Monthly Archives: May 2013



Being a voracious reader on the outside my introduction into remand in Belfast Prison—firstly in 1972—and once again for most of 1975—meant that it was a constant search and struggle to find suitable reading material.  You accepted books from any source possible—once from an IRA prisoner I met during a dental visit—and many times from screws.  Sometimes—many times in fact—you read books for the sake of reading and in many cases books you would normally give a second glance to.  There were books that did the rounds and were read by virtually everyone.  There were others that became coveted and were worthy of multiple reads.  I saw books torn in half when a reader got to a certain point to allow a friend to commence it while he finished.  There were fads, habits, rituals, penances, recommendations and duties.  There was the obligatory scan of the Bible—usually when ensconced in the punishment cells where other books were like gold dust and as obtainable as something pleasant to eat.
Remand time to me seemed to consist of a lot of down time when we were locked up quite a bit with virtually no recreational facilities—no television—and usually limited access to a transistor radio—so reading was one way of passing the time.  “C” Wing in the early seventies wasn’t exactly a haven for books—good or otherwise so basically you accepted what came your way.  I was seventeen years old during my first remand and many of the others were of a similar age—but most of the books were hand me downs from the older remand prisoners and these tended to be Westerns or War novels.  It was here I was introduced to JT Edson and became familiar with Dusty Fog and the Ysabel Kid.  Jack Schaffer’s Shane was much read and was passed about quite a bit.  Louis L’Amour was another favourite of the time—books of his that readily spring to mind are The Ferguson Rifle—Shalako—and the Sackett novels.  As Gaudeamus previously mentioned the Sven Hassel books were particularly widely read and became the topic of many conversations over a cup of tea or a dander round the exercise yard.  It was common to hear the prisoners relate the exploits of Porta, Tiny and Julius from the Panzer division full of renegade soldiers who no one else wanted. Legion Of The Damned is the one Hassel book I remember most.
By 1973 I had been shifted—against my wishes it has to be said, but on the back of a 4 year sentence—to Long Kesh and into Compound 11.  There were more like minded people here and many who read much more than I did.  The substantial Compound library was supplemented by books sent in through the Welfare system on the outside.  You still had the usual Westerns and War novels but increasingly, to me it became noticeable that many other more enlightening types of books were being read.  One of the first books I remember borrowing was Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and also around this time I started reading Venceremos by John Gerrasi—the writings of Che Guevara.  I have to say that at this particular time I found it a little hard going and it was quite a while before I revisited that particular book.  Suddenly I was spoilt for choice and time permitting—because by now I had a routine that gave very little free time during the day—I read as much as possible.  Because of a new awareness and promptings from the more politically astute comrades my reading became more selective—although I still enjoyed the escapism of novels—I went through most of the Harold Robbins novels up until that date—A Stone for Danny Fisher and Never Love A Stranger were the best of these.  Politically the stand outs were ATQ Stewart’s The Ulster Crisis—greatly read throughout the compound—The Making of Modern Ireland by JC Bekett, that to me gave a different perspective on Irish history—and a biography of the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon—loaned to me by one of the “good living” prisoners.  “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting its shoes on”….was a memorable quote from Spurgeon.  Throughout the years I was in Compound 11 and subsequently 18 and then 21, I have to say that I got through a huge amount of reading.  More than most but certainly not as much as some—like Billy Strain who was prolific.  It wouldn’t have been unusual for Billy to go through 2 or 3 novels daily!!  Books that were of particular interest to me tended to be read and re read.  Ones that fell into this category were Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather—which remains one of my personal fiction books.  Again like Gaudeamus I went through the Vietnam thing.  Dispatches by Michael Herr remains one of the greatest books about combat I have ever read.  I have lost count of the copies I have gone through—lending them out never to be returned.  I still have a copy today!!  If I Should Die In a Combat Zone—Nam—Sand in the Wind—A Rumour of War—Dien Bien Phu—Going After Cacciato—the list is long.  In between all the serious or academic reading much of my time was devoted to novels of all descriptions. Recommendations from others or trying someone new—it didn’t matter.  What you did find was that a good book passed round like wildfire and if you read a new author you tended to go through their catalogue quite quickly.  Stephen King—Robert Ludlum—Jack Higgins—Joe Poyer—all had their fans.  Wilbur Smith was an author who caught the imagination of many.  Maybe it was because he related to the adventure of the wide open spaces—usually in Africa—something that wasn’t attainable to the “captive readers”.  Like most others I read them with relish and would have no problem still revisiting the trilogy of When The Lion Feeds—The Sound of Thunder and A Sparrow Falls relating to the lives of the rival families The Courtneys and The Ballentines.  Superb!!
I developed quite an interest in American Crime novels around this time—an interest that has grown with age.  My introduction to this genre was through reading a fine novel called The Friends of Eddie Coyle—later turned into a movie with Robert Mitchum—by George V. Higgins.  I was hooked from the start and after going through his catalogue I branched out to—James M. Cain—Jim Thompson-Ross McDonald-Donald E. Westlake.  I was insatiable.
Books—whether they were factual or fiction-which were prison related always held an interest and some were more memorable than others. Previously you have read about the Jimmy Boyle books—both essential reading as was–A Day In the Life..No matter how depressing it was!!  Others that stand out include Midnight Express—Go Boy by Roger Caron, a story of a number of Canadian institutions visited by the author throughout his life—The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer—the trial, imprisonment and public execution of multiple killer Gary Gilmore and Brubaker—the story of the Arkansas State Prison scandal of 1967 uncovered by author Tom Murton.
It is impossible to pick any one book throughout my time in the Compounds that I could say was my favourite.  Suffice to say that I read thousands—many forgettable but many more I remember fondly.  Life in Long Kesh would have been much more difficult without the endless supply of books and for this avid reader, it made a Life sentence at least a little more attractive.


Billy Joe


The Books Have It….

The Books Have It.

One of the common items throughout my life sentence was books. From the moment I went on remand in the Crum to the very last days I was able to read. I’m writing this article to ask other ex 21ers what books they recall from their stay in C21. Or indeed any of the cage men.  When I first entered the Crum it was said that I was under a threat from the Provos. As a result I ended up in protection in ‘B’ wing with Basher and Billy from the Shankill. It was here I was first able to read the Roman Catholic bible. I had heard that the two bibles were different so now I had a chance to read those books that had been dropped from the Prod bible. To be honest the Apocrypha didn’t exactly rock my world, just raised questions as to who selected what books did, or did not, go into the Bible.

The Crum was a hellhole in the ‘70s and so it was with suspicion that I took a book offered me by a screw.  It was ‘Run Baby Run’ by  Nicky Cruz. Basically this was about gangs in New York and one finding god and salvation while he lost his great friend.  It was a good book. When I got to Compound 21 one of the first books I was given was ‘Discourses’ by the philosopher Rene Descartes. Quite a step up from the Beano and Dandy.  Education had a strong base in Compound 21 so it was easy getting hold of good books.

There was any amount of books in the cage and besides needing books for studying there was a library which we all shared.  At one time a number of men got together and formed a book club. Money was chippe din books bought and then everyone would have access to those books. Any of us could get books left in our parcels. I was able to read many books but a theme was the Vietnam War. One of the best books for me was ‘Dispatches’ by Michael Kerr. It was early 1980s and the summers, as I recall, were far better than today. I was able to sit out on a flat roof reading this brilliant account of the Vietnam War and I could see and listen to the British army helicopters lifting in and out of the Kesh. Talk about creating an atmosphere. One book that was widely read (but now we are not so sure how much it is fact or fiction) was the ‘Devils Guard’ by George Elford. Basically this was about Vietnam after the French had got involved but before the Americans got embroiled. The twist here is that the story centres on ex Nazis who had skipped the end of the Second World War and could use their experience in this theatre of war. There are plenty of dirty deeds and a different way of fighting terrorists. On the lines of war there was a curious link with the Book ‘Firepower’. What links an ex British soldier (who was Greek), turned mercenary, the Troubles and the Angolan Civil war? The self-styled Colonel Callan (he was a corporal) led a bunch of mercenary’s during  Angola’s bitter civil war in 1975.  Callan was infamous for committing a few atrocities along the way. When captured the government could not break him. In order to do so (the story goes) they dug up Callans best friend and threw the remains into the cell with Callan who proceeded to crack up. His link to the troubles is that he, with some loyalists, committed an armed robbery around the Bangor area which led to him being booted out of the British Army. Callan was shot by firing squad in 1976.

Another main theme of books and closely related to what we were doing there was the Troubles both current and previous. I read every book I could on the Troubles.  From Sarah Nelsons, ‘Uncertain Defenders’ to Rona Fields who wrote,  “Children of the Troubles. A society on the run”.  I actually met with Rona on a visit one day when she was over from the USA.  The First World War loomed large in C.21. I lived in the middle hut which was called Passchendaele after the battle. There were quite a few books on the subject. It was amazing years later to actually stand on the places like Messines, Albert and Thiepval that I had only read about before. There was the essential ‘History of the 36th (Ulster) Division’ by C. Falls. ‘The Ulster Crisis’ by ATQ Stewart.  Again, I had learned nothing about this history in school and yet it had meant so much to our society today.

However the book that stands out for me was George Dangerfield’s ‘That Damnable Question’.  (the title is  a quote from Winston Churchill) It’s about the 1916 – 1922 period and it was amazing for me to read. We were taught no Irish history at all in our school. A common experience for both RCs and Prods I have found out! This was an effort to record events properly and not with a bias to one side or other. Although it’s a debate whether history can be written with total impartiality. Politics was another big aspect of life for me. I recall being in the hospital for a period when the Governor walked in to do his rounds. He saw a copy of the ‘Crossman Dairies’ on my bed. He appeared quite surprised for me to be reading that. Richard Crossman was a leading Labour MP for years. Apparently his diaries formed part of the basis for the funny TV show ‘Yes Minster’.

On one occasion in the boards (punishment cell) I was able to get the book “10 Rillington Place” about the English killer John Christie. When the door was next opened I handed the guard the book. “Not like it” he says. ‘No. Finished it. Anything else?’ Amazing what you can read when you have the time. One book that was linked to my psychology studies which I have since borrowed again was ‘War on the Mind’ by G Watson. Incredible book and based very much in the real world. I recall in the book the actual World War 2 story which is the basis of the film ‘Dirty Dozen’. Serving prisoners and convicts in America  were given the chance to fight in Europe. Most did so,  many with distinction.

Science fiction was one of my favourite genres. No better way to escape for a while. I had all the usual from Arthur Clarke, Le Gunn, Bradbury, Heinlein and Asimov.    I suppose the best that stands out for me because it was sent from America by a pen pal and it is a great story is ‘Childhoods End’ by A. Clarke which was first published in 1953.

Another theme in book (and film) was about prison and other peoples experiences of prison. Again there is too many to go over but the book Bandito was the experience of a white man who fought on the side of the ANC. He relays his experiences of a South African prison. It is not pleasant reading. One of the best factual books was by the Andrew Beevor. ‘The Fall of Berlin’ is a great book. Why it stands out for me was that I read it in a day. I had a usual routine of running, gym, studying, cooking, cleaning, etc but that day I just read the book straight through. A bit of a labour of love was Solzhenitsyn’s,  ‘The Gulag Archipelago’. Heavy stuff but interesting. His ‘Cancer Ward’ was a book to far. Another great Russian writer was Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  His ”House of the Dead” is about prison and he used his own experience of Russian prison to write the book and make it very realistic.

I actually had a signed copy of Jimmy Boyles book a “Sense of Freedom” plus his follow up ‘The Pain of Imprisonment’. Well written with some things I could totally empathize with. He was a Scottish life sentence prisoner who ahd a very violent past but completely changed and went on to have books and TV shows about his life.  Another great book by a serving prisoner although of a totally different world was by Gordon Liddy. For those who grew up with ‘Watergate’, ‘President Tricky dickey Nixon’, deleted tapes, etc, this was a book from one of the central characters that was involved in the scandal. The book “Will”, is a great read.

There was loads of fiction from Steven King, Wilbur Smith, James Clavell, Higgins, Leon Uris and so on.  One great book was ‘Sand in the Wind’. Again Americans in Vietnam. This was by  Robert Roth.  The book’ Lighter than a Feather’ by   David  Westheimer was a fictional story of what would have happened if the Yanks had to go into Japan without the  use of the atomic bomb. Another great read.  I of course have to mention the great military history books by Sven Hassel. Ahem?

So any of the ‘special cats’ reading this, what was your favourite book  and why?


Gaudeamus Igitur.




The ACT Initiative – Bobby Rodgers Fundraising Event

Sunday 19th May saw two teams of ACT volunteers from the Greater Shankill and South Belfast take part in a charity football match at Ballysillan playing fields with all proceeds going to Bobby Rodgers and his family. A great crowd turned out to watch two teams who were committed to win but also determined to enjoy themselves.   The first 20 minutes of the match saw the over 40s take to field before standing aside to let the younger lads take over, credit must go to those over 40s who completed the 90 minutes. The match ended up with a 5-0 scoreline in favour of South Belfast but the (unfit) Shankill team battled on to the end. After the match both teams and the supporters retreated to the Liverpool Social Club for an afternoon of entertainment and relaxation. The match was organised first and foremost as a fundraiser but turned out to be much more, the friendships made between the two groups will last forever and both ACT groups look forward to working together for the benefit of our communities.

Greater Shankill ACT would like to thank the following for their kind donations, Hideout Bar, South Belfast. Mountainview Tavern, Shankill Road. Mountainview Social Club, Woodvale. Liverpool Social Club, Woodvale. The Four Step and our friends from Stirling, Scotland.  All proceeds raised will be at the disposal of Bobby during his period of incarceration.

We look forward to the return match!

Greater Shankill AAG



The ACT Initiative – Tigers Bay/Shore Road

Tigers Bay/ Shore Road ACT Area Action Group organised an event recently (Monday 15th May) in partnership with the Progressive Unionist Party.  The objective for the evening was to demonstrate the political activism of the ACT participants and to encourage other ACT individuals and wider community residents to hear the politics of the PUP.  In addition, audience members were encouraged to register to vote or to express an interest in joining their local PUP branch.  Keynote speakers included the PUP leader Billy Hutchinson who gave a passionate speech about the intentions of the party, Billy Hanna, who outlined the party’s work within the Armed Services Covenant and Tommy Cheevers who gave an insight into the parading agenda.  A total of one hundred and eight people attended.



Northern Ireland-20 years after the Ceasefires: A Conference

Northern Ireland 20 years After the Ceasefires: Challenges & Opportunities Friday 20th September 2013 Queen’s University Belfast


This conference will explore the challenges and opportunities facing Northern Ireland as we approach the anniversary of the 1994 paramilitary ceasefires. In doing so, we will provide a rare arena for developing an exchange of research findings and ideas among established, early career and emerging scholars.

The conference is run with two types of forum for facilitating such exchanges. First, six papers from established and early career scholars will be presented in two sessions. The second half of the conference will take the form of four parallel workshop sessions convened by two doctoral students whose research is in this field. The purpose of these workshops is to enable doctoral students in particular to share insights from their research in an interdisciplinary atmosphere.

The workshops are loosely organised along four key themes of challenges/ opportunities in contemporary Northern Ireland. The key points from these discussions will then be reported back in plenary session by the convenors. The conference will conclude with papers from two eminent scholars which will bring insights from the past twenty years to look ahead to the prospects for Northern Ireland in the coming decades.


Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ)


Opening: 09:45-09:55


Canada Room/Council Chamber, Lanyon Building Welcome from Peter Shirlow & Katy Hayward (QUB) ∞ Session 1: 10:00-11:20 Chair: Peter Doak (QUB) 1. Fidelma Ashe (UU) ‘Shameless’: Contestations of ethno-gendered identities and the subversion of the normalised society narrative. 2. Colin Coulter (NUIM) ‘Under Which Constitutional Arrangement Would You Still Like to be Unemployed?’ Poverty, Privilege and the Politics of Class in Post-Ceasefire Northern Ireland. 3. Brendan Browne and Clare Dwyer (QUB) Navigating Risk: Understanding the impact of the Conflict on Children and Young People in Northern Ireland Q&A ∞ 11:20-11:45 Break ∞ Session 2: 11:45-13:00 Chair: Michael Martin (NUIG) 4. Katy Hayward and Milena Komarova (QUB) Resolving conflict after the ceasefires: The limits of local accommodation. 5. Kevin Bean (Liverpool) From the Provisionals to the Dissidents. 6. Peter Shirlow (QUB) Was it worth it? The Implication of Conflict for Paramilitary Combatants. Q&A ∞


Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ)


Lunch: 1300-1345 ∞


‘Emerging Research’ Workshops 13:45-15:00 on Challenges and Opportunities in contemporary N. Ireland 1. Inclusion and Exclusion Convenors: Ronan Kennedy (UCD) & Briege Rice (QUB)

Workshop Venue: Canada Room 2. Conflict and Cooperation Convenors: Aisling Shannon (QUB) & David McCann (UU) Workshop Venue: Council Chamber 3. Marginalisation and Participation Convenors: Giuditta Fontana (KCL) & Oisin McCann (QUB) Workshop Venue: Lanyon G49 4. Tradition and Transition Convenors: Barbara Hart (TCD) & Niall Gilmartin (NUIM) Workshop Venue: Lanyon G74 ∞ 1500-15:20 Break ∞ Workshop Feedback & Discussion: 15:20-16:00 Chair: Peter Shirlow (QUB) Contributors: Workshop Convenors Council Chamber Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ)


Concluding Discussion 16:00-17:00


Chair: Katy Hayward (QUB)

7. Arthur Aughey (Ulster) Symmetrical Solutions, Asymmetrical Realities: Beyond the Politics of Paralysis? 8. Liam O’Dowd (QUB) The Uncertainties of the Future. Close: Peter Shirlow & Katy Hayward (QUB) ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ)


To Register

Please send an email to with the subject heading ‘20 Years After conference’. In your email, please give


your position (e.g. PhD student)


institutional affiliation (if any)


a sentence indicating the general topic of your research



your preferred conference workshop(s). DEADLINE for registration: 2nd August 2013 Please note that places are limited and that priority will be given to doctoral students and early career scholars.

