The Gamechangers: No. 2 – Paul Doran

The Gamechangers is a series of interviews with social activists who are based in and around Belfast that explore how they see the world and what they are doing to change it.  The second in the series is an interview with Paul Doran, a journalist and co-creator of Tenx9 (pronounced ‘Ten by nine’), a storytelling event where 9 people have up to 10 minutes to tell a true story about their life.

PaulDoran

Hello Paul. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m 49 years old. I’m from Derry originally but I’ve lived in Belfast for 30 years. I came here for University and been here ever since. I’m a journalist in the BBC specializing in politics and political programmes.

Tenx9 is a little side line that I run with Padraig O Tuama. We’ve been running in Belfast for over 3 years now. The idea is that 9 people have up to 10 minutes to tell a true story. We’re not interested in creative writing or fiction or super confident performances, the only thing is all the stories have to be true. We’re interested in stories that haven’t been heard before. We try to create the space where people can speak freely. And a very important thing is that it’s always free. We never charge an entrance fee.

What type of people come?

Initially we would have had about 30 people, most of whom we knew. Many Padraig would have come across in his work or were friends of his. Now, it’s a very different crowd that come. We have a very good range of age and gender. It’s been helped by working with different festivals. We get a lot of people turning up to tell stories who we don’t know. That’s what we’re aiming for. There’s a nice mix.

How do you find people to tell stories?

Initially it was bulling, intimidation and threats! And a little bit of bribery. What I find is there is an element of contagion about it. People come along and think ‘I would like to do that’ and then they come along and tell their first story.

How do you choose the themes for the stories?

We sit down and go through ideas and try to make them wide ranging in their interpretation. They are very often one word but can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes it’s the time of year, Christmas or summer, or in January we had ‘beginings’. It’s about picking something that can be interpreted widely enough for people to tell a story. The range of stories that we get around the theme are very often so different that it indicates that it’s working.

Do you ever get ones that are way off the beaten track?

Always. You never know what to expect. When we did ‘Courage’, as you would expect we had a lot of stories about illness and facing up to certain things. But they were also extremely funny. People have a wry way of looking at things. You never know what to expect.

How did it begin?

The first one was in Belfast in the Green Room at the Black Box. There were about 30 people there. That was in September 2011. Now we get crowds of about 150 plus.

tenx9

Every month?

Every month. And always on a Wednesday.

Have you always had it in the Black Box?

We have had it in other places but its spiritual home is the Black box. We’re well established there.

What other places have you had it at?

We’ve done it at different festivals. We’ve done it at Greenbelt in England. Bounce, the disability festival at the Lyric. We’ve done it at Corrymeela. We’re taking it to East Belfast for the C. S. Lewis festival. We’ve also done Pride and the Belfast Comedy Festival, Culture Night, and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

I’ve heard there are other Tenx9s?

There are other Tenx9s. The first one to start was in Nashville and it’s still going strong. There’s one in Chicago. There’s one in Balham in London. There’s also a variation in the Netherlands as well. These are all people who have come and seen it in Belfast. The Nashville guy used to come to the one in Belfast and learned the rules and asked if he could start one there.

Why do people come to Tenx9?

I’d like to think they come because of the human connection. The audiences are always very, very respectful. We get a lot of very funny stories but we also get a lot of touching and very sad stories. And there’s always that variety. I like to think that people just connect with the human behind the story. That’s why we’re only interested in true stories.   For us the audience is as important as the person telling the story. It’s a two-way relationship. If people don’t listen what’s the point in telling?

I think there’s a great desire to hear human stories and there’s a great desire to tell human stories. People do it for different reasons. Some people are great storytellers. For others it’s catharsis. For others it’s about honouring people who have touched their lives.

What’s your favourite or most memorable story?

There’s a few. One woman told a story about the flags dispute and how it impacted upon her and her neighbour. It was an incredible story. Another woman told one at the disability festival. She spoke very slowly and was severely disabled. She was from a traveler family and there was about 20 of them. It was about her mothers relationship with a middle class woman and how the woman would give her the remains of her perfume because she had an 11 year old daughter. It was a stunning story and it was a lot of effort for her to tell it. There was silence at the end of it. It was stunning.

What about the future?

We would love to get a tenx9 up and running in Derry. We would also love to get a publication together so that some of these stories can be circulated more widely. And we’d like to get a podcast up and running too. That would be recording the event so if people miss it they can still hear it.

How do you find out about when it’s on?

We have a website, Twitter and Facebook page. Our tagline is ‘Everybody has a story. Come tell yours.’

‘I am sick of hearing all Muslims tarred with the same brush’

After a week when you could have been forgiven for thinking Northern Ireland was going to hell in a handbasket, a community worker in a Loyalist area posted this rant about Muslims on Facebook:

This is message is for all my friends. I am sick of hearing about Muslims this Muslims that, They are all not bad there is moderate Muslims just like Loyalist and Republicans. My daughter married a Muslim from Egypt and went down to stay with his family for a month in Alexandria and was treated like a lady amongst Muslims. As most people know I am from a loyalist background which I am proud of and I work with all sections of the community regards religion and colour.  I am sick of hearing all Muslims tarred with the same brush as my daughter was treated with the upmost respect in the middle of a Muslim country.  If any of my friends don’t like what I have put on then just delete me of your friends list.

It struck me there is more wisdom and courage in that statement than most of what we heard from our religious and political leaders in response to the events of the past week.

Just to put it in context a little, this was said by a man who if he looked at you the wrong way on the bus, you’d probably get off at the next stop (I hope he forgives me for saying that).

The Muslim community in Northern Ireland needs to know that there are people here who have their backs.  Some of us do trust you.  Some are even willing to lose friends over you.

I contacted the author of these comments and I asked him if I could share them in this blog post (with names removed).  He agreed and added a little more about something else that happened last weekend.  He said:

…took son-in-law to baptist church in [town] with me this morning wot a reception he got he thinks northern ireland people are brilliant and so friendly as my daughter had told him about all the negative stuff that was going on…..told everyone he was a muslim not 1 person was negative towards the lad.

There are different types of prejudices of course, and it’s a brave person who claims to be above it all.  Maybe it’s Muslims, maybe it’s Christians, maybe it’s Loyalists, maybe it’s Republicans.  Whatever it is, all it takes is the right set of circumstances and our lofty ideals are toast.

Racism runs deep.  It’s not just about how we treat people.  It’s how we talk about people.  It’s how we think about people.  It’s how we feel about people.

Some people claim racism is a working class problem (it’s all those poor folk who are the racist ones, right?) but just watch how quickly things kick off in Cherry Valley if a group of travelers were to move in at the bottom of the road.

The good news is that racism is not natural.  Racism is learned and it can be unlearned.

Thank you to the good people of Alexandria, Egypt, for teaching a Loyalist community worker that not all Muslims are bad.  And thank you to the same community worker for teaching the rest of us.

‘Listening to your enemies’: Jo Berry and Patrick Magee

skainosLast night crowds of people walked through a protest and lines of riot police to listen to two people talk about what it means to move forward when you have more reason than most to look back.  It was a pretty intimidating entrance, but the place was packed full of people (photo on the right by Glenn Jordan).  You can see some of the press coverage here.

The event was called ‘Listening to your enemies’ and was part of the 4 Corners Festival.  It was hosted by the Skainos centre on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast.

The event was chaired by Rev. Dr. Lesley Carroll and featured Jo Berry and Patrick Magee.  Jo Berry lost her father, Sir Anthony Berry, in an IRA bomb in a hotel in Brighton in 1984.  Patrick Magee was a member of the IRA at the time and one of the bombers of the hotel.

In the past fourteen years, the two have appeared together at over a hundred engagements.

The evening involved some reflections from each of them, followed by a long question and answer session with the audience (I have written this piece based on notes I took at the event).

Jo Berry began the discussion by talking about why she wanted to meet Patrick Magee.  It was her who sought him out, and after asking a few times, he finally agreed to meet her.

Patrick Magee reflected that ‘It’s difficult sitting with Jo because I killed her father. Even after 14 years of dialogue [with her] it’s still difficult.’  He added that coming to East Belfast (which is mainly Loyalist) to continue that dialogue was particularly poignant for him.

Patrick Magee said that when he first met Jo Berry he felt it was the first time since he got involved in the Republican campaign that anyone had really listened to him.  He said that Jo Berry’s willingness to listen to him had disarmed him.  Having met her he quickly grew to have tremendous respect for Jo, and realised that she was a intelligent, brave, and very fine human being.  As a result he began to realise that her father had been a fine human being too.  ‘And I killed him’, he added.   He said that this was a deeply profound thing to have to carry with you.  It is ‘a loss that can never be made up.’

Magee reflected that during conflict you can’t help but have a reduced view of the world.  You don’t see human beings.  And you don’t see the human cost.

He said the reason he continues to do the work with Jo Berry is that, ‘hopefully you can stop other people taking up the same course.’

Most of the questions from the audience were directed toward Magee, understandably so because of the significance of the venue on the Newtownards Road in East Belfast.  I personally would have loved to hear more from Jo Berry, and I hope that I get another opportunity to hear her again soon.  After the event there was some discussion on stage between Gary Mason, Jim Wilson, and Harold Good about where Northern Ireland could find a ‘Mandela moment’.  I would suggest we don’t have to look far.  You would have to go a long way before you find a more dignified and saintly human being than Jo Berry.

Magee was asked if he had a message to dissident Republicans, those who continue to believe in the legitimacy of a violent campaign.  He replied that he was bewildered with dissidents.  ‘They are going nowhere.  I don’t think anything can be achieve through violence in the situation we find ourselves in.’  He added that he believes some dissident groups are looking for an exit strategy (a view that would be supported by this recent article in the Newsletter).

He reflected that ‘It’s hard to argue that any life was worth what we went through.’  He later stated that he hopes political leaders can embrace compromise.  Jo Berry added that it would be wonderful if political leaders would try to understand the other community.

One member of the audience asked, ‘How do you deal with your emotions?’  Patrick Magee replied: ‘You don’t just leave your past behind.  You carry the ghosts of that past with you.  You carry it.’  Jo Berry replied: ‘Anger and pain can be transformed…every time I’m listened to it helps me transform my emotions….There is the potential to move on with emotions but never to reach the point of closure.’

One man stood up towards the end of the questions and said he had attended the event by accident.  He said he had been looking for an AA meeting and had seen the police and the protest outside and had wondered what all the fuss was about so had come along.  He said that it was a privilege to be in the audience and hear the dialogue.  And so it was.  A huge well done to the 4 Corners Festival, Skainos, all involved in hosting the event, and all who attended, despite having to walk through a protest and police lines to get there.  Spare a thought as well for the police officers who had to protect the building, and for those who were injured doing so.

Jo Berry closed the evening with some concluding remarks, before both her and Patrick Magee were quietly ushered out of the building.  Before she left she offered the following statement: ‘Pat is my friend, beyond any label.’  I suspect Mandela was looking down and smiling.

Here’s why ‘bomb scare’ scares me

scare

This was the scene last week when a bomb scare in Belfast caused the evacuation of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops on a busy Friday night.  Some of my friends are in that picture.

This and other bomb scares in the run up to Christmas have reminded me of an incident I witnessed growing up.

When I was 11 I saw a bomb explode in Belfast.  I never want to see another one. 

It was so utterly normal in those days that it didn’t really scare me at the time.  It does now.

I was standing inside the train station at York Road – now Yorkgate – with my school pals, waiting for a train to take us home.  They used to keep all us schoolkids in a big waiting area before letting us on the platform.  We would visit the shop for ice-pops and frozen drinks while we waited.  I remember it was always a scramble to see who could get the best flavours of ice pops before they were all gone.

york road

And that’s where we were that day, dozens of kids waiting for a train to get home, when there was an announcement to get out of the station: ‘bomb scare’.

In those days it happened all the time.  I remember thinking it was no big deal.  In my childhood innocence I thought it was more of an inconvenience than a threat.  We were taken up the road and stood a few hundred yards from the train station, laughing and joking and wondering how long it would be until we could get back into the station and home.

It wasn’t long – maybe ten minutes – before the bomb went off.  I still remember the explosion.  It seemed to go on forever.  Bits of buildings flew up in the air and took an age to come down.  I remember being shocked at how far the debris traveled towards where we were.  There was the rumble of concrete walls and roofs collapsing, and a big dust cloud where it went off.

It turned out the target of the bomb was not the train station but the hotel next to it.  The bomb destroyed the hotel.  I don’t remember how we got home that day but it wasn’t by train.  The train station was so badly damaged it had to be completely rebuilt.

In those days there was supposed to be an early warning system to protect civilians.  In our case it worked.  We were the lucky ones, many others weren’t so fortunate.

That’s why ‘bomb scare’ scares me.  Bomb scares remind me how incredibly lucky I was.  They remind me that life is precious and short, and that we only get one go at it.  They remind me of my moral obligation to help contribute something positive to the place where I grew up to make it a better place to live.  I’ve always believed doing nothing is not an option.  If you live here you are part of the mess.  It is up to all of us to sort it out.

Jager b

It’s also why I find it distasteful that in the last week some bars are offering ‘bomb scare special’ promotions (see picture on right).  While perhaps not as bad as the more reprehensible ‘Irish car bomb’ shots that are sold in some bars in the U.S.,  I refuse to believe that this is the best Belfast can come up with.  We can do better than this.

I am thankful that I am yet to see another bomb go off in Belfast.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to all those who helped build the peace we now enjoy, as well as those who continue to do so.  The peace process may not be perfect but we owe it to them, and all those who were not so lucky, to keep it going.

‘Your pain is our pain. God bless you.’

A bunch of flowers in the Shankill memorial garden this week that said from ‘the good people of the Ardoyne’.

shankill

(tweeted by UTV’ s Judith Hill)

There was no ‘sorry’.  There are times for ‘sorry’ and there are times when, if the truth be told, ‘sorry’ doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.

Many of those who were victims or who lost loved ones don’t want to forgive and they don’t think they should have to either.  And who are the rest of us to judge them, they who are haunted by the ghosts of their loved ones daily?

The poet Phillip Whitfield wrote, ‘It is not the dead I pity.’  If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of the survivors you’ll know what he meant.

The flowers were a simple symbolic act of empathy.  True empathy says something like: ‘We know you are hurting. We offer no excuses or explanations.  Without words or preconditions we acknowledge your suffering and, in our own way, we also suffer because you are suffering.’

Empathy and compassion connect me to you, and you to me.  Without empathy and compassion we will be forever disconnected, and forever at war.  Without empathy and compassion there is no peace.  Empathy and compassion can reach out over the abyss of decades of political and social segregation, and connect people who have never met but who have suffered the same loss and felt the same pain.

Frederick Buechner wrote: ‘Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin.  It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you.’

This was illustrated this week by a powerful moment on UTV live, hosted by Paul Clarke.  Sometimes journalists get a hard time for only reporting bad news and whipping up tension so, with that in mind, it is worth pointing out that some of them do a brilliant job.

Two of the men on the panel were Charlie Butler and Mark Rodgers.  Charlie Butler lost three members of his family in the Shankill bomb.  Mark Rodgers lost his Dad in a revenge shooting three days later at the Kennedy Way cleaning depot.

In the twenty years since, the two had never met but when Mark Rodgers crossed the studio to shake Charlie Butler’s hand, they embraced.

“God bless you,” Mark said.

“And yourself. Your pain is our pain. God bless you,” Charlie replied.

Cornel West wrote: ‘We must never let our own suffering blind ourselves to the suffering of others.’

When we feel the pain of others it is no longer possible to hate them or ignore them, because we are a part of their suffering and they are a part of ours.

Those of us who want to build a more peaceful future must, like Mark Rodgers, cross our own metaphorical studios, whatever they may be, and say, ‘God bless you.’  And along with Charlie Butler, we must be able to say, ‘Your pain in our pain.’  They have shown us how to do it.  The rest of us no longer have an excuse.

In a week when our political representatives were busy yelling whataboutery at each other on the usual television and radio shows, ordinary people were busy moving forward without them.

Thank you Mark Rodgers, Charlie Butler, and the good people of Ardoyne, for showing us the way.

Exposing bigotry or exposing their own bigotry? Loyalists Against Democracy: part 2

LAD R

Part 2 continues with responses that I received from people who wished to comment on the Loyalist Against Democracy website.

From a male church leader with a long history of involvement in peacebuilding:

‘I’m not a huge fan of the site though I have dipped in and out from time to time. I suppose my main problem with it is the same problem I had when the church made statements condemning violence (in either camp) but there was little going on on the ground to change things. The megaphone approach of condemnation or satire by middle class Christians or secular-humanists, unmatched by a willingness to get hands dirty and change hearts and minds is ultimately self-defeating… driving those you pontificate about further into a corner… Especially when LAD has turned its ire on those like John Kyle, who are trying to make a difference. This only serves in fulfilling the paranoia of those who claim to be on the margins already by forcing them further out of “respectable” society. My other problem with it as a satire site is that a lot of it just isn’t funny… That said, the campaign against the facebook site by those within loyalism, be it the repeated claims of harassment getting it banned, or the denigration of it as “Republican” is further proof that large swathes of loyalism are not interested in democracy or free speech, but only in hearing their own perspectives and prejudices repeated… But then they have learned that trick from established unionism with it’s constant criticism of the “liberal” BBC because it shines a light on the poor behaviour of the PUL community… The BBC (and media in general) doesn’t need to do any investigative journalism to uncover the shadowside of the PUL community – we parade it for the world to see… putting it on facebook and youtube… Yet when the BBC or LAD or anyone else draws attention to it then there is a loud cry of foul republican plot… If the PUL community put its own house in order then LAD would be out of business and the BBC would only be reporting the misdemeanours of republicans…’

From a female writer involved in education:

‘I suppose I would start by saying that if they are serious about challenging sectarianism then the way to go about it probably isn’t to only have a go at one side of the community. But aside from that…

The PUL people (who also actually count as ‘the people’ despite the fact that LAD seem to think they represent, er, everyone) may not have legitimate fears but they are certainly real fears, and those fears won’t dissipate through ridicule. I am angry at the flag protestors too. I’m angry that they have harmed their own community so much. The LAD group wants to suggest that they’re only having a go at flag protesters but their page is full of nasty comments about working class PUL in general. Last Christmas I sat and listened to a taxi driver in East Belfast who said he felt suicidal because he’d lost so much business. Those were his people on the street- very possibly people that he agreed with ideologically- and they were crippling him. So when everyone gets lumped in together they include him, and they include the bus driver who, that same evening, had his bus bricked as [my partner and I] sat at the back (the brick bounced off the window but the window completely shattered). He was really rattled, and he had to continue his round.

LAD like to make fun of people for poor grammar and spelling, they like to suggest that working class PUL people are thick. I say, if they’re so clever then why are they spending their days on photoshop making crap jokes? If they’re concerned about sectarianism then perhaps they should be championing those people doing community work is difficult areas. Low literacy isn’t a joke, neither are the suicide rates in East Belfast. There are plenty of working class PUL people spending *their* days trying to keep kids off the streets and trying to sort this shit out.’

From an elected PUL male politician:

“LAD was apparently born out the flag protests and quoting them “L.A.D. is a cross-community, non-political group set up to combat the growing tide of sectarianism in Northern Ireland through the use of satire” in effect they have evolved to be an instrument which mainly parodies some within the PUL community. Yes they undoubtedly highlight sectarianism but do seem to ignore other types of sectarianism from within republicanism for example. At times I find myself occasionally agreeing with them when they highlight the unelected ‘leaders of on the ground loyalism’ doing or saying simply stupid things, in fact things that I would imagine would embarrass many Unionists and Loyalists.

I’ve read comments on Facebook from a very unrepresentative section of the PUL community [LAD has then highlighted] which is appalling, sheer hatred of the RC community which has no place in our society. But I would feel confident that similar stuff is written on Facebook about ‘Pradisans’ but LAD choose to ignore it. Perhaps their core readership wouldn’t find it so funny?

One final issue that I would have is how funny does LAD think it is to highlight some within the PUL community who have difficulty spelling? How is that tackling sectarianism? Rather it is simply making light of an issue of educational under achievement which should be addressed but this is certainly not the way to do it. Is LAD then achieving its core aim?  Not by my standards.”

From a male community development worker in a Loyalist area:

‘Mmmmm. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure…I laugh, but I know I shouldn’t. The ludicrousness of loyalist incompetence is vying with genuine compassion for a struggling community. But I’m also aware that there is a darkness to loyalist culture that needs to be exposed and satire is a critical tool in exposing it. So I welcome the satire, though is it just me that detects that whilst in the early days there was genuine comedy in it, in recent weeks a really nasty streak seems to be emerging in the material.

Wonder too whether is is possible to be satirical about republican culture. Maybe I’m just not aware of where it’s happening.’

Male community development worker and peace worker:

If I’m honest, I’ve laughed out loud at some LAD posts and sworn out loud at others. LAD is a sign of the times we live in, lacking depth or accountability. It’s own haste trips itself up and is reactive which is always easier than creative. I find it cruel yet I laugh so what does that make me?

It’s unwillingness to engage face to face is worrying but not untypical of Norn Iron.’

This is more what I was trying to say:

‘It is easier to be against something than for something. And yet, it is much more gratifying to create than to destroy.’ – Miroslav Volf

A final thought from a very experienced community relations worker:

Step back. Point. Laugh. Call it satire. Call it whatever you like (and “satire” can cover a multitude of sins) but when it starts and stops there then in the final analysis its falls far short of any constructive address of Loyalism’s often genuine short-comings. In the final analysis it is very little real use to anyone. It’s easy though (far easier than a genuine involvement) and will get you attention if there are a few laughs to be had (and yes I have laughed at some of their material).

At this point I should also declare my own bigotry. I am from protestant working class unionist stock. Truth be told i jettisoned my unionism many years ago so LAD’s material doesn’t offend my pretty much non- existent Unionism/Loyalism. However when it openly declares its middle class credentials and castigates and ridicules entire working class communities then my working class bigotry can get a quick re-visit. So who am I to talk eh?

Exposing bigotry or exposing their own bigotry? Loyalists Against Democracy: part 1

ladHaving grown concerned about some of the discourse that those behind the ‘parody’ Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD) website were using I contacted them and asked them to meet up and discuss what they felt they were contributing to peace.  I asked them politely several times, all of which they declined.

Following their refusal to meet up, I decided to address my concerns about LAD on here.  In order to do this I asked a range of writers, academics, church leaders, politicians, and community workers to give their opinion about LAD. The response was so great that I decided that the best thing to do was to publish their opinions in full. The amount and depth of responses mean that I will publish them in two parts.  I have ordered them in the order they were sent to me.

Because LAD are faceless and hide behind a mask, making them unaccountable, I promised my contributors anonymity if they wished. However, I will give a little general information about the background of each person.  What follows are not my opinions, these are the unedited opinions of very experienced practitioners and thinkers who have contributed significantly to building peace in this part of the world.  They are a mix of voices from the Catholic and Protestant communities.  Cumulatively they have hundreds of years of experience in peacebuilding.

Firstly, from an experienced male community relations worker from the Catholic community:

‘You know, I haven’t “liked” it – some of the things I’ve seen linked to from other people’s posts about it are funny, but I have a problem about it – and I reckon that any loyalist friends of mine would feel like it does their cause damage. I’m not a loyalist, and I have major problems with the idea that loyalism is under attack (I don’t believe that at all) but I don’t think that the loyalists against democracy page is helpful.’

From a female community worker in a Loyalist area:

‘whilst sections of their sectarian satire posts can witty, it is a dangerous dark humour which serves no purpose other than to crank up already heightened tensions.’

From a male community worker in a Loyalist area:

‘The LAD site can occasionally be quite humorous and the political satire chewing gum for the mind. However I once heard a phrase about another column entitled Wit & Wisdom and LAD fits the same bill, very little wit and absolutely no wisdom.’

This from a widely published male community worker and writer and on Loyalism and Unionism:

‘..my opinion is that the growth of this kind of satire is fascinating, painful to see and that it will grow. For what was it Karl Marx said about history occurring the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce?  You see the loyalist cultural project is now so eaten through with incapacity that it seems entirely farcical for bands calling themselves Young Conquerers to be so patently losers – and so this invites the kind of vicious comic treatment that LAD offers, made all the more potent because twenty five years ago, loyalism still had tragic muscle and in certain quarters a sharp, grounded and innovative ethos. Yes, LAD is cruel, as all humour can be very cruel and it makes the abasement of the PUL psyche even more grievous but I doubt if the tide of ridicule can be turned, until enough PUL people come to see that one needs to exercise self awareness in order to know how to stop being a butt of humour and a laughing stock. Any school teacher knows that a kid who is mocked will only stop being mocked either when he learns to modify his behaviour or when he is protected by an authority figure, and that authority figure ain’t there so there has to be some quick learning going on, in the art of self-scrutiny and self-remodelling.

[There is] nothing more delicious to a nationalist or to someone who was a rotten Prod than mocking the deposed and neutered Loyalist bully, risky too as he may still have strength for one more knuckleduster punch. Dangerous too. As Nietzsche pointed out, he who fights with monsters must beware lest he too becomes a monster. The mockery of Bryson is in part a fearful class based thing, the derision for the uppity wee skitter from the estate, who wears cheap sports gear and a gold chain and gives you lip at the bus stop.

..superladtube [is] taking it to a whole disconcerting new level of cruelty…however some of the deconstruction of the infamous uvf remuralling project on you tube is utterly brilliant and morally impeccable.’

A female writer wrote:

‘It comes across as really superior and snobbish. As we heard on the news yesterday Northern Ireland’s literacy levels are terrible. It’s nothing to make light of. If they’re so clever, what are they doing to help?’

The final extract of part 1 is from Dr. Gareth Mulvenna, a visiting research fellow at Queen’s University, who did not mind his name being used:

‘LAD Fleg may claim to be the creation of a cross-section of our community, including working class Protestants, but one wonders what it actually adds to the debate. Rather than move things forward this type of parody only serves to reinforce liberal, middle-class, stereotypes of a community which is felt to be holding the ‘peace process’ back. More out of step with modern society are dissident Republicans yet we rarely see social media being used to the same extent to highlight the ridiculous, but more threatening, nature of their activities. The loyalist flag protestors, like the white working class ‘chavs’ which Owen Jones wrote about in England, are easy meat for those who have a delusional sense that Belfast begins and ends in the Cathedral Quarter. The dissidents are harder to challenge and pose the most severe threat to the peace due to their violent nature. Flag protestors, particularly the younger ones, should be given the opportunity to be understood – what are their social and economic concerns? Can we educate them about the welfare state and the best aspects of their British culture? That way we can move forward. Laughing and sneering at the loyalist community won’t fix anything.’

Part 2 will contain extracts from other writers, community activists, a PUL politican, and clergy.