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Samizdata quote of the day

One incident of Sectarianism in Northern Ireland does stick in my mind – myself and a friend were dropping off a car at a “park and ride” in Belfast and went for a bus – I went to buy a ticket and the driver said “We are full”, the bus was half empty so I tried again and got “WE ARE FULL” as a reply, and the bus drove off.

I asked my friend what that was all about – and he said “it is your English accent” and when I questioned further I got the further information “the driver was clearly from the Nationalist Community”.

So there you are – my own “Rosa Parks” moment, except that the lady was told to sit at the back of the bus, whereas I was not allowed on the bus at all.

Paul Marks

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Alsadius

    I feel like the correct response in a situation like that is some equivalent to “Cool story, bro”, and then to get on the bus like nothing’s wrong. If nothing else, watching his head explode would be truly hilarious.

  • Itellyounothing

    Given that sectarian violence is alive and well in NI, i can’t see that ending well….

    Snap a picture of the bus and send it on twitter to the bus company might work better….

  • Fabius Lindum

    Having spent a fair bit of time in N.I. In the 1970s – presuming this was back then – the only sensible response was ; “Ah, right” and leave the bus with dignity. And there were no camera ‘phones or Twitter….but lots of not very nice things happened. (And no, I was not in the military). If recently, then yes, photo and Twitter would be sensible…if desperate to make a point to someone who was never going to see it.

  • Stonyground

    I think that the difference is that Rosa Parks was victimised for what she looked like, Paul’s case was more about politics. Of course the bus driver was making assumptions about how much influence Paul would have had over the matters that aggrieved him. Paul might have been completely supportive of his position for all he knew. So I suppose that in practical terms the problem might just have well have been that he was black.

  • John McCartan

    Bit like a Jewish bus driver having a problem with a German passenger. Impolite , irrational and ultimately stupid , but given the historical backdrop , fairly easy to understand.

  • Guy Herbert

    It is also conceivable the driver was doing Paul a favour. The bus route may not have been safe for outsiders. This could easily happen with a bus going through a loyalist ares in reverse. It was not unknown in the 70s and 80s for emergency services, deliverymen and other visiting trades, in Belfast to go by two names, depending which sides of the lines they were on.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    I figure the coolest response would have been to look pointedly down the aisle of the bus at all the visibly empty seats, and then get off while saying loudly, ‘OK, fine, not sure I want to get on a bus driven by someone who’s clearly blind as a (expletive optional) bat!’

  • Mr Ed

    I recall this incident being recounted to me, it is fairly recent, the last few years iirc,and the ‘victim’ had no smartphone to have recorded it on, and wouldn’t have sued anyway.

    As Mr G Adams said a few years back ‘They haven’t gone away you know‘.

    Since buses csn be used to commit discrimination on the basis of national origin or a perception of community and/or political affiliation, they should be banned, people don’t discriminate, buses do.

  • APL

    Guy Herbert: ¨it is also conceivable the driver was doing Paul a favour.¨

    I worked for a company that had business with a well known international firm in Drogheda. I was sitting and passing the time of day in the works restaurant, when the following exchange took place:-

    ¨Are you from England ?¨
    To which i replied:- ´Nah! I´m from Wales´.
    And the response: ´Good, ´cos around here, we don´t like the English´.

  • Bit like a Jewish bus driver having a problem with a German passenger. Impolite , irrational and ultimately stupid , but given the historical backdrop , fairly easy to understand. (John McCartan, September 15, 2019 at 5:46 pm)

    I wonder what Mr McCartan would think about a Jewish American bus driver who refused to pick up an Eire passenger because De Valera paid a sympathy call on the German ambassador the day after Hitler offed himself, and two weeks earlier did not pay a sympathy call on the US ambassador after Roosevelt died (and had demonstrated his sympathies in other ways in the years prior). That would have “historical backdrop” – or rather, “in-living-memory backdrop”. Not nearly as much as the German/holocaust case but maybe rather more recent than the Godwin’s-law-defying comparison of that with Irish sectarianism.

    There’s a lot of history in the past. I prefer true understanding to “easy-to-understand”-ing.

  • Though worse than anything I typically heard, the incident does chime with (entirely second or third hand) stuff I heard long ago about the 70s and pre-70s situation, regarding a tendency towards what one might call “separate and not that unequal” – the kind of thing that led to administrators from Great Britain asking, “Why do we need another car park in this area; there’s one there?” and getting the reply, “That’s the catholic car park” (or it may well have been, “That’s the protestant car park” – I heard the anecdote decades ago about a time years before that and cannot now recall whose car park it was).

  • Roy Lofquist

    Old joke:

    Sammy Davis Jr. tries to board a bus in Selma, Alabama. The driver tells him he has to sit in the back. Sammy says “I’m not black, I’m Jewish”. Driver says “In that case you’re going to have to get off the bus altogether”.

  • Fred Z

    I took a black cab tour in Belfast in May. The driver mentioned he was Catholic. So are I and my wife and the two Americans sharing the cab, and we said so.

    From then on the vile spew of hate filled and obvious lies about Belfast protestants poured out.

    It absolutely tainted the rest of our trip in both North and South Ireland.

    Are these people as nastily insane as they appear?

  • Fred Z (September 16, 2019 at 3:24 am), you have my sympathies.

    One of the unintended side-effects of the hate speech laws and the freedom-hating culture that backs them is to ensure that we are less often embarrassed by our ‘friends’ than our enemies are (or rather, should be) by theirs. 🙂 Every cloud has a silver lining.

    (I think some difference would remain the case if they vanished – they just add to the effect. I hope to find out one day.)

  • Runcie Balspune

    Interesting related podcast episode about the “peace walls” of Northern Ireland:
    https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/peace-lines/

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I took a black cab tour in Belfast in May. The driver mentioned he was Catholic. So are I and my wife and the two Americans sharing the cab, and we said so.”

    That reminds me of the old joke about the reporter who found himself being stopped at an ‘unofficial’ checkpoint along the Irish border, being asked by the balaclava=wearing gun-toting Irish paramilitary whether he was a Protestant or a Catholic. Knowing the potential danger a wrong answer might put him in, he carefully responded “I’m an atheist.” “Ah. Yes,” said the gunman, “but are you a Protestant atheist, or a Catholic atheist?”

    Neither side has anything much to do with Christianity as a religion. (What would Jesus have said about Northern Ireland?) They’re just convenient labels for taking sides.

    It’s an fascinating question, actually. Could there be such a thing as a Protestant Catholic? Someone politically Protestant (in the Irish sense) but religiously Catholic? Yet another in the list of bizarre questions only made possible by the irrationalities of human political beliefs.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed is correct – it was only a few years ago.

    No Guy – the man was not doing me a favour, as his route was just to the city centre.

    John McCartan – I see, so people with English accents treated the Irish the way the German National Socialists treated the Jews. For example the National Socialists who murdered members of my own family.

    You are part of the problem Mr McCartan – what you think of (in your head) as history, is actually a series of lies and distortions. And, by the way, I am no fan of Charles Trevelyan, the man who essentially invented the box ticking de facto “results do not matter, only following the correct procedures matters” approach of the modern Civil Service, what he did in Ireland or what he did on the bigger island (where he gave us the Civil Service), but to pretend that he wanted anyone to die is FALSE. If what you wrote really is your position there is no point in having anything more to do with you – so you just have a nice day now.

  • Paul Marks

    In the 1840s case of Charles Trevelyan (by the way that is a Celtic name – “Trevelyan” is a Cornish name) he was actually inventing the “correct” procedures – not just following the “correct” procedures.

    For example, the rule that no government project (and a fortune of taxpayer money was spent in Ireland) should in any way benefit the private landowners – the abusive language that Trevelyan used is often edited out of context, as it was mostly directed at the private landowners (most of whom were Protestants – often of English or Scots ancestry). Trevelyan regarded the private landowners (whether in Ireland or India) as selfish and not altruistic – he regarded himself as very altruistic (he was a devoted “servant of the public”).

    So, instead, government projects under Trevelyan were deliberately designed to be useless (although very expensive) – such as the “roads to nowhere” that concentrating people to get relief – where DISEASE got them (in heaps).

    As for one sided correspondence with men who had been dead for weeks – well the rules (the rules that had been just written) demanded letters be sent to people who had got their paperwork wrong, and these people being dead did not alter that. It makes perfect sense – if one has a Civil Service mind.

    How any of this is “lassez faire” (as the textbooks claim it is) I do not follow.

    The ECONOMIC Penal Laws? Repealed for more than half a century before the 1840s (Edmund Burke has all these economic Penal Laws repealed back in the 18th century) – but the “penny packet” farming system they created still existed. Even without the potato blight there is no way that system was sustainable, but only some of Ireland had changed by the 1840s.

    It is instructive – as Ireland (or most of it) is what England, Wales and Scotland would have been like had they not had first an agricultural and then an industrial revolution. Most of Ireland (certainly not all of it – but most of it) still had the mad system of peasant “penny packet” farms in the 1840s – the classic “crises waiting to happen” of “system collapse”.

    The system collapse being because people (landowners) had not got the guts to end the system decades before. But that would have meant mass emigration from a chronically overpopulated land, decades before it actually happened – but the emigration would have been more gradual, not all-in-a-rush (as with the one to two million people who left Ireland in the late 1840s).

    Most of Ireland is best suited to livestock farming (cattle – horses) – and the farms have to be a reasonable size. Peasant plots growing crops (mostly potatoes) was not the way to go – and could not last. It was a system created by the Penal Laws (and it was not even the intention of the Penal Laws – they assumed that people would CONVERT so they could keep their farms together, rather than having to split the farm among all the sons, but people did not covert and ended up farming tiny farms which were continually split up among all their sons) and the system continued decades after the Penal Laws had been repealed.

    Names are important in Ireland – for example whether a man spells his name “Jerry” or “Gerry” can tell you a lot. My own grandfather was James Power – and the name “James” tells a lot as well (Roman Catholic), “Power” (old Norman name – if a thousand years does not make someone Irish, what does?).

    But then the British army has always included many Irish Roman Catholics (including GENERALS) – and even the elite “Blue Guard” of the Dutch William of Orange were mostly Roman Catholic (although Dutch, and other, Catholics). And the Pope supported him – just as a previous Pope had supported action (to deal with alleged chaos in the Irish church and the various Irish kingdoms) in 1170.

    Nothing is simple.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Patrick – John Gorman was one of many, army, police, and so on.

    The IRA and other groups made a special point of trying to kill Roman Catholic Unionists.

    The IRA is a lot further for the Roman Catholic faith than, for example, I am – for whilst I am Anglican I accept the basic doctrines of Christianity, the IRA, being Marxists, do not. And I am actually closer to (say) Erasmus than to Martin Luther on many questions – for example Free Will (moral agency).

    Indeed on some issues that matter a great deal to believing Roman Catholics today, such as abortion, I am very much on the side of Catholic teaching – but the problem is that religion has become a “tribal banner” NOT a matter of theology.

    Nor is this really an ethnic matter – after all “Adams” is an English name, and “McGuinness” is a Scots name.

    The Scots are also an Irish tribe – and Colonel John Adams of Lincolnshire (the forefather of Gerry Adams – although his ancestors also included a branch of the O’Neils, there being both Protestant and Catholic O’Neils and the Red Hand being the badge of BOTH) lived down the road from where I live in Northamptonshire.

    What Vatican Two (or the misinterpretation of Vatican Two by forces that took advantage of it) did to the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland (and elsewhere) – destroying internal policing (leaving the door open to massive abuses – certainly there was abuse before, but the end of internal discipline made things much worse) and leaving the Church open to Marxist influence (there was a time when Marxist IRA men were not buried in consecrated ground – now there is the accused “Liberation Theology”) is a topic for another day.

    I take no pleasure, NONE, in the decline of religion and of the culture in the Republic of Ireland – its becoming a “Woke” place, where the Irish are going to be aborted away (killed as babies) and replaced by mass immigration – destroying Irish culture and Irish nationhood. On the contrary I grieve. It is a tragedy – if I could prevent I would prevent it, but I am powerless.

    Indeed I fear that the same “liberalism” (NOT a form of liberalism that Prime Minister Gladstone would have accepted) may also destroy Northern Ireland.

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