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February 25, 2006
Oops ... Wrong Civil War. Pardon Me.

Sectarian violence broke out today, with crowds swept by religious and historical fervor clashing openly with each other and the overwhelmed security forces that attempted to separate them. Firebombs and hand-to-hand fighting occurred in front of one of the historical shrines of the city as an unprecedented level of dissension threatened to open up old wounds and begin an unravelling of civil accord.

Iraq, you say? Not quite:

Hundreds of republican demonstrators have clashed with riot police in central Dublin as they attempted to block a parade by the Loyalist Orange Order.

About a dozen fireworks, metal barricades, bottles and stones were thrown at Gardai as loyalist marchers gathered 100 yards away.

Dozens of extra Gardai in full riot gear were called in in a bid to quell the disturbances, and two Gardai sustained head injuries as fireworks exploded.

A line of about 40 riot police blocked the entrance to O'Connell Street as hundreds of youths pelted them with rocks, bottles and sticks. The officers slowly moved in in a bid to disperse the rioting crowds. ...

At the front of the GPO, the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising, rioters charged police and fought hand-to-hand battles with around 100 officers. Mounted police were also drafted in to prevent more protesters joining.

When our family visited Ireland in June-July 2001, we stayed a few days in Dublin, around the corner from the GPO and just off O'Connell Street. Of all the sites in the city, this post office -- which still functions as a post office to this day -- is probably the most revered shrine of Irish independence in Dublin. The bullet holes in the facade remain to this day as they did when police fired on Padraic Pearse and his doomed band of holdouts. The 1916 rebellion failed, as so many had before, but the brutal British reaction to this wartime insurrection fired up the Irish and eventually led to their independence a few years later.

History in Dublin is palpable; it's in the streets, in the buildings, and in the water.

The curious part of this story isn't so much the clash as the fact that it occurred in Dublin. The Republic has mostly avoided these sectarian demonstrations, leaving the politics of the Boyne to the factions in Northern Ireland, where that battle still has political relevancy after more than 300 years. Dublin itself, while steeped in history, is the most cosmopolitan of Irish cities, with a bustling trade and a diversity of population that would impress any visitor. Dubliners know their history but have usually placed it in the proper perspective, which leads me to believe that the provocation came from outsiders intent on scoring a few points in the media.

That also points me back to Iraq. Despite the best attempt so far by outside provocateurs, the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra has not resulted in a civil war. Iraqi bloggers such as Iraq the Model and Healing Iraq report that violence continues, but that the Sunnis have not risen up at all; they have not taken advantage of this supposed opening by launching their anticipated attack on the central government. Imams of both sects have called for a stop to the violence and unity in the face of foreign attacks by Zarqawi terrorists.

Civil war remains a distinct possibility, but it has not yet happened. It hasn't happened in Ireland or in Northern Ireland, despite the kind of hatreds that have existed for centuries in those places as well. Not all violence is war, and not all violence means defeat. Insurgents and provocateurs sometimes succeed in their aims, but it is still too early to declare them the victors in Iraq as it is in Dublin.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 25, 2006 8:25 AM

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