Thousands at N Ireland peace vigils

Discussion in 'Politics' started by dong20, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. dong20

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    "Thousands of people have taken part in silent vigils held across Northern Ireland in a poignant demonstration against the return of violence. Skip related content

    Crowds gathered outside Belfast City Hall, Londonderry Guildhall and Newry Town Hall in demonstrations organised by trade unions."


    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/21/20090311/tuk-thousands-at-n-ireland-peace-vigils-6323e80.html

    Recent events in Northern Ireland put me in mind of a handful of rather terse exchanges in this thread some weeks back.

    Please, before anyone accuses me of naivete and/or ignorance of what's going on - I'm perfectly well aware of the fact that despite its general absence from the headlines - peace and harmony does not reign in Northern Ireland. I'm also well aware of the 'mixed' messages coming from political leaders about these events.

    That said, I'm moved to wonder if these are 'incidents', or the leading edge of a trend.
     
  2. B_dxjnorto

    B_dxjnorto New Member

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    Makes you think there may be hope for the world some time. Even Israel and Palestine seem to be getting sick of going at each other.
     
  3. CALAMBO

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    I have recently returned from a ten day visit to Ireland....folks are not happy about alot of things....economy is failing, cost of living is extreme,the racism spoke about in the pubs was near violent, the older gents were un-happy with the un-rest in the north, foreign nationals as they call them, really un-welcome...i think more trouble is ahead for the IRISH.
     
  4. Jason

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    I think dong20 is right to remind us of the message that was posted a few weeks ago.

    I also think it is way too early to know whether these recent murders will cement the peace process or be the start of it falling to bits. Let's pray for the first. There is a real sense of both communities pulling together, and the clear condemnation from Sinn Fein has been helpful.

    There are plenty of worries however. These murders have been carried out by two different IRA splinter groups, which is harder to tackle than just one group. The economic downturn has to be background music. Northern Ireland has enjoyed a real boom over the last dozen years, but now property prices are down, unemployment is up, and there are unhappy people.

    Lets hope that the hatred expressed in the post dong20 has drawn our attention to (and which was originally a reply to something I wrote) does not triumph. Lets hope that the peace process is sufficiently established for people to realise that hatred is not the way to live.
     
  5. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    The Real IRA is the group to worry most about. The head of that organization was the former Master-of-Arms for PIRA/Sinn Fein. He had complete access to the shiploads of Libyan arms that came into Ireland including the rocket launchers. It is now known that at least two ship loads of Libyan arms landed in Ireland successfully during The Troubles. PIRA/Sinn Fein may have put their arms, "beyond use," but the fact is that it's impossible to count for all of them as much of the cache was hidden over the border in the Republic and it is unknown how many of those arms are or were accessible to Real IRA operants.
     
  6. Jason

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    Yes I think this is correct, though it takes only one gun and one bullet to kill someone, and all the IRA splinter groups have access to weaponry at this level. The Continuity IRA have certainly shown that they are a terrorist threat. The INLA is behind a lot of organised crime. While the Real IRA probably is the biggest threat I wouldn't minimise the threat from other splinters.

    The hope is that public willingness to harbour terrorists has declined among the whole population of Northern Ireland. In the past there have always been people with information about terrorists who have kept quiet, either from fear or from a sense of tribal loyalty. Let's hope that the peace process has gone so far that this situation has changed. For that matter let's hope there is no Loyalist backlash. Additionally it is harder and harder to see what the IRA splinter groups really want or who supports them. Is their aim a united Ireland ruled by them as a Marxist state? The ballot box in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has convincingly rejected them.
     
  7. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    I agree, Jason. The peace process is fragile still. An economic downturn could create all kinds of restless, unemployed, bitter people on both sides who have nothing better to do but blame the folks on the other side of the street.

    I believe this attack was calculated to gauge public response to active terrorist killing. After 9/11 the option was clearly out of the question, so I see this as a test of the waters. INLA and Continuity seem more reluctant to use overt assassination. Real IRA have had no such qualms in the past and have expressed a rejection of the peace process.

