When danger's past, look to the future…

Alex Kane argues that the LoveUlster is looking in the wrong direction. He doesn’t doubt it’s well intentioned. But he argues that rather than rehearsing old fears, it should have set out to extoll the virtues and examine the positive challenges of maintaining Northern Ireland’s link with Britain.

By Alex Kane

Are you convinced that there is a conspiracy to bring about a United Ireland? Do you believe that Ulster is at crisis point? Are you prepared to pledge yourself to “…resist by any lawful means possible, any further erosion of my Ulster Heritage and Culture”? If you can answer yes to those questions, then you will undoubtedly be signing up to the newly launched Love Ulster Campaign; complete with its heavy-handed blend of Protestant revivalism, naked sectarianism and good old fashioned Unionist paranoia.

There is clearly evidence to support the view that the British and Irish governments have pursued a very one-side political agenda since the late 1960s, preferring to appease republicanism rather than promote unionism. But the plain fact of the matter is that Northern Ireland remains within the United Kingdom. After three decades of appalling and often entirely gratuitous violence, the pro-Union majority remains as solid as ever. Oh yes, we indulge in pointless and tiresome bickering with each other (and am I the only one who is sick to death of the never-ending point-scoring spat between the DUP and UUP?), but we retain an absolute and unambiguous commitment to our membership of the United Kingdom.

That commitment hasn’t been shaken by bombing, intimidation, ethnic cleansing, government spinelessness and republican propaganda. The IRA has achieved nothing. Sinn Fein has accepted partition and recognised Northern Ireland as a legitimate political entity. The Irish Government, on the referendum instructions of the Irish electorate, has abandoned Articles 2 and 3 and the pretence of territorial interest. The only way it is possible to create a United Ireland is through a majority vote in Northern Ireland, and that majority will not exist for decades, if at all.

All that said, it remains the case that the British Government in particular regards it as essential to persuade Sinn Fein/IRA that it has something to show for thirty years of terrorism. And if that involves rubbing unionist noses in the dirt then so be it. If it means disbanding the RIR then so be it. If it means bringing home the Colombia Three, then so be it. If it means almost instant demilitarisation, then so be it. In other words, it often looks as if there are no limits to which the government will not go in order to appease the IRA.

But that is something over which unionists have no control. We can complain about the blatant injustice of it all—and this column has done so, on many occasions—yet we are not in a position to stop it. And that being the case, we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated into a position in which our outrage is misunderstood and exploited by others. Gesture politics, be it the handing back of medals or the resurrection of the Ulster Covenant, has no effect upon government thinking. Indeed, the reverse is the case; gesture politics makes it easier for Gerry Adams to convince his grassroots that unionism is thoroughly demoralised.

No British Government can unilaterally end the Union or expel Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. Edges may be blurred and Anglo-Irish links set in legalistic cement, but the Union itself remains. We need to remember that fact. We need to remind republicans of that reality. What we must not do is box ourselves into some sort of self-fulfilling doomsday cul-de-sac. This is not 1914 and we don’t have a national party willing to go down to the wire for us. We have a case to make and a pro-Union cause to promote to our own people and to our fellow citizens across the UK.

My problem with the Shankill Mirror and the Love Ulster Campaign is the entirely negative approach it has adopted. Its starting point is conspiracy and its conclusion is a rallying call which dates back to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. For good measure it includes the view that “…the Troubles started in 1969 when the Catholic community, aided, abetted and fuelled by the IRA, attacked Protestant areas…and even today, as I write this piece, Protestant homes are being attacked all over Northern Ireland on a nightly basis. The media and the PSNI hide these incidents from the general public.”

As I have argued before in this column, there is a need for new thinking and unity of purpose within unionism; but the Shankill Mirror’s wallow in self-pity, milking of grief, and free-rein hysteria, is not the way forward. Resorting to the mantras of a bygone and supposedly golden era, to the exclusion of a realistic programme or a clearly defined strategy, does a disservice to unionism and to the victims of republican terrorism.

Unionism stands as firm today as it did when the Ulster Unionist Council was formed in 1905. Unionists haven’t gone away and we aren’t going to go away. I remember, with both pride and affection, those members of my family and my own friends who have been victims and casualties of terror. The Shankill Mirror would have performed a more useful service had it blown the trumpet for the Union rather than sounded what appeared to be a last post.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 3rd September 2005

  • 9countyprovience

    Has anyone checked out the love Ulster forum. It’s a gas. Every second person spews out the same retarded bullsh!t that has been excreted for the last 100 years. Narrow-minded boll0x, with nothing constructive or inclusive. And it seems that a lot of people on that forum should probably check their warranties on there computers, as the caps lock button on their keyboards seem to be permanently on.

  • Michael Turley

    From a southern point of view the love ulster campaign seems purely sectarian in conception and moronic in its execution. What is most bewildering about this firebrand strain of Unionism is its amateur attempts to recreate ersatz versions of the propaganda, activities and deliberate (forgive the use of a tired term) mopery of the worst elements of the community it apparently despises.

    Alex Kane appears mostly correct in his analysis. The Union is as strong as it ever was and the absurd negativity of the love ulster campaign is unnecessary and embarrassing.

    Furthermore, it re-enforces an impression that Unionism is at its core reactionary and sectarian.

  • Denny Boy

    One would think Alex Kane should know better. To my knowledge he’s not a loyalist bigot yet he trots out the tried and trusted words and phrases that play so well to the loyalist galleries: “governments … preferring to appease republicanism”, “ethnic cleansing, government spinelessness and republican propaganda”, “there are no limits to which the government will not go in order to appease the IRA”, “as I write this piece, Protestant homes are being attacked all over Northern Ireland on a nightly basis. [sic]”, “The media and the PSNI hide these incidents from the general public”, etc.

    I suppose this sort of stuff is necessary in a practical sense if Mr Kane wishes to continue writing for the News Letter, but is it helpful and constructive? He refers to “point scoring” between the big Unionist parties yet can’t see the irony in his writing an article such as this, replete as it is with his own point scoring.

  • BogExile

    Actually 9 county, some of the debate is quite interesting and I’m rowing back a bit from my initial caricature. The level of sanity has improved since the schools have gone back and day-care is starting again for the most splenetic.

    The problem for Unionism is that it has lacked the facility or incentive for navel gazing over the years while it has to be said the level of analysis and discourse from the MOPEs has been of a superior quality.

    I hope that now the Munters seem to be under control better this site will encourage debate in the Unionist family (yes, including the mad aunt in the attic). It also encouraging to see some semblance of exchange between Republicans and Loyalists which doesn’t include bricks.

  • IJP

    He doesn’t doubt it’s well intentioned.

    Well then he should!

    Michael

    From a southern point of view the love ulster campaign seems purely sectarian in conception and moronic in its execution.

    That’s pretty much how it looks from a northern point of view too!

  • George

    The overwhelming majority of the Irish people know the union is safe and are cockahoop about the consent principle.

    A political get out of jail free card for the Republic’s 4 million citizens, a loud shout out to the people of NI that it is for you alone to solve your problems with each other first.

    The consent bit is for north of the border. Hardly surprising that over 95% of the electorate down here voted for it.

    The problem Alex fails to point out is that the union and its continuance isn’t the problem to the Love Ulster people, who he believes are well-intentioned.

    The problem is consent and the idea that those non-unionists living in the union actually could and even worse should have a say in the future on Northern Ireland and how it is run within the union.

    An increase in Irishness = a dilution of Britishness in their logic.

    I wish they would love Ulster, then our problems would be well on the way to being solved.

    As for the pandering parts of the article, like the Colombia three appeasement stuff, I would have hoped for better. Who needs to read up on legal issues involved when conspiracy theories are better?

    Is appeasement a compulsory word for Newsletter articles to be printed?

  • Alex Kane

    Hi All,

    Two brief points:

    At no point in the column did I suggest that Love Ulster was “well intentioned.”

    Denny Boy:

    “As I write this piece, Protestant homes are being attacked all over Northern Ireland. The media and the PSNI hide these incidents from the general public.”

    That is actually a quote from the Love Ulster paper.

    You are right, I am not a loyalist bigot. But as a moderate unionist I can tell you that unionists in general tend to believe that our position is being deliberately undermined by the UK government.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • Mark Twain

    Alex – a great many of us Traditional Unionists think that nothing undermined the Union more than Trimble/Agreement Unionists like you. Are you ever going to admit to having got that (the Agreement, Trimble, etc) wrong?

    And I never understand that self-serving cr*p about calling yourself ‘moderate’. I’ve met more than enough pro-Agreement tw*ts to know that personal/social/religious moderation was never really their forte.

  • reality check

    Alex-I believe your not a loyalist bigot and are perhaps right when saying attacks on protestants are sometimes hidden from the media

    However I still think the love ulster campaign is sectarian.Uda leader helping with the deliveries?Hardly comfortable for catholics and a day after its inception a catholic school in harryville is petrol bombed.Could this be directly linked?I think so

    I feel your newsletter could be a little less disingenous whwn reporting attacks on catholic chapels,homes,schools etc…

  • Tom Arthur

    Re “pro-Agreement Unionists” above — I’ll you why I stopped being one (and stopped going to UUC meetings). David Trimble appeared, as far as I could tell, to be wheeling in ever more ex-UVF men to be Council delegates. There were more leather-jacketed hoods by the end at the Waterfront than there were e.g. ministers’ wives. Or so it seemed to me at any rate.

    Tom

  • Denny Boy

    “As I write this piece, Protestant homes are being attacked all over Northern Ireland. The media and the PSNI hide these incidents from the general public.”

    Apologies for attributing that quote to you, Alan. So somebody else was writing an article over many nights. I figured you were faster :0)

  • Denny Boy

    No, sorry, that made no sense. Here is your original quote:

    “and even today, as I write this piece, Protestant homes are being attacked all over Northern Ireland on a nightly basis.”

    Hope that’s clear as day….

  • peteb

    Denny Boy

    You’re missing the start of that particular paragraph in Alex’s article, including the quotations marks –

  • Dec

    “the Troubles started in 1969 when the Catholic community, aided, abetted and fuelled by the IRA, attacked Protestant areas”

    That one line tells you all you need to know anout the Love Ulster campaign.

  • Alex. Kane

    Mark Twain (3.05 post):

    I think that the UUP took the right risks for the right reasons in 1998.It now seems to have been a very poor judgement call. I’m not convinced, though, that the alternatives were much more attractive.

    “Moderate unionist” is a sort of very loose, catch-all term; I take your point.

    Best wishes,

    Alex

  • Jack Mack

    Hello All,
    What’s the craic with the ‘love Ulster’ campaign. Is there seriously such a thing? Never in my life have i heard of a country where a section of the population felt the need to have a campaign which lets it be know that they like where they live. Odd.

    Maybe the Republicans up there should have a ‘love Ireand’ campaign. Actually, now that I think of it that doesn’t sound too bad an idea. Hmmm….

    Good to see N.I. send England packing Wednesday.

  • AJP Taylor

    Alex

    How can you be moderate on the Union? Your either for it or against it. Are you slightly less for it than the DUP and slightly more for it than APNI? Or is it just a term that appeals to your middle-class sensitivities?

    BTW, I think the “Love Ulster” thing is pathetic. Bobby Saulters should have been nowhere near it and the people heading it up are so far to the right, they make Ian Paisley look like Ian Parsley!

  • beano

    Moderate Unionist to me is quite simple.

    You accept that not everyone shares your view and they’re entitled to disagree. You don’t shoot them because of it.

    You don’t let someone’s politics prevent you having a friendship with them.

    You strongly disapprove of sectarianism, from whatever source, and have no time for paramilitary violence.

    It’s a start anyway.

  • Dave

    “No British Government can unilaterally end the Union or expel Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.”

    This is simply not true:

    Allow me to state my case with the following

    “No British Government can unilaterally end the Union or expel Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.”

    This is simply not true:

    Allow me to state my case with the following:
    Ulster people have assumed that under Stormont they were an integral part of the United Kingdom. In a sense they were, for they had all the obligations to the Crown and the sovereign parliament at Westminster that the people in Great Britain had, with some — but by no means all — of the benefits that the people in Great Britain had. While it was intended that Ulster should pay an Imperial Contribution for the services that Westminster kept in its own hands, it was equally intended that Ulster should live on the balance of the proceeds of its own taxation without any help from Westminster. Under the system of Home Rule given by the 1920 Act there was no provision for keeping social or other services at the same level as in Great Britain. Section 21 of the 1920 Act expressly said that all grants or contributions out of the United Kingdom Exchequer for services run by the Ulster government should cease.

    The intention was clearly that Ulster should live on its own income, but the British government retained the taxing powers that determined the income the Ulster government should have. The intention was also that the British government should shed all financial liability towards Ulster. It was only after pressure from the Ulster government that gradually the principle of equality of services for all citizens in the United Kingdom made headway. Even today that principle is by no means fully applied, but it has been conceded in the realm of certain social services.

    Yet in another deeper sense Ulster people were not regarded by the British government as an integral part of the British community. The Ulster people had been given no say in the Treaty that affected them. That Treaty was made between Great Britain and Ireland. This mode of proceeding emphasised the separateness of Ulster in British eyes from Great Britain, even within the United Kingdom. It recognised, even then, what Westminster has since reiterated as the Irish Dimension. And it indicated that Westminster saw Ulster people more as Irish than as British people.

    In the intervening years since then the two different outlooks on the relationship between Ulster and Great Britain never had to be tested until recently. Ulster people continued to regard themselves as fully an integral part of the British community as the English, Scottish, and Welsh. Now they have been confronted with the reality that they are not so regarded by the British government and, indeed, by many people in Great Britain. The troops do not know for what they fight and die. They are not sustained by patriotic sentiment towards a land they regard as theirs.

    When Mr Heath said on the 20 July that “the British government and people” have the right to ask “the people of Northern Ireland” to assert themselves against violence — although the proposition was a convertible one — he was, consciously or unconsciously, making a distinction between Ulster people and British people and conveying that Ulster people are not seen as fully British as other people in Great Britain. When in December 1971 the Home Secretary, Mr Maudling declared that “the whole British people would warmly welcome a United Ireland”, he was excluding Ulster people from the category of British people. When the people of Great Britain are told that the Irish are fighting each other in Ulster they are being conditioned to regard all Ulster people as Irish and as not really British at all.

    But it is not only ordinary speech habits that reveal an attitude that denies full British status to Ulster. The explicit language of the Green Paper leaves no room for doubt. While it describes the peoples of Ulster and Great Britain as fellow-citizens, still those in Ulster are subject to an Irish Dimension; and they are given the plainest of hints that if they were no longer fellow-citizens no tears would be shed in Great Britain or in Westminster. This kind of attachment by one of the parties to a common citizenship is incompatible with any true and genuine feeling of oneness. In Great Britain Irish unity has now a higher priority than the integrity of the United Kingdom.

  • G2

    “No British Government can unilaterally end the Union or expel Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.”

    This is simply not true:

    Dave,

    It simply is true. The British Government cannot end the Union without the wish of the majority of citizens of Northen Ireland. The 1920 partition act ( and any sections therof) has been delegated to political history and is not law anymore. The 1998 good Friday agreement superseeds the 1920 act and is now law. In article 1 (The British and Irish Governments:) it states:

    “the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and accordingly, that Northern Irelandüs status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people; “

    http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/today/good_friday/full_text.html

  • Dave

    The Belfast Agreement is DEAD or haven’t you noticed?

    Like you say “The 1920 partition act ( and any sections therof) has been delegated to political history and is not law anymore.”

    The British can change the law to suit the situation, they are rather good at moving the goal posts.

    Stormont could not be desolved without the consent of the Ulster government but the British government did so without a second thought and introduced direct rule or haven’t you noticed.

    The 1920 Act when in force and law of the day was over looked when Churchill offered de valara the Six Counties of Northern Ireland in exchange for the use of the Seaports during WW2. De Valara said no?

    Don’t ever kid yourself that the British government of the day can’t or won’t hand over the Six counties of Northern Ireland, which is their intention anyway.

