NEW LOYALISM – COMBATING THE CANCER OF THE THREE ‘C’s
Former Blanket columnist, Dr John Coulter, in the latest in his exclusive series, outlines the case why his ideology of New Loyalism should embrace Biblical Christianity as its core belief rather than trying to create a secular society in Northern Ireland.
New Loyalism radically needs to put God back into the famous maxim – For God And Ulster.
I am attempting through New Loyalism to give the loyalist community a fresh direction and a solution to the political and social cancer which has bedeviled it since 1974. I have branded this cancer ‘The Three C’s’ – Complacency, Compromise and Catastrophe.
Even the opening paragraph of this article on New Loyalism may be enough to get many heckles raised from the loyalist community. Hopefully, this article will not be dismissed as yet another Bible Thumper trying to preach to the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) communities.
Many in the PUL community will quite understandably take the view that there has been too much religion in Ulster politics and a secular society is the only solution to maintaining a stable peace process in Northern Ireland.
Loyalists have every justification for expressing the view – how many from the PUL community have ended up in prison or an early grave because they listened to the religious rantings of Christian Tub Thumpers, warning them about the dangers of so-called Rome Rule?
How many from the PUL community were fooled into thinking the Official and Provisional IRAs’ and INLA’s campaigns against that community were in the cause of the mythical notion of ‘Holy Mother Ireland’.
That notion died with James Connolly when General Maxwell ordered his execution in 1916. Connolly was a devout communist, more influenced by the atheistic rambling of Karl Marx than the sermons of the Irish Catholic Bishops.
Connolly wanted to take religion out of Irish nationalism. The late 20th century off-shoots of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army – namely, the Stickies, Provies and INLA, and the even more wacky IPLO – were dominated by Marxist rhetoric, not Catholic nationalism.
The Bible Thumpers within Protestantism managed to fool many in the PUL community into thinking the war against republicanism was a loyalist jihad against Irish Catholicism. It seemed some of these Bible Thumpers wanted to recreate the ethos of the Middle Age Crusades when thousands of young Christian knights travelled to the Holy Land to literally lock swords with the Middle Ages’ equivalent of the extreme Islamic Taliban.
In reality, the Provisional and Official republican movements as well as the republican socialist movement of the IRSP and INLA were nothing more than the 1970s Marxist Red Army Faction from West Germany under an Irish banner.
Such Hell fire preachers conveniently forgot to mention the war against the IRAs and the INLA was a war against communism, not Rome. Instead of joining the security forces to defeat this communist threat, many in the PUL community joined loyalist paramilitary groups as they mistakenly misinterpreted these Hell fire sermons and speeches as the need to confront ‘Rome Rule’.
The ‘leave it to the security forces to defeat the communist IRA’ had been the tactic which the Stormont Government had employed when the IRA embarked on its disastrous Border Campaign of 1956-62. The famous RUC B-Specials, or B-Men, played a frontline role in defeating the IRA in that campaign.
The Nationalist Party at Stormont certainly did not offer the same SDLP or Sinn Fein-style criticism of the RUC during that Border Campaign.
Loyalism then began to suffer over the years of the conflict since the late 1960s from ‘Grand Old Duke of York Syndrome.’ This was where those pumping out these Hell fire messages would encourage the PUL community to mobilize and take action, but after they had led the loyalists to the top of the hill, they would either lead them down again, or distance themselves and run away. Is it any wonder bitter experience taught many in the PUL community that Biblical Principles was ‘a dirty phrase’?
In the late 1960s, a vigilante movement, the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, was nothing more than a well-conceived publicity stunt to undermine O’Neill’s liberalizing policies. The same criticism could also be pointed at another loyalist vigilante group which emerged in 1981 – the Ulster Third Force.
And in 1986 in the wake of the previous year’s Anglo-Irish Agreement, loyalism against mobilized at the whim of Bible Thumpers to unveil the red berets of the Ulster Resistance Movement. Certain political leaders were photographed with their red berets marching side by side with loyalists.
Yet as soon as the so-called Paris Three scandal broke over alleged weapons sales and a huge shipment of guns was brought into Northern Ireland from apartheid South Africa and masterminded by the now dead double agent Brian Nelson, the Unionist parties dumped their public links with Ulster Resistance quicker than rats leaving a sinking ship.
As Ulster’s jails began to fill with loyalists who had been influenced by Hell fire rhetoric, many began to question if religion had a place in the loyalist mindset.
During chats I had with the late Gusty Spence and the late David Ervine, I got the distinct impression their socialism was really aimed at finding a radical alternative politically to the Hell fire preaching which had landed so many loyalists in jail.
Middle class Unionist fundamentalists were making the enflaming speeches and sermons, but it was the working class loyalists who were serving the jail sentences.
Some elements within Protestant fundamentalism have tried to brand the Progressive Unionist Party as hardline socialist, even Marxist in orientation. I recall one fundamentalist cleric referring to the PUP leadership on the Shankill Road as ‘the Shankill Soviet’.
Left-wing the PUP certainly is, but if Spence and Ervine had wanted to go the whole way about their socialist agenda, they would have called the PUP the Communist Party of Northern Ireland.
Essentially, I believe the modern-day socialism of the PUP – even those policies which could be ideologically aligned to atheistic Marxism are more a defence mechanism to prevent firebrand preachers or fundamentalist politicians leading the working class loyalist community up another hill – and then deserting them there.
In an earlier article entitled Pastoral Loyalism, I argued the need for the Protestant denominations to re-engage with the loyalist working class who now feels both alienated and deserted by the mainstream middle-class dominated Unionist parties.
The rapid rise of the directionless Ulster People’s Forum is really many in the PUL community giving a two-fingered salute to the mainstream Unionist leadership. This is how complacency has set into the PUL community. The Unionist leadership had the political ‘bull by the horns’ in 1974 when it used the working class loyalist community to pull down the power-sharing Sunningdale Executive with the SDLP.
In 1974, had the Unionist leadership provided the alternative of a voluntary coalition with the UUUC, or Unionist Coalition, and Gerry Fitt’s SDLP, Sinn Fein would never have got off the ground politically.
To make the new Right-wing UUUC/SDLP power-sharing Executive work, the British Government would have happily used the SAS at great lengths to permanently eliminate the IRA’s terror campaign.
By being complacent about a replacement for Sunningdale and arguments as to who would be the then equivalent of the First and deputy First Ministers, the Unionist Coalition effectively laid the foundation for a process which now sees the DUP in a partnership Stormont Executive with Sinn Fein.
This is where the second cancerous ‘C’ has crept in – concessions. The alienation process between the loyalist community and the Unionist leadership did not begin with the Good Friday Agreement, but with the alleged side deals which were agreed between Sinn Fein and the DUP at the St Andrews Agreement in 2006.
The DUP also swallowed the bait from the Dublin and London governments that a so-called ‘Plan B’ existed that if Stormont failed, it would not mean a return to Direct Rule from London, but Joint Authority between the Dail and Westminster.
Combining these scenarios has had the resulting effect of the third ‘C’ – Catastrophes. These include Sinn Fein in government, a dissident republican terror campaign, loyalist working class areas seemingly receiving less peace process benefits than their nationalist counterparts, Unionist voter apathy, the erosion of the state grammar sector, and many from the PUL community feeling their Britishness is being eroded and they have no political champions to turn to.
During the Victorian era when Britain expanded her Empire across the globe, the core element of that greatness was Biblical Christianity. The words of Jesus Christ in the Bible, not the rantings of atheist communists Marx and Lenin, were central to Britain’s colonial agenda.
Just as the Unionist parties now realize that they can no longer march people up and down the political hill, the loyalist working class must re-embrace Biblical Christianity as its core pillar and realize that atheistic socialism, or Marxism fell years ago with the Berlin Wall in Germany.
The Churches have a major part to play in this healing process in restoring the true ethos of ‘For God And Ulster’. They, too, must embrace the agenda of ‘God For Ulster.’
The creation of a secular society by politicians or parties weighted to either Liberal Unionist, extreme socialist, or atheistic Marxism will lead to a further dilution of Britishness among the Unionist family.
New Loyalism is not seeking to unleash a fresh generation of Bible Thumping clerics upon the PUL community. New Loyalism recognizes that just as a rift exists between the PUL community and mainstream Unionist parties, that same rift exists to a large degree between the PUL community and many of the Protestant denominations – especially those Churches which in the past supplied many of the Hell fire preachers.
New Loyalism seeks to heal that rift. There must be more dialogue and interaction between the Churches and the PUL communities. Perhaps what is needed as a start is a new uniformed Christian youth movement, or revamping existing ones such as the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades.
I know the power and influence of both these Christian movements. I began my journalistic career in the late 1970s as the Boys’ Brigade correspondent for my local newspaper, the Ballymena Guardian in north Antrim.
New Loyalism seeks, therefore, to put personal pride back into the youth of the PUL community. More importantly, restore proper political and Christian pride back into that famous maxim – For God and Ulster.