Though he may be accused of some disingenuity some of his preceding analysis, Brian Feeney makes an point somehow missed by many others; the census results indicate nothing if not the changed nature of the ‘people of Ulster’. He goes on to identify:
“…the sulky silence of unionist leaders who have watched the raison detre of their wee six vanishing has left their voters bewildered and frightened for the future. As a result, they have been congregating in self-designated ghettos in Antrim and north Down with outposts in County Derry. Instead of trying to make the north work in the changed circumstances, unionist political leaders have turned on each other.”
Feeney echoes the sentiment in this letter published (annual sub only) in the Irish News a few years back:
One of my first memories of public politics in Northern Ireland comes from childhood, a phrase which went something like: ONeill must go!, delivered loudly and with commendable clarity from the Big Man as he came to be known. With the succeeding decades, he has revamped that phrase, inserting new names as appropriate. Recent favourites have included Mo Mowlam and Tony Blair.”
“The one constant is the Ulster people who, we are assured, will not be going. Clever rhetoric. The Ulster people will stay in Ulster, but they are not the homogeneous set he still claims they are. Today, the demographic figures tell a different story. The Ulster people are no longer Protestant.”
They are an eclectic mix, of Popes men, Orangemen, heretics, and Buddhists. Only by looking at the whole mix can anyone describe the character of Ulsterman authentically. Indeed, the Ulster people are here to stay. But they are not the same people that Dr Paisley pretends to his audience.”
Though this transformation of mentality is unlikely to have serious ramifications for the Unionist community alone.
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