The Curious Case of the Forgotten Republican

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan ‘Ruby’ Davison

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

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

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

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

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The funeral of Provo godfather and paedophile rapist Brendan Davison.

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

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

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

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

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

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UVF volunteers posed as police in order to kill Ruby Davison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) Widespread

B) Institutional, and that

C) Collusion only happened on the Loyalist side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fodor’s Sectarian Folly

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

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

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

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

Professor Shirlow added-

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

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

“Sistine chapel-lite

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

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

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

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

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

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rome.

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

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

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

Another view of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold! the sophistication of republican Wall art.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ordinary Voices: Interview 5

Respondent is Enda, who describes himself as-

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

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

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Q1. How would you describe yourself politically?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ordinary Voices; Interview 4

Respondent is Lez – who describes herself as “Grammar school educated. Happily retired RUC/PSNI. Happily divorced mother of two grown up kids. Passionate about family, animals, gin,integrated education, truth and travel. Hate sectarianism, lies and lack of integrity

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

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Q1. How would you describe yourself politically?

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Apolitical. I have been very fortunate in my life to see many sides of the arguments. I have seen the way catholic communities were treated by certain members of UDR ( I experienced this first hand) I came from Protestant background so see how unionists view life here but mostly I’ve seen just the senseless manner in which peoples lives were taken, how easily others killed and maimed and how BOTH communities vilified police.

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Q2. Do you think that legacy issues are damaging the peace process?

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Yes. It would seem that for many high profile cases it is a case of getting the truth from security forces/state, but where is the truth coming from Republicans? When Gerry Adams can’t even admit being a member of the IRA how can anyone expect the ‘truth’ when everything seems to be so one sided?

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

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I have mixed feelings on legacy issues. For some victims, it can never bring them justice because the very people who they rely on to give them closure and answers will never actually come out and tell the truth. By these people I mean IRA and the state. Do I think we should just draw a line in the sand and put the legacy issues down to unprecedented times and accept things have changed? Personally I could but I am acutely aware that many many victims cannot do that.

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Q4. What do you think could be done to help improve community relations and foster reconciliation?

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Integration of schools is the single most important and successful way of improving community relations. When people start to OPEN their ears and listen rather than being so entrenched that they lose the ability to listen then we may have a chance.

Q5. Do you believe there is a bias in regards to legacy issues?

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Unfortunately yes. As outlined in previous answers, it would seem that security forces would be easy targets for legacy investigations since there were some sort of records kept, it’s much harder for victims of terrorism to get to the truth.

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Q6. Do you believe that Loyalists, especially within the UPRG and PUP, have done enough to reach out to nationalists and republicans?

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I think that David Ervine was the greatest loss to the loyalist community. Forward thinking, articulate and repentant of his wrongdoing. It’s the DUP who have done nothing whatsoever to reach out not just to nationalists but also to Protestant community.

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Q7. Do you think that republicans could do more to reach out to the Loyalist/Unionist community?

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I think admission of guilt, admission of the wrongs done to so very many people. A start would be for Gerry Adams to admit his role as a Republican in a proscribed organisation.

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

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More integration of education system, more business investment, more emphasis and funding for reconciliation projects. For our politicians to get back to actually earning their wage and for parties to work more closely on co-operation where possible instead of bickering, sniping and denigrating each other. Find the common goals and work harder to achieve those together rather than constantly in opposition.

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Our thanks to Lez for her participation in the Ordinary Voices project.

Ordinary Voices: Interview 3

Interview 3 of our Ordinary Voices project.

Respondent is Brian (61), a retired teacher from the South L’derry area. Brian describes himself as “happily married and even more happily retired”. Brian is a former member of the Irish Independence Party and a is father of 4 and grandfather of 7.

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As with all the other interviews for the Ordinary Voices project, this interview was carried out via email.

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Q1. How would you describe yourself politically?

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I would definitely say I’m a nationalist. I didn’t vote until I was in my twentys, I was much more of a firebrand in those days and I didn’t have much time for the likes of the SDLP. But when the IIP emerged they appealed to me much more as a party and eventually I became a member.

When the IIP started to fall apart I became a bit apathetic again. I sorted of drifted towards the SDLP a few years later and have supported them ever since, with the exception of one assembly election when I voted Sinn Féin.

