The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Rev Ian Harte

Davy Carlin

As I read the words of the Presbyterian minister Rev Ian Harte in the Irish News (Thursday March 11 2004), I shook my head, sighed and then felt moved to put pen to paper in response. Why? Well although Rev Harte stated that he ‘utterly condemned’ the racist leaflet that was distributed in the Donegall Pass area of South Belfast, many of his other words I would say were at best inflammatory. It reminded me of the ‘we are going to be swamped’ and the ‘floods of them’ are coming here speeches we have heard in the past which have been rightly condemned across society. Yet I find it worrying that a minister, a leader, a person of God, would have used the language he did, knowing that he was seen in them terms as a representative.

He began such language by saying that ordinary working class people see their street ‘filling up with foreigners … Look at places like Leicester and Bradford where areas are 98 per cent Pakistani … It is not impossible that could happen here.’ Those words and similar can be used to incite fear and worse with repercussions on the minority ethnic communities, which has been the case in the recent past. Yet I am not saying this is what Rev Harte set out to do but his words nevertheless can give succour to those who want to direct their hateful attentions towards the minority ethnic communities.

Rev Harte then went on to claim that the people who wrote it (the racist leaflet) should not be labelled as ‘animals’ as ‘they are but extreme examples of certain emotions that everyone feels – that ‘’outsiders’’ are different.’ He then also touches on the situation of immigration and states he would support limits on immigration, or measures to ‘spread it out’ across Northern Ireland. I presume by ‘it’ he means men, women and children, persons, human beings. He goes on, ‘the people who wrote this leaflet are at the end of the spectrum of thought that questions whether it is wise to bring more and more immigrants into the area. So we have ‘filling up with foreigners’, ‘outsiders’, ‘it’ and ‘more and more immigrants into the area.’

With that the Rev Harte then makes a point that I had to read several times before I could believe that he had said it. That is, that he would have personal concerns if he was ‘forced to live’ in an area alongside people from ethnic minorities. Given that Rev Harte is a man of God and all people are made equal in the eyes of God why then would Rev Clarke have ‘personal concerns’ about living along side fellow human beings and more especially why are his ‘concerns’ based solely on their ‘ethnic origin’. Rev Harte’s public statements on many points as a ‘leader’ of people and a ‘follower’ of God I believe were completely irresponsible and quite simply wrong.

Having said that it is important that we do address some legitimate concerns. As one who has attended meetings with the local partnership board, local political representatives and their supporters, local community groups, minority ethnic organisations, local trade unionists and residents from that immediate area (South Belfast) I do realise there are many underlying problems also. It is, though, important when people talk about ‘educating’ each other on ‘differences’ that we understand that racism - and more especially the emergence of racist organisations - attempts to fuel those attentions in the main to the socially and economically deprived areas. They attempt to direct the ills of such communities onto the most vulnerable within those communities. Therefore to address the issue of racism we also need to address the issue of the situation within those communities. Although born and raised in a ‘Republican’ working class estate I have had many opportunities to speak at and to attend meetings in similar ‘loyalist’ working class estates. In ‘both’ areas I see the need for more affordable housing and more houses, for more community, educational and recreational facilities, for new jobs and investment and for proper funding for the needs of the community and its people.

Therefore, the fight against racism must also be a stand with those communities not only against racism but also for that investment, for the more affordable housing, for jobs, for more facilities etc. Yet although this is vital to begin to address some of the problems on the ground we must also be aware that racism comes from ‘the top of society.’ This not only through the language of politicians and representatives but more especially through the actual legislation directed against asylum seekers and the European governmental agenda of ‘Fortress Europe.’ From the ruthless legislation through to the locking of the doors or the dispersal agenda it all feeds into the mindset that fuels racism. Even in our own wee patch of earth we have the disgusting agenda of detaining asylum seekers in prisons, in effect criminalising them. As one can see racism and that which gives it rise needs to be tackled at many levels but more especially at its root causes. I would suggest also to Rev Harte that such words as he has used actually fuels and feeds those very ‘certain emotions’ that he speaks of.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
- Reuven Brenner

Index: Current Articles

8 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

"Fury at Community Newspaper Funding"
Carrie Twomey

Don't Buy A British Lie
Geraldine Adams

Encouraging Debate
Mick Hall

Magpie's Nest
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Scargill in Ireland
Anthony McIntyre

Rev. Ian Harte
Davy Carlin

Family and Community Workers Concerned at False Reporting
Monkstown Community Resource Centre

Food, Trade and US Power Politics in Latin America
Toni Solo

5 July 2004

Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
David Adams

On Whose Side: Stakeknife
Mick Hall

Dogs and Lampposts
Anthony McIntyre

Towards a Republican Agenda for Scotland
Seamus Reader


The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices