“until there is a change in the balance of power in City Hall, the flag decision won’t be reversed”

TTV photo by Moochin PhotomanJackie McDonald is no stranger to speaking his mind and at times seeming out of kilter with loyalist group think. A few days ago in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, he outlined his opinion on the current flags debacle.

I share the anger in the loyalist community but somebody needs to stand up and tell the truth, which is that the flag is not going to go up again without an election or agreement … Sinn Fein has achieved this and until there is a change in the balance of power in City Hall, the flag decision won’t be reversed. There is no point giving people false hope.

Contrast this with statements from PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.

Described in the newspaper as a “veteran UDA leader” [Ed – since no one’s quite sure any more of the power lines and hierarchy within the UDA?], McDonald was supportive of the public demonstrations while also voicing his concern that a new strategy was required and (in the words of the article’s author) “they risk becoming counterproductive and spinning out of control”.

People need to take stock, draw a deep breath and realise that everything they are doing is suiting Sinn Fein. We are just running about like headless chickens. (McDonald)

The article went on to describe the anti-PSNI feeling within some elements of loyalism that I have heard anecdotally elsewhere.

Just yesterday one person involved in organising protests told [McDonald] he would have laughed if the police officer who found a bomb under his car on Sunday had instead been blown up with his family.

“I told him that meant he had more in common with dissident republicans than he did with the police,” Mr McDonald said.

Yet the issue of flags and the associated protests haven’t gone away … and won’t go away quickly.

  • The late suggestion at December’s fractious Belfast City Council meeting to fly the Union Flag all year in the Garden of Remembrance will now undergo an Equality Impact Assessment.
  • In the days to come, some or all of the protest organisers may be invited to attend the Robinson/Nesbitt Unionist Forum … and few are likely to choose to attend to voice their concerns on the issues up for discussion and help reframe the debate.
  • Separately, the protest organisers plan to organise their own forum, and politicians may not be invited along to discuss amongst other things a return to direct rule. Will Frazer says that the group “will not be talking to politicians until they re-engage with people on the ground”. In the meantime, protests continue, with two people arrested last night and ten PSNI officers injured during disorder in East Belfast.
  • Other voices will continue to criticise unionism’s desire to consolidate and entrench at the expense of damaging cross-community relationships and putting the brakes on real progress on cohesion, sharing and integration. (Basil McCrea’s UUP disciplinary hearing had been set for later today – though he’s unavailable to attend and it is not yet clear whether it will go ahead.)

With dissonant voices across loyalism and unionism, a march from the City Hall to Stormont being planned for 20 January (though not yet registered with the Parades Commission) and very different articulations of what the underlying problems are, there will be quite a tussle ahead to stabilise unionism.

In terms of the DUP’s “seven top priorities”, the party seems to be concentrating on one priority above the others at the moment:

  • More jobs: “… the creation of 20,000 new jobs …”
  • Low rates: “… block additional water charges, limit any regional rate increase to inflation and cap district rates”
  • Tougher sentences: “… prisoners should not be treated more favourably than law abiding citizens”
  • Fix education: “… increase investment in early years, produce roadmap for a single education system …”
  • Better health: “… resources are targeted on the front line …”
  • Work together: “… work with other parties to create a settled society in NI, realising savings through sharing and breaking down division”
  • Strengthen unionism: “… end divisions and bring unionists together to maximise unionism’s strength and influence … seek to create a shared and united community in NI where everyone has the opportunity to succeed…”

Perhaps the solution to their problem would be to concentrate – in terms of both changing public perception and making real progress – on the other six?

Photo – Moochin Photoman

  • David Crookes

    “…..one person involved in organising protests told [McDonald] he would have laughed if the police officer who found a bomb under his car on Sunday had instead been blown up with his family.”

    Such a person exemplifies the honest-to-goodness fascism that characterizes many of the rioters.

    There’s no point in telling such persons that you understand their pain.

    If our police force doesn’t defeat them soon, they will be laughing at all of us

    Why do our elected unionist leaders choose to behave like pitiable weaklings? They deserve to be wiped out at the next election.

    Don’t think that it can’t happen.

  • Submariner

    David I agree one hundred per cent. The police really need to take off the kid gloves and stop facilitating these scum bags breaking the law. Would the PSNI facilitate someone to burgle your house. It’s high time a robust arrest operation was launched during these protests. Arrest as many as possible and charge them to court, the courts must also do there part and deny them bail then when convicted treat them exactly the same as thier fellow British citizen s in England and jail them for five years. It’s high time these loyalist knuckledraggers we’re made to learn that their days of holding the place to ransom are over.

  • abucs

    The trick is to channel your feelings into positive acheivable goals.

    i think Jackie McDonald and Harold Good have it exactly right.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, Submariner, let’s have a hundred snatch arrests tonight, a hundred court appearances in the morning, a hundred severe sentences in due time, and more of the same until the fascists stop tormenting us.

    I hear anecdotally that the police are raring to go, but it is natural that they don’t want to create any Munich Putsch martyrs. Nonetheless, lawlessness has to be crushed.

    Any clever person who tells you and me that we’re being simplistically gung-ho is choosing to be part of the problem. Government exists mainly so that you and I can go about our business in safety.

  • Banjaxed

    As far as I can see so far, apart from the almost total disintegration of leadership from the main Unionist parties, one of the main failings of the proposed Unionist forum is a singular lack of a catch phrase as was evident in the NI Civil Rights movement of yesteryear. Given the depth of PUL antipathy towards the democratic vote in Belfast City Hall on the flag issue and their fascist-like actions to overturn it – plus their disingenuous ignoring of major demographic changes within NI – perhaps in their, so far unsuccessful attempts to wind back the clock to the more halcyon days of Uber-Unionism, they could borrow or adapt some of the key slogans of the sixties.

    If I may be so bold, I offer a couple of suggestions of my own:

    One man, twelve votes.
    One man, twelve votes….

    Gerry, Gerry Adams. Out! Out! Out!
    Gerry, Gerry Mander. In! In! In!

    Any further assistance would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

  • Greenflag

    And now loyalist activist Willie Frazier is planning a ‘peaceful demonstration ‘ in Dublin on January 12th to eh protest against the Belfast City Council’s democratic decision ?

    Somebody might want to remind poor Willie that the Union Jack was taken down in Dublin almost a century ago . Dubliners of all persuasions will not see whatever point Frazier is trying to make .

    Truly sad gobshites .Perhaps the SDLP and SF should threaten to remove the ‘designated days ‘ compromise on flag flying . Outside of North Korea , Nazi Germany or perhaps the former Soviet union there is no more demented bunch of flag fetishists than some of these pathetic loyalists 🙁

    They need to grow up and come to terms with the demographic reality that is Belfast & Northern Ireland in 2013 .It’s not 1920 much less 1969 but if that’s where these idiots want to go they’ll find out the hard way that you can’t go back – The past has moved on even if these poor eejits haven’t !

  • David Crookes

    Banjaxed, much of unionism is locked in the past, like the Daily Express when it illustrates an anti-EU article with a picture of Hitler.

    Hitler would like some of our bonfires. I mean the ones with Polish flags sticking out of them.

    But of course the Bonfire Committees will sort everything out eventually.

    FLOUNDER WITH POUNDER was a great slogan of yesteryear. We’re floundering now.

    What are our unionist leaders doing? Watching ‘Gone with the Wind’? If they’re not, maybe they should think about it.

  • galloglaigh

    If Willie Frazer and his collection of authors, ex drug addict ‘self-taught’ Pastors, and Jesus loving former Soccer stars are all that Ulster has left to give, then Ulster’s doomed. Quick get out the hard hats lads…


    On a serious note though, most of the unionist people in N.Ireland – the decent folk who want nothing to do with Frazer et al, do reject these people. This is a Paisleyite strategy, which the people no longer have an appetite for. God doesn’t care about Ulster any more.

    The sooner Willie Frazer disappears the better. Before long there’ll be very few tears in Ulster, when Willie’s days are up.

  • Banjaxed

    “The sooner Willie Frazer disappears the better. Before long there’ll be very few tears in Ulster, when Willie’s days are up”.

    Bi cúramach, Gallo, some government minister could say that in the House of Commons.

  • Granni Trixie

    It wasn’t just slogans that the civil rights movement had on their side most importantly they had RIGHT on their side: unionist domination,lack of basic rights for Catholics etc. and a lack of will by the ruling classes to support reforms.

    the current protestors do not have a strong moral case and they have other avenues they could follow to make a case and influence others.

    Seems to be a classic case of the right to peaceful protest versus rights of the majority not to be unduly inconvenienced or economically deprived. Common sense however should hold sway and the protests called off as in NI protests v often turn nasty, finding expression in violence against the police and destroying property so surely as has happened.

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Perhaps the SDLP and SF should threaten to remove the ‘designated days ‘ compromise on flag flying .
    It’s not really their compromise. It’s as much as they could get past Alliance.

  • MrPMartin

    who is stopping the police from making mass arrests?

