Friday Thread: The Struggle for Esteem?

Can we make ourselves feel good without making others feel bad?

Political philosopher, Cillian McBride, explores this question with people from Tiger’s Bay, a Loyalist community in North Belfast. He talks to them about bonfires, flags and parading, and the challenges posed by cultural practices that neighbouring communities can experience as hostile gestures.

He suggests we think about these issues in terms of a struggle for social recognition – a feature that is common among all individuals and societies.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    Excellent piece – and my daughter enjoyed the RSA Animate-style cartoons.

    The key is “without making others feel bad”. I’d say that in any pluralist society, as McBride suggests, this isn’t about just being what others want you to be, but being who you are. The onus is on us all to let other people express themselves and have whatever identity they want – and try not to feel angry or threatened by it.

    It’s surely not for people expressing their culture in a peaceful way to have to tailor it around the intolerances of people who don’t like them. That is the Loyalist gripe against some of the residents’ groups in a nutshell. That said, deliberately getting at other people isn’t part of this – and there is no obligation to tolerate being abused. Where to draw the line? For me, an Orange march going past in silence is not getting at other people per se; but an Orangeman shouting abuse at a local resident would be. And a bonfire in the middle of a Loyalist area should be no problem for anyone.

    Err on the side of letting it go. The world will not end – and everyone will be a bit more relaxed.

  • sp12

    The piece would have some worth if instead of animations the voices were accompanied with something remotely approaching actual stats about ‘themmuns getting everything and ussens getting naffin’, and the laughable ‘jobs used to be split 50/50 but now they all go to kafliks’ and ‘we’re 2nd class citizens’ ‘we’re not allowed our culture’.

    As it stands it was an animated mope that gave a nice window into the persecution complex, that concentrates on ‘feelings’ as the silly facts keep getting in the way.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    sp12, but I think you miss the point – it was about how they feel about themselves and how they express themselves. And there is anyway ample reason for them to feel marginalised, as your own comment shows

  • Séamus

    A self-described “political philosopher”, I wonder to what extent McBride puts himself up there with Locke, Rousseau, Marx et al. He may need to keep his ego in check given the tired rehashing of the loyalist grievance narrative above.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’re (unwittingly?) making the Loyalists’ case for them there though Seamus, are you not? Their complaint is that they get dismissed and marginalised. Which, judging by your contribution, looks spot on …

  • sp12

    No, I see it very clearly, the ‘point’ is to body swerve pesky facts in order to have a good old fashioned moan about themmuns.
    But yeah, at least with your responses to Seamus and myself you have the good grace to tacitly acknowledge their ‘marginalisation’ as nothing more than having to deal with the views of others.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You’re really sticking by your assertion they’re not marginalised? Look at the way you talk about them and caricature them. If that isn’t marginalisation I’m not sure what is … Have a read of what you wrote.

  • sp12

    You clearly have no idea whatsoever what marginalisation is.
    But, you know, if it helps, i’ll delete any comments I made suggesting that the facts don’t support their narrative.
    We wouldn’t want reality getting in the way of a good old fashioned moan now would we?

  • carl marks

    Loyalists tolerate very little that is not Loyalist, this is not a new thing it is the history and the soul of loyalism, from protesting about the flags and parades of “Thummuns”.they do not tolerate “others” in there areas and their culture (bonfires and what they burn on them) seems to be aimed at annoying “other “and they have no regard as to the effects that their urinating, dancing and singing sectarian songs have on others as a matter of fact they take great pleasure from these displays!
    A bonfire in the middle of a loyalist area with a tricolor on it and pictures of Catholics/nationalists accompanied by sectarian slogans is a problem, its a display of hatred. This “culture” would not be tolerated in any other democracy.
    Rather than asking nationalists to tolerate this bunch you should ask their politicians to show some leadership and tell these people the truth instead of feeding them BS and using them as cannon fodder.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so because Loyalists are intolerant in your view, you think everyone should be?
    Nationalists do have to tolerate “this bunch” – just as I expect Loyalists to tolerate the other bunch.
    There’s no point saying, “I accept other people as long as they stop doing things I don’t like.” That isn’t toleration. Be the change you want to see, and all that. What change are you offering?

  • carl marks

    No i don’t think everyone else should be intolerant but loyalists asking for tolerance will get it when they start tolerating others. how else do you deal with bully’s.
    I am not saying that society launch a pogrom on them but i don’t think we should be giving inaccurate moping any credence.
    and nationalists do have to tolerate this bunch, Why? would unionist tolerate the dissidents and give their mopes credence.
    the change i am offering is when loyalists stop insulting me and stop the displays of hatred then i will take seriously any grievances they have (of course i will be wanting proof that said grievances are real) , and there is a big difference from someone doing something i don’t like and someone going out of there way to offend me,

  • MainlandUlsterman

    All I can say is, you’re very keen to overlook some of the most deprived areas of the country, who have the double indignity of having their culture routinely attacked – apparently so that you can go on pretending everything’s OK. It’s not.

