Norn Iron’s great and good worry about hate crime

UNITED-AGAINST-HATE-1

Maybe it’s something in the air, but anti-racism seems to all the vogue here at the moment. Take a walk around Belfast city centre and you’ll see lots of big yellow posters bearing the brand of the Socialist Workers Party, advertising a public meeting this coming Wednesday. We are told that new British SWP supremo Martin Smith is coming here to talk to the broad masses about the urgent danger of fascism. Lucky masses. And you know, I’ve heard Martin speak, and unless he’s doing his talk on John Coltrane, I can think of better things to do on a Wednesday night.

Anyway, there are more people than the left exercised about this issue. The Human Rights Commission, in yet another attempt to justify its existence, was puffing its new fifty-point plan for helping the Roma. But no, there was another event this week that was much more eye-catching, and about ten times as big as Martin Smith’s audience will be.

Yes, it was the big launch party for Unite Against Hate. This is a big scheme whereby divers public bodies and agencies go on record against hate – hate crime, hate speech, whatever, we don’t approve of it. This is presumably aimed at refurbishing our image after that little trouble with the Roma this summer. UAH defines itself as follows:

  1. To inspire and to unite. Change to a more tolerant and peaceful Northern Ireland is both desirable and possible. We need to have the optimism, hope and confidence that we can work together to bring it about.
  2. To sensitise the general public to the problem of hate crime and its real costs. Hate crime destroys the lives of all of us through the damage it does to the quality of life, our reputation and our economy.
  3. To create a climate of zero tolerance for hate crime and discrimination. Hate crime is violent and wrong; it will not be tolerated. There is no room in Northern Ireland for sectarian, racist, homophobic, transphobic, religious or disability related hate crime. This will continue to be vigorously implemented through the promotion of equality and the enforcement of rights.
  4. To promote diversity. Living with diversity is an integral part of modern life and we all need to take responsibility for creating an atmosphere where diversity is accepted as normal. We need to recognise benefits of diversity.

Well, I don’t want to be too cynical. It’s all worthy stuff no one could really disagree with, and Nigel Worthington has been talking once again about getting the Norn Iron football fans to be a bit more valuing of diversity and a bit less like, well, Norn Iron football fans. If Nigel makes much headway there, I’ll take my hat off to him.

Anyway, there was a big get-together at the Harbour Commissioner’s offices to launch the thing, attended by such worthy figures as OFMDFM junior ministers Gerry Kelly and Robin Newton, NIO minister Paul Goggins, Deputy Chief Constable Duncan McCausland and, er, Cool FM DJ Pete Snodden. Not to mention all our local celebrities – hoteliers, restaurateurs, newsreaders and the like. Oh yes, and local singing sensation Peter Corry was there. In a departure from his hallmark Rat Pack repertoire, he’s recorded a cover of Jacko’s “Man In The Mirror” to be our new diversity anthem. At least he’s not duetting with Eoghan Quigg.

Oh aye, and TV’s Zoë Salmon was there too, as the poster girl for our new diverse Norn Iron. I’m not sure about that. It’s not that our Zoë doesn’t make an appealing poster girl, or that she isn’t articulate – the real challenge is getting her to stop talking – but… how do I put this? If we’re going to have a poster girl for multiculturalism, do we have to have one who looks quite so Aryan? They couldn’t have offered Mehrnoosh Dehaghani the job?

There is of course the other qualm that I usually have about these things. That is that, when you’re trying to put together such a broad and worthy coalition, you run the risk of not saying anything that could possibly upset anyone. Most notably, there’s the way that sectarianism, instead of being seen as the single most important defining feature of our society, gets relegated to one form of intolerance amongst many, and not necessarily the most important one. And isn’t it great that we get a big pro-diversity campaign just as the marching season has ended? We had a fairly big display of sectarianism up in Rasharkin a couple of weeks back, but I can’t imagine most of the great and the good having gone up there to make their views plain. That would have been divisive.

Mind you, it’s hard to imagine Martin Smith and his acolytes having made the trip to Rasharkin either. There are a lot scarier people in this society than the BNP. But then, the BNP make for an easy target, and nobody can possibly object to bashing Griffin. Which may be the point.

16 Comments

  1. Garibaldy said,

    September 6, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I assume you saw this?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/06/northern-ireland-racism-loyalists-neo-nazis

    Looks to me like some people see the idea of the BNP taking over from loyalists as a potential new way of ensuring their continued relevance. And possibly funding.

    Great point about the attempt to relegate sectarianism. Can’t imagine either Newton or Kelly are complaining about that.

  2. Liam said,

    September 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    But it’s the sectarian, racist, homophobic, transphobic, religious and disability related hate crime that makes Norn Iron the very special place it is. These politically correct killjoys want to wreck everyone’s fun.

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    That’s the thinking of the past. Our future demands Eoghan Quigg singing sugary ballads full of words like “peace”, “hope” and “new dispensation”. Even the loyalist bonfires have got children’s face painting and bouncy castles these days.

  4. Garibaldy said,

    September 6, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    I’d pay money to see Eoghan Quigg duet with Eoghan Harris.

  5. WorldbyStorm said,

    September 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Me too, while not disagreeing with anything in the post (indeed the points about Zoë Salmon had me laughing out loud)… can I go away on a wild tangent?

    What is it about yellow and political posters at the moment. In Dublin during the local elections you were no one as an aspirant Cllr. unless your head was set against a background of yeller… Mannix Flynn, Niall Ring (I’m being a tad parochial in mentioning the latter case, but feck it he kept out an FFer)… and so on…

    What gives?

  6. WorldbyStorm said,

    September 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Albeit I should clarify that up until some months previous to the election he was an FFer..!

  7. Phil said,

    September 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    This reminds me of a blog post I am one day going to get round to writing*, taking issue with a LMHR poster that appeared around here a bit back denouncing the BNP as ‘racist, Islamophobic, anti-semitic and homophobic’. I thought at the time that it was quite possible to imagine a happy smiley BNP which managed to avoid ticking any of those boxes** while still being, what’s the word, fascist. Stand by for the anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-disabilityist DUP… Well, maybe.

    *My posting rate has gone from daily to weekly to monthly to once in a whenever I get round to it; not sure why. I’ll be back. Probably.

    **Some of them with more difficulty than others, it has to be said.

  8. splinteredsunrise said,

    September 6, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    There must be a job lot of yellow paper around. I remember years ago the CPI did a run of yellow posters, but nobody else seemed to. Your traditional left poster always tended to the black-white-red colour scheme. I suppose it’s whatever material is available then…

  9. Mark Victorystooge said,

    September 7, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Perhaps the colour is seen as neutral of meaning in the local context, and hence safe.
    Orange, green and red might not be.

    • WorldbyStorm said,

      September 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm

      Definitely a fair point in the North. Probably not an issue for Niall Ring 😉

      Although for the sake of balance he’s been good on the port strike.

  10. Ray said,

    September 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    quite possible to imagine a happy smiley BNP which managed to avoid ticking any of those boxes** while still being, what’s the word, fascist.

    It may be possible in principle, but I’d imagine that if the BNP went PC, you’d get a Continuity BNP springing up which was un-PC, also fascist, and much bigger.

  11. Phil said,

    September 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I think the BNP are actually trying to go PC – at least, trying to go PC enough to enter the mainstream, while still appealing to BNP voters. And cue the English Defence League.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      September 7, 2009 at 9:35 pm

      Which is why Griffin’s rhetoric these days is all about the “metropolitan elite” and, er, “political correctness”. And the BNP’s Concepts and Discipline manual tells members not to go in for racist language or antisemitic conspiracy theories – those who can’t help it are encouraged to bugger off to the National Front. While still keeping the white supremacism for internal consumption.

  12. Garibaldy said,

    September 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Is that metropolitan in the far right’s traditional code, or does it basically mean liberal and multi-culturalist? Or a mixture of the two perhaps.

  13. Ciarán said,

    September 8, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    What can we seriously expect to come out of this initiative though? I’m think especially in terms of the story on the front page of today’s Irish News, about the gay man who Iris Robinson had reported to the police. Then a few pages in there’s a photo of the “Kill All Poles” graffiti that appeared around Ligoniel before the Norn Iron-Poland match.

    The Six Counties is little more than a colonial backwater where the most reactionary ideas can easily be aired with no danger of backlash, whether it be the Free Ps and DUP on homosexuals or the reaction to attempts to build a Mosque near Portadown (Fred Crowe complaining about the wailing and that it might invite Al-Qaeda into the area) or defending loyalist intimidation of the Chinese community, and let’s not even get started on the Orange Order. Obviously that isn’t to suggest that it’s all coming from one direction, but I don’t think anyone could possibly accuse nationalist political leaders of espousing the kind of backwards ideas we’re regularly subjected to from unionist politicians. Intolerance and bigotry are inherent in the culture of the state.

  14. Ciarán said,

    September 8, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Actually, Liam put it much better than me way up in comment #2.


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