Ulster Politics

PIRA/Sinn Fein: A Movement Without Morals (Part 6)

1980/81: Horror Upon Horror

As the 1970s drew to a close it was obvious to the leadership of the republican ‘movement’ that any military victory was impossible. They had promised their supporters much but delivered nothing. The Westminster government had, unconstitutionally,  prorogued Ulster’s parliament but that action was influenced by the undemocratic machinations of Heath’s Tory party, not by the storm of violence ad death unleashed by PIRA/SF. The Provos had promised that 1975 would be “the year of victory”, yet in reality, it was simply another 12 months of senseless barbarity.

The leadership of PIRA/SF had promised their deluded supporters that they could gain some kind of victory in a short space of time.

The leadership of PIRA/SF had promised their deluded supporters that they could gain some kind of military victory in a short space of time.

As 1980 dawned, few in Northern Ireland dared to hope that the 1980s would be any different to the decade just gone. It would though turn out to be somewhat different. Many people forget that for a period in the mid-Eighties, it looked as if terrorism in Ulster was being defeated. The number of PIRA/SF and INLA/IRSP attacks diminished and it seemed quite possible that the nightmare was, perhaps, drawing to a close. We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that it wasn’t. The nightmare would continue, and indeed get worse, before it was finally over. The violence picked up again in the latter years of the 80s, marked by some of the most savage acts ever chronicled in the annals of conflict. The 90s, contrary to popular (mis)belief, were much worse. Ulster was taken to the very brink of Civil War on at least a few occasions. Though tentative discussions about peace were already well under way, few in Ulster would have predicted (relative) peace before the end of 1994.

The first years of the 1980s saw PIRA/Sinn Fein carry out some truly heinous acts. The continued slaughter of innocent civilians, the indiscriminate bombing, the ethnic cleansing of Protestants in areas across Northern Ireland, the fire-bombings and the kneecappings. The continued use of weasel words and grandiose language, used by PIRA/Sinn Fein to try to defend the indefensible. Most people in Ulster, at least of those who had not used wealth to insulate themselves from the realities of war, would have described themselves as being fairly hardened to all the killing and destruction by the beginning of 1980, but few could have envisioned the horrors about to be perpetrated by Irish nationalist terror gangs. Few could have imagined the depths to which the Irish republican thugs would stoop.

By 1980, Ulster's conflict had been raging for over a decade.

By 1980, Ulster’s conflict had been raging for over a decade.

1980

The first months of the decade saw much terror and death in Northern Ireland. On the 17th of January, three civilians were murdered when PIRA/SF detonated a bomb aboard a packed Lisburn-Belfast commuter train. Those civilians, Mark Cochrane (17), Abayoni Max Olorenda (35) and Kevin Delaney (26), had no chance of escape. Yet again, the Provo murder gangs had deliberately chosen to visit mass slaughter on the civilian population. That republican apologists even attempt to deny PIRA/SF’s deliberate targeting of civilians is pushing credibility to it’s very limits. The facts speak for themselves. On the 14th of May, 1980, PIRA/Sinn Fein killed Roy Hamilton (22) in an overtly sectarian gun attack on a building site in the Ballymagroarty area of Londonderry. The construction workers on site were almost all Protestants, a fact soon learned by the local Provo death squad, who decided that they could not have such ‘Heretics’ in their midst. Two gunmen were dispatched to the site and as the Protestant workers sat down to their morning tea-break they were fired upon. Roy Hamilton, a young man who was just out to do an honest days work, was shot and killed. Three of his workmates were wounded. On the 15th of August, Ulster was stunned by a cold-blooded and senseless double murder. Two Protestant civilians, William Younger (87) and his daughter, Letitia Younger (57), were found murdered in their home in the Ligoniel area of North Belfast. They had been repeatedly stabbed before being shot. No group ever claimed responsibility for the vile double killing (unsurprisingly). There was some speculation, no doubt carefully crafted within the Irish nationalist community, that the deaths of William and Letitia Younger were not ‘Conflict related’. Quite frankly I think that is nonsense. There is evidence which points to this brutal act having been the work of PIRA/Sinn Fein. 

Provo 'Mad Bombers' often struck civilian targets.

Provo ‘Mad Bombers’ often struck civilian targets.

The day after the Youngers were brutally slain inside their home another civilian, Colette Meek (47) was murdered standing outside her own front door. Mrs Meek was standing in the driveway of her at home at Alliance Avenue in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast when a PIRA/SF gang opened fire on a nearby Police patrol. The Provo gunmen, clearly not the best of marksmen, shot and killed the mother of four “by accident”. No RUC Officers were wounded in the bungled attack which left Colette Meek’s children without a mother.

The IRA claimed responsibility. They said they were sorry and that she wasn’t their intended target. It makes me angry…I never got to know my mummy. I was deprived of her when I was growing up. She was the best in the world; she was my mummy.” – Mrs Meek’s daughter (from ‘Ardoyne – The Untold Truth’)

Abduction and Torture

On Sunday, the 31st of August, 1980, Wallace Allen (49), an RUC Reservist and farmer, was abducted by the Provisional IRA from the cab of the milk lorry he was driving, near Newtownhamilton, Co. Armagh. His mortal remains were found nearby on the 12th of September. He had been tortured before being shot in the head. What suffering the poor man must have known in those 12 days PIRA/SF kept him captive. What agonies must have been inflicted on him?. This was the Provo’s ethnic cleansing of Protestants in Border areas in brutal action. Wallace Allen was given as gruesome and as violent a death as possible, to serve as a warning to other Protestants in the area (the few who had dared remain). The Provo’s message was as simple as it was chilling- “Get out or this will happen to you or one of your family”. PIRA apologists will shriek that Wallace Allen was murdered because he was a member of the RUC Reserve, but that is not the real reason he was killed. He was killed because he was a ‘stubborn Prod’ who not leave the place he called home. He was tortured for almost a fortnight before being killed as a warning to other Protestants in South Armagh.

Not content with abducting, torturing and murdering one Protestant in the area, the Provo psychopaths decided to slake their thirst for blood by abducting, torturing and murdering another Protestant man. This time their victim was Ross Hearst (56). On evening of the 4th of September, Mr Hearst had been visiting friend across the Border in Co. Monaghan in the Irish Republic when he was kidnapped by a PIRA/SF murder gang (almost certainly acting in collusion with local members of An Garda Síochána). His body was found several hours later, at Wards Cross near Middletown in South Armagh. Like Wallace Allen, he had been tortured before being shot in the head. Thankfully the duration of his suffering was much shorter than that of Wallace Allen.

Wallace Allen. Abducted, held prisoner and finally murdered by a Provo killer gang.

Wallace Allen. Abducted, held prisoner and finally murdered by a Provo killer gang.

At the start of December, the Provos murdered another housewife. This time their victim was Heather Pollock (53), from Strabane, who was struck by gunfire in her own home after yet another botched PIRA/Sinn Fein gun attack on the RUC. A mobile patrol had been passing through the area when a Provo sniper opened up on them. Rather than hitting his intended target though, the incompetent republican thug shot and fatally wounded Heather Pollock. She died in hospital two days after Christmas. Sinn Fein made a stomach churning statement, absolving their terrorist wing of responsibility and spewing out the usual garbage about “intended targets” and how Mrs Pollock’s murder was a “mistake”.

1981

On New Year’s Day, 1981, the Provos tried their old trick of making someone ‘disappear’. Their unfortunate victim was Eugene Simons (27), from Castlewellan, Co. Down. He was never officially listed as one of ‘The Disappeared’ because, purely by chance, his body was found in a desolate bog, near Knockbridge, Co. Louth, in the Irish Republic, in May, 1984. Eugene Simons had lain in an unmarked, shallow grave for over three years. His callous killers hadn’t even the basic human decency to allow his family to give him a proper burial. Why PIRA/Sinn Fein murdered Mr Simons is not known. Perhaps he was a suspected informer. Perhaps he once had a conversation with a soldier. It is more likely though that he was killed (‘disappeared’) because he had insulted or disrespected some local Provo godfather. PIRA/SF, like the Mafia, don’t like to be shown up as the petty thugs and bully boys that they really are!

Eugene Simons, 'Disappeared' by the Provos. Thankfully his body was later found, although by accident.

Eugene Simons, ‘Disappeared’ by the Provos. Thankfully his body was later found, although by accident.

On Wednesday, the 21st of January, 1981, the Provos once again shocked the civilised world with their barbarism and cruelty. That night an armed gang of ten Irish nationalist terrorists crossed the Border, hijacked two vehicles and went to Tynan Abbey, the isolated mansion home of Sir Norman Stronge (86) and his son James Stronge (48), located near Middletown in South Armagh. The Provo gang murdered the two men. Shooting them dead in their own home. They then bombed the historic building before making their escape. Following the brutal double murder, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility, stating that it was a reprisal for recent attacks by Loyalists on republican activists (so much for PIRA/SF not reacting to Loyalist violence!). Over the previous six weeks, four leading Irish republicans had been killed by the UFF. Just a few days earlier, embittered Irish nationalist militant Bernadette McAliskey and her husband, a senior member of PIRA, had been badly wounded. It seems that PIRA/SF felt that murdering an 86 year old man and his son would somehow ‘even the score’ with the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who were targeting and killing the republican leadership, seemingly at will.

