Too Uncomfortable A Conversation?

Writing in his blog the author and researcher, Gareth Mulvenna recounts his difficulties in trying to have an article published in An Phoblacht.  He concludes he has been censored.
In August I e-mailed a prominent member of Sinn Féin who recently came out in praise of the Orange Order.

The e-mail was as follows:

Dear xxxxxx,
I am a friend of both xxxx xxxx xxxxxxx and xx xxxx xxxxxxx.
My first book, ‘Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries – The Loyalist Backlash’ will be published by Liverpool University Press on 30 September 2016.
Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries
I recently wrote about the book for The Irish Times:
…and was also interviewed for Balaclava Street blog:
As it is based on in-depth interviews conducted by myself I am hoping that the book provokes a more nuanced understanding of the loyalist experience at the start of the conflict.
I was wondering whether you would be interested in an ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ piece for An Phoblacht?
I look forward to your thoughts.

All the best,

I received a response via e-mail from another Sinn Féin member, who I had a telephone conversation with. I repeated the premise of my proposed piece and had a good chat about the subject and other matters. He told me to make the article as uncomfortable as I wanted it to be; basically to pose questions of the readership. It was suggested to me that I should look at the party’s ‘Toward An Agreed and Reconciled Future: Sinn Féin policy on reconciliation and healing’, bearing it in mind while writing the UC piece.

In this document, the party states that,
Irish society has yet to deal with the harms, fears and mistrust from the conflict. Despite the contribution from Republicans, and many others, the legacy of conflict and division stills casts a long shadow over efforts to build a better future. At its core a reconciliation and healing process must create the common ground to deal with the fears, the unanswered questions from the past and shape thinking and deeds that will create a pathway from the past to the future.
It also states that Sinn Féin’s approach to reconciliation and healing ‘has been informed by…The need to be sensitive to all hurt, loss and pain [and] The need for an acknowledgement of all the different human experiences of conflict felt across society, on this island and beyond…’

With all of this in mind I stated that I would try and get a piece together within the next few weeks. Shortly thereafter – within days – my first child was born. The person I had been talking to was keen that I get the piece in by Sunday 14 August if at all possible – long before the original deadline, and the day after my daughter had returned from hospital. The reason being that An Phoblacht wanted the article for its September edition. I got the article written and submitted on time. I have included it in full below.

*                                     *                                      *

Over two years ago I set out to write a book about the loyalist Tartan gangs in early 1970s Belfast. Through conversations and meetings with former Tartan gang members who became loyalist paramilitaries I was given access to former senior members the Young Citizen Volunteers and the Red Hand Commando, the latter of which little is known about. Inevitably the book became more than a study of the Tartan phenomenon of which the Bay City Rollers had no bearing on.

Republicans gave Tony Novosel’s fantastic study of early loyalist paramilitary political initiatives a fair hearing. Indeed, I dare say that some people might have been a bit taken aback by just how progressive the political formulations of the Ulster Volunteer Force and RHC were during the mid-1970s. These ideas laid the seed by which the Progressive Unionist Party would flourish from the late 1980s until the late 1990s, but in the dark days of Kingsmill and the UVF Butcher gang they found little favour on the grey and frantic streets of Northern Ireland.

My book, Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries is one which I do hope republicans will read. It will be slightly harder to digest as it concentrates on the violent activities of loyalists. This is understandably an area which must be approached with sensitivity, but it is also one we cannot shy away from in attempting to find a peaceful resolution in Northern Ireland.

The book also importantly demonstrates that there is more nuance to the pre and early Troubles loyalist story than has previously been heard.

While loyalists will openly admit that many of their actions were driven by sectarianism, there has been little to no public acknowledgement by former republican combatants and their supporters that the PIRA carried out a number of sectarian killings. This continues to frustrate the loyalist and unionist community. The men that I interviewed for Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries speak with an almost eidetic memory about their experiences of the Four Step Inn and Balmoral Furniture Showrooms bombings of September and December 1971 respectively.

They ask what the PIRA – long suspected of these ‘operations’ – had to gain from such devastating acts?

Did the PIRA seek to draw their Protestant working-class neighbours into a dirty sectarian war?
One thing that we know for certain is that these two events were key factors in driving many young loyalists, including Tartan gang members, into the nascent loyalist paramilitaries.

Throughout the loyalist ‘backlash’ in 1972 and beyond innocent Catholics would die at the hands of travelling gunmen, something which Plum Smith dispassionately stated some years later, ‘wasn’t personal’. Others would die horrific deaths in romper rooms.

Of course it is necessary to get past ‘whataboutery’, but the loyalists I interviewed would point to the gruesome deaths of Tom Kells, Robert McFarland and Robert Collins which were meted out by republicans. Republicans cannot seek to claim a ‘higher morality’ in legitimising their campaign.

For many loyalists, particularly those who agreed to ‘abject and true remorse’ this is an unresolved facet of post-conflict Northern Ireland.

Anthony McIntyre conceded in 2013 that:

We [republicans] are often cynical about loyalists maintaining as a motivation a defence of their communities. Yet it features so much in their conversation and writings that it is simply impossible to think they are all lying.

Gerry Adams stated in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2014 that:

The IRA that emerged in these years [between the 1950s and 1970s] was one built by ordinary people out of sheer necessity because of the conditions in which they found themselves. In nationalist areas of the north, the IRA was from the people, not some abstract idea.

It might be impossible for many readers of An Phoblacht to acknowledge, but what I heard through the interviews that I carried out and the long conversations I had with former loyalists paramilitaries was a mirror image of Adams’s statement.

There is a long and deep feeling within the loyalist community that the PIRA set out over the final weekend of June 1970, during the St Matthews and Whiterock episodes, to kill Protestants in an attempt to provoke a backlash. It was shortly after these killings that a group of young men met in a house in Rosevale Street in the Oldpark area. There they agreed the founding principles of the grouping which would become the Red Hand Commando.

When Brendan Hughes stated that the republican objective was to ‘Get the Brits out through armed resistance, engage them in armed conflict and send them back across the water with their tanks and guns’ he may well have meant the British military presence in Northern Ireland. However, this was miscommunicated by republicans when they killed constitutional unionists and working-class Protestants. Ronnie McCullough, one of those young men who met in Rosevale Street, told me that such utterances couldn’t help but sound personal:

To get the British out of the north part of Ireland effectively meant to get us out of the north part of Ireland, because we subscribed to the British identity. Whilst we were Irish and recognised the fact that we do have an Irishness, we were Irish Unionists and wished to remain part of the British household.

Republicans must ponder on the experiences and rationale which informed young loyalist men to take up arms in the early 1970s.

*                                     *                                      *

At the end of the month (August) I inquired about my article and was told that it was with the editor and hopefully ‘scheduled in in next month’. The article did not appear in the September AP.

In the middle of September I e-mailed to ask whether the editor had made a call on my piece. I was texted a few days later by the SF member I had been corresponding with and was told that he would phone me the next day. He didn’t for one reason or another.

At the beginning of October I sent a message to the SF member stating:
Hi xxxx – can I take it at this stage that the UC piece is not being printed? The deadline seemed pressing almost two months ago.
To which the response was:

Gareth can we schedule call. View is that pieces should engaged with UC parameters. Still up 4 piece. xxxx
I replied:
That is a shame xxxx – particularly that it has taken so long given that I rushed it together two days after the baby was born. Having read it again I feel it does fit into UC parameters but if AP doesn’t wish to publish it I think I will leave it.
The response was:
Gareth let’s schedule a call and talk through.
I very much appreciate the effort you put into article and I’d like to see a contribution from you in paper.
I wasn’t able to have the phone conversation due to work commitments and instead decided to write an e-mail outling my feelings:

Hi xxxx
Hope you are well.
Having now asked a few people with very different opinions on NI to read my article in the context of UC parameters they too are struggling to see why AP won’t publish – other than the obvious point…is the piece too uncomfortable?
Recent articles by Chris Donnelly and Ciaran MacAirt give one the impression that the UC series is now just republicans merely having very comforting conversations in-house and demanding that everyone else feel uncomfortable.
My article poses direct questions from loyalists to republicans that I encountered in my research – they are all crucial questions in legacy issues and reconciliation for Ireland. I am feeding back what I heard.
I absolutely fail to see where this article does not engage with the UC parameters and I can’t come to any conclusion other (which others agree with me on) that I have been censored so that there is no actual robust or truly uncomfortable questions asked of republicans in the UC series.
All the best

There the correspondence ends…

I hold no ill will toward the person I was corresponding with (I actually admire quite a lot of their discourses and work) but the big question here is – are SF serious about their UC series? Or do they believe in an ‘acceptable level of discomfort’ when discussing legacy issues and the past?


  1. Powerful stuff. We always felt we were under attack from the Provos from when I was a wean, and if they won, we'd all be exterminated.

  2. Although I'll never feel anything other than republicanism was just and necessary I must admit my attitude towards the loyalists is changing. Since my adolescence my thoughts on loyalists was how could they acquiesce and support such blatant and sectarian laws which resulted in hatred. I still feel the loyalists could have been more demanding of their leaders to combat sectarianism I must also acknowledge the loyalists had genuine reason to be fearful. Whatever intention republicans had by utilising the I.R.A we can't ignore it became a quite ruthless killing machine. There of course was mitigating circumstances but we've got to accept we were responsible for our own share of atrocities and by extension the growth of loyalist paramilitaries at least in part.

  3. David,

    a very sober observation.

    I imagine there had to be a dialectic at play which is not captured in the idea that armed loyalism emerged solely out of a functional and ideological need to dominate, control and kill the nationalists. No doubt those ideas were in the mix. But it would be a very strange and inadequate explanation that ignored the motivation of defence. The substance of the attacks that made defence a likely response did not even have to be strong or concerted, intelligible or focussed: the manufactured image of a widespread offensive attack utilised for power play and strategic purposes within unionism would have been enough to create a defensive mindset to meet the offensive.

    I remember listening to a former loyalist prisoner a couple of years ago and he was saying that one of the things that motivated him was the IRA killing of Robert Bradford. Growing up in the unionist village where he came from it seemed that only those spawned by the devil could kill a reverend pastor and would as readily kill the Flock as the shepherd. It might sound daft to many republicans but they should know from experience that what motivates is not always rational. Fear frequently lacks reason.

    Can't really understand why the Shinners suppressed this: in terms of causing discomfort, it is pretty anodyne compared to some of the things said about SF by critics.

  4. Steve, David - thanks for your comments. These are the sorts of robust and healthy conversations we need to have to move things forward. Sadly it seems that SF are merely paying lip service to the concept of 'Uncomfortable Conversations.'
    The agenda being pushed is all about collusion, which of course happened and which needs to be examined in the context of both loyalist and republican violence...but concentrating solely on the narrative that loyalists were merely dupes or goons of the British state is an unhealthy tangent. I have met many former combatants - UVF, YCV and RHC mainly - who felt that their very streets were in danger. They also recall that the older men, c.1970-71 used to patrol these streets to ward off possible IRA attacks with table legs and billiard balls in socks. These were men who were concerned for their children. The latest book by Margaret Urwin doesn't even attempt to deal with the motivating experiences behind the emergence of loyalist violence. But then, why would it?

  5. GTM,

    Collusion was always going to happen when you had paramilitaries and the police coming from the same community and fighting a common enemy, one 'constrained'(alledgedly) by law and the other not. I was never in any organisation but even I was reading Sinn Fein documents that had been nicked and photocopied long before any ceasefire was announced. Not hard to work out they were either lifted during a raid or handed over by a tout.

    The Loyalists in our (PUL) communities eyes were always seen as reactionary, that our community was under attack and somebody needed to hit them back to discourage them. Even in the 80's we said 'If the IRA would just stop so would 'our' side'. In the background to this, Europe was going through societal changes particularly in the early 90's with the Ibiza 'rave' scene, so you had a lot of young loyalists going over there and experimenting with drugs. They then came back and saw the financial potential of drugs. When the RM announced its ceasefire in 94(?) the young were left without direction or guidance...and invariably drifted towards crime. Where the Tartans had a 'cause' those young loyalists in the 90's had no jobs and little future. Little has changed from what I have seen.

  6. I can't say my heart is bleeding for loyalists nor do I agree that if only nationalists understood them better things would not have gone the way they did. I understood them all too clearly. Many of their victims were late night stragglers or otherwise innocents who thought nobody would not touch them because they caused no harm to anyone -the graveyards are full of victims who thought they weren't targets because they weren't involved in anything.

    Unionists/Loyalists created their own fears where there were none -the more their leaders scaremongered the more loyalists hated us. They had whole army regiments, a police force and a special legal system (Diplock Courts) just to ease their fears but that was not enough because loyalists happily did the dirty work that the brits/unionists did not want to be seen doing themselves.

    Nationalists were the down trodden underdog in all this and loyalists were not trying to understand us they were trying to kill us or at minimum maintain the status quo of supremacy of their precious sectarian statelet. Loyalist sectarianism predates the Provos.

    Certainly loyalists can try and explain themselves today and we can listen but lets not say they weren't what they were because nationalists failed to understand them -there was only one thing loyalists wanted nationalists to understand and they communicated that with ruthless effectiveness.

