Excerpt: The Protestant working class in Northern Ireland : political allegiance and social and cultural challenges since the 1960’s

Sometimes when you look over old writing you can feel a bit embarrassed. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t good or useful at the time. This chapter from my PhD thesis (2008) proves that I was never going to be a political scientist, but it is still a decent summary of some of the issues which have bedeviled loyalism and the Protestant working class.



‘Let me tell you something,’ McClure went on. ‘We’re all friends here, but the Protestant people have had enough so they have. Enough talks about rights and all. There’s a question of a birthright being sold out here. Put that in your newspaper. We’re the boys built the Empire and got a kick in the arse for it. Write about that. Ulster loyal and true. That’s a thing to die for.’[1]

-Eoin McNamee, Resurrection Man


The alternative (to the Good Friday Agreement) is that the people of Northern Ireland define that which they do not want rather than embrace that which they do want, and that, surely, leads to a constantly and continually negative politics…[2]

-David Ervine, PUP, 2001


Working class Protestants tend to be quite conservative in their social views and many of their other views and I think we probably present the essence of working class thinking rather than the PUP.[3]

-Sammy Wilson, DUP, 2006




An introduction to Protestant Working Class Loyalist Identities and Self-Determination

In the previous chapter it was explained, that behind many of the headlines and reports that appeared in both the local and national press in the autumn of 2005[4] regarding the rioting in loyalist areas at the time, there were long-term factors which had played into the sense of dislocation and dystopia often felt by working class Protestants in the Belfast Agreement era. By analysing issues and events, that had hitherto been neglected or misinterpreted by those studying Northern Ireland’s recent history, a series of previously submerged issues came to the fore that suggested how deep the roots of Protestant angst in Northern Ireland have been. Having reassessed attitudes toward education and social institutions in what had been a mainly industrial community, it was discovered that one of the main casualties of the conflict was the loss of a civic-mindedness which appeared to have existed in Northern Ireland’s working class Protestant community prior to the early 1970s. In recent analyses, especially during the period of late 2005, there appeared to have been a collective amnesia of a time when people cherished sporting achievement, respected the integral role of the churches’ uniformed organisations and held a healthy respect for education and knowledge.


The early 1970s, then, was a period in which Protestants experienced a vacuum in sound political leadership. With the security situation deteriorating rapidly and Protestants viewing the disintegration of their local government in tandem with the inexorable rise of republican paramilitary violence, political unionism, which had appeared so strong until the 1960s was broken into a kaleidoscope of competing personalities and political enterprises that vied for the support of a Protestant working class whose voice was increasingly being represented, in parts consensually and non-consensually, by loyalist paramilitarism with the emergence of Defence Associations in Protestant areas. An entire study could be justifiably dedicated solely to the unionist bodies and figures that existed from the early to mid 1970s. However, it is necessary to complement the themes negotiated in the previous chapter with a discussion of how integral a role a sense of political and cultural identity and belonging has been in working class Protestant political allegiance in Northern Ireland, specifically in relation to the considerable changes that occurred within that community in a relatively short period of time.


The denigration by some commentators of the politics and social attitudes which have been displayed by many working class Protestants in recent years has neglected a consideration of the significant level of upheaval and rapid change that faced that community in the early years of the Troubles – factors that have possibly fed these attitudes. The previous chapter was an attempt to raise awareness of such issues and fill the gap that has existed in analyses of Northern Ireland’s recent history. In tandem with the issues discussed in the previous chapter there has, especially since the early 1970s, been a friction between class and identity aspirations in Protestant politics which has most lucidly manifested itself in times of perceived constitutional danger.[5] A discussion of this is beneficial in the context of the contrasting fortunes of the DUP and progressive loyalist political enterprises, most notably the PUP[6], in working class communities. Given that both parties aimed to fill a particular vacuum in political Unionism – the DUP explicitly claimed on its formation in September 1971 that it would appeal to working-class Protestants by being left-wing on social issues but right-wing on the Constitution[7] – this chapter will suggest that events described in the previous chapter and the resultant mood of working class Protestants by the early to mid 1970s has, up to and including the post Belfast Agreement era, led to a lingering desire among loyalists for a political leadership that is primarily strong on the constitutional issue. This in turn has contributed to analyses and predictions in the media and other commentaries of a possibly baleful and perpetually negative future relationship between working class Protestants and their perception of politics, as well as of wider society and progress, in the ‘new’ Northern Ireland.


Loyalty and self-determination: The Somme and the paradox of Protestant political and social identity

It was previously noted how the prominent role that local industry played in Protestant communities in Belfast and working class Protestant contributions to British progress and prosperity led Ulster workers to frame themselves within an overall British identity which they felt bound to through those industries in which they worked. While it was briefly mentioned in the same section that workers in Belfast felt that these industries played a huge role in the World War II effort between 1939 and 1945, it is World War I and the Battle of the Somme in particular that has played a particularly crucial role in the memory and loyalty of Northern Ireland’s Protestants. It might be suggested that the role that the Somme has played in analyses of Protestant political and cultural identity in Northern Ireland is in danger of being overestimated and used too liberally across the board to answer certain questions concerning Northern Ireland Protestants’ fractious relationship with Britain since the emergence of conflict in the late 1960s. Edna Longley has suggested that ‘The deconsecration of Irish memory is overdue – and underway’.[8]


However the significance of the role that the Battle of the Somme has played in contributing to the construction of an Ulster Protestant identity in Northern Ireland has not been lost on academics[9], writers[10] and historians[11] – including Longley. The battle lasted for four months and commenced on July 1st 1916. It was the aim of the Allied forces to break through the German front along the North and South banks of the River Somme in France in order to take the Schwaben Redoubt which had four lines of German trenches between it and the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division. The 36th (Ulster) Division included Ulster Volunteer Force members who had joined the organisation formed by Edward Carson and James Craig from 1912 in order to combat Home Rule for Ireland. As part of Lord Kitchener’s overall New Army the 36th Ulster Division suffered huge losses despite securing the first three lines of German trenches.[12] According to Orr’s account of the Ulster Division, Middlebrook notes 5,104 casualties.[13] In an interview with the journalist Peter Taylor, Gusty Spence who joined the modern UVF in the 1960s spoke of the emotional effect that the Somme dead had on Northern Ireland: ‘Now one can imagine in a place like Belfast – or as small as Northern Ireland – that the telegrams and lists of the dead and wounded, the killed and missing, had a profound impact. The whole province was plunged into mourning. We were born and reared with the sacrifice of the Somme.’[14] Although it came at a heavy price, the Somme allowed for a solid and durable exhibition of Ulster Protestant loyalty to Britain. Officer and Walker have suggested that ‘The War provided a vital opportunity for a practical demonstration of those aspects of a loyal, Protestant or Unionist self that might have otherwise remained inarticulate or have been misinterpreted by outsiders. Ambiguity and contradiction could be replaced by a previously submerged essence. From this perspective, we can understand how the cataclysmic Somme engagement was framed, and why its evocation has been so important ever since.’[15]


Essentially the Somme and the concept of Protestant sacrifice for Britain which underpins it is helpful in both historic and contemporary terms in explaining a sometimes paradoxical sense of Ulster Protestant loyalist identity that has been in turns vital to a sense of unity with the rest of Britain as well as being representative of a closing of the ranks when there is a feeling that Britain has betrayed the Protestants of Ulster. The Somme episode was tackled by the Catholic writer Frank McGuinness in his 1986 play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards The Somme. Describing the camaraderie of eight soldiers from the 36th (Ulster) Division the work is important in framing the vital role of culture within political identity. Lojek has noted that ‘The play’s concern with what makes men march is paralleled by an examination of ways the past shapes the men who shape the myths which re-shape the past…Pyper perpetuates a shaped view of the past which both gives that past significance and helps to shape the future.’[16] The socio-cultural structures of loyalism in Northern Ireland have been knowingly used by Protestant political figures throughout the Troubles; indeed the character Pyper, when transported as a metaphor into the Protestant crisis experienced during Northern Ireland’s recent Troubles, is broadly representative of an Ulster Protestant sense of loyalist identity and belonging as providing a degree of certainty in a period of uncertainty. Indeed, this analogy is useful as it is a more militaristic imagining of Protestant reaction to change than the civic nostalgia alluded to by Paulin in his poem entitled ‘After The Summit’, which was described in the introduction to the previous chapter.[17] In a sense it describes a feeling of loss and frustration which was then channelled into an urgent militant response characterised by the need to defend and preserve. Importantly it has been a calculated perpetuation of the past as described by Lojek in relation to McGuinness’s play, as well as a clear manipulation of contemporary situations such as the perceived crisis contained within the constitutional challenges experienced by the Protestant people, which have proved to be the most significant catalysts in the shaping of Protestant political allegiance since the early years of the conflict in general and the driving force behind the DUP’s success in particular. Indeed McAuley has argued that ‘One of the major appeals of the DUP to the Protestant masses has always been its promise to defend ‘Ulster’, in whatever is its current hour of need. The evidence for this ‘defence’ is based on reference to strong links with the past, particularly those elements of Irish history that have been selected to form the coherent self-conception of Protestant Unionist identity.’[18]


Real and imagined identities in Protestant politics: Britain, Ulster and the monarchy

Spencer, in the first chapter[19] of his study of contemporary loyalism in Northern Ireland, has noted how Aughey’s argument that rather than being viewed as a form of nationalism, unionism should be seen as being concerned with citizenship and the state[20], is repelled by other scholars such as McGarry and O’Leary who view the Unionist outlook as a ‘variation of British nationalism’.[21] Spencer has also noted Cochrane’s observations concerning unionism’s preservation of identity, religion, culture and history.[22] All of these analyses are crucial as they highlight the dichotomy evident in Protestant political identity in Northern Ireland: in one part a localised solicitude of socio-cultural and political issues and in another a focus for broader concerns with its constituents’ British identity. Overarching both of these is the desire to maintain the various factors described by Cochrane. Throughout the era of the Troubles there has arguably been a particular focus within the Protestant community on identity, culture and history which have all been tied to political progress and confidence or the lack of therein.


For the DUP a constitution which opposes militant republicanism and promises a safeguard for Protestant identity is of extreme importance. Allegiance to the British Crown, which is a central tenet of loyalist imagery and ideology, is a black and white scenario in the terms of the DUP’s concept of a constitution. The monarch must be a Protestant for Ulster to remain loyal. Steve Bruce has quoted DUP Assemblyman George Graham as declaring in The Protestant Telegraph on 6th February 1976: ‘My loyalty is to the British Throne being Protestant. I have no loyalty to any Westminster government. I have no loyalty to a government which prorogued a democratically elected government, destroyed our security forces and left us prey to the IRA. Nor have I loyalty to a British government going over the heads of our people, conniving and double-dealing behind our backs with a foreign government.’[23] Self-determination for Ulster’s Protestants has been an important concern for the DUP; throughout the history of the party it has staged various attempts to wrest ownership of loyalist history from its rivals. A symbolic example of this was the ‘Carson Trail’ campaign which was organised in February 1981 and front ended by the signing of the ‘Ulster Declaration’ on 9th February; a clear attempt to emulate Edward Carson’s anti-Home Rule for Ireland campaign in 1912. Sammy Wilson of the DUP wrote a book entitled The Carson Trail which documented this period of Paisley’s career as well as the broader anti-Anglo Irish feeling within the DUP which opposed the Anglo-Irish Council. With a somewhat hubristic tone Wilson wrote of the DUP’s foresight in analysing the situation at the time as being at odds with other Unionists.[24]


A newspaper reporter provided a dramatic account of the start of the Carson Trail campaign; indeed, this account was given approval by Wilson in appropriately describing the palpable sense of minor revolution that the DUP promised in the early 1980s and was included in Wilson’s book on the era. Having been accompanied to a hill outside Ballymena by Peter Robinson, Reverend William Beattie and two men in combat jackets and balaclavas, the journalist gave a somewhat histrionic account of the events he was able to observe: ‘…in the uncertain light of the flashlamps, it became obvious he (Paisley) was accompanied by a very large number of men, silently awaiting us in the darkness. Mr Paisley left us in no doubt about the men. “This is a small token of men who are placed to absolutely devastate any attempt by Margaret Thatcher and Charles Haughey to destroy the union and take us from our heritage,”…There was a shrill whistle blast and with one movement, the men held identical pieces of paper above their heads…Mr. Paisley assured us they were firearms certificates.’ In a prepared statement which was handed out to those who were present at the meeting on the hilltop Paisley had written that ‘The men of Ulster have right on their side…Our cause is to maintain the British connection and our rights as citizens of the U.K. To us this is not merely a political matter but a matter affecting our lives, our liberties, ‘our religion’, our employment and everything that goes to make up what man holds dear in life.’[25] While Moloney and Pollak have dismissed this episode as a theatrical but empty gesture[26], it is perhaps most significant to pay attention to Paisley’s phraseology (note how Paisley refers to the ‘crisis’ as being not only a political matter) as further demonstration that Protestants in Northern Ireland hold socio-cultural issues to be as important as the ethno-national politics that overarch them as hinted at by Bell.[27] Indeed, McAuley has demonstrated how the DUP has used various perceived threats to key Protestant socio-cultural focuses in order to maintain support. [28] The DUP’s stance has owed much to a fear that the union is being weakened by the dismantling of valued institutions and belief systems that contribute to the construction and durability of an Ulster loyalist Protestant identity. In a 1997 press release the party warned that the National Anthem and the Union Jack as well as Orange culture and unionist traditions had become targets for demonization; in essence what the party perceived to be wholesome unionist values had been singled out and characterised as sectarian and old-fashioned.[29] This kind of declaration has given the party momentum throughout its existence and has arguably complemented the sense of bitterness and frustration that has been evident since the early 1970s. However it might also be said that in tandem with the experience of the Troubles it has contributed to a constant feeling of fear and dystopia among Protestants. Essentially, then, in the DUP’s rhetoric and perhaps in political Protestantism in Northern Ireland in general, politics and political allegiance are underpinned by various socio-cultural demands which are derived from the aspiration that the constitutional arrangement remains static. Any threats to this status quo produce feelings of anxiety among unionists and loyalists.[30]


The Ulster Declaration and the Carson Trail episodes provide a particularly idiosyncratic example of Paisley and his supporters reconceptualising themselves as a separate group of people politically, culturally and ethnically in a time of perceived constitutional crisis. When they have perceived themselves to have been disenfranchised by the political dealings of those within their own ethno-national community, in tandem with other external influences, the particular Ulstermen and women who have supported the DUP’s particular brand in such instances have sought refuge within a unique identity which can be used to preserve heritage and birth right and drive political ambition with zeal. For example, in 1981 Jim Allister, who a year later would represent North Antrim as DUP Chief Whip in the Stormont Assembly of 1982, stated in a self-penned pamphlet that ‘Ulster…is an entity in Ireland which is populated by a distinctive race with a distinctive history and way of life from which springs distinctive rights, in particular the fundamental right of self determination…’[31] The kind of rhetorical discourse in Allister’s writing was quite common in the period surrounding the Home Rule crises in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[32] While Allister’s pamphlet advocated an Ulster identity which veered toward a primordial perspective and the right of self determination, he made no mention of the nationalist community and the fundamental rights, both culturally and politically, of its people. Such an ethnocentric stance, which has been a familiar trait in the DUP’s history, has time and time again provided the party with a sense of urgency and a cutting edge which the UUP and the more liberal and socialistic policies of the paramilitary political enterprises have perhaps lacked. An Ulster unfettered by perceived negative London or Dublin involvement with a Protestant monarch in place has, particularly throughout the period of conflict in Northern Ireland, been just as important to the DUP as the Union with Great Britain. By refusing to sacrifice its fundamental belief that the monarch should remain Protestant, this way of thinking demonstrates that the DUP has demonstrated a character that has been more similar in nature to certain aspects of loyalism than traditional unionism.


