Loyalist rampage continues, myth of confident unionism exposed

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So another night of sectarian and thuggish violence has been visited upon unsuspecting communities across the Six Counties, with Newtownabbey and various parts of Belfast affected by street blockades, assaults and intimidatory antics by those content to pick up and hurl the snowballs carefully rolled for them by the combined leaders of political unionism. Rioting occurred in central Belfast at Shaftesbury Square tonight as well as in Newtownabbey, whilst in Dungannon loyalist protesters followed the long established sectarian tradition of targeting the catholic church by tying Union Flags to the church railings (I note that Carrick’s loyalists, in addition to trashing the offices of local Alliance MLA, have erected the town’s largest Union Flag directly at the entrance to St Nicholas’ catholic church and primary school, and- of course- loyalists have ensured that the continuously under siege St Matthew’s Church in the heart of Peter Robinson’s constituency has received a similar fate.)

And, to the lengthening list of ‘Others’ targeted through death threats by loyalist paramilitaries can now be added Alliance MP Naomi Long, whilst loyalists continued their protests outside Alliance Party offices.

Once again, the political leadership of unionism has been found wanting, with the UUP’s three Belfast councillors at odds with party MLA Basil McCrea’s decision to support the designated days policy which the Ulster Unionist Party had -once upon a time- pushed through on Lisburn City Council. Meanwhile, the planned loyalist mobilisation in Belfast City Centre tomorrow afternoon has pretty much ensured that one of the busiest shopping days during the year for city centre retailers will instead be the biggest disappointment as shoppers will likely seek to avoid the anticipated trouble as loyalists converge on the city centre in the early afternoon.

Meanwhile, the unionist-minded Belfast Telegraph has sharply criticised the political leadership of unionism, noting that

“In many ways what has been even more desperate [than the violence] is the succession of senior unionist politicians who condemn the violence on one hand but still try to apportion blame with the other.”

A week is indeed a long time in politics, but an authentic sense of self-confidence would have survived a simple vote over the flying of a Union Flag from a council merely following the policy of the very Stormont administration served by the author of the confident unionism narrative, Peter Robinson……

 

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Comrade,
    Very entertaining, and intelligent comments as usual. Not that I always agree with you! When are you starting your own blog?

  • Kevsterino

    I think there is a very high order of probability that in the long run, someone like Basil McRae would be in a much better position to defend the union than someone like Nigel Dodds.

    He certainly has avoided painting himself into a corner on this fiasco.

  • babyface finlayson

    tacapall
    I know you do not espouse violence, that is not in question.
    I just wonder if your way of stealthily chipping away will bring a constitutional united Ireland but not a unified one.
    Surely you need to bring unionists with you,willingly otherwise it will not work
    You will have another disgruntled minority, fighting for another 50 years, trying to attain a rump NI of Antrim and Down

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    babyface finlayson
    Correction, North Down ;-)

  • babyface finlayson

    Bangordub.
    Fair enough. I guess South Down goes down south.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    There are some very silly arguments going on over this whole “Fleg” thingy. To be honest, I don’t need to hang a tricolour from my window to express my identity. Mind you my Arsenal flag was very important on my bedroom wall when I was ten. Perhaps that explains the ages of those arrested, although I thought some of the politicians were a bit older?

  • Anton

    I agree with Bangordub. I am confident in my own national identy and don’t need to wear it on my sleeve.My Irish identy is personal and can’t be taken from me. This whole debacle exposes the insecurity of some Unionists. This is also true of some nationalists too. Having any national flag draped around oneself like a football club banner is degrading to your country.

  • Paul Clissold

    I would normally agree that the draping of a national flag around oneself tends to show at least a modicum of insecurity but we are witnessing a genuine ‘street’ spontaneous protest because of the belief that intolerance and cultural identity is being diminished. As galling as this seems to the middle class sluggerite intelligentsia it is a manifestation of righteous anger and good old fashioned ‘people power’.

    Chris Donnelly rarely gets anything right (whether it be facts, interpretation, analysis or just rumour) but he has rightly pointed out that Unionist confidence is brittle and prone to soul searching. We have known this (within the UPRG) for some time. These protests represent the culmination of an anger and mistrust of an oppressive regime that fails to recognise Loyalist aspirations and fears. By all means theorise and debate the issue amongst yourselves yet bear in mind that the antipathy that Loyalists feel towards the political establishment is widening by the day and will have to be addressed in a meaningful way.

  • Greenflag

    tacapall (profile) 8 December 2012 at 10:27 pm
    ,

    ‘getting rid of British influence in our country.’

    What does that mean exactly ? Right now probably half the sporting population of Ireland North and South are more interested in the result of the Man Utd game today than in any flag squabbles .

    There will always be British influence and American and EU etc etc and that’s simply the way the world works whether there is a United Ireland or a Unified Ireland .

    It’s called a global market economy and local ‘politics ‘ is not immune to those forces . Even pariah states like North Korea are only ‘immune ‘to outside influences as long as they have the military and dictatorial power to keep half their population on starvation rations while they keep the army fed !

    The histories of Britain and Ireland and the movement of people between both islands has gone on for a thousand years and some would say for 9,000 years .That being the case then there will always be connections and influences back and forth regardless of formal political titles .And in today’s world those formal political titles are seen to have less real value than a century ago .

  • Dixie Elliott

    Theres a mob of loyalists on Derry’s Peace Bridge waving about a 100 Union Jacks and they’re shouting that they want their flag back…

    The Foyle is flowing as normal however, so they are only freezing for the Fleg.

  • Dixie Elliott

    That would have to be the silliest protest ever….

  • Dixie Elliott

    Fathers Ted and Dougal are holding a counter demonstration…Down with this sort of Thing.

  • tacapall

    ..getting rid of British influence in our country…

    “What a load of bollocks. Our 4 countries have had near to a thousand years of intermingling, migration all ways, and relatives from everywhere. In my own case, one of my greatgrandfathers was Welsh, one was Scottish and two were Irish; one of the latter was a second generation migrant from Scotland.

    Did you mean “Brits out” and all descendents of former planters etc should “go home”? What a pathetic mindset.”

    Aptly said Joe from your ivory tower in Canada, meanwhile back at the coalface in the country you abandoned for a better life nationalists will continue to work and seek a pluralist, non sectarian, secular society where everyone is equal. Where did I say or when have I said “Brits out” and all descendents of former planters etc should “go home” Thats your own narrow warped sense of what a republican is. I see people who have a different political viewpoint than me as just that, people with a different political viewpoint, nothing else.

    Greenflag I’ve had this debate before with Comrade who suggested nationalism and republicanism shouldn’t be allowed or attempt to engage with Unionism about the benefits of a united Ireland at the assembly, nor should we open mindsets to the possibility that someday in the future a majority here might in a border poll decide that our best interests lay in a United Ireland that the groundwork should be prepared. That is what Sinn Fein was elected to the assembly for there is no Brits out policy more a getting rid of British interference in Irish affairs. Making the democratic choice to remove the British flag being flown 365 days a year above our political offices is an example of creating a level playing field in a shared space.

    I am well aware of the relationships that exist between Ireland and Britain and I accept some sort of link has to be kept with Britain in a unified Ireland but thats all up for debate in the future, whatever, as a republican I would object to that link being a territorial one.

  • Greenflag

    tacapall (profile) 8 December 2012 at 10:27 pm
    ,

    ‘getting rid of British influence in our country.’

    What does that mean exactly ? Right now probably half the sporting population of Ireland North and South are more interested in the result of the Man Utd game today than in any flag squabbles .

    There will always be British influence and American and EU etc etc and that’s simply the way the world works whether there is a United Ireland or a Unified Ireland .

    It’s called a global market economy and local ‘politics ‘ is not immune to those forces . Even pariah states like North Korea are only ‘immune ‘to outside influences as long as they have the military and dictatorial power to keep half their population on starvation rations while they keep the army fed !

    The histories of Britain and Ireland and the movement of people between both islands has gone on for a two thousand years and some would say for 9,000 years .That being the case then there will always be connections and influences back and forth regardless of formal political titles .And in today’s world those formal political titles are seen to have less real value than a century ago .

  • Greenflag

    apologies tacapall for doubling up just above – :(

    Re your point

    ‘as a republican I would object to that link being a territorial one.’

    Fair enough – I don’t have issue with that as long as any constitutional change comes about by democratic means .

  • derrydave

    Paul Clissold,

    In all the discussion here of the recent goings-on in Belfast and beyond generated by the Flag being taken down from City Hall there has been precious little serious input from those who took park in the protests. It would be good if you could expand a little either here or in an entirely new thread on what you see as the bigger picture for loyalism in the North, the underlying current which you alude to which has driven this ‘spontaneous’ protest, and where Loyalism can go now (given the liklihood of demographic change leading only to further ‘attack’ on the loyalist / british identify (as I’m sure you see this)).
    Given the (relatively) small size of the protests, and their nature (involvement of loyalist paramilitaries) I think it is clear that this political disconnect and anger is limited to the fringes of the unionist / loyalist family. However the drive for these protests initially came from the very forces which seem to have abandoned this constituency to a certain extent (the DUP and UUP). How do you reconcile your stated position with the fact that the game seems to remain as it always has been – mainsteam unionism winds up the loyalist dog and lets it off the leash ? Then of course the dog goes out of control and mainstream Unionism walks away whilstling, remarking that someone should call the dog warden !
    All the above is of course very much the uninformed nationalist / republican viewpoint – a view from the outside of something which the nationalist / republican community have very little understanding or insight into. The big questions for me are as follows: How will loyalism deal with the changing demographics in Northern Ireland today ? Can loyalsim EVER countenance the possibility of this demographic change leading to an agreed united Ireland ? And can loyalism ever drive a change in the unionist body-politik ? Or are they destined to be forever used and abused by the mainstream unionist parties ? It would make for a fascinating topic if we were able to see some genuine introspection and strategic analysis from within Loyalism as to what the future holds for NI Loyalism, and how this section of society can help shape the future of NI rather than being forever reactive, angry, and negative. Violence is more and more accepted as being a thing of the past – it is a self-defeating tactic and one which would lead only to the destruction from within og the loyalist community (even in the eventuality of a united Ireland). Whatever one thinks of Gerry Adams, I believe it has been a remarkable feat of strategic long-term planning for him and his colleagues to identify this, and to change the direction of republicanism accordingly. Is there any, leader within Loyalism of signifcant stature able to provide any strategic vision for the future of Ulster Loyalism ????

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    tacapall,

    I didn’t accuse you of mouthing “Brits out” etc. I was trying to tease out what you meant by “getting rid of British influence in our country”. How are you going to get that when there are close to a million people on the island who consider themselves to be British?

  • Politico68

    Unionists will have to face up to the coming changes and approach them with confidence in their identity and a willingness to compromise. I am not talking about a United Ireland I am talking about the demographic reality of two communities of equal size sharing the same jurisdiction. As a republican I would never support the subjugation of the British identity in the north and I also will not accept anybody who thinks it is acceptable to attack Protestant Institutions or Cultural heritage.

    We have to realise thst the North needs to become a balanced and fair political society where no Identity British or Irish reigns supreme over the other. Both traditions need to be accepted on a basis of equality and mutual respect.

    My own view is that most Nationalists will settle for a Joint arrangement where the North remains a part of the UK while also part of Ireland. It is absolutely possible for the British and Irish Governments to reach an agreement whereby the North has devo max under the umbrella of Joint Authority. I think that is reasonable given the demographic shifts afoot.

    Unionism would be foolish to try ride it out with Catholic outreach etc. As long as there is no settlement there will be tensions leading to the sort of conflict we have seen over the last week. Irishness and Britishness can be afforded equal status in a new political entity that realises the aspirations of both communties. I fear that if Unionism refuses to share status in the North, the demographic tide will eventually force them into a UI. In other words, Unionism has the power to settle this an the basis of dual sovereignty protecting both traditions. If they pass up that chance, they may never have it again. Allowing Irishness and Britishness to be jointly supreme is not giving up your identity on either side, it is quite the opposite, it protects ethnicity indefinately.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Politico,

    That’s a very interesting suggestion. I wonder if others would be open to considering it? Maybe you could do a blog that Mick would post for discussion.

  • Paul Clissold

    derrydave,

    Thank you for your input and questions.

    Firstly people are already taking Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr’s statement regarding paramilitary involvement and organisation as fact. I do not accept his analysis and would question his motives in speaking out to the media. His junior (but still senior in rank) officers have bombarded local UPRG representatives with requests to ‘come down’ and assist in calming potentially hostile situations. Yet if we then appear and attempt to do just that we are branded as being complicit in orchestration of unrest. Mr Kerr cannot have it both ways; either we are ‘helpful’ to the situation or we are merely catalysts for further urest, which is it?

    There is no paramilitary orchestration in the sense of either a cohesive plan or united diktat. These protests come from street level and feature previously non politicised youth. This in itself causes concern as we are dealing with the unknown and a hard to quantify situation. It’s fluidity is neither controlled by paramilitaries nor encouraged. It is what it is and it is further proof of the alienation of Protestant youth (broadly speaking in the 14-25 year old range) who feel powerless, impotent and not represented in Stormont. Pigeonholing this protest as some sort of paramilitary game is unhelpful, wrong headed and way off the mark. Not that I am suggesting that you are stating this as a blanket theme, I am attempting to point out the lack of media understanding (including Slugger) on this matter.

    Your other points are worthy of considered analysis and I will attempt to answer them more widely in due course. The general pont concerning Loyalism and direction is well taken as is the need for vison and leadership. At a recent John McMichael Memorial Political Debate ( coverage on youtube and our website, as well as our various Facebook pages – unnecessary plug but worth mentioning) we attempted to cover this very point amongst others. ‘Progressive’ Loyalism (yes Chris, it does exist) lives and flourishes within the realm of Loyalism as a whole. Paradoxically it is these situations (it being flags and the corrosion of what is perceived as ‘our’ cultural identity) that tend to push back progressive thinking and encourages a reversion to a siege type mentality. But my analysis would be that this is exactly the game that Sinn Fein are playing and we have to be more creative and radical in our response.

    And seeing as my words will no doubt be studied and poured over by the usual people let me be clear and exact; the violence aimed at elected Alliance representatives is wrong, counter productive, contrary to genuine Loyalism and hurts our cause. It should stop.

  • Paul Clissold

    “catalysts for further UNREST” that should read.

  • Dec

    ‘ It is what it is and it is further proof of the alienation of Protestant youth (broadly speaking in the 14-25 year old range) who feel powerless, impotent and not represented in Stormont.’

    Either that or they’re bored and want to see if anything kicks off. At least that’s the reason my social worker other half was given by the two kids who attended the Belfast protest in the home she works in on Saturday.

  • Paul Clissold

    Dec,

    That same analysis could be stated by young people from the Ardoyne during the 12th of July I would assume. The flippancy of youth is not necessarily always accurate. There is genuine anger out there and needs to be addressed.

  • Dec

    Paul

    Absolutely. In fact, I know of a couple of kids from loyalist backgrounds who were rioting in Ardoyne behind republican lines – again, out of boredom. However my sympathies lie with Unionist and Nationalists taxpayers and business owners who are, once again, getting it up the ass from a TINY number of shell-suited, bescarfed twats of whatever persuasion, who couldn’t spell ‘disenfranchised’ let alone explain its’ meaning.