Brian Feeney
Irish News 9 September 2004

Do you remember David Trimble's oh-so-revealing description of the
south as a "pathetic, sectarian, monoethnic, mono-cultural state"?
Revealing because it displayed more about him and unionism that it
did about the Republic. Poor Trimble couldn't even see that the
central objective of unionists has been to maintain a sectarian,
monoethnic, mono-cultural state. Most call it Northern Ireland. Some
unionists call it 'Ulster' to establish stricter ownership of the

Does this objective go part of the way towards explaining the growing
incidence of racist attacks in unionist districts? A fortnight ago in
the Irish News the chief constable remarked that most racist attacks
took place in unionist areas. He was talking about people being
expelled from their homes. In fact this form of assault seems to have
happened exclusively in unionist districts: the Village, Cullybackey,
Antrim, Portadown, Craigavon, parts of Dungannon. They have been
directed against among others, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis,
Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Portuguese, Nigerians, a Lithuanian and a
Swede. So clearly it's not just about black people or Asians. Why?

The north is one of the whitest places in the world. The 2001 census
showed a mere 16,000 people from 'ethnic minorities'. So the north is
99% white, something which seemed to escape our great sociologist
Trimble. It was even whiter a decade ago, but since the IRA ceasefire
there has been a sudden increase in numbers of black and Asian people
in the north. The great majority came here legitimately to work in
the health system, catering and agricultural spin-offs.

Like all immigrant groups they tend to congregate. Most of the new
workers found accommodation in decaying working-class unionist
districts because that's where the vacancies are, whereas there's a
shortage of accommodation in nationalist districts. As a result,
people living in these unionist districts experienced sudden change
to their neighbourhoods and they didn't like it. Nor did the loyalist
gangs who control the districts.

Remember, the north was devised and donated to unionists by the
British government as the largest chunk of Ireland they could
control. The very nature of the place therefore means unionists need
to remain a majority in it. Traditionally intolerant of Catholics
expanding into Protestant areas in case they undermined that
electoral majority, unionists certainly weren't going to welcome any
other group who might change the Protestant/unionist monocultural
nature of a district.

There's a more sinister aspect to the intolerance however. At the
extreme end of the unionist mindset is a set of beliefs linked to
racial superiority. It's manifest most clearly in the British-
Israelite sect who believe that the 'British race' is one of the lost
tribes of Israel. The late MP for South Belfast, the Reverend Robert
Bradford, was an adherent of this cult. Members of Tara, a weirdo
loyalist paramilitary group in the 1970s, run by Kincora paedophile
William McGrath, also subscribed to these nutty ideas.

These notions of 'racial' superiority, daft as they are – as if
there's a British race any more than there's an Irish one or a French
one – nevertheless slot into the thinking of the BNP and the White
National Party which have both been recruiting in unionist districts.
Such groups, and the Nazi Combat 18 have long worked to develop links
with loyalist terrorist groups, especially the UDA, some of whose
members have always been attracted to fascism and racism. Indeed in
recent years Combat 18 people had high hopes of Johnny Adair's so-
called C company.

Given that background and the belief constantly repeated by unionist
politicians that change can only be bad for unionists, it looks as if
racist assaults by unionists will continue to increase in frequency.
New people, new cultures, all bring change. Unionism as a credo has
never been able to countenance change or difference. Unionist leaders
see it as a threat to the one great fact they must maintain, a
majority. It used to be the threat to their majority was easily
recognisable – fenians. They knew how to deal with them.
Unfortunately they seem to have transferred these skills to 'dealing'
with newly arrived Muslims, Hindus and people of no religion. They
just have to be 'different' to qualify for assault and expulsion.

Mind you, while it's easy to provide a quasi-political explanation
for the racism inherent in unionism, let's not forget that the
Republic has just passed by 80% a constitutional amendment to prevent
people born in Ireland automatically becoming Irish citizens.
Furthermore, never a day passes without an assault on a black or
Asian person in Dublin, and gardai have as poor a record of
conviction as the PSNI.

Ah sure, it's a great island altogether, north and south.

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