Easter 2021 and it’s loyalists who are rising against British rule

Easter proclamation & loyalists ritoing
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

Between 24 and 30 April 1916, Irish republicans, socialists, and nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule in Ireland. They call it the Easter Rising. It was the beginning of the end for British rule in the south of Ireland.

Fast forward to Easter 2021 and it’s British loyalists and unionists who are in the midst of a rising of sorts. Because for the last few days, loyalists have been battling with police in Belfast, Derry, and other parts of the north of Ireland. And unionist leaders are taking the British government to court over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

While loyalists and unionists may not be rebelling against British rule as the women and men of 1916 did, their position is clear. They oppose the British government’s post-Brexit deal with the EU and they have no confidence in the PSNI‘s chief constable. And what also seems clear is, just as the British government has once again abandoned mainstream unionism, that brand of unionism has abandoned loyalists.

Let down again

It’s hardly the first time loyalists have been let down by unionism. Political commentator Joe Brolly referenced the words of David Irvine:


Two republican funerals. Two different outcomes.

Some blame current loyalist rioting on a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announcement. On 30 March, the PPS announced that no action would be taken against members of Sinn Féin who attended the funeral of the IRA’s former head of intelligence Bobby Storey. The funeral was in June 2020.

However, two other Irish republicans were prosecuted for attending a different funeral and doing pretty much the same thing as the Sinn Féin members. And it’s unclear why there’s a different approach to these two funerals. In any case, the PPS is reviewing the Storey decision.

They came onto the streets

It didn’t take long for the signs of loyalist discontent to spill on to the streets:

Loyalist violence has certainly increased since then and has spread across the north:

Where is loyalism at?

Despite a brief calm, the rioting continued:

And a war of words is also emerging:

We’ve been here before…

Some unionist leaders campaigned for Brexit. Despite that, they’re taking legal action against the protocol. And because of that protocol, loyalists chose to withdraw from the 1998 peace agreement.

Unionists reacted to the Bobby Storey decision but had little to say about the Irish republicans who are facing prosecution. And following the Storey decision, unionists’ words were clear. So, just as the British government has once again shafted mainstream unionism, they’re doing something similar to working class loyalists. It’s become all too familiar.

Featured image via Flickr – Óglaigh na hÉireannTwitter – BBCMarkSimpson

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