It would seem there is unrest amongst the Loyalist communities. All the talk is of a section of society that feels abandoned, left behind, marginalised. I think, to some extent, that feeling is valid. My problem is that this community is the same community that right now insists everyone else be subjected to their celebrations and traditions. To put it another way, a minority is inflicting it's will on the majority.
I've argued before about the absurdity of a group of people claiming to represent the majority (as Loyalists often do) whilst not being able to return a single political representative to Stormont. I'll not go over that ground again in this post except to say that this unrest comes only a couple of months after elections to Stormont & Council so quite frankly, moaning about betrayals from political leaders is pathetic and doesn't wash with anyone.
I am an Englishman. I was born and raised in England and for nearly all my adult life I travelled all over the UK whist working in construction. I eventually settled in Northern Ireland because I fell in love with the country and in love with a Northern Irish girl. Never has anyone called into question my British identity. Well, at least not until recently when I got involved in a discussion about Loyalism and, principally because I said I didn't like the idea of hundreds of flags being strung up all over Bangor, it was suggested that I may not be a proper Brit at all.
I have to say, I was slightly taken aback at this. After years spent around the UK, it is quite clear I have been living amongst others who, due to the lack of overt patriotism in the form of flag flying, are clearly not Brits either. There was I, and 60 million others, happily content with my identity when all along, we were all just unwittingly playing Sinn Fein's game for them.
Of course, that's nonsense. I am British. It is my birthright to call myself as such and it is for no man to say otherwise, least of all a Loyalist. Yes, you may deck yourself in the Union Jack and give it your all when singing the National Anthem but that does not give you the right to decide what classifies as Britishness.
There is another aspect to this type of behaviour and that is religious bigotry. There is the explicit and implicit suggestion that Protestantism means Britishness and vice versa. Such thinking is prevalent amongst loyalist communities and it is wholly offensive to the millions of Britons who are either not religious at all or worship under a different faith.
Loyalists should be allowed to celebrate their history and they should be allowed to celebrate it in their traditional way but only when that doesn't impose on the rest of the population. The painting of kerb stones or any other public property in the colours of the Union flag is not patriotism - it's vandalism and it's territory marking of the worst kind. Hanging up hundreds of cheap nylon Union Jacks from lampposts does not make the place look pretty and glorious - it makes it look cheap. If you want an example of how to use flags to create the right impression, look at The Mall before the Royal Wedding.
I don't want to keep writing about Loyalism in a negative light but until Loyalist leaders start to talk about their communities along the right notes, I'll continue to criticise when they hit the wrong ones.