Editorial: A reminder that sectarianism lives on

One of the achievements of the peace process has been the gradual dismantling of ancient patterns in which Protestants dominated Catholics

Share
Related Topics

Hillary Clinton's visit to Northern Ireland was partly designed as a lap of honour. The Clintons did play important parts in the peace process and are indeed to be ranked among the architects of the newly agreed institutions. But although Northern Ireland is held up as a model for conflict resolution, the process has not been an unalloyed success. The ugly scenes that preceded the Secretary of State's visit meant she was obliged yesterday to condemn the negatives as well as commending the positives.

Those positives include a transformed city, a distinctive new spirit and much-improved political relations in an evidently stable settlement. Unionist Peter Robinson and republican Martin McGuinness both paid warm tribute to Hillary Clinton yesterday. Their cordial relationship is a strong sign that politics is working surprisingly well at the top, while the value of the process is indicated in the steep decline of violence since the worst days of the Troubles. But the violence has not disappeared, with a rump of republican dissidents continuing their futile, but occasionally lethal, mini-campaign against the security forces.

The major extreme Protestant groups, though still armed and dangerous, do not pose the same threat. But they, and young thugs from the loyalist ghettos, showed this week that they can cause much disruption. Neither the paramilitaries nor the youthful tearaways care what damage they inflict on Northern Ireland's image or economy. The recession has closed many shops, leaving businesses hoping that takings would be high today, traditionally one of the busiest days of the year. Instead, many Christmas shoppers will avoid Belfast city centre because a protest rally is to be held there.

One of the achievements of the peace process has been the gradual dismantling of ancient patterns in which Protestants dominated Catholics. As a result, a much fairer society is being constructed. But the problem, in the heads of many indignant Protestant ghetto-dwellers, is that steps towards equality are seen as yet more gains for Catholics at the expense of Protestants. They don't have much of a case, but they should of course be making their arguments by organising politically. Quite a few of them have come to realise this. But a small minority continues to resort to the nihilism of ugly rage. When the Clintons first visited Belfast less than two decades ago, people were still dying at the rate of dozens every year. Full-scale terrorism may have been vanquished, but the blight of ugly sectarian thuggery remains.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are looking to recruit two ...

Primary supply teachers required in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Science Technician

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: A school in Preston require a S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron and Ed Miliband attend the Queen's Speech on 4 June 2014  

Scottish referendum: It's hard for us Labour supporters to admit, but Cameron did good here

Rob Marchant
NO ballots are stacked on a table during the Scottish independence referendum count at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh  

Scottish referendum: Some divorces are meant to happen – this one wasn’t

Dotti Irving
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week