Loyalists need strong Unionist leadership

As a much younger man, Maurice Hayes was in the thick of the early conflagration in Northern Ireland. Although, as he points out, things at the moment could have been much worse if Republicans at the interface areas had chosen to react to some of the rioters, there is little comfort to be taken from the fact that some sections of the Protestant working class feels as alienated as Catholics once did.

The fact is that it is now working class Protestants who are more likely to be alienated. It is unionists who, although numerically the larger community, now feel and act like a minority under threat. It is they who feel the stress of changes which they fear will further undermine their position over which they have less and less control.

At one level it is a remarkable example of role reversal. At another, the events in Belfast and surrounding towns on Saturday and Sunday nights bring a sickening sense of deja vu. Not since the 1970s has such savage and sustained violence been seen on the streets. There can only be a relative sense of relief that nationalists in interface areas left them to it and refused to get drawn into a three-sided fracas.

The answer, he argues, is strong and visionary leadership:

These are difficult times for the Protestant working class. The industries they worked in have collapsed and deficiencies in the school system make them less able to take the new jobs that are available.

The Shankill Road was wrecked by the planners before the Provos left their bombs in it and it is no accident that the main trouble spots of the weekend were the soulless estates housing those relocated from unionist heartlands.

These are frightened insecure people who are striking out blindly in the only language they know. They need political leadership and they are not getting it.

  • smcgiff

    I’ve not read Slugger extensively since the riots (due to work commitments rather than lack of interest) and apologies if this point has been made already…

    But it seems to me as if Loyalists are fighting for a just cause but blaming the wrong enemy!

    The impotence of loyalism/unionism is that they cannot be seen to complain against the system to which they are wedded. In this they have my sympathies.

    Whereas in France, GB or anywhere else in Europe a person can complain (take St Eddie Hobbs as an example) and not be regarded as a traitor. Unionists/Loyalists do not have this luxury.

    Those from working Class Protestant Communities have third world educational systems/attainment, and pretty much a hopeless way of life, but whom do they blame and rally against – Sinn Fein and the release of particular prisoners. This, they claim, are the carrots that they are not receiving.

    This is bullshit. The political system has failed working Class Protestants, and those that have political clout on behalf of Protestants in particular. However, if you want to protest, protest against lack of amenities, not perceived sweeties that the other side have got.

    The Catholic community’s approach to education is there for decades and, lest we forget, it was because of the widely accepted closed shop in industry for Catholics.

    I’d go further to suggest that it suits middle class Protestants to have an under class loyalism to trot out as the bogey man.

    The living conditions of the poor on both sides is much more important than the constitutional question.

    An educated citizen (Catholic/Protestant) would prosper better in either a UK or ROI than in a current NI that is divided.

    As David Irvine said today it’s about time the citizens of NI got together at a local level and TALK!!!

    They have a common enemy – A political system that holds them hostages to fortune.

  • Richard Dowling

    Amen to that, Maurice Hayes. Respect cuts both ways. But
    someone should remind these alienated young people that
    their cultural survival depends on listening to less insinuating
    voices. Otherwise they will end up like the Apache or the
    Arapaho, proud but poor — and cut off from the mainstream.

  • willis

    “Not since the 70’s”

    I think not.

    Anyone who was around during Drumcree 1 – 5 knows what the week leading up to the Twelfth was like. However the strong, decisive, ok ok shambolic and eventually effective action of the Government and RUC/PSNI/Army eventually created the pantomime confrontation as shown on “Behind Orange Lines”. Is there a lesson from recent history?

  • fair_deal

    Drumcree didn’t fall apart because of state action it fell apart when it became about the Agreement.

  • VICTOR1

    Over the last days and weeks we have heard all manner of excuses from Unionists with regard to the violence, social depravation, the release of Sean Kelly, the disbanding of the RIR, a 10 min parade and the concessions to nationalists none of which are reasonable for the mayhem. We now have from Maurice Hayes give some sense of reality to the violence, political leadership or rather lack of, Unionists simply dont have a voice on the level of Nationalist political representatives. Paisly is a NO to everything one track pony, and Emprey is still cutting his teeth as a leader, though has already done a Trimble and jumped into bed with Paisley rather than cutting it on his own! Until Unionism gets a leader with vision we are condemed to the scenes we thought had been left behind. It’s time for Unionists to stop spitting the dummy out, get involved in the political process and try to build a future for all on this Island.

  • Dick Doggins

    One thing that needs to happen asap, is that the Orange Order should gag Dawson Bailee. I cringed with embarassment as he struggled to put two words together and his attempts at a sentence where laughable.Where do they get people with such a low intelligence, why do they allow him to speak? That other person who tried to join in was just as bad. Where both of them drunk, could this be the excuse.

  • willis

    If you look at Drumcree you will see all the elements of last weekend apart obviously from the changes in technology like the Love Ulster blog. BTW if Drumcree helped produce Newt, will Whiterock produce some more satire.

  • Baluba

    Never a truer post posted smcgiff.

    P.S. We all know the reason for your absence from Slugger is really the stinkin’ hangover you had from the Rebels’ impressive all-ireland win – don’t tell lies. Comhghairdeas libh. Bhí sé tuillte agaibh. Nach iontach an fhoireann í sin!!! Is eiseamláir den scoth é do ghach Éireannach é Seán óg fosta!!!

  • smcgiff

    Thanks Baluba, although we wont really consider them great until they win the three in a row! 😉

  • maca

    cork langers … sorry, did I say that out loud? 🙂

    Related: Dominic Casciani Protestant fears and loyalist anger
    “Protestant people see Sinn Fein doing an ‘excellent job’ at pushing their community’s agenda – but amid a fragmented unionist response, this only adds to a sense that the peace process has become a ‘one-way street of concessions’.”

  • smcgiff

    The tone of the BBC’s Quick guide to NI is very telling.

  • DK

    I just don’t buy all this talk of alienation as an explanation for this recent outburst of wanton destruction, on top of an increasing level of sectarianism. Factors that I do accept are education, (or lack of), the demise of a moral code, a lack of any talented leadership and ultimately the nurturing of ignorant hatreds over generations, generally by the untalented leaders.

    Those protestant who feel a need to justify or even partake in this lawlessness, need to step back and look at themselves. The other section of the protestant community who can clearly see the cancer within, should confront their families, friends and neighbours with the stark realities. No excuses. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I don’t care what nationalists are doing or what perceived benefits they are getting from the political process. This is a cancer within the protestant community. Do not use the nationalist population as an excuse to go into denial. If we don’t deal with this then the cancer will surely spread and eventually destroy us as a proud and decent people.

    Don’t kid yourselves. The average 18 yr old unemployed thug does not dwell on the pro’s and con’s of the political arrangements. They would have to read something about it, concentrate for more than a nano second and make a judgement on the merits or otherwise of a particualr issue. No, much simpler to seek an excuse to get some beer down their necks and throw some petrol bombs at the “taig” houses over the way. Finding an excuse isn’t difficult. Turn on the plasma telly and they are sure to find a procession of so called political leaders eager to tel them how the are now the “Most Oppressed People Ever”.

  • 9countyprovience

    The politicians have alienated the community by alienating themselves from the peace process. Then the community makes it worse by voting in the people who are the problem as their man party.
    It’s not the 70′ or 80’s. Shouting No as loud as you can doen’t work anymore. The UK government doesn’t need to listen to this tripe. They are secure and have a solid grounding in Britian. Both governments are scoring brownie points with what the IRA are doing.
    The DUP and the UUP don’t have any leverage with their current strategy. The are totally clueless when it comes to the enevitable integration of Catholics into power.
    New and positive leadership has never been needed more. But I honestly can’t see where that will come from. The modern world has bit the Unionists hard on the ass and they simply don’t have a plan B.

  • 9countyprovience

    Looks like the DUP don’t like the US envoy pointing out the obvious:

    DUP launches verbal attack on US envoy
    13/09/2005 – 14:15:25

    The Democratic Unionist Party has launched a scathing verbal attack on US President George W Bush’s special envoy to Ireland over his criticism of unionist politicians.

    Mitchell Reiss has accused unionists of failing to show leadership during violent loyalist riots in Belfast and surrounding areas over the weekend.

    The DUP’s Nigel Dodds responded today by accusing Mr Reiss of making one of the most unhelpful, negative and damaging contributions he had ever heard.

    He described the US politician’s comments as “crass” and said he no longer had any credibility among unionists.

  • VICTOR1

    Anyone care to point out who does have credibility among Unionists!

  • Mickhall

    Excellent article and posts to this thread, what is happening in areas of the north is much the same as has happened in areas in the north west of England last year. Don’t ask oneself why the schools are so bad, the streets are dirty and the health care hopeless, Simply look over you fence and blame the neighbours, who either look different from yourself or practice a different religion. In the northwest it was the BNP winding people up whilst the mainstream politicians ignored them, in the north it is loyalist paramilitaries whilst the Unionist politicos shamefully hide.

    The reason the DUP and UUP politicos are keeping quite over these riots is they are directly responsible for the decline in the living standards of the loyalist working classes by acquiescing to direct rule from London for decades whilst channeling funds into their own middle class areas via pork barreling the central government. If they raise their pathetic heads some one will start asking them awkward questions, better to keep there heads down. As far as im aware not one of them were present when these riots were going on. It is unimaginable these days if something similar had happened in Republican areas Gerry Kelly or some other senior republicans would not be there trying to cool the situation. Paisley and his crew are freeloaders and cowards, there behavior has been unforgivable

    Maurice Hayes has got it absolutely correct, the Unionist working class is crying out for leadership. Perhaps it is time SF started in a small way to aim their propaganda at them, if they get something for an estate and their is an adjoining Unionist estate, perhaps they should demand the unionist working classes get equality. From small steps etc.

    Regards to all

  • levee

    Good points Mickhall – I often wonder why no-one ever asks these awkward questions…

    Good strategy for Sinn Fein, if they were ever interested in Unionist citizens. But the concept of a win for one side is a win for both sides sits very well with me. Just think SF aren’t the crowd to do it.

  • dawgface911

    The Royalists are indeed without a leader. They have a huge identity problem, and consequently find comfort in staying the same. Their leaders find comfort in staying the same. The same royalist people rioted , in their orange identity, over a hundred years ago. stay the same.

    maybe its time for a New royalist leader! I suggest a Zionist type, who will harness the orange/ royalist passion and direct it toward a new Orange homeland.

  • dawgface911

    like the zioists in Gazza, the loyalist royalist orangemen could be paid £200,000 per household, and given a new house in the new homeland. Now the problem would be in finding the right place. Its to late for Zimbabwe. Maybe New Orleans when it gets fixed.

  • Belfast Dissenter

    “like the zioists in Gazza, the loyalist royalist orangemen could be paid £200,000 per household”

    Where do I collect?

  • Headmelter

    “like the zioists in Gazza, the loyalist royalist orangemen could be paid £200,000 per household”

    “Where do I collect?”

    I’m in the queue. I’ll be a nationalist loyalist.

  • Brian Boru

    Maybe if the Unionist political-leadership weren’t always trying to outdo one another in negativism then the Unionist people wouldn’t always be thinking that Catholics are “getting all the concessions etc.” The South has given up Articles 2 and 3, the IRA is decommissioning – unlike the UDA or UVF. All this and the Unionists refuse to restore power-sharing. Who is really making the concessions?

  • real world

    IS it possible that the reason working class protestants feel isolated and unrepresented is that they refuse to elect the people who actually have some kind of inside knowledge about their situation? They refuse to elect reps from the PUP or even the UPRG because of their links with terrorism and instead choose DUP reps who will use these terrorist groups when it suits them and then condemn them very quickly afterwards. This attitude towards terrorism is all noble and good until you consider the scenes over the past few days when the same people were out rioting alongside members of these terrorist groups. In Ballymena, for example, Billy Mc Caughey only managed to get 90 at th last council election odd votes yet on Saturday night there were many more than that rioting in the streets. I personally dislike Mr McCaughey and am at the opposite end of the political spectrum but even I can recognise that he probably has a far greater insight into the situation among the working class protestant population than most of the DUP representatives who sit on Ballymena council. It seems that by attempting to claim the moral high ground at election time the working class protestant population in the North have left themselves without representation.

  • real world

    IS it possible that the reason working class protestants feel isolated and unrepresented is that they refuse to elect the people who actually have some kind of inside knowledge about their situation? They refuse to elect reps from the PUP or even the UPRG because of their links with terrorism and instead choose DUP reps who will use these terrorist groups when it suits them and then condemn them very quickly afterwards. This attitude towards terrorism is all noble and good until you consider the scenes over the past few days when the same people were out rioting alongside members of these terrorist groups. In Ballymena for example Billy Mc Caughey only managed to get 90 odd votes at the last council election yet on Saturday night there were many more than that rioting in the streets. I personally dislike Mr McCaughey and am at the opposite end of the political spectrum but even I can recognise that he probably has a far greater insight into the situation among the working class protestant population than most of the DUP representatives who sit on Ballymena council. It seems that by attempting to claim the moral high ground at election time the working class protestant population in the North have left themselves without representation.

  • real world

    Sorry about the double post…

  • rocky

    “like the zioists in Gazza, the loyalist royalist orangemen could be paid £200,000 per household”

    I’ll do it for 175k, the Algarve please.

    Another Nationalist loyalist