The Murder of Joanne Mathers

Joanne Mathers (pictured with her baby son), murdered by PIRA/Sinn Fein because she was a Protestant.

Joanne Mathers (pictured with her baby son), murdered by PIRA/Sinn Fein because she was a Protestant.

Few incidents from Ulster’s dark past provokes as much disgust, as much horror, as the sickening murder of Joanne Mathers, a young wife and mother, cruelly cut down in her prime. Joanne Mathers was just 29-years-old when on the 7th of April, 1981, a cowardly PIRA gunman shot her dead on the doorstep of a Gobnascale home whilst she chatted to the man who lived there. Mrs Mathers was the mother of a toddler and was collecting census forms when she was ruthlessly killed. As Mrs Mathers casually chatted to the householder, a masked man dashed forward, snatched the clipboard she was holding with one hand, placed a gun to her neck with his other hand and fired. Mrs Mathers cried out and ran past the householder into his home. The man, to his credit, slammed a glass panelled door in the hallway shut in an attempt to stop the killer following, but the fanatical gunman kept coming, smashed through the glass door and as Joanne Mathers lay dying on the ground, took the rest of the census forms. He then made his escape whilst brandishing the murder weapon in the air as a deterrent against anyone attempting to apprehend him. Sinn Fein had issued a laughable diktat that no-one in the Irish nationalist/republican community was to complete or return their census forms, in a “demonstration of love and support for the Hunger Strikers”, but if that was the excuse for the murder of Joanne Mathers, why murder the young woman collecting the forms? Why not, as PIRA/SF had done so many times before, simply ‘make an example’ of someone in their own community who they knew disobeyed them and filled in the census forms? The answer is patently obvious. Joanne Mathers was killed because she was a Protestant. Because of the republican organised boycott of the census, anyone out collecting census forms was almost guaranteed to have been a Protestant. Going against PIRA/Sinn Fein orders by filling out one’s census forms was one thing, openly defying them by taking a job collecting census forms was quite another, therefore, those going around the doors collecting the forms were bound to be from the Protestant community. Joanne Mathers was murdered because of her perceived religious affiliation.

Former RUC Special Branch agent Raymond Gilmour lays responsibility for Mrs Mather’s death squarely at the feet of Martin McGuinness. In a revised edition of his bestselling book ‘What Price The Truth’, Gilmour states:

“Nothing, and I mean nothing, happened in Derry without the say so and nod from Martin McGuinness. He was top of the pile. There was no one higher up the ladder than him. McGuinness was the power behind the throne in Derry. Everything had to be cleared through McGuinness first. So I can say with absolute certainty that McGuinness gave the order to kill Mrs Mathers.’’

Raymond Gilmour was in a position to know. Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, has much innocent blood on his hands, would any Loyalist be surprised to learn that he gave the order for a young wife and mother to be murdered? 

Did Martin McGuinness (circled) order the murder of Joanne Mathers?

Did Martin McGuinness (circled) order the murder of Joanne Mathers?

Desmond and Eric Guiney

On the 5th of May, 1981, PIRA gunman and firebomber, Bobby Sands, died in Long Kesh. Sands had been on hunger strike for 66 days. When news of Sands’ death broke, the Irish nationalist/republican community erupted (this is the same community who, it is claimed, never supported the Provisional IRA!). There was widespread rioting, disorder and destruction of property. Eric Guiney (45) a local milkman, and his son Desmond Guiney (14), both Protestant civilians, were driving along the New Lodge Road in North Belfast. When they got to the junction of the Antrim Road they came under sustained attack from Irish nationalist stone throwers. Eric Guiney had his window down and was struck on the head by one the missiles thrown by the baying republican mob. Their little milk lorry crashed into a lamp-post and Desmond went through the windscreen. When the ambulance and fire brigade arrived to help the injured man and his son, they too came under attack from the stone throwing thugs. Eric and Desmond were taken to the Mater Hospital, where both were sent immediately to the Intensive Care ward.

The aftermath of the vicious attack on Eric and Desmond Guiney.

The aftermath of the vicious attack on Eric and Desmond Guiney.

Desmond Guiney died of his injuries three days later. His mother was with him when he finally succumbed to his horrific injuries. His funeral was attended by thousands of people, including his traumatised school friends. Eric Guiney never regained consciousness after the crash and was not even aware of his son’s death. He died on the 13th of May. Many Irish republican sympathisers laud Bobby Sands as some sort of hero, but how many such people even know the names- Desmond and Eric Guiney? How many remember the ‘New Lodge Milkman’ and his young son, murdered by a republican mob enraged because one of their Provo poster-boys had starved himself to death in prison?

Sectarian Shootings

Throughout the rest of 1981, PIRA/Sinn Fein took many more lives. As more Hunger Strikers died the republican ‘movement’  became ever more enraged and blood thirsty. On the 21st of July, John Hazlett (43), a Protestant builder, was shot dead by a Provo murder gang as he renovated premises at Bank Square, Maghera, Co. Londonderry. On the 11th of August, another Protestant civilian, Charles Johnston (43), was shot by a PIRA/SF gunman, riding pillion on a motorcycle, in a ‘drive-by’ type killing in Belfast. On the 8th of November, 1981, Trevor Foster (17), was killed by a Provo booby-trap bomb outside his parent’s home in Co. Armagh. Two days later, Charles Neville (56), was murdered by a Provo gun gang as he left his workplace in Loughgall, Co. Armagh. The most high profile of this series of sectarian murders took place in Belfast on the 14th of November, when once again, the Provisional IRA would demonstrate their deep rooted hatred for anything and anyone Protestant, Loyalist or Unionist.

PIRA psychopaths often carried out random sectarian killings.

PIRA psychopaths often carried out random sectarian killings.

Rev Robert Bradford was a Methodist minister and UUP MP for South Belfast. He was conducting a constituency surgery in Finaghy, Belfast, when shortly before 11.30am on Saturday, November 14, 1981, three armed PIRA members carrying ladders and dressed in painters’ boilersuits arrived at the community centre at Benmore Drive, which Rev. Bradford was using to meet constituents and hear their concerns. At first their arrival did not arouse suspicion; there was ongoing work at the centre. One of the gang members, carrying a sub-machine-gun, took up position at the front door. One of his accomplices shouted “freeze” before opening fire on the caretaker, 29-year-old Kenneth Campbell, who was returning to the centre after a break at his nearby home. He died at the scene. While one of the nationalist terrorists pinned an RUC bodyguard to the ground at gunpoint, another gunman quickly turned to Reverend Bradford, the gunman coldly opened fire, shooting him in the eye, chest, neck and ear. The 40-year-old father-of-one died instantly. When Rev. Bradford and Mr Campbell were shot, children at a kids’ disco in the community centre witnessed the horrific murders. A 15-year-old DJ described how he threw a chair at one of the killers while shouting at other children to dive for cover.  “The gunmen pushed the children out of the way as they made their way out of the building,” he added. An 11-year-old told reporters afterwards: “They shot the Rev. Bradford about six times. We were quite close by. The shots were very loud.” Provo killer gangs care little for the fate of bystanders, even children.

The Rev. Bradford had become a Methodist minister when he was just 22, turning his back on a career as a professional footballer with Sheffield Wednesday FC. He joined the UUP when he served as a minister in the Loyalist enclave of Suffolk in West Belfast and was elected MP for South Belfast in 1974. He was an outspoken critic of PIRA/Sinn Fein and had demanded the reintroduction of hanging for terrorist killers. Rev. Bradford’s widow, Norah, was 33 at the time of the killing. They had one daughter, Claire. Speaking after the murder, she told reporters:

“They have tried several times at the advice centre. They came at least two times before and they were caught out watching the advice centre, but he would not give it up just for them. He knew it would be the most likely place for them to get him. He never feared he would be attacked. He felt it was a possibility. He did not fear it.”

The murder of a Methodist minister should be ample evidence of the deeply sectarian nature of PIRA/Sinn Fein. What would have happened I wonder, if at any point in ‘The Troubles’, Loyalists had killed a Roman Catholic priest? Even a priest like James Chesney, an active PIRA terrorist who had a hand in the 1972 Claudy bombing?. Or his un-named confederate, also a Catholic priest, also involved in the Claudy bombing, who fled to New York in fear of his life?. What reaction would there have been in such a hypothetical scenario? One can only imagine the furious uproar in the media, the hysterical hand wringing from certain, dubious, Unionists (so-called Unionists to be more accurate), the crocodile tears of the Irish nationalist/republican leadership. Rev. Roy Bradford was not a Roman Catholic priest though. He was ‘just an auld Prod’. Therefore, in the eyes of our controlled media, his life had little value. In the wake of his murder (and that of Kenneth Campbell), there wasn’t much handwringing from the Irish nationalist community. No calls for the killers to be cast out of their midst. One is left to speculate why?

