The Ashers Verdict: Becoming “Generous Minorities”: Sophie Long

The Ashers Verdict: Becoming “Generous Minorities”

 

I am offering my comments on the recent Ashers legal case, and subsequent “guilty” verdict, because I believe that both have consequences for community relations here in Northern Ireland, and also because I have a broader interest in what a diverse, tolerant society might look like.

The events which preceded the court hearing, and yesterday’s decision, have already begun to polarize opinion, with some heaping blame upon those with an “aggressive gay rights agenda” and other, socially conservative Christians, framing themselves as victims of “political correctness gone mad”, and perpetuating the idea that modernity, secularism and liberalism are incompatible with religious tolerance.

Such perceptions, whether misplaced or otherwise, should give us little cause for celebration. If the aims of the LGBT ’community/communities’ are respect and equal rights, the Ashers verdict might appear to be an all-out victory, but in the broader scheme of building an inclusive society, I believe it might represent a long-term, strategic failure.

Of course, as is often the case in Northern Ireland, the loudest voices aren’t the only voices. Some others, who may describe themselves as fairly liberal, and who support equal marriage, are troubled by the verdict, and its implications for religious tolerance, and are quietly questioning the logical limits of the legal decision.

Whichever side you fall on, I believe that the 19th May 2015 may have been a short-term victory for equality, but one which simultaneously created a long-term obstacle to tolerance and understanding. The case has been dissected multiple times, and my own analysis adds little to what has already been said.

However, it is worth considering how an order for a cake has caused such deep, social and political tremors. Tremors which might become fault lines if they are not critically addressed.

From what I can gather from their official website, Asher’s market themselves as a bakery, with the only discernible evidence of any religious leanings being found in the ‘About Us’ section of the site. They state this:

“Why Ashers? Well, contrary to popular opinion we are not called Mr. & Mrs. Asher. Our name comes from the Bible. Asher was a tribe of Israel who had many skilled bakers and created bread fit for a king.”(Ashers online).

I see no issue with this; it is not uncommon for businesses to explain their branding and provide some insight into their heritage. It personalizes the company, providing a Unique Selling Point in a competitive marketplace. However, nowhere on the website do Ashers suggest that this short, Biblical reference has any implications for the products which they are willing to offer.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume, when visiting the website, that Ashers are a professional bakery, keen to solicit custom, as all for-profit organisations are, and who make only scant reference to the private values which might lie behind the branding. The same ‘About Us’ section ends with:

“It just so happens we love to bake. On any given morning, you’ll find our home kitchen filled with the aroma of freshly baked scones or cinnamon swirls as we try out new recipes or experiment with new flavour combinations.

So why not pop in for a visit, we’d love to see you.” (Ashers online).

Based on this information, placing an order for a cake, with the now infamous, pro-gay marriage “Bert and Ernie” decoration, from Ashers, should not necessarily have resulted in a legal battle. Ashers appear to specialize in hand-decorated cakes, and encourage would-be customers to get in touch:

“Looking for something more personal, why not order a custom-made cake in store with our friendly folk behind the counter or build your own at our online shop Build-a-cake.

However, as has been outlined in various media discussions on the case, Ashers accepted the order, before contacting the customer to explain that they would be unable to fulfil the request. Following this, and, it appears, due to the connections and/or political persuasion of the customer, a lengthy dispute took place, with all of the associated claims around discrimination and tolerance which this sort of issue inevitably raises.

These are important, social and moral topics, and deserve our consideration. We are no longer a society with a clear majority, whose wishes could, under democratic, majoritarian voting systems, secure such wishes, and in doing so, perhaps oppress a range of minority groups.

Instead, Northern Ireland is a society of minorities. We all want different things, and have different, but equally firm, ideas about how best to organize society. Ashers was a small, tangible example of the new, Northern Irish pluralism, and all of the issues which that pluralism raises.  I’d like to offer a suggestion for how all sides, the “victors”, “victims” and concerned onlookers might move forward.

The verdict was met first with glee from some areas (DUP and TUV), who quickly re-adjusted their response once they realized that the “not guilty” rumours were unsubstantiated. It was then met with triumphant statements from others (LGBT groups for the most part), who celebrated the “common sense” approach of Judge Brownlie in recognizing discrimination when she saw it. This series of divergent, but equally passionate reactions, are what caused me to reflect on what the Asher’s debate might mean for Northern Ireland.

Ashers are a for-profit, professional business, operating in the centre of a capital city. Unless you know the family personally, it is nearly impossible to glean their religiosity from the company website. It is therefore, as I have said above, not unreasonable to expect that they would fulfil an order for a product which contains a pro-equal marriage message.

However, and this is a contingent statement, there have been murmurings that the customer in question was keenly aware of the family’s religious beliefs, and deliberately chose Ashers as a bakery, in order to provoke a reaction. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as they are, as I have outlined, operating in a public space, as business. Indeed, provocation can often be necessary for encouraging uncomfortable conversations.

Yet I can’t help but feel there are more respectful, and less overtly combative, ways to progress LGBT causes. We now have a legal decision which prevents businesses discriminating against customers, and this itself is a positive step. Yet we also have a substantial number of Christians, and others, who feel threatened by the ways in which this dispute was conducted.

