Unionists no longer anxious about future

Mark Langhammer with his usual incisive view, believes that Unionists are not worried about the current suspension of politics in Northern Ireland. As one DUP supporter told Slugger a few days back, most of us are just enjoying the schadenfreude offered by Sinn Fein’s difficulties.

  • aquifer

    Not giving a damn can be a strong negotiating position.

    Langhammer in an earlier article pointed out that protestants prefer elected authority rather than the ‘community participation’ model that may end up hijacked by the paramilitaries.

  • Circles

    Thats an interesting point of community participation Vs elected authority (although surely the second can only come about as a result of the first?).
    But I think the “do as little as possible” attitude has always typified unionism – with Paisley and his activism and agitation at times perhaps being the exception.
    This is actually quite a big problem though, as it tends to ensure that all initiatives, when they come, come from the nationalist / republican side, putting unionists on the back foot, and making them once again look like nay-sayers and begrudgers.
    The smart move now for unionists (IMO) would be to grab the initiative and at least be seen as trying to get the process back on track – reaching out and getting a little touchy feely. Of course they’re not good at that, but it would do their credibility a world of good.
    Before anybody says it – no I don’t think the loss of credoibility on the SF side automatically results in a gain on the DUP side – a little pro-activism could though.

  • ulsterman

    We are very optimistic about the future. The future belongs to us. Come May a Unionist will again be MP for Fermanagh. The West will again be won for the Union.

    Happy days also with the downfall of the Papist GFA. SF scored an own goal for the Union when they robbed the bank and murdered McCartney.

    Who now believes SF will get a big vote in May?. They, by their actions have voted themselves out of any process. Time for the Pope and Dublin to reconsider their positions.

    The Union today is more secure than ever. The GFA has been kicked into the dustbin of history. I look forward to the election date in May. Those results will prove once and for all that the Union is forever.

    NO POPE, NO POWERSHARING, NO COMPROMISE EVER.

    God Save The Queen.

  • aquifer

    Circles, you note:

    “The smart move now for unionists (IMO) would be to grab the initiative and at least be seen as trying to get the process back on track – reaching out and getting a little touchy feely. Of course they’re not good at that, but it would do their credibility a world of good.”

    Awkward beginners being charming is so much more effective than when practiced smoothies do it one more time.

    Who knows what could be won over cups of darjeeling tea, tray bakes, and small sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

  • Circles

    I’m not sure if ulsterman is big on the satire but if so, that was an excellent contribution I think, which well illustrates the mindset of (particularly) middle class (maybe rural) unionism (IMO).
    Its also by far the biggest weakness of unionism. If the case for the union is so strong, I have difficulties understanding why unionists hide behind the NO, NO, NO. Surely it could withstand scrutiny from the public.
    As aquifer said – an awkward, hesitant charm offensive (teenage discos spring to mind) where they sell their ideas could bring them a lot more positive results. This reluctance though probably goes back to never ever having had the need to defend the position with political argumentation – built in majorities ensuring lazy politics.
    This could possibly also explain the tendency to be lead rather than to participate.

  • Ringo

    Ulsterman has more faith in the Popes ability to perform miracles than a cathedral full of blue-rinsed god-botherers.

  • fair_deal

    Circles

    “If the case for the union is so strong, I have difficulties understanding why unionists hide behind the NO, NO, NO.”

    Maybe it seems like we say No all the time because we are always asked the same old questions.

  • Circles

    That may be the case Fair deal – but is it not time unionists start putting the questions themselves, and not just sitting back and waiting to give the standard negative one syllable reply?
    I think if a really creative unionist thinker were to come through the party ranks somehow (either UUP or DUP, or even another party), with a clear positive message and a willingness to engage republicans in dialogue we would all be much better off.
    The lack of anxiety about the future is only due to the fact that it seem that nothing will change – but stagnant politics offers us nothing.

  • Peter Brown

    I think if a really creative unionist thinker were to come through the party ranks somehow (either UUP or DUP, or even another party), with a clear positive message and a willingness to engage republicans in dialogue we would all be much better off.

    Wasn’t that what was said about the UUP and David Trimble in 1998/99?

  • fair_deal

    Circles

    I agree Unionism needs to further develop its political message and its political operation.

    However, the NO stuff has become a standard throwaway line deserving of challenge. At times Irish nationalism’s approach to the Unionist community has been that of a child who does not accept the first refusal believed persistence will overcome the refusal – this probably stems from republican false consciousness theory about Unionists.

    On engagement with republicans, that will invovle a judgement call. To engage in dialogue with republicans involves as George W would put it “spending some political capital”. The present republican leadership have developed bad faith as a specialism therefore, is it a wise investment of capital at the moment?

    However in the interim, Unionism should look at other ways of engaging with the nationalist community rather than through its political elite.

  • Circles

    Yeah – unfortunately Trimble must have blocked that person out.
    Although fair dues, David Trimble was relatively good – unfortunately he couldn’t pull the grass roots with him, which would be essential. And into the vacuum between him and the roots rushed the DUP.
    Which makes things a little more complicated.

  • Ringo

    Peter Brown –

    Trimble only managed half that –
    a clear positive message – No
    a willingness to engage republicans in dialogue – Yes

  • George

    Trimble described Bertie Ahern as the “leader of the Irish nation” at the weekend so there’s the answer.

    I suppose in an ideal world it would be better if unionism talked to the Irish nationalists living in Northern Ireland to hammer out a deal but if unionism now wants to deal with the Irish Republic as the representatives of all the Irish people on this island let’s hear what they have to say and offer.

    Sounds like joint authority to me but even though I am quite surprised unionists aren’t anxious about I think it probably is the best solution in the near term.

  • Circles

    I agree completely Fair deal that exchanges between the political elite should not be the major platform where dialogue occurs – although they do have a role model function to fulfil. A much deeper exchange is and will continue to be necessary.
    I would also completely agree that the republican analysis of unionism has not been able to actually get into the ideas behind unionism (and vice versa). There is a vast gulf of misunderstanding and misinterpretation between both sides.
    IMO, when the peace process was well underway it was on this particular point that a lot of energy should have been focussed. This lack of understanding of the others position is a fundamental stumbling block to progress, and I believe this was an activity that clearly fell under the responsibilities of the 2 governments. Not only on a political level but also to encourage greater exchanges throughout society.

  • slug9987

    If unionists are no longer anxious about the future are nationalists now anxious about the future? Or does it not work like that?

  • Alan McDonald

    George:

    As an American observer, the tendency to play to audiences in Dublin and London pops up on both sides. My reading has been that it stems from the GFA being an agreement between the two governments in which the local parties are not the major signatories. When negotiation fails (which it does constantly) each party (child) runs to London/Dublin (daddy) and says, “Make them do what I want!”

    Before you ask, no, I don’t have a solution to this problem. Wish I did.

  • George

    Alan,
    for me, it is a major shift from unionism constantly saying the Irish Republic is “interfering in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland” to virtually saying Dublin should act as the representatives of the 40% plus Irish population there.

    Either unionism is now so weak that it hasn’t the ideological, political or economic strength to engage with nearly half the population of Northern Ireland and instead has its work cut out just keeping itself as the majority ideology or we are all living through a paradigm shift where unionism now sees the Irish nation as a potential partner.

  • Alan McDonald

    George,
    Thanks for the reply. I delve into foreign politics with great trepidation (I usually fare badly in US politics). I vote for the paradigm shift theory. When opinion polls in England say we don’t want Northern Ireland, where is a Unionist to go but Dublin? No use coming to Washington, even with George W in the White House.
    Maybe (here I go, off the deep end), David and Bertie can craft a new “majority ideology” for the future built on hope rather than fear (cue the strings).

  • Circles

    Ahhh, tantalising indeed Alan – and would even have been plausible with Bruton at the wheel in Dublin.

  • slug9987

    Is now a good time for unionists to bargain?

    They need some new demands. The previous ones seem to have been accepted (including decommissioning).

    Important, in politics, to have realizable demands.

    Perhaps time to press for dropping d’Hondt?

  • slug9987

    By the way, the key thing is to have demands.

    That is what unionists seems to lack right now, since the decommissioning and (before that) territorial claim arguments have been accepted.

    What should be the unionists new demands?

    Anyone?

  • slug9987

    I interpret the present crisis as basically an acceptance of the unionist argument over the last 5 years that without putting aside unlawful guns and activity, there should be no place in government – summed up “no guns no government”.

    Thus what unionists should be doing now, is not wallowing in delight at this outcome, but planning their next big demand.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Circles.

    “Ahhh, tantalising indeed Alan – and would even have been plausible with Bruton at the wheel in Dublin.”

    I was under the impression that Bertie is well regarded in unionist circles – an opponent, certainly, but a worthy and a decent one. As for Bruton – there will be other Brutons in the future. Looking down the line at potential future Taoisigh (Cowen, Dermot Ahern, Martin, Kenny, even Rabbitte?) it’s clear that we aren’t going to have a unionist-unfriendly government in Dublin for a long time to come. Perhaps we can actually dare to hope for an extended period of rapprochement?

    (As always, there is a circumstances-permitting caveat in all of this.)