Can the UUP attract Catholics?

The online version of last week’s Hearts and Minds didn’t come online till earlier in the week. Check out their trackback over the last ten years before tonight’s programme takes over. Tonight: Can the Ulster Unionist party rebrand itself enough to attract Catholics? Let us know what you think! Is it a distraction? What would it take? Or, is simply the case that people don’t/will not change ‘teams’? Or is it Unionism’s canny option for keeping a United Ireland at bay?

  • james orr

    “…Can the Ulster Unionist party rebrand itself enough to attract Catholics…”

    not if it thinks that rebrand means a new logo

  • smcgiff

    ‘Or is it Unionism’s canny option for keeping a United Ireland at bay?’

    Undoubtedly – but still welcome.

  • Carlos

    How would it attract catholics anyway without alienating Prod voters?

    Maybe if they completly distanced themselves from the Orange Order and expelled all members who were Orangemen.

    I’d vote for them then

  • If the UUP wants to be taken seriously on this, perhaps it should consider supporting reform of the Act of Settlement?

  • I’m sure it could attract some catholics, your religion doesn’t decide your politics. But could it attract those who don’t have or want a British identity? I don’t think so, and I don’t think they want those sort of people.

  • slug

    Good idea Tom. The UUP probably need to do things like that just to show its heart is in the right place.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Unionism is inherently weaker if it is based solely on the notion of ethnic religious identity. The UUP has far more prospect than the DUP of ever being able to define the ‘idea’ of unionism rather than simply be a drum thumper for an exclusively ethnic notion of unionism. This is why its separate survival is so crucially important. There is no reason why Catholicism is inconsistent with the unionist ideology. The problem is that a great many people in the UUP cannot effectively distinguish between the ideology and the cultural and ethnic symbols that provide them community orientation and solace. In this way they hold rigidly, even obsessively, to totems that alienate potential supporters from the catholic community and misunderstand those cultural expressions are not unionist ideology. There is no reason why a catholic and more importantly a culturally Irish catholic cannot be a political supporter of the continuation of the union and the underlying ideological content of that. That does not mean an embrace of all things culturally British but it simply means them offering political support to a party that protects that connection in a manner designed to be inclusive and respectful of the different cultural traditions.

    This is a pretty big challenge and represents a loss for the UUP as well. A lot of unionists are threatened by any adjustment of the notion of unionism. The notion of Britishness is shifting as the nation changes and cultural concepts adjust to take account of new demographic realties. Northern Ireland is insulated from most of them with its demographic cleavages being so narrow but it is still part of the larger organism and the adaptation is having an impact. For the UUP to truly become a party that deserves and will receive catholic votes it has to learn to respect the catholic community and to respect the cultural Irish identity that is part of that community. The point is that unionism is an Irish historical tradition and is capable of embracing the wider Irish diaspora as well as its British brothers. Once the UUP can figure that out and reflect it in its internal culture and behaviour, once that becomes part of the organizational DNA of the UUP then it may well attract those catholic votes it is seeking. If however it indulges in cheap stunts, or rebrands, or look for a few castle Catholics to parade then it will not be successful. I have no doubt peoples hearts are in the right place but the extent of the real work to be done is being avoided in exchange for easy and cheap technical solutions to a deeper party challenge.

  • David

    The interests of the broad nationalist people of the north are inextricably bound up in the interests of the SDLP, so I don’t see why they would start to vote for the UUP.

  • Brian Boru

    I think that even Catholics disinterested in a United Ireland are uncomfortable with Unionist symbols like the Union Flag and definitely do not want to have to sing GSTQ. It will be extremely hard and probably impossible.

  • Sean

    Unfortunately, the UUP does not even appear to be able to attract Unionists!!!!!

  • David

    I would recommend those nationalists who might be not for a united Ireland in and of itself to nonetheless vote for the SDLP. As I say the interests of broad nationalist community are inextricably bound up with the SDLP

  • Ultonian Scottis American

    David, question:

    The interests of the broad nationalist people of the north are inextricably bound up in the interests of the SDLP, so I don’t see why they would start to vote for Sinn Féin.

    Yet they have. Can you explain?

  • David

    USA

    I beleive it is because they have forgotten that the SDLP represent the interests of the broad nationalist community. I believe that nationalists will come to see that the SDLP are the best party and their votes will return to the SDLP.

  • David

    Ultonian, when I say the broad nationalist community remember that SF are not elected by the broad nationalist community. Its only the SDLP whose interests are inextricably bound up with those of the broad nationalist community.

  • Brian Boru

    David what do you define as a nationalist?

  • David

    Brian, anyone who is for or not very opposed to the idea of a united Ireland at a cultural level.

  • Yoda

    a cultural level.

    Could you elaborate?

  • David

    Yes, I can. A broad nationalist would culturally see his (or her) cultural homeland being defined as being at an island level, and therefore at a cultural would either not be against, or not strongly against, a united Ireland.

  • fair_deal

    Unionism in general needs to broaden its appeal (we do have growing minority ethnic communities and inward migration from GB to consider as well) but this all smacks of the usual ad-hoc approach of the UUP.

    “We need to expand our vote as we have took a hammering.”
    “Let’s try to attract Catholic votes” (talking in sectarian terms being a good start to a new non-sectarian unionism – Ed)
    “Great let’s tell everyone we want to attract catholic votes”
    “Should we do some research into voting patterns, intentions or attitudes to see what potential pools of support are out there for the UUP”
    “Not at all wishful thinking has always worked well. All we have to be is nice to them and they will vote for us” (Intelligent voters always react well to patronising approaches – Ed).
    “Why would they support the Union?”
    “There are better off with Northern Ireland in the Union so we’ll try and engage them about the economy?” (Never mind this has been true for decades and had no significant impact in sectarian voter paterns – Ed)

    Poor dialogue aside. A voter moving from a nationalist to a Unionist party is a significant leap in voting behaviour and a very big ask. To achieve such changes in voting patterns is quite possibly generational. However, a more achieveable aim in the short and medium term would be to sufficiently demotivate them that they do not vote for a nationalist party.

    Also a person considering switching is a ‘floating voter’, most election research shows a floating voter is attracted by value issues not hard issues ie in America attracted by family values not tax cuts. The UUP choice of the economy is a hard issue so may not be the wisest choice.

  • Brian Boru

    “Also a person considering switching is a ‘floating voter’, most election research shows a floating voter is attracted by value issues not hard issues ie in America attracted by family values not tax cuts. The UUP choice of the economy is a hard issue so may not be the wisest choice.”

    I don’t think you can really compare the NI electorate to any other Western electorate. Nowhere else in the West do ppl vote on the basis of religion. I think another problem besides what I have mentioned is that people in NI of both religions are voting not merely on the constitutional question but also on religious lines. They want “one of our own kind” representing them. I don’t think that barrier is going to start weakening until people see politicians in a powersharing context implementing policies that benefit their lives so they can say “Yes voting for them benefits me on the ground”.

  • David

    Also it should be clear from my definition that a Catholic in the North would almost always be a broad nationalist so would tend to find his (or her) interests inextricably bound up in the SDLP.

  • Young Fogey

    Unionism needs to get over the fantasy that there are loads of Catholics in NI who feel British. There aren’t. Loads who are quite comfortable with the status quo and not about to man the barricades, sure. But actively British? 1%, maybe 2% at the outside.

    For the rest, things aren’t likely to change any time soon and even if they were, what’s to fear in the South these days?

  • betterred

    I might think of voting unionist if they were going to take their seats in the Dail.

  • aquifer

    Just when the UUP whale looked beached, a flick of its tail and its off around the bay again.

    An amazing creature.

  • Kim Philby

    The DUP has a better pitch for Catholic votes than the UUP. As David points out moderate nationalists have the SDLP.

    But actual believing Catholics who are for example pro-life do remark that the DUP best represents them on many issues.

    If you look at America the pro-life movement has seen Catholics and evangelicals working closely together. George Bush in looking for acceptable nominees for the Supreme Court ended up picking two Catholics much to delight of his evangelical base. Anti-Catholicism is not an issue.

    Believers on both sides in the north are aware of developments in the US so there is at least a basis for a DUP pitch if they are interested.

  • Hangonaminute

    David

    You seem to be fairly confused about this issue, the UUP are not trying to attract nationalists – thats a stupid idea if ever I heard one, they are a unionist party so why the hell would someone who aspires to a united ireland join a unionist party?

    The UUP want to appeal to pro-union catholics, surveys and polls have shown that not all catholics are nationalists, thats a rather niave assumption. Rather there are a portion of catholics who feel more comfortable in the union, those are who the UUP are appealing to. As David Christopher, one of a number of young catholics in the UUP, pointed out in the programme, increasingly there are catholics voting for unionists and protestants voting for nationalists, especially amongst younger people.

  • fair_deal

    “As David Christopher, one of a number of young catholics in the UUP, pointed out in the programme, increasingly there are catholics voting for unionists and protestants voting for nationalists, especially amongst younger people.”

    Any clear evidence for this or is it a David Christopher anecdote?

  • darth rumsfeld

    “As David Christopher, one of a number of young catholics in the UUP,”

    ..would that number by any chance be one?

    Anyone who saw limp as lettuce Johnny -“Ooooh Dave Cameron you’re too tough for me”-Andrews last night knows the problem is that the UUP has no talent to attract anyone.These are the musings of a party in denial, which has lost it’s heart, and is grieving because it will never again be the natural party of (pretend) government-the real soul of the UUP being to BE the establishment.
    Implicit in this thread is the acceptance that the UUP has lost the Unionist core vote for ever, as attacks on the DUP become increasingly half hearted and ritualistic. Never mind the Roman catholic Unionist voter, why would anyone vote for a party led by wusses like Johnny Andrews? They are incapable of delivery, and the electorate will continue to punish them ( before -perhaps- turning on the DUP?)

  • David

    Hangonaminute I would say that all Catholics are broad nationalists, even those that are not against the union would probably not be very opposed to a united Ireland at a cultural level. Therefore their interests are inextricably bound up in the interests of the SDLP.

  • BogExile

    There are a substantial minority of catholics who have recently joined the comfortable middle classes and are now integral to the state. These are not idelogical nationalists – far from it. We all probably suffer from the intensity of this online identity debate which masks the fact that a substantial number of catholics and protestants are reasoanably satisfied with their constitutional place and far more concerned about schools and hospitals etc. Added to that as has been pointed out is an ethinicly neutral growing population of migrants from the EU.

    This represents a legitimate and potentially lucrative source of votes for the UUP. But it would take some radical steps and a long term strategy to deliver real results. Amongst those:

    1. A formal apology to the Northern nationalist community for the discrimination they suffered and an acknowlddgement that this played a key role in the Troubles.

    2. The severance of the link between the Orange Order and the UUP.

    3. A reframing of Unionism as an inclusive and secular set of ideas and values in the modern world. Ok, bit of a task I know.

    4. All Unionist politicians to state that they have had three in a bed sex with aa man in a Linfield strip. (OK just joking but think of the publicity!)

  • smcgiff

    ‘Hangonaminute I would say that all Catholics are broad nationalists’

    That’s a terrible analysis. Not one single catholic is a dyed in the wool, GSTQ singing unionist that wants nothing to do with the people in the 26 counties? *rolls eyes*

  • smcgiff

    ‘1. A formal apology to the Northern nationalist community for the discrimination they suffered and an acknowlddgement that this played a key role in the Troubles.’

    I don’t think this would be an issue, especially for the middle class people you mention, and would be political suicide for any unionist party. Thems the facts.

    ‘. The severance of the link between the Orange Order and the UUP.’

    No longer exists, and I don’t think it wise to stop members of the UUP to being members of the OO.

    ‘. A reframing of Unionism as an inclusive and secular set of ideas and values in the modern world. Ok, bit of a task I know.’

    Agreed – this should be the case anyway, regardless of trying to win over Catholics.

    However, aside from the particular roadmap I agree with you. The greatest threat to a UI is the waking up of unionism that they will need non Protestant voters.

  • David

    “However, aside from the particular roadmap I agree with you. The greatest threat to a UI is the waking up of unionism that they will need non Protestant voters.”

    But the interests of these voters is inextricably bound up in the SDLP so they are onto a loser.

  • David

    “There are a substantial minority of catholics who have recently joined the comfortable middle classes and are now integral to the state. These are not idelogical nationalists – far from it. We all probably suffer from the intensity of this online identity debate which masks the fact that a substantial number of catholics and protestants are reasoanably satisfied with their constitutional place and far more concerned about schools and hospitals etc.”

    In a referendum the SDLP will campaign in favour of a UI which because it is the nearest party to them will make sure these people are on board.

  • BogExile

    ‘..and would be political suicide for any unionist party.’

    Smigiff: I think there would be a tremendous symbolism in that act and that it is morally the right thing to do and if articulated through a strong and confident UUP leadership (where’s that then?) it would be risky but could work and gain the party huge and much needed international credibility as a reformed movement without surrendering its Unionist credentials. As a Unionist I would have absolutely no problem in reconciling this apology with my firmn belief that Northern Ireland has a British future.

    Acceptance of a part in creating the problems we have suffered over the last 30 years does not undermine the argument for Unionism. It would be a cathartic moment – a bit like if Sinn Fein were ever to sincerely declare that squalid, gaubby campaign of terrorism that mutated out of the civil rights movement was a grotesque mistake. Now THERES political suicide!

    We will always have supremacists orange and green who temporarily hijack the political agenda. let’s not give up on the folk in the middle.

  • BogExile

    Er – that came out a bit funny. I wasn’t advocating political suicide of Unionism as a symbolic act rather an apology to nationalists!! No freudian slip intended!

  • fair_deal

    Apology

    Would a UUP apology seem sincere now? A party takes a hammering. It announces it wants to attract new voters from a community it has a poor relationship with in the past. It then apologises for past misdeeds. Would it be viewed as sincere?

    Unionism and Stormont’s legacy

    On the legacy of Stormont, is the DUP not in a stronger position to break Unionism from it? The DUP had next to nothing to do with it barely founded before it was prorogued. In its final years Paisley called for it to go. Many of the DUP’s founder members had been arch critics of Stormont from the right on constitutional issues and left on social issues. Also a lot of the DUP’s base is Prod working class which has long since worked out Stormont didn’t deliver for them so it can tap into those resentments towards the old Stormont?

    Nationalism living in the past?

    Or would it be better to simply state this is 2006. The Stormont parliament ceased 33 years ago, why are nationalists stuck in the past on this?

    Stormont the Blame hound

    However the obsession with Stormont and discrimination is questionable the real issues of discrimination were at local government level not Stormont e.g. compare the fair allocations of the NI Housing Trust with the skewed allocations of local councils.

    Civic Politics?

    Do the sections of the two largest communities in NI that actually vote want civic politics here?
    Do the voting trends of the last decade not indicate a shift from sectarian politics to a form of civic sectarianism?

    Civic sectarianism meaning the public discourse is one of civic politics but a failure to deliver for your sectarian bloc means you get punished at the ballot box. The failure to deliver for its sectarian bloc was a key contributor for the UUP’s decline while Sinn Fein’s success at delivering for its sectarian bloc has seen it rewarded at the ballot box.
    This would also explain why the centre parties have seen steep decline during this period as well.

  • smcgiff

    ‘But the interests of these voters is inextricably bound up in the SDLP so they are onto a loser.’

    David, you can’t get your head around the idea that there is even one Catholic that holds the union very dear, and would be very opposed to the UI. I wish that were true, but it’s patently not.

    Bogexile,

    I’m a lot further removed from the feelings within NI than you are, so I’d be very wary of disagreeing with you on such an opinion. I’d still be surprised if it’s needed, but take your point that it’d be cathartic.

  • BogExile

    Smcgiff:

    I’ll let you into a secret – I now live in South west England so you’re as up to speed as I am!!

  • smcgiff

    ‘I’ll let you into a secret – I now live in South west England so you’re as up to speed as I am!! ‘
    Explains everything (well, the name at least!) 😉

  • I think if the UUP are serious about this then there’s not much they really would have to do.

    A very good point was made already that one does not need to feel in any way “British” to be pro union, this is what they need to address campaigns run along the lines of “Simply British” will alienate Catholics who see themselves as Pro Union and Irish, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, calling the UUP “Simply British” and draping themselves in the British Flag will alienate pro union Catholics.

    In my opinion what they need to do is rebrand to some neutral colours and rhetoric and row in behind the Good Friday Agreement, which guaruntees NIs place within the UK so long as a majority agree to it, that is what your pro Union Catholic wants to hear, not Union = British, but Union = Union.

    Although they may be in danger at this point of becoming the Alliance party…

    Anyway I hope they fail, so I don’t know why I’m advising!

  • George

    There is one major flaw in the UUP’s analysis.

    The UUP is hoping to attract this 25% of Catholics which surveys show could live happily in the union.

    The problem is that if this 25% was asked if it could happily live in a united Ireland should the situation arise, the overwhelming majority would probably say yes.

    The most recent survey showed only 1% of Catholics would define themselves as “unionist”.

    This 25% aren’t soft unionists as the UUP seems to think but they are soft on the constitutional question.

    The only way the UUP can attract these people is if they too become soft on the constitutional question and concentrate fully on making Northern Ireland work.

    In other words, the UUP has to completely forget the constitutional question (as this 25% has) and concentrate solely on delivering for its constituents within a UK framework.

    It’s priority has to switch from trying to remain in the union to trying to make Northern Ireland work within the union.

    Andrews said that the biggest threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the union isn’t SF and isn’t the IRA, it’s the Celtic Tiger.

    So in a sense, they are right to concentrate on the economic issues but they don’t seem to have grasped that this can only come about with the downgrading of the constitutional one.

    Duncan Shipley Dalton says there is no reason why Catholicism is inconsistent with the unionist ideology.

    Equally, there is no reason why Protestantism is inconsistent with a unified Irish Republic.

    It is much less inconsistent in 2006 than it was in 1996 and a world away from 1956.

    What will be unionism’s raison d’etre in 2026 if the Irish Republic continues to prosper and Northern Ireland continues to stagnate?

    Will the unionist slogan go from Protestant and Proud to Protestant and Poor?

  • Nathan

    Can the Ulster Unionist party rebrand itself enough to attract Catholics?

    Its common knowledge that the UUP have fielded catholic candidates in the past (Patricia Campbell?? and Tipperary born Sir John Gorman). At one point, they even had Liam Neeson OBE in the limelight so I didn’t think they had so much trouble attracting the Castle Catholic variety in this day and age. Surely with the OO link repudiated there should be less of a chill factor emanating from the UUP, with regard to that particular subsection of catholics.

    I’d reckon that the only reason why catholics aren’t joining the UUP en masse, is that it is a capital U Unionist party. Perhaps its the case that they find a better home in a small-u unionist party such as Alliance. Look at Seamus Close for instance – once upon a time, he stood in elections for the SDLP, now he’s a fully fledged councillor/MLA for a small-u unionist party so it is true that some people ‘will change teams’ in the course of their lifetime.

  • Nathan

    George,

    Its not Protestantism that is inconsistent with a unified Irish republic, but specific components to Britishness.

    As you are probably aware, Protestants have had some degree of political visiblity in the south. They are over-represented in the Oireachas and if Labour form the next coalition government, the Irish Republic will have its first woman Protestant member of an Irish cabinet in the next Dail. In that sense, it was never the case that Protestants were inconsistent with the republican order. Indeed, it was always possible to accomodate protestants, provided they did not hold themselves out to be guardians of the British tradition. And thats the crux of the matter.

    While its an understood thing that a unified Irish republic will be able to guarantee rights and entitlements to northern Protestants, you cannot escape the fact that will will involve a quid pro quo. At the very least, Protestants would have to shred the more repugnant elements to Britishness – loyalty to the Crown and Protestant supremacy in particular.

    Those parties who advocate a united Ireland are not honest enough. They’re well able to reveal about what republicanism has to offer Protestants, but they haven’t the backbone to reveal what northern Protestants would lose in the event of a united Ireland. Maybe its about time northern Protestants started hearing the truth about what aspects of Britishness they would have to repudiate in a united ireland.

  • i want to start a pro-united ireland central party. to prepare us prod norn’rs for the inevitable. if only to take the sting out of SFs thorny tail.

  • David

    The UUP should be trying to get more broad nationalists to vote SDLP.

    If the SDLP become the larger of the two nationalist parties then powersharing becomes less difficut for unionists.

    If unionists vote for the UUP and the UUP adopt a less repellant image for broad nationalists then the SDLP will prosper again and the future will be better for broad nationalists, being one of powersharing with all parties in the executive, with the SDLP as Deputy First Minister.

  • Hangonaminute

    “Hangonaminute I would say that all Catholics are broad nationalists”

    How do you account for David Christopher then? I wouldn’t have the arrogance to think I could claim all protestants were unionists so how can you claim every single catholic is a nationalist?

