Friday, 21 August 2015

Plural Prejudice

It is a commonplace to those familiar with Northern Ireland that words elsewhere considered inoffensive can here take on unexpected and nasty overtones, a prime example being "community". In 2012, for example, when former punk supremo Terry Hooley was assaulted on the Comber Greenway, his attackers informed him that he was a "disgrace" to his "community".

A counter-example is "sectarian", which, in Unionist usage at least, is employed to describe anything connected with communal conflict, including avowedly secular Irish nationalism and, one friend in the Alliance Party actually argued, the singing of Amhrán na bhFiann before GAA games (though oddly enough it appears to be "sectarian" only in the North).

Now the Blether Region has discovered another misused word, "pluralism". The occasion is the publication of historic UK Cabinet papers under the 30-year rule. NIO advisers, we are told, warned Margaret Thatcher that allowing for bilingualism would mean "The conventional pluralism of Northern Ireland public policy will be shattered and we shall end up with two rabidly British and rabidly Irish communities."

Although the Northern Ireland conflict is usually thought to be post-colonial, the Blether Region has often thought that the temporal qualifier might comfortably be disposed of when it comes to the various prohibitions and hindrances faced by Irish, which is banned from the roads, banned from the courts, and requires undemocratic super-majorities to be used on street signs (though one could argue that applying democratic tests to human rights is in any case, well, undemocratic).

The most bizarre aspect here is the fact that those who cheerlead for such anti-Irish discrimination appear genuinely to believe that they are doing the right thing, and that their stance actually contributes to calming tensions and, thus, to the creation of a normal society.

So, monocultural pluralism it is, then.

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