Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

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Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

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This is simply an important read for anyone who takes an interest in the Irish Question, particularly in the context of Brexit. His plea is echoed in various degrees of plaintiveness throughout the book, suggesting a profound frustration, particularly among the young, with the combative politics of unionism versus nationalism. Sarah Laverty, a Green party member, grew up unionist in staunchly Protestant Ballymoney, but now describes herself as “left wing, progressive, feminist, socialist”. First published in 2000 and updated in 2005, the book looks at the period following the Good Friday Agreement and the referendum. Most of the people who are interviewed aren't the same red angry faces we see on our tv's on a daily basis, talking like they are the spokesman (for they are mostly men) for the whole unionist/protestant/loyalist community.

There was an initial wariness but the barriers soon came down, or as much as they could as the conflict was still ongoing. I helped a protestant man on his milk round, but as we sat and ate sandwiches, we didn’t talk so much. The book is largely oral history with a few tidbits of historic background to help the general reader understand some references mentioned by interviewees.

If you want to get a true understanding of the northern protestant psyche then I recommend reading this book. I had almost forgotten having read Susan's previous "Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People" - it was before I started keeping a record of the books I read and I never owned a copy. This book offers us a glimpse into the Protestant identity and we would do well to understand their fears and aspirations. The role of religion is paradoxical in NI, despite so many born-again Christians, and many in the community with uncharitable attitudes.

It also offers a wide range of views, from ordinary unionists from a variety of backgrounds on how they feel let down by the political representation they received over the years from the various unionist parties. It is unfortunate that the timing of publishing deadlines perhaps squeezed out the ability to record the train wreck of a transition in DUP leadership that was only developing at the time she was writing her epilogue, and the reimergence of the UUP as a serious and marginally progressive force, partly off the back of Robin Swann's handling of the poison chalice of Health Minister during the pandemic (and over and against his previous ineptitude as party leader and the curiously coterminous Venn diagram of Brexiters and anti-vax covid-deniers).Although the interviews are from roughly 2018-2021, McKay's book captures the complex reactions people are having to the shifting grounds of Northern Ireland both in terms of domestic and international situations. McKay's authorial voice is sparse for most of the book, allowing her interviewees to reveal themselves for better or worse through their own words. Some of it is familiar and depressing - the threats of violence if the protocol, this months loyalist bogeyman, is not removed. She is the author of four books: 'Sophia’s Story', 'Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People', 'Without Fear: A History of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre' and 'Bear in Mind These Dead'.

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