The silence of law-abiding unionists when nationalists suffered

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Trevor Ringland (‘Victims should get peace prizes and not those who fuelled conflict,’ February 11) both Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were equally complicit in fomenting the conflict in the North.

Facts suggest otherwise.

Mr Ringland is a serial contributor to a revisionist narrative of the Troubles.

The catalyst for what emerged in the North from the 1960s onwards was Ian Paisley and he alone.

Dr Paisley came to prominence over his attacks in the 1960’s on Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch at Stormont.

His attention turned to demonising Captain Terence O’Neill who, despite fierce opposition from within his own party, looked favourably on the introduction of more moderate policies which included ‘one man one vote’ for all in the gerrymandered local elections.

Until the unleashing of Paisley’s vile sectarian rhetoric and the introduction of loyalist and Orange bigotry, the IRA had been a disarmed irrelevance since the 50s border campaign.

In 1968 the civil rights movement was asking for full British rights for nationalists within a British state.

The demand was for social, not political change. The leaders of the civil rights movement, Nobel laureate John Hume, Austin Currie, Ivan Cooper and Lord Fitt of Bell’s Hill, were beaten into submission by Paisleyites, ‘B’ Specials, the RUC and a lumpen rabble of loyalists at Burntollet in 1968 for daring to request equal opportunity in housing, employment and voting.

Paisley’s loyalist ‘brigadiers’ were nothing more than blood thirsty rabble whose hatred of Catholics knew no bounds. These vile sectarian beasts became esteemed in their own communities.

The subsequent proroguing of that bastion of unionist/orange hegemony, Stormont, the introduction of direct rule from London, the disbandment of the RUC, ‘B’ Specials, UDR, and the implementation of most of the 175 changes recommended in the Patton Report on policing which brought about the new PSNI, I submit as substantive evidence, not empty rhetoric, of who was primarily responsible for the Troubles.

Having endured for years violent Union flag protesters, Holy Cross school bigotry, sectarian Orange parades and bonfires and public displays of tribal territoriality and domination, more overt displays of political, civic and moral bankruptcy would be difficult to imagine.

For nationalists to bow to the sectarian and undemocratic demands of fascists and bullies is tantamount to permitting the state to be governed according to the principles of sectarian mob-rule.

Neither the nationalist community, the unionist community, nor the rule of law should acquiesce to these threats and intimidation.

Regrettably, the silence of law abiding unionists, and they were the majority, to the treatment of nationalists in their own state was every bit a contributor to the decades of Troubles as Paisley was.

Tom Cooper, Dublin

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