COMMUNICATION is a wonderful thing. Whether it’s through talking, listening, writing or sharing views on social networks. Literature has the power to ignite thoughts, it can comfort us or make us angry. But most of all, it educates us.
Words have started wars and ended them. The quote ‘jaw jaw is better than to war war’ was said by the great Winston Churchill. Journalist David McKittrick said the late Martin McGuinness made the switch from war war to jaw jaw. McGuinness’ passing has provoked much debate surrounding his legacy.
Much has been said about McGuinness’ past. We’ve watched, listened and read a range of people expressing their views. Everyone has the right to their opinion. Many, and rightly so have been angered by McGuinness taking secrets to the grave. And others put him on a pedestal because they believed he held the power to the peace we now enjoy. Without his methods of communication, we’d surely be in a worse off position. Republicans and Loyalists have always been in contact with each other and they make no secret of it.
In 2009, as a child of an ex prisoner I was invited to a play in the Waterfront Hall. The Chronicles of Long Kesh was about a group of republican and loyalist prisoners, prison officers and their families. The play was great but the panel discussion afterwards was even better. I couldn’t believe the esteem both sets of prisoners held each other in. There was huge respect there. It showed the human side to the conflict and gave people like me an understanding of how things were.
Having grown up in a house that resembled a Long Kesh souvenir shop, I was always exposed to only one side.
Since joining twitter, my knowledge of loyalism has grown and I became fascinated by the other side. Not because ‘they’ were different but because we are exactly the same. We laugh at the same jokes and have the same problems. Our young males are victim to academic underachievement, our family and friends have succumbed to addiction and people we know are dying from cancer.
What’s blatantly obvious is the divide between us and them. I’m not talking Catholics and Protestants, I’m talking about the haves and have nots. The middle and working classes.
One working class person who stuck out most during the run up to the 2017 election was Sophie Long. She was relentless in trying to show fellow loyalists that the DUP don’t speak for them. But she might as well have banged her head off a brick wall. The message wasn’t and didn’t get through. Because yet again hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom living in poverty – voted for sectarianism instead of sense.
Not surprisingly she was lit on for daring to offer condolences to the comrades of Martin McGuinness. But she was only being attacked by people that don’t know their history. They aren’t as well read as she is. And too many of them don’t have the gumption to put their real names and faces to their accounts. The abuse she received for reaching out and doing what others have done before her has exposed loyalism’s insecure side. Whereby the only threat posed is not a man in a coffin but a woman with books.