Words deployed in new phase of war…

THE launch of the ‘Love Ulster’ unionist campaign against a United Ireland yesterday was steeped in symbolism. Echoing the arrival of the Clyde Valley arms shipment for the UVF at Larne in 1914, Shankill Mirror newspapers were unloaded from a boat at the port yesterday. The aim was – I think – to illustrate that the unionist side of the argument against republicanism was capable of being made through democratic means. Wullie Wilkinson’s statement that one of the aims of ‘Love Ulster’ is to counter republican propaganda would seem to back this. However, the use of loyalist terrorists to distribute the paper throughout NI was disconcerting for many unionists and others. And since when did the UDA give a damn about a free press?!

The News Letter reported John McVicar of the Shankill Mirror, one of the chief organisers, saying that the paramilitaries could not be ignored. “The reality is that loyalist paramilitaries are part of the Protestant community,” he stressed.

“They along with a lot of other people were part of the conflict we have been involved in and they need to be part of the resolution. We have come out of 35 years of violence, things aren’t going to change overnight and we need to influence everyone in our community positively and that includes loyalist paramilitaries.”

Great. Now we have another loyalist Gerry Adams.

Of course, it’s better that loyalists unloaded a paper cargo and not a metal one, but frankly, no-one would believe any paramilitary who said this was indicative of the direction loyalism is heading in. Evidence on the ground tends to suggest the exact opposite. There is no question of UVF or UDA decommissioning at present, even when both present a much greater threat to both unionists and nationalists than any republican grouping at this time.

By heaving bundles of newspapers off a Larne boat, UDA leader Jackie McDonald was perhaps attempting to demonstrate to loyalists that there was now an alternative means of pursuing their political ambitions, other than through violence. Whether loyalist paramilitaries actually have any political pretensions these days is another matter – hard, honest work may not appeal very much to someone dealing drugs or living easily on extorted money, ostensibly in the name of Ulster.

The ultimate irony is, of course, that McDonald’s UDA is currently going around newsagents’ shops every Sunday morning stealing and burning copies of the Sunday World tabloid paper, which lambasts and lampoons loyalist terrorism. So much for supporting a free press Jackie – the campaign should end now if you don’t want to look like a completely hypocritical chancer of the first order.

Nevertheless, the campaign’s deep symbolism seems to amount to an attempt to shift the conflict onto a different level. In a sense, this is simply following the example of the republican movement, which moved the theatre of conflict to other arenas, such as culture, through opposition to Orange marches, for example, or the establishment of Daily Ireland as a means to disseminate republican ideas to a wider audience.

Some of the symbolism used in the ‘Love Ulster’ campaign propaganda is more knowing and historically conscious than most current unionist/loyalist cultural representations, which veers between the arcane quasi-Masonic symbolism of the loyal orders at one end, and the brutal glorification of loyalist violence in murals at the other.

For example, the professionally designed ‘Love Ulster’ poster entitled ‘Evil happens when good people do nothing’ takes its cue from Edmund Burke, a conservative Anglo-Irish philosopher.

It is certainly a more modern, imaginative and subtle effort at propaganda than yesterday’s Shankill Mirror front page – ‘Ulster at crisis point’ – which is such a tired old expression that it has become a worn-out cliche. What surprise lies in store for us next week: ‘Ulster at the brink’?

The poster also appropriates Martin Niemoeller’s poem:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist – so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat – so I did nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew – so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me.

However, this time the ‘victims’ are the B-Specials, the UDR, the RUC and now the RIR. Helpfully, unionists aren’t asked whether they did anything when ‘they’ came for others, reinforcing the notion that the State acted solely in defence or was reactive to others’ violence. Happily, Niemoeller was a Lutheran and unionists tend to sympathise with Israel in the Middle-East conflict (whereas republicans show solidarity with the Palestinian cause). Remember all the Israeli and Palestinian flags that popped up in Belfast a few years ago?

(Unionist icon Carson also appears on the poster, extending a red hand in an angry ‘stop’ gesture, adding historical authority to the international solidarity. The pose is adapted from his statue outside Stormont’s Parliament Buildings, with the original gesture being an upturned hand.)

Claiming these culturally iconographic words and appropriating them for the unionist cause, while simultaneously seeking international common cause is perhaps an unexpected move from a unionism that long seemed only capable of being inward-looking. Although there has long been an underlying sympathy and fascination with Israel within Ulster Protestantism, ‘Love Ulster’ looks like it is extending that remit.

The news that unionists are off to Colombia to bring back civilian victims of FARC activity is perhaps another indicator that unionism’s real international objective is to cultivate new support in America. Unionists are big fans of George Dubya and his foreign policy, and perhaps see the potential of mining as much ‘anti-terror’, pro-Israel sentiment in the States as they can while he’s in charge.

Well if it worked for republicans when Clinton was in power, it must be worth a bash, eh?

  • Tir Eoghain Gael

    So the loyalist paramilitries are bringing out a newspaper, cant wait to get a look at that!

    If their reading literature in prison is anything to go buy no doubt the paper will be full of naked women and problem pages.

  • Jeremy

    Judging by the lively pace of debate on this thread this topic hasn’t caught the imagination of the Unionist masses

  • TAFKABO

    If only Unionists were half as worried about Unionisms imminent demise as republicans appear to be.

  • Bill

    Mabey they should just organise a new Solemn
    League & Covenant. ;D

  • The Watchman

    An interesting piece from Gonzo.

    The name “Love Ulster” sounds like a Richard Curtis film. Would like to hear Hugh Grant do a Shankill accent.

    I suspect Love Ulster will go nowhere unless it can stop itself being tainted by paramilitarism. McVicar’s comment above promises little for the future. Loyalist paramilitarism is not just gross on its own terms. Its influence on any loyalist estate anywhere is always thoroughly malign: you don’t even have to get out of your car to see why. Any grassroots movement that gives the criminal gangs any respectability or breathing space has no hope of going anywhere.

  • lib2016

    People may have lost interest here but the folk at Politics ie have discovered the site and are in shock.

    Excellent thread for any unionist who wants an inside view on how themmuns really think. 🙂

  • Alan2

    Just got my bundle and distributed them. It is a communi9ty effort not a paramilitary effort. Simple community networking at it`s best. McVicar has already stated that the idea is to show that the pen is more powerful than the sword.

  • Gonzo

    lib2016

    Post us a link!

    Anyway, I had an interesting conversation about 2 hours ago with a senior DUP rep and he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the whole Love Ulster campaign.

    I gave him a bit of a hard time, but I think he acquitted himself honorably.

  • Tiny

    The whole thing will flop as a result of allowing thugs to help distribute it, as for Bobby Saulters, a disgrace to the Order!

  • Tochais Síoraí

    No doubt the various manufacturers of tacky gold jewellery will be queuing up to establish a link to the website.

  • Bob

    “I had an interesting conversation about 2 hours ago with a senior DUP rep and he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the whole Love Ulster campaign.”

    Very glad to hear it! The whole thing is a shambles.

    The people organising it may well have had very laudable motives, but they spectacularly managed to miss the glaring problems which were going to hit that website. There were always going to be a determined number of people out to do it all the damage they could – hence the porn pictures earlier and the blindinly obvious people who are posing as unionist/loyalist sympathisers – again see ShankillCraig (he of the No dogs, No Blacks and No Irish in his signature) who was one of the people who was posing the dodgy material onto the site earlier.

    However, that aside, what is it actually desinged to achieve? A united Ireland wont be averted through a website. In fact I think a study needs to be carried out into just how much damage LoveUlster has actually done to the Union.
    A shockingly poor ‘campaign’. You couldnt half tell it was a bank holiday with absolutely no news yesterday when that drivel got such publicity on the news.

  • Gonzo

    I wouldn’t dismiss it outright, although the DUP rep seemed to have his head screwed on. My friend certainly cleared up a few of my thoughts regarding his views on the situation in Ballymena, although it obviously remains a real worry to both of us.

    I have a gut feeling that maybe the ‘Love Ulster’ campaign is seen by some in the DUP in the same way as the ‘Long March’ campaign was, maybe as a vehicle for Cedric Wilson-like UUUP-type politicians who are less accommodating (politically) than even the DUP. In other words, DUP cometition. Maybe, maybe not, just a hunch.

    It would be uncouth of me not to mention that the DUP’s PR has been fairly outstanding in recent years. No idea if the same people have designed stuff for the LU campaign and any political party, but there has been a marked improvement in certain aspects of the presentation of the unionist case, probably as a result of the influx of ‘new blood’ in recent years. From a neutral perspective, the style, tone and presentation of the DUP, for example, has seen a marked improvement since its ‘Millwall’ days (#We are Millwall, no-one likes us, we don’t care!#) of hardline unionism.

    To summarise: The LU campaign seems to have a degree of sophistocation behind it, and perhaps that competition is seen as a threat to others?

    However, the DUP easily mopped up this hardline section of opinion in the last election. The Norman Boyds of this world are no more.

  • slug

    Gonzo

    “My friend certainly cleared up a few of my thoughts regarding his views on the situation in Ballymena, although it obviously remains a real worry to both of us.”

    Care to clear up mine by explaining this comment? I am worried (very worried) about this too.

  • Gonzo

    slug

    I couldn’t breach a confidence, but I think it is fair to say that I had concerns about the role some politicians have played recently that were explained to me. It in no ways excuses the actions of others, which is something he would agree with.

    We still have disagreements, but fortunately not as many as I had this morning.

  • Ziznivy

    This “unionist” campaign seems to have its feet firmly placed in the gutter. It distresses me to see a unionist group trying to out-shin the shinners. The embarassingly myopic website doesn’t seem to ackowledge the possibility of Catholic unionism, or Catholic victims of SF / IRA violence.

    The best cause for the union is based in promoting an inclusive Northern Ireland, firmly within the UK, where British vales of pluralism, religious tolerance, national tolerance etc. are to the fore. This type of site merely promotes Protestant supremacism and a nasty type of Ulster nationalism.

  • larneman

    A couple of points:

    The actual content of the paper- articles on attacks on OO property by Dr David Hume and stories from victims of IRA bombings are OK. Generally I’m uneasy about this idea of wrapping ourselves in a flag of victimhood. However there is a section of the community who are understandably bitter at the way republicans have been almost sanctified by the ‘peace/political process’ without ever having renounced their past deeds. There was an undercurrent in the IRA statement which read to many people as saying that the IRA ‘military’ campaign was legitimate and was not going into a new purely political phase. No regret, no apologies. The way the London based media- BBC Sky News sold this as a brave and historic move after having presented so many other statements over 10 years as historic does piss a lot of people off to put it mildly. This paper and website, like the previous Long March campaign seems to be aiming to copy the propaganda techniques of SF. There is also a feeling of political impotence in unionist circles at the lack of influence their elected reps have over the political process. This is not a new phenomenon but is heightened at the moment due to the recent bravado of the DUP in wake of their electoral triumphs, all that ‘days of pushover unionism are over’, concessions have ended stuff. Turned out to be just that- bravado.

    The Love Ulster website forum.
    Whoever set this up needs their heads examined. From a flick through it seems to be completed unmoderated and is plagued by apologists for loyalist paramilitaries, and people who are obviously internet ‘trolls’ trying to be provocative. Slugger commentator Beano and several others have been trying manfully to talk a bit of sense on the forum.

    The launch/ distribution of the paper.
    Media coverage of this on Talkback for example has made clear that UDA men have got involved in this campaign. For example on Mondays Talkback, which can be listened to again on the web. A couple of ‘random’ people from Carrickfergus were interviewed. One was Stanley Fletcher the amusingly named prisoner spokesman for the UPRG and Bobby Rice from Greenisland a well connected unsuccessful candidate at the last election. When added to the Newsletter quotes it appears that this campaign is tainted with paramilitary involvement. As such it will be rejected by the vast majority of the community and those associated with it will be tainted. Brother Saulters and Hume have to explain themselves.

    Another thing- I’m from Larne. It pissed me off that Larne has been dragged into the headlines in a negative context. Again on Talkback, the headline was “Last Stand in Loyal Larne, Has the clock stopped in 1914.” And Gonzo has alluded to the historical analogies with the UVF gunrunning episode. Larne has settled down over the last few years. In 2000-2001 there was a sectarian pipe bomb campaign directed from Rathcoole by Grugg Greig’s UDA company (see Henry McDonald’s recent book), but sectarian incidents have been stamped out by the PSNI and community relations are generally good. BTW housing in Larne is almost completely mixed. There is power sharing on the local Council and people have been working hard to improve the area’s image. Then we have this nonsense and we are back to square one again. Thanks Bobby (Saulters) and Jackie (McDonald)… now clear off back to your own town.

  • Keith M

    Just what the World needs, the Loyalist version of the “Daily Provo”.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    To which newspaper, I wonder, is Keith the Moonie referring?

    If he were to read, for example, and I’m taking a wild guess here, Daily Ireland, he might find that it’s a far better newspaper than the Daily Telegraph or any of the Tory Party rags he might take of a morning. It’s certainly softened the cop of his idle idol, Michael McDowell. Notice how silent he’s been on the issue since he was served with a summons to answer for libellous and reckless remarks previously.
    Then again I’m assuming the poor half wit – KM – can read and perhaps that’s too much to assume.

  • Mike

    “Then again I’m assuming the poor half wit – KM – can read and perhaps that’s too much to assume.”

    Call me crazy, but I would think that it’s a logical assumption given that he’s read and commented on articles on this site…

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Well done for stating the bleeding obvious Mike but logic is not necessarily the main consideration in the narrow little mind of KM.
    My advice to you is to get out of the way – KM clearly made his snide littleminded remark to spark a fight and I’ll give him one. As distinct from American smart bombs, I don’t like collateral damage and I will try to avoid it.

  • slug

    MODERATOR

    Please review the preceding few posts for ad hominem attacks i.e. rule violation.

  • bob

    Gonzo,
    I have to say that I thought the Love Ulster ‘campaign’ was fairly p*ss poor in terms of PR and general media presentation.

