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Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People  Amazon Co UK

Susan McKay. Blackstaff Press. Belfast 2000. ISBN 0 85640 666 X £12.99

SUSAN McKAY, a journalist with the Dublin Sunday Tribune, has written a book that purports to be an ‘uncompromising, in-depth look at her own people – the Protestants of Northern Ireland.’ She has failed in this aim. This book is nothing of the kind. McKay wears her politically correct liberal-leftist, feminist heart on her sleeve all through the book. Those who do not measure up to her standards are subjected to her patronising comments or her withering sarcasm.

The book’s prologue examines two particularly brutal murders. Bernadette Martin was shot in the arms of her Protestant boyfriend by someone they thought was a friend – LVF member Trevor McKeown. Sixteen year-old James Morgan was beaten to death with a hammer and dumped in a pit of animal carcasses by his killers. Such actions, she admits, are not typical of the behaviour of ‘Northern Protestants’ but she tells us about them ‘because it represents the worst outcome of a type of political Protestantism’. Perhaps, but it colours the whole book with the notion that, when push comes to shove, this is the type of thing that Protestants condone.

She has met a wide range of Protestants from such diverse areas as the respectable middle class ‘gold coast’ area of North Down and socially derived North Belfast; the ‘Orange Citadel’ of Portadown and the almost Prod free zone of Derry.

McKay seems to suffer from of Guilty Prod Syndrome. She has accepted the pan-Irish national-chauvinist interpretation of Ulster history and is full of remorse for the crime of being born among the ‘oppressors’. Northern Protestants is her Act of Contrition.

Guilty Prods annoy me and Ms McKay is particularly annoying. She makes a number of untrue and unsupportable comments, for example the claim that Paisley’s DUP founded the Ulster Clubs movement (page 94) and the outrageous lie on page139 that "There are [Orange] lodges in Belfast which commemorate members of the Shankill Butchers". This latter statement comes in the middle of a sustained rant against Orangeism, which McKay makes no effort to try and understand.

I cheered the comment of the Rathcoole playwright, Gary Mitchell who had something to say about Guilty Prod Syndrome. He says he was often the only Protestant in artistic circles. "Well that is to say, a working class Protestant who isn't ashamed of his roots and isn't prepared to avoid an argument by saying Catholics are always right. We have suffered a lot from that. Niceness. People refusing to be drawn in to political talk because they don't want to be seen as bigoted. So they let people walk all over them." Nice one Gary!

For a better understanding of how ordinary Protestants think, the reader would do much better to read a selection of Michael Hall’s Island pamphlets. In these pamphlets, we are spared Ms McKay’s self-righteous condescension. Avoid this woeful book.

David Kerr

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