Loyalists in the Conflict: A study from Pittsburgh with Tony Novosel

Loyalists in the Conflict


Tony Novosel is no stranger to these pages and through his recently published–Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity: The Frustrated Promise of Political Loyalism–has shown that he has a consummate grasp of the conflict here and in particular the working class Loyalist perspective.  Tony currently is a History professor at Pittsburgh University and his present class are studying all aspects of the past conflict.  Here are the first two of a list of questions posed by the class.  The hope is that the questions provoke a response and help those”outsiders” garner a better unsderstanding of “The Troubles”.

  1.  Looking      back on their prison experience, was it worth it? Was their involvement in      the violence worth the time spent in Longkesh?
  2. How were the tensions in both Crumlin Road and Long Kesh when      they were first sent to the prison with the members of the IRA.  What      led loyalists to a “non aggression” pact with republicans in      prison.  Did the loyalists resent in not being allowed to      act out against the IRA in prison?


Product Details

Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity: The Frustrated Promise of Political Loyalism by Tony Novosel  (7 Jan 2013)



2 Responses to Loyalists in the Conflict: A study from Pittsburgh with Tony Novosel

  1. Over a pint in the Groomsport Inn, immediately after Gustys Funeral, I was asked by Geordie Morrow the Long Kesh artist, “would I do it all over again?”
    I had absolutely no hesitation in immediately replying that, faced with the same situation as we had faced in the early seventies, then the answer would definitely be yes, but this time in a much more selective manner.
    This tail end proviso was an admission that, although we were right to strike back at militant republicanism’s belligerent attempts to usurp democracy via their sectarian, indiscriminate, bombing campaign, far too many innocent Roman Catholics suffered as a result of our retaliation.

  2. Was it worth it?
    That question is one of those that seems easy enough to answer except in what way was it worth it? Financially, emotionally, psychologically? From a ‘high’ or social level; was it worth hurting and killing people to defend my country, my people, my culture and way of life? Yes. Soldiers do it all the time. (Would I do it again, absolutely not.) Was it worth it, to not be forced, intimidated, subjugated, and oppressed into a foreign culture? Yes. Was it worth it to stand up and be counted? Yes. Would Americans stand up to an enemy that wanted to change their culture, their way of life? Was it worth it for the American people to fight in Vietnam?
    The rebels of 1916 in Dublin who were imprisoned and executed (and who killed); was it worth it to get independence? I suspect they would say yes. The Americans using violence to get rid of the British in their war of independence, was it worth it? Again, I guess they would say yes. The use of violence to further a political goal has been used (and criticised) through the ages? And let’s face it if the victor writes the history then the victor also justifies whatever violence they used.
    In terms of the hurt to my victims then all that conflict and anguish and pain is not worth it. I listened today to the radio programme that had some of the relatives of the Disappeared. Very strong and emotional stuff. Only a true sociopath could fail to be moved by that pain after all these years. In terms of the pain and hurt to my family and relatives, the troubles, the cause, the belief was not worth it. They visited me in prison for over a decade.
    And for me, was it worth it? After nearly 40 years I still live with my actions. I can’t unvictim my victims. I cannot change the past. Nor can I be cleared of the fear and pain that I went through that motivated me to act in such a violent way. I can’t undo the past that follows me when I go for a job, start a new relationship, plan a simple holiday to another country. I have already been deported and detained in countries where I never caused an issue. Will I still be a target? Will I get hassle from the security forces? Will the gutter press dog me and cause hurt to my family? Hurt my children? Will my relatives or family be picked upon because of actions 4 decades ago? On a personal level it was not worth it. There appears, to me, to be a need in the world for simple answers. Nice, neat answers. Possibly developed by Hollywood plots and books. Newspaper stories reduced to the simplest of ideas. Sound bites for TV. Life is not simple. Nor is a question like; was it worth it?
    And what of my time in Long Kesh? I did not want to be there and I did not enjoy my stay there. However, that’s where I grew up, that’s where I educated myself, that where I made good friends, where I learned about people, where I got fit, where I learned to create artistic pieces, where I learned to use my brain and ask my own questions. Where I learned not to follow people blindly but ask relevant questions, where I grew a thick skin, where I learned to value my family more and more every year and where I learned to speak to my enemies. Where I learned patience and finally got round to thinking about my victims. Their families. Where I walked with, and debate with, great men like Gusty, Davy Irvine, Billy Mitchell and others. Where I was humbled by the kindness of others in times of my need. Where I learned to stand beside other men for a common cause even if me and them had different views. Long Kesh , where I became a man that will shape me for the rest of my life. In that respect I do not regret my time there but am thankful for the opportunities that I was given and that I took.
    Comp 19.