Dear Mr Prime Minister come to take a walk with me

julieWriting for the first time on Slugger is recently married PUP Belfast City Cllr Julie-Anne Corr Johnston

One of the major local headlines last week was that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny had “cleared their diaries” to lend their support to the inter-party talks at Stormont. It seems that no Stormont talks are complete without a crisis intervention from a Prime Minister, President, or some other person of note. We all remember Sir Reg Empey receiving his phone call from Hilary Clinton in 2010 over the crisis around the devolution of justice powers, and when this didn’t work, former US President George was tempted out of retirement to make another transatlantic telephone intervention by calling David Cameron. One wonders whether the crises are real crises at all, or just an opportunity for our publicity hungry politicians to have global leaders run after them, chalking up another anecdote for future reminiscence. One can hear Sir Reg remarking, “Did I ever tell you about the time David Cameron AND Hilary Clinton AND George Bush chased after me?” to which an eager researcher will respond, “No way!”

While our politicians are concocting ever more elaborate crises to get world leaders running after them (Will they really be happy that only David Cameron and Enda Kenny are in a panic and that President Obama isn’t warming up the White House phone in anticipation?), the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn statement was setting the context for increased austerity, with The Guardian headline stating, “Osborne moves to cut spending to 1930s levels in dramatic autumn statement.” Inevitably, this will affect the poor the most, and just as some overzealous evangelical preachers blamed the debaucheries of the poor in Sri Lanka and New Orleans for the devastation caused by natural disasters, so the poor are blamed for the current economic crisis – it’s caused by immigrants, lazy people on benefits, the idle and feckless. It’s nothing to do with greedy bankers and speculators bringing down the world economy. Bankers and speculators have been bailed out and seemingly learned nothing – while the poor and vulnerable are left to pick up the pieces, increasingly relying on food banks and charity to get by. While the stock markets approach apparently record levels, the poor are begrudged an extra bedroom in their homes.

I sometimes wonder how world leaders achieve the seemingly remarkable and get our politicians to reach agreement – do they dance, do they sing, or prostrate themselves like prophets in the Old Testament and cry out and beg. Perhaps it’s all three, or just maybe the decisions our politicians have to make aren’t that hard at all and they just like to see a little cabaret. As I write this, David Cameron is probably picking his tunes – will he sing The Smiths? Deciding on his costume – a hat or a tiara? Will he do a duet with Enda Kenny? I’m sure it must be nerve wracking. He’ll want to get the performance just right. If it takes a song and a dance to get someone to listen, then maybe I should prepare something for his arrival. Perhaps I can convince him that the poor aren’t idle, feckless and undeserving after all. Just maybe George Osborne’s budget statement is his own version of a political crisis in Northern Ireland, it’s not really that bad, and with the right song and dance everything will be ok. It’s worth a try.

I wonder what music will work best? Perhaps I could start with a line from Pink, “Dear Mr Prime Minister, come take a walk with me. Let’s just pretend we’re just two people and you’re not better than me.” Then I could maybe break into Tracy Chapman (“Here in Subcity, life is hard”) or some Gil Scott-Heron (‘You never dig sharing, always had to have the most”). Perhaps not, this will just depress him. Maybe I’m no good at show business. I’ll take him on a walking tour of the Shankill Road and ask him – “Do you really think these children, older people and hard-working families struggling to make ends meet are the cause of all our economic woes. Do you really think they are less deserving that the wealthy and multi-national corporations?” I’d also ask him to tell Ian Duncan Smith to stop using the language of social justice to mask his sustained efforts to reduce the living standards of the poor and to make their lives worse – “being poorer is good for you – it makes you appreciate things more.”

If I did take him along Belfast’s Shankill Road, what would he see – social deprivation, educational under-attainment, isolated and vulnerable pensioners, unemployment and physical dereliction? I could introduce him to my friend Joe Bloggs, a single man living in a small flat who can’t afford to heat his house in the winter; or there is Mrs Smith who took the bus to the bargain store to buy a canvas to hide the damp on her walls that a private landlord wouldn’t repair. Mrs Smith’s daughter wants to be a doctor when she grows up – the closest she’s come to achieving her dream is being a community care worker on a zero hours contract for £6.31 an hour. Mr Jones is an electrician by trade, but he needs surgery on his knee and is working through pain. The NHS is supposed to be sending him to private care but the funds have dried up and his knee is getting worse. He can’t understand why the private clinic is operating out of the local NHS hospital. Surely the TTIP agreement hasn’t led to the NHS being sold off just yet? I think Mr Cameron will have had enough by then, “Take me home, this is more depressing than The Smiths. Can we please avoid the war veterans sleeping rough, I don’t think I can take another look.”

I doubt he would reflect much on his walk through Shankill as he is taken on the journey to Stormont, it’s much easier to sing for our politicians at Stormont than it is to stand up to the wealthy and say the poor aren’t to blame after all. It’s also easier for our politicians to exacerbate fake crises of their own making, sling some mud at each other, then settle down for a good old cabaret courtesy of the British and Irish Governments. A few songs, a few dances, a stand-up comic and some good wine, everything is ok and they are all getting on again. “I didn’t really mean it when I asked if you could put curry in my yoghurt” and “Our leader was only joking when he called you all bastards.” However, while the behind the scenes chumminess resumes, greased up by a good old sing-a-long chorus, the poor are still the poor – whether they live in Shankill or Falls – and they are still left wondering who is going to come and sing and dance for them and do something to make their lives better. “Did I ever tell you about the time…………..?”

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  • Metro

    If you took him down the Shankill road he would see a leaderless community in denial as to why it is in poverty and keen to blame everyone but themselves. Good luck with that!

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    I definitely welcome your much needed attempt to move the discussion in Northern Ireland away from the constitutional issues of flags, parades, and the past and move it towards actually trying to achieve some economic and social benefit for those who need it (‘It’s the economy, stupid.’).

    But I think that if you took Enda and David to Twaddell Avenue and showed them how PUP leaders and activists are helping to perpetuate a ridiculous, costly, and unnecessary exercise in protest around perceived injustices against, or sidelining of, PUL culture then I’m not sure how seriously they would take you.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Completely agree. I appreciate Julie’s message but you lose the moral high ground in complaining about social deprivation and about elderly citizens being made to scrimp and save when you knowingly cost society millions of pounds a week.

  • Aaron Aababab

    We should just be like Iceland and put all the bankers in jail

  • Tacapall

    Did you watch benefit cheats last night from Blackpool Julie, did you see the state of some of those properties people actually live in, properties the British government seemly regard as habitable and deserving of government provided rent to those parasite who are obviously slum landlords, now thats poverty and thats how much they care about their own people so what make you think David Cameron or his government will care about all those children and little old ladies who live on the Shankill.

  • Harland Sanders

    Can’t get my head round this one, you start off by welcoming Julie-Anne for attempting to move away from the constitutional disputes, yet the first thing you bring up is Twaddell.
    Fruitloop maybe the best way to describe you..

  • sak

    I also welcome Julie Anne Corr Johnston,s article ,and I am delighted to see crass roots unionist opinion and focus on the social issues / problems of which face the people of Belfast regardless of religion or creed . Totally away from the Mafia Style Unionist Old Guard of who have feathered their own nests at the expense of grass roots leadership and direction of working class Unionism .
    I would also welcome Julie Anne Corr Johnston to take the two heads of state Enda and David to Twaddell Ave and ask them to explain , the Good Friday Agreement in status of a Shared Future and a Society of Mutual Respect .
    These two communities staring each other down but having so much in common , In all aspects of the Social Issues raised in the Article .
    Political Hatred ,Cultural Assassination , Decline of the Area , Decline of the Community . Decline of the People .
    It is easy for all on the outside of the Box to look in and have opinion but I applaud the PUP for being on the Inside and trying to defend , support and resolve the issue for the betterment of both sides of the Roundabout .
    A breath of Fresh Air Julie Anne Corr Johnston , one to watch for the future , when the people of N.Ireland have a people first political agenda , with a people first political Party .

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    I think what I was trying to do was to point out the internal contradictions of the article and the PUP’s stance on economic and constitutional issues by using their own language and logic.

    I was actually going to put in a note at the end that the comment should be seen in that light but I figured that would be making it far too obvious and that other commenters wouldn’t need me to be so blatant about the critique I was making.

    Having said that, I want to point out that I do welcome Julie-Anne’s piece, not because I necessarily agree with it or even think it’s logically consistent, but because it provides a different perspective to more mainstream (on both sides) politics that we usually see on Slugger. I also think, and this gets at the contradiction I was trying to point out, that if the PUP got away from flags/parades/bonfires/paramilitary connections and actually became a party of the working class and advocated for that section of the community “whether they live on the Shankill or the Falls”, they’d be a much more positive actor in Northern Irish politics. More Julie-Anne Corr Johnston and less Billy Hutchinson.

    (As an aside, I know plenty of Shinners in West Belfast who would regularly transfer votes to the PUP because they’re a working class party.)

  • Comrade Stalin

    The PUP are making no attempt to move away from constitutional disputes. They have banners up at Twaddell proclaiming their full support for the “protest”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    For me, here’s the question.

    Imagine a hypothetical scenario where Sinn Féin offered a deal that would lead to direct improvements in housing, employment and education for working class Protestants, with the condition attached that the Twaddell camp had to go and it had to be accepted that a small number of parades would be restricted. Would the PUP take such a deal ?

    The answer to that question tells you where the true priorities lie.

  • Harland Sanders

    No body’s saying they are.

  • Karl

    I suspect that, knowing what it takes to get votes, the PUP will be pulling the same levers and blowing into the same whistles as big house unionists have in the past. It’s a well worn route to electability, some might even say traditional. What the working class loyalist community needs more than anything else is for their representatives to tell them the truth, that the union is not under threat, that their culture would be stronger with just a little bit of dialogue with their neighbours, and that there is no more entitlement for them than for anyone else. One of the major difficulties the PUP faces is picking up the pieces that the DUP discarded when they ousted the UUP and moved into more respectable guise…unfortunately, that particular community has been too long shaped by DUP fear and paranoia to change in the short to medium future, and an unfortunate consequent rise in organised paramilitary crime syndicates has compounded the problems.

    What a tragedy for NI was the death of David Ervine, a man who could gain the trust of both sides, and who was not afraid to call out the DUP for what they have done to loyalism.

    The future NI needs a strong tradition of protestantism, and a rich culture and tradition such as the loyalist community has, but they need to remove sectarianism from their politics in order to see what was done to them by a bunch of selfish, self-serving scoundrels.

  • barnshee

    “knowingly cost society millions of pounds a week”
    I might well point at the hundreds of millions PIRA and co cost

    The prods have a lot of catching up to do–and at least the plod do get their Xmas Overtime sorted out —with prospects of down payments for apartments in Spain if this runs on

  • Harland Sanders

    Nonsense you were merely trying to put a negative spin on something positive. If you were really welcoming her piece then you wouldn’t have found time to bring these issues up, as they’re not mentioned in her article.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s a thought experiment, but it is relevant.

    The rhetoric is “no surrender”, and “not an inch”. How true is that ?

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Well what I was doing was welcoming a piece from a specific member of a political party that addressed concerns that I feel are important while criticising the broader political positioning of that party. I’m not sure we can separate this article from PUP actions that seem to undermine it. In other words, just because something isn’t explicitly mentioned in an article doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  • JR

    You are critical of the talks but whats the PUP’s alternative? As we have seen over the last few years Issues arround the past, parades and flags are real and extremely divisive here. Woefully poor as the current set of politicians involved in the talks are, at the very least they are still engaging in dialogue. The only way they will be resolved is through dialogue and compromise. Walking away over not getting your way on a parade in North Belfast gets no-one anywhere.

    Taking David cameron for a stroll on the Shankhill won’t get a deal done on budget reform. nor will walking away from talks.

  • Seán Maguire

    An insightful, honest and empathetic article which comes from the heart of a local politician with her finger on the pulse.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Good to see Loyalist Opinion on Slugger, it is very much needed and hope Julie-Anne continues on a regular occurance. For our society to progress this political idealogy needs to be included and it’s opinion given on all issues (Not just Flags and Parades). Of course it’s political manifesto can be challenged as with any other political point of view but it does not have to be demonized !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Or perhaps………

    “Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
    les aristocrates à la lanterne!
    Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
    les aristocrates on les pendra!”

  • Harland Sanders

    You might have convinced yourself that’s what you were doing, but to the rest of us who see right through you, it was just an other chance to bring the Twaddell situation into an argument.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If you were really welcoming her piece then you wouldn’t have found time to bring these issues up

    I’m really sorry to disappoint you, but if a politician is being hypocritical, people are going to call it out. Wrapping yourself in the banner of the working class doesn’t get you off the hook.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Twaddell situation, the PUP’s links with the UVF and all those other issues will always be part of the argument for as long as the PUP wants them to be. It is the PUP who control this.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am impressed by a wing of the PUP that seem to be developing more self-critique and a possible alternate way of doing things.

    Yeah, I remember being impressed in 1994 when David Ervine started appearing on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph with op-ed pieces about the PUP very similar to the paragraph you just wrote above.

    The PUP’s previous leader, Dawn Purvis, walked away from the party after the shooting of Bobby Moffat. Obviously only Dawn knows why she chose to do this, but it is hard not to draw the conclusion that she felt her position was untenable, which implies that the UVF have far too much sway over the party. I can’t square the UVF’s ongoing status as an active organization with any claims about a party proposing an alternate way of doing things. What has changed since Dawn left ? A high-ranking PUP figure (who appears to studiously avoid seeking a mandate for his status as a “community worker”) has been named as the leader of the UVF and implicated in this shooting.

    I believe this manifested, for example, in walking away from a riot at Woodvale this past twelfth.

    The “praise that man because tonight he didn’t get drunk and beat up his wife” argument. Preventing riots and disorder should be the default position of any political party.

    This wings seems to be quite youthful, and it is hopeful that they will develop and expand their thinking as we go along.

    The “bright young thing” argument.

    I really hope so and would consider a vote for the party to encourage this

    I cannot vote for any party that encourages the dangerous farce up at Twaddell and then tries to offset this by talking up the youthfulness of its activists or how lefty it is.

    Complaining about that lot up at Stormont and then throwing in with the Unionist Forum and the “graduated response”, both of which are now defunct, is just another factor showing where the PUP really stand.

    If they cut ties with the UVF and start talking sense about parades and protests, I might then take a second look. Until then, it remains the case for me that when push comes to shove, they are a mouthpiece for the UVF and they play on the paranoia of working class loyalism.

  • Sharpie

    Thanks Julie Ann for a refreshing piece of commentary. During the Arab Spring there was an interesting insight that stayed with me. It was a philosopher called Gene Sharp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Politics_of_Nonviolent_Action) whose premise informed the whole movement – essentially that power cannot be taken, it is granted and when enough people want to create change, all they have to do is collectively take back the power they have granted to leadership and place it somewhere else.

    The realisation that people can take back power is hugely empowering. I think that protestant working class communities could help themselves a lot with a learning approach. In Bolivia, the biggest cause of sea change there was teaching every person their constitutional rights at the community level. Having a population knowledgeable about power and where it resides and how they can mobilise for their own collective interest is compelling.

    I think that Nationalist communities with same or worse levels of deprivation deal with it better because ether are more cohesive – they had a common struggle and did do a lot of the hedge school type empowerment.

    I think that Loyalist communities would find they have a very willing companionship with nationalist working class communities if they ever felt the ability and need to approach them for working in common.

  • kalista63

    This isn’t how things work. Every so often, the PUP tries a new mini re-launch proclaiming itself something akin to the PUL Sinn Fein.. Well, any of us middle aged guys from nationalist areas rem ember all too well the decades of daily hard work the Shinners put in and still do.

    I think David Ervine undersood this but I don’t think he had much backing and even that, which he did have, seems to have dropped off in favour of fleggers and moping about how a balancing of society, which is what is happening, is erosion of loyalist identity.

    I’m reminded, ever so slightly, of Rod Liddle’s recent article about the use of minority rights by faux liberals.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    I am no supporter of the PUP and would certainly never vote for them. But I got talking to a friend once about the apparent contradiction in the party between the ‘loyalist/flegger/culture-and-heritage’ side of them and the progressive/socialist element. He argued that the PUP are trying to lead grass roots loyalism away from sectarianism and help develop class-consciousness within working class loyalist areas. To do this, he argued, they need to listen to and understand the people they are trying to lead in order to develop a level of trust with them. Rather than criticising them from the outside they are trying to change loyalism from within. Maybe this explains the tension between the progressive and reactionary elements within the party? They need to represent and stand up for the people in order to become trusted leaders and lead people away from sectarian tribalism. Hence their support for Twaddell and the fleg protests.

  • Mirrorballman

    “but to the rest of us who see right through you” – who is this “us” you are speaking on behalf of??

  • Neil

    Maybe Dave would think the easiest and most effective way of improving the lot of working class Loyalists in belfast would be to target the drug peddlers, brothel keepers and extortionists in the UVF. Think of the suicides that would be prevented. Maybe they could lead the way and donate the proceeds of dodgy green Eastern European ecstacy or coke deals to the Trussel Trust or something.

    Worth bearing in mind that traditionally the Conservative party tend to think that people are in control of and responsible for their own lot in life, so the whole victim mythology thing is going to have to be dropped. They also tend to have a fairly black and white view of the law also, so as it stands the PC gets to decide where people march or do not march, so maybe you should pack up the several hundred million quid circus opposite Ardoyne and get down the job centre (as yer average Tory would no doubt advise).

  • Tochais Siorai

    Indeed. However, NI has been a basket case since the 1920s with or without having to deal with armed revolt. And the Provos have packed up their bags a good while ago now, Barnshee. You may have noticed. However, the British exchequer still doles out more than £200 million every single week to prop this place up.
    Everyone in NI should have an apartment in Spain at this stage, not just the plods.
    .
    £200 million. A week.

  • kalista63

    Or they could, as the other unionist parties are failing to do,show leadership and convey to their community that things have changed and they are going to continue to change.

    The upcoming demographics timebomb has been well discussed but there’s also the changes in attitudes of young, modern, affluent unionists who don’t support the other unionist parties same old, same old tactics and who are turned off by the Flegs and marching thing.

    Two years ago, at the height of the flegs dispute, the vitriol that was fired at unionists who spoke out against the protests, the damage they were doing to communities and businesses showed how isolated they are and are increasingly becoming. That’s only going to get worse. Loyalists can cuddle up in their wee communities like Carrick and pretend to themselves that they’re representing greater unionism or Loyalism but the numbers on the street don’t stack up.

    As I alwys so, go look at the big protests of the past such as against the Anglo Irish Agreement. Your talking about 250,000 Vs (at best) 6,000.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “Or they could, as the other unionist parties are failing to do, show leadership and convey to their community that things have changed and they are going to continue to change.”

    I suppose there is a tension in representative democracy between the need for political parties to represent the concerns of their constituents on the one hand and to lead people on the other. My friend’s point was that the PUP are trying to do both hence the weird combination of, and contradiction between, progressive working class ideas with flag waving tribalism.

    I’m totally on board with your analysis of the situation and the need for people from loyalist backgrounds to move beyond sectarian, tribal loyalism but I’m not sure if just telling them to do so is going to work.

    I attended a seminar at Queens about a year ago called “Loyalists, Flags and Discontent on the Lower Newtownards Road”. The upshot of it was that working class protestant culture in ireland was very tied up with industry, ship building etc. Having a trade and working to supply the empire with ships etc was what gave working men a sense of self worth. As the UK deindustrialised working class jobs, disappeared leaving people with very little to use to create a sense of identity that they could be proud of, to give their lives meaning (‘ontological security’ was the term used). Since then a shallow protestant/British/Ulster nationalism has filled the space left by traditional working class culture as a way of providing people with an identity.

    The completely irrational reaction to the BCC decision to fly the flag on designated days is explained, according to this theory, by the fact that since deindustrialisation flegger types in general have very little resources (cultural, material, economic) to create meaningful identities and give their lives a sense of meaning. Reducing the number of days the flag (a visual symbol of their identity) is flown is therefore perceived as a direct threat to the only way in which they make sense of who they are.

