SLUGGER continues to drive debate beyond the web in today’s Irish News, where Roy Garland uses recent criticism of ‘the Roy Garlands’ of unionism by contributor Watchman to draw a distinction between “the strength of the constructive voice of unionism” and what Garland sees as a past unionism of “small minds and self-defeating philosophies”.
Watchman mistakenly assumes that the concerns of most unionists centre on traditional sectarian dog fights but thinking unionists know that sectarianism is the barrier to progress. Politicians on all sides are hampered by paranoid fears and suspicions among their backwoodsmen and even the DUP is desperately trying to control the tiger they have by the tail.
Unionism has had to change in order to win respect and enable Northern Ireland to survive and prosper.
My experience of the Dublin forum helped confirm that unionism can have a long-term future when it divorces itself from Watchmans subtle obsession with dog fights. Both unionism and nationalism have at times found themselves in similar sectarian cul-de-sacs with their sacred cows in perpetual motion. These sacred entities seem inviolable and non-negotiable and as long as they dominate, final resolution of our problems may escape us.
Today those closest to our violent past seem to dominate the political landscape and many remain entranced by sectarian concerns. But unionism no longer represents only small minds and self-defeating philosophies. It is constantly being broadened and widened and has the capacity to foster mutual respect and tolerance right across the island and beyond.