Loyalist Backlash

The loyalist post Brexit backlash – myth or reality? That’s the crucial question which controversial commentator, Dr John Coulter, explores in his Fearless Flying Column today.

Sometimes comments in private conversations stick in your mind for years. I recall one such conversation during an Ulster Unionist Party coffee morning fund-raiser in North Antrim during my dad’s time in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Devolved government had returned to Stormont and ‘peace’ reigned in Ulster. I got chatting to a senior UUP politician at the event.

During the course of the conversation, the person noted: “You know John, the Troubles will start again in about 15 years’ time!” What a prophet of doom and gloom, I thought at the time. But certain comments made last month by a series of notable politicians have got me pondering on that remark at the UUP coffee morning all those years ago.

In April 2018, only a few weeks ago, the North Down Independent Unionist Westminster MP Lady Sylvia Hermon – widow of former RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon – told the House of Commons a hard border would see a return to violence. That same month, Lord David Trimble, the former UUP Leader, ex-First Minister and former UUP Upper Bann MP, warned that Dublin’s border stance could provoke loyalist paramilitaries.

That same month, two ‘big political guns’ from the republic - former Taoiseach John Bruton (1994-97) and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (1997-2008) warned of a potential for violence if there is a new border. The main point is that Messrs Trimble, Bruton, Ahern and Lady Hermon are not extremists; they are level-headed, respected political figures who are not prone to sabre-rattling rants.

Had it been someone from the Looney Left or Hard Right banging the violence drum, it could have been dismissed as a bit of a publicity stunt to gain a few headlines. But the fact that such notable people are issuing these warnings is a cause for concern. It also poses a couple of other serious questions – what form would this violence take, and who would indulge in the first strike?

Let’s assume it would be the loyalists who see that the final outcome of Brexit is not the economic capitulation of the republic and Southern politicians clamouring to negotiate a new Anglo-Irish Treaty to bring the Occupied Twenty-Six Counties into not just a closer Union with the United Kingdom, but full membership of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as first steps to Irexit!

Let’s assume Brexit has brought the island of Ireland several steps closer to the 32-county democratic socialist United Ireland as envisaged by the 1916 Proclamation. Would we be looking at a second Irish Civil War with loyalists fighting for an independent Ulster? Would the loyalist movement become the new ETA, the terrorist group which fought for independence of the Basque region in Spain?

More importantly, does loyalism have the terror capacity to mount a campaign of violence, or would it be merely street riots as witnessed during the Drumcree protest era in the late 1990s, or the Day of Action in March 1986 against the then Anglo-Irish Agreement?

Does the loyalist movement even have the support, the will, or the resources to mount another bombing attack on the republic as happened in 1974 with the Dublin and Monaghan bombings? Are we assuming too much of the loyalist movement that any violence would automatically come from exiting loyalist groups, such as the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando?

Perhaps the reality is that militant loyalism has descended into a turf war over drugs and racketeering, or else is it that one-time paramilitaries now want to re-brand themselves as ‘community group spokespeople’?

The reality could be the changing nature of global terrorism. Gone are the days when paramilitary groups, such as the Provisional IRA and UVF, organised themselves into brigades, companies and platoons. That led to heavy infiltration of those groups by the security services on both sides of the border and the dark humour that for every 10 activists in an organisation, at least seven were touts!

When examining seriously any credible threat of loyalist violence, the ethos of the Walter Mitty characters and fantasists must be taken into consideration. A sinister press release heralding the launch of a new terror gang may well be nothing more than a two-man and a dog outfit.

In 1999, while working on the then latest edition of the Northern Ireland Political Directory with a colleague from Queen’s University, I was sent a statement from an organisation calling itself the ‘Black Friday Brigade Strategic Army Command’. It even had a motto – Vi Et Armis, along with an ‘identification code – 894001’.

The language was sinister with sentences such as: “As from 14th February 1999 we withdraw completely our consent to be government. As from 14th February 1999 the authority of the Assembly has been cancelled.”

It also carried the usual doomsday message:

We warn the Irish Republic that if or when the implementation of Strand 2 occurs, it will be deemed to be an enemy of the state and all Irish citizens will be classified as enemies. Anyone, repeat anyone, implementing in anyway the Good Friday agreement, will be judged guilty of collaborating with the enemy and suffer the same fate as all collaborators in times of war.

Apart from that statement, that was the last I heard of the so-called ‘Black Friday Brigade’! I am not aware of anyone in, or anything which this so-called group actually did. Maybe it was another Monty Python-style group like the Judean People’s Front, or the People’s Front of Judea or the Popular Front of Judea?

A significant shift in terrorist strategies came with the emergence of the dissident republican movement. Rather than one group, it emerged as several different organisations, each with its own separate command structures. So we had the Continuity IRA, Real IRA, New IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs, and Oglaigh na hEireann. During my time at the Irish Daily Star, I had the chance to interview representatives of a number of these factions. These interviews have been published and are in the public domain.

I often posed the question – why so many factions? The answer was tactically simple. Each faction would operate independently of the other making it more difficult to be infiltrated by the security services. While these organisations operated more along the lines of the Maoist cell structures as devised by former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong during his takeover of the country, terrorist structures have developed even further since the emergence of radicalised Islam, especially the Islamic State group.

This is the concept of the radicalised lone wolf attacks. Ironically, the Far Right has capitalised on this method. For example, in the United States, Timothy McVeigh carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people. He was executed in 2001. Anders Breivik was convicted of the 2011 Norwegian attacks, which claimed eight lives in a car bomb attack followed by a further 69 people shot dead at a summer camp. He is currently serving a lengthy jail term.

Radical Islamist suicide bombers have also carried out a series of horrific attacks across Europe in recent years, many of them so-called lone wolf attacks. Granted, they may have been radicalised by a godfather, but the key concept is that it takes far less people to cause a terror campaign than the days of the Carsonite UVF or Irish Volunteers of the Home Rule crisis in Ireland before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.

The theory for discussion is – could such loyalist lone wolf jihadis exist post Brexit if Northern Ireland leaving the European Union along with the rest of the UK brings the violence which notable, sensible political figures have warned about?

Again, I returned to an interview which I gained with a senior member of the Orange Order for my Masters thesis at Queen’s University during the post 1994 paramilitary ceasefire era. The thesis was entitled: “The contribution of the Orange Order to the development of Pan Loyalism during the period 1968 to the present day.” The thesis was completed in 1998. The source, an Orange chaplain, asked to remain anonymous. Readers should be aware please that these comments are more than 20 years old.

I’m quoting from the thesis, which should be available in the Queen’s library. He suggested in an interview that it was right to step outside the law of the land to protect the Word of God from Man’s law. He added:

As evangelical Protestants, who are born again Christians, are chosen of God, this could lead to the creation of a Protestant ‘jihad’ – or holy war. The Protestant use of violence to defend Ulster is viewed as part of this Protestant ‘jihad’, just as the knights of the Middle Ages viewed the legitimacy of the Crusades.
Given the view that Orangeism has to redefine its relationship with unionism, perhaps the way forward for the Order into the new millennium is as a pro-active defender of the evangelical Gospel of Christ – a modern-day Crusade, or ‘jihad’.
However, the reality of this Protestant ‘jihad’ is that should not be bound by Man’s laws, especially if those laws are contrary to the inspired Word of God as outlined in Holy Scriptures. Orangeism and unionism may need to be viewed as separate components in this ‘jihad’ of the future, just as the IRA and Sinn Fein are seen as separate components of the same republican movement.
‘This means that Ulster Protestants have two parts to their ‘jihad’ – the defence of the Union through political unionism, and the defence of the evangelical Gospel through Orangeism. By combining these two elements, we create what could be termed as evangelical unionism.

Looking at the comments of this Orange viewpoint from 1998 through 2018 eyes, it could be suggested this was the building block of a future loyalist ‘jihad’ against the republic in the event of a post-Brexit United Ireland. Put simply, given the developing nature of lone wolf terrorism, all it would take would be a handful of loyalist extremists to create the violent mayhem which the middle of the road politicians from both unionism and nationalism have warned about.

Unlike the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council strike which toppled the Sunningdale power-sharing Executive, such a violent loyalist campaign would not require massive street protests. Indeed, such a group of individuals would not even require the support of the majority of unionists to conduct A few godfathers who had radicalised some loyalists to carry out single atrocities would be all that is required if Islamic terror cells are taken as a benchmark.

The key worry for democrats of all persuasion across the island of Ireland is – has the groundwork for the loyalist ‘jihad’ already in motion and the fuse has already been primed on the violence which Messrs Trimble, Bruton, Ahern and Lady Hermon have warned about? The UVF, UDA, UFF and Red Hand had their day in the Troubles; is a new generation of post Brexit loyalist godfather and terrorist emerging?

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter. @JohnAHCoulter

Dr John Coulter has been a journalist working in Northern Ireland since 1978. As well as being a former weekly newspaper editor, he has served as Religious Affairs Correspondent of the News Letter and is a past Director of Operations for Christian Communication Network television. He currently also writes political analysis articles for national newspaper titles.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

4 comments to ''Loyalist Backlash"

  1. Backlash,Karius has received death threats. Klopp will win nothing,seven cup finals,six losses.

  2. Whatever about Lady Sylvia I'm not sure if either Ahern or Bruton can really be described as "notable" these days. Bruton has always been viscerally Partitionist anyways, and his recent attempt to intervene in the abortion referendum was largely greeted with either indifference or no small amount of sniggering. Ahern is in disgrace, a corrupt ex-Taoiseach who wrecked the economy, desperately trying to keep himself in the public eye to feed his hugely fragile ego. Very much out-of-touch yesterday's men, spouting yesterday's "wisdom" (from 20-30 years ago)

    Besides, what would be the *point* of any "Loyalist Backlash" beyond pure nihilistic burn-it-all-down rage? Of which there may well be some, but I submit it would be of the order of the Fleg protests and would fizzle out fairly quickly, not having any even remotely plausible actual aims.

  3. "Doctor" Coulter- now here's a man who needs adult supervision.

    Loyalists can have NO issue with a UI if it's voted for in a referendum. We view NI as a country, if the majority of our people vote for a UI then that's what we should do.

    To do otherwise will be anti-democratic and fascist. Something that should never be tolerated.

    Recent events have shown that the Republic is a shitload more progressive than our resident fuckwit politicians like Poots, Dodds et al with their insane Caleb Foundation beliefs!

    Fuck being in a zone ruled by halfwits, I'd rather make new friends in Dublin!

  4. "The key worry for democrats of all persuasion across the island of Ireland is – has the groundwork for the loyalist ‘jihad’ already in motion and the fuse has already been primed on the violence which Messrs Trimble, Bruton, Ahern and Lady Hermon have warned about?"

    A resounding no. If there is a united Ireland, brought about via referendum, there will be chaos, suspicion and political turmoil. But could loyalist paramilitaries actually create and sustain a separatist movement? And would they even want to?

    The unionist political class would make deals. The loyalist political class, such as it exisst, might want to have "civil & religious" liberties maintained. And it's highly likely that a Dublin government would indeed maintain them. Sporadic acts of violence might occur in response to a particular incident (such as Drumcree), but a wary Dublin administration is more likely to end up in scraps with Northern republicans than Ulster loyalists.

    As for Protestant religious fanatics; such people might inflict some damage, but they'd be quickly rounded up.

    "The UVF, UDA, UFF and Red Hand had their day in the Troubles; is a new generation of post Brexit loyalist godfather and terrorist emerging?"

    Well, none of those groups have gone away. But all are weakened considerably and are most likely thoroughly compromised by the security forces. More pertinently, would they want to fight? Would they be interested in it? What would their goals be?

    Loyalists have been slaughtering each other for much of the past 20 years. Loyalist paramilitaries in a united Ireland would find themselves on a permanent state of "standby." Waiting for something. An attack on their community? Maybe. And if one did happen, I'm sure they'd retaliate, in a typically idiotic and ineffectual way. But who knows.

    A far more interesting question is what role republican paramilitaries would adopt. Would they "go away"? I don't think so. I think they'd trust Dublin as much as they trust London.


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