    We’re living with the consequences of the Republican soft landing after the Troubles – a lot of Protestant people are rightly appalled and angered by what has happened. They have been made the fall guys. They have had to watch the very Republicans who tore the place apart strutting around now in government and they have to listen to the Troubles being rewritten as some kind of sh** liberation struggle and watch themselves being cast as the villains. It beggars belief. What more do you want to do to them before you’re satisfied? I’m not surprised they’re angry.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if you want tolerance you have to show tolerance yourself, that’s all I’m saying. Be careful when trying to tell another people how to live their lives – as a rule, don’t do it except in extremis, or pluralism falls apart.

  • carl marks

    And that’s all I’m saying, but I’m not the one who goes out of his way to offend others! your calls for pluralism sound lovely but by definition that is a two way street and I would love ask the average loyalist how far they are willing to go down it, oh hold on I have asked many loyalists on this very site that question and none feel it is a route that would suit them as a matter of fact the name loyalists use for pluralist unionists is either Lundy, traitor, or Fenian lover.

    MU look at how loyalists behave, and think to yourself if they were nationalists behaving in that manner towards unionists would you be asking for unionists to be tolerant or indeed any group that would act is this manner towards another group because they didn’t like there race or colour would you be asking for the same tolerance.

    Im off to bed now night night.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Right, I’m going to lay mayself open here on account of my general ignorance, so, if you want, open season on AG.


    We’ve heard a lot about the frustration and general low self esteem of loyalist estates throughout the land and I concede that this is one thing that I have always thought of as the Achilles heel in my view that ‘we’re all Irish of sorts’ in that the loyalist urban areas of NI really do mirror the inner city deprived areas of Britain more than nationalist areas in that there’s an obvious number of derelict buildings and a general feeling of hopelessness; loyalist Belfast, Portadown or the Fountain to me resembles parts of Liverpool, Salford and Glasgow whereas (from MY experience) nationalist areas don’t SEEM to suffer from the same ghastly aesthetic (from what I’ve seen, could be wrong).

    Yes, I know what the statistics say about the deprivation in nationalist areas and I’ve only been to parts of West Belfast and Derry (mostly drunk as a rule, hungover as a consequence) but I just genuinely don’t recall seeing almost entirely empty streets as I have done in parts of Britain or in parts of ‘Loyal NI’.

    Now relate this to what the young fella was saying about the ever shrinking confines of Tiger’s Bay.
    You could hear the regret in his voice that it was no longer a ‘stronghold’.

    Contrast that to nationalist areas that are bursting at the seams and require more housing and space.

    The NI loyalist way of thinking is that this is somehow connected to the peace process and the sly cunning of SF instead of pinning it to their mirroring of trends in Britain and the inward thinking, aggressive, evidence defying culture that has gripped loyalism.

    Again, for fear of sounding ignorant, I’m pretty sure that if I rocked up to Tiger’s Bay in one of my Garish shirts and sat down at the bar and asked for a craft ale and proceeded to read whatever book I had in my pocket I’d be advised to leave.

    Fair enough.

    I’ve never been asked to leave a pub in West Belfast or Shanty House or Tracey’s in Derry the few times I’ve been there (though I keep my garish shirts at home and drink whatever’s on offer).

    So then who can live in loyalist areas if ‘the face don’t fit’?

    I know middle class people who’ve moved back to nationalist west Belfast and love it, one even took her Free P Scottish husband with him and he quite liked it (apart from the overly enthusiastic inquisition from random stranger’s in certain pubs presumably on account of his accent and ‘forces’ hairdo that he and his brother have (neither of whom are in the forces) but that’s by and by) and was made to fell very welcome in general.

    I’m sure there are instances of non-Protestants living in loyalist areas and being accepted but it just seems to be quite difficult.

    Remember thon Protestant playwright who was burned out of Rathcoole for being, um, well, a playwright?

    To make things even worse people are evidently drip fed what to say, thon community worker talking about ‘culture’ and ‘defiance’?

    What rot.

    I’ve ranted ad neauseum about how much unionist culture has been ‘surrendered’ this past century; preserving culture is NOT the priority of loyalism or political unionism.
    Ask most loyalists would they rather go to a fiddle or melodeon dance (as was the norm in Orange culture not SO long ago) or burn a tricolour or two on a bonfire whilst singing the Billy Boys and drinking Tennents what do you think is the most likely answer? (“HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?! SNOB! YOU CAN’T LABEL PEOPLE LIKE THAT!!!! etc..” Just going on my own experience people).


    In fact, the only bits to be fought of over tooth & nail are the elements that DO make others feel bad which perhaps answers the narrator’s question.

    And if bonfires and parades are inert and not to be viewed as offensive then why add the toxic elements of songs about killing Catholics, paramilitary trappings or putting K.A.T on top of bonfires?

    Those are outwardly aggressive gestures and if unionist politicians had any stones they would tell their communities this in an effort to level the playing field a bit.

    And if they want nationalists to simply ignore such things then loyalists should ignore republican parades in the city centre and the echoes like Ardoyne Fleadh.

    If they don’t want their communities to wither like Tiger’s bay then people like Robinson, Dodds, Poots and McCausland should live in these areas.

    Then things might change.

    And for fear of sounding snobby, once you’ve worked yer ass off and become a doctor or pharmacist or accountant or whatever, are you really likely to say “I can’t wait to move back to my area so some one can paint the kerbs R,W&B, a mural on the side of my house and listen to band parades play whatever music they want…”

    Sorry, but as a rule of thumb why would ye?

    If you can afford to live in an area where no one is defacing public property all the time or where you won’t be ‘suspect’ for not putting up a flag every summer then why wouldn’t you move?

    It’s parallel to ‘white flight’ in Britain, and if loyalists don’t want their areas to wither then they should let people back in.

    And the DUP et al should stop giving them buzzwords to reel off in front of the camera: “are culture” is simply “are way of doin’ things”; they have to live with the consequences.

    F**k knows I love getting stuck into Sinn Fein whenever I can but if there’s one thing I can’t blame them for it’s the state of modern day loyalist estates. In fact, I’d go so far to say that SF might be of some help (but that’s another topic).

    They’re not helping themselves, the unionist politicians are compounding the problem as are people who cry victim-hood every time criticism is leveled at them.

    These areas are suffering partly the same fate as poor estates in Britain only exasperated by the paranoia and loathing of themuns.

    An easy way out is to cry ‘victim’, ‘Wolf’, ‘snob’ or ‘taig’ and ignore what is going on.

    The hard way is to have politicians tell them that enough is enough, that we will help you but you must first change a few things, claiming victim hood whilst hurting others no longer flies.

    Now, have at you!!!!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    One more thing:

    Loyalism and unionism does not need the following to remain a culture:

    * Songs about battles long ago that no one singing really knows the details of.

    * Believing that said battles were THAT important (they weren’t, the siege of Belgrade happened in 1690, THAT was important…)

    * Songs about killing people of a different religion

    * A delusional sense that Britain owes us something or should be grateful (the Ulster 36th at the Somme is as insignificant to the people of Britain as the sacrifices of the native soldiers massacred on the retreat from Kabul. They’re all just a bunch of ‘Jinglies’ that served their purpose as far as Imperial Britain was concerned)

    * A flag for every occasion

    * The delusion that King William liked Ulster Protestants

    * The delusion that Cromwell was ‘on our side’ (he wasn’t)

    * A political culture that is blocked off to people of other religions courtesy of the aggressive sub culture

    * Uber Britishness and pretending that Ulster isn’t in Ireland

    * Seeing Irish culture as ‘foreign’

    * Making sh*t up (e.g. the lack of substance to the claims in the post as highlighted by Sp12 below)

    * Blaming themuns for everything

    * Clinging to Protestantism (surely it’s time for a split?)

    * Listening to the DUP, Frazer, Bryson and other peddlers of Orange MOPEry

    It is possible IN THEORY to play hurling, speak every form of Gaelic, be an atheist, hate Glasgow Rangers, live in Dublin and still be as loyal as they come.
    Loyalism should be an ideology, not a toxic mix of hill-billy comprehension and wagon-circling paranoia.

    It’s time to re-write the rules.

    Youse can do that yourselves, I’m away for a month.

    Chin chin.

  • sp12

    “All I can say is, you’re very keen to overlook some of the most deprived areas of the country, who have the double indignity of having their culture routinely attacked”

    No, I’m happy to discuss deprivation.
    I’m not prepared however, to get sidetracked into mopes about ‘having your culture eroded’ and ‘republican soft landings’ and ‘themmuns getting everything’ no matter how many 300 quid animations and persecution complexes get thrown at me.

    You wanna redefine deprivation and marginalisation to suit your argument, I suggest you save it for the next post dinner discussion you have with like minded friends on the maynelaaand.

  • Séamus

    The loyalist grievance narrative should be dismissed, not patronised. Fostering these feelings, which have no grounding in fact, only feeds into sectarianism and the all-too-easy ‘blame the other’ (the other not just being Taigs but increasingly ethnic minority groups too) attitude and does nothing to get to the basis of the actually existing problems in our society.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    * Unionism needs more songs about the future rather than the past


  • MainlandUlsterman

    Surely we should deal with social problems wherever they occur? Taking issues in Protestant areas seriously does not mean ignoring Catholic issues. It means looking at everyone’s issues. I find it hard to believe people are seriously suggesting we apportion attention to social issues on a sectarian basis. That would be bizarre and wrong.

    You can’t let your personal judgment of someone’s culture or character colour your evaluation of their needs and entitlements. Many deprived Catholic communities in the past produced and supported the IRA violence which tore the province apart – yet it was the right thing to do to look beyond that and address social needs in those areas where possible. It’s right to do that even if you think many of the people being helped have acted badly in the past and may continue to act badly in the future. Abandoning people and writing them off, as a few on this thread seem to be doing, isn’t just wrong, it doesn’t work – and it only stores up problems for the future.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Maybe, maybe not – but that is for loyalists and unionists to decide, frankly, not you. To paraphrase the great Mark E Smith: “We are not here to cheer YOU up.”

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    That’s true MU but as a unionist (of sorts) and a former loyalist/bandsman I might have a point somewhere in there.

    We’re part of the UK and claim to espouse British values, rejoicing in the deaths of the ancestors of our fellow UK citizens or singing songs about bringing forth a scenario that results in the death of some of those living (which is what an all too visible minority of Loyalism do) is hardly cricket.

    By no means do I claim to have all the answers but we have to start somewhere.

    And no one can cheer me up.
    I’m a grump.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Great post AG – well put. However, a couple of caveats.

    I’m no expert on Tiger’s Bay but I used to walk through it every day on the way home from school in the 80s. It was hollowed out even then. (I also had the bizarre experience of being stoned in Tiger’s Bay by some wee kids shouting ‘Orange b******s’ at us – presumably having bravely crossed Duncairn Gardens to do so. They could do that because most of the place was a wasteland). The hollowing out of many Protestant areas in North and West Belfast happened mainly in the 70s and 80s – the Shankill was of course decimated during that period. This was urban planning. People moved to Rathcoole, Monkstown and the other big estates on the fringes (another reason why much of inner Newtownabbey really should be counted as part of Belfast). It wasn’t intended to victimise communities; it was the same process that happened in lots of big cities around the country. But that’s the source of the desolation, in my view. And there’s never been any kind of a programme to regenerate and move people back in. I’d love to see that happen.

    On “victimhood”: it’s unfortunate both communities got into this whole mode of discourse. However, Loyalists using this language now is the logical consequence of Republicans having had success with it in the past. And it hardly seems unreasonable when there are genuine social issues in those places. The fact there are still the same issues in many Catholic areas is irrelevant, though it should be more publicised to counter the worst of the misperceptions.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well I don’t expect Irish Catholic people in Northern Ireland to have their culture defined by the likes of me. I’m of a different national allegiance and have a different culture and sense of history. It would be absurd to even attempt it. That goes both ways though.

    I can try to have more of a say with loyalists as I’m a unionist myself but the reality is I’m not from a ‘loyalist’ background either. All I can hope to do is persuade people who do have influence within loyalism, if they ever read Slugger, of better ways of promoting loyalist culture. And I would urge others who asked for and got understanding for Catholic communities when they were lashing out angrily, to extend the same to Protestants. It comes down to dealing not just with the “crime” but the causes of the crime. A trite dictum perhaps, but it does hold true – you have to tackle the bad stuff (KAT banners etc are obviously unacceptable, wherever they are) but you also have to deal with the way Protestants have been subjected to an aggressive Kulturkampf for decades now.

    It’s not good enough just to say,”Look at how they’re behaving, they don’t deserve understanding” – nationalists won that argument 30 years ago and now they need to stand by it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    British values though are the values of British people, which includes loyalists. We both probably espouse more liberal versions of British values than UKIP and the OO, but I think we kid ourselves if we think people with those views are un-British in some way. Everyone has the right to be British in their own way. The question is more, would it be a good idea to express your Britishness in a more inclusive way? Are you doing damage to yourself by espousing a negative or aggressive take on Britishness? For me the answer is a clear yes. But if you’re a loyalist seeing the fairly implacable, unsympathetic forces ranged against you, from nationalists to the southern Irish to the mainstream parties to the British government to the US government and so on, I can understand why they ask why they should do diddly squat to appease any of them. They need to be persuaded it is worth caring about your wider public image – but for that to be credible, they need to be persuaded that those outside forces will respond positively if they do change – that loyalists will gain and not lose from the exercise. At the moment, it’s hard to convince loyalists they will gain from adopting a softer tone, because it seems like a lot of people want to shaft them anyway. They are not wrong to perceive that.

  • carl marks

    please explain this,

    Protestants have been subjected to an aggressive Kulturkampf for decades now.

    to be honest it sounds like more mopery!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Arthur Aughey coined the term in an article for the Ulster Review in October 1994. It was a riposte to a sectarian article by Ronan Bennett in the Guardian in 1994 and to a position put forward by Robert Ballagh in a debate in London with Aughey. After taking apart the attacks of the two upon Ulster British culture comprehensively, Aughey wrote: “The experience of cultural humiliation and communal disparagement has been so common for Protestants that they have almost come to take it for granted. For their own self-esteem they need to challenge this systemic cultural attack.” His vision was of Protestant cultural life being recognised in all its diversity, rather than people focussing just on what is distinctive:
    “Their great error is to fail to distinguish what is distinctive from what is representative … What may be representative of cultural life in all its diversity – Carson’s poetry, Reid’s plays, Bew’s history – is either ignored as peripheral or denounced as a great betrayal … What is distinctive of political Protestantism – its Orange marches, its flute bands, its lodge banners, its sectarian songs – is taken to be the sum of all cultural life in that community. This is like taking the Free Presbyterian Church to be the sum total of Protestant religious life.”
    The other apercu I love from this is:
    “Ironically, cultural nationalists actually do appreciate Orangeism for it allows them, through the good offices of televisual imagery, to show firstly, how very Irish, though uncreatively Irish, the Protestants really are and secondly, how very un-British these uncreative people really are.”
    And all this comes from a myopic view of what constitutes cultural life (the category error of thinking that what is distinctive about a culture is what is representative of it).
    When I read people on here judging the people of Tiger’s Bay by Tiger’s Bay First Flute Band or what some people put on the bonfire, I do sigh and wonder how shallow a view of human society they must have. Tiger’s Bay also produced Sam McAughtrey … He should be compulsory reading.

  • carl marks

    I am Judging loyalists and only loyalists, I think that you are the one lumping all protestant/loyalist culture as one, also most nationalists when they raise complaints about the excesses of loyalists or OO lodges are not branding all protestants together , however all the unionist leaders and most posters from the PUL community are the ones who lump all protestants with the loyalists.

    For example the Twaddell protest has become more important to the Unionist parties than anything else and forgive me but is it not true that every time a nationalist complains about the actions of a loyalist or the singing of a sectarian tune the reaction of unionists is to circle the wagons.

    But maybe I phrased my questions wrong, I did not ask for perceived cultural attacks I asked for evidence of actual cultural attacks, in what way and in what manner is this cultural oppression taking place.

  • carl marks

    Sam McAughtrey

    one of my favorite story tellers and a good man.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    How long have you got?! Being lazy, and as I have it sitting in front of me, I’ll draw a few from Aughey’s 1994 article. How about:

    – Marie Jones’s risible “A Night In November” – in which salvation is achieved by dropping Northern Ireland and supporting the Republic

    – Ronan Bennett writing of the “intolerable mental world” of Ulster Protestants

    – for a fuller run through film and tv (up to 1997) see Prof Brian McIlroy’s book ‘Shooting to Kill’. In the preface he says: “The prevailing visualisation of the Troubles in drama and documentary, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, is dominated by Irish nationalist and republican ideology … the Protestant community is constantly elided by both British and Irish filmmakers and videographers who prefer to accept the anti-imperialist view of Northern Ireland’s existence.”

    – look at films by Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Thaddeus O’Sullivan, Terry George etc etc

    – a recent example is McQueen’s ‘Hunger’, buying into the caricaturing of Protestants as oppressive, humourless, people against whom a noble struggle may be had.

    In fact, it is so rare to come across a play or film with any kind of even-handed treatment of Ulster Protestants, I really struggle to think of them, though I admire Gary Mitchell of course.

    As John Bew put it once, we Ulster Protestants rarely appear in film out of uniform.

    What you have to understand is that for us, when we watch most things on tv to do with Northern Ireland – drama or documentary – it’s like some bizarre alternative reality. One in which we’re either depicted as ogres or just left out entirely. Worse, it is invariably held up as some kind of deep truth. In those Protestant households that still bother to watch, any such programme is usually followed by a torrent of well-deserved expletives and a weary ‘same old, same old’.

    David McKittrick has a good piece on it here:

    We’re not as thick as we look – we do notice when someone is doing a number on us.

    I can only think that people who think we are accurately and fairly portrayed (1) haven’t much experience of Ulster Protestant life and/or (2) have an agenda in denigrating us (it’s not hard to see whose interests are served by that …)

    It doesn’t mean you have to go easy on Loyalism – Gary Mitchell doesn’t and has been intimidated out of his home for it – it’s just there’s way more to us than that.

  • Dead_Air_Radio

    Thanks for comments.

    The feature was intended as sympathetic critique – ideally the participants and others are able to engage long enough to reconsider some of their opinions and aspirations.

    It was also intended to contribute some new language and ideas to the discussion of ‘loyalist grievance’ – to think about it in terms of a struggle for social recognition (which all individuals experience one way or another); highlight the inherent contradiction and problem of asking people to ignore defiance; suggest loyalists think of ways to feel better about themselves without making others feel bad.

    Factual corrections to the grievance narrative, such as socio-economic stats on deprivation and employment, are necessary. They are sometimes put across on shows like Nolan, but perhaps they need repeated where ignorance remains. Dismissing the narrative is, of course, another approach.

    McBride’s self-description refers to a formal position he holds. Some of his work:

    I doubt he would place himself alongside the fathers of modern political thought – not yet anyway.

  • carl marks

    well stop burning peoples flags and symbols,singing sectarian songs in front of chapels, racist attacks and all the rest of the behavior that we see loyalists wallowing in and people might see you different.

    You cant blame people for thinking and portraying loyalists as uneducated racist bigots if they insist on behaving like uneducated racist bigots.

    drop the flutes and pick up a textbook, stop forcing others out of your areas, treat your neighbors with respect.

    And there you go again with this bit,

    ” haven’t much experience of Ulster Protestant life”

    lumping all protestants together (something you wrongly accused me off) this is wrong, many many protestants are sickened by the actions of loyalists and wish no association with them !

    if that is the way the media portrays loyalists then consider there may be a reason, i am sure the whites in South Africa, the KKK and the BNP all have the same complaint.
    You have mentioned Sam McAughtry twice apart from his place of birth do you really believe that intellgent wise and gentle man has anything in common with the FTP/KAT gang.

  • carl marks

    Sorry mistook Aughey for McAughtry! oops

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think I mentioned him once but anyway … no, clearly not, but he had depth and compassion in spades – I just can’t see him taking your approach either.

    My main point beneath all my waffle is not that it’s wrong to portray loyalist misdemeanours and sectarian attitudes where they exist – indeed we have a duty to do so – but that portrayals of the Protestant community as a whole tend to be restricted to this alone. It’s the lack of focus on other aspects of Protestant life that’s the problem. It’s classic ethnic scapegoating.

    Really it follows a very similar pattern to any other piece of ethnic scapegoating. You take something real – say groups Pakistani men grooming white teenagers in Northern English cities – and then you bang on about that issue. Nothing wrong in that you might say – it’s happening, it needs to stop. Let’s get the placards out putting a cross through an Islamic symbol. The problem though is that in highlighting that to the exclusion of other aspects of Pakistani / British Muslim life, you get people seeing them through that lens. That’s how you whip up racism. In NI, it’s how you whip up sectarianism – and we know SF set about targeting Orange culture, as Adams admitted this in Athboy in 1996 when he talked about the “three years of hard work” by SF activists that had gone into producing the Drumcree situation. And it’s gone on from there.

    In SF and the EDL’s case, it’s been orchestrated and deliberate. Some of them, at least, like Adams, Tommy Robinson (back in jail I think) and Nick Griffin know exactly what they are doing. They ride on the wave of fake moral outrage from the docile sheep who follow them. The “moral outrage” of the followers is of course a nice excuse for venting spleen against an ethnic group they have long hated.

    Even among moderates on the nationalist side, focussing on the worst about Ulster Protestants has been a core feature of discourse, for the simple reason that nationalists have long calculated it makes sense to diss your opponents – it’s one way of persuading the wider world you have a just cause. But you can’t do this AND then pretend you have a lovely cuddly inclusive ideology that brings people together. That’s not been its history – it has as much a history of ethnic hatred against Ulster Protestants as the other way around. The manner in which we were targeted and murdered by the IRA is of course testament to that hatred.

    This isn’t to excuse sectarianism from loyalists – let’s be clear, it’s wrong and causes great damage and people are right to complain about it. But I’m saying, it doesn’t define most Protestants, even in ‘loyalist’ areas. And nationalists of all people should be able to understand that even those who express hateful thoughts and words are not beyond redemption. And sometimes there are real social issues to be tackled too – which may just be the thing to focus on.

  • carl marks

    Firstly let me repeat I and most nationalists do not lump protestants in with loyalists it the unionist parties and people like yourself who are doing this, as I repeated the tendency to circle the wagons around loyalists is what we see, the unionist parties treat any criticism of loyalists no matter how vile their display of hatred as an attack on all protestants.

    If your claim (which to be honest is just more mopery) was true then there would be no loyalist or OO parades in areas with nationalists majority’s, surely this is where we would see your “Ethnic Cleansing” but the OO seems to be able to march in Derry ok.

    Now everybody is capable of changing but they have to know they need to change and that means as I said before your leaders and politicians stopping feeding this mope based nonsense and do a bit of leading instead of following for a change.

    The unionist dog is wagged by the loyalist tail, simple as that.

    Don’t blame others for loyalist excess and don’t shoot the messenger.

    A journalist in the seventies reported that while filming a riot on the Shankill, an Angry women came up to him and complained that he” was filming something that wasn’t happening” are you not doing the same blaming others for the loutish behaviour because they have the audacity to complain about loutish behaviour .

  • Peter Moore

    “lumping all protestants together (something you wrongly accused me off) this is wrong, many many protestants are sickened by the actions of loyalists and wish no association with them!”

    Here here!

    I am probably a curious thing…..Church of Ireland, brought up in a upper middle class affluent background and nationalist in political outlook (albeit with a small ‘n’).

    However, from the outside I would be described as protestant (even though I’m Anglican, but anyway), the actions of PUL do repulse me.

    Forgive the short rant of a reply, but it’s my first time posting on Slugger!

  • streetlegal

    The culture of loyalism is really based on a set of ignorant assumptions which have festered in the back streets of Belfast. These places have remained untouched by the light of reason, from each benighted generation to the next.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    All I was saying was, it’s fine to criticise Loyalist excess and wrongdoing BUT where it lapses into ethnic labelling – saying this is all they can ever be, the whole culture is ‘wrong’ etc, – then that’s not a fair comment and it’s not meaningful either.

    Of course it’s possible to attack Loyalism without attacking all Protestants – I am scathing about Republican practices I hope without being anti-Catholic (I am married to one) – but when you lay into them, restraint is essential. You have to be careful to confine your criticisms to their actual wrongdoing and not seek to write off the whole culture or the whole people.

    Some of the comments on this thread cross the line – take the most recent post at the time of writing, by streetlegal: “The culture of loyalism is really based on a set of ignorant assumptions which have festered in the back streets of Belfast”. I won’t take the whole thing apart, though I could, but the writer seems to regard all working class Protestant culture as “ignorant”. It’s obviously offensive and sectarian but my point is that criticisms of Loyalist misbehaviour that start off with a fair point can so easily slide into that kind of sectarian abuse – and the criticisms, even valid ones, may even be motivated by sectarian animus rather than a desire to see a better city and better inter-communal relations.

