Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bankrolling bigotry – another example

Another example of the official promotion of sectarian (one of the key elements of the peace process) came to light this week when it was revealed that public bodies were helping to finance loyalist marching bands.

In response to a freedom of information request, Stormont’s Department of Culture revealed that sixty five bands received funds totally more than £166,100 last year. The Arts Council gave about £102,500 to 24 bands; the Ulster Scots Agency gave £56,000 to 38 bands; and the Big Lottery Fund gave £6,980 to three bands (this was under its Awards for All scheme).

Among the bands receiving support (£4,600 from the Lottery) was the Pride of the Ardoyne. It takes part in the flashpoint parade past the Ardoyne shops every year displaying a banner bearing emblem of the Young Citizen Volunteers – the UVF’s youth wing - and the names of two deceased UVF members. The Mourne Young Defenders Flute Band received £1,800 from the Ulster Scots Agency for musical tuition and a further £1,219 for an ‘Ulster Scots summer school’ run by its members. In 2006 it took part in the Love Ulster parade in Dublin that provoked a riot.

That loyalist bands should be involved in sectarian intimidation is hardly a surprise – this is the very reason for their existence. The most sinister element is that they are being legitimised by the state; their coat trailing antics repackaged as cultural expression.

In justifying this the funding bodies corrupt the very principles they are supposedly there to promote. For example, on its support for loyalist bands, a spokesman of Arts Council claimed that it “monitors the artistic quality of applicants and is aware of its obligations under ‘Good Relations’ and Section 75 legislation.” He also claimed that the Council was “actively encouraging applicants to develop and expand their audiences and to break down barriers in society, in line with the aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement”. A spokeswoman for National Lottery said that it helped “organisations to run projects which will bring people together and increase community activity”. Of course the whole ethos and activity of loyalists stands in direct opposition to breaking down barriers and bringing people together. They are there to fan sectarian sentiment and maintain divisions.

The reason for this apparent contradiction is revealed by the Arts Council spokesperson when he said that it was acting “in line with the aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement”. The official bankrolling of bigotry is an inevitable consequence of the politics that underpin the peace process - that the struggle in the north is not about self determination or imperialism but the competing aspirations of two communities. Once this has been accepted, as it has by Sinn Fein and the SDLP, how can the demands of loyalists, such as the right to march anywhere they please, be denied? Sure isn’t part of their culture?


GF said...

Yes I even heard someone respond to the mention of the brutal attack on the People's Democracy Marchers at Burntollet by saying "yes but the Portadown Organemen are not allowed to walk down the Garvaghy Road..."

So organemen should not only be allowed to stone and attack marchers they should have the right to roam as well as if they were contray side ramblers!

red said...

There is a problem. Everyone accepts the logic of the GFA. We are back in rgw old Stormont where sectarianism was everywhere and everywhere accepted. How do we break out of it?

Anonymous said...

Its hardly surprising that the southern reactionaries should seek to strengthen the forces of reaction in the north, they look with envy on the Orange Order and see it as a stabilising force among the working class. Sectarianism is also older than Northern Ireland, it is the rock that has broken all progressive organisations in all phases of history going back to the United Irishmen. The defeat of sectarianism will not come solely from within Ireland but from the explosion of events internationally, this was also where the threat came from historically. The Irish bourgeoisie are happy with sectarianism, they will not upset their own applecart by interfering with other's spheres of influence, this is the nature of the hegemony that dominates this island north and south. Until the european masses stir we lack inspiration and the wheels of history are flat out in reverse. Dont despair, but my granny was right, "it'll get worse before it gets better".Boris Johnson.