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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 268: April 2019

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

The blackboard jungle

The blackboard featuring ‘Differences’ between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland which featured in the first episode of the second, current series of ‘Derry Girls’ quickly became an internet meme (theme, talking point) and rightly so. Do a word search for ‘Derry Girls blackboard’ and you’ll find the result of their collective labours. Who knew that “Protestants don’t like Abba” (that was said in the programme but not recorded in full on the blackboard), or, indeed, that Protestants kept their toasters in a cupboard??? Well, no one actually but there you go. The poor priest facilitator was left with a blank board for ‘Similarities’ until at the end of the programme one of the lads from the boys school writes ‘Parents’ after parents had been called and came to take their offspring to task for disorderly behaviour.

However one clever cartoonist managed to combine the blackboard from ‘Derry Girls’ with what ‘SoS’ Karen Bradley knew about Norn Iron and its two tribes before she was appointed to be British supremo for Siberia, I mean Northern Ireland. See the cartoon by Fergus on Slugger O’Toole at

Bare faced cheek
A recent semi-naked eco-protest at the House of Commons in London led to a short piece in the ‘Guardian’ but it was a very short and not very analytical piece. Maybe ‘Going naked into the conference chamber’ (Aneurin/Nye Bevan’s 1957 rejection of unilateral nuclear disarmament) might literally be a good idea in getting attention.

‘Protest disrobings’ – nakedness as protest – makes it in to Gene Sharp’s typology of 198 kinds of nonviolent tactics in “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” which appeared at the end of the 1970s. It is No.22 in the list. The effect of the tactic is often proportionate to the scandal or inappropriateness of it in the local culture, particularly where women are involved, e.g. there have been some very powerful examples of naked protests by women in Africa. See e.g.

And however much you might think it is not appropriate in Ireland, it has been used to effect, e.g. by women protesting at the Forty Foot bathing area at Sandycove, Dublin, only having been a male nude bathing place. In the nineteenth century there was a sect called the White Quakers who paraded through Dublin stark naked – I don’t know what their reason was but in Irish weather if they weren’t ‘White’ before they started they almost certainly were when they finished! So they might have become White Shiverers.

Walter Wink has interpreted Jesus’ story of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving your cloak as well as your coat as nonviolent protest against injustice; so ‘turning the other cheek’ has the opposite meaning, resistance, to what is usually understood. In the last example giving both garments would have left the erstwhile wearer naked – but in Hebrew culture the sin of nakedness was not for the person who was naked but for whoever had caused it or was looking. It was thus a direct challenge to the injustice done to the person losing their garment or garments. You can see Wink’s arguments summarised at page 15 of

Whether you consider naked protest to be a cheap gimmick or to be an ultimate expression of resistance, well that is up to you and it is open to debate, and circumstances can differ markedly. However what I would say is that imagination in the tactics we use when we are involved in political action and protest is essential, to avoid cliches and traps of routine or otherwise, and to communicate as effectively as we can. In this regard the workshop which INNATE has online exploring nonviolent tactics – which includes use of Gene Sharp’s typology above – is one useful way to explore possibilities and arrive at what is most suitable. See

One final comment. The phrase ‘naked aggression’ is sometimes used to descibe an attack by brute force, ‘naked’ in this context meaning unadorned and very visible aggression. However in most cultures, but certainly not all or all contexts within them, literal ‘naked aggression’ – where the aggressors are naked - would be next to impossible because nakedness can also imply vulnerability and lack of offensiveness. So in this context we could perhaps do with a few more world leaders stripping off but visually I don’t want to go there.

Who wants Norn Iron? And what does it want?
Indeed, who does want Northern Ireland? Not people in Britain it is would seem. Research by Ipsos MORI for King’s College London indicated only a third of the population in Britain would want Northern Ireland to vote to stay in the UK, and one fifth indicated that following a referendum on the border they would prefer it to join the Republic. Interestingly, Lib Dems (at 27%) were least likely to want Norn Iron to stay in the UK; the figure for Labour supporters was 34% and for Conservatives 49%. Three out of four adults in Britain have never visited Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile back on the ranch......there was an Ipsos MORI poll commissioned for The Irish Times in early March on views within Northern Ireland. Regarding Brexit, “the majority of Northern Irish voters wish to see minimal disruption to daily life, with 67 per cent believing that the UK should stay in the EU single market and customs union to ensure no hard border with the Republic of Ireland and no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.”

The poll also indicated that only 38% of voters favour a poll on Irish unity. And if there was a poll, 45% would vote against a united Ireland and 32% ‘yes’ (see also my thoughts on this area, in relation to the latest Peace Monitoring Report, in NN 267). However the figure of 23% indicating “don’t know” is remarkable for a place so decidedly decided as Northern Ireland in its opinions, but this could mainly be Catholics who might have been previously inclined to vote against a united Ireland because they felt their bread was better buttered in the UK but did not know what, in the context of the times we live in, Brexit hex it and so on, might be in their interest at that stage. Of course it might also include some, though not a huge number, of Prods who are having second thoughts about being ruled by the loonies of Westminister and the look-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth DUP.

Interestingly Naomi Long of Alliance took easily the best position in terms of satisfaction with a party leader in the poll; she is generally, though not always, a cogent and sure-footed political performer so perhaps no great surprise there...though that doesn’t necessarily indicate more people intending to vote for Alliance.

Finally, “Although it is the position of Northern Ireland’s leading party – the DUP – that Northern Ireland should leave on the same terms as the rest of the UK, this view does not enjoy majority support. Just over a third (35 per cent) agree with the DUP, while almost half (48 per cent) disagree. As would be expected, Protestant voters are more likely to agree with the DUP on this, with 54 per cent sharing this view.” So there you have it.


Well, the start of April saw a return to wintry weather [Is this your obligatory weather reference in your Colm? – Ed] but let’s hope spring comes back to us soon. Meanwhile I leave you with the thought of Christians celebrating the possibility of mass destruction and awful violence; a proposed celebration at Westminister Abbey on 3rd May by the British Navy in a ‘National Service of Thanksgiving” for 50 years of their seaborne nuclear weapons system; “Oh Lord, we give thanks for the capacity to wipe out half the world in a terrible conflagration and combat global warming by bringing about a nuclear winter...We are truly blessed to be able to smite so many, and we will continue to turn ploughshares into weapons of mass destruction.”

Oh no, of course it will be couched in the language of having ‘kept the peace’ but in what way has it done that and weapons are made to be used if considered necessary. It reminds me of a proposal to name a US nuclear sub ‘Corpus Christi’ in 1982, see Whether you are a Christian or not, it should be clear in both cases they seem to have some funny-strange ideas about what Jesus taught. On this Mohandas Gandhi hit a nail on the head – see

That’s me so, see you in a month, 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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