Protestant clergyman and Unionist MP Rev. Roy Bradford, murdered by Roman Catholic extremists- PIRA/SF

Protestant clergyman and Unionist MP, Rev. Roy Bradford, murdered by Roman Catholic extremists- PIRA/SF

When Irish nationalists deny that PIRA/SF carried out overtly sectarian murders, or when they deny that “da RA” deliberately targeted civilians, they are vomiting out a carefully crafted lie. Not just a lie, but a snide, sneering, disgusting insult. An insult to hundreds of dead innocents. An insult to those who dared take a stand against the loathsome bigots of PIRA/Sinn Fein. This lie, is not repeated out of ignorance, even the most cursory glance at the historical record would be enough to acquaint anyone with the real facts of the matter, rather it is repeated because of pure, raw, visceral hatred. Sectarian hatred. When some republican bigot attempts to assert that the Provo death squads were non-sectarian, or that they did not set out to deliberately murder civilians, they are mocking you. They are insulting you. They may as well be spitting in your face, and they know it! You see, Irish nationalists don’t care how many innocent people died at the hands of PIRA/SF. In their heart of hearts they don’t give a damn. That some nationalists publicly condemn the actions of the Provos is merely a matter of expediency. Irish nationalism is incapable of reform. It is irredeemable. Just like Nazism, Stalinism or Ba’athism.

Don’t be fooled by the saccharin sweet smiles, the politically correct language or the sharp suits. PIRA/Sinn Fein have no remorse for the murder and mayhem they inflicted on this society for 30 years. In fact, far from being remorseful or showing any kind of contrition, they revel in their past misdeeds. They gloat about the number of Protestants their murder-machine cut down. They praise and adulate their ‘fallen comrades’, men like Thomas Begley, sectarian mass-murderer, sent out by Provo godfathers to kill and maim as many Shankill Road residents as possible. Sadly for them though, there are those of us on the Loyalist side who do not forget and who are not easily fooled (or bought!). We know our enemy. We remember their evil deeds. To quote the motto of a certain secret intelligence agency- “We Do Not Forgive. We Do Not Forget”

NEXT WEEK: PART 7

 

Advertisements

The Political Soul of Ulster Loyalism: Part Two

Epilogue

I am not going to go over old ground in the second part of this article. Part One is available for anyone who wishes to read it but hasn’t yet done so. In this, final, part of the article, I am going to examine how 30+ years of conflict changed Loyalism (and Loyalists). I will also address some other points I believe are pertinent to any thesis on Ulster Loyalism.

Loyalism: Forged in the Furnace of Conflict

The great philosopher Plato once said “necessity is the mother of invention”. Certainly in wartime, necessity can lead to all kinds of advances, in all sorts of disciplines. Humankind has proven itself adept at finding ever more efficient ways to kill, maim and destroy. But it is also worth noting that violent conflagration is often also a catalyst for political advancement. Hardened dogma seems to soften somewhat in the jaws of an especially deleterious military reverse. Ideologies seem to become less rigid when, after years of conflict, peace begins to look possible again. Of course, war can have exactly the opposite effect. Ideologies become even more entrenched. Specific issues become intractable. In such situations, the prospect of peace can become so remote that perpetual conflict actually begins to look, not just possible, but probable.

Fortunately for the people of Ulster, indeed for the people of the British Isles as a whole, ‘The Troubles’, as they are so euphemistically called, did not lead to a significant hardening of already fairly deeply entrenched positions. We (as a society) tend to forget the huge compromises that were involved in securing peace in this country. In fact it could be argued, and Irish republican dissidents would argue that, PIRA/Sinn Fein had to abandon some of the most fundamental principles of Irish republicanism, in order to get where they are today. Whether the Provisionals did this for selfish or altruistic motives, I will let you decide for yourselves. 

People also have a tendency to forget the role that Loyalism played in securing peace. Not just the work of the UDP and PUP in negotiating a settlement, but also the role of the UVF and Ulster Freedom Fighters in forcing violent Irish nationalism to the negotiating table in the first place. Would PIRA/Sinn Fein been willing to abandon ‘armed struggle’ in 1994 or 1998 had they not been thoroughly demoralised and fundamentally weakened by the Loyalist paramilitaries campaign of ‘selective assassination’ between 1988 and the declaration of the Loyalist ceasefire? In 1991 alone, Irish republican terrorist groups lost twelve of their personnel, killed by the UFF and UVF. By the mid-Nineties it had become all too apparent to (most) republicans that they could never hope to achieve any sort of military victory. ‘Armed struggle’ had become too costly, in terms of personnel, to continue for another 25 years. 

As the UFF and UVF intensified their campaign, PIRA/SF began to feel the strain of 25 years of killing.

As the UFF and UVF intensified their campaign, PIRA/SF began to feel the strain of 25 years of killing.

When the Conflict began in 1969/70, Ulster Loyalism was somewhat different than it is today. It was rather more unrefined. Perhaps even unsophisticated. Suddenly finding themselves in the midst of an intense conflict, verging on full blown civil war, Loyalists had to change their thinking, and their tactics. Necessity really did become the mother of invention. It was a very steep learning curve for all concerned. In my opinion, change within Loyalism was neither rapid enough, nor extensive enough. Too many young men and women within Loyalism seemed content to leave the political philosophising to a few individuals who seemed adept at it. Of course, in the middle of a bloody and bitter conflict, the priorities are somewhat different to what they would be in peacetime. In 1973, or 77, or even 91, Loyalism needed ‘triggermen’ and skilled bomb makers more than it needed fast talking politicos or articulate, well dressed spokesmen. The transition from making war to making peace was a difficult one, though no more difficult than the move from peace to war had been 25 years previously. Conflict had irrevocably altered Ulster Loyalism. It had strengthened it. ‘The Troubles’ forged Loyalism, moulding it into a stronger, more streamlined entity, but an entity that was also much more flexible. If Irish nationalist extremists had hoped that years of violence and bloodshed would destroy Loyalism, they were to be very, very badly disappointed.

The Role of ex-POWs Within Loyalism

Former POWs are the driving force of contemporary Loyalism. The men and women who felt motivated enough to take up arms in defence of their country and their community are today the men and women who form the backbone of many community projects, and also the backbone of the PUP and UPRG. They have learned, often from bitter personal experience, that change can only be facilitated when there is someone prepared to raise their head above the parapet and become a force for change. If you want to improve things for your family, your neighbours, your community, then action is required. A fact that ex-POWs know only too well.

The ‘Enemies of Ulster‘, in a desperate attempt to bestow legitimacy on their own ’cause’, seek to undermine the legitimacy of Loyalism by stereotyping (they’re rather fond of that) former Loyalist POWs. They insist that whilst Irish nationalist prisoners were “hitting the books“, Loyalist POWs were lifting weights and reading comics. Strange then that more Loyalists than republicans left Long Kesh (Armagh and Magilligan) with degrees and other 3rd level qualifications. These sheep like detractors also fail to explain what, according to them, Loyalist POWs were doing for the 20 odd years before gym equipment was available in Ulster’s prisons! They also conveniently overlook the fact that some of Loyalism’s most articulate, erudite and meditative representatives, people like Ray Smallwoods and David Ervine, received their political education in Long Kesh. Sometimes it is better simply to laugh at the intellectual impairment of certain Irish republicans and their ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ view of the world, sometimes though, it is worth taking the few minutes required to shoot down their venomous, deluded, historical revisionism.

Loyalist POWs at reveille in Long Kesh.

Loyalist POWs at reveille in Long Kesh.

Loyalist Adaptiveness 

Northern Ireland’s future will be radically different to that which we imagine. Society is changing rapidly. Technology is changing and advancing at a rate that is barely comprehensible. In the next ten to twenty years, the world will face challenges that we cannot comprehend. Nations, societies and communities will continue to evolve and change. Political and religious doctrines will also have to evolve, or die. Loyalism needs to be able to adapt and evolve, to meet the challenges of the future. Ulster Loyalism cannot allow itself to become a single issue ideology. 

Thankfully, in the past, Loyalism has demonstrated amazing adaptiveness and willingness to change. Loyalists, in general, have always been a pragmatic lot. We will probably need that trait more and more in the next few decades. As nationalism (worldwide) begins to fade and die, or change into something unrecognisable, there will be those who react violently. When it finally hits home that technological and societal advances are making nationalist doctrines obsolete, there will be those who wish to reverse the tide, so to speak. No doubt they will employ violence to try to achieve that end. Loyalism must learn from the mistakes of others. We must watch what unfolds very carefully. Irish nationalism will not “go quietly into the night”. Personally, I think that Irish nationalism/republicanism will adapt also. Morphing into some form of ‘Diet Nationalism’, a sort of ‘Nationalism Lite’. We Loyalists need to watch what way the wind is blowing, we need to look ahead, not 5 or 10 years but 25 or 50. As the world around us changes we must be careful not to let anyone pull the rug from under us!

Loyalism as an Export?