    Telling them to wise up isn’t going to solve the problem.

  • Turgon

    A number of the comments below have already touched on the central issues but they remain exactly as they have done for two decades now. The PUP talk the talk of a progressive left of centre political party: they have done since the days of David Ervine and before.

    However, they seem completely incapable of criticising the UVF in anything other then the mildest terms (exactly like SF with the IRA). Even the criticism they do direct at the UVF melts away as soon as a UVF member is arrested for any crime: not just crimes from the troubles but also for the UVF’s more recent criminality. Recent UVF criminality has bene largely directed against working class unionist communities: the very communities the PUP claims to represent.

    Even leaving aside the morality of the UVF’s foul crimes the political hypocrisy of the PUP is nauseating (and a major reason for its failure to gain a larger mandate). Claiming to support working class unionist communities and then actually spending much of your time supporting their oppressors in chief is very bad politics.

    It is not as if the UVF were petty criminals who need help to be straightened out and given opportunities: they are a loathsome bigoted, sectarian organisation (much like the IRA) which is now essentially a mafia like organised crime fraternity. Such organised crime groups have huge effect on holding back community development.

    I remember years ago the Presbyterian Church looked at deprivation in working class areas and found that all too many boys saw as their ideal achievement in life to be like released loyalist terrorists. So complete has been the social degredation in some areas that anyone who can has got out and the remeining people have little hope and that is in large measure due to the UVF et al.

    This is arguably an even worse state of affairs than in working class sink estates in mainland GB as the police there are allowed / willing to make some attempts to stop oragnised crime. Here in Northern Ireland in some areras the police seem to allow the UVF to do essentially as they choose within certain areas (just as they seem to do for republicans in other areas). This cancer has spread from Mo Mowlam et al and even before.

    The reality is the working class unionist communities have arguably lost more than anyone from the “peace process” and the UVF and alphabet soup are probably the main cause of that with constant help and support from the PUP. The PUP according to their own propoganda have been trying to help the UVF away from criminality now for two decades and more: time for a whole new generation to be brought into their criminal conspiracy.

    It is long overdue for all the PUP to be called for the hypocrites and liars that they are. Whilst they claim to be trying to help working class unionist communities their main function seems to be to help those within that community who oppress the majority of it. Whilst others (the government especially New Labour, the police and other politicians) deserve some criticism the lion’s share of the opprobium should lie with the PUP and their alter egos in the UVF.

  • David McDonald

    Normal people probably.

  • Harland Sanders

    What’s Twaddell got to do with this article, where has Julie-Anne mentioned it, why’s the subject been brought up, when her article has nothing to do with it.

  • Harland Sanders

    It’s not rocket science try working it out for yourself.

  • kalista63

    Well, they should point them to the Clyde, Tyneside, Shefield and so on, places that have been hit with similar issues of being de industrialised.

    Oddly, in GB, it’s not those areas that have their Fleggers. For some reason their Fleggers tend to be in the south, usually South east. That aside, these areas do have very similar issues of drugs, criminality and total loss. None of this loss is down to Sinn Fein or themmuns, it’s down to the tories, for whom generations of working class loyalists voted, and also Tory Lite in the form of Nu Labour.

    Things even go beyond this to the geopolitical and economic changes of this last thirty odd years and things are going to get worse. The industrial centre has shifted and no one, not the UK or the USA, for example, has a fek’n clue what to do other than a bit of the Oul exploitation on foreign lands.

    The union flag is the flag of four countries (sort of) and the core of the issues biting nationalists, republicans, unionists, loyalists, neutrals are UK wide ones. Loyalists need to stop doing unionism’s will, stop blaming themmuns and start blaming both unionism and loyalism. They’ve done nothing but let the, down and exploit them.

  • kalista63

    A regular caller phoned Talkback today. He’s a pensioner who lives in Rathcoole and he was recounting how he was heading to bed when men came in to his house and demanded drugs. They identified themselves as being UVF and the poor man told them he didn’t deal. In drugs and all he had were ordinary pain killers.

