Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Riot in Dublin

Early reports on today's infamous riot in Dublin's city centre suggest that it began as a protest against the proposed march through the city by the Love Ulster group. It was a protest organised by what Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe described as "micro republican groups" that just got out of hand. The AP report of the incident, the report that will inform the majority of the planet of what happened today in Dublin, suggests that it was the bad old case of Catholic v Protestant enmity that has so beset this verdant but troubled little island on the Western edge of Europe.

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. That Jeffrey Donaldson, Willie Frazer and the rest of the Ulster Lovers hold true to the tenets of Protestantism I do not doubt for a second, but if we, the public, were to interrupt our hero here in the photograph, either just before of immediately afterwards he had divested himself of that wheelbarrow, and asked him to state exactly what is meant by a state of grace, what is the current Vatican teaching on limbo, or the essential difference between a venal and a mortal sin, the poor man would blush deeply and have to confess, "I'm terribly sorry, I'm afraid I have no idea." An Spailpín Fánach doesn't know for sure, of course - lets just say I kind of get the feeling that this man is at a distance from religion by the cut of his jib.

So Dublin did not today witness a re-engagement of the Battle of the Boyne. Was it then the righteous fury of republicans angered at "coat-trailing" Unionists? Well, there may have been some of that, but it's hard to know how storming the Jervis Centre was going to knock King Billy off his white charger. The result of this protest was that it made Jeffrey Donaldson sound like the most reasonable politician going, and once you start thinking that about Jeff the Ripper you know that this has not been a good day for the Republican movement.

An Spailpín has his own little theory about what's behind the riot. I have no proof that could be used in a court of law of course, but then I'm not pulling in over two grand a day like certain Senior Counsels, so let's call it honours even on that legal nicety. What An Spailpín does have are two eyes to see, two ears to hear and seven years of the past ten spent in this hideous rat-trap of a town, Dublin, and there is no way An Spailpín could have missed the fact that there are enormous ghettoes in Dublin, populated with young men festering with hate, frustration, bitterness, ennui and no small amount of very powerful drugs, and every now and again they're going to need to let off steam. Today, the Families Against Intimidation and Terror March got the vote, but it could just as easily have been some other jamboree. Just so long as you had good weather, a cause to rally around, a few cans of Scrumpy J and no small amount of loose masonry, the better for chucking at policemen and shop windows.

Today's rioting in Dublin was not an expression of republicanism. It was an expression of the fact that we, as a society, have failed these people, and that the only time we notice their presence is when they burn down our shops. Ireland has become a spectacularly politically correct society - it is absolutely infra dig to suggest that if you are living in the ghetto, on the dole, out of your box on Class A drugs, and a father of four by fifteen years of year that you are a maggot, that you have made an insurmountable balls of your life, and now you're going to do the same to the next generation, and so on exponentially until the melting polar ice finally washes us all away.

You see, that's not the way Polite Society talks about the ghetto. For starters, you get very dirty looks when you even mention the word "ghetto" over the sips and dips. I know, because I mention it all the time. At this point in the evening, An Spailpín is usually taken by the arm and told that there is no such thing as a ghetto. Just because Dan gets his arse out of bed at half-five every blessed morning to go to work to provide for his wife and kids does not mean that he is somehow superior to our friend in the picture above, casually tossing wheelbarrows at the police. They've just made difference life choices you see - I mean, for goodness sake, a chap might be a wife-beating house-breaking junk-taking no good useless never did a day's work or never will son of a bitch, but that doesn't mean he's a bad person, you know. He's just doing his own thing.

Of course, Liberal Ireland isn't completely stupid (a close-run thing I know, but bear with me). While they might disabuse the very notion of the existence of ghettoes and confine all political discussions to what an utter bastard they consider George Bush, in the daytime they vote with their feet. Every wonder why Gaelscoileanna have flourished in Dublin? It's not because of devotion to the language, because the Gaelscoil movement has been on the go for ten years and we have yet to see it manifest an influence in the language revival movement - I don't remember any Gaelscoil graduate putting Enda Kenny in his box when he thought he was taking that free shot at the language before Christmas.

An Spailpín's pet theory is that the great thing about Gaelscoileanna is that our riotous friends in the ghetto despise the Irish language. These same characters who love Glasgow Celtic because it's an "Irish" club, despise the Irish language and Irish speakers. Why? Because they view Irish as part of the oppressive system that gets between them and their amenities. It's another weapon for The Man in keeping them down.

The other way for the middle classes to vote with their feet and keep young Euan and Sophie the Hell way from the pernicious influence of Anto and Nat'lie is to send them to a kinda private school. A kinda private school is one where it costs four to eight hundred bucks for the kids to go. Not enough to stop Euan's Ma and Pa, but plenty enough to keep the gates firmly closed to the ghetto.

And still we pretend it's not happening, or we cling to the nonsensical liberal belief that anything goes, man - what does it matter, so long as they're happy? Little consolation to the people that were terrified today, or had their cars burned out, or their shops and property looted.

An Spailpín Fánach can only speak for himself, of course, but he's getting awfully tired of the musha, musha, peteen, peteen approach to social dysfunction. I'm sure that were I to meet our wheelbarrow-tossing friend's social worker in the morning (and yes, I'd be fairly sure he has a social worker) and discuss the situation of what happened in Dublin today, I don't want to hear about this guy's family problems or environmental problems or addiction problems or self-esteem problems. They're pretty damned clear. What I want to know is what is being done about them, because right know, other than hand-wringing, it doesn't look like a hell of a lot.

Any Labour Party members or Greens who have got down this far are probably wrinkling their noses, and looking forward to cracking bons mots about "An Spailpín Fascist" over their chiabattas and mineral water with their dressed-by-Brown-Thomas friends, and that's fair enough. An Spailpín Fánach learned long ago that rioting savages may break my bones but names will never hurt me. But I guarantee you this - if responsible citizens don't get together and decide to behave responsibly, which includes properly punishing those who do not, then we'll really find out what a bloodbath is. May Christ pity and spare us.

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