We are very grateful for funding from the Political Studies Association (


Irish Politics specialist group) and the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation & Social Justice (interdisciplinary research group on Social Justice & the Divided City)

If you have further queries, please contact the


conference organisers:

Professor Peter Shirlow ( &

Dr Katy Hayward (


100th Anniversary of Willowfield Unionist Hall: Jason Burke

Sir Reg Empey, Bobby Cosgrove, Michael Copeland MLA, and Jason Burke
Thursday 16 May 2013 marked 100 years to the day since the official opening of the Willowfield Unionist Hall by Sir Edward Carson in 1913.
The occassion was celebrated at an event staged in the Albertbridge Accordion Band Hall and hosted by Jason Burke and Bobby Cosgrove.  Among the invited guests were Sir Reg Empey (the last Unionist candidate to be selected from the Willowfield Hall) and East Belfast MLA Michael Copeland.
Bobby Cosgrove opened the evening and went on to lay out the context of the Willowfield area up to and including the Ulster Covenant in September 1912.  Jason Burke then provided a presentation of research which he has accumulated and outlined the events surrounding the opening ceremony itself, this included photographs of Edward Carson at the hall and also extracts from the speech he gave that evening.
A short interval was followed by an excellent musical performance from the UVF Regimental Band, East Belfast.  They spoiled the audience with some musical selections befitting the 1913 era including ‘Tipperary’ as well as the Colonel Bogey March.  The fact that the band were dressed in period costume including flat caps, puttes, and haversacks only added to this reminiscent spectacle.
Bobby Cosgrove shares some of his memories of Willowfield Unionist Hall
Bobby Cosgrove humorously brought the story up to present day by sharing the sporting successes of the associated football, bowls, and cricket clubs, before indulging in some of his own memories from in and around the hall. At the end of the evening there was an opportunity for members of the audience to share their own memories of the hall, one man in particular had retained the most vivid of memories as at one stage he lived in the hall!
Michael Copeland MLA then brought the evening to a close with a few concluding remarks.
Thanks to everyone who attended on the night, I hope I did justice to the occassion.
Lord Londonderry and Sir Edward Carson, both were present at the opening of the hall in 1913


The ACT Initiative – North Down


‘Who am I?’ is a developmental and support process aimed at stimulating exploration of individuals’ experiences, perceptions and feelings which range over the past, present and future.  Aimed at engaging individuals within communities who have experienced particular problems associated with segregation, marginalisation and isolation the programme aims to reconnect participants within their communities.  Following a weekend residential, participants engage in a series of follow-up workshops which culminates with individuals sharing their ‘Who am I’ narratives.  The programme is funded through ‘Bridge of Hope’s’ Peace III Exploring the Past Initiative and Stephen Cooke, an associate with The ACT Initiative, is the legacy worker in post.  The first programme was facilitated within the North Down ACT Area Action Group, in partnership with Bangor Alternatives, and members in the picture are seen receiving their Certificates of Completion.



From The Shipyard To The Somme: A Review by Jason Bourke

Drama Review – From The Shipyard To The Somme

In the shadow of Samson & Goliath and in the heart of Ballymacarrett a poignant story was told was told over a six day period.  Somewhat unusually for a working class area such as inner-east Belfast this story was told via stage.
With a military-like precision the show began, similtaneously forcing patrons to their seats, Connswater Community Centre was now a theatre, we could have been sat in the West-End, nobody cared, the show was primary.
From the opening exchanges one was confronted with frequent bad language, far from a criticism however, the writer was clearly aware that this was a necessary inclusion to inject raw reality into the performance.  With this the audience had immediately made a connection with the stage, an early drunken rendition of ‘the auld orange flute’ strengthened that bond and immediately one could relate to the characters.
There were lashings of local humour as the opening scenes presented a troop of men belonging to the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles of the 36th (Ulster) Division in their training camp near Dundrum Bay.  The men (and in some cases boys) seemed enthusiastic about what lay before them, in many ways they were the eager souls itching for a fight ever since their involvement with the Ulster Volunteers.
We were projected back to industrial Belfast at the turn of the 20th century and to the famous shipyards which provided so much for so many.  It was here that we got an insight into the political turmoil in Ulster and the rise of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
This drama was encapsulating, it gripped the audience with what seemed like relative ease, but making it look easy is the difficult part…
As the story progressed into the opening stages of the war it was evident that we were witnessing a microcosm of Belfast’s young men at that time, they were angry, and it seemed that politics had manufactured that anger.  At times they sailed treacherously close to a sectarian wind as young Gallagher found himself the only Catholic of the group but importantly amongst friends.
There appeared to be a genuine excitement within these men as they entered the theatre of war.  (Pardon the pun)  Youthful exhuberance is an often underestimated factor when considering the motives of a volunteer, these chaps signed up for adventure and were moulded into riflemen.
The story made a clear and deliberate distinction between the UVF and the service battalions of the British army, in many cases there was extensive overlap but it is clear that life in the British army was foreign (quite literally) to that of the UVF pre August 1914.
An atmospheric mood was cleverly generated by interjections of music both during and between scenes.  Stopping short of a ‘musical’ the occassional accompaniments certainly added to the show.
One thing in particular struck me during this performance and it was the profound innocent character of these men in the face of a truely awful war.  In a ‘Band of Brothers’ type fashion the audience had fostered a relationship with these passionate characters and by the time it had reached a crescendo it was increasingly obvious that a tragedy was on the horizon.
A line which resonated with me more than most was regarding a query concerning the proposed bombardment preceeding the infantry offensive at the Somme.  One soldier observed that the Somme offensive would be virtually dependant on a successful bombardment, his officer respoded “unfortunately Francis, it will”.
A harrowing slaughter on no-man’s land brought this drama to an almost tearful climax, they had brought their politics and their faith with them to the end.
Fintan Brady deserves immense credit for writing and executing this thoroughly professional performance, a performance which was charged with emotion from beginning to end.  Full marks to everyone involved.