    The poor man blamed himself, thinking he’d left the door open but discovered the next day, they’d broke in.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “Well, they should point them to the Clyde, Tyneside, Shefield and so on, places that have been hit with similar issues of being de industrialised.”

    The guy presenting his work at the seminar drew explicit comparisons between the fleggers and other working class areas of the UK and experiences of similar loss of identity and ‘ontological security’.

    Totally agree that loyalists (nationalistic ideologies in general) completely misidentify the cause of their problems and even the nature of their problems. Blaming ‘themmuns’, whether they be republicans or immigrants, suits the political and financial elites as it deflects blame from themselves. The unionist parties have an obvious interest in keeping the loyalists sectarian and the tory’s in keeping England racist.

    But once again I say that criticizing loyalism from the outside can only go so far. The need to be lead by people they trust away from sectarianism. To start this process, who ever attempts to do this, needs to be seen to be representing the interests of loyalists. This is why the PUP are both loyalist and socialist. They hope to move working class protestants away from tribal loyalism towards a socialist ideology more capable of serving their working class interests.

  • Robert Montgomery

    The suggestion that social justice can only be achieved if civil and religious rights are discarded is crass to say the least.

  • Robert Montgomery

    How is Julie costing society millions of pounds a week?

  • Comrade Stalin

    He argued that the PUP are trying to lead grass roots loyalism away from sectarianism and help develop class-consciousness within working class loyalist areas.

    Apparently they’re crap at it. They said that 20 years ago and there’s little or no tangible progress. Officially, their link with the UVF allows them to provide political analysis to the organization; that’s not the same as trying to talk them out of the habit of shooting people they don’t like.

    . To do this, he argued, they need to listen to and understand the people they are trying to lead in order to develop a level of trust with them

    That’s what all politicians seeking election do.

    . Rather than criticising them from the outside they are trying to change loyalism from within.

    No sign of any of that going on.

    Maybe this explains the tension between the progressive and reactionary elements within the party?

    I am not sure what tension exists. There is one party that people appear to join for different reasons. One set of members are in it specifically because of their UVF links. The other set are nothing to do with the UVF and believe that their participation is doing something useful. They appear to be in denial about the UVF’s ultimate veto over what the party says or does.

    They need to represent and stand up for the people in order to become trusted leaders and lead people away from sectarian tribalism. Hence their support for Twaddell and the fleg protests.

    You’re suggesting that the idea is to win votes by playing to loyalism’s paranoia, and then suddenly doing a U-Turn and saying it’s all wrong ? I suppose that’s what the Provos did. But I don’t think it’s a strategy that’s likely to work.

    Political leadership involves being straight with people. When Neil Kinnock and others were trying to reform the Labour Party and get rid of the militant elements, they didn’t kiss up to Militant and tell them they were right. They ostracized them. That’s what loyalist politicians need to be doing.

    The protest at Twaddell damages unionism and serves the interests of republicans who benefit both from unionism being divided, and also from unionism moving to the extremes such that it cannot possibly command support from moderate Catholics. Loyalists need to think about whose interests their actions are actually serving. The Ardoyne parade is lost; sooner or later, unionists will accept that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “You’re suggesting that the idea is to win votes by playing to loyalism’s paranoia, and then suddenly doing a U-Turn and saying it’s all wrong?”

    I’m not talking about votes and u-turns. I’m taking about a party building up trust with loyalist communities, developing a dialogue with them and hoping to lead them away from sectarianism. I was making this point because some of the early comments were accusing Julie-Anne Corr Johnston of hypocrisy for talking about real issues when her party supports the Twaddle protests. My point is that in order to convince loyalists that they would be better off campaigning for concrete rather than symbolic issues you first need to show them that you are on their side so they trust you and respect your views on what their goals should be. Just laughing at them and/or ostracizing them wont help change their minds. It just increases their victimhood complex, makes them feel even more powerless and thus hardens their position.

    “Apparently they’re crap at it.”

    I agree that they don’t seem to be making much progress. Perhaps this is a doomed strategy but I don’t think it is hypocritical.

    I agree with you regarding loyalism’s sectarianism as being self defeating. But I don’t think telling them to wise up is going to cut it. This kind of identity politics is a symptom of desperation. People from deprived areas lack the cultural resources to create meaningful identities. It’s not a coincidence that the QUB report into the flag protest claimed that “1 in 5 of those with third level education supported the 365 days a year option compared to nearly half of respondents with no formal qualifications”. To move people away from irrational identity loyalism you need to provide them with the political, cultural and educational resources to create meaningful and confident identities.

  • A Morris

    Julie Ann and people like her colleague Izzy Giles bring a much needed breath of fresh air to working class, loyalist politics that has always -Dawn Purvis being the honourable exception – been dominated by men who have pursued power at the expense of the people they were meant to be representing. Even within mainstream unionist politics there are far too many grey haired men and an influx of young, educated and passionate men and women who aren’t still dragging around the dead carcass of the past with them can only be a good thing. I enjoyed reading that and hope we hear more from her in all sorts of mediums in the future and also would like to congratulate her and her partner on their recent nuptials.

  • sk

    “I might well point at the hundreds of millions PIRA and co cost”

    Sure you’ve made it clear a few times now, that if the Prods ever found themselves out-bred they’d be out doing exactly what the IRA did. So what are you whinging about?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The suggestion that social justice can only be achieved if civil and religious rights are discarded is crass to say the least.

    If you think that walking past a Catholic church yelling “f*** the pope” (to paraphrase) is a civil and religious right, then either you are stupid, or you think everyone else is stupid. Therefore, progress on things like jobs, decent housing, education and all the rest are to be traded for stupidity.

    The stupidity is compounded by the fact that the decisions of the Parades Commission, which are unchallenged in law, expose the reality that what you believe are civil and religious rights do not exist.

  • Robert Montgomery

    I can assure you that I do not walk past any place of religious worship yelling anything, the very suggestion that a cultural, traditional and religious expression of the community I come from is “stupid” only highlights your own inherent bigotry. Not that I should be surprised, coming from one of the younger wave of Alliance coming through. It seems legitimate expressions of the Protestant faith are fair game along with propagating lies about working class Protestant communities (non-existent racist posters in Donegall Pass) to raise racial tensions for election publicity. Do you guys really need Nationalist transfers that badly? Social justice and cultural equality are not, and must not become mutually exclusive.

    As a matter of record, how many Alliance party members have sat on the Parades Commission since it’s inception and how does that number correlate with other political parties who have had members sit on it? You may think my tradition is “stupid”, there are other cultural and religious identities in within this land life which I do not relate to yet I and many in my community do not call those expressions “stupid”. We leave that to bigoted monocultural fanatics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I can assure you that I do not walk past any place of religious worship yelling anything, the very suggestion that a cultural, traditional and religious expression of the community I come from is “stupid” only highlights your own inherent bigotry.

    You are contradicting yourself here. First you’re denying that you walk past churches yelling f*** the pope, and then you follow that up to say that me calling that stupid is an attack on your cultural/tradition/religious expression. Which is it ?

    Not that I should be surprised, coming from one of the younger wave of Alliance coming through

    I’m 36 so I’ll take that as a complement.

    It seems legitimate expressions of the Protestant faith

    Is yelling “f*** the pope” a legitimate expression of the Protestant faith then ?

    You may think my tradition is “stupid”, there are other cultural and religious identities in within this land life which I do not relate to yet I and many in my community do not call those expressions “stupid”. We leave that to bigoted monocultural fanatics.

    To repeat what I said.

    I said that if you think yelling “F*** the pope” – to paraphrase – outside a church is a tradition or culture, then either you are stupid, or you think I am. I am curious to see that you are taking ownership of “f*** the pope” as part of your tradition and you seem to be upset that I’ve criticised it.

    It was on Spotlight a few weeks ago that Arlene Foster’s husband is a member of some sort of Orange Order-related fraternity that clubs together to prevent land from falling into the hands of Catholics. I suppose that’s legitimate and cultural expression too.

    I wonder what kind of hooliganism and thuggery does not constitute legitimate cultural/religious/traditional expression in your book. Because it looks to me very much like anything goes.