Roy Garland

author and activist, N. Ireland

Roy Garland was born and reared in an evangelical home on Belfast's Loyalist Shankill Road. He left school at 14, but spent two years in full‐time training at the evangelical interdenominational All Nations Christian College near London, returning to Belfast when his father died in 1962. There, Mr. Garland began to attend Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church and participated in various protests and rallies in Belfast. He was actively involved in Ulster Unionist Party politics, demanding that Unionist politicians reject Westminster interference in areas legitimately within local jurisdiction.

By 1970, however Mr. Garland began questioning his former views. In 1973 he was an undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) reading Social Science. He completed a Certificate in Ecumenics through Ulster University and the Irish School of Ecumenics during the mid 1980s. By 1991 Mr. Garland had completed a Masters Dissertation on the "new thinking" within the leadership of the modern Ulster Volunteer Force, which was turned into a booklet by the Progressive Unionist Party for distribution among Loyalists and others wishing to understand Loyalism.

By the mid‐1990s Mr. Garland became involved in the "Shankill Think Tank," discussing a way forward for the Protestant working class. During 1995 he began, and continues, a weekly Monday Column with the nationalist Irish News. That same year he became a founder member and co‐chair of the cross‐border/cross‐community Guild of Uriel based near Dundalk and promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and accommodation.

He again became active in the Ulster Unionist Party by the early 1990s and was the first, and virtually only,Unionist to address the Dublin based Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. For this he was disciplined by the UUP but managed to remain a member. The Union Group later sought an inclusive agenda fostering healing and reconciliation within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. Mr. Garland organised meetings of the Union Group with senior Irish and British Government Ministers.

He was part of an organising committee drawn from the Union Group for "East Belfast Speaks Out," believed to be the first such panel discussion organised by Unionists. The panel consisting of Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein MLA), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP MP, MLA), Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International) and Laurence Robertson MP (Ulster Conservative and Unionist Shadow Minister for NI). It was chaired by Belfast's Lord Mayor Naomi Long (Alliance Party MLA).

Mr. Garland is author of a biography of former loyalist leader Gusty Spence (2001) and has contributed articles to various publications on politics, history and religion. He is currently working with a project involving IRA Veterans of the 1956‐62 Operation Harvest Border Campaign entitled, “Then and now, a future without political violence?” Mr. Garland has worked with former UDA and UVF prisoners and activists for decades and is a commentator on radio and television. He is also a regular speaker at meetings involving people from all backgrounds in Ireland north and south.

Roy Garland was born and reared in an evangelical home on Belfast's Loyalist Shankill Road. He left school at 14, but spent two years in full‐time training at the evangelical interdenominational All Nations Christian College near London, returning to Belfast when his father died in 1962. There, Mr. Garland began to attend Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church and participated in various protests and rallies in Belfast. He was actively involved in Ulster Unionist Party politics, demanding that Unionist politicians reject Westminster interference in areas legitimately within local jurisdiction.

By 1970, however Mr. Garland began questioning his former views. In 1973 he was an undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) reading Social Science. He completed a Certificate in Ecumenics through Ulster University and the Irish School of Ecumenics during the mid 1980s. By 1991 Mr. Garland had completed a Masters Dissertation on the "new thinking" within the leadership of the modern Ulster Volunteer Force, which was turned into a booklet by the Progressive Unionist Party for distribution among Loyalists and others wishing to understand Loyalism.

By the mid‐1990s Mr. Garland became involved in the "Shankill Think Tank," discussing a way forward for the Protestant working class. During 1995 he began, and continues, a weekly Monday Column with the nationalist Irish News. That same year he became a founder member and co‐chair of the cross‐border/cross‐community Guild of Uriel based near Dundalk and promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and accommodation.

He again became active in the Ulster Unionist Party by the early 1990s and was the first, and virtually only,Unionist to address the Dublin based Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. For this he was disciplined by the UUP but managed to remain a member. The Union Group later sought an inclusive agenda fostering healing and reconciliation within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. Mr. Garland organised meetings of the Union Group with senior Irish and British Government Ministers.

He was part of an organising committee drawn from the Union Group for "East Belfast Speaks Out," believed to be the first such panel discussion organised by Unionists. The panel consisting of Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein MLA), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP MP, MLA), Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International) and Laurence Robertson MP (Ulster Conservative and Unionist Shadow Minister for NI). It was chaired by Belfast's Lord Mayor Naomi Long (Alliance Party MLA).

Mr. Garland is author of a biography of former loyalist leader Gusty Spence (2001) and has contributed articles to various publications on politics, history and religion. He is currently working with a project involving IRA Veterans of the 1956‐62 Operation Harvest Border Campaign entitled, “Then and now, a future without political violence?” Mr. Garland has worked with former UDA and UVF prisoners and activists for decades and is a commentator on radio and television. He is also a regular speaker at meetings involving people from all backgrounds in Ireland north and south.


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