'‘you cannot put a price on culture.’' - Jamie Bryson, interview on Slugger O'Toole http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/03/24/jamie-bryson-a-rebel-without-a-hope/#comments
I'd agree (to a certain extent).

Although, I imagine what passes for Irish Protestant culture in Jamie's eyes differs from mine a tad.

His appears to be wrapped in a Union Flag.

So, what passed for Irish/Ulster Protestant culture before there were such things as the Union Flag/Union, before the paramilitaries, before KTP bands, before the ‘Loyal’ orders or the 12th?
Did we live in some sort of cultural cocoon awaiting the day when we would have something to celebrate or did we have other things to be getting on with?
So I had a dig:


Dancing and fiddling

Of course I had a rough idea about this topic before my half-assed search, my grandparents often spoke of dances down at the Orange hall and they didn’t mean the modern version that sometimes includes some god-awful combo of loyalist anthems, country music and dance (would make yer ears bleed, jeez!).
They were referring to the days of when people would attend social dances at orange halls and dance till daybreak to the music of a melodeon or a fiddle or such like.

My other Granda (a B Special) and his brothers (also B specials) played a full range of folk instruments in their village hall, including some instruments that would now be considered ‘suspect’ or a bit ‘taigy’ e.g. the penny whistle (don’t laugh, you know some of the nutty wans would be offended at a display of something so ‘oirish’).


Fast forward a few decades and there’s hardly any evidence of this.
It’s like there’s been some massive cultural brainwashing.                                                              

Many loyalists would be as blindly ignorant to such goings-on in local Orange halls as Germans neighbouring the various concentration camps of WWII: “what? We heard nahin’”.

For anyone who wants a more qualified and in-depth look at this story I recommend simply looking at some easy to obtain books on Ulster folk culture.

I would like to name a book in particular but as this is a blog for LAD then the more paranoid types would unfairly and uncritically assume that the book is part of the great republican-nationalist-middleclass-Protestant-papist-commie-Chinese-conspiracy and ignore the contents of this book much to their cultural peril.

So, sorry to be vague, but it’s the way of NI’s world: “you have provided proof that we are wrong therefore you are the enemy…”
The author has been looking into this topic for decades and has come up with examples of Orange folk music preservation that have gobsmacked even myself e.g. post-partition Orange halls in County Down were some of the best places to find examples of ‘unadulterated’ Irish folk music on account of their immunity to the influences of the Gaelic League and the Catholic Church (e.g. in the Republic there was a massive overhaul on folk music & dancing and as such house dances were banned, instead dances had to be held in parochial halls with ‘approved’ ceili music).
Orange Halls of Co Down - Home of the craic/crack?
(Image kindly lent by 'How to Start a Fight in an Irish Bar' -
http://howtostartafightinanirishbar.blogspot.com.au/2014_01_01_archive.html )

So, we have the scenario where pro-British Orangemen were dancing to traditional Irish reels and jigs whilst Irish nationalists in neighbouring villages were dancing very much to the tune of something recently contrived, in essence their ‘traditional’ Irish folk dance and music was in fact something very new.
Mental.
Being Northern Ireland I doubt if it was quite so clear cut but it’s certainly something to think about.
So there you have it, Protestants used to sing, dance and make merry in a very traditional Irish manner and latterly the ‘most’ Irish manner (some still do, but it’s almost an ‘underground’ thing).


NOT the 12th
So, what about the 12th of July? Surely that’s been a part of culture for a long time?
Well, yes, but not from the word go as some would suggest.

As most of ye’s know, the Orange Order was formed in 1795 but the celebrations of the British acquisition of the Dutch stock exchange Williamite victory at the Boyne weren’t celebrated for a good while after that. And even then it was mainly an Anglican affair. 

Presbyterians took quite a while to get involved (mid 1800’s roughly speaking), most modern day Presbyterians tend to be quite forgetful regarding the topic of Britain’s attitude and behaviour towards them (Cromwell, the Penal Laws etc…).

Indeed, it’s not a stretch to say that many if not most Presbyterians in the 1790’s were much more concerned with rebelling against the crown than supporting it.


Apprentices: More 'FTP' than YTP?

Apprentice Boys and the Siege of Derry celebrations
Unbelievably (or believably if you have suffered enough of my blogs) this event wasn’t much remembered for a long time and when it did finally make an appearance the first celebrations involved members of the Catholic Church.
Again, a large time gap between the actual event and the celebrations becoming part of a tradition.
Not only that, but a number (if not all) of the original Apprentice Boys spoke some form of Gaelic. Yet more vanished culture.
A respected flag.

So, what about flags?
Well:

Union Flag – Didn’t incorporate Ireland till the 1800’s and it was an unpopular move at the time, so that’s a couple of centuries of doing without it

Ulster Flag – Didn’t come into existence till the 20th century, so that is a relative newcomer.

Independence Flag – Somehow this flag still makes its way into demonstrations by people eager to show their loyalty to an institution that the flag purports to disengage from.
Go figure.
It’s like wearing an IBM or Coca-Cola T-shirt to a Marxist rally…

All in all, the culture of disgracing flags by attaching them to lampposts with gay abandon is something relatively new and perhaps not essential to unionist or Protestant 'culture' after all?

A Gaelic game played by Prods?! Scotland you Lundy!!!!!

Cammanachd
“what?”

I said cammanachd.

The easiest way to describe it would be to think of the Scottish game of Shinty.
Actually, cammanachd is the ancestor of both shinty and hurling, arguably shinty would more closely resemble the old cammanachd on account of its caiman (stick), the hurling stick came from a later summer version of hurling (well, Cammanachd) that gradually supplanted the older version.

Whilst hurling sticks became synonymous with Irish nationalism old Cammanachd (or shinny as it became known) limped on up north, mainly in the Protestant areas.
So there you have it, the last bastion of an old Gaelic game was in Protestant Ulster.

The Old Firm be damned
Other ‘taigy’ activities:

Other suspect activities that were part of Ulster Protestant culture at various points of history include the following points; I’ll only list them as I’ve ranted in greater detail about them previously.

·         Irish/Gaelic

·         Uilleann pipes – Once upon a time they were part and parcel of the culture of ‘gentlemen pipers’ and clergymen

·         Crossroads dancing

WHAT?!!!
·         Bodhran playing - Just like many Protestant folk enthusiasts still do across the water in Scotland 

·         Celebrating St Patrick’s day – Though some still do celebrate it, more are starting to and I THINK there’s an annual Orange parade in Ballymena not to mention Ian Paisley’s enthusiasm for St Pat (he opened his Martyr’s memorial church on St Pat’s day).

It could be argued that those who are arguing most passionately for the preservation of their culture are among the worst offenders with regards to its decline and stagnation.

They have no respect for the old traditions of folk music & dance (resembles ‘Irish’ culture too much), care not a jot for fiddles or ballads, think of the Gaelic languages as ‘foreign’ (despite a tractor trailer load of evidence to the contrary) and would sooner stuff their ears with wax rather than listen to ‘fiddledy dee’ music (unless they’re in Scotland).
Irish music - Taigy (?)



They’re seemingly only interested in preserving their mutant version of Britishness which is not recognised by the majority of folks living in Britain.







Scottish music - Not Taigy (?)
If they put as much effort into preserving the Ulster versions of Gaelic as they do preserving the place of flags in public spaces then Ulster Gaelic would perhaps have less in common with the southern variants.  Who knows, just speculating?




If they had kept up the dancing and fiddling with the enthusiasm they have for marching then perhaps Ulster folk music would not be so ‘Oirish’?

Loyalists and indeed some unionists despise what they see as Irish culture but fail to realise that they are partly responsible for its current incarnation having opted out of its development.

It’s a sad irony for them that Northern Ireland would perhaps be even more culturally detached from the South than it is now had Loyalism not turned its back on its Irish culture.

I’d ask what would happen if loyalism and Orangeism were to re-embrace their lost culture, alas I think I know the answer:

People would see them as ‘Irish’, a price too great for some to pay.

Tragic.

Remember kids, if you're not loyal enough you'll turn into this
10 comments

GUEST POST


This is a guest post by Hugh McCloy

Hugh has been a health & family law lobbyist since 2007 involved in groups including Save The Mid, RFFJ and, for a time, F4J. Hugh stood as an Assembly candidate in 2010 for Mid Ulster


The views expressed by Hugh do not necessarily reflect those of LAD


With recent performances in the Royal Hospital’s A&E being described as a crisis, what is the appropriate term to describe the even worse performing Antrim Area A&E?



Is the Royal A&E a manufactured crisis to mask the 4 year old problem in Antrim Area Hospital and Emergency Care across Northern Ireland?


Deaths In Antrim Hospital have doubled over a 10 year period yet the Health Minister stays quiet on Antrim A&E

Lost in the media and political storm over the crisis at the Royal other A&Es across Northern Ireland where performance is worse are being omitted from what should be a full investigation into the state of emergency care in Northern Ireland.


 

The crisis in Emergency Care in Northern Ireland began in 2009 when the Northern Health & Social Care Trust under the full knowledge of politicians began to wind down Mid Ulster A&E without preparing Antrim Area Hospital to be able to cater for the extra patients. The new A&E at Antrim while welcome is meaningless as in-patients capacity at the hospital has decreased. What is the point of building a A&E at Antrim that can allegedly deal with 90,000 patients a year if it’s in-patients can still only deal with 30,000 under escalated conditions.

Since 2010 the performance of Antrim has been worse than that of the Royal Victoria yet due to the age old antagonism in Northern Ireland that nothing major happens outside of Belfast the crisis at Antrim has been allowed to fester for 4 years at the cost of patient safety and patients lives.
What has changed in Antrim through the years?

Antrim A&E has been the subject of several reviews and consultations

In 2000 under the leadership of Sinn Fein Health Minister Barbrie De Bruin, a review carried out by Maurice Hayes stated that the maternity, A&E and acute in-patients be removed from Mid Ulster Hospital. This review was based on phase 2 of Antrim Hospital being built, the ambulance services being extended and a new road system, - none of these happened in the way intended. This review later became known as Developing Better Services.

Developing Better Services was such an important aspect to the future of health services in Northern Ireland that is sat on the shelf gathering dust until it was used to justify the closure of Omagh A&E in 2005 and it was used to prevent any legal recourse on the decision. It was later used to beat the Judicial Review against the closure of Mid Ulster A&E.

In 2006 Deloitte Touché carried out a risk assessment of closing Mid Ulster A&E as per developing better services, it scored highest in risk to patients and services to be shutting the Mid without improvements at Antrim as phase 2 had still not been built to provide more in-patients.

Despite this warning by the risk assessment the A&E at Mid Ulster was downgraded, ambulances were diverted from it and maternity was closed. Building phase 2 of Antrim was still nowhere in sight.

In 2008 the review of services though Michael McGimpsey's Comprehensive Spending review stated initially that no services changes were to take place at the Mid Ulster Hospital until 2013 and only then when phase 2 had been built at Antrim. This had changed by September 2009 when under the direction of the Health Minster & Health Managers the Northern Trust were directed to close acute services at both Mid Ulster & Whiteabbey in May 2010. 2010 also saw Tribal Consultancy recruited to review Antrim area hospital – the review had little effect on performance as it continued to slump.

The reviews also mislead the public with the risks to Mid Ulster that were in the consultation document being fabricated as proven in letter to the Northern Trusts Medical Director and CEO at this time. It was very apparent according to performance reports that late 2009 was when Antrim first showed the warning signs that it was not coping yet still no phase 2 build for Antrim was being planned and the trust went ahead and removed Mid Ulster A&E.

2011: still struggling at Antrim with bed capacity at a maximum. Wards 2 and 3 are shut at the Mid Ulster shortly after the Assembly elections and at the start of the summer recess, so no opposition could be launched to this. 2011 saw Edwin Poots announced as Health Minister and 'Transforming Your Care' begins.

2012: Mary Hinds & Dr Rutter carry out another review of Antrim A&E, still failing to fix the issues in the hospital much like the review 2 years before. Mary Hinds excludes that mangers bullied staff and later was appointed the CEO.

It was at this time plans were revealed that would turn the Mid Ulster Hospital site into offices and small clinics. There was even the option put on the table to rent out space in the hospital to charities and businesses. These plans were backed by Magherafelt Council, the only council in Northern Ireland who did not respond to Transforming Your Care. Instead of responding to Transforming Your Care they held a special meeting with the Northern Trust to agree these plans outside of the consultation process. Why the public were not made aware of this will never be known as people were responding to the consultation based on information that was in the public arena. When there was a public meeting to discuss some of the issues involved I was offered meetings with Sean Donaghy CEO of the Northern Trust to try and prevent me going to the public meeting and stating the truth to those in attendance. However I did take the invitation to meet Sean but I also made the public meeting which confirmed the attempted cover-up by the Trust, Patient Client Council and Magherafelt Council.

This led to a media battle between Magherafelt Council and me yet they could never bring themselves to have a meeting in private or public as they know they had been caught out http://savethemid.weebly.com/1/post/2012/07/save-the-mid-response-to-magherafelt-council-mid-ulster-hospital.html
 
2013: saw the opening of the new A&E in Antrim Hospital, this went a small way to helping relieve pressures on the site but came nowhere close to solving the problem. When this was highlighted in the public arena by the former Chair of the Northern Trust Jim Stewart it was not long before Edwin Poots sacked him. Mary Hinds is appointed CEO of the Northern Trust despite her past failures in her review and an English Turnaround team was sent in and they remain to this day. The Turnaround team was headed by Sue Page from Cumbria Health Trust; this health trust was also the subject to malpractice and was reviewed by the Quality Care Commission.

2014: almost a year after the plans for Transforming Your Care have been finalised very little movement has taken place. Antrim Hospital is still the worst performing A&E in Northern Ireland and to help with changes to the A&E services among others another private consultancy business Ernst & Young have been brought in to aid Trust managers.

When you look objectively at what is happening in the Trust there has been reviews of services at Antrim Hospital for over 14 years, up until the Mid Ulster was closed each one of them stated that Antrim would not cope as only phase one was built. In this period the amount of patient deaths in the hospital has doubled and this is touted to be the safer outcome for patients that reviews since 2008 have bragged about. Also the cost of the reviews are not cheap but there always seems to be money for pointless reviews that state the obvious yet none for actual services.

Edwin Poots admitted on Hansard it was a mistake to shut the Mid Ulster Hospital; why so long after this admission has he not taken one step to reopen Mid Ulster and finally take the pressure of Antrim and make a difference to patients’ lives in the Mid Ulster Area?

At the moment he is hiding behind the crisis at the Royal and is happy to as he knows the crisis at the Royal is one he can walk away from with some level of integrity, and conveniently the crisis at the Royal diverts political and media away from the real crisis at Antrim Area Hospital.

What is the political stance across the board and how effective an opposition have any of the main political parties been to solving the health crisis over the years? Why are they blaming Transforming Your care when Transforming Your Care has not even kicked in yet?
  • DUP - they hold the ministerial position of health and will at all costs defend what is happening, responsible for closing City A&E, more in-patient wards and will if Transforming Your Care is implement completely remove statutory care homes and provision for elderly and children across Northern Ireland
  • Sinn Fein - are paying lip service to the crisis as they know the majority of the crisis we see today comes from the time they held the Health Ministerial Position and created the document developing Better Services that was used to shut Omagh, Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey A&E’s. It is the same document that stated that Lagan Valley should only have a local hospital while also saying that the Downshire area did not need acute hospital at all. To rub salt in the wounds Maurice Hays was a major contributor to Developing Better Services is now the man Sinn Fein are standing shoulder to shoulder with over the downgrading of the Downe Hospital.
  • SDLP – whose opposition amounts to writing a letter with their current stance being that of blaming Transforming Your Care? Let’s not forget that Transforming Your Care has not even been implemented yet Fearghal.
  • UUP – Held the Health Ministerial post and used Sinn Fein’s Developing Better services as a scapegoat to not take any responsibility for shutting health services during the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2008. But the PR machine of the UUP was no match to that of Sinn Fein’s.

Who is going to fix our health system ?????
 
1 comments

In case you happened to miss it yesterday, I made a wee blog post; The Death of the Progressive Unionist Party?


What I thought I was producing yesterday afternoon in the throes of belting my political frustration out on the keyboard, was nothing more than another rant, much like any other I have published to my site.  Turned out to be an altogether different beast entirely …

With massive thanks to LAD for sharing the post, over 4,000 people had read my mutterings and musings before lunch time today. And since last night I have been inundated with very kind and generous comments by those who agree with the sentiments I shared, and even nice words from those that did not.

While I have nothing else specifically to add to what I said yesterday I thought it only right to address some of the questions and comments put to me since the blog published. Many I simply do not have the time to reply to individually while some also deserve more than a few lines. Hence the arrival of a new blog post to do just that.

I suppose the first thing to mention is my remarks on Gareth Cole. While not one person disagreed with me on the character of the guy, few people did point out the following on his Twitter bio:

My tweets don’t necessarily represent the PUP and may be used to stimulate debate”
 
Cole's twitter account https://twitter.com/GarethCole_PUP
In my opinion, if any politician uses their Twitter account to promote their electoral campaign, makes it abundantly clear that they are a candidate for their respective party, and plasters their face and party email address over their bio, rest assured your actions on that account may reflect on your party. If in addition you are being inappropriate and your fellow party members not only choose to ignore but defend your actions, you can be pretty certain that it is reasonable to conclude that your actions are representative of your party.

I have never understood the disclaimer many politicians, or public figures, use on their social media accounts. It is the real world equivalent of masturbating in public while shouting, “Please don’t tell the boss!”

When you are a public servant representing others and you choose to open a social media account, whatever you say and do on there will be held to very close public scrutiny, and rightly so! If you don’t like it, get out of politics or off social media. Simple really!

Let me put it another way. Imagine Gareth Cole had a column in the Belfast Telegraph and published half of what he has published on his Twitter timeline through the newspaper. Would he still be as openly defended by his PUP colleagues? Would he still be a candidate for Carrickfergus? Would he even still be a PUP member? Would he even make it to print?

I suppose my overall annoyance with Gareth Cole is in the fact that he will go on the canvassing trail soon doing the whole door to door thing. What Gareth will show up on your doorstep that day? Will it be the Gareth that will claim to bring jobs, security, rejuvenation, and all sorts of wonderful things to all the good people of Carrickfergus? Or will it be the Gareth that will absolutely do feck all for any Republicans, posts photos of Anna Lo with the headline, “Tiocfaidh Ar LO”, always ready to stir anger and hate towards Nationalist communities, and will be only too happy to put a Union flag up on your nearest available lamp post?


The later Gareth is unlikely to produce itself in the real world, though I would have so much respect for him as a person if he did deliver the true version of himself. No, I am sure it will be the aforementioned fictional Gareth knocking on doors with a wonderfully bright innocent smile.

Damn shame that he is even still being put forward as a credible candidate …

Bigger shame that his party and colleagues cannot comprehend the damage he is doing them all …

I had dozens of messages from young men and women from, what they described as, working class Loyalist communities across Northern Ireland thanking me for my words and wishing that they could put in to words also how they were feeling. They wanted to be able to tell people it’s not all about flags and marches in those communities and that they wanted more.

This is what angers me more than anything! How is it even possible that these young people feel that they have no voice? How the hell are the people charged with giving these people a voice not being held to account for an unacceptable failure of their duties? Because they do not rally behind flags and protests they are of no worth?

Despicable! No excuses or apology can even begin to fathom it.

The only thing I can say is to any young (or older) person left to feel abandoned by those that call themselves (and clearly not fit to be) political representatives, is that you have the loudest and greatest voice of all; your vote!

Don’t vote for any of them. If anyone has put flags and marches to the fore of any of the real issues that genuinely affect you, vote for none of them! Vote for a party that is prepared to tackle the things that matter to you.

Better yet, why not vote for a party where their political policy is all inclusive? Try voting for a party the works for you irrespective of whether you or your community is predominantly Catholic or Protestant. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain by breaking the mould of an unspoken political staple in Northern Ireland of voting based on religion, not policy.

You can make a positive change if you become the change that you want! There is no better time than now!
Most parties are holding voter registration sessions across the province. If you are not registered then do get yourself registered. If you choose to register through a session held by any particular party do not feel you are then obligated to vote for that same party. You are not. Your vote is between you and the ballot box, no one else.

Please do not feel any pressure or intimidation to vote for a party that puts you and your needs second.
I will respond to each and every one of those people individually that have contacted me with concerns and expressed a desire to be heard. And if any of those people do have something to say I am more than happy to give a platform through my blog.

In closing my blog yesterday I alluded to a point that the PUP, DUP, and UUP are all chasing the same vote. I have been asked by a few to explain and expand on the point, so I will.

The catalyst for my blog was that News Letter article. It was a confirmation that PUP had become as hard line as the DUP and UUP has ever been in order to scoop up the support of the more “extremist” voter.

So is it any surprise that the DUP and UUP have not criticised Billy Hutchinson’s comments? After all, any derision of Billy’s views would be a derision of the voters they are so keen to keep under their wing.

Billy Hutchinson "killing catholics justified" comments gnored by the DUP and PUP
I think it is a given that both DUP and UUP (and PUP) see the Alliance as the single biggest threat to them, or more specifically they see Anna Lo as the one that can potentially turn the tide. They have proven that well in recent days.

The political crucifixion from loyalists of Anna Lo for making innocuous comments about a united Ireland and describing Northern Ireland as a colony, while comments about murdering Catholics goes unchallenged, is appalling!

How does that even happen? How can anyone’s sensibilities determine that describing a country as colonial is disgusting and offensive, and yet someone justifying murder is just a bit “meh!

Anna Lo. She has views. It's a disgrase!
It is a vulgar and crass political game which the DUP and UUP have been playing for decades. It would be easier if either, or both, just used the campaign strapline, “Say No to Lo, say “meh” to murder”.

The PUP have also tried to play the game but haven’t the wit nor experience to play it well. Very cleverly, DUP and UUP have sat back and allowed PUP to get the hard line all wound up over flags, OTRs, parading, and let the continued UVF affiliation and Hutchinson comments slide so as not to “offend” those hard liners.

You can then be sure that when the time is right, both the DUP and UUP will come out swinging and exasperating that a PUP vote will weaken the Unionist vote overall. And with the PUP doing all the donkey work and getting their hands (and reputations) dirty to put fire in the belly of those that can’t see past the end of their flag pole, the hard liners will vote as they have always done for fear that there might not be anyone to shout about their flags.

Together with the ridiculous assertions on Anna Lo and the Alliance intention to unify Ireland, they will also effort to swing back the moderate Unionist to voting DUP/UUP having not had to spout a single word on extremism, while the PUP have no chance of getting the moderate because of their blind embracement of extremism.

Game over, and the death of the PUP.

But how did Anna Lo become such a threat to the Loyalist parties? The irony is the UUP, DUP, and PUP created the threat themselves.

As you all are no doubt familiar, Anna Lo made some comments about flags and murals some time ago which provoked the most ludicrous reaction from the loyalist parties. But the condemnation then transformed in to a much uglier beast. The racist abuse that Anna Lo received was horrific! And not one loyalist politician (that I am aware of) could bring themselves to condemn it unreservedly without getting the wee sly dig in about her thoughts on murals and flags.

Deplorable!

The outpouring of support for Anna from the majority of people in Northern Ireland was incredible, and rightly so! And at that point it became all too evident that the failure of DUP/UUP/PUP to respond to the racial abuse with any kind of dignity was losing them the moderate.

And now, despite Anna getting continued abuse online and off from loyalists for her mural and flag comments, our political leaders in the loyalist world still continue to portray her as the single biggest threat to the Union to claw back the moderates they failed to retain.

And that my friends is why the DUP and UUP have taken a deplorable tact to avoid addressing the Hutchinson comments on the murder of innocent Catholics. I am running out of negative superlatives in these past days to describe these poor excuses for leaders.

So remember boys and girls, a vote for DUP/UUP/PUP is a vote for racism, flags, and ignorance of murder to keep the Union intact and keep the flag flying all year around. Your health, education, social well-being, etc, they might get round to at some point.

I have been asked opinion on some other things; murals, parades, dealing with the past, looking to the future, and a host of other things. I am not sure that my opinion or thoughts would be any more interesting or relevant than the next persons. But the engagement from people empathising and relating to what I have written so far has been humbling.

So I will, over the course of the coming days and weeks, share some of those opinions and look forward to engaging some more on the real issue that affect every single one of us.

#TimeForChange

USED WITH VERY KIND PERMISSION AND ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED HERE

1 comments
GUEST BLOG 


Billy Hutchinson, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, declared himself the saviour of Northern Ireland and the Union, as detailed in an interview published by the Belfast News Letter yesterday.

Belfast News Letter 19 March 2014

The murders mentioned happened in 1974; crimes to which Hutchinson pleaded guilty at that time.
In the News Letter interview, Hutchinson stated quite clearly he wouldn’t try to justify what he did or didn’t do. Well, aside from suggesting that the two Catholics murdered were perhaps IRA members based on “intelligence” prior to venturing on to the Falls Road that evening, he didn’t try to justify it. Ok, aside from that, he did also mention that the IRA had left him with no option to do what he done. But apart from those couple of points he didn’t try to justify what he done.

Actually, declaring that his part in those murders helped solidify and strengthen the Union will no doubt provide a justification for his deeds among few Loyalists, those Loyalists that perhaps regard Michael Stone, Lenny Murphy, Johnny Adair et al as, “Loyalist Heroes”.

That is maybe a bit unfair. Many people that I have engaged with on this, of sane and rational mind, did feel that Hutchinson was simply being honest and that such honesty should have been welcomed. And I respect that viewpoint. But was he really being honest?

Here is the brutal fact of the matter. The only thing that Billy Hutchinson done when he played his part in murdering two Catholics was push more young Catholic men and women towards the IRA in their call to fight against the Union, the threat of Loyalist terror, and the “British occupation”. And by the same token, with every atrocity the IRA committed, more young Protestants were driven to take up arms to protect their own communities and defend the Union.

That is the reality, the honesty. Both “sides” were instrumental in indirectly causing the deaths of people on their own side as well as directly causing them on the opposite side. All those that took up arms illegally in the “conflict” have the blood of their own people on their hands as well as those they killed or maimed … fact!

Billy Hutchinson no more prevented the unification of Ireland than my ordering a Burger King was instrumental in saving the Irish fast food industry from the horse meat scandal. It is a preposterous and deluded notion, self-serving, arrogant, and completely callous.

The article itself is worth reading if only for the fact it is so hard to believe that a leader of any Northern Ireland political party would make such brash statements. It’s all true though.

It was said by some that perhaps the News Letter had taken his statements out of context. But a YouTube video of a Mr. Hutchinson interview also surfaced yesterday. Unfortunately it appears that the words conveyed in the article were an accurate reflection of Mr. Hutchinson’s belief in his role in two murders based on the video evidence.

There comes a time when you simply can’t justify the unjustifiable or defend the indefensible. Indeed, at the time of typing this, there has been no official word from Billy Hutchinson or the PUP on the newspaper article in question (I do stress official).

Well, when I say you can’t defend such a thing, certain PUP party members (unofficially) made a hell of a stab at it via Twitter (of all places), applauding the honesty of their leader, some suggesting they were privy to what was actually said, and the usual “whataboutery” that has become a strapline for political debate in Northern Ireland.

All, of course, complete pish.

The News Letter article was really the icing on the cake for a party that many years ago showed so much promise under the late David Ervine but in recent weeks has sadly shown glaring chinks in its inclusive, for the people, armour.

Gareth Cole (PUP Carrickfergus) is everything that David Ervine would have deplored in a human being, much less a Northern Ireland politician. His Twitter feed is nothing short of sectarian bile. There is no effort on his part to disguise his personal distaste of all things Republican and Nationalist. Which, for a party that talks about progress (hell, it’s even in the name) is a crying shame.

He actually said recently, “Why would I do anything for Republicans?”

This is hardly the voice of someone working for all the people. Indeed he has taken great pride in demonstrating on Twitter and Facebook on a number of occasions that Catholics are indeed not welcome in Carrickfergus before and during his time as a PUP candidate. And he makes no apology for it. In fact, when presented with his past expressions of hatred towards Catholic communities a PUP colleague suggested that the comments were, “three years old”, and in that time Gareth had, “changed”.

Obviously Gareth has not changed that much in 3 years …

His glaring ineptitude and appetite for riling communities against all things Nationalist and Irish was exploited over the St Patrick’s Day weekend when he was deliberately duped on no less than four occasions. The duping involved the sharing of pictures that were, allegedly, of St Patrick’s Day parades that took place in Belfast last Sunday and New York on Monday past featuring derogatory and sectarian sentiment. The pics were actually taken some years previous and had nothing to do with the parades of that day. Gareth had also forgotten about the time difference between us and our neighbours over 3,000 miles away on Monday having produced glorious photographic reports of an event that hadn’t even started!

Why would any “progressive” party have such a person associated with them? Much less put them forward as a candidate? Unless of course you were trying to attract a certain kind of vote? Taking all of his prejudice out of the equation, what kind of person would actually want to be represented by someone that almost daily demonstrates extreme incompetence and seems to feel that the only priority he has is to get as many flags and banners up around Carrickfergus as possible while making sly sectarian comments?

In the wake of an arrest of a 75 year old man with regards to the UVF murder of 15 people at McGurks Bar in Belfast in 1971, many PUP members were appalled that someone had been arrested while IRA suspects were free on as part of the On The Run scheme. Didn’t matter that the man may have been instrumental in killing 15 people, it was PUP feeling that an “all or nothing” should apply to all terrorist related investigations and arrests until the OTR issue was resolved.

I kid you not! Take in those words; “all or nothing”. Because of the OTR’s (which everyone except the PUP seems to understand the concept) they are suggesting that judicial process for all terrorist related crimes should halt until all OTR’s are arrested for crimes which …… well if they understood what the OTR scheme was they would likely appreciate how ridiculous the “all or nothing” statement is.

But I did give the benefit of the doubt and decided to address offline my concerns with one PUP member that has also declared an “all or nothing” approach to justice. Not a single solitary question I asked was answered directly. Instead everything I asked was responded to with a question.

As a voter and someone that very openly voiced approval and defended the PUP I found the tact from a party member highly offensive. Maybe I am too moderate for PUP to take the time with to be honest and frank …

Politically and publically, PUP (and others) describe OTR and handling of Republican/Nationalist crime as a “two-tiered judicial system” as opposed to the “all or nothing” reserved for social media. Two-tiered does have a nicer ring to it I will give them that.

Incidentally, not one PUP person was appalled (apparently) by the arrest of Ivor Bell in relation to the murder of Jean McConville on Tuesday, despite all OTR’s being free still from arrest or prosecution. There is a phrase for that way of thinking …. now what is it? Double standards? Politically biased? Prejudiced? Two tie.…. ah forget it!

An additional concern for me is the type of supporter that PUP seems to have gathered over the past weeks and months.

Like most of you, I am always horrified to see messages on social media from individuals spouting vile sectarian and racist comments. A closer look at a lot of those accounts, many have in their “Bio” or “About Me” that they support the PUP. On closer examination of the “followed by” or “friends” of said offensive accounts, PUP members and candidates seem to be on those lists!

I personally have nothing to do with Facebook because of the spew that began to fill my page and unfriending was becoming a tedious task, especially for a platform I barely used anyway. Twitter though I do follow all that have engaged with me. I do not discriminate against ignorance and stupidity. But what I will do is challenge someone directly that chooses to fill my timeline with sick, uneducated, bile.

PUP members seem to abstain from such direct challenges towards Loyalists that are being sectarian or racially abusive. Well, there was this one time, when I called out a user, proclaiming he was a “proud Loyalist and PUP supporter”, who had been giving Linda Ervine abuse about her promotion of the Irish language. Two PUP members that were following the same individual quickly unfollowed him, two still follow him today. Point being, why did they not also call him out on his abhorrent behaviour?

By contrast, if you are promoting Republican/Nationalist sectarianism then watch those PUP tweets and retweets fly! Double standards? Politically biased? Prejudiced? Two tie.….  let’s not go there again …
I suppose the early sign that the PUP was starting to weaken was back in November 2012 when they changed their position on the flags issue. To quote Billy Hutchinson on the change of tact:

“The reason I want to change it is because of the behaviour of republican/nationalist representatives. It seems to me that they are not interested in the Good Friday Agreement, but what they are trying to do is remove all our Britishness. While they continue to try and remove our Britishness be it through parades or flags then we as a party will take a totally different position than we have in the past”.

Never once in my life have I ever felt that a flag, or lack thereof, has defined how British I am! The very statement undermines everything that it is to be British. The below is a word or two from a chap called Toby, just an ordinary guy, and what he feels it is to be British:
Being British is about loving this country, remembering the past and honouring the people who fought from the battlefields of France, to the deserts of North Africa, into the sands of Arabia and jungles of Asia, but also look to future, learn from history and build upon past mistakes, be proud to be British as we are a happy race of man, these islands a testament of Natures Beauty, we have inhabited these islands for Thousands of Years, we built a culture and identity that is uniquely British, we built an Empire stood defiantly against the evils of Hitler Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Today I think the only way to describe Britain is from a Poem by Alfred Tennyson;
“Though we are not that strength which on old days moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are, one equal temper of Heroic hearts made weak by time but not in will, to strive to seek, but not to yield”
Remember We Are, We Can & We Will, go forward like a breath exhaled from the Earth….
I have travelled and lived in many countries all over the world for the past 13 years or so. I never in my whole time felt any less British because of the lack of a Union flag. And by the same token I have never felt marginalised or threatened by the flag of another country, anywhere! A flag will never define me or my British culture and it is abhorrent to suggest otherwise. My Britishness will be defined by my conduct, my nature, my pride, my tolerance, my empathy, my kindness, my charity, my acceptance, and my passion. Not even the loudest voice or biggest bully can take my Britishness away, much less the removal of any flag.

But, again, let’s be honest. Today’s flag protests are not about culture and Britishness. It’s a vote winner prompted by community leaders used to rile up the “less moderate” in to a frenzy. It is pathetic and cowardly that leaders of Unionist communities try to assert the flag issue as the denigration of British identity and the natural progression towards a united Ireland.

The flag issue is also being used, sadly somewhat effectively, as a platform for Unionist politicians to avoid dealing with real issues. And this riles me no end!

If you had a choice between, a) the Union flag flying above City Hall every day, or, b) improved housing, better education, more jobs, higher standard of healthcare, stronger policing, healthier economy, more social outlets, and everything that comes with effective politics, what would you choose?

Do not let your politicians hide behind flag and parade issues! Option b) is the sum of what makes Britain great! The right to have all that via democratic process is a right given over to us by brave men and women, both British and Irish, whom fought and died for our right to democracy and a better way of life.
The erosion of our culture and our identity is not through the removal of any flag. It is through the unwillingness or inability of leadership to deliver on what we as British citizens have a right to have.

Another thing that annoyed me in the News Letter article that Billy Hutchinson said was that working class Protestants were being treated like, “poor white trash”. This was clearly a play on a David Ervine quote where he (David) said, “sometimes it feels like I am representing poor white trash, always shouting about what them over there get and we get nothing”.

Surely it is up to the Unionist politicians to turn the tide, no? Or maybe it is up to the working class electorate to vote in those that will fight for their rights to everything “themmuns” are getting? Pretty sure that was what David meant; get off your arse and do something about it instead of whinging because no one is handing it to you!

Say what you want about Sinn Fein (and I know some of you will), but when I look at the Falls Road today and compare it to that of 20 years ago I am blown away by the rejuvenation on display!

I would love to see the same on the Shankill Road and other loyalist working class communities. I am just not sure which party will step away from flag protests long enough to deliver an equally resplendent deal for us.

I am not ignorant of why Northern Ireland is British. Much blood has been spilt over decades and centuries of conflict to establish the borders as they are today. I am fully aware of what the Union flag symbolises to some that I share this country with. I fully understand also why parades can be found objectionable by some from either side of the divide. I fully respect the desire of others to identify themselves as Irish. I embrace the fact that despite my British background I have roots and heritage in Ireland, much in the same way as the Welsh and Scottish identify themselves. I have Roman Catholic friends, close friends, and we share a mutual respect for each other’s beliefs.

I am fearless in understanding and appreciating the realities and history Northern Ireland is steeped in. I will never succumb to blind hatred for someone because of their religion or nationality. Another facet of being British I guess …

David Ervine was never one to shy away from the person he was in the past. He always made clear his intention to bring terrorists to the negotiating table and the reasons why this was essential to moving away from conflict. He never denied that he was without remorse for the Republican terrorists that had died at the hands of Loyalists terror groups, but never once glorified or justified the deaths of any “civilians”. He was never afraid to voice his support for the Good Friday Agreement. He understood why parity of esteem and inclusion for all was vital to peace in Northern Ireland. He never spoke like a politician, avoided double speak, always open, frank, intelligent, and honest in any conversation he had about his party and his policies. He never wavered from his beliefs and ideals in an effort to chase votes. He was a man of integrity and a true leader in the Unionist community.

His death remains the greatest loss to Northern Ireland politics today. David Ervine was the reason why I advocated the PUP to anyone, both Catholic and Protestant (and those undecided in their beliefs).

Yesterday proved that the PUP as I knew it died with David Ervine. But let’s face it, had I not been so blinkered I would have seen that the spirit of Ervine’s PUP had died some time ago.


And that is why I can no longer support the party. While inept candidates are put forward, a continued regression back to “whataboutery” and divisive thinking, and by making real issues secondary to a flag on City Hall, and a reluctance to break ties with the UVF, there is nothing the PUP can offer me or my community.

But please do not misunderstand me for a moment. There are some truly bright lights in the PUP who have lots to offer. And I for one will continue to have no issue promoting anything or anyone that can give a positive contribution to Loyalist communities, irrespective of their party or background. Pity politicians cannot take the same view instead of scuppering great initiatives from other parties to win brownie points.
Will the PUP leadership allow those bright lights to pursue productive engagements to make a difference? Or will flags and parades continue to be the priority across the party? Certainly it seems most will unwaveringly toe the party line. But the danger in that is that as the party policy continues to move away from progressive politics there will be casualties within the party. Members will have to make choices as to stay the course or jump ship for their sake of their own political aspirations. And if members begin to leave for pastures new, the party itself will fall in to disarray.

Aside from losing my vote, the PUP has made it clear by its actions and conduct that it no longer seeks the moderate vote. Or at least the moderates are highly unlikely to support PUP in future.

So now we have DUP, UUP, and PUP all chasing the same vote. What the PUP has effectively done is split the vote thus weakening the DUP and UUP in the process. It is nothing more than an over confidence that PUP will win anywhere it stands in. But by God they are going to make it tough for the big two. Or, if like me, PUP was my alternate to the DUP and UUP, has Billy Hutchinson and company allowed votes to slip away from all three Unionist parties?

Was it a smart strategy to destabilise the big two? Or an ill educate move that will see support for the Unionist parties dwindle? I guess May 2014 will tell the tale ….

USED WITH VERY KIND PERMISSION AND ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED HERE
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