“Unionism Decayed 1997-2007″ by David Vance: book review

I initially wrote this when the book was first published three years ago; whilst certain elements of it now sound dated, its basic premise that the period of 1997-2007 was a period of irreversible decay for Northern Irish Unionism can still be argued as a valid opinion.  My own feeling is that it did indeed herald the end of the traditional monolithic form of Unionism but not necessarily even the beginning of the end of N.Ireland’s place within the Union.

Anyway, the review, updated where required.

 

 

Unionism Decayed 1997-2007″ is a book described by its author, David Vance, as “lifting the lid on the catastrophic failure of political Unionism over the past decade”. Vance is, of course, the man behind the Tangled Web blog, which I guess most people reading will have paid a visit to at one time or other- suffice to say for several reasons, it’s not really my cup of tea.

This book, however, reveals a controlled depth of thinking which is not always apparent from his posts on his blog and is a compelling look at what he would probably term as a “traditional” (small “T”) Unionist opinion of the “Peace Process” and the political situation Northern Irish Unionism found itself in at the end of the tumultuous decade since the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

No player really escapes from the Vance onslaught: the UUP, the DUP, Vichy(!) Unionism generally, the protestant church leaders, the loyalist paramilitaries and the British government have all contributed, in his opinion, to the weakening of the Unionist “Community’s” links with the rest of the United Kingdom. His personality and personal history intertwines with much of that narrative and contributes to the overall understanding of his argument- for example in the chapter about the Orange Order, we learn that his family was one of those protestant ones “encouraged” by republicans to leave the Ballyoran Estate in Portadown in 1974. Ballyoran, of course, is now 100% “nationalist” and lies parallel to the “nationalist” Garvaghy Road. His opinion of the various Unionist dignitaries he has personally met over time is also occasionally enlightening and humorous- who would have guessed, for example, that debating with the erstwhile Upper Bann MLA, George Savage, was apparently akin to “pummeling a blancmange”?!

As someone who considers himself a “non-traditional” Unionist, I thought it would be a relatively easy task to pick holes in the Vance analysis but in most of the cases he dealt with, I found myself nodding in agreement.

Yes, the UUP were guilty of “sclerotic incompetence” as the “Peace Process” developed; yes, the DUP put and continues to put the “survival of the DUP” as opposed to that of the Union at the top of its priorities; yes, N.Ireland’s church leaders are, to a large extent, self-publicising “useful fools” rather than providers of  strong, moral guidance to their flocks and yes, loyalist terrorists were and remain a “toxic presence” who should not be “tolerated and in time, embraced” by anyone with a shred of conscience or decency. With regards the “bigger” players, that is to say the various governments, then Lord Palmerston’s quote should be borne in mind by all those who consider themselves pro-Union:

We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies.

Our interests are eternal and perpetual  and those interests it is our duty to follow.

The writing itself is of a high standard (certainly of a much higher standard than many of those self-anointed experts who write on Northern Irish political issues)- it is also one of those few polemical books that I couldn’t put down once I had started reading it. However, it did have a main style weakness in that I felt each chapter (devoted to one of the major players listed above), although they worked well in isolation, did not link together adequately enough to build the bigger inter-connected picture. It sometimes seemed that I was reading a set of extended blog posts (albeit well-written and constructed ones) rather than a cohesive analysis of the “decay” of Northern Irish Unionism.

More abstractly, having finished the book there was present a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction- yes, he is largely right in many of his assertions, or at least makes strong, logical arguments for them. Nevertheless, no solutions are forthcoming on how Unionism as a political philosophy (as distinct from “Community”) could now be pushed forward and very little recognition (apart from a few paragraphs in what appears to be a rushed final chapter) is made of the current dangers posed to our nation by the three simmering forms of nationalisms present in England, Scotland and Wales.

Two relevant quotes come to mind here, the first from Alexsander Kwasniewski, President of Poland 1995-2005:

…irresponsible criticism – the eagerness to expose and publicise a problem, unmatched by the willingness to propose feasible solutions – is perhaps the most common form of dishonesty in politics.

Granted most of Mr Vance’s opinions in this book can’t be classed as “irresponsible criticism” (they are closer to objective fact) but it would have been much more intellectually honest of him to also state whether there are feasible solutions for the problems and weaknesses he has outlined. Also as Unionists we, and particularly those like Vance who do possess the intellectual ability to push our argument forward to the undecideds and neutrals, should always bear in mind the words spoken originally by the murdered Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ylva Anna Maria Lindh:

Resignation is our greatest enemy

Unionism has enough enemies, in the wider UK as well as N.Irish context, without adding apathetic defeatism to the list and whilst it has made many mistakes since the creation of N.Ireland and more recently in the UK as a whole, the Union still remains, albeit in a much different form to that which existed in 1800, 1922 and 1997.

If we follow the Vance line from this book, however, we are now moving into a period of “carefully managed decline” and that would be biggest criticism of “Unionism Decayed”: the white flag is being hoisted up the mast whilst there is still a very good chance of winning both the present short-term battles and the overall war.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Thanks O’Neill. I will definitely try and get a hold of this book – and what somehow I image is a paralell, the Antony McIntyre tract which images the end of republicanism – they cant both be right.

  • Mary Anna

    I/m back, well i have met David a very decent man! But the sinners hate him, cause he tells it as it is -and the Dup don’t seem to like him either – because they can’t control him. David is a man of truth and one thing NI don’t like is the facts about the useless po£iticians up in the house on the hill Stormont! The wasters of tax payers money they could not run an egg and spoon race for the country. Ps David keep writing…

  • Mick Fealty

    Eddie, that’s the thing. They might just both be right.

  • edgeoftheunion

    Mick

    I agree. The much derided centre ground has actually been more honest in the last 40 years. OK they didn’t get the votes, but they have won the argument.

    We have to live together. To be honest, many of us really enjoy it.

  • lover not a fighter

    It does seem certain that unionism is in decline.

    But there is not much sign that nationalism/republicanism is on the ascent

    This may be the best forward solution.

    Slow evolution to something exceptable to the overwhelming majority.

  • Nunoftheabove

    edgeoftheunion

    What argument’s that then ?

    McIntyre has at least the sense to recognize that he found himself on the losing side and had cause to believe that he’d done a lot of time for nothing and killed people for the same zero return. Vance on the other hand, well….

  • Framer

    When you wrote of “irresponsible criticism – the eagerness to expose and publicise a problem, unmatched by the willingness to propose feasible solutions – perhaps the most common form of dishonesty in politics” that chimed with my opinion of a certain breed of journalist, popular in or from Ireland like Robert Fisk or Alexander Cockburn, recently interviewed at length on RTE. Perhaps even Eamonn McCann. ‘Willing to wound…’

  • Mick Fealty

    With respect, that’s less an argument than a statement of personal disdain. There’s a difference.

    I wonder if the decay we’re talking about arises from a change in existential conditions. I know I have spoken privately to some Republican politicians who still say that Northern Ireland will never be at rest until the British leave.

    But most negative prognoses of mainstream Republican intent in the peace process era from Conor Cruise O’Brien for example, have been proven if not wrong, then too negative.

    For all the inactivity of the first four years, and this term (no budget, or pfg since March), nature abhors a vacuum. Both SF and the DUP have committed themselves more and more deeply to representative democracy.

    All the talk of an Opposition is fine, and who would not agree in another time and another place. But this ‘ugly scaffolding’ is going to stay unless some political project can (*democratically*) displace the current incumbents: note that, for now at least, most critics of the BA/SAA struggle to get any kind of support at the ballot box.

    By which time, both unionism and republicanism in their more traditional guises may very well have decayed. Since that’s likely to be at least three election cycles away, we may only know by then whether that’s a good or bad thing.

  • vanhelsing

    O’Neill just because it’s you I’ll check it out. Good review btw. DV is not someone I’d align to politically on all issues but his take might be interesting. I think (although on iPhone can’t go into analysis in depth) the Union is stronger now than in 1997.

