Cultural war – be careful what you wish for

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I wondered what ‘cultural war’ would really look like and, having thought about it, I hope we never go there.

By now, a lot of us will have heard the expression.

It is being used in loyalist commentary to describe the City Hall flag vote and the opposition to a relatively small number of Loyal Order parades;

Used by some to describe what they see as a republican assault on the traditions and ways of the other community.

The words are part of a new jargon or lexicon – a dictionary of catchphrases that also includes ‘de-Britification’,‘re-Britification’ and ‘unarmed resistance’.

They fit a mood out there; an angry, ugly mood that manifested itself in the attack on the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir during his visit to Woodvale Park on Tuesday.

The scenes were shameful, and there are those on the Shankill Road who could and should have ensured they didn’t happen.

Excuses such as ‘I didn’t see’ or ‘I didn’t know’ won’t wash.

They should also have a look at the other side of the coin;

Think about how a loyalist event was accommodated within last year’s West Belfast Festival without the need for any police presence or protection;

Think even further back to another event in Feile an Phobail when Jackie McDonald, in a room full of republicans, said he wanted more Catholics killed before the loyalist ceasefire announcement in 1994.

He wasn’t surrounded by an angry crowd, he wasn’t asked to leave, he didn’t need a police escort out of the building.

Rather he was heard as someone telling his ‘truth’ – heard and welcomed by another community.

 

Sean Murray, Danny Morrison and Jackie McDonald at the John McMichael Memorial Debate at Laganview Enterprise Centre Lisburn.

 

McDonald and other loyalists reciprocated by inviting republicans Danny Morrison and Sean Murray to participate in the John McMichael Memorial Debate.

McMichael was a UDA leader killed by the IRA.

The debate in Lisburn and the other events on the Falls Road were signs of real progress, and they happened before any talk of cultural war.

Recently in Belfast, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the following about marching and parading:

“The republican community in Derry could have ended Orange marches ten years ago… could have ended Apprentice Boys parades ten years ago.

“We took a conscious decision that we weren’t interested in that,” he continued – “that we wanted to bring about a scenario where people had the opportunity to have their culture recognised and respected.”

His words speak against any notion or desire to engage in cultural war.

McGuinness as part of the Sinn Fein leadership recently met loyalists – a PUP delegation; all but one unelected.

He didn’t have to meet them, but he did in a gesture of respect and reaching out.

There has been a huge focus on the City Hall vote that reduced the flying of the Union Flag to designated days, but there has been little or no focus on the hundreds and thousands of paramilitary flags that have been stuck up on lamp posts all over the place;

Flags that say nothing in terms of respecting the other, and that say nothing about wanting to share.

What would those who talk about ‘cultural war’ call this?

Maybe intimidation or domination – perhaps a tactic in something else that could easily be called cultural war.

A crowd and a mood have been whipped up and someone needs to calm things down.

 

First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtin Ó Muilleoir and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

 

Mairtin O Muilleoir visited the Shankill on Tuesday to plant a tree in a park; not to say anything provocative or controversial.

He should have been afforded better protection by people in positions to do so on that road, but he wasn’t.

Maybe those who have whipped up the crowd don’t know how to calm it down or don’t want to, and maybe the idea of cultural war suits some other purpose.

They should remember that old saying – be careful what you wish for.

(You can follow Brian Rowan on Twitter by clicking here)

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About Author

Brian Rowan is a journalist, author and broadcaster. Four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Journalist-of-the-Year awards. He was BBC security editor in Belfast and now contributes regularly to the Belfast Telegraph and UTV. Rowan has reported on the major pre-ceasefire and then peace process events. He is the author of four books.

24 Comments

  1. SO JUST HOW WOULD YOU CALM IT DOWN BRIAN ? LET US NOT FORGET THAT MARTIN MILLER WAS ADVISED NOT TO ATTEND WOODVALE PARK OPENING MANY TIMES OVER THE PAST MONTH BUT THE SHAMELESS SHINNER WENT THERE KNOWING FULL WELL THE REACTION IT WOULD PROVOKE AND THE PUBLICITY IT WOULD GENERATE FOR HIS PUBLICITY CRAVING PARTY. LET’S JUST FORGET THE SHANKILL BOMB,LET’S JUST FORGET THE BAYARDO BOMB,LET’S JUST FORGET THE FOUR STEP ATTACK AND LET’S JUST WELCOME THESE SORT BACK TO THE SHANKILL WITH OPEN ARMS AND TELL THE TRUTHS THE PROVOS WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE PAST WHILST THEY(PROVOS/SINN FEIN) HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE TO THEIR DIRTY SECTARIAN/ETHNIC CLEANSING PAST…AT ALL COSTS TO PROVIDE NO CLOSURE FOR THE FAMILIES OF THE HUNDREDS OF INNOCENTS THEY(SINN FEIN/IRA)SLAUGHTERED DURING THEIR SORDID SECTARIAN WAR !!! MARTIN MILLER WASN’T WELCOME IN WOODVALE YESTERDAY AND HE IS EVEN LESS WELCOME TODAY !!!! EVERYONE WANTS A GENUINE SHARED FUTURE,NOT A SINN FEIN/IRA FUTURE !!! I’D MUCH PREFER DIRECT RULE AGAIN,THANKS !!

    • Glenn Bradley on

      There are over 21000 people in Court Ward and over 4500 people in the Woodvale community: you do not speak for all.

      Ethnic Cleansing is a term first used in the Balkans to describe the mass execution of males over 12; mass rape of girls and women of all ages; mass impregnation of girls of all ages & the mass shelling to raze villages to the ground based on peoples ethnicity. As a soldier I served in Northern Ireland, and in Bosnia. You have no concept of Ethnic Cleansing and it most definitely did not happen in Northern Ireland.

      Your script reads that PIRA alone are the cause of conflict, and denies the reality that Loyalism killed the first innocents back in 1966 and the first members of the Army & RUC on the outbreak of wide civil unrest in the ’69 – ’70 period. You live in a mythology that denies the truth of our recent civil conflict: that innocents where killed on all sides by all sides, and that many tactical misjudgements where made by all. The narrative of the past is multi-layered, it will be acceptable or unacceptable in equal portion by differing political or cultural perceptions: that’s life, get over it.

      You ridicule the Irish Language and fear using it as if it somehow ‘republicanism’ will contaminate because you let out-dated propaganda reign your mind. A propaganda that denies the fact that many of the original Ulster Volunteers spoke fluent Irish and that Mayo Street (alone) once had 40 Irish speaking Unionist families living there.

      You are out of touch with the pace of modern Northern Ireland & Britain. You continue to marginalize your ’cause’ through
      violent acts; unfounded flawed perceptions & irrational sectarian founded beliefs. Your lack of coherent politic and your violence will ensure your cry for help will never be heard,

      As Brian states, Máirtin Ó Muilleoir the First Citizen of our City went to plant a tree, he should have been allowed to do so with intimidation, threats or violence. Given the fact that Unionists had been warmly received in Dunville Park a mere 30 minutes previously the violent actions of a small minority of 40 – 50 people was wrong. I condemn it without equivocation.

      • C.S. Ferguson on

        When O’Muilloir comes out and outright condemns the IRA onslaught on the Shankill that included the IRA planting bombs at Frizzell’s, Bayardo, Balmoral Showrooms, Mountainview and the Four step, then perhaps the people of the Greater Shankill Community will not take offence at a notorious apologist for PIRA coming to plant a tree in Woodvale Park.

        Why did he come to Woodvale Park after being warned that it would be unwise to do so in the current climate? What kind of reception did an SF politician expect when only a couple of weeks ago Gerry Kelly stood on top of a Landrover half a mile away and told a Republican mob that ‘they’ won’t be walking up the Crumlin Road?

