John Dunlop

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
[?-?]; b. Newry; former Presbyterian moderator [to 1992]; issued A Precarious Belonging (1995), exploring the identity of Ulster Presbyterianism, its importance in the community, and arguing that the siege mentality will be ‘the death of us all’.

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Works
A Precarious Belonging, Presbyterians and the Conflict in Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff 1995), 168pp.

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Commentary
Marianne Elliott, ‘Besieged by rhetoric’ - the phrase being Dunlop’s - review of Precarious Belonging with other works on N. Ireland, in Times Literary Supplement (9 Feb. 1996), pp.4-5: Elliott remarks: ‘Precarious Belonging is one of the best examples of the kind of long-overdue debate (uncomfortable and discomfiting though it may be) which is finally taking place in N. Ireland’, and quotes the conclusion: ‘What more than anything is needed in Northern Ireland is a build-up of trust. Too much energy is squandered in a search for great and complete constitutional constructs that will solve all problems at once, and for all time. At every possible occasion, negotiators tackle most difficult and divisive issues first. They head off for the North Face of the Eiger, without first traversing the foothills ... Not surprisingly, they either fall off or get stuck halfway up.’

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Quotations
A Precarious Belonging (1995): ‘Or do we suspect that here we have no abiding city and that the Plantation will yet be reversed and we will, however reluctantly, return to the place whence we came 350 yeats ago, and Ireland shall know us no more!’ (q.p.) ‘It is a humiliating experience for people to be overlooked, misinterpreted, or rendered voiceless’ (p.3.) ‘The sense of connectedness with the metrical psalmist is so strong that you would be forgiven for thinking that King David had lived in Edinburgh and not in Jerusalem and that he was a Presbyterian and not a Jew’ (p.110.) ‘Deep within the Presbyterian psyche there is an accountability ... everything matters [before God]’; ‘Presbyterians try to get the language right first and then build the relationships’. (Quoted in Eull Dunlop, reviewing same, in Linenhall Review, Winter 1995, pp.23-25.)

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References
COPAC: If there is to be a lasting Irish solution, Protestants will have to be accommodated. Presbyterians, the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland, have had a profound effect on the region's history and politics. Yet they are often misunderstood or simply ignored in the search for political solutions to the conflict. In this timely book, former Presbyterian Moderator John Dunlop explores the identity of modern Irish Presbyterianism, explaining its complex sense of Britishness and Irishness, but arguing against the siege mentality which ‘will be the death of us all’. [Accessed 29.07.08.]

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