Ervine, David and McAuley, James W. (2001) Redefining loyalism: a political perspective, an academic perspective. Working Papers in British-Irish Studies (4). pp. 1-31. ISSN 1649-0304

Redefining 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 in paramilitary form, and was used by other, more privileged, unionists to serve their own interests. Yet the sectarianism within which loyalism developed disguised the fact 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 to understand each other and to identify important shared interests, and the peace process can best be consolidated by steady, orchestrated movement on the two sides, 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 the old order, and seeing in the developments that have been taking place since 1998 evidence 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, is based on a reinterpretation of the past of unionism, seeing in this a pronounced and 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.

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