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From Belfast to the Somme (and back again): loyalist paramilitaries, political song, and reverberations of violence

Millar, Stephen ORCID: and Chatzipanagiotidou, Evropi 2021. From Belfast to the Somme (and back again): loyalist paramilitaries, political song, and reverberations of violence. Ethnomusicology Forum 30 (2) , pp. 246-265. 10.1080/17411912.2020.1865178

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During the Northern Ireland conflict (1968–1998), paramilitary groups were supported and sustained by a sociocultural apparatus that helped legitimise their position within the community and disseminate their political message. From the use of flags and murals, to loyalist and republican parades, working-class vernacular culture revealed who was in control of various districts within the Province. For many working-class Protestants, loyalist songs were a key component of this culture, connecting the past and the present. Unlike the better-known marching band scene, which is a huge public spectacle, the loyalist song scene is much more private. Performed in a closed setting, within local bars and clubs, loyalist songs are reproduced for internal consumption rather than outward expression. Yet, in addition to celebrating a particular loyalist culture, such songs also serve an important function in authenticating and legitimising paramilitary groups, connecting them to older organisations, whose legacy they draw upon. This paper focuses on one such song, exploring how ‘The Ballad of Billy McFadzean’ is used to connect the Ulster Volunteer Force of the 1960s onwards, with the 1913 organisation of the same name. In so doing, the paper attempts to illustrate the political utility of song and how songs can be used to launder and legitimise conflict, as well as those engaged in political violence.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Music
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): SSH Titles
ISSN: 1741-1912
Funders: Leverhulme Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 February 2021
Date of Acceptance: 14 December 2020
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 23:19

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