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About the Guide


Bypassing the mass media
There is a long tradition of alternative political media in Northern Ireland. It ranges from pamphlets and leaflets through to parade banners, murals and graffiti. Since Internet technology became widely available in the late 1990s this tradition has been continued and extended online. Suspicion of the mass media and accusations of a liberal media bias are recurrent themes in unionist and loyalist discussion on the media and many of them have seized on the new technologies as a means to bypass the mass media. This guide is a first attempt to make some kind of assessment of the scale and character of online activity by Ulster loyalists and unionists. Up until now we have not even had a crude estimate of how many such sites there are.

Over 270 Ulster Loyalist and Unionist websites
This guide organises and provides links to over 270 loyalist and unionist websites, including links to archived copies of defunct sites. It aims to be comprehensive but inevitably some sites have been missed out. There are also huge difficulties in defining whether a site is loyalist/unionist or not as politics shades off on all sides - into religion, music, sport, genealogy and culture. The guide excludes loyal order and loyalist band sites if they give no indication of a connection to the contemporary politics of Northern Ireland, for example. However it includes loyal order and band sites even if their only reference to contemporary politics is a link to a political website or the use of contemporary political symbols. They are included on the grounds that they can be usefully grouped as part of a wider loyalist and unionist presence online.

Defunct sites
Over fifty of the websites in this guide were defunct as of August 2004. By March 2005 eighty-nine of the 271 websites catalogued here were defunct. Many of these sites last only a matter of months and cataloguing defunct sites gives us a sense of the scale and character of online activity over time. Many more sites included in this guide are ghost sites. You can still access them but they have not been altered in years and are not being maintained. It seems only a matter of time before they are cleared off the servers that host them.

Where copies of some or all of the pages from defunct websites have been archived by the Internet Archive this guide provides a link to the archived copies. In many cases the Internet Archive has saved only the home page of a site, or a small selection of pages, and a large number of these pages have not been archived by anyone.

In at least two cases new owners of a defunct domain name are blocking the Internet Archive from making the archived websites which used to be at these domains available. These archives remain intact but the public can't currently access them. The Internet Archive is working to resolve the problem.

Guestbook discussions
One of the most intriguing aspects of unionism and loyalism online is the intensity and variety of discussion taking place on the guestbooks associated with many of the sites included in the guide. Many people who would never have committed their voices to print before are contributing to these guestbooks, often giving voice to sentiments and arguments rarely expressed in the public realm. The Internet Archive does not appear to archive these guestbooks.

A long-term project
This guide is conceived as a long-term project to record loyalist and unionist activity online, not simply as a guide to existing sites. As time goes on an ever-larger proportion of sites listed in this guide will be defunct and the guide will serve as a historical record of activity.

Some of the sites in this guide have been more fully catalogued, on the dates beside which an asterisk appears. For more information on the notation read About the Guide.

Suggestions for sites to be included in this guide are welcome, to be emailed to:

Document information
Author: Niall O Dochartaigh
First produced: August 2004
Updated: December 6, 2004; March 31, 2005; September 21, 2005.