        You can try and gloss over the cultural attacks and apartheid being carried out and the social engineering, disenfranchisement and attempted criminalisation of the Loyalist working class all you like Glenn, the fact of the matter is that unless (and this goes for you to Barney) the much vaunted shared future includes them, their identity and their traditions, there will not be a future, full stop. Surely the recent history of this land shows what happens when a community sees itself as being disenfranchised and under attack. One side cannot stick the boot in because they think they have the ball now. Civil Rights work both ways, whether the now feted by ‘Unionist’ Middle Class Republican movement, Barney Rowan, the usual grant chasing pet Prods nor unelected quangos will change that.

      • Your talk about Loyalists in 1966 is as if no IRA acted before then, and entirely ignores the fact that said Loyalists were arrested, brought before the courts and jailed. There was a system of law and order well in place. The IRA were the very driving factor against it.

        • I knew Gusty in life. He’d no problem admitting his rationale nor the manipulation that occurred in ’66 by elements of the Unionist establishment. It had little to do with the earlier failed border campaign by the marxist official IRA, and had more to do with one up man ship to the Republic of Ireland over 50th anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising, and that State’s failure to condemn political statements being issued by the marxist official IRA.

          It was out of the fiasco that became August 1969 that the provisional IRA grew. That is historical reality, as is the fact that the first members of the Police and Regular Army where killed by elements of Loyalism. Similarly, it is historical fact that ‘Loyalism’ killed more of ‘Loyalism’ than it did any members of the Republican Movement.

          I accept (as previously written) that there are many causes to the recent troubles but I won’t live in some self righteous denial or superior belief that my origin community was not a colloborating factor, by wallowing in victim mentality that others are to solely blame. The world is not that simple.

  2. Our supposed high sheriff Brian Kingston had so much information that he was able to sign a letter of warning to our mayor, and even caution him personally.
    Surely in his exalted position he should have passed such info to the PSNI so the thuggery could have been averted.
    Despite the progressive efforts on the Republican side, the PUL seem to be stuck so deep in their bigoted ghetto mentality that they cannot see any positives, even the sun rising in the morning creates suspicion in them.

  3. It is interesting that those saying their culture is under attack fail to look at the obvious. Those wanting to march into Catholic areas want to play songs that are offensive to those in those areas. Then there is the objection to republicans commemorating their dead, they aren’t, as Orange marches are, celebrating the murder of Irish Nationalists, yet the celebration of murder is seen as a “culture”. There is a demand from those celebrating murder that the community that had that murder visited upon them should show respect to those celebrating the murders. Then there is the accusation that republicans want to celebrate the potential murders of people who may have been killed had the bomb that prematurely exploded killing the carriers been successful in its execution. They don’t see the irony that every year at November poppy induced time they celebrate the lives of people who systematically reduced to fine ashes the bodies of between 150,000 and 500,000 in 36 hours of bombing Dresden many of whom were refugees and prisoners of war. But it showed the Germans they couldn’t fuck with the Brits as long as the USA had their backs.

    • As pointed out in Petrol bombs and Peace, the band celebrated dead loyalists that were in their band. Now, either that justifies the Kevin Lynch GAA club or it is hypocrisy.

      Yet again, this is a band, like the Brian Robinson (Arlene Foster never heard of him, she says) that Nelson Mc Causland and Nigel Dodds marches behind, yet they talk of Castlegerg. The DUP have lost it, if they ever had it.

    • C.S. Ferguson on

      Exactly how many Catholic areas do they want to march into? Exactly how do Orange Marches celebrate the murder of Irish Nationalists? As for your nonsense about Dresden and the Yanks and the Brits oppressing the poor Germans, Neo-Nazi fruitloops the World over will be glad that Irish Republicans still see them as allies.

    • Poppies commemorate the first world war, not the second; the one you are referring to. The fields which held the rows of trenches where many men died grew poppies after the war and the flower is seen to represent that.

      But I still agree with your point. Remembering the dead can be a thorny issue in regards to war. It’s ok to wipe out two Japanese cities in minutes and fire bomb the hell out of hundreds of thousands of people as long as you’re on the right side. War is hell.

  4. “….BUT THE SHAMELESS SHINNER WENT THERE KNOWING FULL WELL THE REACTION IT WOULD PROVOKE AND THE PUBLICITY IT WOULD GENERATE FOR HIS PUBLICITY CRAVING PARTY.”

    Notwithstanding your ghastly use of capital letters, but why couldn’t “your community” have been cleverer, and hold something like a peaceful protest against O Muilleoir’s visit – you know, instead of punching and kicking him?

    Your community needs to get smarter. You are imploding, and the Shinners are running rings around you. But, seemingly, you’re all too stupid / bitter / twister to realise.

  5. C. Clarence Monthomery on

    “I’D MUCH PREFER DIRECT RULE AGAIN,THANKS !!”

    Direct rule = join rule, so I really rather doubt that your pathetic little mind would, in actuality, prefer such an outcome.
    Remind me, how many loyalist representatives have, since Ervine, been elected to Stormont? None, that’s right.
    You don’t have a mandate: SF do.

  6. Yes Hevver, let us forget it, or would you rather the past being brought up every five minutes. Remember it worked both ways. Jackie MacDonald, a much more active Loyalist than you ever were ( I imagine), came to a realisation some time ago that it was more logical to try and build something constructive in NI than to squabble over petty differences. Look at the bigger picture, do Catholics have any opportunistic advantage over Protestants in NI or vice-versa? Inequality is class-based not sectarian. Surely you should be more interested in improving basic quality of life rather than worrying about your culture. Your community claims that you should be able to march past Ardoyne shops on the basis that it’s a shared space, yet the Mayor can’t open a playground in Woodvale because he is a Republican. Catholic primary-school girls were attacked because the road to their school went through a Protestant area. Is this not hypocritical? Personally I don’t care if you march or not, I actually think it would be a good day if it weren’t for all the violent drunken yobs and raw bigotry on display. Nobody is determined to undermine your culture, however, when your ‘culture’ includes blatant antagonism, it rouses opposition and anger. Would the residents if the Shankill accept a nationalist parade going through their area on St Patrick’s Day with IRA banners? No, and reasonably so. Insecurity and paranoia can only be tackled through integration and education. Protests aren’t quite as useful in this regard.

  7. What game are the DUP playing and how many votes will it gain them Vs how many will it cost? Much comment has been made about how this smacks of their 80’s tactics but the flegs protests, the numbers, show that the appetite is not there anymore.

    It is becoming an old saw already but the nationalist and republican cause has vastly more to fear from unionists and loyalists respecting our culture than this behaviour.

    I just can’t reconcile the comments of the FM and new Finance Minister with what happened here. Which one is the heart of the DUP?

  8. The only people “excluded” by Union Jacks and symbolism of the original 1913 UVF are Republicans, who also are “excluded” by the very definition of Northern Ireland’s constitution.

  9. I am an Englishman and the fag nonsense has to stop as do those Orange marches. How can you want peace and then march through your former enemies town taunting about a victory hundreds of years ago. The insecurity of the unionists has no basis in this day and age and prevents peace in Northern Ireland.

  10. Máirtín Mag Uidhir on

    Someone calling for equality (presumably, as this has been the dominant theme of this particular recent loyalist narrative) and then blatantly refusing to use someone’s actual name just because it’s in Irish is quite sad and daft. Pity the people voting that badly written, hypocritical rant up can’t see that.

    • Stop being so arrogant. 90% of people in NI couldn’t pronounce, nor remember, your name either. If you purposely change the pronouncable name you were born with to something unintelligible to most people then you have excluded yourself.

      • Máirtín Mag Uidhir on

        Thanks for your feedback, but I’m unsure as to how I was arrogant or where you got your 90% figure from, or from what I have excluded myself. Furthermore, I have lived in Belfast, Germany and Australia and can happily confirm that I have never had one single person be unable to pronounce my name once told. Never. Not once. And it’s funny that its validity as a name (who is being arrogant there I wonder) has never once been questioned outside of the North of Ireland. And by the way, I did not change my name, and again, how arrogant to assume I did. My preferred English spelling would also be Maguire rather than McGuire. Just fyi like…

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