Ireland and Scotland: Colonial Legacies and National Identities || Contested Rights and Relationships

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  • Contested Rights and RelationshipsRituals and Riots: Sectarian Violence and Political Culture in Ulster, 1784-1886 by Sean Farrell;The Crowned Harp: Policing Northern Ireland by Graham Ellison; Jim Smyth; The Politics ofForce: Conflict Management and State Violence in Northern Ireland by Fionnuala Ni Aolain;Special Relationships: Britain, Ireland and the Northern Ireland Problem by Paul ArthurReview by: Feargal CochraneThe Irish Review (1986-), No. 28, Ireland and Scotland: Colonial Legacies and National Identities(Winter, 2001), pp. 191-197Published by: Cork University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 14:23

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  • growth of a bureaucracy in response to an ideological demand. That demand is not

    so much 'national' these days as increasingly regional or local; every place must be

    different and have its unique and specific character. And where character is missing

    it must damn well be invented! The ideological drive of this is quite clear: it is to

    construct differences in such a way as they are contained in the sameness of trans?

    national economies, giving us the illusion (and it is an illusion) that there are

    differently located 'cultures'.The truth is, surely, that we all, without any exceptions,

    live in the mesh of many cultural connections, layers and networks, nearly all of

    which are held in common across the modern world. The more we are made cor?

    porate the more we seek to evade it. Heritage, it becomes clear, is deeply implicated

    in the managerial attempt to fit us into a new world.

    This idea surfaces here and there amongst the contributions. Donncha Kavanagh,

    writing on 'Management's Heritage', gives us a fine short course in the critical his?

    tory of management. He links the blurring of the private and the public economic

    sectors (typical of recent years) with the way in which managerial methods have col?

    onized what was hitherto thought to be unmanageable -

    'culture', the arts, history

    and the past. We are now afflicted with reality of the 'cultural managers'. What, he

    asks, should be the values of this new social formation? They are

    evidently responsi?

    ble for more than preservation; analysis and interpretation are embedded in the very

    principle of management, and it would be well to make this explicit rather than

    allow unspoken assumptions and given meanings to percolate through. As Pat Cooke

    writes in his piece on 'The Principles of Interpretation','Increasingly, we are having

    to reckon with the fact that in our contemporary world all values are open to con?

    testation. The most effective way to deal with these relativities is to change the

    emphasis in interpretation from revelation to exploration' (p. 378).

    My conclusion has to be that this book in its very diverse contents provides a

    comprehensive survey of matters which everyone concerned with our conjoined,

    social relation to the past will need to consider, but that taken as a whole it demon?

    strates and embodies the problems of categorization and critical method with

    which it has failed to deal.


    Contested Rights and Relationships Sean Farrell, Rituals and Riots: Sectarian Violence and Political Culture in Ulster, 1784-1886. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. ISBN 0-8131-2171

    X. Stg. ?29.50.

    Graham Ellison and Jim Smyth, The Crowned Harp: Policing Northern Ireland. Lon?

    don: Pluto Press, 2000. ISBN 0-74531393-0. Stg. ?45.00 hbk; Stg. ?14.99 pbk.

    Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Hie Politics of Force: Conflict Management and State Violence in

    Northern Ireland. Belfast: BlackstafTPress, 2000. ISBN 0-85640-688-6. Stg. ?14.99 pbk.

    COCHRANE, 'Contested Rights and Relationships', Irish Review 28 (2001) 191

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  • Paul Arthur, Special Relationships: Britain, Ireland and the Northern Ireland Problem.

    Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2000. ISBN 0-85640-688-0. Stg. ?16.99 pbk.

    In one way or another, these four publications deal with various aspects of commu?

    nity conflict and official responses to that conflict in the North of Ireland over the

    last 200 years.

    In Rituals and Riots, Farrell sets out to examine the ritualized nature of commu?

    nity sectarianism in Ulster during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    While the focus of the book is on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when

    reading it, one is constantly reminded of the modern parallels addressed by the

    other volumes in this review. The incident at Dolly's Brae in 1849 (to take one of

    numerous examples) bears a

    striking similarity to the type of community conflict

    that continues to divide Northern Ireland today:

    In marching to Lord Roden's estate at Tollymore Park, the Orange

    processionists had their choice of two routes: an old road leading directly

    through Dolly's Brae and a new, more circuitous path. ... In the wake of

    the Twelfth celebration in 1848, local Catholics taunted their Orange foes,

    circulating a song that condemned the processionists for their cowardice in

    taking the new road. Faced with such insults, local Orange lodges decided

    to march directly through the disputed area in 1849. As one magistrate put

    it, 'I think it was a point of honour with the Orangemen to go through the

    Brae', (p. 2)

    The impression created while reading this book is that neither the motivations of

    the protagonists, nor the violent outcomes generated by the intercommunal conflict,

    have changed substantially over the last 200 years.Throughout

    a narrative that focus?

    es primarily on

    Orange and Catholic sectarian interaction during the nineteenth

    century, Farrell illustrates that the dynamics of the quarrel revolved around the strug?

    gle for identity, power and control within Ulster. At its most basic, Protestants wanted

    to maintain their ascendant position while Catholics wanted to overthrow it and

    achieve some level of equal citizenship within the region. 'When either group per?

    ceived that changes might occur in local, regional,

    or national power relations, they

    responded by taking to the streets, asserting their strength in ritual-laden public

    demonstrations' (p. 7). In addition to an examination of the causes and triggers of

    sectarian violence during the period, Farrell looks at the connection between

    national political developments and localized sectarian tension, the competing claims

    of ethnic and class alliances within the Protestant and Catholic communities and the

    effects of urbanization and industrialization on the structure of party violence.

