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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 144: November 2006

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

The day after Hallowe’en and my local supermarket was already putting up the Christmas decorations. If there is one thing guaranteed to make my blood boil and see red (no, not a man in a red suit) it is a canned November rendering of ‘Jingle Bells’ or some other jolly Christmas ditty. Give us a break, Mr Dunne and Mrs Tesco. Christmas is coming but, no, it is not here yet. Going green includes eating seasonal food, and I must say I go rather green (in colour) when I have something as out of season as Christmas decorations or music in early November.

Polish it off
You come across racist graffiti on a wall, such as “Polish out”. What do you do? Well, it was broad daylight so I didn’t do anything but I was just thinking what you could do; a bit of constructive change, with your spray can, to “Polish are outstanding workers” or “Polish your shoes without spittle”; while the latter is changing the national adjective for Poland to a verb with a quite different meaning, and therefore not so counter-cultural, it is still taking the original hatred and denting it. And if people do see from different lettering or whatever that a negative has been turned into a positive, so what, the fact that someone has cared enough to challenge such racism is the important thing.

I must say I find white-on-white racism intriguing and perplexing (though, I hasten to add, no more or less threatening than white-on-black racism). I’m sure such racism exists in the Republic as well as in Northern Ireland where it is very, very close to its evil cousin, sectarianism. What can you say? ‘Anyone’ who is different is to be feared, detested, reviled. Of course there are many issues to do with opening borders, changing work patterns, mobility, change in general and so on, but the idea of Irish people being racist is like turkeys who have avoided Christmas one year, voting for it the next. There are certainly racist attributes to the experience of some Irish people in the USA, Britain and Australia, but for a people who have been the butt of so much racism in the past (and this applies to people in both North and South since partition, however they might label themselves) beggars belief.

Meanwhile, there is some probably good news from the Republic where a recent poll (commissioned by the Steering Group of the National Action Plan Against Racism) showed increased contact with new communities (67% of people now have mixed with newcomers to Ireland compared to just 36% three years ago) – and a generally more positive view of these new communities. To coin a phrase, perhaps you could say it is a case of familiarity breeding content. There are however concerns expressed by many native Irish people on numbers of foreign nationals, the replacement of Irish workers by others, and the perceived link with a rise in crime. And you can never tell the extent to which interviewees tell researchers ‘respectable’ views they think they want to hear – but, unless the native Irish have become markedly better at lying over these three years it does look like some good news at least.

First minister v. moderator
Is Ian Paisley, the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, speaking to Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party? I definitely think on past form one should be boycotting the other. A picket with placards would be grand with, of course, “Come ye out from among them” featuring prominently as he pickets himself. I do personally, of course, welcome the recent meeting which the leader of the DUP had with Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, along with their respective entourages, but how does this wear with Paisley’s two hats? If he is going to have this kind of meeting should some shift not come in the Theological Department as well?

I ask this because I am thinking of the virulent and indeed violent, and inflammatory, language which Ian Paisley has used about the Catholic Church even in recent years. Take the following extract from a sermon he preached as recently as 1998 (as reprinted in the Free Presbyterian Church official organ, “The Revivalist”, November 1998):

“A lecherous priest, guilty of the vilest of crimes and acts of gross indecency against young children, the Church of Rome claims, has the power to order Christ from heaven and turn Him into water and into wine. It matters not whether that priest is drunk or he is sober, Christ is at his command. That, my friend, is the greatest blasphemy of any false religion that was ever positioned at the centre of any religion in the world.

I asked where did it come from? It came from hell. Where does it take people to? It takes them to hell. Alas today tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen, poor priest-ridden, superstitious Romanists, will think that because they were at the mass they are prepared in a state of grace for Heaven.” And so it goes on……

Is it any wonder some early paramilitaries fingered Paisley as the person who led them up the garden path to violent action? This language is grossly offensive. Of course he is entitled to his views but I do not feel he is entitled to depict those he disagrees with as basically the Spawn of the Devil, depicting others as less than fully human. He could make similar points with a modicum of respect rather than a maximum of hate and bile. But that, unfortunately, has been the Paisley pattern throughout his career.

He may be moderating his political spots enough to enter cooperation with those on other sides. I would feel that he should look at the beam in his religious eye as well.

The first casualty in the arms trade - truth
It may also be partly true of war, but you don’t actually have to go to war for it to happen because it is quite clear to me that the first casualty in the arms trade is truth. Take the two largest arms-related companies internationally who have a presence in Norn Iron; Raytheon and Thales (ex-Shorts Missile Division). Raytheon set up a computer operation in Derry, supported by nearly all political parties (and not opposed by Sinn Féin) and also by Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume. Raytheon vehemently asserted that they would only be working on civilian contracts in Derry. What happens a few years down the line? Ex-employees come out and state categorically that military contracts are very much part of the work they do and did and even the major part (see NN 119, quoting from ‘Derry News’ of 22nd April 2004). The hope is that Derry City Council, which previously resolved that it “wants no part of that [arms] trade here in this city” (NN 116) will make Raytheon feel rather uncomfortable with its lies and its military work.

Meanwhile Thales in Castlereagh, Belfast, continues, as it has been for a very long time, to be the biggest bomb factory in that town. Journalist Sam McBride, writing in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ of 21st September 2006, had made a Freedom of Information request that Invest NI (the Norn Iron investment agency akin to the IDA in the Republic) reveal the countries to which Thales exports its Belfast made missiles (Thales has previously claimed exports to sixty countries). This was refused, invoking exemptions and arguing that disclosure would “prejudice relations between the UK and another state”, and also that Crown forces could be endangered and commercial confidentiality breached. So that’s all right then. We won’t tell you the truth because it would be explosive in many ways but it’s OK to go on doing what we have been doing and supplying dodgy dictatorships, corrupt regimes and countries that can’t afford it the high-tech miracles that are missiles made in Belfast. The statement acknowledges there would be trouble if people knew the truth. How sad. Why can’t we have the truth and then a rational debate? Answer: Because they know they would lose the debate by getting off to a terrible start from their point of view, that’s why. So ‘the answer’ is to hide the truth away. However the truth will, as truth usually will, be out in time.

- - - - - - - -

That’s me for now, I’ll be back with you when the December winds blow and we are approaching that frenetic time of the year known as the Christmas holidays. Not bad when you get there, it’s the getting there that gets me (to coin another phase).

Anyway, see ye soon, Billy.

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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