When I wrote a profile of Ian Paisley for Prospect magazine a few years back, what struck me most was just how close the big man was sailing to the wind for much of the sixties. As a young man, Roy Garland followed Paisley in his church and in his politics. But he claims that the disillusion which set in after the Troubles had thoroughly kicked off created a dissenting set of opinion on both sides of the community from whose work the peace was eventually built:
The community moved inexorably towards violence but beneath the surface of trauma new foundations were laid and a new beginning contemplated in unlikely circles. Many senior loyalists and republicans knew that sectarian violence was futile and, despite the darkness, seeds of new life were sown. Ancestral voices were challenged and a new framework for a better future was being built not by the great and good but by ordinary people who knew where we were heading and rejected the dark scenario.
Many unsung loyalist heroes were later castigated by fellow unionists as Lundys, Fenian-lovers and Communists. They faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties but refused to let common sense be overrun by fear and hatred. In the end they won the battle for peace even if the battlefield remains to be cleared of debris.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty