Page 9, 7th August 1981

7th August 1981
Page 9
Page 9, 7th August 1981 — The truth and anything but the truth

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Locations: Brixton, Belfast


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The truth and anything but the truth

SCENES like these (above) in Toxteth are now commonplace. But Toxteth and Northern Ireland are linked maintains Mgr MICHAEL BUCKLEY, who calls here for an end to double standards.

EARLY MORNING radio is a "must" for me as it is for millions of listeners. I feel unable to cope with events for that particular day unless 1 know what is happening. In recent weeks I wonder if the producers and presenters are guided by some form of double standard.

In Northern Ireland those interviewed can often show as much practical knowledge as "weathermen" who never look through the window. But this approach has now apread to the riots which shattered the unholy peace of our decaying inner cities. The riots in Britain and Northern Ireland are connected because of our attitude to them.

Toxteth highlights for me the true nature of our sick consumer society which is unable to face reality. The bricks and petrol bombs were still flying as our politicians waxed eloquently indignant over the cause of the unrest.

Politics have become as polarised in Britain as the inadequate counterparts in Northern Ireland and like them must take their share of the blame for the present situation.

But politicians blame everyone but themselves and so a Labour MP fumed against Mrs Thatchers monetarism as the root cause, forgetting that Toxteth decayed just as fast under his 'own party's administration.

A conservative in a fruity voice who would not deign to understand the language of Texteth violence laid the blame unequivocally at the feet of leftwing activists imported into the area for the specific purpose of causing trouble.

The Liberal MP did well but he was a voice in the wilderness. The Prime Minister, sometime. somewhere in the morning expressed her shock in terms which made one suspect either that she is very badly informed or just does not heed voices which contradict her own set news.

All this is very applicable to Northern Ireland. If one is looking to Westminster for a solution which will bring lasting peace to that troubled land then at present the hopes are dim.

-Northern Ireland like Toxteth has been decaying for decades and one wonders if all this talk about it being a part of the United Kingdom is really a question of double standards. We may well try to solve Toxteth because it is on the mainland but there is a healthy firebreak of water between Belfast and Brixton.

This is really saying that the inhabitants of Northern Ireland are second-class citizens, if not de jure then certainly de facto.

What happens there is not as dangerous to our security as events On the "mainland" a word which sends shivers down the spine of the Loyalist zealot whose only claim to territorial independence is his strident claim to be British. We double think about Northern Ireland because it saves us unnecessary worry and political upheaval.

By mid-day the Home Secretary had traced the root cause of Toxteth to the fact that mothers left their children out after dark in the streets.

This was nothing other than a naive middle-class response totally alien to the true nature of the immense problem which Toxteth posed.

young children threw stones at police and duly appeared in court but no one really asked them what caused them to want or need to throw stones, This question was politically evaded, ignored or just uncomprehended.

If Northern Ireland is our yardstick then I suggest it was the latter because historically we have never really understood the plight of the underprivileged until we were forced to by circumstances.

The Jarrow marches are still a vivid memory. and that which prompted them a nightmare. to those whom our society crushed earlier in this century. The underprivileged take to the streets when it is the onl% course left open to them because unfortunately privilege only yields to a show of strength.

On the morning after our newspapers banner headlined the Toxteth riots with words such as "It's happened here". But what does "here" really mean? Are the riots in Northern Ireland less meaningful because the happen over thereas if Northern Ireland were a colony?

I suspect we regard it as a colony but we are not prepared to say so, and yet until we do there can be no solution to our mutual problem.

Honesty demands that we talk openly about the attitude of the British people to Northern Ireland. The private convictions of people in high places and their public utterances are at variance.

This ,makes one distrustful of their dedication to the cause of a just and lasting peace. If Northern Ireland is a colony can we continue to claim sovereignty over it indefinitely? These are questions politicians must face.

Later in the week of the Toxteth "troubles" I had lunch with a knowledgeable television producer. He was quite clear in his own mind that if the troubles here got out of hand then "these people" should get the tough treatment from the police.

"They need to be taught a lesson" he said. Adding that if some got killed, our middle class society would look the other way.

Would he agree to equally harsh measure being meted out to those of his own social class or was violence justified if it protected the privileged at the expense of the underdog?

The Sunday after the Toxteth riots, our newspapers treated us to a detailed analysis of their causes and future consequences.

One highly respected paper gave details of a suggested police taskforce armed with watercannon and all the accoutrements of an army advancing on an enemy.

That the police should be armed became a quite hysterical cry and also that plastic ballets should be fired into the crowd. Other newspapers said this would destroy the "bobby on the beat" image who is everybody's friend.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary has been armed for decades and plastic bullets part of their equipment. Does this mean that they are different from the British bobby and nobody's friend?

Did the police harrass in Toxteth? Does the same word "police" convey two different realities on opposite sides of the Irish Sea'? Is there no newspaper ready to question the two moralities we bring to bear on the same basic civil disturbance? Paramilitary forces will always claim to protect the minority it' it is clear that the minority has no other effective voice. Is it right to fire plastic bullets in Belfast and wrong in Brixton and if so why?

believe passionately that if our people knew the truth about Toxteth and Northern Ireland they would not allow our politicians to mouth such platitudes and falsehoods. We have a Christian voice and it is best heard in unpopular situations which demand courage and total honesty of purpose. Brixton

could well become AnderSOnStOWn. Toxteth another BOgSide unless we attempt to sOlve their problems no matter . what politicians mouth on the air.

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