There can be no doubt that the formation of the Loyalist Communities Council has the potential to serve and give voice to the needs and concerns of the working class Protestant community who have not been best served by their current political representatives.
My hope is that this new organisation will also see past the colonialist “divide and rule” interference of the past century that has caused such heartache to everyone and re-examine and embrace what I believe is their true heritage.
By their true heritage I mean the esteemed roll call of Presbyterian and Protestant Irishmen and women who have been foremost in campaigning for the rights of the Irish people.
The Irish Patriot Party was inspired by Henry Grattan (1746-1820) who campaigned against the Penal Laws which curtailed political free speech and human rights for both Catholics and Presbyterians.
The banner was taken up by The United Irishmen movement.
All those present at the first meeting of the Belfast branch in 1791 were Protestant. Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell were Anglican with the remainder being Presbyterian (including Henry Joy McCracken, William Sinclair, Samuel Neilson and Robert Simms).
The 1803 Rebellion was led by another Protestant, Robert Emmet and Belfast born Bulmer Hobson was a co-founder of both the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and the Dungannon Clubs.
The first Dungannon Club manifesto read: “The Ireland we seek to build is not an Ireland for the Catholic or the Protestant, but an Ireland for every Irishman Irrespective of his creed or class.”
Ulster born Jack White (along with James Connolly and James Larkin) co-founded the Irish Citizen Army and over 200 of its members took part in the 1916 Easter Rising.
These are just a few examples.
My hope is that, early on the agenda of the new Loyalist Communities Council, is discussion on how they can take their rightful place in the forthcoming centenary celebrations to mark the 1916 Easter Rising (and that their participation is properly facilitated) so that the remarkable Irishmen and women of the Presbyterian and Protestant traditions and their work and sacrifice throughout the centuries can be appropriately honoured.
E. Coyne, Belfast, BT14