Rioting for More Cultural Recognition
Not for the first time, not even for the first time this year, north Belfast is engulfed in sectarian riots. Why is this still happening, 14 years after the Good Friday Agreement supposedly sealed the deal on peace?
For three consecutive nights this week, embittered loyalists clashed with police, resulting in injuries to more than 60 officers. The proximate cause of this latest outburst of street violence was that loyalists objected to a republican parade. In recent months, and previous years, the brick has often been in the other hand, with republicans attacking police in response to loyalist marches. Many expect further trouble later this month when loyalists will march to commemorate the 1912 signing of the anti-Home Rule Ulster Covenant.
Riots are obviously problematic. But the deeper problem is the question of what it is that makes rioting an almost productive activity in Northern Ireland today; the answer is not a comfortable one.
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness described the riots as ‘a terrible display of bigotry and sectarianism’. And no doubt they were. Yet what McGuinness and his fellow political leaders fail to recognise is that sectarianism is built into the very fabric of the peace process that brought the war in Northern Ireland to an end and which now governs this part of the United Kingdom.
For those not familiar with the argot of the peace process, when McGuinness attacks sectarianism he is is only talking about the bad, stone-throwing, street-fighting sectarianism of certain communities; he is not talking about the same sectarianism that is entrenched by the ‘peace process’ itself and which, under the name of cultural diversity, infuses the governing structures of the Northern Ireland Assembly itself.