Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Robinson setting out the parameters for his ‘pluralist’ legacy in 2021?

Mon 26 November 2012, 9:44am

So one of the big set pieces of the weekend was Peter Robinson’s claim was that a majority of Catholics now (ie, right now) would prefer to stay with Britain than take their chances in what (as Ruarai points out in the comments zone) remains a hugely undefined united Ireland.

On the face of it he’s pushing further than Trimble’s famously self defeating claim that 35% of NI Catholics where unionists. Self defeating because such weak attachment did not and still does no translate into votes for Unionist parties.

So Robinson’s use of the numbers is smarter, closer to the truth and also give the use of the word now, decidedly provisional.

He does make any claim that this means that Catholics will start voting DUP in any numbers any time soon. But it does send a signal to the rougher, more fundamentalist wing of his party’s base that many of the working assumptions of the past are not fit for the future.

Catholics may not have the same ingrained respect for the British head of state and her family, but they pay their taxes, which is an increasing chunk of the money that goes to keep all MLAs in work at Stormont and they or their feelings and outlook cannot be taken as enemy territory any more.

So is Robbo actually courting Northern Irish Catholics? Well, maybe, in ones and twos, here and there. But it’s much more likely they are after the middle class Protestant/Other vote.

Acknowledging the importance of the middle class Catholic vote as critical to the defence of the Union is good politics. Particularly when no political party on the nationalist side seems to think it’s a problem that as each election which passes it is this cohort that’s dunking out of politics.

Steven McCaffery probably calls it right when he notes that the next big event in Northern Ireland will be the release of breakdown in the religious breakdown in last year’s census figures. That will likely see a rise in Catholics and others, and a drop in those self designating as Protestant:

…even if the prospect of a narrow Catholic majority emerged, a slight numerical advantage may not deliver a sudden change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional status. Not only do opinion polls suggest nationalists have mixed views on Irish reunification, the objections from a large unionist population would weigh heavy on the British and Irish governments

It is also possible that a larger Catholic community might feel more confident of its ability to shape its own destiny, eroding the demand for constitutional upheaval.

McCaffery also picks up on what is certainly preoccupying the DUP leadership and that’s the census report after this on: ie, 2021 and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the state.

The face of ‘pro union’ sentiment is changing just as rapidly in Northern Ireland as ‘nationalism’ is in the Republic. Robinson knows it, and is clearly in the business of trying to build a sustainable legacy for the future, reliant as much on the passive acceptance of the Catholic middle class as the active defence of the old big ‘P’ Protestant core of his party’s support.

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Comments (116)

  1. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Adam’s statement that has been disputed by the GRRC”

    gendginn, ‘And they are the type of scene changes that we have to focus in on, and develop, and exploit’ would appear to be a fair assessment of the anti-Unionist conspiracy/strategy. Dissident republicans are carrying on where the PRM left off.

    What do you think?
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  2. Nevin (profile) says:

    “have a right to only focus on the negative elements of Orange ‘culture’”

    galloglaigh, Nationalists of whatever hue are anti-UK/anti-Unionist so I would expect them to oppose any expressions of Unionism, positive or negative. I don’t expect them to be any more or less tolerant of ‘themuns’ than Unionists are.

    I think the language chosen by Cardinal Brady is a fair reflection of the position formerly held by his Church in the Nationalist community. It’s leadership role has declined as the PRM’s leadership role has grown.

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  3. carl marks (profile) says:

    Nevin
    Since you have repeatedly avoided the question, you obviously think that the “loyal” orders are blameless in the whole affair, its all the taigs fault.
    Now since you obviously think that a group of unabashed bigots accompanied by both supporters and members of sectarian murder gangs have a right to prance in front of the people they hate and in many cases are their victims or relatives of their victims.
    Soon the nationalist community will be in the majority this will be reflected in the Ballot box.
    Now don’t worry we will not treat you liked you treated us but we will remember how you behaved and vote accordingly.
    A wise man once Said” when in a position of strength compromise then you get the compromise you want” unionism singularly failed to realise this simple political concept soon nationalism will be in a position of strength and we will get the compromise we want,
    I am always amused by the blinkered outlook of many unionists and the ability of that group to seize defeat from the jaws of victory, but as a nationalist I thank you.

