The Siege of Clyde Valley

The controversy over the decision of Clyde Valley FB to wear a small Parachute Regiment emblem on their uniforms whilst on parade in Londonderry last Saturday has resulted in yet another battle in the ‘cultural war’ that has been fought in Ulster since at least 1996. Wagons have been circled. War cries have been shouted and the extremely deep (and dangerous) levels of division within Northern Ireland have been laid bare. Again.

The small Parachute Regiment emblem worn by Clyde Valley FB at the Relief of Derry parade on Saturday (10.8.2019)

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Yesterday’s statement by the Apprentice Boys of Derry was a welcome development. It may well take enough heat out of the situation to allow the very deep fissures in Northern Ireland society to be papered over, at least for while, although anybody with any sense can see that we are only ever hours away from the next “crisis” or controversy and now would be the perfect time to reflect on the reasons for that precarious situation.

Perhaps the more politically astute amongst our political ‘leaders’ could ask, publicly, why Irish republicanism has decided that the dead of ‘Bloody Sunday’ are to be held as the most important victims of the conflict, the apex of the pyramid of victimhood that Provisional Sinn Fein has carefully constructed over the last 20 years or so?

Why do republicans insist that any reference to the Parachute Regiment, anywhere in the city of Derry, is ‘verboten’ because it is an insult to victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’, yet these very same republicans insist that they have a right to commemorate republican murder gangs in that city, regardless of the feelings of the victims of such death squads?

INLA mural, Londonderry

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Surely, if references to (and emblems of) the Paras are “offensive” and “distasteful” in Londonderry, because of ‘Bloody Sunday’, then, by the same logic, references to (and emblems of) the INLA, Provisional IRA etc are equally offensive and distasteful given the fact that republican killer gangs were responsible for far more death and destruction than any other party or agency.

Indeed, it could be argued that the emblems and symbols of the Provos and INLA are even more liable to cause offence because they inflicted death and destruction on both communities.

Irish republican terrorist mural, Derry.

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In reality though, the “Clyde Valley controversy” has little to do with the victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’ and their families. It has everything to do with Sinn Fein’s heirarchy of victims and their marking out of territory. According to republicans, the victims of so-called “state violence” are more important, more worthy of remembrance and more deserving of sensitivity and respect than any other victims.

On the next level of this heirarchy are the victims of militant Loyalism (those killed by the UFF and UVF), followed by those republicans killed by their own bombs. Everybody else is on the lowest tier of this sickening pyramid.

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“All of the animals are equal but some are more equal than others”

Did Provisional Sinn Fein show any sensitivity to the victims of their terrorist wing when they marched recently in Strabane? Were bands in paramilitary style uniforms considered “distasteful“? Were representations of armed terrorists considered to be a “calculated insult” to the victims of republican murder gangs in West Tyrone? Why not?

The answer is very simple- in the minds of republicans some victims don’t deserve respect, whilst conversely, some victims deserve every respect and should be treated almost as if they are ‘Holy martyrs’. According to republicans, the victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’ deserve to be treated with kid gloves, insulated and protected from any reference to the Parachute Regiment, or indeed the British Army in general.

Victims like the families of Patsy Gillespie and Joanne Mathers however, deserve no such consideration or sensitivity. Those victims are not to be considered, or even brought to mind, when PIRA/Sinn Fein murals are unveiled in Derry, PIRA and INLA marches take place or commemorations are held.

Patsy Gillespie with his wife. Mr Gillespie was murdered by PIRA/Sinn Fein for cooking meals at an Army barracks in Derry.

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Make no mistake, we at ISOT believe that every community has an inalienable right to remember their dead. We have said so often, but there is a rank hypocrisy here. Surely if republicans believe that references to PIRA, INLA, IPLO and OIRA gangs are acceptable, even in towns and cities badly affected by the violence of those organisations, then surely they must be prepared to accept references to the Paras, even in the city where elements of that regiment killed 14 nationalists?

But, as I already stated, this is not about the victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’. This about the republican heirarchy of victimhood and about marking territory.

In order for PSF to further their agenda and reinforce their revisionist narrative, victims of state perpetrated violence must be kept in the spotlight. They must be seen as the ‘premier’ victims of the conflict, for whilst the spotlight is on the victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’, Ballymurphy etc then it cannot be on the victims of Claudy, ‘Bloody Friday’, La Mon, Darkley, Teebane, Enniskillen etc etc etc.

The aftermath of the Darkley massacre

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Sinn Fein must also present itself as the champions and defenders of the nationalist/republican community. If there is offence to be taken, then PSF must be the ones to take it! This is especially important in places like Londonderry where republican splinter groups and dissident factions are increasingly gaining a foothold.

Given Sinn Fein’s recent ‘difficulties’ in the New Lodge area of Belfast, Saturday’s events must have been a godsend. Indeed, there must have been some PSF members positively rubbing their hands with glee (that is not to insinuate that there wasn’t some Sinn Fein members who were genuinely outraged), there can be no doubt whatsoever that Clyde Valley FB have inadvertently handed so-called “mainstream” republicanism a much needed propaganda boost.

Gerry Kelly, for one, must have been delighted that something had quickly come along to distract people’s attention away from his ignominious (and hasty) withdrawal from the New Lodge only days earlier.

Why the long face Gerry?

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“This is OUR city”

There is another aspect to this gross overreaction too. There are many republicans, especially vocal on social media, who wish to use this incident as a stick with which to beat the ABOD and, somehow by extension, the Orange Order (such is the ignorance of republicans about the Loyal Orders and their relationship to each other).

an orange free zone”

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The reasoning seems to be that because Derry is a majority nationalist city, then all others must ‘toe the line‘ as it were, or the majority will withdraw their consent for any cultural expression other than their own. This too is deeply hypocritical. In Derry, Rasharkin and the Garvaghy Road it would seem that the majority rules ok but in Northern Ireland as a whole, majority rule is deemed “oppressive” and “undemocratic” and we must have mandatory power sharing, or else!

There is a lesson here for those who believe that a so-called ‘united Ireland’ is in any way viable, for it would appear that nationalists and republicans only believe in the sharing of power when they cannot obtain an absolute majority, or perhaps that is just cynicism. The available evidence, however, would suggest the former not the latter.

If ever Sinn Fein win an overall majority of seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, they will no doubt campaign for an end to power sharing and a return to majority rule, all in the name of “civil rights” and “equality”, naturally!

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Keep the fire stoked!

Provisional Sinn Fein will keep this incident in the headlines for as long as possible. There are others too, on the Unionist/Loyalist side who will seek to exploit this unfortunate situation for their own ends. The inappropriate behaviour of the PSNI has, rightly, been highlighted and there needs to be an investigation into that behaviour, however, it would probably be best all round if the entire business could be forgotten.

Rent-a-mob, aka PSNI DMSU

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The two communities in Northern Ireland are more deeply and bitterly divided than ever. In the interests of peace and reconciliation it would be best if incidents like the one on Saturday could be quickly dealt with, so as not to cause even further division.

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Sinn Fein lead the chorus

Unfortunately, with Sinn Fein leading the chorus of those who equate the wearing of a small Parachute Regiment emblem with international war crimes, that will never happen. It will not be allowed to happen. PSF cannot miss an opportunity to reinforce their vile narrative and, with dissident republicans fast gaining control of former PIRA/SF heartlands, they cannot afford to miss an opportunity to present themselves as the defenders of the nationalist community.

If that means taking a hypocritical and, frankly, absurd stance on any given issue, that will be no problem for the Shinners, after all, they do not seem to be bothered that Clyde Valley Flute Band take their name from the principal ship involved in ‘Operation Lion’, the 1914 UVF gun running which saw tens of thousands of rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition landed in Ulster by Carson’s Volunteers, some of which was used by the UVF in 1920 in very heavy street fighting in the cityside of Londonderry, which left dozens dead.

In 1920 the UVF took over Londonderry City centre and the Foyle bridge. Dozens died in subsequent fighting in the city.

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But they are offended by a tiny crest of the Parachute Regiment being worn on the uniform of the band, who also go by the name “the gun runners”. Bizarre. Are Sinn Fein telling us, at least subtly, that they only care about dead nationalists who were killed within living memory? Or, perhaps, those families of dead nationalists who are still around to vote would be more accurate?

Or, perhaps I’m being cynical again, they really couldn’t give a tinker’s curse about the victims of ‘Bloody Sunday’, or their families and are instead using this situation to-

A) shore up support in certain areas, especially Derry,

B) Exploit the situation to reinforce their narrative and heirarchy of victims,

C) Use the incident to further reaffirm that Londonderry is their city and everyone else must follow their rules, or-

D) All of the above.

Sometimes in Northern Ireland it’s hard not to be cynical!

The republican anti-internment bonfire in the New Lodge area was a huge embarrassment for Provisional Sinn Fein

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On and on….

No doubt we will be hearing more about the ‘Seige of Clyde Valley‘ in the coming weeks and (probably) months. Preferred victim status must be upheld, narratives must be shored up and territory must be marked out. It’s not as if Sinn Fein (or the DUP) have anything else to do!

Meanwhile, ‘non celebrity’ victims across Northern Ireland and beyond, will just have to carry on as before- forgotten, marginalised and denied any semblance of justice. Indeed, in some cases, they have not yet even had their loved one’s remains returned to them for burial.

Best not to mention that though, not while the Shinners are having yet another little temper tantrum!

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The Curious Case of the Forgotten Republican

Today, the 25th of July, marks the 31st anniversary of the death of one Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davison, PIRA ‘commander‘ in South Belfast, who was shot dead at his home in the Markets area by a UVF active service unit, dressed as police officers.

I draw your attention to this anniversary, not to gloat in any way, nor celebrate Davison’s violent demise but to recount the circumstances surrounding his, rather sordid, life and the facts behind his death.

Davison was a native of the Markets area, a staunchly republican enclave in South Belfast. At the outset of The Troubles, the area was an Official IRA stronghold but the teenage Davidson decided to join the emerging Provisional IRA.

In 1971 Davison was convicted for his part in a botched Provo gun attack and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Within months of being released in 1980, he was arrested again, this time on the word of PIRA ‘supergrass‘ Kevin McGrady, but was released, albeit after serving more than two years on remand.

Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davison

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By the time of his assassination Davison, whose name is often misspelled as ‘Davidson’ (by, among others, the Irish Independent newspaper) had risen to the rank of PIRA ‘commander’ in South and East Belfast.

Davison was also one of the two most highly placed informers that MI5 and RUC Special Branch had within the ranks of the Provisional IRA, the other being Freddie Scappaticci, codename “Stake knife”.

In Davison’s case, blackmail was the main factor in his recruitment. A Special Branch file on him noted he was a secret homosexual who visited public toilets and had sex with men in a “massage centre“. RUC Special Branch also knew that ‘Ruby’ had raped a number of young boys in South Belfast in the 1980s and that he liked to ‘discipline’ teenage PIRA members by having them strip naked before beating them with a brush.

At least two of his victims’ families made complaints to the Provisional IRA but, unsurprisingly, were silenced with threats of murder. Republican sources say Davison was secretly filmed by undercover soldiers sexually abusing a teenage boy, rumoured to have been just 14 at the time, in the sauna of the Maysfield Leisure Centre in South Belfast and subsequently blackmailed him into becoming a paid informant.

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The funeral of Provo godfather and paedophile rapist Brendan Davison.

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Though this is common knowledge in the area of Belfast where Davidson lived, his name is still on a wall mural commemorating PIRA/Sinn Fein “martyrs” in the Markets area.

There are many residents of the Markets however who have neither respect nor admiration for ‘Ruby’. On the contrary, many people hated and feared him. He was heavily built, well over six feet tall, and had, apparently, acquired a reputation for being able to ‘handle himself’ in a fight.

According to the author Martin Dillon, locals say he took offence easily and became difficult to control when drunk, which was often. He was typical of many of the young thugs and ‘hardmen’ who filled the ranks of the Provisional IRA after January 1970.

He is described as having a “physical stature to impose his will on others and possessed a native cunning” . His “native cunning” no doubt served him well in his double life as he rose rapidly through the ranks of PIRA/Sinn Fein. Gaining rapid promotion within the republican murder gang for his talents in planning terrorist outrages and finding new recruits.

Such was Davison’s reputation, it is alleged that some people in the Markets area actually cheered upon learning of ‘Ruby’s’ violent death at the hands of Loyalist gunmen.

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UVF volunteers posed as police in order to kill Ruby Davison

To this day, many republicans still deny that Davison was a paedophile, an informer, or even that he was a promiscuous homosexual, preferring instead to cling to (yet another) tissue of lies regarding the life and death of one of their Provo ‘heroes’.

It is curious though that there have been no high-profile calls for an inquiry into the assassination of Brendan Davison.

One would have thought that, if the republican movement really believed their own narrative, and were sure that Davison wasn’t a paedophile rapist and an informer, that his case would be an ideal one to highlight.

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A PIRA/Sinn Fein mural in the Markets area. Note how the mural, in particular the portion of it depicting Davison, has been defaced by locals

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Would it not suit the Provisional Sinn Fein narrative absolutely perfectly to highlight the killing of a senior republican who was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries wearing stolen RUC uniforms? Wouldn’t the fact that the dead man also happened to be gay not be the “icing on the cake” for the apparently LGBT obsessed Sinn Fein?

If Davison was the person that republicans say he was, why has he not become the Provo’s first genuine gay ‘martyr’?

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The truth of the matter is that the republican movement would rather that Brendan Davison be forgotten, at least by those outside of republican ranks, not because he was a paedophile but because they know full well that he was an informer and that inconvenient fact undermines their entire collusion narrative.

You see, it simply defies belief that if, as republicans allege, Loyalist armed groups worked hand-in-hand with the Security Forces, those same Security Forces would have ‘allowed’ the Ulster Volunteer Force to kill one of their top assets within the Provisional IRA in Belfast.

Make no mistake about it- had Davison really not been a paid informant, the cries of “collusion” would be almost deafening.

Davison’s paedophilia would be airbrushed out, I have no doubt his homosexuality would be too; it is ‘progressive’ and ‘on trend’ for Provisional Sinn Fein to masquerade as the champions of the LGBT community, but it is a different matter when it comes to the Provisional IRA. For, as much as they would like to deny it, the Provisional republican movement still operates a ‘twin track’ approach, wherein SF are portrayed as progressive, tolerant socialists whilst on the other hand, PIRA is still presented, especially to impressionable young males, as being a ruthless army of hard, dedicated “guerilla Fighters”.

Thus, any reference to Ruby Davison’s sexuality would, undoubtedly, be omitted.

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Davison’s home, the ironically titled ‘Friendly Way’

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Let me refresh your memory with regard to the republican movement’s collusion narrative; it is their assertion that collusion was-

A) Widespread

B) Institutional, and that

C) Collusion only happened on the Loyalist side.

(Apparently, at least two different states arming and funding the Provisional IRA is not considered collusion by republicans)

This is in opposition to what Loyalists (and many neutrals) say about collusion- that it was neither institutional nor widespread, that it happened on both sides and that the Security Forces had no qualms about playing off one side against the other.

The republican narrative has now been taken to it’s logical conclusion; most republicans now allege that every Loyalist operation was carried out in collusion with the Security Forces, and that, essentially, Loyalist armed groups were merely unthinking, almost zombie like, proxies of the state.

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A heavily armed UVF unit, complete with RPG rocket launcher, part of the arms shipment brought into Ulster jointly by the UFF and UVF. The arms had been purchased from an arms dealer in Lebanon.

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This is not only patently ridiculous, it is frankly laughable. One wonders how such republican dullards would explain away the fact that thousands of young Loyalists ended up in prison, some of them sentenced to multiple life terms, or the fact that many Loyalist combatants were killed by the very same Security Forces they were supposedly acting in concert with.

One might also wonder why the Security Forces would permit their supposed “Loyalist proxies” to kill prison officers and, occasionally, RUC officers.

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Freddie Scappaticci, the other high ranking Provo informer at the time of Davison’s death

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Irish republicans, for the most part, do not deal well with historical complexities or the subtle nuances of a low-intensity conflict like The Troubles. Rather than face the uncomfortable truth about the “Dirty War”, republicans, especially those from the younger generation, would rather buy into a myth that asserts that their Loyalist and Unionist neighbours are completely incompetent, stupid and inferior.

They prefer a reductionist and purely binary view of Ulster’s recent past. A black and white, ‘us vs them’ scenario in which any troublesome details, or indeed, any sense of context, is simply pushed aside or buried.

The majority of Irish republicans seem to take comfort in ignorance, preferring Sinn Fein’s childish ‘cowboys and Indians’ narrative to the real, complex, uncomfortable and challenging truth about the conflict.

That is precisely why it is important for Loyalists, and indeed everyone who is concerned about the truth, to challenge the playground rhetoric of republicanism at every opportunity.

If collusion took place in the manner that republicans say it did, then why do they seem so reticent to bring the case of Ruby Davison to wider public attention? It is because they know that close scrutiny of the case would soon collapse their pathetic narrative.

The fact that Davison was an informer has been asserted by numerous people, including at least three published authors and dozens of others, including a former MI5 officer who operated out of the “Puzzle Palace” within Thiepval army barracks in Lisburn.

