Priapism

Feb. 13th, 2017 08:24 pm
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
I've avoided discussing the RHI scandal on here as it's just such a depressing microcosm of what a waste the Northern Ireland Assembly really is. Equally I resisted the temptation to gloat about the political retirement of the utterly detestable Martin McGuinne$$ as we always knew he would be replaced by an equally faceless collaborator who would continue on the same devolutionist-unionist path and sure enough along came Michelle O'Neill who was also up to her neck in the same scandal. Plus ça change!

But with all that having been said, the scandal has brought yet another Assembly election on our heads and the circus rolls on as ever. Well, for most of it does as the way things are looking just now I appear to have been disenfranchised for this particular one. Yet again I will find myself in Scotland on the day of the election and on that basis I requested a postal vote but the other day a normal polling card arrived at my house and, as I'll be off in my spiritual home at the time, it appears that I'm to be denied the chance to vote for a losing candidate. Quel Dommage!

I may get up in arms at the drop of a hat but on this occasion I really don't care if I don't get to vote. Since the Tories took over in England it has been clear that the Northern Ireland Assembly, already a pretty weak institution, has been relegated to the role of talking shop. Certainly, the speed with which the hated welfare reform was forced through by the Secretary of State indicates that any important decisions will always emanate from Westminster and Stormont will just have to grin and bear them (ditto Holyrood and whatever the hell the Welsh chatter-house is called, by the way). Effectively the Assembly has been left somewhere between a glorified council (I shit you not, one of its major decision was changing the layout of bus stops in Belfast city centre) and a bribe to the elites as a way for them to keep their useful idiots in line. It's jobs for the boys up there, be it MLAs or their truly pointless Special Advisers so it will continue even though it has no real function any more in a fine example of sod you Jack, I'm all right. Sacrebleu!

If by some miracle they do decide to give me my postal vote I am faced with a very limited selection of candidates from which to choose, although of that mob I would most likely go for People before Profit. Even if they won a plurality in the Assembly (not going to happen) they would still be able to do sod all but they at least talk the talk about austerity and a few more of them on the hill would be preferable to yet more Sinn Fein and DUP apparatchiks (or indeed UUP, SDLP or Alliance ones for that matter). They haven't a hope of getting a seat in "leafy South Belfast" of course (a cliché that always ignores the pile of loyalist estates we have in this constituency too) but if I get the opportunity they can have my vote anyway. Nice to see that the previously mentioned John Hiddleston is back yet again for another election. Pleased to see my exposé had such a great influence! Mind you in these days of the Azov Brigade, Brexit, Donald Trump and (let's hope not) Marine Le Pen I suppose having a past in the National Front might even help him get elected. Zut alors!

But whatever happens no doubt the same old crap will continue. O'Neill will find a way to work with Arlene Foster or possibly a replacement and the gravy train will rumble on, achieving nothing apart from feathering the nests of those involved. Meanwhile the republicans and loyalists on the ground will continue to suffer but will be content that "our ones" are in charge, despite all the major decisions being dictated by our Der Führer Theresa May (and hi Teesie, seeing as the Investigatory Powers Act means you're reading this now). Brûle en l’enfer!
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
Normally by now tournament fever would have me in a grip stronger than the thighs of Elizabeth Seitz but so far I've struggled to really immerse myself in Euro 2016. Perhaps it's the relative lack of excitement in many of the matches, a general ennui with the whole build-up, the nagging fears of the fascist nightmare that will be visited upon us when the turkeys of England vote for Christmas for all of us on the 23rd, the undeniable fact that a 24 team tournament is far too big and at least a third of the qualifiers just scream "making up the numbers", who knows? Still, Euro 2016 is here with its high-kicking and low-scoring on the pitch and its war by proxy being waged by boneheads off it.

Being a man who long since disavowed patriotism I have no particular team to root for and that hasn't helped. Before the whole thing started I declared, in a fit of contrariness so typical of me, for Iceland but my heart was never in it and, whilst it would be a delight to see the smallest country ruffle a few feathers, life will go on if they lose all three matches. I did derive a surprising amount of pleasure from Italy's victory over Belgium last night but I suspect it was an isolated incident rather than my rebirth as a great Italian.

As to what we've seen so far, little has really grabbed my interest. I even turned over halfway through the England-Russia match the other night and buggered off shopping rather than stick with the Republic of Ireland's dreary outing against Sweden. Still, I've never been an Ireland fan and the fact that they're now led by an axis of evil every bit as contemptible as Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane seals the deal. Meanwhile the occupied territory represented the real recrement of the tournament, serving up some of the dullest, stalest, olid Pulisball since that awful Romanian team that annoyed me so much that time. Boy was I glad to see them lose and I will be even more glad when they exit the tournament. And yet this happened. Well, it would have been rude to say "no".

I remain hopeful that the malaise will lift. Maybe my eye will be caught by some heavenly Hungarians, maybe the goals will flow as a rampant France put a dowdy Albania to the sword, maybe when the wheat is finally separated from the chaff in the second round things will hit top gear, maybe Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will spontaneously combust as Asmodeus rises from Gehenna to reclaim the debased souls long since promised to him. Either way - must do better, Euro 2016.
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
In the latest revelation to cast further light on just how dirty the so-called Troubles really were it now seems that the British security forces were forewarned about the 1993 Shankill bombing by a prominent Provo tout but decided to do sod all about it. Another one for the list then, although a rare example of an incident where the victims were those declaring their loyalty to the crown, a loyalty that once again is demonstrated to be one way.

With the proliferation of informers at the top level of the paramilitaries (seriously, there was a time in the 1980s when the heads of the UVF, UFF and IRA were all in the pockets of the security forces) and the realisation that so much of what went on was known in advance to the powers that be it becomes increasingly clear that, far from being the great war of liberation/defence that it was sold to young republicans and loyalists as, it was yet another example of the good old divide-and-rule tactic that has been the British Empire's stock in trade for centuries. How many hundreds, thousands even, died with the foreknowledge of a state that made no attempt whatsoever to save those lives? The Stevens Inquiries may have revealed a fraction of the collusion that went on between the UDA and the British but it was the tip of the iceberg, and a process hamstrung from the start by being instigated by the same British state that was involved in the dodgy deals. Like the supposed investigations into Westminster paedophile rings, can we really expect the establishment to condemn itself? Really the more you hear about the Troubles the gloomier it becomes - all that bloodshed for what? So as a tout can get big money for himself and his cronies by sitting in government, toasting his queen and doing the bidding of the people that have been paying him for decades.

A dirty war, dirtier than we could ever imagine, with communities on both sides put to the rack for the supposed forces of order to pursue their own twisted agenda. It's no wonder that any deal on "legacy" has been consistently tossed out as every man-jack of them is up to their necks in filth with their hands soaked in blood. Meanwhile Sinn Fein will continue to use the names of Bobby Sands and the others during their forthcoming election campaign to the collaborationist institution up at Stormont and the useful idiots will tramp out and put them back in to continue cosying up to the same state that oversaw the butchering their relatives. By fuck, this place is disgusting.
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
I cock an eye to the Morning Star every now and then, even though it's hardly perfect. On English issues it's generally on the money with its analysis and it does fairly well with the international scene but when it comes to the Celtic fringe it's usually wanting. The soft unionist stance they took with regards to Scottish independence (the logic seemingly being "why should the Jocks get to escape the Tories when we don't?") seemed at odds with the rest of their rhetoric whilst when it comes to this dump they same to slavishly trot out the Sinn Fein line, regardless of how much that party seems to lurch to the right. Heck, were The Hibernian still around it would probably be available in every SF "advice centre" these days.

Seven months ago Martin McGuinness appeared in the pages of the aforementioned paper to announce that he wouldn't abandon the vulnerable. Yesterday he did just that, bowing down to Theresa Villiers and accepting the deep and invasive cuts that the Tory government government has already rent on Britain. At a time when poverty and unemployment are on the rise, McGuinness happily signs off on deep cuts to welfare and tax credits, plunging more and more people into deeper and deeper poverty. Still, it'll have no impact on him and his coterie of stooges, whose big money from the Stormont gravy train is now protected for another few years. With the local health service at breaking point and crisis being declared on a weekly basis he happily signs off on big NHS cuts and public sectors redundancies. None of which will apply to the nepotism factory that is Stormont, where money will continue to be blown on "special advisers", whose only expertise appears to be possessing the same DNA as Assembly members. Meanwhile the so-called republican has also signed off on increased spending on police activity against dissidents who, as Martin claims, are a disgrace to the ideology and should be joining him by showing their republicanism through praising the British queen, upholding and celebrating the British soldiers who butchered our people and participating in an arm of the British government and delivering the demands of the Conservatives.

Don't get me wrong, all five parties are as culpable for this but Sinn Fein's crime is the greatest. The Unionist duo make no bones about being right-wing, the Alliance are the local arm of the cuts-happy Liberal Democrats and the SDLP have been trotting out the "business before people" line for so long that their name is a complete joke but Sinn Fein, when it suits them, still claim to be of the Left and indeed down south are campaigning for election on the very basis that they are democratic socialist. Yet in the North they have once again crapped on the very working classes that elected them in the first place and have delivered them to further and deeper crushing poverty just so as they could protect their own interests. Hell this current "fresh start" is actually a much worse deal than the already egregious Stormont House Agreement that McGuinness rejected recently. How this cretin has lasted so long is beyond reason.

Let's face it, the Assembly has been an unmitigated disaster from start to finish, a bloated, toothless talking shop in which a bunch of completely powerless children can spend hours squabbling over flowers and street names but who, when it comes to the crunch, defer to their masters in Westminster at all times. That I personally voted no to the Good Friday Agreement is cold comfort because all of us are now reaping the thorns of that particular surrender. Resistance is the only option, although it has been made all the harder by the headlong rush that McGuinness and that great Pontius Pilate Gerry Adams made to disarm and castrate the IRA, leaving behind only a poorly armed and informer-riddled dissident rump.

In his classic 1978 psychological study of National Front members Fascists (excellent book, horrendously unimaginative title) Michael Billig demonstrates the tendency of one of the NF members he interviewed to what he describes as "meaning-shift". The man in question talks consistently about his support for voluntarily repatriation but when asked to describe what he means unequivocally endorses compulsory repatriation and yet refuses to alter his language, despite clearly stating that participation in the scheme would be mandatory. The phenomenon of meaning-shift has become an increasing part of the mainstream in recent years, where we have "volunteers" who are forced to work for nothing under threat of the withdrawal of social security or we’re told how we're all in austerity together where "all" actually means just those with very little money to begin with. So let it be the same here now as a bleak future looms for us all, apart from the folks on the hill who have pulled up the drawbridge and ensured that, like their Westminster masters, when they say "we're all in this together", they mean all apart from them and the big companies they have chosen to favour. Dark times all round and Irish republicanism as an ideology is on life support right now. I await the rank hypocrisy of the Easter Rising commemorations next year not so much with bated breath but with an air of morose resignation.

And of course there's one other major reason why McGuinness has been so prepared to sell out his supposed principles for thirty pieces of silver and why right-thinking people should detest the slimy bastard with every fibre of their being, but were I to get into that this load of old toot would most likely be closed down and my sorry arse hauled off to Maghaberry. Frankly I Should Hope Every Reader Maybe Already kNows.
keresaspa: (Jimmy Edwards)
When the history of the Troubles is written some days get more attention than others and, perhaps inevitably, some that were notorious at the time become forgotten in retrospect. Thursday 2 October 1975, forty years ago today, is one of those days, now largely forgotten in the wider consciousness despite the destruction and mayhem unleashed. In Northern Ireland: A Political Directory, W.D. Flackes and Sydney Elliott cover it in one sentence - "In a series of UVF attacks twelve people killed, including three women and four UVF men, and forty-six injured". As descriptions go its inadequacy is as undeniable as its accuracy.

In what to that point had been an unprecedented move by the group, the UVF went on an orgy of bloodshed, the death toll of which could easily have been much higher. In an attack carried out by Lenny Murphy and other members of the Shankill Butchers, a raid was carried out on Casey's bottling plant in the Millfield area at the bottom of the Falls Road. Four employees were shot and killed in the attack, sisters Frances Donnelly (35) and Marie McGrattan (47) and Gerard Grogan (18) dying that day, with a fourth, Thomas Osborne (18), dying of his wounds three weeks later. The group had entered the premises by pretending to have an order to be filled before launching the attack, Murphy personally shooting all except Donnelly who was killed by his accomplice William Green.

Ronald Winters (26), a Protestant who managed the London Bar in east Belfast (an occasional haunt of UVF members) was killed whilst visiting his parents' house close to the bar. Winters' killing remained unsolved and no motive was ever advanced, with those who knew him claiming he had no paramilitary involvement. Thomas Murphy, a 29 year old Catholic photographer, was the next UVF victim that day, was killed when two gunmen entered his premises on Carlisle Circus (close to both the loyalist Shankill and republican New Lodge areas) and shot him in the chest, before planting a bomb in his shop. The resulting explosion saw a female passer-by lose her leg. The next target was the Catholic-owned McKenna's bar in Aldergrove, County Antrim, where shots were fired and a bomb thrown from a car. John Stewart, a 35 year old Catholic merchant seaman, was killed and several others injured. In Killyleagh, County Down a no-warning bomb was exploded outside another Catholic-owned bar, the Anchor Inn. Irene Nicholson, a 37 year old Protestant woman, was killed as she was passing by in an attack that the perpetrators later claimed was supposed to be "a small one to scare them".

The final deaths of the day were to be four UVF members, Fred Aubrey Reid and Samuel Swanson, both 28, and Andrew Freeman and Mark Dodd, both 17, who were killed close to Coleraine when a bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely. Three loaded guns were also found in the wreckage of their car. Reid, from Belfast, was later named in court as having been involved in the murder of Brendan Doherty, a Catholic shot and killed in Derry in February 1974, with Reid named as the driver in the attack.

That there weren't more deaths was a near miracle however. Pubs in Leeson Street, Belfast, Ardmore, County Derry and Annaghmore, County Armagh were targeted in bomb attacks, along with a seamen's hostel in Sailortown and a sweet shop on the Antrim Road, both in Belfast. In all the UVF detonated thirteen bombs in that single day.

Returning to Flackes and Elliott the following day is summed up even more succinctly with the words "UVF declared illegal". Yes, all of this had been carried out by an organisation that was completely legal. In a move supposedly aimed at turning it towards politics, Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees had unbanned the UVF in May 1974 (the same day Sinn Fein were unbanned, a move never extended to the IRA). In between, this legal organisation had killed 33 civilians in Dublin and Monaghan thanks to a series of car-bombings, launched the notorious murders of the Miami Showband, killed dozens of Catholics in random gun and bomb attacks and even turned their guns on members of both the RUC and the UDA, all whilst recognised by the British government as being fully in compliance with the law. Indeed the ban was only brought in after the UVF leaders held a meeting with senior NIO officials, at which they were again asked to slow down on the killings. No chance of that – the Shankill Butchers would unleash the brutal killings that made their names soon afterwards.

Despite the bloodshed, 2nd October 1975 has been relegated to the status of a mere footnote in the history of Northern Ireland, rarely recalled at all, let alone discussed in any depth. But forty years on it's worth remembering just what a nightmare scenario the Troubles really were when 11 innocent people losing their lives could be seen as just another day. That those days are gone is a good thing but the people whose lives were stolen should not be forgotten. With the still extant UVF increasingly seeking to exploit its own supposed anniversaries by emphasising the Edward Carson incarnation (a completely different, albeit equally sectarian, organisation that just happened to have the same name, but that's for another day) as an attempt to minimise what it did in the Troubles it also serves us well to remember of what they were capable.
keresaspa: (Evil Timbo)
And so it begins as, once again, Sinn Fein got off the mark to fire the first shots of yet another election campaign (well, in my own sordid little burgh at least, happen the rest of you have been getting it for weeks). And what do you know, it's only bloody Millionaire Marty they've chosen as our candidate. Yet again the Sinners decide that we in south Belfast can't be trusted to think for ourselves and so parachute in somebody from their west Belfast base of operations, although they also seem to have come to the conclusion that wee Maskey is a bit too rough for us dazzling cosmopolites and so have ditched him in favour of the transatlantic, jet-setting, media mogul with the big nose. Deirdre Hargey may be a faceless apparatchik of the type that makes up the bulk of the party these days but at least she's from the Market so why she couldn't have contested what is an unwinnable seat for them anyway is a mystery to all bar the Falls Road mafia who run that party. OK, she's to be something on the new council but in the highly unlikely event that SF won South Belfast abstentionism would mean doing the two jobs would be easy anyway. Unless, of course, they're building up to dropping that policy, which wouldn't surprise me a jot after the last few years of public Liz-licking in which they have indulged.

But Millionaire Marty it is and once again Sinn Fein show their commitment to working class politics but saddling us with a candidate who is anything but. But in Northern Ireland that's increasingly the way they're going these days. They may make a song and dance over the border about supposedly being a democratic socialist party but that's certainly not the case here where they now promote a pro-capitalist, anti-welfare agenda combined with a fairly conservative set of social attitudes (well, in a wider context as admittedly they're ultra-liberal by the standards of the SDLP and the two unionist mobs). MM is typical of what they're about these days, a slick, sharp-suited tosspot with plenty of money in the bank who looks to the USA for his inspiration and sees the grassroots of republicanism as a bunch of nodding dogs who exist only to rubberstamp him and his ilk every election (not far wrong there, to be honest). He's already been exposed as a liar who tried to justify Sinn Fein's support for Tory cuts and the bedroom tax by pretending it had trade unionist support but what the hell eh? You could stick Michael Stone in a Sinn Fein rosette and there are plenty who would vote for him these days so lying about enshrining poverty into law is hardly going to cost him anything.

I wouldn't ever claim that there aren't decent individuals active within Sinn Fein but unfortunately in Northern Ireland it is very much under the thumb of the party's right-wing, as typified by the likes MM, Mitchel McLaughlin, John O'Dowd and of course McGuinne$$ himself. Even their recent decision to repudiate the massive cuts they agreed to seems to be motivated solely by self-interest as they must have realised it would cost them some votes as surely not EVERY republican voter can be a total idiot. It'll probably work too, even though after the election they will most likely sign up to pretty much the same thing but as George W. Bush so rightly said "there's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again".

Still, if, as I suspect, they're hoping that by leaving it this late they can delay any renegotiation until after the election in the hope that the Tories will be gone then they're playing a very dangerous game. I wouldn't like to call this election for various reasons but if they've judged wrongly and the Tories get back in they can expect them to seek revenge in any future negotiations and demand even more stringent cuts. These last five years of Tory rule have been absolutely horrible, with people's lives shattered in the name of repulsive ideological monetarism and that's with the supposed break being put on their vile excesses by the Liberal Democrats. To see an even more extreme version of that brought to Northern Ireland to teach us a lesson doesn't bear thinking about but it might well prove the outcome of SF's half-arsed attempt at politicking. Were that to be the case, and bearing in mind that Northern Ireland has far too few MPs to make even the remotest difference to anything a Westminster government does, open armed rebellion would be the only answer but of course Sinn Fein has spent the last decade or so making that impossible by surrendering their arms to the enemy and helping to turn the Provies into an unarmed bunch of old alcoholics who either drive black taxis or are on the DLA (which they soon won't be thanks to David Cameron's war on the weak and the vulnerable). And don't even bother thinking about the so-called "New IRA" as it's a real chocolate fire-guard thanks to its archaic structure and the fact that it has so many grasses that their gatherings end up looking like the pitch at the Hawthorns. Things could be set to get a lot bleaker in the not to distant future barring a minor miracle.

But to return to my original point, Sinn Fein posters have gone up on my road, the candidate is multi-millionaire with no links to the constituency and he has about as much chance of getting my vote as he has of winning Miss World. Having looked at the provisional list of candidates on the always reliable Wikipedia I suspect my vote will go in the direction of the hitherto unknown (to Me) Lily Kerr of the Sticks and I can keep up my record of always backing the losing candidate. Given that the unionist pact didn't extend to us McDonnell will probably hold the seat and we will retain an MP whose absence from Westminster can be put down to the fact that he's too busy making money elsewhere rather than any ideological reasons. Ye Gods, what a shower of bastards.
keresaspa: (Cassidy says...)
I was probably about six years of age when I decided that I might start supporting Glasgow Celtic. As decisions went it was hardly the most radical one I ever made. In Northern Ireland the general rule is if you're a Taig you support Celtic, if you're a Prod you support Rangers. Both sides have their naysayers - be they those not interested in football, those not interested in Scottish football or those hardy few that support another Scottish club - and on both sides you get the very odd wind-up merchant who decides to support the opposite team as a piss-take (possibly the most notorious example being Glen Branagh, a member of the UDA's youth wing the UYM who died in rioting and was buried in a Celtic top). Nonetheless it tends to be what you would expect and so I fell into line as a youth, declaring myself a Celtic die-hard.

Down the years my fire began to dampen as I prioritised West Bromwich Albion, began equally looking for the results of Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish league, found myself rather seduced by Hearts after attending their match to the point that I wouldn't call myself a Celtic supporter at all. Still, I did have a good few years in which I would and yet in that time I never once visited the ground for a match (or indeed, any reason). Of course I saw a version of Celtic play Cliftonville two summers back but an actual visit to Parkhead? No.

Well strike a light as, despite no longer considering myself a supporter, it seems I'm going to go there after all. Later this month I'll be taking a post-birthday break in Edinburgh and it was my intention to take in a match whilst there. Alas and alack for the Hearts and Hibernian are both playing away that week, meaning a non-league tie between Edinburgh University and Hawick Royal Albert was to be my lot. "So be it" I thought, albeit considering it a tad tuppence-ha'penny until I chanced upon the website of Celtic, the opponents of Hearts on the Wednesday night. Given the disillusionment amongst Celtic support these days and the fact that it's only the League Cup tickets galore were to be had and so I decided to snap one up.

And there you have it. After years of being down in the mouth about never getting to go to Celtic I am to finally end up there long after I stopped caring. Still, I always like to get a match in when I'm away and that will be as good as any and I had intended to visit Glasgow for a day anyway. So, good show overall and a rare example of getting what one wants long after one has stopped wanting it. It's a funny old game, innit?
keresaspa: (Salvador Allende)
Given how the mass media has lined up against it, the very desire for self-determination has been consistently likened to the genocide of six million people and the fact that they're a queer bunch who never vote Tory but nevertheless like to suffer under them every few years I doubt very much that Scotland will be taking her place amongst the states of the world next month. But just in case something earth-shattering does happen on the day before my birthday and Scotland does take on partial dominion status (which, as I previously expounded upon, is all Sandy Salmond is offering) it does rather raise the question of what impact it will have on Northern Ireland.

Just as Sinn Fein's rhetoric in recent years has become a lot more identitaire in nature, so too that of unionism and loyalism has for some time sought to underline their own small-n nationalist credentials by pretending that they constitute an ethnie. Be it through the means of the Ulster-Scots "language" (a combination of dialect, construct and fantasy that lies somewhere between Scouse, Volapük and Klingon in the credibility stakes) or Ian Adamson's "Cruthin" fantasies the idea has been to state that the Protestants in Northern Ireland are an ethnic group and that said ethnic group is virtually identical with the Scots. Leaving aside how ludicrous this notion is (the Protestants in Northern Ireland are about as pure blooded as the Catholics and we're all a big ethnic muddle of each other and several other groups of interlopers, like it or not) it does mean that a big part of the identity is tied to Scotland. Go into any loyalist area, or mixed area where the Catholics are too chicken shit to resist as pictured, and you'll see the saltire everywhere but nowhere will you see the Cross of St. George. Beyond the very top levels of the Unionist establishment England and the English aren't very popular here on any side and, whilst it might be very easy to construct a pro-UK agenda based on keeping tight with our brothers in Scotland, it will be a lot harder to do so based on keeping tight with our distant cousins in England. Happen there will be attempts to play up the English dimension in the plantations but surely even the loyalists wouldn't be gullible enough to swallow that over night.

The Cruthin and Ulster Scots has very occasionally been utilised by those who espoused the minority pro-independence view and I know both Doctor Doctor Kenny McClinton and the Reverend Clifford Peeples (both very occasional readers round these parts - hai guise) used those arguments to support it. It could well prove that were Scotland to go its own way loyalism might be forced to re-evaluate its position and instead call for some of the same, resurrecting the ideas that elements within the UDA dabbled with in the 70s and 80s. Certainly I've yet to hear Salmond suggest that he wants to take this place with him (although I would put nothing past him) so a rethought of position by some might well have to follow. Inevitably there will be those die-hards who never relent but an independent Scotland could potentially divide the unionist-loyalist side to such an extent that this place ends up having three sides, with the republican side the largest by default.

All pointless speculation of course, given that the Scots seem poised to turn down this opportunity (and let me hear one Scot moan about poor treatment from Westminster in the future as it will be your own faults) but were the miracle to happen the knock-on effects for this place could be wide-ranging. The thought of an independent "Ulster" under the dictatorship of former Ulster nationalist Willie Frazer is just too dire to contemplate!
keresaspa: (Brigitte Bardot)
Despite appearances to the contrary I remain very much alive, just rather too involved to update much on here due to a combination of the continuing World Cup (which has unfortunately tailed off a bit after a blistering opening round), a return to live matches and a recent visit from [livejournal.com profile] queenmartina who came bearing cake made by [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks, renovation projects and arse whippings at Trivial Pursuit. Jolly fun all round, barring the continuing success of the Dutch at the World Cup as they have quite possibly edged ahead of England to become my most hated of all the national teams.

In the interim I have allowed the formalisation of a new unification between mainstream unionism and illegal loyalist paramilitarism, the possible collapse of the Assembly, more genocide against the Palestinians, the end of Rolf Harris and the possible beginning of the end of a cadre of perverts at the heart of the establishment to pass without comment. So to correct those oversights I'll just say hardly a surprise with the legacy of Edward Carson, Ian Paisley and Ulster Resistance but the two-facedness of the whole "Sinn Fein/IRA" shite is exposed for the hypocrisy it is, it'll never happen as Robbo and Martie love the money too much but by God am I glad I'm getting out of this shitehole over the Twelfth, as ever the world will fiddle whilst Palestine burns, slap it into you ya nonce and Knox Cunningham holds the key.

That's me bang up to date then. Nothing to this blogging lark.
keresaspa: (J Wellington Wimpy)
Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, has never hid the fact that he comes from the "pray for Catholics but hate Catholicism" school of Evangelical Protestantism. That he believes whole-heartedly in his personal interpretation of the Bible is something that he has never sought to hide and so, like all religious fundamentalists, he must, as a matter of course, be an unreconstructed bigot against all other religious belief systems. After all, who thinks he has the indisputable truth but is happy to accept all wrong viewpoints as equal? Robbo has a long history of attacking the Roman Catholic Church and other more moderate Protestant churches who seek to reach some form of rapprochement with what he personally once termed "the evils of Romish worship" so can we really be surprised with his recent Islamophobic outburst? Apparently those Muslims who believe in Sharia are unacceptable to Robbo, which kind of strikes me as saying you don't have a problem with Christians, apart from those who hold the Ten Commandments. The inevitable backtrack has followed although I don't personally think he needs to bother as Northern Ireland lives by its own rules and public expressions of hate by leading political figures are pretty much the norm. Had it happened in England he would be today's fish supper paper already but here he can say what he wants, especially given how ingrained anti-Islamic sentiments are in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that Muslims are a very small minority here and there have been no attacks whatsoever.

James McConnell, the "pastor" behind the hate speech and the head buck cat up at the oddball fundamentalist freakshow that is Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle (formerly Robbo's church of choice) is hardly a stranger to hatred. He's a lover of Enoch Powell (he might want to re-read "Rivers of Blood" - it doesn't mention Islam), considers Barack Obama a Muslim (he might want to re-read the Books of Ezekiel and Zechariah - they don't mention Islam or Russia) and of course belongs to the aforementioned anti-Catholic tradition. Homophobia, of course, looms large in his discourse but when Iris Robinson was bonking for Britain a blind eye was turned. Again, anywhere else (apart from the Deep South, I suppose) he would have had his chips years ago but not here.

Let's face it, the DUP repositioning itself as some sort of moderate group has always had the whiff of nonsense about it. The likes of Ivan Foster may be gone, but creationist nutjobs like Edwin Poots and Nelson McCausland remain in leading positions, the embarrassment that is the Singing Nun William McCrea remains in office as MP for South Antrim and a new generation of enlightened young fundamentalists headed by David McIlveen fils waits in the wings, ready to assume power when the original dinosaurs finally go. Robinson is simply expressing the hate-infused opinions rife within his party and indeed Northern Irish society as a whole (on both sides I hasten to add - where in the past anybody killing British soldiers was feted by republicans they have joined the tabloid-led hysteria against Muslims as readily as their loyalist counterparts). In a civilised society he would be out on his ear but in a civilised society he would have gone years ago and he hardly looks out of place in the new UKIP-loving, Muslim-hating Britain anyway. Religious intolerance, bigotry and hatred have never been considered problems in Northern Ireland and they're not about to become problems. Robbo will continue as boss, McGuinness, for all his big talk, will continue as his stooge and McConnell will continue to spew his vile invective every Sunday unenlightening his captive audience on the Shore Road. If it's tolerance you want, you're in the wrong place. What a horrid little shitehole this place can be sometimes.
keresaspa: (Cartman)
I've been desperately trying to take some crumb of comfort from these election but I can't. Swept on by the biased "reporting" of the BBC and all the tabloids bar the Mirror, those hateful shits of the UK Independence Party have come top in the European elections and done fairly well in the council elections (although their head cheerleader Nick Robinson is talking shite by calling 163 councillors out of 2,101 an "earthquake"). If there's any justice they will follow the lead of the now virtually irrelevant (outside Pendle at least) BNP and become victims of their own success. After all the BNP's brief period of success in the early to mid 00s led to to them splitting into several little factions and saw their thuggish, frequently barely literate, councillors make total prats of themselves at every opportunity. Mind you, the BNP were fighting against a cordon sanitaire, something UKIP won't have to worry about given that they had the sense to get in some tokens in advance. I swear if I see Nigel Farage's hateful, smug, buck-toothed, squinty-eyed, batrachian face once more I'm a gonna kick this screen in! And an especial boo to all the Rangers-supporting knuckle draggers in Scotland and all the forelock tuggers in AndWales for following their English masters in electing that rabble too. Pish on the lot of you.

Elsewhere Little Miss Le Pen has come top in France to show that the British lurch to the extreme right is not unique. Given France's unusual history with right-wing extremists (along with Italy, it's the only Western European country where being a self-declared neo-fascist is no bar to a leading role in public life, as the likes of Alain de Benoist and Dominique Venner have demonstrated) and the mess both major parties have made of government it's no surprise but still a real shame. Meanwhile in Finland the rightist Finns Party have added an extra seat, the Poles have returned their usual quota of hardcore Catholic racists who claim the label "centre-right" with straight faces and even in Greece a left-wing victory has tempered by three seats for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Stygian gloom the continent over.

Locally we are still waiting on the final results of an election held last Thursday but so far, as I predicted, Sinn Fein have topped the poll and Anderson is back in, with Diane Dodds likely to follow soon. Ho-hum. beyond that it's pick-a-dick between Jim Nicholson, Alex Attwood and Jim Allister for third place with Anna Lo not in the running and bloody UKIP even managing twenty odd thousand votes here. In the local elections the Sinn Fein vote pretty much held and, whilst the DUP shed support, it all seems to have gone to the Ulster Unionists (for reasons unknown) or rewarded the bigoted Strasserism of the Progressive Unionist Party or the reactionary High Toryism of the Traditional Unionist Voice. In among all that the dissident republican campaign got nowhere, with Eirigi, Republican Network for Unity and various independents getting almost nothing (OK, one exception but I'm not much of a 32 County Sovereignty Movement fan personally). Hell even bloody UKIP managed to get three seats here and the total mess that is NI21 took one. If I am to finally take that one crumb of comfort I spoke of earlier it will be from the good people of Black Mountain electing Gerry Carroll, a man I very vaguely know, to Belfast City Council instead of yet another faceless Sinn Fein nobody. On his own and stacked up against the cabal of the big five I can't see him being able to make any real impact on the new council when it finally splutters into life next year (that's right, the old council is continuing for another year in a colossal waste of money) but the fact that somebody, somewhere was prepared to vote against oppression and for the people is heartening anyway.

Now if you'll excuse me I think I'd like to find a pile of coats to hide under for a while.
keresaspa: (James Connolly)
When it comes to the supposed end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland there are a number of people who, regardless of my personal opinion of everything else they have done, can claim a share of the credit for the events. John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Gerry Adams, Father Alec Reid, Rev Roy Magee, Archbishop Robin Eames, Chris Hudson, Albert Reynolds, John Major, Peter Brooke, Mo Mowlam, Gusty Spence, David Ervine, Billy Hutchinson, Gary McMichael, Joe English and Ray Smallwoods can all legitimately claim to have played a role. As admittedly can Martin McGuinness, despite my well-documented hatred for the man. Yet one person who can claim no role whatsoever in Elizabeth Windsor and yet the self-same Martin McGuinness is now praising her for apparently being the leader of the peace process.

It is one of the paradoxes of Ulster loyalism that it is based on blind obedience to the United Kingdom and yet is equally based on the deliberate flouting of that country's legal system. The way most loyalists reconcile this paradox is to insist that their loyalty is purely to the Queen and not to any of her governments and therefore they can be hardcore Brits but reject every British administration. As such the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Freedom Fighters effectively existed at Her Majesty's pleasure and yet in near thirty years of loyalist activity never once did Lizzie speak out and say "I'd rather you didn't kill Fenians in my name, thanks lads". Say all you want about her having to stay above politics but innocent people were being killed by her devotees and if there was a way to influence that anybody with a shred of humanity would have spoken up instead of the deafening silence the old bat always maintained. And yet McGuinness, a man who still occasionally claims to be a republican, has the unmitigated gall to make his recent comments.

It doesn't take a genius to see where all this gradual shift towards monarchism is leading - Sinn Fein taking the oath of allegiance at Westminster. It would hardly be a shock given that they are already junior partners in a collaborationist government but it would be the final nail in the coffin of Sinn Fein as any sort of Irish republican party and the final part of their conversion into a long-term reunification, right-leaning nationalistic party that is happy to work with the same people they labelled occupiers not so long ago. The bitterest pill to swallow is that McGuinness' Petain-esque behaviour no longer causes any ripples and, far from inspiring outrage in the republican grass-roots, will probably see Sinn Fein top the polls in the European and local elections next month.

I guess I'm the one who has the problem as everybody else seems perfectly happy for Irish republicanism to be dead and collaborationism to be the order of the day but it's a sorry state of affairs when history is rewritten and principle negated just to ensure a very greedy man can continue to get his big money and his little bit of power. What's that rumble? James Connolly turning over in his grave.
keresaspa: (Mikado)
So, once again on Saturday the centre of Belfast is to be off limits to all as it is taken over by loyalist marchers, this time an outfit calling itself Loyal Peaceful Protesters, essentially the UVF, sundry hangers-on and a bunch of young junkies threatened with having their drug debts called in if they don't march.

As leader of the Progressive Unionist Party and nominal leader of the protest Billy Hutchinson argued that yet another unwarranted disruption of people's lives over a piece of cloth and the right of sectarian bigots to celebrate UVF murderers in front of their victims "is legitimate and lawful and will also highlight the other issues that are impacting on working class Protestant communities, including increasing poverty." The most depressing possible thought is that Hutchinson actually believes that although I suspect it is just what he has to tell himself to get through the night.

At heart I suspect Hutchinson is a genuine man of working class politics but he has completely painted himself into a corner down the years and is now flailing around in a desperate attempt to justify to himself his decision to crawl into bead with the extreme right. The protests are about flags on City Hall and the fact that republicans don't want Orange Order and paramilitary flute bands passing their houses and have sod all to do with increasing poverty, an issue that impacts upon both communities equally and which is being ignored by the major parties and the British government overlords to which Hutchinson is avowedly loyal. If he really believes that poverty can only be solved by a sectarian approach then maybe Hutch has willingly gone over to the extreme right and is seeking to position himself as the Otto Strasser of loyalism.

In a way his options are limited. There was a time when Hutchinson was a big cheese in the UVF but these days he is cocky on the biscuit tin, flailing around desperately trying to gain some influence but increasingly ignored by the true leaders. He preaches working class politics and the fact that loyalists (and no one else) are suffering poverty but yet he happily hitches himself to the UVF and its drug dealing empire and intimidation of the same loyalists, counting UVF commanders like Winkie Irvine amongst his party colleagues. Billy can soothe his conscience all he wants with fantasy stuff about flag and march protests being about social issues but he knows fine well they aren't and that they amount to nothing more than nakedly sectarian shows of strength by the UVF.

The increasingly irrelevant Martin McGuinness recently broke his silence on the affair by suggesting that the protest was being orchestrated by the UVF before adding that he had heard rumours about Francis I being a member of the Catholic Church, but frankly his opinion is of no consequence as he has happily allowed it to go on. The same goes for the execrable Teresa Villiers - if Belfast is indeed open for business then how about you put in an appearance on North Street on Saturday afternoon, Teesy? Thought not. Interesting too that what is increasingly taking on all the trappings of fascism and has the vocal support of the BNP, National Front and other fringe extremist groups is being totally ignored by Anti-Fascist Action and the rest of the self-declared hard men. But that's the way it always has been here - a privileged group sees aspects of its dominant position eroded and it screams no fair and rises up, completely unopposed by the republicans who, as usual, are satisfied with the merest of scraps from the master's table.

Is there poverty in loyalist areas? Yes, but how is that going to be addressed by stupid and pointless rabid nationalism and flag waving? Poverty didn't suddenly appear the day the union jack came down from city hall and if it went back up tomorrow it wouldn't suddenly disappear, no matter what cloud cuckoo land ideas Billy Hutchinson might be trying to convince himself of. Take your concerns to the DUP, disrupt their lives and above all stop voting for them and stop welcoming a rabid monetarist like Nelson McCausland to your protests when his stated desire to copy the frankly evil policies of Iain Duncan Smith will only push those already in poverty further down instead of wasting all your energies on bigotry. And above all stop attempting to make poverty a sectarian issue and instead reach across the religious divide to the underprivileged of Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge and the rest of the republican sink estates instead of emphasising the constructed differences that your masters made to keep us all down in the first place. Or to put it in more simple language, fuck flags and fuck marches, stop being such lumpenproletariat idiots and then you might start to see poverty being tackled.

The whole "shared future" argument is a load of old bollocks, an attempt by Peter Robinson to neutralise the Irish unity argument by downplaying the sectarian aspects of the British dimension. Yet it's somewhat ironic that the loyalists, who, after all, are the ones who trumpet the importance of Britishness the loudest, are the only ones to vocally object whilst Sinn Fein continue to buy into the whole farce, despite the clear contradiction that a future cannot be shared by two communities who want diametrically opposed conclusions to their situations. On Saturday, once again, Loyal Peaceful Protesters will assert their ethnocentrist identity and I'm sure they'll live up to their name as the event will no doubt pass off peacefully as it is difficult to initiate clashes when you are completely unopposed.

Edmund Burke may have, for the most part, talked wall to wall crap but he was onto something when he opined "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". Now, by no stretch of the imagination is McGuinness a good man but alas it seems that the few good men republicanism has left are happy to follow his lead in doing absolutely nothing in the face of rabid sectarian hatred. The bigotry and hatred is something you get used to - it's always been there and always will be. But when resistance dies what is left? Sickening.
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
Why I didn't wear a poppy this year )
keresaspa: (Heckle and Jeckle)
Remember the days when the Assembly would be brought down if any of the paramilitaries even sneezed? So long ago, especially where the UVF are concerned. They can flout the law with impunity whilst the presence of their Progressive Unionist Party representatives makes no bones about it. Heck, they can even kill people and nothing happens beyond a few disapproving clucks. As such today's death threat against Conor Murphy by an organisation alleged to be on ceasefire has been virtually ignored by the local media as the UVF's violent sectarianism is now so run of the mill that it doesn't even merit reporting any more. I have little sympathy for Murphy or any of his Sinn Fein compadres because they are equally complicit in maintaining the fantasy that the Troubles are over even though the uve are still running riot as the Sinners are the ones getting the big salaries out of it. They were also the ones who rushed to get rid of their own UVF equivalent in order to get their snouts in the trough and so lost their own guaranteed protection by packing the Provos off to bed for good. Mind you, he's wasting his time making sure his mates in the cops are informed.

The UVF has east Belfast awash with drugs and has more rackets over there than Dunlop and Slazenger combined but the cops are happy to let them get on with it, afraid to touch the boys who brought this place to a standstill last Christmas with their flag protests. Frankly, the PSNI are too busy cosying up to the UVF leaders to ever arrest any of them. Hell, if Jamie Bryson had been in the IRA rather than the UVF he would have been serving a twenty stretch by now rather than some limp little ban on attending protests. As if that's not enough we have PUP spokesman and community bigwig Winkie Irvine sitting on the North Belfast policing board whilst maintaining his other career as commander of the UVF B Company in Woodvale, a group notorious for running rackets and ordering residents out of the area. How can you expect a criminal organisation to be dealt with when its top brass are running the bloody cops?! Still given that their top man is a security forces agent of long standing then it comes as no surprise that they can suit themselves.

Once again the "new" Northern Ireland reveals itself to be no better than the old, a façade of gentility placed on top of the same old festering cancerous lump that we've always had. A sectarian mafia continues to thumb its nose, knowing full well that nothing will be done to stop it as it has the law in its pocket. If this is the much-vaunted "shared future" you can bloody well keep it.
keresaspa: (Chaplin Modern Times)
As everybody knows Sinn Fein are a staunchly working class party and to prove that the current incumbent as Lord Mayor of Belfast is their man Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, a newspaper owner with extensive business interests in the United States and a former director of that stupendously well-run conglomerate Northern Ireland Water. As part of his duties in the sainted office of mayor Marty (let's dispense with all that Irishian crap, shall we) paid a visit to the newly reopened Woodvale Park, a bit of ground up the top of the Shankill that long-term readers will recall as a favourite haunt of my good self but which has been "improved" as part of the ongoing haussmannisation of this old town. However whilst there Marty, a representative of the political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, got terribly upset after a bunch of loyalist protesters (pretty much a tautology these days) gave him a few wee slaps round the bap as part of their commitment to the values of their being only one queen, only one crown and not having Fenians in this town.

Well, forgive me for going against consensus, but hard cheese, Marty. I may disagree with the vast majority of ideas associated with loyalism but they hate republicanism and as far as I'm concerned all credit to them for demonstrating that. Millionaires like Marty and his head-buck cat McGuinness might be spouting a load of old crap about "shared futures" but as usual they're thinking of naught but their own money. The crisis in republicanism that has come about since Sinn Fein replaced the SDLP as the biggest pro-Paddy party may have emasculated republicans but the abject failure of political loyalism has meant the same thing has not been replicated on their side. Marty and his lads need to realise that there is a significant group here that detests them and no amount of brown-nosing Elizabeth Windsor or any other form of sell-out will change that.

As someone whose sympathies lie with true republicanism the most depressing thing is that if a bigot like, let's say, Nelson McCausland were to arrive on the Falls he would face little or no hostility. Hell, Nelson could probably roll up in his limo and hack up a phlegm ball onto the front door of St. Peter's and the locals would still tug the forelock. Within their hearts I know that a lot of grassroots republicans are very dissatisfied with the way things are here. The Assembly may have ensured a vastly improved standard of living for the elite within Sinn Fein and some of their favourites but it has done next to nothing for the virtually abandoned bedrock in places like Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge and Twinbrook where the reaction to unemployment, soaring suicide rates, child poverty and increasing alienation seems to have been a shrug of the shoulders. There is only so long people can survive on the fact that their self-described leaders have their snouts in the trough before they finally demand real change.

No, there'll be no condemnation of the loyalists on this one from me. Their anger should equally be directed towards their unionist masters but at least they have the guts to show their disaffection with the system at some level. The sooner the republican people on the ground remember where they left their balls and start making their own disaffection heard as well the better as far as I'm concerned.
keresaspa: (Piggy Banks)
Yeah, still alive, just not very much to tell you. Operation back garden continues apace but is nowhere near reaching its climax for a number of reasons. For one I didn't realise just how much of a forest the place had become, meaning that the clear-up operation is proving a massive task for a lone chap without any mechanical tools. Suffice it to when you start discovering unexplained tree roots you know you have a bloody big job on your hands. There's also the issue that seemingly as much as one third of the garden is composed of unwanted bricks, paving slabs and stones, all of which have to be cleared without a skip as well as my generally low energy levels (a combination of haemochromatosis giving me its usual kicking and all that extra weight I insist on sporting) and a sudden turn for the worse in the weather to be taken into consideration. That and recent jaunts to Bangor, Ballymena and Dublin eating away at my time, as well as a general weariness of gardening as a whole. I'll get there in the end of course but for the minute I do believe I've had enough for a little and will, at least temporarily, put the bent spade, the 89p hand trowel and the child's rake into cold storage.

Meanwhile outside my door we have the G8 turning back the clock to the days of the Troubles by placing Northern Ireland under virtual martial law. It's in Fermanagh, which is nowhere near me, but on Saturday there was all manner of sundry protests against their presence, notably in Belfast city centre where a big rally was held at City Hall alongside the standard fleg mobs (yup, they're still going on). There was a time I might have gone along but I gave it a miss this time. It's not that I don't detest the G8 simply that the days of demos making any difference are long gone, if they even existed in the first place. Governments are corrupt and always will be and people power won't change that as Egypt has so starkly shown. People power may have gotten rid of Mubarak but his replacements are just as sleazy and repressive and if they go too whoever replaces them will be as well. It's true communism or nothing for me, folks - ethical capitalism is an oxymoron and social democratic governments still involve a small elite group having their fingers in the till. That and the fact that the protests were organised under the aegis of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, an organisation that is frankly about as radical as the Women's Institute and was until very recently in the pockets of successive conservative governments down south. And it was pishing rain, but we'll not mention that reason.

Still, I suppose we should enjoy it whilst we can. With an EU withdrawal probably looming large, China already well in front of them and India and Brazil not far behind the nonsense of calling Britain one of the eight richest countries in the world will be over and done with soon enough and all this sort of old rubbish will be a distant memory. The sooner the better.

Snow - no!

Mar. 23rd, 2013 09:01 pm
keresaspa: (Snowman)
Bloody snow! If in the past I expressed any affection for it (unlikely, but you never know) I take it all back as I hate the bloody stuff with a passion. I was caught smack bang in the middle of it yesterday as it rained down for about seven hours solid, with little nail-like crystals whipped on by the wind cutting the face of me. I can just about tolerate the soft stuff but this was that hard nutty shite, not a million miles away from being hail but still snow. And I tell you what, it hurts a hell of a lot more than it used to now that I'm bald.

Inevitably a dirty hole like Windsor Park couldn't take that so Friday's proposed match between Northern Ireland and Russia was postponed until today, as a result of which the Irish League programme as a whole was postponed. Cliftonville's plastic pitch would have inevitably been playable and something could have been arranged for Crusaders, but no Craig Cathcart and Daniel Lafferty being destroyed by Roman Shirokov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov had to be the only game in town. I checked the Northern Amateur League site, reasoning that some of the clubs there have plastic pitches too (not least Immaculata, whom I visited earlier this year) but even they had cancelled everything because of Michael O'Neill's green and blue sack of cack. DC reserves offered possible solace but as reserve fixtures are always the reverse of first team games those too were postponed. I was unable to fully determine whether or not the Ballymena and Provincial League (yes, I was that desperate) was on or off and so the prospect of Brantwood against Magherafelt Sky Blues tantalised me but in the end I decided not to bother, reasoning that Skeggy would either be under a foot of snow or a sodden mess and I would have endured a run out to the Shore Road in the snow for nothing. Still not sure if it went ahead or not to be honest - why is the internet so crap in Northern Ireland.

So instead I was forced to endure a Saturday's shopping in the freezing cold, surrounding by the sort of brain-dead morons you only get on a Saturday, all the while fighting the almost irresistible urge to fall thanks to the mess the snow has made of the pavements. And as if that wasn't enough the electricity went off last night and I am fully expecting it to go the same way tonight. What is it about snow that makes the generation of electrical energy so difficult? Who would have though those two things were natural enemies.

So yeah, snow and that. As far as I'm concerned you can keep it. It's nearly April for God's sake!
keresaspa: (Karl Marx laughing)
I once used this little forum of mine to suggest that Jim Allister's baby, the Traditional Unionist Voice, could be considered a fascist party. I was being flippant of course as it is at best a High Tory throwback and at worst an extreme right vanity project but either way it falls some distance short of fascism. Recently however I have got to thinking about how the current flag protest movement and its Ulster People's Forum directors relate to fascism and that proves to be a little less cut and dried.

As the establishment unionism and loyalism have always tended towards the right but whether they have ever produced true fascism (and I'm ignoring any nonsensical attempt to use the term fascism as a synonym for racism, dictatorship or "I don't like it") is highly debatable. If we assume fascism should be ultra-nationalist, radically populist, seek to build a mass movement and be desirous of palingenesis or a complete rebirth of society, then the closest fit seems to be the Ulster Vanguard. Of course when they were formed they were simply conservatives adopting the trappings of militarism and when William Craig had his brain fart and decided that his preferred solution was power-sharing with the SDLP they suddenly became the most moderate of the radical unionist parties (and forget the United Ulster Unionist Party splinter group, who were little more than a TUV forerunner) but during the period when they advocated the establishment of a hard-line independent "Ulster" and were seemingly prepared to advocate violence against any opposition they came as close to fascism as this place ever has seen.

But if we turn to the current movement it is clear that some, if not all, elements of fascism can be identified. The flag protest movement are possibly the most populist movement to emerge since partition and their rhetoric is increasingly been couched in a highly populist rejection of the existing politicians. Equally a rejection of liberal democracy, seen by the likes of Gentile and Payne (although less so myself, I must admit) as central to fascism, can be detected from the very basis of the initial protests given that the flag was removed from the City Hall due to a democratic vote and the rejection of that decision clearly represents a rejection of that process. Nationalism goes without saying. The assertion of group rights, the prominence of the flag, the insistence that some are members of the "group" (Ulster Protestants) and that there are "the other" who are without the group and therefore enemies are pretty much textbook examples of ultra-nationalism and really need no more discussion. Similarly the mass movement idea is self evident as the flag protests have been the ultimate social movement, seeking to get as many numbers as possible onto the streets and relying on the sheer force of human bodies for intimidation. Indeed involvement has been as important, if not more so, than ideology at levels not seen since the formation of the UDA or the Ulster Workers' Council strike.

Palingenesis is so far largely absent from official policy, such as it is, although at lower levels the virulent strains of anti-Catholicism that run through the membership hint at a desire for a Protestant state. In typical post-modern fashion, this has manifested itself in social network groups attached to the protests advocating the eradication of Catholics. Their apparently preferred constitutional arragnement of direct rule is a fairly non-radical solution although it remains to be seen whether or not this is Willie Frazer's personal opinion or that of the wider movement whilst a desire for a return to a mythical golden age can in itself be seen as palingenetic. The Italian Social Movement, one of the few post-war groups to ever self-identify as fascist and achieve mainstream levels of support, talked of nostalgia dell'avvenire in this context, a backwards look to the future.

Willie Frazer's former involvement in the Ulster Independence Movement, a group whose Ulster Patriot journal frequently featured the thoughts of Romanian fascist leader Codreanu (a favourite of former National Front organiser and UIM big cheese David Kerr), hints at past associations with a group that was at least tolerant of fascism and, whilst it is rather guilt by association, Frazer's prominent role in proceedings suggests that at least the Ulster People's Forum would not immediately recoil at the ideology. A case can be made for the UIM as a fascist movement in the manner of the Nick Griffin wing of the National Front and the International Third Position but I'll not go down that avenue here and now as it is not strictly relevant.

So far the protests have gone through two stages. The first was as a response to a leafleting campaign by the DUP aimed at whipping up opposition to the Alliance as part of their wider attempts to regain control of their bulwark East Belfast seat from that party for Peter Robinson. In this stage it was an old case of an arch conservative establishment figure trying to use latent extreme right sentiments to further their own ends. From Franz von Papen's disastrous attempts to use the Nazi Party to further his own career all the way down to David Cameron mobilising anti-European xenophobia in an attempt to extricate himself from an uncomfortable coalition that is as old as the hills. Somewhere along the line however the DUP lost control of the protests and they entered a new phase, one of bitter resentment, ethnic nationalism and populist right wing politics in which the initial stated aim of returning a piece of cloth to a building has been confused with the introduction of vague demands for social reform and explicit attacks on the minority community, effectively giving birth to an extreme right, but ideologically weak, protest movement whose demands seem increasingly diffuse and uncertain. Conspiracy theories abound with "big lie" propaganda helping to fuel bigotry by arguing that Catholics get all the good things despite the figures still showing unemployment as higher among the Catholic community than the Protestant community. When proletarian resentment, driven by the decline of the heavy industries that the Protestant working classes traditionally dominated, gets turned on an internal out group rather than the system itself we are clearly in right-wing extremism territory.

Politically they have been so far characterised by an immaturity that is perhaps inevitable given that of the leaders only Frazer has any political background and even that has been very much on the fringes. One need only look at the bizarre events of last week when Jamie Bryson announced that the Ulster People's Forum had severed their ties with Frazer only for them to announce a united front later that same day. Had there been the slightest bit of political maturity Fraser and Bryson would surely have conducted their tiff in private. On a wider level however the absence of this maturity has left them without any real ideology. In some ways many of their followers are comparable to the impoverished people who followed the Chartists in the nineteenth century, feeling that in their own mind there was an agenda for social reform even when the stated aims were clearly solely related to the organisation of government. The flag protest and Ulster People's Forum are as yet not a fascist movement as they haven't reached that stage yet and are still stuck in the wider extreme right mode of resentment and bitterness. It's highly possible that they might never exit that mode and indeed their overall basis is weak and conditional for, were there to be a capitulation and the flag was returned tomorrow, it seems likely that Fraser and Bryson would disappear into the background and the general loyalist population would return to their default position of blindly following the major unionist parties. Equally attempts by the Progressive Unionist Party to cash in on the protests by publicly taking a much more hard-line stance than usual seem unlikely to work as Bryson has shown no desire to become a member and Fraser has old associations with the UVF's bitter enemies in the LVF.

If Bryson and Fraser decide to go the whole hog and build a new mass loyalist party from what they have now Northern Ireland might well find itself with its first indigenous truly fascist movement a good 90 or so years after everywhere else but we aren't there yet (and even if we end up there, there are no guarantees it would excite any interest). Instead we have an extreme right protest movement full of people who are very angry about a lot of things, aren't sure just who to blame and so turn their anger on the people in their midst whom they define as being different to them. Not so much a local version of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento as a local version of the English Defence League then.

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keresaspa

July 2017

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