The statement by the Apprentice Boys of Derry, acknowledging that members of the Clyde Valley loyalist flute band wore a contentious British Parachute Regiment emblem during an Orange Order parade and that this “may have caused upset to many in the nationalist community”, is deeply depressing.
This statement suggests that the unionist community is not upset or offended by loyalist sectarianism. I reject this view. The many academic achievements of Ireland’s Protestant community in Irish literature, music, language, and art are a reminder of the considerable influence it had on Irish culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Dr Douglas Hyde, the first President of Ireland, was one of the founders of the Gaelic League; painter Sarah Purser established An Túr Gloine; WB Yeats and Lady Gregory formed the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899, which then became the Abbey Players in 1904.
Both George Petrie and Edward Bunting are responsible for the wealth of ancient Irish music in our archives. JM Synge, George Russell (AE), and Kathleen Lynn were all major contributors to the shaping of modern Ireland. All were also Protestant.
It is inconceivable that the wonderfully rich tapestry of Ireland’s Protestant cultural and literary tradition, a tradition which, over the centuries, also gave us the likes of philosophers George Berkeley and Edmund Burke and satirist Jonathan Swift, should be allowed to be defined by culturally impotent unionism or sectarian loyalism.
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 19 August 2019.