Politics 101 down the phoneline

By Staff Reporter

A politics major from Harvard (calm down, Willie – a bit different from a UDR major) calls and asks Squinter if he’ll do a phone interview on the subject of ‘Culture Wars in Belfast.’ Last night he emailed a transcript of our chat, which Squinter’s happy to share with you today.

So when did all this unpleasantness start?

December 2 last year when Belfast City Council voted to fly the union flag on City Hall only on designated days.

And the loyalists started rioting why?

Because they said their British identity was being eroded and the most egregious example of that was taking the flag down from City Hall.

City Hall – that’s the seat of government in Northern Ireland, right?

No, that would be Stormont.

Well, at least the union flag flies at Stormont all the time, doesn’t it?

No, actually, it’s been flown only on designated days since the power-sharing institutions were set up.

Were the riots over that decision bad as well?

Not really. In fact, there was no rioting at all.

Does that not seem strange to you?

Many things in Our Wee Country seem strange to me, Hank. Let’s not go there.

So the opposition to the flag is being led by, let me see… the Regressive Unionist Party?

Progressive.

Uh-huh. It says here they’re the political wing of the UVF and that the UVF is made up of very scary people.

That’d be right.

So how come the flag came down when they were against it?

Because for years they were for the flag being flown occasionally when it was flown constantly, and now when it’s flown occasionally they want it flown constantly.

You’re making this up, aren’t you?

No, it’s true. I swear on the flag.

Which one?

Move on.

How come the loyalist of Ulster people don’t really like the Parades Commission very much?

Because they won’t let them march where they want to march.

What, like, they’ve banned all their parades?

No, only a few. And they haven’t been banned, they’ve been rerouted.

And that makes the loyalists mad?

That and a few other things, yes.

What’s this I hear about a music camp in a place called Woodstock?

Woodvale. And it’s a protest camp.

Okay, then, what’s the deal there?

Well, they’re sitting about near the place they’re not allowed to walk past and they say they’re not going to move until they get walking.

In class today I heard someone say that there was a similar camp set up a few years back at, uh, let’s see if I can remember correctly… Gorvocky Road? Am I right?

Spot on.

How’d that turn out?

Not well. Not well at all.

So they haven’t got walking at Gorvocky yet?

No.

How long have they been waiting?

Oh, let’s see now, sixteen, or is it seventeen…?

Weeks?

Years.

Jeez. But they’re going to stay at Woodstock until they get walking?

Yes. Or until the weather turns chilly.

Can you explain to me why loyalists are so angry about the Castlederg parade?

Simple, really. They don’t want republicans walking through the place.

A Protestant town for a Protestant people kinda thing going on there, huh? My dad told me about that.

Not really. Castlederg’s Catholic. Mostly.

So what’s the beef?

Hard to say. I suspect unionists just don’t like republicans remembering dead republicans.

Well maybe the Catholics in Castlederg should let the Protestants walk there once in a while to calm them down a bit.

The Protestants walk there all the time.

They do?

They most certainly do.

Okay, then, well maybe the Catholics should let the Protestants build a memorial to dead British soldiers in the middle of the town.

There’s one there already.

It says here unionists said having this parade go past places where people got killed was a recipe for disaster. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

At first glance, perhaps. But if that rule applied everywhere the loyalists wouldn’t have a single march left.

Explain.

Are you familiar with the history and geography of Belfast, for instance?

Um, a little.

Do you know the route from Clifton Street to Shaws Bridge?

Not really, no.

Fair enough, then we’d best change the subject.

Just to wrap things up, what was all that fighting about in Belfast city centre a few weeks back?

Oh, yes. A group of republicans tried to march through the city centre to remember the internees and the loyalists blocked their route.

Don’t tell me… because these internees killed Protestants, right?

Wrong.

What did they do?

They got put in a prison camp without trial for years.

Gee, I never knew that.

Get away. But anyhow, the loyalists blocked the city centre and there was a big riot.

This is all starting to make sense. So because the loyalists can’t march through the city centre they aren’t going to let anybody else march through the city centre!

No, listen, loyalists can march through the city centre. And do. Frequently.

Do you mind if I put down the phone now?

To tell you the truth, Hank, I’d be absolutely delighted if you did.

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