New Unionist group seeking to ‘envision’ the future…

With the DUP and Sinn Fein’s collective work-in (that’s work-in, not love-in) pending a successful start on 8th May, the political game in Northern Ireland would appear to be all but wrapped up for the next few election cycles or so. But that has not deterred a small group of unionists mostly, but not exclusively, from a UUP background from pulling together a new document examining what the principles of a future positive unionism might look like.

It’s worth quoting an early paragraph to give a flavour of where it is coming from:

The challenge and opportunity for Unionism is to progress from where we are and to build a coherent political vision for Unionism, in the context of a modern Ireland and the already emerging new relationships between the Republic of Ireland and the devolved regions of the United Kingdom. Our vision is for a Unionism relevant to the 21st century but based on the best principles of the founding fathers, as expressed by James Craig:-

“The rights of the minority must be sacred to the majority . . . it will only be by broad views, tolerant ideas and real desire for liberty of conscience that we here can make an ideal of the parliament and executive”.

We welcome the advent of the sharing of power, and reject majority rule by either tradition over the other. The greatest failure of the 1922-1972 Unionist government was the failure to move beyond the politics of the sectarian headcount. We reject the politics of exclusion, and assert the equal legitimacy of the nationalist and unionist traditions across every county in Ireland. Our two great historical traditions are the shared birthright of all on the island.

It will be interesting to see if there is a role for this kind of discussion, within nationalism as well as unionism, now the great and the good are declaring the end of Northern Irish history…

  • Glad they’re putting up some sort of fight; Republicans have a big IDEA to sell called re-unification, and I hope for the dignity of protestants that they put up a few players who can score runs.
    Peter Robinson is a first class medium pace bowler, who can take early wickets 😉
    Being swiped off the board in a one-sided contest won’t be good for the future of our peoples on the island. A close contest is always more thrilling, so I can’t wait for the toss.
    Maybe this summer!

  • pondersomething

    Full paper is available at

    The Union Group website. 🙂

  • pondersomething

    Hmmmm… that should be

    The Union Group website

    or just plain http://www.uniongroup.org.uk if that hyperlink doesn’t work 🙂

  • Unionism has shared the anglo-saxon mistrust of ideology and intellectual analysis – but it does need a better understanding of what the Union is for, and why it is “A Good Thing”.

    W.H.Auden’s words may well have been true: “To the man-in-the-street, who, I’m sorry to say, is a keen observer of life, the word ‘Intellectual’ suggests straight away a man who’s untrue to his wife.”

    But the lack of analysis and deep understanding of the issues has ceded the debate to nationalism’s great myth (or grand narrative, if you prefer).

    As you say, Parcifal, a close contest would be much more interesting. And maybe out of unionist thesis and nationalist antithesis, an improved synthesis might emerge?

  • Mick Fealty

    Apologies all, I meant to wrap that in to the original.

  • Great Auden quote
    Paul I’m a cricket man meself; and would like to put Unionists into bat first; as I’m confident Republicans can put on a sizeable total; but am not averse to a bit of the old Hegelian determinism when the mood takes me.

  • Buterknife

    Why is the news all of sudden calling the leader of the DUP a ‘doctor’? I never knew he was given this honour by a British University…

  • IJP

    Why is this group so unwilling to reveal the identity of its backers?

    Who is it trying to influence, precisely?

  • “assert the equal legitimacy of the nationalist and unionist traditions”

    Ah yes, the “unionist tradition” – is that not classic Humespeak c. 1984?

    I’m afraid this document is full of cliches like the one above and that in itself makes me suspicious. What’s more, there’s little here to suggest why the maintenance of the union is desirable socially, economically and financially. But that’s pro-agreement unionism for you and if I had time and it wasn’t such a nice day outside I would expand on this.

    It’s also odd that people publish something but don’t put their name to it.

  • mystery solved

    IJP Why is this group so unwilling to reveal the identity of its backers?

    Yes – why the mystery – the domain name is registered at The Union Group Apt 5, 33 Camden Street, Belfast, BT9 6AT – does that help?

  • darth rumsfeld

    Rev Brian Kennaway seems to be the public face of this group- if yesterday’s News letter is anything to go by.
    Watchman is right as usual. This is typical of nice Unionists to be led into adopting their opponent’s vocabulary and as usual not being as fluent in it.

