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Unionists lack someone to lead them into peace

(Susan McKay, Irish News)

"You're not going to ballyrag me and say I'm responsible," Ian Paisley said. "There's no use picking on me," Sir Reg Empey said. We said there'd be trouble and we were proved right, both of these leaders of unionism said yesterday, after a weekend of unionist mayhem on the streets. "There's matters in the Protestant community must now be faced up to,"

Mr Paisley said. There most certainly are.

Unionism has failed and failed utterly. Its leaders have once again stirred up a gullible people to a frenzy of hatred against their Catholic neighbours and then sat back, content that the Unionist family has been reunited. Love Ulster?

In 1966, Mr Paisley prayed for power: "When the fuse of true prayer is set alight with the fire of the holy ghost and thus the gospel dynamite is exploded, what tremendous results occur!" He was in prison at the time, for unlawful assembly.

Three years later, the Cameron Report found that this man "must bear a heavy share of responsibility for the disorders". Last week, nearly 40 years of ranting later, Mr Paisley was warning: "This could be the spark that kindles a fire there will be no putting out."

And so it came to pass.

What is wrong with the unionists?

Are they under siege?

Is the IRA attacking and killing them again? We are betrayed, conspired against, abandoned, they lament.

Our guns have been taken, our watchtowers dismantled. The British have rewarded the IRA for its violence.

The last straw has broken the camel's back.

Here is the grievance.

The Orange Order wanted to march through a Catholic area. Local Catholics objected because of past violence. The Parades Commission said the order had to reach agreement with the Catholics.

The order said it couldn't, because it didn't talk to terrorists. The Parades Commission ruled that the march could go ahead but would have to divert away from a short stretch of one road.

Cue dire warnings from Mr Paisley and murmurings to the same effect from Sir Reg. The UVF said it would force the parade through the disputed area. Did the Orange Order come out and denounce this offer of assistance from terrorists? Far from it. Orange leader Dawson Baillie called the people out onto the streets. If there was trouble, he said, it wouldn't be the order's fault. There are banners on the Shankill Road commemorating Worshipful Brother Brian Robinson, who killed Catholics for the UVF and marched with his Loyal Orange Lodge.

In 1998, Mr Paisley warned the authorities that they had better let the Orangemen march down the Garvaghy Road from Drumcree. If they didn't, he said, "anyone with any imagination knows what is going to happen".

On the day Mr Paisley had designated as 'the decider', loyalists murdered the three Quinn children by burning them to death in their home in Ballymoney.

Since the LVF broke away from the UVF in 1996 to murder Michael McGoldrick to try and force the Drumcree issue, there have been more than a dozen murders which can be directly linked to the parades issue. Now Paisley and his allies are trying to turn north Belfast into the new Portadown.

So out they came, the fools, with guns, blast bombs, petrol bombs, stones and bottles. People were dragged out of cars and buses and robbed before their vehicles were burned.

Gunmen fired on the police.

The Catholics who haven't already been terrorised out of places like Ahoghill were barricaded in while their homes were attacked.

What tremendous results!

This is an atavistic rage. One member of the loyal orders is reported to have shouted at a policeman during the trouble last weekend, "Are you a fenian in disguise?" On September 10 2005, pikes were pointed at Catholics in Belfast by loyalist militiamen. The Republic needs to wake up. President McAleese means well but is she sure that hugging a loyalist paramilitary leader in Belfast is the right image for the moment? And should a set-piece RTE interview with Mr Paisley focus on trying to cajole him into admitting that he's really a nice old codger underneath it all? (He didn't). The IRA is about to abandon its arms.

That is what is wrong. For all the DUP's talk about the "new spirit" within unionism,

Mr Paisley doesn't know how to lead his people into peace. Sir Reg doesn't either. What will they do when the foe is gone? Who will the loyal people of the Shankill and Glenbryn and Harryville and Ahoghill blame for their poverty then?

September 14, 2005

This article appeared first in the September 13, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News