In recent years some progressive loyalist thinkers have reassessed the issue of monarchy – an issue which has historically held such a central position in Ulster loyalist ideology. Billy Mitchell, a Christian socialist, provided the following critique of the DUP’s position: ‘For the DUP cultural identity would be fundamental Protestant. Even their loyalty to the Queen depends on her being Protestant, which to me is daft. At the minute I don’t think the Royal Family…they may be Protestant in name, but I don’t think they particularly set a good example in Christian morality…well Betty (Queen Elizabeth II) herself might, but the rest of the family certainly don’t show much Christian morality. So why would your loyalty to the Queen be dependent on her religion or on Charles’s religion? The DUP would be ‘Protestantism first and the Union second’.[33] Mitchell recognised the jingoism which is perhaps central to the relationship between working class Protestants and the monarchy; which arguably explains the symbolic appeal of the monarchy to secular loyalists. Explaining this, Mitchell demonstrated how the monarchy has played a delineative role in the construction of an overall sense of British identity among Protestants in Northern Ireland: ‘I’m not a monarchist…maybe that’s a Presbyterian heritage…I’m not a monarchist…the group that I would associate with, some would be monarchists out of a sense of position and while there’s a monarchy there they’d support a constitutional monarchy; to me it’s a crowned republic. Mary McAleese has more power than the Queen and certainly George Bush has more power as a President than the Queen has. I’m not a monarchist by conviction but while it’s there I’ll support it. If there’s democratic will to remove it, I’m easy…my loyalty is to the state. I see the Queen or the Crown as a unifying factor; other than that it’s simply a figurehead.’[34]


Although the Crown has been important as a symbolic representation of the Union to loyalists, in the manifesto of the DUP the rights of those Protestants in Ulster to be regarded as a separate entity should be defended vigorously; thus the anti Anglo-Irish sentiment during the early to mid-1980s of ‘Ulster Says No’ rather than a definite Northern Irish brand of dissent. The Ulsterisation of opposition to perceived Anglo-Irish ‘treachery’ harks back to the anti-Home Rule decree coined by Lord Randolph Churchill in 1886 that ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.’[35] This forthright attitude to Ulster’s status and the monarchy has helped evoke an image of the DUP among working class Protestants as a doggedly trustworthy custodian of loyalist identity and Protestant self determination; a mixture of both the secular and religious aspects of Northern Protestant identity.


The disposition of the DUP’s stance on matters such as the monarchy has arguably been most suitably defined and underpinned in a theoretical sense by Todd’s description of an ‘Ulster loyalist’ political culture: one of the two unique traditions that she suggested constitute the main characteristics of Unionist politics in Northern Ireland (the other being a more middle class variant, ‘Ulster British’). In describing the structure of the Ulster loyalist ideology she noted that ‘The Protestant people of Northern Ireland are emphasised in Ulster loyalist writings and speeches over and above the British connection, and the flag and the Queen symbolise the guarantee of Ulster loyalist liberties.’[36] Moore and Sanders have agreed with Todd’s assertions, stating ‘This is a perceptive differentiation which corrects the distortion arising from the assumption of Protestant homogeneity.’[37] Todd’s analysis is particularly helpful in underlining the class divisions evident in Unionist politics which arguably became apparent with the emergence of conflict and of the new social and political enterprises within the broad Unionist spectrum in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, the early years of the Troubles, although they had a dramatic effect on the morale of the overall working class in Northern Ireland, had a particular effect on the reawakening of working class Protestant’s attitudes to class. For example, Hugh Smyth has argued that ‘Protestant people were made to believe that they were First Class citizens and they believed it and Catholics were made to believe that they were Second Class Citizens and they believed it, but when the Troubles came and we analysed things I think both sections of the community realised that they were only Third Class citizens…I think that the one thing they (the Troubles) perhaps did do was open the Unionist community’s eyes to the fact that they were continuously returning Unionist politicians who were doing absolutely nothing for them.’[38] The political thinkers within the loyalist paramilitaries lived in hope that this emerging class schism within unionism that people such as Smyth perceived as existing would present the opportunity for a new kind of politics which championed the hopes and aspirations of working class Protestants within loyalist constituencies.





‘Mobilising against change’: The Importance of ‘Identity’ in Gaining Protestant Political Support


The loyalist political response in the early 1970s

 In an article entitled ‘Defeatism and Northern Protestant ‘Identity’’, Andrew Finlay distinguished four approaches to the phenomenon of Northern Protestant ‘defeatism’. He noted that when asked by Dunne and Morgan (1994) what the term alienation meant to them, middle class Protestants noted that their alienation was due to ‘constitutional changes, especially the Anglo-Irish Agreement…legislative changes…the rising profile of nationalist culture.’[39] Although these concerns inform working class fears some have argued that they suffer from what Anderson and Shuttleworth (1994) describe as a ‘deflated superiority complex’.[40] No better off than their Catholic counterparts such a paradoxical way of thinking has arguably left the Protestant working class more open to political suggestion. There may have been a perception among working class Protestants that their loyalty in previous decades should have been enough to see them better off both in economic and cultural terms. However, far from being safeguarded by their loyalty, the reality was quite different. A passage from Kate O’Brien’s book My Ireland, which was written after having viewed Sam Thompson’s contentious play Over the Bridge, was included in the previous chapter.[41] It explained the transient nature of the economy which had been built around the shipyard and the shipbuilding industry in Belfast and provides a reminder that loyalty to Britain in the post-war era was often not enough to promise any material reward for working class Protestants. This sense of anxiety, which was ineradicable when the decline of the shipyards gained momentum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, bore witness to an auxiliary sensation of loss, which was undoubtedly used, in correlation with concerns about the political and security situation during the Troubles, by unionist politicians seeking popular support for their particular manifesto. Finlay agrees with this, going on to state that ‘defeatism is deliberately orchestrated by cynical political activists who use traditional forms of mobilisation that evoke a backs-against-the-wall siege mentality to mobilise Protestants against change.’[42]


It was described in the previous chapter how the DUP’s formation in September 1971 was announced in a dramatic fashion by Paisley on the same evening that the IRA bombed the Four Step Inn on the Shankill Road. By declaring the formation of the new political party, in the immediate aftermath of a strategic attack by republicans on the loyalist community, Paisley was arguably using the immediate social and political malaise on the Shankill and its effect on wider Protestant opinion to add crucial weight to his new manifesto. He put himself forward as a saviour to the working class Protestants who had been affected by the immediacy of IRA violence in their community, as well as appealing to those other Protestants who remained distressed by the potential threat of republican violence which was hanging over society at the time. This manipulation of working class Protestants in particular during periods of crisis has arguably constituted a particularly effective ingredient in the DUP’s overall political strategy. In its early years following formation the DUP seemed keen to appeal to the base instincts of Protestants who had experienced a sizeable amount of social and political change, especially in the two years prior to 1973.


However in the early 1970s competition was fierce for Protestants’ political allegiance in Northern Ireland. In October 1972, seven months after the proroguing of Stormont, the British Government published ‘The Future of Northern Ireland: A Paper for Discussion’. The paper was a summation of the historical background to the Northern Ireland situation as well as a summing up of the efforts and proposals that the various local political parties had made up to that point. In March 1973 the Government published a White Paper – ‘Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals’. 1973 was, then, shaping up in the minds of many Protestants to be a critical year in the fashioning of Northern Ireland’s future. In a slightly menacing letter sent to errant members on behalf of the Loyalist Association of Workers dated 10th January 1973, Billy Hull and Billy Snoddy as chairman and secretary respectively wrote that ‘We have been requested by the Executive of the above Organisation to write to you on your reasons for non-attendance at the weekly L.A.W. Factory Delegate Meetings. We are concerned that in this vital year of Ulster’s history so many of our people have become apathetic, almost to the extent of not being interested in what is laid out for us in the British Government’s “White Paper,” shortly to be published.’[43] Around the time of the White Paper the LAW news sheet divided the political and paramilitary organisations into two clear camps for its readers – those who were against the White Paper and those, like Brian Faulkner, who supported it.[44] Among those who opposed it, LAW noted, were The United Loyalist Front incorporating Ulster Vanguard, DUP, UDA, LAW, Ulster Protestant Volunteers, Orange Volunteers, Ulster Special Constabulary Association as well as John Taylor and Jim Kilfedder who were both right-wing Ulster Unionists. The list compiled by LAW demonstrates the various manifestations of loyalist opposition to constitutional change in the early 1970s. While it would perhaps have been useful for the different organisations to continue as a united front, there was inevitably competition to be the literal vanguard of Ulster Protestant political opinion.


Opposition to the White Paper and the ‘Ulsterisation’ of the conflict

 In its manifesto for the June 1973 Assembly Election – an Assembly which was to be based on the principles of the preceding White Paper – the DUP outlined the various threats it perceived the Protestant people of Northern Ireland to be facing. The DUP manifesto came at a time when the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW) was publicly declaring its support for William Craig’s Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party. In an editorial in the spring of 1973 the LAW newspaper carried an advert which proudly reminded its readers that it had been refused by The News Letter on Monday 2nd April 1973.[45] It declared in bold fonts that Vanguard was ‘for the people – a non-sectarian, non-class new party’[46] which was for ‘God, Queen and Ulster’.[47] In the light of some of Craig’s eventual statements rationalising the violence of loyalist paramilitaries, some of which are described later in this chapter, the declaration that Vanguard was to be ‘non-sectarian’ would seem incongruous, if not ridiculous.


The DUP, while perhaps broadly sympathetic to the ideologies espoused by the other organisations included in the LAW anti-‘White Paper’ list, was not to be outdone by Craig’s fledgling party and its 1973 Assembly Election manifesto emphasised Protestant insecurities about identity and the possible loss of identity. The DUP fought this early election against republicanism and the IRA as well as Westminster and the Unionist Party (both of whom they believed had betrayed Northern Ireland’s Protestants) rather than fighting it for the people it had claimed to represent both socially and constitutionally on its formation. The manifesto clearly implies that defeating republicans was of paramount importance; hence social issues would appear to have been regarded a secondary concern. However, it would be difficult to downplay the important role that the security question played in determining people’s day to day lives during the early 1970s in Northern Ireland and there is no doubt that the DUP had to keep its manifesto relevant. However it is the party’s approach to the security situation that provokes major questions over its expedient attitude toward its potential voters; particularly in raising emotions among working class Protestants whose communities were suffering physically and psychologically at the hands of widespread and often indiscriminate republican violence. Under the heading ‘Loyalist Solidarity’ in the manifesto, the DUP claimed that social reforms that were necessary at the time, in areas such as health, housing, roads, planning, government, water, recreation and so on, could not be addressed until peace had been restored. The war against the IRA was, in the DUP’s view, a key issue which had to be resolved before the social conditions facing working class Protestants could be dealt with.


The DUP’s strategy for ‘peace-making’ demonstrated a parochial analysis of measures to solve the political situation in Northern Ireland; indeed the DUP’s idea for restoring peace was to ‘Ulsterise’ the conflict thus letting ‘Ulstermen under proper discipline put down the subversives’[48]. Ulsterising meant potentially making Ulster secure from either London or Dublin influence or ‘interference’ and creating military forces within the province to deal with the security problem which the DUP felt Westminster could no longer control. The phrase ‘Ulstermen under proper discipline’, given its context, is problematic. It is difficult to ignore that around the same time that the DUP were talking about ‘Ulsterising’ there were allegedly figures close to the DUP, most notably William McCrea, who would figure prominently in the DUP from the early 1970s onwards, who were openly encouraging Protestants to throw their support behind the UDA. The latter, under the guise of the UFF was engaged in a blatant campaign of sectarian murder.[49] Bruce has stated that ‘McCrea acted as a spokesman for the short-lived United Loyalist Front. In July 1972, he shared a platform with masked UDA men…McCrea issued a statement saying: ‘We call on all Loyalists to give their continued support to the Ulster Defence Association as it seeks to ensure the safety of all law-abiding citizens against the bombs and bullets of the IRA.’’[50] Indeed, a North Belfast woman named Mrs McClenaghan, whose son had been murdered by UDA members who had broken into her house and sexually assaulted her before the killing on 12th July 1972, said at the trial of the men that ‘The man with the balaclava had ‘UDA’ written in ink on one of his hands.’[51] While the assault on the woman in particular provoked negative reactions among the loyalist paramilitaries, the men were eventually allowed to serve their sentences with other UDA prisoners[52], suggesting that the episode was given tacit approval.


Evidently there were those in the DUP who seemed to feel that the loyalist paramilitaries were the ‘suitably disciplined Ulstermen’[53] who were prepared to take the fight to the republican paramilitaries. It should be acknowledged that what the DUP was inferring was, perhaps in a more general sense, a nod to nostalgia and a desire for the return of the B-Specials; a vision of the way Northern Ireland was before the emergence of Civil Rights and a society that ‘New Ulster Cynic’ from O’Doherty’s account of 1972[54], described in the previous chapter, would perhaps have felt more comfortable living in. Similar sentiments about the way that ‘subversives’ should be dealt with had been expressed in late 1972 by Professor Kennedy Lindsay, a Canadian academic who was at the time closely involved with Vanguard in his role as an advisor to William Craig. During a speech to students in the School of Humanities at the University of Ulster at Coleraine on 25th October – five months after the McClenaghan episode in North Belfast, which was reproduced in the LAW news sheet – Lindsay presented an eight point plan for Ulster. After indulging in a criticism of the British Government, points five and six of his plan correspond with both the attitudes of both the more right-wing members of the DUP toward the security situation in 1973:


  1. A security force powerful enough to win total victory over the terrorists must be assembled. Until now the British Government has been satisfied with efforts to contain the terrorist campaign in the unrealistic hope that the situation would be saved eventual l y (sic) by a politics l (sic) settlement.


  1. There must be an “Ulsterisation” of the war. The RUC, UDR and Police Reserve must be greatly expanded and the Ulster regiments brought home immediately. Ulster personnel must be used to the full at all levels, but especially in intelligence and planning.


  1. The UDA, LD V (sic) and related organisations should be recognised officially and incorporated into the security system on the model of the town and village guards in the Malayan emergency.[55]


Point four of Lindsay’s outline made explicit Vanguard’s analysis of what it felt had been the failure of the British Government to deal with the problems in Northern Ireland and resisted the idea held by the British that a political solution could be the answer. By doing so Lindsay was encouraging people to be sceptical of outside influences in the Ulster situation and was encouraging working class Protestants to take a more militaristic stand. With his talk of ‘Ulsterisation’ Lindsay used point five specifically to relate the idea of Ulster being a unique entity whose people could take the fight to the perceived subversives within Northern Ireland – the IRA; this phenomenon repeatedly manifested itself throughout the 1970s and 1980s – in particular among parties such as the DUP which were vying for control. Point six is controversial and resembles the sentiments expressed by McCrea of the DUP at around the same time. It clearly suggests, that despite the UDA and UFF’s barely veiled association, there was a feeling among some unionists and loyalists that there should be an official recognition of the UDA, meaning the organisation could be synthesised into the security system based on the model of the Malayan emergency; something which only Lindsay himself would have been familiar with.  Ordinary Catholics would have been extremely distressed by such a suggestion and confidence in the Unionists would have fallen further by the wayside given that Vanguard included prominent figures from previous Ulster Unionist governments, Craig being the most notable.


On Hallowe’en night of 1972, six days after Lindsay’s speech at the University of Ulster, two Catholic children – six year old Paula Stronge and four year old Clare Hughes – were killed by a UDA/UFF bomb which had been left close to Benny’s Bar at Ship Street in the Docks area of Belfast.[56] Indeed, the speech made by Lindsay at Coleraine proved not to be the last time in which Vanguard and Craig, who had famously spoken of ‘liquidating the enemy’ earlier in 1972[57], would make dubious statements about loyalist violence. For example in May 1974, Craig, in an interview with Liam Hourican on the RTE radio programme ‘This Week’, argued that while Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland pursued the politics of the minority, the sectarian murders of Catholics in Northern Ireland were an unfortunate but understandable trend.[58] On May 14th, the day on which the Ulster Worker’s Council Strike commenced, The Irish News published an editorial which criticised Craig’s ‘primitive views’[59]stating that ‘There is no way of calculating what sort of effect Mr. Craig’s incautious words are likely to have on those who look to him for leadership and political guidance, but surely he misjudges the climate of the times if he thinks that our parlous situation is not endangered by what he says.’[60] Further controversy would follow Craig when on 6th June 1974 he told the Monday Club at Oxford University that ‘If there is no other way to achieve the sort of constitution to maintain the heritage we believe in, we will wage civil war in the fullest sense of the word.’[61] In light of these comments Bob Cooper, Alliance Party Assembly member for West Belfast, suggested that charges of sedition should be considered against Craig.


