Politics

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

The Forgotten Atrocity

On Tuesday, the 12th of June, 1973, the Provisional IRA detonated two bombs in Coleraine, Co.Londonderry. The first device, 150 lb of explosives packed into a stolen Ford Cortina, went off at 3.00 p.m on Railway Rd, outside an off-license, killing six and injuring 33; several people lost limbs and several more were left crippled for life. Many of the wounded were children. A second bomb exploded five minutes later at Hanover Place. The Provos had sent a warning for the second bomb but said it had “mistakenly given the wrong location“. One would have thought that when dealing with deadly explosive devices the greatest care should be taken to avoid any error, PIRA/Sinn Fein though, did not give a damn about the deaths of civilians. Indeed I would contend that multiple civilian deaths was the very objective of such bombings.

The six innocent civilians killed by the Railway Road bomb were all Protestants, all over the age of 60. The victims were- Elizabeth Craigmile (76), Robert Scott (72), Dinah Campbell (72), Francis Campbell (70), Nan Davis (60), and Elizabeth Palmer (60). Elizabeth Craigmile, the Campbells and their daughter Hilary had been on a day outing and were beside the car-bomb at the moment of detonation. Hilary Campbell, whose parents had both been killed, lost a leg in the explosion. The bomb had left a deep crater in the road and the off-license was engulfed in flames; it also caused considerable damage to vehicles and other buildings in the vicinity. Railway Road was a scene of carnage and devastation, the mangled wreckage of the Cortina resting in the middle of the street, the bodies of the dead and injured lying in pools of blood amongst the fallen masonry and roof slates, shards of glass from blown-out windows blanketing the ground. Ambulance crews and firemen who arrived at the scene spoke of “utter confusion” with many people “wandering around in a state of severe shock“. Five minutes later, the second bomb exploded on the forecourt of Stuart’s Garage in Hanover Place. Although this explosion caused no injuries, it added to the panic and confusion caused by the first bomb. It also hindered the Emergency Services in their attempts to save the lives of the many seriously injured people on Railway Road. Undoubtedly this was the PIRA murder gang’s intention. Not content with causing horrific injuries, the unscrupulous killers seemed determined to hamper any effort to aid the wounded.

Only cowards murder pensioners, but what sort of people vote for such cowardly, murdering bastards?

Only cowards murder pensioners, but what sort of people vote for such cowardly, murdering bastards?

It has been alleged that no warning at all was given for the first bomb. This has led to speculation that the bombers intention was to draw people towards the bomb in Railway Road and inflict as many civilian casualties as possible. This would not be surprising given PIRA/Sinn Fein’s complete and total disregard for human life. Indeed, it would fit their modus operandi. The death toll would have been much, much higher had the bomb gone off just a few minutes later, when girls from a nearby school would have been leaving for home and walking along the street. In January 1974, a woman was acquitted of charges linked to the bombings. Her boyfriend however received an eight-year prison sentence for his part in the attacks, and the leader of the bomb team, 18-year-old Sean McGlinchey, was convicted of planting the Railway Road bomb. He was sentenced to just 18 years imprisonment in Long Kesh/The Maze. McGlinchey, the younger brother of former INLA ‘Chief of Staff‘ Dominic ‘Mad-Dog’ McGlinchey, later became a Sinn Fein councillor and, unbelievably, was elected mayor of Limavady in 2011. What sort of people go out and vote for a man that murdered six senior citizens? Throughout the conflict, the leadership of the Irish nationalist community (at that time mainly the SDLP) repeatedly gave assurances to their Protestant neighbours that the majority of Catholics and nationalists did not support the Provo death squads. Really? So then who’s voting for men like Sean McGlinchey? Ordinary, decent people in that community need to know, need to see, that every vote for Provisional Sinn Fein is a vote for those who murdered and maimed innocent women and children (or supported, aided and gave voice to those who did).

Birmingham Pub Bombings: Evil Beyond Belief 

Mention the Birmingham Pub Bombings to most people and the first thing many will say is “oh, the Birmingham Six“, to which the correct response should be, “no, the Birmingham Twenty-One”, for the focus should be on the twenty-one innocents slaughtered by Irish republican fanatics, not on the men wrongfully convicted of the crime! The Birmingham Six suffered an awful miscarriage of justice but it should never be forgotten that 21 people were murdered in cold blood, the majority of them under the age of 25.

On the 21st of November, 1974, a Provo bomb exploded inside the ‘Mulberry Bush’ pub. The bomb, containing 6lb of Gelignite and hidden inside a duffel-bag, went off at just after 8p.m. Ten people were killed and dozens wounded, many of them seriously. Police were attempting to clear the nearby ‘Tavern in the Town’ pub, on New Street, below King Edward House, when at 20:27 a second bomb exploded there, killing another eleven people and leaving many with appalling injuries. The bodies of the dead and injured were strewn about the ruined pub like ragdolls. The explosion was so powerful that several victims were blown through a brick wall into an area just below the main front entrance to King Edward House. Their bodies were wedged between the rubble and underground electric cables; it took hours for firemen to remove them. The scene was like something straight out of a horror film. The two devastated pubs were just 50yds apart. A third bomb had been left on nearby Hagley Road, but thankfully failed to explode.

A scene of devastation, Birmingham after the Provo's deadly bomb attacks.

A scene of devastation, Birmingham after the Provo’s deadly bomb attacks.

That PIRA/SF had set out that night to massacre innocent civilians is beyond question. However, I would also suggest a secondary, albeit subconscious, motivation. The Irish nationalist community, overlapping as it does with the Roman Catholic community, has always been deeply conservative in it’s attitudes. Despite the politically correct sound-bites of the nationalist/republican politicos, attitudes towards women, particularly young women, in that community have always been rather backwards and repressive. It is my contention that the real perpetrators of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, rather than being appalled by the deaths of so many young women, many of them just teenagers, would have , at least subconsciously, felt that those young English girls deserved their fate, for being out drinking and flirting with men, rather than being at home under the watchful eye of their fathers or brothers, as young women within the Irish nationalist community ‘back home‘ were expected to be, at least in those days. Like their friends in the Taliban or Hamas, the men of the Provisional IRA expected their women to do as they were told, be ‘seen and not heard’. I would argue that, deep down, the murderous scumbags that bombed those pubs were quietly pleased so many ‘English slags’ had been killed by their bomb. Perhaps I am completely wrong, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. The fact remains that PIRA/SF set out to murder as many civilians as they could. A final word about the Birmingham Six. PIRA/SF could have undermined those men’s convictions at any time. They could have ensured their convictions were overturned. Had the real bombers stepped forward, had they been big enough to take their punishment, those six innocent men would have walked free. To the Provos though, the Birmingham Six were expendable. They cared about their fate only marginally more than they cared about the fate of those they murdered and maimed.

The Second ‘Bloody Friday’

On Tuesday, 21st of January, 1975, the Provos set out to repeat the carnage and slaughter of ‘Bloody Friday’, that infamous day in July, 1972, when they had set off 26 bombs, killing eleven people and wounding 130 more. Now just two and a half years later, PIRA/Sinn Fein set out to do something similar. As the people of Belfast went about their daily routine, the Provo godfathers planned mass murder. Earlier that day they had sent out several young, misguided men to plant nine bombs across the city in crowded civilian areas. The intention was clear; to murder and maim as many innocent people as possible. Fortunately though, the Irish nationalist lunatic’s plans went awry. Two of the bombs were discovered and made safe by Army technical officers, the rest did explode but by some miracle no-one was injured. Details are sketchy but it seems that the RUC were vigilant and spotted some of the suspect vehicles containing the bombs, evacuating the areas in question before the bombs went off. Whatever the reason, vigilance or blind good fortune, the Provos were thwarted and many, many innocent lives were spared.

The people of Ulster had another slice of good luck that day. That morning two young republican thugs, John ‘Bap’ Kelly (26) and John Stone (23), had been dispatched towards Belfast city centre in a stolen car packed with explosives. No doubt instructed by their cowardly leaders to go out and ‘kill women and kids for Ireland’. The two would-be mass murderers set off, unaware that they were both about to pay for their actions with their lives. Just two more Irish republican gangsters who would die for nothing.

