Month: June 2015

Resettlement of Former POWs

Just came across a very interesting study into the resettlement of former POWs. Well worth reading- Community Activism and Prisoner Resettlement

I think this well constructed academic study will dispell a few popular misconceptions about ex-prisoners, especially Loyalist ex-prisoners. Hopefully you, dear reader, will find it both interesting and enlightening!

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Bonfires

Does Size Matter?

As we fast approach the 12th of July, bonfires are being built in Loyalist communities across Northern Ireland. For many people bonfires are an enjoyable part of the annual July festivities, for others they are a scar on the landscape. Whatever your opinion though, bonfires are here to stay.  I have nothing against a good ‘bonny’, but, I will say that in my humble opinion, bonfires should be scaled back in size. Some of the bonfires that are built each year are truly gigantic, do they have to be so large?

I contend that they do not. After all, isn’t the point of them to replicate the signal fires lit across the high hills of Ulster to communicate the news that King William III had landed at Carrick? Those original fires were not massive edifices. I fully understand that in some areas, especially in the Greater Belfast area, having the biggest bonfire is a sort of badge of honour. There is obviously a lot of fierce competition. However, there are other factors which need to be urgently considered.

Some Eleventh Night bonfires are on a truly epic scale

Some Eleventh Night bonfires are on a truly epic scale

Safety First

Last “11th Night” I attended a bonfire in County Antrim. Whilst not by any means a record breaker the bonfire was still very large. Consisting almost entirely of wooden pallets, the fire was not very wide at the base but was quite tall. After it was lit it began to burn on only one side. A few minutes later and the inevitable happened- the bonfire collapsed and fell over. Fortunately nobody was hurt but I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before one of these really large bonfires costs someone their life. Shouldn’t the safety of the community, and especially the youth of the community, be paramount? Bonfires don’t have to be gargantuan.

Some Loyalist communities have switched from large, and quite frankly ugly, bonfires to the much smaller and neater beacons. These beacons are metal, usually wrought iron, cage like structures into which combustible bonfire type material is placed. They have a number of benefits: they are safer, easier to clean up afterwards, easier to light etc. I know that in some places pressure has been applied to community groups/representatives to make the switch from bonfire to beacon but that is a counterproductive tactic. Often communities simply dig their heels in and refuse to even consider a beacon. To bribe communities with the promise of funding for other things (children’s playparks etc) is downright reprehensible, though I know full well of several examples of such shady practice.

Flag Burning

I don’t condone the burning of flags on bonfires. On the field of battle, an enemies colours, once captured, are rarely desecrated let alone destroyed, the Irish tricolour is though, being routinely burned on 11th of July bonfires, just as Loyalist flags are burned on Irish nationalist/republican bonfires. I can understand the reasoning of the flag burners, even though I don’t agree with their views. For many Loyalists and Unionists the Irish tricolour is a flag that will forever be tainted by it’s association with many and various terrorist gangs. PIRA/SF, RIRA, IPLO, CIRA, OIRA, INLA/IRSP, have all used (or continue to use) the tricolour as their emblem. If you ask the young bonfire builders what the Irish tricolour represents, many of them will tell you that it is the flag of “the IRA”, arguably they would not be incorrect in such an assertion.

It's not just Loyalists that burn flags on bonfires as vividly demonstrated by this republican "anti-internment" bonfire

It’s not just Loyalists that burn flags on bonfires as vividly demonstrated by this republican “anti-internment” bonfire

Nationalist/republican flags will also continue to go up in flames every summer whilst the Union flag and Ulster banner continue to be burned on republican bonfires. This is a sad indictment of Ulster society but unfortunately that is where we are at in terms of community relations. We live in a “zero sum” society. If one side of our divided community does something, the other side will do the same. “Yous burn our flag and we’ll burn yours”.

An Appeal to Common Sense

Whether or not you agree with me on the issue of bonfires, if you attend the Eleventh Night festivities please use your common sense and keep yourself and those around you safe. Too much alcohol is never a good idea at anytime, and especially not in the vicinity of a large open fire! Orange men and bandsmen should know not to indulge too much, after all, the 12th is a long day for those involved in the actual parade.

Keep dogs away from the bonfire. Never throw glass bottles etc into the fire. Keep a close eye on the youngsters and try to avoid getting your eyebrows singed off! What will I be doing? I’ll be tucked up in bed. Like I said, the 12th is a long day. I might not take an active part anymore but still, a good nights sleep is essential the night before Europe’s largest outdoor cultural festival.

Shinner-Bots: Stirring the pot in the name of Sinn Fein

 

What PIRA/SF don’t want you to know!

If you scroll through the comments section of many Northern Ireland news websites you’ll begin to notice something a bit odd. For every comment from a Unionist/Loyalist or political neutral, there will be at least twice as many from Irish nationalists/republicans. You can’t miss them. The condescending, self righteous tone. The smug sense of superiority. The hollow, disingenuous “humour”. These are their trademarks. But why are there so many Irish nationalist “cyber activists”? Where do they all come from?

The answer is very simple and thankfully many people are starting to catch on – PIRA/SF have many, many “volunteers” prepared to give up their time and energy to troll the internet, all singing from the same hymn sheet, all using the same verbose language, all seemingly sharing the same warped sense of humour. And the Provisional republican movement aren’t the only ones!

Not Nearly as Anonymous as They Think

There are other groups of anti-Loyalist bigots who engage in this sort of behavior. One such “collective” (who describe themselves as “satirists”) have well over 200 twitter accounts, 100+ Facebook accounts and dozens of other accounts on other social media platforms. These individuals, and in particular the three masterminds of this particular group, are under the illusion that they are totally anonymous, sadly for them, they couldn’t be more wrong!

Perhaps they believe their own toxic narrative, that all Loyalists are “stupid”, perhaps they themselves are the stupid ones. Either way, they are labouring under a false assumption. They would also do well to remember that what is posted online has a tendency to linger, remaining in the public domain, long after certain groups and “collectives” have dissolved into history. Nobody is ever really completely anonymous online and publicly “outing” people is a double edged sword!

Show Me The Money!

Not all of these pathetic trolls are “volunteers”. PIRA/SF have many paid activists. Extraordinary as it may seem, some of those activists are actually paid to troll the internet, leaving nasty barbed comments on anything remotely related to Loyalism/Unionism. Such is the desperation of a politically and militarily defeated movement.

It is laughable. These desperate, bitter, angry people are as far away from their political goals now as they were 30 years ago and so, rather than come up with some new, innovative approach, they resort to childlike, almost tragically comic tactics. Setting up bogus FB pages twitter “sock-puppet” accounts and fake email address after fake email address.

My advice to Loyalists: Don’t become embroiled in pointless online discussions with these “cybernats”. Ignore them or simply respond by calling them out as proxy accounts. Report any and all content on their FB pages or twitter accounts, whether or not it breaches those sites ‘ rules. Keep calm and let them rant away. They are the dregs of Ulster society, and deep down they know it.