St Patrick’s Church + Dungiven = 0, right? Wrong.

Politicians are good at avoiding the issue, sliding away from under a question and raising another issue entirely. Media people know this, which is why good ones are alert to it and haul the politician, sometimes kicking and screaming, back to the question under consideration.

In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve seen two examples of this slipping-away. On, Mick Fealty, whom I generally respect, wrote a piece about a republican band playing in Dungiven, near to a local Protestant church.  His facts, I assume, were accurate, and it’s not with those that I’m taking issue with. What I am taking issue with – actually am kind of outraged by – is his attempt to present some sort of balance-of-insult. That’s to say, you’re talking about the bandsmen who defied the Parades Commission ban and marched boldly past St Patrick’s Catholic church in Belfast; next minute you’re talking about the republican band playing near the Protestant church in Dungiven. The conclusion to be drawn: one side is as bad as the other.

This morning on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh,  Jim Allister was busy using his legal skills to slip away from the questioning of Karen Patterson and draw attention to the republican band in Dungiven. Patterson, to her credit, refused to let him do that, insisting on sticking to the topic of the bands’ defiance of the Parades Commission ban in Belfast.

Does this matter all that much? Doesn’t it make sense to broaden the discussion, so people see that right is not all on one side? The answers are Yes and No respectively. It doesn’t make sense to broaden the discussion, if in fact what you’re doing is slipping away from the issue, not broadening it. And it does matter, a great deal.

The British authorities have been doing the one-side-as-bad-as-the-other thing for decades now, casting themselves in the role of civilized peace-maker among the mad paddies. Worse still, there is a wide middle-class here, unionist/Protestant and nationalist/Catholic,  who like to see themselves as being more civilized, more rational and analytical, than the witless working classes of the Falls and the Shankill. This sense of superiority works only if you can dismiss all sectarian acts, even the Troubles themselves, as the grimy work of the stupid, uneducated masses.  They won’t say this quite as bluntly,  but once you hear the one-side-as-bad-as-the-other argument, you’ll know that the detached middle classes, the Prod in the garden centre and  his/her Catholic equivalent, are busy solving our divisions by allocating equal blame to ‘them’, meaning the unwashed who engage in physical confrontation.

The truth is, one side is  rarely as bad as the other. In this case,  the Loyal Orders are far more guilty of contempt, mockery, sectarianism and defiance of the law than any republican band, in Dungiven or elsewhere.

And if you’re still not convinced, try doing the math, as the Yanks say. How many marches do we have each year from the unionist side and how many from the republican? No, Virginia, one side is NOT as bad as the other. 

11 Responses to St Patrick’s Church + Dungiven = 0, right? Wrong.

  1. Mick Fealty August 30, 2012 at 10:29 am #


    It was great to have you in the mix of the thread there… You know the respect is deep and mutual… Okay, on the argument (slightly pre-cooked from the Slugger thread)…

    Some commenters have dismissed my view as they’re all just as bad as one another. What I actually said was that we have two sets of people who seem oblivious to what ought to be the dictates of their own values.

    By this metric, It is only offensive when it is ‘themuns’ doing it.

    My own view is that if you did not know as an Orange bandsman that you are passing a Catholic church, you should make it your business to know and show that you actually believe in your own values by demonstrating you believe in civil and religious freedom for all.

    As for those Republicans of Dungiven who planted a Hunger Strike Memorial right outside the tiny CoI church and parochial hall, words fail me.

    The defence we heard on Slugger was that the band was playing at the monument and not the church per se wilfully ignores the fact that the monument was placed outside the church of Ireland.

    Such manipulation political geography chosen is an insult (whether it was calculated or not, I cannot and therefore will not say) to the Protestant Minority of the town.

    As Fergie Pie said in one comments before he was collared out with a Red Card, Donegall Street was coincident with a stop the parade.

    Some ‘Green only’ Republicans in Dungiven decided that the best way to unite the island political under a tricolour of Green White and Orange is “Proddys Lie Down’.

