In relation to my post yesterday on the miserable record of British colonialism in Ireland, which continues to echo in the settler politics of some unionist representatives in the north-east of the country, I received several angry emails from people contesting my opinions. While some interesting points were made, which I hope to add here at a later date, there was also some unionist versions of “White Lives Matter (Too!)“. To explain; when young civil rights campaigners from the African-American communities began to draw attention to the casual killing of (primarily) black men and youths by the supposed forces of law and order in the United States under the “Black Lives Matter” banner, some conservative groups and commentators responded with a risible “White Lives Matter Too“, as if such lives were in any comparable danger. The likes of Fox News, the Drudge Report and the Breitbart News Network did much to popularise and legitimise this counter-movement of, essentially, “white nationalists“. The sight of wealthy middle-aged press columnists of European extraction “Whitesplaining” Black American history and society to Black Americans was one of the more bizarre aspects of this phenomenon.
However, some British readers who have stumbled across my recent article for An Sionnach Fionn have gone down that same route, “Britsplaining” Irish history and society to an Irish person through a prism of post-imperial prejudice. This has included much “Whataboutery” or convoluted versions of “Unionist Lives Matter Too“, as if anyone would suggest otherwise. To argue that “Northern Ireland” is a colonial parastate, a remnant of the British colony on this island nation whittled down to its smallest defensible position, is to point out a historical fact. It does not negate the identity or place of the unionist minority in this country, or the necessity for compromise and magnanimity on the issue of reunification. No one wishes to strip away the British-Irish, Scots-Irish, Anglo-Irish or whatever-Irish identity of unionists following the end of the UK’s administration of the north-east. On the contrary, many of us would wish to see it recognised and celebrated. A nation is strengthened by integrating diversity, not weakened by it.
Unfortunately, the prejudices of colonialism, the prejudices which form the ideological roots of unionism in Ireland, continue to be at its political centre and not at its political fringe. From the local Newry Times:
“Sinn Féin Assembly candidate for South Down, Michael Gray Sloan, has condemned the deliberate targeting and criminal damage against Irish language signs erected by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
“This criminal damage constitutes an attack on both communities. The Irish language belongs to everyone and every community.””
When the elected representatives of the main parties of unionism, the DUP, UUP, TUV and even the Alliance Party, criticise and condemn Irish-speakers, their schools and societies, this is the result. Try Britsplaining that!