    As to what they want? It's what they've always wanted and that's the tricolor flying over Stormont. I don't believe Real IRA has any idealistic socialist political agenda the way PIRA/Sinn Fein once did. If they've released any statement to that effect, I haven't read it. Certainly they're no fans of the SDLP or Fianna Fáil, believing Ahern sold out Ulster. What they likely have noticed is the great weakening of Fianna Fáil under Cowen and are further looking to discredit the Republic government's endorsement of the peace process by striking at its heart. In the same vein, Brown's government is weak as well and neither Cowen nor Brown can command the power to recreate a collapsed Stormont government. Too, Obama is a new face and this incident will test Obama's interest in Anglo-Irish relations. I wager that Real IRA sees weakness in Dublin and London with a wildcard in Washington and are hoping to begin a campaign of destabilization with the goal of causing the collapse of the Belfast Agreement.
     
  8. superbot

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    Like all terrorists,the these active Republican units view human life as nothing at all,if it means getting a headline!...YUK.
     
  9. Jason

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    I haven't seen the (UK) newspapers express it in quite this way, but the idea makes sense.

    So do your comments about weaknesses in the UK and Irish governments.

    An issue for NI at the next UK election is presumably going to be the electoral pact between the UUP and the Conservatives, which could see the UUP as part of the UK governing party (and even conceivably the king maker in a hung parliament). The scenario would look very like the old English protestant rule over NI that so many Republicans found unacceptable.

    In the Irish Republic the flash point is presumably around the economic pressures, particularly the difficulties Ireland is feeling as part of the Euro. Ireland has never had a truly independent currency (the Punt was linked to the Pound). The politically unthinkable which nonetheless makes economic sense is for Ireland to return to a currency linked with sterling. This is of course similar to the position for Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (none of which are part of the UK but which issue a currency on parity with the pound).
     
  10. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    Interesting points you raise, with a nice comprehension of the details. This news, however, is truly "troubling."

    I found it quite encouraging, but suspect, that "the troubles" were virtually muted during the rise of the Celtic Tiger. It is therefore no surprise that they have re-emerged now that Ireland's economy is one of Europe's weakest.

    The Good Friday Accord seemed like a win-win based upon the premise that Northern Ireland will remain part of Britain till a majority vote otherwise, but because of population transfer, this is much like saying Tibet will remain part of China till that happens there.

    In Northern Ireland, 53% identify themselves as Protestant, and 89% of the Protestants are "Unionists." (Pro-UK) Therefore there will be little likelihood of Northern Ireland "nationalizing." So "the troubles" appear to be merely deferred by prosperity, since a permanent minority (pro-nationalist Catholics) will never feel equally represented, as witnessed by McGuinness' (SF) abstentionism from Parliament.

    This self-determination dilemma of de-colonialization, which creates "orphans of secession" is playing out in other parts of the world as well, such as Moldova and Georgia, where pro-Russia "break-away" provinces have been stuck in "frozen" conflicts since the 90's; Kosovo, where the UN recognized their "self-determination" this past year despite protests from Russia, and China; East Timor, the aforementioned Tibet, as well Kashmir, and of course Israel -Palestine. I'm sure I missed many others.

    Whereas many argue that two state solutions are the best way to resolve such disputes (see link), with perhaps disagreement (hopefully peaceful) by those nations permanent minorities; pluralist solutions, or self-autonomous regions, seem to offer ways to resolve long term, religious, ethnic, and population transfer disputes within a common legal framework, potentially offering all an equal voice in nation building, eliminating the burden and cost of creating a sovereign state.

    Figuring out better political and legal frameworks to resolve disputed territories will only become more essential as the world's population grows to 7 billion, and global warming endangers, or reduces current human habitat.

    Kosovo to Kashmir: the self-determination dilemma | open Democracy News Analysis
     
  11. superbot

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    How ridiculous to equate the economic down turn with any sort of resurgence in terrorist activity!!!!
     
