From the loyalist blog It's Still Only Thursday the fifth interview for the Ordinary Voices Project.
Respondent is Enda, who describes himself as: “27, recently married, council employee, Liverpool FC fanatic and hater of DIY. South Tyrone man living in Belfast.”
As with all the interviews in the Ordinary Voices project, this interview was conducted via email.
Question 1: How would you describe yourself politically?
Enda: I’m not actually sure anymore tbh. I’m definitely a Nationalist and a couple of years ago I would have called myself a Republican but now I’m not entirely sure.
I suppose I am still a Republican at heart although I have lost a lot of faith in Sinn Féin in the last couple of years.
To give you the short answer - I’m a Nationalist without a party to support.
Question 2: Do you think there is an inherent bias with regard to Legacy Issues?
Enda: No, I honestly don’t think there is. The British forces (and I include the RUC/UDR in that) did a lot of heinous things during the “Troubles“. Those who killed innocent people have to be brought to justice.
An awful lot of Republicans and a fair number of Loyalists did face justice and served long prison terms, it is only right that state forces face the same. The IRA and Loyalist groups did not keep records of their actions, the army and police did though and people deserve the truth.
Question 3: Do you think that legacy issues are being handled well?
Enda: Yes, actually I think the UK government is doing ok in that regard. Something like a Truth Commission will never work in the North. Some people would be truthful, some wouldn’t and then you have those who simply wouldn’t be reliable in their testimony.
A relative of my wife’s is a former Republican prisoner. The man is 60 years old and in poor health because of years of heavy drinking. Tbh I don’t think he’d be able to remember accurately things he was involved in 30 or 40 years ago and I’m sure there are many others like him.
Question 4: Do you think that Legacy Issues are damaging the Peace Process?
Enda: No. I think the peace process is more or less fireproof now. There’s no going back to the “Troubles” now. Too much time has passed, too many people have moved on. There is a huge centre ground now and many of those people don’t really care about the issues of the past.
Of course there is still a lot of hurt on both sides, on the Nationalist side especially I think, but I can’t ever see things going back to the way they were years ago. There’s just no appetite for it from anybody.
Question 5: Do you think that the Loyalist community has been unfairly stereotyped in a negative way?
Enda: No. I don’t think that at all. Loyalists bring any negative publicity on themselves. They are their own worst enemy a lot of the time. Take bonfires for example. Why the constant need to insult and intimidate others with these massive bonfires? Why put Holy Statues and flags and other things onto these fires?
Loyalist “culture” is a joke tbh. Nothing but constant marching and burning things. It actually angers me. Loyalists could celebrate Irish culture in their own way but they refuse to even admit that they are Irish, so instead they go out of their way to antagonise others. The DUP pander to Loyalists which is why so many people hate them as a party. The DUP will never get votes from the centre ground because they won’t walk away from the bonfire builders and the “kick the Pope” bands.
Question 6: Do you believe that reconciliation is possible between the two communities?
Enda: No. We will continue to live parallel lives I think. The centre ground will keep growing, Nationalism will pretty much remain as is and Unionism will continue to be pushed to the margins. We will probably end up in a situation where the people in the centre interact with Nationalists and vice versa but Unionists and Loyalists will be left on the sidelines.
I don’t think that Loyalists are capable of reconciliation, or want it. There are some people on the other side who are the same, they just can’t move on. So I suppose the north will just stagger on as it is.
Question 7: Do you believe that a ‘united Ireland’ is imminent?
Enda: No, unfortunately. I stopped supporting Sinn Féin partly because they have absolutely no clue how they can achieve reunification. Sadly there are lots of Nationalists who are too comfortable and complacent. They will keep on as they are.
Everyone says that Brexit will lead to reunification but I don’t see it. It’s not going to make any difference to hard-line Unionists, they will still be against a UI even if they are broke and the country is ruined and despite what a lot of Republicans will tell you, a United Ireland is impossible without winning over a lot of Unionists.
It’s too late imo, the North is becoming more multicultural and progressive. Where I live now is very diverse. There is a large Muslim community here now. Will people who have come to live here in the last few years vote to leave the UK? Probably not.
Then there’s the centre ground, the people who vote for the Green Party and Alliance and even some SDLP or PBP voters, they might be Nationalists, even just culturally, but people like that will vote with their heads not with their hearts. If there was a border poll tomorrow people like that will vote to keep the NHS and their Civil Service jobs.
Question 8: What are your hopes and aspirations for Northern Ireland in the medium to long term?
Enda: Aside from a United Ireland, I’d like to see the North becoming a more modern and progressive place. I want an ILA and the laws on abortion and Equal Marriage changed and brought into line with the rest of the world.
I’d like to see the DUP disappear from the political landscape and I’d like to see Sinn Féin come up with some coherent policies, especially with regards to the economy. Most of all I want there to be peace- complete peace and normality. No more murders like that of Lyra McKee. No more pipe bomb attacks. No more punishment beatings or kneecappings or security alerts or riots. Just peace for everyone.