John Coulter:Loyalists Must Form A Civil Rights Movement


Former Blanket columnist and Radical Unionist commentator, Dr John Coulter, in his latest chapter on the ideology of New Loyalism, which is being featured exclusively on Long Kesh Inside Out, urges the PUL community to play the republicans at their own game, and form  a PUL Civil Rights Movement.

The Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community needs to take assassinated American icon Dr Martin Luther King as its political guiding star and formally launch a PUL civil rights movement.

There can be no doubting the civil rights movement worked for the nationalist community, until the entire cause was hijacked by the Provisional republican movement.

While republicans will claim Bloody Sunday in January 1972 was the straw which broke the Stormont back, leading to Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath axing the original Northern Ireland Parliament a few months later.

Had the civil rights movement not been overshadowed by the IRA campaign of terror, many in the PUL community, especially the working class, would have ultimately benefited from the then Stormont Prime Minister Terence O’Neill’s reforms.

O’Neill’s only mistake was that his reform programme in the late Sixties progressed too slowly for nationalists, and the hardline of his Unionist Party used the emerging Paisleyite movement to topple the liberal O’Neill and his co-reformers in the Ulster Unionist Party.

While many in working class loyalism view Paisleyism with distain because of the number of young Protestants who ended up in jail or an early grave because they reacted to the Hell fire sermons of the then fundamentalist driven Protestant Unionist movement, it should not be forgotten how Ian Paisley senior rose to power within the PUL community, particularly after 1971 when the DUP was formally launched.

Nationalists have been experts at presenting the image of the poverty-stricken Catholics discriminated against by the Orange Order-dominated Northern Ireland. But republicans, and indeed many in the upper classes of the Unionist community, have been very quick to air-brush the plight of working class Protestants out of the history of Northern Ireland.

As someone who grew up in Bannside and North Antrim where Paisleyism was born and blossomed politically, I saw at first hand the challenges which many working class Protestants – particularly in large rural village housing estates – had to contend with on a daily basis.

Even in the late Sixties, many Protestant working class homes did not enjoy the luxury of an inside flushing toilet. The daily slop bucket run to the bottom of a field was still the order of the day. Catholics may have been good at airing their gripes using the civil rights movement and communist-dominated People’s Democracy party.

For generations since the formation of Northern Ireland in the 1920s, the working class Protestant community had relied on the empty rhetoric of the upper class-dominated Ulster Unionist Party.

If the Protestant natives became restless about their living conditions, the Unionist aristocrats could always scare the pants of the working class PUL community by using the Orange Order to warn about yet another republican threat to drive Northern Ireland into the Rome rule of a united Ireland.

Religiously, Unionism was dominated for generations by liberal Protestants who paid strict lip service to the principles of the Orange Order in terms of their opposition to Rome, but not the Salvationist position of born-again Christianity. Such evangelicals and fundamentalists were very much in the minority regarding influence in both the Orange Order and Unionist Party.

While Ian Paisley senior was a rapidly emerging name in the Ulster Bible Belt since he launched his staunchly fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951, it was not until the late Sixties that he successfully managed to covert his fundamentalism into political Salvationism.

Paisleyism’s success was that it created a seemingly unholy alliance of two elements within the PUL community who until the late 1960s had been largely voiceless sections of the Unionist Party – evangelical Christians and working class Protestants.

Unionism’s aristocratic, Big House and upper middle class farming families ran both the party and the Orange Order. In spite of everyone calling themselves ‘brothers’ in the Orange lodge room, the Order was mainly a vehicle of communication between the various classes in Unionism.