    Ill never forget the time a young policeman stared helplessly at a gang of youths who had tried to break into my house 6 years ago. I knew who they were and where they lived. The young copper told me there was a directive not to criminalise young people. That’s why he didn’t even speak to them. To add insult to injury, he asked me if there wasn’t a useful paramilitary I could talk to

    I gave no response and felt my heart sink to my feet and wither for it was then I realised our society is in an endgame of entropy and irretrievable rot

  • Comrade Stalin

    A quick letter to the local Inspector would have sorted that out.

  • MrPMartin

    We were punch drunk and had little fight left but we should’ve done

  • Framer

    The Lord Snooties on here will be keen enough on the ferals when they need cannon fodder again.

  • ThomasMourne

    Jackie McDonald: “I share the anger in the loyalist community …..”

    Why is the media ignoring the blocking of roads on the Gold Coast, Malone Road, etc?

  • forthman

    Why is that unionists complain about the alleged 400,000 ‘unionists that can’t be bothered to vote’ nonsense? Could it be that people’s attitudes are changing? That in this new era many northerners see themselves as Irish? Maybe they are totally embarrassed by the antics of the orange order, and union flag thugs in this ever increasing ‘small world’?

  • forthman

    Why is the BBC giving support to this thuggery? ‘Peaceful protest’ my backside. Last month on the BBC ‘ spotlight’ show I think, the blame was laid by all the contributors at the feet of Sinn Fein ( Declan Kearney). Does the BBC support these thugs? Why no mention tonight, jan. the 4th, of the widespread sectarian and racist hoisting of union/paramilitary flags across Belfast? This racist, and that is what it is, thuggery has to stop right now! Cue the BBC?????

  • Banjaxed


    May I make it clear or possibly clearer that I wasn’t in any way trying to compare the actions or slogans of the Civil Rights movement to the mindless thuggery of today’s Loyalist demonstrations. My post was a piss-take on PUL tactics which do not seem to have any clear purpose or direction other than to turn the clock back. Hence the OTT hyperbole in my suggested slogans which, I would have thought, was self-evident.

    As a former member of NICRA and contributor to their magazine I shudder to think that anyone should have extrapolated from my post anything other than a wind-up.

  • GEF

    What are the protesters going to do now? When they goes to Dublin and find the Union flag already flying in Dublin on Dublin City Council offices.

    “Union flag will fly in Dublin for six months”


  • Greenflag

    reader @4 January 2013 at 6:38 pm

    ‘ It’s not really their compromise. It’s as much as they could get past Alliance.’

    True and Alliance are ‘repaid ‘ for their sensible compromise by having their councillors and MLA’s lives threatened and property destroyed ?

    Perhaps Alliance will ‘fight back’ by telling this crowd of loyalist gobshites that next time there is a vote on the issue in Belfast City Hall -the Alliance Party being neither Unionist nor Nationalist will abstain ,

    One would think that these poor, marginalised and discarded loyalists would have more to be concerned with than a ‘flag ‘ 🙁

    The designated days were a reasonable compromise but alas there are those out there on both sides of the sectarian divide to whom the word compromise means ‘sellout ‘

    In any event what exactly is there to ‘sell ‘ out ?

  • There might well be a change in the balance of power in the City Hall at the next elections. Unfortunately for Jackie and his maters, the only possible change is if Nationalists take outright control of the Council. The Unionist vote in the City was only 36% at the last council elections. Boundary changes and demographics are going to knock 4% or so off that next time. Even if there’s a 110% Unionist turnout and every Alliance voter in the universe votes DUP, Unionists are not going to take control of the council again.

    The only question of political control in Belfast is whether Alliance retains the balance of power or whether Nationalists take outright control. That’s the story of the next council elections.

  • galloglaigh

    And Gerry

    Alliance will be able to use this leverage to their advantage. Decent Protestants will be turned off by unionism after the flag fiasco. It is their time to shine, and they’ve two years to make a mark in Belfast.

  • DC

    Gerry would it be possible for Unionists not to attend certain council meetings thereby making meetings inquorate and blocking that way, or will majority vote always carry?

  • Neil

    If your offices are under attack and your Councillors/MLAs/MPs are under death threat, yeah latitude would be forthcoming I would expect. And if in the process you avoided doing a favour to the parties who printed the leaflets which pointed the mob in your direction, well that’s just gravy. Less death threats, office burning sessions and dare I say it, bullets coming from Unionism might help things along re: attendance at face saving votes in the future.

    If you shit all over people, they shit all over you right back. A nice simple definition of politics.

  • DC – no chance. The quorum of Belfast City Council committees is only five.

    If Unionists want to commit political hara-kiri by going back to the days of obstructionism in local government similar to the period after the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they can be my guests.