Dr. John Coulter is a former ‘Blanket Magazine’ columnist and, at present, is Northern Political Journalist for the Irish Daily Star. Dr. Coulter is also a member of the NUJ’s Belfast branch.
Loyalists need a blue-collar hero:
Working class out of politics loop.
Loyalists badly need a working class hero who can deliver the type of human
and civil rights which Martin Luther King won for the Afro-American
Many working class loyalists in towns, cities and even in rural
Protestant communities are simply pissed off with politics.
It’s not even a case of them not bothering to vote; the vast majority are
not even registering as voters.
Whoever takes up the mantel of loyalism’s Martin Luther King will have
the uphill task of mobilising the working class Protestant community to get
registered in the first place.
These disillusioned Protestants are asking themselves – what have we
gained from the peace process?
Their working class Catholic counterparts can point to the political
leaps which Sinn Fein has made from mere apologists for the Provos ’ death
squads to government partners with the DUP.
The Prod working class now finds itself in exactly the same place as the
Black community in the American Deep South of the Sixties.
The UUP has imploded in a vicious civil war; the DUP, now that it is
snugly in government with the Shinners, has turned its back on working class
communities as being ‘too politically common’!
The loyalist paramilitaries must not tumble into the same pitfall as the
Provos . The IRA disbanded its Army Council and republican dissidents got
the upper hand.
If IRA members had listened to my suggestion of a few years ago and
formed themselves into an old comrades group, known as the Irish Republican
Association, the dissidents would never have lasted.
Loyalist groups like the UVF, Red Hand Commando, UDA and UFF need to form
the Ulster Volunteer Association, Red Hand Association and Ulster Freedom
Association to stop its members and supporters drifting steadily into crime.
Such associations can also fulfil a social function in the same way the
Royal British Legion helps maintain social contact among old soldiers and
The Ulster Volunteer and Freedom Associations could also play a positive
post conflict role in working class loyalist district by mobilising
Protestants to re-engage with the ballot box by voting.
In many working class loyalist communities across the North, voter
turnout is as low as 30 per cent.
Mobilisation can often be seen as a dirty word in loyalism. How many
working class Protestants ended up in prison or cemeteries because they
listened to the rallying cries of middle class Unionist politicians?
And when real trouble came, middle class Unionism conveniently abandoned
working class loyalists to their fate. No political support, only pious
preaching about how evil and un-Christian the loyalists were.
It was amazing how fast political Unionism threw away the red berets of
Ulster Resistance and the Third Force armbands once being linked to loyalist
paramilitaries became unfashionable.
If British PM Dandy Dave Cameron gets his way, the North is in for a
deluge of austerity cuts, so time is not on working class loyalism’s side.
There is the added problem of massive educational under-achievement in
working class Protestantism. Loyalist poverty will be the next social
scourge of the North.
A loyalist underclass is rapidly emerging because of such poverty.
How long will it be before Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s
independence referendum call reaches Protestant working class districts and
we hear the genuine cry – Independence for Ulster !