On Monday our Volunteer In Missions group met at 1 pm with Researchers John Bell & Ulf Hanson, from the “Institute for Conflict Research” which focuses on conflict sources such as parading, segregated housing, segregated living, segregated education, and bonfires, and their alleviation.
This is the summary of the third portion of that meeting and this third portion concerns segregated living, recreational rioting, and parades, as well as general issues which knit all the discussed issues together.
Will the violence and sectarianism stay the same for 100 years now that relative peace has been attained? Can segregated living be ended. Should it be ended? Or is segregation OK as long as there is understanding and empathy?
Most are surprised at the degree of changes which have occurred in the recent years, such as there being a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein government.
Integrated education may erode divisions, but may not solve all problems of understanding. Some young Protestant young people go to school with Catholics and vice versa, but it doesn't stop all attitudes against the other side. The young people's neighborhood and family can have an overriding influence. But contact does tend to undercut the ability of the worst stereotyping from taking hold.
The government insisted there were only 44 interfaces (which they call peace walls), but an independent review has found 88 interfaces. Derry and other areas have physical interfaces as well. However, there are invisible lines of separation which are held to in living patterns which are just as firm as the physical interfaces. Some of these invisible interfaces are monitored by security cameras.
Some middle class neighborhoods claim they are untouched by sectarianism, yet people can describe the division lines which really exist.
Research was done in the Castle Dearg area. The researchers put a google map before people and asked individuals to explain the sectarian boundaries.
The researchers encountered a brother and sister around the same age, living with their nuclear family in the same house, and the maps from the brother and sister were very different. The brother had been beaten up several times. The sister thought areas were mixed and the brother felt the same area was unsafe for him. Perhaps woman are sometimes perceived as less of a threat and are allowed wider access.
Young people were surveyed about their informal means of overcoming residential segregation: they were asked where is a space where the two sides can hang out together. They identified some.
There are boyfriend and girlfriend relationships across the interfaces. A lot of the young people see no problem with that, but young guys from one side do not accept young guys from the other side.
There can be mixing in small groups of friends, but all it takes is one intolerant young person to bring up the old sectarianism.
What happens if there is intermarriage?
There was an area where mixed marriage people tended to live in Belfast. But couples of mixed marriages are spreading out. Protestants find it easier to live in predominantly Catholic areas, but not so much the reverse.
The Catholic Church used to insist the children needed to be raised as Catholic, which created problems in mixed marriages.
Recreational rioting, which is the hurling of insults, stones, or involves more direct violence, does occur now, perhaps augmented by texting between cellular phones. The Americans wondered is it a very common event coming from the young people who have nothing better to do? Or is it uncommon and organized by criminal elements?
The Belfast residents perceive a lack of legal ways for young people to get an adrenalin rush without rioting. The kids report getting a “buzz” from it. Recreational rioting can start small and almost innocuous but the sides can be drawn in and it can escalate to be very large.
Although having any recreational riots is undesirable, the number of riots has gone down since 2005 and 2006. Community worker influence has helped the reduction. Things have improved.
Most now assume the Troubles started in 1963, but one of the American leaders had a relative with photos of Orangemen marching in 1953 and rocks being thrown at them. Parade controversies have gone back as far as the 1820s. So although most observers at the time were surprised at the severity and number of deaths in the period of the troubles, violence surrounding parading has been around for a long time.
The Americans wondered if there are regulations preventing public assembly? Parade permits are issued by Parade Commission after review of an application made at least 28 days in advance, although the Parade Commission is being phased out. Since everyone hated the Parade Commission, that is both sides hated it, then the Parade Commission was probably managing the disputes correctly. If one side had liked them, then the Parade Commission would have been partial to one side. The Parade Commission will be replaced by a panel with a first minister on it.
There have been 4,000 applications for parades in Northern Ireland per year. Only about 30 of those were contentious. It is not like every parade is opposed by some group other than the organizers. A place in County of Donegal, not in Northern Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland, has about 3,000 Orangemen in a parade every year, with a Gardai presence, and without any trouble. Apprentice boys and bog side residents keep the controversies down.
Parades are not necessarily deemed to be acceptable on old routes when demographic distributions have changed.
A question was asked: Are the Northern Irish only managing the conflict or are they tackling the root issues that support and maintain the conflict.
Looking at the glass as half full, sharing of space between the communities is happening more than ever before: workplaces, and shopping are largely integrated. Legislation is stringently requiring workplaces over ten employees to not be segregated, although schools are exempt.
In the spirit of tackling the root of the issues which cause violence, the Forthspring Group is applying for a parade permit to celebrate peace and reconciliation on July 27th to coincide with their celebration at their Community Center. This type of parade should support people's transformation.