THE weekend anti-Protocol protests across loyal Ulster were the first true test of the repeated assurances that the recent Doug Beattie noose incident in Lurgan was an unfortunate aberration and that the campaign against the Irish Sea border is going to be an entirely peaceful demonstration of unionist and loyalist anger.
 
In East Belfast on Friday night, Orange Order Grand Pooh-Bah Reverend Mervyn Gibson took to the flag-draped stage and delivered what the New Letter termed a “bluntly-worded speech” railing against the iniquities of the Protocol. “We’ve had enough negotiations,” he said, without elaborating on how they’re going to stop Larne being a border town without actually talking to anyone about it.
 
The Protocol, he added, is “a political problem that needs a political solution”. But since former Special Branch man Mervyn doesn’t want any more of them oul’ negotiations, how’s a political solution going to be arrived at?
 
Next up, Mervyn got to the heart of the matter when he addressed those really responsible for keeping Our Wee Country in the Single Market. “Republican terrorists failed to bomb and murder us into a United Ireland over these last 101 years. Their apologists, Sinn Féin, cannot bully or bribe us into a United Ireland. They even say they want us as partners in a United Ireland, but their spin and sweet talking will not work, because we know the republican leopard will not change its spots. We are wise to that enemy, whose motto was burn everything British but their coal.”
 
And then it was time for Merv to spread a little peace and understanding.
 
“If left in place the Protocol makes you and I subject to the laws and regulations of a foreign power and in time their influence will spread like a cancer... Apathy was not an option when in 1912 people signed the Covenant. Apathy was not an option when guns were landed at Larne and Donaghadee.” Wow. Super job of calming things down there, Rev.
 
With a similar nod to the need to cooling tensions in the wake of the Doug Beattie Lurgan noose, organisers of the event decided that the main message of the evening was to be ‘Enough is enough’ and that message was placed on a large banner with pride of place at the front of the platform. At which stage it might be worthwhile to stop for a moment and ask ourselves who the organisers are, because that question seems to have turned into a kind of loyalist ‘Where’s Wally?’. The question has been asked of various speakers a number of times in the wake of Noosegate, but nobody seems to have a baldy, with shoulder shrugs being   punctuated by various bits of  unconvincing speculation. Armed with only that information, the best that Squinter can surmise is that the organisers are a mix of the Moonies, International Rescue and the Loyal Orders.
 
And what image might the organisers have chosen for the ‘Enough is enough’ banner? Well, you might think something that would convince Doug Beattie that nobody really thinks he should be strung up from a lamppost with a double-knotted noose would be helpful.
Something that would persuade those people reluctant to attend the protests that they are indeed a purely political and democratic expression of the loyalist mood. Something like... a black and white 1970s image of UDA men in sunglasses and fatigues lined up in military formation (see pic above).
 
The next anti-Protocol protest is in Saintfield Orange Hall on Friday night with the unbeatable, unbelievable, unsurpassed and unelected double act of Kate Hoey and Ben Habib topping the bill. What the anonymous organisers have lined up for this one is anybody’s guess, but we can of course rest assured that in best Ulster-Scots tradition there won’t be a noose loose about the hoose.

 

Do you tick the bad boxes?

L’ENFER, c’est les autres – Hell is other people.
 
The words of the existential philosopher Sartre don’t ring true 24/7 for Squinter, but there are certainly times when he knows exactly what the Frenchman was talking about.
 
And Squinter’s not referencing the big ticket issues of man’s inhumanity to man – war, hate, greed. He’s talking about the countless little things that people do that on their own are minor irritant, but when experienced variously and repeatedly are apt to ruin your day.
 
Here's a handy check list for you to complete so you know whether you’re a) one of those who make up Sartre’s fire and brimstone, b) an all-round good egg, or c) somewhere in between.
 
*Please note that Squinter will not be publicly revealing how he fares in this test of good citizenry at this time.
 

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1. Pavement parker
Do you think pavements are for cars and not weird things like people, prams and wheelchairs? Do you park across the dimpled tactile paving at junctions designed to let blind and partially-sighted people that they’re approaching danger? The only courtesy in your car is the light, pal.
 

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2. Mall meanie
Do you stand in the middle of the escalator in shopping malls? Do you use your trolley to block people without trolleys from getting past? Try your rear-view mirrors.
 
3. Trolley trash
In supermarket car parks where a pound isn’t required to get a trolley, do you simply abandon yours when you’ve finished with it so it can be blown into another vehicle or roll into an innocent shopper? Award yourself some Tesco bonus points.
 
4. Cap chap
Do you write messages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms in capital letters?  WELL? DO YOU?

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5. Hog dog
Do you leave your bag or bags on the empty seat beside you on the bus? Or if you’re a bloke do you spread your legs so wide your outside knee is nearly in the aisle? Did you buy two tickets?
 
6. Wave averse
If you’re queuing to get out on to a main road and somebody obliges, do you fail to wave an acknowledgment? More importantly, are you aware of how widely you’re despised?
 
7. Plane bonkers
Do you always claim the armrest between you and the passenger beside you on a plane? Have you ever wondered why you’re always sitting beside angry-looking people?
 
8. Black hack snack
Have you ever eaten food in a black taxi? Do you imagine that other people enjoy the sights and sounds of your munching?
 
9. Poo boo
Do you bag your dog’s poo when it does its business and then chuck the bag away? Do you imagine you’re being doubly responsible when you hang it on a tree?
 
10. Meat treat
Do you ever change your mind about a perishable purchase in the supermarket,  decide you want it but can’t be arsed putting it back in the right place. Who do you think is going to buy that chicken on the baked beans shelf?
 
11. Screen scream
Do you make regular queries about the plot of a movie when you’re at the cinema with someone? Are you aware that theatrical whispering is so annoying you may as well just screech?
 
12. Space invader
Are you a BMW, Audi or SUV owner who thinks your vehicle comes with two parking spaces as standard? Have you checked the vehicle’s specification list to see if this is true?
 
13. Waiting game
Do you enter a bus or lift before people have got off? If so, have you every worked out how many years the time saved has added to your life?
 

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14. Cold calling
In work, do you think everything in the fridge is fair game? Why don’t you just go and have a hoke in people’s desk drawers as well?
 
15. Up in smoke
Do you light up right at the door of a restaurant/café when you nip out for your post-meal feg so the smoke blows back in? Why don’t you just stay inside and save yourself the trouble?
 
16. Crack on
Do you crack your knuckles in front of other people? Ask yourself how many people have said: “I really like it when you do that.”
 
17. Vapour trail
Do you vape indoors in the company of people who don’t? Have you ever Googled: “How does Covid spread?”
 

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18. Paper trail
Do you chuck your fast-food packaging out the window of the car in the McDonald’s car park when you’re finished? You do it because you like the seagulls, right?
 
19. Eating disorder
Are you of the opinion that restaurants and cafes are playzones for you children? Top tip: nobody thinks they’re wee dotes.
 
20. Life cycle
Do you cycle on the pavement without a bell or do you think red lights don’t apply to cyclists? Note: It’s the Highway Code, no the My Way Code.
 
How many questions did you answer yes to?
0-7 How do you fancy moving next door to Squinter? No, wait, scrub that – how do you fancy moving in with Squinter?
8-14 You’re not a lost cause, but you need to be aware that you are rapidly running out of time and space. Seek ye salvation.
15-20 Just the one question: Who did this to you?