The definition of loyalist is :
a. A supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
b. A person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.
Growing up in and around the Shankill during the worst years of the Troubles it is hardly surprising to learn that I hated Republicans and all they stood for. But that doesn’t mean I hated Catholic’s or Irish people and would wish any harm on them – I don’t and I didn’t.
It means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and traditions. It also means I have the right to take pride in the union with the rest of the UK and I wear my nationality like a badge of honor for all the world to see.
The other woman in my life
I’m helping ( just a little ) an American student write a thesis on Conflict and Compromise for an annual competition , National History Day and he has chosen to write about the Troubles and the Northern Ireland Conflict and asked me for some input.
Which I’m happy to do so – but as a Proud protestant from the Shankill Road I’m always a little suspicious when people , especially Americans & Irish folk ask me about the Troubles & what my views on the the various paramilitary groups are.
Often they seem to think that I am guilty via association and make gross generalizations about my people and local community and I have also experienced much prejudice both in mainland UK and abroad directed at my culture and protestant heritage. Ignorance reigns supreme and I have been astounded by the sheer stupidity & lack of understanding most folk have regarding the complex events that lead to 30 years of sectarian madness on the streets of Belfast & throughout Northern Ireland and the slaughter of 1000’s of innocent people from both communities.
I have learnt from personal experience that many ” Irish Americans ” and other deluded folk have a romantic view of Republican terrorists and to put it frankly this really pisses me off. However I’ll save that rant for another post.
Once when I was in New York visiting an American friend I was invited to a family gathering and a group of about thirty of us went out for a meal. It was a pleasant enough evening until the talk turned to Northern Ireland and the “war” against British oppression being waged by the “boys” in other words the IRA.
Now a few of the folk were second & third generation American Irish and boy did they get a bee in their bonnets and I was left in no doubt were their loyalties lay.
Then to my utter amazement some fool called Sean starting saying it was all the fault of the PRODS (protestants )and they were solely responsible for the “war” and should all fuck of back to Scotland & mainland England and leave Ireland to the Irish. I was fecking furious and had a face of thunder.
Apart from my friend none of those gathered knew I was protestant and I could see my friend dying a death at the other end of the table , obviously mortified. I excused myself and went to the toilet , stopping at the bar for a quick drink to calm myself down. When I got back to the table….total silence and I assumed my friend had informed them of my protestant background.
The rest of the evening was awkward to say the lest and I ignored the sectarian bigot and other fools who had insulted my culture.
At the end of the evening the biggest fool Sean came up and tried to apologize and offered me his hand in friendship. I leaned over and informed him I thought he was a fecking dickhead and he should be ashamed of himself.He looked a bit startled and made his way out of the restaurant and I’m glad to say it was the last and thankfully only time I came across this bigoted bastard.
Questions about growing up in Loyalist west Belfast
Here are the questions I have been asked to address and please feel free to supply some feedback or your own views in the space at the bottom of the page.
- How did the IRA affect your life in Northern Ireland?
- How did the UDA (and other Protestant organizations) affect your life in Northern Ireland?
- What religion were you raised under?
- Did you receive discrimination due to your religion?
- Did you and your family feel that you had a better Quality of Life than Catholic families?
- Were you ever a victim of violence by the IRA?
- Do you believe that the Northern Ireland Conflict was either side’s (Unionists or Nationalists) fault?
- Do you believe that there is still a divide between Unionists or Nationalists in Northern Ireland today?
- After reports and evidence came out, do you have a position on Bloody Sunday?