Saturday, May 2, 2009

trying to understand

This is a post which is entirely for myself alone. I recently read a book called Northern Protestants - an Unsettled People, by Susan McKay. I just finished taking notes from the book. There were some quotes that I wanted to have easy access to because I'm trying to understand the culture in Northern Ireland, to see things from as many perspectives as possible. Typing goes much quicker than writing so I've just collected a large bulk of them here instead of writing them all out in my Ireland notebook. Take no mind, unless you want to.

"I asked Lesley what she thought of Paisley. She glanced around in a pantomime of anxiety and said in a whisper, 'Oh! Fundamentalists!' She shook her head disapprovingly, then added, 'Don't you dare write that down or they'll be hammering my door down.' I said I thought they would be pleased to be so described. She said she supposed it would be all right. It wasn't a particularly inflammatory remark, but her anxiety about it was indicative of a sensitive instinct for self protection among 'comfortable' Protestants, who fear incurring the wrath, not so much of the IRA, as of loyalists. One man said he couldn't talk frankly to me because, some years previously, someone had painted 'UFV' on his garden wall. 'I have to think of my family,' he said."

The woman who went on about women's rights and then cut the interview short to go and make sandwiches for her 20 something son who was just standing around waiting for her.

"The church building actually straddles the peaceline between (Catholic and Protestant areas). ...there was still a door from the church out into (the Catholic area). It was never opened."

"She was a factory worker until her first child was born, and then she stayed at home. 'I was privileged enough to be able to be a housewife. People don't realize the pride you can take in having perfectly polished windows and dinner in the oven for your husband when he comes home. There is a freedom in that. It shouldn't be downgraded."

"The picture she painted was of a macho society where male violence was a defining characteristic. Domestic violence was rife, and if a woman could not call upon a more powerful man to curb her husband, she had to put up with it."

"Loyalist men loved tattoos, and heavy gold jewellery. I went to interview someone in a bar in Belfast once and a group of UDA men were sitting around a table showing off their gold to one another like pirates."

"The Israelis and the white South Africans are in a very similar situation to us. ...My thing is, there's the IRA, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the African National Congress, and I detest all three of them."

"Wallace offered another reason why young people joined the paramilitaries. Those who did not join did not have protection and could find themselves 'targets for the men with sticks and baseball bats.' He described the gangs, combined with the paramilitary youth wings, as making up a 'vast destructive force' which the UDA tried, with some success, to control."

"He compared the loyalist male attitude to Protestant women going out with Catholics to the attitude white men might take to a white woman going out with a black man. 'Catholics are the blacks of the North' he said." -Good grief!!!

"Most of what he learned in school, he said, was in the playground. 'How to talk my way out of difficult situations. How to take punches and kicks. How to get up and walk away. I hated it.'"

"'Protestant men are violent, and their language is riddled with violence,' said Mitchell. 'They regard women as weak, unable to think for themselves. Their attitude is to silence them, keep them at home, protect them - don't allow them to do anything.'"

"John craved such a martyrdom for his people. He wanted blood sacrifice, filmed and photographed. Blood to wash away the image of Protestants as triumphalist bullies, and show them as the true victims."

"This sentiment, that Protestants had passively responded to nationalist aggression by conceding and giving until they could give no more, was ubiquitous."

"The ecumenical movement is out to tear the heart out of our Protestant faith ... the Bible says Rome is the mother of harlots and the abomination of the earth." - Ian Paisley

"Another article attacked the Alliance Party for backing 'integrated education and other cross community initiatives which are designed to rob all our young people of all knowledge of their culture.'"

"Billy (Wright) used to say to me, it is easy to get a Protestant to go out and shoot someone. The difficulty was to get them not to talk about it or take to the drink over it."

"The Drumcree view was that the tough women who stood by their men on the hill had more of the warrior about them than the Orangemen who stayed away, and the police were not men at all."

"Frazer stared across the invisible border. 'That's bad country over there. There's a lot of questions to be answered. Why were the Provies allowed to operate across the border for 25 years? I believe there was collusion between the gardai and the IRA. The least the Irish government could do is apologise to the people living on the border.' This was a position supported by the UUP's security spokesman, Ken Maginnis, who said that if there were to be inquiries into Bloody Sunday, and into allegations of collusion in murders by loyalists, there should be an inquiry into this too."

"I asked him about anger among Protestants in this border area. He replied carefully. 'Nobody in our family has been killed. We have not been directly affected. That my influence my attitudes. However, there are people in the area who forgive, although they do not forget. The experiences of the Troubles in this area was particularly bad in the early seventies when there was a lot of fear and intimidation. You wouldn't have found either Catholics or Protestants out walking of an evening. The IRA killed a lot of members of the security forces.'"

He described the work that went into trying to initiate cross-community activities. 'I've been involved in setting up the community association in Mountnorris along with other people, and the only venue we could use was the state school, so it was a Protestant venue. Everybody turned up, however, and the thing people said was, "Wasn't it brilliant, everybody came and it happened so naturally." The trouble was, it didn't happen naturally. There was three months' planning went into it. We had to be careful about how the information went out, that ll the local churches were spoken to, that letters went out through both the Catholic and Protestant schools, so that the message was coming across from all quarters that this meeting was ok.'"

"In late 1981, Paisley inspected some 6,000 masked men in paramilitary-style uniform at a rally in Newtownards, County Down. 'Here are men willing to do the job of exterminating the IRA,' he declared. 'Recruit them under the Crown and they will do it. If you refuse, we will have no other decision to make but to do it ourselves.'"

"She supported Trimble's refusal to govern with Sinn Fein in the absence of decommissioning. 'Why do people need guns in a democracy?' Her political conclusion was, though, that Northern Ireland had not worked, was finished. 'At this stage I think the sooner a united Ireland, the better. That, and a bit of dignity for the people.'"

"In 1999 Castlereagh Borough Council erected street signs in Ulster Scots in east Belfast. Incensed local loyalists, who thought the signs were in Irish, tore them down immediately." (I'm sorry, but that is really funny!)

"A Presbyterian minister said to me, 'Oh, that's a terrible place. We have only one or two families in there.' Clergy used to visit people. That attitude of paternalism is gone. If not enough people are attending a church, they shut it down. They don't try to reach people. They have no social outlook."

"He spoke of a 'leadership deficit' in the Protestant community. 'Take the Presbyterian Church,' he said. 'It is clearly the dominant Church and it had the capacity to make a powerful difference. But it hasn't. There have been outstanding individuals, like John Morrow, who set up the Corrymeela community, and John Dunlop - shining lights in a sea of darkness. But it would be interesting to know how many Presbyterian ministers know the phone number of their local Catholic priest, or would address them by their Christian name.'"

"Paisley had raised his Third Force, marched people up hills with gun licences, and urged people to fight to the death. But he had never stood on a platform and said, 'Go forth and hate Catholics. Go forth and kill them.' Indeed, he had repeatedly and strongly condemned those who took such meaning from his words. A fastidious exactness, a literal-mindedness, however, was required to understand and accept these distinctions."

"'There was an industrial free spirit that came with these people, a principle of industry, dissent, individualism, capitalism. you can't take photos of it, like you could of a seisiun or a sweet Irish colleen. It's about principles, not images.' Patterson said he had been a Christian since an evangelical experience in his teenage years. He didn't go to a church though. 'I don't like what Ireland has done to the gospels. I would be a liberationist and where do you find liberation theology in Northern Ireland?'"

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