“We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and stable future” declared Ian Paisley former leader of the Democratic Ulster Party as he sat with Sein Fein, his political enemies of more than thirty years, to announce that the two would join into a power sharing government on May 8th 2007. This was a truly historic meeting but, behind the headlines declaring “a new era of hope” lies a deeply divided country struggling to emerge from the thirty years of social and economic upheaval that characterized ‘The Troubles.’
Northern Ireland is one of the poorest placed in the UK with high unemployment, income poverty and other such problems associated with acute deprivation. The lasting impact of these factors and the recent political developments will be most deeply felt within the traditionally dominant Loyalist community, which is politically and socially fragmented and lacking a coherent identity to take it forward.
For the Loyalists the future is uncertain and how they will react to this period of flux is far from certain.