Can Loyalism be exported internationally? I would say yes, absolutely. Ulster Loyalism, as a political ideology, is hugely positive. The sense of patriotism, not based upon ethnic or racial make up, but rather on a sense of commonality. The emphasis on community action and self reliance. The core value of civil and religious liberty for all. What would preclude anyone, in any country, from subscribing to such principles? Of course, any theoretical Loyalist movement outside of the British Isles would have it’s own uniqueness, it’s own peculiarities. But I can see nothing which would preclude Loyalism from being exported abroad. Many people view Ulster Loyalism as a sort of a default position, or simply as a way of describing the working class element of Unionism. That is hokum. Loyalism is a political theorem, an ideology. One which is growing and evolving everyday. Loyalism, in terms of definitions, is no different to any other ‘ism’. 

Certain ‘ism’s are internationalist at their core. Anarchism, Marxism and Trotskyism for example. Others have a more ethnocentric foundation. Ba’athism, for example, in Syria and (formerly) Iraq. Others (Conservatism, Liberalism etc) are international without being internationalist. That is, they are found in many nations but are, in and of themselves, not internationalist in outlook. There is no reason whatsoever why Loyalism would not fall into that category. Less insular than nationalism, less self serving than Conservatism, less impractical than Marxism, Loyalism could provide an interesting political alternative in many countries where politics have become stale and the electorate disinterested and apathetical.

What We Have, We Hold!

In the first part of this article I described how Loyalism needed only to maintain the status quo in order to have ‘won’. It could be argued that the Loyalist people’s greatest victory came with the establishment of the State of Northern Ireland in 1921. To ensure that that state was not destroyed by force of arms, Loyalists (and Unionists) sacrificed life and liberty, safety and comfort. Many have died, been injured, been forever altered, to ensure the continued freedom and equal citizenship of our children and our children’s children. We, as Ulster Loyalists, will continue to maintain our “cherished position” within the British Family of Nations. We, as Ulster Loyalists, will continue to pledge ourselves to defend our native land. We should look forward to the future with confidence. We should redouble our efforts to improve our communities. We must never forget our past, but neither should we allow ourselves to be held prisoner by it.

The “Constitutional Issue” has been decided for a generation. Ulster’s position within the Union is secure. Now we must strive to ensure that Irish nationalism does not succeed in creating a form of cultural Apartheid in Northern Ireland. We must win the cultural war, not with violence, not with the tactics of the past, but with new stratagems and new tactics. We have allowed Irish nationalism to choose the battlefield, that was a grave error. We must now seek to outflank them. To do the unexpected. If we are unsuccessful, if we lose this cultural war, PIRA/Sinn Fein will embark on a campaign of cultural genocide. They will erase anything they deem ‘un-Irish’ from the cultural landscape of Ulster. If such a cultural genocide were to succeed, physical genocide would not be far behind. I would not be surprised if the chilling words of Nazi mass murderer, Adolf Eichmann, were not displayed somewhere in Sinn Fein HQ- “To destroy a people, you must first destroy their past”. That quote seems to describe the Irish republican ethos rather well, and of course, we all know who Sinn Fein and the IRA sided with during World War II.

Sinn Fein would like the world to forget their support of Hitler and the Nazis!

Sinn Fein would like the world to forget their support of Hitler and the Nazis!

You Refuse To Hear Our Voice

The poisonous Ulster media. The Parades Commission. The PSNI. The Stormont Executive. The UK government. You refuse to hear our voice. You have excluded us, you have pushed us down, you have left us to rot in some of the worst social deprivation in Western Europe. You have denied us our very culture, language and traditions. You, who should be impartial, who should be balanced and fair. You have slandered us, defamed us and condemned us. You have treated us as if we were less than human, but we will not just wither and die. We exist. We have the same rights and liberties as every other freeborn human being and we intend to start exercising them. You will not keep us down. You will not deny us. You will be made answerable for your actions. 

The Loyalist people of Ulster have endured worse than you. Whatever your agenda, whatever your motivation, you will not succeed in destroying us. No-warning bombs did not destroy us. Republican bullets did not destroy us. Bloody Friday did not destroy us. We are a resolute and determined people. A people bristling with indignation at the injustices and inequities perpetrated against us. You have sown the wind, now you will reap the whirlwind. Loyalism is resurgent. You refuse to hear our voice, we will find a louder voice, if you still refuse to hear, we will find another way to be heard!

The People Are Our Greatest Resource

Loyalism relies on the support of the people. Even if some choose not to engage in political or cultural activity themselves, their support is still invaluable. As the great Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap once said “We [the Viet Cong and NVA] are like fish and the people are the waters in which we swim”. Loyalism is also motivated by the people. It is a populist ideology. We must win more recruits for our cause, convince more and more people to take a stand for liberty and equality. We must renew our resolve and step forward, unblinking, into the uncertain future. We should do so as one. Shoulder to shoulder. United as a single mass of ordinary people, determined to change our country and our communities for the better.

“Not Gold But Only Men Can Make, a Nation Great & Strong, Men Who, For Truth & Honour’s Sake, Stand Fast & Suffer Long. Men Who Work Whilst Others Sleep, Who Dare When Others Shy, They Build a Nation’s Pillars Deep & Lift Them Towards The Sky”

 

 

The Political Soul of Ulster Loyalism: Part One

What is Loyalism?

Ulster Loyalism is most simply defined as being, loyalty to Ulster. Not loyalty to the institution of monarchy, not loyalty to any government or party, not loyalty to England, but loyalty to Ulster. Having Ulster’s best interests at heart and working to ensure that Ulster, as an entity, both literal and abstract, is not harmed or destroyed, and the willingness to use any and all means to prevent any such possible harm or destruction. It can also be described as loyalty to one’s community. Of course, there are those who would vehemently disagree with my definition of what Loyalism is, they will insist that Loyalism means loyalty to the British Crown and constitution, as revised after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-90. Or that Loyalism is merely a misplaced sense of loyalty to the British state. That is their prerogative. I have self-identified as being a Loyalist since I was in my early teens. In the years since I have examined and re-examined the defining characteristics of Ulster Loyalism. I have had many, many conversations with others about what they believe Loyalism means, about what it means to them to be a Loyalist. I have studied the history of my country and the history of Loyalism. I live and work within a predominantly Loyalist community. Those who know me personally, know my ‘credentials’. Forgive my arrogance but I am of the firm belief that those best qualified to define Loyalism, are Loyalists themselves.

That the very definition of Loyalism is a matter of debate says much about the Loyalist community. We are a ‘broad church’, welcoming of dissenting voices. Often divided on specific issues and seemingly content to tear each other to shreds over those issues. But all Loyalists (and indeed the vast majority of Unionists) share a sense of common purpose. From the upper echelons of mainstream political Unionism, to the ordinary woman or man on the street, from the Loyalist/Unionist ‘moderates’ to the former POWs, all have one thing in common. The sincerely held belief that Ulster should never enter into any form of political union, or be annexed by, the Irish Republic.  Beyond that point though, Loyalism begins to diverge from Unionism, at least in terms of terminology. There are many Unionists (I use the term here to denote those who would self-identify as Unionists but not as Loyalists) who hold the view that this country, the land of their forebears, is not worth the shedding of even a single drop of blood. To many no doubt, this would be an admirable quality, from my point of view however, it is a naïve rejection of the political and intercommunal  realities of life in Northern Ireland. Anyone who describes themselves as a Loyalist should, as a point of principle, defend the right of any (and every) free people to resist, by force of arms if necessary, that which they cannot tolerate politically.

Are Loyalism and Unionism the Same?

Not all Unionists are Loyalist. Not all Loyalists are Unionist. Many self-styled Unionists disagree fundamentally with some of the core principles of Loyalism. Some Loyalists lean more towards Ulster nationalism than support for the Union. Indeed, there are many Loyalists, myself included, who support the Union only for as long as the Union is beneficial to Ulster. For me, one of the central tenets of Loyalism is the principle of self-determination. Historically the Ulster people have exercised that inalienable right, choosing to remain within the British family of nations. There is, however, nothing which precludes Ulster from exercising her right to self-determination and choosing independence, in some form or other. If, for example, some future Westminster government was to display more than the usual level of obsequiousness towards Irish nationalism and declare that Ulster would cease to be part of the United Kingdom from such-and-such a date, some form of independence would be Loyalism’s only viable option, at least in the short to medium term.

Not all Unionists are Loyalists but most Loyalists are Unionists.

Not all Unionists are Loyalists but most Loyalists are Unionists.

The media and others used to use the terms ‘Unionist’ and ‘Loyalist’ interchangeably. Today they do not. Is this a recognition of the clear distinctions between the two, or perhaps merely a ploy to aid in their further demonization of Loyalists? I am prepared to, grudgingly, give the media the benefit of the doubt and say it is the former rather than the latter. The issue of Loyalist identity is an extremely complex one. It would be perfectly acceptable for one to proclaim that all Irish republicans are also Irish nationalist, but that not all Irish nationalists are republicans. One could also state that, for example, all members of the Tea Party in the United States are conservatives, but not all American conservatives are Tea-baggers. The same idiom cannot be employed when discussing Loyalism and Unionism. Although one could perhaps get away with using the phrase “most Loyalists are Unionists but only some Unionists are Loyalists”. That may well be as close as we can get to a succinct summation of the relationship between the two.

