REMEMBER the Wolfe Tones in the Falls Park? How could you forget it? Just as the Bay of Pigs crisis came perilously close to starting a global thermonuclear war, so teenagers singing ‘Up the Ra’ in the Falls Park sent loyal Ulster to DefCon 1.
But here’s a question? What did those guardians of decency who flew to new heights of impassioned oratory about the Celtic Symphony think about the Shankill Road closing on Saturday for a tribute to a UVF man who shot dead an innocent Catholic in 1989?
It's what’s known in the business as a rhetorical question, though, because an answer is not required since we’ve already had one. Those paragons of probity who beat their breasts and wondered in tear-stained 750-word articles what the Falls Park concert meant for the future of civilisation have had precisely nothing to say about thousands of people lining the Shankill to clap and cheer 56 bands – that’s 56 bands – playing joyously to celebrate the life of a man famous for having shot an innocent man to death because he was a Fenian.
And as we reveal in today’s paper, 16 of those bands are in receipt between them of thousands of pounds of public funding from the Ulster-Scots Agency’s Covid-19 Resilience Fund. The Department for Communities-backed scheme made the funds available to “Ulster-Scots groups to support running costs and Covid-19 safety.”
Quite how celebrating the contribution of a sectarian assassin makes bands “Ulster-Scots groups” is not entirely clear at this point. Nor is it clear whether even the most basic before they were handed three grand. It’s not as if it would have been an onerous task – a quick Google search will reveal these bands to have been similarly enthusiastic participants in Brian Robinson parade. But nobody bothered to take a second to do it. Or if they did the actions of the bands were not deemed a barrier to being considered “Ulster-Scots groups” deserving of a nice wee wedge.
Thousands of Loyalists from across the UK descend upon the Shankill Road to await the Vol Brian Robinson Mem' Parade pic.twitter.com/0poVoEVMBT— ThePurpleStandard (@UlsterWillFight) September 6, 2014
Here's the thing, by the way. Squinter doesn’t care if the Shankill wants to commemorate Brian Robinson. Squinter has a particular take on the man and his legacy, just as those participating in the parade have. Most people don’t like it, but as long as you’re not marching where you’re not wanted, knock yourselves out, lads.
Those who frothed at the mouth over the Wolfe Tones and kept schtum over the Brian Robinson parade won’t give a fig about what Squinter thinks, but perhaps they might stop and consider for a second the response of the unionist victims’ group South East Fermanagh Foundation. They said in a statement before Saturday’s march: “And to all who will participate in the parade or those who would condone it, you have zero moral justification to call out republican terrorists when they roll out their coat-trailing shows of terrorism idolatry.”
That’s a simple statement of fact that should have certain unionist politicians and commentators who have condoned the parade by their silence tugging uncomfortably at their collars, but since they’ve been displaying these flagrant double standards for years now, it’s unlikely that they will suffer an attack of consistency any time soon.
Loyal Ulster places its hopes in the Continuity Boris, but history has a story to tell
LIZ Truss – what you get when you combine the public speaking skills of Jolene Bunting with the charisma of Kate Hoey. The new British Prime Minister’s short-comings are many and well documented. Her now legendary “pork markets” speech at the 2015 Tory conference was a bum-tighteningly embarrassing example of her rabbit-in-the-headlights on-camera demeanour, and the subsequent media training she has undergone has served only to add more planks to her woodenness.
Her political promiscuity is legendary. Once she was a republican firebrand in favour not of phasing out or modifying the monarchy but of abolishing it. But she’s backed off sending the queen to the tower and is now a whimpering acolyte of that other Liz. She was a pinko Liberal Democrat who spent half her time hugging trees and the other half knitting sandals. And she was a red-hot Remoaner who when she was Environment Minister issued dire warnings of the devastating impact Brexit would have on Britain.
Which begs the question of whether she really wanted to throw Liz Windsor in a dungeon at the time. Or whether she actually enjoyed hugging Lib-Dem trees and knitting sandals. Or if she was in fact in favour of Remain. Or did she hold these positions because she considered them the best route to advancement, just as she now considers presenting herself as a B&M Bargains Boris as the best route to Tory success?
All of these things suggest that her tenure as the British Teasock is likely to be a troubled one, but her biggest challenge – and there’s no polite way to put this – is that she’s just not very bright. The highlight reel of her public gaffes and balls-ups is an excruciating watch and while her voice can be dropped an octave (à la Thatcher), her wince-inducing between-sentence pauses can be shortened and she can wear clothes that remind elderly party members of the aforementioned Margaret Hilda, she’s going to be eternally hobbled by the old Washington D.C. political aphorism: You can’t fix stoopid.
And sure enough, as she took to the stage after she was crowned leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Monday, she wasn’t to know that she was about to add to that highlight reel. And she wasn’t to know because she has all the political nous of a concussed koala. The first thing that Liz had to consider as she scanned her speech (or indeed the speech that was penned for her) was that she was no longer addressing the crowd that voted her in. That crowd was 170,000 elderly Empire loyalists who, if the Royal Navy opened fire on Aldi dinghies in the English Channel, would achieve their first climax since the Falklands; who voted to leave the EU because they don’t like Pakistanis and West Indians; and who want Spitfire engine recordings and Enoch Powell speeches played at the funeral they bought over the phone in an ad-break on daytime TV.
The audience she was addressing was made up of Tory MPs, and while quite a few of them are similarly minded when it comes to black and brown people and the Fourth Reich, the majority of them were delighted when Johnson got the heave-ho. Throw in the fact that a large number of them had stabbed Johnson in the back because he was no longer any use to them electorally and it was clear that this was neither the time nor the place for the new Lioness leading the Tory pride to pay tribute to the old Lying King. But she went ahead anyway. After a few minutes of moving her lips and making noise without saying anything, Liz dived in. “I also want to thank our outgoing leader, my friend, Boris Johnson.” The muted applause screamed at the speaker to move on – you’ve ticked that bloody box, woman, now let’s hear no more about it. But the scream went unheard.
“Boris,” she went on, “you got Brexit done.” (He didn’t). You crushed Jeremy Corbyn.” (Not nearly as flat as he crushed himself.) “You rolled out the vaccine.” (Sadly, there’s no vaccine for 205,000 corpses.) “And you stood up to Vladimir Putin.” (After he won the Brexit referendum for you.) That had the audience shifting in their stack-chairs, but her eulogy wasn’t finished. “You are admired from Kiev to Carlisle.” At which point the saloon piano player stopped and the barman ducked.
And then she did that pause thing that worked so wonderfully well in her pork markets speech. Which brought silence. Four seconds of it. Which in a packed hall with the world’s media looking on, is an eternity: a face-palming, head-shaking, please-god-no eternity. And that four seconds was how long it took for the Tories to decide on a belated, staccato round of applause that was nothing to do with appreciation for Johnson and all to do with pity for Truss.
The DUP are delighted Liz has got the job. Not as delighted as they were when Boris came over here, stroked their fevered brow and then jammed his thumbs in their eyes, but delighted nonetheless. Never mind that she changes positions more often than that couple in the Kama Sutra. Never mind that, as Eddie Mair pointed out, you can see her buffering when she’s asked a question. Never mind that she has the political gravitas of a UKIP parish councillor’s cardigan. She talks big about us Brits and that’s all that matters.
Who knows, Liz may do what the DUP want on the Protocol, although even the DUP doesn’t know what they want on the Protocol. But she’ll do it not for love of the Precious Union© – after all, in the leadership contest she threw out corner-girl insults to the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers that are depth charges waiting to explode; she’ll do something, as we’ve already seen all too often, only if it gets her personally to where she wants to be at any given time. Which means that if getting where she wants to be means reversing the bus that Boris threw the DUP under back over its groaning body, she’ll do it without putting on a seatbelt.
The DUP were warned not to put their hand in the Brexit/Boris fire, but they went ahead and did it anyway, spending the time since waving a heavily-bandaged arm in the air and pleading for paracodol. And if they’re gambling on agency nurse Liz easing the pain, there’ll be many willing to take that bet.