LOYALIST COMMUNITIES COUNCIL

Unfinished Work

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25.09.18



10.08.18

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Philip Orr: We should welcome and nurture artistic expression from within loyalism

It is understandable that the exhibition by loyalist ex-prisoner Michael Stone should provoke critical comment - especially so in the light of his own attendance at the event and the presence of local community leaders.

It is certainly the case that deep hurt is still felt by relatives and friends of those who suffered at his hands.

However, in a society such as ours, where the release and rehabilitation of ex-prisoners was part of the agreement that brought an end to daily violence, the moral issues are not clear cut.

Ours is a society in which political ex-prisoners, some with a 'casualty list' from their own pre-gaol days, have occupied key roles in local government.

Orangeman Gibson who ruled out Sinn Fein talks defends presence at killer Stone's art show

They have done more than make art. They have made decisions about our economy, our education and our health.

There is certainly a wide-ranging debate to be had about the manner in which an exhibition such as this should be undertaken - the venue, the publicity (or lack thereof), those invited along and the artistic themes and tone of the artefacts that go on display.

There is also a debate to be undertaken about whether Stone's violation of the terms of his original release debars him from further generosity. It is a debate that must take into account how, during the Troubles, republican and loyalist combatants sometimes reoffended upon release. This did not prevent the eventual terms of prisoner release, subsequent to the Good Friday Agreement, from applying to them.

I have not seen the exhibition, nor do I know Michael Stone, though I am acquainted with those who do.

However, I am aware that there is a deficit of art, whether visual, literary, musical or dramatic, to offer a view from within the loyalist ex-combatant community of who they were as individuals, what they were collectively, what they did, why they did it and what it means to them now.

At this stage, one thing needs said, however. I am not promulgating the old myth about 'Protestants not being interested in the arts'. East Belfast, to name just one relevant district, was and is the birthplace of an array of literary talent coming from 'a Protestant background', including dramatists such as Stacey Gregg and Rosemary Jenkinson and novelists like David Park, Lucy Caldwell and Glen Patterson.

And Conall Parr's recent book on Ulster Protestant culture, Shaping the Myth, has cast new light on an array of Protestant working-class talent from the past, such as Sam Thompson and Thomas Carnduff.

Malachi O'Doherty: Mervyn Gibson has his questions to answer, but so do all of us when it comes to separating an artist's paramilitary past from their current work

However, the current loyalist community has offered relatively few recent voices that speak out of - and critique - their own experiences. And there are few visual artists to embody the diverse forms which the loyalist imagination might take.

That is why all opportunities to nurture artistic expression coming from within a loyalist context are to be welcomed.

The art of another loyalist ex-prisoner, Geordie Morrow, is a case in point, as is the drama and prose of Robert Niblock. Among Niblock's plays there is a dynamic play called Tartan, which deals with the gang culture of the early 1970s, which overlapped with the rise of paramilitarism.

His poetry explores the Protestant working-class boyhoods of east Belfast just as the Troubles were beginning to brew.

Then there is the powerful theatre work of Gary Mitchell, with his Rathcoole background and more recently David Ireland, with his origins in working class Ballybeen.

I am not denying that some individual may buy one of Michael Stone's works merely as a collector of loyalist memorabilia, or indeed out of misplaced relish for the violence of the past.

The true value of this exhibition is not to be found in those responses but in the licence it might just give some young loyalists to ponder the meaning of the word 'artist' and the insight Stone's art should give all of us others into one particular loyalist's imagination. Art has done that kind of thing in challenging circumstances down through the ages and will continue to do so all across the world.

Philip Orr is a writer and involved in community education

Belfast Telegraph



03.08.18

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A spokesperson of Reach UK said:

“Reach UK supports initiatives from all sections of the community and was invited to consider hosting a free one-week exhibition of artworks from Michael Stone’s ‘Milestones collection. Reach is a non-judgement organisation and volunteered space to host the art pieces and a free-to-attend opening evening in mid-July.

“Reach recognises that art can be a powerful tool to help people deal with personal issues and has been successfully used to promote mutual understanding between unionist and nationalist communities. The exhibition was undertaken with no publicity, in a low key manner bearing in mind sensitivities of the past with full knowledge of the prison bodies which encourage all ex-prisoners to re-integrate into society in a positive and peaceful manner.”

Ends

About REACH UK

REACK UK – to deliver the hopes of the PUL community , to help to understand their History and Culture to educate the young and the elderly to help our people move on to a brighter future for all the people of Northern Ireland to work with others with confidence of our future.

REACH provides advice and assistance to those most in need in society, regardless of race, religion or creed. We tackle head on the issues of Drugs abuse, Loan Sharks, Suicide, Alcohol Dependency, Anti Social Activity, Housing and Welfare issues and Food Poverty . We also assist and provide skills training to access employment for those suffering the most financial hardship in our community.

Reach UK has a reputation for integrity and supports a culture of lawfulness and the pursuit of justice and information retrieval for victims, survivors including ex combatants. In pursuit of a fair, balanced and equal society we have proactively engaged with politicians, PSNI, clergy, community groups and Republicans (including ex-prisoners), international students and academics from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In accordance with our Mission Statement, we support the integration of time served ex-prisoners into society in a meaningful, structured way which is to the benefit of all. Perhaps some 30,000 paramilitary members passed through the prison system with up to 200,000 families and friends directly affected, the issue reaches into all fabric of society. Having attended a number of civic society events where Republican paramilitaries where introduced as Artists and playwrights we would assume that working class Unionists are given the same equality to move on with their lives and engage in Arts, Music and Culture , particularly if this helps younger people not to travel the same troubled path as a previous generation.

As Danny Murphy , IRA prisoners spokesman says, “its about informing and educating .. ensuring the next generation don’t go into the same conflict of the past. “

“Because someone has a past doesn’t mean he cant have a future” – Trimble

Reach will continue to work towards an inclusive society for all and will continue to host events in the near future which are ground breaking and diverse and provide innovative answers to dealing with our divided society’

26.07.18

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“Not even the most ardent republican could deny the value of the NHS or BBC. Those who wish the Union well need to confront Sinn Fein’s equality and rights-based agenda with a diversity and responsibility-centred alternative, argue Graham Spencer and Chris Hudson

The concept of an agreed Ireland, which originated from John Hume’s nationalism, but was subsequently taken and used by Sinn Fein, has met no equivalent emphasis on the benefits of an agreed Northern Ireland from unionism. Indeed, the fractured and disjointed nature of unionism has hindered the possibility of common ground when it comes to articulating what the Union, or being British, means.

But is it possible to advocate the benefits of Britishness as a basis for an inclusive and dynamic Northern Ireland? And, if so, what might that look like?

For a start, this would require moving from fixations about the national question which offers little chance for enabling a sense of Britishness that can be broader, more embracing and more dynamic to be heard. Rather, it would require promotion of the merits of Britishness in relation to shared institutions and culture.

Even the most ardent of republicans would probably find it difficult to refute the value of the NHS, the BBC, or the FA Cup – all indicators of Britishness that have wider social resonance and attraction. Yet, by keeping expressions of identity and belonging locked onto fears and insecurities about national identity, wider progress has been stymied on many levels. Poor educational attainment levels on the Shankill Road should not be seen as a loyalist, or unionist, problem, but a social problem. High levels of unemployment, or poverty, in the Strabane area are not a republican, or nationalist, problem, but a social problem.

Poor transport links between Derry and Belfast and a lack of railway infrastructure across Northern Ireland generally are not a republican, or unionist, problem, but a social one. And yet, all too often, the response to such issues is framed in relation to segregated national identity positions and interests.

Routinely, one hears that Protestant schools are not performing as well as Catholic schools and so the reference-point for educational performance remains national division. No such conceptualisation seems to be used in the UK more generally.

Poorly performing schools are seen as socially unacceptable and action is expected on that basis. The problem is considered to be a matter of collective responsibility and understood in terms of fairness, inclusivity and the common interest.

Why has such an approach not found its way into Northern Ireland, some 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement?

Much of the blame for this has to be laid at the door of unionist politics itself. From the outside, unionism looks static, defensive, reactive, inward-looking and obsessed with the past. Regardless of how one spins it, the perception is overwhelmingly negative. It is hard to see how such a politics can help make Northern Ireland a better place in the long-term.

Unionism seems to lack an imagined future beyond the protectionism of now and, because of that, suggests no ambition. To put it another way: it has no aspirational imperative built into its language, or intentions.

The richness of British cultural identity in terms of music, fashion, technology, comedy, art, literature and sport contrasts to the apparent rigidity of Northern Ireland’s Britishness, which is overwhelmingly expressed as a political conflict with republicanism without any ability to creatively neutralise impressions of republican progress except by hoping that demographics will come to the rescue.

Strangely, unionism seems unable to reach out to those of Catholic background who remain satisfied with greater opportunities brought about by the peace process and who appear more comfortable with remaining in the UK as a result.

Indeed, when unionism speaks, one gets the impression that nobody thinks there is any advantage in trying to engage such people through a sense of Britishness based on respect, tolerance, fairness, multiculturalism and diversity.

It has always fascinated us as to why unionism is not able to counter Sinn Fein’s agenda on equality and rights by presenting a more compelling agenda of diversity and responsibility, both of which are conceived not in terms of “us and them”, but “all”.

Diversity and responsibility contrast nicely with the republican agenda that stresses equality and rights. A new agenda that puts diversity and responsibility at its heart, if communicated effectively, would carry a captivating and dramatic sense of Britishness likely to resonate widely, but it needs to be adopted as a common position by all of unionism in order to do that. The tendency to talk in terms of “us and them”, rather than “all”, can be found in the constant recourse to being of a community, rather than a society. Many in Northern Ireland talk about their community and a community is, by its nature, distinctive between those who are of it and those who are not.

The language of community is very different from the language of society and its constant usage has created a staleness and predictability in relation to political and everyday discourse.

The language of society is a language of inclusivity, but the language of community is the language of exclusivity. It is the language of “us and them” rather than “all”. It is the language of local interest, rather than the common interest and invariably it does not respond well to those within who find how that community conducts or presents itself as objectionable.

Arlene Foster’s recent move to engage with nationalist culture by making visits to a GAA final and an Irish school to discuss a language act has been strongly welcomed by the majority who participate in that culture and her presence at public events has challenged the enduring stereotype of unionist intransigence and disrespect. Apart from demonstrating confidence in relation to difference, her actions are representative of society precisely because she showed receptiveness towards others.

Although Brexit complicates the picture, the general impression that emerges for most who visit Northern Ireland, whether nationalist, republican, unionist, loyalist, Catholic or Protestant, is the generosity, kindness and decency of those who live there and yet these qualities hardly transfer across Northern Ireland itself.

When asked what being British means, many unionists and loyalists look to the monarchy, or the unreliability of government to inform their response. For them, this is a Britishness less representative of stoicism, humour, generosity, decency, fairness, or respect, let alone Dad’s Army, the Proms, the Sunday roast, or moaning about the weather, and more the reliability or unreliability of institutions. For them, identity arises through the structures of power that symbolise British endurance and history.

Yet, understandable though this outlook is, it is not tuned towards the future, but the past. Its appeal is necessarily backward-looking and uses the rituals and commemorations of that past to assert feelings of preservation and order.

However, identity is much more than national symbolism and is now being increasingly expressed as individual and minority attempts to challenge existing structures of power and conventions of order.

Indeed, for many in Britain, it would appear that it is minority identities which now create new expectations about what one can be.

Clearly, Brexit indicates the polarisation between an exclusive and inclusive sense of national identity, but a more complex dynamic about being British is playing out underneath the media headlines. It is at the everyday level of identity difference that a new sense of Britishness is taking shape.

The challenges to being British have always informed what Britishness means and, indeed, opened the way for new possibilities. It is about time unionism spoke to this dynamic and advocated the confusion, difference, generosity and ambiguity of Britishness that makes it so fluid and complex.

Unionism should start talking collectively on behalf of society, rather than community.

It should demonstrate more the diversity and possibility of a Britishness that views problems in terms of a common interest.

It should welcome difference and assert the need for a responsibility to communicate not just what Northern Ireland is, but what it can be.

In short, it should develop and use the concept of an inclusive Britishness to argue the benefits of an agreed Northern Ireland.

Dr Graham Spencer is Reader in Social and Political Conflict at the University of Portsmouth. Rev Chris Hudson is minister at All Souls’ Church in Belfast

Belfast Telegraph”


19.07.18


Article link

“The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) launched the UK Government’s consultation paper, “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past” on Friday 11th May 2018.

Not surprisingly it prompted a resumption of the political arguments about the form any process should take.

Since the consultation paper is based primarily on the structures proposed in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) of December 2014 it does not provide one with hope.

The political architects of the SHA have for the past eighteen months been unable to agree on the formation of an Executive so the likelihood of their shifting beyond the toxicity of legacy is without doubt problematic.

The removal of politicians and their narrow and constricted political agendas is vital if we are to develop a non-partisan and inclusive legacy process.

Victims have been ruthlessly misled in terms of what can realistically be achieved in relation to justice. Recently, the Chief Constable accurately and honestly asserted that “judicial closure is increasingly unlikely in the majority of cases”.

The Secretary of State referred to “four important things we must consider”, namely: meet the needs of victims and survivors; promote reconciliation; reflect broad political consensus and be balanced; and that the proposals must follow the Rule of Law.

Given the extent of diversity existing in the victims and survivors sector it is difficult to envisage a process that will satisfy the assortment of demands, claim and entitlement.

The architects of the SHA are working through the folly that there is a critical mass that can be catered for and one that is linked to parity of esteem and fair treatment.

I have in the past questioned the viability of a prosecutorial process, the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and an information recovery process, the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) running in parallel.

What incentive would anyone have to engage with the ICIR when they may well be the subject of a criminal investigation by the HIU? Barra McGrory implicitly concurs with this view when he asked, “The criminal process will significantly inhibit the information process and to what end?” He goes on to state, “very few convictions will result. People will be as unhappy as they are now and an opportunity to have a process which makes people truly accountable will be lost”.

While recognising victims’ absolute right to pursue justice I would question whether resources would not be better spent on reparation enabling victims and survivors to avail of enhanced services to cater for their physical and mental wellbeing as well as pensions.

A female contributor to the News Letter, who has suffered dreadfully as a consequence of the conflict, “believes the money spent on legacy investigations could be better spent elsewhere”. Adding, “I think the money could be used to help victims rather than chasing dreams.” Such a succinct and important voice seems to be unheard or factored into the SHA.

Even if significant numbers of prosecutions were to take place the journalist Brian Rowan recently asked the question, “Can you have a peace process that releases prisoners and a past process that sends people to jail? Think of that contradiction.”

It is arguable whether any legacy process will promote reconciliation; indeed it is just as likely to exacerbate enmity, if not reignite conflict. The recent conflict was fuelled by events that took place years, decades and even centuries ago. Are we to expose the post-Good Friday generation to daily accounts of the injustices and atrocities that we inflicted on one another? We, in Northern Ireland, are in effect living with an unresolved conflict that has to be managed on a daily basis.

The two primary ingredients that gave rise to violent conflict in the past still remain; a contested constitution and endemic sectarianism. Thankfully, at present the conflict is largely non-violent. However, given the current uncertainty with the political institutions no longer functioning, the divisions over Brexit and calls for border polls do we really need a legacy process to add another contentious layer on top of all that?

While grateful for the relative peace that we now enjoy it is wise not to be complacent.

It is difficult to envisage broad political consensus given that twenty years on from the GFA even the definition of a victim is still vigorously contested. The British government and Unionists will always defend the actions of the state agencies and Sinn Féin will continue to provide justification for the IRA’s “armed struggle”. It is impossible for those two narratives to converge not only with each other but also with the needs of peace-building.

These are lines in the sand that do not cater for wholesome and important shifts in how we build an inclusive and tolerant society. Loyalists, who were significant protagonists in the conflict, were not consulted during the negotiations that led to these proposed legacy institutions. Did the Unionist parties, in particular, believe that they would agree all this architecture and loyalists would simply turn up? I think not. With no proportionate political empathy there is discernible concern within loyalism that they will become scapegoats as they were during the long and unpalatable conflict. The past has effectively become the new battleground for continuation of the conflict.

The Sinn Féin narrative in relation to collusion is a key element of their justification of the “armed struggle”. While one wouldbe surprised if a degree of collusion did not occur given the similar objectives of both the security services and loyalists, it is hard to believe that it was on the scale suggested by republicans. Sinn Féin does not need to prove collusion they merely need to claim it, as doing so silences the memory of republican atrocities. If collusion was as suggested, then it seems peculiar that the republican leadership and key operatives survived the conflict. A mural in West Belfast reads “Collusion is not an Illusion”. Loyalists would argue that Sinn Féin have created an “illusion of collusion” within the nationalist community. This was borne out by the Police Ombudsman when he indicated that if the results of his investigations did not concur with the already held collusion narrative then they were dismissed.

The central goal of any peace process has to be to deliver mutual respect, parity of esteem and a post-conflict society. The political machinations around victims, claims that it is for reconciliation but does not suggest or explain how. The reality is simple and as the SHA shows the central aim is to remain in a proxy war and thus deny the emergence of a truly shared and progressive society. Keep a fire under the victims debate is part of the ongoing repetition of the arguments of legitimacy that were central to the conflict.

Drawing a line under the conflict and mapping out a response that is emotionally intelligent and which truly cares for the emotional, financial and physical needs of victims is a true and proper recognition of our desire to move on together.”

By Tom Roberts (Director Ex-prisoners Interpretative Centre)


10.07.18


Link

Yesterday evening our group, in conjunction with Dalaradia (www.dalaradia.co.uk) launched “Milestones 2018” – An Exhibition of works by East Belfast Artists Michael and Karan Stone.

The exhibition is in aid of Muscular Dystrophy UK.

The launch was attended by representatives of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, our patron Dr Ian Adamson and sponsored by the Loyalist Conflict Museum, Andy Tyrie Interpretive Centre and the Union Jack Shop, Newtownards Road.

The husband and wife team were presented with copies of the Bible in Scots, produced by the Ullans Academy.

In the last they have exhibited in The John Hewitt Belfast, Malone House and the Ulster Museum. Michael has also exhibited with the PAF at The Long Gallery, Stormont, Belfast City Hall, Belfast Waterfront, Londonderry Gallery and Crumlin Road Gaol. The works have proved popular amongst established and new collectors who appreciate their collaborative styles of subject, colour, texture and originality.

This retrospective of their work entitled Milestones encompasses their past and present experiences in life with humour and their universal belief that “Art transcends politics”.

The art is open to the public between 10-5 today and tomorrow. Everyone is most welcome.

14.06.18

On Wednesday evening one of our groups, Dalaradia, unveiled a new mural in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey. The group states "A welcome change to the previous mural which was quite dated and had somewhat of a playful approach and not your conventional style of Paramilitary Mural.

Murals play an important role within our communities. Not only do they offer great artistry, they also stand as historical evidence. Northern Ireland has around 2,000 murals, most of which contain political themes or references to the Troubles. Dalaradia understand the importance of their murals and have worked to preserve and maintain them. Many murals depict gunmen, not to cause fear, not marking territory, not implying its the the present or whats to come in the future, but a reminder of what once was. Thanks to their artistic merit and historical value, murals have become an important tourist attraction in post-Troubles Northern Ireland.

Many thanks to members of the public for attending and to the various group representatives including the Rathcoole Somme Society, Newtownabbey Arts & Cultural Network and Thomas Hogg of the DUP. A big thanks to Councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston of the PUP for opening the mural."

Cllr Corr-Johnston said “This is the first Red Hand Commando mural to be re-imaged. Formerly a mural depicting a militant past it is now a window into the rich historical tapestry of Ireland. It reaches beyond partition, beyond division and promotes a common identity as a way of transitioning from conflict to peace.”

She concluded “I’d like to record my thanks to Dalaradia, a historical and cultural group based in Rathcoole, for inviting me to share in their significant progress. Progress that has been made possible through their extensive consultation with South East Antrim, REACH UK and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.”

The group goes on - "Residents in the area received leaflets explaining the mural and its origins. Below is its content.

“The Dalaradia Mural Rathcoole 2018

Dalaradia was one of the Ancient Ulster Kingdoms, sitting in the area now occupied by the Mid and East Antrim Council, it was bordered in the North by Dalriada and in the South by Dal Faitach. In 1967 our borough was to be named Dalriada but following a challenge in court was renamed Newtownabbey. The first mention of Belfast is in 667 when the tribes of Dalaradia in Co Antrim and those in Dal Faitach, Co Down fought for the title “Fir Uladh” – True Men Of Ulster. The Earldom of Ulster was founded in Carrickfergus Castle in the territory of Dalaradia and St Patricks first noble convert was Bronagh, daughter of the Dalaradian King , Milchu, also St Comgal a Dalaradian warrior monk founded Bangor Abbey which became the Centre of European Christianity.

The Pretani, – “ Cruithin in ulster gaelic “ – were the indigenous British people of Ulster and Dalaradia in particular. Both Ptolemy and Caesar wrote of the Isles of the Pretani when referring to the British Isles, the larger island known as Great Britain and Ireland known to them as Little Britain. The original Britonnic – Welsh version of Pretani remains today as Prydin on the second page of British Passports

The outline of Old Ulster – “ Ulidia / Uladh “, the counties of Antrim and Down is highlighted with Dalaradias Lough Neagh behind. Also shown is the field of Crewe Hill, with the Ancient Crowning Stone of Ulster Kings. This is one of Ulsters most historical sites, where huge battles were fought between the Ulster Pretani and the O Niell Gaels , the literal translation of the word Gael meaning “ Invader / Stranger “. A generic image of an Ulster Warrior overlooks the Kingdom.

Ulsters most potent symbol, the Red Hand, has many legends attached to it, from King Hermon cutting off his hand and throwing it ashore to claim the land, to stories of the Right Hand of God and older Legends telling of the Blood soaked hands of the Red Brach Knights and Conall Cernach putting a blood stained image on his standard as he avenged Cu Chulainn s death.

Rathcooles famous Landmark, the four tower blocks support the mural, paying tribute to our local community and their place in History, It is emblazoned with Dalaradias motto, “ Respect , Heritage, Culture” , representing our spirit of a common identity of inclusiveness and diversity as a way of transition from a troubled past to a peaceful shared future.”

Newtownabbey Times - Newsletter



09.04.18

A Loyalist Declaration of Transformation from the Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force

Delivered 11.30am, Monday 9th April 2018 at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Embargoed until 12.00 midday, Monday 9th April 2018

"The Good Friday Agreement was created in a spirit of accommodation and its promise was a more inclusive Northern Ireland. There would have been no Agreement without the involvement of loyalists. However, it is time to recommit to the creation of a Northern Ireland that enables all to realise their potential and aspirations. Any community left behind in that ambition represents a failure not only for the peace process, but for Northern Ireland as a whole.

For too long we have been berated for our past and not able to imagine a better future. We must challenge that outlook by no longer being apologists for conflict but advocates for change and working to create a society that is at ease with itself in its diversity and difference.

It was made clear at the time of the CLMC 1994 ceasefire statement that ‘abject and true remorse’ existed for suffering inflicted during the conflict and that remains the case today. However, no-one should ever be excluded from playing a constructive role in the future because of past actions. We therefore seek to fulfil the commitments we made in 1994 by continuing a process of transformation.

We draw attention to the fact that even in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics we continue to maintain a commitment to the peace process. We are fully committed to participation in such a process and will approach it with honesty, integrity and sensitivity. We also recognise the importance of a legacy process designed to help Northern Ireland confront the past and from that experience build a society of possibility and hope. We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.

We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity. Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism.

We reject and repudiate as unacceptable and contrary to loyalist principles any criminal action claimed to have been undertaken in our name or attributed to any individual claiming membership of one of our organisations. We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships. This has been collectively agreed. We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.

We seek to make an important contribution to the construction of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland and to support this objective intend to provide strong community leadership and positive influence to promote social, economic and political development.

Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future. Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus, to meet the challenges ahead. We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner. We must shape our own destiny, and with the co-operation of others, ensure loyalist communities are at the centre of Northern Ireland’s peace and political transformation. End"



21.03.18

Sinn Fein 'ignoring' result of consultation over bus signs in Irish

Sinn Fein has been accused of ignoring the results of a consultation that suggested there was "very little appetite for Irish language signage" on buses in Co Londonderry.

The consultation, which was carried out by Translink in the spring and summer of 2017, proposed bilingual English and Irish destination screens onboard Ulsterbus vehicles in the nationalist west bank of Derry.

The project was piloted on the Slievemore route, with a plan to roll it out to other areas of the city if it successful. Bilingual signs are already in operation on buses in west Belfast.

But according to response to a Freedom of Information request by DUP MP Gregory Campbell, almost three-quarters (74%) of the 9,421 people who completed the survey were against the idea.

Last month talks to restore Stormont broke down due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein over legislation for the Irish language. Mr Campbell - who was barred from speaking in the Assembly for a day in 2014 after making fun of the Irish language - called on Sinn Fein to explain why it had "ignored" the results of the consultation.

He said: "Around this time last year, Sinn Fein in Londonderry claimed they had been lobbying Translink since February 2015 for a consultation about bilingual destination signage on scheduled Ulsterbus service vehicles in the area. The results were forwarded to the Department for Infrastructure late last year. This survey, requested by Sinn Fein, has demonstrated that there is very little appetite for Irish language signage even when Sinn Fein promotes it.

"Either Sinn Fein is aware of this consultation outcome and has decided to keep it hidden or Sinn Fein is unaware of the outcome and didn't ask because they were afraid of what the outcome might be. The public have a right to know which it is."

Translink said that given the consultation results, it currently had "no plans" to introduce bilingual destination screens in Derry.

It added: "Translink will continue to offer information primarily in English, subject to future statutory requirements."

Sinn Fein insisted there was "significant support for bilingual signs".

It said: "The trials in west Belfast have been very successful and Sinn Fein would wish to roll that out in other places where bilingual signage is welcome. Bilingual bus signs are already used every day in Derry on Bus Eireann vehicles and there has been little or no opposition to that."

Belfast Telegraph



8.11.17

African orphans benefit from LCC volunteers - Carrickfergus Times

"A Carrick man has spoken of his involvement in a project assisting staff at an orphanage in Africa and the personal development he experienced.

The LCC team of volunteers pictured with David Campbell (LCC Chairman) and Bob Thompson.

Robert (Bertie) McWilliams has returned from Tanzania after spending a month there as part of a Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) delegation.

Bertie was one of eight volunteers from across Northern Ireland who travelled to the east African country under the stewardship of project leader, Bob Thompson.

The group spent four weeks working with the Kidzcare orphanage and schools in Tanzania from September 17. The purpose of the project was to promote team building within different loyalist communities, offer international work experience and personal development and to expose the volunteers to different cultures, religions and challenges, while at the same time benefitting the children of the orphanage. The aim was to make a difference both at home and in Africa.

Ahead of their departure, Bertie was unsure how his special diabetic dietary requirements were going to be met in Africa. He also questioned his participation in the project as he knew he would miss his six-year-old daughter a lot.

Bertie, who works as a window fitter/joiner, was able to use his skills in Africa to carry out maintenance at the orphanage.

Commenting on the duties he performed in Tanzania and his interaction with the orphans, the east Antrim man said: “Straight away we got stuck into general maintenance work around the orphanage and whilst doing that we met the beautiful kids that stayed there.

“All our hearts were touched as these kids really have nothing and they are the most happy and friendly wee kids I have ever met. We soon learned that these kids are very much the lucky ones compared to others, as they have a safe life and love at the orphanage and without the staff they would be desolate and abandoned.

“Listening to their individual life stories would melt the hardest heart. My thoughts went back to my own daughter and I realised just how well-off she is compared to these kids.”

Although most of their time was spent carrying out work around the orphanage, the LCC volunteers were able to experience African culture on a rare day off.

Bertie explained: “We spent our day off by having a beach day with the kids.

“We had a fantastic time enjoying the beach, the warm Indian Ocean and most of all having fun with the kids. The trip home on the bus was amazing with the kids entertaining us with selection of Swahili songs.”

On his return, Bertie, who said he would be keen to volunteer in Africa again, said: “I learned to respect a lot of things back home, such as hot water, food and family. Everyone realised just how well off we are back home and none of us will take things for granted again.

“We went to Africa as strangers and returned as a family of the LCC and we will support each other from now on. I now see things very differently and I am so glad I got the opportunity to do it.”

Bertie would like to thank everyone for their support, the sponsors, the LCC and its chairman David Campbell for the idea and Bob Thompson the project leader for putting it all together.

For more information about the orphanage and the project, check out www.kidzcaretanzania.org"

For more information on this project check out:
LCC Tanzania Project Facebook



18.10.17

Finally the LCC Tanzania Project challenge is over.

All arrived home safe and sound yesterday evening and with the exception of a few mosquito bites everyone is in good health and condition.

One member remarked "the trip started with three groups of strangers and ended with one group of family".

The month away raised some challenges but as each challenge was overcome the bond of friendship grew stronger. The children of the orphanage touched their hearts and have shaped their lives for the future.

This is something we hope to build on for the future helping less fortune people. One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

Well done to everyone involved, you are a credit to your community.

For more information on this project check out:
LCC Tanzania Project Facebook



26.9.17

On 12th May 2016 the Loyalist Communities Council launched a Flags Protocol.

Its aim, to prevent our national emblems being left on display in a dilapidated state and asking that steps were taken to prevent this occurring.

We ask that, as agreed, all remaining flags be taken down on or as soon as possible after Ulster Day – 28th September 2017.

Flags and emblems are highly potent symbols of community allegiances and are important demonstrators of our Loyalist and Unionist heritage and culture.

Please treat them as such – many thanks.



20.9.17

“RED HAND COMMANDO” (RHC) FORMALLY REQUESTS TO BE REMOVED AS A “PROSCRIBED” ORGANISATION

The Loyalist grouping known as the Red Hand Commando (RHC) has officially requested to be removed from the list of proscribed organisations. The request was made in London and will be looked at by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. At the time of writing it is not known how long it will take for a decision to be made. Reaction to the request has been somewhat mixed.

The application has been made under Section 4 of the Terrorism Act (2000) which allows for members of a banned group to contact the government to request deproscription without themselves facing the threat of being charged with membership. The theory being that deproscription could help an organisation move forward towards integration and obviously away from previous association with violence.

The initiative is being supported by the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), the umbrella organisation set up by Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell to steer paramilitaries away from criminality, and the LCC’s chairman, David Campbell, said that Mr Powell supported the application to the Home Secretary. Mr Campbell argued that in retaining the paramilitary name, rather than disbanding, it would be harder for dissidents to seek to revive it at a future point. There has always been a fear that ‘dissident’ Loyalists could use the name of the three main Loyalist paramilitary organisations as a cover for criminal activity.

Senior Loyalist Jim Wilson (a former RHC prisoner) stated that;

“This organisation is not about glorifying murder, bombings, shootings – it happened in a conflict that we got engaged in as young lads and it’s not something that people want to run about and gloat about and to have it pushed into people’s faces. That’s not what deprosciption is about – it’s about allowing us to move to the next phase which is out of conflict, away from what happened in this society and all those people that were hurt by our organisation, Gusty Spence couldn’t have said it any better – it is true and abject remorse. But we were brought up in a society where there was violence and young lads from our Protestant community engaged in it and that’s it – the organisation couldn’t be any clearer; it’s sorry for the people that had to be hurt in this conflict.” 

The words obviously hit a nerve with Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein as he described the move as ‘abhorrent’. When it was pointed out to him that his actions and the actions of his former IRA colleagues went beyond abhorrent into mass sectarian genocide and that it was hypocritical of him to even comment on this move he decided to skulk off elsewhere. But there was widespread concern amongst victims groups that, in not dealing with the needs of victims and their families first, this type of move could be seen as too soon and too upsetting. Others welcomed the move and saw it as progressive and potentially ground-breaking.

Then there is the “politics” of it all and the repercussions should such a decision be given a positive outcome. Some seasoned political commentators queried what sane government would give the go ahead to legalise a former paramilitary group? What are the benefits to a Tory government when the media exposes Loyalist criminality (or what purports to be Loyalist criminality)? This idea could prove toxic to a government with a slim majority. In turn would those groupings intent on criminality latch on to "legal" groupings to ensure a type of “cover” or veneer of respectability? And the government will worry about the negative headlines around this. Then again the U.K. Government might just offer the suggestion that all this is pointless and groupings should leave the stage voluntarily. Which in turn creates a vacuum to be filled by criminal elements masquerading as loyalists. It is a complex issue indeed.

There is no doubt that within Loyalism there continues to be great desires to remodel and copper fasten the progress achieved during the last decade. Any new initiative to speed up reintegration must be viewed through a prism of positivity if we are to bring everyone forward. The removal of proscription carries with it many risks and it will be interesting to see how the mainland politicians deal with such a request.

End



12.9.17

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) welcomes and supports the application to the Home Secretary by representatives of the RHC for their organisation to be removed from the list of UK proscribed organisations.

One of the key reasons behind the formation of the LCC was to assist the three main loyalist groupings in their transformation away from paramilitarism and to work constructively for the benefit of loyalist and unionist communities.

It is many years since the RHC was engaged in violent or criminal activity. Its leaders and members have supported the peace process and have led many initiatives to regenerate deprived Loyalist areas, and promote Loyalist and Unionist heritage and culture.

The LCC hopes that HM Government will recognize that this application is made sincerely and in good faith, and will respond positively.

It is further hoped that this course being taken by the RHC can lay out a road map for the transformation of loyalist groups in general, and that this action might be followed in due course by the other two main loyalist organisations.

End



10.8.17 Tanzania Project

10 Youths from Loyalist communities have been selected to participate in a pilot scheme under the chairmanship of Mr. David Campbell CBE which will facilitate a team trip to Africa for 10 young volunteers drawn from various areas of Northern Ireland. They will undertake charitable work with a local orphanage in Tanzania consisting of a building project (building, painting etc.) and working / interacting directly with the children of the orphanage.

The volunteers will spend 4 weeks working with the Kidzcare (www.kidzcaretanzania.org ) orphanage and schools in Tanzania during September 2017. The purpose of this project is to promote team building, international work experience and youth development with the volunteers and to expose these youth to different cultures, religions and challenges and at the same time benefit the needy children of the orphanage. The aim is to make a difference both at home and in Africa.

Leading the project is Mr. Bob Thompson who recently returned to Northern Ireland after many years living and working in Africa and during this time he was an enthusiastic patron of the orphanage and a close friend of its founders Mary and Robert Nottman. The orphanage and school was founded in 2000 by Mary and has since grown into a number of rural schools catering for over 400 children, an orphanage with currently 30 plus children and numerous health and medical camps giving support to children from all over Tanzania regardless of Tribe, religion or culture.

It will be a challenging project for the volunteers who will travel to very remote and underdeveloped areas of Tanzania where they will be undertaking a classroom building project and also will be preparing a football pitch and running a small tournament for the children. The group will be running a daily blog and doing live Facebook postings during the project

The volunteers from Northern Ireland have been undergoing various training courses such as First aid certificate, Child protection course, building works (brick laying, carpentry and painting). These skills and experience will be of value to the volunteers in their future career choice development and will encourage better community responsibility.

We have been fortunate to have a number of sponsors and core funding for this project. However, we are actively fund-raising and seeking sponsorship for operational costs thus releasing more funds for the children and would encourage all local businesses and residents to support your local community representative in his endeavors. We very much hope to make this an ongoing project in the future and to expand its scope to encompass more diverse communities in our future projects. We are pleased to announce our major private funder has confirmed our core funding for another project in 2018.

LCC Tanzania Project Facebook



05.6.17

STATEMENT ON THE GENERAL ELECTION ISSUED BY THE LOYALIST COMMUNITIES COUNCIL

Embargoed to 0700, 5 June 2017

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) urges every unionist and loyalist voter to ensure they turn out and vote for unionist candidates in the forthcoming general election. Sinn Fein, and the other anti-unionist parties are seeking to capitalise on the uncertainty created by the collapse of the Stormont Executive, and the impending Brexit negotiations to move Northern Ireland away from the United Kingdom. This will only succeed if unionists fail to register their votes for unionist candidates.

The LCC deplores the unwillingness of the main unionist parties to co-operate to maximise unionist representation at Westminster. In constituencies where there is a risk of losing a seat to republicans, we ask that unionists vote for the unionist candidate most likely to win that seat. In particular we offer the following guidance:

In Fermanagh South Tyrone we ask that every unionist votes for Tom Elliott
In North Belfast we ask that every unionist votes for Nigel Dodds
In East Belfast we ask that every unionist votes for Gavin Robinson
In South Belfast we ask that every unionist votes for Emma Pengelly

If there is a maximum turnout of the unionist electorate not only will three unionist seats be protected but a fourth (South Belfast) will be won back for Unionism.

The LCC particularly warns all unionists and loyalists against voting for Alliance Party candidates. Many unionists think they can retain their unionism yet vote for Alliance candidates. They are sorely mistaken in that belief. No party does more to undermine the Britishness of Northern Ireland, and foment community mistrust and division than the Alliance Party. Any unionist who votes for the Alliance Party is driving a nail into the coffin of the Union. This Party must be rejected at the polls by all unionists and loyalists.

The LCC will be continuing its efforts after the general election to encourage greater co-operation amongst unionists to ensure that unionist representation in Councils and in any future Assembly is maximised.

END



01.5.17

Proposals on Past open path to Truth – By Winston Irvine

How we think about the future in Northern Ireland is inevitably informed by the past and the processes and mechanisms we develop to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

This should not be about drawing a line under the past – it is both unfair and inappropriate that we should ask people to draw a line under their suffering and pain – but rather about drawing a clear line between the past and our present and future. This process is complex and convoluted and is one that a series of agreements – including the most recent Stormont House Agreement – have failed to come to terms with and there remains no clearly articulated and logical approach.

The recent report published by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel) makes an important and valuable contribution to the argument.

A starting point is the assertion (noted in Select Defence Committee report) by Professor Kieran McEvoy and Dr Louise Mallinder (Truth, Amnesty and Prosecutions: Models For Dealing with the Past, 2013) that “the duty to investigate does not amount to a duty to prosecute.”

Here, they are distinguishing between the requirement for ‘independent’, ‘effective’ and ‘transparent’ investigations of incidents involving fatalities under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the need to prosecute based on the outcome of any investigation. In other words it is possible to have a legally compliant investigation without prosecution. This is of significant importance in how we think about legacy and the past as it provides a context through which victims, survivors and their families have the best possible opportunity to retrieve information about what happened by allowing for thorough investigation without the fear of prosecution. In this way it provides a context through which we can begin to draw a clear line between the past and our present and future.

The Defence Committee report, which it should be noted had a focus on military personnel involved in the Troubles, recommends initially an “enactment of a statute of limitations,” covering all Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which involved members of the Armed Forces” (p. 17). However, it also states that a future government may also wish to consider “whether the statute of limitations should also cover all Troubles-related incidents” (p. 18), that is be extended to include all state and non-state actors. Such a statute of limitations provides a framework through which the fear of prosecution can be removed, allowing for thorough and transparent investigation.

It is inevitable and understandable that for many victims and survivors from all backgrounds, such a statute of limitations may be both difficult and unpalatable. However, it remains the best possible context through which legacy issues can be resolved.

It provides the space through which we can develop a comprehensive and bespoke approach to supporting victims, survivors and their families rather than one that is piecemeal and divisive. Too many complex, and sometimes contradictory institutions only serve to prolong suffering.

This approach should include properly resourced provisions so that all survivors and bereaved families can avail of the best possible services in terms of health and wellbeing, education and employment. It also paves the way for effective information and truth retrieval. Loved ones will have a much greater chance of finding out those details and answers they are desperate to hear. We all have a duty to ensure that the past is not a burden and liability for future generations who bear no responsibility for the conflict and should not continue to suffer from its consequences and legacy.

If we are to move forward together as a society, then a statute of limitations for state and non-state actors covering all conflict related cases offers the most effective way of providing information and truth for bereaved families and moving Northern Ireland toward a more stable, tolerant and peaceful future.



28.9.16

On 12th May 2016 the Loyalist Communities Council launched a Flags Protocol in recognition of important centenary events taking place this year in relation to the Battle of the Somme.

Its aim, to prevent our national emblems being left on display in a dilapidated state and asking that steps were taken to prevent this occurring.

We would like to take this time thank everyone for the widespread support and for making this a successful initiative and showing respect and tolerance for others. We also ask that, as agreed, all remaining flags be taken down today, Ulster Day – 28th September 2016.

Flags and emblems are highly potent symbols of community allegiances and are important demonstrators of our Loyalist and Unionist heritage and culture.

Please treat them as such - many thanks.



20.5.16

LCC Press Release - Archbishop meeting

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Dr Justin Welby today hosted a luncheon and meeting with representatives of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) from Northern Ireland.

The meeting was held at the invitation of the Archbishop, for him to be informed of the origins and work of the LCC; in particular its role in committing former loyalist paramilitary groups to the peace process and opposing all forms of criminality; and its work to address severe educational under-achievement in loyalist communities. During the meeting, the LCC members and the Archbishop discussed issues relating to social justice, peace and reconciliation and resolving the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The Archbishop heard about the impact of educational under-attainment, particularly in relation to working-class Protestant young men, as well as the long-term problems relating to high levels of suicide in disadvantaged communities. The delegation re-affirmed its commitment to ensuring that Northern Ireland remains peaceful and stable, and to addressing ongoing divisions between communities. The delegation also highlighted the importance of how any legacy process should be comprehensive and inclusive and not marginalise the loyalist community.

The LCC discussed the assistance that they need in helping Northern Ireland deal with painful legacy issues. They also discussed with the Archbishop the importance of developing young leaders within working class Protestant communities and initiatives that might develop the capacity of young people and expose them to a wider range of influences and experiences.

The LCC members presented the Archbishop with a copy of ‘Bangor – Light of the World’, an historical account of the evangelism of Saint Columbanus from Bangor Abbey, Co. Down written by the eminent Ulster historian, Dr Ian Adamson.

The LCC was represented by David Campbell (Chairman), Richard Monteith (Secretary), Winston Irvine, Jackie McDonald, and Robert Wilson.



12.5.16 - 11AM

STATEMENT BY THE LOYALIST COMMUNITIES COUNCIL

Since the new year, the LCC has been consulting on the need to adopt protocols for the flying of flags, and the erection of eleventh night bonfires, in an attempt to demonstrate best practice in our communities, and mutual respect for those of differing opinion.

The LCC is aware that flags and emblems can be highly potent symbols of community allegiances and are important demonstrators of our Loyalist and Unionist heritage and culture. In recognition of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme the LCC would encourage all commemorations to be conducted in a spirit of respect, pride, and enjoyment.

The LCC would wish to prevent our national emblems being left on display in a dilapidated state and would ask that steps are taken to prevent this occurring.

Accordingly, the LCC has agreed the following protocol for the display of flags and emblems. The LCC cannot enforce this protocol but appeals for its widespread adoption, and adherence to, in Loyalist and Unionist areas:

1. The national flags of the United Kingdom and of Northern Ireland should be displayed and flown in our communities in a respectful manner, in places where they will command such respect and not be used for provocative purposes, and they should be maintained in good order.

2. In recognition and respect for the service and sacrifice of the 36th (Ulster) Division in this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, a special commemorative Ulster Division centenary flag has been produced by the LCC. This flag, which features the emblem, and battle honours of the Ulster Division, along with the national flag, will be erected on arterial routes in our communities subject to appropriate respect being shown in the vicinity of churches, schools, and other cross-community buildings.

3. The Ulster Division flags will be erected during the month of June, 2016, in time for the 1 July centenary. They will be taken down promptly after Ulster Day, 28 September 2016.

4. With regard to the erection of eleventh night bonfires the LCC would emphasise that it has no responsibility for any bonfire site.

5. The LCC would appeal to all bonfire organisers to ensure that the sitting of bonfires, the choice of combustible material used, and the adornment of any bonfire should at all times have respect for public safety and security of home and business owners, and the safety of those attending bonfire lighting.

END



Who we are?

We will play a full and meaningful role in connecting loyalism to civic society and work to grow confidence within detached loyalist communities in Protestant areas.

We recognise that the Northern Ireland Assembly, which we continue to support, is not inclusive of the loyalist community.

We accept the democratically expressed will of the electorate, however a vacuum in loyalist communities has been created which has led to significant disenchantment with politics, and to our communities being largely ignored and neglected.

It is no coincidence that the attainment levels of working class loyalist young people are the lowest in the UK.

It is our desire to make a meaningful contribution to reversing this situation, to give our young people hope for the future, and to help bring structures which will improve our communities and protect our culture.