Jamie Bryson: Loyalists are not second class unionists, to be poked and derided

Jamie Bryson during an Apprentice Boys parade last year. 'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Jamie Bryson during an Apprentice Boys parade last year. 'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

On Saturday I read, with more than a little dismay, the published column by Sandra Chapman.

Mrs Chapman used this column to rather subtly promote the ongoing cultural war on the unionist community, but from a relatively unseen angle.

Letters to Editor

Letters to Editor

The tone of the entire article sought to create a intra-unionist division whereby Mrs Chapman appeared to promote the ‘good’ section of unionism, which she appeared to define as the Orange lodge, and then a ‘bad’ section of unionism, which she effectively defined as loyalism and/or marching bands. Whilst she did not explicitly say as much, one can only draw such a conclusion from every line of Saturday’s column.

This attempt to create an underclass within unionism is not sectarian, but rather an attempt to promote a pale, middle-class, Orange culture. This culture, in Mrs Chapman’s mind, would be the ‘good’ unionism/Orangeism, meanwhile marching bands and loyalism are the bad underclass.

Unionism and loyalism are not separate entities, they are jointly entwined within the identity of many people in Northern Ireland and the broader United Kingdom. The attempts to divide unionism and loyalism is a crude attempt by some middle class unionists to say ‘we are the people’- and that loyalism is a collection of second class citizens, there to be poked at and derided.

Mrs Chapman also appears to have a serious misunderstanding of the Orange Order. It appears she has come to believe there are Orange bands (presumably she thinks Orangemen form or ‘sanction’ their own personal band to be formed from their lodge)- and then non Orange bands, who she describes as loyalist bands.

This false assertion displays the lack of knowledge about the subject on which Mrs Chapman pontificates.

The individual Orange Lodges hire bands, with whom they have a relationship or a link to; they do not control or run bands.

Of course, we also have the chastising of the DUP’s Paul Givan for daring to release funding to assist marching bands. There is, naturally, no mention of the outrageous amounts of funding that is ploughed – by various statutory agencies and Stormont departments – into the GAA year after year.

The GAA is an important cultural aspect of daily life for many within the Catholic and nationalist community. This ‘culture’, which is cloaked within sport, often has offensive undertones in the minds of many unionists.

Given the relentless nationalist war on unionist culture, perhaps unionism should focus attention on the offensive parts of the GAA, and seek the same type of regulation that nationalism demands of almost every aspect of unionist culture.

Loyalism is under the umbrella Unionism, and it’s time that those of us who identify as loyalist begin to publicly challenge not only the very real cultural war being waged by nationalism – aided and abetted by the likes of the Alliance party – but also the intra-unionist attempts to create and foster a upper class, and under class, within the broad church of unionism.

Jamie Bryson, Donaghadee