Public insults are part of the stock in trade of all NI political parties, with the possible exception of the SDLP the Alliance party, and the Women’s Coalition. Steven King’s extraordinary headline in last night’s Belfast Telegraph, Scumbaggery feeling squeeze, should be read within that context.
In fact the message within the article is much more outreaching than the headline implies. He quotes from a recent book by Henry Patterson, to warn Unionists of the dangers of ‘hoping that the Shinners will just go away’:
At the beginning of the Home Rule crisis in 1912 the Ballymoney Free Press editorialised ‘the statement of Unionist Ulster is that it merely wants to be left alone.’ Even then the editor knew this was not good enough. He added: ‘Ever since Satan entered the Garden of Eden good people will not be left alone.’
He then puts the pro-agreement case succinctly and directly:
The harsh truth about Northern Ireland politics is that unionists will not be left alone. Sinn Fein is here to stay. Sinn Fein will not be leaving unionists alone whether the Agreement survives or not. But it is the fantasy that they can return to a Shinnerless Garden of Eden that drives so much of the opposition to David Trimble.
Stormont maximises the leverage of unionists as the local majority. Without Stormont that same leverage would be minimised: unionists would have only a tiny number of MPs to protect their interests at Westminster.
Other news: Molyneaux wants the Welsh model of devolved democracy. Another pro-agreement Unionist MLA is to step down. Eric Waugh suggests that old certainties will be abandoned for a seat on the ‘gravy train’.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty