In his recent essay for Prospect magazine, Richard Kelly asks why Unionism has failed to talk up what it gained from the Belfast Agreement:
“…not since Trimble emerged from Castle Buildings on 10th April 1998, declaring the union safer than when he had first sat down, has unionism said much in public that savoured of victory. The talk was only of incessant affronts to their tradition, and of a one-way track bearing intolerable concessions. Why couldn’t unionism engage? Two years ago, politicians and commentators began to talk of the threat to the Agreement posed by ‘Protestant demoralisation’. A people long perceived as proud to the point of arrogance began to be sketched in shades of aggrieved, doom-laden defeatism.”
Indeed he suggests that the only Unionist ‘spin’ on the Agreement has been that depicting it as defeat:
“As the liberal unionist and UUP councilor Chris McGimpsey says, ‘The more Protestants feel under threat, the more they go for extreme views; which is why Paisley keeps telling Protestants they’re under threat.'”
Indeed the DUP is now in an unprecedented position. Kelly continues:
“…They inflicted serious casualties on the UUP at the 2001 Westminster election, dismaying Trimble’s party over their prospects for the next assembly poll, set for May 2003. It became accepted wisdom that no unionist party could go to the people while seated in government with the associates of gunmen.”
Previously waning equity.