2 March 2015
Loyalists are just criminals, but republicanism is a cult of fascists
Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams
I participate in some social media, have come to know (and even meet in real life) people I truly like on Facebook and I revel in the (virtual) company of many whose attitudes are different from mine.
I try to maintain friendly relationships with republicans, nationalists, unionists, loyalists and friends from abroad to whom such words mean nothing.
Some of my Facebook friends fight with each other, but mostly there is courtesy.
Civilised discussion isn't really what Twitter is for. There aren't many nuances to be found in 140 characters, but the cut-and-thrust can be fascinating and I like clever one-liners.
I have a number of enemies there who object strenuously to my opinions, but having developed a very thick skin owing to being involved with Northern Ireland for decades, I enjoy the insults and retweet the choice ones to other connoisseurs.
My recent favourite was: "Ruth Dudley Edwards fine example of the disgusting trash Cromwell & cohorts left behind on our Island": like many of my republican critics, this one was a bit challenged on the history front.
If Edwards is a invader's name, it would be Anglo-Norman, but, in fact, that side of the family didn't come to Ireland until my grandmother imported my grandfather. And the McInerneys and O'Sullivans, who make up the bulk of my ancestry, would be very cross at the suggestion that I was a planter.
One criticism I get on Facebook and Twitter that I admit gets to me sometimes is that I show bias, because I'm always writing critically about Sinn Fein and republican paramilitaries while ignoring what loyalists are up to.
Well, here's why. First, I believe that, as a political journalist, it's my job to be critical rather than run with the herd.
It was because I was from the nationalist tribe that I set out to shine a bright light on people whose crimes were being excused in the name of the peace process.
I put years of work into observing, researching and writing about the violent republicanism I oppose and my reward was to understand pretty thoroughly the mindsets of the IRA/Sinn Fein leadership.
I bang on about them because they matter. There is a very real possibility that, if events develop in a way that suits them, a terrible fate could befall the Republic of Ireland, with Gerry Adams Taoiseach and Martin McGuinness president, both of them dedicated to exploiting the baser instincts of nationalists to destabilise Northern Ireland and corrupt Irish democracy. I believe them to be able, serious, focused and bad. That's why I pay them a lot of attention.
Their loyalist equivalents have been as brutal - sometimes even more brutal - but the bald truth is that they are now of little political significance.
To the critics who ask why I'm not writing about what the UDA and UVF are up to, it is because they are simply criminals.
I admire the local journalists who expose these thugs for what they are, but I have no inside knowledge to contribute.
It's not that I didn't address violent loyalism when it mattered. I got to know it pretty well when I was getting to know the other tribe on my island, particularly when I covered the parades disasters of the 1990s and even wrote a book about the loyal institutions.
I made many friends, but I also saw loyalism at its ugliest and wrote about it.
I met and talked to the sinister Billy Wright, I dodged the Protestant as well as the Catholic rioters and I acquired venomous enemies from among the Spirit of Drumcree group, who did terrible harm to the Orange Order the group claimed to love.
So that's it. I write about what is worth writing about and what I understand.
I loathe the way loyalist gangs exploit and terrorise their own people and I wish the PSNI would get a grip and lock them up, as I wish they'd clean up south Armagh.
But as long as the island of Ireland is in danger from a fascistic cult, however much people criticise me on Facebook and Twitter, that's the aspect of Irish politics I'll be writing about most.
Ruth Dudley Edwards