    Wake up son

  • Hangonaminute

    “1. A formal apology to the Northern nationalist community for the discrimination they suffered and an acknowlddgement that this played a key role in the Troubles. ”

    After nationalists apologise for the discrimination against protestants that went on in the nationalist dominated councils such as Newry

    “2. The severance of the link between the Orange Order and the UUP.”

    That no longer exists, it was severed last year.

    “3. A reframing of Unionism as an inclusive and secular set of ideas and values in the modern world. Ok, bit of a task I know. ”

    Have you seen the latest Ulster Unionist set of policies? Kindly do some homework, have a read of them, then come back and tell you what exactly you object to?

    Perhaps you can’t see past your own little box

  • Nathan,

    it was always possible to accomodate protestants, provided they did not hold themselves out to be guardians of the British tradition

    Conor Cruise O’Brien is a unionist and he was Minister for Foreign Affairs… I don’t see any problem with Unionists in the Republic professing loyalty to the queen etc… it’s their business if they want to belittle themselves by virtue of their birth. What aspects of Britishness are you afraid would be illegal or banned? There’d be nothing to stop anyone continuing in a Unionist party agitating for a return to the Union etc, you could surely fly the Union flag out of your house, paint your kerbstones red white and blue, and wear your bowler hats, and all these other things which make you british… do you really believe anything you do would be illegal and banned in an all island Republic?

  • Nathan

    POpeBuckfast

    Conor Cruise O’Brien became an ardent capital-U Unionist a long time after he held public office so I don’t see the point your making.

    Anyhow, he’s not culturally British – unlike most of his compatriots, he has a fluent command of the Irish language. Moreover, he remains a nominal republican – I know this because he refrained from giving any endorsement to the Irish Presbyterian who stood on overtly unionist platform in the Dublin North constituency by-election, in 1998. His views were that he supports the existence of the Irish Republic as a republican entity. So in that sense he is not a monarchist who wants the Republic to shut up shop and make a swift return to Westminster. He merely wants the continuation of the union in relation to NI – a partitionist mentality which doesn’t necessarily equate as full-blown unionism.

  • Nathan

    By the way, PopeBuckfast I haven’t addressed your other points because its northern protestant unionists who are the zit on the nose of the island. In that sense, its them you need to convince.

    I’ve no doubt in my doubt that they would have to forsake their loyalty to the Crown in return for acceptance in a new united ireland dispensation. Unless you can find a precedent to say otherwise, I rest my case.

  • BogExile

    ‘Have you seen the latest Ulster Unionist set of policies? Kindly do some homework, have a read of them, then come back and tell you what exactly you object to?

    Perhaps you can’t see past your own little box’

    These wouldn’t be related to the policies which resulted in such a spectacular melt-down at the last elections that they couldn’t even compel prods to vote for them.

    The policies are as tired as the leadership. Nobody is voting UU let alone middle class Catholics who could at least give them some preference.

    But you’re right, everything is fine in mainstream Unionism, David Trimble has charisma and I’ve just seen Menzies Campbell in bed with a Llama.

  • Nathan

    I meant – I’ve no doubt in my [mind] popebuckfast

  • hangonaminute

    bogexile

    the policies released in the last three months, by the way, are you aware that Trimble is no longer leader….

  • Nathan, I guessed as much, my fingers can be faster than my brain a lot too 🙂

    “they would have to forsake their loyalty to the Crown in return for acceptance in a new united ireland dispensation.”

    I don’t see how this would work, would everyone have to swear to be an enemy of the Crown?

    I think it’s a little hysterical to assume this Nathan, there’s nothing I can do to prove something as undefined as this won’t happen, you’re asking me for negative proof in the vaguest sense, which in and of itself is a logical fallacy…

  • John East Belfast

    George

    “The only way the UUP can attract these people is if they too become soft on the constitutional question and concentrate fully on making Northern Ireland work.”

    How can a Party called Unionist go soft on the constitutional question ?
    We unfortunately have to concentrate on the constitutional question because it remains under threat – I think much safer since Agreement and ending of militant Irish Republicanism – but still under threat all teh same.

    The Unionist Party only exists because it sees a threat to the Union and therefore likeminded individuals (despite having very different social & economic policies)come together to protect it.

    When we had our centenary last year I remarked that I hoped to God there wasnt another 100 years because the non existence of the Party would mean we had either obtained our objectives or had lost them.

    An eternal unionist party of any description only illustrates our ongoing instability – ie after a while it is simply part of the problem.

    Therefore Catholics in the UUP would really have to be Pro Union Catholics who feel the need to protect the same – I dont think there are too many of them around.

    I know what you mean about making NI work and indeed that has been the basis of Pro Agreement strategy all along – but in the end of the end of the day you also have to be honest – ie we are a Pro British Party and anyone who joins us needs to think likewise.

  • George

    Nathan,
    you say that there hasn’t been an honesty about what Protestants could potentially lose. There is a degree of truth in that but there will only ever be a united Ireland if every feels they will win from it.

    All we in the south can do is create a prosperous, open society working for the good of all making clear to those who wish to join feel welcome and showing that the things that they truly hold dear can be cherished and nurtured far better in an independent Irish Republic.

    I don’t hold out much hope for any movement in the coming years but there is no reason why we can’t be in a situation in 20 years time when more and more in Northern Ireland look south for a feeling of belonging rather than west.

    Why do I think this is possible?

    Because unionists are going to have to begin looking to themselves for inspiration in the coming years if Northern Ireland is to survive and even that will take a lot of repudiation of what they currently value if they are to develop.

    Look at all we had to repudiate when we as a people started looking closely at ourselves. And we haven’t even got halfway through the looking yet.

    Once the scales fall from your eyes, what you previously thought of as repudiation suddenly becomes release.

    Ireland in 2006 isn’t repudiating 1950s Irish societal and cultural values it is releasing itself from them.

    Unionism can do the same and who knows many of its followers might go from feeling like political and cultural orphans to feeling like members of a cohesive family unit within a generation.

    If unionism fails to repudiate many of its current norms, it’s doomed anyway. It’s just a question of whether it takes the rest of us on this island down with it.

  • Nathan

    I don’t see how this would work, would everyone have to swear to be an enemy of the Crown?

    Nope, we don’t have an oath unlike the UK, a country which expects everyone to subscribe to the monarchy no matter what. Nevertheless, northern Protestant politicians would be compelled to dissociate themselves from the British institution of monarchy in the long run, if ever there was a new all-Ireland republican dispensation.

    Short run – yeah they might yearn for the reinstatement of the monarchy in the wet lettuce tradition of Deputy Henry Dockrell, an Irish politician who used to represent the non-republican tradition in the Dail in the 20th century. But long run, they would find themselves running out of steam – I don’t recall Henry Dockrell’s successor, William Dockrell, advocating a return to monarchy anymore, when he last stood for public office in 2004, do you?

  • Nathan

    I’m off for the weekend now, George. I hope to comment upon what you have said in due course.

  • George

    John East Belfast,
    I fully understand your post but it encapsulates in it the very problem that unionism is facing.

    The reality is that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland is as settled as it will ever be. Unionists have to realise and accept this.

    Northern Ireland’s position within the UK is not “under threat” as long as a majority feel their future is best served in the union.

    Whether unionists (or any of us for that matter) like it or not the constitutional position in Northern Ireland could change if a majority wish to join the Irish Republic. That’s the democratic will of the people of this island.

    That is the starting point for unionists in 2006.

    So what do you do and where do you go from there? You make damn sure that a majority continue to see their future in the union.

    You don’t achieve this by telling them their future in the union is threatened, you do this by creating a prosperous and vibrant society that embraces the Britishness and Irishness of Northern Ireland in a way that the citizens of NI feel an Irish Republic couldn’t deliver.

    If Northern Ireland’s and unionism’s sole reason for existence is to be Pro-British then it will fail eventually.

    The UUP should say the constitutional issue is settled and set about proving that the UK is the best vehicle for all.

    The UK hasn’t been able to do that in the last 85 years so major changes are needed.

  • Nathan,

    So your worried that when Monarchists see constitutional republicanism working for them they will change their minds and reject the notion of worth by birth? What would you have us promise? To lable every Unionists progeney for generations monarchists and not let them forget that!? To keep them from participation in the organs of a democratic Republic?

    I don’t see how we can guaruntee you that you won’t enjoy our way of life and our society and eventually want to join in fully and participate fully, and if that’s really your fear then it’s not a united ireland you are afraid of, but individuality…

  • fair_deal

    Popebcuk

    “There’d be nothing to stop anyone continuing in a Unionist party agitating for a return to the Union etc, you could surely fly the Union flag out of your house, paint your kerbstones red white and blue, and wear your bowler hats, and all these other things which make you british… do you really believe anything you do would be illegal and banned in an all island Republic?”

    As those who are the leading proponents for Irish unity within Northern Ireland are also the leading critics of the activities you list above and are trying to get them banned or curtailed under the present constitutional arrangements some take the claims an All-ireland republic would do differently sceptically.

    Historical experience regards acceptance of britishness if the irish republic would also raise questions. Although the south has changed much in the past few decades the question remians has it changed enough to be as accepting as you claim – the debacle over a small orange parade through Dublin a recent case in point. However, the Love Ulster demonstration may be a chance to see progress.

  • FD,

    “However, the Love Ulster demonstration may be a chance to see progress”

    I certainly hope so and fully support their right to demonstrate in our nations capital.

  • Bob Wilson

    John East Belfast
    From your own remarks and from the points George makes you must surely see that the continuation of 6 county Protestant ‘unionism’ is a road to nowhere? The UUP is not capable of making the changes required without unsettling its core voters. We need a politcal transformation based on pro Union parties that are rooted in the politics of the UK not distracted by the nationalist framework of reference.
    You should join one of the main UK parties and help to attempt to build normal politics. The Conservatives for example are pro Union but the focus is bread and butter issues – like trying to save academic selection. It is not based on making Catholics or people of an Irish identity ‘pro British’. The UK is a diverse and tolerant country and NI’s best future – for everyone in it – is within that Union. It is a Union based on equality and respect.
    David Cameron has repudiated Gordon Brown’s crash idea of a Britishness measured by flags in the front lawns. Those who regard themselves as British in NI would do well to follow this line. Aggresive nationalism, British or Irish, is a dead end – surely we can learn that from the failure of the Irish Nationalism to bring about a United Ireland through aggresion?

  • Young Fogey

    Look at Seamus Close for instance – once upon a time, he stood in elections for the SDLP

    Ummm… how sould I put this? No, he didn’t, and I don’t know where you even got that from.

    Seriously, this Catholics voting for the UUP thing. There aren’t any more than a handful of them and there aren’t going to more than a handful of them. Far more of these ‘comfortable-with-the-status-quo’ vote SDLP than Alliance anyway, quite a few seem to vote Sinn Fein. Why shouldn’t they, if they don’t see any threat to the status quo and they want maximum possible sectarian advantage within NI?

    The number of Catholics who feel culturally British is miniscule. Patricia Campbell and John Gorman are not exactly representative of Northern Ireland Catholic society (hint: they speak with English accents) and David Christopher is a Free Stater.

    Northern Ireland politics will remain an ethnic zero sum for as long as the political system institutionalises sectarianism and maximising sectarian advantage seems a rational choice for most people. The UUP have played a very nakedly sectarian game closer in the past since 1969 – think of their delightful ‘fair tax’ leaflet; yeah, Fenians should pay higher rates than Prods, that’s going to have the middle-classes of the Antrim Road and the Culmore Road flocking to the cause, that is…

  • Nathan

    Young Fogey,

    I’ve just checked a trusted source (electionsireland.org), and it turns out my suspicions were indeed correct. Seamus Close ran on an SDLP ticket in the 1983 Westminster elections, in the Lagan Valley constituency. He was not elected, but achieved a respectable 18.29% share of the vote. Sorry to disappoint.

    As to the rest of your post, I will return after the weekend so I can address it properly.

  • IJP

    Nathan

    Sorry, but your ‘trusted source’ is incorrect.

    Seamus Close achieved that vote standing for Alliance.

    Young Fogey

    You are spot on of course. But to try to prove the point:

    1. What exactly are people suggesting the UUP try, that hasn’t already been tried by Alliance?

    2. Are people seriously suggesting that a whole raft of Catholics are about to shift their vote for a declining, divided party with ‘Unionist’ in their name?

    3. Is Fair_Deal not rather closer to the money when he suggests that parties seeking to gain ground target entire voter groups defined other than by religious background (businesspeople, farmers, trade unionists, whatever – they’ll ‘happen’ to be both Protestant and Catholic but a vote’s a vote).

    In short, if you’re trying to overcome sectarianism while you shouldn’t ignore reality, it’s not a good idea to start by being sectarian…

  • Young Fogey,

    What’s this ‘Fair Tax’ of which you speak? Have you got a weblink?

    Thanks…

  • Young Fogey

    Aye, yer trusted source, Nathan.

    Cormac Boomer (listed as SF) was actually a longstanding SDLP Councillor on Belfast City Council, ran as Independent Nationalist in Upper Falls in 1993 after being deselected and lost badly.

    Richard McAuley (listed as Alliance) is actually Sinn Fein’s Press Officer and one of Gerry Adams’ closest lieutenants.

    Online sources are great, but actually knowing what you’re talking about is better… (ooh, I’m a cat, aren’t I?)

  • Young Fogey

    Pope Buckfast

    Linked to on Slugger at http://www.sluggerotoole.com/archives/2005/02/its_just_not_fa.php

    which in turn links to http://www.uup.org/uup_itsnotfair.pdf – scroll down to “it’s not fair to tax people more because they are unionists”. The DUP would have been ashamed to run something so sectarian.

  • Bretagne

    Young Fogey –

    This is brilliant stuff – gold old UUP. ..

    1) Alienate the catholics,
    2) appeal to the orange order
    3) appeal to protestant voters,
    4) alienate the protestant voters
    5) Alienate the orange order
    6) appeal to catholic voters

    Repeat as required….

  • Thanks Young Fogey, that’s hillarious… more than a wiff of “Deutsche! kauft nicht bei juden”!! and the little blonde haird blue eyed poster girls, surely those Union Flags are superimposed over swastikas… beautiful; goebbels would be proud!

  • I think that RC unionist voters are more than a handful. It may be folk lore but there are meant to be a history of significant numbers of RC voting unionist in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

  • YF

    “Patricia Campbell and John Gorman are not exactly representative of Northern Ireland Catholic society (hint: they speak with English accents)”

    Are you sure? I don’t remember Patricia Campbell having an English accent.

  • Yoda

    After nationalists apologise for the discrimination against protestants that went on in the nationalist dominated councils such as Newry

    I am in no way excusing this, but you simply cannot assert that the discrimination you refer to here was of the same scale or as widespread.

    And apologise after, no less…. Why wait?

    Do you really speak as a UUP supporter?

    which in turn links to http://www.uup.org/uup_itsnotfair.pdf – scroll down to “it’s not fair to tax people more because they are unionists”. The DUP would have been ashamed to run something so sectarian.

    There. Are. No. Words.

  • headmelter

    I think someone needs to pass a big bag of wise up pills around at UUP HQ.

  • nationatlast

    So the ‘Fair Deal/It’s not fair’ party is trying to court the Catholic vote? Is this after trying to ‘out-orange’ the DUP and fail spectatularly? Get a grip.

  • slug

    “Patricia Campbell and John Gorman are not exactly representative of Northern Ireland Catholic society (hint: they speak with English accents)”

    “Are you sure? I don’t remember Patricia Campbell having an English accent.”

    Me either. In fact I remember her having quite a strong Antrim accent (for an Oxford educated lass).

  • Slug

    thanks for that. I was starting to doubt my sanity.

  • PaddyReilly

    This is not necessarily a new idea: I believe Captain O’Neill had something of the sort in mind.

    We are all of us to some extent Unionists: I myself would oppose any attempt by the Isle of Dogs or Isle of Sheppey to secede from the Union. It’s really a matter of where you live. In the context of Northern Ireland, it is only to be expected that a Catholic living in say, Donaghadee, would recast himself politically in a shade of green so pale that it might be mistaken for Orange. I even know of one man, from Ballycastle, who went so far as to alter his religious practise depending on where his job obliged him to live.

    Equally, the relationship between a constituent and his MP under the Westminster system is a very dependent one, and if you’re going to be asking a lot of favours of him, it might be a good idea to vote for him, or look like you have.

    As has already been mentioned, the proper forum for Catholic Unionists is the Alliance party. This has the advantage of allowing you to appear non-threatening to your Unionist neighbours for as long as the Union holds: but when the tide turns decisively Alliance will simply become a 32 County party. As you might expect, Alliance makes progress only in those areas where Unionists predominate, and Catholics live among them. Castle Catholics are loyal primarily to the Castle; when the Castle falls, they cleave to the new regime, not the old.

    Since discrimination was outlawed in the 6 cos, the Nationalist proportion of the vote has been increasing at a rate of 1% every two years. The closer this gets to the halfway mark, the more people will want to reassess their position: but this is not likely to apply to Catholics. Rats, it is said, desert a sinking ship; it would be a very strange kind of rat that wants to jump on board a sinking ship.

    The question has also been raised as to how a United Ireland would treat wearers of bowler hats with red white and blue flags and kerbstones. It is alleged that Nationalists in the 6 cos are dead against this sort of thing. I do not think this is the case: it is only in a small number of cases where such displays are intended to be provocative, obstruct the public highway, and involve bringing out a mobile vulgus with a propensity to cause breaches of the peace.

    How well does the Republic treat Jacobites and Bonapartists? The question does not really arise: lost causes generally experience a rapid decline in adherents. At present, red white and blue signifies contentment with the status quo, green white and orange an aspiration for the future. If the status quo moves to GWO, it is not going to move back to RWB. To vote Unionist in the Irish Republic is to spoil your vote: it deprives you of the chance to influence the affairs of the day. For that reason people do not, whatever their background.

  • Nathan

    IJP and Young Fogey,

    Thank you for correcting not only my own error, but the error on electionsireland.org as well. On this particular occasion, the 2 guys who run the site have fell far short of their usual standards, so I’ve dropped them a line to inform them of the error. I urge you two to do likewise.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    George is right that the corollary of my early statement is indeed that Protestantism is similarly not inconsistent with a united Ireland. My main concern with that fact is that 1. It’s not my personal preference and 2. The Republic has worked very hard to create a national myth of Ireland and of the Irish people that excludes the protestant historical experience. Now I don’t for one minute believe that the future of Northern Ireland is historically defined or certain. The possibility exists for Northern Ireland to create a future that is either part of the union, or a part of a New Ireland. I say a New Ireland because a unified independent Ireland represents a historical first and would not look like the current Republic. The catholic Irish myth would have to be given up in favour of a more inclusive historical narrative that would involve some very serious sacrifices of the current cultural definition of Irishness. It would come at the cost of the embrace of the place of Ireland in these British Isles and the powerful role of the protestant people of Ireland in its history and the place of British culture in the Irish nation. For many Irish people this represents too great a sacrifice and I have seen little evidence of a strong movement to seriously rethink what a ‘united Ireland’ would really mean. The Irish people have worked hard to define themselves as anti-British and to create an Irish culture distinct from the British. The reality of a united Ireland is therefore not the rosy cultural myth that some would like. Of course it could simply be technically forced off the back of a small majority in favour in NI but it would end up as dysfunctional as NI has been all these years. Alternately of course the serious challenge in NI is to create a society that embraces the Irish and British components and recognizes the reality of the confluence of these traditions in NI. It’s a nice unionist myth to say that NI is as British as Finchley but it’s a myth. NI is a distinct British culture but it is also different. The Irish aspect is as much part of this history as is the British.

    In figuring out a way forward the unionist political movement needs to start thinking seriously about what it is prepared to sacrifice and surrender to create a new future. To use an analogy it’s an evolutionary moment. The species has reached that moment when the external environment has changed and to survive it needs to figure out what parts of its DNA it needs to reinvent and what parts to keep. The majority is probably good but maybe 10% needs to be re-invented to adapt to this new environment. In the case of unionism it has the challenge of figuring out what that 90% of good DNA is and what the 10% is and learning to live with the loss of this 10% of cultural DNA. That’s a very tough and painful process for a community. It’s an experimental process and there is no sure and steady road map. No new ‘leader’ has the answers and no map or technical fix is going to get us there. It’s a hard and difficult slog. Of course the first step will be to recognize the necessity of the process and to create conditions for people to emerge, either in authority or not, to start trying to chart a course. On the way lots of ‘leaders’ will emerge who will claim to have the answers and who can stop the pain but they are snake oil salesmen as there is no short cut. Its not sensible to rule out anything but I do doubt the capacity of the DUP to chart a course like this and to create an inclusive new Northern Ireland. Equally it’s a major challenge for the UUP as it would involve some pretty painful filtering of the good and bad DNA that is the UUP’s culture and history as well. Fair_deal is right that right now the rewards politically seem to go to those who best fight their respective sectarian corner but i take that as a powerfully indicator of the level of instability and disequilibrium that exists in Northern Ireland rather than as some indicator of a preferred path. When people are in disequilibrium they will seek out easy solutions to lower it and one of these will be those who offer powerful immediate solutions or orientation. The DUP are good at that but the reality will catch them up eventually. The real path is harder and more uncertain but its the path of real success and of real benefit for the future of northern Ireland and ultimately the unionist political ideology. The UUP has a chance here to chart this new path and to be courageous in creating a future for unionism. It will be uncertain and difficult and will be fraught with a lot of voices of pain and complaint but it has the potential of leading to a healthy and more stable future for the whole community. I hope they are able to begin a real process of change and keep at it when it gets hard.

