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:
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.