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Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

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Ties in to topical debates around identity in the context of Brexit and the centenary of the foundation of the NI state.

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).That may ultimately prove untenable given the rapidly shifting demographics but, for now, it represents the kind of paradigm shift in political thinking that is needed for real progress to be made. If we are ever to have a lasting political solution in Northern Ireland the two communities need to understand each other. There's constant, unsettling chatter about a poll for a united Ireland, for the first time in years. This book offers us a glimpse into the Protestant identity and we would do well to understand their fears and aspirations.

Based on almost 100 brand-new interviews, and told with McKay's trademark passion and conviction, this is essential reading. Some of it is familiar and depressing - the threats of violence if the protocol, this months loyalist bogeyman, is not removed.Well written and just enough author commentary to provide context to the interviewees’ comments but oh what a tale of despair. Once again, her subjects are ordinary Protestants who, as McKay puts it, “are outside the unionist mainstream” and often feel “excluded and unrepresented”. In the meantime, unionist anxiety is turning to anger and, on the ground in loyalist areas, to unrest and threats of violent resistance from the paramilitaries, who have been an ominous presence at recent anti-protocol protests. It was this later emerging diversity that left me feeling surprisingly hopeful about Northern Protestantism by the end of the book, and more optimistic that a more forward-looking, less fearful Unionism might yet emerge in Ireland.

It has led to protracted customs checks on goods entering the country from mainland Britain, long delays at ports and an acute shortage of British sausages on supermarket shelves. But, that said, I think this offers an important record of diverse voices in the wider Northern Irish PUL community (to use a number of contested designations) at this crucial time. This is simply an important read for anyone who takes an interest in the Irish Question, particularly in the context of Brexit. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.It was more - red top for number 52, make sure Mrs Murphy at 16 pays you for the cream from last week.

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