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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Roy Garland is a newspaper columnist for the nationalist Irish News and a member of the Ulster Unionist Party Image of Roy Garland

My earliest background was one in which I was told the stories of the persecution of Protestants in the past, particularly in England - the martyrs like Latimer and Ridley, the stories of the Spanish Inquisition told in graphic detail. I had a book which illustrated all this, you know. But that seemed to be sort of forgotten for a time and I became an evangelical Christian as my parents were.

And then in the, that would have been the early 60s, I started listening to Ian Paisley and others who were saying that the old situation was coming back and we were going to be persecuted again, and the Civil Rights Movement was a front for the Catholic Church and for the IRA. And unthinkingly really, I got deeply involved in paramilitarism, Orangeism and Unionism.

After sort of a few years of that, I had grave doubts about what I was in because I had a fair grasp of a lot of these things were wrong, and eventually I had the courage to take steps to get out of it. Now I took my life in my hands in a sense, but I could see the, I mean the rules were bent, things that were done privately, they were not seen publicly. And there was a lot of twisting of the rules, and also I heard stories about people within our organisation attacking Catholics and I felt that this wasn't right, this was not the war, you know, to protect ourselves - this was actually an aggressive war. And I came to the view, in my own mind without talking to anyone, that it was wrong and eventually, with other factors, I walked out of that. And of course, I walked out of everything - the Orange Order, the Unionist party, the Tara for a period of time, and re-thought everything.

I actually came back to the Unionist party with a different perspective on things and I believe Unionism is possible without being sectarian, and so on.

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