  • Dec

    It would come at the cost of the embrace of the place of Ireland in these British Isles and the powerful role of the protestant people of Ireland in its history and the place of British culture in the Irish nation. For many Irish people this represents too great a sacrifice and I have seen little evidence of a strong movement to seriously rethink what a ‘united Ireland’ would really mean.

    Duncan

    Ireland already celebrates the role of the protestant people in its history. Irish people cherish Sean O’Casey, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, GBS, Sam Maguire etc are national icons. Their religion is not a factor. Is Unionism so wrapped up in protestantism that it’s incapable of differentiating between the two? (This is a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.)

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    I don’t mean the celebration of individual protestants. The issue is of embracing the protestant British elements of Irish history and experience. What about embracing an Irishman like Edward Carson? There are individuals who have played a role in creating works of art or literature who were by heritage protestant but that is not what I meant. Sorry for my imprecise use of the term protestant. The real issue for Ireland is to face its own British heritage and its integral role in the history of the British Isles. The Irish national myth is attempting to exclude this and in doing so it creates no space for the ‘protestant’ but more precisely the British people of Ireland. The tone of your response is indicative of how close to the bone this idea cuts. When the Irish nation can embrace and take pride in its British inheritance then maybe a united Ireland is possible. But right now i don’t see much evidence of that idea even being countenanced.

  • The catholic Irish myth would have to be given up in favour of a more inclusive historical narrative that would involve some very serious sacrifices of the current cultural definition of Irishness. It would come at the cost of the embrace of the place of Ireland in these British Isles and the powerful role of the protestant people of Ireland in its history and the place of British culture in the Irish nation.”

    There have already been significant moves in these directions, with the Republic joining the British-Irish Council and honouring the First World War dead.
    Surely, a united Ireland, by removing the main source of differences between Ireland and Britain, would pave the way for more.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Tom indeed it may and that seems to me to be part of that process. As is said the future is unwritten and perhaps a united ireland will be created and perhaps a more unified Northern Ireland will emerge. Its an exciting and uncertain journey i suppose.

  • Tom,

    “Surely, a united Ireland, by removing the main source of differences between Ireland and Britain, would pave the way for more”

    How do you work that out? Do you honestly think that it would sort out the differneces that Unionists have in wanting to remain British??

    How about an Ireland united under British rule once again if you think a nationality question can be so easily sorted out. I’d be all for it!

  • Do you honestly think that it would sort out the differneces that Unionists have in wanting to remain British??

    No, I’m saying it would remove one of the main reasons for nationalist antipathy to the British state, and hence to expressions of cultural Britishness.

    That might make a united Ireland a more comfortable place for unionists than they expect. It wouldn’t be a magic wand to the sectarian divide, but then neither has the union been.

  • fair_deal

    Duncan

    Further to my earlier point it could be argued that the development of ‘Civic sectarianism’ is natural as it is the ideological framework of the Belfast agreement. It too has much civic language but the structures empower the sectarian blocs.

  • darth rumsfeld

    This is one of those threads that throws up a variant of the” Come on in the water’s lovely” call to Unionists- see Tom Griffin’s- “That might make a united Ireland a more comfortable place for unionists than they expect. ”

    Yet conversely, until relatively recently, by every objective test Roman Catholics had a better standard of living in NI, and still do in many significant aspects, as we broadband users know.

    Funnily enough, all the crowing from Unionist politicians about this didn’t seem to convert a single nationalist. Yet the same pointless argument is now used against us, with the same effect-George, in particular take note, and save us the stats.

    Unionism has,( kicking and screaming perhaps but nonetheless irrevocably) recognised that it cannot impose a “one size fits all” political and cultural straightjacket on nationalists. True, it has endeavoured to minimise the effects of that on its own people, but name me a group in a divided society that hasn’t.Any demand for nationalist cultural expression is heeded-even when the attempts to neuter it, such as on Paddy’s Day in Belfast, verge on the bizarre.

    Now, those posters who want to be my friend in a new Ireland- when are you going to LISTEN to what I want, as opposed to tell me what I should? When will you stop,trying to tell me how I should exercise my culture?

    If I want to wear a (frankly silly) hat and go for long walks in a dark suit in the height of summer to the beat of a drum pounded by a bull necked youth of limted musical talent, then I’m going to do it.

    And here’s the killer- the more you tell me and mine we shouldn’t, the more likely we are to do it.
    Childish , eh? Like all the RCs who vote for SF, knowing full well they encourage a criminal gang’s march to power- because it’s one in the eye for the Huns!!!Or the barristers and doctors who pretend to be avid GAA followers when really the main attraction of Sam Maguire is the chance to get a weekend in the Gresham, and be seen by clients and colleagues- as well as having acommunal totem pole to talk about on monday morning of course.

    I wonder how the NI GAA would survive if it was just a normal sport , free of political baggage, and with a Northern Ireland team competing in the “international rules ” series. At least the RoI would have a chance of winning that one.

    Here’s a pointer- if even big Dunc’s reservations to a united Ireland aren’t being addressed, what chance have you got of persuading the likes of me? Nationalists who are serious about a united ireland have got to ask us, not themselves, for the price that would have to be paid. The only one who’s even got an inkling of the need to make a sales pitch is Mary mcAleese, though most Prods don’t have UDA brigadiers playing golf at the K Club as a legitimate demand.Time to listen to the Cruiser perhaps?

  • Nathan

    Duncan,

    “The issue is of embracing the protestant British elements of Irish history and experience. What about embracing an Irishman like Edward Carson?”

    I believe efforts have been made to embrace Irishmen such as Edward Carson. Indeed, an unprecedented cross section of the Irish Republic, including the Arts Council, the Georgian Society, Conradh na Gaeilge, Michael McDowell, Austin Currie, Robert Ballagh and Ulick O’Connor all called for his birthplace to be preserved as a national monument. If Edward Carson had not been embraced as you seem to imply, then a coalition would not have been formed to save his former place of residence from destruction. So your totally wrong with regard to Edward Carson – I can say hand on heart that all has been done to preserve his memory.

    “The real issue for Ireland is to face its own British heritage and its integral role in the history of the British Isles.”

    The Irish Republic HAS faced up to particular aspects of its own British heritage – I can only guess that these developments have eluded your observation. Once upon a time, Irish people were reluctant to celebrate and commemorate those who fought in the ‘Great Wars’ for instance, but people are now taking a different position on it and are now celebrating this particular component to British identity. Indeed, the sacrifice and the memories of all those ordinary Irishmen who died in the Emergency Years are unquestionably still part of the fabric of Irish society. So I don’t know how you can turn round and say that Ireland has yet to face its own British heritage and its integral role in the history of the British Isles. I can only figure that you take enormous pleasure slamming the Irish Republic down whenever the occasion arises – revealing because that sort of attitude displays more about you and unionism that it does about the Republic.

    George,
    “Once the scales fall from your eyes, what you previously thought of as repudiation suddenly becomes release.”

    Lets put window dressing to one side for one moment – releasing oneself from an aspect of Britishness has exactly the same effect as repudiation. Look at William Dockrell for instance – he gave up on his father’s goal to reinstate the monarchy in Ireland for instance, and by doing so he has inadvertedly repudiated monarchial principles (supposedly a component of Britishness). Not that this is a bad thing, it was about time the Dockrell family caught up with the rest of the southern protestant community.

    Repudiation can be regarded as a positive feature to Irish history and it has the potential to benefit us all – so I don’t know why your window dressing it up in cosy language. For instance, Gaelic culture repudiated the Irish High Kingship, which dictated that only Catholics should hold the highest office in the land. It’s only right in that case that northern Protestants should follow suit in a united Ireland context, by repudiating a narrow aspect to Britishness such as the Monarchy, which excludes particular religions from office.

  • David

    The SDLP should be able to represent all the moderate Catholics. They would not vote UUP they feel more at home in the SDLP even they are not all that into the concept of a United Ireland as such. So the SDLP are the home of hte people of this thread. The interests of the broad nationalist people are linked to the interests of the SDLP.

  • George

    “The issue is of embracing the protestant British elements of Irish history and experience. What about embracing an Irishman like Edward Carson?”

    This point of Ireland embracing the Protestant British elements of Irish history seems to get raised a lot. But in that sentence lies a hidden truth, the only people on this island who have a part of British history worth embracing were and are almost invariably Protestant.

    British history or culture has never had a place for shall we call it the “other” Irishness, as evidenced by the total repudiation of British rule by the majority of people on this island and the total alienation of those “other” Irish still left under its jurisdiction.

    It has singularly failed to embrace and cherish them. There is virtually no mention of the other Ireland’s contribution to British culture to this day because the overwhelming majority of what was considered Irish was of little or no worth in British history or discourse.

    One the other side, many people from the “other” Ireland marvel at and respect Carson for what he did for his people because Irish people don’t deny him. We understand people’s desire to be British all to well.

    Why? But how many on the British side marvel and respect Pearse, Barry, Collins, De Valera, Connolly, Brugha and what they did for people of the “other” Ireland?
    Why, to this day, they still refuse the understand the other Ireland’s desire to be Irish.

    Personally, I find it quite incredible to hear people saying the Irish have to get in touch with their British side when the overwhelming majority of British people, Protestant NI British or otherwise, downright refute the suggestion that there could possibly be any Irish in them.

    Unfortunately, to embrace this type of Britishness can, for many an Irish person, be quite a chilling experience.

    United Kingdom my foot. Left one, that is.

    Nathan,
    I was attempting to show that what you sometimes think in life would be impossible to give up, that when you actually do it you actually feel release. Didn’t mean to be cosy.

  • Brian Boru

    Darth rumsfeld, for a start a United Ireland would allow NI to have the Republic’s much lower 12% Corporation Tax rate and the multinationals would come flooding in like they have in the South. They would certainly have created a hell of lot more than the measly 15,000 jobs in the past 15 years. They would be opening up factories to produce products to be exported, not just supermarkets down the road. The economy of the North would expand exponentially. Incomes would no longer be falling behind the South.

    I agree with George that the Nationalist and Southern people are not British. But I share Duncan’s viewpoint that Irish national-identity shouldn’t be based solely on Catholicism. But I don’t believe it is. Note for example the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown.

  • Brian Boru

    And Parnell, and Emmet, and Issac Butt etc.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Nathan,

    I was not aware of the coalition to save Carson’s birthplace and that is indeed a welcome development.

    “I can only figure that you take enormous pleasure slamming the Irish Republic down whenever the occasion arises – revealing because that sort of attitude displays more about you and unionism that it does about the Republic.”

    That is not my intent at all. That seems to put words into my mouth and then attacks me for speaking them. I am actually trying to be as open minded as I can about it. It is interesting that your answers consist of attacking me for not seeing enough of the monumental change that has apparently already taken place. Certainly i view the developments you mention as being interesting and positive. The Irish nation is clearly beginning the process of grappling with these issues. I also agree that the wider UK has done little to think more abut the role of the Irish in its history. In my view the unionists of Northern Ireland have a powerful role in considering that and working to embrace more of the Irish aspects of UK history as part of their identity.

  • Nathan

    That is not my intent at all. That seems to put words into my mouth and then attacks me for speaking them. I am actually trying to be as open minded as I can about it.

    Well thats refreshing to hear – I don’t take kindly to those who view the Irish Republic with a tainted idyll. I felt you were going down the road of doing that in some of your posts – in some instances, a production line of negatives, without any room for constructive criticism.

    I don’t believe for one moment that the Irish Republic WAS a bed of roses for the minority communities because it most certainly was not. I broadly agree with you that sections of the ‘Irish nation’, namely the bourgeoise ruling class, did their level best to promote the fact that Roman Catholic and Irish were one and the same thing. But soon enough, ordinary citizens abandoned the straitjacket of the establishment, to mould a more secular and tolerant Republic which I’m now proud to be a citizen of.

    I’m pleased to hear that you view recent developments as a positive thing. In the late 18th century, the term that you refer to – “The Irish nation” – referred only to those culprits who were politically involved and hadn’t the common decency to abstain from the political process – namely Protestants, especially our home-grown members of the ascendancy, Anglican community. For a time as well in the 20th century also, the ‘Irish nation’ took another turn for the worst, with a tendency in both Protestant and Roman Catholic quarters to associate Irishness with Catholicism, and to regard Roman Catholics as “the Irish people”. Considering the horrid past, I hope then that one day the equilibrium that has long been deviated from will be restored and that ‘The Irish nation’ will be become pluralist and all-encompassing in outlook. Indeed, I believe this process is happening quicker than I first believed – the Irish Republic now has a retired Lt Colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment and until recently a UUP councillor, as member of the Council of State. More exciting than that, if Labour go back into political office, then as things stand one particular Church of Ireland Labourwoman TD will make the history books, as the first woman southern Protestant to hold a Ministerial position in the Pluralist Republic. We live in interesting times.

  • Do people think that the catholics would vote UUP, they are deeply grounded with the Orange order and i do not think they would break them bonds to recieve catholic votes.

    I they were to accomadate for catholic voters, the uup would lose alot of protestant votes.

    http://com2.runboard.com/bulster1 – A forum for Ulster

  • Augustin

    There is a non-sectarian Unionist party – it’s called Alliance