“it is a straight-forward politically motivated attempt to undermine the DUP as the voice of unionism”

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And there’s more

Sadly, more violence around tonight’s “peaceful protests” in East Belfast, another trip out for the PSNI water cannons, and a further statement from the constituency’s MLA and DUP leader Peter Robinson.

The tone has changed, the motives of the protest organisers are being attacked, and clear water is being put between protests and politics.
cropped DUP logo

While people are entitled to lawfully and peacefully protest there can be absolutely no justification for issuing threats, acts of violence and terror or other unlawful behaviour.

The violence and destruction visited on the PSNI is a disgrace, criminally wrong and cannot be justified. Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims.

It will be enough for any unionist to know the organisers of the protest movement are not to be heeded when they hear them refer to the police as the “terrorist PSNI” and describe police officers as “Nazis”. This is language borrowed from the republican handbook.

All right-thinking unionists will want to channel their energies into political activity and to support the cause of finding political solutions to the problems that we face. In Northern Ireland the ballot box has primacy and is the only vehicle for choosing the people’s representatives.

The DUP leader also said:

Many genuine people were outraged by the City Council decision and were in the beginning prepared to express their anger by protesting but it is clear that alternative political routes are available and a continuation of the protests has no role in changing the bad decision that was taken.

The real purpose of those who claim to speak for some of the organisers of the protests is fast becoming clear. Their attacks on the DUP expose their real target. It is not about the flag, the Alliance Party, Sinn Fein or the erosion of culture – it is a straight-forward politically motivated attempt to undermine the DUP as the voice of unionism despite our attempts to oppose the removal of the Union Flag in Belfast.

Nothing like putting your hand up to name your party as the victim, and at the same time point out the strength of your position.

But now that those politically motivated spokespersons, who are to the fore in attacking the DUP and other fellow unionists, have admitted that their real goal is to replace our locally accountable devolved institution with Direct Rule we can see the total bankruptcy of their thoughts. Some of these individuals have a track record of attacking fellow unionists at every opportunity. This is the Direct Rule that unionists, who lived under it previously, always referred to as “Dublin Rule” because of the joint manner with which decisions were taken by London and Dublin under Direct Rule.

He finished:

Let them explain to the people the benefit of Water Charging and higher Regional Rates which would automatically follow Direct Rule. And are they content to have Westminster impose same sex marriages and abortion on demand on our community? Such folly. Have they so quickly forgotten the decisions of direct rule in the past?

So to get unionists pulling in the same direction, the answer is to unite them in a shared hatred disapproval of some trusty conservative issues: gay rights and pro-choice? A sure-fire strategy for success?

On Good Morning Ulster this morning, Alderman Jim Rodgers defended the flags leaflet as setting out the facts about another party, and said that he would be willing to leaflet homes again. So if you live in Belfast, watch out for a leaflet proclaiming the direct rule leanings of the protest organisers and the direct rule roulette that they might play with NI’s human rights.

There will be fewer MLAs standing by, spectating at protests after this, though they may still need to turn up to encourage members of their constituencies to stand down and behave lawfully. In a way, the anti-devolution notions of the loose group of protest organisers have incurred a greater ire of Peter Robinson and faster than the TUV’s Jim Allister has so far managed.

Speaking of Jim Allister, the TUV leader’s New Year Message [Ed - Mick should release one of those, everyone's at it!], he failed to address the less peaceful elements of the protest, simply saying:
TUV party logo

Part of the challenge in 2013 is to move peaceful flag protest into concerted and informed political action which addresses the reasons why Sinn Fein has been enabled to suppress our culture. Ceasing to vote for their facilitators is an obvious and necessary step, as is moving to recognise that the basic democratic deficits of the anti-unionist Belfast Agreement must be addressed – namely, the denials of the right to vote a party out of government and the right to even have an Opposition, which are the consequences of the evil of mandatory coalition. These wrongs must be righted if Stormont is ever to have any credibility with the people.

Today, Alliance and the SDLP issued statements about the East Belfast violence. Nothing flag-related to report from the UUP, nor from Sinn Fein (which today praised the RUAS Maze/Long Kesh planning approval without using the word ‘Royal’, and didn’t explicity mention flags in Martin McGuinness’ New Year message).

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  • sonofstrongbow

    Obelisk,

    Again I have to say you come at this from a flawed perspective. “Putting up” nationalist symbolism is an artificial act if the only purpose of doing so is to gain some sort of ‘equality’ with existing ‘unionist’ material.

    Allow me to illustrate my point with an example. In a location that will remain nameless a statue of a relative of mine stands in a public place. It was erected contemporaneously at the turn of the 19th century with his participation in the events it celebrates. It is ‘unionist’ in so much that it has British military connections.

    Should it be taken down or should some ‘nationalist’ subject be erected beside it? IMHO both options would simply be crass politicking and have nothing to do with equality. As would be the case if it was suggested that a plaque commemorating the resilience of the RUC in 1968/69 should be placed on Free Derry Corner.

    As I have already said the public space develops organically. Forcing change to make a partisan point will be cheered by some, jeered by others.

    We’re often told that nationalist demographics mean we are on the countdown to a UI. If it happens, and I very much doubt it will, the lead up will surely involve a naturally changing environment . Why then push it, why the hurry? It seems the only explanation is petty point scoring.

  • Mc Slaggart

    sonofstrongbow

    ““Putting up” nationalist symbolism is an artificial act”. I would agree if that was the only reason. If one walks though the towns in Fermanagh it is strange that their is no monument to the Famine? You would agree the Famine should be remembered in public spaces in Fermanagh?

  • Gopher

    On Belfast a few obsevations

    The native population fell by 7500 before you take into consideration the number of people born here to new arrivals. Belfast’s population rose only 3500. Belfast is simply going the way every city in the world goes. Before you start getting the dawn of a new era party hats out, any increase of nationalists over unionists is on a mutually declining base and is (surprisingly) not as huge as you think. The census (which was bourne out in the recent elections) was good news for Alliance

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Mc Slaggart @ 12:38 pm:

    The Paupers’ Graveyard, Cornagrade?
    The Enniskillen Workhouse?
    Lisnaskea Workhouse and Famine Memorial?
    Crichton Tower on Gad Island?
    Lowtherstown Famine Graveyard?
    The Ardress Famine Pit?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Thank you Malcoim for detailing what remains from the famine.

  • Obelisk

    “As I have already said the public space develops organically. Forcing change to make a partisan point will be cheered by some, jeered by others.”

    I know Unionists hate being reminded of inconvenient truths, but do you think we didn’t ‘organically’ fill the space with Nationalist symbols because we were lazy or didn’t care until recently? We didn’t because we couldn’t, it wasn’t allowed by a hostile majority that saw the minority as a threat.

    The period in which you say Unionist culture and symbolism grew organically was a period in which Nationalist symbolism was deliberately repressed.

    Don’t deny it, there is proof.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_and_Emblems_(Display)_Act_(Northern_Ireland)_1954

    You say it grew organically, I say it’s a deliberate distortion that doesn’t reflect the true face of the North.

    Your point about Free Derry Corner is irrelevant. You’ve pointed out in previous threads the tricolours you’ve seen or the monuments to paramilitaries you’ve encountered. Can you tell me how many of those were associated with state or civic buildings? Is Free Derry Corner a state or civic building?

    I’m not saying a Republic Roll of Honour should be erected next to every cenotaph, I’m saying a building or institution that I, or other Nationalists, pay for via our taxes should either be a shared space or a neutral space.

    THIS is the point, the acceptance of our tradition as a part of the North, a North which isn’t just reflective of one side anymore.

    So once again, what positive compromise would you offer in our state and civic buildings to my tradition?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Obelisk,

    Of course the public space reflects the power structures of their time. The mill owner will be marked, the mill hand ignored. The past is not an “inconvenient truth” as you put it. It is what it is; but mostly it is gone!

    You cannot reorder the past to meet modern sensibilities. The World has turned. It turns only one way.

    I am simply saying that we are where we are. Those who wish to alter the status quo have the work to do. Trying to bin the past or gathering up a load of artefacts to ‘balance’ it is a flawed approach.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “acceptance” and “our tradition”. A John Hume Chair in Peace Studies exists at the University of Ulster. Is it not acceptable? Is it of your tradition?

    Perhaps you mean an obelisk to the ‘Loughgall Martyrs’ built in the village? Is that the tradition you wish to see marked in the civic space? Again I don’t know.

    The bottom line is that in a still devided space you either go for a negotiated compromise or you wait until you have the whip hand and push on regardless, as happened in Belfast City Hall.

    The compromise route is hardest for all concerned and it starts from where we are now. That may seem unfair when you are coming from behind but it’s more honest than the facile Year Zero ‘neutral space’ malarkey.

    Just in case you think I’ve not answered your challenge about my “positive compromise” my response is it would probably be decided on a case by case basis. But since I have neither the power or control over any civic space it seems pointless to indulge in hypothetical musings.

  • Gopher

    In a civilized society the interest party usually presents a list of names when the situation arises and the their opposite number usually crosses of the names that are unacceptable and returns the list. The names on the list should have at least some attachment to the field of the object being named.

  • Obelisk

    “You cannot reorder the past to meet modern sensibilities.”

    You won’t be surprised I disagree. What’s more I believe Nationalists over the coming decades are going to actively try and ultimately succeed in proving you wrong.

    As for not knowing what acceptance of my tradition means, it means acknowledging, for want of a better phrase, that we are Irish and not British people who just don’t know it. It means an end to referring to the Irish Language as a leprechaun language, or disrespecting MY flag by burning it every summer on bonfires as a cultural event (something quite a bit more offensive than taking a flag down).

    It means doing something Christian, and acting towards others as you would have others act towards you. I get the hurt the Unionists who are protesting about feel. I really do, i won’t mock them as commentators from across the water or elsewhere in the world who feel mystified as to why all this bother over ‘a scrap of cloth’. I mean I do think they are idiots for allowing the paramilitaries to hijack the whole issue for other grievances, and for not seeing how they are hurting themselves on the global stage, but Nationalist such as myself are well accustomed to how it feels to have everything that is a part of your national identity routinely mocked.

    But I despair you can’t even offer the smallest bit of empathy, to realise that what is currently upsetting you has upset us and on a grander scale for much, much longer.

    I find your suggestion that we need a ‘Loughgall Martyrs’ obelisk to feel equal risible. I mean surely once we have that, then we can begin celebrating St.Patrick’s Day by symbolically drowning Protestants in the River Bann whilst wearing our National costume of Balaclava, khaki uniform and armalite.

    Finally, you are correct when you say the compromise route is the hardest to go by. That’s why it is not being attempted. The compromise route leads to the shared space which is the ideal outcome.

    That’s not happening, and probably won’t happen for a long time. In lieu of that, Nationalists majority councils are well within their rights to pursue the neutral space option.

    You said ‘The bottom line is that in a still devided space you either go for a negotiated compromise or you wait until you have the whip hand and push on regardless, as happened in Belfast City Hall.’

    There is a VERY good chance that in one or two electoral cycles we are going to have a Nationalist majority in BCC. We can all see it coming.

    The power to build a meaningful compromise lies with the Unionist Community. Nationalists can only create sterile cultural environments wherever we have the majority. It’s not something to be proud of, but in lieu of mutual cultural respect it’s all we can do.

  • DC

    Why don’t nationalists hand parts of the state over to the private sector if the public side of it is so not to its liking.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Obelisk,

    Again you appear confused you mistake liking for acceptance. Nationalist culture is accepted. It exists. The majority of unionists understand that.

    There are many aspects of nationalist culture that I am ambivalent about and I expect the same applies for you and unionism. Many nationalist mock Britishness in NI, the old chestnut ‘you don’t live in Britain so you’re not British’ is a favourite. Attitudes towards Ulster Scots also seem to be a laugh a minute for some.

    I don’t let it bother me. Perhaps you too should try the other cheek approach (since you’ve referenced the Christian angle).

    You also fail to understand what it means to compromise and expect it to be the unionists responsibility. Compromise, like the tango, takes two.

    Finally you don’t see the irony of pinning your hopes on majority rule, the once bête noire for nationalists.

    Whatever.

    You’ve raised your flag (no pun intended) and so it’s to be a ‘battle a day’. Enjoy, but pity the children of the future.

  • http://dreamingarm.wordpress.com CW
  • Obelisk

    SOS

    The difference between our tradition though is symbols you can take pride in are mounted on courthouse (crowned lions and unicorn busts) or flags flown from civic buildings, all accorded a measure of official respect and recognition that my tradition isn’t.

    And now Nationalism is the aggressor because the means to finally start righting this situation are becoming available?

    You say I fail to understand the meaning of compromise. In every post on this subject I’ve made, have I not expressed my belief that compromise revolves around equal respect for both traditions at the official level and in lieu of that equal respect, a neutral environment? I believe both are compromises.

    The problem I feel is that neither is a compromise Unionism can agree to. What they want is to have their flag flown, their symbols respected, and for Nationalists not to rock the boat and co-operate in ensuring the symbols of one community are given a measure of official respect the other tradition is denied.

    And if by wanting Unionists to assume all responsibility for compromise, you mean I’m waiting for them to make some genuine gesture on this issue then yes, Unionists do bear all responsibility.

    The negotiating position of no change, ever or else there will be hell to pay, has ground on much too long. Any time Nationalist representative on BCC have tried to implement positive change, adding Irish symbolism, it’s been in the teeth of almost unified Unionist opposition.

