Last of the Whiteboys?

openDemocracy carries an interesting essay today by Stephen Howe analysing loyalism in the wake of the recent riots.

Loyalist paramilitarism, perhaps more clearly than its Republican counterpart, is strongly in the Irish tradition of the “public band”, which goes back to the Whiteboys and other rural rebels of the 17th and 18th centuries: secretive but intermittently self-advertising, highly ritualised but lacking in effective central organisation, often mingling political violence and “ordinary” criminality. (openDemocracy)

Perhaps this ties in with a suggestion I made recently in a thread over at Slugger O’Toole.

Perhaps it’s a mistake to see the antecedents of unionism as necessarily Protestant, and the antecedents of nationalism as necessarily Catholic.

The influence of 18th Century Protestantism on nationalism is well-known, but I wonder whether there aren’t at least parallels between contemporary unionism and the Catholic Jacobite loyalism of the 17th and 18th centuries.

In both cases you have a situation where the identity and interests of a people are articulated not through an idea of their own sovereignty, but through an often nominal loyalty to an external agency over whom they exercise little real control.

I think somebody mentioned on Slugger recently that continental observers are often surprised to find that Protestants are loyalists and Catholics are republicans.

The switch-over seems to have happened in the 18th Century, and we shouldn’t under-estimate the continuity of ideas across it. (Slugger)






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