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Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground

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That frustration with things as they are is a constant in this fascinating and constantly thought-provoking book. This may well be so, but one of the most fascinating subjects in McKay’s book is Anton, a young gay man with a deep “religious sensibility”, whose story makes it painfully clear how difficult it is to be different in a community where conformity is all and homosexuality is still considered a biblical abomination by fundamentalists, many of whom occupy the mainstream of unionist politics. Who knows what the future holds for them, but there are lots of people in this book for whom I wish nothing but the very best. The is a truly enlightening and thought provoking read that opens a new perspective on the shifting identity of the Northern Irish protestant community.

I grew up among this lot, though kicking with the other foot, so I am completely confident of the accuracy of the picture presented - not much has changed at a fundamental level. Based on brand-new interviews, and told with McKay’s trademark passion and conviction, this is essential reading. This is a fantastic piece of writing, part sociological study, I was totally immersed in the views and opinions of those the author interviewed. The burden of political violence and its effect on people's lives is passed from generation to generation. You get dragged back into the old divide,” she says wearily, noting how the traumas of the recent past so inform the stalemates of the present.Susan McKay is an award-winning journalist, commentator and author of five books: Sophia’s Story , Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People , Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground , Without Fear: A History of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Bear in Mind These Dead . Susan McKay reveals the multiple voices of Northern Ireland Protestants, loyalist and unionist with a genuine respect and without judgment.

Similarly, we hear the views of the LGBT community within Northern Protestantism and learn how these people reconcile their sexuality with a political ideology that has more often than not been fiercely intolerant of them. Her interviews engage voices from across the socioeconomic spectrum and they often speak with striking clarity. This book is a very impressive collection of verbatim interviews with a broad spectrum of people who fall under the umbrella of Northern Protestants. It is a potentially transformative narrative for anyone who takes the time to read it and reflect on the many experiences, commentaries and stories of the contributors. The drawing together of such an eclectic group of people allows the reader to glimpse into their lives and to see that there is not one voice of Protestant people but a myriad of voices that represent positions that are important to them.But what elevates Susan McKay’s masterful book is that it challenges our preconceptions about a community that is regularly reviled by their political opponents, and shines a light on the heretofore overlooked diversity within that community.

I had almost forgotten having read Susan's previous "Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People" - it was before I started keeping a record of the books I read and I never owned a copy. With so many progressive people featured, why can't we create a fairer and more equitable society, with one education system, one health system and one progressive, forward thinking, properly green Ireland? We are on really uncertain ground at present, but these are my frustratingly thran and diverse people. And of course it soon removed from me the notion that Protestants in the North of Ireland were one large, groupthinking monolithic block.

McKay's authorial voice is sparse for most of the book, allowing her interviewees to reveal themselves for better or worse through their own words. My only beef is that she's just reporting on what people are saying without fact checking, but I suppose that's the point. That may ultimately prove untenable given the rapidly shifting demographics but, for now, it represents the kind of paradigm shift in political thinking that is needed for real progress to be made. Interviewees include: Eileen Weir, Dee Stitt, Dawn Purvis, Chrissie Quinn, Clare Sugden, Toni Ogle, Kyle Black, Sammy Wilson and others, and ties in to topical debates around identity in the context of Brexit and the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland. They include students, artists and entrepreneurs as well as former policeman, paramilitaries and victims of the violence of the Troubles.

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