This article first appeared on LKIO in April 2012.
Easter is always an interesting time in this country. What with the Republican celebrations, the ‘Orangemen’ and juveniles. The decline in numbers marching in Loyalist areas reminds me of my 30’s when I started to lose my hair – every time I looked there was less there! Seriously though, it appears that PUL culture seems to be under a lot of pressure and some people are reacting to this in different ways. Take Jackie McDonald for example. To be fair to Jackie, he has shown great leadership to his organisation in the last few years. He has never shirked responsibility and he has been courageous in voicing his opinion about a whole range of issues. But his latest public statement wasn’t, in my opinion, well thought out.
At a recent conference, “The Future of Loyalism”, facilitated by the Political Studies Association, Jackie was at the top table with the Reverend Chris Hudson – well known for his mediation work, and alongside him were two academics, Jim McCauley and Graham Spencer. In the Q and A session Jackie was asked about the Orange Order and proceeded to inform all and sundry about the UVF planning to drive motorised machine guns past Short Strand during their route for the Balmoral Review celebrations in Ormeau Park on the 19th of May.
He then went on to talk about how residents of Short Strand would feel about that. I would say to Jackie they now have 5/6 weeks to formulate a demonstration of how they feel. I can’t understand Jackie’s public opposition to this celebration. If he felt that way he could have let people know discreetly instead of offering himself as some sort of apologist.
Of course, with the ‘not proven’ sense of peace we have here, I can empathise how trying to understand what others may feel about actions we take is PC but let me highlight the conciliatory gestures that have came from mainstream Republicans in the last week or so.
Gerry Adams – 7 step plan to a United Ireland
Caral ni Chuilin – addressing an Easter Parade inLondonderry– ‘Our task is not yet finished’
Martin McGuinness – ‘We are on the road to freedom’
Dissident Republican address at Easter Parade – ‘The IRA will continue to attack Crown Force Personnel and their installations as well as British interests and infrastructure’
Just today, it was announced that there is going to be a debate about the flying of the Tricolour over Stormont. Maybe the republicans of Short Strand will be able to see the Tricolour flying and if not we can knock a few buildings down so they can – we don’t want to offend them, do we?
Last word to Jackie – at the conference Jackie’s last words were, ‘I support the Orange Men but I don’t want anything to do with them – if you know what I mean’.
No Jackie, we don’t.