I, like the vast majority of the population of my city Belfast, am getting incredibly exasperated by this whole situation with “The Flegs”. In case you’re new to this or haven’t been paying attention, a small group of Loyalists within Belfast are trying their best to bring the North to a stand still and rioting like idiots because the Union Flag on 17 designated days over council buildings, bringing us into line with the rest of the UK (I’m not a big fan of the union, but I do realise that we are part of the UK).
I mean the whole thing is counter intuitive. By rioting night after night and by trying to do nothing but disrupt every day life for the rest of Belfast, they are undoing any scrap of legitimacy that they may have had in the first place (and they had very little). I mean, it is obviously all based around sectarianism. This small group of brainless fools are angry, angry because they have come to realise that Unionism and Loyalism no longer hold complete sway and make every decision unchallenged in Belfast. They’re losing the unanimous control they held for decades, even centuries, and are only angry at “uppity Fenians”. They can no longer push the Catholic/Nationalist people about, we have a legitimate voice and they are infuriated by it. By doing what they are doing now, they are trying to let all of us know they still exist and can do what they want. I have heard numerous stories of people being abused and attacked in the city centre for wearing clothing associated with Nationalism (Celtic or GAA Gear). Not but yesterday they marched passed the Short Strand, a small catholic enclave in East Belfast, chanting “if you hate the fucking fenians clap your hands”. I think almost everyone seen that ugly woman poke her head in the broken window of city hall and scream “NO SURRENDER” like some sectarian harpie.
In the few weeks it has been going on, it is evident that they CAN do what they want. Obviously The boys on the Hill in Stormont nor the City Council have caved in but the PSNI have done very little to curb the hundreds of rioters on the Newtownards Road every night. In two days they fired 7 plastic bullets and used a water cannon. No baton charges, very few arrests. Those throwing petrol bombs and bricks, obviously attempting to maim or murder these police officers, are not held to account for their actions. It is obvious that there are vast differences between these rioters and how they are treated and any catholic who takes part in any disorder. 7 plastic bullets is ridiculous. During the summer when there was trouble in Ardoyne over the 12th Parade, they fired alot more than that. They beat those rioters with batons and made dozens of arrests. It hardly mirrors the inaction at the moment. The typical double standards that the Police have towards these two polarized communities in the North. The most frightening thing is that Unionist Politicians and Police have admitted that this is more than likely a push for UVF recruitment. The vast majority of the rioters are members of a disenfranchised youth within Loyalist areas. Growing up having hatred in their hearts for things that happened long before they were born, these kids are being taken advantage of by men who do not care about anything other than murdering anyone who opposes them. Men who are using these kids for their own advantage. It’s so sad.
I have a number of protestant friends, right minded people who do not care about the sectarian bullshit that has gone on here for years, who are embarrassed by the current situation. They hate the idea that people in the Nationalist community and abroad will think these people represent the true values of their whole community in the North. They hate the idea that these people genuinely believe they are representing all Protestants in the North. The fact is, most Protestants, like Catholics, do not give two flying fucks about any flag. A flag is nothing but a piece of cloth that has meaning projected onto it by people who wish to manipulate it. The whole thing is representative of the beliefs and wants of horrible, violent and manipulative men who are frightened of losing power. It isn’t about the removal of the flag, it is blatant opportunism aimed at what I said before, reminding us they still exist and still hold some form of Power. Any Politician who has spoke out against them or condoned their actions, included their elected MP and MLA Naomi Long, have received death threats and bullets in the post. The politicians on their side are irrelevant. Not a single man or woman in political office has endorsed their actions, all those who do have never been in office because they do not represent the majority. represent a tiny minority of narrow minded bigots. Take Willie Fraser for example. A man who claims to represent the political ideals of all people of the Newtownards Road, who has ran in several elections within the community he represents yet has not once been voted into Office, either Council seat or MLA. A number of times he got so few votes that he didn’t even get his deposit back. I think this reflects the true thoughts of the majority of people in East Belfast, that they want to move on with what we have an are willing to meet Nationalism in the middle for the greater good of everyone in the North of Ireland. They do not want to desperate cling on to the horrible, embittered past of these tiny 6 counties. They are not represented by these people.
It is such an embarrassing and frustration set of circumstances, one that needs to end soon. Businesses within the city centre, particularly those within the service industry, are really suffering. The protests and rioting are putting the livelihoods of business owners and employees of businesses all over Belfast in jeopardy. With the current economic climate, the job situation in Belfast is dire enough without this happening. I reflect this, 3rd level educated and very experienced in my facets and I can’t find a job, yet this could be made all the harder by what this small group is doing to our City. They wish to return to a darker time when the City Centre became a ghost town after 6 O’Clock every night because it was too dangerous for people to venture outside where they lived. We also depend so heavily on Tourism and interest in our recent past but people are going to be put off the idea of coming here by this. Please don’t. All the trouble and violence is isolated in one tiny area that is not significant in terms of tourism or our city centre. If you walk a quarter of a mile down the road you wouldn’t even realise it was happening.
Belfast isn’t burning, despite the fact some people want it to. It’s heartbreaking.