Britishmen

Tom Paulin

  • Too Long a Sacrifice: Life and Death in Northern Ireland since 1969 by Jack Holland
    Columbus, 217 pp, £7.95, July 1981, ISBN 0 396 07934 2
  • A History of Northern Ireland by Patrick Buckland
    Gill and Macmillan, 195 pp, £3.95, April 1981, ISBN 0 7171 1069 9

Two months after the suspension of Stormont in 1972, Belfast’s retiring Lord Mayor, Sir Joseph Cairns, delivered a farewell speech in which he reflected on the political situation. Ulster, he said, had been cynically betrayed by Britain’s policies: policies that had relegated it to ‘the status of a Fuzzy Wuzzy colony’. The Lord Mayor’s parting shot is one of my favourite quotations, for as well as being banal, ridiculous, righteously angry and very dim, it offers a profound insight into the Northern Irish troubles. It has an ironic resonance – a sort of Belfast ou-boum – which must haunt and torment anyone who probes the nature of Ulster Loyalism. It’s a deeply parochial statement, and like all such statements, it issues from an intense love of place, while also containing a definition of nationality and cultural identity.

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