Prods told to take a look at themselves…

BREIDGE Gadd has picked up the theme we’re discussing here about the reluctance of Protestants to tell their story (subs req’d), although it’s more in the context of summer schools and the like, which Brian Feeney might appreciate. Gadd’s advice to Protestants is to “shake off some of the defensiveness and self-pity” and realise that critical analysts within the unionist community are not “disloyal”, but “have the best interests of unionism/Protestantism at heart”. Protestants must tell their own story
Opinion
By Breidge Gadd

Holiday reading contained two interesting books. Two books about Northern Ireland and very different books, in fact. One, by Gary Mitchell, (and my first time to read him) told a story of a clergyman in east Belfast. The other, by Louise Dean, told the simultaneous story of two people, the mother of a soon- to-be hunger striker and the English-born prison warder on his H-Block.

Both books had one element in common – Protestant people were uncharismatic and defensive. In fact, common to both books was the hint that the Protestants were the authors of their own misfortunes. On the other hand, Dean’s book in particular – whether accidentally or deliberately – depicts the republicans with more just cause for their actions.

The portrayal of working-class republicans as the freedom fighters and the working-class Protestant as dour and sectarian is by no means unique to these two writers.

It is a stereotypical element in most fiction and non-fictional writings about Northern Ireland.

However, to suggest that Mitchell writes in stereotypes is to do his writing an injustice. He is better than that and his characters are crafted with great understanding and empathy on his part. Nevertheless, the fact must be faced that republicans have a history that lends itself more easily to fictional romanticism and writers are intrigued by that possibility.

I cannot claim to be an expert on the massive amount of fiction, prose or drama written about the past 40 years here. I’d have to say from my very limited and amateurish perspective, Protestant authors certainly don’t don the rose tinted spectacles when writing about their own people. I’m thinking also about Marie Jones’ funny but viscous portrayal of her own tribe in a Night in November.

I would even go so far to suggest that nationalist/republican/Catholic indigenous writers aren’t anywhere near as critical of their people’s behaviour or the justification, or lack of it, for their acts as their Protestant counterparts are.

These musings are way outside my comfort zone because I’m not a critic of modern Irish fiction. But they are not irrelevant when we look at how communities here are handling their past and their future.

A guest at last Sunday night’s New Lodge dinner, I was hugely impressed by the commitment and determination of all the people there to work through the most difficult and inner soul issues of our shared history.

I am told that the whole weekend had been in similar ilk. Honest talking together or enabling individual stories to be told and listened to, through the medium of the cultural festivals, must rank as a particularly positive event in this summer of positives compared to previous summers of contention and discontent.

However, as Brian Feeney pointed out in this paper some weeks ago, nationalist/republican communities mostly lead such events.

Therefore, while ground-breaking in their popularity in working-class areas, this way of signing off the past is bound to have limited impact with many from the other side. The problem is that the Protestant story is harder to tell.

As I have pointed out above, its authors so far take no prisoners in their determination to tell it as it was, warts and all.

We do need to find a way to balance the storytelling books so that some events are led and managed by Protestant communities and the nationalists/republicans become their guests.

There is no reason why Protestant communities shouldn’t devise their own storytelling events.

Firstly they need to shake off some of the defensiveness and self-pity. Then they should realise that authors and playwrights like Jones and Mitchell, commentators such as Garland, Kennaway, and David Adams and poets such as Longley have the

best interests of unionism/Protestantism at heart. They must also accept that to be self-critical is not to be disloyal but can become a major strength internally and externally.

There is ample evidence that Protestant communities have talent and ability. All that is needed is the confidence to ask some of their famous writers to help them learn to laugh at themselves.

­The rest is easy.

  • slug

    Perhaps nationalists are the odd ones out?

    Perhaps a nationalist person calling for a “unionist summer school” is a bit like a gay man calling for a “straight pride” carnival?

    There are historical reasons why gay pride events and nationalist community events sprung up.

  • maura

    Slug, I agree, advice like this, from a Nationalist, is hardly coing to be heeded.
    But, Unionists, particularly Loyalists, do need to involve themselves through political education. Then we might not be met with discussions from them of ýou are….’you are ridiculous’ýour opinions are ridiculous’your experiences are nonsense’………
    What is with the hostility on a discussion board?

  • Rory

    Gonzo,

    This really throws up a lot of food for thought and I’ve pecked at a morsel or two at the same feast over the years without satisfaction.

    If not absolutely true in all cases it does seem nevertheless overwhelmingly to be the case, in Northern Ireland at least, that catholics are more willing to speak of their own experience and to admit their own shortcomings of past action than is the case with protestants. If this is indeed so as is increasingly being remarked upon, and here addressed, then why is it so?

    One difference that I had considered, and still have not rejected, is that of the fundamental difference in mindset determined by the different dominant theological influences.

    Whereas the native Irish/Catholic tradition of the confessional – and the necessary prerequisite of obtaining absolution by a vigourous self examination of conscience before confession – determined a constant form of revision of one’s thoughts and actions, and indeed in the story telling process itself within catholic culture.

    The dominant Calvinisr theology of predestination within the Ulster Scots tradition determined that everyone was destined for heaven (or not), that one was saved (or not). Since all within that tradition were therefore bound to assume that they were saved, were bound for heaven and that only “others” were damned, bound for hell, the very idea of critical self-examination , never mind admission of wrong doing, was absolute anathema, not to say socially dangerous.

    I can anticipate the flaws here – individual Catholics’ experience of the confessional enough to put them off it for life and the preponderance of great scientific advance, which demands, above all, critical self-examination, from within those of the Calvinist tradition. And yet there’s something here in this line of thought that refuses to go away.

    I would be grateful for all thoughtful contributions, however robustly dismissive, that would put paid to this foolish line of thought of mine so that I can get on with the happy business of thinking other much more foolish things instead. Time after all is short for me.

  • slug

    Maura I would agree – better education is really important. We have good education for the likes of me who get to a grammar school and university but I think the education outcomes for a lot of people in urban protestant communities is very low and I am guessing there is quite a low level of aspiration.

  • slug

    Rory – could be religious but perhaps not the reason you give.

    Protestantism is an individualist thing. You have an individual relationship to god. There is no “story” other than your individual story.

    Perhaps this reflects itself in the lack of a common story telling. I would have difficulty speaking for many other Protestants. In partoicular I have very little common feeling with the loyalist community.

    It may not be a religious thing at all though. It may be that the protestant community just has a lot less common experience than the catholic community – its more divided by class.

    The catholic community did share together such a strong common negative experience in the past that the protestants didn’t share.

    Of course its not 100% true to say protestant didn’t share a sense of suffering. We felt mighty unhappy about the IRA’s campaign and we do feel the injustices of that but perhaps in different ways between different sub-communities with the protestant community.

  • IJP

    The notion of people taking a critical look at “their community” being cast out from that community is hardly unique to Unionism. Show me a Nationalist who has challenged the basic assumptions of Nationalism and still been accepted within the “Nationalist fold”…!

