Heritage of Hate

It’s rare that American news coincides so neatly with news in Ireland. It’s a real treat to write about it when it does unless it is a story full of bigotry and grandstanding which unfortunately, is true today. Often times whenever a group is called out for their bullying traditions or symbols of hatred, their response is always the same. They claim that the behavior isn’t racist or sectarian, that instead it is tradition and heritage – as if the concepts are mutually exclusive. Guess what? It IS tradition and heritage and it IS racist, sectarian and vile. The time has come to accept that and leave horrible traditions behind.
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The Celtic origin of Ground Hog Day

Imbolc, also called Oimealg by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. Yes, you heard that right. It is derived from the Gaelic word oimelc meaning ewes milk. At this time of the year, many herd animals have either given birth for the first time of the year or they are just about to. It’s the first breath of Spring and it marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden and from February 1st to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. On Feb. 1st, Brighid’s snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather (Ground Hog Day anyone?) and in many places the first flowers begin to pierce the grounds of winter and start to bloom.  Brighid’s Crosses are made and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year.BCHome hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun. It is a festival of fire and renewal and one of the first celebrations of Spring.
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Fatima, Lourdes or just plain Pagan?

There’s a war on in Ireland that doesn’t have a thing to do with water, language, Sectarian violence, or the long history of the Troubles. While all those other battles dominate the press, there is one that slips through the cracks, silently waging on throughout the years and it begs the question, whose rock is it anyway?
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Ian Paisley, dead

When I was much younger and more of a punk kid, I always said I’d dance a jig on the day that Ian Paisley passed away. I even had a red dress. Now that I am older, less reactionary and more educated, when I heard that he had died this morning I sprang out of bed, got a cup of coffee and started looking for the news. I may have skipped just a little to get the coffee but there was no real jig. In my opinion, Ian Paisley was a bigot, one of the leading voices of Sectarianism and a figurehead of those who would preach hate and call it faith. There are way too many people in the world like him. The most diplomatic thing I can say about him is that he was divisive and powerful…but he was also a human being with a family and no one should ever cheer or crow about another person’s death.

His pulpits were often protected by masked men with clubs or worse. His fiery language was cruel and divisive throughout the Troubles. Moderate Protestants have gone on record saying that Paisley was likely responsible for more IRA volunteers than any other person – and many agree. The byproducts of his hate were an international sympathy toward the Catholics, high recruitment in the IRA and other paramilitary groups, and support for the civil rights movement. It was quite the opposite reaction from what he was hoping for but he continued his sectarian sermons nonetheless.

That said, without him the Peace Accord and Good Friday agreement may not have come to pass.  “Dr. NO” as he was called, said yes – far later than he should have – but he finally did. Watching him stand next to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness was a surreal and bizarre milestone, but it was one that was necessary to calm the strife in the North. I’m not sure there’s a tale of redemption in my heart for the man – but without him, things could have been much worse for much longer.

Ian Paisley passed away this morning in Belfast at age 88. Many are mourning his death, including Martin McGuinness who says they had a mutually respectful friendship even though at Paisley’s insistence, they never shook hands. In life Ian Paisley was a man who reveled in leading angry mobs, guiding immense crowds, and hogging media attention but before he died he requested a private funeral, attended only by close family. His family intends to honor that request, but has also spoken of a public memorial in the future.

Battle of the Bogside Begins, 1969

45 years ago the Nationalist people in the Bogside area of Derry began a legendary fight with the British authorities that is widely regarded as one of the first events of the Troubles in the North of Ireland. The violence, rioting and battle began on August 12th, 1969 and was ignited by an ill-conceived decision to allow the Apprentice Boys to parade near the Nationalist and Catholic areas of Derry.

The authorities saw no reason to stop the oppressive parade that had been happening annually for years. What made this year different than others though was the political climate, which they were not in the habit of paying attention to. The Civil Rights movement was gaining traction all over the North and had led to many skirmishes in Derry already that year. The level of dissatisfaction in the Catholic and Nationalist areas including the Bogside, was already palpable and growing stronger every day. In 1969, Catholics made up more of the population than any others but the Protestant Minority still held all the key positions in government and power so they had no recourse for injustices they faced. Many flooded into the civil rights movement in order to have a voice – and those voices were getting stronger and stronger, despite being ignored by the leadership of the city.

It was under this kind of tension that the parade was not only allowed to happen, but it was going to happen right in their faces. It was the spark that sent the Bogside over the edge. In the days leading up to the parade, many attempts were made within the area to keep residents calm and a request was sent to the Apprentice Boys and the government to either cancel or to reroute the march. The plea was refused and the attempts for calm became plans for defensive maneuvers.
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The face of sectarianism

I already posted a pretty lengthy opinion on the Orange Order parades so I won’t rehash it now. However, the planned “graduated protests” and the threats of real violence from Protestant leaders prove again that these people have failed to lead at all. If you ‘cannot guarantee’ that your own parades will be peaceful and you are in fact promising that they won’t, what right to you have to call yourself a leader? A sane party host would take responsibility for their guests and cancel the party themselves if things were sure to get out of hand. They would not be falsely ringing their hands, shrugging their shoulders and standing by while their home got destroyed. Leaders who cannot lead should be fired from their jobs no matter which side they adhere to.

And then there’s this.

Vandalized Mary

And this.

Effigy of Gerry Adams

These disgusting crimes put the question of “heritage and tradition” to rest, unless tradition has always been hate-filled supremacy and heritage has always been power over and at the extent of someone else. It is time to put an end to these truly vile events. It’s time to call it what it is – which in these cases, is a celebration of sectarianism, hatred and entitlement.

And please, if you are reading this from the North, do the right thing. Put pressure on the authorities to charge these things as the hate crimes that they are but for the next 48 hours, try to take the high road. Whether you are marching, protesting, or protecting yourselves, try to stay peaceful no matter what and keep each other safe. Respect should be granted to all humans, regardless of which side of the divide you stand on. I hope everyone and everything (except the hateful bonfires) are still standing on the 13th, as unlikely as that seems to be. My thoughts are with you from across the puddle.