DUP: Highlighting the threats posed by the White Paper to Loyalist culture and identity

Other sections of the DUP manifesto from 1973 explicitly stress the impending threat that the White Paper would pose to the culture and political aspirations of loyalists: ‘The Constitution Bill for Northern Ireland must be totally rejected because it ‘Makes Ulstermen and women second class citizens in the United Kingdom and is a half-way house to a united Ireland.’[62] The manifesto went on to state that the White Paper and Northern Ireland Constitution Bill could lead to the Minister for Home Affairs being a republican, fears which were deeply ingrained in the Northern Protestant psyche and which were exacerbated during the O’Neill years with his warming of relations with the Republic of Ireland in the 1960s. The manifesto picked deep into Protestant fears by quoting from a News Letter article dated 21st May 1973, which reminded the voter that ‘The anthem will go, the flag will go’. The DUP used the 1973 manifesto to underline the threat of loss of identity and autonomy to sway Protestant opinion in favour of the newly formed party. Given the general mood among Protestants during this era the DUP simply had no other option than to highlight the perceived treachery of Britain. As explained in the previous chapter the 1960s had been a comparatively peaceful era in Northern Ireland with relations between Protestants and Catholics relatively genial, yet as previously noted Bell has described the years 1969 to 1974 as ‘bad years for the Protestants of Northern Ireland.’[63] In particular the years 1971 and 1972 bore witness to a massive upheaval of the working class Protestant population in Greater Belfast[64] while the emergence of Defence Associations on the streets of Protestant areas provoked a mixture of admiration, relief and depression.[65] Circumstances demanded that the security situation be dealt with, yet by highlighting the possible loss of identity in its manifesto the DUP had discovered a potent formula for fighting campaigns in electoral politics.


The DUP eventually received 78,228 votes which was 10.8%[66] of the total; enough to give the party a possible eight seats in the new dispensation. In the end the Ulster Workers Council Strike of May 1974 would ensure that Faulkner’s pro-White Paper Ulster Unionists, who had joined in a coalition with the SDLP and the Alliance Party on 1st January 1974, would not prosper. The DUP’s boast to have Paisley, who had become an established political and religious figure in Northern Ireland throughout the previous two decades, proved a strong hand and answers many of the questions as to why the DUP proved popular early on and indeed continued to do so at various points. The LAW anti-White Paper list reveals the spectrum of competing personalities and organisations within working class Protestant politics and paramilitaries in the early 1970s. Indeed the range of Protestant political organisations which entered the 1973 Assembly Elections provides a stark demonstration of the lack of coherence that Protestants were being offered in terms of sound political representation:


                                      UUP pro-White Paper


UUP anti-White Paper


West Belfast Loyalist Coalition

Independent Unionists


Ulster Constitutional Loyalist

Independent Loyalist


Given the context of the early to mid 1970s, and with the various manifestations of Protestant, loyalist and unionist opposition which have been outlined above, it was perhaps inevitable that appeals by Protestant political parties and figures for the support of the loyalist and Protestant working class would be reduced to core issues which were reflected through the populist mechanism of ‘ethnic outbidding’[67]. The exponential growth of unionist and loyalist enterprises during this period suggests that ethnic outbidding was increasingly coming to the fore in the contest for Protestant working class support. Indeed, Brubaker and Laitin have noted how ethnic outbidding can occur in the sphere of competitive electoral politics when two or more parties from the same ethnic background compete for the allegiance of their ethnic constituency.[68] One would assume that the process of ethnic outbidding, by its very nature, cannot be regarded as healthy in divided societies as in part it demands that politicians play upon people’s fears. It also excludes those from other ethnic backgrounds: this process was the very opposite of what Northern Ireland needed in the early to mid 1970s.


A counter argument to this criticism would be that in reality ethnic outbidding was what many people wanted in the climate of insularity and self-protection that the early to mid 1970s ingrained in the consciousness of working class communities. Many voters demanded assurances from their political representatives that they would take a strong line on the contemporary problems. The negative reaction among the majority of Protestants to the rapid changes in society meant that co-operation with Catholics was not a primary concern for the vast majority of that electorate. Amongst Protestants there was an existing degree of suspicion regarding the level of support which the IRA may have had within the nationalist community, even among non-militant nationalists. This negative perception of Irish nationalism and the people who supported it as a recalcitrant body merely contributed to increasing polarisation in the community and also to the popularisation among working class Protestants of the politics espoused by Craig and Paisley. Within the general Protestant ethnic bloc at this time there was no clear social or political homogeneity, thus leaving working class Protestants ripe for the ethnic outbidding of the politicians. Protestants in particular desired strong leadership under which the constitution would be in safe hands. The unionist and loyalist politicians, then, knowingly vied for the allegiance of the Protestant working class and the broad Unionist electorate in general through ethno-nationalistic channels.


It is perhaps unsurprising that ethnic outbidding among the unionist and loyalist enterprises in the early to mid 1970s did perhaps also add momentum to, and intensify, the violence. Ostensibly it was this outbidding process that arguably gave Protestant politicians the increasing impetus to up the ante on their own ethnic group rivals. The politicians and those aligned with their cause thus gave tacit encouragement to working class Protestants to rally around their battle-cry, however subtle or ostentatious that battle-cry may have been, depending on the grouping in question. As figureheads Paisley and particularly Craig clearly fell into the ostentatious category. Craig’s comments from 1974, described earlier, about the inevitability of sectarian violence in society and his overall ‘militant’[69] approach in the early 1970s made the UUP appear increasingly out of touch with the antagonistic mood that was sweeping through working class Protestant communities. Walker has warned against judging the credibility of Vanguard too lightly as he suggests Faulkner made the mistake of doing at the time when he called the movement a ‘comic opera’[70]; Walker has appealed for a more credible understanding of Vanguard suggesting that ‘it probably deserved a more serious appraisal given the menacing nature of Craig’s quasi-fascist leadership cult and the extremism of his rhetoric.’[71] In March 1972 Vanguard staged a massive rally in Ormeau Park beside the River Lagan in South East Belfast which Boyd has suggested caused alarm among the Catholics of Belfast.[72] As a stark manifestation of the ability that Vanguard had to mobilise Protestant support on a large cross-class scale, the Ormeau Rally was a dramatic zenith of early 1970s loyalist opposition.  Paisley and the DUP, in the meantime, vied for the support of the Protestant working class by urging them to recognise the threats that the White Paper posed to their heritage while simultaneously advocating that the ‘Ulstermen under proper discipline’[73] – whether that included support for the UDA or not – defend the Protestant people from the IRA.


Vanguard and suspicions of the British: Protestants increasingly isolated

In April, a month after its Ormeau Park rally, Vanguard published a pamphlet entitled ‘Ulster – A Nation’ which drew heavily on the idea of Ulster nationalism. In what amounted to a nod to a contractarian[74] mode of thought, the document outlined the potential options available to the Ulster people following the proroguing of Stormont. Crucially Vanguard had begun to show a level of distaste for the actions of the British Government and stated in a section headed ‘Direct Rule and Full Integration’ that ‘Union with Great Britain was never an end in itself for Unionists. It was always a means to preserving Ulster’s British tradition and the identity of her loyalist people.’[75] The tone of this statement, while perhaps appearing paradoxical to an outsider, encapsulated the sense of alienation that working class Protestants in particular were experiencing at this time. Protestants, such as those who had lived in and around the parish communities on the interfaces in North Belfast (described in the previous chapter), saw the proroguing of Stormont as a watershed in the chaotic twelve months prior to March 1972. However the Vanguard publication also suggested that an Ulster Protestant British identity was actually more important to many Protestants than the Union itself which was increasingly seen as a means of safeguarding certain socio-cultural and political beliefs. Indeed Vanguard’s propaganda tapped into the anti-establishment mood of the time, aptly describing many Protestants’ self-perception that their Ulster identity should be accommodated within an overall sense of Britishness due to their loyalty in the decades previously.


Vanguard’s expedient attitude toward the Union with Great Britain, while perhaps appearing as a desperate counter rebuff in the face of perceived constitutional rejection, demonstrated that self-determination should be a key concern for Protestants. Analysing the idea of ‘full integration with direct Westminster rule’ Vanguard warned ‘It is notorious fact that attitudes towards Ulster in Great Britain have undergone a change since the last war. The mood varies from one of indifference to outright hostility…What sort of enduring marriage is possible between parties, one of whom is so lukewarm as the British now are…In any case British society is already showing signs of instability itself as it is overtaken by the crisis of social and moral values that has come upon advanced societies.’[76] The mood of despondency with Britain, detailed by Vanguard in April 1972, is further demonstration that Protestant angst in Northern Ireland has often been rooted in a cultural depression which has existed outside constitutional politics. Bruce has noted, ‘When Ulster Protestants talk about being British, it is clear that the Britain they have in mind is no more recent than the 1950s, and often their points of reference are positively Victorian.’[77]


Bruce’s assertions are harsh and perhaps too sweeping, yet the tone of ‘Ulster – A Nation’ with its suggestion that ‘The direction and pace of social development differ greatly in Great Britain and in Ulster. Both in terms of ‘permissiveness’ and in attitudes to religion, urbanised society in Great Britain is far out of step with Ulster’[78] arguably demonstrated the Vanguard leadership’s perception that Protestants in Northern Ireland remained politically conservative and that Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath’s imposition of Direct Rule was tantamount to a betrayal of previously shared political sympathies. The awkward attempts made by O’Neill to keep up with the rapid social change in wider British society throughout the previous decade, projected by the clumsy ‘go-ahead Ulster’ campaign were introverted by Vanguard’s obvious distaste for the effects that the 1960s had had on contemporary Britain in the early 1970s. However, it is worth noting that there have been suggestions that many of the moral reforms that were in the process of occurring in Britain at this time, particularly in the 1960s and which Craig made reference to, were the work of small groups of elites in British society.[79] Indeed Craig’s reservations about the pace of moral reform in the UK were not those of an alienated minority. In Scotland, for example, there was wide-ranging opposition from 1957 to 1967 to the homosexual law reform which had been instigated by the Wolfenden Committee on Prostitution and Homosexual Offences that ran from 1954 to 1957. The opposition to the reforms which would emerge from the Committee’s findings, culminated in Scotland being excluded from the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.[80] Davidson and Davis have observed that the majority of Scottish witnesses to the Wolfenden Committee were reluctant to draw a distinction between private morality and public decency, which they argued may in part be explained by the lasting role of the churches in defining the climate of Scottish civil society.[81]


However, criticisms of British society by Vanguard need to be read in particular correlation with wider Protestant concerns regarding the proroguing of the Stormont government. In effect the social and cultural change in British society which Vanguard referred to, while perhaps being relevant to people’s broader disorientation, was perhaps being made a scapegoat by a Protestant umbrella movement that felt that its constituent members’ way of life was coming under increasing threat and spearheaded by the recent British involvement in deciding how Northern Ireland should be run. Due to the actions of the British Government in the early months of 1972, as well as the perceived weak stance of the UUP toward the contemporary situation and with the events of 1971 in mind, Protestants were in the process of redefining convictions which had previously been regarded as generally solid. Vanguard’s criticism of what it perceived to be wholly negative attitudes on the British mainland to the problem in Northern Ireland was perhaps designed to reinforce notions among loyalists that Ulster could go it alone and act independently of the British Government and indeed of British society in general. Consequently Vanguard’s publication of ‘Ulster – A Nation’ alienated many of the Ulster Unionists who had been sympathetic to the movement’s anti-Faulkner cause yet still felt ideologically tied to the notion of the Union with Great Britain, despite the stresses that were being placed upon that relationship both from outside and from within. McAuley and McCormack have demonstrated why Vanguard’s criticisms of Britain and the desire for a stronger Ulster identity that was separate from Britain[82] may have caused Protestants to become wary of the direction in which it was going: ‘Part of the reason why the idea of an independent Ulster has failed to attract the support of any substantial sections of the PWC (Protestant working class) is that many in that class still regard the link with Britain as the basic guarantee of their well being.’[83] Eventually the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party, which had been formed in March 1973 by Craig and other Ulster Vanguard members, lost the momentum and popularity which had been enjoyed throughout the early to mid 1970s by the Vanguard umbrella. In the 1975 Constitutional Convention Craig signalled support for a proposed voluntary coalition with the SDLP. This triggered a split in Vanguard with deputy leader Ernest Baird taking the majority of its members with him as he formed the United Ulster Unionist Movement.


One of Vanguard’s main problems, as is demonstrated by the evident friction between middle of the road and right-wing opinion in the sections of Lindsay’s plan outlined earlier, was that it was seemingly impossible to please all the Protestant people that it hoped to attract all of the time. Although Vanguard was the most popular manifestation of Unionist responses to direct rule, it had an internal incoherence which was characterised by an evident friction between those disenfranchised Unionist Party members who wanted a reunification of that party and the militants within the UDA and LAW who saw Craig as the most consistent and militant voice for ‘the anti-reformist impulse’.[84] Another factor which compromised Vanguard was that it developed from a feeling of disillusionment among certain UUP members. Whereas Vanguard had within its ranks an element of Ulster Unionists using the movement as a means of trying to persuade the UUP to take a harder line than that which Faulkner was advocating, the DUP as a political entity had a comparatively more precise narrative and a distinctive working class profile being as it was the culmination of a long and simmering anti-establishment and indeed anti-reformist ethos.


If the key battle within unionist and loyalist politics was for the hearts and minds of working class Protestants, then the DUP was eager to prove that it was the most authentic and durable voice. While the DUP’s credentials on the stance that it had taken with regard to the overarching constitutional issues may have, in the main, been enough to the right to satisfy many of the embittered working class Protestants, there were considerably more doubts about its stance on the ‘bread and butter issues’. However, these misgivings rarely gained momentum while society was engulfed in the violent conflict. Nelson has explained this deviation, suggesting that Boal was keen to remain true to the leftist stance on social issues which the party had declared on its formation: ‘…a senior member of usually sound political judgement claimed realities had been ignored: ‘The bulk of the party, especially in the country, remained quite unaffected by Boal’s views. He took some in Belfast along with him. Most of it was so much rhetoric and those who pushed it had little power in the party, but it caused disproportionate excitement in the media and some Left organisations.’[85] Given that the existence of such a stance in a party like the DUP caused a commotion among those described by Nelson’s source, it is obvious that many both outside and within the Protestant community were attracted by the idea of a loyalist political party with socialistic tendencies. Ultimately the DUP’s promise in 1971 to be right-wing on the constitution and to the left on social issues describes, albeit on an analogous level, the evident dichotomy in the struggle between the competing personalities described throughout this study.





Progressive Loyalism: Drifting from Tradition or Reinventing Protestant Working Class politics?


The mid-1970s onwards: time for a new political approach?

 Progressive loyalist political enterprises have, within the definition of their ideological title, promised to bring a degree of forward-thinking political realism to the forefront in Protestant working class political attitudes in Northern Ireland. Their caveat has been to criticise the perceived historical mistreatment of the working classes, both Protestant and Catholic, by the Unionist Stormont government which existed in a hegemonic nature throughout the fifty years prior to 1972. Not content to dwell on ethnic symbolism, the right-wing tribalism and ethno-nationalism evident in the thinking of the DUP and Vanguard has taken a back seat to realist political thought based on social justice and social welfare within loyalist communities as well as Northern Ireland’s wider working class population, leading to much grass-roots interaction with politicians and community workers from the nationalist side. McAuley has noted that progressive loyalism’s ‘conception lies in the recognition by some of the inability of Ulster Unionism to represent their views and the growing political and economic marginalisation of many within Protestant working class communities. That is not to claim that such views were dominant, or to ignore the importance of sectarianism as an organisational feature of these communities.’[86] Historically and contemporarily parties such as the PUP and the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) have faced much ambivalence within the communities they have emerged from, forcing the former into the political margins and the latter into closure by the end of 2001. Importantly intra-communal political representation has not been the only factor behind the existence of these parties. Both emerged from loyalist paramilitaries and those who were sympathetic in a political sense to their cause. Until its disintegration the UDP aimed to provide a voice for constituencies of the UDA/UFF while the PUP has provided political analysis to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.


The mid 1970s provided the context for the genesis of this new brand of politics. Many Protestants had felt dismayed by Faulkner’s signing of the Sunningdale Agreement in December 1973 – the main concern for loyalists was the inclusion of a controversial Council of Ireland which ‘was to have a wide range of functions, including the study of the impact of EC membership, development of resources, co-operative ventures in trade and industry, electricity generation, tourism, roads and transport, public health advisory services, sport, culture and the arts.’[87] Fears among Protestants that the Council could smooth the passage to a united Ireland were given integrity by the opposition figures of Paisley and Craig and to a lesser extent Harry West, who had been elected Ulster Unionist Party leader in January 1974. In May 1974 the UDA provided the muscle for the Ulster Worker’s Council which was determined to prove the intensity of Protestant opposition to power-sharing. Paradoxically, it was during the period surrounding the UWC strike and its aftermath that this new political loyalism would come to the fore in many Protestant working class areas. However, its evolution would be neither smooth nor as successful as the other Unionist political parties which preceded it.


The Ulster Workers’ Council Strike: Class Divisions

The Ulster Workers’ Council strike which began on May 14th 1974 has been widely analysed in studies of Northern Ireland’s recent history. McKittrick argued at the time that the UWC had developed in the previous twelve months due to LAW’s growing inability to harness the industrial strength of Protestant workers.[88] The strike has been interpreted in various ways by different commentators, with some assuming that it demonstrated a manifest reality which had been portrayed on stage by Sam Thompson in dramatic form in the decade previously and of the existence of a lingering anti-Catholic and anti-nationalist ethos among Protestant workers. Others at the time, most notably the British Libertarian Socialist group Solidarity, tried to look beyond the perceived reactionary nature of loyalism in Northern Ireland and went against the traditional anti-loyalist sentiment of the British Left and congratulated its demonstration of the radicalisation of working class politics, however narrowly defined and albeit over a relatively short period of time.[89] The events of May 1974 perhaps most significantly led to another fracture in political and paramilitary relations with the line being drawn at the strike’s conclusion, at least temporarily, between the competing class enterprises in Protestant political and paramilitary constituencies. The strike made it obvious that certain Protestant politicians and organisations flirted with the loyalist paramilitaries when there was the need for a strong-handed presence during periods of loyalist opposition. Maguire has noted that ‘The UDA also provided the main extra-parliamentary muscle for the anti-Faulkner Unionists in 1971 – 1974.’[90] This point correlates with the expedient attitude shown by McCrea and Lindsay toward the legitimacy of the UDA in 1972 and 1973 which was demonstrated earlier in this chapter.


Significantly, during this period the UVF published the organisation’s thoughts on the idea of federalism in its regular news sheet. The article revealed that the UVF recognised the distinctiveness of the ‘Celtic regions – Wales, Scotland and Ulster’[91] which the organisation felt would be best served in a ‘Federal Britain…a group of constituent units whose aims would be to reconcile national unity and power with the maintenance of individual regional rights.’[92] In the same year the Red Hand Commando released a document entitled ‘Within the Context of Northern Ireland’[93] which espoused radical change and mused upon the high rate of unemployment in mid 1970s Northern Ireland. Other issues that were raised in the document included a minor debate about nationalisation and private enterprise – a highly relevant and controversial contemporary topic in the United Kingdom of the mid-1970s. All of the issues described in the Red Hand Commando document would be argued in a public sphere if the new Volunteer Political Party were successful in the 1975 Convention Elections. The release of ‘Within the Context of Northern Ireland’ signalled the UVF and RHC’s initial foray into politics through the formation of a political wing – the VPP.


Although the VPP party was eventually disbanded in November 1974, some seven months after its inception, its brief existence demonstrated that there was a realisation by some UVF and RHC members that the working class loyalists whom they saw themselves defending in a military sense, were also in need of a suitable political voice; the perception being that the established parties, such as the UUP as well as the various enterprises that had fleetingly emerged in the early 1970s, could not be relied on to provide any adequate political representation for the working people in loyalist constituencies. Maguire notes that the VPP was formed ‘under Ken Gibson and Hugh Smyth. The UVF had four councillors who spoke for them on political issues. These were the Belfast Independent Councillors Smyth and Proctor and from South East Antrim Councillors Burton and Kidd.’[94] Ken Gibson entered the Westminster Election of October 1974, returning 2,690 votes, only bettering Labour & Trade Union and the Communist Party of Ireland and falling heavily short of the DUP which gained 59,451 votes.[95] With the loyalist paramilitaries highly active in the mid 1970s it was perhaps not the best time to attempt the formation of a durable political wing as many members of the UVF and RHC still maintained a belief that there was a war that needed to be fought. In tandem with this obstacle there was, as noted previously, a broad canvas of other Protestant political parties that loyalists could vote for. Maguire has outlined the difficulties which faced the VPP ‘…the organisation (UVF) was primarily a military one and many of the rank and file wished it to remain so. Secondly, there was an ample choice of Unionist groupings in existence and not much need for another one…The VPP was wound up in November 1974 following Gibson’s low poll in the Westminster General Election. Hugh Smyth maintained the UVF’s political wing as the Independent Unionist Group (IUG) which later became the Progressive Unionist Party.’[96]


Too radical, too soon?

The difficulties that faced the VPP in the 1970s were emblematic, in a microcosmic sense, of the persistent obstacles that would stand in the way of the political progress of the PUP in the years between its inception in the late 1970s and the post-Belfast Agreement era of 1998 and onwards. Whereas the DUP drew upon particular strands of Ulster and loyalist ethno-identity in attracting political allegiance, the new politics espoused through the initiatives connected with the paramilitaries have perhaps lost something in their translation to ordinary working people who have had their gazes fixed on the constitutional issue for such a long period of time. This has led to a perception that the manifesto of the progressive loyalists has been too radical for working class Protestants while the constitutional issue remains relevant.[97] Nelson, perhaps harshly, believes that ‘Those most likely to feel sympathetic to a UVF party were militant loyalists and politically unsophisticated people who just knew they wanted to back the cause. But the VPP confused these very people by its departure from diehard loyalism.’[98] However a frustration for progressive loyalism in its early days was that some on Northern Ireland’s traditional political Left perceived that it could not be considered as truly radical enough given that it was entrenched in militant loyalist opposition which due to its origins and character was perceived as a solely reactionary creed. It has been suggested that even potential allies such as those who had been involved in the Northern Ireland Labour Party found the idea of a progressive loyalist party connected with what was perceived to be a reactionary and sectarian paramilitary grouping (UVF) a paradox too far, especially given the context and the nature of the UVF’s military operations at this time. For example, on the day of the Westminster Election, 10th October 1974, a Catholic named Albert Greer Lutton from Antrim was killed by the Protestant Action Force, a cover name for the UVF. On the following day James Hasty, another Catholic from North Belfast, was killed by PAF.[99] These murders and others similar to them, which had been perpetrated by the UVF around this time, stole any integrity from the VPP’s political career. Indeed, Nelson has stated that, ‘We can see what a vicious circle the VPP was in, even among potentially sympathetic local voters. For loyalists, its policies were too radical. For those (like former NILP voters) the VPP hoped to attract by its radicalism, a party linked to the UVF could not be trusted as radical.’[100] While Nelson’s argument may initially appear correct her research has dated somewhat. Other scholars have demonstrated that there was actually a close connection between the UVF and ex-NILP members. Edwards has quoted Billy Mitchell stating that Jim McDonald of the UVF at the time was an old NILP member[101]; and also Mitchell’s assertion that ‘the NILP’s influence was beginning to be felt across the ranks of the organisation (UVF)’[102] in the early 1970s through the influence of NILP member Reverend John Stewart who was the then Minister of Woodvale Methodist Church in North West Belfast.[103] Indeed the intervention of figures in civic society similar to Stewart would, in the future, prove to be important at the loyalist grass-roots level in attempts to persuade the loyalist paramilitaries to disband.[104]


Yet however bitter and bemused working class Protestants may have felt at the start of the conflict in 1971 there was, by the late 1970s, a growing weariness at the ongoing violence. The UVF had for example found itself trying to operate in a starkly different context to the one in which it had found a degree of intra-communal favour and momentum in the early years of the conflict. The policy of ‘Ulsterisation’, described in Chapter Three, had been officially adopted by the British Government in 1974 and proved successful in drawing into the security forces working class Protestants who may have otherwise joined the loyalist paramilitaries earlier in the decade. A May 1977 strike, which had been spearheaded by Paisley in an attempt to replicate the glory of 1974, proved to be a public relations disaster for the loyalist paramilitaries that were involved as they shared in Paisley’s humiliation when the strike failed to emulate the success of the 1974 stoppages. The May 1977 strike, Ulsterisation and the controversial Diplock Courts system[105] which allowed the security forces to swoop on republican terrorists with a degree of impunity interwove to bring into question the loyalist paramilitaries’ previously seemingly unassailable self-appointed role as community defenders of working class Protestant areas. Maguire has explained the difficult position that the UVF found itself in during the period of the late 1970s: ‘UVF participation in the 1977 strike further alienated them from the Unionist politicians and as a result of this the UVF cut down the number of its sectarian reprisals…there were some Protestants who felt revulsion at the manner of some of the UVF killings, particularly the mutilations of the “Shankill Butchers”…Too many Protestants thought that the killing of Catholics, abhorrent at any time, was no longer justified.’[106]


In the midst of this increasingly weary context, 1979 saw the formation of the Progressive Unionist Party by ex-UVF prisoners who had been schooled in politics in the Maze prison throughout the 1970s. Roy Garland, in his biography of Gusty Spence, has reproduced three sections of Prison Camp UVF Standing Orders from 1st November 1978 that were prepared by Billy Mitchell and which related to ‘education and library facilities’.[107] Between points 1, 2 and 3 Mitchell referred to education as ‘an essential function of Society…the UVF Education Programme shall be organised as an integral part of the ‘compound culture’ and shall be aimed at…Preparing personnel for social and community service upon release…Stimulating political awareness…Developing the spirit of human solidarity.’[108] Essentially the UVF at this time, under the auspices of Spence, Mitchell and others was attempting to educate as many of its members as possible and prepare those who had thus far been involved in a military campaign to think along political lines arguably in the hope that the newly formed PUP would appeal to their newfound political sensibilities once they gained freedom and returned to the loyalist areas in which they lived. Accordingly the PUP analyses its own inception as emerging from ‘decades of under and mis-representation of the Unionist Working Class by traditional Unionist Parties.’[109] The formation of the PUP would prove to be a more durable marriage of loyalist paramilitarism and politics than the VPP in the mid 1970s. However the political mood of the Protestant working class, which has arguably been forged from their experiences of republican paramilitarism, perceived betrayal by Britain and interference from Ireland has made the PUP’s appeals for political support an unenviable task, given the populist[110] politics of the DUP and, at various times, the UUP.


Progressive loyalist political responses to the Anglo-Irish crisis: new politics in the wrong era?

Throughout the period since 1971 the DUP has occasionally demonstrated its socialist bent. For example during the DUP’s tenth anniversary conference in Ballymena Town Hall on 24th October 1981, the party bemoaned the state of the economy and criticised the incumbent Conservative Government: ‘Conference deplores the hardship and suffering caused by the Thatcher Economic Policies and implores the Government to take measures to immediately reduce the extremely serious level of unemployment in Northern Ireland.’[111] This sort of conference motion would have pleased those in the DUP who had supported Boal’s original socialistic stance on the party’s formation in the previous decade. While the motion demonstrated that there were elements within the DUP who had maintained a socialist bent, it might also be said that the party’s criticisms of Thatcher’s economic policies were somewhat incongruous given the tempo of other local developments which characterised the era in which conference was held and which affected the mood of Protestants in relation to the ongoing constitutional issue. The most notable of these were the Irish republican hunger strikes in the Maze prison[112] which had flavoured political developments in Northern Ireland throughout the first eight months of 1981. Indeed, Bew has observed that on the back of the hunger strikes ‘The fear of Sinn Fein superseding the SDLP, carefully cultivated and even exaggerated by the Irish government, was the decisive impulse behind the process that led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.’[113] and that ‘The hunger strikes, not in themselves but through later political developments, had therefore been one of the turning-points of the Troubles, a turning-point that eventually had deep implications for the local Protestant community…’[114] Political events throughout the 1980s, just as in the 1970s, conspired to stifle the socialistic potential of some in the DUP.


Indeed, various crises for Ulster’s Protestants throughout the next two decades, which were often proclaimed by and used for momentum by the DUP, meant that the security situation and constitutional issues would once again take prominence over the social concerns of the sort which had been raised in the October 1981 conference in Ballymena Town Hall – just as they had done in the early 1970s. Hugh Smyth has described how these regressions have proved to be a major frustration for the progressive loyalist cause: ‘Just when you feel that you’re making an impact then something in the political front happens and the people then run to their trenches and they vote safely. And in voting safely, when there’s a constitutional crisis or when people see that there may be a danger here, they’re inclined to look for what they consider to be a safe pair of hands and unfortunately they look at the like of the DUP to be that safe pair of hands.’[115]


This bad timing for progressive loyalism was to be particularly evident during the period of the Anglo-Irish ‘crisis’. The signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15th November 1985 by the British and Irish governments ‘ushered in an era of direct rule with a green tinge’[116] according to Bew. However it was during the Anglo-Irish crisis of the mid-1980s that the progressive loyalist enterprises published two key documents. In 1985 the PUP produced ‘Sharing responsibility: An alternative to foreign involvement in the internal affairs of a region of the United Kingdom’[117] while later, in 1987, saw the UDA-linked Ulster Political Research Group publish the optimistically titled ‘Common sense’[118], a follow-up to a 1979 publication by the UDA entitled ‘Beyond the religious divide’[119]. In the midst of the Anglo-Irish crisis the UDA leader John McMichael had suggested that Sinn Fein should be included in a constitutional conference involving Ulster’s political parties[120] and that progress would be made through an internal settlement between Protestant and Catholics.[121] As part of Unionist proposals for an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement this mode of thinking was quite radical and it was arguably out of step with its context, when hostility to the Irish government was regaining momentum in loyalist communities in correlation with anti-British cynicism akin to that of the early 1970s. The negative mood owed much to the fear that Great Britain was allowing the Irish government to co-operate more fully in the political machinations of Northern Irish society with the signing of the aforementioned Anglo-Irish Agreement. McMichael, who in a similar fashion to his Sinn Fein counterparts at the time advocated a simultaneous political and military campaign, was somewhat pragmatic but was also keenly aware of the emotional power that identity politics held in Northern Ireland. In 1985 he was reported to have said ‘Despite what people think, Margaret Thatcher did not win over the hunger strikers. The IRA won because of the deep emotional effect on the Nationalist community. Since 1981 Sinn Fein has been reaping the benefits.’[122] In the same report, written by Mervyn Pauley, it was noted that ‘the UDA says the Ulster problem needs to be re-defined in the minds of most people in the mainland. It claims that the issue is not one of Protestant versus Catholic, of social reform or civil rights, but of whether Ulster is to exist as a separate entity.’[123] In the era of the Anglo-Irish Agreement progressive loyalism was still very much an abstract political ethos grounded in the thinking of ex-prisoners. For ordinary loyalists who had fought the IRA in the 1970s and lived in fear of a republican uprising during the period of the Maze Hunger Strikes in the early 1980s the thought of acknowledging Sinn Fein let alone negotiating with them in the political arena would have been perceived as tantamount to surrender.[124]


While there may have been tacit approval for the message that McMichael was trying to convey, the DUP, as evidenced by the Carson Trails which were described earlier, provided the main voice of opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement for working class Protestants – just as it had attempted on various occasions in the 1970s in relation to other initiatives. The DUP demonstrated this uncompromising stance when it criticised the British Government for failing in its duty to outlaw Sinn Fein,[125]declaring that the party ‘alone is seen as the immovable barrier to the sell-out.’[126] While Paisley might have disagreed with some of John McMichael’s new political initiatives as part of a wider progressive loyalist cause, he was not slow in attempting to gain currency among the rank and file of militant loyalists after McMichael’s death at the hands of republicans. In December 1987 after the UDA’s deputy leader had been killed by the IRA, allegedly in collusion with fellow loyalists,[127] Paisley warned that the British Government would be responsible if Protestants took the law into their own hands.[128]


Significantly it was during this period of perceived crisis that Paisley and other senior members of the DUP, including Peter Robinson, threw their support behind Ulster Resistance; a ‘citizen’s army’ of sorts which was opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In a reappraisal of Ulster Resistance in 1989, an Independent journalist was of the opinion that ‘Ulster Resistance represented at its creation in late 1986, an attempt by loyalist politicians and business elements to harness the potential paramilitary muscle of the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland and use it to bring down the Anglo-Irish Agreement…’[129] That varying degrees of both politicians and business elements were involved demonstrated that it was felt necessary to try and replicate the anti-establishment mood of the 1970s, which had been particularly evident during the early exuberance of Vanguard when Protestants had felt betrayed by both the British and Irish governments and under attack from within Northern Ireland at the hands of the republican paramilitary campaign. Ulster Resistance arguably had its genesis set in the earlier years of the 1980s when Paisley organised the Carson Trails. The Ulster Resistance movement would have satisfied the more militant loyalists in the UDA especially those who were wary of the timing of that organisation’s new political initiatives.[130] Sean Farren of the SDLP highlighted the menacing nature of the DUP’s stance at this time which he felt was underlined by the formation of Ulster Resistance, claiming that ‘Quite obviously it is part of the continuing threat by the loyalist leadership to resort to violence and, obviously, when one goes down this road, one can’t have control over all those that one attempts to mobilise.’[131] While Ulster Resistance and the short-lived ‘Third Force’,[132] which had preceded it have often been considered to be empty gestures by Paisley and the DUP, it is perhaps worth restating the fact that a consignment of weapons which would be distributed among the UVF, UDA and Ulster Resistance were intercepted by the RUC on 8th January 1988[133]; Paisley inevitably distanced himself from the law-breaking implications that this discovery would have had – just as he had done in the late 1960s after a ‘perilously close association with UVF violence’.[134]