    Does an all island republic include Orange in the flag? Do Republicans cherish all the children of the nation? I know for a fact that many do and passionately so.

    But moments like these are structural, rather than incidental, forms of sectarianism that give a lie to the honest and sincere intentions of many decent Republicans, who understand there is no way to united Ireland without embracing Hume’s proposition of winning hearts and minds…

  2. giordanobruno August 30, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    You are a great man for widening the debate yourself when it suits you.
    Any mention of IRA crimes will quickly be followed by anything from the loyalist equivalent or perhaps theGulf War or even Bomber Harris. Slipping away from the issue indeed.
    I do agree, by the way, that there would seem to be more controversial parades involving the Orange than the republican groups No one has said otherwise have they?

  3. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Hmm, so the republicans in Dungiven aren’t as bad as the loyalists on Donegall Street because there are more loyalist marches than republican ones.


    Thanks for that, Jude.

  4. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Your post on Slugger reprinted Jude

    “Mick – while any display of sectarianism, bigotry, etc is deplorable, it’s absurd to offer some one-side’s-as-bad-as-the-other. The Orange Order is and always has been an anti-Catholic organisation; they hold thousands of parades every year to remind their nationalist neighbours who won in 1690; they dress this up in a totally unconvincing cloak of religious worship. To raise a Dungiven hare as distraction or pseudo-balance is not worthy of you.”

    And my response which still awaits a reply – perhaps here?

    “PeterBrown (profile)

    29 August 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Fortlands / Jude- assuming the picture is of yourself

    While any display of sectarianism, bigotry, etc is deplorable, it’s absurd to offer some one-side’s-as-bad-as-the-other. The IRA is and always has been an anti-unionist organisation; they hold thousands of displays every year to remind their unionist neighbours who died in 1981; they dress this up in a totally unconvincing cloak of politicians. To raise a parading hare as distraction or pseudo-balance is not worthy of you.

    Seriously are you going to suggest erecting a memorial outside a church to a man who was an active member of the organisation responsible for the Droppin Well explosion a few miles away in Ballykelly as well as numerous other atrocities such as Darkley and a commemoration of his self inflicted death by the organisation responsible for La Mon and numerous other sectarian atrocities involving breaching Parades Commission guidelines is different from the ame thing happening in Belfast? Surely to do so is per se sectarian?”

  5. Sparta August 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Re Mick fealty’s post: “right outside the tiny CoI church” 50 metres down the road from the church is hardly ‘right outside’. I take it there have not been sectarian pogroms against the protestant population in Dungiven throughout the years – look at North Belfast and the percentage of catholics killed by loyalists. Then put the sectarian marches (heavily involving UVF and others) in north Belfast into perspective. Fealty still can’t help himself re his anti-republican post and refers to type even when faced with the clearest of example of unionist sectarianism that was created and sustained by those saviours and peace-keepers – the British.

  6. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Marching near a Protestant Church is not the same as deliberately and unlawfully marching on the doorstep of a Catholic Church and playing anti Catholic tunes. Ban all marches – Nothing but bloody trouble!

  7. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    You won’t get a reply from Jude here.

  8. oneill August 31, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    “One side is rarely as bad as another” is not a strong enough argument to sweep under the carpet inconvenient actions carried out by your own side. If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong and Jude’s silence or employment of “whataboutery” when faced by the crimes of his side points to the fact that…
    he doesn’t think “his side” has actually committed any wrong.

    Such a selective and actually sectarian analysis of our joint troubled recent history is not confined to the “offended by everything, ashamed of nothing” wing of Irish Republicanism which Jude so ably represents but it is, nevertheless, a warning sign to “normal” Unionists when faced the latest SF “Hug a Hun” PR offensive.

  9. Anonymous August 31, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Come on Jude,don’t be so shy!Whats your response to the above posts?

  10. Anonymous September 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    He won’t respond.

  11. Anonymous September 11, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    He didn’t respond here – he didn’t respoind on Slugger O Toole itself either – leads one inevitasbly to the conclusion there is no response!