Two prominent unionists – Michael Stone and Willie Frazer – in the news this morning. (You could call them loyalists, but that would be simply to emphasise that they are not middle-class unionists.)
Michael Stone has apparently opened an exhibition of his paintings while on day release, leading up to his eventual permanent release from prison. Willie Frazer is in the news because an anti-internment bonfire has been decorated with a sign asking if he’s found his father yet (Willie’s father, as you probably know, was a UDR man who was killed during the Troubles).
There have been two objections to Stone. One is that he was on one-day release without the families of his victims having been informed. Apparently the system hadn’t arranged for this to happen, and for once I’m on the side of the system. Frankly, if it were my loved one who had been killed by Stone, I’d spend the day in a depressed state once a month, thinking about the man, and so would all my relatives. It’s possible one of them would encounter him on the street but a long way from probable.
The second objection to Stone – that he should be doing paintings and selling them – doesn’t seem to me valid either. Whatever his history, he’s got a right to paint paintings and for other people to buy them, if that’s what they want to do. He could be doing worse.
Willie Frazer’s case involves real stupidity and spite. My opinion of Willie is not high, and not simply because he wrote, as I indicate in the About Me section of this blogsite, “I was trying to think of a word to describe Jude Collins and couldn’t, so ‘prat’ will have to do.” Open taunting of someone whose father was killed during the Troubles, regardless of which community or organisation he comes from, is downright spiteful. The fact that year after year, the same kind of insults, verbal or non-verbal, decorate dozens of Eleventh Night bonfires, still doesn’t justify the taunting of Willie. Nationalists and republicans should be better than that, otherwise their sound case against primitive Eleventh Night bonfires becomes pretty hypocritical. I’d hate to think that nationalists/republicans had lowered themselves to the knuckle-dragging bigotry that are so many Eleventh Night fiery hatefests.