The Pens of the Defeated: John Hewitt, Sam Thompson and the Northern Ireland Labour Party

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Abstract

Telescoping the political lives and work of Sam Thompson and John Hewitt, this article demonstrates the importance of the Labour movement on both Belfast-born Protestant writers and how this inculcated a socialist conviction quite separate and antagonistic to Ulster unionism. Referencing Thompson’s unpublished, largely unknown plays as well as newspapers and his trio of performed works, the article illuminates his public impact as well as the significance of the play Over the Bridge (1960). Hewitt’s early political activities and regionalist outlook are explored, as is the controversy surrounding his 1957 move to Coventry. The underestimated importance of a class perspective within Northern Protestantism is addressed, the article arguing that questions of national identity are secondary to the writers’ class and internationalist politics. With continuing resonance, literature and writing itself are shown as intrinsic to the Northern Ireland Labour Party, with which both were associated, fuelling resistance to both unionism and Irish nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-166
JournalIrish Studies Review
Volume22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

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