Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Riots and the consequences.

As the dust settles (pun not intended) on what has to be the worst riot in Ireland in over 20 years. It is time to take stock of what happened and figure out what the consequences of this are. In my piece on the Love Ulster parade I said that the “biggest and hardest test for Irish society is not seeing can we accept Poles or Nigerians but can we accept Unionists.” It looks very much like we have failed that test.

Many people have blamed Michael McDowell for this. Which of course they would.I mean he is the reason it rains so much in the country. But beyond the normal McDowell bashers. There is some valid points to be made.

1. Was it right to hold the march. 2. Was it right to have it go through a building site. 3. Were the Gardaí unprepared.

The answer to the first question is an resounding yes. People said that the parade should not have gone ahead as it would only lead to this sort of behaviour. But as George W would say you can not give into terrorism. And that is what the riots were terrorism. If something is right (and a persons right to march is) then you cannot give in to terrorism. If the Love Ulster parade was stopped or banned then we would have abandoned all things this country stands for all the things the founding fathers and mothers fought for. And paradoxically everything Republican Sinn Fein say they stand for.

On the question of should the march have been sent through a building site. Should the march have been diverted. O’Connell street is the main street, to deny them the right to march there sends out a very clear signal that they were being sidelined. If they had told them that they feared a riot. Then it would look like we expected that the march would not be tolerated. On the other hand public safety needs to be top of their agenda. But looking at the trouble on Nassau Street. It looks like this was going to happen where ever the march was held.

The Gardaí were not prepared for the scale of this. The rioting in Nassau street was happening without Gardaí presents. They had made a judgement call to protect the Dail.(The right one) The Gardaí are heros but the numbers in Dublin were not sufficient to control the situation. They should have drafted in more from the countryside. For the May day riots in 2004 the Gardai loaned a water cannon from the PSNI. Yet none was there today. Why not? On a cold day like today. The rioters would not have rioted for so long if they had been covered in ice cold water. Why was a water cannon not procured. It cost the Government €6000 to loan them last time. Compared to the damage caused, money lost to the economy and damage to Ireland image abroad for investors and tourists. €6000 is a miniscule sum. The riot were not entirely unpredictable. So water cannon vehicles should have been secured prior to this. Michael McDowell certainly has a case to answer on this.

But he is not to blame for the riot in the first place. The fact that they attacked the PD's offices show that McDowell is certainly getting to them which means he is not far off the mark with what he says. So who is to blame The blame for this lies sole at the feet of one group. Republican Sinn Fein (RSF). They were the only ones to oppose the march. The rest of the parties supported their right to march. Sinn Fein said ignore them. Saoirse the RSF paper said. “Saoirse calls on all Republicans to oppose the loyalist march due to take place through the centre of Dublin”

Also

“The proposed loyalist march is very definitely part of a softening-up process for an Official Visit to Dublin by an English Queen claiming part of Ireland. The like has not been seen since Partition in 1921. And now, on the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the siren voices tell Republicans to ignore this loyalist march. If we do, they will return with even greater insistence and tell us to ignore the state Visit of the Queen of England. In other words, to stay away, make no protest, and accept finally that the Six Occupied Counties belong to England. Is that what you want? NEVER.”
This is very strong language clearly they saw this as a fight. This was organised. Rioters came with petrol. This was not spontaneous lads saying “feck it lets chuck a brick”. There is talk that some anarchist groups were evolved and reports of black flags in the crowd suggest that they did have some part in it. Also reported is that some RSF people seem to have tried to quieten the crowd down. Whether this is true or not is not the issue. RSF certainly provided the fuel (metaphorically speaking) for the rioting even if they didn’t light the match.

Ireland's image has taken a battering tourist numbers will be down, foreign companies may think twice about locating here. This could seriously damage us in the future. Another aspect of the riots. Is RTE’s failure to deliver on its public service remit. They go on about the need for licence fees and public service. And yet during the worst rioting in the last 20 years. RTE One had the Robe “An Oscar-winning biblical epic about a soldier who wins Jesus's robe” while RTE Radio had sports coverage. The only source of news was Newstalk and to a lesser extent BBC, breakingnews.ie and blogs. Clearly there was a desire for information that was not forthcoming from the rest of the media. I have never had as many visitors to my blog. People were desperate to know what happened and RTE was not telling them. But there is a more serious aspect to it. As Richard Delevan asks “If RTE 1 had gone away from sport for the afternoon, might some people have turned their cars around and stayed home today?” The answer is an undoubted yes. If someone had died in the riot. Someone that if RTE had been broadcasting about it would have gone home. Then RTE would have been to blame. They are the public service broadcaster. They have failed in servicing the public. Why they did this needs to be seriously examined and heads should roll.

The winners in this series of riots is not the rioters. They think that they have won. That they have stopped the march. That they have fought and won for their country. They could not be more wrong. They have lost, republicanism has lost, Ireland was lost. It is the very thing that they are fighting against loyalists that have won. The minute Jeffery Donalason said on RTE news . That people have been talking about giving Northern representation in the Dail and I can’t even talk outside the Dail. It was game set and match unionism.

No longer will Nationalist be able to say that the Unionist would be welcomed in the South. Because obviously they can say last time we came down to the South we were deigned our civil rights. Next time someone brings up the suppression of the civil rights marches in the North in the 60s and 70s. They will come back and say are civil right to march was also suppressed by the South. They will look at Ireland’s top reporter Charlie Bird being attacked and called an “orange bastard”. And say that the South would suppress unionists right to freedom of expression. They will look at the attack on the PD’s office and say they do not tolerate political parties that do not tow the republican line.

The prospects of a United Ireland or even cross border cooperation have been utterly shattered today. Recently it looked like the two governments were going to put pressure on the DUP to talk with Sinn Fein. That pressure will surely now dissipate. This just gives the DUP even more ammunition against the Irish state. They have been going after Mary McAlease for the past while. Trying to make a big deal out of nothing. Now they don’t even need to make a big deal out of anything. We are the ones that are going to do it. Jeffrey Donaldson said “"We have received a warm welcome from ordinary Dubliners, but its clear these republicans have come from north of the border and other areas intent only on causing trouble.” He can now say “Ich Bin ein Dubliner“ and the Irish people will feel guilty about this and quiet rightly too. The government are going to be far more conciliatory to the Unionist as an apology for the rioting and tougher on Nationalism. To all those rioters who are cheering themselves saying they got rid of the enemy know this you are cheering a victory for Unionism and a defeat for Ireland.

Picture From An Spailpín

16 comments:

United Irelander said...

"In my piece on the Love Ulster parade I said that the “biggest and hardest test for Irish society is not seeing can we accept Poles or Nigerians but can we accept Unionists.” It looks very much like we have failed that test."

No we haven't. The scum who were involved do not reflect Irish society in general. They are a minority who have disgraced and outraged the majority.

The important thing now is that we punish those responsible.

Simon said...

"In my piece on the Love Ulster parade "
That sounds awfully poncy doesn't it.

But fair enough point UI.

But has society allowed this mentality to grow. I remember being in School. With people who held very republican views. When ever we would talk about it in history or civics class teachers would never questioned the validity of supporting the IRA.

By accepting the acceptance of the legitimacy of violence against unionist are we in some small way unaccepting of unionism?

-Ann said...

Good post, well-thought out. I agree with United Irelander that it was a small minority, but I don't think it matters, in a way. We, as a country, did fail this test. Through poor planning, poor preparation, and rioters, we all failed and lost today.

Copernicus said...

I agree that whatever about the constituency which was rioting, it was in the poor planning and response that the state let itself down.

I've reacted a little here:

http://midnightcourt.blogspot.com/2006/02/i-predict-riot.html

where I reckon my best insight is that tactically, a seven year old with a Game Boy and a copy of Advance Wars 2 could do a better job than the senior cops tasked with dealing with this sort of scenario. As such, there's little point in reading the rest of my post.

Anonymous said...

"There is talk that some anarchist groups were evolved and reports of black flags in the crowd suggest that they did have some part in it."

Black flags are used by republicans to remember hunger strikers.

Tuathal said...

I agree with and echo everything that has been said here.

So i'll just say this:

Bastards!

CK said...

Thank you Saint for well written and informative pieces which give context to these riots. News coverage was dominated by the logistics of the riots, political one upmanship over McDowell and Dublin City Council being blamed for not securing the ongoing roadworks properly. These need to be addressed of course, but I am taken aback by the outburst of violence and the attitudes of the people, however many there are, behind it.