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Q2. Do you think that legacy issues are damaging to the peace process?

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Yeah I think they are. We need to find a way of dealing with the past. That’s vital. So many people suffered and lost loved ones, there is so much hurt and anger out there, we have to face up to it and deal with. How we do that I don’t know. That will need to be worked out by smarter men than me.

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Q3. Do you believe that there is a bias when it comes to legacy issues?

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Yes and no. It certainly looks as if there is and I know many people in the Unionist community feel like that but you need to remember that we must hold the state (and the army/RUC) up to a higher standard than the likes of the IRA, UVF or INLA.

The army, police and UDR kept records, the paramilitaries didn’t. That makes it really difficult to get to the real truth of murders carried out by them. I think though that something should be done to make the entire process less about what the state and security forces did and more about wrongdoing on ALL sides. I think that’s important.

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Q4. Do you think that Loyalism, in particular the UPRG and PUP, have done enough to reach out to the nationalist/republican community?

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To their credit they have at least done something in that regard but all the fine words in the world count for nothing when you then have the UVF and UDA involved in killings and pipe bomb attacks and who knows what else.

I honestly think the best thing that the likes of the PUP could do would be to encourage the UVF and UDA to dissolve their organisations completely.

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Q5. Do you think that nationalists and republicans have done enough to reach out to the Unionist/Loyalist community?

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Honestly no. The SDLP works well with the likes of the UUP but they can do more. The SDLP and the [Ulster] Unionists should be going into ordinary communities, the SDLP into unionist areas and vice versa, I think that would be a very good start.

As for Sinn Féin, I’m afraid I see no outreach at all. If they were truly genuine about a reunited Ireland they would be putting all their efforts into convincing unionists that they have nothing to fear in a new Ireland but they seem incapable of doing that. Some of things Sinn Féin put their time and effort into leave people like me scratching our heads to be honest.

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Q6. Would you like to see a ‘border poll’ in the near future?

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As a nationalist I have to say yes but everyone involved, including unionists, need to set out their plan for what they will do in the event of a yes vote. Let all parties be upfront about what they think a united Ireland should look like and what concessions would have to be made.

Unionists could get a lot of concessions to get them to buy into a new Ireland. They could really have nationalists over a barrel if they wanted to and were ready to look at it realistically instead of just totally rejecting the idea.

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Q7. Do you believe that collusion was as widespread as republicans allege?

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No I do not. We had a very dirty “war” here and all sides were up to their knees in it. There are no innocent parties when it comes to this sort of thing. All sides did evil things and worked with other groups when it suited them. Of course collusion happened but it’s made out to be something it wasn’t.

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

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I want to see the assembly up and running again, although I don’t know if Sinn Féin and the DUP can ever make it work long-term. Maybe it’s time to give other parties a chance to form a government.

I also want to see some sort of legal recognition for the Irish language. They have legal protection for Gaelic in Scotland and for the Welsh language in Wales, why not for Irish in the North of Ireland?

Most of all I just want to see this place continue to be peaceful and relatively normal. I never want my grandchildren to have to put up with the sort of stuff I had to (or my kids had to) during The Troubles. Time for everyone in Northern Ireland to get on with normal everyday life, as much as we can.

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Thanks to Brian for this interview and for contributing to the Ordinary Voices project.

Ordinary Voices: Interview 2

Interview 2

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

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Respondent is Peter, (48), who lives in Newtownabbey with his partner and two boys. Has no connection to any political party or organisation, but takes a “keen interest in events that happen and have happened in the Province”. Peter describes himself as a keen follower of sports and a “TV junkie“.

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Q1. How would you describe yourself politically?

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Currently, I would describe myself as extreme Unionist. My politics have changed greatly, since my father was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in 1993.

I had been an Alliance voter, but since the ongoing and ever increasing capitulation to Sinn Fein and their never ending demands, I have moved through most shades of Unionism, each in turn letting its Voters down when it counts and being more interested in their own egos and self gain, rather than how Unionism is continually on the back foot.

2. Do you believe that legacy issues are undermining the peace process?

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100%. The Legacy debate is totally controlled by Sinn Fein and Republicanism. Unionist politicians appear to be doing sweet F.A. for IRA Victims, again interested in their own furtherance and what back handers and positions they can receive.

The ‘Peace Process’ has been a continual one way traffic event. I would like a list of at least 10 things that the Unionist Community have gained from the ‘Peace Process.’

I can name only two Unionist Politicians who have given me any help and support in progressing my father’s case. Most others, not just Unionist, have promised that they would move mountains, but have done very little.

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3. Do you think there is a bias when it comes to legacy issues and how they are dealt with?

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A blind man can see that there is a total and utter bias when it comes to Legacy. Nearly every demand that Republicans seek, re enquiries, prosecutions, etc, is unendingly granted. If something doesn’t go their way, they kick up a stink with a compliant media and Police Ombudsman and lo and behold, sooner or later their demands are met.

When was the last Sinn Fein/IRA upheld conviction? What enquiries into the actions of the IRA have ever found against them? The perception in the Unionist Community is that the ‘Peace Process’ means that no matter what happens, nothing will be done to derail having ‘murderers in Government,’

4. Do you believe that Republicans have a genuine and sincere interest in reconciliation?

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Only on their terms. Whilst many, many mistakes were made in the past, the Republican movement want and demand ‘payback‘ and then some. Who can forget King Gerry’s “We’ll break the bastards…..” Has that ever been fully and unequivocally retracted?

Sinn Fein claim to hold out the hand of ‘friendship,’ but at the same time celebrate and glorify mass-murderers and seek a one-way justice, with no call for enquiries into IRA actions or Court cases, or recompense, and then oppose any show of Unionism, but then demand Irish language street signs, Easter lillies to be freely available, etc etc, whilst at the same time demonising anything associated with Unionism.

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5. Do you think that more could be done by Loyalists to foster reconciliation?

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What more are Loyalists expected to give? Politicians in Government involved in heinous events in Northern Ireland’s history, killers walking about freely (My father’s killer ‘allegedly‘ murdered again and is currently serving a sentence for Attempted Murder in the Republic of Ireland. The likelihood of him being returned to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence for my father’s killing, is slim- next to zero!!).

Every part of Loyalism is under attack and what investment has taken place in Working Class Loyalist areas? Investment in terms of Social Housing, State of the Art Sports facilities? Again, Big House Unionism has a lot to answer for, but where is Sinn Fein’s ‘Equality,’ mantra here?

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6. Do you accept the Republican narrative that ‘collusion’ was very widespread and institutional?

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Collusion did not just happen on the Loyalist side and was not systemic! No light has been shone into current high ranking Provisionals turned Community Workers and politicians who have worked/work as ‘State Agents’.

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7. Do you believe that enough is being done to bring the two communities together, especially in interface areas?

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Millions of pounds have been poured into interface areas and Community Workers, so we are told. If this has been the case, where is there published a full and complete breakdown of what each of these ‘Community Workers,’ is paid and what scheme in each area has actually taken place in to ‘bring Communities together,‘ or is it just jobs and money for the boys?

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8. Finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for NI in the medium to long term?

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With unworkable local government and a British government too scared, or too unwilling, to take any sort of decisive action, any immediate change is unlikely. Sinn Fein and the Republican Movement’s sole aim is the destruction of Northern Ireland and to drive the British out of Ireland.

How any one in their right mind believes that Sinn Fein want Northern Ireland to ‘work‘ as an entity is on another planet.

Ideally, my father and I would have been of a similar mindset, in that we both would want nothing more than a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland, but that is far from what we have here now. Northern Ireland is a Mafia-like state with political and paramilitary fiefdoms in each Community,

I hope that when my two boys grow up, that they have the wisdom to leave here and seek better opportunity elsewhere. When people talked to me after my father’s killing and asked if I ever believed there would be true peace here, I stated then and still firmly believe that we are probably at least two Generations away from that being possible, or at all likely.

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Our sincere thanks to Peter for agreeing to this interview & his participation in the Ordinary Voices project

ISOT.

Prisoners of Conscience

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing the Rubicon

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

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

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

Loyalist barricade, Belfast circa 1972

Ordinary killers

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

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

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

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

Prisoners of history

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

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

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

Looking inward

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

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

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

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

Where to now?

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

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

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