I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Reviews Getting Beyond No

Getting Beyond No

Connal Parr
Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity: The Frustrated Promise of Political Loyalism, by Tony Novosel, Pluto Press, 274 pp, £17.99, 978-0745333090 The End of Ulster Loyalism?, by Peter Shirlow, Manchester University Press, 230 pp, £16.99, 978-0719084768 The principal significance of these two works is that both confirm the existence of a progressive political ethos within Northern Ireland’s Protestant working class. The trick of repetition may be one their ideological opponents perfect, but the fact that a Loyalist vision of some originality and discernment did – and still could – exist is such an exotic notion in itself that it demands reiteration. It is that spirit located by John Morrow, flowing “directly from the dissenting spirit that had sent Godgiven Kings to the block and, in 1798, had caused even Ireland to feel, however briefly, the breath of the Enlightenment”. While not a purely socialist strain of thought, it could be located in those swelling the ranks of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) in the 1950s and early 1960s, when all too briefly things may have been different. Most of all it is to be found in every writer of note to emerge from the community itself, from the historic imprint of Sam Thompson, via Graham Reid’s ground-breaking television plays of the 1980s, to the present day triumphs of Marie Jones and the energy of Gary Mitchell. In 1986 Edna Longley wrote that we needed to look at Ulster Protestant writers because “their political consciousness illuminates the darkest area”. This might sound cryptic but remains a statement anyone with knowledge of barren Northern Irish politics and the seemingly endless cycles of Loyalist violence, will appreciate for opening new doors. By failing to address its creative pulse, authors continue to inadvertently maintain the old fallacy that the Protestant working class has no culture but the Orange Order and Rangers FC. With this in mind The End of Ulster Loyalism? and Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity are released at a time of great convulsion for Loyalism as older tics begin to resurface. But the more one views the history of the Protestant working class through the lens of the Loyalist paramilitaries alone the more this is revealed as absurd. Loyalist paramilitaries are not, and have never been, an authentic mouthpiece of the Protestant working class. Aside from a brief breakthrough in 1998 the constituency has repeatedly demonstrated its rejection of the paramilitaries at the ballot box, even when Loyalism…

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