Could we have our first contestant, please?
Name: Blue Bin Boy.
Specialist subject: Terrorfests.
Your two minutes begin now: What is the largest Terrorfest on the island of Ireland? The West Belfast Terrorfest?
No, the Twelfth Terrorfest. How many IRA songs were sung at the West Belfast Terrorfest this year? Three thousand?
No, three. How many anti-Catholic pro-UVF/UDA songs are sung in the marching season? Three?
No, three thousand. How many IRA banners were flown at the West Belfast Terrorfest this year? Five?

No, none. How many UVF and UDA banners are carried on the Twelfth? Five?
No, five thousand. What kind of group are the UVF? Counter-terrorists?
No, terrorists. What was the profession of UVF officer and Shankill Butchers leader Lennie Murphy? Counter-Butcher?
No, serial killer. What did you say about your attendance at a UVF commemoration days after lashing out at an IRA commemoration? “A well deserved tribute to a fine man”?
No, you said it was “inconsistent and I’m honest about that.” When you were in Maghaberry, what wing did you ask to be transferred to shortly after being banged up? The Blue Bin wing?
No, the UVF wing. You said in a Belfast Telegraph interview “the loyalist people in the past had the right to take up what?” Origami?
No, “arms”. You attended a commemoration in June for Robert ‘Squeak’ Seymour, who was a member of which loyalist group? The Clonduff Cultural Bonfire Committee?
No, the UVF. You attended the Squeak commemoration in the company of Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews, who has been widely reported as holding what position in the East Belfast UVF? Treasurer?
No, leader. Stephen Nolan once described you as “A loyalist linked to the East Belfast what?” Rangers Supporters’ Club?
No, UVF. After you lambasted Michelle O’Neill’s “no alternative” comment, you told the News Letter that if the 1970s happened again the UVF would have what right? The right to a fair trial?
No, the right to fight back against the IRA. Have you attended – beep, beep – I’ve started so I’ll finish… have you attended any Terrorfests apart from loyalist Terrorfests? Yes, I attended the West Belfast Terrorfest.

We've all heard that song before

WE might have supposed that as the conversations around a new Ireland get ever louder that the traditional requirement for people who’d quite like a change in the constitutional status to keep their mouths shut would disappear.

Common sense, you’d think. One of the reasons that so many people are keen to talk about ending the status quo is that being a Catholic, nationalist or republican in a place where unionism for long decades displayed its majority status with an arrogant and sneering swagger was a singularly unpleasant experience. And just as you’d ask to be moved to another room if you checked into your Benidorm hotel to find your window looking out on to a brick wall, so you’re going to be keen that a view of the place you live doesn’t make you wince and pull the curtains. Changing that view to make more people feel comfortable and at home would appear to be a no-brainer for a union whose only chance of survival rests on finding new recruits for Project UK.

You’d think that, as Squinter’s ma used to say, wouldn’t ye?

But what we’re witnessing is a unionist population withdrawing further every day into a silo of bitterness and recalcitrance, where singing songs about the IRA causes a thousand times more furious fury 20-plus years after the IRA departed the stage than it did at the height of the conflict; where wanting to talk about the future is tantamount to a declaration of war on Loyal Ulster.

The latest person to fall victim to STFU syndrome (check with a younger person if you don’t know that means) is Royal College of Nursing chief Pat Cullen, who opined from the audience at a Féile event that the future of the NHS would best be served by reunification.

*Ts & Cs apply.
*The claim that Pat Cullen said this has not been verified and were therefore described as “reported claims”.

The clatter of pitchforks being assembled and the whoosh of torches being lit filled the air and soon a mob of villagers were besieging the town jail demanding that the witch be handed over. Pat, we were told, was just the latest in a long line of rebels infiltrating every aspect of public life, abusing their positions to spew out seditious propaganda. Just imagine – a trade union official expressing an opinion on the future of her profession. That’s something that Loyal Ulster has assiduously avoided down through the years.

Oh, except of course for the many senior unionist politicians loaned to us by the faculty of Queen’s University. Or the solicitors and barristers who have filled the ranks of the main unionist parties for a century and more. And not forgetting the invariably charming Christian gentlemen who split their time between worshipping the Lord and saving Ulster. Then there were the trade unionists who kept the Micks out of the smokestack industries and joined forces with the UDA and the UVF to shut the place down during the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of 1974.

TARGETED: Pat Cullen with RCN colleagues

TARGETED: Pat Cullen with RCN colleagues

The air has gone out of the Pat Cullen balloon with a plaintive, asthmatic wheeze but the unionist anger pump has been redeployed to the Wolfe Tones at Féile, although not to the, ah, unpleasantness at the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry. Which has left Squinter to ponder the remarkable similarities – as well as the contemporary differences – between the Pat Cullen case and the case of Anna Lo. Anna, you may remember, the only Chinese-born parliamentarian at Stormont and Westminster, quit politics in 2014 a couple of months after being mercilessly hounded over comments she made about colonialism in the North and her preference for a united Ireland. If you thought trade unionist Pat Cullen being targeted for speaking about her trade was weird, here was a woman who lost her job as a politician for speaking about politics. Work that one out.

Speaking after the roar of the pitchfork mob had died down, Anna related how she had been racially abused in the street by loyalists in the wake of daring to open her mouth about politics and she expressed her dismay at the widespread support that racist pastor James McConnell had received from senior unionist politicians in the wake of his revolting remarks about Muslims; the same senior unionist politicians who had targeted a Chinese-born woman for failing their No-Surrender test.

The difference, of course, is that seven years ago when Anna was put on the Loyal Ulster Witch List unionism still had its majority and the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media was in ruder health than it is today. And while Squinter’s not going to say that Anna’s Alliance colleagues didn’t do enough to support and protect her, the simple fact is that she found herself in a hostile environment from which she felt the need to flee. Pat Cullen finds herself in a changed environment – an environment where unionism no longer gets to choose who speaks and who doesn’t; an environment where those of us eternally grateful for her lifetime of service to patients will ensure that she has the freedom to say what she likes.

This nonsense comes at a time of unprecedented unionist weakness; their majority gone and never coming back, they and their media enablers continue to act as if nothing has changed, but their their tired set of the old hits is playing to an increasingly disinterested audience.

And nobody has the sense or the will to realise it’s time to change the record.