In the wake of the racially-motivated massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylann Roof, a self-proclaimed Far Right militant with a fondness for the former regimes of apartheid-era South Africa and white-minority-rule Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), I was reminded of those in the leadership of the British unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland who once expressed similar feelings of admiration for the fellow legacy-colonies of the Greater English empire. Like the descendants of the trespassing European settlers who carved out “nations” for themselves on the continent of African, so some unionists saw their history as one of “planters” taking land and territory from unworthy natives; of the “higher race” assuming its natural place of privilege amongst the indigenous savages – be they African or Irish. As the firebrand preacher-turned-politician Ian Paisley MP MEP retorted to Charles Haughey, the taoiseach of Ireland, in 1981:
“Our ancestors cut a civilisation out of the bogs and meadows of this country while Mr Haughey’s ancestors were wearing pig skins and living in caves …”
In one brief sentence the attitudes of several generations of unionists were summed up. Attitudes that Dylann Roof would no doubt echo in relation to native America, or African- and Latino-Americans.
It is also worth noting that just as Paisley and other prominent unionist leaders – from both the DUP and UUP – created a socio-cultural milieu in which “loyalist” gunmen and bombers saw justification and sanction to indiscriminately slay the “Irish enemy”, so Fox News and the extreme right of the Republican Party have created a sub- and overtly-violent space where ideologue-fanatics can likewise prosper. The words of Roof as he took the lives of innocent, black men and women in Charleston, “…you are taking over the country”, could just as easily have come from the mouth of a gun-wielding terrorist of the UDA-UFF or UVF during any period of the “Long War” from the 1960s to early 2000s. Indeed such sentiments continue to hold sway in some unionist circles as we have seen with the so-called “flag protests” of recent years and the continued opposition to any formal recognition of the Irish language as the indigenous speech of this island nation – in its entirety. Just as the bigoted edge of British unionism in Ireland finds itself unable to accept a “Fenian” in Stormont (or in Belfast City Hall), so the fringe of White America finds itself unable to accept a black man in the White House. And such individuals do not need to wear Orange Order sashes or a KKK hoods to act upon such beliefs.
In light of the above I thought two past posts from the archives of An Sionnach Fionn might be of interest:
Fascists, Neo-Nazis And The British Unionist Minority In Ireland
Ulster Resistance – Unapologetic British Terrorism In Ireland
Note: an explanation of the unionist pyre pictured above, starting from the top of the bonfire,
- a number of Irish flags, both current and historical, including the national flag of Ireland (commonly called the Tricolour), the Irish Harp flag (superseded by the Tricolour) and the Gal Gréine or “Sunburst” banner, a symbol derived from indigenous Irish literature.
- a Palestinian flag, reflecting the belief of some British unionists in the pseudo-historical and messianic myth that their community or “folk” in Ireland are descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel; others also identify with contemporary Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
- a Rainbow or Gay/LGBT Pride flag, homosexuality and gender-realignment being widely viewed as biblical abominations by Protestant fundamentalists amongst the unionist minority.
- various banners painted with political acronyms and slogans, including: “Keep Antrim Tidy = KAT = Kill All Taigs (Kill All Irish/Catholics); “We’re Not Racist We Just Don’t Like Cotton-Picking Niggers / We’re Not Racist, Just Don’t Like Niggers”; “I Ran Away = IRA = Irish Republican Army”.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the main unionist-supporting website in the United States is the notorious “Americaphile Resurgent”, a somewhat deranged far right, racist and homophobic cesspool of anti-Irish and African-American sentiment.
Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.
I was waiting for this post, particularly given the new debate on flegs in the Deep South, though it looks like they are moving to compromise. The equivalent would have been an unhindered free state that had taken the Deep North by force and which had given limited powers to the more vociferous countries, yet union flegs remaining here and there.
It takes an exceptional amount of self-construction to consider the Gaelic Europeans called “native Irish” as equivalent with the tribes people of Africa, but it was useful for pursuing their ends. Yet the metaphor was useful, as the clear link was the idea of Empire as a ‘civilising’ force, which is where it wears thin on homeground as Scottish (semi-Gaelic) planters ‘civilising’ their “Popish” Irish brethen! Perhaps if the War of the Kings had gone in the the direction, we might have had an imperial “native” Catholic aristocracy.
There is something to be said for ending partition in the Deep North by pushing equality to the maximum, given the entrenched defensiveness of the drum-beating semi-illiterate remains of the Ascendancy. The best we can do is to continue to create a modern and proportionately economically powerful Republic through all-Ireland political bodies, with candidates on both sides of the imposed border.
I suspect, Jimmy, that the reunification of Ireland will involve the necessity to have British flags flying over Irish streets for several decades to come. However I am fairly sanguine about that. If it brings about peaceful reintegration of the national territory let the unionist minority fly their flags and march their marches to their hearts content in a reunited country. If it’s cultural rather than political it is no greater threat or offence than Irish-American bars or St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston.
I certainly enjoyed the Republican presidential candidates in the US twisting every which way in order to avoid giving a straight answer on the display of Confederate flags. Given what the flag represents it is difficult to see any justification for its flying. Then again we Irish must, perforce, put up with seeing the “Butcher’s Apron” and what that stands for – in historical terms at least. That is no more respectable than the battlefield-flag of the Confederates.
Romney was a surprise!
had a look at that website americanphile resurgent.absolutely barking,willy frazer is in good company.
I was going to link to the Americaphile website in the post but I preferred that it didn’t have the traffic or the minuscule SEO boost on Google. Whoever is running it is seriously mad, to the point that you have to wonder if it is some sort of weird parody of extreme unionism? However it’s not that far from Willy’s own Victims website which seems to have become WillyFrazer.Com in all but name.
How many times can you fit the name Willy Frazer into a couple of paragraphs?
“This site belongs to and is the sole property of William Frazer.
Unless otherwise indicated, this Website and its contents are the property of William Frazer. William Frazer does not make any warranty that information contained on this Website, or on any site linked to this Website, is complete, accurate or up-to-date; and William Frazer is not responsible for the results of reliance on any such information.
Unless they are contained in William Frazer Information, or unless expressly stated otherwise, opinions given on this Website are those of the individuals making them, and not those of William Frazer : William Frazer is not responsible for such opinions or any claims resulting from them.
To the extent permitted in law, William Frazer accepts no liability for any loss or damage which may be suffered by other parties as a direct or indirect result of using this Website (including perceived deprement of character, loss of profit, loss of opportunity, loss of business, and consequential loss).”
What was that name again? 😉
“William Frazer does not make any warranty that information contained on this Website, or on any site linked to this Website, is complete, accurate or up-to-date…”
In other words, William Frazer can bullshit as much as he wants, it’s in his terms and conditions. 🙂
Wherever you have two rival ethno-religious communities certain people, whether they be politicians, religious leaders, or, like Paisley a combination of both, will always attempt to gain followers by appealing to the lowest common denominator in that community. They create a crude stereotype of the rival tribe, which they know will appeal to at least some of their own tribe, making it easier for those members of their tribe with violent tendencies to kill their rivals.
Reading this blog I am stuck by the irony that, while deprecating the deployment of such stereotyping against the Nationalist/Catholic community here in the North, the author then goes on to deploy exactly the same crude stereotyping against the Unionist “community” : how long will we have to wait before being treated to a cartoon of some tattooed ape-like creature, dressed in K.K.K. garb, banging a lambeg drum, being portrayed as a typical Unionist. Not long I suspect.
Believe it or not, most Unionists are decent, ordinary people, most Nationalists, the same. Attending bonfires and engaging in the drunken yobbery associated with them is very much a minority pastime. Kris Nixon’s recent post on “Slugger O’Toole” would, I think, more succinctly sum up the attitude of most Unionists to bonfires : I would gladly see them consigned to the dustbin of history.
I am rarely surprised by anything I read on this blog, but to use the tragedy in Charleston merely as a contrived excuse to attack and stigmatise Unionists is poor : abuse as a substitute for logical argument. As the author points out crude stereotyping is dangerous and led to the deaths of many on both sides during our “Troubles,” though, typically, he chooses to highlight only those murders carried out by loyalists. The only case I can recall of people actually being murdered in a place of worship during “the Conflict” was the attack carried out by republicans at Darkley Pentecostal Church in 1983. No doubt they, like their loyalist counterparts, had been conditioned to believe that those they murdered were less than human.
I see your point, and the contrast with Slugger is important, as looking at that site, I can see people having very constructive conversations on how to resolve Irish and British identities, even discussing how North and South could be combined in a single polity. In contrast, here, it is true that the Union Jack is associated with Empire and imperial mistreatment of minorities.
I guess what ails me is that I note in several places that there is not a parity between the actions of republicans and loyalists in the present day. It is loyalists who now feel more cornered than ever, and who are on the defensive (hence the importance of helping them find a way out constructively as you point out). The crass “Respect our culture” banners, lampooned in LAD, represent a real insecurity. This defensiveness has its ugly side, with loyalist paramilitary violence forcing people from their homes, and obsessive attachment to parades and symbols.
I think all agree that things cannot continue in the current state of stasis. As long as politics revolves around tribes and identity, we will be stuck in this loop. A new polity, and not a repartitioned tiny NE enclave, will open the way, if it can make our loyalist brethren feel appreciated, empowered, and at home.
Ginger, apologies in the late reply. The reason for the post had nothing to do with “Unionist-bashing”. I am helping an English friend with their dissertation on British post-imperial “legacy colonies” and the cultures thereof. This has gone from the 1800s to the early 2000s, focusing in particular on attempts to create or foster links/alliances between both. So the matter of the former Rhodesia has been part of that reading, as well as the apartheid-ignoring “Friends of South Africa” type groups which featured prominent unionist pols in the 1970s and ’80s (though I actually got diverted off into the armed struggle in Angola between the Portuguese and the three main nationalist factions).