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REDEFINING LOYALISM—A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE

Conflict in Ireland often seems so deeply entrenched as to be beyond solution. In part, this reflects the immensely powerful trope of nationalist Catholic identity which gave unionists nowhere to go. In turn, they have responded only with a
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    REDEFINING LOYALISM—A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVEDavid Ervine, MLA—AN ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVEJames W McAuley IBIS working paper no. 4    REDEFINING LOYALISM—A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVEDavid Ervine, MLA—AN ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVEJames W McAuley No. 4 in the lecture series “Redefining the union and the nation:new perspectives on political progress in Ireland”organised in association with the Conferenceof University Rectors in IrelandWorking Papers in British-Irish StudiesNo. 4, 2001 Institute for British-Irish StudiesUniversity College Dublin    IBIS working papersNo. 4, 2001© the authors, 2001ISSN 1649-0304     ABSTRACTSREDEFINING LOYALISM— A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE Although loyalism in its modern sense has been around since the 1920s, it ac-quired its present shape only at the beginning of the 1970s. Then it was reborn inparamilitary form, and was used by other, more privileged, unionists to serve theirown interests. Yet the sectarianism within which loyalism developed disguised thefact that less privileged members of the two communities had much in common.Separation bred hatred, and led to an unfounded sense of advantage on the part of many Protestants who in reality enjoyed few material benefits. The pursuit of ac-commodation between the two communities can best be advanced by attempts tounderstand each other and to identify important shared interests, and the peaceprocess can best be consolidated by steady, orchestrated movement on the twosides, and by ignoring the protests of those who reject compromise. REDEFINING LOYALISM— AN ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVE In recent years a division has emerged within unionism between two sharply con-trasting perspectives. On the one hand, traditional unionism has relied on a dis-course of perpetuity, relying on long-standing values and political attachment to theold order, and seeing in the developments that have been taking place since 1998evidence of a creeping form of Irish unity. By contrast to these, “new loyalism”, rep-resented in particular but not exclusively by the Progressive Unionist Party, isbased on a reinterpretation of the past of unionism, seeing in this a pronouncedand politically significant class structure, and putting the case for the defence of working class interests. This alternative vision rests on a more pluralistic concep-tion of the politics of Northern Ireland. Publication information  This contains the revised text of two lectures presented as part of the seminar se-ries “Redefining the union and the nation: new perspectives on political progress inIreland”, organised jointly by the Conference of University Rectors in Ireland andthe Institute for British-Irish Studies. The lectures were presented in UCD on 6 No-vember 2000.    BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION David Ervine, MLA , is leader of the Progressive Unionist Party in the Northern Ire-land Assembly and a former member of the Northern Ireland Forum for PoliticalDialogue (1996-98). He was elected to Belfast City Council 1997, and has been ac-tive in loyalist politics since the 1970s. James W McAuley is Professor of Political Sociology and Irish Studies in the De-partment of Sociology and Psychology at the University of Huddersfield. He haspublished extensively on the theme of loyalist politics, and is the author of  The poli-tics of identity: a loyalist community in Belfast (Avebury, 1994).
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