Tim McGarry: The standard of loyalist protests has declined drastically, all they can muster now is a burnt sofa on the Shankill

I was going try and write something whimsical and witty this week about the Protocol but then “protuberance, barnacle, sandpaper” man engaged his highly educated brain and poured forth a word salad that was a mixture of Doctor Seuss and Spike Milligan on acid.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 11:00 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:44 pm
Tim McGarry

On Twitter the News Letter’s excellent political editor Sam McBride wrote the following:

“Boris Johnson has denounced as ludicrous the checks which he said would not happen at the Irish Sea border which he said would not exist. But he has admitted that when he said there wouldn’t be checks, he knew there would be checks.”

How can a comedian compete with this?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Jamie Bryson standing on a bin in Newtownards during a protest earlier this week. Photograph by Declan Roughan/Press Eye

To be fair, unionists are right to be concerned.

They say Boris has made Northern Ireland semi-detached from the rest of the UK. He hasn’t. It’s far worse than that.

He’s dumped Northern Ireland in a dodgy care home run by shysters and he’s told the nurse manager only to phone him in an emergency. And Jamie Bryson standing on a wheelie bin in Newtownards is not an emergency.

And even if it were an emergency, Boris has changed his phone number, presumably in case Jennifer Arcuri rings him in the middle of a cabinet meeting.

A loyalist protest in Newtownards earlier this week. Photograph by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Unionists unfortunately have a fundamental problem.

The Protocol is almost entirely the fault of the DUP but they refuse to accept responsibility for it.

Brexiteers accusing anti-Brexiteers of bringing about the inevitable outcome of Brexit is like Manchester City claiming never to have heard of the Super League until Tuesday and blaming Match of the Day for bringing it up.

It’s like Kim Kardashian posting that photo that broke the internet and then telling us it’s rude to look at her bottom.

Violence on the peace line in west Belfast earlier this month. Pic Pacemaker

The bottom line of course is that if the UK had voted to Remain in the EU in 2016 the Union would have been rock solid safe for another 50 years.

As it is, a BBC Spotlight survey is giving it 25 years tops.

Unionists are angry at the Protocol. I’m genuinely concerned about loyalist protests because the standard of them seems to have declined drastically over the years.

I’ve just about forgiven unionists for turning the lights out when I was doing my mock 11 plus tests during the UWC strike in 1974.

I remember 1985 and “Ulster Says No.”

I remember 1987 and “Ulster STILL Says No.” - possibly the saddest political slogan ever.

I lived through more Drumcrees than Boris Johnson has had wives. (Is it four or five?)

And I remember “No Surrender” woman screaming through a broken window at the Belfast City Hall as the flags protests erupted.

Now all unionism can muster is a burnt sofa on the Shankill and Jim Allister suing the Government for not upholding the Good Friday Agreement that he hates.

This is no place for unionism to be.

But all is not lost. Arlene Foster need not pack her united Ireland emergency overnight bag just yet.

To secure the union, Unionists need to think outside the box.

They should try something radical like, I don’t know, being nice for a change? They could try persuading nationalists of the merits of the union. We could call it conversion therapy.

• Rory McIlroy is a multi-millionaire because he used to be quite good at hitting a wee ball into a small hole with a stick.

Rory has bizarrely lost that skill at exactly the same time as he’s misplaced his Northern Ireland accent. Perhaps like Samson and his hair these facts are related and Rory just needs to scream “Sticking out! Yer Ma’s yer Da! Aye right” before every shot at his next tournament.

I have to confess to not liking golf.

And when I say I don’t like golf I mean I don’t like golf the same way Ben Lowry doesn’t like holidaying in the Gaeltacht.

I wouldn’t ban golf but I wouldn’t object if all golfers were rounded up and brought to an outdoor accommodation facility, or concentration camp if you will, to be re-educated as to what is a sport.

Basically, if you can do it in slacks and a Pringle jumper, it’s not a sport.

Golf is not a sport. Football is a sport.

To my dying day I will remember the late and much-lamented manager Tommy Breslin winning the Irish League for Cliftonville on April 13, 2013.

This was a moment of ecstasy, not because it was expected but rather due to its unusualness.

This is where the European Super League went wrong. The billionaire owners involved don’t understand the joy of an unexpected win on a wet Wednesday night away to Dungannon Swifts.

They don’t understand that there is no value in winning if you win all the time.

To be fair though, my team Cliftonville have taken this argument to the extreme.

We haven’t won the Irish Cup since 1979. 42 years ago. 42 years! And yet we still believe every year that this is our year…

Local football is about tradition and community and passion. Irish league football is communal and tribal, aggressive, hilarious, crude, sublime, bitterly disappointing and marvellous. It is simultaneously nonsensical and deeply deeply serious.

So if you like football, forget the millionaire players and billionaire owners and super leagues and instead support your local league and support your local team.*

*unless your local team is Glentoran, Linfield, Crusaders, Larne…( edited due to lack of space)

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe