liberate the South.
posted by davy at 10:16 PM on September 12, 2005

davy, you may want to check your facts. Birth control [and emergency contraception] are legal, although abortions are not. While I'm pretty wholeheartedly pro-choice, it's a little hard for me to say "Northern Ireland should be trying to liberate the Republic of Ireland." Might be the bloody history of the British "liberating" Ireland in the past. Might be the fact in Northern Ireland Catholics have been historically treated as second-class citizens [and there's still a lot of prejudice], and institutionalized prejudice isn't something I can call 'better' than lack of access to abortions. Worse, perhaps, because at least a pregnant woman has the [admittedly insufficient] options of EC early on, a trip to the UK for an abortion, or adoption... none of which are great, but pervasive ethnic and religious discrimination [particularly if you're poor, as many Catholics in Northern Ireland are] can screw up your entire life too, maybe even screw it up more. Heck, maybe I can't endorse your backwards 'liberation' simply because I'm an American, and it seems a little hypocritical to complain about another country that's first world [though with conservative religious tendencies] when my own nation's doing it's best to go backwards. In the past quarter-century, Ireland's changed a lot - a country where half of the population thought that contraception should be available to married couples is now fine with pretty much all kinds of contraception. Unless I've got the dates wrong [which I may, as t's late and I'm very tired], homosexual intercourse became legal there before it did in some states in the US. Meanwhile, back on the other side of the Atlantic, the Republican governors of liberal states like New York and Massachusetts are stalling various emergency contraception programs and there's serious concern that Roe v. Wade will be overturned [and abortion quickly made illegal in quite a few states, of course.] At least the Irish can say they're making some progress...
posted by ubersturm at 11:52 PM on September 12, 2005

Yes, abortion for "social" reasons are illegal, but about 70 abortions are preformed annually (that's not a totally accurate number as the law can be confusing and statistics are not widely kept/published) and several thousand Northern Irish women travel to England for abortions each year (I'm somewhat involved in pro-choice issues, so am familiar with people assuming that because abortion is legal in the UK, it must be legal in NI too).

In my experience, the Republic of Ireland is quite a bit more socially liberal than Northern Ireland. The Church has nowhere near the same hold over people as it used to, there is less racism, more tolerance for gay rights, and a much wider pro-choice activist base (there is virtually no pro-choice activism in NI, but a hell of a lot of anti-abortion groups, some of which are affiliated with American Army Of God types). In fact, I would say that if people in the Republic had the opportunity to vote to make abortion legal (to a greater extent than it currently is - say, in the first trimester) right now, they would - or at least it'd be a pretty close vote. That would never happen in NI at this point. Of course, that won't happen in the Republic either because the government would rather have silly referendums every few years.

So, yes, the idea that NI is somehow more liberal than the Republic is entirely inaccurate and it's annoying to see that myth perpetuated here.
posted by speranza at 4:21 AM on September 13, 2005

because abortion is legal in the UK, it must be legal in NI too

NI is part of the UK ;)
posted by the cuban at 8:37 AM on September 13, 2005


"Birth control [and emergency contraception] are legal"

I stand corrected. Apparently I was misinformed. When did such things become legal?


"about 70 abortions are preformed annually"

Only seventy? Are those in cases when the woman is a victim of incestuous rape whose life would be endangered by carrying to term? And what happens with all the unwanted children?

"several thousand Northern Irish women travel to England for abortions each year"

So women's right to abortion is severely restricted in Northern Ireland too, right? Hmm... It appears I must now stand corrected on the relative "liberality" of Ulster too. So what do POOR women of the Irish island who can't afford to go elsewhere for an abortion do, use a coathanger?

So I take back that part of my previous comment to substitute the following: the people of that group of islands should unite to free themselves and each other, including (but not limited to) both parts of Ireland.

Thank you both.
posted by davy at 10:08 AM on September 13, 2005

the cuban:

That was my point. I live in Northern Ireland, I am aware that it's part of the UK. I was trying to say that people assume (incorrectly) that because NI is part of the UK, abortion must be legal because it's legal in England, Scotland and Wales. The law that makes abortion legal in England, Scotland and Wales does not apply to NI.


I'm not sure when birth control and EC became legal in the Republic, but I believe it was quite some time ago. More than a decade, I would think. The majority of people in the Republic are supportive of contraception now.

As I said, there are no absolutely accurate statistics showing how many abortions are performed in NI. The 70 figure is from a few years ago. The law as it is now is very strict and allows abortion only to save the life of the mother or possibly in very exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances part is not allowed to be interpreted liberally, so it's not possible for a woman to just say that she can't afford a child or that her mental health would be damaged - it has to be something a lot more extreme than that, and even then it's really up to individual doctors to decide and that's difficult because obviously doctors don't want to act outside the law, especially with the abortion law being so vague. I think there are probably cases of rape where abortions have been performed and cases where they haven't. That's not because I'm aware of any particular cases, just that over the course of time these situations have probably occurred at some point and different doctors have made different decisions. It's all a bit of a crapshoot. I know that there is/was a law that gives women who've been raped and are pregnant £5000 "compensation" if they don't abort.

As for unwanted children...well, I guess they exist. If a woman can't afford to get to England and pay for an abortion in a private clinic (because Northern Irish women can't have abortions on the NHS in England) then they just...deal with it, I suppose. Backstreet abortions are very rare, and I assume that pregnancies that might've ended in abortion are just carried to term and the children raised as best as the mothers can manage.
posted by speranza at 2:57 PM on September 13, 2005


Total self-link, so I won't link directly (apologies if I'm not allowed to do that in comments). It's only a collection of links to more information about abortion in Northern Ireland/ROI, should anyone be interested.
posted by speranza at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2005

Re-reading my post, I just wanted to add...I'm not trying to give the impression here that Northern Irish women are all oppressed and suffering under The Patriarchy. It's true that NI is more conservative than the rest of the UK and of course this has an impact on women's lives to an extent (much more so in poor and politically unstable areas), but for the most part, Northern Irish women have the same rights (except for the right to abortion, obviously) as all women in the UK and I know that I've never felt "held back" in any way here. I can't speak for all women, but plenty of women have it way worse off than we do.
posted by speranza at 3:22 PM on September 13, 2005

As plep alluded to, "Britain" (and by extension "British") is officially an abbreviation of "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", and not of "Great Britain".
posted by cillit bang at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2005

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