    They spent a lot of the first day media defending criticisms right from the off instead of what they should have been doing – having a positive spin. The DUP long since realised that its much easier to sell something if you are figting a positive campaign – i.e: ‘Its Time for a Fair Deal’ is much better than fighting to ‘oppose’ an old deal. Also see Leading for Ulster, Leadership thats Working and stuff like Devolution Now which even though many people may still interpret them as negative they all have a positive spin to them.

    Unfortunately for the LU crew they still prefer to lumber on with the “Ulster in Crisis” stuff – I’m sure someone at one of the meetings suggested “ulster will fight and ulster will be right” at some point!

    Apart from a newspaper (a misnomer if ever I heard one – there’s no NEWS in it) and the website, what exactly is this ‘campaign’ and what are its aims? They want to mobilise against a United Ireland by getting us to log onto the internet? The website had absolutely no thought or planning put into it and instead of being some thinktank for unionism or even a place for semi-rational discussion it simply has become a residence for republican trolls and the worse excess of loyalist stupidity. They should have seen the likelyhood of ALL of that occuring.

    I voted against the Belfast Agreement and i’m not that old yet I’ve seen the Long March (and strongly supported it at the time) but all that stuff achieves nothing. They simply whip up a fervour of Ulster in danger and then do absolutely nothing to help put something positive in place. The biggest threats I saw to NI’s soverignty in the Agreement were things like the free-standing nature of All-Ireland bodies etc and at least the DUP have recognised stuff like that and are working on the real political threats while still remembering stuff like the Victims Commissioner which will do a lot more to help innocent victims than re-printing their stories in some free sheet newspaper.

    There can be nothing more ironic than the claim by the organisers of this drivel that it was to be a direct contest to the republican movements propaganda machine. That claim was probably the most laughable aspect of a campaign which frankly has done more to discredit unionism in recent times than any republican campaign. (maybe you can tell I’m more than a little annoyed by the rubbish they pour out).

    This is not posing some threat to the DUP from the ‘right wing’ one, because the ‘ring wing’ of Unionism still trust the DUP, they have done nothing to force those people to look for a new home. Secondly, and more importantly IMO, the vast majority of people, even those mildly sympathetic to LU know that it has been a meaningless and frankly rubbish effort and just see it as the efforts of a few usual suspects who everyone feels have to be given a by-ball because you cant criticise victims.

    When all’s said and done, I doubt if any Unionist politician would openly criticise the LoveUlster campaign – even I dont criticise their motives in doing it – uniting unionism is a laudable aim. However, they wont criticise it mainly because they know it will fizzle out and given a few weeks it will just be a faint (and frankly embarassing) memory of another bad PR stunt.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Shucks Slug, I didn’t know you cared…. as far as I’m concerned the original comment from KM was uncalled for and was ad hominem in nature. In fact it was dangerous in the extreme as it tried to paint a baseless parallel between the Love Ulster project and the Daily Ireland. Given the type of ad hominem attacks that could provoke from the fellow travellers of the Love Ulster campaign against legitimate journalists, I think it’s perfectly correct to call KM to account for his witless remark.

  • Gonzo

    Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Wrong. KM’s comment was clearly directed at a newspaper, not a person, whereas your own remark was a personal attack. That is, frankly, what ad hominem means.

    Hardly worth a card IMHO, but it would be better if commenters properly understood the rule and adhered to it.

  • Oilbbear Chromaill

    Gonzo,

    I disagree with your interpretation of the rules but I’m not surprised given your attitude towards Daily Ireland in previous postings. I doubt very much if you’d treat similar references to the UDA Newsletter or the UVF Telegraph or some such but it’s fair enough, in your distorted view of the world, to allow such gratuitious pops at DI. And sure if one of these UVF/UFF types takes it in his head to believe the propoganda and act on it – and don’t we know they don’t need much of an excuse – well what will you say then?

    Remember Martin O’Hagan….

  • reality check

    keith m-how exactly can you equate the daily ireland to the this special issue of the shankill mirror?Did you see jackie mcdonald collecting copies?do republicans deliver daily ireland?why were known paramilitaries in larne and carrickfergus seen distributing it?

  • mary lambe

    keep larne out of it .we larne yins have paid the blood sacrifice .we will do it again.there were no drug dealers at the somme.newspapers wont keep us out of a R.C.republic. chuige your ballocks!

  • mary lambe

    keep larne out of it .we larne yins have paid the blood sacrifice .we will do it again.there were no drug dealers at the somme.newspapers wont keep us out of a R.C.republic. chuige your ballocks!

  • Pol MacLiam

    As an Easterner (a Dub!) I must say I love Ulster too especially Donegal when the weather is good. The other eight counties not too bad either! Tyrone for Sam!

  • Fanny

    Once again I’m forced to remind Oilbbear Chromaill that the only publication in Northern Ireland that has ever deliberately and consistently put someone’s life at risk from the paramilitaries through false accusations is the Andersonstown News – and they have lost the court cases to prove it.