It seems that there is an element within Irish nationalism that is offended by everything the Loyalist/Unionist community does. They’re offended by parades, offended by bonfires, offended by certain historical facts, offended by the names of a small number of bands, offended by the sight of Orange men walking to Church, offended by flags, offended by red-white-and-blue bunting, offended by almost everything.
Where did all this ill-feeling come from? Why all the intolerance? Well, let me start by saying that yes; there are some things that Loyalists and Unionists’ could do differently. Stop burning tricolours and Roman Catholic paraphernalia on 11th night bonfires? Yeah, I’d be open to that. Indeed, I would encourage it. Voluntarily rerouting a small number of so-called ‘contentious’ parades? Yes, I would support that too, but there has to be give and take on both sides.
PIRA/SF must take responsibility for their actions. It is the Provisional republican movement that has whipped the nationalist/republican community into a frenzy. It is PIRA/SF that carefully created yet another flashpoint at Carrick Hill. It is PIRA/SF that is insisting that their constituency has the god-given right to go through life without ever being upset or offended by anything or anyone. The Provos have institutionalised offence. Made it into something that it’s not. Causing offence is not a crime. It is certainly not a ‘hate crime ‘.
Change Comes From Within
No amount of lecturing, of haranguing, of carping, of constant hysterics will force Unionists/Loyalists to suddenly drop centuries old tradition and heritage. Loyalist youth will not be bribed, nor bullied, into drastic changes to their annual bonfires. The OO will not just decide to disband, however much republicans want them to. Change will only come from within. It can’t be dictated, it can’t be forced.
The really unfortunate thing is that the more Irish nationalists stamp their feet and cry about being “offended”, the more Loyalists will simply dig their heels in. Indeed, as has been seen in some areas already, a generation of angry young Loyalists, sick of constant and over-the-top criticism, will actually go out of their way to offend nationalists and republicans. Sticking two fingers up to the world and deciding to carry on regardless.
If Irish nationalists were not so easily offended, if they were not seemingly bent on a campaign of cultural genocide, then a real dialogue could be opened up to address the genuine concerns of both sides of the community. For example; If nationalists are serious about being offended/intimidated by a small number of bands being named after Loyalist activists, then perhaps the nationalist/republican community could take onboard the U/L community’s concerns about the naming of GAA clubs, competitions and grounds after dead PIRA and INLA killers.
Like most other things in Northern Ireland, such things must be balanced and both sides must be treated with equal respect. But respect for U/L traditions and heritage is in very short supply among nationalists and republicans. Compromise is not in their vocabulary. I doubt if even half of these so-called “concerns” are genuine. It is cultural warfare. Not genuine concern. And as per usual, the more PIRA/SF and their fellow travellers kick and scream, the more stubborn and intransigent Loyalism will become. Community cohesion will be sacrificed for petty political gain. Once again, the whole of Ulster society will be caused to suffer for the sake of Irish nationalisms twisted games.