Richard Kelly’s essay in Prospect magazine seeks to investigate some of the factors in the so-called phenomenon of the ‘Demoralised prods’. We’ll be picking out a number of important points he raises over the next day or two.
He quickly picks up on the central role of David Trimble, who he suggests is:
“…the most inwardly conflicted figure ever to have emerged within his famously staid and unimaginative party. Once a hardliner, Trimble had now agreed terms for a reconciliation with the old enemy, and such is the insular nature of the man that few of his colleagues had sensed the historic compromise afoot. Yet more damning for the Agreement’s chances, Trimble immediately seemed sickened at the prospect of going out to sell the deal that he had settled for.”
This sense of personal disgust at the distasteful role he had undertaken, is something felt strongly by a number of moderate Nationalist insiders. Kelly claims it was not just Sinn Fein he was uneasy about; “…during the subsequent referendum campaign, he was unwilling to share a platform with David Ervine, much less Sinn Fein’s Martin Caginess.”
One consequence of this ambiguous feeling towards the outworking of the Belfast Agreement, Kelly hints, has been a slow withering of the pro-Agreement position within Unionism:
“…in May 1998 the Agreement was endorsed by 71.12 per cent of voters, that figure comprising the vast majority of Catholics who voted, but only barely the greater number of Protestants. The latter contingent has diminished further in the last four years; and now, as the north’s devolved government is suspended for the fourth time in its short life, unionism’s staunchest nay-sayers are relishing their most emphatic “told you so” moment to date.”