Slugger O'Toole

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Interview with Loyalists Against Democracy – will @LADFLEG’s second year in existence be their difficult second album?

Mon 9 December 2013, 9:00am

Like them or loathe them, Loyalists Against Democracy will have been around for a year on Tuesday 10 December. They’ve become a local online phenomenon with their mix of parody, banter and acerbic attacks.

Loyalists Against Democracy LAD logoIt started out as one man trolling “ridiculous” loyalist flag protesters online. Early daft parody protest ideas like complaining about Aer Lingus flying over East Belfast have grown into a collective producing sophisticated graphics, videos, music, a musical for the Edinburgh fringe as well as caustic online commentary and at times venomous assaults on those they dislike or who attack them.

Last December our lives fell apart
Now the whole world is grey ‘cause our culture’s passé …

Last December the vote broke our hearts
And though we cried foul play they deemed our fleg risqué
This year judges have been severe
‘Cause flegging’s not inconsequential …

They’ve launched a charity record – Last December by “Paramilitary Wives” – which is now available to download. The original plan to give the profits to SOS Bus NI were scotched when the charity predictably received abuse and decided not to take the risk of accepting a donation from LAD. Though in the process they’ve triggered a huge number of individual donations to SOS Bus NI! Update – the single has now been withdrawn from sale for “legal complications”.

I spoke to LAD’s founder ‘Billy Smyth’ last week to find out more about Loyalists Against Democracy and find out more about the group whose mission seems to be to hold a mirror up to loyalism while simultaneously drawing rude signs on the mirror with lipstick. brianjohnspencr lad cartoon Away from his keyboard, Billy is remarkable moderate and affable. While it doesn’t sound like centre-ground politics will pick up many votes from LAD, they felt that Naomi Long was being “unfairly scapegoated” last December. Championing people that they don’t have a lot in common with is a tenet of LAD.

Billy said that at the start of the flag protests they “spotted a gap in the market” with no one really “taking these people on and holding them to account”. “The extremists are quick to use threatening behaviours” to silence newbie commentators who dare to criticise loyalism in the media, while more traditional commentators are held back since they need politicians to for stories.

Jamie Bryson seems increasingly keen to unmask LAD and come after their jobs, but Billy is confident that the collective will remain under the radar.

Anonymity gives you that protection to say what you want.

That’s a view that seems to be shared by parade organisers!

Members of the LAD collective are from across Belfast, with women and men from “traditional” protestant and catholic backgrounds who have “turned our back” on being identified by religion. Billy was keen to persuade me that it was not a middle class collective: living in an estate and going to university might make someone “educated working class” rather than middle class.

Billy believed that “loyalism isn’t doing itself any favours” and while he identified some “rising stars” (who’ll be relieved that I’m not going to name them) he sums up the current leadership of the flag protests as “four or five clowns at the top” and said that they don’t represent the whole community.

We just don’t want these people to ruin what has the potential to be a wonderful place to live.

LAD members clearly attend Belfast City Hall protests and have first hand experience of the “tension and atmosphere” brought about by the heavy policing and “elements who just want to cause trouble”.

Getting people talking and bringing people into the debate who weren’t there a year ago are amongst LAD’s successes according to Billy. He also highlights their petition calling for Edwin Poots’ resignation or removal from office which has collected over twelve thousand signatures and “has [the minister] rattled”.

Billy reckoned that change in Northern Ireland won’t come from politics, but instead would emanate from groups like LAD, from the business sector and civil society. LAD gets angry about more than just flags. Billy asks where is NI’s progressive socialist party that wants to improve education and improve job prospects?

Education will be a future topic for LAD coverage. Other issues like abortion and even the Belfast/Sprucefield John Lewis planning fiasco are tougher to squeeze into LAD’s current formats. Over coming months they will expand their range of characters, and their attention may turn a little more often to the dissidents and republican shenanigans.

Other than T-shirts and music sales, social media are LAD’s oxygen of publicity: blogger, tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook (until it’s next shut down). Social media also allows a constant behind-the-scenes conversation between members of the collective to shape their next steps, discuss possible graphics and posts, and moderate behaviour when boundaries are pushed. Individuals who’ve been on the sharp end of LAD’s online comments may feel that the abuse and bullying is anything but moderate. LAD do seem to be examples of the near-mythical extreme or angry moderates.

Billy described the need to “get into character” and “become a loyalist” when logging into LAD’s twitter account. The collective’s ability to talk credibly for a while and then lapse into abuse and victimhood seems to mirror some of the people and groups they most often lambast.

Adopting the same tone and techniques of those you criticise is a dangerous game. While the collective may feel the ends justify the means, the tenor of their tactics leave LAD wide open to criticism … and potentially open to legal challenge if when they slip into defamatory abuse. On the other hand LAD have created and sustained a widespread awareness of their message in a way that Occupy Belfast utterly failed to achieve.

Will LAD’s second year in existence be their difficult second album?

As they morph from being purely online to having a greater real-world presence with songs, a musical and other media appearances, their resources and anonymity will be stretched. LAD already know that “being mean” to some media personalities has resulted in their voice being lost to many mainstream outlets.

Parody and satire can be sharp tools but they must be used wisely.

When they’re lampooning loyalist tropes, LAD are at their strongest. There are actions, behaviours, contradictions and characters in loyalist, republican communities and politics – and beyond – that deserve to be powerfully challenged.

When they’re attacking other people – whether ‘players’ in loyalism, academics or innocent bystanders – LAD are at their weakest, leading to accusations (sometimes correct, sometimes wide of the mark) that distract from LAD’s message. Just as sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, bullying and playground mocking are poor ways to expose bigotry and sectarian behaviour.

Only time will tell if Loyalists Against Democracy can be recognised for its satire and contribute positively to building a better city of Belfast, or whether they become a distraction, merely tying up the hands of protesters while others get on with the heavy lifting of improving the city.

In the meantime, many people will nod their heads and take guilty pleasure in the output of LAD, while others will retaliate with renewed vigour.

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Comments (230)

  1. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM, i gave my opinion which i stand by, you disagree big deal, as for your latest bit of debating prose ” me right you wrong, read a book and unionists bad” , can i thank you for the imaginative original comments…

    What do you think?
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  2. carl marks (profile) says:

    between the bridges (profile)

    18 December 2013 at 2:52 pm

    CM, i gave my opinion which i stand by, you disagree big deal

    Yes I disagreed and I asked for you to prove your opinion, you tried a few times but merely repeated your opinion.
    Opinions not backed up by fact are little better then myth.
    And since this is a place for debate (Google the word) then I have the right to ask for proof, if you fail to supply proof then it is reasonable to believe that you have none.
    Perhaps you would be happier on some site that accepts any oul crap as fact as long as it fits your mopish worldview, I believe LAD could point you towards one or two of them!

    What do you think?
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  3. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM so basically you are saying moi hasn’t proved my opinion to you (who disagrees with my opinion) therefore you win… can i appeal the decision to you…

    What do you think?
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  4. carl marks (profile) says:

    BTB
    Yes when you give an opinion be prepared to present proof, if it stands up then I will accept it, eg; if you claim L and U are not interchangeable I will give my reasons for disagreeing with you, then you use (facts ) to prove me wrong and we have a debate.
    Making a statement like “LAD doesn’t use Republican and Dissident in the same way the it uses Loyalist and unionist and I show you that is wrong, and then admit you got it wrong,
    I like to think I am open to change (but doesn’t everybody but the zealot believe that) but my opinion will not be changed without facts, loyalist myths and mopery just won’t do it.
    LAD expose a corruption inside unionism, no doubt there are equally obscene bigots inside nationalism who need exposed, but the difference is that unionist politicians and the marching orders back these bigots up; inside nationalism these bigots are marginalised.
    That you and other unionists attack the messenger (LAD) instead of the awful sectarian racists who have brought so much trouble to our streets shows that by in large unionists have no interest in cleaning up their act.

    What do you think?
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  5. between the bridges (profile) says:

    The jury didn’t take long to make it’s decision…

    What do you think?
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  6. carl marks (profile) says:

    The jury didn’t take long to make it’s decision…
    Again no facts no debate just mopery!
    And loyalists wonder how they manage to lose at every turn.
    PS I’m not a jury but it does sound better if you can pretend that you’re being judged unfairly, this is only a debate the important bit will come soon when you have to persuade nationalists to become unionists to keep the union and ignoring the vile bigots at camp twat and inside the OO etc. is not the way to go about it.
    Of course if you are more Anti Catholic/Irish than you are pro union then don’t bother, just prepare for the Tricolour over the city hall and Stormount and get used to euros.

    What do you think?
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  7. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    CS

    “A 100% victory for nationalism in this context would be to have the tricolor flying 365 days a year on City Hall.

    A 100% victory for unionism is to fly the union flag 365 days a year. They implemented that “victory” in the mid-1980s.

    The neutral position is where the scale is dead centre is where there are no flags.”

    This is where you and Alliance fail unfortunately. You should be looking at what is correct to do by looking at normal practice in the UK and in other similar countries. But you and alliance often seem to try to be half way between the tribal positions even when they are totally outside of reality. E.g. the 2 extreme positions are not “fly the tricolor or union flag 365″, the tricolor is the ROI flag and will never be allowed to fly from government buildings in the UK, nor would any other country allow a foreign flag to fly with some kind of authority and in a territorial way from its buildings. The 2 extremes are, no flag at any time or union flag 365. So the middle position would be union flag 50%, no flag 50%.

    The union flag is flown on ATLEAST the designated days. It is not limited to that, and most places around the UK will fly it much more than the 18 days. If Alliance wanted to be seen as a sensible even handed party, then first they should have got the other councils that don’t fly the flag at all to fly it on the 18 designated days which is a small increase and step towards normal practice. Then get the councils that fly it 365 to reduce it by the same percentage. Everyone knows that the nats and reps have an agenda to try and destroy anything British, so it should have been obvious to Alliance to have nats and reps move first before joining with them to help a further anti British move to try and remove the national flag.

    I’m sure this will cost Alliance at the next elections as their support seems to be in moderate pro UK areas. These are people that do not go over board with flags and so on, but at the same time want the flag to be flown in a proper way and not 95% removed.

    What do you think?
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  8. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM just when did i suggest that you would judge moi ‘unfairly’ perish the thought… anywho personally i have no need to persuade anyone i am perfectly happy for everyone to make up their own mind. However i would point out that many CNR are closet unionist’s either unable or unwilling to admit it, take your good self for example hashing about flegs and the money in one’s pocket…

    What do you think?
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  9. carl marks (profile) says:

    ForkHandles

    Interesting you think there are only two settings,
    1/do it all the unionist way,
    2/ do it 5% of the unionist way.
    So nationalists have no say at all, next you will be claiming we are as British as Finchley and fuck that parity of esteem thing.
    But maybe I’m wrong and you do respect the Nationalist mandate, perhaps you could expand on why the wishes of nationalists can be ignored so easily?

    What do you think?
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  10. carl marks (profile) says:

    CNR are closet unionist’s either unable or unwilling to admit it, take your good self for example hashing about flegs and the money in one’s pocket…

    Aw more mopery, mow back to facts when did I mention anything even remotely about the money in my pocket.
    And nationalists are closet unionist, is this the line passed round with the Bucky and sandy row marching powder at flegger meetings . If this was true then all the more reason to get rid of the bigots as they are stopping themmuns s from voting unionist thus putting the union in danger (remember I said say it out loud before you post and if it sounds stupid don’t post, should have listened)
    You would think someone with your formidable powers of mindreading could put up a better argument.
    Oh and the thread is about LAD and fleggers so maybe that’s why flegs are mentioned, but you knew that didn’t you.

    What do you think?
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  11. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM you mentioned getting used to euro’s perhaps you stash your’s in your ball bag, anywho your default position is that anyone who doesn’t blow smoke up and kiss LAD’s Ha ass is a supporter of willie, jamie and flag protest’s…

    What do you think?
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  12. carl marks (profile) says:

    “CM you mentioned getting used to euro’s perhaps”

    Classic, here’s the full quote (been here before haven’t we)
    “Of course if you are more Anti Catholic/Irish than you are pro union then don’t bother, just prepare for the Tricolour over the city hall and Stormount and get used to euros.

    That isn’t about the money in my pocket, it a way of telling you that if unionists keep on doing what they are doing then a UI is inevitable.
    I challenge anybody to give their reasoning (I know that proof thing again) that the statement above mean this,,
    “However i would point out that many CNR are closet unionist’s either unable or unwilling to admit it, take your good self for example hashing about flegs and the money in one’s pocket…”
    And can I take it that what you are saying is that you think the fleggers are bigoted assholes, I won’t ask about 50 shades of fool, surely even the thickest flegger must realise that he is a joke.

    What do you think?
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  13. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM sorry to disappoint but i think Jamie’s brilliant…

    What do you think?
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  14. carl marks (profile) says:

    You know I believe you do!

    What do you think?
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  15. between the bridges (profile) says:

    As i said earlier in the thread LAD should employ him as a media consultant…

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  16. carl marks (profile) says:

    BTB
    bye!
    You take care crossing the road and be good for your mammy!

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  17. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    ForkHandles,

    I am not speaking for Alliance.

    I think you’re wrong. Northern Ireland is a disputed territory. It is not a normal part of the UK. Treating it as one is to ignore the problem.

    You better get your head out of the sand and start thinking about this. The union is secure, but unionism is on the cusp of losing its overall majority in the Assembly and nationalism is about to take control of Belfast City Council. You need to have a strategy for dealing with this other than pretending that NI is simply a normal place and demanding that other people see things your way. You need to be thinking about how you can preserve the things which are important to you.

    The glory days of decorating NI like a huge outdoor Orange fete are gone, and they aren’t coming back. The 21st century union will be pluralist and multi-cultural whether you like it or not.

    The union flag is flown on ATLEAST the designated days. It is not limited to that, and most places around the UK will fly it much more than the 18 days.

    Yeah, but most places around the UK fly other flags too. Find any council HQ in Google Maps you like, and note the flags outside of it. Coventry, for example.

    f Alliance wanted to be seen as a sensible even handed party, then first they should have got the other councils that don’t fly the flag at all to fly it on the 18 designated days which is a small increase and step towards normal practice.

    It’s Alliance’s position that designated days should apply to all councils and Alliance have enforced this policy on the council where they have the power to do so.

    Everyone knows that the nats and reps have an agenda to try and destroy anything British,

    Maybe. So what’s your plan to stop it or at least forestall it ? Roadblocks don’t work. Walking out of the Haass talks won’t work either. What’s your plan B ?

    so it should have been obvious to Alliance to have nats and reps move first before joining with them to help a further anti British move to try and remove the national flag.

    OK, now you’re just talking balls. The flag was not “removed”. And implementing designated days in line with places like Buckingham Palace is not “anti-British”. I have been through this a zillion times here on Slugger.

    What do you think?
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  18. DC (profile) says:

    @forkhandles

    Your analysis is correct and if designated days as standard doesn’t arise out of Haass I would say Alliance will be run out of town in places like Carrick and east Belfast particularly so if that argument is put forward that you make, as unionists will be very reluctant to transfer, liberal or otherwise.

    A vote for the Alliance party from a unionist point of view would be seen as a ‘vote to eliminate yourself’ practice.

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  19. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC/ForkHandles,

    As CS has pointed out the times they are a changing. What I think is most amusing is this line “republicans and Nationalists are out to destroy NI” but they are not they are out to create a UI the clue is in the name, it is a fully legitimate political agenda and has been pointed out to you both many times it is going to happen, after all Unionists seem out to make it happen quicker,
    The Behaviour of the fleggers and the OO (not to mention the Unionist parties) seems to be designed to hurry that day up.
    Alliance took a decision based on party policy, I believe that it will pay dividends at the next election because I believe that many unionists are fed up with the tail wagging the dog with gangsters and uneducated thugs driving the agenda.
    Perhaps one of you could answer this,
    When the day comes that the majority of the electorate decide to join a UI what will you do?
    The dreaded Unionist backlash has been shown to be a paper tiger, devoid of leadership or direction and reduced to posturing and moping at camp Twat, support is fading quickly and we have maybe 200 bigots doing a grand old Duke of York every night.
    Would you not be better trying to persuade others to come over to your side and to do that you will need to persuade Catholics to vote unionist, are nightly displays of bigotry the way to do that.
    As I have said before you will have to decide which is more important being pro union or being Anti-Catholic they are not the same thing!

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  20. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM sure what do you expect from themuns…

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  21. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    ForkHandles

    “the tricolor is the ROI flag”

    It is also the flag of the people who live in Northern Ireland.

    When you have been to a football match and seen 14000 people turn and show respect to an empty flag pole you know it has a lot of meaning for a lot of people.

    What do you think?
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  22. carl marks (profile) says:

    between the bridges (profile)

    19 December 2013 at 1:33 pm

    CM sure what do you expect from themuns…

    Really it’s sad that all you can put forward as an argument is repeating this bit of mopery.
    But then that is the face of unionism!
    And it how nationalists win, as things advance the pattern repeats,
    1/Unionists deny any problem!
    2/unionism refuses to either compromise or debate!
    3/ unionism forced to make changes (more than it would have had to make if it had compromised)
    4/Nationalists get what they want, unionism mopes.
    5/Unionism screams “your chipping away at are kulture” (think that’s the right Ulster scots spelling)
    6/ unionist riot and generally throw hissy fit. Complain about their leadership,
    7/ unionist leadership give a “its all the taigs (this one can vary, this time its Alliance) fault”,
    8/ unionist re-elect leadership
    9/ restart all over again at no 1.
    You seem to be at stage 1&2 with a bit of 4 (mopery) fitted in.
    But I think special thanks should go to the Fleggers they have done more to advance a UI than most Nationalists, yep all youse boys and gal with bad spelling and flag fetishes we nationalists thank you and the whole UI thing would be much more difficult without your tireless efforts to make fools of yourselves and your cause.

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  23. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    CM

    Aside from the rather cold delivery, you’ve summed it up quite well.

    I sometimes wonder why republicans even bother.

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  24. carl marks (profile) says:

    AG
    Sorry about the chill factor, but having asked repeatedly for proof of the wild claims of some posters and getting nothing back but Narnia politics and mopery im getting a bit fed up being nice to bigots.
    Yesterday evening I met up with a young (22 yrs.’) lad I used to work with, both him and his charming young lady were from the PUL community, she is at Jordanstown and he is working as a programmer.
    It was a delight to see him doing so well and so content
    Both moved to Belfast just over a year ago and both were quite outspoken about the whole Fleg thing.
    Basically they thought the fleggers were assholes and just wished they would wise up, I don’t think they are alone in the PUL community but I do think that the fleggers and the like have been the final straw that has pushed them away from any form of political activity.
    Both believed in compromise, both intelligent educated and unionist and both said they would not vote in future, the loss of people like this from politics is a shame but while they see themselves as British, they feeling they have nothing in common with what passes for unionist politics here.
    So I was a bit pissed off with the “champions of Ulster” that appear on this site, again sorry.

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  25. between the bridges (profile) says:

    CM following your ode to ironic moppery (10.25, 19 dec 2013) you follow it up with the classic ”i know a prod” routine ala sam was one… imho you and LAD are mirror images of what you say you are not…

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  26. between the bridges (profile) says:

    PS happy freaky Friday to you, the pubs calling…

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  27. DC (profile) says:

    Take a look at this posting by LAD it involves a facebook account going by the name of Sam Carson:

    http://ladbelfast.tumblr.com/post/69588199730/when-life-imitates-lad

    LAD had used his comment to prove just how bigoted and petty loyalists can be as they even complain about low flying taigy Air Lingus planes over east Belfast.

    Now – take a look at Sam Carson again on another post that LAD had put up – look at how well spoken and reasonable Sam Carson seems to be when writing under a comment made by Jamie Bryson on his own facebook page – that LAD have highlighted:

    http://31.media.tumblr.com/7d7251221ee6a7a8a642ba8685c2f044/tumblr_my29v8qqIE1sl89nfo7_500.png

    Now why would this guy Sam Carson write in such a supportive way of the fields of Athenry given he is supposed to be a loyalist bigot – contrast his comment about ‘taigy’ Air Lingus planes and then that calm and collected posting under Jamie’s facebook page of all places.

    Unless of course this guy isn’t Sam Carson but a LAD operator being used to make up stories and take screenshots for consumption by LAD followers. So rather than only highlighting ‘loyalist bigotry’ the bigotry has been made up by LAD?

    What about Piss Baby – perhaps after all a bogus admin on a loyalist page run by LAD for LAD consumption?

    Hey – who knows, you see when you have an anonymous page i.e. run by unknowns and use stuff belonging to fake facebook accounts, you could be anyone maybe even the same person using different names, acting out but sharing one sole purpose – to rip the bag out of loyalists. The ends justify the means LAD might argue?

    So much for ‘life imitating LAD’?

    What do you think?
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  28. DC (profile) says:

    This is the full link:

    http://ladbelfast.tumblr.com/post/70494354715/anatomy-of-a-u-turn-yesterday-reports-began

    It would appear that Sam Carson has been used to soften criticism that Jamie has made in relation to Cliftonville supporters signing Fields of Athenry, backed up the Protestant Coalition.

    It would appear then that Sam Carson is being used by LAD to be bigoted when suits and then reasonable and dead on when it suits their story line.

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  29. DC (profile) says:

    ‘backed up *by the Protestant Coalition’

    (Clearly used by LAD to make Jamie look even more stupid and bigoted because he is taking a harder line than the PC / Alice Dowson.)

    Here’s a thought – might Sam Carson be the very Brian John Spencer in disguise?

    What do you think?
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  30. between the bridges (profile) says:

    If anyone from LAD has contacts in the RNU could you suggest that they hire jamie or Chitick as a media consultant because despite parading, bands and fun speeches they failed to get any coverage, think of the shapping, shacking so it wuz…

    http://ardoynerepublican.blogspot.co.uk/

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