UUP: Northern Ireland must work for Catholics

Johnny Andrews, recently appointed as head of the UUP’s election strategy has argued that, “it is the responsibility and, indeed, raison d’etre of this party to provide a political home for all pro-union citizens of Northern Ireland. We have always been a broad church; however, we must become broader”. Specifically it needs to make itself more open to Catholics.
Both the potential advantage and the problem is demonstrated in these figures from the Life and Times Survey. Only 1 per cent of Catholics define themselves as Unionist. But a good forty per cent count themselves as neither. This attitude is reflected in the educational survey released yesterday.

Its advantage may not lie in a large numbers Catholics suddenly voting for them, so much as diffusing the distaste for sectarian politics amongst the fabled Garden Centre prods: those middle class Protestant voters, who in Mark Langhammer’s famously apt phrase left politics and went off to play golf in 1969 and didn’t come back.

If adopted as part of a wider re-make of the party’s brand, it might give them some clear differentiators against its still better organised and larger rivals in the DUP.

  • Kim Philby

    Well done Johnny Millar. It would be in everyone’s interests if the case for the union and the case for a united Ireland were made on their merits.

  • Ben A

    Bullshit! We should make the case for the Union on its merits, and make the case for a United Ireland a vicious, satanically inspired plot to rid the ligberated people of Ulster the slaves of the church of Rome.

    No, wait. That’s been tried.

  • The Dubliner

    It really just sounds like a sectarian headcount operation by the UUP i.e. an attempt to keep the numbers who might vote for a UI under the magic 51%. It’s a false assumption that all catholics (40% approx) would voyr for a UI, of course. But I wonder how many protestents would vote for a UI?

    Anyway, headcount aside, the mainstream unionism is with Paisely and not with moderates, so this ‘softness’ isn’t going to wash with UUP party that will be forced to compete for a hardened unionist vote at the next election.

  • Bob Wilson

    I’m afraid Johnny Miller (shurely Andrews Ed) is on a loser. Not only because of the UUP’s ‘baggage’ but also because he misses the huge plank in the UUP eye – why do pro Union people in NI (or all and no religions) need parochial six county parties? They should participate in the politics of the UK – the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour parties – as they do in Scotland and Wales. No party whose history is sectarianism and whose focus in purely 6 county will ever successfully ‘reach out’ electorally.
    Johnny should be courageous and join one of these parties

  • Hmmm, isn’t this a slight return to the late, great “Why is Republicanism not interested in Protestants”/”Why is Unionism not interested in Republicans” threads? They were cracking, even if some people did head off to planet Zog at times..

  • Crataegus

    If this is an insight into UUP thinking it can only be welcomed as a sign of political normality. It is a fairly shrewd strategy and may initially only have a marginal impact on their vote, but if they really mean business and fundamentally change their persona it could work in the longer term. The side that convinces the most floaters of the validity of their position is the side that will eventually win.

  • Ben A

    Precisely! Everybody should join the Conservative Party. Join me and David Cameron.

    Or hold out until the UUP finally becomes a part of the C&UP again.

  • TD:

    You’re looking for these figures:

    The figures go in this order: Catholic; Protestant; No religion

    Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it …

    …to remain part of the United Kingdom? 24; 85; 51

    Or, to reunify with the rest of Ireland? 47; 5; 18

    (Independent state) 15; 6; 15

    Other (specify) 3; 1; 7

    (Don’t know) 12

  • BooBoo

    Andrews is wasting his time.

    Some sections of the UUP have been banging on about this for more than a decade; we had Re:Union rising and falling and individual voices calling upon the party to make an economic/political case for the Union rather than just a purely emotional one.

    Also, the UUP’s priority now lies in reclaiming that section of its traditional vote which has either vanished or defected to the DUP.

    BooBoo

  • BB:

    Are those two objectives necessarily mutually exclusive?

  • Ben A

    Mick,

    Quite apart from the fact that ‘reunify’ is politically and historically misleading (and that the question biases the answer), the fact that the figures don’t show a catholic preference for a United Ireland is mildly surprising.

    Anyhoo, I’ve been saying it for years, and it’s the reason I joined the Conservative Party; Unionism needs to get itself confident, needs to stop its distrust of the catholic population, and needs to begin asserting itself on its merits. The reality is that Northern Ireland can never be a great place to live if a big chunk of its population have misgivings about its existence.

    Could be Merlyn Rees was just thirty years too early.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Same old same old

    Some chinless toff gets elected to the UUP top table because his granddaddy was Prime Minister, anmd then comes out with the tired old mythical beast the RC Unionist, because “some of my best friends at the golf club are Ketholicks , and they’re actusally terribly civilised when one gets to know them”. Been done before and produced..er archetypal NI RC Sir John Gorman.

    There is no point in revisiting this , other than to demonstrate how desperate the UUP has become. This must be the third or fourth solemn pronouncement post Trimble of this intention-none of which has achieved anything, except a peerage for Eddie Haughey, and to swell the funds of the Ulster Reform Club as potential hopefuls are wined and dined. O’Neill condescended to them too, and only helped create the Alliance Party

    Tip for Jawn and chums-parties earn votes from people of all religions and none by working for their constituents, and achieving results-does anyone think RCs vote for Paisley because they like the man?

  • Crataegus

    Bob Wilson

    I agree

    I would love to be able to vote against New Labour. Why don’t Labour, Lib Dems. Etc organise here? Why do we have all these strange local political kangaroos?

    Why should I be denied the right to vote for a party that is likely to form the next government?

    Given the choice would I prefer UUP or Conservatives, Alliance or Lib Dems. those strange Labour groups or Labour, SDLP or FG, SF or (FF )?. DUP or who is left? Don’t see much point in the local parties.

  • Ben A:

    It’s not a radically new trend. That it is still surprising is as much to do with the political bun fight and the dominance of received “common knowledge” over applied research. Despite the undoubted power of the media in how the news gets reported, it is politicians who make and do politics. Millar is one of the few to mention this territory in detail.

    It may or may not do his party any good to notice and act upon the reality connoted by this research, but you can be sure the DUP have noticed it already and will have built it into their strategy and rhetoric. The SDLP’s reinvigoration of the last year will almost certainly have been based on the understanding that not every Catholic is a pure born 32 county nationalist.

  • Middle o’ the Road

    As a moderate catholic who wants to see the ultimate reunification of Ireland, I have to that I frequently find I have more in common with moderate Unionism than I do with SF and the Bhoys.It sounds like honest and sensible politics for once.

    Middle o’ the road moderates unite and don’t let SF/DUP keep yu down!

  • Ben A

    Mick,

    I had realised that the UI support amongst RC’s was less than 50%, but that much less? I’m mildly sceptical.

    As for the SDLP having a reinvigoration, that remains to be seen.

  • George

    Will we be seeing positive discrimination on the part of the UUP to implement this suggestion?

    Panels of Catholic-only candidates to see who runs for the UUP in certain constituencies, for example?

    The ony way you can make a party more woman/Catholic/poor person etc. friendly is by getting them to become party members, promoting them up the ranks and running them as candidates.

    Broadening the electoral support can only come about by broadening the party membership.

    So if we see UUP branches canvassing for Catholic members and stating that Catholics will run in certain constituencies to redress the current imbalance they might be on to something.

    That something might be extinction if all the current members leave and all the remaining voters migrate to the DUP but there is only one way to find out.

    If they don’t do this, then no amount of “policy” changes will convince your average Catholic that unionism includes him/her.

  • uup

    Think you got the name wrong Mick, its Johnny Andrews, a party officer from Comber.

  • UUP: Doh! Must have had my golfing head on this morning!!

  • Butterknife

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Miller_Andrews

    Mick be respectful of a Prime Minister’s grandson;-)

  • pacman

    A bit of a non-runner I would imagine for the UUP. Catholic Unionists already have a party to vote for – The SDLP – or Unionist Lite as they are known by

  • John East Belfast

    Yesterday’s thread and associated research on Integrated education showed some interesting results which is both encouraging and discouraging for Andrews statement.

    For instance the survey showed that of the Catholic sample 9.5% described themselves as British and 24.5% as Northern Irish against 2/3 that considered themselves as purely Irish.

    However when it came to political identity only 1% saw themselves as unionist. A high proportion could not bring themselves to support any NI political force.

    Overall this is more encouraging for unionism as opposed to nationalism but nevertheless there is no doubt Unionism is a political turn off for Catholics.

    The DUP has no mission of bridging this gap so that leaves it to UUP.

    However the UUP has already paid a high price for chasing after the vote of the garden centre prod and the catholic unionist and the appetite for more of the same is waning.

    If there is a resurgent UK Conservative upturn underway then perhaps Bob Wilson is right and NI Con Party might be the best option.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Butterknife,

    Mick be respectful of a Prime Minister’s grandson;-)

    Johnny Andrews is actually the great-grandon of the Prime Minister Andrews.

    His grandfather was only vice-Prime Minister.

    His father was nothing politically.

    And we’ll see about Johnny in good time!

  • Mick,
    your post on Jan 19, 2006 @ 10:35 AM doesn’t seem to reconcile with the post by John East Belfast on Jan 19, 2006 @ 01:28 PM.

    What’s your source ?

    as an aside….who was it that said…”trust but verify”

    Thanks

  • Yoda

    This is still the “Simply British” UUP, right…?

  • Crat’ Bob and Ben

    Roll on the day when NI can take the border out of everyday politics. Paradoxical as it may seem on the surface, it is the logical goal of true unionism

  • Sorry Niall, I had the information posted before I realised I’d not mentioned the source. It’s from the same NILT survey, different question:

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2004/Political_Attitudes/NIRELAND.html

    Trust but verify is right!

  • S.Stevenson

    Although that survey may make good reading, I would regard it with more than a degree of scepticism.
    Alot of catholics if they were asked at the minute whether they favour reunification would probably say no for practical/logical reasons. For example, a catholic father of four who works say as a postman would probably want to remain part of the UK as he would naturally assume that this would put his financial security at risk. Similarly, alot of catholics claim state benefits ect. and depend to a large extent on the relatively liberal UK welfare laws which they fear would not be as good under a UI. Then there are those who simply anticipate the likely response from our side to such a move i.e. civil war and have had enough of that during the troubles.
    However, if a UI was phrased in the right way in terms of job security and the economic/political conditions were right, the majority would probably vote for it as well as an awful lot of middle-class prodestants who have eaten up the SF/IRA propoganda of ‘an Ireland of equals’ in that they feel they will be better off under a UI.
    Another thing that worries me is the growth of the GAA. The GAA is pro-IRA/republican and it is shoved down our throats every day. What’s more, it is a breeding ground for republicanism. It’s already by far the biggest sporting organisation in the province and they play the republics’ anthem before every game as well as fly the republic of Ireland flag at every game from under-8’s! My biggest fear is that young unionists may start joining the GAA and this appears already to be happening. Once protestants start playing Gaelic, they will become brainwashed by the pan-nationalist front which could in the middle to long-term seriously affect the status quo. In fact, the president of the ulster GAA has publicly encouraged this and even quipped that he hoped one day to see a protestant school win the McCrory cup.
    Needless to say, this is something that we must resist amongst other things, if we want those figures in the survey to remain the way we would like.

  • Ben A

    Christ the light, Stevenson, who needs republicans when there are unionists like you around? FYI, I’m a card-carrying tory, and I’ve been pleased to attend an All-Ireland Football Final, in Croker, and to stand for the anthem. As for the hope that one day a Protestant School will win the McCrory, I look forward to the day when a school’s a school and a sport’s a sport. The idea of the GAA as the Sporting Wing of the IRA is a bollocks.

    Bertie; removing the border from the consciousness of today’s nationalists and unionists, and getting them to knuckle down with the work of building a Northern Ireland everyone can be proud of, could be a noble and pragmatic goal for everyone, if they cared about the people of the Liberated Six Counties.

  • Yoda

    it is the logical goal of true unionism

    I’m dying to hear you explain this one…

  • 2050

    Sinn Fein should adopt the same strategy from their perspective and chase the Protestant vote in a meaningful way by addressing real Protestants concerns and fears. Not an easy task obviously but lets say 15% swung to SF – That would make a difference!

    Their can be no victory’s in the New Ireland, just slow democracy.

  • Ben A

    2050, the main difference between SF and UUP is that the UUP hasn’t in recent years been shooting people, threatening people and generally acting the maggot. As for the idea of 15% of protestants supporting Sinn Féin, there’s more chance of 15% of Protestants developing organic wings and setting sail to the moon. Seriously.

  • Nathan

    Now that the link with the OO has been severed, you would think that the UUP would be a more attractive proposition for the new breed of ‘Castle Catholics’ in NI – particularly the North Down bunch.

    I’d like to see the UUP go much further than trying to create an exclusively ‘RC Unionist’ identity in NI. They need to create a radical unionism which can encompass all. That includes not only your typical ‘Castle Catholic’ in denial, but newly-arrived immigrants on top.

    If the heavily-jaundiced UUP is to continue on the path thats its on at the moment, then it will risk doing what silly republicanism did in the 20th century. In the 20C, the likes of Fianna Fail were responsible for the creation of an exclusively ‘Protestant republican’ identity. Thats why there is never any shortage of deluded individuals who associate themselves with the odious term ‘Protestant republican’ (e.g. Martin Mansergh, Trevor Matthews, Douglas Gageby RIP ).

