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OPEN FORUM opens our columns up to different points of view. As we favour debate as a means to inciting thought, no subject is taboo. Some viewpoints may, therefore, differ from UN's. Stephen Moore, from South Antrim, who looks at identity, birthright, culture, heritage and religion.

Birthright, culture, heritage and religion

WHAT OTHER COUNTRY in the world would harbour such an apathetic and unpatriotic people who would reject their country's national flag? In the United States, homes, businesses, churches and schools proudly fly their national flag. I - like them - will never be ashamed of my national flag and will always hold dear to my faith and heritage, at the same time respecting diversity. I will never find myself in some sort of identity limbo where I find myself attracted to and adopting foreign cultures more so than my own, because I am ashamed or afraid of showing pride in who and what I am. I find it easier understanding and accepting different cultures and religions because I know exactly what I am and where I come from. This allows me to understand how others feel about their cultures - because I feel exactly the same way about mine. People throughout Ulster reject their birthright, their culture and religion. They find themselves in the middle of nowhere in an identity crisis - clinging to differing aspects of a variety of foreign cultures - and never truly feeling at peace inside. 

For instance, if Ulster flags are placed near homes then some occupants would fear some form of attack from republicans, which I can sympathise with. But I can also see through, and understand, that this is exactly what republicans want - to produce fear and destroy the very culture they make people afraid of celebrating and practicing. This is the aim of republicans hence the reason for the creation of so-call “residents' groups” opposed to the Orange culture and any evidence of the Protestant faith in the areas where they have produced ghettos by intimidation and violence. It's all about cultural and ethnic cleansing and the demonisation of Protestantism in Ulster. But one thing republicans have failed to take into account is that they will never defeat us. They may continue to create a larger middle ground, a larger liberal and apathetic so-called Protestant unionist community, but there will always be those who are proud of who they are and who will stand up for what they believe. How can republicans oppose a culture and system thats very legacy provides them with the freedom and opportunity they enjoy today?

Surely in this new age of reconciliation, unity, peace and 'parity of esteem', one would expect one of the most significant and important cultures in the Western world to be accommodated and accepted? Instead, this culture is rejected - yet it provided the freedom and the system the very people who oppose it enjoy! People reject it as old, narrow and bigoted not realising its true significance. People label it as this to create opposition to it from the very community from which it spawned, attempting to liberalise Protestants with the aim of removing their culture from the map altogether. If republicans obtain enough support by manipulating the Protestant community into thinking its own culture is sectarian then they have a chance of destroying it. They manipulate the naturally more accommodating and compassionate Protestant mindset so they can create an enemy from within and turn Protestant against Protestant. People will eventually see through this and expose republicans for what they really are - but maybe it will be too late. Republicans are narrow, bigoted and sectarian and it is they who need to re-evaluate and to rethink their attitudes towards Protestantism, the Orange culture and heritage.

Republicans hold the key to peace and progress in Ulster. If an Orange parade is re-routed it is because of the threat of republican violence. Is this the country they want to create - one of division and segregation where accommodation and understanding of different cultures is anathema. If this is their dynamic, their vision, then we will not enjoy the peace we all deserve and demand.

PART of the blame lies from within the Protestant and unionist community. We have been leaderless, we have been plagued by weakness and we have also been guilty of sectarianism. We have had no direction and we have been unable to promote and explain what true Protestantism and true Orangeism is all about. I believe it is because we have drifted far away from God and from true Bible religion and we have rejected salvation though Jesus Christ. We either have members of the Protestant unionist community who are nakedly sectarian and violent or we have those in power who are too weak and who are not sure who they really are. If we continue to fail to promote understanding of what we as Protestants believe either because we do not know ourselves or because we reject it as it does not suit us in this modern era then we will become a forgotten breed of people.

If this failure continues, republicans will step up their 'all take and no give' policy - they want more and then more and them some without budging one inch. If there is ever a stand-off or a deadlock in what they call progress it is because Protestants and unionists are taking longer to give in and compromise. If republicans say 'NO' to authority, parades, Orangeism, Protestantism, the monarchy, the national anthem, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Royal Irish Regiment, security, the oath for the Queens Counsel, the Union flag, a war memorial, a Remembrance service, the wearing of a Poppy, a British symbol, a Protestant church, the Bible, Evangelical preaching and singing, an Orange hall, integration, a Royal gun salute at Stormont, a Royal visit (and the list goes on and on and on) they generally get what they want and if they have not yet - they will in future.

If unionists say 'NO' to prisoner releases, government before decommissioning, retention of the RUC, removal of security for the citizens of Ulster and so on, then the people know they will accept it when the British and Irish governments tell them to accept it. The fear of a resumption of republican violence, a bomb in London or Belfast weakens the resolve of unionism and ensures unionists and Protestants compromise and give up something which they believe in. Prisoners walk free and the evil doers are rewarded with good and they give nothing back in return only that they may stop killing for a while. The killers of RUC men and women are let out to help in the process of destroying and disbanding that very force that they have murdered and vilified and the people give in at the behest of the Irish government. The irony of the situation is highlighted when the Irish government prevents the release of the Provo murderers of Garda Jerry McCabe, yet supports the releases of the murderers of RUC constables. This shows who the true beneficiaries of the Belfast Agreement are and provides an insight into the future of Ulster. Ulster is in a state of transition, being gradually engulfed into an Irish Republic where the future will see continued appeasement to republicans due to the threat of republican violence.

We need the creation of a new Ulster where the shackles of Britain and Éire are broken and where the Ulster people can live together in peace and harmony respecting each others’ differing cultures and religions and recognising our shared heritage. Where the Ulster people can pray for a revival of true bible religion where God and his Son are given paramount place in all our lives.



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