Unionism and the McAleeses: Dangerous Liaisons and DUP Defeat in Deep North

I had originally planned to put up two threads, but decided the stories together would illustrate perfectly unionism’s fascinating relationship with the McAleeses. Suzanne Breen has a piece highlighting how many are beginning to believe that Martin and Mary’s dangerous liaisions with the UDA in Belfast may be a ticking bomb for the couple.
The second story is perhaps more revealing of how comfortable ordinary unionists on the ground have become with the all-Ireland nature of the McAleese presidency- or if not comfortable, at least accepting. Efforts by the DUP in north Antrim to prevent the President from visiting a mainly Protestant grammar school in Ballymena have fallen on deaf ears, so much so that the party has publicly had to declare it will not be staging a protest at the visit.

  • slug

    Ballymena Academy is not a “protestant school”.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Trust the update agrees with you, Slug.

  • Pete Baker

    Chris.. from the linked Sunday Tribune article –

    “To say senior Department of Foreign Affairs’ officials are worried is an under-statement,” says a government source. “This is a time-bomb waiting to go off. He’s in very dodgy territory – an unelected individual acting with the clout of his wife’s office raises constitutional issues. What’s worrying is that UDA crime and violence continues.”

    And the article quotes, although anonymously, presumably Irish government sources throughout.

    “unionism’s fascinating relationship with the McAleeses”?

  • slug

    Chris – Ballymena Academy isn’t controlled either. It’s a Voluntary Grammar (i.e. self-governing).

  • Comrade Stalin

    I hate terms like “mainly Protestant”.

    That said, the UDA’s game here, and the Irish government’s support for it, is sordid. I agree with the thrust of the article that this is well meaning, but it only shows that these people are even duping themselves into the weird idea that throwing money at paramilitaries is a good way to make them stop. What the UDA are quite obviously doing is trying to get the funding in for the areas they control, and then take the credit for it, hence bolstering their public support in the face of any future crackdown by the authorities.

    The Assets Recovery Agency seem to be the only people who can put a stop to this nonsense.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Do you not consider Jackie McDonald and other leading loyalist figures to be members of the unionist community? Even you must concede that for the most extreme wing of unionism to feel so comfortable with the personification of the southern Irish state is somewhat ironic.

    Add to that the fact that the DUP have so far failed in their efforts to whip up broad based hostility within the broader unionist community to the McAleeses- if Ballymena is anything to go by (witness Dodds/ Paisley Snr double act tantrum earlier this year when Mary McAleese visited north Belfast.)

  • Chris Donnelly

    Thanks Slug. Final update.

  • Pete Baker


    I consider McDonald et al to be criminals, but your line following the assertion that the linked articles “illustrate perfectly unionism’s fascinating relationship with the McAleeses” – “Suzanne Breen has a piece highlighting how many are beginning to believe that Martin and Mary’s dangerous liaisions with the UDA in Belfast may be a ticking bomb for the couple.” – could be seen to suggest that the “many” you refer to are within unionism.. when the time-bomb quote comes from an Irish government source.

    As it is I happen to agree with that source. But it’s not a relationship with loyalism that is exclusive to unelected spouses of Irish Presidents. The NIO and the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland are at it as well.

  • slug


    Its worth pointing out that Mary McAleese is just the last in a long line of NI Nationalists invited in the last few months by Ballymena Academy.

    John Hume

    Declan O’Loan

    Speed Dating with Catriona Ruane

  • GavBelfast

    Isn’t the school, and as personified by its management, staff and pupils, simple being mature and mannerly?

    I would hope a maintained school in, say, the City side would behave similarly.

    That’s joined-up, thinking behaviour. What’s more, it isn’t necessarily compromising on ones viewpoint.

    And maybe the DUP is learning that, too.

  • slug

    Ballymena Academy invites the Irish President to Ballymena.

    Yet the Queen has never been invited to visit the Irish Republic.

