finding a voice
Speaking as someone that began writing in the hope of highlighting the plight of male victims of domestic abuse, a hidden hurt seldom talked about within our society I have a slightly different perspective on the currant Flags Protests in Northern Ireland. Like the Protestant Community I am trying to find my voice, and am at the disadvantage of being a lone voice. Having looked closely at the situation I believe anyone that would ever wish to change Government Policy here, should also have a long hard look at the realities of the situation. If you believe at some stage you would like make the powers that be think twice about keeping a Hospital open, even a department come to think about it, change a proposal to introduce water rates, charge for refuge collection, bring in better cycle lanes, change anything, then look closely at this community and weep ! Why ? read on and i will explain.
Go back to the Good Friday Agreement. Think about the rhetoric, a shared future for one and all, build a country we can all be proud of. Think of phrases like “to have a change there must be a majority of the majority, a majority of the minority and a majority of the others” quips like “what we could end up with is a 36 county Ulster” and ask yourself where exactly on the road to equality are we ? One thing is certain, back then the Protestant Community were not asking for there flag back. There were whispers about truth and justice, these whispers at times became screams about individual events like The Enniskillen Poppy Day Bomb (11 killed, 65 Injured) The Shankill Fish Shop bombing (9 killed (including 2 children) 57 injured) Bloody Friday (9 killed (2 children)130 injured) but nobody seamed to be listening.
There were issues around parades, Drumcree is still not resolved. This Loyal Orders in Portadown had previously traded its parades through the Tunnel area which meant a massive reduction of parades becoming a solitary march up a then Unionist Garvaghy Road, the deal being designed to reduce tension as the parade would not be opposed. Then the “compromise” parade was stopped in its tracks by “concerned residents”. Consider the Unionist people living on Donegall Pass, there district parade originates above the Ormeau Bridge, and like Arnhem that proved to be a bridge too far for orange feet.
Surely there is something this community could achieve. A inquiry even, lets be honest, the vehicle to do this is already in existence. The Historical Inquiries Team are there, It would be a small matter to drive that vehicle in a different direction, let its lights peer into a gloomy corner. This should not even require a campaign, this is something that a society that is truly dedicated to truth and justice should be doing simply as a matter of corse. Yet no answers have been provided, not even something they could see as a small step like a proper inquiry into the disappeared, we do not even have accurate figures as to how manny catholics were spirited away to there deaths by Republican Paramilitaries. These may not be the events they so desperately want the beacon of truth shown on, but at least it is the same people that would be investigated.
Then take a moment and think about the words of the Deputy First Minister when called to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. The event that swallowed whole enough money to feed a small African Nation for a year, with baited breath the Unionist population waited to hear what someone who is jointly running the country, someone who’s party said the inquiry was necessary to bring the whole truth into the open and that would bring closure, people do you remember the statement of Martin McGuinness “I wish to make it clear that I will not provide the inquiry with the identities of our members of the IRA on Jan 30 1972 or confirm the roles played by such persons whose names are written down and shown to me.
“I have been advised by my lawyers that the undertaking given by the Attorney General does not extend to such persons nor am I confident that their identities would be protected. As a republican I am simply not prepared to give such information.” Short changed again.
perhaps what is needed is for the whole community to shout at the same time, surely that would evoke a response, or would it ?
Think about the Flags issue as the latest of these events, think about trying to make yourself heard on all those matters then the Flag gets removed. Part of you must think, well at least we can all shout at the same time, they must hear us now.
The protests began Peacefully, but were met immediately by riot police. In a action reminiscent of “the night of broken crystal” Protestant Protesters were presented as a target to Nationalist stone throwers, a Chapel was used as a launch pad for manny of these attacks. The police watched this and did nothing to prevent it. Any retaliation by the protestants were met with severe Police counter measures. This lead to nightly disorder. The response to the violence in East Belfast was to police all protests in the manor of the London Riots. This is where anyone who would ever protest in this country should become afraid, very afraid. The vast amount of protests have always been interlay peaceful. Every person has a right to peaceful protest, this is provided for under articles 10 and 11 of the human rights act. The state, through the police have a duty to facilitate such protests. Had this happened, the so called offense of “obstructing the highway” would not have occurred. Even if you accept this as the offense people have committed, in a democracy you have to ask why this offense, which is basically a traffic violation is being policed in the same way as the London Riots, a event that included mass looting. The two offenses are at opposite ends of the scale so why is the police response the same ? this type of action by the police made a violent outcome as predictable as it is unwanted.
This brought the world press to Belfast, CNN came to look for themselves. The CNN reporter was there when the Protesters were re routed to the front of the Short Strand. The video clearly shows Nationalists attacking the protest. The state has a duty to protect and protesters from any counter demonstration regardless of the size of either, yet we have police facilitating the attack on the protesters. It is not me stating this, it is the view of independent reporters. What is the reaction of the Chief Constable, he apologizes to the Nationalist Community that were the aggressors.
We have seen 70 year old men battened to the ground and arrested, women baton charged, children in prams knocked over, people taken behind advertising hoardings and brutalized by several riot police, numerous people taken between police vehicles out of view and given the same treatment and then incarcerated. Then something totally deplorable occurred. If you consider the strength of a democratic country in its ability to deal with criticism from a free press, then we no longer have a democracy.
A freelance journalist/photographer has been arrested for “obstructing the highway” how do you document a protest without being there ? Police around the world avoid arresting anyone with press passes. They worry about the rights afforded to a “free press” however this photographer had obviously got too much evidence of police brutality and needed removed. These are the lengths the Government is prepared to go to in order to silence a protest.
So i will poise a question, have the protesters made any difference to policy ? would at the very least the City Council take the disruption into account when making decisions ? It would seam not. In the very area where most of the trouble has occurred the City Council in there wisdom has decided to erect street signs in Galic. Although these street names are not flags they carry out the same function as a flag. Projecting a national identity. Would it not have been wiser to defer this action to another day ? is it likely to increase or reduce tension ? Based on this alone the Protestant Community was not considered when taking this decision.
So here is the conundrum, if policy can not be altered by what is still the majority community in this country, what chance has anybody of keeping there Hospital open, stopping water rates, charges for refuse collection, getting better cycle lanes ? unless you believe the Protestant community to be second class citizens and you views are much more important than theres, why would you expect this Government to listen to your views, and on a personal note, what chance has my lone voice of effecting any form of change for men who’s only crime was to become involved with a abusive woman ?