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Reid's Sectarian Slur

Eamon McCann • Sunday Journal, 16 October 2005

It’s been widely conceded that Fr. Alec Reid’s remarks at a meeting in south Belfast on Wednesday evening were offensive to Unionists. This seems to me wrongly put. The remarks were offensive, full stop.

The reason they were offensive was not that he referred to the fact of Catholic oppression but because he defined this oppression as akin to Nazism and then laid the blame for it, not on sectarian institutions or political bosses, much less on British overlords, but on the mass of the Protestant people. He indicted the Protestant people of the North as Nazis.

No reference to the intensity of the debate or to insults apparently hurled at the Catholic Church by members of the audience can justify this. It was an ignorant, sectarian slur. People who defend Alec Reid on a “Yes, but” basis speak volumes about their own attitudes

Orange rule from Stormont was characterised by systematic discrimination against Catholics and contemptuous disregard for human rights. The civil rights movement was both inevitable and entirely justified. But Orangeism wasn’t Nazism and it is an insult to the victims of Nazism to imply that their suffering was on a par with the pain of any section of the North’s people under Stormont.

The plain Protestants never denied a Catholic a job or a house or anything else. They didn’t have the distribution of these commodities in their gift.

Did the Protestants of the Fountain, Rosemount, Bishop Street etc. run Derry Corporation as a bastion of bigotry from the inception of the State to the onset of the civil rights movement? Hardly.

In all of that time, there was scarcely a woman and fewer than a dozen men of the working class on the Unionist benches in the Guildhall.

It’s sometimes said that the clique in control in Derry was drawn from only a third of the citizens. In fact, about a fifteenth would be more like it. In suggesting that the majority community had control of the levers of power, Alec Reid vastly exaggerated the degree of democracy in the North.

He was singing counterpoint to the old Unionist tune. The sleek professionals, larded businessmen and landed elite who ran the North depended for the survival of their rotten system on persuading the mass of the Protestant people that their interests were served as long as the Catholics were kept down.

In every generation, thousands of Protestants broke from this decrepit alliance to make common cause with Catholics seeking a progressive way forward. This happened mainly, although not exclusively, in the context of the labour movement. Invariably, Protestants who took this path were denounced by the Unionist bosses as deserters. Not infrequently, too, they encountered hostility from Catholic conservatives urging their own community to stick together and not allow any split along class or other lines to develop. It is not possible to understand the sectarian history of the North, and particularly of Belfast, without taking these factors into account.

The smirk of bigotry on the face of the junior Paisley on “Hearts and Minds” on Thursday night suggested that he well understood how neatly Reid’s remarks and reaction to them had fitted into the twisted, sectarian perspective of the DUP.






















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

23 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges
Mags Glennon

A Long Way Down
Anthony McIntyre

A Party of Their Own
Mick Hall

Reid's Sectarian Slur
Eamon McCann

Repeal Anti-Catholic Section of Act of Settlement 1701
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Nicola McCartney & the Facts About Irish History
Seaghán Ó Murchu

Usual Suspects
Anthony McIntyre

Socialism in Ireland
Francis McDonnell

Turning "Smoke ban" thing into ANTI-DIOXIN movement
John Jonik

From the Classroom to the Grave
Anthony McIntyre

Yet More Voices Against Censorship
Davy Carlin

The Death Fast Enters its 6th Year
Tayad Committee

Setting Up Abbas
Jeff Halper

6 October 2005

A Bleak Future
Anthony McIntyre

Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
Tom Luby

Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
Tom Luby

The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
Liam O Ruairc

Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
Carrie Twomey



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