I never make sweeping statements about the Troubles, I always feel the political negotiations and deadlocks reflect poorly the complexity and intensity of emotions, mainly hatred, which proliferate in the North and clearly among people in the Republic, and I have little insight into this.

The riots are absolutely a portrayal of the state of Irish society, yesterday was a wake up call to people, including myself who may have become complacent or apathetic about the politics of the North- there are dangerous and entrenched views that will not disappear with any level of cross border co-operation or attempts at power sharing.

Tuathal said...

well said, Ck.

phdbird said...

I couldnt believe it when I saw it on the news. I thought the images were coming from Belfast! There goes my cosy image of people in the South being rational about these things. One thing though, I was chatting to a friend who was in Dublin at the time and they reckon a lot of it was scuts who were just looking for an excuse to wreck stuff. The repercussions are going to be the same though...

Simon said...

I think you are in a way right culabula it was justs scumbags. but the scumbags don't riot every saturady .s oemthing brought them out on the street

Daedalus said...

Wow, I hadn't seen the photos. How sad. In fact, I hadn't even known about the riots until I saw the Irish blogs because they were not covered in US press. I am shocked at the extent of the damage and even more shocked about the lack of press it got here. I've even asked around the office "did you hear about the riots in Dublin?" and everyone said no. Guess it won't drive American tourists away (too bad for you! ;)

Y'all have come a long way - there's bound to be some idiocy like this from time to time. People like these scum are found all over the world, but they all have one thing in common: their utter disdain for peace. Sigh...

Omaniblog said...

What a great blog. What a fine piece of sustained writing. I find you like a breath of fresh air after the smoke.

You are so right. The government and police have blown it. It was their job to protect the marchers because those marchers in waiting were meant to be free to express peacefully their values.

You don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Whatever did the northerners think? They must have been apprehensive in the first place. They must have been courageous, and called foolhardy by some of their friends.

The best result this could have would be to lead to the cancellation of Easter 2006. The society is still too ambiguous about its identity to hold anything more than a Green party.

If you want to kill off all hope of a United Ireland, go ahead with a Green celebration. But if you want there to be any hope of a United Ireland, declare it a lost cause.

Celebrate what we have. Learn to love the other side. Love those who were killed by the rebels of 1916. At least the rebels of Saturday didn't kill anyone. They tried but accidentally failed.

I question one part of your case: "They have lost, republicanism has lost, Ireland was lost..."

No, they won. They set out to prevent the northerners walking down O'Connell Street, past the GPO with their symbols. In their dreams they probably believed that Pearce and Connolly et al would have wanted them to do the same.

Those who planned to prevent the march had no big picture of Orange and Green uniting under one banner. They simply said: they shall not pass.

They coaxed people out of pubs; they enticed people with a grudge against authority; they provided a vision of ultraviolence - all for the sake of the glorious dead on their side of the fence.

I must read your blog in future.

Simon said...

What a great blog. What a fine piece of sustained writing. I find you like a breath of fresh air after the smoke.

*Blushes* thanks for reading my stuff and your kind words.

Anonymous said...

jonathan (johno) I hope the garda now know that there will be no Loyilist feet on our dublin street.c.ira.

Eleanor, Belfast said...

I'm just an opinionated randomer...

Surely those that had observed this 'test' are clever enough to realise that there's only one type of person that riots, and that 'Irish' is more of an umbrella term in that the rioters were obviously a minority. The orangemen who conducted this parade were clearly thinking 'What would I do if I saw a sectarian gang who support my oppression marching down the street?' I think everyone knows they only did it so they could go 'See? SEE?!'. Thankfully it hasn't totally hindered progress in my opinion. Although Sinn Fein do, they're so very over the top. I think the old (sectarian) parties are a bit moth bitten and boring now for everyone.

(It's a bit late I know, but a google search popped this up and I was intrigued.)

Anonymous said...

i'm an irish person who lives in the north and from my observation of the love ulster parade back in 2006 i felt it a discrace to call myself irish as it was us very proud irish folks who let dublin down. in my opinion the unionists appeared dignified and and viewed the parade as a test of unity, of how accepted they would be in our capital city. how the hell will things ever unite when you have a small minority of scum' "on both divisions" who can't move beyond history. for gods sake would everyone get a real life and learn to get along, this land has lost enough lives and shed enough blood centuary after centuary. grow up ye all!