The Irish-born journalist and author Walter Ellis is probably best known in this country for his 2006 autobiography, The Beginning of the End, which includes several references to his late cousin, Ronnie Bunting. While both men came from a strongly unionist background in East Belfast, the latter’s upbringing, a father in the British Army who was an ardent supporter of the Reverend Ian Paisley, the founder of the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951 and the related Democratic Unionist Party in 1971, seemed to ensure his loyalist identity. However, radicalised by the civil rights movement in the United Kingdom’s colonial territory on the island of Ireland, Bunting went on to become the commander of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish National Liberation Army, a breakaway faction of the Official Irish Republican Army.
On the 15th of October 1980 the thirty-two-year-old was gunned down in his home alongside his comrade Noel Lyttle, also from the unionist community, in a carefully planned attack claimed by the Ulster Defence Association, a legal loyalist terrorist group (Bunting’s wife, Suzanne, also from a Protestant background, was shot in the face though she survived her injuries). However the killing was almost certainly carried out by a UK Special Forces unit in response to the INLA’s 1979 assassination of Airey Neave, the Conservative Party’s militarist Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a close adviser of Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.
Ellis’ unique perspective on the current Brexit debacle as it effects the north-east of the country, as someone who has often walked the blurry line between Irishness and Britishness in the contested region, is worth noting, even if one does not agree with every word. Here he is in the conservative UK website, Reaction, with this view on the DUP’s malign hold over British politics:
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, née Kelly, is on a mission. Keenly aware that Catholics and Nationalists are shortly to become a majority in her beloved province, she knows she has no time to waste. Never mind that Remain won the referendum in Ulster by 56 per cent to 44 per cent and that a majority of the under-25s on both sides of the religious divide regard leaving the EU as folly. What she has to do, and do quickly, before England’s patience finally expires, is copper-fasten the Union by the simple means of re-establishing a hard border with the Republic. She denies this. She says she wishes trade to continue uninterrupted with her “nearest neighbours,” whom she just as often describes as “a foreign power”. But for the DUP, the border is what defines Northern Ireland, and it must be safeguarded by all means – the more obvious, the better.
Again, she denies this. In a piece on Brexit for last Saturday’s Belfast Telegraph, she never once mentioned the border. What she did lay stress on was the absolute need not to have a frontier down the Irish Sea, cutting off the loyalist people from their kith and kin in the rest of the UK. The fact that half her population, and soon more than half the electorate, consider themselves Irish, not British, is a small concern. They know what they can do if they don’t like what’s coming.
Indeed. As a Democratic Unionist MP recently told a radio presenter in London in an off-the-record conversation, “Build it as high as you like, that wall, that border.”