The Unionist Forum: What is it?

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You can pick up the official description below, but I’m trying to figure what this thing is. First guesses include (in no particular order):

  • a new version of the UUC, but without the voting rights;
  • a something must be done measure to try channel the energy generated by the flag issue to rally some political energy;
  • the next step in line with Peter Robinson’s unionist unity strategy;
  • a signal to Sinn Fein that business as usual is over.

It could be any or all or none of the above.

The Unionist Forum will be convened by the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and the leader of Ulster Unionist Party.

For the first meeting, invitations will be extended to other unionist political parties, representatives and interested groups. The participants in the forum will be discussed at the first meeting.

The purpose of the Forum will be to seek to engage with the entire unionist community and seek to address issues of concern. It will seek to channel unionist efforts through political means. While participants in the forum will be limited, working groups may be established to provide a more extensive reach across the wider unionist community.

The forum will be a body through which unionists could meet to consider matters of interest and concern to the unionist community.

All participants will share the core values of support for the maintenance of the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, non-sectarianism, commitment to a shared future and commitment to the successful operation of devolution in Northern Ireland.

The forum would not be a decision-making body but would act as a body within which a consensus might be built and implementation of any actions left to individual organisations. It would seek to engage positively with representatives from all sections of the Northern Ireland community.

The Forum will hold its initial meeting as soon as is practicable at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

The agenda items, in no particular order, for the first meeting may include matters such as;

  • A strategy for addressing the Flags issue,
  • Measures to increase voter registration and turnout in unionist areas,
  • Strengthening British cultural identity in Northern Ireland,
  • Proposals to address problems surrounding parading,
  • Proposals to tackle deprivation and educational underachievement in the unionist community,
  • Broader political and economic matters,
  • Steps to increase capacity building in unionist areas.

All of it adds up to two things: Unionist agenda setting; and building voting capacity in unionist constituencies.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paul Clissold

    (sorry about the multiple replies everyone)

    The usual suspects already point the finger at the dreaded Loyalist community and their representatives demanding the almighty £ in exchange for access to ‘their’ community.

    I absolutely dread what you refer to the “loyalist community” in the form of the small minority in this community who repeatedly and routinely appoint themselves, without an election (and without ever standing for election) as representatives of that community, and who go on them to cause serious disruption and damage to the country.

    No, I’ll correct that. I don’t dread those people themselves. I dread the way politicians react to them.

    Since I graduated in 2001 I can think of three different occasions, including this one, where business was disrupted and I was sent home from work early. On all three occasions, including Monday just past (and most likely a fourth occasion on Friday) that disruption was caused by loyalists, and on all three occasions we heard this same rhetoric about Britishness being stripped away and about how these people felt that they did not get any representation. I can’t tell my customers that whatever work they paid for didn’t get done because a flag is being flown less frequently, so I have to come in and make up the time for the disruption myself.

    It’s intolerable, utterly intolerable, that these people think that they can get what they want by deploying these kinds of tactics. The response should be the same as the response to the dissidents – lawbreakers should be prosecuted and that if they want different representation for their neighbourhood they should vote for it. The economy cannot take the strain being imposed by these selfish, self-centred minority groups believing that they can get what they want by holding everyone else to ransom.

    I am up for a discussion about how we can do a better job of trying to improve the lives of people living in deprived neighbourhoods, whether they are loyalist are not (I live very close to a mixed, poor neighbourhood which is probably worse than Sandy Row or the Newtownards Road in terms of housing, education and deprivation). I am also up for talking – at length and in detail – to the politicians whom these neighbourhoods all elected.

    I am absolutely not up for a discussion about diverting more money to loyalists because they’re pissed off about their culture. I am also not up for these neighbourhoods receiving a double mandate. They must learn to use the ballot box just as Sinn Féin did.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks for your song, BarneyT. I can now reveal that Nik Kershaw’s masterpiece ‘The Riddle’ prophetically describes NI at the end of 2012.

    Anyone who wants to understand morbid unionism and its creature the Forum should read Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘Facts in the case of M. Valdemar’. Make sure you let your dinner get down you before you read the tale.

    ‘Video killed the radio star’ might offer a second stimulus to your parodic talent.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Comrade,

    Class A comment at 8:05. But I fear that they will still get their tea and crumpets and more Danegeld.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Comrade Stalin. I wish all the local papers would publish that posting. The”loyalists’ want to have their crumpets and eat them and then break all the delft.

  • galloglaigh

    You’ll not hear them sing ‘They’re up to their necks in fenian blood‘ on the BBC or UTV. True colours…

    It’s not about under-achievement; it’s not about disaffected unionists; it’s not about parades: it’s about ramming Britishness down the throats of taigs.

    Robinson, Nesbitt, and Hutchinson et al, are the epitome of bigotry, hatred, and sectarianism. Nothing will change in this corner of Ireland, while people vote for hate-filled people like Robbo and co.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I fear the gentleman doth protest too much.

  • BarneyT

    Paul Clissold – can you please elaborate on the “enough is enough” statement. Perhaps one could read this in several ways i.e. enough of the demoncracy or maybe loyalists have had enough of the unionsists?

  • BarneyT

    democracy even :-)

  • Greenflag

    The Unionist Forum is either a reaction to the now loss of power of ‘unionists’ on Belfast City Council or the first step in a pan Unionist retreat from Stormont and power sharing prior to a full return to 1970′s /1980′s mode of ‘non negotiation -with the now other half of Northern Ireland :(

    A Unionist by definition is one who wishes to maintain the constitutional link with Britain.

    A Loyalist by definition is just a Unionist with illusions of grandeur ,

    An utter waste of time , money, energy and effort -and all over a piece of cloth ?

    I can imagine the Unionist/Loyalist outrage when the tricolour is hoisted over Belfast City Hall .Given the anti democratic bully boy tactics of the self flagellating protesters of recent days -I would’nt be surprised if even more nationalists and republicans will now be speeding the day for when the crown ‘rag ‘ comes down and the greenflag goes up !

  • Paul Clissold

    BarneyT,

    There is certainly ‘enough’ of listening to tired rhetoric from the same politicians whose empty promises are an indictment of Stormont and it’s ‘policies’. And that means the usual Unionist ones.

    There is a genuine feeling that the gradual erosion of culture and cultural rights emanates from a Sinn Fein led campaign of anti Britishness masquerading as a cry for parity of esteem. As galling as it sounds that is just the way it is perceived. Nothing that I have heard sways me in thinking that this is not the case. Whilst it may appear illogical to some it is this feeling that has spread throughout the province. Sluggerites will choke on their tea and sandwiches but then they do not appear to actually listen to people but just let off steam via the internet.

    The meeting being held today at Stormont Castle (featuring all 5 ‘main political parties’) may come up with some sort of dithering statement but ultimately the protests will have to be called off by the protesters. And that requires that they sit down and formulate (in a forum?) a plan that guarantees that they are listened to. No one mentioned money apart from the usual ill informed commentators who see everything as money orientated or money led. Not necessarily so.

  • GoldenFleece

    “An utter waste of time , money, energy and effort -and all over a piece of cloth ?”

    GF, to SF, SDLP, UUP and DUP it’s not just a piece of cloth thought is it.

    SF and SDLP would did not want the Union Flag down because it was just a piece of cloth. Nor did SF film it being taken down because it was just a piece of cloth.

    To say its jus a piece of cloth by anybody is wrong. Symbols (wrongly or rightly) matter in NI.

  • BarneyT

    Taking a wee leaf out of Micks book (operating through the middle) and I going to try to “think through the right” so see if I get this, from a unionists perspective.

    “Northern Ireland was created for us. We did not want to be governed by Dublin nor have our lives influenced by the Catholic Church. Remaining in a United Ireland with Dublin home rule government would have led to an erosion of our culture and a stripping of our material wealth and identity.

    Ireland has been governed by Britain for hundreds of years and was firmly established within the British Union and the British Empire.

    Northern Ireland was created from existing British territory to give us control of our own destiny and ensure the asset stripping (material and cultural) would not occur.

    Two Irelands were created, one for British Unionists and a British way of life and the other for those that choose to be governed from Catholic Dublin.

    There is no cause or just reason to dismantle Northern Ireland as it is ours and still very much fit for purpose. The reasons for Northern Ireland persists today and should be recognised and respected.

    Northern Ireland as does the United Kingdom and our Queen, defines who we are and we will fight to maintain that. Those that choose to live here should accept Northern Ireland as it stands and have no ambitions to see it become part of another country i.e. The Republic of Ireland.”

    Now, please bear in mind that this is how I preceive the unionist position and I have perhaps fused hard-line loyalism with mainstream unionism.

    My feeling is that unionists simple do not see why things needs to change or should change and that change in favour of nationalist recognition is for some “a sell out” and for others a concession too far.

    I really thinks it’s important that each side takes the time to reflect the others position.

  • galloglaigh

    Paul

    Mike Nesbitt and Jeffrey Donaldson mentioned money yesterday on the radio. Political unionism has failed the unionist people, not Sinn Fein nor anybody else. Unionism is being led down a blind alley by blind politicians. You deserve the politicians you get, as you either vote for them, or you don’t vote at all.

    Would you be happy to have a James Connolly statue at Belfast City Hall?

    Or even a Tricolour flying alongside a Union flag at Belfast City Hall?

    Banjaxed has already pointed out that your case for cultural erosion is null and void. The objection to Loyal Order parades for example, is because these parades, particularly in Belfast, are often shows of sectarian bigotry and racism. But if you keep protesting, like another poster pointed out, Belfast City Hall could end up with fewer stained glass windows and statues. The flag can either be the start of a process, or the end of a process. Either way, nationalism now has the mandate to do either.

    Get over yourself, and move on.

  • Greenflag

    BarneyT,

    “Northern Ireland was created for us.’

    Incorrect .NI was created BY unionists FOR unionists -the nationalist minority’s wishes and votes were disregarded and counted for nought in the carved out 6 county area .

    ‘We did not want to be governed by Dublin’ nor have our lives influenced by the Catholic Church. ‘

    Can’t blame Unionists for that . Being governed from Dublin would have been a leap into the unknown and moreover would/could have had disastrous economic consequences for the local traditional industries in NI at that time . Being part of the UK and a several century long polity which was also the world’s superpower at the time was a more certain and secure option .

    ‘ nor have our lives influenced by the Catholic Church.’

    Considering the history and revelations of corruption and criminality which has now been seen not just in Ireland but all around the world -who can honestly now state that Unionists were not correct in their then fears of RC Church domination and intolerance ?

    None of the above qualifications however excuses the current regression into infantile symbolism over the union jack . As Banjax has listed above there are more than enough British symbols in Belfast to cover every day of the year . Belfast could do with a similar number of Irish symbols given it’s demographics in 2011 . They could start with flying the Tricolour on City Hall and in deference and out of respect for the minority Belfast community the Union Jack can be flown alongside the tricolour . Now what could be fairer than that ?

  • Greenflag

    Golden Fleece ,

    ‘and all over a piece of cloth ?

    Note the question mark after the word ‘cloth ‘ . I put it there for a reason.

    ‘to SF, SDLP, UUP and DUP it’s not just a piece of cloth thought is it.’

    It’s worse than that -It’s a piece of ‘no thought ‘ .

    Both flags Tricolour and Union Jack seem to fulfill the same function that a Spanish matador’s red flag fulfills when waved at a colour blind bull . The effect is to enrage such that the ‘bull’ charges forward in an agitated state leaving his ‘thinking ‘part some distance behind him. Eventually the bull is put down due to it’s lack of forethought . Unionism /Loyalism doesn’t do ‘forethought’ . If it did it would’nt always give the rest of the world the impression of being wired to some distant planet at the other end of the Andromeda galaxy ;) ?

  • Dec

    ‘Sluggerites will choke on their tea and sandwiches but then they do not appear to actually listen to people but just let off steam via the internet.’

    Yeah it’s us, the 1, 900,000 or so people who aren’t blocking roads (too busy with jobs etc) who are guilty of not listening to the 1500 goons blocking roads and torching other people’s property. We’re the problem.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paul,

    Look here’s the long and the short of it. In mid-2011, a year and a half ago, unionists voted for the UUP, DUP, and a small number of TUV MLAs and councillors to represent them. They did not vote for you or any of the people blocking the roads. You therefore have no right to demand any particular audience and you have no mandate to negotiate on behalf of anyone.

    You cannot turn around and say that the people who were elected less than two years ago have lost that mandate without explaining what has happened within that two year period to justify this.

    Your threat to continue protesting until the protests are called off is your prerogative. You will accomplish two things; (1) the people whom you claim to represent will get criminal records for blocking roads or being involved in riots, and (2) the attitudes of the ordinary voting public, whose support you need to win the concessions you want, will harden against you.

    As for your lecture about “not listening” you seem to be doing a fair bit of it yourself. You might consider the benefits of debating people and making your case rather than calling them names for pointing out the obvious problems in the limited arguments you have chosen to make.

  • Gopher

    Agree with Stalin (though still not on Alliance’s common sense)

    The Unionists had years to not make the flag and their position on it indefensible.

  • Paul Clissold

    Comrade Stalin,

    I had to re read your post as it contains so many assumptions, asserts things that you claim that I stated when I did not, puts words into my mouth that are incorrect and then accuses me of a ‘threat to continue protesting’. Truly breathtaking.

    For the record, I have attended one protest. I have organised none. I have been requested by the PSNI to attend two which they (the PSNI) believed would become potentially dangerous. I did not attend as I had no wish to then be accused of ‘orchestration’. I declined one offer of speaking at a protest as I believed I had little to currently offer in my analysis based on the current emotions and feeling of the protesters.

    I have asked for no audience with anyone. I have threatened no one with anything and any suggestion that I have is potentially libellous and certainly inflammatory.

    I have attempted (probably foolishly based on your wrong headed analysis of what I stated compared to what you want to believe that I stated) to explain the context and the rationale behind this protest and the overall unease within the Loyalist community.

    The one thing that I did clearly state (and that has irked you so much that you have misattributed my intent) is that the protest must be called off by the protesters when they decide to. Cold and logical. As I will not be protesting tomorrow (and have called elsewhere for common sense as the 5-7pm period on a Friday is potential for serious disorder – ‘Black eye Friday’ anyone?) I suggest you take your anger out on those who choose ( their choice – key word is choice) to protest.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paul,

    You seemed to be making excuses for the protests and I certainly saw nothing in your original contribution to suggest that you thought that they should stop; those two things combine to suggest to me that you are standing with the protestors (in spirit, if not in body). In that context, your pointing out that the protests would continue for as long as the protestors – ie the people you seem to sympathize with – wanted them to seemed like a threat to me, because it’s simply another way of saying that the protests would not stop until the demands of those who are protesting are met.

    You said rather clearly that other people have to “come to terms with the sea change” (what sea change ? – there is absolutely nothing new or changed about the points being raised by the protestors, they are simply echoing old school Paisley in his heyday) and that “enough is enough” and that cultural apartheid is being practiced. I suggest you look in the mirror before you throw accusations about people being inflammatory around.

  • Politico68

    The flag is gone, not coming back. Now move along there please people.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Interestingly, The Union Fag is only flown at Westminster when the Houses are sitting and on designated days. Do those bastwiches there have no sense of patriotism?

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Greenflag[1.08]It’s a bit of bothGF. About a wholesale retreat into the bunkers and a Pavlovian reaction to loss of the ‘citadel’ of Belfast. It’l be more than Robinson will be able to stomach to be in Marty’s seat after the 2015 or 2016 Stormont election. The flag business is just the exposing in another way, the same old siege mentality. If those who are demanding the flag be up everyday really respected it, they would be calling for it to be only onset days, so the real motive is to ram down throats. Also the marching season is no longer making sense because it was always to flaunt the orange domination here, and since that is now all over, they just look silly.There’s just no future for unionism in the 21st century anywhere in Ireland.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    galloglaigh [2.46] After last night’s pathetically small numbers out ‘protesting’ against democracy, it’s now clear that the DUP/UUP backed the wrong horse and with any luck they’ll both pay for it at the ballot box next time, [although I'm not getting hopes up]. The campaign to get the flag vote reversed has petered out and can’t be revived in the new year or it wouldn’t have brought out so few up until now. The biggest losers of all are Peter Robinson[who is now a greatly reduced figure who has been found out, talking out of both sides of his mouth and exposed as having cal;led for the protests to end and having to adjust to the refusal of certtain DUP figures to pay a blind bit of notice of him. And Nesbitt? Thanks to his ‘leadership’, the UUP is in terminal death throes. Also exposed for their stand by and watch policy are the cloned RUC who have shown nationalists they’re just as much a sectaroian force as on the 5th of October 1968. A total disgrace.

  • Greenflag

    The Unionist Forum: What is it?

    It’s a UFO not the saucer variety or sky gazing but ,

    Unionist Forum Omphaloskepsis (navel gazing )

    And a happy Christmas to all navel gazers and no your world has’nt ended .

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Good one, Greenflag.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours too.

  • Neil

    Daniel,

    this page backs you up:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-the-Union-Flag-flying-over-Belfast-City-Hall/524171340927645?sk=likes

    It’s going to die a death because it’s an unwinnable fight, against a democratic vote. 100 people made it to City Hall for today’s protest. 100. Derisory.

