The Belfast Telegraph reported a couple of days ago that Lord John Laird feels there’s a demand in Donegal for him to become the voice of the county’s Ulster-Scots community, so how better to test this view than run in next year’s Dáil elections as an Ulster Unionist candidate on a radical Ulster-Scots ticket?
He is targeting Donegal North East and Donegal South West in this bold exercise to give a voice to the county’s 14,500 Ulster Scots and it should be interesting to see how many votes he manages to garner. Personally, I think the man is in for an awful land at the ballot box but Lord Laird of Artigarvan is nothing if not optimistic and says he has received a huge amount of backing, including from the “Roman Catholic sector”, and is confident he can make an impact.
“The Ulster-Scots community in the Border areas of Donegal is being practically ignored by the Republic’s Government when compared to the way that the Gaelic language and culture is continually promoted,” says Laird.
“Both sides have told me that they welcome the prospect of the political debate being livened up and moving away from the dull politics currently being promoted by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.”
Laird raises the old chestnut about only 1% of Donegal’s Protestants being in the Civil Service, saying such an imbalance “should not be tolerated in a modern society”.
“I am confident that the 14,500 Ulster-Scots living in the area will stand up and be counted. We understand that there are certain internal conflicts and pressures within the Fianna Fáil party machine that we can exploit when the General Election is called,” says the 58-year-old.
“Obviously I am pragmatic enough to understand that I may not get elected but we will get noticed.”
It seems Laird is using the Dáil elections as part of a policy to put pressure on the Irish Government to recognise Ulster-Scots as an ethnic group but surely he is running the risk of doing irreparable damage to this project by running in what is sure to be a hard-fought general election where, in all likelyhood, he will receive just a handful of votes, especially if he is basically saying to be an Ulster Scot is to be an Ulster Unionist? Hardly a vote winner in the Irish Republic, not least among the country’s Protestant population.
In future, he’ll certainly have a hard job claiming that Donegal’s Protestants are part of an Ulster-Scots ethnic group, unionist or otherwise, if only a miniscule minority of them vote for the only Ulster-Scots candidate on the ballot paper.
This all reminds me of Gregory Campbell of the DUP organising a postcard campaign a while back for all those people born in the Irish Repubic but now living in Northern Ireland who he felt wanted to claim British citizenship. It died a death before it began.