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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Nickhere BS: The Irish Peace Process (294* d) RE: BS: The Irish Peace Process 25 Jan 09

Stringsinger, good post. But I think that to see the Troubles (as we call them here) in Northern Ireland as springing from religious differences is a serious mistake. But i can understand why people might think that.

Religion was simply a badge of convenience for identifying the 'ethnicity' and politics of the 'wearer'. Being a catholic meant you were probably nationalist and / or republican, being a prod probably meant the opposite. The same thing applied to names: being called Liam wouldn't go down well in loyalist pubs and might get the owner a hiding. Being called Billy or Sammy wouldn't go down well in Republican circles. And yet the notorious leader of the loyalist Shankill Butchers (so-called as they literally butchered their mainly catholic victims) was called Lenny Murphy. Murphy would generally be considered a "Fenian' name in the North (fenian = pro united Ireland / independence from UK). Some analysts claim Murphy - a prod loyalist - had a complex about his name which drove some of his viciousness.

The conflict in the north was based on apartheid and discrimination -subtle or non-subtle. It came from police harassment of catholics on the assumption that politically they were anti-union. Often such sectarian assumptions became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Catholics, roughed up by the police on suspicion of being anti-union, no doubt subsequently felt their sympathies lean towards the republican cause whereas they may have been apolitical before.

Catholics generally didn't join the police in the north because - they were not welcome; they would have been subject to bullying by their colleagues; they would have been shunned by their own community. I could list dozens of ways catholics were discriminated against as prods wished to build a monolithic prod state. But once again, religion was simply a denoter of allegiance, politics, social and economic status.

None of the killings took place, unlike the 16th cent - because people had studied their bibles carefully and mowed each other down over doctrinal differences.

The idea that religion was behind it was driven in part by UK officialdom and the tabloids as it was a convenient shorthand but mainly because it deflected attention from the real issues - inequality and injustice, UK political expediency and so on. It absolved the UK leadership from any responsibility and allowed them to cast themselves as the 'honest brokers' trying to keep the peace rather than as the opportunistic politicians they were manipulating both sides to their advantage, and indeed, being a cause of the problem.

That might be just another reason why the peace process has to work. It may yet prove to be a model for other regions of the world if it is successful. In those areas, it is my firm belief that once social justice issues are dealt with, the religious veneer of many of these conflicts will evaporate like morning dew (I doth surprise myself, waxing poetical!!)

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