‘Taking to the pitch on a very bad wicket’[135]? Loyalism, the peace process and the challenge of reclaiming civility in the era surrounding the Belfast Agreement and after

 The broad progressive loyalist ideology has constantly criticised the DUP for focusing Protestants’ attention on the symbolic and arguably empty economy of ethnic identity politics.[136] Left-wing political thought, akin to that advocated by the PUP’s forebears in the NILP and the trade union figures described in the previous chapter, has been a key component of progressive loyalism.[137] In 1998, for example, the PUP was proffering dynamic suggestions for new politics that it hoped would find appeal among working class Protestants. The DUP however continued to play upon Protestant doubts about the Belfast Agreement by appealing to the old fears of loss of identity which it felt could be manufactured through the new cross border bodies. The DUP also warned Protestants about the continuous dangers of the republican movement in the knowledge that the IRA had not decommissioned its weaponry. While the DUP was proclaiming a similar message to that which it had appealed for Protestants to rally around in the critical years of 1971 and 1973 and throughout the era of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the PUP tried to project a broader British class-conscious manifesto in the style of ‘old school’ Labour. Billy Hutchinson, who was the PUP press officer in 1998, was of the opinion that ‘We, living as a substantial proletarian minority in the island of Ireland, wishing to remain part of the working-class of the United Kingdom rather than be bound to what is now accepted as a clerically dominated, nationalist focused statelet, were disregarded. We believed then, as we do now, that our class interests were better served in union with the working-class across these islands. Very simplistically we were portrayed as sectarian bigots standing in the way of a nation’s freedom.’[138] Hutchinson’s damnation of the Republic of Ireland as a ‘clerically dominated…statelet’[139] was a statement which, in temperament, is reminiscent of the decrying of Irish culture and society that Paisley himself might have preached throughout the period of the 1960s and 1970s and was clearly at odds with the reality of what was at the time proving to be a rapidly modernising Irish society spearheaded by the phenomenon of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ which had managed to capture people’s imagination. However, while echoing similar sentiments to Dunlop[140] and Eames[141], Hutchinson’s demand can be read as a broader appeal for Protestant working class interests to be accommodated within an overall British context. Indeed, Hutchinson’s comments in the published ‘Breaking The Mould’ were demonstrative of the PUP’s desire to be regarded as part of Britain’s wider Leftist political economy, an aspiration which has probably proved to be difficult for many working class Protestants given the constitutional issue.


By attempting to widen the scope of Unionist working class Protestant political interests through an East-West perspective the PUP has advocated a less insular imagining of the Northern Ireland problem – a reframing which was arguably at odds with wider Protestant misgivings surrounding the localised problems which they perceived would be caused by the fledgling Belfast Agreement; and which were experienced throughout the era from the early 1970s onwards. The PUP has, then, been aware that its manifesto could be submerged by negative responses in Britain to loyalist paramilitaries and politics which have been prevalent throughout the conflict. Dugald McCullough, secretary of the Victoria Branch of the PUP in 1999, warned a party conference of the dangers that the historic Unionist link with sectarianism – particularly from the Stormont days – could cause to perceptions of the progressive loyalist cause. McCullough appealed to PUP members that sectarianism was disrespect based on cultural difference and in criticising the sectarianism of ‘the past’ declared that the PUP had too much self-respect to be disrespectful to others.[142] By attempting to appeal to its members, that sectarianism could play no part in the emerging progressive loyalist civic cause, the PUP was arguably attempting to build up a political profile which could engage with the concerns of working class voters across the United Kingdom. This was a decisive step away from what Aughey has critically described as the ‘self-serving and particular’[143] nature of Unionism which has often limited its appeal beyond the parochial.


However, countering the PUP’s aim in persuading its constituents away from sectarianism and parochialism there has, in recent times, been what might be described as a fatalistic attitude to the issue of sectarianism and its relation to loyalist identity among some sections of the Protestant working class community in Northern Ireland. George Newell, for example, perceived that misgivings about the sectarian nature of the Stormont government prior to the Troubles had been off-set onto the loyalist community and suggested that ‘We’re coming into a generation now where they’re (Protestant working class in Northern Ireland) being labelled bigoted and sectarian because of their culture, not because of their working ethic. Now because of their culture, whether it’s Orangeism or unionism or Protestantism or loyalism or paramilitarism…whatever they want to put to it. Now it’s all over the news – ‘Prods don’t have a culture. It doesn’t exist.’ That Orange culture is sectarian and bigoted, ‘you have to do away with it, you’s are Irish…the problem is you’s don’t realise it yet.’ That is never going to happen.’[144] Newell’s argument suggests the depth of feeling among loyalists in relation to nationalist, and indeed wider, perceptions – especially in recent times – that loyalist culture is inherently negative and could be comfortably subsumed within a reunified Ireland; a theory which Hastings has argued on an economic and material basis in an analysis of the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland who he described as experiencing ‘The last writhings of a society left beached by history’,[145] in an article which was analysed in the introduction to the previous chapter. Indeed, Walker has argued against the kind of sentiments espoused by Hastings, suggesting that ‘The Protestant working class remains the cutting edge of an identity and an outlook which has to be accommodated on its own terms to a far greater extent than even the new nationalism or new Republicanism seems prepared to accept.’[146] The negative perceptions of Protestant working class social and political culture in Northern Ireland described by Newell and which have been given popular voice by commentators such as Hastings and the feeling of vilification which was described in the previous chapter by Dunlop have contributed to an insular attitude among the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland. Indeed, Dunlop has proceeded to argue that ‘It continues to rankle that the nationalist interpretation of reality, which seems unwilling to acknowledge that it made any negative contribution to the difficulties, appears to have won the propaganda battle. It has driven Protestants deeper into self-righteousness and isolation.’[147]


The Protestant working class after the Belfast Agreement: negotiating a new political direction – safety first?

While the Belfast Agreement may have left many unionists and loyalists feeling increasingly uncertain and isolated due to perceived concessions to republicans and nationalists, there has been a perceptive recognition by many in working class Protestant communities that the politics of mainstream Unionism, both historically and in the present day, has not been advantageous for their own class interests. Hence there has existed a potential support base for the progressive loyalist ethos and class conscious politics. This was demonstrated by opinions which had been aired during community think tank discussions in loyalist areas. In pamphlets authored by Michael Hall in the latter years of the 1990s there was evidence that many working class Protestants in Belfast felt disillusioned with the way they had been treated in the past but were unsure of what direction to take for a more positive and empowered future. In ‘Puppets No More’, one of Hall’s Island pamphlets which was compiled in 1999, the Ballymacarrett think tank in East Belfast facilitated a debate in which were perceptions, evident in anonymous criticisms of the way in which unionist politicians had allowed Protestant working class areas to disintegrate since the start of the Troubles. One contributor declared that ‘We’re living in the biggest Protestant majority community in Belfast and yet we haven’t got proper training or education facilities here at all. We allowed that to happen, our bloody politicians allowed it to happen.’[148]


In the same think tank there was significantly an acknowledgment and criticism of those working class Protestants who were fearful of critical engagement with members of the Catholic working class – a necessary component in building a class conscious and non-sectarian reimagining and reshaping of Northern Irish politics and society: ‘I went to Jordanstown and…the people I would have seen in East Belfast waving their Union Jacks on the Twelfth and voting their sectarian politics – for want of a better term – whenever the elections came round, were not prepared to stand up for themselves when they were round the table with people from the nationalist community…see all the rest of them from East Belfast who didn’t want to talk about politics unless it was somewhere safe, like on the 1st July and the Twelfth, dancing and singing and waving their flags!’[149] The people referred to in this instance by the Ballymacarret group are perhaps typical of the kind of Protestant voters who could have been easily swayed by the DUP’s embracing of loyalist identity through what Tom Winstone has described as playing to the lowest common denominator.[150] In relation to the seemingly prevalent attitude of insular cultural safeguarding another difficulty encountered by the PUP and progressive loyalism in general has been how the party and the broad ideology it has advocated has defined its manifesto and self-image in relation to wider unionist and Protestant social and political concerns, as well as in regard to the current reshaping of Britishness that is occurring within the context of discussions relating to the politics of identity.


Projections of cultural identity and unionist credentials

The Protestant working class in Northern Ireland have, since the start of the conflict and perhaps especially throughout the uncertain period in the wake of the Belfast Agreement, projected a multi-faceted cultural identity which has perhaps appeared incautious to external observers. Both in terms of the non-linear narratives and lack of cohesion as well as in the recognisably hostile use of culture to define Protestants and loyalists against the Catholic and nationalist community rather than for their own working class constituencies, it has been a phenomenon which has perhaps always characterised and popularised loyalist support for political unionism. Howe has commented on loyalism’s ‘crisis of culturo-political modernity’ with particular reference to a lack of nationality claims in loyalist rhetoric and writing as well an allusion in PUP and UDP material to images of ‘our community’ and ‘the community’[151] while Finlayson has noted that ‘…what is most striking about the interpellation of Protestant identity in PUP discourse is its relative absence. In fact there is a peculiar reversal going on in PUP discourse. Where traditional Loyalist discourse…uses the notion of a specific Ulster people and an interpellation of those people as a fixing point in an ideological discourse of democracy…It is an interpellation of a free-thinking democratic citizen that is used to justify the identity of the Ulster Loyalist.’[152] Inevitably, one of the charges made against progressive Loyalism by its opponents within the broad Protestant ethnic bloc is that they have been unable to project a strong enough pro-Union political package. The advantage of this has been that those attracted to the socialist politics of the PUP in particular have been allowed to look beyond the link with the UVF and vote for the PUP based purely on their political policies. However, for many of the working class Protestants, who were left feeling vulnerable by the Belfast Agreement and the lack of progress within their communities that followed it, this perceived dilution of the ethno-national fanfare which has often accompanied Northern Irish Protestant and Loyalist politics has generated a suspicion of the PUP that the party has perhaps struggled to overcome.


In reference to this dilemma for the PUP Colin Robinson, who is a member of the party and a community worker in the Lower Ravenhill Road area of South East Belfast, has stated, ‘You always need to establish your unionist credentials…we have to peddle a vision of Unionism where there’s an obvious linkage between people’s prosperity and the Union.’[153] There is a key challenge that the PUP and other similar parties which may emerge from Loyalist constituencies that have been severely affected by the Troubles will face. The challenge is that while working class Protestants remain concerned by the constitutional issue, it will be difficult to balance the socio-cultural aspects that their electorate feel are best safeguarded by a strong ethno-national party such as the DUP with the need to educate people that their communities’ social betterment is, at the very least, of equal importance. This has been a serious test of the PUP’s resolve – particularly in the post Belfast Agreement era, where the PUP’s connection and support for that accord has led to a perception among working class Protestants that the PUP, along with the UUP, has been too willing to accommodate nationalism and republicanism. The working class Protestant sense of dislocation from the political process is arguably borne from an ethno-nationalistic suspicion over the perceived gains being made by nationalists and republicans and made manifest by the success of Sinn Fein. Indeed, the sense of detachment from a peace process, which has perceptibly borne witness to the ascent of Sinn Fein in particular, signals an averment among working class Protestants of common misgivings about republicanism which had been cemented in the early 1970s and which perhaps grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Obversely, the DUP has recognised such concerns and throughout these periods it promoted a brand of political reductionism which offered a bullish and credible rival to political republicanism which was increasingly seen to be in the ascendancy among the Catholic and nationalist electorate. Colin Robinson perceived that many working class Protestants have continued to vote for what he described as a ‘loser’s vision of Unionism’, stating that ‘…What we need to be saying to people is ‘being a unionist doesn’t mean you have to suffer – there are actually advantages and benefits in material terms for people like you and your community contained within maintaining the Union but if you want to take advantage of those things you have to start getting concessions in things like education and health and just better your way of life because that’s what maintaining the Union is really about, it’s not about whinging on about every time the nationalists are seen to get something.’’[154]


The seemingly predetermined mindset that appears to exist in the loyalist community and which Robinson has described as manifesting itself in the idea of a ‘loser’s vision of Unionism’ may be countered, as he suggests, by raising people’s awareness that their material interests are important. However if attitudes such as those described by figures within the Protestant working class such as George Newell[155] and Frankie Gallagher of the UDA-linked UPRG[156] are prevalent in working class Protestant communities then it would seem that the effects of the Troubles, deindustrialisation and negative outside perceptions of Loyalism in the era of the ‘peace process’ have contributed, along with poor political representation, to a growing disinterest in matters relating to material benefits. It has already been demonstrated that by the time the Troubles started working class Protestants’ loyalty to Britain, which for many decades had secured a degree of material reward, was no longer reciprocated with economic dividends.


‘A compliant electorate’ – political apathy inherited?

The problems that have faced the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland since the start of the Troubles have been a composite part of a more general maelstrom in working class communities across the country. It might be said that the Northern Ireland conflict has in many ways created a culture of powerlessness at community level where potential voters for progressive Loyalism exist. Michael Hall highlighted this phenomenon when he wrote of the precarious state of the peace process at the time. [157] He considered the cool reception given by politicians and church leaders, among others, to the involvement of community groups in politics.[158] Describing the frustrated experiences of people from both Catholic and Protestant working class areas of Northern Ireland, he wrote ‘When the radical young members of the Rathcoole Self-Help Group in 1985 accused Unionist politicians of having little real concern for the welfare of the people in this large Protestant working-class estate, local Unionist politicians were outraged. Up until then Rathcoole had always provided a compliant electorate – easily lulled into acquiescence with slogans like ‘This we will Maintain’ and ‘No Surrender!’ Yet here were these young loudmouths kicking up a stink on social issues!’[159] While there have been various attempts throughout the years, by groups similar to Rathcoole Self-Help, to engage in a critical analysis of the established unionist political parties and politicians in their communities, the powerlessness that Hall notes has pervaded loyalist areas in particular. While unionist politicians, such as those described by Hall, have perhaps lopsidedly focused their constituents on the constitutional issue there have also been the obvious negative effects of the conflict and the destructive intracommunal bind of the paramilitaries along with the deindustrialisation often mentioned. These have all contributed to the construction of a dystopian vision in working class Protestant areas.


By the early years of the new millennium there was a tangible feeling of frustration among the broad Protestant political spectrum which was mainly focused on the apparent lack of progress which had been made by the UUP in the wake of the Belfast Agreement. This vexation at the main unionist party affected the PUP. Although the PUP brand had been at a premium throughout the political process of the mid to late 1990s, it was the party’s connection with the Agreement, which had proved unpopular among many Protestants, which perhaps hindered its progress. Bloomer’s analysis is crucial in that he admits the PUP’s shortcomings as a political party. Colin Robinson confirmed this dilemma when he stated to the authors of ‘A Watching Brief?’, that in the period immediately after the euphoria surrounding the Loyalist paramilitary ceasefire in October 1994 ‘…maybe we took on people who were not best suited to the Party, but the momentum was genuine, perhaps some of those people were better suited to community development work. For them, the politics of the Party was not as interesting…The Party was not equipped to deal with such quick expansion the more mundane aspects of developing a Party in terms of constitutions and structures were not in place.’[160] If the shortcomings of the PUP have been recognisable to those heavily involved in the day to day running of the party then there is little doubt that those insecurities have been picked up by the wider Unionist electorate who have perhaps sensed that while the intentions of those in the PUP whose main interests lay in work at community level were honourable, the Protestant sense of loss after the Belfast Agreement has led to a demand for strong constitutional leadership by seasoned politicians.