    While Rituals and Riots is generally well researched, is written in an accessible

    style and contains some interesting vignettes of the period,

    one is left wondering

    just what it tells us that is new? Yes, partisan festivals such as the Twelfth of July and

    St Patrick's Day were displays of antagonistic identities and a show of strength. Yes,

    such marches 'served to lay ritual claim to contested territory' (p. 105). And yes,

    such exhibitions of communal identity were more controversial (and more violent)

    during periods of political crisis such as in the 1790s and 1860s. True . . . but these

    192 COCHRANE, 'Contested Rights and Relationships', Irish Review 28 (2001)

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  • are hardly new observations. Rituals and Riots is certainly a worthwhile read. How?

    ever, the narrative is more likely to put flesh on the bones of what you already

    know, rather than tell you something you didn't.

    The same could not be said for Graham Ellison and Jim Smyth's The Crowned

    Harp: Policing Northern Ireland. As one would expect from a book coming from the

    Pluto Press stable, this presents a radical (at times excoriating) critique of policing in

    Northern Ireland. Far from pulling its punches, The Crowned Harp lands several hard

    blows on the RUC and its predecessors; 'partner' organizations such as the Special

    Branch; the UDR/RIR; and British government policies within the wider criminal

    justice system. While this makes a refreshing change from some of the rather anaemic

    academic and journalistic work on

    policing in Northern Ireland that have preceded

    it, Ellison and Smyth's polemical style and radical thesis will not be to everyone's taste.

    At times, the authors' apparent desire to pursue a wider neo-Marxist ideological cri?

    tique of policing ? as agents of social control within bourgeois society

    ? takes away

    from their powerful examination of policing within the context of Northern Ireland:

    The stability of bourgeois society may rest ultimately on the threat of

    repression, but its everyday existence depends upon legitimacy and

    complicity. The legitimacy of the modern state rests on a number of pillars

    but central is the acceptance of a set of property relations. . . . The police,

    during the nineteenth century, became part of an institutional discourse

    aimed at the reorganisation of society, (pp. 3-4)

    Regardless of the authenticity of the macro-political thesis put forward, it is in the

    acute and well-argued analysis of the RUC's role in Northern Ireland that this

    book 'hits the spot'. The detailed treatment given to unionist political control of the

    RUC during the Stormont period, the politically motivated attempts to achieve

    police primacy in the 1970s and scarifying counter-insurgency policies shine a fas?

    cinating, ?

    though harsh ?

    light upon was has passed for 'law and order' in

    Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century.

    Those unionists who are currently trying to preserve the RUC in their own

    image, and resist the changes heralded by the Patten Report, may find this book a

    difficult read. However, they should perhaps reflect on the fact that the power of the

    critique presented is a consequence of past and present complacency, incompetence

    and simple bigotry on the part of those who were in a position to influence events.

    The book takes the reader on a depressing journey, from policing at the begin?

    ning of the twentieth century and the creation of the RUC in 1922 to the nature

    of policing policy during the Stormont regime and beyond. The main focus of the

    book, however, concerns the period of direct rule and the strategic and operational

    decisions taken by (and for) the RUC in their 'war against terrorism'. The central

    argument put forward by the authors in their biting analysis is that the Ulsterization

    policy in the 1970s, counter-insurgency activities, use of'super-grasses' and collu?

    sion with loyalist paramilitaries in the 1980s illustrated the primacy of the political role of policing within the state. While the following quote concerns the role of the

    RUC during the Stormont period, it reflects the central argument within the book,

    namely that 'normal' policing does not take place within an abnormal society but

    COCHRANE, 'Contested Rights and Relationships', Irish Review 28 (2001) 193

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  • reflects a wider political agenda. The RUC, the authors suggest, have only ever had

    a peripheral interest in 'normal' community policing, their primary goal being the

    control of what they regard as anti-unionist political dissent within the 'state':

    From its inception, the RUC was a paramilitary force and one that played a

    highly political role. From its formation in 1922, the RUC was charged with implementing the Special Powers Act and other legislation (for

    example, the Flags and Emblems Act and the Public Order Act) designed to maintain the hegemony of the Unionist regime. While the RUC un?

    doubtedly performed 'routine' policing duties, these were ultimately

    subjugated to its primary role of the suppression of nationalist dissent, (p. 24)

    The narrative is written in an accessible style and is very well researched, with good use made of the available secondary sources and

    some very revealing (not to men?

    tion chilling) interviews with serving and former members of the B Specials and

    RUC. The Crowned Harp provides a relentless critique of policing policy in North?

    ern Ireland. While some readers may be put off by the harsh assessments made of

    the RUC, the book is saved by the fact that the analysis put forward is well argued and based on solid empirical evidence.

    If any unionist wishes to understand why the RUC in their current form are

    unacceptable to the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, they will find the

    answers within the pages of this excellent and powerful book. It deserves to be read

    by everyone with an interest in the past, present and future of Northern Ireland.

    Fionnuala Ni Aolain's The Politics of Force shares some similarities with the

    Ellison and Smyth book, though it is much more of a legal analysis of the use of

    lethal force by state agencies, than an overtly political treatise. In the context of

    Northern Ireland of course, the two are inseparable. Ni Aolain sets out to examine

    the way in which the United Kingdom has used lethal force to control an internal

    conflict between 1969 and 1994. The author approaches the material legalistically and dispassionately, yet does

    so within an analytical framework that is powerful and

    penetrating in its conclusions. The book is an empirically based study of the use of

    lethal force by state agencies that is carefully argued ?

    forensic even ?


    being arid. Ni Aolain provides a detailed examination of the different phases and

    patterns of lethal force used by the state, together with the particularities of specific

    cases. The author identifies three stages to British policy in this respect, namely a

    militarization phase from 1...


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