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am not blind to the shortcomings of our own people.
CHALK AND CHEESE
The Other View
The most common and, from this writers perspective, irritating charge laid at those of us in the Progressive Unionist Party is the oft repeated allegation that we are some sort of Protestant Sinn Fein. Those who level the charge cite two factors common to Sinn Fein and ourselves; parties evolved from a paramilitary past and support for the Good Friday Agreement. Beyond those two factors though the case becomes distinctly lightweight exposing the ignorance of the accuser more than it indicts the PUP. Those who make the charge, usually the Unionist old guard clearly do not understand modern Loyalism or Irish Nationalism. If the editorial team at The Other View indulges me, I will attempt to put the record straight.
My case will be won or lost on core political philosophy, so naturally that is what I shall concentrate on.
Sinn Fein as we all know, translates in her majestys tongue to Ourselves Alone and as the name suggests is a single identity nationalist/tribal party. Masquerading as Irish Republicans the Shinners pedal the idea of one legitimate Gaelic identity born out of centuries long struggle and victimhood. By implication all other displays of identity on the island are misguided (Loyalist/Unionist) or illegitimate expressions of the perpetrator (British/Orange/Black or Apprentice Boy). Thus they justify the mentality, which underpins the plethora of Residents Groups created to oppose Loyal Order parades.
Whilst never believing that witnessing a march would cause a Nationalist to turn Loyal (parade junkie Gerry Kelly proves that), I do think that the whole campaign illustrates the cultural imperialism which lies at the heart of Sinn Feins philosophy. Rejecting the concept of accommodation encapsulated in the phrase Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter Sinn Fein promotes a Nationalist programme of expansion, assimilation and cultural cleansing. Nowadays where Sinn Fein grows strong its pay back time for all aspects of British/Loyalist/Unionist history and culture. How else can one interpret a phrase like the greening of the West or the notion that an annual parade cannot pass over sacred Celtic ground? Truth be told these are not new ideas; the 26 secessionist counties have denied whole aspects of this islands history for generations and only recently rejected the cultural Lebensraum envisaged in articles two and three. Sinn Fein has simply refined them for application within Northern Ireland.
Luckily you dont have to take my word on all of this. In his book Free Ireland Gerry Adams articulated the point beautifully when he wrote, - The Loyalists have a desperate identity crisis. They agonise over whether they are Ulster-Scotch, Picts, English or British They express a massive rejection of a very rich Irish culture, despite the fact that this heritage cannot in any way be regarded as exclusive. Instead they waste their time trying to work out some kind of obscure notion of Ulster Protestant culture.
Cry Freedom poor prod!
How does core PUP political philosophy compare? Do PUP members dreams consist of purpling the East? Is the party looking to Loyalise society? Or is it to be Ourselves the Prods? Much though the Unionist old guard would love it to be yes, Im afraid the answer is no. We take the view that modern progressive unionist ideas should encapsulate the finest aspects of 400 years of Ulster political thought.
From the seventeenth century take the Williamite concept of Civil and Religious Liberty. Attach the eighteenth century ideal of equality between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter (dont be mistaken this writer utterly rejects the notion that such standards should be held captive upon this island). Cherry pick the nineteenth century for a strong belief in multiculturalism reinforced by two centuries of collective British existence. And finally throw in the bitter lessons of the twentieth century.
From this mix emerges a survivors political philosophy based on anti-sectarianism, pluralism and equality for all citizens. Thus it would be inconceivable for us to advocate the idea that society should remain ghettoised in single identity communities. Rather we believe in free expression in an open and tolerant society. Equally absurd is the notion that one form of identity is superior to another and thus must prevail. We belief in Accommodation not Assimilation. And certainly we recognise that achieving these goals will take generations involving many hard steps, but the vision deserves the effort.
But most important of all is the attitude of the parties to the cease-fires and peace process. This is where Loyalism has proven itself when compared to Sinn Fein and its constituency. For nationalists the cease-fire and peace process are a tactic in the ongoing campaign against the history, culture and identity of the Loyalist and Unionist peoples (refining instead of ending the war). But Loyalists see it as an opportunity to finally end conflict on an agreed basis. From such thinking Loyalists took a very difficult step and expressed abject and true remorse to the loved ones of innocent victims. In one phrase Loyalist peace builders moved light years ahead of their nationalist counterparts (I never hear the phrase innocent Protestant) and recognised that non-combatants could not be written off as collateral damage.
Vive La Difference.
[David Rose is Deputy Leader of the Progressive Unionist Party]
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