'Misunderstood' loyalists given too much leeway
Yes, no factory was complete without its red, white and blue bunting. That’s cultural expression, that is.
He declined – because my father is a brave man – and carried on with his work. And he went back to work; as did his Catholic friends – the handful of them who had managed to get a job in the factory.
They went back the next day and the next day and the next day because they had families to feed and clothe and educate.
And here we are – fed, clothed, educated – and we still have to change our plans because loyalists are not getting their bunting, because flying the union flag on a set number of a days, rather than every single day of the year, is not acceptable.
It got worse for my father and his friends when the Anglo-Irish Agreement came along. Those were long days for nationalists marked by violent unionist demonstrations.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, should remember the tension – he was there.
But my father went to work, his friends went to work, and the women stayed behind to look after the children, pray for a safe return and, more often than not, work part-time, to help feed and clothe and educate their children.
And here we are fed, clothed and educated, and still we are threatened.
I honestly thought that my children – peace process children – would be spared much of what my generation saw and heard. That has not been the case.
On Sunday I cycled past the spot where a Catholic man had been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries during a previous bout of violence when bunting demanded Catholic blood. He was fed, clothed, educated – and killed.
I said a prayer as I passed his little wooden cross planted in the lonely countryside and thought how frightening it was that so many loyalist and unionist leaders fail to pause, draw breath and think about the consequences of what they say and do.
So, the children’s trip is postponed and they read the papers and watch the news to find out why. They hear the same tawdry excuses, the same cancerous justifications.
And I go to work to feed and clothe and educate them and still they are threatened.
They see what I saw, what their grandfather saw and, sadly, what their great-grandfather saw.
And still loyalists make excuses because they are misunderstood – and that misunderstanding is given voice in violence as if it is the most natural thing in the world.