Aside from the pragmatic view that many Loyalists have of the Union, there is one other important issue where Loyalists and Unionists differ significantly. The issue of armed resistance.  As I have  already said, there are some within Unionism who are completely pacifistic. There are many more who seem to have no problem with armed counter measures, but only if and when such counter measures are undertaken by the forces of the state. For them the idea of citizen soldiers engaging in clandestine warfare is anathema. Yet a century ago even ‘Big House’ Unionists were prepared to engage militarily to defeat the 3rd Home Rule Bill, or at the very least, to ensure Ulster’s exclusion from any quasi-independent state arising out of it. It is bordering on the hypocritical for some Unionists to commemorate the use (and threatened use) of armed resistance 100 years ago, and yet totally condemn it in the context of the more recent conflict.

The People’s Right to Defend Themselves

Loyalism, in both principle and in practice, has always asserted the right of the Ulster people to defend themselves. In April, 1689, the representative of government in Londonderry, Governor  Robert Lundy, attempted to surrender the city to the forces of King James II. The people of the city, no doubt inspired by the Apprentice Boy’s shutting of the gates the previous December, paid no heed to Lundy’s orders and, under the leadership of Col. Adam Murray, began a fierce attack on King James’ besieging army. Technically, the citizens of Londonderry were, in disobeying Lundy’s orders, acting illegally. They were however, morally justified. If they had not resorted to armed resistance, King James’ army of French and Irish cut-throats would have entered the city and slaughtered the inhabitants. It would have been an extermination.

Loyalists have an inalienable right to defend themselves and their communities.

Loyalists have an inalienable right to defend themselves and their communities.

In the early 1970s many Loyalists felt that they too were facing extermination. The Provisional and Official IRA were detonating no-warning bombs all over Ulster. Outside pubs, shops, offices and restaurants. In town centres and outside police stations (often in built-up residential areas). Meanwhile, Irish nationalist death squads roamed the streets looking for potential victims and IRA snipers (both ‘Pinhead’ and ‘Sticky’) created panic in the terraced streets of Belfast and Londonderry. The ‘authorities’ seemed powerless. The Army seemed either unable or unwilling to fully engage the republican gunmen and bombers. With little or no other option, the Loyalist people once again had to rely on themselves. To arm and organise themselves as best they could and begin to fight back. The Ulster-Scots, as a people, had an undeniable right to self-defence. A right to armed resistance. I will never, ever, condemn any Loyalist who took the momentous decision to disregard their own safety and take up arms in defence of their country and their community. In fact, I would commend anyone who took that decision. In the face of a ruthless, barbaric, genocidal enemy, armed resistance is a necessity. Indeed, in such circumstances, armed resistance should be regarded as a moral obligation.

We Oppose Only One Thing

Those who make it their life’s work to attack Ulster Loyalism often say that: loyalists know what they are against, but they don’t necessarily know what they are for” I fundamentally disagree. Loyalists know exactly what we are for. We are for full and equal citizenship. We are for civil and religious liberty for all. We are for integrated, secular education. We are for an end to discrimination in education, housing and employment. We are for a better standard of living for all the people of Northern Ireland. We are for an end to the cultural Apartheid that has seen one community lay claim to certain areas (in some cases whole towns and villages) to the exclusion of all others. We are for an end to Irish nationalist/republican terrorism. We are for normality, peace and conflict resolution. We are for justice. For peace with honour  (not peace at any price). For an accurate and truthful account of our country’s recent past. For our children and our children’s children. We oppose only one thing. We oppose the childish, reductionist, arrogant idea that our country ought to be politically, economically and culturally unified with the other country with whom we share this island.

At it’s very core, that is the only thing that Ulster Loyalism opposes, as an ideology. We will oppose this or that, in the course of normal daily political life, but fundamentally, ideologically, we oppose only that one nefarious notion. Loyalism does not have to work to change the status quo. Loyalism won when we achieved separate status for Ulster in 1921. The vast majority of Loyalists (those who, at least tacitly, support the Union) have what we desire. We are not working towards the fulfilment of a pipedream. We are not trying to subvert and overthrow the state. At times I think that it is to our detriment. Perhaps the Loyalist community would have more cohesion, more purpose, if we were working to achieve some romanticised ideal, rather than simply working to maintain what we already have. I shouldn’t covet the attributes of other communities though. For we, as Loyalists have different, but equally advantageous attributes. Our sense of self-reliance. Our indefatigability. The very fact that we, the Loyalist people, are not a single, homogenous, tightly controlled group, which is far more of a strength than a weakness. Something we should perhaps, be quicker to recognise.

Is Loyalism Reactionary?

For Irish nationalists this is almost a rhetorical question. “Of course loyalism is reactionary” they’ll say. “After all, loyalist violence was a reaction to the republican armed struggle”. For Irish nationalists and republicans this is one of those unquestioned truisms that their political doctrine clings to like a drowning rat. It is also one of the politically immature responses which makes one further question the ‘merits’ of a segregated/sectarian education system. For just because Loyalist violence was, some of the time at least, a reaction to republican violence, does not prove that Loyalism, as an ideology, is reactionary. On the contrary, throughout the conflict now known as ‘The Troubles’, it was Ulster Loyalism that provided the only real political innovation. As far back as the mid-seventies, David Trimble, then of the Ulster Vanguard movement, was writing eloquent and scholarly articles and theses on how the Conflict might be brought to a close. In the 1980s, the UDA, through their political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party, produced ‘Common Sense’, a document at least a decade ahead of its time. ‘Common Sense’ was itself the successor to that organisation’s earlier thesis, ‘Beyond The Religious Divide’. The Progressive Unionist Party had also contributed much to the debate about how Ulster might move beyond conflict, sectarianism, social exclusion and ‘zero sum politics’.

'Common Sense': A visionary  and innovative document that Irish nationalism had no answer to.

‘Common Sense’: A visionary and innovative document that Irish nationalism had no answer to.

Any objective observer may well conclude that, in response to such Loyalist thinking (for instance- ‘Common Sense’), Irish nationalists and republicans seemed unable to even garner an articulate response. Absolutely unable to come to any new conclusions themselves, or even re-examine their own ‘sacred beliefs’, Irish nationalism could do only what it knew how to do best- reject any innovation. The accusation that Loyalism is reactionary is, in light of the evidence, not only patently untrue, but also absurd. When the UDA produced ‘Beyond The Religious Divide’ and later, ‘Common Sense’, Irish nationalists were forced to react, but were unable to do anything more meaningful than sit in the corner, their fingers in their ears, whistling ‘A Soldiers Song’. When the armed wing of Loyalism escalated it’s military campaign, from about 1989 onwards, PIRA/SF, INLA/IRSP and the IPLO were forced to react. When the CLMC talked of “abject and true remorse”, for the killing of innocent people during the Conflict, Irish nationalism/republicanism was again forced to react, their reaction was a deafening silence! 

Loyalism is NOT reactionary or motivated by antagonism towards others.

Loyalism is NOT reactionary or motivated by antagonism towards others.

Loyalism as a Catalyst for Social Change

Arguably, working class Loyalist communities are the most tightly knit of any communities in the British Isles, with the possible exception of the Traveller Community. Close bonds were forged during the long, weary years of bitter, internecine conflict. In the last few years, with the increasing demonisation of working class Loyalists, those bonds have become stronger still. We, as Loyalists, know what community means, what it is. Loyalists have always had a deep, indeed profound, social conscience. It is that social conscience, and that feeling of being a part of something greater than the individual, that inspired many Loyalists to become politically, and/or militarily, active in the first place. Loyalism is primarily a working class, community based, ideology. Can Loyalism therefore act as a catalyst for social change? The answer seems obvious to me. Yes, of course it can. Loyalist communities the width and breadth of Northern Ireland face numerous complex social issues. Poverty, lack of social housing, educational under achievement, social exclusion, drug abuse etc etc. Loyalist communities are though, I believe, uniquely equipped to deal with such challenges. Loyalist marching bands and Lambeg drumming clubs are not only overt expressions of culture, they are also a fantastic way to occupy young people, to keep them from loitering on street corners or engaging in antisocial activity, encouraging them to be more physically active and expanding their minds through music. Loyalist communities also have other unique aspects which can be utilised for the benefit of the whole community. Orange Halls can be used for a multitude of purposes beyond that for which they were originally intended- crèches, slimming clubs, evening classes, community meetings, cultural events etc etc.

Loyalism is already a catalyst for social change.

Loyalism is already a catalyst for social change.

Not only can Loyalism can be a catalyst for social change, I would contend that it already is! In the future, the role of Loyalism in social change will only expand. The recent resurgence of the Progressive Unionist Party is a clear illustration that many within the Loyalist working class are sick and tired of the right-wing, economically conservative, socially inactive parties in the Unionist ‘mainstream’. ‘Joe Public’ has had a belly full of the vague and diffuse promises of the DUP. Most ordinary people in places like Rathcoole, Ballykeel, Ballysally or Tigers Bay, can see with their own eyes who the politically and socially active people in their neighbourhoods are. They’re not the property speculators and businessmen of the DUP. They’re the former combatants, the ex-POWs and the activists of the PUP and UPRG. People who have a vested interest in seeing improvement in those communities because they live in those places too. Loyalism has always been socially aware, today however, Loyalists are fast learning how to get things done, how the ‘system’ works and what needs to happen for Loyalist communities to get their fair share. Loyalists have always striven to fix the problems in our communities, now though, we have the tools at our disposal to do the job right. 

Loyalism and Feminism

One of the core principles of Loyalism is civil and religious liberty for all! So to exclude women from any aspect of political, social or cultural life would be an absurdity. Any man who calls himself a Loyalist needs to recognise the vitally important role women have played in the Conflict. I can think of no greater example of courage than those women POWs incarcerated in Armagh gaol, outnumbered by their enemies but never outfought! Enduring all manner of hardship and indignity but never allowing themselves to be broken. All men need to also recognise that gender equality is a necessity in any democratic, free and egalitarian society. As a man, I feel slightly uncomfortable speaking on behalf of women, after all, women need to be able to speak for themselves. We men though have a role in providing an environment within which women and girls feel confident enough to express themselves  freely

If civil and religious liberty for all is not just rhetoric, then it must be our guiding principle as we go about our daily lives. We must think before we speak, before we act. The task of transforming communities and attitudes is an arduous one. Loyalism is not a part-time political philosophy, it is an ideology which can be applied to almost every aspect of our lives. That includes our relationship with the opposite sex. I would like to believe that working class Loyalist communities have never been especially patriarchal, but then again, I’m a man, my experience and the experience of my mother, sister, aunt, daughter etc are no doubt very, very different. I do know one thing though, as an Ulster Loyalist I have a great desire to see equality and fairness in all aspects of society and in every community!

Loyalism and Intellectualism

If one assumes that ideology is, in general, a mask for self-interest (whether personal, national, ethnic or religious), then it is a natural presumption that intellectuals, in interpreting history or formulating policy, will tend to adopt an elitist position, condemning political mass movements such as Ulster Loyalism. Throughout the years of conflict, Pseudo-liberal intellectuals have often dismissed Loyalism as if it were an irrelevant nuisance, if they bothered to offer comment on Loyalism at all. The self-appointed ‘intellectual elite‘ have come in for almost constant criticism from elements of Loyalism, but there is no real reason for such antagonism between intellectualism and Loyalism. Unlike Irish nationalism, with it’s over simplification of historical issues and it’s obsessive mysticism, Loyalism is rational, pragmatic and stoical. As an ideology, Loyalism has it’s basis firmly in the real world. Whereas other ideologies, Irish and Scottish nationalism for example, are an appeal to the heart, Ulster Loyalism is an appeal to both the heart and head.

Perhaps it is because of the ingrained, phoney Leftist agenda prevalent in most British university faculties, perhaps is it because intellectuals view Loyalism as being inextricably linked to violent street protest, paramilitary activity and counter insurgency, but whatever the reason, many intellectuals see Loyalism as anathema. Certainly there are some within ‘intellectualism‘ who are, at least, closet Loyalists, but there are many others who have decided, for whatever reason, that they must attack Loyalism at any given opportunity. It is imperative that Loyalists challenge the perceptions of the intellectual class. Loyalism, as an ideology, does not have to make itself answerable to anyone, but it should seek to redress the misconceptions of certain sections of society, especially those sections of society that have no automatic reason to harbour any antipathy towards it. 

To determine the nature of man, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau proceeds to compare man and animal . Man is “intelligent, free….the sole animal endowed with reason”. Animals are “devoid of intellect and freedom”. Do the intellectual class not view Loyalists as men (and women)? Are we not endowed with the reason that Rousseau spoke of? It is time for intellectuals to step out into the real world, to engage with Loyalists (and others), so that a more comprehensive and inclusive view of Ulster politics emerges. The intellectual class do themselves, and the communities in which they live, a great disservice if they refuse to re-examine their opinions and prejudices. Intellectuals, and everyone else in Northern Ireland (and beyond) need to recognise that Loyalists are people too!

To be continued…

 

 

Nations: Man Made, Not God Given!

What is a Nation?

NOUN

1): A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.

Karl W. Deutsch, in the opening lines of his book Nationalism and its Alternatives  wrote that- “A nation is a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbours”, quoting what he described as a “rueful European saying”. Rueful or not, the saying has something to it. At least it makes the point that a nation is not a geological feature like a mountain, a lake, or an island. It is a human artefact. A cultural artefact, and an abstract one at that, which emphasises ideas, beliefs and traditions held in common by one group of people, which distinguish them from other groups of people. It is, in other words, both inclusive and exclusive.  What is significant about a nation is that unites a number of population groups over an extended area. What holds these people together is not necessarily a “common dislike” of their neighbours, but rather a sense of common difference from them. They may believe this or that about their ancestors, but among themselves they are aware of two things: a high level of mutual understanding (this usually, but not always, implies a common language) and a high level of interdependence.

Nations are constructs. They are formed, not by geography, but by history. Usually they have been formed, partly at least, through political processes, through which the more or less universal mutual hostility between neighbouring villages or tribes to more remote ‘foreigners’, and in the sense of fates being bound together. Such a process is virtually impossible without some sort of centralised organisation. This need not be political, indeed in times past it was more often cultural or religious, but the creation of a nation from an earlier tribalism appears to be the most common way in which, historically, nations have been formed. Irish nationalists and republicans often forget that a nation is an artefact. A construct. The Irish nation is not a ‘fact of nature’, nor was it bestowed by God. It is a cultural and political construct, just like any other nation.

That the Irish nationalist is unique in almost anthropomorphising his/her country is disconcerting. There is something not quite right about any group of people who seem to endow the land upon which they live with it’s own persona. Eriu it seems, is more than just a mythological figure in the minds of many Irish nationalists and republicans. For some she seems to be, disturbingly, all too real. Perhaps this is a by-product of the overly sentimental and outrageously romantic view of history that Irish nationalists seem to embrace. Their sense of ‘mythos’ is matched only by the German nationalists of the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. The ‘völkisch’ ideologues who inspired, and in a lot of instances became, the Nazi party’s upper echelons. Pseudo-history, quack science, racism and occultism seem to have been the ideal ingredients for the creation of the most immoral and despicable regime the world has ever seen. Yet the same kind of claptrap didn’t take Irish nationalism down a similar path of murder, forced expulsion and violence of every kind. Well, at least not on the same scale!

The mythological Eriu. Monocultural, 'racial pure', blond haired, blue eyed Gaelic supremacy personified.

The mythological Eriu. Monocultural, ‘racially pure’, blond haired, blue eyed Gaelic supremacy personified.

What is Nationalism?

NOUN

[MASS NOUN]

1) Patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts.

1.1) An extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.

1.2) Advocacy of political independence for a particular country.

It has been the common experience that nations, in modern European history at least, have tended to (or aspired to) organise themselves as states. The ‘nation-states’ however, which were the characteristic political formations of post-medieval Europe, were usually, to a greater or lesser extent, multinational entities. France, Spain and the United Kingdom are good examples. As a result, ‘nationalism’ is an ambiguous term. It may refer to the aggrandising or ‘super-nationalism’ of nation states, or it may refer to the purely reactive nationalism of the submerged nationalities, like the Catalans, the Bretons, or (before 1918) the Czechs and the Poles.

Nationalism is a marked feature of comparatively recent history. It is intimately associated with the rapid growth in the power and functions of the state.  At the beginning of the 20th century nationalism appeared to be natural and normal. It was respectable, intellectually, socially, culturally and politically. Nations appeared to be as ‘self-evident’ as races. Each nation, like each race, had it’s own distinctive characteristics, which could be readily recognised and easily stereotyped.  It is no longer so. The ‘racial’ and national presuppositions are no longer intellectually respectable, nor, socially, politically or culturally acceptable.

The nation, in the modern ‘Western’ world at least, has served as one of the chief vessels of culture. This is changing now though. Entropy appears to be the current norm in cultures across the world, as more and more parts of the world become more and more like every other part. Perhaps the appearance of globalist uniformity is deceptive. If not, it is paradoxical; for life is the reverse of entropy. Cultural differences not only still exist, despite the trend towards uniformity,  but are still keenly felt, especially in places, like Ulster, where one or more culture seems to be under threat. Nationalism, in a global context, is a dying political doctrine, though it’s demise will be slow and no doubt, painful. Tragically, people will continue to die (and to kill) in the name of ‘national liberation’ for many years, perhaps decades, to come. Nationalism is however, an ideology of the past, not of the future. Of course, social and political evolution may well come to the aid of nationalism. Patriotic inclination is unlikely to simply disappear (at least for the foreseeable future) but whatever form the expression of those patriotic inclinations takes, it will not be the unreconstructed, unreformed nationalism of today.

