This post was originally published here and used with kind permission

2013 has been a bad year for the poor citizens of Northern Ireland. First we had the loyalist ‘fleg’ protestors wrecking the place because Belfast was now as British as Sheffield and then, like a spide discovering a forgotten Buckfast stash, going on a second bender when their right to practise a culture of loud triumphalism was impinged.

From this smog emerged the likes of seasoned shit-stirrer Willie Frazer, shrill know-nothing Jamie Bryson and shady far-right blow-in Jim Dowson and his ‘non-political’ political shakedown/party. Refreshingly, most people have no idea who these morons are. Until they have their weekend shopping or trip to the hospital disturbed by the latest loyalist tantrum that is.

To those more in tune with the online echo chamber from which these characters draw strength, and an over-inflated sense of self-worth, the danger their views - if not their persons - pose to the prosperity of Northern Ireland is plain to see.

Forget the tabloid tales of Bryson’s alleged working patterns, the agenda for which he appears to have appointed himself spokesman is the most unashamedly divisive and prehistoric since the days of Paisley Sr.
Using fairly basic coded language - whether by design or otherwise - he speaks to a grassroots outlook which views nationalists and republicans as one and the same, Catholics as lesser beings and all three as completely lacking in relevance within the context of Northern Ireland. It is this well of bubbling resentment which fuels the continued loyalist demonstrations advocating civil and human rights that not a single one of them has lost.

One need only listen to the flailing paranoia exhibited by Caroline from Lisburn on Radio Ulster today. Don’t switch off before east Belfast bloviator Jim Wilson starts invoking Nazi Germany. It’s almost beyond belief. But not quite.

Comparisons between Nazi Germany, North Korea and Northern Ireland are vile
Whether it is dismissing Sinn Féin’s hefty electoral mandate or sulking about their participation in the democratic process, all while peddling hazy conspiracies, Bryson is nothing but a fringe figure. His voice, unfortunately, is a very loud one. He is what passes for a leader of this incredibly angry protest ‘movement’ and therefore it is he to whom the media turns when attempting to divine the reasons for such discord. Not even the PUP, a party presumed to have its finger on the pulse of working-class Protestant communities, appears to possess any detailed knowledge about why loyalists continue to take to the streets.

Bryson’s newest grift, a preposterous plan to picket those respectable businesses apparently crazy enough to sponsor the GAA (an institution with over a million devoted followers), is straight out of hardline unionism’s golden years. This is not the first time that the GAA has been erroneously christened “a terrorist organisation”, nor will it be the last. Yet this latest slander, along with the wider disrespect shown last week to the departed Fr. Alec Reid - a man who begged for the lives of those murdered soldiers before administering to them some measure of Christian dignity - represents an insidious attempt to whittle away at the legitimacy of everyday entities (however disparate) important to Catholics in the North.

Irish News November 28th 2013
Past failures at the polls notwithstanding, Bryson and his cohorts appear to be speaking for rank and file loyalists. Until more sensible views prevail to overshadow this nonsense the public perception of loyalism as an ignorant and hate-filled ideology will continue.

Given Northern Ireland’s small size, it is the curse of the country’s normal, appalled majority that it is forced to live in close proximity to this kind of dangerous cross-community stupidity. Indeed, the green side of the divide is just as willing to offer up its own version of disruptive political grandstanding, albeit in a far more sinister guise.

The loyalist fondness for pointing at dissident activity as indicative of mainstream republicanism is both cynical and ridiculous. These splinter groups have existed for many years and their occasional actions are a sad fact of life here.

The recent upswing, however, is worrying. It is also irritating given that their public support is probably commensurate with their numbers: tiny. Civilised society has moved on from a time when republicans were blowing the shit of this place and none of us wish to go back. The dissidents, maddeningly, don’t seem to give a toss and so, once more, we have car bombs in Belfast, suspicious objects on the border and police checkpoints. So far so 1985.

Dissidents are not the same as the ‘fleg’ protestors. They are much, much worse. For the all the loyalists’ cringe-worthy gibbering, they are essentially exercising their lawful and democratic right to assemble and to protest. They may be subject to legal restrictions (which they routinely flout) and their motivations are almost wholly without merit but at its core none of this comes close to the dark criminality of hijacking civilians and planting bombs in their cars. Yet it is in the gleefully unrepentant determination to cause maximum destruction, chaos and even injury that the two groups conflate. And it is of this naive attitude to incendiary rhetoric and casual acts of violent disorder that the general populace truly despairs.
On the one hand you have Jamie Bryson et al looking back on the madness of the Troubles as if they were halcyon days. Bryson’s romantic notions about loyalist paramilitaries are particularly laughable. They suggest a startling level of ignorance when it comes to recalling the horrors of much of Northern Ireland’s past.
Dissident republicans also seem determined to drag us all back to a time best forgotten. Like rowdy distant cousins, they wish to re-fight a family dispute long settled though still raw. It doesn’t matter how much ‘community activism’ they undertake in Catholic areas, nor how poetic their latest handles are (‘Óglaigh na hÉireann’? Yeah, super), the fact remains that they are despised by almost every person with a functioning moral compass.

None of this is to suggest that ordinary people are completely divorced from the things these fools presume to protect. There are Orange men out there who are able to sleep through the night without worrying about marches being halted at the Ardoyne shops. Many a unionist is able to survive quite happily without the Union flag flying from atop Belfast City Hall.

Nationalists too may celebrate their cultural identity free of any desire to bomb a building or kill a police officer. Republicans have embraced politics without any ill effects. The world continues to turn.
For everybody else, there are simply more important things to worry about, concerns not exactly aided by a Stormont executive fixed on catering to our divided political back-and-forth. We are, nevertheless, fortunate to live in a country where institutions are bending over backwards to ensure equality and parity of esteem.

We do not need loyalist protests reclaiming fictional human and civil rights. We do not want a small band of disaffected republicans attempting to blow up shopping centres. Northern Ireland is a place populated by decent, honest, intelligent and hard-working people who are unafraid of the world beyond the ends of their streets. They wish, perhaps above most things, to be left alone to enjoy it.

To the idiots and nutters, extremists and terrorists, please feel free to leave.

It has been a while since we announced the official charity partner for our Christmas single. Unfortunately circumstances beyond our control mean that we will no longer be raising funds for the Northern Ireland’s Children To Lapland Trust.

We have withheld making this announcement until we were able to secure a new charity partner. We are delighted to be able to announce a charity that we feel incredibly passionate about - SOS Bus NI

SOS Bus NI is a volunteer centred charity that is making a real difference to children, young people and adults on the streets of Belfast. It offers a unique mobile mini bus service that can be located wherever it is needed.  Trained volunteers and medical staff operate from specially designed and equipped vehicles deploying satellite foot and mobile patrols to extended areas of need.  This ensures that professional caring services are delivered to the vulnerable in times of crisis when required.  SOS Bus NI believes in partnerships and works with other voluntary organisations, the emergency services and statutory bodies to create a safer place for everyone.  It is committed to growing and delivering this help wherever it is needed.

SOS Bus NI provide an invaluable service to the homeless, victims of crime, suicidal people, people who have over indulged in alcohol and/or drugs as well as acting as first responders to injured persons.

Having witnessed the incredible work they do first-hand, LAD are delighted introduce SOS Bus NI as our official charity partner and look forward to raising as much money as possible to assist with their fantastic work.

You can find out more about the amazing work SOS Bus NI do on a daily basis at the following links: