SF 'fighting cultural war' - Hutchinson

Published Friday, 01 March 2013
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With the marching season just around the corner, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has said loyalists can be as good as Sinn Féin when it comes to street politics.

Speaking to UTV Live Tonight, Mr Hutchinson once again accused republicans of "cultural war" - which he said must be taken on, both at Stormont and on the streets.

It's almost 20 years since the former MLA emerged politically during the period of the ceasefires and peace negotiations.

"The combined loyalist military command will universally cease all operational hostilities as from midnight on Thursday 13 October 1994," announced the then loyalist leader Gusty Spence.

When peace negotiations began, loyalists were at the heart of things.

But since then, the Progressive Unionist Party has lost its two seats and once more the streets have become the stage for protests and confrontation.

Sinn Féin lost the war for a united Ireland and what they are now doing is fighting the cultural war. We need to stop that now.

Billy Hutchinson

"Unfortunately, we are not in Parliament [to take Sinn Féin on at Stormont], but we will certainly take them on in the street," Mr Hutchinson said.

A series of loyalist demonstrations have been held across Northern Ireland since December when Belfast City Council changed its policy on flying the Union flag.

Nationalists and Republicans had wanted the flag taken down altogether, but Alliance - which holds the balance of power - put forward a compromise.

The amendment was passed by 29 votes to 21.

For the past 11 weekends, a march has taken place through Belfast city centre and authorities have come under increasing pressure to intervene.

Many of the demonstrations in parts of Northern Ireland have been peaceful, however, others have resulted in street violence - with over 200 arrests and around 150 people charged.

"What the 'shinners' are very good at is playing street politics and if they think they are good at it, wait until they see us at it. We are just as good as them," Mr Hutchinson said.

In the continuing fallout over identity, flags and marching, Sinn Féin have dismissed the charge of cultural war as a propaganda ploy designed to avoid a proper discussion of these issues.

But loyalists like Billy Hutchinson are adamant that they have got it right.

He insisted: "Let me be very clear - the only way to stop Sinn Féin doing what they are doing is to take them on at their own game, and that is what we will do."

When asked if round table discussions would be a better solution than taking to the streets, the loyalist leader replied that it would be great - if it was all equal.

"We won't be dealing on Sinn Féin's terms," he said, adding that he won't be made feel to like a second class citizen in his own land - and that the protestant working class need politicised or else they will be left behind in a political wilderness.

Chief Superintendent George Clarke said young people, in particular young men, face enough challenges growing up in north and west Belfast - educational achievements, employment opportunities, their sense of self worth and development - without getting caught up in unrest.

You are not giving those people, those young men, the leadership and the best chance, if you encourage them out onto the street in a situation where disorder can occur.

Chief Superintendent George Clarke

"The street is not the place to develop, to discuss a political view," the senior PSNI officer said. "It is not the place to develop and discuss relationships between communities.

He also said that a large number of people facing disorder charges are male youths.

However, in one part of the city, new relationships have been built - the cross-community work in the north of the city stretches across the divide and those involved insist that it must be protected.

Harry Smith, from the Community Bridges programme, said the intercommunity work in north Belfast is remarkable.

"We have built quite a relationship of trust between both communities and we can see the impact of this trust in relation to a significant reduction in interface violence in north Belfast," he said.

Liam Maskey, of the INTERCOMM project, said: "We are already sharing spaces.

"Shared space is happening, shared space is needed and, sadly, a lot of people are not getting the message - but our job is to make sure we work by example."

He said many issues need to be resolved, but that there are many avenues open to resolving them.

Meanwhile, the PUP believes that more needs to be done to encourage young people to get involved in politics, as the party looks to embark on the long road back to Stormont.

"People have not been stimulated to vote, they have not been interested - so they have thought: 'What is the point in voting? My vote doesn't count, it doesn't do anything'," Johnny Harvey said.

"I think we have seen what happens recently when you don't come out to vote, if you are not registered and you do not come out to have your say."

© UTV News
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58 Comments
Ted in Ireland wrote (415 days ago):
To Mark in his wee fantasy country, Brazil or Narnia or somewhere-bar Ireland he thinks. You're embarrassing yourself with your ignorance. Geographically the country is Ireland; constitutionally the north east of the country is a region of the UK, while the rest of the country is a state. The north east has no separate Northern Ireland passport that I’ve heard of. There is no sovereign government with their own tax raising capabilities and currency, therefore no country. If you're born in the north east of the country you are Irish but may claim British citizenship if you wish as a citizen of the UK.
Eamo in Belfast wrote (415 days ago):
To mark, Donegal is in Ulster and as part of Ireland Padraig has every right. That is what is wrong with this state. It is only a state within English rule. Ulster has 9 counties Geography would have taught you that. And then if you think that as Padraig is from one of the lost counties he has no valid input then listen to the English posters in here. The flag does not fly 365 days in England. Catholics are not getting everything they are now just getting what is right to bring standards upto what protestants have been getting all along i.e jobs promotions quality of housing or just housing. These were all denied catholics in the past, if you think as catholics are now getting these that they are getting everything then you have no idea of what has went on for the past 92 years. Yes Protestants were treated badly by Unionism but you kept voting the same ones in just like today. Now there is a chance of changing the wrongs done in the past and get new faces in stormont. We can change life here for ourselves if you forget the ones who put us there and get someone new with equal rights and vision.
Where have all the people gone in Belfast wrote (416 days ago):
Paul in Bfast - Of course I admit it as it is the truth. The way Catholics were treated here was a disgrace and if it hadn't have happened maybe we wouldn't be where we are today. I wasn't born when this was going on and my parents never brought me up to think I was better than anyone else. Why then, as a Protestant, does that mean I have to settle with being treated as second class now or in the future. The old Unionist dominated Stormont has gone. I wasn't born so I don't know what it was like other than what I have read. For some Republicans to then say that all Unionists/Protestants want the old day's of Unionist domination back is a bit off the mark as most of the people I know were not even around at that time.
harry in portadown wrote (416 days ago):
yes i believe that going out on the streets causes contfrontation but the only way forward is fresh faces on the political scene. the prodestant people will never accept republican murderers in stormont . young people with modern views to work an live together building a new an brighter future. our history is important both sides to understand an respect that. To many politicans bickering an trying to out point score eachother while the people of this country are losing out on important issues in goverment. i say to robinson an co. grow up get your acts together an start sorting out the problems of housing, education, unemployment etc; which we voted you in to do.
paul in bfast wrote (417 days ago):
@ Where have all the people gone. Quote.. (..I have to agree with Mr Hutchinson as it is clear to the dogs on the street that Sinn Fein have turned the tables and are trying to make Protestants second class.) So basically what you are admitting is that catholics were second class.
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