Nationalism and Racism

Racism needs a political context or background to become relevant and such a context was provided at the correct time with the development of nationalism. The French philosopher Balibar stated that there was a relationship of “reciprocal determination” between the two ideologies, meaning they were not the same but instead served to support each other. Nation-states were often  based on false pseudo-scientific claims. These false notions of ‘race’ provided ideal fuel for nations which, were attempting to promote themselves as separate constructions. Irish nationalism (at least historically if not contemporaneously) used such a notion, extolling the virtues of a supposed ‘Irish Gaelic race’ often, and made strenuous attempts to make this imagined ‘race’ as different to (and distinct from) the ‘hated Saxon foe’ as possible. The Gaelic Athletic Association, arguably the largest Irish nationalist organisation that has ever existed, still makes reference to “our race” in their constitution (also known as the “Official Guide). I should also remind everyone that the words of the Irish national anthem  “Amhrán na bhFiann” (A Soldier’s Song) contains references to “Sons of the Gael”, “children of a fighting race”, and even more shockingly, the line, “Out yonder waits the Saxon foe”. Surely if, for example, the national anthem of an African state contained references to ethnic/tribal warfare, as the Irish anthem does, questions would be asked and concerns raised at the UN.

The political and racist ethos of the GAA. In their own words!

The political and racist ethos of the GAA. In their own words!

Racism is inextricably linked to the doctrine of nationalism. History’s most heinous example of racism blended with ultra-nationalism- Nazism (National Socialism) was also known as ‘Pan-German Nationalism’ or simply as ‘German Nationalism’. The Nazis’ contemporaries in Imperial Japan were also driven by a kind of synthesis of nationalism and racism, believing themselves (the Japanese ‘race’) to be ‘supermen’, descendants of the Gods, and as such, superior to every other nation and people in Asia (if not the world). Predestined to rule a vast dominion because of their ‘superior bloodline’. More recently we have seen something of a resurgence in nationalism in Europe, in movements like Greece’s ‘Golden Dawn’ and the UK’s BNP, which have deep and often overt racist undertones. Irish nationalism has done it’s best to play down any racism that remains within. The latent anti-Semitism displayed by some more extreme Irish nationalist/republican elements recently clearly illustrates however that the old racism is still there, and it doesn’t take all that much to bring it bubbling back up to the surface again.

Is Loyalism a Form of British Nationalism?

Possibly yes. It could be construed as such. I would argue though, that Ulster Loyalism, like the mainstream body politic in Mainland UK, is post nationalist. That is, whatever more traditional nationalist ideologies morph and evolve into over the next couple of decades, Loyalism, like ‘Labourism’ or ‘Conservatism’, has already become. Certainly there is a sense of patriotism within it. Yes there is a keen sense of needing to preserve and protect Ulster-Scots culture and Loyalist traditions, but Loyalism, as an ideology, has never concerned itself with race, ethnicity or ever espoused the notion that Britain should be the pre-eminent power in world politics. It hasn’t needed to. Ulster Loyalism is concerned, first and foremost, with Ulster. An accusation of parochialism could be levelled at Loyalists (and indeed sometimes is). Our detractors need to bear in mind though, that the United Kingdom is a multinational state. A union of nations. From it’s very inception the UK has been, by definition, multicultural. British nationalism, leaving aside the repugnant racialist views of the likes of the BNP, is a peculiar beast. More akin to Spanish nationalism, or, if such a thing even exists, Swiss nationalism. Even if Loyalism could be proven to be a form of British nationalism, comparing British nationalism with the nationalism of Ireland, or for that matter, Sweden, Croatia, Italy etc is not a useful exercise, because of the gulf of difference that exists between them.

Loyalism, or at least certain strands thereof, could more readily be described as a form of Ulster nationalism. Although again, no worthwhile comparison can be made with Irish nationalism (to cite a pertinent example), for whilst Irish nationalism still seems to employ a rather archaic, 19th century view of ethnicity (or ‘race’), wherein Irish equals Gaelic, as if no drop of Saxon, Pict, Norman or Viking blood had ever intermingled with the ‘pure Gael’, Ulster nationalism has no such ‘historic’ foundation. For any supposed Ulster nationalism to base itself upon the idea of an ‘Ulster race’ one would first have to be invented. As an Irish republican online troll once told me, “The Ulster-Scotch are a bastard race” (sic). Of course, in a way that is true. Whilst I would disagree with that particular Irish nationalist’s definition of the word race, I would agree that the Ulster-Scots people are of mixed ancestry, mixed ethnicity. After all, we are mainly Scots (ethnically speaking) but we also have a large measure of English in us, not to mention Irish, Moravian, French Huguenots etc. An Ulster nationalist would therefore, have to be compared, not to an Irish (or Slovak, or Ukrainian etc) nationalist, but to a Pakistani nationalist, or an East Timorese nationalist. Two nation states formed by seceding from a larger entity (India and Indonesia respectively) not because of perceived ‘racial’ or ethnic differences but because of more subtle cultural and linguistic differences, in the case of the Timorese, and cultural and religious differences with respect to the people of Pakistan. Ulster nationalism is not however a major strand of Loyalism, it is at most, an undercurrent. Ulster Loyalism cannot simply be understood as being simply the mirror image of Irish nationalism. Much study has been made of Irish nationalism, little study has been made of Ulster Loyalism. Although thankfully now that is changing. Nationalism, of all stripes, has been extensively studied and dissected, thanks to the work of many renowned scholars academics and historians, it has been laid bare.

We, as a species, should hope that the worst examples of nationalist extremism are not repeated in the coming years. We should also collectively determine that nationalism should be kept under close watch until such time as it dies it’s natural death, evolving into something more inclusive, something less imbued with dangerous romanticism and reckless historical revisionism. The 20th century was pockmarked and scarred by genocide, ethnic cleansing and terrible, industrialised slaughter. Most of it done in the name of nationalism. If the 21st century were to turn out the same way, if we are to be doomed to repeat the desperate follies of previous generations, then in my opinion, we will have failed as a species. In such an event, Homo Sapiens Sapiens would be better going back to being simple hunter gatherers and leaving civilisation to creatures who would make a better job of it. After all, cockroaches have never murdered six million of their own species, just for being ‘different’.

Maybe the Cockroaches could make civilisation work better than us advanced primates?

Maybe the Cockroaches could make civilisation work better than us advanced primates?

Stuck In The Middle With Who?

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you. So the song goes (Stealers Wheel if I recall). I had asked my twitter followers what this blog article should be about. I had asked them to vote; Irish anti-semitism or the sectarianism of the PIRA murder campaign. They voted for the latter. Today though, I’m not going to write about either of those subjects. As serious and worthy of study as they are, I’ve decided instead to vent my spleen a little. After all, blogging is supposed to be cathartic. A way of letting off steam. So today I’m going to write about a group of people that (rightly) receive little attention from those who study, write about and analyse ‘The Troubles’. A group of people that have, in the last 2-3 years suddenly become very vocal and very opinionated. I would describe these people as the middle class but that would be unfair to middle class Unionists and nationalists, so I will instead use the term ‘pseudo liberals’ to describe this small, spiteful, cowering clique.

These pseudo liberals (or rather their parents) used money, privilege and the artificial social construct of ‘class’ to insulate themselves from the ravages of war. When Ulster burned around them, they sheltered in the leafy suburbs. They exempted themselves from the Conflict, yet were (and are) only too eager to offer their half-baked opinions and ill conceived ideas about how that conflict should be brought to a close. Politically and personally, they invested little or nothing in the communities on either side of ‘the divide’. Their motto, if they had one, would surely be ‘sod you Jack if I’m alright’. In terms of the history of The Troubles, they are an irrelevance, not even worthy of a footnote in the multiplicity of books written on the subject. In terms of the present however, as these pseudo liberals, emboldened by years of relative peace, suddenly find their voice (and a shrill, hectoring voice it is too), they are, at least, worthy of some study, albeit a brief and cursory one.

The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

The pseudo liberals of Cultra and the Malone Road (for example) do not think like ordinary Ulster punters. They think only in terms of money. For them, money is a sort of ‘cure all’. A wonderful remedy for all of life’s ills. For them money brings, not only happiness, but social standing, respect and a feeling of superiority too. The pseudo liberal looks down upon the ordinary mortal. Snubs their nose at the ‘spides’ and the ‘chavs’. In the mind of this repellent clique, such people shouldn’t be allowed out of their ghettoes. The pseudo liberal, faux intellectual, why-can’t-we-all-just-join-hands-and-sing-Kum-by-ya set cannot see the quiet dignity of the working class. Just as some maintain that might is always right, so the pseudo liberals maintain that money is always right. Not that they would ever admit to such a thing mind you. Oh no, the pseudo liberal will always think of themselves as a friend to the poor, unfortunate, vulgar ‘spide’, in much the same way as Colonial missionaries thought themselves to be the friend of the ‘savage’. Indeed, had some pseudo liberal ‘wit’ not coined the term ‘spide’, I’m pretty sure that ‘savage’ is what the spineless wonders would call us working class oiks.

"Eh, no thanks pal. We don't want your 'civilization'. The one we got works just fine"

Civilisation you say? No thanks, we’ve already got one”

Bad enough for people to harbour such elitist, petty bourgeoisie views in private. The pseudo liberal however, was not content with that, they had to make their twisted Weltanschauung, their malicious outlook on life, known to everyone. Well, everyone who uses social media in Northern Ireland. In 2012 the flag protesters stole Christmas, at least according to the pseudo liberals. Therefore, in their silly wee heads, the flag protesters ought to be vilified, lampooned, ‘satirised’ and attacked at every turn, on a daily basis, for the foreseeable future. And that is exactly what they have done. Every single day. Ad nauseum. At first Irish nationalists/republicans thought they had found a friend, somebody (actually a small cabal of people) who loathed and despised the pro-Union community as much as they do. Sadly for them, they were soon disappointed, for although the online anoraks hate Loyalism with a rare intensity, they seem unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace the tenets of Irish expansionism (for now at least). The reason for the pseudo liberal hatred of Ulster Loyalism and working class Unionism? The answer is simple…

"Changing society" one c**t 'joke' at a time!

