Belfast Telegraph

Eilis O'Hanlon: Anti-Trump protesters at Belfast City Hall didn't need police protection ... they needed babysitters

How does rent-a-mob think US President will react to their tantrums? 'Oh, gee. I'd better step down and let Hillary take over'?

Eilis O'Hanlon

By Eilis O'Hanlon

Remember Swampy? He was the New Age environmental activist who lived down a tunnel for a while to protest about a new road being constructed in Devon. It went ahead anyway. Such is the life of the serial protester.

The good news - for the Swampys of this world, at least, if not for those who have to clean up after them - is that there's always something else to get angry about, as this week's tantrums against the hugely successful visit to Britain and Ireland of US President Donald Trump proved yet again.

A whole new generation of perpetually angry people has been out in force to express fury that the leader of the free world has been enjoying a State welcome from two of his country's oldest allies.

Well, 'in force' is probably overstating it. What's extraordinary is how much attention the protesters have garnered despite being so pitifully few in number.

The crowd of Trump-haters outside Belfast's City Hall this week would have struggled to get the numbers for a game of netball, never mind a proper rally.

The US President didn't even come to Northern Ireland, but the usual suspects obviously thought they deserved the chance to let off some steam anyway. Everyone needs a hobby, after all.

PSNI officers on duty just looked baffled, as well they might. It wasn't security that the protesters needed. It was babysitters.

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Anti-Trump protesters and counterprotesters exchange words at Belfast City Hall
Anti-Trump protesters and counterprotesters exchange words at Belfast City Hall

Down at Shannon Airport, where Trump flew in from London before heading to his hotel and golf resort at Doonbeg, Co Clare, things were arguably even more embarrassing.

News reports said "up to 200" came along to protest. Those two little words 'up to' are doing a hell of a lot of heavy lifting there.

How many was it: 199? 70? One man and his dog? In Ireland, you can get 100 nutters to turn up and gurn about practically anything.

It's reminiscent of the scene in the film The Wild One, where Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin are having a scrap and someone asks what they're fighting about. "Don't know," comes the answer. "Don't know themselves, probably."

The protesters are a bit like that. On Wednesday, some of them even set up a 'peace camp' near Shannon and pledged to stay put until the US President leaves again today.

Are we supposed to be impressed? That's not a protest. It's a midweek camping break. Not showering for a few days is hardly up there with standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Even Swampy managed a week underground before being evicted.

Free speech and free assembly are inalienable human rights. Everyone is entitled to make some noise over issues about which they feel strongly, as long as they behave themselves and don't leave too much of a mess behind - though, sadly, they don't always show that same courtesy to others.

But it's also a basic human right to be allowed to laugh at these clowns for being so ludicrously self-important that they imagine anyone in the real world gives a monkey's how upset they are because the candidate they didn't like won an election 3,000 miles away two-and-a-half years ago.

It's almost time for the next presidential election and they still haven't got over the last one. What do they think Trump is going to do? Look out of the window of Air Force One at a few dozen socialism-loving layabouts with blue hair shrieking about what an awful man he is and think, "By Jove, they're right. I'd better step down immediately and let Hillary Clinton take over"?

Protesters at Shannon were so desperate to find something - anything - to be offended about that some even said they were there because Donald Trump is "rude".

He certainly is. Calling Bette Midler a "washed-up psycho" and the Mayor of London a "stone cold loser" is not the sort of language one normally expects to come out of the White House.

But is the incivility of the current incumbent of the White House really worth getting that worked up about? Especially as it's what he wants them to do.

The protesters are being played like the proverbial violin. The US President tweets something provocative. They go crazy for a while, aided by the media, which never tires of banging the anti-Trump drum. Calm is eventually restored.

He then tweets something else and the circus begins again.

Repeat until re-election day in 2020, when Americans put him back in office for another four years just to annoy the sort of whiny bed-wetters who treat Trump as if he heralds the return of the Third Reich.

That's no exaggeration, either. Protesters literally call the US President and his supporters "Nazis" and "fascists", oblivious to the irony that Trump was only on this side of the Atlantic in the first place to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, when tens of thousands of young men died to defeat actual Nazis and fascists.

If they can't tell the difference between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump, then it suggests they need to spend more time reading history books, rather than making placards and lobbing milkshakes.

Civil rights protesters in the 1960s, both in Northern Ireland and the United States, had reasonable demands to make of the powers-that-be.

The new breed of agitprop merchants haven't got a clue what they're asking for. They're just screaming at the sky.

It's not political action. It's mass hysteria.

Hypocritical, too. Thousands turned out to welcome Barack Obama when he came to Dublin. Forgetting that idolatry is meant to be a sin, people were weeping in the crowd at his majestic presence.

Obama spoke beautifully (he always does), but he also enthusiastically ordered drone strikes on Pakistan and Afghanistan the whole time he was in office.

Most of them hit the terrorists for whom they were intended, but plenty didn't, killing wedding guests and women and children galore.

Where were the protesters then? When Donald Trump starts a war - and, unfortunately, there's no guarantee that he still won't - then they can call him a warmonger.

Until then, it just looks like they only care about the threat to human rights when someone they don't like is responsible.

If the protesters really want to make the world a better place, they should use their time volunteering for a worthwhile cause. Or even just going to work and looking after their own families.

People who do that make the world a better place every single day. They were the ones who made Northern Ireland bearable during the darkest days of the Troubles.

Thankfully, they're still in the majority.

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