independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Ian O'Doherty: There are bigger threats to our security than Willie Frazer. . .

Well, it's been cancelled. Phew. It seems tomorrow's hugely controversial and deliberately provocative Loyalist protest outside Leinster House has been 'postponed' – but can any of us really see it ever happening?

It was being organised by Willie Frazer, who has plenty of form when it comes to irritating nationalists on both sides of the border, but this looks to me to have been be more an exercise in sabre rattling than anything else.

But Frazer is so deeply scarred by the Troubles that anything is possible.

After all, when you consider that both his father and his uncle, as well as numerous members of his extended family were callously and brutally murdered by the IRA, you can understand his barely restrained rage.

Now, as easy as it may be for the rest of us to say 'just let it go', none of us has walked a mile in his shoes. Nor would we want to.

But Frazer, who has been making a push to run in the next election, has been all over the media this past week, as Belfast burns on a nightly basis and it is all so . . . familiar.

So incredibly, depressingly, familiar.

The only difference between the TV footage of the riots in Belfast over the last few days is that the Rangers jerseys worn by the rioters are the current ones.

And you know you have entered strange territory when you can date a conflict from the style of the football shirts.

But as unlikeable as Frazer may appear (and I put that down as much to the intransigent Northern accent that seems to embrace the word 'no' much easier than the word 'yes') when it comes to the flying of the Union flag on City Hall in Belfast, he is completely right.

After all, Belfast is part of the United Kingdom, regardless of what the nutters on the nationalist side would have you believe and for them to be the only part of that political entity not to fly the flag with pride is, to be frank, absurd.

But is Frazer spreading himself too thinly?

After all, planning a mission to antagonise people in the Republic must be fairly tiring work.

But as much as Frazer might seem like a slightly bizarre anomaly, a throwback to different times, he is not the worst.

Oh no, not by far.

Because while Frazer and his cohorts may seem like vaguely baffling aliens, we are currently witnessing the biggest threat to the security of our state in years from so-called 'republicans'.

And, to be frank, the cops deserve a lot of the blame for that.

I know they made some late arrests after the paramilitary funeral for Alan Ryan and that infamous volley of gun fire over the grave.

But the rot really started there when the Real IRA and its supporters saw garda inactivity as a weakness.

Likewise last weekend when Republican Sinn Féin were able to openly march through the streets of Limerick and one of their spokesmen, Michael Kiely, read a statement which openly threatened the murder of any Irish person who joins the British armed forces.

Again, the gardaí stayed away and while Kiely was later questioned, it didn't matter. Their point had been made.

As far as they are concerned, they can pretty much do what they want and this arrogance has been seen in their increasingly bellicose utterances.

Not only have they issued a pathetically worded statement saying they demand (like they're in a position to 'demand' anything) that the Union flag never flies anywhere in the North, they have also come out and said that they weren't prepared to allow the loyalist march in Dublin.

In fact, they planned to block off the roads around Leinster House.

Now, we all remember the phony road blocks both sides of the conflict used during the '70s and '80s up North, but to have a terrorist group openly threatening to have improvised road blocks in the vicinity of our national parliament?

In 2013?

How the hell did it come to this?

But perhaps the most tragic thing in all of this shambles is a truth that some people don't like to confront – most of us just don't care.

I have mates from both communities in the North and they came down here to get away from all this antiquated bullshit.

And they thought that they had finally escaped it.

Now, to the disgust of most of us, fringe groups on both sides are insisting on dragging up long dead grievances and settling scores that nobody even remembers exist.

In fact, it's like the bad old days of the mid-1980s all over again.

And for what?

The loyalist contingent simply exists in a permanent state of disgruntlement, while the dissidents down here, as well as their bosses north of the border, seem stuck in a sick, perverse time warp where they like to play army.

Let's put it this way – when I was a kid I used to love playing soldier.

Myself and my friends used to dress up and play with toy guns.

Then, one day, we all went out to play soldier and . . . we just felt a bit silly and went off to play football instead.

We had grown up.

It's about time they did.

Irish Independent

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