What does loyalism mean to me?: Gareth Cole

Gareth Cole is a progressive Loyalist, fighting for social justice in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. Knockagh representative of the Progressive Unionist Party. Boxing coach and Loyalist bandsman.

What does Loyalism mean to me?

 The term ‘Loyalist’ to me means a working-class Unionist. As a Loyalist, I feel myself being further ostracised from society because Loyalism is seen as a damaging influence in an inclusive Northern Ireland. The media, almost on a loop, continue to portray Loyalists as sectarian thugs, who are inwardly focused and none progressive. This in untrue. There is, however, a small element who perceive themselves to be Loyalists, who use sectarian language, which isn’t consistent with the Principles of Loyalism.

It is this small minority that is being used by the media, and others with a political agenda, to represent the whole of Loyalism. This type of reporting from so-called professional people is disingenuous and holds no credence.
I consider myself as a progressive Loyalist with a strong social conscience. By that I mean, I care about the needs of my local community; health and social services, education and training, social development, employment, economy, environment and social justice, as well as equal citizenship with the rest of the United Kingdom.
As a Loyalist, it seems that I’m not allowed to hold a political opinion which I have crafted in my own mind, because it doesn’t fall in line with the grand democrats of Unionism in Northern Ireland.
I say, to hell with the DUP, UUP and TUV. Most of these politicians have been in power for years and because of this, my community has suffered, which government statistics have shown.
There are plenty of progressive Loyalists, who are politically astute, critiquing their own brand of Unionism, which hasn’t been dictated to them from a pulpit. The PUP, of which I am a member, has been a great vehicle for progressive thinking and its voice. The PUP has sometimes been lazily branded as one-dimensional which is only interested in flags, parades and emblems. Again, this is untrue. Our policy structure is rich with progressive thinking and continues to grow and update year on year.
As a Loyalist, living in Carrickfergus, I have done a lot of positive work, most of which goes unreported in local media, because I am a Loyalist. I have consistently challenged local politicians for their backward and homophobic views. Is my work the work of a ‘sectarian thug’? As a Loyalist, I have consistently condemned racist attacks and have stated quite clearly that you cannot be a racist and a Loyalist. Is this the work of a person whose ideology is portrayed to be racist?
I understand that many Loyalists are feeling frustrated, we haven’t seen the peace dividend that was promised to us. This frustration should be channeled in the right way; at our politicians who need to be held to account for their failures. Critical thinking is absolutely necessary if we are to progress Northern Ireland to an inclusive and peaceful part of the United Kingdom.
I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes: ‘I haven’t experienced childbirth but self-analysis is a massively painful process. The first and foremost issue is, confront yourself’ – David Ervine

Gareth Cole PUP



3 Responses to What does loyalism mean to me?: Gareth Cole

  1. sophie long

    Really enjoyed this piece Gareth. Keeping up the strong tradition of Ervinian loyalism.

  2. Again a very good article, but yet again expressed with the total omission of the mainstay and backbone of Authentically Original, Ulster Loyalism. We are all well aware of the fact that some within the PUP, due to a lack of belief in the Christian / Protestant Faith and in some cases a lack of, the basic human moral principles of our Forefathers with regard to sexual behaviour, find it hard to accept the clearly defined Original Foundation Stones of Ulster Loyalism, IE “For God and Ulster”.
    There are many sincere community workers, within the PUP, like young Julie Ann Corr, Billy Hutchinson, John Kyle, and Ian Shanks, and also amongst other Unionist Parties, including in some cases even the DUP,( despite their sometimes devoutly religious, yet often unchristian behaviour). This however does not in its self qualify anyone to claim the title of Loyalism.
    Neither does the intolerant, constant twitter abuse of those who sincerely disagree with the promotion of , homosexuality, dysfunctional same sex partnerships, or support for uncontrolled immigration, by a section of the PUP, qualify anyone as a Loyalist either.
    Neither does membership of a flute band, a Unionist Party, love of the Monarchy, or a love of marching with the Orange Order, whose Banners proudly proclaim the defence of our Christian /Protestant Faith by our Forefathers, qualify anyone as an Authentic Loyalist.
    Ulster Loyalism, was and remains, intentionally clearly and authentically, originally defined by our Forefathers, is the determination to defend with Faith in God and with the use of force if necessary, the democratic right of the people of Northern Ireland to decide their own destiny.
    Gareth has given us a very clear and commendable definition of PUP’ism.
    Charlie Freel.

  3. luke brown

    I very much enjoyed this Gareth. Proud to have you in the community.