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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.