Some girl called Clare Maguire is going to big in the music scene, social shopping will be big news and people will be walking around with "Tablets" in 2011. In N Ireland however there are more important things to be thinking about.
Clare Maguire may turn into a household name like Lady Gaga but then again will she turn up to Mandela Hall with a tricolor? Afterall she has Irish roots but she's English. This leaves the nut-jobs in N Ireland with a dilemma - is she a hun or a taig? The knuckle dragging Loyalists who I witnessed in Dublin last week who trashed a pub and smashed car windows while getting pissed on their Buckie would no doubt have no time to listen to music by a fenian such as Maguire. They'd rather listen and sing classics such as the Billy Boys. But who could blame them they are proud of their No Surrender attitude whereas Maguire sings I Surrender. Not for the Loyalists then. Surely though Republicans would like her with songs such as Freedom and Break the Chains but no she's a Brit obviously.
The serious side to this is that sectarianism is still rife in N Ireland. There has not been enough done to bring communities together especially in urban Belfast and Derry. The alcohol fueled sectarian hatred steaming from men in Dublin last week was an eye opener. It's obvious sectarianism is still the main issue in N Ireland. Both sides are at it whether it be bottling a young pregnant Protestant in Derry or a Catholic beaten on a night out in Castlederg. There may well be relative peace now but sectarian hatreds have no doubt in my mind escalated since the Troubles. Each side blames the other for whatever grievances they experienced during the Troubles but it's not just bigots in the local social club who express these views. The political system in N Ireland is born out of sectarianism and the vast majority of men and women representing the people are undoubtedly sectarian at heart. I would be interested in seeing some recent research into the current nature of sectarianism in N Ireland. I can't imagine it's prevalence has subsided much in the past 10 years.
We have also witnessed several punishment shootings in West and North Belfast since the start of the year. During the conflict these areas were obviously under the control of the IRA. Since the GFA these areas have had little attention paid to them by politicians who would rather be hanging with the American President than doing the job in Westminster and obviously the police are too busy snorting coke, smoking a J or shoplifting/shooting shoplifters to give a damn. Therefore in steps Oglaigh na hEireann who I tip to be this years new Viagra for Republicans. If those boys bombing xtra-vision and shooting "criminals" doesn't get you hard you ain't a Republican! There has certainly been an increase in activity by OnH especially in North Belfast in recent months. They seem to be attempting to win support from Republicans in the area and to some degree they seem to be succeeding but they are playing a dangerous game.
OnH recently claimed responsibility for closing down a North Belfast Taxi firm as the owner was allegedly selling drugs. However the whole truth may well be that this new firm was taking business away from Taxi firms under Republican control and the drug dealing was a convenient excuse. Afterall, I'm sure OnH being so involved in the community will know who the dealers are in North Belfast (other than themselves of course). The worrying thing is that the void created when the IRA decommissioned has resulted in drug dealers and thieves having free reign in an area that is in no way policed effectively by the PSNI. The local community don't trust the police and the police certainly don't want to be walking the streets in West or North Belfast at night. Therefore the community welcomes actions by OnH to kneecap scumbags as the IRA had been doing for years but will they finally realise that when it comes to drugs OnH don't want rid of them, they simply want to regulate and make sure the "Republican cause" gets a cut. They may well be dealing with scum in the community who rob pensioners and threaten shop assistants with knifes however if they really wanted to help the Republican community they could win much more support by focusing their energies on actually tackling drugs rather than pretending to. However they won't be doing that because they need the money from drugs to fund their war... or bar tab... or drugs.
The rIRA and cIRA are up their necks in drugs, fuel, money laundering and armed robberies. It looks like OnH and the police are heading that way too. Maybe everyone will just end up too stoned to care about sectarianism, Republicanism, Loyalism or whatever and kick back and listen to some good music together... Clare Maguire?