been widely conceded that Fr. Alec Reids remarks
at a meeting in south Belfast on Wednesday evening
were offensive to Unionists. This seems to me wrongly
put. The remarks were offensive, full stop.
reason they were offensive was not that he referred
to the fact of Catholic oppression but because he
defined this oppression as akin to Nazism and then
laid the blame for it, not on sectarian institutions
or political bosses, much less on British overlords,
but on the mass of the Protestant people. He indicted
the Protestant people of the North as Nazis.
reference to the intensity of the debate or to insults
apparently hurled at the Catholic Church by members
of the audience can justify this. It was an ignorant,
sectarian slur. People who defend Alec Reid on a
Yes, but basis speak volumes about their
rule from Stormont was characterised by systematic
discrimination against Catholics and contemptuous
disregard for human rights. The civil rights movement
was both inevitable and entirely justified. But
Orangeism wasnt Nazism and it is an insult
to the victims of Nazism to imply that their suffering
was on a par with the pain of any section of the
Norths people under Stormont.
plain Protestants never denied a Catholic a job
or a house or anything else. They didnt have
the distribution of these commodities in their gift.
the Protestants of the Fountain, Rosemount, Bishop
Street etc. run Derry Corporation as a bastion of
bigotry from the inception of the State to the onset
of the civil rights movement? Hardly.
all of that time, there was scarcely a woman and
fewer than a dozen men of the working class on the
Unionist benches in the Guildhall.
sometimes said that the clique in control in Derry
was drawn from only a third of the citizens. In
fact, about a fifteenth would be more like it. In
suggesting that the majority community had control
of the levers of power, Alec Reid vastly exaggerated
the degree of democracy in the North.
was singing counterpoint to the old Unionist tune.
The sleek professionals, larded businessmen and
landed elite who ran the North depended for the
survival of their rotten system on persuading the
mass of the Protestant people that their interests
were served as long as the Catholics were kept down.
every generation, thousands of Protestants broke
from this decrepit alliance to make common cause
with Catholics seeking a progressive way forward.
This happened mainly, although not exclusively,
in the context of the labour movement. Invariably,
Protestants who took this path were denounced by
the Unionist bosses as deserters. Not infrequently,
too, they encountered hostility from Catholic conservatives
urging their own community to stick together and
not allow any split along class or other lines to
develop. It is not possible to understand the sectarian
history of the North, and particularly of Belfast,
without taking these factors into account.
smirk of bigotry on the face of the junior Paisley
on Hearts and Minds on Thursday night
suggested that he well understood how neatly Reids
remarks and reaction to them had fitted into the
twisted, sectarian perspective of the DUP.