Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

RTÉ, Censorship, and Irish Unity – Kieran Allen demolishes identitarian gibberish promoted by the Dublin Establishment

leave a comment »

In a recent Tomás Ó Flatharta Blog post – RTÉ Broadcaster Claire Byrne Censors Joe Brolly, who criticised the reactionary politics of DUP Westminster MP Gregory Campbell – “Identitarian Gibberish” is targeted. This is part of a “distinct agenda” promoted by the management of the Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ. The inevitable result is censorship of people promoting a vision of post-partition Ireland which can destroy the “carnival of reaction” created by the 1922 Treaty ending the heroic 1919-21 War of Independence. Writing in “Rebel News” the author and activist Kieran Allen adds extremely useful context. His article is reproduced in full here.

When RTÉ puts on a special programme about a united Ireland, you know that big changes are underway. The partition of Ireland is now under question. RTÉ, however, has a distinct agenda and that was exemplified in one dramatic incident.

After Gregory Campbell had left the screen, Joe Brolly, a former footballer, cut to the heart of the matter by claiming that the DUP was a sectarian, racist and homophobic party. Instead of talking about identity, he talked about the politics of the DUP’s unionism. And he was 100% correct. Campbell has, for example, claimed that homosexuality is ‘an evil, wicked, abhorrent practice. My opposition to that is based on the Bible’.

Derry GAA All-Ireland Winner Joe Brolly – Censored by Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ because he said the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster is racist-homophobic.

Yet as soon as Joe Brolly spoke, Claire Byrne shut him down. She denounced him, leapt to the defence of the absent Campbell and turned him off. In brief, censored him.

Democratic Unionist party homophobia

This extraordinary incident occurred because the RTÉ’s agenda – repeated several times by most of the participants – was to focus on ‘understanding identities’. The implication is that we need to go through a few decades of getting to know each other, working the Belfast Agreement before there could be a border poll.

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin said ‘we should not have target dates’ but work on ‘diverse relationships’. The Fine Gael leader had a similar response. ‘We’ in the South had to have a long ‘conversation’ about what are ‘we’ willing to do to accommodate a British identity.

Two key assumptions lay behind this discourse. The first is that partition arose out of competing identities and so ‘dialogue’ and ‘understanding’ is first required. Historically, this is simply untrue.

British Tories and Irish Unionists divided the country to help shore up an empire. The boundaries of the Northern state were dictated by the need for a Protestant majority. For all the justification of partition as respecting ‘minority rights’, the Northern state was constructed to crush other ‘minority rights’.

Once established it cemented sectarian identities. It fossilised and created artificial cultural divisions. Thus, Unionism is supposed to be based on a ‘British identity’ yet the Britain of its cultural imagination has long since disappeared. Few British people, for example, actually see the Queen as a defender of the Protestant faith.

The plain reality, as Joe Brolly pointed out, is that the Tory upper class loathe the DUP. They are simply pawns to be used and discarded when necessary – as the Irish Protocol demonstrates. The real ‘identity’ of the DUP is right-wing fundamentalism linked to a nostalgia for empire.

They have nothing to offer in real material terms to Protestant workers whose living standards have worsened. They cannot create a National Health Service. They cannot house people in need. They preside over terrible public services. And all because they want to preserve their status as a global tax haven for big business. All they can talk about is ‘accommodating identities’ and postponing a border poll.

The most disappointing aspect of the show was Mary Lou McDonald’s performance. On several occasions, Claire Byrne pointed out that she and Leo Varadkar held similar views. This is partially because Varadkar has pivoted Fine Gael away from the overt Unionism of his predecessors. But it was also because Mary Lou McDonald now accepts that the agency to end partition is the Southern state and that a long period of planning and preparatory dialogue is required.

Nobody pointed out that a border poll is simple democratic demand. That it should not be postponed like the way Repeal was until it was forced on the establishment. That a British overlord should not be able to determine when it takes place. Or that the way to win such a poll is to cut through the talk about fixed identities and propose an Ireland that involves a radical overthrow of two rotten states in order to benefit working people, whether they are Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: