Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Blue Circles

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a blue plaque in Mallusk Cemetery paid for by the Ulster-Scots Agency and commemorating United Irishman Jemmy Hope has been deliberately broken, most probably by Loyalists.
"Amid suspicions the attack was sectarian, [the Mayor of Newtownabbey Frazer] Agnew said the incident showed how 'much we have to do to educate the people who did this'. 
'Jemmy Hope was a good Presbyterian man. He wanted the working class to unite for better conditions, he was a champion of ordinary people,' he said. 
'To attack the plaque because the vandals think th[at] he was a republican shows their ignorance.'"
Suggesting that the United Irishmen were not Republicans is a bold argument on the part of Mr. Agnew, but there is no doubt that Jemmy Hope was a Presbyterian. In fact, the professional Ulster-Scots have never made any bones about the involvement of Protestants in historical rebellions, perhaps because it stresses the conditionality of their troubled relationship with Westminster.

This is of course not the first time that Ulster-Scots initiatives have fallen foul of contemporary sectarianism. In the late 1990s street signs erected on the Clonduff Estate in south-east Belfast were torn down by tumshies who assumed they were in Irish (more recently, Clonduff has gained an opulent Ulster-Scots "Kyefiel" welcome sign, so that lesson at least seems to have been learnt).

Such episodes serve to underline the gulf between the Christian intellectuals of the Ulster-Scots movement (and, in this case, secular history buffs) and the reductive, nihilistic, criminal numptitude of working-class Loyalism.

Now, who will square that circle?

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