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If one accepts that fact, then doesn’t the fact that he was killed by Loyalist militants not critically undermine the republican narrative? Some might suggest that he had “outlived his usefulness”, but that is a ludicrous claim since Davison was, arguably the most senior informer that the Security Forces had within PIRA/Sinn Fein. Certainly he was among the top two!

Davison was not under suspicion by his republican comrades. His cover had not been blown, in fact, the Security Forces had allowed Davison to kill in order to protect himself from accusations made by one of his ‘comrades’.

There is also the matter of the angry reaction that Davidson’s killing apparently provoked from among the security services personnel based in Lisburn.

The facts of the case are rather obvious to any but the most mentally challenged republicans.

Davison was killed by the UVF because he was a senior member of the Provisional IRA. An individual that the UVF alleged had been involved in at least two murders.

The UVF ASU disguised themselves as police officers, using uniforms stolen from a dry cleaners. They knew who Davison was, what he was and where he lived. They made their way to his home and executed him.

There was no collusion of any kind. Whether or not the UVF team knew that Ruby Davison was a paedophile is immaterial, they did not know that he was an RUC Special Branch and MI5 informer. As a consequence they may have inadvertently actually helped the Provos in the long term, ridding them of a highly placed mole.

Such were the complexities and intrigues of The Troubles. The Ulster Volunteer Force carried out a highly professional and well planned operation; Loyalists, a few high ranking republicans (who detested Davison for his sexual perversions) and many of the ordinary people of the Markets area were pleased; whilst most republicans, RUC Special Branch and the other ‘Spooks‘ in the “Puzzle Palace” were left devastated.

The security services lost one of their most important sources of information and, in the long run, Davison’s death may well have been a blessing in disguise for the Provos.

Nevertheless, Brendan Davison is the “martyr” that republicans dare not speak of. A sick and perverted individual whose violent death could yet prove to be the rock upon which Irish republican myth is smashed to splinters.

The republican movement can tell as many lies as they wish but they can never change the fundamental truth. They cannot change the nature of the thugs, rapists, paedophiles and child killers that made up the ranks of the Provisional IRA, and that, in the final analysis, is the reason that they will never succeed. “A movement without morals cannot stand” and there is no movement so utterly devoid of any sense of morality as that of PIRA/Sinn Fein.

Fodor’s Sectarian Folly

A few days ago the so-called ‘renowned travel guide’, ‘Fodor’s’ published a blatantly sectarian and dehumanising guide to political murals in Northern Ireland, lavishly praising Irish republican murals making the ludicrous assertion that such murals “often aspire to the heights of Sistine Chapel-lite, whilst the cretinous author compared Loyalist artwork to “war comics without the humour”.

Not only are such assertions insulting and offensive, they are also completely without basis in fact. The author of the lazy, pernicious and prejudiced piece in question is allegedly a veteran ‘journalist’ and ‘historian’!

Professor Peter Shirlow, head of Irish Studies at Liverpool University, expressed shock at the content-

It represented them as Bible-bashers, against liberalism and it evoked an idea that on the other side there was humour, a capacity for art and also evoked the idea republican violence was something to be glorified and where it represented the unionist community, it is not, if it was the Catholic, nationalist, republican community (being lampooned) I would say the same thing. It is just ultimately wrong and gave an incredibly unfair representation of murals in the city.”

Professor Shirlow added-

The academic issues with how the story of Northern Ireland is presented to visitors need to be addressed.”

Clearly Prof. Shirlow knows what he is talking about. Indeed, it is abundantly clear that the academic is everything that the hack journalist is not; knowledgeable, impartial and not prone to lazy sectarian stereotypes.

“Sistine chapel-lite

Kenny Donaldson of ‘Innocent Victims United’ said the language used on Fodor’s Travel website was-

“…..sectarian in nature” and sought to “castigate a section of the population based upon their ethnic and religious background,”

A Loyalist mural in Derry (in memory of Cecil McKnight of the Ulster Democratic Party)

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Unfortunately this incident is symptomatic of a much wider problem, i.e. the constant and absolutely relentless denigration and dehumanisation of the Unionist and Loyalist community, particularly the working class element of that community.

Historically illiterate Irish republicans feel enpowered to repeat the most ridiculous ahistorical nonsense because their so-called political ‘leadership’ regularly spout such nonsensical fairytales and are rarely challenged for it.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome.

Irish republicanism in general, and the Provisional republican movement in particular, has carefully constructed an utterly, utterly toxic narrative in which Loyalists and Unionists are depicted as being less than human. This Nazi-esque propaganda is constant, unsophisticated, crude and laced with sectarian euphemisms. The anti-British racism is as overt as it is nasty. The infantile stereotyping as unintelligent as it is unsubtle.

Irish republicans have been constantly, unrelentingly, told that they are ‘oppressed‘ and discriminated against. The message that they are perpetual victims is reinforced over and over and over again.

That narrative though is hugely undermined by the contrary and simultaneous narrative that the so-called ‘Irish gael’ is resilient, smart, capable and in every possible way superior to the ‘Protestant planters’.

Another view of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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Handily though, republicanism has a kind of ‘get out clause’ in order to lessen the cognitive dissonance among it’s adherents; the carefully spun message that yes, indeed, nationalists and republicans were (and are) the poor oppressed but it wasn’t (or isn’t) the ‘planter’ doing it, it was the ‘evil Brits’. The British Empire, the British State, the British Army. According to the propaganda of Irish nationalism it was/is the ‘big bad Brits’ that kept them down, discriminated against them and victimised them.

Loyalists and Unionists are presented as mere hapless proxies of the British State. A confused and stupid people who have been duped into doing the bidding of ‘imperialist’ England.