    But I also feel that being a middle class Protestant should not have to entail abandoning people down the road just because they’re working class. We’re all people, we have some things in common, a lot of things not in common and there are all manner of connections and non-connections. What I don’t like is seeing people cordoned off and treated like lepers because some bad stuff goes on in their area, or even if they do it. Treat people like human beings and you’ll be surprised what can happen. Working class Protestant culture surely deserves recognition and respect, as well as criticism where it’s due. Same for everyone. But it’s important we insist on that recognition and respect.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s over the line surely. “Benighted”?? Really?? This is what they have to deal with.
    We’re told Protestants are only imagining they are being denigrated, that’s it’s all about perception. Well, looks like it’s real enough. Thank you for your honesty at least.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I note that streetlegal has, perhaps, quite carefully used the term “the culture of loyalism”. I wonder if he is using it loosly to include other aspects of Unionist political culture of limiting his comments specifically to that sub-division that calls itself “loyalism”?

    So perhaps he is not actually denigrating all Protestants but simply a very well defined minority.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Perhaps he’ll enlighten us. But I’m not sure “the culture of loyalism” gets him off the hook. Isn’t it just another way of talking about people?

    Dismissing the “culture” involves dismissing both positive and negative aspects of a community’s activities – “culture” including the visual arts, music, writing and so on, as well as getting drunk and urinating into people’s gardens. A broader definition of culture includes pretty much anything people do or say. Hard for him to take on the whole culture while protesting he has no problem with the people from which it emanates. It’s hard not to see it as a thinly veiled attack on people for their ethnicity and their class.

    Of course you can be working class and Protestant without being Loyalist and many are, but if he means to make those kind of distinctions, he needs to do so. “Loyalist culture” is too broad a term. If I were a working class Protestant I’d probably assume he was talking about my culture.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “If I were a working class Protestant I’d probably assume he was talking about my culture.”

    While I agree that in most cases this can be assumed, as any lawyer will explain, streetlegal can only be convicted on what he has actually said, and the exact definitions of that. And as you said over on the “dealing with the past is— past” thread:

    “The current prevalence within the telling of the Troubles story of half-arsed, flaky folk history, unchallenged and regurgitated by often uncritical media, is a big cause of continuing tension and a major reason why reconciliation post 1998 has been so patchy.”

    The same criticism could be applied to applied to wooly minded, half-arsed flakey use of terms with quite precise meanings. I was pulled up by an editor of a piece I wrote about using “loyalist” all too loosley. I’d now assume “loyalist culture” to be something primarily political and quite a distinct thing from “working class protestant culture”or even “Ulster Scots” culture. Wikipedia might help clear this up:

  • BarrelOfPorter

    “If I were a working class Protestant I’d probably assume he was talking about my culture.”

    I am a working class protestant and I most definitely don’t.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Good for you, BarrelofPorter. But if others do, then my point holds.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But if you follow the Stephen Pinker line, as I think most linguists do, the meaning of a word is really what people take it to mean. So there’s no point using a term precisely if it’s not taken that way.

    There’s a good parallel with the word “Fenian” (and excuse me for using it here). You could talk about “Fenians” and mean to refer to members of the Fenian Brotherhood, or perhaps sympathisers of their cause; but of course it’s also used in a sectarian way to mean any Irish Catholic. Like ‘loyalist’, there is a narrower and a wider way in which it can be taken. Now, An Irish Catholic hearing someone like me using the word ‘Fenian’ would I’m sure be expecting me to make it clear I’m referring to the narrower group and not the wider one.

    So if you mean it in a narrow sense, then say that – perhaps ‘political loyalism’ or ‘paramilitary loyalism’ would be clearer for the bit you don’t like than just ‘loyalism’, which *can* be a cipher for anything to do with working class Protestants. Tricky thing, language.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    And in your imagining of what you might assume if you were a working class protestant, how many of your imaginary peers make the same assumption?

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Unionism needs more music & cultural events the theme of which is not “We’re prods because, We’re prods because, We’re prods because, We’re prods…”

    Going by the number of suited and booted middle-aged men with close cropped haircuts I see at the parades on the telly, I’d suggest that a mid July Ska festival would go down well.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well, I’m a social researcher, so while I have some imagination I hope, I’m also not bad (if I say so myself) at fag packet estimates of population percentages on random topics. So well up for this …
    So, if the question here is to people living in a predominantly working class area of Belfast:
    “If someone refers to ‘the culture of loyalism’, could they be talking about the culture of people like you?”
    I’d be surprised if it was less then 50 per cent for ‘yes, they could be’.

    It is a guess of course and we can’t prove it without great expense and a lot of fieldwork. But that’s my educated guess.

    You should see me watching Pointless, I’m class.

    I also think if I asked the general population, “Is it more acceptable or unacceptable to describe a neighbourhood as ‘untouched by the light of reason'”, the numbers for “unacceptable” would be over 90 per cent. But on Slugger these days, I’ll probably be in a minority of one on that.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Well.. You could be right at that. But then perhaps more than 50% of the working class protestant population also consider themselves “loyalist” in which case, yes, it refers to their culture.

