I watched the news footage of Ally McCoist dancing on his toes on the Tannadice turf waving a union flag.
I thought at the time “ I wonder how this plays in the North?”
For some Rangers supporters in Coleraine the day was almost perfect as the final whistle sounded at Tannadice and their team were SPL champions.
They had waited since 2005 to be able to say that their team was the best in Scotland.
In any footballing culture across the planet it would have been a signal for a party.
It doesn’t matter if it is Barca or Burnley.
You’re team has emerged at the top of the pile after a tough season.
You’re champions and there isn’t a feeling like it for any football fan.
Rangers, of course, have a great following in the North of Ireland.
These supporters are loyal; unfortunately some of them are also Loyalist.
As most Rangers supporters across the planet were happy to party into the night.
The Loyalists in Coleraine needed something else to celebrate their team’s triumph-a dead taig.
Any Taig would do.
They’re not that fussy.
Kevin McDaid’s crime was that he was a Catholic.
Mr. McDaid was 49; a family man and a plasterer by trade Kevin spent a lot of his free time doing voluntary community work. He had just returned from a fishing trip he had arranged for young lads from both traditions.
Before his murder Kevin was arranging another cross-community trip to take young people out of the area on the 12th of July.
Kevin’s widow, Evelyn, is a protestant. She was also badly beaten by the mob as she tried to save her husband.
His bruised wife Evelyn told of the man she had lost and how that her Kevin would have wanted no revenge.
As I write another victim on Sunday’s SPL celebrations in Coleraine, Damian Fleming is unconscious in hospital. He is critical and is unlikely to survive.
Had these murders happened in Mississippi in the 1950s and the attacking crowd had used a rope and a tree then we would have described the death of Kevin McDaid as a “lynching.”
A feature of the lynching in the Deep South was the official tolerance of the local police.
As Robert Hammil had his head repeatedly jumped on by a loyalist mob members of the RUC looked on impassively from a Landover a few yards away.
That the RUC behaved in this fashion has been forensically established and is not contested.
What is now being alleged by Mr.McDaid’s 22-year-old son Ryan is that the PSNI did something similar as their father was being murdered.
Ryan alleged that there was a police car only 100 yards from the scene of the murder.
Mrs McDaid said that the attackers claimed they were members of the UDA.
The PSNI were quick to wheel out Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay to rebut these allegations
Finlay stated that there was “no evidence this was anything other than a maverick group of yobs”.
Local people said the group could have been as large as forty strong. ACC Finlay, who defended the police’s handling of the incident, also denied a claim by Mr McDaid’s family that officers stood by while he was being attacked.
“This is not something that we’re aware of, but if anybody has any information on that we would ask them to contact us and share that information with us,” ACC Finlay said that:
“Police arrived very quickly after the initial phone calls, and there were up to 60 people engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. Two neighbourhood police officers moved to make an initial arrest of one of the main aggressors, but such was the hostility of the crowd that they had to withdraw and move to rendering first aid.”
These officers have weapons and legal authority for their use.
A man was being murdered yet they withdrew?
It is hardly surprising, perhaps, that many in the nationalist community in the Six Counties think that the PSNI isn’t that different from the RUC.
The widely held belief in some nationalist areas is that the PSNI will observe a Catholic being beaten to death a la Robert Hammil and its no big deal.
Mrs McDaid claimed that the men who murdered her husband had claimed that they were members of the UDA.
Moreover she claimed that they had said that they were “going to clean up this Fenian hole.”
This, of course, is the rationale of the ethnic cleansers in Bosnia.
There is, in the loyalist subculture of Northern Ireland, a wet dream that sees the creation of something akin to an Ulster Volkstaat, a land free of fenians.
The PSNI have now warned Ryan McDaid, Kevin’s son, that there is now a credible threat against his life from loyalists.
This warning came the day after I had watched Frankie Gallagher of the UDA’s political wing the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) state that the UDA had no hand act or part in Kevin McDaid’s murder or the attack in the Heights area on Sunday.
I realise that there might be a certain comedic value in writing “UDA” and “political” and “research” in the same sentence.
However there isn’t any of this that is in anyway amusing.
I know I’ve been to Coleraine and came to close quarters with these fine fellows.
I was last in Coleraine over ten years ago.
I was lecturing at the school of social work at the University of Ulster, Magee College in Derry City.
The University’s main campus is in Coleraine and I also had a student on placement in Coleraine. Subsequently I spent a fair amount of time in the town over the period of an academic year.
One day in particular I visited my student at her placement and had travelled there by car.
When I came out of the health centre my Donegal registered car was surrounded by youths, many of them in Rangers shirts.
About half of them were carrying some type of weapon. I saw at least two baseball bats.
They were deep in discussion about what they were going to do with the owner of the car parked in their area.
I walked up behind the lad who seemed to be the leader. He was holding a golf club, but I rather thought he wasn’t that into the ancient game.
“Get off my car! ”
They spun round and were startled by two factors.
One, my Scottish accent.
Two, my appearance. I was out of central casting in my tweed jacket, polo neck, clutching a University of Ulster folder in front of me like a shield.
“Which is the correct road to Londonderry?”
It was more of an order than a polite request. I knew the road back to Doire very well indeed, but any doubters in this underclass lynch mob melted.
This was a British gentleman giving them orders!
The psychological climate immediately changed.
The ambience changed from menace to deference.
They were being talked down to by a university lecturer and one from the mother country!
Their rapid transformation from a menacing feral pack of teenage thugs to a ragtag honour guard was pathetic and unnerving in equal measure.
One of them actually attempted a salute to the grandson of a member of the West Mayo flying column as I drove out of that red, white and blue twilight zone.
All warfare is based on deception.
My view of the defenders of Coleraine has not changed.
They are the trailer trash of a dead empire.
A few weeks after that incident I bumped into the sadly departed Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam.
Our paths had first crossed many years earlier when I had been an undergrad reading politics at York and she was a newly elected MP.
She had an amazing talent for remembering faces, because she remembered mine!
I told her of the positive impression she had on me when she had visited.
She had given a lecture on being an MP, being a woman in a gentleman’s club etc.
Mo winked at me and said:
“I was shaggable then!”
I blushed. Her disarming vulgarity revealed a real warm heart and great courage. What I didn’t know was that she was battling with a serious illness and was wearing a wig her hair gone due to chemotherapy.
We swapped vignettes over a cup of coffee before the power points began about her sojourn in the Sick Counties.
It was clear that this left wing Englishwoman detested the tattooed loyalists.
Looking back it must have taken a lot for her to go into the Maze prison to speak with Loyalist prisoners.
She did it for peace, but she didn’t like doing it.
She asked me did I know a place called Rathcoole?
I certainly did I told her I had a student there on placement.
She said that one of her staff was organising a trip for her there earlier in the year.
He had went out to the place she was visiting-as I recall it was some kind of family centre.
The usual gable end murals were a bit worse for wear and clearly needed touching up.
People in the fiercely loyalist estate knew that the Queen’s minister was about to visit their little loyal sink estate.
They did get the paintbrushes out for the murals of Derry’s Walls and King William at the Boyne.
That much I expected.
What I heard next amazed me.
The painters-young loyalists under the direction of senior paramilitary figures who ran Rathcoole as their fiefdom told the lad to paint out the murals. The gable ends were painted grey!
Mo Mowlam was swished past grey gable ends.
The day after her ministerial visit the mural painters were out again and brand new murals of the King Billy on the Boyne were created.
Most of my teaching time at Magee was filling in for a colleague on sabbatical. He taught the mental health component of the social work degree so I was covering his classes.
This Rathcoole community fiercely loyal, but perhaps embarrassed to show that loyalty to the Queen’s minister…
Yeah I thought there is a PhD in this lot!
There is a belief among some northern nationalist that the behaviour of these loyalist lynch mobs has the tacit approval of some unionist politicians.
DUP Councillor Adrian McQuillan on BBC’s “Newsline” was classic:
“Tit for tat all the time. What reason can you see for there being tricolours up yesterday afternoon, a Sunday afternoon? None other than for to get a reaction from the loyalist community, and they certainly got a reaction this time, which is very sad.”
“tit for tat”?
Robert Hammil, Michael McIlveen and Kevin McDaid were all Catholics killed in similar circumstances. All battered to death by a loyalist mobs.
“Tit for tat” implies some degree of reciprocity. There is none.
I watched McQuillan’s statement about “a reaction” and I was dismayed.
It sounded like a plea in mitigation.
I hope I’m wrong about that, if I’m correct then Northern Ireland remains the Sick Counties when I thought that the new dispensation was a way through to community health.
A reasonable person might well ask: “what kind of men would do such things?”
Within a crowd of forty-even self-selecting from the Coleraine Rangers gene pool-there might be one, perhaps two genuine sociopaths.
The men who murdered Kevin McDaid weren’t sociopaths, nor, I am sure, had they recently been released from secure psychiatric facilities.
Like the respectable men who strung up black men from trees in the “good ol days” in Alabama they were psychologically normal.
What was aberrant was the belief system that socialised them.
Like the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 so brilliantly analysed by Christopher R Browning in his book “Ordinary Men.”
These particular ordinary men in Coleraine are, like Hitler’s killers on the eastern front, the products of a deeply sick culture.
The Loyalists who murdered Mr. McDaid are, of course, responsible for their own actions and, hopefully, they will be prosecuted to the limit of the law.
Dealing with the individuals doesn’t explain, however, why it is always a Loyalist mob and the victim, ipso facto, is always a “taig”.
The murder of Kevin McDaid was an act of cultural complicity. Twenty, thirty or forty men may have beaten him, but an entire sub-culture affirmed their hatred and their violence.
If a group sings a song that has lyrics like:
“We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood surrender or you’ll die!”
then don’t be too surprised that if they in fact end up splashing in the blood of fenians.
I’m sure Kevin McDaid, if given the chance, would have surrendered to save his live so that he could continue to be a husband to Evelyn and a father to his children.
He couldn’t be afforded that because some people’s idea of a perfect day for Rangers FC means that a Taig has to die.
Kevin McDaid was not as fortunate as PC Mike Regan who escaped with his life as a pack of Rangers supporters kicked him to the ground last May in Manchester as the Queen’s underclass wrecked the city.
No they aren’t ordinary football supporters, but they do feel affirmed at Ibrox and that is something the club has to, one-day address.
After the match on Sunday Ally McCoist enthused about Kyle Lafferty as his “big Ulster gazelle”.
Everyone knows that it is highly unlikely that a Rangers manager would be enthusing about a player from Cork or Dublin because Rangers seem unable over the past 25 years to find a suitable player from the Republic of Ireland.
That hard truth is a key component of the emotional contract between Rangers FC and the men who murdered Kevin McDaid in Coleraine last Sunday.