Them And Us

Anthony McIntyre reflects on the Barry McElduff controversy.

With Barry McElduff having resigned his Westminster seat, jumped or pushed, his departure has brought the curtain down on a long political career.

Regardless of his intentions, when on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre he stuck a Kingsmill loaf on his head and pranced about a shop, there was simply too much doubt for the erstwhile West Tyrone MP to get the benefit of it. His denials, even if genuine, butted with an implacable incredulity. For his account to get over the line people had to believe a triple happenstance: it was the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre; out of all the bread in the shop he chose a Kingsmill brand; that he was a prominent member of a movement, the military wing of which perpetrated the atrocity forty-two years ago.

In trying to understand unionist anger we would do well to consider a scenario in which the Democratic Unionist Party MP Gregory Campbell larked around in a shop on 30th of January with a Bloody Sundae ice cream on his head. Few in the nationalist community would have listened to his protestations that it was all a series of unfortunate coincidences. At the same time unionism overegged the pudding in going after the scalp of Mairtin O'Muilleoir. All O'Muilleoir did was retweet, claiming that he viewed it as “being wholly apolitical and retweeted it on that basis”. Retweets are hardly an endorsement and the urge to curb them seems censorious.

When I first learned of it I thought the safe money had to be on McElduff knowing what he was doing, perhaps prompted by his party leader to do something to “break these bastards”. The more I listened to McElduff’s republican critics, including some from Tyrone, the more doubt grew in my mind. They were adamant that he would never have risked his political career by doing something so outrageous. What preserved him in their estimation was that to consciously do it was so outrageous that only the politically suicidal would have opted for it. Too many of his political critics came to his defence for their perspective to be easily dismissed.

Whatever the motive, it may be postulated that rather than being sectarian in attitude, O'Muilleoir and McElduff are the outworking of a structural sectarianism. People may be sectarian without even knowing it. We can hardy finger point as few of us mange to rise above the ground we stand on. We are so caught up in the atrocities inflicted on our "own" community that we completely overlook what the "other" community sustained. It is not that we know their fate and are indifferent to it, but that we relegate it in terms of emotional and cultural significance. We treat it as something that we simply have no call to remember. It is not war crimes per se that enrage us, just war crimes that happen to our community.

Them and us, as strong as it ever was.

Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.

Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre      

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

18 comments to ''Them And Us"

  1. Could Donald Trump's retweeting of Britain First videos be passed over as 'apolitical'?

  2. Barry,

    there should be no sanction against him or anyone else for retweeting. No more so than me retweeting it. To evade the clutch of the censor it should be established that retweets are not an endorsement (even when they are). Best to err against the censor than for.

  3. Good article, nothing to disagree with there. For what it is worth I don't think he meant any harm. 2 interesting things to come out of it are the "Red Lines" cartoon, which so excellently portrayed SF/IRA's double speak, caring so much about "rights" when they refuse to give war crime victims the right to justice; and the fact that it was the southerners that demanded he go, following the Kingsmill survivor's interview on RTE radio, highlighting the north south divide that has plagued most republican groupings over the years.

  4. You’re right, it's them and us...still. Without it would Unionism exist though! How many Nationalists and even Unionists for that matter actually were aware that it was the Kingsmill Massacre anniversary.... there was quite a lot of dirty political gain made from it by Unionism and others and through their insincerity to the relatives....maybe that's just me...although one person in the true nature of ‘them’uns and us’ said to me, Foster said she spent an emotional day with the relatives....didn’t spend too many emotional days at Loughinisland, Sean Grahams or Greysteel.....
    Somethings never change!

  5. nice one anthony, and at least theres one good thing for mcelduff from all this - maybe now he can get a job that pays more than the average industrial wage (because im sure they are telling the truth about that, arnt they!). maybe kingsmill bread will make him a sales rep with all the publicity they got. also, im sure hes pissed off with beardy who started all this sf tweeting shite with his ridiculous duckie and goat nonsense. duckie ar la indeed.

  6. If it aint in you it wont come out as the saying goes ,I shed no tears for quisling $inn £anny Barrybroy ,I think he was set up so that the feminisation of that party can continue unabated , Quisling $inn £anny Martybroy O Millionaire the socialist rep for Balmoral need not worry he never had any balls .

