February 07, 2016

Being Loyalist and Irish

Gusty Spence said:
"It’s sad today whenever you see a kind of an anti-Irishness. I suppose maybe it’s understandable because of the Provisionals campaign. Whatever little bit of Irishness people felt or some people felt - I feel greatly Irish - it was kind of driven out of them by these people who purported to be absolute Irish, and dogmatic, by bombing and shooting them."

David Ervine said he was "profoundly both British and Irish":
"The first time I ever went to the United States, someone in the audience in the dialogue we were having thought it was ludicrous that I could be British and Irish. Then we asked how many in this room are Irish American and 95% of the people in the room put their hands up. So it is OK to live 3000 miles apart and be Irish American and but is not alright to be British Irish. There is no purity these days. We are long past the concept that we are a purity of the Scots or the English or the Welsh or the Irish, rather we are an amalgam of many things. I am profoundly both British and Irish and those who have to deal with me have to take me on those terms. Why should I be ashamed of that? Why should there be some sense of me being less of a human being because I advocate a political process that can incorporate all aspects of my life?"
Linda Ervine explained to William Crawley on the BBC programme It’s a Blas, which followed William’s journey to learn Irish, how she viewed Irish identity and the language. She said:
"I feel I’m British, but I’m Irish. I feel that as Protestants from Northern Ireland we are the other Irish. We are the ignored, forgotten Irish that have been over looked. Because when people think of Irish identity they think of catholic, they think of nationalist and they think of republican. And that’s not who I am. That’s not my identity. So I think that is why people from my community have rejected that idea of an Irish identity and what goes along with that - Irish dancing, Irish language. So for them that is something that is alien to them. Yet for me I see actually now that that identity is mine as well.”
The well known loyalist and Protestant from Northern Ireland Billy Mitchell explained in an interview how he held himself as Irish and further regarded being Irish and British as wholly compatible. He said:
"Identity transcends the boxes, you know? For instance in cultural stuff I was brought up in an era where Irish culture had absolutely no problems for me – I would regard myself in that respect as an Irish unionist. I’ve no problems with Irish culture; I’ve problems with the provisionalisation of it. I have some affinity with spoken Ulster Scots but I have very little time for the politicisation of it. We grew up with the hamely tongue or the language of the hearth – it was bate out of us at school. My musical taste…I have no problem with Irish music whether its ‘diddly-dee’ music or traditional Scottish music. Basically if you’re talking about culture, my culture in music is blues! Blues, and strangely enough classics – the like of Katherine Jenkins. I have a problem with people talking about your cultural identity…I have problems with people trying to piegeonhole me; because I’m as comfortable playing the bodhran…as I am playing ‘The Sash’."
William Ennis, PUP activist and apostle of David Ervine, explained his Irishness in 2016:
"Having grown up in an environment which led me to recoil in discomfort from anything of Irish flavour or association the comfort I now feel with the Irish strand of my identity is something I have gained with age. It’s clearly not a Sinn Fein kind of Irish, not an ourselves alone kind of ultra nationalist Irish; but it is a welcome splash of colour which I find in no way inconsistent with my Unionism or my Loyalism, for my Irishness is not politically charged. Why shouldn’t Ireland have its representation, Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom? As Ervine once exclaimed, “Why can’t I be an Irish citizen of the UK?” So why give in to a certain strand of nationalism and surrender the Irish identity to those who oppose Northern Ireland’s membership of the UK? They don’t own it. My Irishness is not the same as that of Gerry Adams, but who is to say that his is the true type? Who is to say there is a true type? So I prefer W. B. Yeats to Roger Casement, I’m more Tony Novosell than Tim Pat Coogan, more William Mitchell than Bobby Sands, more Siege of Derry than Easter Rising – my Ireland has room for all of the above, and this is true while Northern Ireland remains in union with our brothers and sisters (often literally) in England , Scotland and Wales."
Sam McAughtry, born and raised in loyalist Tiger's Bay in Belfast, said:
"[I’m] a hybrid unionist… happy to live in the United Kingdom but I am happier still to be Irish and to proclaim my Irishness."
He also said on February 28 1996 in the Irish Senate after being welcomed as a rare northern Protestant representative:
"As I stated on the day of my election, it is my dearest wish to see this island inhabited by five million Irish people, living in two jurisdictions with consent, but with institutions established to emphasise their Irishness."
Billy Hutchinson of the PUP said in 1997:
"I feel that we shouldn’t exclude things that are Irish because they are Irish, and I think that is what we tend to do."
In 1995 a group of Protestants including loyalists issued a statement, ‘A New Beginning’, saying:
"We challenge loyalists and republicans to acknowledge that over the centuries each community has imbued many of the other’s attributes, to the extent that the heritage of both traditions has increasingly become a shared one. We challenge loyalists to acknowledge the "Irish” component of their heritage, and nationalists to acknowledge the “British” component of theirs."
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