Challenging Northern Protestants
Cavan Sinn Féin's TINA TULLY was particularly taken this year with Susan McKay's exploration of the psyche of Six-County Protestants.
Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People
By Susan McKay
Susan McKay's Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, is written in a style that is easy to read, with events and historical facts told through the stories of various people that the author interviewed. Reminding us of the important fact that the Six Counties is not a homogenous area, she looks at aspects of life of Protestant people in six places with greatly differing experiences of the Troubles - North Down, North Belfast, Portadown, along the border, Ballymoney and Derry.
Surprisingly, the book begins with the story of Bernadette Martin, a 19-year-old Catholic who was dating a Protestant in Lurgan and who was killed by a `friend' of her boyfriend's family. It then mentions the savage killing in the same week of James Morgan, a 16-year-old Catholic who was hitch-hiking home in Co. Down. One of the main purposes of the book for the author is to ``explore the influences capable of producing such violent hatred''.
The accounts and insights are too numerous to give any kind of accurate overview in this short space. However, to highlight a few, one interesting admission is that of Billy Mitchell, a UVF member convicted for the killing of two UDA men. Of his organisation he says that they had no coherent ideology; their political analysis was that Ulster was being sold out. ``We knew what we were against,'' he says, ``but we didn't know what we were for.'' He apportions much of the blame to the preachers and politicians of the Paisley rallies, who did a lot to incite them to arm and to fight.
One story that was particularly sad was the treatment of the deaths of the three Quinn children in Ballymoney. The children were burned to death in July 1998 after loyalists threw a petrol bomb into their home in a housing estate. Their mother was Catholic, their father a Protestant. Despite the appalling nature of what was clearly a sectarian crime, the people of Ballymoney as interviewed in this book, refused to accept that it was in any way sectarian. They insisted that their town was not a sectarian town and one woman blamed Chrissie Quinn, the mother of the boys, for wrongfully blackening the Orangemen at Drumcree.
This is a book that shows the diversity of views among the Protestant people, many of whom dissassociate themselves from the sectarianism illustrated through the Quinn story and others - and some would welcome a United Ireland. It is objectively written and makes an interesting read. It challenges, as it intends, one of the many sides in relation to the events it describes, the Protestant side. One cannot help wondering about the other sides and in particular the Catholic.
BY TINA TULLY