By Jamie Bryson- Editor of Unionist Voice
Welcome to our re-launched website.
Unionist Voice began in August 2017. The concept was to provide grassroots unionism with a platform to articulate political views and opinions, but also to launch a unionist fight-back against the relentless stream of propaganda emanating from nationalism and the wider ‘progressive’ pan-nationalist coalition.
I am confident in saying that the initial year of Unionist Voice has been a success. The site has broken a number of news stories, but most crucially played a key role in rallying grassroots opposition to the proposed DUP-Sinn Fein deal.
In our early months we exposed Damien Quinn and his pro-IRA songs, just before he was to appear at a funded event at the Devenish in West Belfast, the funding was withdraw. We also played an important role in encouraging unionist online activism in order to force the resignation of Barry McElduff.
Alongside this we have focused heavily on highlighting the legacy imbalance and keenly followed the Loughinisland case through the courts, being the only site to consistently highlight the mistruths being spread within the mainstream media. We were eventually vindicated on this front when it became clear that Mr Justice Weir had not represented any of the applicants in the Loughinisland judicial review case previously.
In November we launched Unionist Voice Policy Studies, a grassroots unionist think-tank designed to debate and develop innovative policy ideas. We provided a substantive written submission to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster and were invited to give verbal evidence to the committee sitting in the Thatcher Room in Westminster. This provoked a furious reaction with the ever tolerant Alliance Party displaying their tolerance for other viewpoints, by boycotting the hearing because they would have had to pass me in the corridor between evidence sessions. This turn of events highlighted the rapidly increasing aggression shown to all things unionist by the Alliance party and so-called ‘progressives’.
Grassroots unionism, and loyalism, has not engaged efficiently with the mainstream media, nor properly articulated arguments and ideas within mainstream political and civic discourse. Often this has been down to relentless efforts by political and civic ‘progressive’ pan-nationalism to disenfranchise ‘unacceptable’ voices, but so too has grassroots unionism often disenfranchised ourselves by taking a hostile approach to the mainstream media and failing to respectfully engage and put forward our argument.
Unionist Voice exists to try and bridge that gap and allow disenfranchised sections of unionism to have a platform and the space to debate and discuss not only the political issues of the day, but also community issues that have an effect on citizens’ day to day lives.
We have also taken the exciting step of producing a monthly magazine which can be downloaded for free online, or purchased in hard copy for a small fee of £2. This is an ambitious project and we do not underestimate the hard work required, but with our strong and dedicated team of voluntary activists I am confident we can build a grassroots unionist voice of which we can all be proud.
This month’s first edition of our free newsletter carries a range of articles covering a broad spectrum of political, community and social issues. These include an exclusive article by prominent Labour MP Kate Hoey, an exclusive interview with Glasgow Rangers legend Nacho Novo, a focus on Brexit and womens education on top of a plethora of news snippets and other contributions including an in-depth critical analysis of the recently released ‘Glenanne Gang’ film.
I am proud to say that Unionist Voice has launched such an ambitious project as our monthly magazine, and I think the level of contributors sets it apart within unionism in terms of a dedicated grassroots unionist publication.
Our plans for the next year are numerous, and we have mapped out an ambitious strategic development plan for Unionist Voice. This includes, as part of our re-launched site, providing regular email bulletins to those that wish to sign up. In the coming months we also plan to host a number of discussions which will be available to view on YouTube. These discussions will bring together grassroots unionism and critical voices from within journalism, civic society, ex prisoners and the legal sector to debate live political issues. This, we hope, will provide a further forum for grassroots unionism to engage in the ‘battle of ideas’ and to formulate and develop political positions that can advance the cause of unionism.
One of our key strategic objectives is addressing the one sided legacy narrative through the medium of storytelling. Walk into any bookstore and go to the Irish history section and you will find shelves and shelves of books written by, or about, Irish republicans. You will find very little, if any, books written by loyalists or unionists. That story hasn’t been told and Unionist Voice is currently working to develop a mechanism for older generations of loyalists to commit their experiences to writing.
However, let me be very clear. There is a vast difference between writing about experiences, and self-incriminating yourself or others. Often for loyalism there has been no distinction between the two. I personally would urge all loyalists to keep their own counsel in relation to matters for which they have never been convicted, and instead to focus on telling their stories in the context of hardships faced by their families, the loss of friends or loved ones and of more light hearted memories of community camaraderie. If such experiences aren’t properly documented and shared, then not only will the one-sided republican legacy narrative assume a pseudo ‘factual’ status, but those memories, experiences and hardships will die with the ‘conflict generation’ of loyalism.
Finally, we are passionate about encouraging political engagement within grassroots unionism, especially within a younger generation. As such we are always keen to hear from any young unionists that have an interest in journalism or digital media, or who simply want to engage in debate and commit their ideas to writing.
Thank you for taking the time to visit our site, we hope you will regularly engage and encourage others to do likewise.