“But the violence worked for the other side! – The dangerous and dishonest myth of loyalty. Part 2… – Slugger O’Toole
In Part One, Steve Bradley presented a prima facie case as to why political violence did not end in Northern Ireland, especially for the Republican movement during the unrest. In this part, he examines a much larger history of unionism to further assert that political violence doesn’t work.
Unionism and loyalty do not need to look to someone else to justify the use of violence. It has its own long history as a threatening force to advance its political goals. Before the Home Rule crisis of the First World War, Irish trade unionists could rest easy knowing that their own political goals were regularly aligned with those of the British government – and therefore could count on the state to act as executor. if and when required. By the time of the Third Home Rule Crisis in 1912, however, this synchronization had broken.
Westminster wanted to get rid of its ‘Irish problem’ by granting the devolution of the island – meaning that for the first time trade unionists could no longer count on the London government (and therefore its military) to uphold this. which they saw as their own interests. Trade unionism therefore responded by creating its own paramilitary organization in 1913 – the Ulster Volunteer Force. A year later, he armed this force with weapons bought from the Kaiser’s Germany – a country against which a few months later thousands of UVF members would fight and die in Flanders (how many Ulstermen were killed by German ammunition financed by the proceeds of the UVF imports of firearms?). Loyalists were not only happy to take up arms against their own country, but also to enrich the coffers of their nation’s main enemy in the process. It is certainly a curious definition of “fidelity”.
The creation of Northern Ireland in 1921 again placed political unionism in a position where the state apparatus could provide all the strength necessary to promote and protect its goals. This was most clearly illustrated by the RUC’s violent reaction to inter-communal civil rights marches in the late 1960s – which sparked the chain of events that ultimately led to the Troubles. The abolition of Stormont and its ‘B Specials’ reserve agents by the British government in 1972 denied political unionism and loyalism access to physical control over Northern Ireland (although it retained some influence. considerable within the RUC and UDR).
DUP leader Ian Paisley had long seemed to want to start his own Carson-style militia organization, and in response to concerns over increased Anglo-Irish cooperation in the early 1980s, he created a new organization loyalist called “The Third Force”. The group, which it said numbered 15-20,000 members, held rallies in the hills around NI – with large numbers of men displaying what they claimed to be firearms certificates, and High level politicians like Paisley and Reverend William McCrea parading in military berets.
In a show of force in Newtonards, 6,000 people marched to the courthouse, many in balaclavas and military uniform. And during another Third Force event in Tyrone, the RUC was attacked and two of their vehicles overturned. When the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed in 1985, the furious reaction of political unionism saw the formation of another loyalist paramilitary group – “Ulster Resistance”. It was launched in November 1986 at a rally of 3,000 people at Ulster Hall, chaired by Sammy Wilson and addressed by Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson. Paisley and Robinson were both pictured in red berets, the latter also wearing military fatigues. Robinson said at a later rally in Enniskillen that the organization had attracted thousands of members who were already involved in training and drilling. In 1987, the Ulster Resistance teamed up with the UVF, UDA and other loyalist paramilitaries to purchase a large quantity of weapons in Lebanon – funded by the proceeds of a bank robbery. in Portadown. Parts of this weapons cache were later intercepted by police, and one of those convicted was a former UDR soldier. While the DUP regularly complains about Sinn Féin’s well-documented history with Republican paramilitaries, it remains silent on its own clear history of involvement with shadowy and illegal loyalist groups (which appears to continue to this day, through its regular consultations with the UDA).
The 1990s saw the Orange Order marches become contentious issues at a number of hot spots across NI – the most famous of which was Drumcree Church in Portadown. From 1995 to 2001, loyalists engaged in serious public unrest each year against British security forces deployed to prevent them from crossing a nationalist quarter. Riots and sectarian attacks have also taken place in Northern Ireland, along with a number of high-profile sectarian killings. Orangemen are still not allowed to follow their ‘traditional route’ there to this day – proving once again that the violence is no match in Northern Ireland. This steady cycle of unsuccessful loyalist anger and violence was repeated once again in 2012-13 due to the fluttering of flags on designated days at Belfast City Hall. This question was in many ways similar to the current protests of the Protocol, in that it was largely fabricated for political ends (at the time to vilify and undermine the Alliance Party, which had taken the parliamentary seat of Belfast East at DUP in 2010). Once again, the protests and violence did not change anything and eventually fizzled out.
So it is clearly wrong to claim that violence has been more than a failed strategy repeatedly for Republicans and NI loyalists over the past 50 years. And it is particularly misleading of loyalists to perpetuate the myth that Republicans got what they want from violence – when instead of a 32-county socialist republic, they have instead had to settle for ‘involvement in a partitionist parliament, support for a partitionist and respectful police force. relations with the British monarchy.
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