Caught in lazy assumptions?

Susan McKay reviews Gary Mitchell’s new play “Remnants of Fear” some of which is drawn from the experiences of the extended Mitchell family were forced from their Rathcoole homes following a campaign of UDA intimidation. Mitchell’s plays have always provided strong insight into the experiences of Belfast working class Loyalist experience and this one examines the deadening, damaging and corrupting hand of loyalist paramilitarism on these areas. However, a chunk of the article’s premise is built upon an outdated stereotype of Unionism. The article makes the claim:

“Instead Mitchell’s decision to give his play to a theatre group associated with republicanism, for production as part of Feile, the West Belfast festival, will be seen as further proof that he is a traitor. ”

Has any prominent Unionist or politician made any such statement against Gary Mitchell?

The article goes on to mention that:

“When Alan McBride – whose wife Sharon was one of those murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bomb – accepted the invitation to deliver the Bloody Sunday lecture earlier this year in Derry, the city’s Protestants mostly stayed away. It is a terrible pity that this Lundy reflex comes into play as soon as someone from a Protestant background steps beyond the old certainties of no surrender and not an inch. McBride spoke well.”

Again did any Unionist make such an attack on Alan McBride for giving the Bloody Sunday lecture? For years UUP and DUP representatives have attended a number of debates and seminars in republican areas. On what basis could they attack Alan McBride for doing the same? How is it known that a “Lundy reflex” is why people didn’t attend?

Unionism hasn’t found the answers to dealing with Loyalist paramilitarism in its communities so it is a legitimate and important question. There is the traditional choice of carrot and stick but so far direct engagement has failed to deliver the degree of change needed because of the fractionalised nature of Loyalist groups and communities, divisions over the agreement, parades issues and an unstrategic approach while Government consistently chooses to spare the rod. However, a caricature of Unionist thinking offers nothing to that debate or an answer.