Leona O'Neill: Time to protest against 'mayhem, fear and death' returning to our streets

Those old enough to know better are once again calling for chaos on the streets in the wake of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol. Leona O'Neill wonders how much longer we will allow history to repeat itself

Anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rallies have been held in recent months, including in Portadown earlier this month. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Leona O'Neill

WE HAVE got so used to crisis here in Northern Ireland that we think that this alarm bells ringing, lights flashing, everyone running around screaming, panic station-style environment is a perfectly normal space in which to exist.

We find ourselves, again, in a state of flux. Our political institutions are in crisis, with talk of one side pulling them down because of something the other did or didn't do.

Marches against the Northern Ireland Protocol are happening several times a week. Then there is the Brexit fallout. Bonfire and marching season is almost upon us and everyone is battening down the hatches.

In the midst of all this chaos, one northern Irish woman consigned her rather astounding views to history by talking to a camera crew while attending an anti-protocol rally. An older lady who, although I have no doubt about her dedication and decision to attend the rally, appeared very much as if she stumbled upon it on her way back from doing the 'big shop' in M&S, proclaimed that "their side" should be causing "mayhem, fear and death" and vowed to lay her life down for the union.

"The other side have got everything that they wanted," she told Sky News.

"By causing mayhem, fear and death. Maybe it's about time that we thought about doing the same. I'm certainly willing to give my life for it."

After sitting for a while with bewilderment as to exactly what type of war would require near pension age, softly spoken, fancy pashmina scarf wearing ladies to fight and die for it, I was very, very angry.

Who is feeding the fear of these communities that they have the confidence to vow such things on television? I was astounded a few weeks back when young Joel Keys spoke about violence. He could have been forgiven for his bluster and declarations on violence because he wasn't there the first time around and didn't see the actual blood on the streets, the graveyards filling up with innocents, the way the might of the few dragged us into days of terrible, terrible darkness.

The lady who was declaring on national television that it might be time that "her side" started causing "mayhem fear and death" to their neighbours presumably lived through it last time and should really know better than to consign children from "her side" or the "other side" or any side for that matter to terror and horror, death, destruction and hopelessness.

The people who will die will not be women like this lady, who can spout dangerous rhetoric and remain safe in her living room, but will be our children, our young men, our fathers, husbands and brothers, innocent taxi drivers, doormen, people we love, easy targets, people living on peace lines, working class people trying to live their lives and raise their children, innocent people caught up in another brutal and pointless war.

When I watched this lady on television I was very much reminded of the not so distant Trump-era in America, how the television cameras would go to Trump rallies and speak to those congregating who would spew hate and vitriol and nonsense about supposed enemies. They were repeating and fired up about the words of their leader, bold and dangerous words of division, fighting talk that transformed into violence when the supporters attacked Capitol Hill in January.

We have seen how this plays out time and time again in history, and it never ends well. This is what happens when extreme parties are at the helm of the ship, fighting over the wheel, over which way to travel, even in the most treacherous of waters that needs a steady hand.

I for one am totally sick of it, again. It shouldn't be this way. We all deserve to live in peace, with our neighbours. We deserve to feel hope, not uncertainty. We deserve to prosper, not constantly spin on the periphery of crisis. We deserve to have our children stay here and thrive, instead of encouraging them to get the hell out of this godforsaken place.

We deserve leaders who will lead. We deserve better.

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