As the cowardly pair drove along Victoria Street, on the way to their intended target, the bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely, killing them both instantly. As their mortal remains were being scraped off the public highway, the leaders of the Provo’s ‘D Company, 2nd Battalion‘ met to discuss the failure of their attempt at mass murder. They undoubtedly knew that people would die that day, killed at the hands of PIRA/Sinn Fein, just not their people. Their intention was to murder people out shopping, eating in restaurants and cafes, mothers pushing prams down the street. It had not been their intention to kill two of their own members. I only regret that the doomed vehicle in which Kelly and Stone died had not been a mini-bus load of Provos. Maybe the violent death of 20 of their own men would have focussed the minds of the Provisional leadership, just as the killing of entire PIRA ‘Active Service Units‘, in Loughgall at the hands of the S.A.S and in Cappagh at the hands of the Ulster Volunteer Force, had focussed the minds of the republican leadership in Mid-Ulster in the late 80s and early 90s.

Next Week: Part Three, The Murder of Ross McWhirter the ‘Dolphin Restaurant’ shootings and the Balcombe Street Gang

 

 

 

 

 

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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”

 

 

Politics is Life

Tired Of Life?

Samuel Johnson once wrote that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life“. I don’t know about that. London can be a daunting place at times, especially for us Yokels. That quotation though is extremely useful if one substitutes London for Politics. For truly, all men (and women) must be tired of life if they say they are tired of politics. Politics is life! The price of a loaf of bread? Politics. The cost of a litre of fuel? Politics. Your children’s education? Politics. Your pension? Politics. Whether or not you’re required to carry an ‘ID card’ at all times? Politics. I think you get the picture. Sadly, it is all too common to hear people declare themselves non-political. As if somehow one can simply detach oneself from the very mechanisms of daily life.

We here in Ulster are more politically active, more politically engaged, than most population groups in the developed world. The underlying reasons are a matter of historical record. A population in conflict with one another, or emerging from such a conflict, will naturally be more politically conscious. Even so, political apathy and disinterest are slowly becoming more normal here too. Indeed, in some quarters of Northern society, to declare oneself ‘apolitical’ is seen as another way to declare oneself non-sectarian. This mindset is, of course, based on the false premise that in Ulster, politics and religion are somehow analogous. They are not. One can find numerous examples of Catholic Unionists and Protestant nationalists, for instance. It is unfortunate that so many people, not just here in Ulster but across the globe, are denying themselves a voice and simply switching off, disengaging themselves from the processes of democracy and governance. Politics may seem “boring” or complicated, but only because the media’s definition of the word ‘politics’ has become so narrow and non-inclusive. And we all know that where the media leads, society follows!

Freedom Is Never Free

Perhaps the apolitical should be reminded of the sacrifices made by generations past to ensure that democracy survived. Reminded of the 19,240 (British & Commonwealth) soldiers killed on the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme. Or of the 12,500 Allied POWs who died working on the ‘Death Railway‘ in Burma during WWII. Or the nearly 18,000 men who made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Market Garden in 1944. I could list battles, conflicts and casualty figures all day. I think you get the point here. But would such stark reminders do any good? For many people, especially younger people, the sacrifices of previous generations seem remote, distant.

Would it be more useful to simply remind people that politics is inescapable? To remind them that almost everything in their daily lives is affected by politics. Maybe. The issue of political apathy though, is one which ought to be addressed with some urgency. When less than 50% of eligible voters actually go to the polls and vote, should the result of that election be allowed to stand? Where is the cut off point? 40% turn out? 25%? At what point do we say ‘this cannot be allowed‘ and actually begin to look seriously at the underlying reasons for such abrogation of democratic duty? And, just as importantly, what can be done to get Joe Public to re-engage politically.

The Redefining Of Politics

In the last few years British politics has done itself no favours. First the ‘Expenses Scandal‘, then the ‘Bank Bailout‘, a sordid euphemism for government giving trillions of pounds of public money to their old school chums and golf partners, caused more and more people to turn away from politics (at least at Westminster level) and lose what little faith they had left in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’. The shadow of paedophillia now hangs over the Palace of Westminster, like some abhorrent spectre, haunting the entire nation. Perhaps this latest scandal (or rather, outrage) can instil some kind of righteous anger in the proletariat and force some very real, and substantial, changes to our political life in this country. The sort of anger that welled up after the ‘Expenses Scandal‘ broke, seemed to gather momentum, but then simply ebbed away again. It seems tragically pertinent at this point to quote the Manic Street Preachers, who sang: ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’. 

The World's Largest Gravy Train?

The World’s Largest Gravy Train?

The UK political establishment cannot continue in the way it has for the last 40 or so years. If it does, voter turnout in 2020 will be down to about 15%. Democracy in Britain will, at that point, have lost all legitimacy. The politicians must change, but the voters must change too. The unscrupulous media too, must undergo some form of transformation. The scandalous behaviour of some within British politics simply cannot be tolerated any longer. The public need to get ‘as mad as hell’ and make it abundantly clear that we, as a collective entity, are not prepared to be governed by immoral vermin. The media needs to consciously and proactively demonstrate to the general public that politics is meaningful and important. The BBC also needs to abandon their own machiavellian agenda and become an impartial public broadcaster again.

We (all of us) must redefine politics. We must change the political lexicon. No more ‘spin doctors’, no more backroom deals, no more allowing young people to think of politics as the preserve of old, upper class, men. When we talk of politics in the future, we must be sure to include local politics, community politics. The politics of the street, the housing estate, the rural community. But, to take ownership of politics, there must be an engagement with politics. The next time you hear someone say: “I don’t do politics”, don’t laugh at them or mock them. Don’t look down on them. Don’t argue with them. Encourage them. Engage with them. As much as we would like to think we are influential, we politicos cannot change society, or at least, we cannot change society alone! Politics is a dirty business, and it’s high time we all got our hands dirty!

 

 

COLLUSION: PART 2

PROLOGUE

In the first part of this article I examined the inflated claims of Irish nationalists & republicans concerning alleged collusion between militant Loyalists & the British state. There is however another side of collusion, one which is beginning to be exposed. Despite not recognising the legitimacy of the “partitionist 26 county state”, otherwise known as the Irish republic, republicans have, throughout the history of ‘The Troubles’, colluded with & accepted aid from the organs of that state. Irish nationalism is demonstrably immoral. That nationalists would cast aside their principles in order to advance their aims, is not in the least surprising. What is more surprising, indeed shocking, is that a supposedly modern, democratic, European nation state would sponsor terrorism against their closest neighbour. What is also shocking is the way in which this collusion between the Irish state & the crazed fanatics of PIRA, INLA etc has been covered up. That cover up is thankfully now being exposed. Loyalists & Unionists, indeed anyone interested in truth & transparency, need to ensure that that exposure continues.

HOW THE IRISH GOVERNMENT HELPED CREATE THE PROVOS

In October 1969, a meeting of ‘Northern Citizen Defence Committees’, which had been set up to ‘defend’ republican areas & which included senior IRA members, was held in Bailieboro, Co. Cavan, with Irish army intelligence officer Cpt. James Kelly in attendance. The meeting was told that £50,000 (sterling) would be made available, from the Irish government to buy weapons “for defence of Irish nationalist areas”. Later, Irish Minister of Finance, Charlie Haughey, held meetings with Cathal Goulding, so-called ‘Chief of Staff’ of the emerging (though as yet unnamed) Provisional IRA. Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Móráin, reported one of these meetings to the Irish Cabinet, but Haughey dismissed it as a mere “chance encounter” & no further action was taken. Meanwhile, Neil Blaney, Minister for Agriculture & Fisheries, made plans with Cpt.Kelly to import weapons from continental Europe, with Haughey providing the money for the purchase & also arranging customs clearance for the guns. By late April 1970, An Garda Síochána Special Branch were aware of the plot & informed Taoiseach Jack Lynch. However, Lynch took no action until the leader of the opposition, Liam Cosgrave, became aware of the smuggling scheme & pressed the Prime Minister to take action. Haughey & Blaney were sacked by Lynch on the 6th of May when they refused to resign. Kevin Boland, Minister for Social Welfare, resigned from the government in protest at the sackings as he was adamant (as were the accused) that Lynch & most of the Cabinet, in particular Jim Gibbons, then Minister for Defence, knew about the plan to import guns with which to arm the Provo death squads, all along. Minister for Justice, Micheál Ó Móráin, who was in hospital at the time, was asked to resign on the 4th of May. He later claimed that he had in fact informed Lynch of the individuals involved weeks before.

On Friday, 28th May 1970, Haughey & Blaney went on trial in Dublin, together with Captain James Kelly, a Belfast republican leader named John Kelly & Belgian businessman & fugitive Nazi Albert Luykx, who had allegedly agreed to use his contacts in West Germany to acquire the weapons that would be sent to the PIRA death squads in NI. All charges against Blaney were controversially dropped in the District Court on the 2nd of July 1970 & as a result he was not tried. Following a second trial the other four accused were cleared on the 23rd of October. At the trial there was a direct contradiction of evidence regarding the sanctioning of the imports between Haughey & chief prosecution witness, Jim Gibbons, Minister for Defence at the time of the attempted gunrunning. Haughey admitted arranging customs clearance for the shipment, but claimed in his defence that he did not know it consisted of weapons. This directly contradicted the evidence of Gibbons & Peter Berry that Haughey was fully aware of all the details of the conspiracy. It also contradicted the stories of his co-defendants, who admitted that they had tried to import weapons for the Provos, but maintained that the shipment had been legally authorised by the Irish government! During the trial, the judge remarked that either Haughey or Gibbons had to be committing perjury. Sadly though, due to the efficient cover up of these events by the Dublin government, we will probably never know the truth. Was the proposed arms shipment sanctioned at the highest level? Were other shipments of guns & explosives successfully imported & turned over to the Irish government’s Provo allies? How much Irish government money found it’s way into PIRA/SF bank accounts? One can only imagine the uproar & the outrage amongst republicans if this affair had involved the UK government channeling money to, or attempting to import arms on behalf of, the UDA or UVF.

THE MURDER OF RICHARD FALLON

In April, 1970, Garda Richard Fallon, 44, was shot dead as he & another garda chased armed raiders who had just robbed the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay, Dublin. The robbery & subsequent murder were widely believed to have been the work of a small Irish nationalist terror gang, styling themselves Saor Éire . One might think that no stone would have been left unturned to uncover the killers of a police officer, especially when he had three brothers who were also Gardai. But The investigation was botched from the very start. No effort was made to cordon off the crime scene. Children found spent cartridges at the scene & handed them to the gardaí. Shockingly though, the investigation may well have been deliberately sabotaged by senior members of the Dublin government. Gerry L’Estrange TD told the Dáil on the 4th of November, 1971 that “one of the men who murdered Garda Fallon was brought down to Greenore ferryboat in a State car”. He did not name the minister responsible in the Dáil, but gardaí were convinced it was Neil Blaney. On the 29th of July, 1970, Blaney told the Dáil “I would query how active these forces [the Garda] have been in apprehending the murderers of Dick Fallon? The murderer was witnessed by some members of these forces & yet the people involved in the murder have escaped the net.” It seems that having had his driver, a garda now dead, help one of the wanted men to escape, he was now taunting the police.

Garda Richard Fallon, whose killers were aided by members of the Irish government.

Garda Richard Fallon, whose killers were aided in their escape by members of the Irish government.

Des O’Malley, Minister for Justice when Blaney made his reprehensible statement, told the Dáil in July 2001 that  “there is some reason to believe Garda Fallon may have been murdered in April 1970 with a weapon which had been part of earlier illegal arms shipments into this State. There is also reason to suppose that some senior gardaí suspected that a prominent politician was fully aware of this earlier importation and had turned a blind eye to it.” Investigators believed that Pádraig “Jock” Haughey had smuggled a consignment of pistols in through Dublin Airport the previous September. Jock Haughey, was the brother of the infamous Charlie Haughey, who was in charge of Customs at the time. Another Irish political dynasty, the Aherns, were also implicated, with one of those arrested for questioning on suspicion of possibly harbouring the raiders being Con Ahern, the father of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Thirty years after his father’s murder, Richard Fallon’s son, Finian, went in search of the files relating to the murder, but they were withheld. He later told an RTE interviewer that “the Government, or elements within the Fianna Fáil Government of the day, were embarked on a common endeavour with subversives to supply arms to the North for whatever reason, & that one of the guns made its way into the hands of the gang, or members of the gang, called Saor Éire, who killed my father, & in the aftermath of that I believe that the Government had to cover up those circumstances.” A damning indictment indeed.

SMITHWICK & BEYOND

On Monday, 20th of March, 1989, a Provo murder gang killed two senior RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The 2 were returning from a cross-border security conference in Dundalk, Co. Louth, in the Irish Republic, when Buchanan’s car (a red Vauxhall Cavalier) was flagged-down & fired upon by six PIRA gunmen. Buchanan was killed outright whilst Breen, suffering serious gunshot wounds, was deliberately shot in the back of the head as he tried to crawl out of the vehicle. They were the highest-ranking RUC officers to be killed during ‘The Troubles’. The Smithwick Tribunal, a judicial inquiry into the killings which opened in Dublin in June 2011, published its final report in December 2013. In the report Judge Peter Smithwick stated that he was satisfied there was collusion in the killings & that somebody inside Dundalk Garda station had passed on information to the Provos regarding the presence of the two RUC men. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore responded to the publication saying:

“Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Robert Buchanan of the RUC were murdered by the IRA on 20 March 1989 as they returned home from a meeting in Dundalk Garda Station. For years we have sought to get to the truth about their deaths. Today we must acknowledge & confront the central grave finding of the Smithwick Tribunal Report, that there was collusion with the IRA from within An Garda Síochána in the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen & Superintendent Robert Buchanan. I am appalled & saddened by this finding; it is a matter of grave public concern. On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen & Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies”

Collusion between the Irish state (or agencies thereof) & Irish nationalist terrorist gangs had been proven, at least in one case, but there are many other cases of alleged collusion between republican killers & representatives of the Irish state.

Other high-profile cases of alleged collusion include the murder of Lord Justice Maurice Gibson & his wife Cecily in an PIRA bomb at Killeen, Co Down, 1987; Co. Louth farmer, Tom Oliver, who was murdered by the Provos in 1991 for allegedly being an ‘informer’; the murder of electrical contractor Terence McKeever, who worked in RUC stations & was brutally tortured & killed by a Provo gang in June 1986 in South Armagh. The deaths of four RUC officers- William Wilson, 28, Stephen Rodgers, 19, David Baird, 22, & Tracy Doak, 21, in the bombing of a Brink’s-Mat van in 1985 moments after the RUC had taken over escort duty from the gardai. The killing of businessman John “Big Note” McAnulty who was abducted by the Provos from a border pub in July 1989, tortured & murdered. There was also the sickening ‘mistaken identity’ murder of Robert Hanna, his wife Maureen & their seven-year-old son David in a bomb at Killeen, Newry, as they made their way home after a family holiday to Disneyland, Florida, in July of 1988. In a callous attempt to excuse the murder of an entire young family, PIRA/SF said it meant to kill Judge Eoin Higgins but had slaughtered the Hanna family “by accident”.

IAN SPROULE

Ian Sproule was 23 years old & lived with his parents at their home on the Lisleen Rd, just outside Killen, near Castlederg, Co. Tyrone. Ian was a joiner by trade & spent a number of years working for his father who was a builder. He left Ulster
for a short time to take up a job in England but returned home in 1991 & was again working in the family business. Ian was an avid Everton supporter, & was learning to play the guitar. On the night of Friday, the 12th of April, 1991, Ian attended a birthday party in Castlederg. He returned home around 1 am in the morning. As he parked his car in the street outside the family home, three republican terrorists, who were lying in wait, opened fire on him from close range. Ian died instantly. Follow-up searches of nearby fields produced no evidence & the security forces made no arrests. After Ian’s murder, PIRA/SF claimed their victim had been a member of the UVF, in a bid to distract media attention away from what was, in reality, another sectarian assassination of a young Protestant civilian.

After the murder of Ian Sproule, Unionist politician Gregory Campbell raised the issue of PIRA/Garda collusion.

After the murder of Ian Sproule, Unionist politician Gregory Campbell raised the issue of PIRA/Garda collusion.

In the week after Mr. Sproule’s murder the Provos tried further to ‘justify’ this latest sickening sectarian murder. A masked man, claiming to be from PIRA/Sinn Fein, passed papers to a reporter from the ‘Derry Journal’. The papers included copies of Garda security files alleging Mr. Sproule was a suspected member of the UVF, wanted in Éire for questioning in relation to a firebomb attack in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, in 1987 (an attack that was the work of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, not the UVF) In any event, Ian Sproule had never been charged with, nor found guilty of any offence. He was an innocent man. The Garda Commissioner at the time ordered an investigation into how confidential files belonging to his police service were passed onto terrorists – an irrefutable act of collusion between members of the Irish republic’s police & PIRA/Sinn Fein. Mr. Sproule’s family was never advised of the outcome of that investigation, although it was referred to in the Smithwick tribunal in 2012 when an RUC witness (‘Witness 68’) testified that “beyond doubt that there was a leak from the Gardaí to the IRA” in relation to the Garda security document containing Ian Sproule’s details. Today, this disgusting act of collusion remains uninvestigated & largely forgotten. Ian Sproule’s family deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know, as do we all, who sanctioned such acts of collusion? Who was directing the Irish nationalist killer gangs that stalked the border regions of Northern Ireland for over 30 years? Why did the Gardai make false allegations against Mr. Sproule? And who among them gave PIRA/SF documents containing those heinous slurs? Surely now, nearly 25 years on, it’s time the Sproule family were told the truth.

CONCLUSION

Whilst Irish nationalist/republican propagandists repeat their lies, myths & half-truths about alleged collusion between the NI Security Forces & Ulster Loyalist militias, the issue of actual, proven collusion between republican death squads & the Irish state, in particular An Garda Síochána, goes undiscussed, unmentioned & largely forgotten. That is a travesty. The Unionist/Loyalist community suffered at the hands of (Irish) state sponsored terrorist groups. Innocent people, men, women & children, were murdered by blood thirsty fanatics, acting in collusion with (at various times) the Irish government, the police force of that state & it’s army. The truth must be told. The victims of PIRA/Irish state collusion deserve to be told the truth. The international community also needs to know that PIRA/SF & other Irish nationalist murder gangs, were state sponsored. There is blood on the hands of successive Dublin governments. Time that that was acknowledged. Loyalists will not allow Irish nationalists/republicans to whitewash the history of the Conflict any longer. We absolutely cannot, will not rest until the truth comes out, until justice is done & until the suffering, hurt & trauma inflicted on our community is recognised. For if it is not, if the demonisation of our community continues, if we do not see any prospect for truth & justice, then it will not be mere recognition that Loyalists seek, it will be retribution!

COLLUSION: PART 1

PROLOGUE

If one were to believe the historical revisionism of Irish nationalists, one would come to the conclusion that Loyalist paramilitary groups were armed, trained, financed, directed & controlled by the British state. That is patently untrue. It is a spurious myth that is easily disproven. The Irish nationalist myth makers do not stop there however, because they would also have the world believe that despite such external aid, that Loyalism was incapable of taking the war to their enemies & that republican groups, such as the Provisional IRA, received no outside aid from any source, nor at any time colluded with any third party. The motivation for such irresolute lies is not difficult to understand. Irish nationalism, especially the more extreme varieties, likes to portray the Northern Ireland conflict in a very simple, black & white, way. In the Irish nationalist/republican narrative it is always simply a matter of ‘native Irish gael’ versus the ‘evil Brit occupier’. Loyalists & Unionists do not figure in this fable because republicanism has always insisted that Loyalism & Unionism doesn’t count. Indeed, many Irish nationalists still cling to the ludicrous notion that in the event of a ‘united Ireland’, NI’s pro-Union population will simply throw up their arms, realise the error of their ways & somehow become enthusiastic little Irish men & women, virtually overnight! To concede the fact that Loyalist groups were effective & sophisticated, to concede the fact that they were not controlled, nor armed, trained or funded, by the British state, means by default, conceding that Loyalism was/is a major player within Northern Ireland, undermines some fairly basic republican ideological tenets & complicates the simplistic ‘native vs occupier’ narrative so oft repeated by organisations like INLA/IRSP, PSF & now the multitudinous ‘dissident’ groups which seem to be popping up like mushrooms. Don’t just take my word for it though. Let’s examine the facts, then you can decide for yourself

 

“TIS WELL THAT WAR IS SO TERRIBLE…”

Those Irish nationalists & republicans that uncritically digest the propaganda spoon-fed to them by their socio-political leaders, often demonstrate their pitiful knowledge of ‘The Troubles’ by alleging that the UVF & Ulster Freedom Fighters killed only a mere handful of active republicans during the long years of conflict. It’s a claim so imbecilic that I usually deem it unworthy of reply. In the interests of historical accuracy however, I will quickly expose this pernicious lie (whilst trying not to laugh)

It is claimed that Loyalist groups only ever managed to kill “a handful” of republicans, others claim they killed only 40 republicans throughout the entire conflict (& often cite the deeply flawed CAIN website to back this up) So let’s look at the facts-

Off the top of my head I can name, err, probably ten or twelve very senior republicans killed by the UVF or UFF. But let’s go back to the beginning, to the start of the erroneously titled ‘Troubles’. In August, 1969, Gerard McCauley, an IRA gunman (this of course is prior to the Official/Provisional split, hence McCauley is classified simply as ‘IRA’) was shot dead by a Loyalist sniper during a gunbattle in the Bombay Street area, off the Falls Road in west Belfast. During 1971 & 72 Loyalists killed another five republican terrorists/paramilitaries. Four members of the Provisional IRA & one member of the paramilitary Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association, which is now almost completely forgotten. The CEA was an Irish nationalist organisation set up in 1971, with the stated aim of “protecting Catholic areas”. It’s founding member was Phil Curran who, in common with other members, had previous military training. The CEA was paramilitary in nature. At its most active, in 1972, it had a claimed membership of 8,000. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the CEA was also extensively involved in training both major factions of the IRA (Official & Provisional) at that time, & that some CEA members actively engaged in ‘offensive actions’ against the Loyalist/Unionist community (despite their claim to be merely ‘defending’ Catholic neighbourhoods) with the CEA accused of carrying out bomb & gun attacks which were later claimed to be the work of either the OIRA or PIRA. In 1973 Loyalists killed another four Irish nationalist/republican ‘footsoldiers’, 2 members of PIRA/SF, one Official IRA man & one senior CEA member. In 1974 another four, 2 PIRA/SF, 1 OIRA & 1 CEA. In 1975 & 1976 ten more republicans, of all ranks, were killed by the UFF, UVF & RHC, including senior PSF activist Colm Mulgrew & PSF Vice-President Máire Drummshot dead in a joint UFF/UVF operation as she recovered from a minor operation in the Mater Hospital in Belfast. Six more republicans, including OIRA ‘Chief of Staff’, Joe McKee, were killed by Loyalist groups in the last years of the 1970s, bringing to 30 the total number killed between 1969 & 1979. There are of course other dubious or contested instances, where it cannot be proven conclusively that deceased individual was, as claimed, a member of OIRA, PIRA, CEA, INLA etc, but where there is some evidence to support such claims. Of course it was republican policy not to ‘claim’ members who had meet a violent death at the hands of the UVF or Ulster Freedom Fighters, in instances where the dead individual could not be positively tied to the republican movement (an example of ‘plausible deniability). This was done for three reasons. Firstly, groups such as PIRA, INLA etc did not wish to appear vulnerable to Loyalist attack. Secondly, there was the issue of compensation to the victim’s family (NIO compensation would not be paid out to the families of proven terrorists) Thirdly, it is much easier to illicit public & political sympathy for an ‘innocent man’ coldly executed by Loyalist gunmen, rather than a dedicated terrorist, who ‘lived by the gun’ & consequently died by that same instrument.

During the 1980s, the level of Loyalist paramilitary activity decreased, due in part to the fact that the Security Forces seemed to finally be making inroads against Irish nationalist terror gangs, but Irish nationalist/republican activists were still being targeted & killed with some regularity. In the opening years of that decade, there were the UFF ‘shopping list’ killings, were the Ulster Freedom Fighters targeted & eliminated the leadership of the INLA/IRSP & the ‘Anti H-Blocks/Armagh Committee’. In 1980 & 81 Loyalists killed six republican activists, including the INLA terrorist godfathers ( & godmother?), Bunting, Lyttle & Daly. In 1981 the UVF executed James ‘Skipper’ Burns, the most senior member of the Provos to be killed during the conflict. The so-called quartermaster of PIRA’s ‘Northern Command’ was killed as he lay sleeping. His killer, armed with a 9mm pistol & silencer, shot Burns dead & escaped without waking Burns’ girlfriend, who lay sleeping beside him & did not realise he was dead until she woke in the morning. The rest of the decade saw a further 13 Irish nationalist/republican activists, including senior Provos such as Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davidson & Lawrence Marley, killed by the UVF, UFF, PAF & RHC.

INLA/IRSP leader Ronnie Bunting, shot dead along with his fellow terrorist, Noel Lyttle, by the UFF, 1981

INLA/IRSP leader Ronnie Bunting, shot dead along with his fellow terrorist, Noel Lyttle, by the UFF, 1981

A TIME TO KILL

The 1990s (up until the CLMC ceasefire in October ’94) saw an escalation of Loyalist violence. The UFF & UVF began to strike at the very heart of violent republicanism, again & again. In 1990, five members of PIRA/SF were killed, three of whom were convicted terrorists. In 1991, nine members of PIRA/SF & the IPLO were killed, including such ‘luminaries’ as Pádraig ‘Paddy’ O’Seanacháin, a senior member of PIRA/SF in West Tyrone, Tommy Donaghy, a senior ‘officer’ in the Provos ‘South Derry Brigade’ & IPLO ‘Chief of Staff’ Martin ‘Rook’ O’Prey, both of whom were shot on the same day, the 16th of August, in separate UFF & UVF operations in South Londonderry & West Belfast. On the 3rd of March that year, half of a local PIRA Active Service Unit, 3 men (Quinn, O’Donnell & Nugent), were shot & killed by Mid-Ulster UVF outside Boyle’s Bar in the republican stronghold of Cappagh, Co Tyrone.The UVF later released a statement claiming responsibility & stating: “This was not a sectarian attack on the Catholic community, but was an operation directed at the very roots of the Provisional IRA command structure in the Armagh–Tyrone area”. The statement concluded that “if the Provisional IRA were to cease its campaign of terror, the Ulster Volunteer Force would no longer deem it necessary to continue with such military operations”. 1992 saw another six republicans killed by Loyalists, with 4 more killed in 1993, including senior ‘South Derry’ Provo, James Kelly, whose death lead one UFF spokesman to quip- “For the Provos in South Londonderry to lose one CO could be seen as unfortunate, but to lose two in the space of 18 months just smacks of carelessness”. In the ten months of 1994 prior to the Loyalist ceasefire, three more republicans lost their lives at the hands of Loyalist paramilitary units, bringing the total number killed to 27, in less than five years. Again there are those whom Loyalists would consider to have been legitimate targets that republicans would maintain were ‘innocent men’. Indeed, this category may well run to at least 40 or 50 names, if not more. Men like James Kerr, shot dead by the Red Hand Commando in 1972. Kerr is listed by CAIN as a “Catholic civilian” but the republican National Graves Association maintains his final resting place & in one of their publications, ‘Republican Belfast Graves’, Kerr is named as a member of the Provisional IRA. Such muddying of the waters reminds me of an incident in 1991. A notorious republican & self confessed Provo had just been killed by the UFF, the media was on the scene & the family was being interviewed. The dead man’s widow was asked why he was killed, between sobs she stated “They shot him because he was a Catholic. Our ___ wasn’t involved in nothing political, he was an innocent man”. A few hours later, that “innocent man” was ‘claimed’ by the local PIRA as being one of their ‘volunteers’ (something they probably felt they couldn’t avoid, given the man’s notoriety). Someone was clearly out of the loop on that one! Either the dead man’s wife did not know he was a republican terrorist, or more probably, had been told that, in the event of anything happening to him, she was to deny everything, & being a good little republican, she did as she was told, not realising that it would backfire rather spectacularly & make all concerned look both dishonest & incompetent. There is also the issue of those categorised as ‘innocent civilians’ who were, nonetheless, regarded as legitimate targets by Loyalist paramilitary groups. Members of the GAA for instance, which provided financial & moral support to Irish nationalism & republicanism throughout the conflict, were often targeted & killed. Members of the West Belfast Taxi Association too were regarded as legitimate targets, since that organisation was widely perceived as being a front for the Provisional IRA.  The SDLP & Workers Party have also lost members to Loyalist actions. Though it is interesting to note that only one such organisation, PIRA/SF, complains about alleged collusion & seems unable to accept the conflict related deaths of their comrades.

The aftermath of the assassination of a PIRA member by South Londonderry UFF. Kilrea, 1991.

The aftermath of the assassination of a PIRA member by South Londonderry UFF. Kilrea, 1991.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?

Of course, when confronted with the facts, most Irish nationalists & republicans will simply shrug their shoulders & dismiss anything which does not fit with their skewed version of events, but some will no doubt concede that, yes, Loyalists could & did strike at the very heart of the republican war machine, but of course they will tell anyone fool enough to listen, that was only because the UFF, UVF & RHC were acting as proxies for the British state. That claim would be a hell of a lot more plausible if were not for a few inconvenient facts. Like why did the ‘Brits’ spend so much time & energy trying to prevent Loyalist groups obtaining arms? For instance, the massive UVF arms shipment intercepted by the Security Services (MI5) at Teesport, England, in November of 1993. Surely the British state, if they were the benefactors & backers of organisations like the UVF, would welcome their purchase of 300 assault rifles, dozens of handguns & well over two tonnes of plastic explosive? Why, if republican claims have any veracity, would the security apparatus of the UK move to prevent such a restocking of the UVF’s arsenal? A few years earlier, in 1988, the Security Forces had also moved against the UFF in similar fashion, seizing part of a Lebanese arms shipment consisting of 30 handguns, 61 AK-47 assault rifles, 150 grenades & more than 11,000 rounds of ammunition.

Part of a UDA/UFF arms shipment. Imported from Lebanon, seized by the Security Forces, near Portadown, Jan.1988.

Part of a UDA/UFF arms shipment. Imported from Lebanon, seized by the Security Forces, near Portadown, Jan.1988.

And what of the Loyalists killed by the Security Forces within Northern Ireland? Or the thousands who were locked away for years in the nissen huts, & then the H-blocks, of Long Kesh? Were the female UVF & UFF volunteers incarcerated in Armagh gaol, ‘proxies of the British state’? Was Billy Wright a puppet of the ‘Brits’ when they colluded with the INLA/IRSP to facilitate his murder? What of the homes of suspected Loyalist activists, trashed as thoroughly by the RUC & Army, as any home in the Bogside or South Armagh? Do Irish nationalists really believe that UVF & UFF volunteers held at Castlereagh Holding Centre, were treated any less inhumanely or threatened any less frequently than INLA, IPLO or PIRA men? If Loyalists were in cahoots with the Security Forces, the RUC & Army seem to have been very dubious friends indeed! The inconvenient truth is, the state would have, given the opportunity, smashed Loyalism into the ground, then concentrated on Irish nationalism. Indeed, the fact that a new offence of “Directing Terrorism” was put on the statute books, just to take Johnny Adair off the streets of West Belfast, speaks volumes about the relationship between Loyalism & the Establishment. The state could have armed, organised & trained their own proxy force, recruited from ex-Army personnel within the Loyalist/Unionist community, had they so wished, & turned them loose on republicans. They could have ‘adopted’ one of the Loyalist paramilitary groups as their own. Removed senior people & put their own stooges in their place, then directed & controlled that group as they saw fit. They didn’t & that leaves one asking- why didn’t they? The only logical answer is, they preferred not to take sides & wiping Irish nationalism off the face of the Earth would not have been advantageous to them. Better to simply give a ‘nudge’ or two when required & keep both sides more or less equal in capacity. Successive UK governments did not want a Loyalist victory in Northern Ireland, they wanted a long-term political solution and/or a Security Force victory. The government & Security Service had equal disdain for both sides in the Ulster conflict, although to quote one former agent of the state “I always preferred the Orangies, because unlike the Provos, they recognised that if they wanted to play with the big boys, then it was big boys rules!”

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

The truth is always more complex than propaganda. There is no black & white in history, especially very recent history. There are only shades of grey. Did individual members of the Security Forces pass information to Loyalists? Yes, they did. Sometimes. UDR & (less frequently) RUC personnel became so disillusioned, so disgusted at the nihilistic violence & indiscriminate bombing of republican gangs, that yes they gave snippets of information to known UFF, UVF & RHC members. UDR & RUC personnel also engaged in careless talk, in bars, in clubs, at football matches etc. Loyalists have ears (they’re just below our horns!) & loose talk is almost always overheard by someone (hence the name ‘loose talk’) There were also times when information came from higher up. There were times when it suited the Security Services to get certain people ‘out of the way’ (permanently). MI5 have a way of getting what they want (RUC Special Branch too) But that went for both sides. Did the Security Services also sometimes steer republican groups towards a certain target? Yes, undoubtedly. The truth is that ‘The Troubles’ was a dirty, grubby war. Both sides, Loyalist & republican, were sometimes played off each other. Republicans took information they were given about Loyalists, despite their professed hatred of the ‘Brits’. Loyalists took information given to them about republicans, despite the fact that all such information should have been treated as deeply suspect. Were the UFF, UVF, RHC & other Loyalist organisations mere puppets of MI5, the UK government, RUC SB or a combination of all three? No, they were not. Were Loyalist groups funded, armed, directed, trained and/or controlled by the British state? No, they were not. Had they been, to put it crudely, there would not have been enough Irish nationalists/republicans left to complain about it!

