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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 176: February 2010  

[Go back to the related issue of Nonviolence News

including the Adolf Awards

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

Well, how did you survive the cold weather? With a smile on your face or a burst pipe in the attic or garage? Or both (once it was fixed). Those who remember these things say it was maybe the worst cold period Ireland has had since 1963, and to see the likes of the Lagan or Foyle frozen over was impressive (though where we are the temperatures were lower nine years ago after Christmas but that was not so long a cold spell). It was pretty dangerous underfoot and under wheel and injuries of one kind or another were common from falling. But I’ll just share two images with you. The first was buying a cabbage in my local greengrocers – complete with free snow still on it! Fresh or what? The second was seeing a young child, perhaps three years old, being pulled along the street in a makeshift sled consisting of…..some rope tied to a strong supermarket bag which the child sat in. Oh to be Jung!

Christmas trees

It is well past Christmas, in fact last Christmas is fading away into the back of our memories. But the relevance of the title of this piece will come at the end of this short piece. Shortly before Christmas I was cycling along the busy main road, just after dark and less than 1k from home. A car came to the end of an adjoining road on the same side as me, and, in the way of not very considerate motorists, didn’t stop at the stop line because it looked like it was going to edge into the traffic immediately after me, going in the same direction. At least that is what I assumed. Except I assumed wrong because the driver hadn’t seen me and just kept coming. Fortunately he just bumped my front wheel, buckling it and sending the bike slamming to the ground. In the split second as it was happening, my thought was to try my upmost not to fall into the outside lane where a car could have been whizzing past at a rapid rate. By some miracle I kept upright and my feet found the ground. I scanned the immediate vicinity for witnesses but there were none – and fortunately no traffic passing in the outside lane so even if I had gone flying on the ground I would not have been run over.

The driver reversed back into the side road and got out as I picked up my bike off the road. He was young (early twenties) and very apologetic, “I just didn’t see you.” This was undoubtedly true but as I had front and back lights, another flashing back light, reflective armbands and another reflective belt hanging on my backpack I was actually pretty well lit up. I didn’t have a scrape or a twinge so I took yer man’s details to pay for the bike repair – a back light had also smashed.

As I started to walk away, lifting the front half of my bike with its badly buckled wheel, a woman in her twenties came over to me out of a red van. She hadn’t seen the accident but had seen me picking my bike off the road and the interaction with the driver who had knocked me down. She had pulled in, waited until my interaction with the driver had finished, and then offered me and my bike a lift home. Thank you, Debbie from a Belfast drain clearance firm, for your kindness and consideration, take a bow.

Bringing my bike in for repair, I ordered flashing LED armbands for all the family members for when they are cycling, and they do, in the dark. I have decided that to be seen in the dark by motorists you need to look very much like a Christmas tree, and in this instance the driver did not recognise me as an object from the side. I think I was very visible but that if drivers are only looking for car-shaped objects they may not recognise anything else so the Christmas tree approach is the only one. That doesn’t guarantee safety – I have had one car follow another turn right across my path in the dark without looking properly - causing me to swerve urgently to avoid being run over – but it seems the only sensible precaution. Cyclists in the dark – please profit from my story and follow the Christmas Tree Principle. And if you see a Christmas tree pedalling around Belfast on a pushbike, feel free to give a friendly wave.

PS The same thing almost happened me very recently, exactly the same scenario, it was a taxi driver this time so there is no likelihood he was an inexperienced driver. This time I was lit up like a Christmas tree, complete with flashing armbands; fortunately I slowed slightly and he only stopped when he would have knocked me down if I was one metre further forward. It looks like some drivers simply do not see or recognise non-motorised objects on the road, no matter how well lit up – we’re the wrong shape, so, unfortunately, I can offer cyclists no guarantee that they won’t be knocked over, even if they are Christmas trees.


It’s always good to get to the occasional academic session on conflict and related areas, keeps the mind ticking over trying to get to grips with the concepts put on display (and also trying to sort out the jargon sometimes). The Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s does some good series and I attended some of their sessions in October-November, one of which was by the Institute’s director, Dominic Bryan, who is always worth listening to and jargon-free.

I wanted to share a couple of points coming from Dominic Bryan’s paper on commemoration in loyalism in the North, “Forget 1690, Remember the Somme: Ulster Loyalist Battles in the 21st century”. He commented that of 54 loyalist murals on main roads in Belfast, only one is now of King Billy (bring back King Billy!); 11 are of World War 1 and of these 10 show UVF symbols (which, if current, would be illegal but is allowed because it’s ‘historical). In UDA dominated areas you do see representations of the First World War but not in the same way as in UVF areas – this allows UVF symbols to be ‘legal’, despite any historical link between the ‘old’ UVF and the UVF founded in 1966. One memorial with WW1 iconography looked like a memorial to the fallen from that war – except it wasn’t but a memorial to UVF men killed in the Troubles.

What was even more fascinating to hear is that the Portadown Drumcree parade – you know, the contentious one that seeks to come back down by the Garvaghy Road – had been labelled as a Battle of the Boyne commemoration but suddenly, and without notice in 1998, became a Battle of the Somme commemoration (‘Somme’ contradiction here perhaps?). Why? I’d say presumably to do with the significance of sacrifice (‘Look what we sacrificed, so you can’t betray us’) whereas the Boyne could look a bit triumphalist, as Dominic pointed out. He stated “the relationship between the commemorations of the two battles is revealing of political strategies and control of public space by particular groups rather than as an indicator of broad social remembering” and quoted Neil Jarman “We use the past by remembering selectively those events that help to explain or justify what is happening in the present, a present that can therefore be portrayed as the inevitable and only outcome of those same events. The changing needs and circumstances of the present mean that memories are monitored and re-evaluated, and our understanding of the past is adapted to changing circumstances”.

A final point from this fascinating paper was his noting the sacrosanct nature of ‘war’ memorials to paramilitaries on the different sides; police etc do not interfere with them but they may be marking territory – and thus having a divisive effect - in exactly the same way as the kerb-painting and murals of the past. I have fond memories of a photo in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ perhaps fifteen or more years ago; it showed a loyalist painting kerbstones (red, white and blue) in my, mixed, area of Belfast. The tin was shown in the photo – you could plainly see the ‘Guaranteed Irish’ symbol – he was using ‘Fenian’ paint made in the Republic to mark his Britishness!

Adolf Awards 2010

Dan de dan dan, it’s that time of year again. I hope you’re formally dressed, nothing less than a bow tie for the ladies and a long dress for the men will do. Yes, folks, the moment you have been waiting for since time immemorial (if your watch has stopped), it’s the one, the only, the genuine, the incredible Adolf Awards, named after a certain gentleman of the Twentieth Century where we give awards for conspicuous disservice to peace, human rights and the environment.

Without further ado (we can’t afford the trumpets this year, in fact we can’t afford any ado’s either, and as for the fee the trumpeters would have charged, well, we won’t trumpet it from the rooftops), ladies and gentlemen, we bring you this year’s nominations –

Warmonger of the Year: Sorry to have to do this but it has to be Barack Obama. Just look at the editorial in this issue of Nonviolent News; a ‘warmonger’ is someone who sells war, and that was what Obama was doing with his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech – selling the US administration’s brand of war to the world.

Marathon Men and Women of the Year: Forget the sports people, this has to go to all the politicians of Norn Iron, and particularly the DUP and Sinn Féin politicians, for their marathon negotiating sessions on the transfer of justice and policing to the NI Assembly. Only, unlike the original marathon runner, they didn’t drop dead at the end, and lived to tell the tale (whether all the Super-DUPers will live past their electorate next time around remains to be seen).

Financial institution of the Year: NAMA. As in the mother asking – “Is this the body to sort out Irish bad debts and set the country and its financial institutions on the right track again?”. To which she gets the answer from her offspring, “Na, Ma”.

Brass Neck Award: Tony Blair. Regretting nothing, he seems to have learnt nothing either, or if he had then he wasn’t letting on to the Chilcot enquiry in Britain into the Iraq War. Blair also gets The George W Bush Perpetual Trophy for Inability to Learn from the Past. And he is sent to represent the EU, inter alia, in the Middle East?

Financial Scandal of the Year: We don’t like to kick someone when they’re down, so we won’t give this award to Iris Robinson. But we would note that it took just a couple of years for Norn Iron to get its very own serious political financial scandal – makes a change from the focus being on the Republic most the time. Instead we give the award to all the Banks, in all countries, who are continuing to pay out massive bonuses, having been bailed out by the public purse.

The Grass is Greener On The Other Side of The Hill Award*: To all the decision makers, financiers and firms involved in planning, setting up and running incinerators around the country. May you not dioxin. * On this side of the hill it has gone brown and been killed off.

Global Warmers (Emperor Nero) Award: The governments of the world, and most especially the governments of larger and richer countries in the West (including Ireland), for their pathetic failure to come up with, and implement, a coherent plan to avoid the terrible effects of global warming. And there is no real prospect of success this year either. Depressing at best, and deadly at worst.

The Beam Me Up Scotty Award for Contribution to Global Warming; You and me, yes, you and me, for continuing to fly when we could avoid it. Flying’s contribution to global warming is much greater than the amount of pollutants emitted because most of it is released a couple of miles up where it degrades much more slowly.

Carcinogen of the Year: It has to be aspartame, and the award goes to the legislators, food regulators, drinks and food companies, supermarkets and shops, all of who know that aspartame should be banned – not just because of the risk of causing cancer but for many, many other drastic side effects as well - but do nothing about it because it would create a bit of a stir and damage firms’ profits. You try finding a ‘soft’ drink without it in your supermarket but you’re soft in the head if you buy them.

The Ploughshares Into Swords Award: The Irish government and political parties for continuing to allow the USA uncontrolled access to, and use of, Shannon airport for their military and human rights misdeeds in various lands. The Republic once had some form of positive military neutrality – this is negative military sleeveenism. Neutrality, my Erse.

Horsemen of the Apocalypse Award: To all those arms companies/profiteers developing pilotless drones and military robots which are the future face of rich countries’ war-making, and the same rich countries who are paying top dollar to give themselves the ultimate military fix, death to the enemy (and lots of civilians) with no risk to themselves. Truly pitiless and pitiful. At the moment these are remotely controlled – as one report put it “If you’re good at computer games, you’re in” – so ‘games’ can be preparation for killing. But armed autonomous robots and robotic weapons are coming soon.

Racist Capital of the Year: Probably not the Racist Capital of Europe, but it is hard to argue against Belfast being the Racist Capital of Ireland after last year’s story of Roma being forced out of where they lived, fearing for their lives . Racism and sectarianism – the evil bedfellows that haunt us yet.

Lost without Trace Award: The Report of the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland, chaired by Robin Eames and Denis Bradley. Just where did it go to or get lost? Down the kitchen sink? Or down with the stinking kitsch? And why was it commissioned if it was not going to be followed up?

Promotion of Democracy Award: The EU establishment who ensure Ireland always has a double dose of democracy to end up eventually voting the ‘right’ way, nothing less will do – as in last year’s second neverendum on Lisbon. As they used to say in Norn Iron – Vote early, vote often but vote the right way - or else.

High Living Award – As in ‘High Cost of Living Award’ – it has to be Dublin, which tends to be not only rather more expensive than elsewhere in the Republic but woefully more expensive than the North; Dublin was found to be 30% higher on average for common services including 45% more for the services of a mechanic, and 29% for a dentist.

Well, that completes our Awards ceremony, and indeeding my Colm for this month. It’s still hard to believe it’s 2010, ten years after the ‘false’ Millennium (it was a year out, you know). But in another ten years we’ll have 2020 vision. Anyway, I hope winter starts to recede in good time this year – there’s enough skating on thin ice around, figuratively speaking, without adding the real thing. Until we meet again in a month, I remain your disobedient nonviolent activist, Billy [If that’s the case, why haven’t you changed your surname to ‘Rebel’ or some such instead of ‘King’? – Ed] [But anything you King do, I King do better – Billy


Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

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