These Christians, and those ‘others’ who are uncomfortable with the Ashers case, do not, of course, have the right to prescribe how others live their lives, and this extends to the debate over equal marriage. Yet they do have the right to feel part of our society, and it seems that we are rapidly alienating many of our fellow citizens.

It is not for me to advise LGBT groups on how to secure rights and protections, nor do I wish to belittle the very real and ongoing cases of discrimination which many LGBT citizens unjustly suffer, but there is a general piece of advice which we all might take on board, as we adjust to the new, increasingly secular Northern Ireland.

Yesterday’s ruling means that pro-gay rights groups can order similar products from Ashers, and reasonably expect the order be fulfilled, lest another fine be levied. However, and this is my argument: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Ashers, as far as I am aware, are not engaged in any actions which harm or threaten the rights of the LGBT community. They should obey the law, and obligated to comply with equality legislation. Yet the temptation to exploit yesterday’s ruling should be avoided. We would like to be respected as equal citizens in Northern Ireland.  We should extend the same respect to others.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” can be applied to a number of contentious areas of life in Northern Ireland. Just because you can parade up a road, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can stop a parade, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can vote to change a flag policy, doesn’t mean you should.

If we are to live together, in a genuine spirit of tolerance, we must transform the zero-sum attitude of “defeating” the other, in order to progress our own agendas. Justice matters, and the struggle should not end, but we should think in terms of twenty, fifty, one hundred years ahead, and build relationships, not future battles.

In short, to paraphrase a local Green politician, to move beyond such fraught, short-term battles, and create a tolerant, respectful society, we must all become “generous minorities” and consider the rights of all, not just the few, when we engage in these debates.

Sophie Long

 

 

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The Visit: Primo

The Visit.

  I wake at 6am. My husband is sleeping sound. I hear the rain on the window. But I don’t need the blinds up to know its another rainy November day. I always wake up early – a left over from my days as a house maid. I have to be up early to get everything ready especially today. I’m seeing my son up in the Kesh. I go down stairs and get the porridge on. I set the fire for later. Some newspaper, sticks and coal. I put on the single bar electric fire. It does all right but its very hard on the electric. Hubby has the works van home and he will be in extra early to get his days load on and out. But he has an extra delivery today.  Sometimes these early dark mornings remind me of that morning 10 years ago when the police came to the door and took my son, our son,  away.  My beautiful boy becoming a man in that god forsaken place.  We didn’t even know he was ‘involved’. 

I wake in the darkness bar the orange light shining through the wired glass. It is deadly quiet. The tin Nissen huts are freezing. It’s a Thursday in mid-November. In Long Kesh prison Camp. Compound 21. The doors will open at 7.00. Today is different. It’s a visit day. Instead of getting up and doing chores, then studying and some craftwork,   I will train first ( a 5 mile run) and get ready for the half hour visit with my mother. My weeks allowance. Even though I’m in the 10th year of imprisonment these visits are still special. The only good thing about the 10 year mark is that I’m half way through my stipulated sentence. I’m on the home straight. I may be 27 but I’m still mothers youngest.  I’m more proud of her each year that passes. I thought she would never get over my arrest and sentence. But each year she seems stronger, more confident. Assertive. She was never like that at home.

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What Loyalism Means To Me: Pash Pashler

What Loyalism Means To Me: Pash Pashler

 

In brief, My Loyalism, is a love for my country, a love for my kin, my family and fellow loyalists..it’s a respect for other loyalists who dared to do what I didn’t or didn’t have the shoulders for, to carry the weight they carried or carry, so no apologies for the past will be forthcoming from me.
Why apologise to those who wish to end my Loyalism and push me off my country into the sea.
Loyalism is branded as a bad word now, a dirty word, Is it a dirty word ? associated with criminal behaviour as some would have you believe ie racism and terror as propagated by social media left wing assassins and indeed mainstream media with their own agenda of self loathing and hypocrisy. I even see other loyalists trying to mainstream the meaning of the word, trying to appear more acceptable to those who really don’t care about us. Stop ! are we not who we are or Have we become the stray dog under the table waiting for a crumb to fall, waiting for acceptance and a pat on the back…Loyalism is a strong masculine word, it’s your da or your uncle and your grandad, your brothers. It’s a history, a good history that kept the UK together when called upon. I could deliberate over every word here so as not to offend anyone but that is not my Loyalism, my Loyalism is a good, a force to end the bad, I’m proud of my Loyalism, if I’m the lion in the jungle why would I want to be the mouse, Loyalism is a strong chin, never backing down from what’s right. it’s a strong word, upstanding and steadfast.
Accept my Loyalism or don’t, I care not, it’s my country and I’m going nowhere, we are going nowhere. 

 

Pash. 

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You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It: Jamie Bryson

You can’t have your cake and eat it- Critique of ruling in Gareth Lee v Ashers

 

Today’s ruling in the Gareth Lee V Ashers bakery case sets a dangerous precedent and it feeds those activists pursuing an aggressive gay agenda with more ammunition with which to persecute their war on freedom of conscience and also upon religious and moral principles and beliefs. The gay rights activists do not seek equality; they seek to pervert the true meaning of equality to use it as a weapon to enable their ‘rights’ to trump the rights of those who object to their practices or sexual preferences on religious or moral grounds. The ruling, in my mind, is a flawed one which is open to appeal on many levels. The Judge has allowed the rights of the “gay activists”, who purposefully and maliciously targeted a Christian run bakery, to trump the rights of those who hold deep religious and moral convictions. In delivering her judgement the judge made reference to a disputed ‘fact’- that she believed the bakery knew or had reason to suspect that the plaintiff was gay, this is a flawed and illogical assumption because the greater number of those who describe themselves as “LGBT activists” are not actually themselves gay. Therefore the judge has based a key issue, which she drew heavily upon as part of a balancing exercise between competing rights-which the judge herself acknowledged existed- upon a flawed and misinformed assumption that because a person is a gay rights supporter or activist that it would be ‘reasonable’ to believe that the person was gay. This reasoning stretches the boundaries of the law and goes far and beyond the protections that are offered, it effectively means that you can discriminate against not only a person but an idea or a belief- that is dangerous territory for any society to enter and it could quite realistically open the floodgates for not only an assault on Christianity but also upon a whole range of political, religious and moral beliefs and convictions. It creates a de facto right not to be offended by the back door. Ashers bakery did not refuse to bake a cake for the plaintiff because they suspected he was gay, they refused to bake the cake because they disagreed with the idea or belief the slogan on it espoused. As a matter of fact they disagreed, based on deep moral and religious convictions, with the gay rights propaganda message that the cake was to carry. It is also worth pointing out that gay marriage is unlawful in Northern Ireland, so it is also an issue that Ashers have been punished for refusing to produce propaganda supporting an illegal act. How bizarre that the Courts, at the behest of the publicly funded equality commission, would persecute a Christian family run business for refusing to provide propaganda promoting illegal activity. Some may say that is an unrealistic stretch of the law, well given the stretch in the law that Judge Brownlie made today I believe that the law is now open to be stretched in a whole manner of bizarre and illogical directions. Equality has no logical trajectory, boundaries or parameters. It provides for an anything goes society, as long as it makes anyone happy. It will corrode and destroy every moral fibre of society because society will be expected to accommodate every immoral act based upon the fatally flawed notion of equality.

What if a man decides he wants to have three wives? Should marriage be re-defined again to allow for three consenting women to be married to one man? If we following the trajectory of equality then most certainly a man should be allowed three wives so the question I then pose is where does ‘equality’ stop? What does ‘equality’ actually mean? It appears to me that equality is a weapon to be used to coerce and force people to promote or accept practices, causes or beliefs that they oppose for religious, moral or general conscientious reasons. Let’s look at just one example of the logic of todays ‘equality’ ruling in relation to businesses. Sean Kelly, the IRA Shankill bomber, could walk into a bakery on the Shankill Road and ask for a cake to be made commemorating fellow Shankill bomber Thomas Begley. Providing the message on the cake did not breach the prevention of terrorism act by encouraging future acts of terrorism and only ‘glorified’ terrorism in a historical/past tense then the bakery would be duty bound to make this cake or face being brought before the courts for discrimination on political grounds. Freedom from discrimination on political grounds is offered the same protections within the law as discrimination on sexual orientation. Now in my mind, and in the mind of any right thinking person, the Shankill bomb was not a political act but it was an act of pure terrorism but Sean Kelly was afforded, by the perverse Belfast Agreement, political status by being released as a ‘political prisoner’ on the basis of an internationally backed political agreement, therefore following the precedent set today a Republican could ask for a cake glorifying the Shankill bomb or any other act of republican terrorism and hide under the cloak of freedom from discrimination on political grounds to force the business into complying or face a discrimination case. That is the reality of the bizarre and outrageous possibilities opened up by this outrageous ruling. There is also an illogical and bizarre argument put forward, quite often by those who support the devolved Stormont institutions, that gay marriage should be allowed because it is allowed in the rest of the UK and therefore it would be anti-unionist to oppose it here in Northern Ireland. This nonsensical argument once again tries to ride two horses- firstly those who are devout supporters of Northern Irelands ‘special circumstances’ and devolved powers, which allows the assembly to make their own mind up on gay marriage and other issues, want to override the ‘special circumstances’ and slavishly follow the ‘mother parliament’ to force through gay marriage legislation. Secondly most Unionists would trace our heritage back to the signing of the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, which later became the 36th Ulster Division fighting as part of the British Army, yet those who perpetuate the argument that we should follow the mother parliament wish to cling to the legacy of our forefathers that framed and signed the convent whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that the Ulster Volunteer Force/36th Ulster Division was formed to resist the mother parliament, by all means necessary, in relation to the Home Rule bill. What is clear is that those celebrating today’s ruling cannot ignore the possibilities for an opening of the floodgates for all sorts of bizarre cases and indeed whilst it is the right of freedom of conscience that has been trumped on this occasion, there is a flip side to that coin which means that gay businesses could quite reasonably be forced to produce merchandise, cakes etc. which condemn gay marriage and which may carry slogans that while being totally lawful, a gay person may find deeply offensive, such is the can of worms that has been opened. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

Jamie Bryson

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Ashers Cake Row: Charlie Freel

A GOOD DAY IN THE RECLAMATION OF BASIC HUMAN MORAL DECENCY IN NORTHERN IRELAND.

 

Today in the courts sadly mistaken Judge Isobel Brownlie, drew a line in the sand from which the fight back for Civil and Religious Freedom and the defence of basic human moral decency, here in Northern Ireland begins. It took this Judge weeks to arrive at her, self proven flawed judgement, proved flawed by her statement that, “Baking a cake is merely obeying the law and providing the plaintiff with a service.”

 

Ashers bakery were not refusing to bake a cake, they were refusing to write upon that cake, a slogan supporting something which was spiritually and morally offensive, to both them and their sincerely held Christian Faith, as well as not being a legal practice here in Northern Ireland.

 

Regardless of this silly Judge and her flawed judgement, Ashers bakery have overwhelmingly won their case in the courts of Public opinion and in the courts of basic Human Moral decency. Thereby ensuring that the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland, will no longer be willing to sit idly by, as their rights of Civil and Religious Liberty are trampled over by noisy, in your face, intolerant, minority exponents of an anything goes, morally bankrupt society.

 

Charlie Freel. 

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Why Gerry and Al Have to copy SNP: Dr. John Coulter

Why Gerry and Al have to copy SNP: Scots show way forward

 

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Irish republicans must follow their Scottish counterparts and form a single nationalist party if they want to snatch the coveted Stormont First Minister’s post from DUP boss Peter Robinson.

At the very least, republicans need to copy their Unionist counterparts and form a Pan Nationalist Front between the Shinners and Stoops.

Unionists have already proven in the recent Westminster election that a poll pact worked in Fermanagh South Tyrone and East Belfast.

And Tartan Nicola’s Scottish National Party romped to London with 56 of the country’s 59 MPs because nationalists fought under the banner of a single nationalist movement.

With the electoral rebirth of Mikey Nesbitt’s UUP in the Commons showdown, there’s already talk in Unionist branches of the need to reform the 1970s Unionist Coalition which represented at least four different Unionist parties.

 

But nationalists make take some comfort that while overall, its Westminster tally fell by one to seven MPs, Unionists are still split over the idea of electoral pacts.

Liberal Unionist Danny Kinahan’s victory in South Antrim was the result of a direct head to head between the DUP and UUP, while the UUP’s Tom Elliott and the DUP’s Gavin Robinson have the Unionist pact to thank for their seats.

Northern nationalism has to follow the SNP route – and that means Sinn Féin and the SDLP burying their rivalries and creating a single movement to represent all shades of mainstream nationalist thinking – The Nationalist Party.

Okay, for decades a party by that name was the lapdog to the Unionist majority government at Stormont.

But a merged SF/SDLP movement could mark the centenary of the Northern state in a few years’ time by becoming the largest party at Stormont, thereby laying claim to the First Minister’s post.

Maybe nationalists are a wee bit timid about suggesting a single nationalist party after what happened former SDLP MLA Declan O’Loan of North Antrim when he put forward that constructive idea in 2010.

The time has come for Shinners’ president Gerry Adams and the Stoops’ Big Al to initiate a Nationalist Forum with the long-term aim of a single party.

It’s only a matter of time before the Southern parties, especially Irish Labour and Fianna Fáil, begin contesting Northern elections.

With rumblings that the number of Westminster MPs and Stormont MLAs will be cut in elections to come, there is an urgent need for republicans to unite under the banner of a single party.

Such a single nationalist party could also have enough influence in the Catholic community to prevent radical republicans drifting to the political apologists for dissident republican terror groups.

The UUP’s Jim Molyneaux used to boast about it being a broad church. The new single nationalist party needs to be a broad chapel for all shades of republican thinking.

And it could spread into the Republic, swallowing up Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to provide a majority Nationalist Party government in Leinster House.

But the real secret to making a single Nationalist Party project work is compulsory voting.

 

 

This article appeared in the May 18, 2015 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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Understanding Northern Ireland Without Prejudice: A Follow-on to ” Unheard Voices “: Sophie Long

Understanding Northern Ireland Without Prejudice: A Follow-on to ‘Unheard Voices’.

 

Following the ‘Unheard Voices’ article which was shared across social media on Saturday and Sunday, we  have received some encouraging feedback. A broad range of people, from within and outside of Loyalism, read the article and recognised the internal reflection process which is taking place amongst East Belfast’s Protestant working class. They welcomed the engagement of local people in those issues which affect them, and the civic ways in which those needs were articulated.

 

This was the reason I wrote the piece, to share the positive and critical thinking which took place in the Strand Arts Centre that evening, and by doing so, allow those people a voice, and begin to unsettle the comfortable assumptions which some commentators hold about Loyalism.

 

However, we have also received, indirectly I might add, some less than encouraging feedback. These responses are the ones which I hope to address now. As always, I am open to challenge, criticism and counter-argument, both publicly and privately. I will make sure my email address is included when this article is shared. This is not intended to be a ‘final word’, but a step towards a transformative conversation.

 

The first item I would like to refute is the suggestion that, given my support for Loyalists, I am either connected with, or have been bought off by, the UVF. This is not only a dangerous, not to mention libelous statement, but it also reveals a great deal about the individual who made such a claim. What this means, is that in speaking up for the working classes of East Belfast, I am responding to either partisanship, fear or bribery. Further, the underlying assumption at play is that the working classes of East Belfast are so abhorrent, so beyond reproach, that I could have no other motivation for writing positively about them. What type of person would suggest such a thing? Not a liberal, one would hope.

 

In addition, the assertion that anyone who discusses Loyalism in a positive way is under the control of paramilitary forces, insults not just me, but a whole school of academics. There are a number of writers, who have worked with Loyalists and produced scholarly research which moves beyond the intellectually lazy assumption that Loyalists are simply ‘thugs’. Professor Peter Shirlow, Professor John Barry, Professor Kieran McEvoy, Professor Jim McAuley, Dr. Connal Parr, Dr. Gareth Mulvenna, Dr. Tony Novosel, Dr. Graham Spencer, Dr. Richard Reed, Dr. Aaron Edwards, Stephen Bloomer and many more besides, have taken the time to work alongside Loyalist communities. Are they all in the pockets of the UVF? Are they simply deluded, these academics? Or do they recognise that Loyalism, like all identities, is complex, and that Loyalists, as citizens and human beings, deserve to be listened to?

 

The second item I am addressing is the casual, yet also dangerous, mis-reading of my article. I wrote that the discussions on the 27th centered around people’s hopes of securing social housing, decent jobs and schools for the area. Most people read this for what it was; the articulations of a community who have considered their circumstances and strive, not unreasonably, toward those things which all of us do. A home, stable employment, and to live in a vibrant community. I challenge anyone to find sectarianism within these aspirations.

 

Those who strive to end the politics of ‘Orange and Green’ often point to those things which we all share, and argue that closer attention to these would begin to heal communal rifts. The people of East Belfast agree with them. The common ground is there, if you wish to see it. However, some saw this as a ‘shopping list’ or ‘list of demands’, and critiqued the locals of East Belfast for asking for such things.

 

Local people observing the area in which they live, reflecting upon community needs, and asking for a say in how resources are applied; is this sectarian? Is it tribal, or paramilitaristic? I don’t think so. It is commonly referred to as participatory budgeting. Cllr. John Barry of the Green Party recently submitted a Motion of Notice to North Down Borough Council to have participatory budgeting implemented there. If he is successful, the people of North Down will have a say in how to use part of the Council’s budget. My question is this: are the people of North Down sectarian for wanting to be involved in how their community is run? Or is it only sectarian when Loyalists do it?

 

I have spent some time considering why quite a routine article provoked such a hostile response in some areas. There are a number of reasons that a working class community speaking up might make these commentators uncomfortable. It did not fit with their world view. Loyalists are meant to be apathetic, they aren’t meant to know about politics, their areas of expertise are flags, bonfires and parades, right? So far, so prejudiced.

 

If you are reading this, and consider yourself a progressive, tolerant, liberal figure, you might think, “I can’t be prejudiced, I’m a feminist, I’m pro-choice, I support equal marriage, I want a multicultural Northern Ireland”. These are all laudable qualities, and I share them with you. As do, notably, the PUP.   However, all of these traits do not sit comfortably with the routine denigration of any community. That includes Loyalists.

 

When reflecting on the possibility that Loyalism might be progressive, you might also want to ask yourself how Cllr Julie-Anne Corr was successfully nominated and elected, by those backward Loyalists whom you despise. Or indeed, how one can attend both the Twelfth and Gay Pride. Such complexities are no doubt unsettling, but to remain blind to them is to perpetuate prejudice.

 

Despite the demand, often issued from the liberal middle, that Loyalism abandon its ‘irrational’ attachments to flags and parades, and focus on the real, bread and butter issues, when Loyalists do so, as they did on the 27th,  they remain, in the eyes of our great liberal comrades, the ‘sectarian thugs’ whom they have always been.

 

This refusal to modify one’s position in response to new information, is anathema to rational thought, one of the pillars of liberalism. Indeed, it is of particular interest to me, because, like many, I would like to see Northern Ireland build a genuine and inclusive peace. I believe that to do so, we should begin to seriously listen to others. Not just the others who agree with us, which is reassuring, but a form of stasis. We should be listening to those whose views and beliefs we disagree with. For the ‘liberal middle’, whom this article is addressed to, the ‘other’ is Loyalism.

 

There are, of course, no obligations to challenge our own preconceptions. We are free individuals, and can nurse our bigotries and reassure ourselves that there is little point engaging with our opponents. This might bring comfort but it won’t bring progress However, for the self-appointed ‘progressive thinkers’ of Northern Irish society, there is an obligation to listen, and to be self-critical. In claiming to be non-sectarian, rational thinkers, these people invite us to challenge their statements, and reveal their internal inconsistencies.

 

These people dismiss Loyalism as violent, uneducated, obsessed with flags, intolerant, racist, right-wing, sectarian and regressive.  This, they are certain of. They have formed these opinions, perhaps from personal encounter, but more likely from the tired and recycled media narratives of Loyalism, which ought to be confined to the history bin.

 

However, when confronted with the notion that Loyalists are actually more concerned with living in houses which aren’t riddled with damp, or reforming a school system which is systematically failing young, Protestant males, or indeed, having some shops to visit near their homes, how do our great, liberal peacemakers respond?

 

They don’t. What was said cannot be called a response. Because a response requires that one reflect on what the other has said, and frame their own contribution accordingly. They have already decided what Loyalism is, and nothing we, or Loyalists say, will alter this. To these people, and I am grateful they are in a minority, I finish with this: if you, the self-styled saviours of our wounded and divided society, cannot listen to your fellow citizens because their identity disgusts you, then you are not part of the solution. You are the problem, and you should be utterly ashamed to call yourself a liberal.

Sophie Long

 

 

 

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The Indisputable Original Definiton of Authentic Ulster Loyalism: Charlie Freel

THE INDISPUTABLE, ORIGINAL DEFINITION OF AUTHENTIC ULSTER LOYALISM.

 

To fully understand the true definition and the genuine cause of authentic Ulster Loyalism, it is essential to return to the root cause of its original formation and to examine in detail, both honestly and impartially, exactly what is deliberately, simply and clearly written indisputably, on the actual tin of original, authentic Ulster Loyalism. IE, “THE ULSTER COVENANT.”

Unfortunately Original, authentic Ulster Loyalism, in much the same way as Original, Authentic Christianity, has become so continually morally diluted by some and intolerantly religiously added to by others, to such a deliberately meaningless extent that, both are now conveniently wide open to misrepresentation by insincere followers of both.
Close examination of the principles of authentic Ulster Loyalism reveal that, most of us, the modern day claimants of Ulster Loyalism, are conveniently deluding ourselves and as an aid for implementing this self-deception, we have created the eagerly embraced new Buzz Term within Unionism, IE, (P U L) (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist.)
The term P U L, is especially popular within the younger generations of Unionism, who despite being raised in a Christian/Protestant environment, do not themselves practice and in some cases do not even respect, the
Christian/Protestant Faith of our Forefathers.   They do however eagerly embrace the Cultural Heritage, band scene, marching, singing, flag waving and the Glorious Commemorations of the courage and the Sacrifices made by our Forefathers, in the defence of our Christian/Protestant Faith and Ulster.
So obviously the main purpose of this new fangled P U L Culture of mix and match, or take your pick Unionism, is to provide a convenient, anything goes safety net of loose association, for those without the Faith or the sincerity, to commit to authentic Ulster Loyalism.

 

THE UNION.

Our forefathers have been totally vindicated by history, in their totally correct assertion within the Ulster Covenant that, “Home rule would have been disastrous to the material well being of Ulster and subversive of our civil and religious freedom.”

The fifty years of official State and Roman Catholic Church authorised, sectarian discrimination and ethnic cleansing that, was aggressively directed at the shamefully abandoned Protestants and ex- British Servicemen within the Republic of Ireland after partition, is well documented.  These facts have been nearly completely air brushed from history, but they go a long way to explain why Northern Ireland was for fifty years after partition, ” A Protestant State For A Protestant People.”
So rightly convinced were our Forefathers that, Home rule would mean Rome rule, they took up arms and were prepared to defend, by the use of force if necessary and against even the might of the British Army if need be, the democratic right of the people of Northern Ireland, to decide their own destiny.
Today that determination remains an essential requirement of Ulster Loyalism.

 

THE MONARCHY.

 

Although our Forefathers had pledged Loyalty to King George V, and the British Empire, the Ulster Covenant makes it clear that this was not a slavish one way pledge of Loyalty, it was made clear that Loyalty was a double edged sword and that if Ulster’s faithful Loyalty to Britain was betrayed, then the Ulster Volunteers sacred Loyalty to God and Ulster was the sacred cause that, they were prepared to die for.
So slavish loyalty to the Monarchy is not a requirement of authentic Ulster Loyalism.
As a soldier of the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Rangers, I had also sworn allegiance to the British Crown, however due to the slaughter caused by the IRA, via a no warning sectarian bomb attack on The Four Step Inn on the Shankill Road. I left the British Army in early 1972, with the sole intention and purpose of taking up arms against the IRA.
I became a full time Fire fighter with the Belfast Fire Brigade, were I witnessed on a daily basis, the indiscriminate carnage caused by the totally sectarian and cowardly, no warning bombing campaign of terror being waged by the unappeasable, bitter, twisted terrorists, of the IRA.
I was arrested by the security forces in March 1973 and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for counter terrorism. Immediately after my release I had to have a kidney removed, due to damage received during one of our numerous confrontations with the British Army, during my imprisonment.
So do I qualify for description as an authentic Ulster Loyalist? Sadly No.
Instead of being content to take up arms in defence of democracy. I personally and enthusiastically took up arms and aggressively sought the satisfaction of revenge. I was in fact an aggressive counter terrorist.
So what am I now?   I am exactly the same as all the IRA terrorists now employed up at Stormont and on Belfast City Council and in the council chambers all over Northern Ireland.   We are all slumbering terrorists. If our veneer is scratched the old spots of terrorism quickly reappear and if we are abruptly aroused, then we all resort to what we know best.
So for blatantly obvious reasons, which the British Government is shamefully ignoring, NO CONVICTED TERRORIST, LOYALIST OR REPUBLICAN, should be legally permitted to be democratically, nor by transfer, elected into a position of authority over the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland, were they are at present causing further daily hurt upon their former innocent victims, via their constant unrepentant publicity through the media.
Always remember the warning from the IRA’s most senior, old senile politician Gerry. He can’t ever actually remember being in the IRA, but he has absolutely no intention of ever letting anyone forget that, “They haven’t gone away you know.”

 

Charlie Freel.

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What loyalism means to me: Dr: John Coulter

Dr John Coulter has been a life-long member of the Ulster Unionist Party. He is chairman of the radical Right-wing Unionist think-tank, the Revolutionary Unionist Convention, which wants loyalism to embrace the concept of One Faith, One Party, One Commonwealth. In this article for Long Kesh Inside Out, he outlines what purely democratic path loyalism should take and what loyalism means to Revolutionary Unionism.

 

I am an unashamed and unrepentant Radical Right-wing Unionist and loyalism now needs to follow the path of the ideology I have penned – Revolutionary Unionism. It encompasses the ethos – one faith, one party, one Commonwealth.

As a born-again Christian, my first loyalty is to Jesus Christ as my Saviour and political mentor. His Sermon on the Mount, often referred to as The Beatitudes, as outlined in St Matthew’s Gospel, represent a caring Christian social agenda which every loyalist should adopt as their manifesto.

As a journalist and commentator, I have grown up in a political era where loyalist and unionist indulged in the luxury of splitting and fragmenting Unionism, Loyalism, Orangeism and Protestantism.

As a Revolutionary Unionist, I want to see loyalty to a single pro-Union movement simply known as The Unionist Party. It can contain as many pressure groups as it has interest groups, but seats have been lost to republicanism and nationalism through splitting the pro-Union vote and Protestant voter apathy.

Tens of thousands of loyalists gave their lives, were wounded, or served in two world wars so that the generation of 2015 could enjoy the freedoms of democracy. Like the fine example of our sister Commonwealth nation, Australia, responsible citizenship should also carry the moral duty of compulsory voting. Being a loyalist should also mean loyalty to the ballot box – and the ballot box alone.

 

As a Revolutionary Unionist, I recognise that the Occupied Twenty-Six Counties (known as the Republic) has failed as a political and financial experiment. It is time for these 26 Southern counties to resume their rightful place in a new Union within the Commonwealth of nations.

The historical roots of Revolutionary Unionism lie with the Glorious Revolution – hence the title of the ideology – of the 1690s under King William III which established modern parliamentary democracy as we know it.

That Glorious Revolution affected all of Ireland, not just the six Northern counties of Northern Ireland. All of Ireland was a founder member of the Empire Parliamentary Association in 1911, which later became the current Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in the 1940s.

Loyalism must not become a purely defensive ideology. Through democratic persuasion, Revolutionary Unionism will encourage the South to initially join the CPA before taking its place once again in the Commonwealth.

Revolutionary Unionism will campaign for the UK and Ireland to leave the cash-strapped European Union with the CPA as the economic alternative. The CPA represents more than 50 national and regional parliaments throughout the globe and is much more stable politically than the crumbling EU. Where the UK goes politically and economically, Ireland must follow.

Revolutionary Unionism seeks to further the cause of Faith and State, not Church and State. The latter assumes a religious denomination ramming its views down the throats of citizens. Revolutionary Unionism will seek to re-establish the Biblical standards – not denominational dogma – as the guiding principles for the state.

The Christian ethos will be that espoused by the Salvationist doctrine as outlined in the New Testament text of St John Chapter 3, verse 16. Revolutionary Unionism is firmly committed to the concept that a political awakening in Ireland will go hand in hand with a Christian spiritual reawakening, such as that which swept across the island in the 1859 Revival.

Revolutionary Unionism will not confine itself to the six counties of Northern Ireland or the ‘Not An Inch’ mentality. It is not a case of being loyal to the maxim ‘What We Have We Hold’, but embracing the aspiration ‘We Will Take Back What Is Rightfully Our’s’.

Loyalism needs a new aspiration; as a Revolutionary Unionist, I firmly believe loyalism has the solution – one Biblically-based Christian faith, one pro-Union party, and all of Ireland back in a single Commonwealth under the Royal Crown.

John Coulter

 

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A Tribute to the Late Volunteer Ken Owens

AUTHENTIC ULSTER LOYALISM, AS LIVED OUT, BY THE LATE VOLUNTEER KEN OWENS.

 

Ken Owens was a totally humble, unassuming, Volunteer of the Red Hand Commando, who departed this life on the 10th April 2015. Ken didn’t leave behind any academic pearls of wisdom, or profound one liner parables for the academic dissectors of sincere Ulster Loyalism to squabble over.

However to the rapidly dwindling, surviving Ulster Volunteers of the early seventies, Ken left behind the priceless  memories of a sincerely served record of actual military service, on behalf of Ulster, before, during and after incarceration that was surpassed by very few.

Below is the tribute paid to Ken, by his old Comrades, during Kens Funeral Service.

 

Ken Owens was a totally sincere, Ulster Volunteer and Red Hand Commando, of the early seventies. He gladly stepped forward and served his Country at a time in our Country, when civil war seemed certain.

Ken took up arms in defence of the democratic right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own destiny, free from the constant sectarian attacks, by bitter twisted Irish Republican terrorists.

 

Ken Owens sacrificed his freedom in defence of his Family, his Faith and his Country, at a thankless time and for a thankless future, when the only reward for sincere military Loyalism was either imprisonment or death.

Today, we all have the privilege of thankfully and respectfully, acknowledging that sacrifice.

 

Ken was an old ex-shipyard caulker, which meant that he was as deaf as a door nail,( although Ken always maintained that his deafness was due to other large bangs in his life.) How ever regardless of the cause, the one thing that we can be sure of is that, Kens undefeatable, fighting spirit, is still with us here today listening to every word we have to say about him.

 

Ken Owens was an old school Northern Ireland Loyalist, he was totally Loyal to his God, his Family, his old Comrades and the Authentically Original, Founding Principles of Northern Ireland Loyalism.

Kens cause and principles in life were simply and unquestionably, For God and Ulster. He made these sincerely held principles the unshakable Foundation Stones of his Family, his Faith, his Country and his Cause.

 

Ken Owens wasn’t a big man in physical stature, but he had a massive heart, massive reserves of courage and a totally undefeatable determination. If ken decided he wasn’t going to be moved, then it was always going to take much more than one massive man to move him. This resolute courage and immovable determination stood Ken in good staid, during our numerous confrontations with the army and the prison authorities, in Crumlin Road prison and in Long Kesh.

 

Ken was a proud East Belfast shipyard man, born and raised in East Belfast at a time when the front door of every house in street lay open until bedtime. Neighbours looked after neighbours, Children respected their elders, marriage was for life, our Protestant Faith was respected by all and the only drugs on the streets were totally un-tipped woodbine and parkdrive cigarettes.

Ken firmly believed that, we all became far better adults than the adults of today, because of our Christian based childhoods in East Belfast.

Kens life was cast iron proof that, he was right.

 

Back in the early seventies, the IRA, embarked on an indiscriminate, sectarian, no warning bombing campaign of slaughter and destruction. They attempted to by the use of terrorism, to overthrow democracy here in Northern Ireland and sought by the use of force, to deny the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland the democratic right to decide their own destiny.

The main targets of the IRA’s cowardly campaign of no warning slaughter and destruction were, Protestant Working Class Heartlands, isolated and defenceless border Protestant villages and farms, and Belfast City Centre.

 

All over Northern Ireland, in response to this sectarian slaughter by the IRA and the dithering lack of serious action by the British Government, Loyalist Working Class area’s were forced to form local Volunteer Defence Forces.

 

In their pathetic attempts to contain by repeated appeasement, the unappeasable, bitter twisted, sectarian terrorists of the IRA, the British Government capitulated even further. They suspended the democratically elected Government of Northern Ireland. They disarmed the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They abolished the B Specials,( Northern Irelands Legitimate first line of defence against the IRA, especially in remote border areas.) They also barred the Northern Ireland Regiments of the British Army, from serving in Northern Ireland. They even unsuccessfully attempted to ban Northern Ireland resident British Soldiers, from coming home on leave.

It was apparent to the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland, that the British Government would soon capitulate completely to the IRA.

Urgent counter action was required and the Loyalist Working Class People of Northern Ireland responded accordingly.

 

Ken Owens actions as an Ulster Volunteer on 26th March 1973, resulted in an

8 year prison sentence.

Kens immediate response to the Judge, the Court and the cowardly British Government was, a totally defiant shout of NO SURRENDER, UP THE RED HAND COMMANDO.

 

Ken spent the first 10 months of his sentence in Crumlin Road prison and the remainder mainly in Compound 18 Long Kesh, Ken had no cause for sleepless nights nor sessions of self-pitying cultural, political, nor ancestral self-reflection, in pursuit of excuses to blame anyone, or anything other than himself for his own totally unrepentant actions against the belligerent

sectarian terrorism, of the IRA,     Ken proudly accepted personal

responsibility for his actions in defence of democracy.

That unyielding spirit of NO SURRENDER became even more evident, during the last few years of Kens life, as he battled through illness after illness with a complete absence of complaint or self pity.

 

Ken cared sincerely about his old Comrades from Compound 18 and despite his own ill health, he never failed to turn out on parade to pay his sincere respects, at the usually premature final parades of many of his old Comrades.

A few years ago when Ken was informed of the death of his much younger Comrade Edmund McKay, Kens immediate response was to inquire if Edmund had made himself right with God before he died.

Ken often brought up the subject of God, he made no secret of his belief in God as his Creator and in Jesus Christ as his saviour.

 

A few days before Ken departed for his final holiday in Benidorm, he handed over his old Somme Society uniform to his old Comrade Gorman McMullan, as a free donation for some other Somme Society member who didn’t have a uniform.

Ken had realised that due to his serious ill health, he would never again be able to properly and respectfully parade, with his Comrades of the Somme Society.

Today we can all celebrate together the fact that, in much the same way as Ken gladly discarded his old Somme Society uniform, because it was no longer of any earthly use to him, he also on the 10th of April in Benidorm, discarded the old worn out uniform of an earthly body, in which his totally undefeatable spirit had been clothed for the past 73 years.

 

Today that totally undefeatable, fighting spirit, of our old friend and Comrade, is still very much alive and well, in fact I strongly suspect that, as we all trudge up to Roselawn Cemetery to give Kens old worn out uniform of a body the military funeral that, Kens active service on behalf of his

Country deserves,   Kens old undefeatable fighting spirit will probably be

dancing and skipping up the Newtownards Road and into the bookies.

 

On the 10th of April 2015, I believe that our old Friend and Comrade Ken Owens, gladly exchanged the temporarily relaxing sun of Benidorm, for the eternally relaxing Son of God, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

Charlie Freel.

 

 

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