Letters: Old hatreds, new woes in Ireland

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Sir: The founding of the Northern Irish state was indeed a peace plan, not a stitch-up (letter, 21 June), as two well-armed, large forces (the nationalist Irish Volunteer Force and the Unionist Ulster Volunteer Force) were squaring up to each other. The World War I came along and the bulk of both militia went off to be slaughtered on the Somme, but they regrouped and skirmishing broke out on several occasions. The partition of Ireland was a response to the problem that the population was divided on religious grounds between two factions who could not, and would not, live together. Much the same situation led to the creation of Pakistan and India.

To suggest that the "tacit support" in Northern Ireland for the IRA stems from a political set-up 70-odd years ago is to ignore the base sectarianism which has been the root of conflict in Ireland (and particularly in Ulster) since time immemorial. Most people support their local paramilitaries, whether loyalist or nationalist, because they provide a gratifying means of inflicting harm on people whom you have been brought up to hate because of "what they did to us back in ... " (insert date).

This is the stumbling block in the process of trying to involve paramilitaries in democratic politics. The republican and loyalist movements are, in all senses, fascist organisations, based on racist, nationalist (British or Irish) and sectarian beliefs and opposed to democracy and the democratic process. The graffiti that can be seen on walls all over Belfast, making fun of victims of the Greysteel or Loughin Island massacres or the Shankill and Warrington bombings are not pained political outcries, just naked, vicious hatred.

TIM HODKINSON

Lisburn, Co Antrim

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