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THROUGHOUT THE PAST SUMMER the people of Ulster have witnessed a new outbreak of viciously intolerant hatred against any public display of Protestant culture and identity. The Orange and Black institutions and the Apprentice Boys of Derry have been the main targets for all the poisonous invective. Also in the firing line have been a number of small isolated Protestant communities in rural areas and in north Belfast. Every hand appears to have been lifted against the entire Protestant population in the aftermath of the most serious communal disturbances since the early days of our conflict. They have been pilloried and demonised in the press and on television, in Leinster House and the Palace of Westminster. The imagery used to depict them would be denounced as 'incitement to hatred' if it was used against any other population group. Republican apologists such as Liz Curtis have denounced as 'racist' nineteenth century Punch cartoons which depicted simian featured fenians. In July and August, extremely offensive cartoons appeared in pan Irish national chauvinist papers depicting Orangemen and Protestants as demonic besashed knuckle dragging, club carrying, old lady bashing, swastika wearing monsters. The Apprentice Boys, who behaved honourably above and beyond the call of duty in seeking to exercise their democratic rights to walk in their own home town were denounced by Martin McGuinness - that well known man of peace - as 'sectarian and racist bigots'.
In his fascinating new book, Back to the Future, the Protestants and a United Ireland, the veteran commentator J Boywer Bell describes the shared Anglo-Irish view of Ulster Protestants: "None but their own can accept that there might be a Protestant case. Protestants are simply apt to be seen whole and awful, misguided or best and malicious more often." They are "...beyond the law and reason, without justification They not only should change but will change, discard the husk of error, see the future in a bright light: make a deal, turn Irish, accept compromise". The unspoken other side of this view is that if the Protestants don't lie down they will be steamrollered out of the way. The British government and the pan-Irish national chauvinist front thought that the Prods would moan and gripe a bit but would give way to the threat of massive British army and RUC force. Instead, Ulster erupted in virtual insurrection in solidarity with Drumcree and gave the lie to this comfortable self-delusion. As Bowyer Bell recognises, the Protestants may well be 'unfashionable' but they have a case "that cannot be wished away for English convenience or with the assumptions of Irish nations lists presented still once again as revealed truth."
Understandably. the Protestant population has greatly resented the media line that their community has been solely responsible for the renewed disturbances. The IRA broke their ceasefire last February to muted criticism from most media outlets. Despite some stresses the CLMC ceasefire has held. IRA volunteers or 'Sinn Féin stewards' as they have been termed by the media, have been prominent in a number of orangeophobic street demonstrations in Londonderry, Belfast, Portadown and Bellaghy. It seems to us that the Provos, by means of so called concerned residents' front groups intend to raise tensions on the streets of Ulster's towns and villages rather than go back to full scale war. It remains to be seen how the loyalist groups will respond. In the present atmosphere true peace is still a long way off.
A THIRD WAY FOR ULSTER
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