Northern Ireland ‘Love Ulster’ campaign sparks criticism – ISN

DERRY — On Monday a new grassroots campaign dubbed “Love Ulster” began disseminating newsletters across Northern Ireland aimed at denouncing alleged nationalist dominance of the political process.

The Love Ulster campaign will disseminate 200,000 free newsletters across Northern Ireland, highlighting unionist concerns at political concessions granted to Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) since the latter’s statement that it was ending its nearly four-decade campaign of violence against British rule.

In the days after the statement, the British government announced radical plans for demilitarization in Northern Ireland – a move unionists view as premature at best and a betrayal at worst. They see the disbandment of the British army’s Royal Irish Regiment as a move that will harm unionist culture.

William Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Love Ulster campaign, told ISN Security Watch that unionists were “shocked at the speed of the [British] concessions [after the IRA statement].”

Wilkinson, who works for a support group for victims of IRA violence, said he believed there was a reason for unionists to distrust the British government, which he accused of “negotiating aspects of the current process behind our backs and over our heads.”

The head of the exclusively Protestant Orange Order has backed the campaign, which says Northern Ireland is at a crisis point and needs a movement to oppose the creation of a unified all-Ireland state.

Wilkinson feels that the Irish government is being given an increasing role in Northern Ireland, and notes that the British government, as far back as 1991, had said it had no “strategic or economic interest” in remaining in Ireland.

Now unionist activists are taking matters into their own hands, without confronting or criticizing mainstream unionist politicians. “We are not pointing the finger at our politicians, but seek to complement them,” Wilkinson said, adding that “both parties [the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party] have voiced their opposition to the current process of appeasement”.

The Love Ulster pamphlets were landed at the port town of Larne in a symbolic re-enactment of the 1914 landing of guns at the port, intended for use by the old Ulster Volunteer Force to resist pre-World War I plans for devolved government or “Home Rule” for Ireland.

Wilkinson insists the re-enactment is merely symbolic. However, the reported participation of loyalist paramilitaries in distributing the pamphlets may cause nationalists to see differently.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) vice-president Alasdair McDonnell said the involvement of loyalist paramilitaries in a “phony campaign against a united Ireland” was “utterly disgraceful”.

The SDLP said the campaign was a disgraceful attempt to spread fear and a sense of crisis.

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