Current Affairs Politics

The Anti-Democrats – The British Unionist Minority In Ireland

Protesters from the British Unionist minority demonstrate at the end of the flying of the British flag from the roof of Belfast City Hall, Ireland 2012 (Photo: The Five Demands)
Protesters from the British Unionist minority demonstrate at the end of the flying of the British flag from the roof of Belfast City Hall, Ireland 2012 (Photo: The Five Demands)

The democratically elected local government council of Belfast City has voted to remove the British flag from the masthead on the roof of Belfast City Hall in a city shared by Irish Nationalist and British Unionist communities. And the reaction of Unionists?

A thousand-strong demonstration outside Belfast City Hall punctuated by screams of “No Surrender”, the burning of the Irish flag, an attempted storming of the civic building, injured civilian security guards and PSNI paramilitary police officers, a beaten press photographer, smashed cars, rioting in central and east Belfast, and attacks on St. Matthews, a Roman Catholic Church in a besieged Nationalist enclave in the east of the city.

This is what the British Unionist minority in Ireland call’s “democracy”.

The same in 2012 as it was in 1912.

UPDATE 1.00am 04/12/12: The DUP’s Tom Haire, a Belfast City councillor and member of the Protestant fundamentalist Orange Order, has issued a tweet about last night’s vote that some have interpreted as a crude attempt to draw a reaction from Resistance Republicans to the agreement by Sinn Féin and the SDLP to the compromise motion passed by Belfast City Council.

Tom Haire of the DUP issues a tweet in a crude attempt to draw a reaction from Resistance Republicans?
Tom Haire of the DUP issues a tweet in a crude attempt to draw a reaction from Resistance Republicans?

UPDATE 2.00am 04/12/2012: Video of the rioting by members of the British Unionist minority outside Belfast City Hall in protest at the city council’s equality vote over national flags at the city hall.

10 comments on “The Anti-Democrats – The British Unionist Minority In Ireland

  1. Sharon Duglas

    No sign of water cannon or CS gas, and still have not heard of any arrests. Curious.

    • Apparently events are escalating in the east of the city. Hopefully the trouble will subside very quickly. As it is things sound quite bad. Unusually there are reports of some Protestant fundamentalists being shipped over from Scotland to bolster the numbers on the demonstration outside Belfast City Hall. That is all the city needs. Glasgow Rangers’ and UVF / UFF supporters tearing it up.

  2. Couldn’t agree more,
    as I said earlier:
    Unionist outreach and a shared future in action, Loyalist style, on the streets of Belfast tonight.
    It may be 2012 but for some, it is still 1690, let alone 1922. The Unionist politicians have been stoking this up for days. Perhaps Nelson McCausland may have some words for us tonight?
    The Short Strand is under attack tonight. Again.
    Loyalism, when it suffers what it perceives as a setback. always, I repeat, always responds with violence or the threat of violence. I cannot think of an exception.
    The sad thing is that the DUP cannot escape responsibility for this one.

    • I quite agree. At the heart of Unionism lies a fundamentally anti-democratic core. It is an early 20th century anti-democratic and authoritarian ideology no different from its bedfellows in fascism and communism that has somehow managed to survive into the 21st century. It and North Korea.

      • It will be interesting to see the the reactions of political unionism to this and remember it is a reaction to a democratic decision. Unionism is in a minority on the council

        • Just seen a Comment left under a post by Chris Donnelly on Slugger O’Toole where he discussed the trouble in Belfast (some of which he eye-witnessed) asking where was the article on racism in the GAA. Good lord…

          One would have thought that Unionists would have taken the compromise on the flag flying and ran with it. Not a chance. Not so much “no surrender” as “no compromise”.

          Now we have DUP politicians sending out tweets goading Resistance Republicans into action because SF and SDLP voted for compromise. Madness. Unionism lives for the conflict and cannot survive without it.

  3. Willie Davison

    I am a Unionist with a small u. I haven’t voted for a long time as I feel that none of the current Unionist parties represent me : I completely condemn the violence of last night. The people causing trouble last evening are a tiny minority, most Unionists, like most other Northern Irish people, are more concerned with the economy than anything else, they certainly aren’t interested in this nonsense. I also assume that most Southern Irish people are more concerned with economic matters, as, on the eve of tomorrow’s budget, I have just heard an economist on the Pat Kenny show describe the Southern state as “bankrupt.”
    You would have thought that after the 20th Century we experienced on the island of Ireland that people would have realised that violence doesn’t work, it doesn’t have any positive results, it only leads to further violence : but apparently there are still some on the Loyalist side and, of course, in the ranks of Dissident Republicans who think that what we need is further pointless blood-letting.
    Oh and, by the way, I regard myself as Irish, as I assume that being unionist and Irish aren’t mutually exclusive.
    I can also assure you that I am neither a proto-fascist, or proto-communist. Unionism as it developed from the late Nineteenth Century was essentially a loose coalition, taking in the whole spectrum of opinion from labour-inclined people, through former Liberals, to conservatives. Most liberally-minded people, like myself, probably no longer vote, though we would turn out in any border poll.
    I think Irish Nationalism/Republicanism also has questions it needs to ask itself about the way it has developed since the mid-19th Century and why it has so comphrensively failed to persuade around 1 million people in the North-Eastern corner of this island around to its point of view. The area where I live (predominantly Presbyterian) was a stronghold of support for the United Irishmen in 1798, now it is strongly Unionist, why did this happen? The community in which I was brought up played a large part in inventing Irish Republicanism, now no one would vote for a Republican candidate. Why?
    The general tenor of this blog seems to be supportive of Dissident/Continuing Republicans. Of course, these people can kill a few policemen or prison officers. But, to what end? The Provos spent over a quarter of a Century trying to “persuade” Unionists to enter an all Ireland state by murdering and maiming them and attempting to destroy the economy. They failed abysmally and if they had had any understanding of the psychology of Ulster Unionists they would never have started their campaign. I think people like Gerry Adams realised very early the futility of what they were doing ; but the Republican movement was a juggernaut which took a long time to turn around and Adams knew better than most that if he tried to move too quickly he would end up, like so many others, being dumped on a border road with a bullet in his head.
    Reading this blog I get the distinct impression that very few “Continuing” Republicans, particularly of the Southern variety, have ever met a Unionist, or visited a predominantly Unionist area, like North or Mid-Antrim, perhaps if they did they might get a more rounded impression, develop less of a stereotypical viewpoint. But only peaceful persuasion will work, and, in the end, it will be “the economy stupid.”

    • Hi Willie, and thanks for taking the time to Comment. I do appreciate it.

      I agree with you that violent action or any direct action is invariably the work of a minority in the country, whether in the Unionist or Nationalist communities. But that could be said of most European nations. Very few people stand up and are counted, whether for good or bad. Most people simply plod along. Examples like the widespread unrest in Greece or the recent mass demonstrations in Catalonia are the break from the norm rather than the norm in most democracies (or non-democracies).

      I don’t see the violence in Belfast or the protests over the flag as being reflective in general of the British or Scots-Irish minority in Ireland. However I do see them as being reflective of British Unionism as a political ideology. I perhaps do not always make a distinction between community and ideology clear in relation to the British community in Ireland and I have been rightly taken to task for that. Sometimes in the heat of blogging one looses the subtleties of language that should be present. My apologies for that.

      There are of course many Unionists who regard themselves as Irish and British. Just as there are variations of that (Ulster and British, Ulster-Scots and British, and so on). Unfortunately one must work at times in broad brush strokes when commenting, and you must admit those Unionists who embrace their Irishness alongside their Britishness are very much a minority of a minority. Most Unionists, at least in this era, reject any sense of Irishness or connection to Ireland and view themselves in purely British or Ulster-Scots / Scots-Irish terms. Or worse, the whole Lost Tribe of Israel or Cruithnigh theories.

      To turn your question on its head, one might ask why did Unionism in Ireland fail to persuade the majority of the population of the island of Ireland of its merits or of the British connection? That it failed to do so is unanswerable. Further, one might ask why a minority of the population of the island, less than 20%, felt the right to up arms and through violence and the threat of violence attempt to thwart the democratic wishes of the 80% majority?

      To protect the colonial privileges and superiority of a British ethno-national minority on the island of Ireland? To preserve a microcosm of the British colony in Ireland, a northern Pale, where those who believed themselves to be British could continue to exist in a state of colonial superiority founded upon a system of sectarian or quasi-racial apartheid?

      In relation to An Sionnach Fionn it may offer at times an analysis of the Republican Resistance and their activities or views but that does imply support. I have written several very critical articles of their military or other actions and no doubt will continue to do so.

      Again, to turn your points around, if Unionists had understood the psychology of the majority population of this island maybe they would not have used violence to force the partition of our shared island-nation in the defence of the last remnant of the British colony in Ireland, with everything that stems from that.

      I have visited Derry and Fermanagh many times, Belfast and Antrim less often. My own grandmother’s family were Scots-Irish Protestants from around Enniskillen. Some were Unionist, some Nationalist. My great-grandfather fled southwards after the War of Independence and partition because he was in a “mixed” marriage and became a successful Dublin businessman though ultimately the grief at the loss of his family and home in Fermanagh destroyed him. My own father had memories of visiting Enniskillen around July the 12th and meeting relatives there.

      So I am well aware of the many layers and tangled web of identity involved in being “Irish”. More so perhaps than many Unionists will admit?

      Finally, take this from the Ipsos MRBI 50th anniversary poll published in the Irish Times on the 27th of November: “…69 per cent of people say they would still favour a united Ireland even if they had to pay more in taxation to support it.”

      Economics do not play as big a part as you may believe.

      Thanks for your views.

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