Northern Protestants: A gravitational pull towards the future

Book review: Susan McKay leaves no stereotype of northern Protestants unchallenged

Linda Ervine and the rest of the Irish language class pictured on the Newtownards road in east Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker

Linda Ervine and the rest of the Irish language class pictured on the Newtownards road in east Belfast. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker

Cometh the crisis, cometh the insight. At a time when many unionists appear to be winding their watches backwards, Susan McKay brings us beneath the surface, tuning into the frequencies of northern Protestant lives as they are really lived. Her new book reveals a gravitational pull towards the future. We meet northern Protestants embracing, promoting, fearing and resisting change. But all are swept up in its current.

A lot has changed in the 21 years since McKay’s Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People was published. There is more talk now of diversity. Openness about mixed relationships. A willingness, sometimes from unexpected quarters, to have conversations about Irish unity. McKay talks to free-thinking DUP politicians who defy the boxes others might seek to put them into. An Orangeman whose kids attend an integrated school. No stereotype is left unchallenged.

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