Open Unionism


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The way to a Shared Future?

Chekov began this blog last week with a piece on shared future and voluntary coalition. Andrew Charles now focuses in on recent tensions in Rasharkin and Dunloy and questions Sinn Fein ‘s commitment to a Shared Future… he argues that Sinn Fein are playing into the hands of dissidents when they could benefit from promoting mutual tolerance

This summer has been one fuelled by sectarian tension all over the province. Whiterock, the Tour of the North and Ardoyne have been areas of particular tension after a few years of calm. Much of this has been blamed on dissident republicans, which is being a term that we are getting more familiar with. However this term can and has been used to cover up for the people who no longer wish to be associated with such violence and mayhem. I am talking about Sinn Fein.

Tensions have not only been isolated to the traditional areas of inter-communal violence and sectarian fuelled hate crime. It has become clear that areas in North Antrim are becoming sore points for sectarianism and bigotry. Rasharkin and Dunloy are to name a few. However it is clear that trouble also exists in Coleraine and Ballymena.

My focus is on Rasharkin and Dunloy. This summer we have seen a growth in attacks by approximately 100 percent from last year. Orange halls have been attacked as have homes of Protestants living as minorities. I acknowledge the fact that Catholic associated property has also been attacked but these have not been on the same scale.

Flags in Northern Ireland are the traditional manner in how territory is marked – a bit like a cat marking out his territory. In Rasharkin we have an extra large Irish flag blowing outside the local supermarket. You would think it was a memorial garden.

The weekend just past saw two halls in Co. Antrim damaged by a tractor. Tullaghan and Granagh Independent Orange Halls were hit in separate attacks, although were thought to be linked. Clifton Street Orange Hall was also hit again. The trouble in Rasharkin has been astounding. Back in August the annual band parade through the town (that’s band parade, not Orange parade) was the focus of Catholic and Nationalist anger. Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay was on the scene. Petrol bombs and missiles were thrown at the police. Catholics and Protestants were kept apart as both groups sought a fight. Each side taunted the other whilst bandsmen had abuse thrown at them as well as missiles. A petrol bomb was thrown at Police.

Whilst responsibility for this idea of a ‘Shared Future’ exists on both sides of the political divide I note with interest Sinn Fein’s view. Sinn Fein launched their sole strategy last week and blamed the DUP for holding back on the strategy compiled by OFMDFM.

What is Sinn Fein doing on the ground to reduce community relations? They have been on the ground in North Antrim but certainly not seeking to mend community relations. Daithi McKay stood at the barricades in Rasharkin in August then spent the next few days complaining about the parade. It would appear by his language that he doesn’t want to see a Protestant about the place. Why? Because they don’t vote for him.


What Sinn Fein and others need to learn is the meaning of ‘tolerance’.

Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

Tolerance and mutual respect form key terms in the Shared Future publication (OFMDFM, 2005). If Sinn Fein were offering real leadership in areas of sectarian tension they would try and pull their people back and certainly wouldn’t be leading them on the picket line. The results of such actions are demonstrated by the trouble experienced in North Belfast after the annual 12th day celebrations in July this year. Sinn Fein has lost control of their people there.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland referred to Sinn Fein as having created a monster which they can no longer control. Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly, now a Junior Minister in the Executive stood in front of the cameras on the 14th July and blamed everyone but himself or his party. He even admitted defeat in suggesting that he wouldn’t be there every year now despite using the tensions as a political platform. In other words he said: it’s someone else’s problem now. This is irresponsible, stupid and immature.

Essentially Sinn Fein are shooting themselves in the foot and playing into the hands of dissidents rather than educating their people in the field of mutual tolerance and respect. What happens when all the Protestants are gone?

Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay needs to take some lessons from North Belfast and his party colleague Gerry Kelly; otherwise the problem in North Antrim will escalate further. I argue that it already has as youths and gangs target homes and halls willy-nilly.

The cage door has been opened and the monster is poking his head out. Once he is out it’ll be difficult to get him back in.


Filed under: Shared future, Sinn Fein

6 Responses

  1. thedissenter says:

    Don’t understand how Kelly’s attitude is different to McKAy. Context is different, but at core both lame the Orders/Bands etc. SF has option of dialogue in North Belfast, but as in Ormeau, they fail to take the opportunity to move forward and play instead to lowest determinant (sectarianism) and blame everyone else.

  2. Andrew Charles says:


    I am not saying that there is any difference between them. What I am saying is that Daithi McKay is doing what Gerry Kelly used to do, but now backing away because the situation is now out of his control.

    I agree with else you say.

  3. Andrew Charles says:

    * what else you say I meant

  4. Blitzer says:

    Is it not equally as irresponsible for unionist politicians to try and equate loyalism with protestantism? Nationalists & Republicans in Rasharkin are willing to accomodate Protestant parades – a point which is being missed – the nonsense that they have had to put with at the Ballymaconnolly parade and others over the years is what the issue is.

    I know Orangemen who cannot stand the Ballymaconnolly parade in Rasharkin because of its nature and it is being blamed for tainting Orangeism in the area – although i admit that the majority of Orangemen do not subscribe to this view.

    Are Ballymaconolly not creating the monster by refusing to speak to residents?!!

  5. Gary says:

    Webmasters (correct name?) Why don’t you respond to Blitzer and get someone who can speak on behalf of the Ballymaconnolly Parade/Bands to talk about it?

  6. Andrew Charles says:


    “Is it not equally as irresponsible for unionist politicians to try and equate loyalism with protestantism?”

    I agree. However throughout the long and detailed history of Ulster and indeed Ireland this has been the case.

    I do see changes happening but I’m not so sure that the people on the ground will move.

    These are their people, their immediate audience. If Unionism is to reach out to Catholics it means doing too much that would loose you ground. It would involve a great deal of risk.

    Plus many Protestants’ are Unionist because of their religion. Civil liberties etc formed a large part of the campaign to maintain the Union back in 1912.

    Just look at the Alliance Party.

    “Nationalists & Republicans in Rasharkin are willing to accomodate Protestant parades – a point which is being missed – the nonsense that they have had to put with at the Ballymaconnolly parade and others over the years is what the issue is.”

    I am not so sure that this is the case.

    Talking is good, but neither side would wish to conceed ground. Furthermore loyalists want to parade, nationalists apparently don’t. I have to say that those protesting are in fact a minority.

    The parade is then seen by the media and others as the problem. Intolerance is the problem, not the parade.

    As for the views of Orangemen on the band I am not so sure given the numbers of supporters I saw attending the parade back in August, including Grand Secretary Drew Nelson.

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