    No, this applies to both “sides”. It is the very basic problem with tribal politics – you cannot challenge your “tribe” without being seen to be “disloyal” – whether Protestant/Unionist or Catholic/Nationalist.

    Breidge would be more impressive if she took the logic to a further conclusion – tribal politics and a tribal social set-up have failed. Time to try something different…

  • Garibaldy

    Rory,

    I think that the injustices that were confronted in the 1960s could only be brought to light and removed by being upfront and clear about what was happening. The lesson learnt about the power of the media and international opinion encouraged people to continue to complain about real and perceived injustices.

    Actually I think that now with the increase in self-confidence and a feeling of being on the march, stories are told to reinforce the feeling of “look how far we’ve come, they’ll never put us on our knees again”. On top of that, as people hit middle age, they feel the need to share their experiences with the rest of us. Add to that the decline in other forms of activism, and we have a recipe for largish numbers of people eager for opportunities to show off their talents. Be it Martin Meehan in street theatre, Danny Morrison in plays/novels, or Bik Mc Farlane singing, or people at community discussions, summer shcools etc.

    Their as many holes in this as your own theory, but like you I think there’s something in it.

  • maura

    ‘Breidge would be more impressive if she took the logic to a further conclusion – tribal politics and a tribal social set-up have failed. Time to try something different…

    I agree to a certain extent IJP, it is tribal politics that needs to be attacked.
    However, I do think there is something lacking in the Loyalist communities, and it is manifesting itself in many areas, including education. What is it Ervine said about 3% of Protestant children passing the 11+ on the Shankill road? ( something to that effect).
    I am not sure as to why Unionists are not willing to come forward to debate their issues, is it because of religious doctrines, I don’t know. I do however, think that they do need to come forward and that will only be credible and possible when they have become more motivated politically.

  • Garibaldy

    Because unionist politicians tend to me from the bourgeoisie, and not to give too much of a fiddler’s about conditions in working class housing estates.

    As for loyalists, there’s a theory that says pro-state terrorists are going to be drawn from the less respectable segments of society, otherwise they’d join the security services. In the 1970s, all paramilitary groups were bigger than they are now, and particularly the UDA which was a genuinely mass movement. Thus there seem to be more people from that generation with the ability to look at a bigger picture. The ascendancy of Jonny Adair and suchlike since the late 1980s seems to coincide with the shrinking of the UDA. No real surprise that they come closer to meeting the theory described above.

  • Alan

    There simply isn’t a protestant community in the same way as there is a mythologised catholic / nationalist community.

    There are disjointed working class / loyalist communities and a much larger middle class community who have moved decisively away from their loyalist roots.

    The main difference is religious, the essential division being between the catholic parish system and the profusion of protestant churches with little relationship to geography.

    These “weak links” ( ie non familial) are at the core of defining whether a community is based on geography or other interest. They lead to very different methods of organisation within each community. Crucially, they decide the type of narrative of purpose that each community require.

    You can argue that the Catholic / nationalist community requires an exclusive and aggressive/assertive narrative, while the protestant community does not require a narrative at all and will only act in unison on the rare occasions when the totality is under threat.

    The task for republicans is, and always has been, how to argue for unity when there is no equivalent to the community as understood by catholics/nationalists.

    There is no point in bemoaning that absence in the first place because that in itself is simply a misunderstanding of how the protestant community works.

  • Reader

    Rory: The dominant Calvinisr theology of predestination within the Ulster Scots tradition determined that everyone was destined for heaven (or not), that one was saved (or not).
    The notion of predestination is a difficult one, and I don’t think it has much influence. Subjectively and objectively, people face choices every day, and they know that. And I don’t think any mainstream church guarantees its followers a place in heaven, unless they meet the basic criterion – personal salvation. Try another theory – the suggestion from others above, that Prods don’t have, or seek, a monolithic community, is certainly a good place to start.

  • Rory

    Well this has certainly been a terrific and positive response which of course means that i have a hell of a lot more thinking to do and won’t be so easily able to retire into the reverie of my other foolish ideas for a while.

    I had anticipated some abuse but instead only got respones that really challenged and I am very grateful.The contributions of Slug, Alan and Reader, in particular, perhaps because I am often at odds with them on other threads, were particularly helpful in guiding my rethinking and Maura and Garibaldy helped display that we are at least united in wanting to hear the genuine story, the dialogue from each others’ original community. Let’s keep talking.

  • kay

    Beautiful, beautiful dialogue – this is what will win the day for the communities in the north of ireland. We have a shared history that must be told & listened to by both sides. We are generous in listening to people from other countries, let’s starting listening with BOTH ears to our neighbours! We all have “hurts” let’s
    move on.
    Kay

  • james orr

    Breidge Gadd wants Ulster Protestants to have their own version of the West Belfast Festival, to be happy and chatty, and to be in touch with their inner whatever – ie to be a bit more like Catholics. I wonder if she can see the irony…

    The perpetual subtext of the last 40 years – locally, nationally and internationally – has been that Protestants/Unionists in Northern Ireland are nothing more than planters/slaughterers/subjugators/oppressors/immigrants/perpetrators/not really Irish at all – and thereby deserving of everything they get.

    Maybe Protestants will be open to conversation when others are open to listening.

    Have a look at the “West Bank Exodus” thread to get a flavour of the sort of anti-Protestant bile that’s out there.

  • joinedupthinking

    Rory
    “Since all within that tradition were therefore bound to assume that they were saved, were bound for heaven and that only “others” were damned, bound for hell, the very idea of critical self-examination , never mind admission of wrong doing, was absolute anathema, not to say socially dangerous.”

    There may be something in what you say but I think you give it too much weight. You misunderstand the core of the religious tradition as well.
    All within that tradition were not bound to assume all that you claim. That tradition is founded on personal salvation so the actual assumption was (is) that unless you, I, the guy next door etc. are personally “saved” then, Calvanist or not, you head below.
    Could this reticence not simply be based on a combination of inherited Scottish dourness, an all too human guilt complex about previous misuse of power, uncertainty of what the future holds and their place in it, self-confidence at a low ebb and the much aired, but nonetheless real, sense of being constantly under seige?

  • Nevin

    [i]The Prime Time reporter, Justin O’Brien, said that the programme had a transcript of a speech made by Mr. Adams in Athboy.

    Mr. O’Brien said that a crucial part of Mr. Adams’s speech read: “Ask any activist in the North did Drumcree happen by accident, and they will tell you ‘no’ ….. three years of work on the Lower Ormeau Road, Portadown, and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and Bellaghy, and up in Derry”.

    “Three years’ work went into creating that situation, and fair play to those people who put the work in”. According to Mr. O’Brien, the Sinn Fein president concluded: “And they are the type of scene changes that we have to focus in on, and develop, and exploit.”

    The Irish Times 5 March 1997[/i]

    More

    Who is currently operating Adams’ strings? It’s all very confusing.

    Some years ago Church of Ireland folks I know were coerced out of the Garvaghy estate under a death threat from militant republicans. It was part of the apartheid scene-changing referred to in the Irish Times article – a process reciprocated by militant unionists. Previously one of their relatives had been murdered because he refused to respond positively to an IRA edict.

    The Athboy strategy has apparently now been slammed into reverse gear, presumably for cynical political purposes; it’s now good to talk.

    Presumably the two governments will highlight this as a feel good factor and ‘legitimise’ the paramilitary community resorative justice and ‘civic policing’ schemes.

  • slug

    “The Athboy strategy has apparently now been slammed into reverse gear, presumably for cynical political purposes; it’s now good to talk. ”

    Do you think this is because the demographics were not going to work. The change of strategy seemed to come shortly after the results of the 2001 census were published, in late 2002.

  • jaun

    perhaps Protestant reluctance to engage with the media is a result of past experiences with it,
    have we not seen countless films glorifying and glamorising our oppressor ? (“what they need is a little Belfast efficiency !” *ka-boom*) have we not seen a an amoral and purely partisan agenda pursued by the likes of the guardian, the indie etc ? sometimes in the most utterly shameless fashion given the circumstances (one can handle “yous deserve it” when its from some skragh of a woman in west Belfast, but when the same tone is adopted by a broad sheet thumbing its nose at peoples suffering, it makes your guts turn.) and when we look at the results of misguided Protestants contributing to ‘academic’ works such as Susan MacKay’s ‘northern protestants’ or even the counter point of the pro-IRA movies ‘resurrection men’ (shankill prods in SS uniforms?) it seems to me that it is perfectly obvious why people would be hesitant. The historically left wing arts elite approach the Irish conflict with a pre-engrained prejudice of such magnitude, which has been displayed over and over and over, to our humiliation , including in times of mourning, that people are now just to sceptical, if not hostile, to engage with them.

  • mnob

    Well once again we have a narrative that is asking unionists to change.

    How about turning it 180 degrees and asking nationalists to look at their views and experiences *without* the mysticism romance and mythology that their experiences were wrapped up in. Maybe then they could understand how they are preceived when that narrative is not accepted.

  • Nevin

    Slug, there are various factors at work. Strategies, like violence, can be turned on and off like a tap.

    Anticipation and advance announcement of these tactics has limited the paramilitaries room for manoeuvre. For example, at the time of the ‘seige’ of Cluan Place, there was some speculation about the probability of a website appearing linking Short Strand to scenes in Alabama. The appropriately named website never appeared but eventually one was sponsored by a republican flute band in Glasgow.

    I think it’s also likely that the Irish government has been exerting pressure on republicans to reverse the Athboy strategy; it’s association with the Drumcree debacle in the mid-90s was counter-productive; we now have the McAleese-UDA ‘love-fest’ instead.

  • kensei

    “Try another theory – the suggestion from others above, that Prods don’t have, or seek, a monolithic community, is certainly a good place to start.”

    Really? For all that, politicians still talk about their “community” and some common Ulster / Protestant identity. The OO exists. And while not the dominant group, I believe Anglicans still follow the parish model.

    But what you are suggestion really says is that “The only thing that defines Unionism is Unionism”. I’m not sure if that’s sad, or as a Nationalist I should be viewing it an oppurtunity.

    “Well once again we have a narrative that is asking unionists to change.”

    That’s because in many ways, they need to change. The sad thing is that it’s Nationalists telling you, and not people you are likely to listen to.

  • willis

    The “story” of the West Belfast Festival, and I say that because I do not know it well, is that Gerry Adams thought that a festival was a better alternative to endless self-destructive “commemorations” of internment. It has been very successful and to some measure inclusive.

    Try to visualise a unionist leader attempting the same. Maybe someone has and I missed it.

  • dub

    this has been a very interesting discussion but feeney’s original article and gadd’s whilst pointing out many things that are obviously true fall down in one simple and crucial respect: and slug has hit the nail on the head: there are very obvious reasons why there are gay pride festivals and not heterosexual pride festivals and likewise for nationalist festivals like the west belfast festival and lack of similar unionist ones. the unionist equivalent of the west belfast festival is never going to happen. localised events in areas such as derry with the maiden city festival do happen however but there is no equivalent in that festival of west belfast talks back and there won’t be. get over it. why should nationalists be looking for unionists to become like them?? the best thing for nationalists to do is to keep on inviting unionists to their festivals, to keep on making these festivals as inclusive as possible of all the identities and communities on this island and to keep on confronting the rancid sectarianism which exists in the nationalist community, such as i witnessed personally last night at the 15th august bonfire in the bogside in derry where a large group of menscing teenagers were singing: “lets go down the fountain, lets go down the fountain, tra la la la, tra la la la” to the air of that well known indigenous irish air “let’s go fucking mental”… it is also to be noted that in derry currently at the entrance to glenfada park, which to my way of thinking, is every bit as iconic a place to nationalism as the gpo, there is a vile and disgusting graffiti with the words “all huns will be killed” with a tricolour underneath and the word huns helpfully higlighted in orange.. this graffiti has been there for AT LEAST 10 days…i’m sure we can imagine how we would react to a similarly prominent graffiti in say the fountain and reports of a drunken mob on 12th night singing “lets go down the bog, lets go down the bog”… we would be tut tutting the lack of intervention of those with “influence” etc… also to be noted (sorry for going on but i think this is a very important issue especially in the context of us telling protestants how they should behave) was the grotesque sight of a vast profusion of ni and union flags atop the bogside bonfire which has been totally not commented upon by the irish news today and the foyle news who just go on about the environmental threat etc.. again when the scene is reversed we bemoan the national flag being burned on unionist bonfires and how bigoted and narrow they are and again bemoan the lack of “influence”…

    instead of patronising protestants we should sort our own house out and when addressing protestants tell them that what we want is national self determination for all the peoples of ireland free of outside british non democratic government (and that is what it will always be whether devolved british power through a non fiscally independent belfast talking shop or joint parental rule with dublin)…then and only then might unionists actually see we have a valid political point. all the rest is sectarian point scoring and what looks very much like an attempt to culturally subdue and assimilate in the context of no democracy and continued and uncontested british rule (and no i am not advocating a return to violence.. i am advocating a return to the basics of irish nationalism and republicanism instead of this grotesque kulturkampf…..

    if i sound a bit emotional its becuase ive been wanting to say that for a long time and i am sick to death of people in the nationalist community ignoring the celtic top mirror and sun reading bigoted nationalism that has replaced the struggle for democracy in ireland…

    dub

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The one thing that shows the level of support for the past is evident within all the votes in NI in the last 10 years.

    Republicans largely support the history of terrorism and in fact vote for those who were involved in it or are associated with people who were involved in it.

    Unionists show very little support for the history of terrorism as they do do not by and large vote for who those who were involved in it or are associated with people who were invovled in it. (excluding the current Ervine/UUP shambles which UUP voters did not have the opportunity to vote on)

    The majority of unionists in the 50/60’s had no different a life from their nationalist republican neighbours, they were equally poor and had exactly the same opportunities. It is true that the Unionist elite may have had a different lifestle but they were small in number.

    So any attempt to smeer all of unionists as needing to have deep introspection is ridiculous as they has exactly the same difficulties as their neighbours prior to the late 60’s but they did not then resort to or by and large support violence. If fact they were subjected to a dealdy stream of ethnic cleansing in the Southern counties of NI and bombing and shootings in the Northern Counties and as a grouping showed extreme forebearance in eschewing support for violence from all quarters.

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    The vast majority of nationalist voters rejected PSF while they were engaged in violence. They get more votes now because they are viewed as more effective as representing nationalist interests, not because they were involved in violence.

  • kensei

    “there are very obvious reasons why there are gay pride festivals and not heterosexual pride festivals and likewise for nationalist festivals like the west belfast festival and lack of similar unionist ones.!

    This is nonsense. 40% of people aren’t gay.

    “instead of patronising protestants we should sort our own house out”

    Of course we should, but if every piece of sectarianism here was a block to progress then we’d get nowhere. Those problems aren’t going away overnight. That shouldn’t be a bar to challenging Unionism.

    “Republicans largely support the history of terrorism and in fact vote for those who were involved in it or are associated with people who were involved in it.”

    Or they vite for those people because a bote for SF is a vote for the IRA not continue it’s campaign. People vote for all kinds of reasons, and your assertion is both crude and wrong.

    “Unionists show very little support for the history of terrorism as they do do not by and large vote for who those who were involved in it or are associated with people who were invovled in it. (excluding the current Ervine/UUP shambles which UUP voters did not have the opportunity to vote on)”

    Of course, at the same time they’ll happily support the DUP dressed up in combat gear and respectable UUP MPs will make comments about how loyalist paramilitaries killing Catholics is in some ways a good thing.

    “The majority of unionists in the 50/60’s had no different a life from their nationalist republican neighbours, they were equally poor and had exactly the same opportunities. It is true that the Unionist elite may have had a different lifestle but they were small in number.”

    Ah, Unionist Classic number 2. No one is suggesting if this had not have been a sectarian hell hole then all povety would have been cured.

    The point is that the entire weight of the state, and then some was exerted on the Nationalist community to keep them in their place. From housing to votes to B Specials to jobs. It’s not comparable for Unionism.

    “So any attempt to smeer all of unionists as needing to have deep introspection is ridiculous as they has exactly the same difficulties as their neighbours prior to the late 60’s but they did not then resort to or by and large support violence. If fact they were subjected to a dealdy stream of ethnic cleansing in the Southern counties of NI and bombing and shootings in the Northern Counties and as a grouping showed extreme forebearance in eschewing support for violence from all quarters.”

    And there’s the problem, in a nutshell. We did nothing, we have no need to change. The bad news is that ultimately, it’s not me that attitude hurts.

  • lib2016

    We’re being assured that there is no cohesive Protestant communal identity in the sense that the nationalist community feels able to unite around it’s identity – even avowedly anti-organised religion freaks like myself and very traditional Catholics have something we can feel that we can share with a Protestant member of the Southern political establishment like Mansergh .

    Maybe that’s partly because the ‘British’ identity is once again in flux. Unionists IMO seem to feel little in common with the English, particularly public school English people. However they do share an ‘anti-Lundy’ ethic and a fierce reluctance to show splits in the official line before ‘themmuns’.

    The entirely artifical division between loyalists and unionists – what is that all about?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Garibaldy

    They still vote for people who supported and carried out terrorism in the past and still support those who were involved in it. It is this ability to pick and choose the good guys with selective hindsite that is different. The fact that somebody was a murderer is overweighed by the fact that he is now a good community representative – that is the choice SF supporters choose to make every time they go to the ballot box

    The furore over Ervine shows that most unionist are more selective in whom they chose to vote for, most UUP voters I have asked say they would never vote for Ervine becasue of his past.

  • dub

    Kensei,

    Of course 40 percent of people are not gay.. but the dynamica between gay and straight and nationalist and unionist are very similar…

    why should we be challenging unionism?? unionism had to be challenged when it was in power ie prior to 1972.. it was the great achievement of the provos to remove this paper tiger so that the role of the british state itself could be revealed…

    british rule is still here and it is direct rule still… it is that we should be challenging.. we should be resolutely non- sectarian, sort out our own house, let unionists be and calmly explain to them the benefits of self rule for all of us… we would then not have to engage in any kulturkampf and endlessly point out to them the backwardness of their ways (not a very clever thing to do if you are trying to positively influence people)…

    by endlessly focussing on unionist misdeeds, backwardness and cultural introspection and endlessly celebrating our superiority and greening oursleves ever more into a carbon copy of unionism we are merely behaving as the useful idiots for perpetual british rule.. indeed of the 2 communities we are acting the more stupidly…

    the political reality at the moment is that irish self determination is off the map and we all engage in this disgusting sectarian point scoring…how convenient for our masters..

    dub

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Kensei

    It is your inability to understand that in the 50 and 60’s both communities lived very similar lives that is disapponting. You prefer to trot out all the old rhetoric, B specials, housing discrimation etc.

    I know, I lived during those times I don’t listen to green mist republicanism – ‘all protestants were better off than catholics all unionists discriminated against catholics’ etc. It wasn’t true apart from a ruling minority who did nothing for either working class. In the farmhouse I grew up in there were as many and probably more catholic visitors than protestant visitors and all were received equally warmly.

    I abhor people who try to rewrite history to suit their cause or even worse accept a party line without question.

  • lib2016

    Frustrated Democrat,

    In rural areas the B Specials were regarded as a form of outdoor relief for Protestants only, just as most of the jobs in manufacturing and many other sectors were mostly held by one community which made it quite plain that they weren’t in favour of sharing.

    If unionists don’t understand the sheer humiliation of being born only to have the forces of the state and the majority community unite in forcing one to the back of the bus then that is perhaps a loss for unionists.

    I’ve seen similar blindness in British/unionist supporters who talk grandly of British trade links with the rest of the world not understanding the effects on the perception of Britain left by memories of the ‘No Dogs! No Chinese!’ culture of the British Empire.

    The fact is that unionists/Protestants seized the best for themselves as was normal in an earlier age but it was a fatal mistake in an age of mass democracy, one which republicans must be careful to avoid if we are to build a truly united Ireland.

    Nationalist Ireland has been forced to tackle its identification with the Catholic church and surely its not too much to ask unionists to tackle their identification with the British Empire?

  • kensei

    “It is your inability to understand that in the 50 and 60’s both communities lived very similar lives that is disapponting.”

    Here it is, bvery, very clear: Even if that was true IT’S NOT THE POINT. See my previous post, and lib’s excellent post.

    “You prefer to trot out all the old rhetoric, B specials, housing discrimation etc.”

    Because

    1. It happened.
    2. It’s true.
    3. No amount of wishing it away will make it less true.

  • kensei

    “Of course 40 percent of people are not gay.. but the dynamica between gay and straight and nationalist and unionist are very similar…”

    No, they are relly not.