  • AGlassOfHine

    nun
    The centre ground were the decent,law abiding citizens who did not support paramilitary violence.
    I think you can safely say we won.
    Even the DFM is on board now.
    itw
    I’m guessing you idea of ‘a lasting peace’ is a ui ?
    Hmmm,I’m thinking the VAST majority of people living in Northern Ireland don’t want that.
    Take away the dopey religion……………………then we will have the ‘lasting peace’.

  • Decimus

    It was said back then that unionists had won, but were too stupid to realise it, and that republicans had lost, but were too smart to admit it.

    That was a fairly sound analysis.

  • AGlassOfHine

    I’m guessing the flag flying over Stormont and the City Hall tells you ‘who won’.

    ;-)

  • Into the west

    Yeah Mick I think i just about managed to dodge the ice there!
    The Union more respectable van, not sure if that equates to stronger.
    What was most rotten about the State decayed away,
    we should all be thankful for that
    But lamenting the loss of supremacy, the loss of discrimination
    is like crying over the end of the black death .

    I think for some removing the Royal of the RUC
    and changing to PSNI left them forever bewildered
    and stranded on a lake whose shores are closing in.

  • Decimus

    I think for some removing the Royal of the RUC
    and changing to PSNI left them forever bewildered
    and stranded on a lake whose shores are closing in.

    I think that the joy that nationalists/republicans derived from that insult is overplayed a bit. The RUC changed their cap badge and name (though it should be pointed out that the full title of the current force is The Police Service of Northern Ireland (Incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross) )and had a new oversight body appointed along with 50/50 recruiting etc, but the same people remained doing the same job.

    I don’t think it has left unionists wandering around bewildered and stranded. Though if republicans, who would have been inclined to terrorism, are assuaged by the assumption that unionists are in a state of despair because of the police reforms. To the extent that they no longer feel the urge to murder people then it was a cunning sleight of hand.

  • Into the west

    Glass,
    “Hmmm,I’m thinking the VAST majority of people
    living in Northern Ireland don’t want that”

    You obviously haven’t read my bue-print
    response to Unionism decayed, its called

    “We’re all Irish now”-

    a study of identity- real and imagined ;)

  • Jimmy Sands

    Hardly anyone sees the union is something that might be an issue for the foreseeable future. It’s never been stronger. Vance complains that the provos were co-opted rather than crushed, but this has strengthened rather than than weakened the union. Other civic values may have been compromised but the unions enemies have been weakened far more by being paid off than they ever could have been by security measures.

  • Mick Fealty

    Into the west,

    I suspect you are completely misquoting Davids argument. David’s of the assimilationist school of politics. This was, according to Norman Porter, liberal in its intent to rid Northern Ireland of its ethnic divisions by seeking to draw the Catholic minority into the de-ethnitised organs of the British state.

  • Jimmy Sands

    My apologies if I have, but I was certainly under the impression that SF in government was a red line issue for him.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s true. But from his point of view that weakens the union because it dilutes the British democratic culture of Northern Ireland. And he has other, morality based reasons for not doing so.

    I suspect you are right re the Union. But it is likely to be heavily reshaped and recalibrated over the next few years as that incredibly eastic, unwritten constitution gets stretched even further by the emergent debate in Scotland.

  • Into the west

    Mick, I am corrected and that is a generous view of his arguement.
    if only assimilation was the policy, we may have avoided the troubles.
    Paisley’s thugs and counter-demos put pay to that.

    And of couse the sleight of hand of calling for blood,
    catholic blood without taking responsiblity for it was a masterstroke.
    ( to aglassofhine ) + I did say “some unioinists” 9:50pm

  • Mick Fealty

    Your just improv-ing ITW. Theres nothing generous about it. That’s his position. To be harsh about it, it failed because they failed to win the argument at any representative level.

    The arguments may be persuasive in the abstract, but they failed to find purchase within unionism never mind amongst the would be assimilatees.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Mick, that was my understanding of his position as well, but I was merely observing that although it may be corrosive of much else, it strengthened the union. In fact, the paradox has often been pointed out that a united Ireland would be a very effective way of removing them.

  • unicorn

    Unionist decline since 1997? Let’s look at some numbers from both ends of that period rather than prose and spin.

    1997 Westminster election – 50.5% unionist votes, 13 unionist seats
    2010 Westminster election – 50.6% unionist votes, 9 unionist seats

    1998 Assembly – 55 unionist seats out of 108
    2011 Assembly – 55 unionist seats out of 108

    NILT survey – “Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to remain part of the UK?”
    1998 57% (85% of Protestants, 19% of Catholics)
    2010 76% (90% of Protestants, 52% of Catholics)

    “Reunify with the rest of Ireland?”
    1998 22% (4% of Protestants, 49% of Catholics)
    2010 16% (4% of Protestants, 33% of Catholics)

    Labour Force Survey religious composition of 16+ population
    1997 55% Protestant, 40% Catholic, Other 6%
    2009 50% Protestant, 42% Catholic, Other 8%

    So in summary since 1997 the “Catholic community background” voting population has increased by at least 2%, probably more like 3%, the unionist share of the total vote has remained the same as it was in 1997 despite this, the number of unionist seats in Stormont is now the same as it was in 1998, unionists have lost several nationalist majority or near majority Westminster seats that they had “unfairly”, due to vote splitting as the DUP took over from the UUP, the proportion of Protestants having the union as their preferred long term option has gone up and support for a united Ireland amongst Catholics has dropped significantly.

    Is this a picture which justifies the statement “it does seem certain that unionism is in decline” or justifies the contention that it was in decline between 1997 and the present day? I guess it depends on what one means by “unionism” and what one means by “decline”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Jimmy, I don’t disagree.

  • unicorn

    “Into the west (profile) says:

    Yeah Mick I think i just about managed to dodge the ice there!
    The Union more respectable van, not sure if that equates to stronger.
    What was most rotten about the State decayed away,
    we should all be thankful for that
    But lamenting the loss of supremacy, the loss of discrimination
    is like crying over the end of the black death .”

    Frankly I think that even playing with the idea of unionists lamenting the loss of supremacy or discrimination, even portraying David Vance as doing so, is itself an example of bigotry, and precisely the sort of bigotry that prolonged the killing. Bigotry of the sort used by Mao, Pol Pot, or Hitler when they said “see that university lecturer / spectacles wearer / Jew over there, he’s exploiting you and he’s laughing to himself about it” which is precisely the type most likely to produce mass murder.

    The average unionist alive today was not even born when Stormont collapsed, of those who were a sizable number had not yet completed primary school. Of those who are 57 or older who actually had a vote in 1972 very few will have supported anything that they would have saw as “supremacy” at the time, and most likely the concept that Catholics were not given a fair crack of the whip would be something akin to a taboo or an area of cognitive dissonance, not a cause for jubilation. The chances that they will think to themself “wasn’t it great when Catholics didn’t get a fair crack of the whip, I wish it were like that again” are about the same as the chances that they were born with six fingers on each hand.

    In fact the average loyalist bigot less than 57 years old, or even older, will have most likely grown up thinking that “fenians” get everything from the government and prods get nothing, look at all the LEDU cash that was spent in Catholic areas, look at that new leisure centre and ours is shit, so on and so forth, you get the picture, much as the average BNP voter in a northern English town thinks of the “paki” areas around him. Such a person is hardly going to lament the loss of supremacy when they thought that it was they who were being discriminated against all along, are they?

    In any case portraying unionists as lamenting discrimination and supremacy is not just offensive but also rather silly from the point of view of common sense. Like portraying the tories under Harold Macmillan as lamenting the fact that women had the vote and pining for the days of male only suffrage.

  • abucs

    Well Northern Ireland is still united to Britain and not under any threat of changing that any time soon.

    Perhaps the decay Vance is talking about is the decay in his preferred ideas of what the union should be?

  • JoeBryce

    I would like to point out a paradox.

    If DV is an assimilationist, a la Molyneaux, then the irony is that he reserved his most vigorous criticism for David Trimble. Trimble’s vision as set out in ‘To Build up a New Northern Ireland’ was NI as a self-confident part of multi-cultural Britain, with a local Assembly no more significant than its Scottish, Welsh, or London equivalents.

    The unionist electorate, in ousting Trimble, replaced the nearest practical approximation to actually existing integration with a sort of Ulster nationalism. That seems to me to point ultimately to an all-Ireland structure.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think, Joe, that that problem pertains because assimilation remained and remains a theoretical construct rather than a realistic goal.

    There are many ways to heaven so long as you actually make the journey rather than just talk about it!

  • Into the west

    I agree with you unicorn
    were I to have said “most” unionists think like that
    you would have a point.
    The fact that I said “some” unionists is my get-out clause,
    clearly I am pointing to the unrepresentative TUVies.
    whereas “most” unionists have moved on,
    voting for power-sharing and the institutions.
    shared future and all that
    There are still too many dinosaurs on both sides though !

  • FuturePhysicist

    unicorn,

    a word from the wise from “the other side”, many of those attacking monolithic unionism from within unionism obsess about unionist culture more than unionist persuasion. Unionist culture of all types probably isn’t what it is in the 70’s neither would it be said it reflects a complete juxtaposition of the British culture of Great Britain on the British culture that exists here.

    Why should it?

    People living here live in a different environment, socially, economically, culturally, politically and even climatically, while unionism may be more diverse a category and perhaps holding little more coherence than just the “unionist persuasion argument” rather than a common culture, it will rarely be a like for like reflection of Britishness within Britain.

    The same could be said about the Northern Irish nationalist and the Irish in the Republic.

  • aquifer

    “no solutions are forthcoming”

    No surprise, Orange Unionism cannot propagate the fantasy that it is possible to give second class status to british citizens due to their catholic religion, without damaging their own political interests.

    Old men angry at what? their own political incompetence and sectarian self-absorbtion, or the ability of a bomb and pistol gang to blackmail the Brits?

    The first flatters the last.

    Unionists should stop excusing armed separatists and lose the political Orange link. What are a few lean years against an historic slide to extinction on Tory grease?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agreed with “unicorn” and others, the charge “the union is being/might be/will be weakened” has been an electoral battle cry for unionist parties ever since partition, and indeed before then. It has always been a massive scare tactic used to ensure the ongoing turnout of the faithful at the polls. I am glad that unionism has largely moved away from this and has, to some extent, seized control of its own destiny, manifested most recently in the attendance of the First Minister at the inauguration of the new Irish president last weekend.

    I’d say with IRA violence out of the way and a written acceptance of the validity of the union, and the rights of unionists, now a matter of international agreement involving both nationalists and the Irish government, the union is clearly safer than at any time since partition. I even get the sneaking suspicion that unionist politicians have surprised themselves by how much fun they can have just by being nice.

  • galloglaigh

    David’s of the assimilationist school of politics… intent to rid Northern Ireland of its ethnic divisions by seeking to draw the Catholic minority into the de-ethnitised organs of the British state

    Have you been to ‘Britain’ lately? It’s a deeply divided set of nations, whose people’s ethnicity originates across the four corners of the globe. Most of them have gone from ‘assimilation’, into ethnic ghettos, just like our segregated N.Ireland. There is nothing ‘de-ethnitised’ about the British state. It’s as divided, if not worse, than our little old ‘Province’.

    Most nationalist and republicans, will never assimilate into British society. During the last forty years, the Catholic ‘minority’ were given the collective punishment of the British state, due to a minority within that community who wrecked havoc. The British army’s victims were almost all Catholic. Most of them innocent. This is not Britain, it’s Ireland. The wrong of partition, will only be rectified when it’s removed. Then all the people on the island, Catholic, Protestant, and otherwise, can assimilate back into Irish society. A place where all our Grandfathers where before partition.

    [Text removed. Next time you choose to play the man over ball, it's a red - Mods]

  • Banjaxed

    In relation to the assertion that ‘the union will be weakened’ by assimilation and the neutralising/de-ethnitising of the sectarian divisions in NI, perhaps someone might raise this argument with Wee Jeffrey and his mass cohorts of Orangemen, in full regalia, all of whom, as I write, are about to, or have done so already, to surround No 10 Downing Street with all the arrogance and supremacy of their former ‘glory-years’ intact to oppose the lifting of a ban on those in line to the throne from marrying a Catholic.

    Somebody obviously thinks that the ‘scare’ might still work….

  • galloglaigh

    [Text removed. Next time you choose to play the man over ball, it's a red - Mods]

    What I wrote deals with the topic issue. I’m not the only person who shares that opinion. Mr.Vance’s blog hardly advocates assimilation, when he continues to attack the entire Muslim population across the water, for the actions/crimes of a few. This type of opinion harks back to 1972, and the ills of the British response to the IRA.

  • Mick Fealty

    The bit that was left, did. The rest was a personal rant. One is welcome, the other not.

  • galloglaigh

    Fair enough Mick. I accept it was a rant. But to be fair, the rant has some merit. It was the truth, and I’m sure you’d agree with some of what I wrote? You can’t be seen as a person who wants assimilation, when you take an Enoch Powell approach to migration and assimilation. That’s my point.

  • IrelandNorth

    Funny how the term ‘unionism’ is automatically assumed to be pro-British. As a red (trade) ‘unionist’, and green unionist (United Irelander), though distinctly anti-blue (EU) unionist while highly sceptical of American (candystrip) unionist foreign policy. Just like ‘nationalism’ is considered peculiarly Irish, as if there was no British (English/Welsh/Scottish/Ulster) corrollary, the only distinction being homogenousness vs. heterogenousness. Oh for a Commonwealth where wealth is held in common and schools which are truly public.

  • FuturePhysicist

    “when you take an Enoch Powell approach to migration and assimilation.”

    From a 32 county republican point of view he migrated himself.

  • galloglaigh

    FuturePhysicist

    Aye the cheek of him, coming over here and taking our jobs!

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Comrade Stalin

    The “Union” is certainly safe at the moment but that is largely due to the Economic mess currently in the RoI.

    You’re usually very perceptive. Please don’t tell me that you believe that BS survey in the NILT about Catholic support for a UI. – the one that said there was more support in the Catholic community for the SDLP than for SF – yeah right.

    I believe that a majority of Catholics would vote for the Union tomorrow – simply because they are not going to vote for more austerity than they’ve already got.

    However, in 10 years, it may well be a different story.

    Let’s face facts – a lot of Unionists didn’t start being “nice” because they wanted to. They simply realised that the British govt wasn’t going to keep bankrolling them any more and turning a blind eye to their little Orange statelet.

    I would accept that many Unionists do now realise that their “Union” depends on making Catholics feel an equal part of it. In fairness, a lot of them are now doing so.

    However, while we still have the likes of Campbell, McCrea, even Elliott around – there is still the taint of them wishing for the good old pre-1968 days when they wouldn’t have a Catholic about the place.

    As with Sinn Fein needing to move to a new generation of representatives with no IRA baggage, the same is true of Unionism and it’s “croppie lie down” and “we are the people” dinosaurs.

    If Unionists want to keep the “Union” safe in the longer term, they still have work to do.

    It may well be that the Union disappears or at least is considerably weakened by events in Scotland. When you speak to English people about the Union – they are referring to the one with Scotland – the overwhelming majority don’t give a shit about NI.

    That’s why the integrationist theory from David Vance and others has never had any traction. In GB, people from NI have never been considered as being as British as Finchley – even if they like to think they are.

  • Comrade Stalin

    MW,

    I don’t know about the validity of the NILT survey but since you seem to be agreeing with me that the union is safe in the short and medium term, and you’ve already made all the arguments supporting that position that I would have made, maybe it’s more accurate than you would like to admit.

  • galloglaigh

    Comrade Stalin

    Surveys can never be trusted. In 1978, only 2% of Protestants who left the Westbank of Derry, said in a survey that they left for political or religious reasons. Most of them wanted better housing etc. But of course, according to Gregory Campbell, they were all forced out for their Reformed Faith. One contributor to Jonathan Burgess’ Exodus described the Waterside as a refugee camp.

    But which reflects reality – The survey or the play?

  • Greenflag

    @ galloglaig,

    ‘Most nationalist and republicans, will never assimilate into British society’

    If you are referring merely to those in NI you may have a point but what is most ? 60% or 90% or 55% . That still means that a large minority of nationalists and republicans are prepared to accept the constitutional status quo and ipso fact that’s all ‘unionism ‘ needs to maintain it’s ‘political links. As to ‘never ‘assimilating the facts of history tell us otherwise at least from a broader Irish perspective i.e people from this island have been emigrating to or travelling and working in the UK for centuries and something like a quarter of all present day Brits have at least one grandparent who hails from the the 26 county ‘Ireland ‘ territory and more if one includes NI .

    As for the ‘ethnic ghettos ‘ in the UK and Britain being a deeply divided society that has always been the case in terms of economic class ‘segregation’ for the past 200 years bar perhaps a brief period of upward social mobility let loose in the post WW2 era and the now seen as false ‘Cool Britannia ‘ epoch of the 1990’s and early 2000’s until the fit hit the shan a few years ago and Britain’s gold reserves were auctioned off to make ends meet and now the family ‘silver’ is for sale although i do read that in an adverse development the current UK balance of payments has been sent into further negative territory by the import of large amounts of silver bullion by Brits fearful of the future value of their sterling currency.

    ‘This is not Britain, it’s Ireland.’

    Very true but a bit too obvious I would have thought . Northern Ireland like it or not happens to be a bit of both plus it’s own ‘unique ‘ mix of localism which both trancends local divisions and simultaneously re-enforces them .

    ‘ The wrong of partition, will only be rectified when it’s removed’

    Ironically it’s probably better from UI perspective that the first partition was ‘wrong’ i.e including too many Ulster nationalists and republicans in the NI 6 county area state. Had unionists settled for a smaller say 4 county area State at the time they probably could have avoided subsequent political instability and civil disorders . But then of course the Unionist ‘big house ‘ Lord Brookeborough lived in Fermanagh and thus despite the votes of the Fermanagh majority that county was included in the NI state because apart from considerations like Lord Brookeborough’s residence the ‘atmosphere’ in the county was reputed to be ‘unionist’ at the time .

    ‘Then all the people on the island, Catholic, Protestant, and otherwise, can assimilate back into Irish society.

    Nice words and laudible sentiments but who will pay for it ? Polish immigrants or Chinese ?

    ‘A place where all our Grandfathers where before partition.’

    I don’t believe anybody on this island wants to go back to a time when life expectancy and health care and the standard of living for most people on this island was a meager subsistence particularly for those in the cities .

    Theres no going back .

    That said . David Vance’s ‘integrationist’ school of thought was rubbished by Margaret Thatcher in her time . While she officially was pro Union – NI was for her just an irritant in the big picture of the future of the British economy and polity . Despite Mr Cameron’s claims to the contrary that situation has’nt changed for whoever happens to be British prime Minister .

    Unionism has been ‘saved’ by the current worldwide economic and monetary crisis at least temporarily . Ironically it was probably also ‘saved ‘ by the advent of that other world changing cataclysm WW1 .

    In both cases of course ‘unionism ‘ suffered for it’s salvation . in the latter by the huge loss of lives in WW1 and in the more recent ‘salvation’ by the loss of it’s local traditional industries and now by the inevitable coming public sector cuts which of course are not restricted to just NI but which because of NI’s unique public v private sector mix will effect NI much more so than say the English south east .

    I think Monkdewally below seems closest to the ‘reality’ of unionism’s current prospects in the near to medium term .

  • Greenflag

    @ Monkde Wally,

    ‘If Unionists want to keep the “Union” safe in the longer term, they still have work to do.’

    Very true but the other factor is that that political future is not solely in their own hands as it was in the 1920-1972 period or even in the 1972 to 1998 pre GFA period but is also in the hands of the other almost ‘half’ of the NI population who are non -unionist in political tradition. They are also almost powerless to effect the politics of Scotland’s evolving politics and of course the British and EU wide current financial mess which will drag by the time it’s played out leave a number of political parties cast on strange shores or adrift in a new political and economic order .

    Excellent post btw .

  • galloglaigh

    Nice post Greenflag, and your point is?