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Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland
Oxford University Press, 2009
312 pp., 38.95
"For God and Ulster"
"For God and Ulster" is a slogan synonymous with Protestant and unionist opposition to the demands of Irish nationalists and republicans. It was the motto of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), formed at the height of unionist opposition to Home Rule in 1912–1914. This paramilitary force was partly subsumed within the British Army as the 36th (Ulster) Division, who were decimated on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916."for God and Ulster" implies divine favor, a special relationship between God and Ulster Protestants, and a loyalty to Britain sealed in blood on the battlefields of Europe. Loyalist paramilitaries re-appropriated the motto and the title uvf in the 1960s, but for the past forty years, the person most associated with this set of themes is Ian Paisley, firebrand fundamentalist, militant anti-Catholic, and political leader of remarkable longevity and clarity of purpose. His forceful articulation of the well-worn narrative of Protestant liberty and loyalty against Catholic tyranny and treachery ensured his popularity amongst conservative Protestants and unionists. In recent years, however, he has dramatically shifted his public position. In May 2008 he resigned as First Minister of the devolved government of Northern Ireland, an earlier version of which he helped topple in 1974. More extraordinarily, his partners in government were his sworn enemy, Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). His new rhetoric may be seen in the speech he delivered on the resumption of devolved government in May 2007:
I have sensed a great sigh of relief amongst all our people who want the hostility to be replaced with neighbourliness. The great King Solomon said, "to every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to get and ...