Republican and Loyalist Encounters

The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University

Text of presentation by Cllr John Kyle, 14th April 2018, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

 

I would like to thank Professor John Brewer and the Senator George Mitchell Institute at Queens for the opportunity to contribute to these exchanges. At a time when the political discourse has become increasingly polarised the need for reflective debate has rarely been greater.

‘Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process. A shared future should be about respect and equality for political, cultural and religious difference. We share a common humanity. Authentic reconciliation will depend upon us all embracing new thinking, having conversations to build new relationships between all sides.’

Not my words but Declan Kearney’s.I couldn’t have said it better myself. Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process, and yet the political rhetoric,‘break the bastards’, ‘if you feed the crocodiles’,is inflicting more damage, not healing our society

Sinn Fein have made reconciliation one of their buzz words. “Republicans seek authentic reconciliation with Unionism. A new phase of the peace process based on reconciliation and healing must be our future.” Declan again, a couple of weeks ago. I completely agree that reconciliation and healing must be our future. I am old enough to know how bad it was and how far we have come, and I know we are stalled, badly. Frankly reconciliation is receding into the far distance. There are major obstacles in the way, first and foremost sectarianism, deeply entrenched and passed from generation to generation. So how could anti-sectarianism be wrong?

Anti-sectarianism is wrong when it is perceived as hypocrisy. When someone whom you consider to be sectarian accuses you of being sectarian-and this is the experience of Unionists and Loyalists when listening to Sinn Fein.Whether you agree with me or not, this is the perception of many Unionists and Loyalists.

Let me give you some examples:
* Demanding Irish language signs in the university while banning the sale of poppies
*Imposing increasing regulation and restrictions on bonfires while demanding cultural equality and rights
*The refusal by a Councillor to condemn the Enniskillen bombing while proposing a motion in Enniskillen Council condemning sectarianism.
* Calling for victims’ rights while naming a children’s playpark after a convicted terrorist.
* Demanding respect and equality for Irish identity while banning British Armed Forces from school recruitment events and continuing to talk of the ‘British occupation’. I am British and I am certainly not occupying Northern Ireland. My family have lived here for generations and this is home to me, my children and grandchildren.
*Sinn Fein leaders making speeches about ‘Unionist death squads’ while in the same speech eulogising IRA volunteers who bombed and murdered innocent men, women and children.
*Demanding truth and justice for all victims while focusing exclusively on Republican and Nationalist victims and offering nothing to victims of IRA violence. If all victims have a right to truth, Sinn Fein’s silence is deafening regarding La Mon, Claudy, Kingsmill, Enniskillen, Birmingham, Hyde Park and many, many others.

Before you come back at me with counter arguments and justifications, or John Brewer accuses me of a severe case of whataboutery let me say that sectarianism is endemic in the Unionist community as well. I know that I can react in a sectarian way if the right buttons are pushed.

Unionists need to begin the painful task of facing up to our sectarianism, our failings in the past, our need to change, our culpability for thirty years of conflict, our responsibility to create a just and fair society. Too often Unionists have been acquiescent towards sectarianism if not actively complicit. We have failed to recognise its corrosive and egregious effects. Some Unionist politicians have treated Republicans with distain,if not contempt. That is wrong and I for one do not agree with it. However, from our perspective what we experience is Sinn Fein claiming exclusive right to the moral high ground, virtue signalling about how blameless they are in regard to rights, equality, tolerance and respect-if only those Unionist bigots would stop being sectarian reconciliation would be possible.

To stamp out sectarianism it is imperative we begin with our own tribe, or to use the biblical analogy, take the plank out of our own eye before taking the speck out of our neighbour’s. Self-critical evaluation is necessary, shows integrity, gives moral authority, opens significant opportunities for reconciliation, makes people more willing to engage with you and facilitates conflict transformation. Reconciliation offers enormous benefit to us all, but to achieve it we need to come down from the moral high ground. True reconciliation will involve finding level ground on which to interact and be reconciled.

The Unionist community has experienced massive suffering, trauma and injustice at the hands of Republicans who show no perceptible evidence of contrition, repentance or ofasking for forgiveness. Unionists simply do not trust Republicans. Republicans may well say the same-that underlines the magnitude of the task facing us.

To move forward we need to be agreed that we want this place to work. We need to agree that we want our people to live together peacefully;our children to grow up happy, confident and well educated; our economy to be vibrant and successful;our artists, musicians, sportsmen and women enriching our lives with their skills;our elderly, infirm and vulnerable well cared for; a society that is fair and equal,based on mutual respect. This needs to be prioritised above the constitutional question or, in Declan’s words ‘Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process.’

The best way to overcome sectarianism is through respectful cooperation, working together to achieve economic and social prosperity. In the past twenty years we have had periods of relative success, glimpses of what might be achieved. But we need to do better. We can do better, but not as ourselves alone. Neither Sinn Fein, successful as you have been, nor the DUP, dominant as they are in Unionism, can do it alone. We can only do better by working together.

As the GFA stated ‘The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We acknowledge the substantial differences between our continuing and equally legitimate political aspirations. However, we will continue to strive in every practical way towards reconciliation and rapprochement within the framework of democratic and agreed arrangements.’Renewing that commitment would be a start.

Anti-sectarianism is to be welcomed and embraced, but the long road to reconciliation begins with the painful process of self-examination and confronting one’s own sectarian attitudes. The prize, as Senator George Mitchell so eloquently spoke of recently, is peace.

Happy birthday to Queen Elizabeth II

Happy birthday to Queen Elizabeth II who turns 92-years-old today.

 

 

 

 

Long may she reign over us.

A tribute to young Carter

A tribute to young Carter, a member of the 18th Newtownabbey Youth (08s). A team we sponsor.

God bless.

Loyalists’ rejection of criminality will help ‘uplift’ communities: Hamilton

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/crime/loyalists-rejection-of-criminality-will-help-uplift-communities-hamilton-1-8459352

A clergymen who helped negotiate a loyalist paramilitary pledge to end criminality believes the initiative has widespread public support.

Rev Norman Hamilton said a joint statement from the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando, which was issued last week at a press conference in Belfast, will help “uplift” communities and should not be dismissed lightly.

“I think scepticism is overstated,” he said.

“I think people are cautious. The general reaction has been the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I have detected caution, and that is absolutely fine and understandable, but there has been very little hostile reaction.”

The former Presbyterian moderator was one of three church leaders – along with Harold Good, a former Methodist president, and former Church of Ireland archbishop Alan Harper – who helped draft the statement that vowed to expel members of the three organisations who engaged in criminal activity.

Loyalists associated with the paramilitary organisations have been involved in drug dealing, extortion and assaults since the 1994 ceasefires.

Rev Hamilton said: “I’ve only had one negative reaction and the vast majority have been very affirming in saying this has to be done. Personally I have had a very good response.”

Rev Hamilton also rejected any suggestion the statement was linked to additional funding being made available for community organisations in loyalist areas.

Referring to his address at Monday’s press conference, he said: “I was very explicit in terms of investment in these communities – this was not about money. This is about uplifting the communities. If you are going to put money into it you have got to put money into it in the right way, so this is absolutely not about money.

“For me, the bottom line is that these communities need uplifting, and wider civic society needs to help that uplift. And I spelt that out in terms of the community partnership boards, the governors of schools, some of the big charities like Barnardos and CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) is where the effort needs to go so that the needs of the community are met by wider civic society, and that these guys play their part in that.”

Asked if he had any concerns at being associated with paramilitary bosses, in light of the fierce criticism of Arlene Foster after she was photographed with alleged UDA commander Dee Stitt, Rev Hamilton said: “Dee Stitt was in the audience [on Monday], but our dealings were with the guys who were at the front table.”

 

 

 

Declaration of Transformation

A Loyalist Declaration of Transformation from the Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force

Delivered 11.30am, Monday 9th April 2018 at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Embargoed until 12.00 midday, Monday 9th April 2018

“The Good Friday Agreement was created in a spirit of accommodation and its promise was a more inclusive Northern Ireland. There would have been no Agreement without the involvement of loyalists. However, it is time to recommit to the creation of a Northern Ireland that enables all to realise their potential and aspirations. Any community left behind in that ambition represents a failure not only for the peace process, but for Northern Ireland as a whole.

For too long we have been berated for our past and not able to imagine a better future. We must challenge that outlook by no longer being apologists for conflict but advocates for change and working to create a society that is at ease with itself in its diversity and difference.

It was made clear at the time of the CLMC 1994 ceasefire statement that ‘abject and true remorse’ existed for suffering inflicted during the conflict and that remains the case today. However, no-one should ever be excluded from playing a constructive role in the future because of past actions. We therefore seek to fulfil the commitments we made in 1994 by continuing a process of transformation.

We draw attention to the fact that even in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics we continue to maintain a commitment to the peace process. We are fully committed to participation in such a process and will approach it with honesty, integrity and sensitivity. We also recognise the importance of a legacy process designed to help Northern Ireland confront the past and from that experience build a society of possibility and hope. We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.

We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity. Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism.

We reject and repudiate as unacceptable and contrary to loyalist principles any criminal action claimed to have been undertaken in our name or attributed to any individual claiming membership of one of our organisations. We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships. This has been collectively agreed. We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.

We seek to make an important contribution to the construction of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland and to support this objective intend to provide strong community leadership and positive influence to promote social, economic and political development.

Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future. Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus, to meet the challenges ahead. We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner. We must shape our own destiny, and with the co-operation of others, ensure loyalist communities are at the centre of Northern Ireland’s peace and political transformation.

End”

Crowd Funding for young Carter Carson

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/charlene-dinnen?utm_id=106&utm_term=3g97ezZxQ

Please give generously folks. After a tragic loss a family has enough on their plate without the financial burden that follows.

God bless.

Deepest condolences

The Dalaradia group would like to send our deepest condolences to the family of young Carter, a member of the 18th Newtownabbey Youth (08s). A team we sponsor. We are deeply saddened about your loss.

A pleasant young man who had a whole life ahead of him.

We pray that in this difficult time, the love of God shelters you and mends the pain as you move forward. God bless.

Deepest sympathies

Dalaradia would like to express our deepest sympathies to the McCartney family on the sudden passing of Billy – a friend of ours.

 

No one can prepare you for a loss; it comes like a swift wind. However, take comfort in knowing that he is now resting in the arms of our Lord.

Lest we forget

Good Relations Conference & Awards Ceremony

On Saturday morning our group attended the Good Relations Conference & Awards Ceremony at the Crusaders Social Club, Shore Road. The event was to celebrate and recognise the efforts and participation of various groups including Old Comrades, Baron Hall, White City, Alexandra Church Hall, Hubb Ladies Group (The Millies) and the Grave Diggers. Various group attained OCN accredited awards for their work in a cross-examination of Northern Irelands rich cultural and historical tapestry.

 

 

The morning started with registration with tea/coffee.

A warm welcome from the HUBB chair Kerry Johnston opened the morning discussions followed by David O Briens entertaining “Raised on songs and Stories”.

Fergus Whelan, a Historian and Author whose main area of interest is Radical Protestantism in Eighteenth Century Ireland was up next.

 

This was followed by round the table discussions and feedback from the audience.

Our Patron Dr Ian Adamson OBE then took the floor for a talk on “Why are they called the British Isles – Pretani Associates”.

Afterward there was a digital Evaluation and Quizdom then finally closing remarks from the HUBB manager Jim Crothers.

Lunch followed with the day ending with a performance from the
Hounds of Ulster.

A very enjoyable day for our members in attendance.

Sinn Fein ‘ignoring’ result of consultation over bus signs in Irish

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/sinn-fein-ignoring-result-of-consultation-over-bus-signs-in-irish-36726647.html

Sinn Fein has been accused of ignoring the results of a consultation that suggested there was “very little appetite for Irish language signage” on buses in Co Londonderry.

The consultation, which was carried out by Translink in the spring and summer of 2017, proposed bilingual English and Irish destination screens onboard Ulsterbus vehicles in the nationalist west bank of Derry.

The project was piloted on the Slievemore route, with a plan to roll it out to other areas of the city if it successful. Bilingual signs are already in operation on buses in west Belfast.

But according to response to a Freedom of Information request by DUP MP Gregory Campbell, almost three-quarters (74%) of the 9,421 people who completed the survey were against the idea.

Last month talks to restore Stormont broke down due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein over legislation for the Irish language. Mr Campbell – who was barred from speaking in the Assembly for a day in 2014 after making fun of the Irish language – called on Sinn Fein to explain why it had “ignored” the results of the consultation.

He said: “Around this time last year, Sinn Fein in Londonderry claimed they had been lobbying Translink since February 2015 for a consultation about bilingual destination signage on scheduled Ulsterbus service vehicles in the area. The results were forwarded to the Department for Infrastructure late last year. This survey, requested by Sinn Fein, has demonstrated that there is very little appetite for Irish language signage even when Sinn Fein promotes it.

“Either Sinn Fein is aware of this consultation outcome and has decided to keep it hidden or Sinn Fein is unaware of the outcome and didn’t ask because they were afraid of what the outcome might be. The public have a right to know which it is.”

Translink said that given the consultation results, it currently had “no plans” to introduce bilingual destination screens in Derry.

It added: “Translink will continue to offer information primarily in English, subject to future statutory requirements.”

Sinn Fein insisted there was “significant support for bilingual signs”.

It said: “The trials in west Belfast have been very successful and Sinn Fein would wish to roll that out in other places where bilingual signage is welcome. Bilingual bus signs are already used every day in Derry on Bus Eireann vehicles and there has been little or no opposition to that.”

Belfast Telegraph”