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All is Far From Lost After Riots



David Adams • Irish Times, 3 March 2006

Much of the media coverage and comment that followed last Saturday's Dublin riots was so outlandish it bordered on hysteria. All sorts of incredible claims were made. With the dust largely settled, so to speak, hopefully a more rational and balanced discussion will take place.

For that to happen, it is essential that some of the myths that have already taken hold be dispensed with. Contrary to initial reports, it is clear that "busloads of republican supporters" were not ferried in from Northern Ireland to initiate and take part in the violent disorder.

In fact, the addresses of those who have appeared before the courts show that most rioters travelled from no farther than the outskirts of Dublin city.

Though it will undoubtedly disappoint many, there is no evidence to suggest that Sinn Féin was involved in organising or lending support to last Saturday's disturbances. It would have been incredibly stupid of them if they had. Sinn Féin have many failings but stupidity is not one.

A year or so before a general election in the Republic, they could not risk getting involved in last Saturday's mayhem, regardless of how they felt about a "Love Ulster" contingent processing through the streets of Dublin. Besides that, considering the deep animosity between them, it is stretching credulity beyond its limits to imagine Sinn Féin and the republican splinter groups responsible for the disturbances agreeing to co-operate on anything.

The truth is, the trouble was caused by a few hundred Republican Sinn Féin and Irish Republican Socialist Party supporters willingly assisted by an opportunist ragbag of drunkards, malcontents and thugs, the like of which one finds in any city centre on a Saturday afternoon.

Also, the riot took place on a building site, putting the Garda at a serious disadvantage. A ready supply of ammunition allowed rioters to gain the upper hand for a time, giving the impression that they were stronger and far better organised than actually was the case.

The most extraordinary claim made by some commentators is that the events of last Saturday somehow showed that, beneath a thin veneer of liberalism, the Republic is a deeply sectarian society.

From what evidence there is, it is beyond understanding how anyone can arrive at that conclusion. It was amply demonstrated, of course, that a tiny minority within the Republic are indeed sectarian. But that is hardly grounds for declaring them representative of everyone else around them.

How atypical the Dublin troublemakers really are was confirmed by the outpouring of anger and revulsion at Saturday's events from virtually every quarter in the Republic.

Last Saturday's thugs are no more a reflection of broader opinion than are the criminals, racists, homophobes and bigots that loiter on the margins of every society.

It should be appreciated, as well, that authorities in the Republic had no hesitation in granting permission for the Love Ulster parade to take place while the Garda risked life and limb protecting those intending to march - hardly the actions of a sectarian state and its servants.

Where others are correct is in stressing the importance of last Saturday in terms of it being a salutary reminder to everyone of the true nature of many of those who pass themselves off as Irish republicans.

While, undoubtedly, much of the actual disorder can readily be attributed to various malcontents and drunken thugs, the fact remains that the violence was planned and orchestrated by associates of the IRSP and Republican Sinn Féin. These are people well versed in the slogans of republicanism, but totally divorced from any real commitment to the sentiments contained therein. Their narrow, sectarian and exclusive brand of politics has much in common with the worldview of extreme nationalist groups like the British National Party.

The danger lies in the fact that for far too long a simplistic one-sided version of recent history, such as people like this recount, has gone largely unchallenged in the Republic. This history ignores - or at worst bestows - nobility on countless sectarian atrocities committed over decades by the IRA and its offshoots. By their account, unionists (code for northern Protestants) and their British allies are inherently bad and fully deserving of whatever agonies were heaped upon them.

While the government of the Republic, over recent years, has succeeded in building good relationships with virtually all strands of unionism, this has largely taken place over the heads of the wider community in the South.

There remains among the general population in the Republic, and this is particularly true among younger people, an almost complete lack of understanding of the unionist people of Northern Ireland, their history and the suffering they had to endure.

To date, the organisers of the riots in Dublin, and others, have had free rein to stereotype unionists as they like. But all is far from lost, for by their actions of last Saturday the same people have now gifted the rest of us with a perfect opportunity to set things right.

Reprinted with permission from the author












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Index: Current Articles

12 March 2006

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Fires of Hate
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All is Far From Lost After Riots
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Who's A Nazi?
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'Screamingly Funny in its Absurdity'
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Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity
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MI5 and Omagh — The Bomb to End All Bombs?
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MANIFESTO: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism

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The Parameters of Free Speech
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The Progressive Road
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Remembering the Hunger Strikes

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The Whys

Images of the Dublin Riots
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