    I am of the opinion that that this often-rehearsed term, ‘Protestant republican’ needs to be rejected where-ever possible. It contradicts the very essence of true republicanism, which is all about substituting the common name republican in place of all the denominations in Ireland.

    Maybe its about time the UUP started to substitute the common name unionist in place of all the denominations in Ireland also. Their political philosophy must not merely allocate a place in the cupboard for ‘Castle Catholics’, they must go deeper than that to ensure that they can accommodate all shades of religion, ethnicities, and ancillary political beliefs also (whether it be republicanism in the French or American sense or socialism or the Bahai faith or whatever etc)

  • Stephen Copeland

    Nathan,

    In order to do what you suggest, the UUP would have to jettison its ‘ethnic’ exclusiveness. It would have to go beyond grudging acceptance of diversity, and actively and genuinely embrace it. That would mean genuine involvement, support, promotion and celebration of culturally Irish (and other) things. If unionism is to be more than mere racist anti-Irishness, it has to prove it. There have to be unionists playing gaelic football and hurling, a unionist celebration of St Patrick’s day, unionist support for the Irish language and music, and so on. Basically unionism would have to show that it merely prefers to remain in the UK, not that it wants to denigrate and repress cultures other than its own (somewhat archaic and artificial) ‘British’ one.

    Do you see that happening? I don’t.

  • 2050

    If the UUP could take the genuine steps suggested in the previous post they would capture a percentage of the catholic vote and perhaps if SF made similar steps the same could happen for them.

    Problem is neither party are actually showing the insight or forward thinking to do take the steps required to attract the vote of their perceived “other side” or sell thier future vision for everyone in the country.

    Religion doesnt really matter attitude would be a good start.

    The constant media bullshit and game playing in NI is also an obstacle to those steps happening.

    Lets hope both sides progress this for the good of us all.

  • Ukko

    “they play the republics’ anthem before every game as well as fly the republic of Ireland flag at every game from under-8’s! ”

    Total crap.

  • IJP

    This has been tried before.

    Bob Wilson makes some very valid points, but should not forget the Conservatives have ‘baggage’ too (they were, after all, to all intents and purposes one and the same during the 21-72 ‘Regime’).

    However, a party which puts the economy central to reconciliation on a fundamentally pro-integration and anti-sectarian basis would get quite a long way if well managed, in my view. I just doubt such a party could get away with having ‘Unionist’ or ‘Conservative’ in its name…

    Mick and Ben A

    Those figures come from the NI Life and Times Survey, and are basically unchanged for 10 years.

    They are therefore extremely misleading (as Ben A hints). The same survey regularly puts SF’s support at 9-11%… quite…

    There is no significant ‘pro-Union’ Catholic population that I’ve ever come across. Although a lot of people on both ‘sides’ are uninterested completely in the constitutional question – unfortunately, most of these choose to be uninterested in voting too…!

  • Ben A

    Steven Copeland,

    Despite it being the main part of your argument, you’re conflating issues of ‘anti-irishness’ and ‘pro britishness’, which, while they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, also don’t have to be subsumed in cultural symbolism like ‘protestants playing gaelic football’. Unionism doesn’t have to exist according to irish nationalist conditions.

    Unionism is a political position, not a cultural forum. Frankly, Unionism can concentrate on doing a good job of defending the principle of co-operation with the UK and just living with Ireland, and be done with it. The GAA can promote the hurling in their own time. If people who subscribe to Unionist principles want to pick up the caman, well, fine, but it shouldn’t be immediately written up as love across the barricades. Sport for sport’s sake, anyone?

    I’m a Unionist, and I’m not going to support St. Patrick’s day, because St. Patrick is a Christian Saint, and I am not a Christian. It is close to the height of the hypocrite’s art to argue that a political tradition should be involved in the promotion of a religious holiday. You’re conflating the issues again.

    One area in which you’re just confused is the concept of Unionism promoting a barren, archaic position. As far as I am aware, the United Kingdom exists, and Northern Ireland is part of it. Promoting the Status Quo may not be revolutionary, but it’s hardly archaic, nor is it artificial.

    Unionism doesn’t have to be about promoting cultural irishness. It can be about accepting it and embracing the potentialities of difference. As for the language, well, tá cúpla focáil agam, but that was more to appease the girlfriend, frankly. Unionists don’t have to be about supporting an teánga.

    Fianlly, this might not be to anyone’s taste, but the reality is, Unionsm can quite legitimately take a position of ‘accepting difference’ rather than embracing it. It would be less heartwarming, there might be fewer trips to Glencree from it, but it would, at the end of the day, be a legitimate political position to take.