INTERVIEW with organiser of Brian Robinson memorial parade, to be held on the Shankill on Saturday afternoon.

– Tell us a bit about Brian Robinson.
– Certainly. He was a family man, loved walks in country, band parades and the movies. A real gentleman who would have done anything for…
– Shot an innocent Catholic dead, didn’t he?
– Well, yes, but he was caught up in a conflict that came to him and…
– Paddy McKenna didn’t come to him. He went to Paddy McKenna. And shot him dead.
– Figure of speech, I was referring to the wider conflict, the one started by the Provos.
– Not the conflict started by the UVF in 1966 when Gusty Spence shot a group of innocent Catholics and his gang started blowing things up?
– No, definitely not that one.
– Mr McKenna’s family live about half a mile from this parade – how do you think they feel about it every year?
– Well, we understand the sensitivities involved and we try our very best to show respect and dignity at all times.
– By beating drums and hammering out anti-Catholic songs that you can hear from Dublin?
– What anti-Catholic songs?
– The Billy Boys, The Famine Song…
– You mean Marching Through Georgia and The Sloop John B?
– You were on the radio giving off about the Wolfe Tones in the Falls Park a while back.
– I most certainly was.
– What’s your problem with that?
– Well, I defend the right of anyone to sing whatever songs they want and to commemorate whoever they want to commemorate, but…
– Always a but.
– …but the fact is that this festival receives public funding and that is completely unacceptable.
– So none of the bands involved in this parade are in receipt of public funds.
– No.
– No?
– Well, a few quid for instruments.
– For instruments?
– And uniforms.
– Uniforms?
– Yes, uniforms. Oh, and parties for the kids.
– You see the problem here, don’t you?
– Not really, no.
– Bands celebrating a sectarian killer received tens and tens of thousands of pounds in funding from the British Government and you think that’s fine while you complain about the Wolfe Tones.
– It wasn’t government money.
– Whose money was it?
– The Ulster Scots Agency’s.
– Who gives the money to the Ulster Scots Agency?
– The National Lottery?
– No, the government funds the Ulster Scots Agency.
– I did not know that.
– And now you do.
– Plenty of flags on sale on the day?
– As always.
– UVF flags?
– Naturally.
– Ulster flags?
– You betcha.
– Soldier F flags?
– Most certainly.
–SAS flags?
– Supporting our boys – it’s what we do.
– Same boys who shot Brian Robinson eleven times?
– Sometimes hard decisions have to be made.
– The UVF said it was reviewing its position on SAS flags after Brian Robinson’s son ripped one down, remember that?
– Sort of.
– Any decision yet?
– It’s a grey area, so they’re taking their time.
– Taking their time about whether to fly flags as a tribute to the people who shot Brian Robinson?
– It’s complicated.

Sharp words over Ibrox banner

IT’S been a busy few weeks for loyal fascists. In Squinter’s life, at least.
At the first leg of Rangers’ Champions League qualifier with Dutch champions PSV, two large banners were displayed by fans of the Teddy bears, different in style, but both sending out the same uncompromising – and blood-soaked – message.

The first and biggest raised a few eyebrows in the Roddy’s where Squinter and a few McClatcheys were watching the match on TV – hoping of course the best team would win. It was an image of a man from what appeared to be the Victorian era: top hat, handlebar moustache, clay pipe. Was this Rangers’ new signing from PSG, Jack Le Ripper?

In fact it was an image of a man named William Poole, or to be more accurate, a movie representation of ‘Bill’ Poole, perhaps better known to you as ‘Bill the Butcher’, played with blood-curdling intensity by Daniel Day-Lewis in the multi-award-winning 2002 film, ‘Gangs of New York’.

Bill was a New York hard man who led a gang of anti-Catholic thugs known as the Bowery Boys, who in the mid-19th century spent their time roaming the streets of the Big Apple looking for Taigs to slice up. And since Bill was the leader of the gang and its most feared and effective knifeman, Bill the Butcher he became. (Let it be known that rival Catholic gangs weren’t exactly behind-the-door when it came to extreme sectarian violence.)

70 years later, another gang fond of carrying out amateur plastic surgery on Catholic faces was being put together, this time 5,000 miles away on the mean streets of Glasgow, where William ‘Billy’ Fullerton was the head of his own ‘razor gang’, unimaginatively titled ‘The Billy Boys’. Billy was an enthusiastic fascist, a brutal strike-breaker who formed a Glasgow branch of the British Union of Fascists just as World War II was about to break out and his friends and neighbours were heading overseas to fight Billy’s mate Adolf.

A song celebrating Fullerton and his gang – The Billy Boys – is the anthem of Rangers Football Club and its most famous line, “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”, is a tribute to the razorwork of Billy and his brutal band of brothers. Beneath the Bill the Butcher banner at Ibrox was a second banner containing the words ‘Surrender or you’ll die’ – another line from the song.

So here we were, at Ibrox on a big European night, with the home team celebrating not the heroics of their team but two figures from history best known for slashing Catholics with knives and razors.

On Twitter, Squinter put up a picture of the banners and wondered whether those Loyal Ulster and Rangers accounts on the social media would be as horrified by this as they so vocally were about ‘Ooh, ah, up the Ra’ in the Falls Park.

Now let’s be completely honest about this: Squinter didn’t expect a torrent of support from Rangers fans horrified that their club’s home ground had been commandeered for a massive tribute to blade-wielding sectarian thugs. But he wasn’t entirely prepared for the trip he took down the rabbit hole of extreme right-wing politics and white supremacy at the heart of so many Rangers fans online.

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, the course of a conversation is anything but linear or bilateral. A debate takes off like a Catherine wheel, spluttering and sparking in all directions, directing participants to sub-tweets and related accounts, so that at times trying to discuss is a point is a bit like trying to spot all those little points of light going on and off in your field of vision during an eyesight test. 

What was most concerning was not the messages of abuse from yer actual, literal Nazi-supporting Teddy Bears, but the fact that seemingly ‘soft’ unionist accounts were more angry at Squinter for putting up the image than they were at anonymous keyboard fascists who reckoned there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.

There’s an old saying, “If you’re sitting at a table with nine fascists and you don’t get up and leave, you’re sitting at a table with ten fascists.” Squinter’s not sure he agrees completely with that ; is saying nothing about Nazis is as bad as having swastikas or confederate flags as your Twitter bio pic? Probably not, but it’s as clear as day that there’s a goodly number of unionists online who wear their poppies with pride and love their Spitfires and Vera Lynn as much as the next man but who, when it comes to a choice between an anti-fascist from West Belfast and an SS enthusiast from East Belfast will side with the guys who wanted Hitler to win for no other reason than they support the same team.