    And yet now we are almost expected to try and empathise with the Unionist community over what the flag means to them and what a blow this is and how some of them feel such a disconnect from local politics they have to riot for a month after the event.

    We understand too bloody well how they feel. That’s the whole problem isn’t it?

  • galloglaigh

    sos

    Compromise means accepting N.Ireland and the institutions of the State, ie. Stormont etc. Compromise means acceptance of a police force, that for over 200 years have kept the dis-loyal Fenians at bay by coercion and force. Compromise means allowing unionists to hold key local offices, where that community is in a small minority. Compromise means standing in front of the media, and calling violent groups traitors (or traders as one Derry graffiti artist put it).

    Compromise is growing up, and growing up fast. That has been the failure of unionism in Ireland for 200 years; they’ve failed to grow up into the big boy’s world. That’s why they are being left behind.

    It’s been 141 years since the Secret Ballot Act was passed, and the next election might be the one where it counts the most for nationalists. Here’s hoping.

  • Alias

    “Can you tell me how many of those were associated with state or civic buildings?”

    Can you tell me how many state or civic buildings in Northern Ireland are not within United Kingdom’s sovereign jurisdiction, and, therefore, shouldn’t carry a symbol of that sovereign jurisdiction?

    The purpose of any symbol is to communicate meaning; and that is the meaning that is duly communicated. Furthermore, such meaning is also communicated in language, so why the bogus offence at symbols which communicate that meaning but no offence at language which comminicates it, such as the section of the GFA which declares that “Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom”?

    If some folks find that meaning offensive, using the GFA as the rationale for the offense, then they need to revisit the GFA.

    The reason state or civic buildings in Northern Ireland don’t carry foreign flags is, or should be, self-evident.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    From the BBC:

    However, Robin Newton, of the Democratic Unionist Party, said a lack of engagement from protest organisers was making it difficult to see an end to the unrest.
    “We have to find a way out of this, but how we do it, I don’t know,” he said.

    So they unleashed a “dangerous beast” and now admit that they don’t have a clue as to how to control it.

  • DC

    I know a way out: by-election.

    Now all i need is David McNarry to push this from a UKIP position, as he is outside mainstream unionism who all have to be on good behaviour :)

  • Obelisk

    Alias

    The offense is not bogus believe me. However I do think your statement only makes sense if we accept the rather esoteric line of thinking you have put forward from time to time that by agreeing to the GFA we somehow forfeited our right to self-determination.

    I’ve never liked your theory. I’ve found it patronising in that you seem to believe such a large proportion of the North’s population could be so easily misled into signing away their nationality. I’ve found it insulting in that you actually believe it has happened and that we should somehow accept being British as we accepted the reality of UK sovereignty.

    I don’t reject United Kingdom Sovereignty over the North. It’s blatantly there. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying to make the North more representative in the meantime.

    And we express our preferences through the ballot box, where those who espouse Irish Nationalist opinions can vote for Irish Nationalist parties, whose membership declares they are Irish, who work to further the interests of the Irish Community in the North of Ireland.

    Your theory does not work when applied to the messy business of identity politics. I don’t even think you understand identity politics to be frank. You wrote in a recent topic.

    “The Northern Irish nation is one created by partition”

    No it wasn’t. If those who now describe themselves as Northern Ireland are young Catholics tiring of the whole constitutional issue, then they are a relatively recent phenomenon that was not magicked into reality when someone drew a line on a map.

    You’re attempt to apply harsh reason where people on both sides have primarily emotional responses and this isn’t surprising because Identity goes beyond reason.

    I believe I didn’t sign away my identity when I accepted the Agreement. I am not a British Subject. These are matters of faith for me. By expressing these statements of faith, I reject your opinion. By the law accepting this statement, by virtue of my Irish passport, I think your theory is proved wrong. Now I am de facto United Kingdom Citizen…but that’s a slightly different subject.

  • Jack2

    DC (profile)
    6 January 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I know a way out: by-election.

    ———————
    The numbers involved in protesting/rioting now are approx 100-200.
    That leaves 1.81 million people who are not rioting.
    Is the tail wagging the dog now? Why should 100 knuckle draggers dictate when we have elections?

  • Alias

    Obelisk, it is only “esoteric” to those who have not consulted a dictionary. A right, by definition, is not subject to the discretion of others. They are non-derogable and/or inalienable. In making your former right to self-determination subject to the discretion of others, you downgraded it from a right to an aspiration. And that’s a fact, not a theory.