TO BE CONTINUED…

The history of collusion is not just about alleged collusion between the state & Loyalist forces. Nor about collusion between ‘dark forces’ within the security apparatus & players on both sides of the divide. There was some institutional collusion between state & armed groups, but the state in question was not the British state, it was the Irish state. In the next part we will look at how the Dublin government of the time, funded, armed & helped to organise the Provisional IRA & how organs of that state (most notably elements within An Garda Síochána) colluded with PIRA/SF in the murder of British citizens. To be continued…

DRAWING SUPPORT

MURALS 

In Ulster, murals are more than just a creative way of covering up unsightly graffiti, they are a means of political & cultural expression. Some would argue that it is time for murals to be ‘decommissioned’, I would argue that they are a fantastic visual representation of local politics, history & heritage, & furthermore, a very fair & impartial way for communities to voice their opinions, since for every Loyalist mural, there can be an Irish nationalist/republican response (& vice versa) in the form of another mural. But maybe that’s why most in the media & the ‘lets-all-just-forget-and-hold-hands’ brigade are so opposed to working class communities (especially Loyalist communities) expressing their traditions, opinions & aspirations through murals?

Anyway, I’m not going off on a rant today! So instead I’m just going to present a few (Loyalist) murals from across the country that I find interesting, well executed and/or thought provoking, so here ya go!

BELFAST

mural1

mural2

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed"

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”

Another excellent East Belfast mural, entitled 'War & Peace'

Another excellent East Belfast mural, entitled ‘War & Peace’

Shankill mural, honouring the contribution of women to the Loyalist cause

Shankill mural, honouring the contribution of women to the Loyalist cause

PORTADOWN

UVF mural, Portadown

UVF mural, Portadown

BUSHMILLS

UDA mural featuring Finn McCool, Bushmills

UDA mural featuring Finn McCool, Bushmills

COLERAINE

Memorial mural, dedicated to UDA volunteer William Campbell, Coleraine

Memorial mural, dedicated to UDA volunteer William Campbell, Coleraine

LONDONDERRY

Mural dedicated to the memory of Cecil McKnight, a member of the Ulster Democratic Party murdered by republicans. Emerson St, L'derry

Mural dedicated to the memory of Cecil McKnight, a member of the Ulster Democratic Party murdered by republicans. Emerson St, L’derry

MONKSTOWN

UDA/UFF mural, dedicated to the memory of two fallen UDA volunteers. Monkstown, Newtownabbey

UDA/UFF mural, dedicated to the memory of two fallen UDA volunteers. Monkstown, Newtownabbey

I intend to post quite a few more photos of murals from across NI. There are some fantastic murals around. Any suggestions or contributions would be very welcome, so if you know of any good Loyalist murals in your area, don’t hesitate to share them with me.

THE IRISH NATIONALIST PARADOX

Irish nationalists & republicans have a major problem. I would argue that it is an insurmountable problem. That problem is almost 1 million Unionists & Loyalists. Some within Irish nationalism argue that within a few years, there will be a Catholic, & therefore an Irish nationalist, majority in Northern Ireland & therefore the Unionist/Loyalist population will, somehow, become irrelevant. It is an argument expounded on Irish/Gaelic supremacist websites like ‘Ulsters Doomed’ (sic) & ‘Endgame In Ulster’. Leaving aside the fact that this ‘demographic argument’ is nakedly sectarian, one must look at the facts. A quick analysis of the 2011 census figures reveals that the Catholic population did not increase between 2001 & 2011. Yes, the ‘non-Catholic’ population decreased (by around 3%) but the Catholic population did not rise in mean terms (it did of course rise in percentage terms because of the decrease in the ‘non-Catholic’ population) Dealing in these sectarian terms makes me uncomfortable partly on principle, partly because it is ridiculous to reduce political views to such a base level. People are not born Irish nationalist, Unionist, Right-Wing, Left-Wing, Liberal or anything else. To blindly assume that a Catholic majority in NI automatically equates to an Irish nationalist/republican majority, is frankly laughable. Indeed, one could postulate that Irish nationalism is becoming less popular, not more, since in the most recent census, fewer people than ever identified themselves as ‘Irish’ whilst the number identifying as ‘Northern Irish’ is increasing. One can also point to the increasing number of the middle class who identify themselves as Catholic & Unionist (& the large number of people, both Catholic & Protestant, who are abandoning organised religion altogether, further divorcing religious denomination from political inclination!)

WAR WITHOUT END

But what if there was an Irish nationalist majority in 2016, or 2020? What if, say, 60% of the populace voted to amalgamate NI into an all-island Irish republic? What would the consequences be? Irish nationalists & republicans (who must be given credit for their eternal optimism if nothing else) seem to assume that all of the problems in ‘the North’ would simply evaporate, like morning mist & everything in the garden would be rosy! Would it be though? There are many Loyalists (myself included) who will never accept a unitary all-island state, under any circumstances. Will people like me simply shrug our shoulders, sigh, then quietly take the next boat out of Larne? Or is it far more likely that Loyalist militants will take up arms & began a brutal, prolonged & costly ‘armed struggle’ against this hypothetical ‘united Ireland’? The hopelessly optimistic republican will, no doubt, argue that such an insurgency would be easily & quickly quelled, but would it? Supposedly the Provisional IRA never numbered more than about 1200 active members, even at the height of ‘The Troubles’, the OIRA, INLA, IPLO etc, each numbered 200-300 active members, yet the republican death squads managed to cost the UK quite a few troops & a massive amount of money (along with the mass of civilians such groups targeted & killed) How would our hypothetical Irish state cope with, estimating conservatively, 5 or 6 thousand armed Loyalists? I would propose that the outcome would not be good, for anyone. The Irish Defence Forces & An Garda Síochána would have to be hugely enlargedGarda stations would have to be fortified (at huge cost) Not to mention the financial drain of constantly repairing bomb damage & paying out compensation to the families of victims. Short of ethnically cleansing the entire Loyalist/Unionist population, an aspiration quietly harboured by many Irish nationalists, there would be no military victory in such a scenario (for an example, see Northern Ireland, 1969- present) There would be only ‘War Without End’.

Loyalist paramilitaries: "They haven't gone away you know"

Loyalist paramilitaries: “They haven’t gone away you know”

HERE COMES THE PARADOX

So, if the so-called ‘demographic argument’ (i.e. the sectarian argument) does not hold up to scrutiny & if, even with a nationalist/republican majority, Loyalist reaction would make any unitary state unworkable, how do Irish nationalists propose to bring about this ‘united Ireland’ they wax lyrical about so often? The only realistic option is for Irish nationalists & republicans is to ‘persuade’ the U/L community that an artificial 32 county state would be advantageous, to woo the pro-Union population into accepting such a state. That is something the SDLP & others recognised years ago, it is something that Provisional Sinn Fein are also now coming to realise too. Therein lies the paradox though. For over 40 years ( or over 400 years?) Irish nationalism has been attacking the U/L community, physically, culturally, politically & economically. So how does one change that mindset & convince one’s followers that Unionists & Loyalists now must be embraced?  It seems like an impossible task. It looks even more unlikely when one considers the attitude of many senior members of PSF! A ‘united Ireland’ cannot be achieved without, at least, the tacit approval of the majority of Unionists, but Unionists will never give such approval unless Irish nationalism can convince Unionists that they would be fairly treated, influential, well represented & financially secure within such a state. Something that would be difficult for the leadership of Irish nationalism, given the dark past of many of those leaders, & is completely impossible for the rank & file, who have, for decades, been indoctrinated to think of their Unionist/Loyalist neighbours as lesser beings. Then, of course, one can add to the problem, the pressure being put on PSF, SDLP etc, by those rank & file nationalists/republicans, to stop Unionist/Loyalist parades in supposedly ‘contentious’ areas, remove outward symbols of Britishness etc. Such cultural attacks are doing nothing to convince the U/L people that they would be better off in an artificial 32 county Irish/Gaelic state. The leadership of Irish nationalism cannot reverse this cultural war though, for to do so would be to play into the hands of the Dissidents, further empowering those groups & further weakening Sinn Fein & the SDLP. Such is the Irish nationalist paradox.

CONCLUSION

Most Irish nationalists will still argue that demographics will deliver an all-island republic in the next 20-50 years, that Unionists & Loyalists will, stripped of British support, be left with no other option but to accept the new political reality, embrace their latent ‘Irishness’ & thus remove the conditions for any armed insurrection. This is fairytale politics, it is utter fantasy. Firstly, the longer NI exists as a polity, the harder it will be to persuade people to dismantle the status quo, dissolve the state & jump, feet first, into a new political construct. Secondly, I must remind everyone that Catholic does not equal Irish nationalist (nor does Protestant equal Unionist) Thirdly, even if (& it’s a big if) a large section of Unionists/Loyalists did accept some form of all-island state, a large section won’t, never will & will use ‘direct action’ to prevent it, or to destroy such a state in it’s infancy. Finally, the Irish nationalist paradox will not be resolved anytime soon. If the U/L community cannot be ‘outbred’ (a disgusting term republicans like to employ), cannot be ethnically cleansed or militarily conquered, (& I would argue they cannot) then a ‘united Ireland’ is rendered near impossible, since ‘persuading’ Loyalists & Unionists to voluntarily enter into a all-island state, could take a few centuries, not a few decades!

THE UWC STRIKE: PART 2

DAY 2

The effect of the strike deepened with the engineering sector being hardest hit. The strike began to have a huge effect on agriculture, with uncollected or unprocessed milk having to be dumped & fresh food not reaching shops. The UWC issued a list of ‘essential services’ which were to be allowed to operate as normal & also issued a telephone number for anyone engaged in such work. All pubs & licensed premises were ordered to close, in order to minimise any risk of public disorder.

In many areas across Northern Ireland, the RUC & Army moved in to remove barricades. Loyalists criticised the Security Forces, accusing them of heavy handedness (some RUC officers were accused, not without foundation, of outright thuggery) Meanwhile, Irish nationalists & ‘liberal’ Unionists accused the police & Army of not doing enough to break the strike, with the SDLP being most vocal, urging the Army to “sweep these Loyalist rabble-rousers off the streets”.
Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, met with Unionist leaders at Stormont, controversially however, Rees categorically refused to meet with, or enter into discussions with, the Ulster Workers Council.
DAY 3
As the effects of the strike began to bite harder, major disruption was caused to daily life in NI. Petrol supplies began to dry up & further electricity cuts meant that even when filling stations had fuel, they were often unable to operate their pumps. Postal delivery services came to a halt. The problems with food distribution began to become more serious & widespread. Special arrangements were made by the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that welfare & pension payments would be delivered to claimants. Vanguard leader, William Craig, launched a scathing attack on Merlyn Rees for refusing to meet with strike leaders. A sentiment echoed by the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland spokesman, Francis Pym. Meanwhile, news broke of the Dublin/Monaghan bombs & the terrible loss of life. Sadly, many Loyalists, desensitised by 4 years of indiscriminate republican bombings of civilian targets, actually greeted the news with cheers. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see that the bombing of civilian targets in the Irish Republic was counterproductive for Loyalism, at the time however, many ordinary Loyalists regarded such attacks as entirely justified. Indeed, the UVF may well have considered the attacks justifiable, as a graphic demonstration of Loyalist resistance to the hated ‘Council of Ireland’ component of Sunningdale.  Today, it is easy to see things through the lens of contemporary morality, but that is an unhelpful perspective. Of course it is morally wrong to cheer the violent death of any person, but in the context of NI in 1974, such cheers were only to be expected. Similar behaviour was demonstrated by both communities in subsequent years, though of course, one never hears the anecdotes about republicans cheering when, for example, the bomb exploded in Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road in 1993.
DAY 4
The Ulster Workers’ Council  issued a statement calling for an all-out stoppage to begin at midnight on Sunday. More & more shops & businesses closed as the strike began to gather more & more momentum. Merlyn Rees again came in for fierce criticism, as he once again refused point-blank to meet with the UWC.
DAY 5
Merlyn Rees, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announces a State of Emergency. Rees flew to Chequers, country home of the Prime Minister, for talks. The United Ulster Unionist Council met & agreed to support the Ulster Workers’ Council. The UWC withdrew its call for a total stoppage as of midnight, as some shops reported panic buying & the RUC issued dire warnings of “severe consequences” of an all out stoppage.
The UDA's Glenn Barr addressing a rally in support of the strike, Irish St, Londonderry.

The UDA’s Glenn Barr addressing a rally in support of the strike, Irish St, Londonderry.

DAY 6
Many roads across Ulster were closed by Loyalist strikers, these road closures were so effective that some members of the Executive, including Brian Faulkner, had to be airlifted in & out of Stormont by the RAF. Electricity generation dropped to about one-third of normal levels. People were asked only to use telephones in an emergency. Five hundred additional troops arrived in Northern Ireland.
DAY 7
A revised list of those services which were to be allowed through roadblocks & the opening times permitted for shops was issued by the ‘Ulster Army Council’.  TUC leader, Len Murray, arrives in Belfast to lead a ‘back to work march’.
THE ‘BACK TO WORK’ FIASCO
One would have assumed that the Trades Union Congress would have expressed support for striking workers, especially those striking in order to overturn an undemocratic & unpopular government diktat, but no, the TUC instead took the ridiculous decision to send their General Secretary, Len Murray, to Belfast to lead a ‘back to work’ march & attempt to break the strike. The march was supported by leading  local Trade Union officials & was also attended by certain prominent republicans, including several senior OIRA & PIRA members, although in total, less than 150 people turned up to support the march. A group of Loyalists, almost entirely women, had gathered to voice their disapproval. The marchers didn’t take their rebuke well, shouting sectarian abuse at the women (Len Murray is
alleged to have called one woman an “Orange whore”) One senior north Belfast republican (now a member of Provisional Sinn Fein) appeared to take great pleasure in spitting at the protesters. The women, outraged by this abuse, surged forward & were only prevented from reaching the
hate-filled marchers by around 200 RUC personnel (who outnumbered the marchers!) The farcical affair came to end when the marchers finally moved off, though they were so disheartened  (& probably embarrassed) that they didn’t even bother to complete their proposed route! Another ‘back to work’ march due to start at Cregagh Industrial Estate, attracted only 17 people.
DAY 8
In an attempt to resolve the strike the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to postpone certain sections of the Sunningdale ‘Agreement’ until 1977 & to reduce the size of the ‘Council of Ireland’.  These proposals were rejected by leaders of the Ulster Workers’ Council  & other Loyalist leaders. The Westminster government repeated their stance on not negotiating with the UWC.
DAY 9

The Army moved in to remove barricades in Loyalist areas across NI, though most were replaced soon after. Workers in Londonderry were prevented from getting to Maydown Industrial Estate.  Although many schools managed to operate during the strike it was reported that some GCE examinations were affected. Gerry Fitt, ‘Deputy Chief Executive’, called on the government to send troops to the power stations and the oil refineries.

A UDA  vehicle checkpoint, East Belfast.

A UDA vehicle checkpoint, East Belfast.

DAY 10
Talks were held at Chequers, involving: Harold Wilson, Brian Faulkner, Gerry Fitt & Alliance party leader Oliver Napier. A terse statement was issued after the talks stated that there would be no negotiations with the strike organisers. By now, the role of government had been so usurped by the UWC that many government departments took to counterfeiting UWC passes & petrol coupons, something that quickly came to the notice of the strike organisers, who simply changed the paper to another colour.
The fact that the UWC was able to react so quickly to the counter initiatives from Stormont led people to believe that there were Loyalist/Unionist spies inside Stormont. There were -including a member of the Executive, Roy Bradford. When the Executive decided that the Army should be used to distribute fuel from the oil refinery, the strikers were ready & the refinery workers were already on their way out the gate when the soldiers arrived.
PART 3(FINAL PART)  SOON

THE ULSTER WORKER’S COUNCIL STRIKE: PART 1

PROLOGUE-

With the centenary of the UVF’s Operation Lion this year, it was perhaps inevitable that the 40th anniversary of the UWC strike would receive little attention. However, those 14 days in May, 1974, are no less worthy of commemoration. Ulster Loyalism, unified & determined, took decisive action against an undemocratic & flawed ‘agreement’, took control of their own destiny (& of much of Northern Ireland) sent out a clear message of defiance & ensured that the principle of consent would have to be enshrined in any future agreement. Detractors will, of course, say that the UWC strike was merely a matter of UDA intimidation & a weak government giving in to the rabble. An almost comical (& absurdly reductionist) view of history, proffered by those who often dismiss the UDA as being mere ‘corner boys’ & thugs. Of course, they cannot have it both ways. Either the UDA were, indeed, amateurish thugs, or, they were a sophisticated mass movement, capable of bringing industry & commerce in NI to a grinding halt, & thus bringing down a government. Real history though, is far less monochromatic. Yes, the UDA were intimately involved in the strike, but it was not the UDA that smashed the Sunningdale ‘Agreement’ into a thousand pieces, it was the Loyalist & Unionist body politic.

Londonderry mural commemorating the 30th anniversary of the UWC strike,

Londonderry mural commemorating the 30th anniversary of the UWC strike,

 

THE COMING STORM

In March, 1973, the government published a White Paper, outlining plans for a Northern Ireland Assembly to replace the illegally prorogued Northern Ireland Parliament, dismissed, in spite of popular local opposition, in 1972. This proposed Assembly would be elected by proportional representation with 78 members sitting at Stormont. In addition to having a power-sharing executive the White Paper also proposed a ‘Council of Ireland’, suspected by many Loyalists as being a device with which the UK government would deliver NI into a unitary, all-island, Irish republic. In June of that year the Assembly elections took place & on Tuesday, 31st July, the Assembly meet for the first time.

Ulster had been ravaged by 4 years of bloody, internecine conflict. The Left-wing Official IRA & the more sectarian & nationalistic Provisional IRA, had bombed the commercial heart out of Belfast. Murders & gun attacks were commonplace. Explosions had occurred in every corner of NI. The Loyalist tactic of defeating the OIRA & PIRA by removing their support base was ineffective, the killing of ordinary members of the Irish nationalist/republican community having little effect on the leadership of either republican organisation. In desperation, the government looked for some form of political agreement which might, possibly, undermine support for the OIRA & the Provos, create some type of political consensus, & maybe bring about peace.

On the 21st of November, 1973, the UUP, SDLP & Alliance parties reached agreement on the formation of a ‘power-sharing’ NI Executive. A few days later, at the beginning of December, a conference was held in Sunningdale, Berkshire, England. The so-called ‘Sunningdale Agreement’ set the parameters of the ‘Irish dimension’ in the government of Northern Ireland. It also laid the foundations of the crisis which was to come.

The short lived 'power-sharing' Executive of 1974

The short lived ‘power-sharing’ Executive of 1974

 

ULSTER GIVES HER ANSWER

By the end of January, 1974, the Unionist party’s internal divisions could no longer be contained, the anti-Sunningdale majority, led by Harry West, triumphed & former leader Brian Faulkner (who was also now head of the new NI Executive) walked away from the party, forming his own (much smaller) pro-Sunningdale, Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

On the 28th of February, 1974, Westminster elections took place across the United Kingdom. In Ulster, the election became, essentially, a referendum on the Sunningdale ‘agreement’ & the hated ‘Council of Ireland’. The result was unambiguous, with 11 of the 12 NI constituencies electing Unionist & anti-Sunningdale candidates (the remaining seat going to the SDLP)

Of course, the will of the people, democratically expressed at the ballot box, was ignored, both by the Westminster government & by the new Northern Ireland Executive. On the 14th of May, a motion was debated in the assembly, condemning the ‘Council of Ireland’ & the so-called agreement concluded at Sunningdale. The motion was defeated by 44 votes to 28 (the assembly being made up, almost by default, of pro-Sunningdale members) At 6.00pm, following the conclusion of the Assembly debate, Harry Murray announced to a group of journalists that a general strike was to start the following day. Thus, the dye had been cast. In the face of the assembly’s flagrant disregard of popular opinion & the Westminster government’s apparent disdain for normal democratic processes in Ulster, the Unionist/Loyalist community was left with little other option but to attempt to force the government’s hand. The Ulster Workers Council, the organising body of the proposed strike, issued a statement saying: “The UWC are determined that the Government shall not ignore the will of the majority of the people as to the form of Government or the Sunningdale agreement. The attitude of Government has made a nonsense of political action. The Workers have resolved to make an all out effort to bring about a change” No one could have predicted at the time, the seismic shift that was about to take place within Loyalist/Unionist politics, the astounding events which were about to take place, or the ramifications those events would have, not only in the short term but for generations yet to come.

DAY ONE

Initially the response to the strike was relatively poor. Many, unsure of how such an action could be successful, choose to go to work as normal. However, following a number of Workers meetings, hastily convened in offices, factories & engineering works across the country, people began to leave work in ever greater numbers. That evening the port of Larne was seized by local Loyalists & sealed off to all traffic. A large number of roads had been blocked in every county & in Belfast buses were hijacked & used as mobile barriers. Electricity supplies were disrupted, with rotating four hourly blackouts across NI. These power cuts forced many factories (those that remained open) to close & send their workforce home. The UWC moved to calm fears of food shortages by issuing a statement assuring the delivery of “all essential services”. For the doubters & naysayers who had confidently predicted that the strike would come to nothing, Wednesday, the 15th of May, 1974, proved to be something of an eye-opener!

PART 2 WILL FOLLOW LATER THIS WEEK!

EVERY WORD IS A WEAPON

Words, words, words. You’re reading some right now! But have you ever noticed how some groups of people use words differently? Government, for example, seems to speak a foreign language sometimes. Advertising agencies use certain ‘buzzwords’ to catch the attention of particular demographic groups. Political parties & movements are no different. Here in Ulster, one political movement uses language much more effectively than the rest. That movement is Provisional Sinn Fein. Over the last 15-20 years, PSF have honed their use of semantics. They have become ever more effective at using language as a weapon. In that same period of time, the Loyalist/Unionist community have stood still, generally preferring ‘plain talking’ to the sort of linguistic gymnastics performed by Irish nationalists. This is a real concern, or it should be, to anyone with a genuine concern for the political process in NI, because Provisional Sinn Fein are not just using semantics to promote their agenda, they are using it to stereotype, denigrate & dehumanise the Loyalist working class & the pro-Union community in general. PSF & their supporters (and fellow travellers) have carefully cultivated an image of Loyalists as being uneducated, backward, ultra-conservative, racist, homophobic, reactionary, violent, uncultured & generally unsophisticated. This infantile stereotype goes unchallenged (or has up to now) & the NI media are, at the very least, acquiescent in this myth building (at worst they are actually helping to drive this dehumanisation.) To make sweeping generalisations about any community is unhelpful, to do so on a daily basis is more than unhelpful, it is downright dangerous. The constant portrayal of the U/L community as ‘knuckledraggers’ or ‘bitter bigots’, makes it easy for many in the Irish nationalist/republican community, to view their neighbours as being less than human, & therefore, make violence against the U/L community almost inevitable. PSF has decommissioned terms like ‘Planter’ or ‘Black bastards’, but just as PIRA replaced decommissioned weapons with new ones (imported from Florida), so PSF have merely exchanged one set of derogatory terms for a whole new set. They make the generalisation, the tell the lie, then they repeat it until ‘their community’ accepts it as truth. 

It is time that we in the Unionist/Loyalist community began to challenge PSF’s puerile stereotype of our community. Traditionally, the U/L community has had to be self-reliant, we are going to have to be again. The politically biased media will push the Irish nationalist agenda. The so-called ‘mainstream’ of political Unionism will, as usual, bury their heads in the sand until it is too late. Loyalists need to become far more savvy, more media literate & more sophisticated in our use of language. Just as PSF have weaponized their vocabulary, so too must Loyalists. Do not parrot PSF buzzwords, do not let republican stereotypes go unchallenged. Take every opportunity to remind the world how Irish nationalism allied itself with European fascism during WWII. Remind the world of the heinous crimes of republican death squads. Use your head & choose your words carefully. During The Troubles, Ulster Loyalism lost the ear of the international community & lost the propaganda battle. We cannot afford to lose the ‘war of words’. PSF see our community as sub-human, a view they would love the rest of the world to share. History has taught us what happens when one group dehumanises another to such a point. Through social media, through lobbying of the traditional media, we can challenge the stereotyping of the U/L community. There is no such thing as a ‘typical Loyalist’, just as there is no such thing as a typical republican. There is no such thing as a ‘flegger’ or a ‘snout’. Everybody is somebody & everybody deserves respect! No community, no ethnic group, no social class in Europe would accept their community being labeled & typified in the way that the U/L community has been in the last 15-20 years. PSF & Irish nationalism as a whole, is using language & semantics to attack the U/L community, it’s time for Loyalists & Unionists to respond. Every word is a weapon. Choose yours carefully!