Liberation Theology?

Shankill Rd.

The recent attacks on the Romanian community in Belfast are not isolated attacks but an emerging trend within loyalist youth. The media however have jumped onto this story. The recent attacks on Hungarian and Polish residents in Belfast where most had to leave their homes did not receive half as much media attention. A possibility for this is that the Polish being forced out of their homes seemed to be more based around a football riot and subsequent events developing out of this. The forcing of thirty Polish and Hungarian families out of South Belfast obviously revolved around the Norn Iron football match with Poland and not an ingrained bigotry which has sustained the Northern State since its foundation… But throw in ‘Combat 18’ slogans and it’s a story.

The Polish when they realized that the rent in nationalist west Belfast was too expensive were forced to return to South Belfast. It is likely that the Romanian families were also forced out of Belfast, by fascist gangs and by socio-economic circumstances.

Given the segregated nature of Belfast city, the complete lack of a class conscious leadership within loyalism and the historical basis of bigotry and pogroms against Catholics, it was hardly a surprise that such attacks would take place on immigrants much more identifiable as ‘outsiders’.

Working class Protestants have been sold a lie for years by their unionist and loyalist leaders. Instead of diverting their anger at their class enemies, their ‘own’ unionist and loyalist leaders, they have on various occasions attacked those less fortunate than themselves, Catholics, immigrant Poles and now the Romanian community. Ignoring the fact that their standard of living is the same, if not worse than their neighbours. Coming in the wake of the murder of Kevin McDaid, loyalism has shown once again, that it is merely a ‘razor in the hands of the class enemy’.

For the protestant working class to liberate themselves, they have to break their ties to loyalism and their leaders who have contempt not only for Taigs and immigrants but for their own class enemy, working class Protestants and Catholics.

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5 Responses to “Liberation Theology?”

  1. shea Says:

    found the last line interesting. i agree ulimately its up to protestants as a community or individuals to brake the cycle but as a process of nurtureing it along is any republican group offering to working class protestants, themselfs, as an alternative to loyalism. alot of lip service is paid to it alright. but is any group up to the chalange to fascilitate this much needed change in a practile on the ground way.

  2. aphexacid Says:

    It’s a good question, and personally, I’d have to say none. But I guess only time will tell. However, it’s not impossible either, as the example of the Republican Congress and the Shankill Battalion of the IRA show.

  3. Roy Johnston Says:

    We were very aware of this problem in the 60s when we attempted to develop a left-political approach to achieving the Republic. At that time the skilled Protestant working-class was still an elite, in a situation dominated by religious discrimination in jobs. Those who were left-politicised joined the CPNI. We tried to talk across, and some listened; Derek Peters and Betty Sinclair did their best, but the leadership, Andy Barr and co, held back, feeling constained by their leading trade union situation, dependent on the votes of the exclusive Protestant skilled-worker elite.

    The collapse of ship-building has destroyed this elite system. Those concerned have not found an alternative. They depended on apprenticeship to a trade, and this process has collapsed; they have tended not to go for any alternative educational channel.

    Insofar as there is any politically progressive element, it still resides in what remains of the CPI (the CPNI and IWP united in 1970 to form the CPI) and also in the PUP. There is need somehow to develop progressive Protestant working-class ideas into a mode of thinking critical of the idea of loyalty to a foreign monachy. Perhaps the progressive role of William as a ‘republican monarch’, with background in the Dutch Republic, supporting parliamentary power, and abandoning the absolute monarchy principle, needs to be explored synoathetically. However, loyalty to a remote monarch needs to be identified with Catholic loyalty to a remote Pope, and both need to be equally challenged.

    Who will do this? It will not come via the DUP, who are the analogue of Fianna Fail in the Protestant community. Are there any trade union situations where common-interest issues can be critically be discussed between members? We had hope of doing this in the 60s, but the legacy of the decades of mayhem has made it much more difficult.

  4. shea Says:

    thats interesting roy. without republicans trying to influence or ignite such a debate how do you see the protestant community progressing. myself worst case senario as the nationalist polulation increasses and we approch the boarder poll in the GFA is it unimaginable for a balkin situation developing. maybe far fetched but concidering the reactionary nature of loyalism down the centuries, why not.

    iam of the opinion that republicanism needs to become ‘cross community’ for as much as it will avoid as it will achieve but modern republican thinking isn’t that way inclined. and i accept there is a defacto political reality.
    but still i think the various different republican groups have to set there mind to it. but with the possible exceptinon of possibly SF who are sending out mixed signals on the issue, all the republican groups,, even the non military socialist eirigi all appear to be under the assumption that if they marshel the nationist community then hey presto. how they can come to that conclusion after the provo campaign i don’t know. but maybe as you say some internal debate and slaying some nationalist myths will be necessary.

  5. Roy Johnston Says:

    If an event were to be set up at which leading policy-generating members of SF, PUP and Green Party were to explore the political potential of the current power-sharing environment for development of cross-community common-interest groupings, I would be interested in participating as an observer. Might there perhaps be a role for the Quakers in hosting it? There is also the ‘Setanta Initiative’; might it have a role? I am open to suggestions, but I would need names in full, and direct e-mail addresses, so as to decouple the initiative from this blog.

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