    As you yourself state, working class & protestant does not equal loyalist and nobody who does not define themselves as a loyalist would consider any mention of loyalist culture would include them. Why would they?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My dear fellow, the point I was making was that streetlegal uses a term that has quite a precise political meaning, and as he was, I think, making a political point, that’s what I’d go for. Over on the other thread you very honourably commended the historical discipline, a discipline where precision is all important, as a way out of our morass of “half-arsed, flaky folk history, unchallenged and regurgitated by often uncritical media”, and as the entire issue of parity of esteem is very much a legal concept, I’d hoped you would be pleased at my effort to rectify the discussion by pointing out the purely legal implications of the term, as these are the only terms streetlegal might legally be challenged upon. Linguists are seldom called up in court in these issues, although I entirely recognise that both yourself and others may use the term in a much more generalised, media oriented sense, I’d thought that your earlier call for precision and exactness would welcome such a tightening up of the discussion. I’d rather hoped that your posting was an attempt to suggest that things may be rather more complex than a bandying of simplifications and not simply an attempt to score up a political point.

    But of course, we are still awaiting streetlegal’s clarification of his precise meaning.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    In using words to express identity, we’re also communicating with someone else – so I’d expect there are plenty in working class Protestant areas who don’t consider themselves Loyalists in the strict sense, but who nevertheless recognise the word loyalist is sometimes used loosely to refer to them. They may wish they weren’t, but they recognise that use of the word.

    I get called Irish sometimes over here and sometimes go along with that – I know what they mean, even if it’s not how I self-define. I recognise Irish is a name I might sometimes get called as a generalisation.

    We can get hung up sometimes on words having one ‘correct’ meaning – they mean all the things people take them to mean. Some of those are deeply annoying for both of us, but hey ho.

    My point was just that when people make derogatory remarks about ‘the culture of loyalism’, if they mean to restrict it to the paramilitary or sectarian side of it, they should say so. Otherwise it can be taken as a generalised comment against working class Protestants, which I think strays into sectarianism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think streetlegal’s precise meaning is clarified by the sentence he follows with:
    “These places have remained untouched by the light of reason, from each benighted generation to the next.”

    Places. Not culture at all. He defines people by the area they live in. And is sectarian about them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Excellent! you’re starting to analyse what you are looking at.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    ” so I’d expect there are plenty in working class Protestant areas..”

    I do not have to “expect” on this point, I’m exposed to the people you are referring to every day, I am one of the people you are referring to. It is not a mistake that would be made by anyone from a working class protestant area.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what mistake?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    also BoP, if I think people are being treated unfairly, I’ll make the point, whether I live in the area or not. I’d do the same for Muslims in Burnley. I’m not professing special knowledge of those particular people, just saying they are human beings and that I’m not happy with them being abused and patronised. Much better if it comes from them but there is a dearth of people on Slugger at the moment prepared to make the case.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A lot of the confusion here is coming from the conflation of political attitudes with actual “culture”. There is a culture of loyalist politics and then there is the culture of the working class community in parts of Northern Ireland, and there is a culture of, well, culture. About how easily this is despoiled, I’d posted a quote from AE (George Russell) elsewere on Slugger:

    “The champions of physical force have, I am sure, without intent, poisoned the soul of Ireland. All that was exquisite and lovable is dying. They have squandered a spirit created by poets, scholars, and patriots of a different order, spending the treasure lavishly as militarists in all lands do, thinking little of what they squander save that it gives a transitory gilding to their propaganda.”

    Much the same could be said of the almost submerged Protestant Literary tradition for most Belfast protestants would be surprised to discover that there is quite an extensive range of local writing from an admittedly broader “Protestant” tradition over and above John Hewitt, Tom Carnduff, Stewart Parker, Bertie Rogers, MacNeice and C.S Lewis. Very little of their work, or the work of many now forgotten others, even hints at those politics that could be described as “loyalist”. What little there is, that has any “usable” political content, such as W.G.Lyttle, is picked over by the Ulster Scots Agency. But there is an entire local culture out there, “something we made earlier”, in which both “traditions” are richly represented, the problem is that so few are interested as it simply does not have a political voice.

  • carl marks

    MU, I am not condemning protestant nor I am making any call
    to eliminate loyalism, all I am saying is that the behaviour of many loyalists
    is unacceptable, and if it (loyalism) does not put a stop to this behaviour then
    eventually the rest of society will have to put a stop to it.

    Public and orchestrated displays of ethnic hatred which have
    become the face of loyalism cannot and should not be tolerated and the antics
    that loyalists call their culture are little more excuses to annoy the neighbours.

    A major problem is the manner that unionist politicians
    treat these displays, either supporting them, excusing them or just pretending
    it didn’t happen (compare the reaction between a hunger strike commemoration in
    Fermanagh and the Brain Robinson commemoration, ever heard a unionist condemn
    the latter). Unionist leaders will have to step up to the mark here.

    The mopery also need to stop, give us some real issues and
    they can be tackled but the “themmuns get everything” is simply not true and I don’t
    think we can’t fix something that is not real, again this is up to the leaders
    of unionism to tackle as I have said before leadership would help a lot here.