    Isn’t it time for the Irish Republic to invite the Queen to visit officially?

  • páid

    well i’m only one citizen but my answer to that is yes! As far as I’m concerned it’s just a matter of timing. In view of the Love Ulster fiasco my guidelines for the timing are…..

    secret till the last possible moment to allow cancellation in case of ‘incidents’

    coincide with free cider party on dollymount strand to attract lowlife away from town

    coincide with celtic exhibition match on croagh patrick for much the same reason

    coincide with restoration of institutions probably too much to hope for

  • Brian Boru

    “Isn’t it time for the Irish Republic to invite the Queen to visit officially? ”

    Yes we should.

  • pakman

    Good on the alma mater!

    Just one word of caution – don’t get sucked into the all island project this Irish President has for her office. Leave that to the UDA.

  • And we thought Cherie’s behaviour was bad.

  • Yokel

    Chris Donnelly, wind yer neck in. While the DUP may spend their stupidly wasted days having issues with Mary McAleese turning up at a school, reality works likes this.

    1. School would like someone fairly ‘famous’
    2. President likes idea
    3. Deal done, she comes up and talks.

    It’s not political, its not some strenegthening of some all ireland project. It’s only made political by people like the DUP and…er , youself making a sectarian and national political subject. Problem with this country in a nutshell….

  • pakman


    does Jaques Chirac pop across into Germany for a sixth form pol soc? I don’t think so.

    As long as the Irish President thinks it is appropriate to move around NI in exactly the same way she moves around the state which elected her then she is advancing an all island project. That is what politicises these situations. Maybe that’s by design.

  • Stephen Copeland


    Take it easy! Not every visit is a ‘state visit’ – have a look aat the schedules of other European Heads of State, they are forever traveling around. Chirac will be in Brussels this week, as will several others, and nobody is getting all hot and bothered. Your antagonism over Mary McAleese says more about you than about her.

  • Yokel

    It could have been McAleese, it could have been Eddie Irvine..local person made good or it could have been an MSP from Edinburgh or Pam Ayres….its a name of some sort.

    Pakman..have some confidence in the cause with which I’m guessing you associate. She or anyone else can attempt to talk their way to the an all ireland project or a project to rebuild a Morris Marina, it don’t really matter..but they can’t beat Joe Soaps turning out at the ballot box and saying ‘pro-union please’. Considering unionist electorate turnout is traditionally a bit less than their nationalist counterparts, I’d rather be putting my effort into the latter and not McAleese, who can say what she wants. Unionism has a greater potential power than nationalism, its called the ballot box and it should stop wasting its time on creating more bogeymen.

  • pakman

    Stephen Copeland & Yokel

    1. the relationship between France and Belgium is ever so slightly less fraught than that between NI and the RoI

    2. I have no problem with the Irish President coming, just perhaps the manner of her coming

    3. whilst not every visit is a state visit there is a tendency to push the boundaries (pun intended) – my refurbished place of business was opened my Mrs McAleese on a “private” visit but the commerative plaque claims the opening was by the “President of Ireland”

    4. I don’t associate with unionism, I am a unionist

    5. As a unionist I have sufficient confidence to welcome the Irish President to Ballymena Academy – that doesn’t mean I can’t point out what I suspect her agenda in coming is

    I trust this helps.

  • slug

    As this blog entry noted, the Irish President has been invited to Ballymena Academy.

    The visit took place today.

    Here is the school’s report: Report of Irish President’s visit to Ballymena Academy

    In contrast the Queen has never been invited to the Republic.

  • Brian Boru

    On the accusations of “breaches of protocol”, I recall the same being said about Mary Robinson before her. It’s just the Unionists competing with their electorate for the prize of being the most “Southern-bashing” of the 2 to get votes. I don’t think there’s any substance to it. Anyway, it’s not exactly like many other heads of state are exactly battering down the door to come to NI is it? So not a lot to compare with how they would do it. 🙂