    The politicians of westminster don’t need the permission of the people of Northern Ireland, it would be better for face saving purposes if consent was given but in the end they don’t need permission from anyone. This is a political fact and nothing you say will change that.

  • TAFKABO

    Dave.

    The flaw in your argument is both arguing that Britain doesn’t want us, or see us as British,and that Britain can disolve the union whenever it wants.

    If the first part of your argument is true, then why hasn’t the second part of your argument happened.

  • barnshee

    TAFKABO

    Dave is correct in the sense that
    “The politicians of westminster don’t need the permission of the people of Northern Ireland”

    The UK is a “club” the majority menbers can decide to expel some of the members. Where he is wrong is in suggesting that they can both expel and dictate which “club”the expelled members then join

  • The Binlid

    beano,

    “Moderate Unionist to me is quite simple.

    You accept that not everyone shares your view and they’re entitled to disagree. You don’t shoot them because of it.”

    So other ‘unionists’ may shoot you if you disagree?

    AJP Taylor,

    Who is Ian Parsley? :0)

  • T.Ruth

    We need to realise that whatever the semantics-Northern Ireland will continue in existence as an integral part of the UK for this century. It is pointless therefore to avoid engagement in a visionining process that asks us where we would like to be in 25 years time-As Terence O’Neill said “”What kind of Northern Ireland do you want?” We are destined to live here together and the future will be moulded and built by those who are committed to democratic politics ,respect for the Rule of law and a determination to remove the scourge of sectarianism and paramilitary criminality from the scene.The IRA and the loyalist groups must disband,disarm and disappear from the scene without delay.
    There is no no place in our future for the gunmen and bombers,the extortionists and drug dealers,for the criminal gangs and the fascist thugs whose ambition is to grow fat on the drug induced misery of our young people.
    Respect for authority is the first step in determining to change the context and culture in which we live and that is hindered by a government which knows no shame,cannot speak the truth,and which bows the knee on a daily basis to terrorism. It was laughable to hear Tony Blair speak in India about terrorism on his most recent self promotional tour and then consider the government action here.
    If the good people on both sides cannot come together and work together to deliver us from evil we are doomed to face forty more years of inter community strife.

  • lib2016

    ” Northern Ireland will continue in existence as an integral part of the UK for this century”

    In your dreams. The argument for this comes from the last census and the assumptions made about the origins of the pupils attending state schools. Those assumptions have been anecdotally demolished on this board and elsewhere.

    The future voters are overwhelming from the nationalist/Catholic part of society and long overdue reforms mean that their interests will soon be reflected in the media.

    The unionist voting majority has plunged from 200,000 to 69,000 in twenty years and Alex Kane is correct in pointing out that unionism must become non-sectarian if it is to survive.

    Instead it is lurching ever further towards sectarianism.

  • Denny Boy

    The Binlid

    “Who is Ian Parsley? :0)”

    He’s an Alliance Party secretary. Have to admit that I thought it was a wind-up when I first came across the name.

    I know, I know. In his boots I’d have reached for the deed-poll forms a long time ago.

    It’s like Santa still OK with his name being an anagram of Satan :0)

  • G2

    “The Belfast Agreement is DEAD or haven’t you noticed?”

    Dave,

    Well you better inform all assembly members (elected under the BA). They havent noticed as all 108 members are still drawing their MLA saleries under the Belfast Agreement.

    STRAND ONE

    DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND The Assembly

    2. A 108-member Assembly will be elected by PR(STV) from existing Westminster constituencies.
    http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/today/good_friday/full_text.html

  • The Binlid

    Denny,
    I would have struggled to believe that without the link…He would ha’ gat some sleggin’ at skule.

  • Dave

    G2 and others

    The Belfast Agreement IS dead.

    The armed wing of SF/IRA have surrendered.

    It is percived by many that state governments are in the process of bringing about a so called united Ireland against the will of the majority.

    Don’t forget that independence is still a viable option for the people of Northern Ireland?

    I think that some posters spend too much time spouting off about a country they have NEVER LIVED IN and about sitations and events they know nothing about.

    Maybe some posters should stand for election or shut up either of these would be better than what they do at this moment.