Why does the Loyalist family fear its own diversity?
In a recent debate a fellow loyalist exclaimed to me how most loyalists found my left wing brand of loyalism bewildering. It took me back I can’t deny it. None of us are impervious to the sting of disagreement where agreement was sought and so I have been pondering the gentleman’s statement ever since.
The Principles of Loyalism, which is a constitutional document of the Progressive Unionist Party (and can be downloaded from its website), is a bold and necessary framework. It is from this document that I take my political counsel. Its four outlined principles are as follows…
- The material wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland
- Civil and religious liberties for all the people of Northern Ireland
- Equality of Union (in other words, if it is good enough for the people of London, Fife or Cardiff, then it is good enough for the people of Belfast, Londonderry and Newry )
- The reserved right to resist any infringement upon any of the above
These are all arguably left leaning principles and none are the least bit inconsistent with political Unionism or cultural Loyalism.
This spun me into a train of thought regarding the PUL family. This is a wonderfully warm metaphor to which I affectionately subscribe, always have and always will. The Loyalist family is and should always be just that, a family. This is a stark contrast to the much more cold and militant movement that is Irish nationalism.
But let us pursue that metaphor properly. What have we all experienced of families? A family has many members, some of which we may not particularly like in the personal sense. Some we may at times find embarrassing, and some we outright can’t stand! But being a family is supposed to be more important than that, and it is, usually at Christmas; the paper hats, burying of hatchets and exchanging of hugs (or smile-punctuated handshakes) show that family is indeed an important thing.
For the Loyalist family to sustain it must remain so. Diversity is strength, and the real-politic debates of left vs. right, conservative vs. liberal must take place with full gusto and purpose within the greater PUL sphere. Isolation or hostile language toward another PUL (as opposed to the presentation of a reasoned argument against his/hers) will be a harmful habit to adopt, and we do so at our peril.
The debates within Unionism are fascinating, and the greatest aspect of them lately has been the tidal-wave of young PUL talent bursting onto the scene through both social media and community activism.
Let’s encourage respectful and fruitful political debate within Unionism, but never to an exclusionary degree, because then we foster the actual demise of the family.
I read recently that the new party NI21 about which there has been plenty of main-stream media bluster shall declare itself Unionist reluctantly???? A showcase, as if one was needed, for the consequences of the exclusion of unionist peripheral argument.
The chap who questioned my left-leaning social politics and I have since debated much, and get on just fine. We will no doubt disagree again, we shall no doubt challenge each other again, we shall no doubt fail to reach consensus on certain issues. But we shall always return to chat. We shall always get on when it comes down to it.