    “why should we be challenging unionism?? unionism had to be challenged when it was in power ie prior to 1972.. it was the great achievement of the provos to remove this paper tiger so that the role of the british state itself could be revealed… ”

    Because Unionism has a whole heap of things I don’t like, and don’t think I should tolerate, irrespective of the Naional question. Unionism should be equally challenging Nationalism, because I am sure there are things they don’t like.

  • Garibaldy

    FD,

    I’m not saying it’s pleasant, but a vote for PSF since the ceasefires cannot be interpreted in the same way as one before. And as Kensei has pointed out, and the leader of the UUP, there are a lot of people within the two main unionist parties and especially the DUP, who are not as free from the taint of threat of violence as they would like people to think.

    I agree entirely that people when talking about discrimination ignore the situation of all working class people, and the existence of a large Catholic middle class. Nevertheless, there was huge discrimination, a lot of it outside of state control in large firms., so often the blame is placed at the wrong door.

  • Harry Flashman

    Holy Mother of God!

    The B-Specials, the B frikkin’ Specials, we’re still going on about the B-Specials, lord lift us out of it, Class B, Ulster Special Constabulary, we’re stll going on about them are we?

    Christ, it’ll never end.

  • kensei

    “The B-Specials, the B frikkin’ Specials, we’re still going on about the B-Specials, lord lift us out of it, Class B, Ulster Special Constabulary, we’re stll going on about them are we?”

    STart saying either this was a great wee place or it was the same for everyone, and yes, we’ll talk about the fucking B Specials until Kingdom Come. Let’s face it, that would be quicker than getting Unionists to admit any wrong doing.

  • susan

    Kensei & lib2016
    You are missing the point. This is about the Protestant community telling it’s own story. Our experiences and history. Nationalists have right to challenge and engage Unionists/Loyalists. That is a separate process. This is an internal dialogue and you don’t set the agenda.

    You are also making the assumption that all Protestants are Unionist/Loyalist and that by challenging Unionist attitudes and histories you are challenging all Protestants. As an individual protestant who doesn’t vote Unionist and whose family never voted Unionist, (I was brought up in a history of trade union activism), I don’t accept that I or my family have to apologise for the undoubted wrongs that Unionists carried out.

    This diversity of opinions and cultures needs to be articulated. The experience and attitudes of rural protestant communities is very different to those of urban working class protestants. The Church of Ireland tradition is very different from those who grew up attending the Gospel Halls.

    A confident community which accepts diversity is one that will listen and engage with Nationalism/Republicanism.

  • dub

    Kensei,

    There’s a lot of things i don’t like about unionists either but as they are no longer in power (apart from in places like Lisburn and Ballymena where they most definitely should be challenged to give parity of economic, political and cultural esteem) i see no point in challenging them, and anyway what you seem to want is for them to see things the same way you do… that is a hopeless task. under british ruls the experience of protestants and catholics in the north has been profoundly different so of course they see things differently to us. it is a mere accident of birth as to which community one is born into. the point is to change the situation by which being born into a particular community guarantees lesser outcomes in life and the situation whereby those two communities are always fighting eachother. what unionists believe about the b specials, partition, british empire and god knows what else is irrelevant if we are all equal citizens and can elect representatives who belong to parties who are represented in a national parliament where such parties have as their goal and can attain governmental power. we do not have that and nothing is currently on the table to give us that. THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS for the irish nationalist project. we should not be about making people believe things they do not want to believe. it seems to me you are more interested in this utterly unrealisable and undesirable goal than in the difficult but realisable goal of attaining national democracy for all on this island.

    dub

  • dub

    susan,

    great post.

  • Harry Flashman

    Picture the scene, it’s Lisbellaw cross roads one wet November night in 1956, Bertie Henderson stands in the rain, he curses himself for not rembering to put on an extra pair of woolly socks because his wellingtons aren’t keeping out the cold tonight. He stamps his feet, the rain drips off his nose and from his cap down the back of his uniform collar, a scratchy, ill-fitting, badly died ex army thing, meanwhile the rust on the bolt action of his antique Lee-Enfield gets worse. No matter really as his missus chucked out his ammo last month when she was tidying up under the sink. Bertie wonders when his shift will end as he has a lorryload of chickens to drive up to Newtownbutler market in the morning.

    But stay! Have no sympathy for Bertie Henderson, he is a member of one of the most infamous armed forces in the world. Rivalled only by the Ton Ton Macoute prowling the night time streets of Port-Au-Prince, their like would not be seen again until the Janjaweed militias rode in rapine through the villages of Darfur.

    Bertie is a B grade constable in the Ulster Special Constabulary! (*Lightening flashes – Thunder crashes and horses neigh in panic*) Children will run in terror to their beds, and grown men will pale in fear at the very mention of the B(ogey)-Men. When not delivering Ministry of Agriculure livestock census forms these men could be seen guarding electricity sub stations outside Cloughmills, aye the fiends!

    The Ulster Special Constabulary, in the seventy long bloody years of Northern Ireland’s bloody history the death toll they inflicted nearly reached double figures, verily never did such a force of blackguards exist. After they were disbanded, proud fearless Irish freedom fighters manning the ditch, waiting to ambush patrols of British Paratroopers would mutter in relief “well at least we don’t have to take on the likes of Bertie Henderson”.

    This is the force of which you speak kensei? Clive Limpkin in his “Battle of the Bogside” book summed it up well, I paraphrase;

    “I had heard so much about the much vaunted B-Men, the B-Specials would sort them out I was told. When they appeared I was disappointed, they shuffled along in their baggy uniforms, the ones at the back struggled to keep in step, was this the fearsome force? After an hour or of patrolling protestant areas they marched off into history, it was hard to believed they had lasted so long”

    Kensei, it’s not just the prods who need to re-examine their story, there’s a few nationalist myths that could do with being put out of their misery as well.

  • darth rumsfeld

    A confident community which accepts diversity is one that will listen and engage with Nationalism/Republicanism.

    Posted by susan on Aug 16, 2006 @ 02:27 PM

    that wouldn’t be susan mckay perchance?

    So, a confident community accepts diversity eh? That would explain the Shinner attempt to airbrush out of history the IRSP etc in monopolising their narrative of the hungerstrikes, the violence against dissidents, preventing Donegal Celtic play the police at football, going right back to the attack on Gerry Fitt’s house. Not too much diversity tolerated in West Belfast.

    And what does this waffle word “engage” actually mean? Listen to a whining wish list of MOPery and be accused of bygotry and intransigence when we don’t immediately roll over and give Gerry all he wants? No thanks. Let’s hear some respect for our tradition first-instead of condescension verging on contempt- and recognition that the status quo may be here to stay- you know, like the GFA supposedly promised- instead of the SF version- it’s a staging post to Taioseach Gerry.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Harry F

    I remember once talking to an old member of the landlord class in Londonderry who had been a leading light in the B Specials. The most exciting and oppressive thing he managed to get up to was taking his Austin 7 out the Molennan Road one Sunday afternoon and check the motor tax on the cars of (presumably) the oppressed minority. How evil is that?!

  • susan

    Who is Susan McKay? I’m just an ordinary trade unionist in a very low level job!!

  • maura

    Susan, excellent comments, and I agree entirely, it is an internal dialogue that Unionists need to engage in. Then they can emerge in confidence and hopefully honesty as to their past, present and future role in Ireland.

  • Harry Flashman

    Haha

    Darth you’ve exposed their villainy! Why do you think they went out the Molenan Road checking tax discs on a Sunday?

    Drivers coming back into Northern Ireland on a Sunday from Donegal? Maybe a few of them might not have wanted to meet the magistrate in the morning on charges of driving under the influence and a couple of bottles of stout discreetly handed over could always smooth the passage home.

    It was hell I tell yez, hell!

  • maura

    Harry, it is that innate inability to acknowledge that there were wrongs, terrible wrongs, from the Unionist community, that keep the Unionists hog tied in the political developments.
    Joke all you want; we all do what we have to do, to get up in the morning and respect ourselves.

  • Harry Flashman

    Maura

    I’ll take that on board when I hear republicans and nationalists face up to the wrongs, terrible wrongs, from their community.

    It works both ways Maura, we call on them to face up to their past and at the same time we examine a lot of the stuff in our own past.

    People like me, originally from the catholic/nationalist community, must be prepared to face up to the nonsense of our side too. If we can’t self examine our own myths then maybe we shouldn’t get so hoity-toity when the prods show the same reluctance. It’s either a honest two way debate or it’s a guiltfest in which we expect the prods to wear sack cloth and ashes and flagellate themselves before our feet.

    You decide.

  • susan

    Maura
    Unionists won’t admit to nationalists that they made mistakes because they see those nationalists as the same people who shot a family member or carried out sectarian atrocities such as the Oxford street bombing. Just as Nationalists don’t recognise that protestant doesn’t automatically mean someone who supports loyalist violence or that we are not all bigots.

  • lib2016

    Harry,

    In the 1960’s my urban Orange friends were able to apply for jobs in manufacturing industries while my rural Orange friends had outdoor relief in the form of the B Specials and their paid for days out in the Summer playing for Orange marching bands. My Catholic friends took the boat. It wasn’t a big economic difference but it was enough to decide which community grew and which community was being slowly broken on the rack.

    You can continue to sneer at the tragedies of the ruined lifes and the broken marriages that resulted or you can catch yourself on. It really doesn’t matter, just as your type of Orange blindness doesn’t count any more. No-one will ever allow your like to dictate public policy again. Unionist history serves only as a horrible example of what happens to a community which allows itself to be brutalised to such an extent.

    O’Neill saw that it couldn’t go on even back then and no-one has ever put him forward as a great prophet – he was just an outsider with commonsense, something which unionism badly needs at the moment.

    In a few months the DUP have to face up to a complete revision of all they have ever stood for or march into history without a meaningful voice in whatever form a New Ireland will take. Personally I’m coming to the conclusion that they haven’t got the intellectual courage to examine their roots and start again. Maybe it’s better that they fade away quickly.

  • maura

    Harry and Susan,
    I agree it is a two way street also. However, I have yet to hear Unionism coming to terms publicily with its terrible past. Not once! What I have heard are denials, jokes, and dismissive banter, as if what they did from 1921 was not immoral and undemocratic and just down right wrong. Harry look to your own joke above, for an example.
    If I am wrong, please point me in the direction of those public acknowledgments of the true sectarian nature of Unionism and its true role in the conflict.
    The sackcloth and ashes approach did not come from our community, the humiliation implied in that idea did not come from our community.
    I think we Republicans have taken our responsibility, maybe there is more we can do, but we have certainly made moves in that direction without any reciprication that I am aware of. Again, if I am wrong show me statements from the leaders of Unionism that addresses this issue. Where are the apologies? Where are the acknowledgements, without qualification, that collusion was a fact? Anything?
    I hate to use the lingo of our/your side, because really Harry and Susan we should be on the same side, but sometimes it is necessary to use that lingo.

  • Reader

    maura: Where are the acknowledgements, without qualification, that collusion was a fact?
    Collusion was a fact. We all know there were a few bad apples in the security forces. I don’t feel responsible for them, so I can’t apologise.

  • maura

    Reader, whatever the truth to the few bad apples assertion, and with respect to you comment, where are Unionist Leaders Statements on this? When can we expect Trimble, Empey, Paisley, Robinson etc`etc etc, to come on our airwaves and say unequivocally, that the apparatus of our state was used to kill the citizens of our state?

  • kensei

    “You are also making the assumption that all Protestants are Unionist/Loyalist and that by challenging Unionist attitudes and histories you are challenging all Protestants.”

    Apologies. The political and religious thing gets easily intermingled. I am refering to Unionists. Internal dialogue is one thing, but the external forces ought to have a bearing on it.

    “Kensei, it’s not just the prods who need to re-examine their story, there’s a few nationalist myths that could do with being put out of their misery as well.”

    Yeah, pulling random examples has suddenly shown me the error of my ways. Low level intimidation can be just as effective for inducing fear. All those Catholics must have imagined tghe treatment they got, and it must have been disbanded for no reason because it was obviously a paragon of virtue.

  • slug

    Maura

    I have never supported the loyalist paramilitaries and am opposed to collusion so I feel that I should be receiving rather than giving any apologies regarding this.

  • maura

    I don’t feel responsible for them, so I can’t apologise.

    Reader, it is not about apologies. It is about acknowledging the TRUTH. The truth of Unionism rule, and all that it entailed. The truth that the conflict did not arise in a vaccum, (whether one agrees or disagrees with the Nationalist response). Unionism needs to take responsibilty for the truth.
    Indeed, We are all reponsible for that truth.
    Our political representatives need to show the way.

  • maura

    Slug, the point is, we are on the both the giving and receiving ends, I think.
    And apologies are nothing without acknowledgements that there is something to be sorry about!

  • slug

    Maura

    I can’t see how I as an NI citizen am on the “giving” end of collusion? Can you take that back? I am totally opposed to it, I really think that both (sides of the community) should be apologised to by the government or governments that engaged in it.

  • maura

    Apologies indeed Slug. What I was clumsily trying to say is that we are all of us on both the giving and receiving lines for humble apologies for what we have done to each other either through action or inaction.
    Hope that is better and sorry for the clumsy statement.

  • slug

    Yes Maura, no need to apologise, I see what you mean now, and you are of course right.

  • Reader

    maura: When can we expect Trimble, Empey, Paisley, Robinson etc`etc etc, to come on our airwaves and say unequivocally, that the apparatus of our state was used to kill the citizens of our state?
    What’s it to do with them? None of them were part of a Government until the first Assembly.

  • maura

    Reader, so what have any of us to do with any of it, if that is the case? If it is true that none of the named are in any way culpable, then none of us are, across the board, and that’s fine with me, so let’s move on then.
    However, through action and inaction we are all in some way responsible, I think.