“err da stoopid Loyalists can’t even do a mural”

Loyalist armed groups are presented by republican extremists as being nothing more than criminals- armed, organised, trained and directed by the Army, MI5, Special Branch, GCHQ, MI6, etc etc etc. The far-sighted and sophisticated political contribution of militant Loyalism is conveniently forgotten. ALL effective operations against republican terror gangs are dismissed as having been the work of secretive special forces units of the British Army.

Politically, Loyalism and Unionism is dismissed as backward looking, old fashioned, innately negative and ardently right-wing. Irish republicans attach themselves to whatever causes they think will help them appear ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’ and forward looking.

It is totally predictable. It is also something which Loyalists can, and must, seriously combat. Republicans have weaponised their vocabulary, especially online. It is high time more Loyalists did the same.

It takes time to build up a negative stereotype of an entire community but it is not difficult. Repeating the same old tropes ad nauseam may be mind numbingly boring and repetitive but it is hardly neuro surgery.

Definitely no paramilitary imagery on any republican murals. Nope. None. Zero.

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It would be exceedingly easy, for instance, for Loyalists to continually link Sinn Fein, as a party, with the deeds of their terrorist wing, the Provisional IRA. Not in the way that some Loyalists do at present, but to do so in a more organised and unrelenting way.

It would also be relatively simple to push the narrative that Irish republicanism is inherently a Far-Left ideology, one which is economically unrealistic and forever tainted by the horrors and atrocities, not only of republican ethno-nationalism itself, but also by association, of Marxist and Communist regimes such as the USSR, DDR and the Khmer Rouge. After all, there are many examples of republican murals which are overtly Marxist and, of course, republican murder gangs have well documented links with extreme Leftist terrorist groups such as the ‘Red Army Faction’, ‘PFLP’, ‘Red Brigades’ etc.

Behold! the sophistication of republican Wall art.

Far better though for ALL stereotypes to be dropped. For our divided society to heal, ALL unhelpful and toxic narratives must be sidelined, without exception. Reconciliation can never be achieved when one community regards another as being lesser than themselves.

The obvious arrogance and sense of superiority within Irish republicanism is a virulent poison, a corrosive and devastating toxin which is destroying community relations, heightening tensions and, if unchallenged, runs the very real risk of sectarianising yet another generation of our young people.

Therefore it must be challenged and challenged effectively. In short, the dehumanising rhetoric of Irish republicanism is a cancer which must be excised.

Unfortunately, it would seem that this particular cancer has spread throughout the body politic of Irish nationalism as a whole and is, as evidenced by this latest ridiculous episode, extremely deep rooted.

Time then for the leadership of nationalism, such as it is, to accept responsibility for the outgrowth of this malignancy and to begin to tackle it. Time for those most active in perpetuating these iniquitous stereotypes (‘Ladfleg’, ‘Themmuns’ et al) to permanently leave the stage, and time, most of all, for Loyalists and Unionists to begin calling out this repugnant, dehumanising narrative every single time we encounter it.

To do otherwise is to condemn our community, and society as a whole, to even further division, conflict and unnecessary pain. Something for which future generations will, quite rightly, condemn us.

Ordinary Voices: Interview 5

Respondent is Enda, who describes himself as-

27, recently married, council employee, Liverpool FC fanatic and hater of DIY. South Tyrone man living in Belfast”

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As with all the interviews in the Ordinary Voices project, this interview was conducted via email.

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Q1. How would you describe yourself politically?

I’m not actually sure anymore tbh. I’m definitely a Nationalist and a couple of years ago I would have called myself a Republican but now I’m not entirely sure.

I suppose I am still a Republican at heart although I have lost a lot of faith in Sinn Féin in the last couple of years.

To give you the short answer- I’m a Nationalist without a party to support.

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Q2. Do you think there is an inherent bias with regard to Legacy Issues?

No, I honestly don’t think there is. The British forces (and I include the RUC/UDR in that) did a lot of heinous things during the “Troubles“. Those who killed innocent people have to be brought to justice.

An awful lot of Republicans and a fair number of Loyalists did face justice and served long prison terms, it is only right that state forces face the same. The IRA and Loyalist groups did not keep records of their actions, the army and police did though and people deserve the truth.

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Q3. Do you think that legacy issues are being handled well?

Yes, actually I think the UK government is doing ok in that regard. Something like a Truth Commission will never work in the North. Some people would be truthful, some wouldn’t and then you have those who simply wouldn’t be reliable in their testimony.

A relative of my wife’s is a former Republican prisoner. The man is 60 years old and in poor health because of years of heavy drinking. Tbh I don’t think he’d be able to remember accurately things he was involved in 30 or 40 years ago and I’m sure there are many others like him.

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Q4. Do you think that Legacy Issues are damaging the Peace Process?

No. I think the peace process is more or less fireproof now. There’s no going back to the “Troubles” now. Too much time has passed, too many people have moved on. There is a huge centre ground now and many of those people don’t really care about the issues of the past.

Of course there is still a lot of hurt on both sides, on the Nationalist side especially I think, but I can’t ever see things going back to the way they were years ago. There’s just no appetite for it from anybody.

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Q5. Do you think that the Loyalist community has been unfairly stereotyped in a negative way?

No. I don’t think that at all. Loyalists bring any negative publicity on themselves. They are their own worst enemy a lot of the time. Take bonfires for example. Why the constant need to insult and intimidate others with these massive bonfires? Why put Holy Statues and flags and other things onto these fires?

Loyalist “culture” is a joke tbh. Nothing but constant marching and burning things. It actually angers me. Loyalists could celebrate Irish culture in their own way but they refuse to even admit that they are Irish, so instead they go out of their way to antagonise others. The DUP pander to Loyalists which is why so many people hate them as a party. The DUP will never get votes from the centre ground because they won’t walk away from the bonfire builders and the “kick the Pope” bands.

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Q6. Do you believe that reconciliation is possible between the two communities?

No. We will continue to live parallel lives I think. The centre ground will keep growing, Nationalism will pretty much remain as is and Unionism will continue to be pushed to the margins. We will probably end up in a situation where the people in the centre interact with Nationalists and vice versa but Unionists and Loyalists will be left on the sidelines.

I don’t think that Loyalists are capable of reconciliation, or want it. There are some people on the other side who are the same, they just can’t move on. So I suppose the north will just stagger on as it is.

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Q7. Do you believe that a ‘united Ireland’ is imminent?

No, unfortunately. I stopped supporting Sinn Féin partly because they have absolutely no clue how they can achieve reunification. Sadly there are lots of Nationalists who are too comfortable and complacent. They will keep on as they are.

Everyone says that Brexit will lead to reunification but I don’t see it. It’s not going to make any difference to hard-line Unionists, they will still be against a UI even if they are broke and the country is ruined and despite what a lot of Republicans will tell you, a United Ireland is impossible without winning over a lot of Unionists.

It’s too late imo, the North is becoming more multicultural and progressive. Where I live now is very diverse. There is a large Muslim community here now. Will people who have come to live here in the last few years vote to leave the UK? Probably not.

Then there’s the centre ground, the people who vote for the Green Party and Alliance and even some SDLP or PBP voters, they might be Nationalists, even just culturally, but people like that will vote with their heads not with their hearts. If there was a border poll tomorrow people like that will vote to keep the NHS and their Civil Service jobs.

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Q8. What are your hopes and aspirations for Northern Ireland in the medium to long term?

Aside from a United Ireland, I’d like to see the North becoming a more modern and progressive place. I want an ILA and the laws on abortion and Equal Marriage changed and brought into line with the rest of the world.

I’d like to see the DUP disappear from the political landscape and I’d like to see Sinn Féin come up with some coherent policies, especially with regards to the economy. Most of all I want there to be peace- complete peace and normality. No more murders like that of Lyra McKee. No more pipe bomb attacks. No more punishment beatings or kneecappings or security alerts or riots. Just peace for everyone.

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Our thanks to Enda for participating in the Ordinary Voices project.

Ordinary Voices: Interview 1

The first interview for the Ordinary Voices project. Respondent was Ian, a community worker and member of the Progressive Unionist Party from South Belfast.

The interview was conducted via email, as all the interviews in the Ordinary Voices project are.

Question 1; do you believe that legacy issues are undermining the peace process?

I believe that the legacy issues are undermining the peace process. I feel there is a tendency not to pursue those whose arrests could possibly destabilise the peace process. We need to respect people who lost their lives or were injured and their families by finding a key which allows us all to move on. Fundamental to that is an open, honest political system. The HIU however are under a huge amount of pressure given the amount of cases to be investigated in such a short space of time. I believe our ability to deliver for victims has been undermined by decisions made earlier in the peace process.

Question 2; Is there, in your opinion, a bias when it comes to legacy issues?

I am led to believe the legacy issue proposals ignore cross-border dimensions on many of the past crimes. There is no equal information process on the Irish side, which means no evidence available or even commitment to co-operate. Personally, I see a one-sided process that focuses less on those who murdered and more on those who tried to prevent violence; partly because the demand for investigations comes largely from one side of the community. Additionally with OTR letters issued I think its a fair assessment that legacy issues are bias. I fear the word ‘Justice’ is becoming politically weaponised.

Question 3; Do you think that Loyalism has done enough to challenge the negative stereotypes cultivated by others?

Decades of conflict have fuelled images and stereo types to the extent that the terms ‘Loyalist’ and ‘PUL’ have become a dirty words in some peoples opinions. I am a proud Unionist and I have hopes for a peaceful prosperous Northern Ireland, but I believe that the negative and disrespectful attitudes towards Loyalism and our culture is cultivating tension within our communities. I am extremely keen on challenging the Republican narrative as necessary and recommend others are conscious of this also.

Question 4; What do you think could be done to foster real reconciliation, especially in interface areas?

The biggest problem I see in South Belfast at the moment is the new developments popping up which sometimes, unwittingly, create new interface areas. We are in desperate need of social housing across South Belfast, there are many applications in for new private developments, however when they cant be sold for a massive profit they are sold on and re-classified as social housing schemes which turn to interfaces. In many Unionist areas there are limited educational choices at post-primary level, 2 secondary schools across South Belfast, which means parents have to bus their children out to attend schools, reconciliation is a long way off when we can’t sort out fair education in deprived Unionist areas.

Question 5; Do you believe that there is an inherent ambiguity in the Belfast Agreement?

People initially supported the Belfast Agreement but I have become disillusioned with how the agreement is being implemented, I think it is clear that the interpretations of it on both side are completely out of touch with each other.

Question 6; Finally, what are your personal hopes and aspirations for NI in the medium to long term?

I would like to see a return to Stormont soon but not at the cost of an Irish Language Act, my view is feel free to speak Irish, take Irish lessons in your own time but enforcing an Act which sees a compulsory percentage of Irish speakers be employed in workplaces etc is unfair. I hope for another peaceful summer and hope that Northern Ireland can continue to stand strong in these uncertain times of Brexit.

Many thanks to Ian for agreeing to an interview and participating in the Ordinary Voices project.

Prisoners of Conscience

I had intended that this piece would be an examination of how the political centre, namely the UUP and the SDLP, seem to understand, or at least seek to understand, physical force Loyalism far more, and far better, than the extreme Liberal fringe, epitomised by the Alliance Party and the Green Party.

I had intended to clearly demonstrate that the DUP does not, and has never at any time, clearly understood or sought to understand the driving forces which motivate militant Loyalism. However, as I began to think about this piece, I began to realise that it was always going to go in a very different direction.

For in the process of considering those themes, I was (reluctantly) forced to re-examine the War which was wasn’t a War, the role of Loyalists within that conflict and, on a more personal level, my own role in it and the pseudo war which has been fought since.

A re-examination of my own conscience which has neither been easy nor comfortable but which, on reflection, has been a long time coming. Not that I shall be making public much, if any, of that ‘soul searching’, but I will examine the outlines of the thought processes which were involved in my own introspection.

I sincerely hope that this piece will serve some purpose and that, at least, some of those who were most deeply impacted by the ‘Troubles’, both victims and participants alike, will derive something from it, however small.

Crossing the Rubicon

I will begin by stating something which I feel should be obvious to anyone seeking to understand the Ulster conflict; i.e. that within the working class communities of Northern Ireland, on both sides of the divide, violence is not, and was not, viewed as intrinsically evil or immoral. Both communities had men made notorious for being “street toughs”, both communities believed firmly in corporal punishment, and both ‘sides’ very firmly believed in the biblical concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, even before the advent of the 2nd ‘Troubles’ in 1969.

The idea must seem utterly foreign to the contemporary middle classes. Indeed, it may seem somewhat odd even to the younger members of some working class communities, but it is the fundamental starting point of this analysis. Violence, in one form or another, was part of our lives from a very early age. It is unsurprising then that when NICRA provoked the crises of the late 1960’s, that violent interaction between the two opposing factions would soon follow. The only real surprise was the level of violence which was to follow.

It is a truism that violence begets violence but it is worth bearing in mind. Once one rubicon had been crossed, it became easier to cross another and another. No tactic became ‘off limits’, nothing became unjustifiable. The two communities became ever more polarised and ever more entrenched in their respective positions. Good men did bad things and bad men did even worse.

Loyalist barricade, Belfast circa 1972

Ordinary killers

It is my personal opinion that some men are indeed “natural born killers”. As far back as Socrates and Plato it was postulated that some men felt driven to kill; that some men subconsciously saw in the act of killing, a sort of natural counterpart to the act of giving birth, which of course men cannot do under any circumstances. This theory of “birthing envy” is an intriguing one and one which is deserving of far more attention.

For every born killer however there are many, many more who are driven to kill. Driven to kill by rage, by circumstances, by a need for revenge, or, as incredible as it may seem, by fear. It is these men, those driven to kill, that constitute the vast majority of the killers, the gunmen and the bombers, of the Ulster conflict, and it is these men (and women) who would go on to perpetuate the violence, not for their own gain, not for their own twisted pleasure or some sense of divine purpose, but for reasons which will seem utterly alien and incomprehensible to those detached from the War, by distance, by time or by virtue of social class.

I recognise, as I have always recognised, that there were those on both sides who were not motivated by soaring rhetoric, or by idealism, but were driven instead by their own psychosis. By a deep seated, guttural and irrational hatred which moved such people to commit the most heinous and barbaric atrocities. Things indefensible and unconscionable.

What, in the process of my own individual reflection, I am forced to acknowledge now, perhaps for the first time, is that there were men and women “amongst the ranks of the enemy” who were people of integrity and of undoubted courage. Such people, whom in my opinion were motivated by an acutely skewed reading of history and who had scant regard for democracy, were nevertheless, decent people with real concerns, real grievances and genuine aspirations, however far those aspirations were from my own.

Prisoners of history

It is an undeniable truth of history that a war between two nations, separated by great distance, or even between two neighbouring states, is invariably less bitter, less savage and less brutal than a war between two peoples who share the same piece of territory. When one also factors in the long and complex history of Ulster, then it is unsurprising that the ‘Troubles’ turned out to be one of the most dirty wars ever fought in Europe.

It is also unsurprising that we have become prisoners of history. Prisoners of our own times. We will never be set free. For us, every generation born into the conflict, it is already too late. Our lives have been irrevocably altered by the war we were born into. The ‘Troubles’ are a millstone around our necks from which we will never be unfettered. We deserve sympathy that we will never receive. We deserve a respite which will never come. However, we can, and must, tell our story. We have a burden of responsibility to the younger generations to ensure that we never again slide headlong into a situation in which ordinary people are forced to become killers, ‘intelligence officers’, bomb makers, gun runners and ‘spotters’.

I genuinely fear that we will not be up to the task. There is too much malice, too much distrust and animosity on both sides. If the generation that fought the Second World War are remembered as “the greatest generation”, then perhaps those 3 generations or so who fought the ‘Dirty War’, might well be remembered as the worst generations. One generation who began a war they could not possibly win (and that applies to both sides), one generation who continued that war because they had no idea how to stop it, and one generation who continued it because they could not imagine life any other way.

Looking inward

We should nevertheless tell our stories. Although it would be infinitely more helpful if we, ‘the worst generations’, were to explain to our young people that we were motivated far more by what we thought was going on, rather than perhaps what was really happening. Suspending, as it were, the historical narrative as we understand it and instead relaying the personal narrative.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 CLMC ceasefire, militant Loyalism underwent a period of deep introspection. Such a period of introspection is once again required, and this time Irish republicans must include themselves, if indeed there is any real desire from that quarter for real reconciliation (which I, personally, very much doubt). Those who participated in the Conflict must also free themselves from the constraints of moral recrimination; that is, we must abandon objective moralism and, taking into account the circumstances of the times, must not be afraid to see ourselves as sometimes having been the villians, those who were clearly in the wrong, if only on certain occasions or in certain situations.

We must share the responsibility of maintaining good government” – John McMichael

Unlike Irish republicanism, Loyalism does not need to portray itself as whiter than white. True patriotism is not tarnished by the occasional uncomfortable truth. We are, along with every other Briton, the inheritors of the legacy of the British Empire. We recognise the moral ambivalence of that situation. That is perhaps why Loyalists have no fear of a critical analysis of the past and of their role therein.

Where to now?

What Northern Ireland needs now is for republicans to engage in the same kind of soul searching. To admit the immorality of at least some of their actions and, furthermore, to admit freely that the motivation for many of their actions was, at the very, very least questionable. What we also need is for the ‘3rd party’, the extreme Liberal fringe, to end their illegitimate occupation of the moral high ground and recognise, if they are capable of doing so, that there are those in Ulster who do not share their pacifistic and utopian ideals.

In particular I would appeal to the members and supporters of the Alliance Party, Green Party etc to stop the politics of wishful thinking and to acknowledge the very real and very deep divisions within NI society. To stop the utterly ineffectual lecturing of the working class Loyalist community, especially in Belfast. As I, and others within Loyalism, have stated repeatedly since 1998, peace and reconciliation cannot be imposed from the top down but must instead be built from the ground up. Indeed, my own opposition to the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ stemmed primarily from my view that the Belfast Agreement was the very epitome of a ‘top down’ peace. Something that we, all the people of Northern Ireland, have a chance, however slim, to change.

Such change is however very unlikely unless or until all parties to the Conflict have the courage to admit our own past failings, recognise our common humanity (which applies even to those who have committed violent acts), fully recognise the intolerable hurt of innocent victims and resolve to never again allow our communities to be held to ransom by our inescapable past. In short, any real and just peace can only be achieved once we, the very people who, one way or another, created the Conflict, have all admitted that we are prisoners of conscience and that that is what we will always be.

Do Not Become That Which You Despise

We have written much, mainly on social media, about the dehumanising rhetoric of Irish republicanism. About how republicans have carefully crafted a malignant stereotype of the Loyalist and wider Unionist community in Northern Ireland, reducing an entire people down to a grotesque caricature. That pernicious and nakedly sectarian narrative has now become so deeply entrenched within the republican and so-called ‘nationalist’ community that it is now almost ubiquitous. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find any Irish republicans, at least any under the age of 50, who are not firmly convinced that the ‘PUL’ community are a shambling, Ill-educated, ignorant and backwards people, obsessed with flags and marching.

“Dehumanisation is a first step towards genocide

The stereotype was carefully constructed and like all stereotypes it has, at it’s core, some kernel of validity. Irish republicans have, however, taken every negative aspect, every questionable facet, of the Loyalist/Unionist community and exaggerated them, twisted them beyond all recognition, creating a kind of Frankenstein’s monster from the rotten pieces of a cadaver that has never really existed.

The Twilight of the ‘Superprods’

Loyalism could stoop to the same odious, contemptible depths as republicanism, that however, would be both morally and politically wrong. In the 1980’s and 90’s Loyalist leaders, especially within the Ulster Democratic Party (and its predecessor, the NUPRG), worked tirelessly to eradicate the kind of narrow sectarian attitude which had existed within certain elements of Loyalism in the 1970’s, the sort of retrograde attitude typified by Paisley and the various ‘movements’ and ‘forces’ he and his fellow travellers headed from the mid 60’s onwards.

The ‘superprod’ segment of Loyalism, which was already very much a fringe element, was well and truly marginalised. Policy documents such as Beyond the Religious Divide (1979) and Common Sense (1987), made it abundantly clear that there was no room, at least within the Ulster Defence Association and its satellite groups, for the sort of lazy sectarianism purveyed by the ‘superprods’.

Common Sense; the brainchild of John McMichael

That is not a denial of the, sometimes overtly, sectarian actions of the UDA/UFF. It must be remembered however that “two eyes for an eye” was a military tactic. A brutal and callous tactic but one that nevertheless proved effective in the long term. The dual strategy of targeting republican activists and those who afforded them logistical, financial and moral support ultimately forced PIRA/Sinn Fein to the negotiating table, no longer able to ignore the pressure being exerted upon their movement and the community which provided the support and backup necessary to sustain their terrorist campaign.

Comparison of Ideology

Loyalism cannot be allowed to go backward. We cannot, and will not, stoop to the level of our opponents. We must recognise the humanity of our enemies. We must not allow ourselves to cultivate ignorant and dehumanising stereotypes about the Irish republican community, even though that is precisely what republicans have done in regards to our community. Loyalism is not a corrosive ideology, it is not seditious or insurgent. Loyalism does not have to dehumanise others.

At its core Ulster Loyalism is about reforming and maintaining the state and it’s institutions, Irish republicanism is about subversion, insurrection and the overthrow of the state. Rather than alienating and ‘othering’ people, Loyalism will profit infinitely more through inclusion and respect. At the very least we must remember that our opponents, even those who were formerly engaged in terrorism and those who act as apologists for that violence, are still human beings with genuine aspirations and fears and concerns. We are not Nazis, Communists or Irish republicans. We must retain the dignity, the core values and the integrity of our ideology. To do otherwise would be to betray the legacy of McMichael, Barr, Smallwoods et al.

Fight the Stereotype

The toxic narrative of Irish republicanism will never be challenged from within. The cult of violent failure allows for little in the way of dissent. Therefore it is incumbent upon Loyalists to undermine and destroy the malignant, repulsive myths spun by Irish republicans about our community and to challenge the stereotypes so carefully constructed about us.

Irish republicanism; the politics of violent failure

Challenge those who purvey these pernicious lies. Dispel their hateful mythos but do not lower yourself to their level. Conduct yourself with self respect and dignity. Never forget that you, as a Loyalist, seek to maintain and to protect, whereas those who oppose us seek to destroy, subvert, undermine and usurp. Remind yourself that Irish republicanism has been trying, and miserably failing, to attain its nefarious objectives for over 100 years and that for 98 years they have tried to destroy the state of Northern Ireland. Without success.

Perhaps such abject and abysmal failure is a motivating factor in the republican movements efforts to dehumanise and degrade the Loyalist and wider Unionist community. Perhaps it is a side effect of the cognitive dissonance caused by constantly being told that they are, at the same time, both a race of “gaelic supermen” and the world’s most victimised, oppressed and downtrodden people. Whatever is behind it, their wretched narrative will be demolished. It is a weapon which Loyalists can, and should, use against them.