the forgotten union
I’ve just returned from Northern Ireland, having spent time in Belfast and took a tour around the provence to witness first hand the state of the politics there today.
Sure, the burnt-out cars of the Troubled-time are gone, I was able to walk where I chose, but the markers for the fault lines are clear for all to see. They hang from lamp-posts, from flagpoles attached to the front of houses and emblazoned on the end-walls of streets everywhere. I’m talking about Union Jacks and Ulster Unionist flags – and a significant number of Loyalist battle flags, too.
The UK media’s not too keen to talk about the flags. With investment money flowing in now, Belfast is thriving. An optimistic young city that’s a joy to spend time in. But within a mile of the centre, even around the corner from the majestic, globally recognised Queens University, teeming with it’s wonderful mix of accents and language from laughing foreign students, the symbols of sectarianism abound.
So why with all this new-found prosperity are the old sectarian feelings still so prevalent – why does the air have a sense of a unease, like a coiled spring or smoundering tinderbox?
Brexit – the fear of betrayal
Look beyond the Loyalist Crumlin and Shankill and you’ll come upon the Nationalist strongholds of The Falls. Forbidding steel gates stand ready to fall across the centre of the area in the event of unrest and ironically, they rest open against The Peace Wall. Its intention was noble but its now covered with political propaganda of the Marxist left, stoking the unrest and providing an insight into where the nationalist IRA, INLA, New IRA and Sinn Féin’s allegiances lie. Here you see Palestinian, Jihadist, Catalonian and Venezuelan images. The clear expression of “our republic” and talk of British occupation.
The Irish government in Dublin has long held links to the PLO and a few seconds research will reveal the extent of Sinn Féin’s long-held anti-semitism. Given that legacy, the murals should surprise no one.
On the Loyalist side of the gates, bold murals celebrate the historic British alliance and army connections, along with memorials to fallen Loyalist fighters. But I didn’t expect to see Israeli messages of solidarity for the Unionists, along with one in support of the Polish, recalling the contribution of the RAF’s Polish Squadron in the Second World War.
battlelines drawn anew?
Later that day, sipping my expresso back in the shabby-chiq cosmopolitan surroundings of the Cathedral Quarter, I reflected on what I’d seen. I imagined a land forfeited in the name of some ill-conceived accord with the EU that established a unified Ireland lazily justified by its majority Remain vote in the 2016 Referendum.
I remembered the IRA’s old alliance with Gaddafi’s Libya. Of course, that’s now gone. But something far more sinister has stepped in to fill that void. A pact between our more modern arab enemies.
I thought about a Marxist-driven land-grab by an army of criminals and terrorists armed by Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran, the spectre of roadside IED’s and suicide vests faced off by beleaguered Loyalists. What part might Israel play, could we see our very own Middle East-style conflict, a ferry or shuttle flight away. Just as the Troubles decided no winners, Ireland could become our new Afghanistan.
Whatever happens, we cannot – we dare not – betray this noble and loyal union. We can’t forget that these are proud British people, no matter what concessions the EU push us to accept in return for our own independence.