  • Reader

    maura: If it is true that none of the named are in any way culpable, then none of us are, across the board, and that’s fine with me, so let’s move on then.
    I’m sure there’s lots of blame to share round the 4 you named – but not for collusion. As for myself, I have not supported terrorism, collusion, criminality, rioting, gerrymandering, discrimination or cover-ups.
    There are 1.5 million of us, and we are not all equally to blame – that seems obvious to me. I will simply not accept being placed in the same moral bucket as IRA and UVF supporters.

  • John East Belfast

    Maura

    I see you are still peddaling the old Everyone is to Blame so No one is to Blame line on this thread also

    Your problem is you want to justify PIRA murder, arson, robbery, punishment beatings, extortion, smuggling and drug dealing and so as not to feel guilty about it you want to paint everyone and anyone with the same brush

    Sorry but it doesnt stick and you are sounding more ridiculous and desperate with every post

  • maura

    I am peddling nothing. I am expressing my humble opinions, which I think most on the blog do quite ably and without attempts to insult or belittle the other.
    John, maybe that is something you might take in, thus making your ideas more reasonable sounding, because few people actually listen to or pay serious attention to your type of namecalling discourse. When you resort to your methods, you are simply avoiding the issues and seeking to distract or avoid.
    I seek legitimacy or justification from noone John. Irish Republicanism is legitimate and always has been. I am quite confident and self-assured in that.

  • Greenflag

    Maura,

    ‘However, through action and inaction we are all in some way responsible, I think. ‘

    You think wrong then . If everybody is responsible then nobody is responsible . It’s the fallacy of composition. A lot of people probably a large majority have always been actively ‘inactive’ in politics not just in NI but throughout the world .

    People in NI to move beyond the past and open their minds to the future . Once minds are open hearts follow . But how to open minds in a society that was built on keeping minds shut or at least kept ‘minds’ from asking uncomfortable questions ? We in the Republic took a long time before the ‘moral’ authority of the RC Church was questioned. Perhaps we need to let Unionists do their own self examination if they feel the need to ? And if they don’t that’s fine too . Anyway all this introspection can’t be healthy -Beyond a certain point it is just navel gazing and unproductive .

  • maura

    Greenflag,
    good blog!

  • John East Belfast

    Maura

    “pay serious attention to your type of namecalling discourse”

    Where did I call anyone names ?

    “When you resort to your methods, you are simply avoiding the issues and seeking to distract or avoid.”

    What issues is I am seeking to distract or avoid ?

    “I seek legitimacy or justification from noone John”

    ok so why post on slugger at all if all you want to do is give your opinion ?

    “Irish Republicanism is legitimate and always has been. I am quite confident and self-assured in that”

    I have never said it wasnt.

    Please answer me this – could you replace the above paragraph with

    “The PIRA Campaign of killing, bombing, arson, intimidation and maiming in the 1969 to 1998 period was legitimate and always has been. I am quite confident and self – assured in that”

    If you respond at all to this post please answer me that

  • Harry Flashman

    lib2016

    As I thought was rather obvious from my earlier posts I come from a Catholic/Nationalist background, I regard myself as neither now, I no longer reside in the island of Ireland. I’m not sure where you get off calling me “Orange”.

    I think it a bit of a bloody cheek that here are Irish republicans asking protestants/Unionists to tell their history and face their past and good little people like susan come forward and “say please Mr Nationalist we were nice protestants”. Susan gets her head patted and told she’s a good girl. However someone from the nationalist community like me comes along and says “Ya boo sucks we weren’t exactly choir boys ourselves you know” and I’m treated like some sort of leper.

    It’s a funny sort of dialogue that’s wanted around here.

    Kensei

    You disappointed me, you promised you were going to discuss the B-Men “till Kingdom come”. So I posted my lighthearted pen picture of your average B-Special – Maura, take note, “lighthearted” I said, but I wasn’t joking; my posts accurately summed up the B-Specials: country bumpkins who were poorly armed, badly equipped and barely trained and whose main function was to stand around cross roads and not pick their noses – what did you come back with kensei? Nothing.

    No lists of the hellish deeds carried out by the Storm(ont)Troopers, no lists of dreadful massacres or ravished womanhood. I thought not, believe it or not I was brought up on the myths of the B-Specials too, I was deeply unimpressed when I read about them to discover how dull they really were.

    You remind me, kensei, of a former girlfriend at university in Dublin, we were discussing the North and I made my point to which she replied

    “But what about the B-Specials?”
    “What about them?”
    “The B-Specials!”
    “Yeah what about the B-Specials?”
    “They were B-Specials!”

    The conversation went on like this for a while until it dawned on her she hadn’t a clue who or what the B-Specials were she only knew she hated them.

    Kensei before you repeat your allegation that all I say is “sure it was a great wee place before themmuns caused all the bother” allow me to put on record my opinion of Ireland – North and South – prior to 1968.

    It was a shitehole – North and South – a dull, provincial, backwater administered in both jurisdictions by dimwitted, unimaginative Godbotherers who thought that their brand of religious truth allowed them with a clear conscience to oversee deep social injustices whether of class or religion in both their jurisdictions.

    Both jurisdictions were fetid swamps of inequality and petty b!gotry, where no art or culture flourished and the best option for most sane people was the emigration boat where they could get a clean breath of fresh air as they left the dreary coasts, North or South.

    Having said all that nothing, but NOTHING, that preceded 1968 justified the nightmare that was unleashed by the wee green and orange fascists who spent the next three decades thinking up schemes how they could butcher their neighbours in the name of their holy cause. Compared to them I’d rather have the dimwitted Godbotherers back.

    I hope this clarifies my position.

  • Reader

    A contemporary view of the B-Specials:
    http://www.globalgateway.com/features/ptq-issue.asp?year=1941
    (LDV – Local Defence Volunteers, was the original name of the Home Guard)

  • kensei

    “You disappointed me, you promised you were going to discuss the B-Men “till Kingdom come”. So I posted my lighthearted pen picture of your average B-Special – Maura, take note, “lighthearted” I said, but I wasn’t joking; my posts accurately summed up the B-Specials: country bumpkins who were poorly armed, badly equipped and barely trained and whose main function was to stand around cross roads and not pick their noses – what did you come back with kensei? Nothing.”

    Try checking thr first official person killed in the troubles over at CAIN. Maybe you also heard of some civil rights marches somewhere, that the B Specials made a mess off.

    B Specials is kinda early for me to dig out anecedotes, but I’m sure if I talked to enough people in my family I could come up with them. But then again, seeing as they were largely populated by the same people who were in the RUC and UDR, and they have a reputation as bad as either of those organisations, it would be nothing sort of a miracle if it was a paragon of virture.

    “I hope this clarifies my position.”

    Ah. You are going for the number #2 then It was as equally as bad for everyone. Covered this one elsewhere.

  • susan

    Harry
    I agree.I frequently feel patronised by Republicans as if they are speaking from some kind of moral high ground. I have nothing to apologise for and I don’t feel ashamed of my background or family. Republicans see a ‘war’ in which policemen were ‘legitimate’ targets I see a friend whose policeman father was shot dead in front of him at 9 years old. And before anyone says what about orange violence/state collusion nothing justifies that either. Not one death, not one beating was justified ever. If unionism, not protestants, has to accept responsibility for past injustices then Republicans also need to accept responsibility and apologise for the hurt and injustice done to the Protestant community. Not talk down to us from a moral high ground. A conversation of equals.

  • Harry Flashman

    Kensei

    I presume you are referring to Francis McCloskey killed after a baton charge in Dungiven, I think you’ll find he was killed by the RUC, the full time professionals, not our bumpkin friends, no consolation of course for the poor victim or his family but worth keeping the record straight.

    You may be getting confused with John Gallagher who was killed in Armagh during the August 14-16 1969 violence. If anything this incident proves just how incompetent and Dad’s Army like the B-Men were. A dozen Specials had been rounded up from the little village of Tynan and were directed by a regular RUC officer to follow him to Armagh city where serious rioting was taking place. The “B”s followed the Regular in their own cars but got lost on the way (I mentioned they were country bumpkins didn’t I?).

    They eventually got to Armagh and ran slap dab into a very serious riot in Cathedral Road, they immediately panicked when confronted by the rioters and opened fire with two bursts of gunfire, they then ran like hell away as fast as they could. Unfortunately they left behind the dead body of young John Gallagher a lad who was probably too drunk to realise what was going on (cf Lost Lives).

    When the panic stricken B-men got to the nearest police station they lied like troopers and their attempts at alibis were so ridiculous they were utterly demolished by the Scarman Tribunal, which condemned the RUC for letting such idiots anywhere near a riot situation.

    This was the only death attributable to the B-Specials in the present Troubles. Shortly after this incident the B-Specials were disbanded, no loss to anybody except the bumpkins who had relied on the few bob extra income to buy themselves beer of a Friday night.

    Where they “Paragons of Virtue”, most certainly not and nowhere did I allege they were, in fact I pointed out the main reason they would have been checking tax discs on a Sunday afternoon on a border crossing would probably have been to either nip across themselves or otherwise obtain booze unobtainable in the Black North, like I said to Maura I was being lighthearted but I was not joking about these clowns.

    So this was the infamous B-Specials? So feared and hated by the Nationalists of the Six Counties that even forty years after they passed into history someone like yourself who freely admits he knows nothing personally about them can still shout “The B-Specials!” and all arguments questioning the legitimacy of the Provo dirty war must end.

    Like I said kensei, some myths need putting out of their mysery after forty years and the myth of the dreaded B-Men is near the top of my list.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Drivers coming back into Northern Ireland on a Sunday from Donegal? Maybe a few of them might not have wanted to meet the magistrate in the morning on charges of driving under the influence and a couple of bottles of stout discreetly handed over could always smooth the passage home.

    It was hell I tell yez, hell!”

    Flashman you bounder. How dare you traduce the noble name of this satanic coven with such snide aspersions. It’s a well known fact that by going for this duty you could bunk off to Redcastle golf club for a quick 9 holes while still being paid by Beelezebub a.k.a. brookeborough

  • Harry Flashman

    Darth

    Not if he was manning the Molennan crossing he wouldn’t, he’d have to be at Culmore for that and given Redcastle didn’t open till about 1978 he’d have had a long wait or he would have had to go down to Greencastle but the idea of meeting the High Sherriff of Londonderry knocking back the G&T’s with the fishermen might have put him off.

    No, your boy was clearly a senior B man so he’d have sent the bumpkins to Molennan to scrounge the ale off the customs man coming back from Saint Johnstone (and anyone who frequented the Metro Bar in the early 1980’s will know the character of whom I speak). Meanwhile he’d have bagged Coshquin checkpoint, fifteen minutes down the road to Lisfannon links at Fahan and a stop off at the 19th Hole Pub for a jar and a singsong with well-known tax exile, former Irish Guard and ex-RUC sergeant Josef Locke on the way back. Home in bed for 10 o’clock, fit and ready to rack rent his tenants in the morning and oul’ Basil would have been none the wiser.

  • lib2016

    Harry,

    You’re welcome to disagree with me all you like. As a good republican I absolutely support your right to be wrong. 😉

    I still maintain that the B Specials were the enforcers in a discredited imperial system, but we are all subjected to a great deal of propaganda and there are no absolute villains on either side. All of us are doing the best we know – as was pointed out to me by a man from Sandy Row.

    The same community which currently demonises republicans because of unproven allegations about smugglers on the South Armagh border voted for Brookeborough who was the biggest smuggler of his time, a man who used the RUC which then guarded the border as guides for his smuggling runs and who supplied Churchill with his cigars during the war. Sadly I don’t know if the B Specials were considered trustworthy for important missions like that but maybe someone else has that information. 😉

    Times change and what was acceptable once can seem very different with hindsight. I knew several B Specials and they weren’t the worst, just farmer’s labourers trying to get by.

  • maura

    If unionism, not protestants, has to accept responsibility for past injustices then Republicans also need to accept responsibility and apologise for the hurt and injustice done to the Protestant community. Not talk down to us from a moral high ground. A conversation of equals. ‘

    Susan, first why do you use UNIONIST in the first sentence, but then change that when Protestant when speaking about hurt?
    I think that need for all to take responsibility has been expressed repeatedly Susan. Perhaps you can answer my question and show where any Unionist leader has come out publicily and acknowledged for example, collusion, or the absolute undemocratic state ( which they deliberately created) of NI from 1921? Just One?
    As for a conversation of equals, I think that is what is finally happening, and that is what Unionism is having so much difficulty with. But you know what, we fought hard for it, so welcome to the common ground!

  • Harry Flashman

    Lib2016

    You may have hit on something about Winnie and his Havanas.

    I read somewhere, and for the life of me I can’t remember where, that after the troops scrambled back from the beaches at Dunkirk Churchill read the reports grimly and stated that the only armed and trained force available to him in the entire United Kingdom was the Ulster Special Constabulary. It would appear that the situation in June 1940 was more desperate than even the worst defeatists could have imagined, it’s a wonder Churchill didn’t throw the towel in there and then, but maybe as you suggest he feared for his brandy supply.

    Myths are great things when the drink’s in us and we’re having a great oul’ barney, but when they are used by nutcases to justify killing their neighbours – of any persuasion – then sceptics like me leave the circle.

  • susan

    Maura
    Because I don’t assume that all the protestants killed or who lost family members were Unionists. Do you? As I said earlier I’m not a Unionist so why do I have to answer for the wrongs of the Unionists, because I’m protestant? If I’m wrong I will apologise but when has any Republican apologised for the innocent that died. Republicans don’t have the moral high ground and for the record nor do unionists.

  • darth rumsfeld

    flash
    OK it’s a fair cop :0)
    Not being a golf player I don’t know where the local clubs are. The explanation for the discrepancy must be
    a]my source was losing his marbles when he told me (very probable);
    b] he was still acting as a B man in 1978, despite their abolition in 1970( also very probable, and how typically Unionist-refusing to live in the present);
    c]he was really planting anthrax spores in the fields above the Bog as part of the evil Prod conspiracy to thwart lib2016’s dream 50%+1 -damn, I promised him I wouldn’t tell