Twaddell- Is the end game staring us in the face?
In this Loyalists opinion the complete revamp of Unionist representation at political level is not only achievable, but necessary. This (small r) revolution within the PUL community would also be a fitting victory to what have been long, admirable and inspiring protests at both Twaddell and Belfast city hall.
I have learned many things from this past year of PUL resistance.
I have always suspected that Loyalist women were our backbone and that the Loyalist community was a deeply matriarchal one, now I know this to be true. The devotion and deep pride of the women of our protests have, and continue to be an overwhelming phenomenon. From tending to the problems of the young members of their community, to making Stephen Nolan’s panellists wish they had never been born, to reminding us all of our responsibilities, to having those much needed sandwiches at the ready this most grounded of grass-roots activism can’t help but inspire those who observe it.
I have learned that there is much to be done with regard to coaxing many of our younger people from bad habits. The bitterness which often escapes the lips of many is not surprising given what the PIRA put our community through for so long, but the effort should be made by us all to remember that the most advantageous standpoint from which to win a debate is that of the high ground. The low level of bigotry to be found at the protests is a tonic of course, but this also serves to make those rare instances all the more noticeable.
I have learned the stereotype peddled by our opponents who would paint us a cold individualistic bunch to be complete claptrap. On many an occasion I posted on my twitter account that “this pedestrian Loyalist requires a lift to twaddell” only to be peppered with kind offers of assistance from Loyalists of every politic and background, it was extremely heart-warming and brought home to me the degree to which the expression ‘Loyalist family’ is no accident. This feeling extends far into the spectatorship of the protest parades, every face greeting you with the smile of a favourite old cousin; a family.
This also draws my thoughts to what might be. We are a protest community, seasoned, experienced and mobilised. I’m thinking of opposition to the poverty deepening water charges which are hanging over the heads of our community as well as that of the CNR (catholic-nationalist-republican) community. Once the actual shared future is achieved with everyone’s culture(s) left inviolate and the bitterness has had a chance to die its death imagine the political force our community could become with regard to other issues. Water charges, insultingly huge MLA wages, bankers’ bonuses, extortionate VAT rates, appalling educational facilities, poor public services, shortage of third level educational opportunities for young people from poorer backgrounds, widespread media scape-goating of the unemployed and single parents… I could go on.
The Unionist politicians have let us down. They roll up their sleeves with rabid enthusiasm at the mere sniff of a pending election only to re-attach the sparkling cuff-links once their office is re-secured.
I’ve had enough.
The end game lies in our politically mobilised Loyalist community making our voice the loudest it has ever been, in local government councils, at Stormont, at the Westminster Parliament, and in Europe. Let no-one tell us we aren’t good enough.
I recall a BBC Question Time just before the last general election when George Galloway encouraged the audience to make a point of voting for someone other than the incumbent candidate. He exclaimed to an appreciative audience that they (the voters) must “take a large broom, and sweep out the whole chamber! Sweep them out I say, SWEEP THEM OUT!”
I believe the PUL community should take hold of that broom next May, and with your pencil, commence that clear out!
But replace them with whom?
Not an unfair question…
It is of course no secret that the writer has a favourite party, one of which he is a member. I have been a member of the PUP for three years now, but this wont devalue the point I’m about to make to any non-PUP reader, I hope.
What ever a loyalists politics, there is an alternative party to vote for, arguably the first election of which this may be said. For the reasons mentioned above I no longer consider the incumbent Unionists (DUP and UUP) worthy of the Loyalist people’s support, and NI21’s flagrant anti-Loyalism places that party also beyond consideration. So here is my recommendation.
If you are a Loyalist whose politics lie between the centre and the centre-left (in favour of state support for the vulnerable), if you are proud of your working-class roots and place a lot of stock in the value of community then the Progressive Unionist Party seeks to represent you. However, if you are a more right-leaning, free-market orientated Unionist then Jim Allister’s TUV, whilst they aren’t my cup of tea, should more than float your boat. Gone are the days of being resigned to the cocky incumbent whom you haven’t seen or heard of since the last election.
A complete shake up of PUL representation will provide the victory those long-suffering and unshakable ladies at Twaddell deserve. To come out of the other side of the upcoming elections with representation no more engaged with our grass-roots than is currently the case would truly spell defeat.
But I don’t think that will happen.
I’m now off for one of those sandwiches.