CSI Belfast

CSI Belfast….is nothing to do with CSI Las Vegas, CSI Miami or CSI New York.

This is Cohesion, Sharing and Integration which should be a strategy for doing something about bringing the people of Norn Iron closer together. To tell the truth, nobody is really interested. Most of us think that we are ok as we are….we get on ok with Themmuns and basically we will get on a helluva lot better if people just leave us alone.

Getting on with each other is brilliant. Having an all-party (five party) coalition sit round a table and hammer out formal arrangements for getting along with each other is something that is too much work….best left to highly paid advisors and experts in Conflict Resolution.

Norn Iron is a divided society. There are actually FIFTY NINE walls, barriers or gates between the two tribes. NINE have actually been erected since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. They are all in urban areas…Belfast, Derry and Portadown. The conventional wisdom is that this presents a very bad image of Norn Iron. But I think that is contradicted by the number of tourists who come to Belfast and gazing on our peace walls which (boohoo) tragically (sic) divide us is as important to the Belfast tourist industry as casinos are to Las Vegas, Mickey Mouse is to Florida and the Statue of Liberty is rot New York.

It is our Unique Selling Point. Therefore the walls will stay. But highly paid Conflict Resolutionists have to justify themselves….so it is hoped (says their latest document) that the walls come down by 2022. Good luck with that one. Helpfully they tell us that this will be achieved in full consultation with local people.

Alas the walls are there for a reason. These are interfaces which were makeshift barricades erected in 1969 and made better and bigger  by British Army engineers. Obviously this gave peace of mind to people who lived in these places but made policing much easier.

And they have stayed. Safety is also cited as the reason. But it is not the only reason. These are walls that seperate not merely warring factions. These are walls that seperate Britain from Ireland in a pachwork across Belfast. These ghettoes facilitate people being exactly what they are …British and Irish. And I suspect thats what really annoys the Conflict Resolutionists anxious to create a homogenous and frankly British society.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that peace “walls” are always visible. They are as much a part of a rural landscape as they are of the urban landscape. Norn Iron is a patchwork of towns with (to the locals) clear if invisible borders….and the patchwork of villages often only two miles apart are evidence of division….Protestant Aghalee is just two miles from Aghagallon. Protestant Birches just two miles from Catholic Maghery. Protestant Coagh just three miles from Catholic Ardboe. Protestant Moneymore three miles from  Catholic Draperstown. And so on. No “walls” …just fields with a load of sheep or cattle. But the local knows well enough where it is safe to wear the Rangers shirt. And where its safe to wear the Celtic shirt.

Indeed even in Belfast…the borderlines have been landscaped. The Westlink road links two motorways and at points along it provides a “natural” barricade. Living in this village, I am free to express my Irishness in any way I see fit…fly the flag while Ireland participates in international sport. Fly the Armagh flag when Armagh are involved in GAA Championship.

Why make Belfast different? Why make Belfast almost uniquely and by force homogenous. Of course there are plans afoot to regulate the flyining of flags (thats also hinted at in CSI document) but….ALL flags? The logical outcome of shared space is the “shopping mall” strategy…where the security staff will bar entry to people wearing a football shirt.

I have history here. Belfast always had “mixed streets”…streets which were not exclusively Protestant or Catholic. I lived in such a street in West Belfast. To our left and behind us was Protestant. To our right and in front of us was Catholic. Indeed we lived in the middle of the street (1951-1970) and although the demographics changed during those two decades, the middle of the street was more mixed than any other part of the street.

There was a certain etiquette …protocol to living in a mixed street. Some British flags DID fly around the Twelfth of July, in the late 1960s guarded by a bored young RUC officer from a nearby barracks…but in general there was a respect your neighbours ethos such as “dont play football on Sunday cos Protestants would be annoyed” but it always struck me that when I turned the corner into Catholic territory, I was more at ease. I could be…myself.

