The sectarian violence that continues to simmer beneath the surface in Northern Ireland, boiled over yet again as protests raged over a flag. The decision to remove the Union Flag from the city hall in Belfast seemed innocuous enough. Half the country is Nationalist and half Unionist, so why should the Unionist’s dictate which flag flies over City Hall in a power sharing government.

In Scotland, three flags fly outside Parliament. The Scottish Saltire, the Union Flag and the EU flag. And there are protests there, but non-violent.

Flags are symbols, and everyone has an opinion as to which flag should be flown, but resorting to violence seems to me that the flag issue in Northern Ireland is simply an excuse for the militants and those fostering a continuing hatred in their hearts to destroy the power sharing Government of Northern Ireland and plunge the nation into bloodshed once more.

In the 1970s I was sent to Northern Ireland as an Officer in the Parachute Regiment for tours tours, in 1973 and 1976, described in my best selling book CONTACT.  Hatred and violence raged in some of the bloodiest months in Irish history as the Nationalist Provisional IRA and the Unionist Ulster Volunteer Force along with other Unionist paramilitary groups such as the Shankill Butchers, the Red Hand Gang and others, supported by the so-called non military Ulster Defence Association fought a sectarian war in the streets and countryside of a country that could pretty much fit into Los Angeles County in the USA.

In 1973 my company was deployed in the Unionist Shankill Road district of Belfast, where we had more incidents of rioting, and by far the biggest gun battle of the tour in that Unionist area, and not, as you might think, in the Nationalist areas that the rest of the Battalion patrolled.

The violence in Northern Ireland has never been solely the responsibility of the Provisional IRA, indeed British troops were initially called into Northern Ireland by the Catholic Civil Rights Movement whose members were being systematically arrested and killed by a renegade group of Police known as the B Specials.

And now we have Unionists instigating violent protest over the removal of the Union flag on top of Belfast City Hall because they do not want to share power with Nationalists. Historically, the Unionists are the interlopers in Northern Ireland, descendants of Protestants from Scotland, England and Wales, who were ‘Planted’ into Ireland to colonise the country and wrest the lands from the rightful owners during the monarchy of King James I of England. The idea was to ensure that Ireland would be loyal to the Protestant Monarchy. Of the original counties five – Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh and Tyrone – make up Northern Ireland. And those descendants to this day continue to consider Northern Ireland their birthright as conquerors loyal to the British Crown.

The Ulster Plantation

A similar situation can be seen in Israel as Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were poured into Palestine at the end of World War II, eventually taking over Arabs lands and destroying Arab villages as they created the State of Israel where once Palestine existed. Interestingly enough, the Parachute Regiment was also deployed into Palestine in 1947/8 and many were killed by Jewish paramilitaries fighting to rout Arabs from their villages. The consequences of both Plantations continue to this day and show no signs of diminishing.

Having had friends and colleagues killed in Northern Ireland, many injured including myself, I feel that I have a vested interest in pointing out this insanity over a flag on top of a building. Business investors are now withdrawing from Northern Ireland in the wake of the violence and if this continues, the economy will tank, unemployment will rise and we will be back to the situation of the 1970s when the roads ran with the blood of innocents as car bombs exploded around the city and armed gangs murdered civilians just because of their religious beliefs. You would have thought that we as Human Beings would have grown up by now, but sadly that is not the case.

Colonisation has never succeeded in the long term unless by total subjugation of the indigenous people and by genocide. Vietnam was handed back to the French to remain a colony by President Truman after WW2 even though Ho Chi Minh sent a personal letter pleading for Truman to allow Vietnam to become free and Independent State. Sixty Thousand American lives and millions of Vietnamese deaths later, the country is an Independent State.

Violence is a disease more dangerous than cancer, the refuge of idle hands and small minds and I for one have no idea how to cure the disease except to create economic stability. But those who live for violence will ensure that economic stability does not have a chance to take hold. It is up to a large majority of the People to decide which path they wish to travel. And that requires courage, compassion, understanding and compromise.