Someone called me a Republican hater yesterday and it made me stop and think. The twitter in question was from Ireland and accused me of being a loyalist and hating Republicans.
With all due respect she got that right on both counts and I make no apology for being from the Shankill Road, being proud to be British and hating (Sinn Fein/IRA ) Republicans
That doesn’t mean I hate Catholics or Irish people (I don’t) and would wish any harm on them. In fact during the worst years of the troubles whenever I learnt of the death of an innocent Catholic or anyone else for that matter, my heart would bleed for them and those they left behind.
My sympathy extended to all innocent victims of the conflict, regardless of religious or political background , including the army and other security forces tasked with the impossible job of policing two communities whom at times seemed to want to destroy each other.
The security forces were caught in the middle and were always fighting a losing battle and I salute you all. I am a pacifist at heart and I abhor all murder, especially the murder of innocent people & those committed for political or religious reasons. Life’s to short and hard enough without having to worry that you will be killed for following a certain political system or worshipping a different god.
The definition of loyalist is :
a. A supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
b. A person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.
Growing up in West Belfast during the height of the troubles was no laughing matter and I have seen things that no child should ever have to witness .Death stalked the streets of Belfast day in and day out and there was no escape from the madness that surrounded and engulfed us.
The communities from The Shankill , The Falls and surrounding areas arguable suffered most during the Troubles , as not only were we on the “frontline” of the sectarian divide , but the paramilitaries from both sides lived and operated among us.
I have lost count of how many people I grew up with whom have been murdered, imprisoned or had their life’s destroyed as a direct result of the Troubles. As a child growing up in loyalist West Belfast my day to day life was dominated by the conflict and my own family have suffered personally due to the Troubles.
But every other family in Belfast was living the same nightmare and few escape the legacy of Northern Ireland’s tortured past.
Whilst the Protestants’ clung to their British sovereignty and took pride in the union, our Catholic counterparts felt abandoned and second class citizens in a Unionist run state. The civil rights marches of the 60’s & Republican calls for a United Ireland were the catalyst for the IRA and other Republican terrorist groups to take up arms against the British and feed the paranoia of the loyalist community.
Northern Ireland descended into decades of sectarian conflict & slaughter. An attack on the crown was an attack on the Protestant people of the North and the Protestant paramilitaries took up arms and waged an indiscriminate war against the IRA, Catholic population and each other. Many innocent Catholic’s and Protestant’s became targets of psychopathic sectarian murder squad’s. Murder was almost a daily occurrence and the killings on both sides perpetuated the hatred and mistrust between the two ever-warring communities. It was a recipe for disaster.
1. Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.
It may surprise some readers to hear that I have no adverse objections to Republicanism as a concept or a United Ireland and I believe at some time in the far distant future this will come about.
But not in my lifetime or with my support.
I abject to the misery and lost lives the IRA and other paramilitary groups are responsible for and yes I don’t like the IRA and all they stand for.
I was born British into a British country and I am extremely proud of my British & Unionist heritage and it saddens me to see this being slowly eradicated by Sinn Féin//IRA and other Irish Republican groups.
That doesn’t mean I hate Catholics or wish harm on them, it means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and traditions.
If you have taken the time to read extracts from my autobiography, Belfast Child , you will know that my own family was ripped apart due to the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland and I spent most of my life searching for my missing Catholic mother, whom I thought was dead. Living in loyalist West Belfast I had to keep this dirty little secret to myself and when my father died when I was eleven I longed for my mother to be there, but of course she wasn’t. Times have much changed since my youth and the turbulent early years of the troubles and life is much better and less uncertain for the Children of Belfast today. Hopefully we can all put the past behind us and build a lasting peace and learn to live side by side and respect each other’s history and culture.
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” ― Maya Angelou