Sinn Féin reach levels of pettiness that shouldn’t even be possible

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dup-councillor-wears-band-uniform-at-belfast-city-hall-meeting-sinn-fein-want-answers-37079971.html

Oh my aching sides! Provisional Sinn Féin, formerly the political wing of a sophisticated and ruthless terrorist organisation, have been reduced to a bunch of simpering, hyper-sensitive clowns, offended by everything and ashamed of nothing. This is a new low, even for the Provos.

To stamp their feet and throw their toys out of the pram over a DUP Cllr. wearing what is essentially a shirt and tie, at a Belfast City Council meeting, is beyond pathetic. What next for PIRA/SF? Do they have any strategy or any ideas for progressing towards their objectives? What will they take offence to next? Will they refuse to eat carrots at official council dinners because carrots are orange? Will they ask for an inquiry into why the sky is (sometimes) blue but never green? Will they demand that Unionists and Loyalists start wearing full burqas so that we don’t offend their sensitive little eyes?

You couldn’t redden their necks with a blowtorch!

Btw, since when was abortion on demand “medical care”?

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The Forgotten Minority; Catholic Unionists in Northern Ireland

Thin on the ground?

According to a 2014 opinion poll, 22.8% of Northern Ireland Catholics described themselves as “British”. The poll also revealed that 20.6% of Roman Catholic’s wanted Northern Ireland to remain an integral part of the UK. That is almost over one fifth of NI’s Catholic population. A surprising and extraordinary statistic, or at least it will be to some people. There have however, always been Catholic Unionists, some of them very prominent, although in recent years the number of Catholic Unionists, and Catholic Loyalists, seems to have increased.

In October, 2017, Stephen McCarthy was co-opted unto Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, as an Ulster Unionist Party councillor. Nothing unusual? Well, actually Cllr. Stephen McCarthy is a little unusual. A former altar boy, he grew up a Catholic in the republican stronghold of West Belfast, growing up in the St James area before moving to the Short Strand. His grandfather was shot dead in 1991 by the UVF while working as a taxi driver.

He joined the UUP aged 19 despite coming from what he is on record as describing as an “SDLP family”. In an interview with the Irish News Cllr. McCarthy stated- “There are many Unionists in the Catholic community.” Adding that he is a Unionist principally for “economic reasons” but also that he feels “both British and Irish”.

Cllr. McCarthy is not unique and in the coming years and decades there will be many more like him. Unionism and Loyalism, despite the vitriol of the usual suspects, has never been about religion. As time moves on and religion becomes less and less important in people’s lives, an increasing number people will base their political opinions, not on the traditional outlook of their parents or grandparents, but on their own thoughts, feelings and aspirations.

Sir John Gorman, Ulster Unionist MLA for North Down (1998-2003) and “Catholic Unionist”

The real bigots

Those 20.6% of Catholic’s who said they wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK are, very obviously, Unionists, even if many would be reluctant to describe themselves as such. It is interesting that the 2014 poll also revealed that there were more than twice as many Catholic Unionists as there were “Protestant Irish nationalists”. Again, for some that will no doubt be surprising, and troubling. For a significant proportion of Irish nationalists and republicans, that 20%+ of Catholics who are also pro-Union, are traitors. Many Catholic Unionists hide their real political leanings, sometimes even from their own families, for fear of becoming pariahs. Like it or not, believe it or not, the “CNR” community is much more tribalistic and insular than the “PUL” community.

Sir Denis Henry. Catholic, Unionist and the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland

That is an uncomfortable truth, but it is one that nationalists and republicans are going to have to come to terms with. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” as the saying goes. We will see then, which political camp really is the most tribal and sectarian over the course of the coming years and decades. I am confident that as the number of Unionists and Loyalists from outwith the Protestant community continues to grow, that it will be Irish nationalism which will be exposed as the sectarian, intolerant and parochial doctrine Loyalists have always known it is.

Derry/Londonderry (or ‘How Monty Python named Ulster’s second city’)

Picture the scene

BBC television centre, 1971, comedy group ‘Monty Python’ have, for reasons unknown, been tasked with naming Ulster’s second largest city. John Cleese wants to call it ‘Derek’, but is dismissed by the others as a “lumbering buffoon”. Chapman, Idle and Jones want to name the city ‘Derry’, but Gilliam and Palin think the name should be ‘Londonderry’. The Pythons are bitterly divided. Michael Palin has been holding Eric Idle in a sleeper hold for almost an hour. Terry Jones has adopted the role of a sniper, viciously firing a homemade slingshot at Palin, Gilliam and the supposedly neutral Cleese, from behind the cover of an overturned desk. The BBC tealady, a Mrs. Edith Runnymede of Peckham, has refused to enter the room, likening the scene to the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE.

After many hours of comedic warfare, and with the belligerents exhausted, a compromise is agreed. Dismissing Cleese’s suggestion as “the deranged utterance of a gigantic, moustache wearing fruit-bat”, the group decide, in typical surrealist fashion, to simply give the city both names. From then on, the second largest city in Northern Ireland would be known by the unlikely moniker of ‘Derry/Londonderry’.

Londonderry. Northern Europe’s forgotten jewel

Fast forward to 2018

Ulster’s barbarian tribes have been warring since time immemorial. They fought over which flag to fly. They fought over which language everyone should be forced to speak, and they fought over what exactly their second city should be called. The Green tribe, known for their love of strong drink and their propensity for blowing up small children, insisted that it be called ‘Derry’. The Orange tribe, known for their love of synchronised walking and their propensity for shooting people in the face, insisted that the correct name was ‘Londonderry’. For decades, both tribes stuck to their respective choice, then unbelievably, the freshly installed High Chief of the Green tribe, the fabled warrior queen, Mary Lou, uttered the ‘L’ word, calling the second city ‘Londonderry’!

The Green tribe was sharply divided. Some, perhaps mellowed by years of alcohol abuse and sad folk ballads, argued that it was ok to call the place Londonderry sometimes. Others though, incensed by the addition of two extra syllables, argued that Mary Lou had committed an inexcusable act of treason and could no longer be High Chief of the Green tribe. Meanwhile, most of the Orange tribe merely smirked and went back to beating their very large drums with very thin sticks, whilst the civilised tribes to the south and across the narrow sea to the east, scratched their heads and wondered just how they had ended up being the neighbours of such clearly insane people.

A section of Derry’s walls

Seriously though

The furore that erupted recently over Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald’s use of the term ‘Londonderry’, was tragically comic. I was born and raised in County Londonderry. I use the terms Derry and Londonderry interchangeably. The Orange anthem ‘the Sash my Father Wore’ calls it Derry. The Apprentice Boys of Derry call it Derry (shocker!). In all honesty it is simply not that big an issue for most Loyalists and Unionists. An official name change is a different matter, although personally I would not be that bothered. It would seem though that for Irish nationalists and republicans this is a much more touchy subject.

Derry is both historic and modern

The reaction of some Irish republicans has been hilarious. To see the usually well rehearsed and polished republican propaganda machine scrambling to try and bury this “controversy” has been highly amusing. These are the same people who made much of the fact that (some) Unionists and Loyalists placed such importance on flags and emblems. Is the word ‘Derry’ not a verbal emblem? I hope, although I don’t expect for one moment, that the numerous ‘satirical’ groups (lol) on social media have lampooned hardline republicans over this issue in the same way that they used the flags issue to try to belittle and mock the fringe elements of Loyalism and Unionism. Of course, that would be too much to ask. After all, one cannot be the drinking buddy of certain north Belfast republican dissidents, and then use one’s multiple social media accounts to lambast and laugh at republicans. Better to just trot out the same old bile you’ve been vomiting out since 2012 (there might still be a few £ in it yet ;).

And finally…

You see, this is why I was reluctant to start blogging about N.I. politics again. Whilst I’ve had a chuckle at the pettiness and insecurities of Irish republicans, the whole episode has also been slightly depressing. Twenty years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement and Ulster remains as divided, and as ridiculous as ever.

Between 1969 & 1999, more than 30,000 Ulster-Scots were “ethnically cleansed” from Derry’s west-bank

If you are one of the many foreign readers of this blog, please don’t let the infantile squabbles of extreme Irish nationalists put you off visiting our beautiful little nation, and visiting Londonderry in particular. Derry is a wonderful, charming, vibrant city. The most well preserved walled city in western Europe. It is historic, picturesque (mostly), welcoming and inexpensive to visit. In fact, whatever you like to call it, it’s the greatest little city in the whole British Isles!

Beautiful and historic Londonderry

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

 

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?