  7. Christy,

    I doubt many from our station in life have hearts that bleed for loyalism. But that should never preclude understanding. And understanding should be an intellectual exercise leading to analysis rather than an emotive one leading to empathy. Nor do I think we should see understanding as being presented as something that would have changed the dynamics of the situation on the ground. I think understanding comes long after the event where the ability of the heat of the moment to cloud is no longer as intense.

    I think what we are seeing with the type of work Gareth Mulvenna is doing is an attempt to look closer at motivation and disentangle the elements that constitute it rather than lump it together as a monolith. Much in the manner that Robert White did with his study Provisional Irish Republicans.

    The formative years are always revealing for understanding the dynamics of a conflict and to access these voices is important. I would like to understand more about how events like Bloody Friday fed into shaping and fuelling motivations much like I think I understand how Bloody Sunday was a key factor in drawing many young nationalists into armed conflict. Motivation, regardless of the discourse that is created to give it a clear legitimising hue, is often conjunctural rather than ideological with well defined historical roots.

    While there were many more nationalists killed by loyalists than unionists killed by Republicans in the circumstances you outline, republicans don't escape the type of censure you deliver. This is particularly true of the 1974-1976 era: drinkers in bars, workmen lined up at the side of the road and massacred, a year old girl put down on her knees and shot in the back of the head inter alia. Republican ideology with its emphasis on non sectarianism hardly "justified" that. It took something else. Defence grounded in fear might provide part of the answer.

    The unionist scaremongering at leadership level is another element to be disentangled and measured in its own right because it certainly cannot be separated from the equation. But there has to be a fear factor independent of that when there is a six county wide bombing campaign that often enough claimed the lives of Protestants.

    Loyalist sectarianism long predates the Provos but that on its own does not explain the post-Provo emergence ferocity and social extent of it. Why it happened at a particular juncture and took the form that it did are things we might all benefit from understanding better.

    In similar discussions here I have taken the view that the armed loyalist campaign in general against nationalists was a war crime at a strategic level (in a way that the general IRA campaign was not.) I don't view all the loyalists involved in it on the ground as wear criminals. Something like the pilots flying over Germany not being war criminals while the strategists including Bomber Harris undoubtedly were. The nationalists were the oppressed but I am always drawn back to Napoleon on this who said amongst the oppressed are many who like to oppress.

    I think this sort of general conversation only becomes problematic both analytically and ethically when it is pushed to excuse rather than explain. Unfortunately, clarity is often improved to the extent that discomfort is introduced.

  8. Loyalism is a physical expression of Unionist sectarianism and racism which existed long before 1969. As for collusion between it and the British security services. I prefer to replace 'collusion' with 'controlled directing'. And as for Unionist Loyalism itself, the least said the better....defending their communities my arse!

  9. Niall,

    much of the early analysis of the Provisionals held that they were the physical expression of an unbroken lineage which existed long before 1969 that sought Irish unity above all else. That view of the Provisional IRA was based on the work of authors specialising in the IRA before the creation of the PIRA.

    Now we sort of know different. Post 1969 Northern events have left their footprint in the Provos formation and development much more deeply than the mists of 1916 and beyond.

    Post 1969 Loyalism needs to be looked at in similar terms - As Foucault observed: critical history is about preventing continuities overriding the discontinuities that become evident during the course of examination.

  10. That should be a seventeen year old girl not a year old girl.

  11. AM

    If there is evidence that Loyalists wanted to communicate anything to Nationalists other than their hatred and supremacy then lets hear it. I think David Irvine about summed up the reality for most loyalists in the 1970s -he listened to the wrong people who burned him as soon as he was no longer useful to them. I think his premature death was a loss to all of us but most of all to those whom he represented.

    There is no question that IRA atrocities played into the loyalist narrative but to come along now and try and convince us that there was a lot more to them than their 'any taig will do' killing philosophy has little sway with me because they are talking in hindsight or post justification. We know how they justified their actions then. It's a bit like indulging white South Africans on the virtues of apartheid. The ANC caused its own atrocities but that still does not excuse apartheid and the evils that regime generated, and I am not saying that is what is being done in the loyalists context. I am not discounting what white South Africans have to say about their fears or loyalists fears. But it was their own self indulgence in generating false fears that lead to IRA or ANC atrocities. It was their own pumped up fears that denied civil rights and equality to significant numbers of people who lived in the same patch of ground in which they controlled. The underdog may have committed atrocities but the supporters and architects of the regime cannot blame the respondents for what they created.

