Loyalist identity: reading the runes

Pete linked to this excellent essay on loyalism and Unionist identity yesterday at Open Democracy. I thought it might worth re-visiting in a series of posts. Professor Stephen Howe’s starting point is the Loyalist rioting in Belfast and elsewhere during the summer which contains, he believes, some indications as to where things may be headed in future:

Much media and political comment has “explained” the profundity and rootedness of this feeling in terms of bigotry and criminality, of archaism and atavism. Defensive Unionist politicians speak in terms of Protestant disillusion, even desperation, at a peace process which they think has invariably favoured Catholics. None of those labels is entirely wrong – yet what lies behind the events of recent days goes much deeper. It engages the whole nature of Britishness in Ireland and beyond, and the very ideas of identity and community, modernity and tradition most of us use so routinely. And as I’ll try to show, the songs Loyalists sing, the pictures they paint, even the tattoos and t-shirts they wear, tell us a lot about what’s going on and what might happen next.

Next: reflecting a modern condition