This has given the DUP an advantage which has also been due in part to a sense that the PUP has perhaps been perceived by many Protestants as a marginal protest party on the sidelines which is made up of community activists and ex-paramilitarists advocating a particular political project which has been anathema to both working class Protestants in the party’s immediate reach as well as middle class[161] Protestants, both of whom desire strong political leadership. The DUP has, particularly in recent years, proved to be a well-oiled machine and has amassed much experience at all the main political levels: local council, local government, Westminster and European. The PUP on the other hand remains a small localised party with minimal influence in the political arenas where the DUP has often demonstrated its strength and leverage. Robin Newton argued that the PUP ‘haven’t been as competent…they just haven’t articulated their views as widely…the spread of their talent hasn’t been wide enough…’[162] While Sinn Fein has gained fresh votes from Catholic middle class constituencies, there has been no sign of a change in attitude by Protestant middle class voters toward the PUP. However, the DUP’s gains in the 2003 Assembly elections[163] and the 2005 Local Government elections[164] suggested that middle class voters had drifted from the UUP to that party. Newton’s further explanation of why the PUP has fared badly demonstrates his perception, possibly shared by many in the DUP, that Protestants have been unwilling to vote for a party connected with loyalist paramilitaries: ‘…in general the Protestant community has said “no – we’re not supporting…if you are inextricably linked, if you are tied in with, no, I’m sorry, we’re not supporting you” and they have thrown their weight behind the leadership of the DUP.’[165]


However, it might be said that the frustration of this phenomena for the PUP is borne out of a paradoxical state which may perhaps exist in some Protestant’s psyches; Bruce has underlined what BBC broadcaster David Dunseith suggested was perhaps a ‘flexible conscience’[166] among Protestant voters by suggesting that the wide range of unionist political parties nullified the opportunities for paramilitary related initiatives and that their only laudable role was their campaign of violence which was seen to quell republican hostility.[167] There may be a sense, then, that the PUP has been punished by the electorate for its association with the UVF. Dawn Purvis argued that the PUP’s relationship with the UVF had, in theory, been a positive one despite the obvious stresses the UVF link put on the PUP’s chances of wider political success: ‘I see the PUP link with the UVF and Red Hand Commando as a positive – I know people will say what?! Have you lost your head?! But honestly, the leadership of the UVF and the Red Hand Commando want to transform, they want to, I think it was termed “bring their men out of the jungle”. They want to see themselves as being remembered as something that contributed to the community. I think the PUP’s relationship is to facilitate that and to make that come about. The PUP is about bringing an end to paramilitarism, so I see the link as being positive because of what we’re trying to do and the leadership of the PUP is trying to do and what’s happening in terms of the UVF’s internal consultation and what have you, so I see the link as being positive and when we bring about that end to paramilitarism then we will be vindicated – and I don’t like saying that, but we will be vindicated in terms of retaining the link and keeping the link with UVF because we have helped facilitate that coming about. It won’t be the DUP that will have brought it about, it won’t be the Ulster Unionists that will have brought it about, it won’t be governments that will have brought it about, it’ll be the PUP along with the leadership of the UVF and Red Hand that have brought it about and that will be a better circumstance for our community.’[168]


Yet there have perhaps also been misgivings surrounding the PUP’s perceived lack of articulation in mainstream politics, as described by Newton, and which arguably has its roots in the problems which both Bloomer and Robinson have highlighted above – the perception among working class Protestants that though the PUP has been active in community involvement it has lacked experience and professionalism in the high politics which still contribute to political allegiance and safeguard the constitution. Indeed an analysis made by McAuley demonstrates the limitations that the PUP’s link with the UVF has placed upon its opportunities for success as an electoral party: ‘Any hope that the PUP had of convincing the electorate of its credentials had begun to fade in the summer of 2000, when the first of a series of bloody feuds amongst the paramilitaries in the post-ceasefire era repositioned the PUP in the public gaze, not as the representatives of some new pluralist civic loyalism, but firmly within their paramilitary past.’[169]


Surrendering to self-preservation: the lack of momentum in political progress

While aspirations to implement this new pluralist vision of a civic loyalism in Protestant working class communities has been central to the PUP’s desire for political progress, the capacity of the DUP to maintain its political leverage has arguably stifled the potential of such a reimagining. In the late 1990s, for example, McAuley acutely observed that ‘the DUP consistently seeks to highlight a process that the party identifies as a congruous plan to degrade unionist culture as part of an agenda to move Northern Ireland out of the union.’[170] Although the DUP stance, highlighted by McAuley, was particularly relevant in the era immediately following the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the support that the DUP gained in the post-Belfast Agreement period and particularly in the years 2003 to 2006 suggests that the Protestant working class had, perhaps by default, surrendered to self-preservation. Recognising the frustration that this has posed to the progressive loyalist cause and community restoration initiatives within loyalist areas, Tom Winstone who is a community activist with the Greater Shankill Alternatives project stated, ‘I don’t think people are as political as maybe the vast majority of us think they are.’[171] The DUP has arguably debased working class Protestants’ sense of identity and the inherent social and cultural belonging that it brings by using it in an expedient manner to gain votes among the de-politicised elements of the Protestant working class whose listless world view has its roots in a social and political lethargy which was created by events in the early years of the Troubles. In addition there are other factors – such as the rise of Sinn Fein and the poor return for working class Protestants from the Belfast Agreement – which have been described previously. Indeed it might be said that the kind of intracommunal political competition and the ethnic outbidding and electioneering which was described in the analysis of the immediate fall-out of February to August 1971 (when Paisley was to use an immediate crisis within the working class Protestant community, the bombing of the Four Step Inn in September of that year, to launch his new political enterprise) as well as the frantic competition to be the authentic voice of Loyalism and Protestantism throughout the early to mid 1970s, has arguably been a recurrent trend in Northern Irish politics since the emergence of conflict, and one which has left many working class Protestants in particular prone to safeguarding their socio-cultural and political security rather than engaging in critical thought and analysis at election time. Richard Bullick, a DUP party worker, has underlined this sense of a conservative political stance among working class Protestants; he admitted that ‘…the key issue that people vote DUP…is the constitutional position and their perception that if you’re voting DUP you’re voting for the most reliable Unionist party almost regardless of the view the party takes on other issues…the number of people who read the manifesto probably is pretty thin on the ground, so to know our policy on every given issue is unlikely, but yeah it’s the constitutional issue people tend to vote for.’[172] By the time the Belfast Agreement had been signed in 1998 this feeling of impassive acceptance, in terms of political allegiance being moulded around the constitution, had been compounded for a new generation.


In 1999, a year after the Belfast Agreement had been signed, a contributor to the Ballymacarrett community think tank ruminated on what they felt was a declining enthusiasm for politics among working class Protestants throughout the Troubles, a decline which arguably reached its lowest point after the Belfast Agreement: ‘The people of east Belfast have been used and misused by their politicians for years, and it’s left a whole lot of apathy that even we can’t change.’[173] This feeling of apathy, in tandem with the ‘crisis of masculinity’[174] brought about by deindustrialisation and the decline of what Howe described as the northern Irish variant of an urban, working class Britishness in correlation with the rise of a north Atlantic…global popular culture[175] has contributed to a deterioration in the cultural and political aspirations of working class Protestant communities in Belfast. Colin Robinson recognised the challenge facing politicians and community workers in these areas: ‘I think we’re in a position where there is a very real danger…if it hasn’t already happened…that disfunctionality is going to become the norm in a lot of our communities. I see things out in them streets that would scare you. I don’t think that’s just a problem for the PUP. It’s wider than that.’[176] Robinson’s comment about the disfunctionality and the decline that he has encountered suggests that there is an added problem of an emerging ‘under class’ in Loyalist constituencies. Arguably this under class has its roots in the three phenomena described previously. Dawn Purvis has agreed with the term ‘under class’, stating ‘I think there is an underclass now. I mean I look at my own community,[177] which is a working class community, which is a marginalised and deprived community and within that there is an even further marginalised section…the last thirty-five years have left a legacy, where there’s people have just give up. No social capital, no sense of citizenship, no sense of what’s right and wrong – “what point is there?” – that’s the sort of attitude: total apathy.’[178]


The progressive loyalist response to the political apathy

In the context of this apathetic climate within loyalist constituencies – described by figures such as Purvis, Robinson and Winstone who have worked within them – an internal discussion paper entitled ‘Principles of Loyalism’ was published in November 2002. It had been written by Billy Mitchell on behalf of the PUP, UVF and RHC after the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998 and the years between its completion and wider publication had borne witness to the loyalist paramilitary feud between the UVF and UDA which originated on the Shankill Road in the summer of 2000 and sporadically disrupted working class Protestant areas of North West Belfast throughout the rest of that year.[179] Accordingly Mitchell’s aim in writing the document was concerned with, in his words, ‘getting the whole constituency back to the Covenant and its relevance now, in the context of the modern era, for example, equal citizenship.’[180] It was evident, that despite low morale for progressive Loyalism in the early years of the new millennium owing to the poor showing for the PUP electorally (as well as the aforementioned feud and the dissolution of the UDP due to the continuing paramilitary actions of the UDA in 2001) the PUP and people who were broadly sympathetic to its political cause were still eager to raise awareness of how people’s welfare was of paramount importance and to weave a civic fabric through loyalist communities. Mitchell recognised that loyalists had turned in on themselves, and advised that a loyalism which was based on the core principles of the Solemn League and Covenant could offer more to the loyalist constituencies than reactionary violence, describing the intracommunal loyalist feuding as a cycle of ‘alienation, conflict and violence’[181] – all of which had arguably been hallmarks of the loyalist community since the start of the Troubles. It was suggested that the principles of the Covenant, adopted by the PUP for its manifesto, had been designed to aid the social and economic well-being of the people of Northern Ireland.[182] The social betterment of the working class people of Northern Ireland had always been an important part of the PUP’s ideology, and was evident on its formation, described earlier. Indeed, this was to be no different in the difficult era after the Belfast Agreement when Protestant morale was low.


In 1998 when the PUP had witnessed the exponential growth of its profile, Gusty Spence, who had been involved with the reformation of the UVF in the mid-1960s, was another party member who tried to appeal to the Protestant working class electorate’s civic sensibilities. Spence used the brief period of optimism surrounding the Belfast Agreement to appeal to loyalists in plain working class language which was starkly different to the political speak of the bigger Unionist parties: ‘The days of putting a Union Jack on a donkey in order to whip the working-class electorate into shape at the polls are long gone…The Ulster people are among the most resilient and hard-working on this earth but they have put blind faith in those who invariably could not give a toss about the social problems of the day. They have never signed the Dole or queued at the Income Support hatch or applied for a loan from the social fund to get clothes and prevented from providing for one’s family by the sweat of one’s brow because of premature redundancy or employment (sic).’[183] Spence’s stance is a more parochial analysis of class consciousness than the analysis of Hutchinson, described earlier.[184] Yet his reference to the perceived manipulation of the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland and the concept of ‘whipping the working-class into shape’ using the pull of identity has shown little sign of dissipating in the recent era. While the sentiments expressed in Mitchell’s paper and Spence’s speech both highlighted a desire among those associated with the PUP for working class Protestants to refocus on politics which were grounded in the principles of the historic Solemn League and Covenant and class, the challenge of working class political apathy has proven not to be the only obstacle to momentum.


The political attitudes of the Loyalist paramilitaries: success by default for the DUP?


Negative perceptions of the PUP

There would appear to have been a perception, which has arguably been underlined by the success of the DUP in the post Belfast Agreement era, that Protestant political aspirations as well as the underpinning motivator of Loyalist culture and identity have been perceived to be stronger and safer under the curation of that party. This perception appears to have contributed to the DUP’s appeal among the paramilitary elements that exist in the working class Protestant community. The paramilitaries have always been considered as the hard-edged manifestation of Loyalist opposition.[185] The expedient attitude of Paisley and the DUP during times of perceived crisis, such as the criticisms of the progressive Loyalists at the time of the Belfast Agreement and the warning by Paisley aimed at the British Government after the death of John McMichael which was described earlier, is a stance which has been key in episodes of anti-establishment success for the DUP. This expediency has perhaps also been an important factor behind the party’s relative popularity among the Loyalist paramilitaries, a challenge which has proved difficult for the progressive Loyalists to surmount. The paramilitaries may not have constituted or represented the majority of the Protestant working class electorate, yet their origins, in the sense of frustration evident around the late 1960s and early 1970s, and their influence, as part of the overall Loyalist community throughout the conflict and after has been significant, and their political attitudes, as a component of the overall Protestant working class, demand attention. While the relationship between the DUP and the Loyalist paramilitaries has not been as clear as the direct link between Sinn Fein and the IRA, it is apparent that the DUP has represented the popular feelings of the Loyalist paramilitary rank and file better than any other Unionist political party. Richard Bullick has acknowledged the perhaps effortless success that the DUP have had in this area: ‘…my sense is that the DUP have far more supporters within the Loyalist community and even people who would be on the fringes of the paramilitary organisations in terms of voters than some of the Loyalist parties would have had.’[186] Despite criticisms of the DUP among Loyalist paramilitaries, particularly by those who have served time in prison, there is arguably sympathy among the paramilitary fraternity for the hard-line attitude that the DUP has taken on the constitutional issue; this contributes to explanations of the comparatively weak profile of the progressive Loyalist parties and thus their lack of momentum or political success.


For those in the paramilitaries who still perceive that they are the defenders of their working class communities the DUP has provided an earthier manifestation of their political attitudes than the progressive Loyalists.[187] In an interview with Susan McKay, Rathcoole community worker Adree Wallace stated ‘A lot of the UDA ones still follow Paisley, even though they know what he’s like.’[188]  Progressive Loyalism, then, has found attempts to appeal for a broader class consciousness, which is not locked in narrow identity politics, frustrated by the often cynical opposition of Unionist enterprises determined to keep attitudes fixed on the constitutional issue. For example, in the year prior to the Belfast Agreement, when the PUP was making positive statements in an attempt to bring ‘bread and butter politics’ to Protestant working class constituencies, anonymous leaflets and posters began to appear which were similar in tone to the DUP’s narrative on the themes of ‘sell-out’ and ‘surrender’. In 1997 a poster appeared declaring that there had been an ‘ATTACK ON LOYAL ULSTER.’ The poster claimed that Ulster was being ‘attacked around the clock’ by what the poster’s creator perceived to be various disloyal insurgents, making explicit mention of ‘“loyalist” traitors (PUP)’ as being no different from the IRA in their attempts to destroy Ulster and its heritage. The poster went on to suggest that ‘British, Irish and American sponsored agents within the Protestant community are working for Ulster’s destruction.’[189]


While the progressive Loyalists appeared to have been embraced by Loyalist paramilitaries in 1998, it has become apparent that many of their votes were gained due to their support for the release of those paramilitaries still incarcerated, a key provision of the Belfast Agreement that left many unionists, in particular, uncertain about the direction that the political process was taking. For example, John Gregg of the UDA/UFF was a leading Loyalist paramilitary who was publicly blatant in his admission of why he voted ‘Yes’ along pro-Agreement lines in the Belfast Agreement. He told the journalist Susan McKay in an interview that ‘See the agreement? I voted yes and walking down the road from Rathcoole Primary School, I knew I’d done the wrong thing. I feel ashamed to say it. I sold my principles to see my friends getting out of jail. That was the only reason. I would say 80 per cent of the UDA voted yes for the same reason.’[190] The diminution of the progressive Loyalist political parties following their relative success at the time of the Belfast Agreement can partly be attributed to the short-term appeal of both the PUP and the UDP to paramilitarists. While the release of paramilitary prisoners was a major reason why Paisley and the DUP opposed the Belfast Agreement, it was paradoxically that exact reason that led many of the paramilitarists to temporarily throw their support behind the PUP and UDP. Undoubtedly, then, one of the most strenuous tasks that has faced the PUP and other progressive Loyalist enterprises is how to gain the support of the rank and file volunteers in the Loyalist paramilitary groups. Stephen Bloomer has recognised the difficulties that this particular issue, in tandem with the lack of political and social capital provided for Unionists under the sway of the UUP in the wake of the Belfast Agreement, has posed for the PUP in terms of the party gaining wider political support across the Unionist electorate. Bloomer has suggested that ‘By 2004 the PUP had effectively been sidelined, in the main due to the failure of mainstream unionism to deliver on the Agreement, and in part because of two major shortcomings. The PUP had both failed to become an organised and effective political operator and to deliver the decommissioning of UVF weaponry.’[191] An indicator that political attitudes among paramilitarists could incrementally change came from a political controversy in June 2006. The UUP leader Reg Empey included the then PUP leader David Ervine in the UUP Assembly Group meaning that Unionists would be assured of a majority of seats in the Executive in the event of devolution.


Empey’s willingness to include Loyalists in the peace process, like his predecessor David Trimble, provoked a mixture of admiration and dismay, the negative reaction predictably emerging from Empey’s unionist opponents in the DUP. The credibility of Empey’s gesture, albeit a tactical one, was not helped by a UVF-linked attempted murder which coincided with the deal.[192] Empey had also surprised many by making frank admissions in the local press in which he stated that mainstream unionists had, over the years, used Loyalists and the paramilitaries in particular for strong-armed mobilisation against changes to the constitution and also for political gain.[193] In response to the controversy that surrounded this episode there were some in the PUP who perceived a shift in attitudes among UVF members. At the time Colin Robinson, for example, stated ‘I suppose one of the chinks of light for me in this whole thing…is that people within the UVF who maybe would have, through reflex almost, been DUP voters or supporters down the years are starting to say “Look the UUP are getting slated, the PUP are getting slated – it’s all because of people’s association with the UVF” and the UVF people are now starting to say “Here, hold on a minute…these people are talking about us here. Look at all the things we’ve done for them down the years.”’[194] If such a sentiment were to gain momentum within the rank and file of the paramilitaries the PUP would perhaps find its task markedly easier. However the problem that Bloomer has noted regarding the decommissioning of UVF weaponry, which was described previously, has been a key obstacle in changing the wider public’s perceptions of the PUP.


The PUP and UVF decommissioning: a tough task

Future hope in the grass-roots?

 The PUP’s task in persuading the UVF to decommission had led to a growth of expectations among other political parties as well as those of wider Northern Irish society and was always an unenviable mission given the organisation’s military ethos of ‘no first strike’. This has added pressure for the PUP both from within its own constituencies and among wider society to deliver, which in turn has burdened its chances of electoral success. In May 2007 however the UVF, in a statement read by Gusty Spence declared that it would be putting its weapons ‘beyond reach’[195] and ‘asked the Government to facilitate this process and remove the obstacles which currently prevent our volunteers and their families from assuming full and meaningful citizenship.’[196] While the UVF move was seen as a major step forward in the Northern Ireland peace process, the wording of the statement – in particular the reference to putting the UVF and RHC weapons ‘beyond reach’ – was not firm enough in providing any definitive answer on whether the UVF would decommission its weaponry. However the voyage that culminated in the UVF statement incorporated Loyalist grass-roots figures negotiating with the UVF leadership on the most suitable way forward for the organisation. In essence the discourses centred on how the UVF would adapt to life in a post-ceasefire society. Edwards noted shortly after the UVF statement that ‘After much prodding – initially at the local level – the UVF has now accepted the model put forward by the East Antrim Conflict Transformation Forum – agreeing in principle to transform its organisation into something akin to an old comrades association.’[197] During the summer of 2006 the EACTF facilitated a discussion by the East Antrim Athletic and Cultural Society on the subject of the ‘Flags & Emblems Protocol’ which was designed to ‘Promote Loyalist Culture in a non-offensive manner’[198] while ‘ensuring the non-eradication of a Loyalist Culture.’[199] The ‘Flags & Emblems Protocol’ tied in with the new direction that the UVF in East Antrim was being encouraged to take. It advocated the flying of cultural banners which highlighted the history of the original UVF with Carson featuring prominently, as well as the removal of tattered and torn flags.[200] The developments within the UVF demonstrate that the organisation has sought to redefine its role. There has been no credible parallel to the security situation of the early 1970s, which gave the UVF and other Loyalist paramilitaries momentum, in the ‘post-ceasefire’ era – and the threat of militant republicanism has dissipated. Owing to this, perceptions of the apparent civic direction that the UVF is seemingly taking will gain or lose credibility depending on how successful the transition from paramilitary organisation to community development and the previously mentioned ‘old comrades association’ proves to be.


The ascent of the DUP and the challenges of the ‘post-Paisley’ era

Throughout much of its existence the DUP has avowed many of the fears that working class Protestants have felt during the Troubles and arguably also through the era of the ‘peace process.’ It has been described how the DUP’s ‘authentic’ character provided it with an advantage over the ‘true knowledge’ of other unionist and Loyalist political parties. This has been particularly evident when the party’s success is compared with that of the PUP. As a manifestation of anti-establishment Unionism and Loyalist opposition on its formation in 1971 the DUP went on to survive the malaise of the early to mid 1970s which had been a period of time when many other Protestant enterprises fell away as rapidly as they had appeared. Although the DUP has endured for thirty seven years and progressed to both success and an apparent modernising process, its credibility has often been in a precarious state; most notably after the much maligned Loyalist strike of May 1977 and in the optimistic era of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. In the latter era the new political parties of progressive Loyalism – the PUP and UDP – were lauded as being the future of working class Protestant politics. However it might be said that the positive reception afforded to these parties failed to take into account the depth of cynicism and bitterness which Protestants had arguably inherited throughout the course of the preceding thirty years of conflict and perceived threats to the constitution.


The past few years have however witnessed considerable changes in the DUP’s stature. Whereas the party was once a relatively marginal opposition voice, its successes in the elections described earlier has witnessed its elevation to the most powerful unionist party. However, this progression has not been without its negative aspects in relation to communications with the unionist electorate. In April 2005, at the launch of the DUP’s Election Manifesto, Peter Robinson declared that ‘Eighteen months ago unionism was in the doldrums. Morale in our community was at its lowest ebb ever. Concessions to republicans were almost a daily occurrence…The unionist electorate has had enough. They stepped in, dumped the UUP and mandated the DUP to take over the leadership of unionism.’[201] In a statement that was arguably at odds with the social realities of many working class Protestant areas of Northern Ireland, Robinson suggested that Unionism was in possession of the high moral ground and was imbued with a new sense of confidence.[202] Only five months after Robinson’s speech, in September 2005, rioting in working class Protestant areas across Greater Belfast appeared to suggest that all was not well within the ‘Unionism’ about which Robinson had talked so boldly. Loyalist constituencies had been hauled back, by rioters and paramilitaries, to scenes which some commentators described as being similar to the worst days of the Troubles in the early 1970s. [203]Indeed, Roy Garland felt compelled to suggest that the violence had increased fears among many people that Edward Carson’s warning from less than a century previously that Loyalists could fatally damage the union could come to be prescient in September 2005.[204]


Indeed, the most telling aspect of Robinson’s speech was his hubristic declaration that Unionism, under the care of the DUP, held the ‘high moral ground’. However, while the DUP appeared to be so sure of an upbeat mood among Protestants in the run-up to the 2005 Westminster election, Robinson still seemed intent on sowing seeds of doubt in the electorate’s mind, stating that ‘It is up to republicans to convince our community, over an extensive and sustained period, all the republican movement’s illegal activity is ended. For our part we do not suppose it will happen. They are too entangled with, and imprisoned by, paramilitarism and criminality.’[205] Two years later, on 8th May 2007, the DUP and Sinn Fein entered government together with the resumption of devolution at Stormont. Paisley, by then the First Minister, stated that ‘I have not changed my unionism, the union of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom which I believe is today stronger than ever, but we are making a declaration, we’re all aiming to build a Northern Ireland in which we can all live together in peace, being equal under the law and equally subject to the law’,[206] while Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minster said ‘I am very proud as an Irish Republican who believes in the unity of Ireland to stand here with all of you today.’[207] While the apparent movement toward inclusion and accommodation may have appeared to promise a positive future for Northern Ireland, it might be said that the biggest challenge facing the DUP is how it will retain its traditional support base whose support for the party has been based on certain factors, some of which have been analysed throughout this study in relation to a specific overarching narrative. For the DUP an indicator of how its ‘modernising’ process may have alienated some of its more trenchant supporters came in February 2008 when Keith Harbinson, a member of Jim Allister’s fledgling party Traditional Unionist Voice, won 739 first preference votes in a Dromore by-election.[208] Allister had founded the new party in protest at the DUP’s growing relations with Sinn Fein. In the wake of the by-election Allister wrote that ‘This result for TUV will bring hope to tens of thousands of concerned Unionists across the Province. My message to them is that the fightback for traditional unionist values and against unrepentant terrorists at the heart of our government has begun.’[209] Although the DUP publicly laughed off suggestions that TUV was a credible threat to its enduring popularity the Dromore by-election perhaps gave the party a minor sensation of what it would be like to be perceived by Protestants as fitting into the ‘true knowledge’ rather than the ‘authentic’ category which it had inhabited quite consistently throughout its years as the voice of unionist and Loyalist opposition.


In 2008, with Ian Paisley stepping down as First Minister and as leader of the DUP – the party he had co-founded with Desmond Boal in the wake of the tumultuous events of February up until September 1971 – the new leadership of the party now spearheaded by new First Minister Peter Robinson, will have to tackle the negative perceptions of its current modernisation that exists among some ideologically entrenched sections of the unionist and Loyalist electorate if it is to take its traditional support base along with it through the new political processes. With the PUP remaining a relatively marginalised and small political party, the DUP and Robinson will have to empower working class Protestants if it is to prosper and deliver positive guidance and leadership. In order to push forward, the party will have to combine the ‘authentic’ attributes which it has so often demonstrated a keen ability for throughout many periods of its existence with ‘true knowledge’, which it has often been criticised as lacking in by other parties. Indeed, the ‘true knowledge’ approach may not necessarily be a negative in the party’s future progress, in terms of its self-image and Protestant working class perceptions of it. For many years the DUP has concentrated on winning a reputation as the authentic voice of the Ulster Loyalist Protestant community. In 1988 an Irish Times article had suggested that ‘Robinson…is thoughtful and independent and therefore likelier to split the DUP on points of ideology’ whereas ‘…under (Nigel) Dodds, the DUP would flow on as a broad stream of its own, maintaining an ascendency over the OUP and acting as Unionism’s cutting edge…’[210] The DUP could arguably nurture a profile of a party which is characterised by an enduring marriage between the competing ideologies within: cutting edge in terms of the constitutional issue and pragmatic on the day to day matters which will characterise the devolved government at Stormont. In essence this would go a long way towards a return to the ethos located in the declaration made by Boal on the DUP’s formation in 1971, which has been described at various points throughout this study.


If the DUP was to develop in such a manner it would be beneficial to those working class Protestants who have, over such a long period of time, felt a sense of dislocation from social and political developments in Northern Ireland. The Troubles and the era surrounding the protracted peace process have demonstrated that working class Protestants demand a strong political representative to argue their will for the constitutional status of Northern Ireland to remain unchanged. However the conflict has also left a legacy that suggests that, although they have not demonstrated it clearly through their political allegiance, the Protestant and loyalist working class are in need of political representatives who will raise awareness of their social needs in Government, and re-instil a civic pride which was arguably lost in the malaise of the early 1970s back into their communities for future generations.


The vacuum which was created in the early 1970s by the loss of civic structures in Protestant working class areas of Belfast was filled by the loyalist paramilitaries and the often cynical manoeuvring of unionist politicians. Due to this void there has been an enduring and dystopian legacy in many loyalist areas. The political fragmentation which occurred among Protestants in the early 1970s was inevitable given the class tensions that existed prior to the Troubles, yet it meant that Protestants could not speak with a unified political voice at a time when this was perhaps most crucial. The fear of being on the losing end of any political initiative, and the perception that the later Belfast Agreement acceded to the wishes of the nationalist and republican community has caused many working class Protestants to be more interested in issues surrounding the constitution than the social issues which have directly affected their day to day lives as citizens of the United Kingdom. This has made it difficult for the PUP, with its socialistic manifesto, to gain any widespread support in loyalist areas. While there has been constitutional uncertainty – and that will inevitably exist while Sinn Fein are in the ascendancy – the DUP have exploited the fears of working class Protestants by appealing to their most base fears over culture and identity. To this end it has been the aim of this chapter to provide an understanding of how the events described in Chapter Three have contributed to a less confident and more fatalistic approach to society and politics among the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland – an effect that is being felt across generations.


[1] E. McNamee, Resurrection Man (London: Picador, 1995) p.151

[2] D. Ervine, ‘Redefining loyalism’ p.3

[3] Interview with Sammy Wilson, DUP, 21st March 2006

[4] Described in the introduction to chapter three

[5] See the discussion of Ulster Protestant identity later in this chapter

[6] Due, in the main, to the fact that the PUP has thus far enjoyed the longest uninterrupted lifespan of the various progressive Loyalist initiatives

[7] Paraphrase of a statement by Desmond Boal, explained in previous chapter

[8] E. Longley, ‘The Rising, The Somme and Irish Memory’ from E. Longley, The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Bloodeaxe Books: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1994) p.85

[9] D. Officer, ‘‘For God and Ulster’: the Ulsterman on the Somme’ in I. McBride (ed.)  History and Memory in Modern Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp.160-183

[10] F. McGuinness, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Faber and Faber: London, 1986)

[11] P. Orr, The Road to the Somme: Men of the Ulster Division Tell Their Story (The Blackstaff Press: Belfast, 1987)

[12] D. Officer and G. Walker, ‘Protestant Ulster: Ethno-History, Memory and Contemporary Prospects’ National Identities, Vol.2, No. 3, 2000, p.298

[13] Orr, The Road to the Somme p.200

[14] P. Taylor, Loyalists (London: Bloomsbury Publishing: 1999) p.24

[15] Officer and Walker, ‘Protestant Ulster’ p.298

[16] H. Lojek, ‘Myth and Bonding in Frank McGuinness’s Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’ Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol.14, Issue 1, 1988, p.49

[17] T. Paulin, After The Summit

[18] J. McAuley ‘‘Flying the One-Winger Bird’: Ulster Unionism and the Peace Process’, P. Shirlow and M. McGovern (eds.) ‘Who Are the People’? p.173

[19] G. Spencer,  ‘The Unionist Imagination’, in The State of Loyalism in Northern Ireland pp.7-28

[20] A. Aughey, Under Siege: Ulster Unionism and the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1989) p.19

[21] J. McGarry and B. O’Leary, Explaining Northern Ireland (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995) p.92

[22] F. Cochrane, Unionist Politics and the politics of unionism since the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Cork: Cork University Press, 1997) p.80

[23] Bruce, God Save Ulster! p.251

[24] S. Wilson, The Carson Trail (Belfast: Crown Publications, 1981)

[25] Ibid. pp.23-26

[26] E. Moloney and A. Pollak, Paisley (Dublin: Poolbeg, 1986) p.438

[27] This was referred to in chapter three and also Bell, The Protestants of Ulster p.48

[28] J. W. McAuley, ‘Still “No Surrender”? New Loyalism and the Peace Process in Ireland’ from J.P. Harrington and E.J. Mitchell (eds.) Politics and Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland (Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999) p.62

[29] Ibid. pp.62-63

[30] See Bruce, Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland p.256

Nelson has also argued that ‘…many Protestants found their political world collapsing around them. Their beliefs, their very political and social system, were being questioned on a world stage, while every political reform…seemed to remove another plank from the structure they were defending.’ S. Nelson, Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders p.11

[31] J. Allister, Irish unification: anathema: the reasons why Northern Ireland rejects unification with the Republic of Ireland (Belfast: Crown Publications, 1981) p.9

[32] See D.G. Boyce and A. O’Day, The Ulster Crisis: 1885-1921 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) for essays on this period

[33] Interview with Billy Mitchell, LINC, 12th June 2006

[34] Ibid.

[35] Boyce and O’Day, The Ulster Crisis

[36] Todd, ‘Two traditions in Unionist political culture’ p.6

[37] R. Moore and A. Sanders, ‘Formations of culture: Nationalism and conspiracy ideology in Ulster loyalism’ Anthropology Today Vol.18, No.6, 2002 p.9

[38] Interview with Hugh Smyth, PUP, 30th May 2006

[39] A. Finlay, ‘Defeatism and Northern Protestant ‘Identity’’ The Global Review of Ethnopolitics Vol.1, no.2, 2001, p.4

[40] Ibid. p.3

[41] Craig The Belfast Anthology p.71

[42] Finlay, ‘Defeatism and Northern Protestant ‘Identity’’ p.4

[43] Letter on behalf of the Executive of the Loyalist Association of Workers dated 10th January 1973

[44] Loyalist Association of Workers Vol.2, Edition 49 (Belfast: LAW, 1973)

[45] Loyalist Association of Workers Vol.2, Edition 50 (Belfast: LAW, 1973)

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] DUP Assembly Election Manifesto, June 1973 election

[49] See Chapter Two ‘UDA by Day, UFF by Night’ of H. McDonald and J. Cusack, UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2004) pp.36-63

[50] S. Bruce, ‘Religion and Violence: Paisley and Ulster Evangelicals’ in Nothing but Trouble? Religion and the Irish Problem Papers presented at the annual conference of The Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations, Dennis Kennedy (ed.) October 2003 p.34

[51] Dillon and Lehane, Political Murder in Northern Ireland p.95

[52] McDonald and Cusack, UDA  p.37

[53] Phrase used in the DUP Assembly Election Manifesto, June 1973 election and described earlier

[54] O’Doherty, The Telling Year p.84

[55] Loyalist Association of Workers Vol.1, No.16 (Belfast: LAW, 1972)

[56] McKittrick et al, Lost Lives p.289

[57] A. Boyd, Brian Faulkner and the Crisis of Ulster Unionism (Tralee: Anvil Books, 1972) p.100

[58] ‘Craig finds murders excusable’, The Irish Times 13th May 1974

[59] The Irish News 14th  May 1974

[60] Ibid.

[61] ‘Craig makes civil war threat’, Belfast Telegraph 7th June 1974

[62] DUP Assembly Election Manifesto, June 1973 (Belfast: DUP, 1973)

[63] Bell, The Protestants of Ulster p.48

[64] See chapter three, part three: ‘DECLINE’

[65] Explained in the previous chapter,  Nelson, Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders p.147

[66] ‘Northern Ireland Assembly Elections 1973’ <http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fa73.htm> [Accessed on 27th March 2008]

[67] See D. L. Horowitz Ethnic Groups in Conflict (California: University of California Press, 2000) pp.349-364

[68] R. Brubaker and D. D. Laitin, ‘Ethnic and Nationalist Violence’, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol.24, 1998, p.434. Brubaker and Laitin’s research owes much to Horowitz’s original thesis on ethnic outbidding, referred to previously.

[69] Walker, A history of the Ulster Unionist Party p.213

[70] Ibid. p.195

[71] Ibid. p.210, footnote 319

[72] A. Boyd, Brian Faulkner and the Crisis of Ulster Unionism p.100

[73] DUP Assembly Election Manifesto, June 1973 election

[74] Miller, Queen’s Rebels p.155

[75] Ulster Vanguard,  ‘Ulster – A Nation’ (Belfast: Ulster Vanguard, 1972) p.9

[76] Ibid. p.10

[77] S. Bruce, Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland p.256

[78] Ulster Vanguard,  ‘Ulster – A Nation’ p.10

[79] See A. Marr, A History of Modern Britain (London: Pan Books, 2008) pp.263-265

[80] R. Davidson and G. Davis, ‘‘A Field for Private Members’: The Wolfenden Committee and Scottish Homosexual Law Reform, 1950-1967, Twentieth Century British History, Vol.15, No.2, 2004, pp.174-201

[81] Ibid. p.200

[82] This idea would regain a degree of momentum in relation to the UDA’s political thinking with the release of a document entitled ‘Beyond the Religious Divide’ in March 1979

[83] J.W. McAuley and P.J. McCormack, ‘The Protestant working class in Northern Ireland since 1930’ p.125

[84] H. Patterson and E. Kaufmann Unionism and Orangeism in Northern Ireland since 1945: The decline of the loyal family (Manchester: Manchester University Press,  2007) p.149

[85] Nelson, Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders p.137

[86] J. McAuley, ‘Redefining loyalism: an academic perspective’ IBIS working paper; no.4 (Dublin: Institute for British-Irish Studies University College Dublin, 2001) p.9

[87] Elliott and Flackes, Northern Ireland: A Political Directory1968-1999 p.461

[88] D. McKittrick, ‘U.W.C. rose from ashes of L.A.W.’ The Irish Times 17th May 1974

[89] ‘Ulster Workers’ Council General Strike’ Solidarity, VII, 11, July 1974

[90] K. Maguire, A conspectus on the Loyalist paramilitaries (An outline of Loyalist paramilitary groups in Ulster 1966-1982) (Belfast: Queen’s University, 1984) p.32

[91] Combat Vol.1 No.8 (Belfast: Ulster Volunteer Force, 1974)

[92] Ibid.

[93] Red Hand Commando, ‘Within the Context of Northern Ireland’ (Belfast: Red Hand Commando, 1974)

[94] K. Maguire, A conspectus on the Loyalist paramilitaries p.49

[95] ‘Westminster Election Results, 10th October 1974’ <http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fw74o.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[96] K. Maguire, A conspectus on the Loyalist paramilitaries pp.49-50

[97] Bruce has noted that ‘In times of relative peace and stability, such as the early 1960s, it was possible for working-class Protestants to support the left-wing unionism of the NILP, but resurgent nationalism removed that option.’ S. Bruce The Red Hand p.243

[98] S. Nelson, Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders p.185

[99] D. McKittrick et al, Lost Lives p.483

[100] S. Nelson, Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders p.185

[101] A. Edwards, Labour Politics and Sectarianism p.328

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid. p.327

[104] See for example Progressive Unionist Party, ‘Rebuttal of the First Report of the International Monitoring Commission April 2004 (Belfast: PUP, 2004). In point 2.7 of this response the party makes clear its desire to ensure continuing links with ‘key members of civic society in order to help develop civic and community responses to paramilitary activity’

[105] S. Elliott and W.D. Flackes have stated that the Diplock Report was the ‘report of a commission, headed by Lord Diplock, which reported in December 1972 that non-jury trials should be introduced for a wide range of terrorist offences’ leading to the setting up of Diplock courts which were presided over by judges sitting alone to avoid intimidation of jurors.  Elliott and Flackes Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999 p.232

[106] K. Maguire, A conspectus on the Loyalist paramilitaries p.51

[107] R. Garland, Gusty Spence p.214

[108] Ibid.

[109] ‘What is the PUP?’ <http://www.pup-ni.org.uk/home/whatisthepup.aspx> [Accessed on 30th April 2008]

[110] Finlayson has noted that ‘In as much as there is an over-arching and defining characteristic of Northern Irish working-class politics it is that of populism. By populism is meant movements that define themselves with regard to a notion of ‘the people’, where the latter is held to be the source of innate legitimacy or the organising principle of a movement or party and where that people is mobilised in opposition to a power-bloc perceived as illegitimate and as seeking to impose an alien will. There may well be a strong class element to this although, to re-state, it is not a necessary condition.’ A. Finlayson, ‘Loyalist political identity after the peace’, Capital and Class, 1999, p.2

This reflection is particularly relevant in the case of the DUP which has continually sought to justify its existence on the basis of being the authentic voice of the Loyalist ‘people’. Also, it demonstrates class elements can be integrated into populist political movements but are not a prerequisite for success.

[111] Ulster Democratic Unionist Party UDUP 10th annual conference (Belfast: Democratic Unionist Party, 1981) p.13

[112] R. O’Rawe, Blanketmen: An untold story of the H-Block hunger strike (Dublin: New Island, 2005)

[113] P. Bew, Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) p.531

[114] Ibid.

[115] Interview with Hugh Smyth, PUP, 30th May 2006

[116] P. Bew, Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006 p.532

[117] Progressive Unionist Party, ‘Sharing responsibility: An alternative to foreign involvement in the internal affairs of a region of the United Kingdom’ (Belfast: Progressive Unionist Party, 1985)

[118] Ulster Political Research Group, ‘Common sense: (Northern Ireland – an agreed process) (Belfast: UPRG, 1987)

[119] Ulster Defence Association, ‘Beyond the religious divide: papers for discussion’ (Belfast: Ulster  Defence Association, 1979)

[120] News Letter 7th February 1986

[121] News Letter 17th January 1985

[122] The Guardian 29th July 1985

[123] Ibid.

[124] An example of this mindset can be seen in a 1985 poster produced by the Larne brand of the DUP which reads, ‘Larne branch DUP says smash the IRA and ban Sinn Fein’

[125] DUP Local Government Election Manifesto, 15th May 1985 p.1

[126] Ibid. p.2

[127] I. Wood, Crimes of Loyalty pp.127-129

[128] Irish Independent December 1987 (exact date unknown)

[129] Independent 24th April 1989

[130] A. Aughey, ‘Ulster Resistance: Bidding for the Carson Mantle’ Fortnight December 1986 p.5

[131] News Letter 12th November 1986

[132] Third Force has been described by Elliott and Flackes (p.467) as being a ‘DUP-sponsored vigilante organisation’. It was set up in the latter months of 1981 and purported to give protection to Protestants living in isolated areas near the border with the Republic of Ireland.

[133] I. Wood, Crimes of Loyalty p.133

[134] E. Moloney and A. Pollok, Ian Paisley p.438

[135] Interview with David Ervine, PUP, 28th September 2006

[136] See Gusty Spence’s comments in ‘Breaking the mould’, referred to at various points throughout the rest of this chapter

[137] See A. Edwards, ‘Democratic Socialism and Sectarianism’ pp.24-31

[138] B. Hutchinson, ‘British Left Straddling Nationalist Fence’, in ‘Breaking The Mould’ (Belfast: Progressive Unionist Party, 1998) p.4

[139] Ibid.

[140] Dunlop, A Precarious Belonging

[141] Eames, Chains to be Broken

[142] D. McCullough, Proposal on Sectarianism (Belfast: Progressive Unionist Party, 1999)

[143] A. Aughey, Under Siege p.21

[144] Interview with George Newell, 12th June 2006

[145] Hastings, ‘The last writhings of a society left beached by history’

[146] Walker, ‘Loyalist culture, Unionist politics’

[147] J. Dunlop, A Precarious Belonging p.54

[148] M. Hall, ‘Puppets No More: An exploration of socio-economic issues by Protestant East Belfast’Island Pamphlets No.21 (Newtownabbey: Island Publications, 1999) p.18

[149] Ibid.

[150] Interview with Tom Winstone, Greater Shankill Alternatives,  3rd July 2006

[151] S. Howe, ‘Mad Dogs and Ulstermen: the crisis of Loyalism’

[152] A. Finlayson, ‘Discourse and Contemporary Loyalist Identity’, in Shirlow and McGovern ‘Who Are the People’? p.89

[153] Interview with Colin Robinson, PUP, 2nd June 2006

[154] Ibid.

[155] See quotation from interview with George Newell in Chapter Three, p.155

[156] Gallaher has referred to an interview with Frankie Gallagher from the UDA-linked UPRG and has stated in relation to Protestant class politics and deindustrialisation that ‘In another part of our interview Gallagher was even more direct in his assertion that job loss was a form of punishment: “We’re also now being blamed for eight hundred years of the oppression of Catholics. So, therefore, our jobs that we were traditionally in have been taken away from us.”’, C. Gallaher, ‘After the Peace’ p.71

[157] M. Hall, ‘Reinforcing Powerlessness: The hidden dimension to the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’’  – Island Pamphlets, No.14 (Newtownabbey: Island Publications, 1996)

[158] Ibid. p.9

[159] Ibid.

[160] A. Edwards and S. Bloomer, ‘A Watching Brief? The Political Strategy of Progressive Loyalism Since 1994’ (Belfast: LINC Resource Centre, 2004) p.16

[161] See Finlay, ‘Defeatism and Northern Protestant ‘Identity’’ p.4, which was referred to previously in this chapter, for middle class Protestant concerns

[162] Interview with Robin Newton, DUP, 16th March 2006

[163] Northern Ireland Assembly Elections, 28th November 2003

<http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fa03.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[164]2005 Local Government Elections in Northern Ireland, 5th May 2005  <http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/flg05.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[165] Interview with Robin Newton, DUP, 16th March 2006

[166] Phrase used by David Dunseith on BBC Talk Back programme during interview with ex-UDP leader Gary McMichael, 14th October 2004

[167] Bruce, The Red Hand p.242

[168] Interview with Dawn Purvis, PUP, 9th May 2006

[169] McAuley, ‘Constructing Contemporary Loyalism’, in A. Edwards and S. Bloomer (eds.) Transforming the Peace Process in Northern Ireland: From Terrorism to Democratic Politics (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2008) p.18

[170] McAuley, ‘Still “No Surrender”? New Loyalism and the Peace Process in Ireland’ in J.P. Harrington and E.J. Mitchell (eds.) Politics and Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland (Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999) p.62

[171] Interview with Tom Winstone, Greater Shankill Alternatives, 3rd July 2006

[172] Interview with Richard Bullick, DUP, 22nd March 2006

[173] Hall, ‘Puppets No More’ p.31

[174] See Chapter Three

[175] Howe, ‘Mad Dogs and Ulstermen’

[176] Interview with Colin Robinson, PUP, 2nd June 2006

[177] Donegall Pass, South Belfast

[178] Interview with Dawn Purvis, PUP, 9th May 2006

[179] The effects of this on people’s perceptions of the PUP was described by McAuley and quoted previously. The origins and details of the feud have been given expert journalistic coverage and analysis in Chapter Twenty One, ‘The Shankill Devours Itself’ of McDonald and Cusack, The UDA pp.323-340

[180] ‘The Principles of Loyalism: Introduction’  <http://www.pup-ni.org.uk/loyalism/principles.aspx> [Accessed 5th May 2008]

[181] B. Mitchell, ‘Principles of Loyalism: An Internal Discussion Paper’ (Belfast: Progressive Unionist Party, 2002) pp.5-6

[182] Ibid.

[183] PUP, ‘Breaking The Mould’ p.14

[184] Hutchinson, ‘British Left Straddling Nationalist Fence’ p.4

[185] See Bruce, The Red Hand: Protestant Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, Wood, Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA, Boulton, The UVF, 1966-73: An Anatomy of Loyalist Rebellion, Garland, The Ulster Volunteer Force: Negotiating History, Queen’s University of Belfast, Thesis, 1991, McDonald and Cusack, The UVF and UDA: Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror

[186] Interview with Richard Bullick, DUP, 22nd March 2006

[187] In their book UVF McDonald and Cusack describe how, in the aftermath of a visit to Dublin by David Ervine to meet Dick Spring and John Bruton in 1996, graffiti appeared in North and East Belfast daubed by ‘malcontents, either from the DUP or inside the UVF, or both…claiming that: “Ervine doesn’t speak for the men on the ground”.’ p.337

[188] S. McKay, Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People (Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 2005) p.112

[189] ‘The Attack on Loyal Ulster’ poster, September 1997 (Linenhall Library Northern Ireland Political Collection)

[190] McKay Northern Protestants p.91

[191] S. Bloomer, ‘Bridging the Militarist-Politico Divide’, in A. Edwards and S. Bloomer (eds.) Transforming the Peace Process in Northern Ireland: From Terrorism to Democratic Politics p.101

[192] ‘Leading loyalist ‘shot six times’’ <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5033472.stm> [Accessed 1st June 2008]

[193] ‘Sir Reg…me, Ervine and loyalist terrorism’, Belfast Telegraph, 9th June 2006

‘Reaching out to loyalists in a bid to secure a settled future’ The Irish News, 12th June 2006

[194] Interview with Colin Robinson, PUP, 2nd June 2006

[195] <http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/uvf/uvf030507.htm> [Accessed 15th June 2008]

[196] Ibid.

[197] A. Edwards, ‘The UVF abandons its Campaign of Terror’ Fortnight No.452 May 2007 p.13

[198] East Antrim Athletic & Cultural Society, ‘Flags & Emblems Protocol’ (Summer 2006)

[199] Ibid.

[200] Ibid.

[201] Speech by Peter Robinson, then Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), at the Launch of the DUP’s 2005 Election Manifesto (21 April 2005), <http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/dup/pr210405.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[202] Ibid.

[203] H. McDonald, ‘Loyalists shoot at police as riot hits Belfast’ The Observer, 11th September 2005

[204] R. Garland, ‘Hype is a serious recipe for disaster’ The Irish News, 12th September 2005

[205] Ibid.

[206] Speech by Ian Paisley (DUP), then First Minister, on the resumption of devolved government in Northern Ireland, Stormont, Belfast, (8th May 2007), <http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/dup/ip080507.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[207] Speech by Martin McGuinness (SF), then Deputy First Minister, on the resumption of devolved government in Northern Ireland, Stormont, Belfast, (8th May 2007), <http://www.cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/sf/mmcg080507.htm> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[208] <http://www.eoni.org.uk/dromore_result.pdf> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[209] J. Allister, ‘Unhappy Valentine’s Day for Chuckle Brothers’, <http://www.jimallister.org/default.asp?blogID=913> [Accessed 10th June 2008]

[210] ‘Nigel Dodds, one of a new breed of DUP men’, Irish Times, 7th May 1988


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