Alan in Belfast’s blog today has an extended interview with John Kyle, a GP and former leader of the PUP. In it Kyle talks about the intersection between faith and loyalism, but I found another aspect of his interview more interesting. He says that the media portray the typical loyalist unfairly as “muscled, perma-tanned, tattooed, gold-necklaced, numerous ringed, male, with a pit bull terrier and a tight t-shirt”. He goes on to look at the notion that in Long Kesh, republican prisoners studied and took university courses, while loyalists were busy pumping iron in the gym. “In actual fact, more loyalists prisoners left Long Kesh with university degrees than republican prisoners did”.
Really? That’s the second PUP leader I’ve heard make that kind of claim. The late David Ervine once told me that loyalists in Long Kesh were some ten years ahead of republicans in their emphasis on study and education. At the time, I didn’t believe him. Now that John Kyle has effectively repeated the claim, I’m not so sure. There must be facts and figures on this matter: where are they? And if Ervine and Kyle’s claim is accurate, where did the studying-republican/iron-pumping loyalist idea come from – and why? If it’s not accurate, why have they made it?
The truth is out there. It’s a question of finding it.