  12. Christy,

    I am not sure that loyalism is primarily concerned with communicating something to nationalists as much as it is engaged in some sort of self-reflection.

    David Ervine is an interesting example because if I remember rightly he claimed it was Bloody Friday that led to him joining the UVF. The UVF predated the Bloody Friday bombings as it did the formation of the Provisional IRA but if recruitment to these type of organisations grew exponentially after certain events, then whatever happened prior to the events was not sufficient to recruit. The UVF was killing Catholics prior to 1969 but is such small numbers and with such small numbers, that its impetus in 1966 cannot adequately explain its mushrooming in 1972.

    The supremacist culture existed but always did - so again something other than that culture acted as a recruiting agent, much like with the IRA. Republican opposition to the state long predated PIRA but was not the big bang that effectively saw the formation of PIRA or the big recruiting junctures that signposted its development.

    I am not sure that loyalists are coming along late in the day and saying it was something other than Any Taig will do. In the context of this discussion, we have a researcher who is not as far as I am aware a Loyalist but who has intellectually engaged with loyalism in a bid to better explain it rather than excuse it.

    Nor do I subscribe to the view that it is a bit like indulging White South Africans on the virtues of apartheid. But it would be a limited research venture that set out to understand apartheid and failed to access the voices of those in the apartheid machine.

    Some of the great oral history work done and which adds immensely in my view to public understanding has gone down this route. Mark Baker's Nam or Jean Hatzfeld's The Killers In Rwanda Speak.

    What of course they say or how they might justify what they did is another matter and people have to be free to criticise it.

    I think we are more than capable of gaining a better understanding of loyalism without justifying it just as many loyalists and unionist now better understand republicanism without justifying it.

    I don't think we can link IRA atrocities to false fears by loyalists, that only our fears were genuine and others not so. Fear very much existed in the 70s. There were both false fears and genuine fears. What was false about the fear that resulted from the bombing of the Balmoral Furniture shop on the Shankill in December 1971 which claimed the lives of two babies among others? If I am not mistaken that acted as a serious recruiting agent for loyalist armed groups in the immediate vicinity. I can hardly assume that the fear resulting from that attack was false but the nationalist fear resulting from the attack on McGurk's bar a week or two earlier earlier was genuine.

    I have long given up on easy answers and welcome any work that gives us better access to how people claim to make sense of what they were involved in. I hope this type of venture continues to bear fruit.

    What I still don't understand is why the above piece should have been censored.

  13. Yeah the loyalists are probably self-reflecting or justifying rather than trying to communicate. It is better they do document their reasoning to remove having to speculate about it. I am pretty skeptical about anything loyalists have to say but no way should APRN not run with the article - its a crap paper so no great loss really.

  14. AM,
    Not sure about your view that Loyalism should be looked at in similar terms. To me all it was, was an armed and murderous state sponsored wing, deliberately kept publicly at arms-length from the British establishment and by the British establishment, to avoid any unnecessary publicity that could detract from their own anti-IRA propaganda war, but fully controlled and directed by them, and whose members of such armed wings, e.g., UDA or UVF, fully complied as it was in their nature to do so.
    All for the sole purpose of advancing whatever policy the British believed was the way forward for themselves.
    I’m not overly convinced that this incident or that incident carried out by Republicans against Unionists bore solely direct responsibility for encouraging young protestant working class people to join up with these murder squads.
    The seeds of sectarian hatred were already sown long before and there were sectarian killings long before the emergence of the Provos. Sam Thompson's play “Over the Bridge” gives a very profound account of such established sectarian hatred. Those leading these paramilitary groups realised the recruitment potential of such incidents not just to attack the Provos with but mainly to bolster their numbers in their constant battle with each other over territory for criminal gains. That has been borne out recently with the murder of John Boreland by unionist loyalists.....a result of territorial criminal disagreement. The UVF is now fully in control of Belfast and the UDA, who once greatly outnumbered the UVF is on the wane and whose territory has greatly been reduced.
    I recall one loyalist Newtownards Road man telling me that locally, those originally in charge of these unionist paramilitaries were once the same people who were running protection rackets on the Newtownards Road prior to the Troubles. They were ideal for the Brits to use as they all had their own networks already established...all the Brits had to do was to somehow differentiate it with criminality and give it a new identity and new face....hence UDA. The UVF may have historical roots but was their foundation any different from that of the UDA?
    I guess what I’m trying to get across is that I think narrowing Unionist Loyalism down to parochial beginnings only overlooks it's true origins. Britain created it, nurtured it, controlled it, directed it, and when it suited, arrested it....not very often though!

  15. Christy,

    Fear is a powerful motivator, it is also easy to be cynical with hindsight. From my perspective loyalism had fuck all leadership of note but neither were they told the whole truth of the matter. Republicans were far more educated, political astute and imbued with a sense of injustice more than any loyalist ever had.

    And I'm NOT a fucking loyalist. Getting sick of being labeled that when I'm not. I can make my own mind up thanks. I am here to learn, and communicate, but receiving hostile indifference is a bit much. I am from the PUL community, and I do know how they think however. When did not listening help anything?

  16. Steve

    That was my point, Unionist/Loyalist leaders used false and exaggerated fears to attack and stop peaceful civil rights marches and more. They used fear to justify their own violence against peaceful nationalist marchers. And as I point out above the IRA carried out atrocities that then played into the Unionist/Loyalist narrative. Unionist/Loyalists fears were self-created and further propagated by provoking IRA attacks -never mind how many loyalists can be derived from fear of the IRA but how many Nationalists would have joined the IRA but for the combined Brit/Unionist/Loyalist violence against Nationalists?

    Niall emphasis-es another of my points about loyalists being used to do what respectable unionists, Brits or cops could not be seen to do which was often the backdrop to IRA actions (as well as Ballymurphy/Bloody Sunday Massacres and Internment etc).

    The Brits or Unionist leaderships controlled Loyalists as much as they wanted to so loyalism was not leaderless. In fact it is notebale how after bomb attacks in 1974 the Brits removed explosives from the Loyalists arsenal -that was a demonstration of their control and influence over Loyalists. Or how former Unionist Stormont Minister Bill Craig organised Loyalists to back the Ulster Workers Strike.

  17. Christy,

    "That was my point, Unionist/Loyalist leaders used false and exaggerated fears to attack and stop peaceful civil rights marches and more. They used fear to justify their own violence against peaceful nationalist marchers. And as I point out above the IRA carried out atrocities that then played into the Unionist/Loyalist narrative. Unionist/Loyalists fears were self-created and further propagated by provoking IRA attacks -never mind how many loyalists can be derived from fear of the IRA but how many Nationalists would have joined the IRA but for the combined Brit/Unionist/Loyalist violence against Nationalists?"

    That goes back to the old 'who came first and whataboutary' narrative both sides are guilty of. The Loyalists would say, 'Wasn't there a IRA border campaign during the 50's and a bombing campaign in England during the 40's'? 'What year exactly did Adams assume leadership of an IRA grouping? Before '69?' And so on.

    'Niall emphasis-es another of my points about loyalists being used to do what respectable unionists, Brits or cops could not be seen to do which was often the backdrop to IRA actions (as well as Ballymurphy/Bloody Sunday Massacres and Internment etc)."

    Not all Unionists, Brits or Cops agreed with, or supported what the Loyalists were doing. My own family hated them. During the UWC strike it was only these scumbags who were getting fresh bread, something that drove a lot of their own community against them. Saying everybody in the PUL community supported them is wide of the mark.

    "The Brits or Unionist leaderships controlled Loyalists as much as they wanted to so loyalism was not leaderless."

    I take it you do not know Glenn Barr's thoughts on Paisley, or what Barr did to him when he acted like he was in charge? Loyalists followed their own thoughts at least in the 70's.

    "In fact it is notebale how after bomb attacks in 1974 the Brits removed explosives from the Loyalists arsenal -that was a demonstration of their control and influence over Loyalists. Or how former Unionist Stormont Minister Bill Craig organised Loyalists to back the Ulster Workers Strike."

    My enemies enemy is my friend, wouldn't you have done the same?

  18. The IRA were nowhere to be seen in the late 1960s -it was peaceful civil rights marchers versus violent unionists/loyalists.

    The rest of your arguments doesnt change who controlled the loyalists.

  19. Christy,

    In their mind it wasn't.

  20. Steve

    Now you are going into the realm of self-delusion. In the Brits mind they have clean hands. I am only speaking about reality.

  21. Christy,

    Regardless of how you perceive it, it IS how the loyalists think. Paisley et al whipped up and fed the fear that the IRA was about to rise up and overthrow the state.

    The Brits have no fear of having dirty hands either. You don't run an Empire through kind words and deeds.