  7. Grouch if quisling $inn £anny Barrybroy had tweeted that while bouncing naked on a trampoline with that loaf on his head ,he,d be toast now ,

  8. Niall nor did arch bigot foster or cronies show rightful indignation when a loyalist tweeted the videopost of himself with an ORMO wheaten and holding up 5 fingers ,,,the po-lice farce said that they are investigating , but hey as you know Norn Iorn where shoplifting is treated more seriously than mass murder as per Hagerty case over 500 crimes admitted including 5 murders and gets 6 years ffs .

  9. I do genuinely think satire died when this became a genuine issue.

    A middle aged man sticking a popular brand of loaf sold throughout the country on his head, and people read something into it because of the date (which was a hell of a coincidence, it has to be said). I couldn't believe it.

    Interestingly, for all the hand wringing done by the likes of Arlene and Christopher Stalford, I noticed how quiet they were on:

    1 - Paisley's never withdrawn claim about Eugene Reavey, which could have cost him his life.

    2 - Singing 'Arlene's on Fire' at La Mon Hotel.

  10. Kingsmill is an instantly recognizable name in our past, along with Bloody Sunday.

    Highly doubtful wee Barry could have been oblivious to this fact.

  11. marty,ur right about the feminisation of the party - and its perfect timing for the repealers. sad days indeed for irish babies.

  12. i hope theyre all on the average weekly dole soon. scrubbers.

  13. The shifts required to advance from a sectarian society to a more pluralistic one were never going to be swift nor easy. That the electorate continues to mandate the DUP and Sinn Féin reflects the polarised divisions and deep hurts which continue to substantially exist throughout Northern society. These factors suggest that the change process is likely to remain glacially slow.

    That said though, I think perhaps Peter is right in his assessment of Southern influence over the McElduff resignation. Maybe Mary-Lou's elevation to party leader will have greater impact in the North than many might have imagined?

  14. Henry JoY,

    It's a curious time for Unionists with regards to the Shinners, MLM's placement as leader is seen as another tactical move to put those without Provo Apprenticeships in postions that give the facade of pure democracy. The reason for the glacial speed of progress is that Unionists don't really buy that the 'tentacles of the Army' don't still run right through them. They still suspect that the 'Peace Process' will be discarded as and when expedient to Republicans, and the war rekindled.

    As for making them more appealing, it's more likely for Unionists to consider electoral pacts (if they must) with Fine Gael, purely to 'stick it up the Shinners'.

  15. Steve,

    suspicion and mistrust are favoured currencies in a sectarian society. Expect apprehension and uneasiness with 'the other' to continue, the 'them and us' game to endure for a while longer. Though this is likely to be played out with somewhat less fervour and in ever decreasing numbers.

    Looking south, the Southern state is generally a more mature and pluralist one. If SF are to advance further here they will need to move, as Tommy McKearney suggests they in the process of, to a more social democratic positioning. This will of necessity lead to some friction between the needs of the Northern and Southern elements within Sinn Féin. Mary Lou and people like Eoin O'Broin, I predict, will nudge Provisional Republicanism onto a path that initially some Northerners will find unpalatable. The unconscious outworking of structural sectarianism by northern SF'ers, that AM referred to above, will be called out and made conscious on a more regular basis by southern colleagues.

    Hopefully Brexit and other destablisation tendencies weighing upon the UK fabric will exert political expediency pressures on Unionism and result in movement from the extremes towards the centre in that section of society too.

  16. HJ,

    Hasten the day the Unionists move to the left!

    I've started reading Ed's Secret History of the IRA and it's fascinating. I tend to agree that there will be considerable disquiet between the North and Southern parts of SF. Quite how they will rationalise being an instrument of implementing Conservative austerity in the North while plagued by sectarianism there, with a social democratic impetus in the South free of such nonsense is going to be very interesting.

    Can I ask, how accurate do you make of Ed's book? Or you Anthony? I will read yours after I've finished!

  17. Haven't read 'Secret History' Steve but look forward to hearing your commentary.

  18. We consistently think them and us.Things are as they are. According to the G.F. agreement nothing changes until the majority wish it. That's the way is should be and surely that leaves this site redundant.Perhaps we're only trying to find a reason d'etre for our past struggles with each other.
    We Irish love pointing the finger.

    Just think for a moment what a difference it would make if
    -Mr A McIntyre had been born in the 70's, brought up a Protestant on the Cregagh Road.
    -On the same day I'd been born to a Catholic family on the Falls Road.

    Instead of endless accusations met with counter accusations think how things could be if before we wrote or spoke we put ourselves in the shoes of the other. A simple but profound thought.


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