If I may digress before writing this particular essay, I am reminded of the tale of a swarthy foreign-looking man, possibly a seafarer; who was walking down a road in Belfast, when suddenly he was surrounded by a gang of tough young men; and the question thrown at him was, ‘Are ye a Protestant; or a Catholic?’
The swarthy gent thought he was on somewhat safe ground as he replied ‘I’m a Palestinian Arab’.
The instantaneous question again:- ‘Ah, but are you a Catholic Palestinian Arab, or a Protestant Palestinian Arab?
Sadly, I read that even that small piece of humour is out-of-date; as I now learn that the Catholic Republican communities fly Palestinian flags, and the Protestant Unionists? They opt for the Star of David.
When the Northern Ireland Assembly was mooted; when the first stirrings of what later was to be called either ‘Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement came chanting down the freeways, a certain number of sceptical commentators amongst us shrugged and muttered ‘As long as the killings, the threats, the punishment beatings, along with all the paraphernalia of two, three or more groups of terrorists cease; we’ll see how it goes.’
Hundreds of prisoners, of various degrees of murderous inclinations, from both sides of a sectarian mindset border were freed, the Police were virtually neutered, and the politicking began; and that has never ceased. One side proposes, and the other side disposes in the political arena; and that has again continued for a long time. But certain propositions were both put forward and accepted; to many on the mainland these same proposals would have raised a forest of eyebrows: but Norn’Ireland has a logic and a manner all its own.
Can any Englishman, home-grown or imported, expect, when being told that there is a Council House available yet unavailable; that they cannot live in that house, despite that house being both empty and available: because they are of the WRONG RELIGION? I have lived in my own home in a small estate in Durham City for over thirty-odd years, and I do not know what God any of my neighbours prays to, and nor do I really care! Its really a simple as that. Its none of my business! As long as they keep themselves to themselves, keep the noise down after ten in the evening, pay the rent if either private or Council tenants, only bother me when an emergency crops up: they’ll do me fine!
But we read of the quartet who used to live in Cantrell Close, a shared housing area off the Ravenhill Road. The Police arrived, presumably in force, and ‘advised the four families that ‘credible threats had been made by the UVF’ and those families ‘had to leave’.
I would now point you towards a truly wonderful publication from the Northern Ireland Executive Office entitled ‘Together: Building a United Community Strategy’, and I would encourage you to read it all. You will not learn anything from it, because as long as there are ‘credible threats’ from one group of shadows, and ‘equally credible threats’ from another; all those fancy phrases, all those wonderful ideas, all those high-flying theories about how we can crush the life out of ‘sectarianism’ if only we stand together; are simply not worth a bucket of piss!
When even the ‘Strategy’ cannot be honest, and call hatred and true hostility what they are, what chance does the rest of that well-meaning booklet have of being able to tell those four Catholic families that they are safe, they can relax, because the Criminal GodFathers ON BOTH SIDES have been quelled?
I wrote a few weeks ago of the dormant Assembly, when discussing, for those who don’t understand what is so different about their NornIron fellow Brits, all about the cancer of the Peace Walls, those sadly mis-named excrescences which are so necessary to stop random bunches of thugs from one side of the sectarian fringe, to go attacking, burning and spreading their fear towards those on the other side of where that THIRTY FOOT-HIGH FENCE now stands, which comes along with reinforced steel netting, to stop the petrol bombs, the rocks and the rest.