'Our Father Organization': The Cult of the Somme and the Unionist 'Golden Age' in Modern Ulster Loyalist Commemoration

The Round Table, Vol. 96, pp. 707-723, 2007

Posted: 26 Feb 2009

See all articles by Kris Brown

Kris Brown

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute

Date Written: November 9, 2007

Abstract

Memories of military sacrifices and demonstrations of 'national' characteristics of bravery, comradeship and integrity still have considerable popular purchase within contemporary states and communities, and as such can accrue significant political capital. With this in mind, this paper will show how Ulster Loyalists attempt to anchor themselves in the memory of the Somme, seeking to deliberately construct a line of direct continuity between modern Loyalism, which has been suffering from a variety of pressures, fissures and marginalization throughout the Northern Ireland peace process, and Ulster Unionism of the early 20th century, a period which in contrast was marked by unity, mass mobilization and elite leadership. Crucially, that political generation's decimation during the First World War is a potent myth of blood sacrifice which thickens, rather than pollutes, the narrative of a Unionist 'Golden Age' of mobilization and strength. As such, the mythic proving grounds of battlefields long gone have become advantageous sites for modern political acquisition. This use of the memory of the Great War as an identity resource will be compared and contrasted with similar projects in Canada and Australia. Rather than simply miring Loyalists in archaic and militaristic tropes, and invented links to the past, this paper will argue that commemorations, particularly that of the Somme, can have a transformative and cohering effect on modern Loyalism, in both the political and paramilitary spheres.

Keywords: Northern Ireland, commemoration, Ulster Loyalism, memorials, political

Suggested Citation

Brown, Kris, 'Our Father Organization': The Cult of the Somme and the Unionist 'Golden Age' in Modern Ulster Loyalist Commemoration (November 9, 2007). The Round Table, Vol. 96, pp. 707-723, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1349132

Kris Brown (Contact Author)

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute ( email )

Shore Road
Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB
Northern Ireland

HOME PAGE: http://www.transitionaljustice.ulster.ac.uk/index.html

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