  12. dong20

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    Comparing things, events, outcomes and so on - and equating them are not one and the same. It's a common mistake, especially here.

    Not that that's what Jason did, but I agree, equating terrorist activity with an economic downturn would be rather ridiculous, they cannot really be properly equated, only compared. Or perhaps, as Jason suggested - related.

    With this in mind, is there some rule or rules precluding (for example) domestic terrorism and an economic downturn from being related - in the sense that each may invoke or intensify the other? If you can find one and post it, I'd be most interested.

    As for the post in question, I can only suggest you re-read it.
     
  13. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    In general, prosperous middle class people don't become terrorists when their culture is experiencing general prosperity. It's when things become economically unequal that tensions begin to mount as unemployment and the sense of disenfranchisement increases. Lots of unemployed young people lounging about feeling hopeless tends to create trouble.

    With Ulster, poverty has been an ongoing problem in the region due to the reluctance by industry and business to invest in the area. Even then, the Catholic Republican minority has always had the short end of the stick with many facing outright job discrimination no matter what their qualifications. Now Northern Ireland has done very well of late. The unemployment figures are actually lower than the rest of the UK. Whether that trend continues remains to be seen but it is likely to rise simply because of greater world economic trends.

    I'm not saying that sectarian violence will increase necessarily because of an economic downturn, but that such a downturn could be exploited by the various sectarian groups looking to increase their support and membership.

    I think it a greater mistake to equate the Republic's economic woes with an increase in sectarian violence in Ulster though the economies of both entities are intertwined to a great degree. The people of the Republic do generally support the idea of unification, if not the violence espoused by the paras, but nor do they want to be saddled with a disenfranchised minority that would place the Unionists in the same position the Republicans are in now. Whitehall would love nothing better than to be rid of Ulster altogether and Dublin would love nothing more than for Ulster to slide into the sea. It's one massive migraine for everyone involved and there seems to be no solution to the fundamental problems except uprooting and transplanting all the Unionists back to Scotland in a second Clearance. It's that or have home rule.

    It should be noted that the conventional wisdom of the population matter is something along the lines of, "Catholics versus Protestants. Who is more likely to have more children?" The Republicans are quite sure their minority is temporary in the grand scheme of things and that their numbers are sure to increase to a majority over time.
     
  14. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    This is exactly the point that Bush never understood with regard to terrorism in the Middle East: employed people are less interested in terrorism, they don't have time for it. It would have been far cheaper to provide low interest rate business development loans to unemployed college grads in the Middle East, than to pay for one month's worth of our being in Iraq.

    It is indeed promising that Northern Ireland's economy is doing better than the UK, but for how long? The Republic of Ireland's property values rose even more than they did in the UK, so it stands to reason that they fall at least as far. Whereas the UK can devalue the pound to ease some of it's financial strain, the Republic of Ireland cannot, which may pose an uncomfortable juxtaposition between N.I and the Republic vis-a-vis relative prosperity, which I think Jason aptly points out can be easily exploited.

    The problems of a colonizing power withdrawing seem to be the similar regardless of geography, ethnicity, or religion. What makes the case of the N.I even more destabilizing is that Britain has only withdrawn from part of the island.

    It is ironic that most of the Unionists are Scots, since the Scots themselves have been long divided over whether Scotland should remain part of the UK, or become independent again. Uprooting those families back to Scotland makes little practical sense since many have been in Ulster since the 1600's.

    Re-population is one way to redress a long standing political imbalance, but it seems an odd way to "solve" the problem, as you merely trade one permanent majority for another. This would indeed pose a major long term headache for the Republic.
     
  15. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    The Irish have a saying about American Irish who identify themselves as such, "More Irish than Irish." It seems because of time or distance, many Irish-Americans have a naive and simplistic view of the Irish situation and is part of the reason they were such big donors to PIRA/Sinn Fein. Few things annoy the Irish more than seeing an American get off the plane and start talking about shamrocks and leprechauns.

    The situation there is eerily similar to the situation with the Unionists. They tend to be, "More British than British." They've got to have their parades and a picture of the queen in their lounges. Many of them are deeply worried they'll wake-up one day and suddenly be Irish citizens instead of British subjects and so they tend to be deeply conservative in any political viewpoint. They want all the trappings of their culture to reassure them that they are British and British they shall stay.

    The Real IRA are dangerous, as proven in the Omagh bombing that killed 29 people. They are not, however, particularly well-trained even if they are well-armed. Stratfor estimates their number to be anywhere from 100 to 200 with some of those in prison. That is vitally smaller than PIRA ever was and makes the group far more difficult to infiltrate. Just before the queen's last visit in 2005, the Real IRA announced that they were beginning a campaign of violence and the queen would have been a prime target for RIRA, yet nothing happened. Other royal visits have come and gone with no apparent threat. That doesn't mean RIRA isn't planning or looking to instigate terrorism where they can.

    The biggest foil for RIRA is, oddly enough, PIRA/Sinn Fein. PIRA/Sinn Fein have cast their lot with the political solution and dearly want Home Rule to work because they have no apparent alternative if it does not. They are not above using violence to do so and have, with little media fanfare, carried out assassinations and executions of members they believe to be disloyal. That includes RIRA members who PIRA/Sinn Fein believe are disruptive to the process. If you're a RIRA member, you don't want PIRA/Sinn Fein to know it or you could end-up dead.

    The following is from the Twentieth Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission, published in November 2008:

     
  16. Jason

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    The language of colonisation is politically charged in the case of Ireland. It is neither correct nor helpful.

    Ireland has never been a colony of anyone. The ethnic and cultural influences that have affected the British Isles have all to one extent or another affected all parts. There has been considerable population movement. An Irish people called the Scots settled extensively in Scotland. Centuries later it was mainly Scots who settled in Ulster. In the nineteenth century English Liverpool had more Irish people living in it than lived in Dublin, while Dublin had a significant English population. The Norman Conquest (1066 and all that) created a French-speaking Anglo-Norman ruling class that established their power base in England and in the next couple of centuries ruled also in Wales, in Scotland (through puppet kings) and in Ireland. For around seven hundred years Ireland was linked with the rest of the British Isles, and towards the end of this period was an integral part of the United Kingdom with the same rights as any other part of the United Kingdom. In Dublin it had the UK's second city. Problems of Catholic rights, potato famine, absentee landlords and much more were particularly painful in Ireland, but by no means unique to Ireland - all parts of the UK had them.

    The establishment of the Irish Free State (now Republic) was a response to the will of the people of 32 counties of Ireland expressed through the ballot box. That the decision was taken county-by-county rather than for the whole of Ireland has been much criticised since, though had a whole Ireland decision been taken it is very likely that there would have been a civil war which would have seen Northern Ireland break away. That a solution was found through the ballot box has to be better than the bloodshed that could so easily have happened.

    Within Northern Ireland today a clear majority support Northern Ireland remaining within the UK. As such it is an integral part with equal rights to any other area of the UK. It is emphatically not a "colony" or a territory, just as California is not a colony of the United States. At every election the Unionist parties which have as their primary goal remaining a part of the Union gain the most votes. This is the democratic position. Many people in England, Wales and Scotland would love to see NI leave the UK. We get a bad press around the world, a security headache, and an area which is economically weak. The Irish Republic is most unlikely to want Northern Ireland to join them. In this case the Unionists would be a significant political body probably holding the balance of power in the Irish parliament. The idea of an independent NI has been proposed, though it would be a small state with all the instabilities this often causes, and it is hard to see who this would please.

    The reality of the peace process has been to give something that works - a prosperous NI as an integral part of the UK, and a prosperous Irish Republic content with the solution. I don't think anyone wants to open Pandora's box and look at alternatives.
     
  17. B_dxjnorto

    B_dxjnorto New Member

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    Thanks for the info Jason. What I want to know is how do you all tell each other apart for the purpose of discriminating?
     
  18. Jason

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    I know you are joking, but your joke goes to the heart of the sadness of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The differences hardly exist, but they have been picked at until they seem enormous. The policeman who was murdered a few days ago by the Republicans (Catholics) was in fact a Catholic, so in they killed one of their own tribe.

    After more than a decade of the peace process you see all the following in Northern Ireland, and see them pretty much everywhere.
    - kerb painting, where in villages and suburbs the kerbs are painted in the colours of either the UK or Irish flag.
    - excessive flag flying, often in gardens, from houses, from lamp-posts. These includes the Union Jack and Irish flag, the NI flag (which has become associated with the Unionists) and flags of paramilitary groups. Also much flying of Israeli and Palestinian flags, as the communities associate themselves with either side in that conflict.
    - political and paramilitary murals on the sides of houses are very common
    - there are still very many peace walls in Belfast and elsewhere - something like 80 in Belfast alone. Many of these are built and maintained by local communities to stop the local yobs fighting.
    - failure to resolve problems like the name of Stroke City - Londonderry/Derry.
    - segregated schooling. Basically Roman Catholics insist on faith schools. The remaining schools tend to be protestant as a consequence.

    It is like two great tribes who define themselves against the other. Both nurse the memory of past grievances both real and imagined. It shouldn't be like this. Add the religious issue and outside meddling (more in the past than now) and it has become lethal.

    A big positive feature is that McGuiness has called the murderers "traitors to the island of Ireland". There is hope that this view will prevail.
     
  19. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    I'd like to emphasize something Jason said. The Unionists happen to tend to be Protestant and the Republicans happen to tend to be Catholic. Too often it's painted in the American press as a religious battle when religion is often only an ancillary issue. There are loads of Catholics in the UK and plenty of Protestants in Ireland and they live without any problems. Sometimes a para group will target a religious gathering and sometimes religious barbs are traded, but religion isn't remotely the heart of the matter.

    The history of The Troubles is riddled with missteps and horrors that only created more problems. In one infamous incident, a PIRA operative threw a gelignite bomb into a bar supposedly frequented by UVF operatives only he missed the bar and the bomb landed in the apartment of a Republican widow, killing her and her children. In the infamous Omagh bombing, the bomb was called-in before it exploded, something the IRA frequently did, and so the RUC moved people out of where the bomb was supposed to be and into a safe place. Only the place wasn't safe. It's where the bomb was, and 29 people died, 108 injured. The Real IRA, RIRA, claimed they told the Royal Ulster Constabulary the correct location of the bomb but the RUC herded people into the location where the bomb was. The RUC, rather more believably, said that RIRA's caller gave them the wrong address, however it was later found that RUC hadn't taken the bomb threats seriously and mishandled several warnings from RIRA.

    Among those killed were Republican sympathizers, tourists, and young children.

    During the hunger strikes, Margaret Thatcher thought not giving-in to prisoner demands for a return to Special Status for PIRA prisoners would prove a point. All it did was make Bobby Sands an MP and he and nine others into martyrs and open the floodgates of American dollars into the pockets of PIRA. More people attended the funeral of Sands than of de Valera.

    Also note that while Americans hear plenty about the IRA and its splinter groups, there are Unionist paramilitaries just as violent and deadly. It's not only the IRA versus British police and military.

    The only time I travel and am happy to advertise myself as an American is when I'm in Northern Ireland. People on both sides warm-up immediately and I have freedom of movement they don't have. I can walk into Sinn Fein headquarters and ask for stickers (they have them!) and I can walk into Ian Paisley's church in Crossgar. It's almost like being Swiss.
     
    #19 jason_els, Mar 17, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2009
  20. pym

    pym New Member

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    Nicely wrote Jason. I have to say from what i've seen of the ORANGEMEN parades through Catholic neighborhoods........religion is part of the toubles for sure. I was a bit more versed back in the 80's when i was more interested in the subject. I think the British military police were the UDA? at the time. Anyhow......one of the best books on the subject that i own is called "IRELAND A TERRIBLE BEAUTY" by Leon and JILL{his wife} URIS. An incredible pictorial history of that country.
     
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