There is a growing sense of unease simmering under the surface of the Unionist/Loyalist communities across Northern Ireland. They feel threatened, abandoned, and fearful that their cultural identity is slowly but surely being eroded. Rightly or wrongly their 'accepted' cultural practices of old such as building towering bonfires draped in anti-Irish paraphernalia, or marching through contentious areas that for decades went unchallenged are now heavily disputed, restrained, or forbidden. These feelings have been compounded in recent years for number of reasons including the vote to limit the number of days the Union Flag flies from Belfast City Hall, a demographic change in Northern Ireland where Unionism is no longer in politically dominant, and most recently Brexit. This Trio of events on top of the myriad of small attacks on culture has now created what would appear to be the perfect storm to create the Unionist’s ultimate nightmare...a United Ireland.
Identity Matters, It matter to all of us. It gives us a common set of values, accepted behaviours, heritage, traditions & rituals and most importantly a sense of belonging, without which would leave us feeling isolated, alone, & vulnerable. Instilled from very early childhood each culture and sub culture will have their own set of cultural values and expressions which make them unique. 'Identity Matters' strives to portray the angst felt within Unionist/Loyalist communities across Belfast & Northern Ireland with an emphasis on the working class urban loyalists. From the gentrification of the old 'loyalist strongholds', a lack of political representation of the working class', to attacks on Orange Lodges and 'Cultural' symbols & past-times; the Unionists/Loyalists across Northern Ireland fear that their Cultural Identity is going to be eradicated entirely.
As would be expected when ones identity is under a sustained subtle attack, perceived or otherwise, human nature’s fight or flight response mechanism kicks in. Whilst this primal instinct is ordinarily attributed to an individual’s response to harmful event, attack, or threat to survival; the same fight or flight reaction will occur when a community’s cultural identity is under threat. As the flight response is not a possibility for the Unionist/Loyalist communities in their ‘culture war’ (there is nowhere to ‘fly’ too, the geographical location of these communities is for all intents and purposes fixed), their only option is to fight. The 'fight' has manifested in a doubling of Orange Order marches across Northern Ireland since 2005, an increase in demarcation of loyalist/unionist areas with the flying of flags & paramilitary markings, and even an Orange Order ‘Civil Rights Camp’ in situ at one of Belfast’s most notorious interfaces for 3 years."