“Changing society” one c**t ‘joke’ at a time!

Fear and Loathing in Helen’s Bay

(May Hunter S. Thompson have mercy upon my soul)

The pseudo liberal is one of nature’s true cowards. If Northern Ireland society was an ocean, the pseudo liberal would be it’s jellyfish. A nasty little sting but absolutely no backbone! The use of violence for political ends is an alien concept to them. Many would consider that a virtue, I consider it a contemptible vice, an irrational aversion to the realities of a cruel and inherently violent world. Politically motivated violence is not always wrong. Indeed, in certain situations, and at certain times, it is the only realistic option. During The Troubles, the pseudo liberal clique failed to see the big picture. Loyalists faced annihilation, extermination, at the hands of an enemy that, at times, seemed wholly psychotic. Violence, or rather, counter violence, became absolutely necessary. The Ulster-Scots people were fighting for their very survival. The pseudo liberal though saw only the detail, never the whole picture, and thus the handwringing and condemnation began.

To those safely cocooned in their mock Tudor villas and turnkey townhouses it must have seemed like their ‘social inferiors’ would tear Northern Ireland apart, and at any moment, rise up out of their sink estates and terraced streets, seize power or trigger a lengthy, all out, no holds barred, civil war. For these people, with their pseudo liberal sensibilities and their unrealistic political outlook, the Ulster Conflict was an inconvenience. A terrible, bloody sideshow. As long as the bombers and the trigger-men stayed out of their cosy little affluent enclaves, they couldn’t care less about who was winning or who was losing. They did not pay the price of failed security policy in blood. Their homes were never ransacked by the RUC, or damaged by republican bombs, the bars they frequented were never bombed or riddled with machine-gun fire. Money gave them distance from it all. Not distance as measured in meters or miles but distance nonetheless.

To the pseudo liberal, Loyalists were no better than the Provisionals. Today they will often recite the mantra of ‘both sides were as bad as each other’. Really? Because in my book murdering babies is a lot worse than killing a grown man. Let’s not forget though, the pseudo liberal doesn’t think like the rest of us ‘plebs’. To them it’s all the same. Mainly because it was happening to someone else. Anyway, somehow, somewhere down the line, the pseudo liberals came to hate Loyalists (and to a lesser extent ‘mainstream’ Unionists) with a passion. Maybe Mummy and Daddy were detained briefly at a UDA roadblock during the UWC strike. Maybe Daddy and wee Jonathan/Tarquin/Joshua missed the rugby two weeks running because of the Drumcree crisis in ’95. Who knows? What is obvious though is that the hatred runs deep. Today, in the mind of the pseudo liberal, Loyalists are worse even than the republican mad men who bombed and murdered, mostly it seems, simply for the pleasure of bombing and murdering. My own pet theory is that the hatred of Loyalists stems from pure fear. Undoubtedly the cowering, snivelling pseudo liberal fears republicans too, but Loyalism would have been, simply due to geography and demographics, a little closer to home. More familiar, and thus in a sense, more real? It is a curious quirk of human psychology that it is easier, more internally acceptable, to hate that with which you are more familiar. Maybe. Or maybe some (or most) of the middle-of-the-road brigade really do desire a unitary all-island state. That would at least explain their irrational hostility towards Loyalists, (and their moronic obsession with the Ireland rugby team!)

An Impotent Minority

The ‘two communities’ in contemporary Northern Ireland have reached an uneasy kind of plurality, no one ‘side’ can realistic hope to dominate (or obliterate) the other. There are however, still many minorities in the ‘new’ NI. Ethnic minorities, so-called Dissident republicans (who ironically have not deviated from republicanism’s stated principles as PSF has), religious minorities (such as the fast growing Mormon community) and, of course, the pseudo liberals. I sometimes wonder if minority groups, in any setting, feel a sense of impotence. A powerlessness that they can do little to change. In the case of the pseudo liberals, I am convinced that this is the case. Perhaps uniquely though, the pseudo liberal minority does have an infinitesimally small chance of overcoming that powerlessness. The pseudo liberals do not have to get the majority to change religion or somehow magically change their ethnicity, they just have to get the majority to change their outlook, their politics, and get the population to think like them. It’s a forlorn hope. It is impractical and outlandish, but still, it would seem that it’s a pipedream that is being actively pursued by a small number of pseudo liberal ‘clicktivists’, who naively believe that internet trolling and outright stalking can “change society here” (a direct quote). If nothing else, one must admire their sheer bloody-minded optimism, as misplaced and flagrantly unrealistic as it is.

Most within the ranks of the pseudo liberals however know that there is no possibility of turning the majority of people here into clones of themselves. They are, at least, realistic. For them, the sense of impotence must be palpable. No doubt some of them put it to the back of their minds. Play golf or drink chablis instead. Others get angry and frustrated, taking to social media to berate and sanctimoniously lecture others. Then there are those pseudo liberals who decide that they can not only launch malicious online assaults on Loyalists and Unionists, but also sneakily make a few pounds as well. Though maybe someone should have explained copyright law and intellectual property rights to them beforehand!

“Someone Has To Make The Coffee”

Much to the chagrin of pseudo liberals they do not really have any credible political voice. The lamentable Alliance Party of Northern Ireland being the closest thing they have to political representation. The pseudo liberal’s feelings of powerlessness must have reached an apex during the negotiations that led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. One would have thought that ‘The Agreement’ would have been a time for rejoicing in the cloistered suburbs and cul-de-sacs that the pseudo liberals call home, but no. Pseudo liberals, with their inflated sense of self worth and their utter contempt for the ‘riff raff’ (especially Loyalist riff raff) couldn’t quite bring themselves to celebrate. Yes, no doubt, they were delighted at the prospect of peace and so-called ‘normality’ (as most people were) but why, oh why, did that lovely Mr Blair have to include those Loyalist ruffians at the talks? The presence of Provisional Sinn Fein they could just about handle but the fact that ‘low-downs’ and ‘spides’ like the Ulster Democratic Party and the Progressive Unionist Party were playing an active (and vital) role in deciding the future of Ulster must surely have been too much for them to bear. They failed to recognise (as evidenced by contemporaneous online rants) that it was armed Loyalism that had forced PIRA/SF to the talks table. They refused to see Loyalists as anything more than thugs and cornerboys. Oh how they must have fumed when they watched the national news and saw Secretary of State Mo Mowlam, go cap in hand into Long Kesh, giving assurances to the Loyalist POWs, in order to obtain their support (which they had recently withdrawn) for the ‘Peace Process’. Oh how their bile must’ve risen every time they switched on the TV and saw Gary McMichael, David Ervine, Davy Adams et al, strutting confidently in or out of Parliament buildings.

"Oh Mummy, that terribly common little man is on our TV again"

David Ervine MLA

I am reminded of an amusing anecdote from that time. An off the cuff remark that illustrates just how irrelevant the pseudo liberal minority really is. A reporter asked a member of the Loyalist negotiating team what he thought of the Alliance Party’s input into the talks, completely deadpan he replied “Well, someone has to make the coffee”. That rather nicely sums things up. Alliance, the only real voice the pseudo liberals have ever had (ignoring the farce that was NI21 of course) were only in the room to make up the numbers. They couldn’t be excluded because they had a mandate, though who would vote for the likes of Davy Ford I’ll never know, but they were never considered serious players in the political process. At the time, everybody knew who the big players were, and aside from the UUP and the SDLP (Europe’s only right-wing Social Democrats) the ‘big players’ were the parties that spoke for the ‘men of violence’. Something which sticks in the craw of the pseudo liberals even now. The fact of the matter is, it was down to those who had made war to make the peace. Loyalism had made war very effectively, Loyalism had forced the Provisional republican movement to the talks table. Loyalists have a lot to be proud of. Pseudo liberals have nothing. For to have something to be proud of, or indeed ashamed of, one must first do something. The pseudo liberals of course, are renowned for doing nothing, aside perhaps, from bellyaching and complaining. My message to them is simple: You are powerless and irrelevant. Criticise Loyalists all you want, free speech is something Loyalists cherish after all. Keep bitching and moaning. Sit in your nice house, mortgaged to the hilt, dishing out sarcasm and self righteous dogma. Better still, do what your parents did throughout the Conflict, absolutely sweet f**k all.

‘The Troubles’ were fought by the working classes. Peace, as flawed and unjust and fragile as it is, was brought about by the working classes, the ‘spides’, the riff raff. The people you so despise. It was us, the nobodies, the ‘scroungers’, that determined the future of Ulster and we still determine it. You, pseudo liberals, will never know what that feels like, because you are political and moral cowards. Figuratively speaking, you crawled under the duvet in 1969 and have only recently found the courage to re-emerge.

“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox