“Loyalists, if you march for the right reason we will all join you”

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Michelle Obama, America’s First Lady, describes herself as “Mom in chief.” She is a mum but she is more than a mum. She has the capacity to be a future woman president of the United States to judge by the quality of the address she delivered to the National Democratic Convention today.

She was insightful on her own upbringing, with a pump operator father who suffered from MS and she was insightful too about her husband Barack’s upbringing.

No privilege in either bloodlines. Reared by parents who hammered home basic principles:

“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules…and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.

“We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect,” she told delegates.

Turning to her husband the First Lady added “and he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity… you do not slam it shut behind you… you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

“You reach back, and you give the folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

This sentiment renders me emotional. One does not have to have a doctorate in sociology to grasp this concept.

This principle ought to be at the heart of our society. It should be the template for our schools. Put another way, we should go back to the well source of the meaning of the Latin verb ‘educere,’ – to educate, which relates to human values: it is about bringing out that which is within.

Human values are latent in every human being; one cannot acquire them from outside. They have to be elicited from within. Educare means to bring out human values and this bringing out ought to mean translating it into action.

This process of education should not be about self aggrandisement but asking ourselves how do we use our developed talent to improve the lot of those less well off?

I would join the ‘campaign of civil disobedience’ with the people in Denmark Street close to Carlisle Circus on the Antrim Road if their demand was ‘equality in education.’ I  know thousands of others of my disposition who would join that campaign.

It is about this issue that Winston Irvine, Billy Hutchinson and other community leaders in Protestant working class areas should be raising their voices and taking to the streets.

Such a campaign would attract the attention of the Barack and Michelle Obamas of this world. Standing witnessing petrol bombs, missiles and masonry raining down on working class police officers who are only a stone’s throw away from the same upbringing will not endear these protesters to anyone.

If you choose to march and protest, make sure that your cause genuinely enhances the well-being of those for whom you claim to speak.

Ask yourselves – do you seriously believe that marching to secure the right to march where you want to march is going to improve education in poor areas like Sandy Row, Rathcoole, Kilcooley Estate in Bangor, the Lower Shankill or in the Village area of South Belfast?

I have examined the examination results in those areas. Within those enclaves rests justification for peaceful revolution, a revolution which will enlist the support of Michelle Obama and her husband Barack.

John Hume was right “you can’t eat a flag.”





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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. Paul , co.Tyrone on

    I wonder eamonn if any single one of those protesters will ever read that,,,,,,if any of them would even listen to mrs obama,,,,,,,or indeed if any of them know who you are!!!,,,,i suspect there not the type of people who would even have those curiosities ????,,,,,i doubt it!!

  2. the legacy of the conflict on loyalist communities is deep and profound. unfortunately the vast majority of those who ‘escaped’ loyalist communities during the troubles did not share the same sense of social responsibility as the Obamas. the door of opportunity that Michelle Obama speaks of was not only slammed, it was locked and bolted.

  3. Eamonn – there are many good people in the loyalist community who need help, and, of course, on an issue such as the one you identify, many would be prepared to stand and march with them.
    What those in the loyalist paramilitary leaderships need to acknowledge is the damage they have done to their own communities in feuding and drug-dealing and continuing to recruit young people long after the wars are over.
    This is not to accuse everyone in those organisation of such activity. Many loyalists have made a significant contribution to the peace. But there is a need to separate cause loyalism from criminal loyalists.
    There is a need for the loyalist community to help itself as well as asking for help from others.
    And the ceasefire soldiers and boy generals need to stop trying to make conflict out of marching.

  4. Once again Eamonn and Barney have opened up a topic for discussion that affects us all. Today I heard on Radio Ulster that within the Loyal Orders there is a rural verus urban split over the nature of parades. This is nothing new as countryfolk appreciate that they have to live beside their neighbour 5 minutes after the parade is over – and their neighbour in a country village might not share the same political opinion as they do. There is a lot more respect in the country, respect for the other traditions, respect for the others property and living so close you never know when you might need to call on your neighbour for help – even if he or she is one of them and not one of us.
    Sadly this level of co-dependency is not present in the city – after the parade is over the populace go back to their own kind. And let’s drill down some more – not all the city goes back to kindred spirits as huge swathes of South Belfast, affluent parts of North Belfast, desirable suburbs of East Belfast and sought after homes in West Belfast have transcended such tribal disputes and prefer to raise higher the living standards with which they have become accustomed.
    So we are left with a small rump of people – it does not matter which side they claim allegiance to – who feel their only method of expression is conflict with their neighbour. And yet if we compare our urban neighbours in terms of education the results are most revealing.
    Sadly on the Shankill Road and surrounding area (and we will start with Loyalists) only one or two children per year obtained the 11+ before its abolotion and therefore there was no need for grammar schools in that area – education was not a priority. In stark contrast the Falls Road and greater West Belfast had several grammar schools – over subscribed every year for boys and girls. What is more is there has been a long standing tradition of Catholic church involvement in education in these areas. Christian Brothers and nuns provided education to such a level that vast numbers went on to university, became doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers etc. They then bought good houses in affluent areas and were more concerned with the value of their houses, the standard of the local schools and the upkeep of their area. And all this was brought about by education.
    It is a sad fact that our Loyalist brothers and sisters (I say that in all sincerity as the Loyalist people are my people too) have been short changed. For many years Big House Unionsim told them that they would look after them; provide them with homes and jobs. Strange they never promised them education – certainly not to the same standard as their Catholic neighbours were getting only a few hundred yards away. So it was that Loyalists were left behind in education and as a consequence many job opportunities were denied to them later on while their Catholic counterparts had education instilled into them from an early age and were more than qualified for newly created jobs when the giant engineering plants closed down.
    In conclusion I concur with Eamonn Mallie and Barney Rowan that Loyalists are marching for the wrong cause. Marching down a road in Belfast to celebrate a battle of yester year is not going to get you a better job, or get you a better house for you and your children, or force the council to build much needed recreation facilities and it certainly will not win you friends in high places. The Unionist politicians should not spell out what they are GOING to do for Loyalists but I challenge them through this medium to tell us what they HAVE DONE for the Loyalist people in the last 10 years. How many nursery places have they provided for Loyalist areas, how many extra school activity programmes, how many summer schools, how many tutors did they provide to help school children from Loyalist areas – in short just spell out clearly what you have done not what you are going to do. I suspect Unionist politicians have not done very much.
    And so to my fellow citizens from a Loyalist background I suggest that if you must march (and that is your right) why not consider marching for something that will deliver long term benefit for your community. March in your thousands and demand that your own elected representatives fulfill election promises. March proudly to the Department of Education and demand proper education facilities for your children. March for the same standard of education for your children that is enjoyed by your Catholic neighbours a few hundred yards over the peace wall. Remember that Catholics went out and made their own education system – a real example of helping yourself.
    Like Ghandi I too believe in civil disobedience but make sure you are peacefully protesting on the right issue and a good education is worth marching for.

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