Archive for August 31st, 2005

Of Spides, Giraffes and Peace

The Newshound posted Suzanne Breen’s gloomy Tribune piece on the sectarianism that continues in Northern Ireland.

Referring to an Institute for Conflict Research report, she notes:

11 years after the ceasefires and seven years after the Belfast Agreement, sectarian violence has substantially increased across the North, with far more attacks on churches, GAA clubs and Orange halls than pre-1994.

More people are being intimidated from their homes.

The report’s author correctly notes that:

“It was assumed all this would stop with the peace process.”

The problem with the very idea of a ‘peace process’ is that for its duration, it requires conflict to continue, in some form or another, among its participants, until the process concludes.
To talk about solving the problems of the North, in terms of a ‘peace process’ is to adopt a crude, but at the same time managerial approach to dealing with people’s fears and hatred. In its functioning, however, the ‘peace process’ has little to do with the type of people who attack GAA clubs or Orange halls. It is a matter for suits, not spides.

This does not mean that the ‘spides’ have no interest in the peace process; far from it. In fact, it is the peace process that allows them to give legitimacy to their sectarian behaviour. The fact that the biggest political party at present in the North is the DUP illustrates that those who can best exploit the dynamic of sectarian antagonism are the ones likely to have the most power.

The ‘peace process’ tells us that it is a splendid thing indeed to be a Nationalist, or a Unionist. In fact, there is no reason, it is agreed, for people to be anything else. Rather than denoting a rather dry constitutional preference between belonging to one English-speaking capitalist democracy or another, the peace process means that being a Nationalist, or a Unionist, becomes an end in itself, in a similar way to being a giraffe.

Any giraffe worthy of the name will take measures to ensure that he remains a giraffe for as long as possible, mainly by eating acacia leaves and drinking plenty of water. In the same way, for many, to be a Nationalist, you must remain oppressed by Unionism and act accordingly. To be a Unionist, the union must remain under threat and you should act accordingly. Anything else would mean a kind of death.


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