What Does Loyalism Mean To Me?
Sam Quirey is heavily involved in the Loyalist band scene and has been participating in bands since the age of six. He has played in many bands ranging from concert, melody and blood and thunder, and is currently a member of the Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster Ballymena. He is also a member of the Progressive Unionist Party and founder of the Northern Ireland Unionist Collective Group.
When many people think of Loyalism immediately they usually refer to Loyalism as sectarian, it is all about flags Twelfth day, blue bag brigade, bonfires and contentious parades. This definition doesn’t even scratch the surface of what being a loyalist means to me. Loyalism is not the above description the media and these “want to be critics” would like to portray it as. Rather Loyalism is quite diverse, it’s about people who want a better future and who are proud of their culture and country. To me, as a loyalist; it really means being part of a rich culture, feeling a connection and celebrating my rich diverse culture through music, which I do as being part of the Loyalist band scene, attending and participating in Ulster Scots events and working to make my community a better place by being involved in politics.
Being a Loyalist has provided me with a powerful weapon. It is something I will never take for granted. My music which I enjoy so much I doubt would have been possible without being part of the band scene. I’ve recently become involved in politics and that has given me the ability to communicate with a whole different group of people. My life, my interests and my views would not be the same if I wasn’t a loyalist. It has given me an opportunity to leave my mark on the world. Had I not been born into the Loyalist community I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.
All in all, being a Loyalist for me cannot be defined from a dictionary or Wikipedia. It cannot be defined by the generalizations of society. It can only be defined by truly living. Being a Loyalist means being a part of a rich culture which is so much more than just being labelled British. Yes I’m a staunch supporter of the Royal Family and I enjoy the whole pomp and ceremony which they provide, I respect the values the Union Flag stands for. This alone does not define me as a Loyalist. Being a Loyalist means being connected to a diverse range of people, many of whom our politics are completely different, but yet I socialise, cheer, celebrate, grieve and parade with them. It is about living life a certain way. The person I am today would not be the same had I not been from the Loyalist community. It defines who I am. I am so proud of my culture and of all the people who are constantly working to protect and move Loyalism forward. I’m proud of being part of a band which has done so much for their local community they encourage a sense of pride, community spirit and discipline, as well as developing impressive musical skills. They take children off the streets and give them something constructive to work on, they take kids away from negatives such as drugs, violence, anti-social behaviour and underage sex. It’s about being part of a wider band scene which has put so much into communities and local economies throughout Northern Ireland. It isn’t about the stereotypes or scaremongering or having a “siege mentality” far from it. It is to live and to love it, for everything that it is. Being a Loyalist is my life: it drives me, inspires me and pushes me to leave my mark on the world and to continue to promote the many ignored positives of being a Loyalist which are sometimes conveniently ignored.