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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Breeding Ground for Racism

Dr. John Coulter warns there is a danger a generation of religious conflict could be replaced by another generation of racial violence in the North.

Dr. John Coulter • 11 December 2004

Race hate crime in the North has risen by more than 60 per cent in the past year, according to Police Service statistics, as neo-Nazism is poised to make a major return to loyalist areas.

The North is rife with rumours at least two of Britain's leading fascist organisations plan to contest elections. The largest fascist movement in mainland Britain, the British National Party, will be attempting to build on its fledgling English electoral base by hopping across the Irish Sea.

In spite of not winning a European seat, around 800,000 people in Britain still voted for the neo-Nazi party in June's elections. The BNP wants to make a breakthrough on the local government scene in Ulster where it hopes to capitalise on bitter internal mainstream unionist rivalry between Ian Paisley's DUP and David Trimble's UUP.

The fascists would be gambling that a significant number of both unionist parties' supporters would give their second preferences to the BNP rather than to another rival unionist party.

Likewise, the National Front - founded in the late 1960s and once Britain's largest fascist party - is making its third attempt in a generation to make a breakthrough in the North with plans to contest a council seat.

Given the small percentages in the North's 1.7 million population of the ethnic communities, made up mainly of the Chinese, Asian, Muslim, Traveller and Jewish origins, why would the extreme Right want to organise in a part of Ireland where until recently no previous serious racial tensions existed?

The Far Right is planning to build on two future fronts. First, the creation of a larger 25-member European Community. There is now the very real danger the asylum-seeker issue, which has dogged mainland Britain and parts of France, will mushroom in the North in spite of the religious tensions between Catholics and Protestants in certain areas.

Ironically, it was the internecine sectarian conflict within Northern Christianity which deterred the creation of large-scale ethnic communities during the Troubles in Derry or Belfast as now exist in English cities such as Birmingham and Bradford.

Whether the North is governed structurally by a devolved Assembly at Stormont, by Direct Rule from Westminster, or even through joint authority between Dublin and London, a peaceful solution to the Ulster crisis will spark a sharp increase in European asylum-seekers attempting to settle in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Tactically, the Far Right wants to be in place and ready to capitalise politically on any explosion in the number of asylum-seekers entering the North.

There is a danger from politically motivated Nazis who will attempt to fuel future tensions caused by a growth in the North's asylum-seeker community in the next decade. There is also the very real threat from paramilitary-organised Nazis who will attempt to cash in on the present disarray in Northern loyalism's ranks.

Although groups like the BNP, NF, British Nazi Party and White Nationalist Party represent the explicit face of neo-fascism in the North, there is also the underlying potential threat posed by implicit Nazi sympathisers within mainstream unionism.

Likewise, there is also the danger of viewing this threat as being more serious than it is in reality.

During his time as Tory boss, Iain Duncan Smith suspended the hardline Right-wing pressure group, the National Monday Club, over allegations of the Conservative organisation's stance on race and asylum-seekers.

The Ulster Monday Club was once one of the most influential pressure groups within the Ulster Unionist Party and boasted a membership of 40 activists in many of the North's constituencies and had four UUP MPs in its ranks. However, the UMC - unlike the NMC - was never dogged by any allegations whatsoever that it had been infiltrated by fascists or neo-Nazis.

There is no doubt the scandal surrounding the NMC was a contributory factor in the UMC becoming defunct a number of years ago. However, it is also known that a Far Right faction within the UUP would like to see the UMC rekindled.

Membership of the UMC was only open to card-carrying members of the UUP before the pressure group disbanded. A key reason the UMC name is being targeted by the modern Far Right is because of the esteem with which the Club was once held in Ulster Unionist circles.

One such long-time Far Right sympathiser and card-carrying UUP member told me: "The UUP is not really party in the true organisational sense. It is really a federation of organisations. The UUP is full of cliques, cabals and factions, and we on the Far Right are just one of them.

"We would like to see the Monday Club reformed in the UUP again, but there is the false impression that anyone on the Far Right has got to be dogmatically opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. The faction I represent, whilst it would certainly be small, would be classified as Far Right, but pro-Agreement. We have enough political maturity, experience and common sense between us to realise that the only way to advance our ideology is through mainstream politics.

"I suppose we could join one of the existing UUP pressure groups, such as Union First - but its too anti-Agreement, and the Re:Union group is too wishy-washy on ideology.

"The good thing is that the BNP and NF will take the heat off us. We eventually want to organise within the UUP in much the same way as Militant successfully did within the Labour Party and the trade unions in Britain.

"The hard reality is that whilst they will make a lot of noise in the coming years, the BNP and NF will never be anything more than a 'two men and a dog outfit'. But they are correct about the threat which the asylum-seekers will pose in Ulster - and in the South - within the next generation.

"The late Enoch Powell may not have been graphically correct when he made his 'rivers of blood' speech, but given the race riots in England and the rise of the BNP, I think 'stream of blood' might have been a more accurate interpretation. The trouble is, unionism is so engaged in fighting itself that by the time the boatloads of asylum-seekers arrive at Larne or Belfast it will be too late to do anything to combat the influx.

"Similarly, there's no way Trimble or Paisley can ever work together, so we will just bide our time until both are out of the way and a unionist coalition is formed between the DUP and us. It would be too tactically dangerous for us on the Far Right in the UUP to show our hands too soon. But like the republicans, our day will come, too."

At the moment, it would appear the overwhelming majority of attacks on the ethnic communities are originating in predominantly Protestant and working class loyalist areas. There has always been a history of links between extreme loyalism and fascism.

The NF has traditionally targeted Protestant districts of east Belfast, Newtownabbey and Coleraine as potential recruiting grounds in the past. In the 1970s, there were strong links between the UVF and the Belgian fascist movement, the Vlaamse Militante Orde (VMO).

The hills of North Antrim were used for a limited amount of joint training between the UVF and VMO, but the relationship turned sour when the UVF refused to attack the Jewish community in the North. During the era of apartheid South Africa, loyalists had regular contacts with the white supremist authorities.

However, what happens if ethnic communities abandon Protestant districts of the North and resettle in predominantly Catholic localities - will this automatically mean an end to racist attacks in the North?

Will racist loyalist gangs venture into Catholic districts for racial targets in the same way the Tartan Gangs sought out Catholic targets for sectarian attacks? To make such a naïve assumption is to believe that racism and fascism are limited only to loyalism.

Catholicism and Irish nationalism has its racist skeletons, too. If the former South Down Ulster Unionist MP, the late Enoch Powell, was around today, he'd probably be giving another 'rivers of blood' scenario when he heard about the rapid increase in racist attacks across predominantly unionist areas of the North.

His latest 'rivers of blood' speech would have been sparked, not by the current level of attacks in loyalist areas, but when such racism eventually surfaced in the nationalist community.

Presently, the Islamic communities in Ballymena and Craigavon as well as the Chinese community in loyalist south Belfast are finding to their cost that some in extreme Protestantism have replaced the ethos of 'no fenians about the place' with 'no wogs on our street'.

However, the real problem for the ethnic communities in the North will really escalate if they are forced out of Protestant areas, and decide to settle in Catholic localities. In a number of parts of the island, there has been a history of friction between Catholic residents and the Irish Travelling community.

Currently, there is no evidence of unrest between the nationalist and ethnic communities in the North. But Northern Catholics need to guard against letting the Far Right genie out of the lamp. After all, there are still many people alive on the island who recall the notorious antics of General Eoin O'Duffy and his fascist Blueshirts.

It is also known that the late Sir Oswald Mosley, the former leader of Britain's equally notorious pro-Hitler Blackshirts, was a staunch supporter of Irish republicanism.

The Vatican has also faced generations of allegations of helping Nazis evade justice by aiding their escape to South America as well as its frosty relations with the Jewish state of Israel.

The expansion of the European Community is expected to see a flood of asylum seekers from the new nations coming to Ireland. Given the growth of Islam internationally as a religion and the development of the Chinese community in Britain, it is only a matter of time before sections of Ireland - like many areas of England - become multi-cultural in make-up.

Far Right groups will not limit their activities to the Protestant domain. They will want to recruit and be active in any area - nationalist or unionist - which houses an ethnic community. It's no use the Catholic Church trying to dismiss the present racial unrest as a 'purely Prod problem'.

Just as the Protestant clergy need to preach against the ghost of Hitler in its sermons, so too, do Catholic priests need to exorcise the ghost of General O'Duffy in Masses across the length and breadth of the island.

This is a sinister breed of racism. It does not march like the Blueshirts, but slithers around in the night like the Ku Klux Klan of old. The racist rattlesnake has bitten Protestantism. Catholics have the opportunity to cut off its head before nationalism falls prey to its deadly venom.

However, the real danger in trying to expose racism and isolate new millennium fascism, is that by highlighting it, you fuel the very evil you are attempting to confront. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once talked about cutting off the oxygen of publicity from terrorists.

But is the best way the media can confront and expose racism merely to ignore it? By uncovering evidence of fascist activity, can that racism be 'nipped in the bud', or enflamed by exposing it?

Take the growth of the Klan in loyalist parts of Northern Ireland, for example. Is this a well-organised attempt to set up a covert racist network, or the mad ramblings of a few Walter Mitty characters? As the levels of racist attacks continue to spread across the North, there is some justification for believing they could be orchestrated.

According to the Ku Klux Klan itself, it is recruiting well-educated, middle class Protestants in a conspiracy to expel all asylum seekers and the Irish Travelling community from Northern Ireland.

Klansmen from the reformed Knights of the Invisible Empire have been cashing in on anti-Islamic feeling in Ballymena and Craigavon to hand-pick activists from unionism's traditional Fur Coat Brigade.

A spokesman for the Invisible Empire, who wished only to be identified as a "well-educated, middle class, white graduate from County Antrim" said his organisation had "permanently binned the movie-reel images of Klansmen in white sheets brandishing American Confederate flags and burning Black Baptist churches".

He claimed he held the position of "Grand Dragon" in the Invisible Empire and that the rise of "Klan policies" was a "direct consequence of working class loyalist reaction to the growth in the immigrant and gypsy races in Ulster".

It would appear the Klan is attempting to build a group of nazi intellectuals similar to the League of St George organisation in England which is one of the main United Kingdom representatives in the European nazi network.

As well as the openly racist attacks, Far Right activity has largely been confined to sticker, poster, leaflet and flag erection provocation.

However, the Klansman emphasised that his organisation wanted to mobilise opinion within unionism's middle class, branding groups like the WNP as "useful cannon fodder to keep the heat off our real strategies".

He added: "Once the European Community is enlarged, the immigrant flood gates will open and these so-called ethnic races will be pouring into Ulster. Within a generation, our whole white Christian way of life will be submerged just as is happening in many cities in England."

The Knights of the Invisible Empire were one of the largest Klan groupings of the last century. "As our title states, we will operate as an invisible empire within the political community. People are selected to join the Knights; to be a member of the Invisible Empire is by invitation only."

The Invisible Empire, according to the Klan source, is organised along the structures of Stalinist communist cells in some of Ulster's 18 Westminster constituencies. It takes its racism from the writings of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, and its initiation ceremonies resemble the blood-curdling oaths of Irish Freemasonry.

Members initiated into the Invisible Empire are reportedly blindfolded with a mock hangman's noose around their neck, taking an oath of loyalty with one hand on the Holy Bible, and the other on a copy of Hitler's blueprint for genocide, Mein Kampf.

"The Knights are sworn to secrecy and have orders to infiltrate branches of the DUP and Ulster Unionists. We need a legislative Parliament back at Stormont. Then we can quietly lobby for tough laws to expel immigrants and repatriate the so-called travelling people back to the Republic. We need to face the reality that Enoch Powell was right."

Granted, such interviews can be dismissed as the rambling nonsense of madmen. But human nature being what it is, there will always be a significant section of society who view such racist ramblings as Gospel. How else would people like O'Duffy, Mosley, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco gained a power base?



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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