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  4. Nevin (profile) says:

    “you obviously think that the “loyal” orders are blameless in the whole affair, its all the taigs fault.”

    Carl, no amount of shouting, prancing, misrepresentation or abuse by you or others will intimidate me. Equally, I’m not impressed by the so-called ‘reaching out’ language of Peter and Martin.

    If you have so much energy to spare, here’s a right’s issue you might like to pursue.

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  5. carl marks (profile) says:

    Nevin
    Carl, no amount of shouting, prancing, misrepresentation or abuse by you or others will intimidate me.
    Strange all I asked was a question which you wiggled and squirmed to avoid,
    Now that you failed to condemn the bully boys you have shifted to Unionist fall back position No.2,
    A bit of personal abuse and the traditional standby of the schoolyard bully when someone stands up to them which of course is “he’s picking on me” alas we see that one all the time doesn’t wash either.
    You could shut me up by condemning the bigot fest that takes place on a regular basis in the north but you can’t seem to manage that, you are now so desperate to worm out of this that you are trying to bring the Rathlin ferry into it, what the fuck does that have to do with this thread.
    However since I am obviously upsetting you with the facts and your opinion is stated by your sad attempts to divert the debate away from question we shall leave it there then. Please feel free to bury your head in the sand when you pull it out pints will be priced in Euros. See you in a united Ireland Nevin and thanks again.

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  6. Nevin (profile) says:

    “I am obviously upsetting you with the facts”

    There you go, carl, more attempted misrepresentation.

    “what the fuck does that have to do with this thread”

    Now who’s upset? Perhaps you should just have a pint and try to calm down. I never touch the stuff.

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  7. carl marks (profile) says:

    “I am obviously upsetting you with the facts”

    There you go, carl, more attempted misrepresentation.

    but then you said this.Nevin
    Carl, no amount of shouting, prancing, misrepresentation or abuse by you or others will intimidate me.

    I think that hole is deep enough you can stop digging now.
    A wee pint now and then would maybe do you a bit of good.
    and perhaps you could tell me what the rathlin ferry has to do with the thread, apart from you trying to avoid answering the question?

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  8. Nevin (profile) says:

    carl, I set the context for my answer in several posts at the beginning of the exchange; I didn’t narrow it to the behaviour of some paraders and protesters in part of north Belfast.

    As for digging a hole, that’s a fair description for the failed Athboy anti-Unionist conspiracy. It was put in place without any apparent thought or concern for the fate of Catholics or Protestants (or others) who find themselves in locations where they are in a minority.

    The disgraceful treatment of the widow in that link by a company and by Government highlights the need for the articulation and protection of individual as well as group rights, majority and minority. The MSM has totally ignored her case.

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  9. carl marks (profile) says:

    Nevin (profile)
    29 November 2012 at 1:11 pm

    carl, I set the context for my answer in several posts at the beginning of the exchange; I didn’t narrow it to the behaviour of some paraders and protesters in part of north Belfast.

    No you didn’t you waffled, squirmed and attempted sleight of hand, and again regardless of the treatment of the widow what has it to do with the thread,
    Your continued Athboy strategy talk is just a rather feeble and transparent attempt to cloud the issue.
    Why can you not limit a response to the acts of marchers or protesters in north Belfast its easy watch!
    I condemn all attempts to stir up sectarian strife or hatred in North Belfast, I especially condemn those on the republican side who attempt to increase tension because it is my side and no matter what the loyal orders get up to these things should be left to the police and the courts to handle.
    Now see what I done there no ifs no buts no diversions no attempts to excuse the mindless dickheads on my side of the fence by quoting Paisley or Robinson etc.
    Now you try it, go on you will feel a lot better without all that bile.

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  10. Red Lion (profile) says:

    Carl Marks,

    I’d love to see the looks on your nice Protestant in-laws faces if they could read some of your comments .

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  11. carl marks (profile) says:

    Oh they know my politics many a night over a pint have we debated the woes of the world while they consider themselves British they have scant time for the OO or the dup ( the two ex paras are very contemptuous of unionist politicians) for that matter you would call unionist lite but I don’t think they would like that,
    but I’m interested, point out the post/posts you mean.

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  12. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    Peter Robinson, and other politicians, are in semi denial if they do not realise the rapid secularisation of both NI and the Republic. Labels like ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ are increasingly irrelevant. Outside some working class (sic) ghettoes the labels are bizarre.
    People who follow either variation of supernatural belief are usually elderly or of low to mediocre intellect.

    Those who do believe in such nonsense…well at work we have to accomadate.

    NI is de jure British for the forseeable future.Burt de facto joint British/Irish .
    There may come a time (20+ years)when it might become de jure Irish. But it will be de facto joint British/Irish. just like now.
    The Treasury subvention and BBC and NHS and NICS jobs will make it so.

    But a lot can happen between now and then.

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  13. carl marks (profile) says:

    BluesJazz
    Not a lot to disagree with there, in the 20 years or so this place will change a great deal,
    as it has in the last 20.
    I suggested in a earlier post running 2 threads, one for nationalists asking what is the minimum conditions they would accept as to give up their aspirations to a united Ireland,
    And a second for unionists as to what are the minimum conditions they would accept to give up their Britishness
    It would be interesting to see what proportion would be economic or social services (health, welfare, etc) and what proportion would be tribal/cultural, and how many on both sides would say never never!
    I realise slugger is perhaps not representative of the north as a whole but it would in my opinion a interesting exercise.

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  14. carl marks (profile) says:

    I think that many of those from the unionist culture could be persuaded to change political allegiance and the same can be said of many nationalists but the four largest parties carry to much baggage to be the persuaders. And strangely i nearly agree with peter that there is no right wing nationalist party as there is no left wing unionist party.
    I myself am as you may have guessed left wing, and no Nationalist party speaks for me and obviously many left wing unionists have no party to vote for. Perhaps the biggest change in the next 20 years will be emergence of parties and policy’s based on left/right and not Brit/Irish politics.

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  15. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    @carl marks

    I think the left/right divide has changed significantly, social enterprise, Keynesian, mixed economy and a fair welfare system were at the heart of Major’s conservationism, you would struggle to get that from Labour these days. Events beyond regional control have effected how left the left can be. When you have left wing parties being forced to impose austerity so that they can pay back money that’s been borrowed from other workers, the left cannot be seen to promise utopia and deliver dystopia, it needs to return to what it has and always will be … a worker’s struggle for a fair deal. At best that’s what parties on the left have to focus upon during this crisis, feasibility of fairness with practical effort.

    Until there is real fiscal powers and fiscal control I don’t see what parties here can do with regards to the left/right divide as social politics dominates. The issue with Belgian politics, is that Belgium is a nation and Northern Ireland isn’t. Northern Ireland isn’t independent, it doesn’t have its independence threatened as a nation would, the people have to look at Britain and Ireland’s economic independence to determine this region’s independence and interdependence.

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  16. carl marks (profile) says:

    I’m not sure the left/ right divide has changed, instead i suspect that what we are see are the parties that normally represent this divide now chase populist policies and not class based policies,
    New Labour could be described as tory light and the torys pretend to be labour light
    If anything the class divide has been widening in the last few years and with the crazy idea to charge students university fees, making it even more difficult for those in lower income groups to educate themselves out of relative poverty. Add that to reduced benefits and a dropping standard of health care (unless of course you can afford private) things are worse for a lot of people.
    As to what difference electing a left wing or right wing assembly would make to us here even if we are to overseen by the British/Irish governments, to a certain degree we can spend our allowance (makes us sounds like surly teenagers, not far out maybe) as we wish and a left wing assembly would be more inclined to target that cash where it would do most good.

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