  • anne warren

    The UF is not an altogether successful initiative

    LOYALISTS angry over the removal of Belfast City Hall’s Union flag are to set up a new group to oppose the Unionist Forum:
    The People’s Forum

    http://www.belfastdaily.co.uk/

  • GoldenFleece

    With this flag thing I am remending at what Barack Obama said on his 2008 Presidential campaign about the working class conservatives in the deep south.

    “these poor people, they cling to their bibles and their guns.”

    This may not be politically correct here, but do poor people in Northern Ireland cling to their flags (union flag or tricolour) and nationalist style symbols?

  • anne warren

    As someone once said
    “there’s a retreat into celebrating identity because in the absence of anything else, that’s all there is”.

    Sorry I can’t manage to identify the citation!!

    And as Danielsmoran said above
    “The flag business is just the exposing in another way, the same old siege mentality”

    Having stated the problem . . .

    Where or what’s the solution?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Or, as Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

  • Neil

    The Crown body responsible for flag protocol in Northern Ireland has said that flying the Union flag 365 days a year is not a British tradition.

    Displaying the flag on a permanent basis is more in line with attitudes in other countries such as the United States, according to the College of Arms.

    In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the body, which is a branch of the Royal Household, said flying the flag permanently meant the designated days — including the Queen’s birthday — lost their distinctiveness entirely.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/crown-body-says-flying-union-flag-365-days-a-year-is-not-british-tradition-16252931.html#ixzz2FpHa0jxY

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Neil[6.02] It doesn’t surprise me, Neil. My own theory about Robbo’s motives in stirring the brown stuff isn’t confined to the getting back the E Belfast seat from Long, more a case of, he’s preparing for the day when democracy won’t do anymore for unionist parties and thinks if enough councillers MLAs etc were intimidated enough by the flag protests, they’d avoid voting when there’s a nationalist moajority to take ‘British symbols’ down in future, but this has aready backfired twofold on him, in that he’s been rumbled over the leaflets and also, the protests have failed to bring the crowds out on the city hall square. Norman Lamont mocked the Major government after the ERM fiasco about appearing to be in office, but not in power. Well Robbo’s strategy seems to be for unionists to be in power while no longer able to be in office, but it’s not going to work.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Daniel, during a conversation over a few beers over Xmas it was suggested to me that this is really about a struggle between two factions within the DUP, the political/pragmatic unionist faction (Peter Robinson, Arlene Foster, Sammy Wilson, Jeffrey Donaldson) and the Free Presbyterian/fundie prod fruitcake faction (Nigel Dodds, Nelson McCausland, Edwin Poots, Gregory Campbell etc etc). The fundie wing at the moment is using this opportunity to turn the screws on the pragmatic unionist wing. Said pragmatists have no idea precisely how to respond.

    If I was going to bet on which of the two factions would come out on top I would say the pragmatic faction, as they have a lot more political cunning and they know best how to win elections. However there’s going to be more blood on the carpet before this whole thing is over as the fundie wing are clearly still very powerful within the party especially when it comes to candidate selection. That certainly explains why certain senior figures within the DUP Belfast City Council grouping who are attempting to enhance their career by switching sides to the fundie wing. It’ll be “interesting” to see how it turns out.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Comrade. Poor old duppers, they’ve no ides the amount of sheer entertainment they’re providing nationalists with since these ‘stuff democracy’ protests started. The high tide of unionist capacity to blackmail their own government as well as the rest of us passed after the AngloIrish deal was pushed through by Thatacher over their heads and no wonder because even though they got 250,000 to listen to Paisley’s brayibng then, they knew that because of him they couldn’t get the old UWC trick to work as a threat, since he tried it in ’77 and failed utterly. Now they’re getting a few hundred at a time. It’s all just too late and the broad unionist community knows it.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Comrade. To address your point in the last post[which I failed to in the earlier reply], The strings are being pulled by the pragmatists and in the safe assumption the fundies have to lump it as they’ve nowhere else to go in the wake of the implosion of the TUV. I notice Gregory has been quiet of late, as Robinson has him on a short leash. The hang and flog em element are still getting over the shock of the census[and I don’t believe they are in the skllightest bit consoled by the spin about ‘Northern Irish’ identity in the nationalist repondents declared option. They know that Catholcs vote for nationalist parties so if the NI identity meant what the unionist media here are desperately clinging to, alliance would be getting a bigger share of the overall vote, and they clearly aren’t. The future of political unionism in the next half century is bleak indeed whatever the outcome of any border poll.