Of course part of the new CSI document is just risible nonsense. They are just making it up for a laugh. Take our divided education system……..which I think benefits nationalism and so I like it. After all nationalism is about highlighting those differences which make us uniquely Irish (or indeed British, French or Hungarian). Let me be clear I am NOT suggesting that Religion is or should be a marker of Irishness …merely saying that a homogenous Norn Iron is hardly in the nationalist interest. In contrast a homogenous society is (mostly) in unionist interest.

But take this gem. State schools……yeah verily even nursery (kindergarten) schools should have a buddy system where children are encouraged to befriend a child from the other tribe…they will be paired off. How unbelieveably sanctimonious and patronising is that?

A better idea might be if a child from affluent Cultra was encouraged to pair off with a Catholic child from disadvantaged Poleglass or a Protestant child from disadvantaged Lower Shankill Road……….ah say the Conflict Resolutionists thats er different.

It is risible.


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21 Responses to CSI Belfast

  1. factual says:

    It should be a source of embarrassment that there are peace walls north of the border. European cities with European values do not have such walls. Learning to live together in a shared and cohesive way without walls is a noble aspiration. The walls are a sign of a lack fo civic values. Integrated education is important in allowing children from the two communities to interact and make friends. We in Dublin do not want to administer a north that is divided. CSI is important economically and socially. The walls are a symptom of a malaise that needs to be addressed. The buddy scheme is not patronising, it is important that children from different religious communities get to interact, but it would be better to have more integrated education

  2. bangordub says:

    Good piece.
    Made me think Mr Fitz. Of course your experiences predate mine but leafy Bangor is a world removed. (Apart from two rather dodgy estates)

    Factual, good luck with your pushing, nudging and imposed educational restructuring. It’s good of you to tell people what our, as Dubliners, preconditions are before we would condesend to “administer” the north.

    • Of course back in the 1960s we didn’t have replica football shirts or GAA shirts.
      But as I understand the Conflict Resolution theory, there are a considerable number of people who WANT to live together.
      They should be encouraged of course.
      We should always encourage choice.
      But if people in say Short Strand or Derrys Fountain area put …for sound historical reasons….their security above “cohesion” then that is a choice, at least as valid. But not just their security…but their sense of who they are.
      A “choice” also but is that choice more or less valid than those who want to “live together” ….a loaded phrase of course.
      As I have said…living without barricades would require a degree of social protocols.
      If we are to be encouraged not to label people…then logically we cannot label ourselves.
      Will people be discouraged from wearing a Rangers shirt or Celtic shirt….meeting other friends doing same.
      Rather like some estates have signs that say “No Ball Games” will there be signs saying “No football shirts….but if you do, West Ham United, Sunderland and Stoke City are neutral enough to be tolerated”.

      The Border is not a line that runs from Newry to Derry. It is not CUllyhanna, Belcoo, Belleek,Middletown and Strabane….we actually have scores of borders….Coagh/Ardboe, Aghalee/Aghagallon…New Lodge/Tigers Bay….not to mention Carnegie Street in Lurgan or Dungannon Town Square.
      Behind these barriers people enact their Britishness or Irishness to their fullest degree.
      Conflict Resolutionists would say that it makes no difference.
      The Conflict Resolutionists might say its irrelevant.
      But in …say Cultra….would it be possible to fly a British flag to support (say) the British Olympic team. I’d say yes.
      But would an Irish flag be tolerated in leafy Cultra.
      And in the new Belfast after 2022, are we likely to see a patchwork of two national flags in the same street? I think not.
      And yet this would put Belfast people on a different footing than folks in Aghalee or Aghagallon.

      In other words…CSI is a complete non starter.

    • factual says:

      Bangordub I would argue that the CSI agenda is good progressive Labour values. To oppose cohesion, sharing, integration is to be satisfied with division and separation. We in Dublin look at the peace walls and despair.

      • factual says:

        The presence of peace walls shouts out: we are not a civilised society in the European mould. We cannot handle difference, unlike other European cities. Hopefully the thousands of immigrants that arrive each year will help mix things up, up there north of the border. Certainly I see economic development and CSI as going hand in hand, and without economic development we in Dublin will not want to push the UI agenda.

  3. bangordub says:

    Factual. I AM a Dubliner. I do not speak for all Dubliners or claim to. However I happen to have some knowledge of the realities of life in the north having lived here for most of the past six years and with a family history from here.
    I suggest you visit the short strand and talk to residents there before lecturing in a condescending manner about values and what Dubliners think. I am quite prepared to take your argument apart about labour values if you wish but really, what is your point?
    I am a proud Dub but sometimes I despair at my fellow citizens

  4. MPG ..... says:

    As a Dub, factual and his ideal world, high horsed notions piss me off! We, in Dublin, would not dare to presume to administer the North. The people would administer via a parliament elected by the people of our island.

  5. James says:

    Is factual getting paid by the CSI? And what the bleeding hell has Europe got to do with peace walls? I live very close to a peace wall on the catholic side lives my wife’s aunt and grandmother. Every 11th night the wall is targeted by loyalist yobs tell them that the peace wall which protects their homes is not part of a civilised European society

  6. A friend of mine lived on the Sepantine Rd, with the peace wall behind his back garden and the attacks were very regular and as mentioned above, got worse around the twelfth.

    God forbid that anyone might mention that indoctrinating little kids, another generation gone now, with the delusion that the statelet is their’s alone and they have a god given right to march when and where they like, even outside a chapel, while playing sectarian tunes, is a possible annual resuscitation of the issues that keeps the need for walls alive.

    I’m just recalling the Men Who Won’t Stop Marching and thinking of what was foisted on the wee boy by his family and community and how it represented the desperation of the situation. There’s not a mission that any CSI or army of Duncan Morrows will have any affect on where it matters and I don’t think the people in those communities want to change. Hate is their comfort blanket, handed down through generations, before the statelet was even formed, and to be handed down to generations.

    The unspeakable truth is that the pattern can only stop in a new, properly formed United Ireland.

    • I think this is broadly true.
      The only way Norn Iron can change is thru social engineering. This effectively happens after every conflict.
      Take WW2….Germany gets defeated and the Allies de-nazi the place. Similar story in Japan or indeed Vietnam. Or Cambodia. re-education camps.
      this is effectively what Conflict Resolutionists want to do.
      Take us off to a re-education camp and take the nationalism out of us….and a much lesser extent the nastier aspects of unionism.
      the nicer aspects of unionism will be left intact.
      I object to this on two levels. first and foremost nationalism is not some evil philosophy.
      Secondly it was not defeated by the Good Friday Agrement. and Conflict Resolutionists are second guessing that outcome.
      There is a logic to it. Nineteenth century nationalism underscored that Czechs and Hungarians were different from Austrians…and that Germans and Italians had more in common respectively with folks in Prussia and Bavaria…or Piedmont and Sicily.
      While I certainly see Peace as better than War, I am wary of being seduced into forgetting our differences.

      • factual says:

        CSI isn’t about forgetting difference in fact its about developing a framework in which people come to tolerate, encourage and enjoy all these differences. In which people might sample from both and in which the good things of each tradition are opened up to people from both sides. In other words, what happens in other parts of Europe where you see cultures sitting side by side, and people enjoying and sampling them all.

  7. I’ve seen many a republican and many a loyalist troll but an Alliance troll? That’s just too weird to contemplate.

  8. bangordub says:

    Enniskillen is a good model for what Belfast could become. Paddy’s day parade, 12’th parade for unionists, GAA flags when Fermanagh are doing well (I know, not often), an essentially mixed town centre, dual language signs on council transport etc. No need for peace walls or water cannons. Both sides are free to be what they wish to be.
    Of course the essential difference is that it is a 2/3 nationalist town. It wasn’t always that way.

  9. Take it Mary Lou didn’t mention the shinners being nobbled for discrimination?

  10. James says:

    “Admit it: Sinn Féin are ahead of SDLP on unionist outreach.”

    Well there’s a good reason NOT to vote SF at the next election

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