It was a means by which the Unionist aristocracy could pass its views on who to select and vote for to the working class voters. Membership of the Unionist Party was almost like Irish Freemasonry – by invitation only.

In spite of the Hell fire preaching, Paisley senior’s Unionism represented practical politics. In Bannside, the heartland of O’Neill, it would have been seen as “too common” for the Prime Minister to bother helping people with facilities such as inside loos. So Paisley senior championed the practical needs of working class Protestants and got them their much-needed inside toilets.

As for the born-again Christians, Paisley senior’s Protestant Unionist movement and then the DUP gave the evangelicals the courage to challenge the liberals for positions in the Loyal Orders, especially the Orange and Black institutions.

Hardline Right-wingers within the establishment Unionist Party used the Paisleyites as political cannon fodder to topple Unionism’s liberal reformers. The Unionist Right wing and the Paisley supporting factions could work hand in glove in this campaign.

Unionist Party meetings – like membership – in the late Sixties and early Seventies were by invitation only. A Paisleyite activist I interviewed for my academic research at Queen’s University told me how upper class Unionist Party members would give him their invitations so that he and his supporters could infiltrate Unionist Party meetings and make them ungovernable.

This was especially the case in Bannside and North Antrim where many Unionist Party meetings were held traditionally in the network of Orange halls which spanned the constituencies.

The Unionist establishment families, often dubbed the Fur Coat and No Knickers Brigade, could not cope with such heckling from the Paisley supporters. Such families were used with the working class Protestants doing as they were told.

For many of these aristocratic and upper middle class Unionist families, this was the first time since the 1920s that they had been verbally challenged by fellow Unionists. The reaction of these families to this political heckling was simple – they didn’t attend future meetings.

Gradually, the Unionist Party was drive out of many Orange halls in North Antrim and branches subsequently collapsed through lack of members. Two examples from my own memoirs of this period in Unionist politics in this constituency serve to illustrate this dilemma.

Clough was at that time an exclusively Protestant village in the depth of the Bannside constituency and was an overwhelmingly Unionist stronghold of North Antrim. My father, as the local Presbyterian minister, also held the post of honorary president of the village’s Unionist Party branch.

One of the local Presbyterian elders, regarded as a Big House farming Unionist, held a senior position in the branch. The branch met in the village Orange hall. My father received a call from the RUC that he was to go to the meeting to escort the elder from the hall as it was surrounded by Paisley supporters and there was the danger of severe crowd unrest.

In spite of my father being honorary president, he was still respected as a preacher of the evangelical Salvationist Gospel and he was able to physically escort the elder through the protesters to safety. But the implications of that incident for the local Unionist Party branch were overwhelming.

To avoid further confrontations, the members abandoned the Orange hall and began meeting in members’ homes outside the village. Eventually, the branch folded and it would not be until the early Eighties that the branch was regenerated sufficiently to the point where it could once again hold its meetings in a local Orange hall.

The second example took place during the 1970 General Election campaign for the North Antrim Westminster seat which was being defended by sitting Ulster Unionist MP Henry Clark, a typical example of the aristocratic Unionist Party. His main opponent was Ian Paisley senior, who was fresh from his Stormont Bannside by-election triumph.

The headquarters for the local Clough campaign had had to be moved out of the Orange hall, and was set up in Clough’s Presbyterian manse. Even as a primary school minister’s son, I was already a Unionist activist as my one and only role was to bring sandwiches to Clark and other senior members of the campaign team.

The Paisleyite supporters had mounted a successful campaign in the area to physically prevent the Unionist Party canvassing.

As I walked into the sitting room of Clough manse, I could smell the distinctive odour of cigarette smoke. I knocked and entered the room to see three men sitting at the table – my father, the late Rev John Brown, and Clark (who was smoking).

Dad and Rev Brown were trying to calm Clark down because he had been shocked by graffiti daubed on a gable wall in the village – ‘Shoot Clark.’ While he was a big name aristocratic MP, Clark had never faced such venom from fellow Protestants in his own heartland. Clark lost the election to Paisley, and with Ian Junior retaining the seat at the last Westminster election, it is unlikely North Antrim will ever be a Commons seat again.

The PUL community must influence the Unionist leadership to take on board their pastoral cares by embarking on a programme of well-organised passive resistance. Violence, strikes, or street protests are not the way forward.

The PUL community, especially its working class, must recognise the painful reality that, at the moment, given the apathy at the ballot box in the PUL community, that the Catholic middle class is now the dominant sector in Ulster politics.

The various sessions of the Unionist Forum have largely concluded that the Union is safe when talking about a border poll, but is the Union safe itself within the UK itself? In the provision of education and health, Sinn Fein has worked the political system effectively to gain much for the Catholic community.

Enoch Powell, the late and former South Down UUP and perhaps the greatest Prime Minister the UK never had, once branded the DUP as the Protestant Sinn Fein.

While he was at that time referring to how the DUP only wanted to do things on its terms,  taken this phrase in its 2013 context, what is needed to deliver this passive resistance is a Protestant Sinn Fein movement for the PUL community.

In this respect, I want New Loyalism to adopt my Ten Commandants of passive resistance to take back Ulster for the British.

1, All shades of Unionism must ensure that every – and I mean EVERY – member of the PUL community eligible to vote is on the electoral roll.

2, That every registered voter agrees to actually vote.

3, That a Unionist Coalition be formed to decide on agreed candidates for all elections.

4, That the Christian Churches work closely with political parties and community organisations to identify the practical needs which the PUL community faces, for example, how to actually known what benefits can be claimed for, and how to complete the documentation.

5, To use the existing media for a charm offensive to get this pro-active PUL message across.

6, To work closely with the PSNI to defuse areas of tension.

7, To campaign to slash the red tape strangling the development of our health service and education sector.

8, If marches are to take place, we organise them as proper PUL civil rights marches.

9, We use the European Court of Human Rights as a weapon to ensure the Stormont Parliament abides by the decisions achieved by the PUL Civil Rights Movement.

10, To only vote for those politicians and parties which give their support to the PUL Civil Rights.

This campaign can be achieved. Sinn Fein has milked the peace process for the republican community, so the Unionist leadership has a moral obligation to ensure that a PUL community’s Civil Rights Movement campaign succeeds. Let the ghost of the Fur Coat Brigade which haunted the PUL community for generations be finally culled.


Peter Shirlow: Research In Segregated Communities

Some Comments on Recent Research in Segregated Communities in Belfast

I thought Gareth Mulvenna’s piece during the week was illuminating and presented part of a problem that can be measured and understood by different approaches and knowledge. Much of what Gareth presented seems like a perennial problem and it is vital that we are reminded that developing class consciousness is about getting beyond the fife, drum, bodran and harp. Hopefully, what is presented here is a reminder of many of the problems that exist and which are still unfortunately being reproduced.

In association with academic colleagues we have been doing a long-term study of families in Belfast segregated communities. The study is based upon an ecological, process-oriented model aims to understand the development of family life, experiences of sectarian and other crimes, the nature and impact of poverty and also emotional distress.

What arises, in the research we have completed and analysed up to 2012 which does not include present work we are doing in this area, is a picture of remaining fears and high levels of perception and experiences of sectarian violence and a significant record of mental health problems. Many of these mental health and distress issues are linked to direct experience of sectarian violence. In a sense traumatisation is still being reproduced among parents and their children despite a significant decline in sectarian and conflict-related violence. It may be even possible to suggest that those who have been traumatised are those who assert the strongest sense of identity. The link between sectarianism and poverty is thus vital and it now seems so too is the link to trauma, distress and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, young people’s sense of security is undermined by continued exposure to sectarian acts. We found that the less secure a young person is regarding sectarian violence the more likely they are to have mental health problems and aggression issues.

One of the other features of the study is that, and as shown in the recent Census, the Protestant working class are in a ‘better’ place regarding poverty and the labour market compared to the Catholic community. But what we find is that despite being poorer and in a worse off position Catholic respondents are more positive about their community, the peace process and the future of inter-community relationships. Protestant respondents feel more alienation and exclusion. I think both positions are worrying as culture as opposed to social exclusion seems to determine people’s attitudes to the future. This was also found in a study we did in Derry/Londonderry in which Protestant respondents were socially positive but more negative about politics, culture and community.

What we also have to be aware of is the twin speed of the peace process. If we look at the Life and Times survey we can see a decline in those who consider themselves to be either British or Irish. There has been a growth in mixed marriages and relationships. Fewer Catholics want Irish unification and there has been a decline in young people who consider themselves to unionist/loyalist or republican/nationalist. If we were to guess why these trends are appearing they may be due to social class and a more mixed and inclusive lifestyle among the middle-classes.

This and other research presents a series of challenges with regard to those who are culturally, economically and socially excluded. What is the politics capable of settling cultural disputes? Clearly we will never have an adequate politics of anti-poverty and the class consciousness required for that while the issue of identity remains so vital. This has been said many times and is akin to my prediction that it will get rain or get dark before morning. But it has to be the site that concerns us most as is the reproduction of emotional and mental distress. As we know the politics of resource competition undermines the space for solidarity between the poor. It seems that we have, either through academic or community knowledge, the ingredients for making a cake but have no agreed recipe. Surely, social dumping, social rejection, mental health problems, welfare cuts, family breakdown, self-harms and all the other measurements of the impairment poverty causes are agreed. So when/how do we find the recipe?