by Frank Schnittger
Thu Jul 9th, 2009 at 06:59:42 PM EST
I wrote in Sectarianism reigns supreme in Northern Ireland? that
Politics in Northern Ireland has always been primarily about tribal identity. You are either a Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist or a Catholic/Nationalist/Republican with the latter ends of those labels being at the extreme end of the spectrum.
and concluded that:
If you see Alban McGuinness of the SDLP getting anywhere close to a European Parliament seat you will know that "the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone" are indeed capable of change.
Well Alban McGuinness didn't get elected despite a split on the Loyalist side between:
Diane Dodds (DUP) successor to Ian Paisley and favoured to head the poll in the European Elections - challenged from her right - by sitting MEP Jim McAlister (Traditional Unionist Party) - who fell out with the DUP because it dared to enter a power-sharing administration with Sinn Fein.
And today we see that the failure of a non-sectarian centre to emerge in Northern Ireland politics has very real consequences. The Northern Ireland Executive has a new and unashamedly sectarian Minister. Follow me below the fold for an apparent journey back in time...
NI culture minister under fire - The Irish Times - Thu, Jul 09, 2009
Politicians hit out at the Democratic Unionist Party's new Culture Minister today after he said he would not attend events in Catholic churches because of his opposition to the religion.
Nelson McCausland also admitted he did not know Tyrone were All-Ireland Gaelic football champions. As he repeated his opposition to Gaelic sport and language, he was accused of failing to show respect for those outside his own community.
He was appointed to Northern Ireland's cabinet by party leader Peter Robinson last week in a move that followed a poor European election performance by the DUP.
Today republicans and nationalists accused Mr McCausland of failing to show he can be a minister for the entire community.
The SDLP's Declan O'Loan said: "Nobody can expect a minister to be fully conversant with all aspects of language, culture and sport that we have here. It is important, however, that he shows himself respectful to all. He seems to ignore his duty in that regard."
Mr McCausland yesterday launched the Orange Order's July 12th events as one of his first actions as minister and faced accusations of not showing the same interest in events linked to the Catholic and nationalist community.
On the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association], which is the biggest sporting organisation in Ireland and the largest spectator sport, he said he had no interest. "I have no knowledge of the game in terms of who has won what league or who is playing in a particular league, any more than I have a knowledge of who the Northern Ireland champion is in Lacrosse or squash or many other sports," he said.
Mr Nelson is visiting a Gaeltacht [Irish language speaking] area of Co Donegal today to meet Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affair Éamon Ó Cuív and Northern Ireland Education Minister Caitriona Ruane.
But asked by the BBC if he would learn some greetings in Irish before today's visit, Mr McCausland said: "I think that my knowledge of Irish will remain somewhat limited.
"I always take the view that just because somebody can say a few words in any language doesn't mean they have any knowledge of it. I am living at present in a cul-de-sac but it doesn't mean I am very fluent in French."
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Antrim Daithí McKay said: "Since he came into office less than a week ago, Nelson McCausland has engaged in a media campaign attacking the GAA, the Irish language and now the Catholic Church."
He added that "once again a senior figure in the DUP has failed the test of political leadership".
Mr McKay warned that the remarks of politicians could fuel sectarian divisions and he condemned loyalist paint bomb attacks on Catholic churches and on GAA property in his constituency last night.
When your identity depends on being a member of one tribe defined in contradistinction to another, you have no need to curry favour with the other tribe by showing the slightest interest in their most important cultural and sporting events or pastimes. In fact you are in danger of being termed a Lundy or traitor if you show too close an affinity with members of the other community.
McCausland may have been appointed Minister for Culture in a power sharing administration meant to serve all the people of Northern Ireland, but that is to ignore the core Unionist principle that Northern Ireland was never supposed to be anything more than a protestant state for a protestant people. Welcome to the 19th. Century. Again. Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it.