keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
Immediately before the election we had a statement in which the loyalist paramilitaries endorsed the DUP and now we are to be governed by a junta consisting of the Tories and these paramilitary-endorsed fascists with, worse yet, the UK about to leave the European Union and so all checks and balances on this radical right-wing rabble about to be removed. I knew this election was going to be painful but Jesus actual Christ. Happy now leave voters, you complete and absolute bastards?! If the reaction of the so-called "Republican Movement" to the British government openly realigning itself with sectarian paramilitaries is anything but any and every means of opposition then blood will be on their traitorous, collaborationist hands as much as any UVF or UFF death squad.

I'll attempt to console myself with the thought that this fragile alliance with a micro-majority is unlikely to last very long and that the hateful Theresa May is on borrowed time but right now I am about as disgusted as I've ever been.

But deep in the heart of Ireland has sunk the sense of the degradation wrought upon its people – our lost brothers and sisters – so deep and humiliating that no agency less potent than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect, or establish its national dignity in the face of a world horrified and scandalised by what must seem to them our national apostasy.


James Connolly, Notes on the Front (1916)
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
Back at the tail-end of 2013 I briefly touched on the UDA internal feud in north Belfast but at that point it hadn't really advanced too far beyond "aye, yer ma" and "i'll knack yer ballix in". But on Sunday night shit just got real as veteran racketeer and former UDA brigadier John "Bonzer" Boreland got whacked by one of his own. By my reckoning he is the first loyalist to be killed by his own since the UVF bumped off Bobby Moffet outside the Ballygomartin Tesco (where I had been a few hours earlier) in 2010 and the first UDA man to be killed in an internal dispute since former East Belfast brigadier was lured to his death in 2005 by a gang that apparently included not only several former friends but even his ex-boyfriend. Even in death Doris Day had to be over the top. Either way it could lead to a spell of fun and games involving loyalist paramilitaries killing each other at a level not seen since the days when Johnny Adair was looking a one-man war with the UVF.

So, just who was Boreland? Well his Wikipedia page summarises the main points pretty well (it should do - I wrote about 95% of it and I'm so good at Wikipedia that even the South Side Advertiser has taken to plagiarising me). It should be added that the buzz on the street was Boreland and Shoukri had effectively re-established a puppet regime in the North Belfast Brigade, installing some unidentified loser who had made his name at those moronic flag protests around the same time as this all began. Said loser is apparently now in Scotland having made enemies of both the notorious Mount Vernon UVF* (who have been flexing their muscles of late) and Shankill-based veteran UVF top dog (and long-term British agent) John "Bunter" Graham. I'm sure it's entirely coincidental that after his faction made such powerful enemies Bonzer is now a goner. And pigs will fly.

Unlike some loyalists killed by their own (the aforementioned Jim Gray springs readily to mind) Boreland had friends as well as enemies. It seems unlikely that those friends will just shrug their shoulders at this and a lack of retaliation seems at best unlikely. It may be an isolated incident but the demand for some comeback is bound to be loud and these things have a nasty habit of spiralling once they begin. "Interesting" times ahead for the residents of Ballysillan, Tigers Bay and the Shore Road it seems. I may have to give Seaview a miss for a while.

* During their heyday of violence and drug dealing the Mount Vernon UVF were led by the malevolent Mark Haddock. And, you guessed it, he was a British agent too. Still don't believe the Troubles was being directed from Westminster?
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: (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.

Rebel songs

Jul. 7th, 2014 08:36 pm
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
One story that did catch my eye during my barely noticed extended absence was the minor fuss locally over the Ku Klux Klan. For those unfamiliar, Island Street is a back street off a back street off the lower Newtownards Road. Made up of 80s style redeveloped Housing Executive houses, it is one of the more soul-destroying parts of east Belfast, saying something given what a bigoted little dump that side of town is. The walls proclaim allegiance to the UDA although, as is the case throughout the east, it is the UVF that largely holds sway with the UDA only existing with their permission and fulfilling little role beyond dealing drugs.

For years 81 Island Street has been a particular carbuncle in the gloom. With a front door festooned with racist and Islamophobic stickers, not to mention a bunch of stuff about Rangers, a Confederate flag flying on a pole and a window filled with KKK memorabilia, as well as UDA flags, it stands as a beacon of hatred. Action taken to address this? None. In an area of low-grade housing, towards which immigrants are likely to gravitate, a public display of racial hatred and xenophobia has for years been ignored. So recently a KKK flag went on a nearby lamppost and a fuss was kicked up but Belfast's own Braunes Haus continues happily in a part of the town already notorious for its racism. The flag was subsequently taken down "following discussions" (rather than torn down with its owner prosecuted under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006) but when I passed that way today it had been replaced by a pair of Southern crosses. Well, that's much better as the flag of a racist state is a lot less offensive than the flag of a racist organisation.

Radio Ulster's decision to interview the local KKK boss-cocky is a dodgy one as it gives him much more importance than he deserves (although is very much in keeping with the ever rightwards drift of the BBC as whole). Given that we have a strongly anti-Catholic organisation in which members are expected to dress like prats and take part in bizarre rites in the Orange Order then it hardly seems surprising that the KKK could come here (although to be fair a few token Africans have found their way into the Orange Order) but it's also probably the main reason that they are an irrelevance. Extreme right organisations have found their openings within loyalism locally but they have never fully taken off nor are they likely to unless the loyalist paramilitaries ever come out unequivocally against racism and start punishing the racists in their own community. However the fuss over the flying of the flag is a little like suddenly becoming appalled about the Cerne Abbas Giant's tumescence - it's been that way years and nobody has batted an eyelid. To think that they're actually sinking money into promoting east Belfast as a tourist destination. God help any tourist who goes over that way and God help even more any poor immigrant who gets housed in Island Street. What an absolute shithole this place really is sometimes.

Borderlands

May. 1st, 2014 09:25 pm
keresaspa: (Lester and Eliza)
The headquarters of the Alliance Party in east Belfast, and as such the constituency office of local MP Naomi Long, sit on the corner of the Newtownards Road and Grampian Avenue. In many ways the location is a metaphor for the Alliance in east Belfast and the oul' house they have brought upon their own heads by virtue of their recent attempts to play with fire. Up the road one finds the Upper Newtownards Road and Ballyhackamore, middle class, even upper middle class, largely Protestant areas of the sort where the Alliance has usually been able to find fertile ground. Down the road however lies the lower Newtownards Road, an impoverished, drug-riddled, working class loyalist area where the UVF rules with a rod of iron (notwithstanding the UDA murals that remain as a hangover of Jim Gray's time in charge) and where Naomi Long went cap in hand at the last election in order to secure her surprise ousting of Peter Robinson from the East Belfast parliamentary seat that he held since 1979. It's widely documented that Stephen "the Beast from the East" Matthews, the UVF hetman in the area, had grown tired of Robbo's constant sleaze and had anointed Long as his chosen one to take the seat he effectively controls. For her part Longy played the game shrewdly, keeping the anti-UVF rhetoric to one side as she waged her ultimately successful campaign. But of course such behaviour meant that she was effectively in the uve's pocket and they would expect her and her party to play ball from then on.

The fact that they haven't means that the recent slew of attacks on the pictured building is both unsurprising and difficult to feel any sympathy about. The Alliance's decision to propose a reduction in the days on which the Union Jack was flown from the City Hall immediately put them at odds with the UVF and allowed that organisation to stage a massive comeback as they took over the interminable round of protests that have gone on since then. With their fence-sitting compromise about the flag the Alliance were of course playing to type, given that they have always been in favour of half-arsed non-solutions that suit neither side, but by climbing into bed with the UVF they had placed certain expectations upon themselves and their failure to fulfil those meant they were effectively pulling the tiger's tail. I certainly don't condone the attacks but they're about as predictable as smugness from Nigel Farage and the Alliance must have known that pissing off the uve in east Belfast was always going to be a very bad idea. Still, on the plus side Long gets five years of big money at Westminster and the chance to parley it into a cushy research fellowship somewhere when she inevitably loses the seat in 2015 so she can be happy at least.

And as if that isn't enough we also have Gerry Adams being arrested. Let's make one thing clear - along with Bloody Friday, the plight of the Disappeared in general, and the murder of Jean McConville in particular, represent some of the darkest moments in the history of Irish republicanism. The vile allegations of informing levelled against the woman were simply made up and in the end Jean McConville was killed because her face didn't fit in Divis and some of the local bigots didn't like the thought of a woman born Protestant living in their midst. Simply because of the narrow minds and wicked tongues of some Fenian lumpen an innocent widow was slain, ten children were made orphans and her family didn't even have a body to bury. That somebody should see the inside of a jail for that crime goes without saying. That that somebody should be Gerry Adams also goes without saying. Brendan Hughes knew that Adams was responsible and said as such, Dolours Price (who admitted her own involvement so can hardly be blamed on passing the buck) knew that Adams was responsible and said as such and Billy McKee knows (how can he still be alive) that Adams was responsible and has said as such. Heck, despite the denials of his party and Adams' own ridiculous claims that he was never even a member of the IRA, I think even most Sinn Fein supporters know that Adams was responsible for the crime. None of which however is likely to mean that he will ever be brought to justice. His arrest looks little more than a publicity stunt intended to show that nobody is above the law. I seriously doubt he will be brought to trial but in the unlikely event that he is a conviction will never happen. Ultimately somebody might be convicted but you can bet it will be a patsy, some sacrificial lamb offered up to do about a year's easy stir and then come out to a massive bung as a thank you payment for taking the rap. Adams' guilt for ordering the murder (no way he did it personally, too high up the ladder in the IRA for that) will go unpunished and Sinn Fein's collaboration with the British government upon which they once made war will continue unabated. Nothing to see here, so move along.

Eurotrash

Apr. 24th, 2014 09:04 pm
keresaspa: (Cartman)
Just so as we can be clear about this the UK Independence Party are not racist, just their policies, their rhetoric and their members. One of the faces of their election campaign, Andre Lampitt, is now the latest to join the long-line of UKIP racists and is the latest to join the huge list of those suspended by the party for publicly endorsing hatred. In any civilised society this sort of hatred would see people deserting this bigoted rabble in their droves but Britain gave up on civilisation a long time ago and I fully expect these vile vermin will still sweep the polls next month. The media have already anointed them as big cheeses and have convinced the sheep that xenophobia is the way to go so even were Nigel Farage, who is nothing like the Westminster lot don't forget, to be hauled in as part of Operation Yewtree I still doubt it would make a blind bit of difference. How shitty and British really - racism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred, misogyny, the whole kit and kaboodle, are all fine as long as the person spreading them has a posh accent. The difference between tut-tutting at tattooed, h-dropping National Front yobs but chuckling gently at the latest bit of racist bile from Philip Mountbatten. Wankers.

Well, I suppose at least I can rely on one thing - Henry Reilly, the candidate for the UK Independence Party (and enthusiast for made-up languages, God help us) will not be getting a seat in the European Parliament. With the candidate list finalised this may well be the first election since 2001 when I don't bother voting*. My days of voting Sinn Fein are well and truly over and even, if I would have considered it, Martina Anderson is the kind of faceless, nodding-dog apparatchik that that party is stuffed with nowadays. The SDLP are out too as, during his time as a Stormont minister, Alex Attwood was single-handedly responsible for laying waste to this city, allowing the developers to tear down every and any historic building with impunity. I probably would have voted for Anna Lo as I respect her on a personal level as a brave and feisty opponent of racism and bigotry and admired her decision to nail her colours to the mast as an anti-imperialist despite being in a pro-British party but it is said party that means I can't. Their affiliation to the Liberal Democrats means that the Alliance are effectively supporting this filthy government and there's also the issue that they are the ones who ensured that the City Hall still flies the butcher's apron on "designated days" rather than taking the rag down altogether so that, along with their general bourgeois crapulence, rules them out. Similarly bourgeois crapulence rules out the Green Party and NI21, with the latter too unionist and too much of a vanity project for its two leaders to be worth consideration. The rest are all avowedly unionist and right-wing, even radical right in Jim Allister and Henry Reilly's cases, and so are not worth wasting words over.

All in all an evil crop, with nobody to remotely attract my attention. I might still change my mind but as things stand a destroyed ballot looks the only viable option. Interesting that after spouting so much crap about how he reckoned he could win the election Billy Hutchinson's name isn't on the ballot, nor indeed that of the UVF's Jamie Bryson (I guess the money ran out once he was caught doing the double) who made a song and dance all winter about how he too would be a candidate. A shame though that the menagerie of dissident republican parties are all giving the election a miss too, as at very least their presence might have made inroads into the Sinn Fein vote, with PSF now virtually guaranteed top spot. Either way, nothing for me here so I think I'll sit this one out.


* For future reference my voting history is as follows:
1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum - no;
1998 Assembly election - Sinn Fein (Sean Hayes);
1999 European election - Sinn Fein (Mitchell McLaughlin);
2001 general election - destroyed the ballot;
2001 local election - Sinn Fein (Alex Maskey);
2003 Assembly election - Socialist Party (Jim Barbour);
2004 European election - Socialist Environmental Alliance (Eamonn McCann);
2005 general election - Workers Party (Paddy Lynn);
2005 local election - Socialist Party (James Barbour);
2007 Assembly election - Socialist Party (James Barbour);
2009 European election - SDLP (Alban McGuinness);
2010 general election - Alliance (Anna Lo);
2011 local election - Workers Party (Paddy Lynn);
2011 Assembly election - Socialist Party (Paddy Meehan);
2011 Alternative Vote referendum - no.
keresaspa: (Cow)
As a consequence of Donegal Celtic's continuing extended hiatus from all football, combined with the rainfall levels that suggest it really is Sodom and Gomorrah times again*, I was able to continue my tour of the backwaters of east Belfast on Saturday. My travels took me to Sydenham, deep in the arse of the east, to witness the spectacularly named East Belfast take on Derriaghy Cricket Club (who play football, despite their name). I'm not sure if the UVF's Jamie Bryson, an extreme right candidate in the upcoming elections now too, was playing for his club side or not but if he was it made sod all difference as Derriaghy wiped the floor with East Belfast, winning 6-0 despite having a perfectly good goal disallowed and a penalty saved.

Of course last year Sydenham was all over the news after a mural of George Best was replaced by one of the UVF, resulting in a lot of hand-wringing by those in the media and politics who still like to continue with the canard that the UVF ceasefire is genuine. It's not an area of Belfast I regularly visit so it was only Saturday that I finally saw it with my own eyes:



Disappointed to say the least. Given the fuss that had been kicked up I was expecting it to be a massive triumphalist epic covering several buildings but in the end it was a crappy little thing about ten feet high on the side of a tiny little outhouse.

Leaving aside the nonsense of the message (if loyalists are being oppressed it is by the government, which is part of the British state apparatus, so blind loyalty is frankly the daftest reaction going and with their savage beatings and drug dealing there are few oppressing loyalist communities more than the Uve) I think the fuss was all pretty nonsensical. Regardless of their message, I'm something of a fan of the paramilitary murals and am generally left rather cold by the "community mural" crap that goes up in their place. We all know the loyalist paramilitaries run their estates so for me it makes sense to have their stuff on the wall rather than covering it with some old crap about Ulster Scots (which nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast speaks anyway) or CS Lewis (whom nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast reads anyway). As spontaneous outpourings of dissent and examples of outsider art I love the bones of them and frankly one of the great shames of recent years has been the way Sinn Fein has taken control of the walls in the republican estates and are plastering in them in all that "cultural" crap that has become their obsession now that they're lurching increasingly to the right. Apart from anything, were there something really worth getting worked up about it would be the fact that the nearby Belfast City Council-owned park and sports facility is plastered in UVF insignia too but nothing was said about that.

In and off itself this mural is hardly anything to write home about but I for one would rather see it than some fantasy of smiling children or, worse yet, yet another one about the bloody Titanic. And as for the argument that a paramilitary mural will dissuade tourists from visiting Sydenham, frankly any tourist that visits Sydenham is bloody mental anyway. Let's face, the UVF is as active as it ever was so why pretend otherwise? If the Fenians have a problem then resist Sinn Fein's dominance and put up murals in support of the New IRA but getting all precious about a statement of fact (that the UVF remains armed and active) is just silly.

* I appreciate that Sodom and Gomorrah were totally separate from Noah and his flood and were destroyed by fire and brimstone rather than rain but the New Creation didn't bother recording a song about Noah and their Jesus Freak craziness deserves a bigger audience.

From a purely aesthetic point of view my favourite loyalist murals are this one, this one and this one (subsequently removed), although I rather like this one too because I made money out of the picture.
keresaspa: (Edwige Fenech)
William Frederick McCoy was one of the rabble of hard-faced old bigots who sat for the old Ulster Unionist Party in the Parliament of Northern Ireland during the post-war years. Most of these old codgers were completely faceless old nobodies, reminiscent of the pre-Reform Act MPs in Westminster who came streaming in from the rotten boroughs and in some ways McCoy was no exception, being elected unopposed as member for South Tyrone in four of the six elections he "contested". Probably the only thing worth mentioning about McCoy was that, in contrast to his fellow partymen who were happy for the "Protestant parliament for a Protestant people" to continue as ever, he wanted a stronger guarantee for the continuance of one-sided dominance by virtue of Northern Ireland being granted Dominion status. Former National Front activist and publisher of Ulster Nation David Kerr subsequently seized upon the otherwise forgotten McCoy and used him as an archetype for his own pro-independence rhetoric and, in Kerr's defence, the pamphlet he produced on him is, if one ignores the very obvious polemical aspects, a reasonable bit of work. Long since out of print, given that Kerr's Glenwood Publishing bit the dust years ago, his Ulster Souvenirs shop on the Shankill is now very much a pro-British affair and the last I heard of Ulster Nation somebody up the country was running it and it was being supported by the neo-Nazi British People's Party (no idea if that was Kerr's doing or not, although given his history I wouldn't be surprised), but interesting nevertheless, it must be conceded.

Why is it whenever I see Alex Salmond I always think of WF McCoy? I am on record several times as being a supporter of Scottish independence and I'm not going to rake over old ground by reiterating my reasons but the SNP in general and Salmond in particular leave me cold. The Snips have some reasonable ideas but they've always struck me as a bit too wishy-washy for their own good and I still remember the sectarian anti-Catholic campaign that Kay Ullrich undertook in her failed attempt to win the Monklands East by-election in 1994 at a time when the UVF in Scotland declared the SNP their preferred political party. As for Salmond, the man has always made my flesh my crawl, a greasy, down-market snake oil salesman, happy to flog his own granny for a quick fiver. The current form of "independence" on offer is very much a reflection of the man, crying freedom but happy to continue being ruled by the English monarch, happy to give up economic freedom to keep English currency and breaking from his party's traditions by declaring for NATO. I doubt he can spell principle much less have one. The wheels have, of course, come off now that the Westminster government and their New Labour stooges have warned no union, no quids but that was inevitable, a side effect of Salmond's chronic lack of ambition for Scotland. For what he's offering is not independence but Dominion status, and a watered down one at that. His new Scotland, far from being a revolutionary new dawn, would simply be devolution in all but words, with Scotland still answerable to the Bank of England and the House of Lords and with thousands of British soldiers still based on their soil in the name of helping NATO.

I have encountered many Englishmen and women, both politician and otherwise, trumpeting how much they are opposed to Scotland's independence, apparently completely ignorant of the fact that being told what to do by Englishmen for so long is the reason so many Scots want independence in the first place. As Parnell so rightly said "no man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation" and nor should they, so in that respect the opinion of the English is irrelevant. However, as usual, it looks as if the masters are to have their way regardless as all evidence indicates that Salmond has a snowball in Hell's chance of winning the referendum. I guess the majority of Scots are more than happy to be regularly ruled by the Conservative Party despite not voting for them. Strange people. But on the other hand would it even be worthwhile voting for Salmond's Scotland in the first place? He talks a good game about something approaching social democracy but if he wants Scotland tied to the Bank of England does he really think they will have no input into fiscal policy? And if they are to have an input into Scotland's fiscal policy does he really think that monetarist England will be happy for Scotland to go off on a social democratic trip on their coin? If he does then he has his tam o'shanter on too tight. Restoring the old Pund Scottis or even taking on the Euro would have been more radical solutions but the big bluffer had to take the wimp's option and leave himself at the mercy of Cameron, Miliband and the rest of the unionist rabble.

Frankly it's all a bit shitty really. The referendum has come at a time when Scotland is under the command of a leader who has no guts (apart from the ever-expanding one above his belt) and is being put to an electorate who apparently do not have the guts to break from a government that has being treating them shabbily for centuries. I would love to see the day when Scotland takes its rightful place amongst the states of the world but it now seems almost certain that this opportunity will remain untaken and, most likely, the last chance for me to see a free Scotland in my lifetime will go with it. For the SNP a period of chronic opposition and soul-searching will beckon whilst for Scotland a future of being at London's beck and call will await and all that will be achieved will be a final end to the political career of Alex Salmond (although knowing that eel he might still slip his way out of that). What a shame.
keresaspa: (Trotsky)
Whilst there are those amongst us who crave above the new, the different and the strange, many of us are, to varying degrees, creatures of habit. For some of you out there a week in which egg and chips is not consumed on a Tuesday evening is a week you would rather not live, a frightening prospect that brings a shudder even at the very thought. Routine is for the most part an enemy but there are inevitably occurrences when I too feel the name to conform to a sort of pattern.

Saturday afternoon is, of course, one such time as that is the time I must be at a football match regardless of the teams in action. A spell of diluvian rain today ensured that Donegal Celtic's intended match against Ballyclare Comrades was ixnayed but, undaunted, I spent the day at Seaview watching a drab affair in which Newington YC lost by the single goal to Portstewart. A crowd of around twenty was all the match could garner, making Seaview an eerier experience than normal (and next time I bemoan the poor crowds at DC I'll remember this match), although I spent it in the company of a slightly bonkers old West Bromwich Albion fan who had got a boat over to Belfast on the off-chance of attending any live match. I doff my hat to such hardcore anorak-ism.

Saturday may be my day for football but for others routine on a Saturday means only one thing - standing outside the City Hall bleating about a flag no longer being a permanent fixture on the building. Yes, that's right after nearly a year and two months they are still gathering outside the City Hall griping about that bloody flag with the usual line-up of spides, the elderly, children and people not from Belfast (just what does it matter to "Loyalist Lisburn" is Belfast City Council doesn't fly a flag?).

With regards to all of this crap about flags and Orange marches Martin McGuinne$$ made a valid comment recently (well, there's a first time for everything) suggesting a grand coalition for bigotry between the Orange Order, the UVF and their PUP political arm being behind all this. Were I Curly I would have added the West Belfast Ulster Political Research Group and their associated UDA dissidents who have been prominent up at Twaddell Avenue, but otherwise the point is a valid one. The Regressive Unionists, and the increasingly Strasserite weltanschauung they have adopted under the führung of Billy Hutchinson, have their eyes on doing something at the council elections and, given that their previous flirtations with more normal social democracy got them nowhere, what better way to make the breakthrough than by marrying a message of being a persecuted underclass to one of ultra-nationalism, whilst seeking a direct alliance with the main organisation of right-wing middle-class backlash.

David McKittrick has characterised the work of the Loyalist Association of Workers and the Ulster Workers Council as a form of "sectarian socialism" and it was a policy followed to an extent by the UDA's lead spokesman in the '70s Sammy Smyth, a man who combined agitation on behalf of the Protestant working class with calls for ethnic cleansing and extreme anti-Catholic conspiracy theories and whose pronouncements became so extreme that in the end he was given a punishment beating and expelled from the UDA. It's along this path that the Regressives are now going, offering a vague version of socialism for one community whilst seeking to blame other working class people for their ills rather than capitalism. Socialism that purposefully seeks to divide the working classes and instead looks to class enemies as its natural allies? That's Strasserism in my book and no mistake. And I'm not even touching on their willingness to co-operate closely with dyed-in-the-wool right-extremists like Jim Dowson and Willie Frazer in their flag protests when I say that.

Their alliance with sections of the unionist establishment is inevitable and inevitably it will get them nowhere as they will be used by the Orange Order until they get tired of them, just as the LAW and UWC were by the Ian Paisley and William Craig. By continuing in their usual role as running dogs for the unionists, the Regressives have blown any hope of effecting change and indeed it leaves one with little conclusion to draw other than the fact the, far from wanting anything to change, Hutchinson just wants to get his and a few of his mates snouts in the trough alongside the rest of them. Given that he happily stands by whilst the UVF he represents peddles drugs and inflicts terror on the loyalist communities he claims to speak for then I can't see what else he has in mind. I'm sure plenty will be fooled and Hutchinson will get his wishes and this place will once again back bigotry and put a few more horse pedlars on the councils but let's not expect anything to improve by enshrining a divided proletariat. Same old Northern Ireland, forever and ever, Amen.
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: (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.

WATP

Oct. 14th, 2013 08:59 pm
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
For the past several weeks a loyalist bivouac has existed at Twaddell Avenue, a street that links the Crumlin Road to the Woodvale Road near the top of the Shankill. Twaddell and its encampment face the republican Ardoyne area which has been the sight of a number of controversies regarding loyalist marches recently. The Parades Commission has determined that triumphalist loyalist marches past the republican area are not acceptable, which seems perfectly reasonable, and the response has been to have a round the clock presence right in the faces of the Ardoyne residents, to remind that we are the people and this is our turf.





The Progressive Unionist Party showing plenty of progressive thinking there as usual. But I digress. Time was the Ardoyne yahoos would have been on that rubbish like a tom-tit on a horse-turd but the response now? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Just take a moment to drink that in. A naked display of extreme nationalism, hatred and provocation right in your face dressed up as civil rights (I'm not sure where it is an enshrined civil right to intimidate and threaten people with extreme right political marches glorifying UVF murderers but you can't expect logic from these idiots) and the response is nothing. I wouldn't mind but this is Ardoyne, an area that has always prided itself on its reputation for resistance and yet their response to this sort of provocation is to stand around like a bunch of gongoozlers. Hell, can you imagine if a republican flute band wanted to have a parade commemorating Lawrence Montgomery and Frankie Donnelly past the Woodvale? The UVF would have Ardoyne set alight before they could beat one tattoo out.

I passed this latter-day Blackshirt rally the other week and there was two old men in charge of it and today there was nobody and yet nothing was done, it was left untouched without a single hood going over and tearing stuff down or writing a bit of graffiti. Hell, even if they're prepared to tolerate such hatred then what is stopping them replying in kind by sticking a bunch of republican insignia on the Ardoyne shops facing Woodvale? Sauce for the goose and all that. But still nothing.

I was pretty surprised by the lack of response but not as amazed as I might have been as the grubby hand of Sinn Fein is clearly at work again. They know that if they show even the slightest bit of balls then their big money appointments in Stormont will go for a Burton and the green of the scrouse is all that Martin McGuinne$$ and his cronies care about these days. What is disappointing is that the republican people on the ground are happy to be cast in the role of helots who will happily accept anything thrown at them so long as their masters get their thirty pieces of silver from the Westminster overlords that they claim to oppose so much. As much as the loyalists are increasingly sickening me with their lurch to the extreme right I have to admit that they suit themselves no matter what the consequences for the unionist politicians. It's a real shame that the republicans are happy to live on their knees rather than treat their self-proclaimed masters with the same disregard. A proud tradition of defiance and a refusal to bend to masters lies in tatters today.
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.
keresaspa: (Tijuana toad)
I happened to come across a copy of yesterday's Daily Mirror whilst waiting for my most recent physiotherapy appointment today. Apparently on Friday between 6 and 7 PM we are to be treated to something called "Operation Standstill" where the queen's highways are to be blocked by hordes of angry flag wavers hell-bent on preventing anybody from going anywhere. Apparently the reason for this is because loyalists are sick of how they are being treated. Really? This place is being brought to a standstill because a majority of representatives that you helped to elect came to a decision within the rules of liberal democracy and you are the ones who are sick of how you are being treated. Well, everybody else is sick to the back teeth of you lot and the pointless disruption you are bringing but never mind as I suppose democracy means "give me what I want or else" in loyalist circles. Also noticed Peter Robinson is asking people not to attend protests any more. Too late now Robbo, like Ian Paisley before you you have climbed into bed with the paramilitaries to get them to do your bidding but unlike Paisley you don't know how to play them properly and they are now outside your control. It seems strange that Paisley has played no part whatsoever in all this. Happen he really is on death's door or maybe he is just that little bit shrewder than Robinson and decided not to get tangled up in the whole mess.

Elsewhere as part of these despicable protests about a piece of cloth it seems that one group of loyalists intends to protest in Dublin in a few Saturday's time. Good idea I suppose as a decision that can only be taken by Belfast City Council should have been protested in an unrelated city since the start. And who is behind this lark - why "victims rights protester" Willie Frazer of course, the who demands justice for "republican atrocities" whilst declaring his support for LVF leader Billy Wright. That's the LVF that killed 18 people, 13 of whom were civilians, and the same Billy Wright that was Brigadier of the Mid-Ulster UVF, one of the most active and notorious units of the Troubles.

It's interesting to wonder why someone who was a candidate for the late and unlamented Ulster Independence Movement even cares about a union jack flying when his membership of that party suggests that he wants to separate from the UK altogether and establish once and for all the legendary Protestant state for a Protestant people. Far be it from me to suggest that Willie just likes to cause trouble and draw attention to himself regardless of how much bullshit he is talking but the only other conclusion I can draw is that Willie's UIM membership was simply due to the fact that pro-LVF leaders like Clifford Peeples and Kenny McClinton dominated that worthless party in its death throes.

The last time WIllie took his merry band down to Dublin for a little bit of intimidation his then hobby horse "Love Ulster" got seven shades of shite knocked out of it by the local hoods. If there is still any cojones left down there the same thing needs to happen again, just so as finally some sense might be knocked in to Frazer's mixed-up head.

And whilst we are at it the flag is flying from City Hall today, apparently because it is the birthday of the fragrant and beatific Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and the Alliance insisted that this day be protected as a union jack day to pay homage to our new saviour. Good to see the republicans out protesting about such a shameful and triumphalist attack on their sensibilities. Oh.
keresaspa: (Jimmy Edwards)
With my usual teams either not at home or not in action today I decided to take a walk on the wild side by checking out one of the Intermediate Cup third round matches being played. I did consider the possibility of following Cliftonville Olympic to their game at Dundela, one of the few grounds relatively close to where I live (three miles on the nose, according to Google Maps), but its East Belfast location ruled it out immediately, given that it has been virtually a warzone over there since the Christmas holidays ended. Lucky I did in the end as the UVF shot up the cops today just down the road from Wilgar Park. Nice. Sport & Leisure were at home in the same competition according to one source but their website knew nothing about it and I didn't fancy a trek out to the Glen Road for nothing so I ruled them out and was left with the choice of Brantwood-Banbridge Town, Grove United-Dollingstown, Immaculata-Carrick Rangers or Queen's University-Annagh United. My bad foot meant that distance precluded me from going to Grove United (who are just on the cusp on Newtownabbey despite being named after an area of inner city north Belfast) or Queen's (whose ground is nowhere near the actual uni) and so on a whim I decided to plump for Brantwood as Immaculata's Grosvenor Leisure Centre home is a bit too crap for me to count as a genuine ground visited. As such I took the stroll down to the Shore Road, my progress impeded only once when I reached York Street and had to permit passage to a mob of Union Jack-wielding morons on their way to the weekly nuisnace outside the City Hall. Mostly children - no indoctrination going on there.

Brantwood's Skegoneill Avenue ground is something of a relic. For years it hosted B Division football but the club always struggled for support, in part because Crusaders are just a couple of hundred yards away and in part because loyalists across Northern Ireland, never mind Belfast, are attracted automatically to Linfield. As such Brantwood voluntarily dropped out of the Irish League a few years back and now play, inexplicably, in the Ballymena and Provincial League. Equally inexplicable is the fact that the headquarters of Duncairn Homing Pigeon Society are located on one corner of the ground, although given that we are in solid loyal territory here and pigeon clubs were frequently used as cover for paramilitary bases it doesn't take a genius to work that one out. Inside the ground was probably better than Sport & Leisure's but it was in terrible order, paint peeling from the stands, corrugated iron roofs rusting and the grass around them a boggy morass. A bit of elbow grease could probably drag it up to a decent standard (for NI) but being forced to leave the Irish League has damaged the psyche of Brantwood so whilst it could be done, what would be the point?

The game itself was of a pretty woeful standard, albeit end to end stuff. I actually saw Banbridge Town play at Glen Road Heights last November and whilst they weren't great there, they appear to have gotten worse as theoretically they should have put Brantwood to bed easily. Instead Brantwood took a very early lead and, after a sustained period of Banbridge pressure, somehow went 2-0 up against their more illustrious opponents. Anger and disappointment set in early with the crowd, which was totally dominated by Banbridge and their comparatively large travelling support (about forty or fifty people - a veritable throng at this level), although they were assuaged somewhat when one of their many and generally inconsequential attacks ended in a penalty award, although them to go in only 2-1 down at half time.

There are a bunch of pitches behind the ground where football at an even lover level is played and during half-time and lulls in the match before me I was able to turn round and watch a blood and guts park game between two very noisy and committed sides wearing the kits of Celtic and Atletico Madrid. A bit of digging around has since revealed that the teams were Ballysillan Elim and Shamrock II, although some of the language on display was less than Pentecostal. Enough to make a sailor blush, I tell you.

The second half got under way with the heavens opening and the culchies showing their class with half time substitute Stevie O'Neill scoring twice in fairly quick succession. Still the basketball style revelry was soon back on as Brantwood conjured up an equaliser from somewhere, only for the other mob to nab the winner ten minutes from time. By the end the Banbridge keeper had time to watch the pigeon loft as Brantwood failed to put on the pressure they needed due to a combination of poor positioning and ill discipline. With the raining now belting down the final whistle went and Banbridge had a 4-3 win and a passage to round four, although Brantwood can feel satisfied in matching a higher up team for much of the match and Banbridge will have their work cut out if they are to win their first Intermediate Cup since 1986.

So all things considered this was a good laugh in a grim way. Brantwood's ground is a complete throwback but, despite their diminishing fortunes, I'm glad it's still standing and that they're still plugging away, even if it is in the Ballymena League. I'm unlikely to return any time soon as I really only went to tick them off my bucket list but it was good fun while it lasted.
keresaspa: (Tijuana toad)
Once again conflagration has broken out in Northern Ireland. Let the Assembly conspire with their masters in Westminster to dismantle the welfare state, punish the poor, wipe out the DLA that supports the ex-paramilitaries and slowly but surely kill off the NHS and the boys will happily sit on their hands (a criticism equally relevant to both sides, admittedly). But pass a law saying the symbol of one side should not fly permanently over the council chambers of the capital and once again the loyalist hordes come out in force, channelling the spirit of Ulster Day, the Ulster Workers Council and the Ulster Clubs by bringing intimidation, violence and disruption to all until their intransigent demands are met. I mean it's not as if the council has voted to hoist the starry plough from the City Hall but still the usual fascist response ensues as the working class Protestant hordes, stoked on by their upper middle class master in the Unionist parties, take to the streets to bully their way to what they want. Where but Northern Ireland would people take to the streets and attack political offices for something so bloody conformist as flying the union flag? Other countries get their "springs" we get an uprising in favour of hierarchy and dominance with a section of the working class unleashing violence in order that they might now their place a little bit more.

Of course the RUC will never go against their own, no matter what they call themselves these days. In England peaceful protesters with genuine grievances are treated like dirt, corralled like cattle and baton charged into a bloody pulp whilst if the Fenians went around smashing up buildings and attacking the filth the plastic bullets would be out quicker than you can say "Robert Hamill" but loyalist mobs are, as usual, free to do what they please when they please. Meanwhile the response of homophobic young earth creationist and hospital closer-in-chief Edwin Poots? Punish the violence by giving them their precious butcher's apron flying from Stormont too. Christ, if he worked for free his wages would be too high! If all those Egyptian protesters still haven't worked out that the difference between dictatorship and democracy is that in the latter you get to pick which inept, corrupt, power-hungry idiots get to order you about then let them look to Poots for confirmation.

In the interest of balance however I will give a rare bit of credit to Peter Robinson for at least attempting to offer a moderate, reasoned response. However I noticed he stopped short of condemning it, no doubt mindful of the votes he'll be seeking in East Belfast in 2015. Good to see that Hilary Clinton has condemned the violence though. Yup, nothing better than some bigshot American breezing in to pat us on the head and tell us how we should all get along with one hand, whilst giving a thumbs up to Israeli genocide with the other. Bugger off home, Hil, you're input is not needed and you've had your run in the pity job that Obama gifted you after wiping the floor with you in the Democratic primaries.

I must admit my sympathy for the Alliance is limited in this issue. They have followed the lonely path of well-heeled moderation previously followed by the Ulster Liberal Party and the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland but, as Humpty-Dumpty so succinctly demonstrated, when you spend all your time sitting in the fence (or wall in the Eggman's case) you will eventually have a great fall. Naomi Long might be seeking to portray herself as a great heroine but, whether by choice or not, she owes her seat in Westminster to the UVF as, without the endorsement of Stephen Matthews at the last election she would still be parking her ample rump on the cold benches of the City Hall rather than the plush loungers of the Palaces of Westminster. Matthews could just as easily have roused his supporters and stooges on the Newtownards Road, Sydenham, Dundonald and the rest to vote for Trevor Ringland or David Vance in order to force Robbo out but he anointed Long and obviously in return it was expected that she and her party would play ball. They haven't and so the special relationship is over. David Ford's decision to leave Marian Price to her fate means that the Alliance have already made republicanism their enemy so by falling foul of the loyalists they have painted themselves into a corner. But them's the breaks. They've been as complicit in the cuts-happy cosiness of the Assembly as anybody else so sorry about your damn luck.

So, plus ça change really as some silly little concession is made, loyalists react like mindless animals and bugger all is done to stop them. It would be funny if the whole thing wasn't so depressingly interminable.
keresaspa: (Max Miller)


The legend claims that it is Sir Edward Carson KC MP in the top left corner but, and correct me if I'm wrong, it looks suspiciously to me like the (admittedly impossible) offspring of Benito Mussolini and Max Miller. Far be it from me to level criticism at as august and established an institution as the Ballymena company of the Ulster Volunteer Force North Antrim Brigade but they might be advised to find a new sign writer as their current man has a dodgy eye.

And come to think of it is that James Craig below him or me? If it is me (and I think I would have remembered posing for the UVF), they've accidentally put my moustache on the guy on the right hand side. New painter needed forthwith!

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