'Just fighting to survive': Loyalist paramilitary politics and the Progressive Unionist Party

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Throughout the contemporary period, Unionists and Loyalists in Northern Ireland have reacted in contradictory ways to the peace process. This article highlights some of the key political and social dynamics within loyalism. In particular, it considers the positioning of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and their linked political representatives in the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). The response of the PUP to the peace process has revealed several important tensions within unionism. These include the notions that Loyalists can no longer be assured that the UK government will maintain the Union; expressions of class and gendered identities; a lack of trust of mainstream unionism; and, sectarianism, which although it remains a key element within Loyalist identity, is by no means its only dimension. Finally, the article outlines the broader construction of Loyalist and Unionist ideologies, and positions the PUP within broader politics of contemporary unionism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-543
Number of pages22
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2004


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