The following extract is taken from an article by Robbie McVeigh, entitled Living the peace process in reverse: racist violence and British nationalism in Northern Ireland, in the current issue of Race & Class (Volume 56, April-June 2015, no. 4).

Virtually the whole of the Left has ignored the broader implications of the new pan-unionist alliance (UKIP, Tory Right and Ulster unionists and loyalists), which is challenging the current British ruling class ‘New Unionist’ ‘devolution-all-round’ and Peace Process settlement from the Right. Robbie McVeigh, however, makes specific reference to the new political situation created in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum. In doing this he is connecting to the arguments made on this blog that have highlighted this. He specifically points to the history of British ruling class sponsorship of  such reactionary forces, pointing out, not only several historical precedents, but the current collusion between the security forces in Northern Ireland and racist and bigoted unionism and loyalism, including its paramiltary manifestations.

This extract is followed by links to other articles on this blog making similar connections.



Robbie McVeigh
Robbie McVeigh


“It is important to remember that loyalism is a core component of British nationalism. This is an assessment of loyalism as a historical political formation, both as part of the politics of the British in Ireland and also of Britishness itself. It is anti-democratic ,racist, authoritarian populism. Moreover, it isn’t simply something belonging to the most reactionary elements of the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland, it is a British phenomenon. In other words, it isn’t rooted in the most lumpen elements of loyalist paramilitarism – although these provide useful allies – but in the most developed forms of British nationalism. Its genealogy can be traced to Randolph Churchill, with his cynical strategy of ‘playing the Orange Card’, through Lord Claude Hamilton to Enoch Powell; from the Curragh Mutiny to the Ulster Workers’ Strike. When the British Establishment rejects the consequences of formal democracy, this is what it looks like: a toxic cocktail of racism, sectarianism, anti-Catholicism, unionism, jingoism, militarism and paramilitarism.

It has been there for generations, hiding in plain sight. Yet, despite their raison d’etre with regard to nationalists and black people, it is rarely, if ever, that loyalists are characterised as part of what would otherwise be described as the ‘far Right’. For example, most analysis of far-Right groups at the European level tend not to include loyalists. Yet it isn’t just Enoch Powell or John Taylor who attest to the connections. The specific reference to far right interventions in the flag protest movements brings us right up to date. The most obvious manifestation is the Protestant Coalition, two of whose front people came from the British National Party splinter group, Britain First. The elective affinity begins to look complete when we find British First members, along with a roll call of others from the British far Right, are frequent attenders at pastor McConnell’s church. And we need to put this in the broader context of the pan-unionist appeal of the UK Independence party (UKIP), which, though it also threatens tradional unionism, is now unmabiguously integrated into the pan-unionist family.

The linking of loyalism and British nationalism matters not only in Ireland but across Britain and beyond. Loyalism in Northern Ireland is a British phenomenon. Britishness must bear some responsibility for what is done in its name in Northern Ireland. Equally, however, Britishness is constructed around this nexus – Margaret Thatcher famously said of Northern Ireland that it is “as British as Finchley”. This connects with the broader point that what happens in Northern Ireland from the Special Branch to the Prevention of Terrorism acts, repression that emerges from conflict in Ireland has direct consequences for Britain….

More broadly, (the} crisis of ‘devolved’ state power in Northern Ireland cuts right to the heart of a gathering crisis of the broader UK state. The resurgence of {the} paramiltarised racism {of the UVF and UDA} and state collusion in Northern Ireland deserves attention for its wider implications across the rest of the UK. For all its instability, the Northern Ireland state has survived as part of the UK for nearly a hundred years and it does present a warning for the wider Uk community. In the wake of the Scottish referendum, the UK state is itself entering a period of profound instability. It may well disintegrate. If it doesn’t, however, it will most likely stabilise itself around new and dangerous political formations.”


also see:- 

The reactionary challenge coming from UKIP and the various stands of Ulster unionism and loyalism by Allan Armstrong in section 4) of:-

Better Together, UKIP, the Orange Order and the UK state – What they have in common by Allan Armstrong at:-

The new challenge to social liberalism and the ‘New Unionist’ settlement from UKIP, the Tory Right, the Ulster Unionists and Loyalists by Allan Armstrong in section e) at:-

Making plans for Nigel by Allan Armstrong at:-

British nationalism and the rise of fascism by Chris Ford at:-

The Belfast riots and the Scottish dimension by Jim Slaven at: