So, yet another night of low-level violence and rioting from the extreme of the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland. That would be more or less the fifteenth night in a row since Belfast City Council voted by a majority to reduce the number of days the British national flag will fly over the council hall after decades of disputed display. The reduction is from a year round flying of the banner to 17 “designated days”, ones of particular importance to the British minority, and was agreed as a compromise gesture to the Unionist community despite the city’s now Irish Nationalist majority. In contrast no proposals were put forward by any party for the flying of the Irish national flag despite the presumed wishes of many in the city to see it alongside (or instead of) the British one.
For Unionists in the north-east of the country the agreement to make Belfast City Hall and other municipal buildings politically neutral and open to all communities was a direct threat to the public face of their centuries old hegemony, held since the heyday of British colonial rule. The truth of course is that their absolute power in the “Northern Pale”, the last remnants of the British colony in Ireland, has long since faded. Well, not quite. While some politicians from the British minority protest at the alleged loss of their “Britishness” (by which they mean, privileges) there is another story. Despite the fact that those who profess or stem from families with a Roman Catholic faith are now in the majority in the North of Ireland, they remain subject to ongoing institutionalised discrimination in employment, education, state services, the courts and, as always, even in the prisons.
The Irish Times reveals that the annual report issued by the statutorily independent Criminal Justice Inspection group (CJI) into the notorious Maghaberry Prison states that there had been:
“…no progress to address the long-standing issue of disparity in treatment between Catholic and Protestant prisoners, with Catholics not faring as well.
The unequal outcomes primarily related to the granting of benefits or application of sanctions where staff had a measure of discretion.
This equality issue has been identified in all Northern Ireland’s prisons since the CJI began its inspection work in 2004.
“Maghaberry’s own statistics have confirmed that in terms of equality there were still unequal outcomes for Catholic prisoners in several important areas,” said Mr McGuigan.
“Yet this sensitive issue was not being addressed and we have recommended the Northern Ireland Prison Service to take action to deliver equality of outcomes for all prisoners.”
He added: “It’s been a feature of prison inspections since we started them in 2004.””
So, despite the claimed loss of Unionist (or Protestant) power over the last decade the facts on the ground prove that Roman Catholics (or Irish Nationalists) remain subject to continued discrimination in all sectors of society. However the Unionists are still seeking a mechanism to “defend” or “restore” their supremacist days. And it’s an old one. If threatening the adult members of the community you perceive as the enemy seems to be getting you nowhere, don’t worry – just threaten their children instead. From the Irish News:
“UNION flags have been erected outside Holy Cross Girls Primary School – the scene of a bitter Loyalist protest a decade ago which made headlines around the world.
Flags were also flying yesterday outside two other Catholic girls’ schools within a small area of north Belfast as the dispute over the removal of the Union flag at the city hall intensified.
Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School at Bilston Road near Ballysillan was adorned with flags, as was Mercy Primary girls school on Crumlin Road.
There are fears that the development will lead to heightened tensions in the area.
During the Holy Cross dispute of 2001 riot police had to escort schoolgirls and their parents past hate-filled protesters on the journey to the Catholic school through the Protestant Glenbryn estate.
Loyalists claimed they had picketed Holy Cross after a parent attacked a man putting up a loyalist flag on a lamp-post opposite the school.
Urine-filled balloons were pelted at the little girls.
At one point a blast bomb was thrown at the pupils and their parents.”
Intimidating Irish schoolchildren. British nationalism at its finest.
- The Anti-Democrats – The British Unionist Minority In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Past Is A Foreign Country (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Crisis? What Crisis? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The Unionist Minority In Ireland – Do As We Say, Not As We Do! (ansionnachfionn.com)