“Loyalists” must win friends and influence people

You know what, I didn’t like the guy. I thought he was mostly words and few actions. But one thing David Ervine did do for what is commonly called “Loyalism” is he won it friends and influence. Since his passing, this has not happened at all.

Yet again yesterday, Loyalists made themselves a laughing stock. Far from being marginalised, they merely further marginalised themselves. Yet again they made an opponent look good; yet again they made objective observers swing against them; yet again they pinned themselves into a corner. There is nobody more out of touch with the reality of modern Northern Ireland than the modern Loyalist – which is why modern Northern Ireland scares them.

There really isn’t much more the rest of us can do for them. Few places have gained more from “peace money” and so on than the East Belfast interfaces – location of so much violence six months ago. One predominantly Loyalist area is about to gain from the largest state (taxpayer)-funded housing project in the British Isles. This summer, no one in NI will have had access to more free (i.e. funded by other people) programmes for kids than your average Loyalist. Combine that with free movement and so on, and you have one hell of a peace dividend if it suited anyone to point to it.

There remain horrendous problems of course. Access to education (and thus, in the future, to jobs) is a nightmare – yet that is not why the Lord Mayor was jostled in Woodvale yesterday. Indebtedness and addiction continue to blight too many young lives – yet that is not why the Lord Mayor was jostled in Woodvale yesterday. Health provision is being scaled back – yet that is not why the Lord Mayor was jostled in Woodvale yesterday.

And by the way, the Orange demonstration proceeded as normal in (80% Catholic) Derry on 12 July, which somewhat gives the lie to the notion someone is trying to restrict “British (ahem, Ulster-Loyalist) culture”.

Unfortunately, post-Ervine Loyalists have not yet come to terms with the fact they are not the majority (indeed, they are nothing near it) and thus they are not going to get their way by brute force or pure numbers. Indeed, they have a peculiar skill for turning potential supporters and sympathisers dead set against them. They are going to have to make a coherent case, based on reality and not on (politically convenient but actually erroneous) perception, and win friends and influence people with it. Otherwise the (self-imposed) marginalisation will merely continue.


13 thoughts on ““Loyalists” must win friends and influence people

  1. Harryaswell says:

    Ian, I have to say that you have exposed yourself as the most appalling snob throughout your article. You are right indeed in what you say in certain respects. Loyalists do have to win friends. However looking down your haughty nose at them is less than helpfull. You may not have liked him, but David Irvine did do his best, and was lauded and applauded by most people and parties as a result. I would point out, since you insist on sneering and smearing, that it is common knowledge that the PIRA and Sinn Fein got were they are through civil disobedience, riots and killing people. We have not so far got so far as killing people on the Loyalist side, though that may not be too far away by the looks of things, from both sides! Unfortunately. Cause? Sheer frustration, and the belief that their claims, fears, and feelings are being totally ignored. Politicians have and are failing us all here, as they did so in the UK. Reme,mber last years riots in England? The burnings and the lootings and a useless police force doing nothing about it? The same thing exactly will happen here unless something is done about it soon. Shifting blame by accusing others is certainly not going to be the answer either. This is where the Alliance Party has a great deal to learn, and will find a disaster on their hands come the next elections.

  2. Lord Nelson says:

    Is access to education in fact one of the problems?

    From my viewpoint, Belfast and Northern Ireland, has excellent provision of education, and further education colleges that would be the envy of many parts of England, charging reasonable fees, with courses at convenient times for those seeking to learn whilst in-work.

    The problem appears more to be a lack of desire by some sections of the loyalist community to make use of the opportunities.

    Indeed, as I think you’ve touched on before in this blog, there’s quite a visceral anti-intellectualism in loyalist culture which I can only suppose has a a detrimental impact on discouraging young people from earnestly pursuing skills and education.

    If qualifications and learning are not respected in your community, indeed at times traduced, its a bad thing all round.

    I suppose in summary, some, perhaps indeed many, of the problems loyalists complain about, are self-created- or at least the answers lie within their own midst.

    It isn’t always for ‘Government’ or ‘unionist leaders’ to swoop in and wipe their bottoms for them, to put it bluntly.

    • There are definitely “education black spots” where school closures leave inner-city Protestant children a long way from the nearest state secondary.

      However, even that is a consequence of the anti-intellectualism you talk about. For all the protests about symbols and parade routes, schools and emergency departments are closed *without a murmur*. “Loyalists” post-Purvis not only don’t care about being educated, they actively mock it!

      So yes, the solutions are within. A flag won’t get you a job (indeed it will sometimes impede investment in your area), but skills and a broad understanding of the world will.

