‘I feel sick she will be running our country’

There’s a polished black granite memorial plaque at Bangor Citadel, the seat of native authorities within the north Co Down city.

“Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland,” it says, “May 3rd 2021.”

100 and one years, plus three days, after the creation of Northern Eire, which was based, designed and for a few years largely administered to the exclusion of 1 part of the inhabitants, members of the Orange Order gathered mere toes from the plaque on an exquisite sunny Saturday morning.

The in a single day information from the election rely was that Sinn Féin had emerged because the undisputed largest occasion within the Northern Eire Meeting and its chief had an unanswerable declare to be first minister.

“It’s not the result that I would have wished for,” mentioned John Hoy, Armagh County Grasp and organiser of his county’s annual junior Orange Order parade within the seaside city.

“I feel sick that she will be running our country,” mentioned one other Orangeman from south Armagh in reference to Sinn Fein’s deputy chief and certain first minister, Michelle O’Neill.

“Don’t be putting my name into that,” he added. “Not where I’m from.”

Sixteen bands gathered in Citadel Park. They performed flutes, accordions and drums and have been decked out in band uniforms with the colors of pink and deep blue dominating.

Males, girls and kids wore orange collarettes and the band names, displayed on big banners, proclaimed issues essential to the Orange custom. Amongst them was the Kilbracks Bible and Crown Defenders from Markethill, the Moyrourkan True Blues, and the Somme Memorial band from Bangor itself.

They marched from Citadel Park down into the city, to the seafront after which again once more. The ambiance was very a lot that of a household day trip slightly than an assertion of something territorial and the response to the seismic election consequence was extra unhappy than offended.

“It’s heart-breaking,” mentioned one man, an importer and distributor of fire-fighting tools, who didn’t need to be named. “Two hundred and fifty thousand of my compatriots have decided to vote for a party that is unapologetic for the death and destruction inflicted on us and which they glorify and celebrate. That is very sad,” he mentioned.

However there was additionally a marked diploma of acceptance of the election consequence and its implications.

“I’m a realist,” mentioned his companion David Cahoon, a bowler hat and sun shades carrying, born once more Christian Orangeman. “We’re a democracy,” he mentioned, including “but it is a shared office.”

Passionate in his denunciation of the Northern Eire Protocol, what appeared to matter extra to him was that every one politicians “uphold the moral law of God”.

“Unionists are a democratic people,” mentioned the person from south Armagh. The consequence was accepted. He needed unionists politicians to cease what he described as “the silly nonsense”, a reference to unionist infighting.

Alliance surge

Whereas that was one function of the election, one other was a pronounced “a plague on both your houses” rejection of the Orange Vs Inexperienced stasis in northern politics and a widespread craving for politicians to “get on with the job”.

Anecdotal conversational proof suggests this lies behind the surge of assist for the Alliance Social gathering, the “yellow splash”, as one commentator put it in refence to the occasion’s color, which greater than doubled its seats within the Meeting from eight to 17.

North Down is one in every of a number of constituencies the place the occasion gained two of the obtainable 5 seats and assist for a change in the best way politics is finished will not be exhausting to seek out in Bangor.

“Lots of people are bored with division and want a party that wants to work together [with others] to fix things,” says city resident Rachel Surgenor who voted Inexperienced, Alliance, Social Democratic and Labour Social gathering (SDLP) and Ulster Unionist Social gathering (UUP), in that order. Voters needed to offer the Democratic Unionist Social gathering (DUP) “a bloody nose”, she mentioned, including: “and that’s exactly what they did”.

Her good friend Juliana Sloan, who voted Alliance, Inexperienced and UUP, agrees.

“The DUP are all ‘the Fenians are taking over’ [but] an awful lot of people don’t care about that anymore,” she says. She describes herself as “secretly delighted” on the election consequence.

“Part of this is to do with Brexit and the way the DUP backed the wrong horse,” she says. “I’m optimistic because it’s clear there’s an appetite for change. There are a lot of people who have decided they’ve had enough and that’s good.”

And she or he added: “And we’re going to have a woman prime minister!”

In Tyrone, Alan, a self-employed 35-year-old who didn’t need himself recognized, additionally yearned for politics that weren’t hobbled by the Orange Vs Inexperienced trench warfare.

A unionist by intuition, he says “my views have evolved over the years”.

“I would be very much UUP leaning and its very disappointing to see them do so bad,” he says earlier than counting ended with, within the occasion, the UUP dropping only one seat. “The DUP is locked in a time warp. The SDLP, the UUP and Alliance could make a very good combination for running this place.”

Sinn Fein’s emergence as the biggest occasion within the Meeting didn’t shock him.

“I follow politics so it isn’t a shock,” he says . “I’ve seen this coming though it is a disappointment.”

He says the “vast majority” of individuals need to get on with life and wish politicians to work collectively. Most individuals, he says, see Stormont as a “circus”.

“Where’s the normal politics,” he asks. “Where’s the reasonable, day to day stuff? Let’s get on with that.”

He has a younger daughter and he needs higher for her. “I’d like her to grow up in a Northern Ireland where no one consciously, or unconsciously, asks the question whether she’s a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. I want her to grow up and vote on policies and not the constitutional question,” he says.

United Eire

Whereas Sinn Féin shied away from selling a border ballot through the election marketing campaign, although it was in its manifesto, when vote counting ended, leaders once more urged one. The prospect of such a vote doesn’t disturb everybody.

“I feel slightly uneasy but, weirdly, I would quite like there to be a united Ireland sometime in the future,” says Daryl O’Dowd, a center floor voter and Bangor resident. “A vote for a united Ireland sometime in the future, 10 years maybe, is fine with me. To me, England and its anti-European and anti-immigration politics, I want to get way from all that altogether.”

She says that every one her associates, a lot of them who return to her college days and have comparable professional Alliance, SDLP or gentle unionist outlooks, really feel the identical method.

Alan can also be relaxed with regards to a border ballot, whereas not being in favour of a united Eire.

“I was brought up British,” he says. “I have British and Irish passports. I call myself Irish now but it’s my second nationality. I’m probably northern Irish first and then British.”

He thinks individuals within the Republic are fully unprepared for what a united Eire may imply. Unionist and Protestant individuals in Northern Eire wouldn’t tolerate being “assimilated” right into a united Eire and feared being “dominated”.

Some components would oppose such a change by pressure, he feared, suggesting that unrest may very well be “worse than the troubles”.

That is echoed partially by ‘Eileen’, a center aged girl within the very exhausting line Loyalist space of Pitt Park in east Belfast’s Newtownards Highway who for years has declined to inform me her actual identify however is nonetheless comfortable to talk to a Dublin reporter.

“I’m worried if they start talking about it,” she says of a border ballot/united Eire. “At the moment, we’ve too much else to worry about — electricity and food [prices]. I’m fed up with the Orange and Green stuff but I want my identity protected.”

The realm is festooned with celebrations of Loyalist paramilitarism and I requested Eileen what outlined her identification.

“The beat of the drum,” she mentioned and clutching her chest, “it’s an emotional thing.”

The Bangor parade Orangemen had a “be careful what you wish for” method to a border ballot, saying it could be rejected on the poll field.

“A lot of those Sinn Féin voters will not vote for a united Ireland,” mentioned the Orangeman from south Armagh — an assertion that appears exhausting to consider.

A senior unionist determine who wouldn’t permit himself to be quoted by identify was sanguine on the prospect of first minister Michelle O’Neill and all which may imply.

“It’s the best thing that could happen, frankly,” he mentioned. “We’ve fetishised about this, despite the fact that it’s a joint office. So it is perhaps a good thing that we have this monkey off our back. Outside the symbolism, it makes no practical difference.”

Besides that, in Northern Eire, symbolism issues maybe greater than anyplace else.

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