For the township in Canada, see Loyalist, Ontario

In general, a loyalist is an individual who is loyal to the powers that be. Two main historical groups of individuals have been specifically called "Loyalists" in English. For Loyalists in the American Revolutionary War, see the main article at Loyalist (American Revolution). The remainder of this article concerns Loyalists in the United Kingdom.

Loyalists in Northern Ireland

A loyalist in Northern Ireland is another name for a Unionist who feels strongly about the political union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In recent times, however, some sections of the media have devalued the term to refer to someone on the extreme fringe of Unionism who resorts to murder, or threatens to do so, in what they perceive as their defence of their community, Protestantism and Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom. Loyalists within Northern Ireland live within small working enclaves within the major urban centres, such as Belfast and Londonderry. The rest of this article mainly refers to this second definition.

A number of Loyalist paramilitary groups exist; these include the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), and the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Though loyalists claim to speak on behalf of their community and the unionist community, the evidence of electoral contests suggest that their support is minimal and exclusively urban, working class based. Only one moderate pro-Belfast Agreement loyalist party (the PUP) won any seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1999.

Ideologically, Loyalism is typified by a militant opposition to Republicanism and devout Protestantism. It stresses identity and community with its own folk heroes and events, e.g. the heroic exploits of the 36th (Ulster) Division during World War I.

In 1980, it emerged that loyalists who controlled the Kincora Boys Home in Belfast had allowed members of the civil service and British security forces to sexually molest young boys in the home. They then influenced British government policy by blackmailing the child abusers.

Loyalism has a diverse following ranging from left-wing sympathisers to supporters of an independent Ulster to the British National Front.

Officially most loyalist organisations are in ceasefire mode as a result of the Belfast Agreement, though numerous breaches of the ceasefire have been recorded. Many loyalist groups are heavily involved in the drugs trade.

Loyalists in Scotland

A loyalist in Scotland is someone on the fringes of Scottish unionism and who is often stridently supportive of loyalism and unionism, although mainly concentrating on the Irish union, rather than Scottish politics.

Although a tiny fraction of the Scottish population, and less so in comparison to their Northern Ireland counterparts, their profile has become more prominent with strident demonstrations of their beliefs since the establishment of a Scottish Parliament - often seen at loyalist marches and through their support for Rangers F.C.

On the extreme it will be supportive of violence, or threats of violence, in what they perceive as a "defence" of loyalists, unionists, their version of Protestantism and Northern Ireland's and Scotland's positions as part of the United Kingdom.

Although far less active and organised in Scotland than their Northern Ireland counterparts, they have been involved in a small number of activities over the years of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Most notably have been two pub bombings, spontaneous murders of people they perceive as enemies of their version of Protestantism and gun running to Northern Ireland.

Loyalists within Scotland live within very small working enclaves in the major urban centres or industrial villages, in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, West Lothian and Ayrshire. In areas such as the Highlands, Borders and the North East (including Aberdeen), there are relatively few.

A number of loyalist paramilitary groups are supported by loyalaists in Scotland, which include the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), etc. Although it nominally repudiates these organisations the Orange Order in Scotland has members and flute bands who support and are members of these organisations.

Though loyalists claim to speak on behalf of Protestants and unionists, there is no evidence of political support. In fact many of the political representatives in their areas are often from the Labour Party and, far less so, the Scottish National Party. Neither party supports their programme.

Ideologically, Scottish Loyalism is typified by a strident, and at times militant, opposition to Republicanism, Scottish independence and the Roman Catholic Church - particularly the existence of Roman Catholic denominational schools.

Loyalists in England

Loyalists can also be found in some parts of England, especially Liverpool, Manchester and London, where there are substantial Irish emigrant populations.


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