  3. Kieran says:

    Yesterday was yet again another massive own goal for ‘Loyalism’. This is a game of perceptions and it is a game that Sinn Fein are way, way out in front in. The balance of power in this game of perception turned way back at the first Drumcree protest, when those that looked intolerant were the Republicans. Ever since the first rock was thrown at the Police back then, Loyalism has looked little more than leadershipless thuggery.
    Nelson McCausland of the DUP was with the Lord Mayor in the Falls before the Lord Mayor made his way into North Belfast and he wasn’t attacked or verbally abused. One nil to the Republicans. Then it was off to the Woodvale area where not only the Lord Mayor was beaten and harrassed but, the upholders of law and order were attacked and injured. Two nil for the Republicans. This flawed notion, that because Sinn Fein got away it, it’s now going to work with Loyalism, really needs to be addressed. Loyalist culture is being portrayed to the world, that our definition of a civilised society is, if we don’t get our own way then the next logical step is violence and attempted murder. Harping on about being loyal to the flag, loyal to the Queen and having red, white and blue blood is a currency that has long since expired. Loyalism has intelligent leaders, one being Winston Irvine, so it’s not too much of an unrealistic wish for Loyalism to put the brakes on and rethink the intolerant, thuggish images that are being presented as modern day Loyalism.

    • Jane Seymour says:

      My name’s Jane Seymour and I approve Kieran’s message.

      Spot on.

    • factual says:

      I was quite impressed by one of Winston Irvine’s speeches on You Tube. Don’t know much about him, but he seemed to speak well.

    • factual says:

      Worst thing is that loyalists actually turn off members of their own “tribe” as a lot of protestants are embarrassed or turned off. I do think there is a need for leadership. Alliance *can’t* do that – they are hopelessly middle class! Some of the PUP people seem to be quite capable, it will be interesting to see if they can win back that MLA seat and give voice.

      I don’t think the two Alliance MLAs really speak for the working class loyalist community.

      • Re the Alliance Party, its MP isn’t middle class for a start.

        It’s nothing to do with class. It is to do with people unworthy of leadership positions desperately clinging on to them by excluding as many people as possible.

        Alliance Cllrs who were recognised as doing stupendous work in “Loyalist” areas are now alienated from them merely because of “the Flag”. Thus good public representatives are lost to them, and place their energies elsewhere.

        The PUP plays into the very “victimhood” narrative which is the very reason “Loyalist” communities are isolated – leaving aside it’s connections to the gangsterism which holds them back.

        The answers are within.

      • factual says:

        That’s a fair defence, Ian.

    • harryaswell says:

      Kieran, you speak with a forked tongue. What you “really” are saying is that you want a United Ireland and are quite prepared to sacrifice the wishes of the working class Protestants regardless. It is just SO very easy to be sanctimonious and critical! I suggest you remember recent history and see that Irish Republicanism is “still” using violence, civil disobedience and murder if they do not get their way.The constant threat is always there, we know that. It is vital that we should stop hiding our heads in the sand, and instead face reality.At the end of the day, ALL of us must realise that we are living in a Democracy and that it is the public wish, voiced by votes, that really counts, little else.

      • Kieran says:

        Harry, i think you have looked at my name, added 2+2 and came up with 11. No where in my post can you deduce that i want a United Ireland. You say that i am prepared to sacrifice the wishes of working class Protestants. Two things baffle me here; 1/ Do you speak for working class Protestants and 2/ How do you envisage me doing this?
        I agree with you that elements within Republicanism are still employing the strategy of violence but the mainstream doesn’t have to, because elements within Loyalism are making them look like the moderates. You make a very good point that we all need to stop burying our heads in the sand. Attacking the Police, calling for on street protest and the veiled threat of returning to violence are the tactics of the marginalised minority that, lets be honest about it, are having difficulty accepting that Protestant, Orange Order controlled, majority politics have ended and will not be coming back.
        A big problem in this part of the world is those that identify themselves as Protestants or Catholics without even considering the term Christianity. Religion is by design, a divisive, man made creation and it should be kept as far away as possible from politics in every part of the planet.

  4. Clare says:

    The point I would like to make Ian is that loyalists aren’t interested in their PR image or making friends. It’s not an important factor for them and if you look at their actions that makes perfect sense.
    I would go further and say that not making friends and feeling alienated is feeding into their paranoia and sense of being in a trench against the enemy. If you listen to people like Jamie Bryson there is very much a sense of persecution and alienation, most of it is of their own making but try and convince them of that.
    I never see much intelligence or canniness in the strategy of loyalists and unionists most of the time. They play right into the hands of republicans but I think it’s feeds their insecurity and victim mentality.

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