    It’s mushy and flaccid politics too.

    The ne plus ultra of Unionism is to be as British as FInchley-i.e. integrated with national parties contesting elections.

    For obvious reasons that’s not on the agenda at present.

    … so the next best standard is the old favourite “British standards for British citizens” i.e. majoritarianism with safeguards to reflect the uniqueness of NI. For obvious reasons etc etc…

    The next best standard is a voluntary coalition of parties in NI working together in a regional administration without interference from Dublin.
    Altogether now..for obvious reasons…..

    We’re now on the cusp of ceasing to be advocates for the Union, but here goes…
    The next best step is a coalition of parties in NI permanently guaranteed its place as an equal partner in the UK. Unionism is now really primarily about snouts in the chancellor’s trough..except obviously for water charges, rates etc.An ad hoc relationship with our mutual neighbour on matters of mutual interest is acceptable. For obvious (Yawn) ..well, you get the picture…

    The starting point for this group is in fact to work joint authority and mandatory coalition with implacable opponents from SF, and hope to convert them to a stronger brew of Unionism. I appreciate that Rev Kennaway by the nature of his vocation is obliged to work with sinners and help them to repent, but it’s not a sound basis for politics.

    It’s like hoping you can convert a teetotalerto Islay malts by offering him shandy. The sheer lack of confidence in the product is offputting to the customer. It’s the Guilty Prod equivalent of the New Ireland Group, but without the redoubtably dotty John Robb to advance it, and with such a paucity of ambition any self-respecting republican would be right to treat it with contempt. SF are only able to swallow the present arrangements as a short term stepping stone to pure republicanism- this lot see them as the promised land.

  • pondersomething

    Well anyone who was actually at the launch last night will know there’s not exactly a ‘mystery’ about it – Trevor Ringland, Brian Kennaway and Deirdre Vincent all spoke as members of the group, and there was also a response given by the SDLP’s Eamonn Hanna and also a lively debate from the floor!

  • pondersomething

    Darth, I disagree.

    For me, Unionism should be focussed on building up a shared society within the Union – a Northern Ireland which everyone can feel equally part of and equally proud of.

    The crude majoritarianism you seem to think of as the ‘ne plus ultra’ of unionism is in fact a big part of unionism’s problem. Power-sharing should be positively embraced (as opposed to merely being begrudgingly accepted) and majority-rule rejected as completely inappropriate in a divided society.

    The forthcoming UUP nomination of a Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast, as reported in today’s Irish News, is one welcome sign of the new power-sharing politics – as Reg has said “if it’s good enough for Stormont it’s good enough for City Hall”.

    In the long run power-sharing and warm relationships on this island and between these islands offers us a far more effective way to underpin the Union for future generations – and the only effective way to break down barriers within Northern Ireland and build a shared society here.

  • IJP

    The Watchman

    Yes, you’ve put my point better than I did.

    Yet more intraspection and theory. What’s it all for?

    I’d love to know whom to approach for an answer!

  • Butterknife, I understand that other countries have universities as well… giving real and honorary degrees, as in the UK.

    Some of them even offer degrees via email, according to my spam folder.

  • George

    I find it funny when 21st century unionist groups talk about rejecting “majority rule” but still extol the virtues of the very entity (Northern Ireland) that was created and survived using the crudest form of such rule. 85 years too late is better than never but I do question their motives for wanting to leave majority rule behind them.

    But moving on, if I was a unionist of the “I never want a united Ireland” variety, I wouldn’t like this kind of stuff one bit:

    A society based on the core principles of Unionism is one in which inclusive Irishness and Britishness are equally respected.

    I don’t see how this can’t be delivered in a pluralist, prosperous unified Irish Republic as easily as it can with Northern Ireland still in the UK. Northern Ireland had 80 years to deliver this and failed miserably.

    Any outsider looking at NI and the Irish Republic would certainly think the Republic is further down the road to delivering this goal.

    We therefore stand where Carson once stood:- “A fairness and a justice towards all classes and towards all religions of the community.”

    Now citing a Dubliner who himself said that if this type of fairness and justice was available in a united Ireland, why not?

    As Unionists we support the amalgamation/integration of education as one of the best tools in the healing of a divided society..

    The integrated state-funded education method being piloted in Dundalk at the moment has already received the full support of the integrated sector north of the border and could be the way forward in both jurisdictions. Certainly no evidence that continuance of partition will help in this regard.

    Unionism recognises the very real benefits that derive from co-operation with the people of the Republic of Ireland, and therefore seeks to have a positive and developing relationship with the Republic.

    This type of unionism is pledged to break down all the barriers that hinder us on this island but then will somehow be able to stop the galloping green horse short at the biggest barrier of them all – the border – and retain Northern Ireland as a separate entity.

    Nice trick if they can manage it.

    As for John Hewitt’s qoute, there is no reason why he can’t be all that in a united Ireland, unless the Unionist group think the people of Ireland are inherently incapable of delivering on equality on their own.

  • Parcifal, my grandfather was a cricket man too, and he’d probably have agreed that the old Unionist team weren’t that good at handling the Republican spinners, and allowed them to dominate play far too much – especially away from the home ground. There are also too few good hitters and too long a tail in the first XI. I wonder if we can blame the selectors?

    I suggest that a cricketing approach, with leisurely and civilised exchanges over a reasonable period of time, will be much more constructive than the footballing mode of politics, with its brief clashes, set-piece moves, and its sizeable following of none-too-civilised supporters.

    There is a good case to be made for the positive benefits of a union of diverse nations. It certainly offers a more nuanced perspective on national identity than classical gaelic nationalism – or even ulster majoritarianism.

    Seconds out – round one.
    Oops! Wrong metaphor!

  • George, it’s always a little odd when nationalists contrast the 21st century Irish republic with the Northern Ireland of 1921 to the seventies, and claim to be “more pluralist than thou”.

    Things have improved immeasurably on both sides of the border in the past 80 years. Northern Ireland is no longer a Protestant state for a Protestant people, and the south is no longer a Catholic state for a Catholic people.

    The response to your “I don’t see how [equal respect for Irishness and Britishness] can’t be delivered in a pluralist, prosperous unified Irish Republic as easily as it can with Northern Ireland still in the UK” is clearly that it can be delivered in NI, as part of a union which also respects Scottishness and Welshness, as easily as in the Republic.

    And I don’t quite get how Dundalk learning from the Northern integrated sector is somehow an argument against the Union.

  • AdamHSAntrim

    Ponder

    Might not have been a mystery for those who were there, why such a mystery over the invites? I see the CRC sponsored the gathering as part of ‘Community Relations Council’ Week. I can’t find the event in any listings? Looking forward to finding out who in the Party is behind this. Any guesses anyone?

  • Cahal

    Paul
    “Butterknife, I understand that other countries have universities as well… giving real and honorary degrees, as in the UK.”

    Ian Paisley didn’t receive his honorary doctorate from an accredited university.

    To call him ‘doctor’ is demeaning to those who put the 5 years in.

    It’s also demeaning to anyone who received an honorary doctorate from a REAL university.

  • George

    Paul,
    firstly, I’m not a nationalist, I’m an Irish citizen living in the Irish Republic.

    And I don’t quite get how Dundalk learning from the Northern integrated sector is somehow an argument against the Union.

    My point was that it’s the other way around. I see parentally-controlled, state-funded multi-denominational education being the method of choice going forward and I see this being driven south of the border and moving north rather than the other way around.

    Just my view on this. In other words, within a decade the northern education sector will be looking to move closer to a southern model that today doesn’t exist.

    Of course, I am banking on parents taking over boards from the Catholic Church and the state indemnifying them. Just my hope and hunch. Time will tell if I am totally wrong on this.

  • Butterknife

    Professor Lord Bew was giving a presentation last night and he suggested that everything said before 2004 is irrelevant as Sinn Fein has accepted the principle that the armed struggle is over and the DUP has accepted the power-sharing principle laid down in the Downing Street Declaration and the Good Friday Agreement ergo Northern Ireland Act 1998.
    In other words, our present history now starts from 2004 and not from 1690 or 1916. As a commentator said, the future is how our children will live.


    In my opinion, a person only has a right to use the prefix Dr. if he or she is an MD or has a doctorate that is recognised in the UK: i.e. if that University has a charter by HM The Queen to do so. Therefore, if Dr Paisley is claiming that right contrary to the above he will face embarrassment later on.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    While very far from being a supporter of RIP, I think Butterknife’s statement is desirory in the extreme.

    There are thousands of Universities in the world that are accredited in their own countries without worrying about the Queen, are all the people from those Universities not entitled to use the term Dr if it was awarded to them?

    University Accreditation

    Bob Jones University is a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) [PO Box 328, Forest, VA 24551; Telephone: 434.525.9539; info@tracs.org], having been awarded Accredited status as a Category IV institution by the TRACS Accreditation Commission on November 8, 2006; this status is effective for a period of five years.

    TRACS is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE).

  • Butterknife

    Frustrated Democrat

    As a subject of HM The Queen, as i am sure Mr Paisley would claim to be, i am just suggesting that if it was found he was using a title that he was not entitled to use under British law it might led to embarrassment, especially when you consider that he will be our First Minister!
    Further it is not a metter of disrespecting other jurisdictions for Ian Paisley is fully entitled to be called Dr in the United States if that is his wish, but consider that fact that if trained to be a lawyer in England I am not entitled to be a lawyer here unless I take a module in evidence etc. This is why the EU are attempting to harmonise degrees and why citizens from other EU Member States have written on the very same subject as me, as to criticise this practice.

  • Butterknife

    I see Willie McCrea is a a US Dr too! I say no more …

  • pondersomething

    George:

    “I find it funny when 21st century unionist groups talk about rejecting “majority rule”…

    Really? Who are all these other enlightened pro-Union groups who reject, in principle, the concept of majority rule?

    Others have, with a greater or lesser degree of begrudgery, accepted power-sharing as necessary albeit not agreeable.

    I would certainly be interested in hearing of other unionist groups who support cross-community power-sharing in principle, rather than as a ‘necessary evil’.

    —–

    Adam:

    The event was kindly hosted by the Irish Association, and I know invites were sent to a very broad spectrum of people, from republicans to loyalists.

    On your other point it is not solely UUP members involved with the Union Group, rather the group welcomes members from all parties and none.

  • IJP

    Not for the first time, George makes some excellent points and they are particularly important here.

    To kick off a bit of controversial debate:

    Q: What is the Union for?
    A: To protect Protestants.

    Can anyone genuinely move beyond that without, as George says, simply engaging in debate about aspirations which would be equally (if not more) viable in a Republic?

  • Many of us type furiously away here during our lunchbreaks. Sadly this document looks like it was cobbled together with similar haste. It is so banal and cliche-ridden that I really wasn’t surprised to discover that the Community Relations Council sponsored the gathering. Now call me Mr Small-Government but what business is it of the state to involve itself in an intra-unionist debate about the the future. And should unionists not be concerned about it? (Just an aside.)

    But my serious gripe with this document is that there is no substantive analysis of unionism as a concept. I wish Old Enoch was still in South Down to tear this nonsense to shreds, but I will have to try instead. Here goes. The Union is an institution, created by the merger of the Irish Parliament with the GB Parliament in 1801. NI is part of the UK because it is represented in the House of Commons and because its laws come from legislation passed in Parliament (or from bodies delegated by Parliament to legislate). Now unionism can be defined as “the advocacy of the Union as the best vehicle for all citizens to advance their interests”. It is all about making the institutions of the Union work for everyone. There is nothing about that in this document.

    Instead Kennaway et al confine themselves to the statement that “Unionism means maintaining Northern Ireland as a full and equal part of the United Kingdom” with a couple of googled quotes. Fair enough, but if, you purport to write an important discussion document, you need more depth than that.

    Looking through the document again, I’m reminded of what Dean Godson in his Trimble book described as “minimalistic unionism”. There is nothing here about the merits of the territory of Northern Ireland being within the UK as opposed to a UI, no reasons why a UI would be disastrous. If there had been, no doubt the Community Relations people would have stayed away. So there’s no substantive definition of unionism and no reasons why the union should endure. We are left with a string of hackneyed expressions, some of which are naive, others of which display this group’s ideological collapse.

    The phrase that jumped out at me on the first reading was “the equal legitimacy of the nationalist and unionist traditions”. Firstly, unionism is more than a “tradition”, as I’ve just pointed out. Secondly, how can anyone hold unionism and nationalism equally legitimate as concepts, when each is the opposite of the other? (Would Brian Kennaway tell his Crumlin congregation that the same is true of, say, Christianity and Islam?) Oh and I’m glad to see the document is against sectarianism, racism, homelessness and educational underachievement, etc ad nauseam. But I’ve yet to come across a political party that declares itself in favour of all these things. They are hardly unique to unionism.

    The document reminds me of a famous 1946 essay by George Orwell on Politics and the English Language. As an illustration of bad writing, he said this:

    “As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”

    When you read through this document, does this not ring true? Where would the Community Relations industry be without tacking phrases together?

    Right, I’ve spent long enough rebutting this nonsense and it’s time for dinner.

    P.S. “Unionism recognises the real benefits that derive from sharing responsibility in an inclusive government with other democrats for the good of Northern Ireland” – does Kennaway regard Sinn Fein as merely “other democrats”?

    P.P.S. Hadn’t heard the UUP is continuing its managed electoral suicide by nominating a Sinn Feiner for Lord Mayor. Forget the earthquake in Kent: there could be local seismic disturbances with Carson and Craigavon spinning in their graves.

  • pondersomething

    Secondly, how can anyone hold unionism and nationalism equally legitimate as concepts, when each is the opposite of the other?

    Ummmm…. because he can have his view and I can have mine, and respect him nonetheless??

  • Cahal

    Butterknofe
    “I see Willie McCrea is a a US Dr too! I say no more … ”

    The problem is with honorary doctorates form ‘questionable’ institutions, not US doctorates per se.

    AFAIK, getting a US MD or PhD requires a hell of a lot more work than in the UK/Irish system.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s also demeaning to anyone who received an honorary doctorate from a REAL university.

    Personally, I always say “Doctor Paisley” with subtle extra emphasis in the way I say the word “Doctor”. A bit like a Tory might say “New Labour”.

  • Butterknife

    At the end of the day the First and Deputy First Ministers are our First and Deputy First Ministers. Or are they?
    How easy would it be to get rid of them?

  • Cahal

    “How easy would it be to get rid of them?”

    Apparently getting through the revolving door at stormont is the tough part. Although fending off an unarmed polish security woman can also be a challenge.

  • the Emerald Pimpernel

    only in the UK would someone get so hung up on a title

  • IJP

    Again, I find it hard to counter what The Watchman says.

    Pondersomething is right to say that you can respect another’s view without necessarily agreeing with it. But in the end there is such a thing as “right” and “wrong”. If people set out to advocate the Union, they have to indicate why it is better than a UI – in other words, why Unionism is better than Nationalism. If they cannot do that, indeed are unwilling even to dare suggest it, then frankly they should stop pretending they’re Unionist and join the Alliance Party!

    Acceptance of terminology such as “Unionist tradition” and “Nationalist tradition” – i.e. that Unionism and Nationalism are not political choices but cultural identities into which people are born – amounts to absolute acceptance that demographics alone will decide NI’s constitutional future. Which again, is what the Alliance Party alone among the five Assembly parties has accepted all along.

    So, back to my original question…?

  • Peter Brown

    Reunion rebranded and relaunched with the same backers, the same Hume speak language and presumably the same lack of success! Maybe this time Weir would have been allowed to attend the launch though!

  • IJP, perhaps unionism and nationalism are both? For many people, they are cultural identities into which people are born. For fewer people, they are political choices. And as political systems, each may have advantages and disadvantages.

    Any way of organising society is a tradeoff – in fact “society” can be seen as a tradeoff, whereby people accept laws which limit their freedom, in return for the protection of the law.

    It’s unlike religion in that there is no underlying absolute truth or falsehood in politics. You can’t say that democracy is true, or republicanism or monarchy is false, whereas (at least in theory) either a religion IS true, or it is false. If you believe Christian doctrine, then you believe that Islam is in many ways incorrect. If God exists, and agrees, then you are right so to believe. If God does not exist, or is more like Allah, you are wrong.

    So it’s quite possible to talk about the “unionist tradition” while asking what is the union “for”, or why it is on balance better for Northern Ireland (and the rest of the United Kingdom) than a United Ireland. Which is why the future need not be determined solely by demographics.

    People and societies can change. And they will. The interesting questions are how they will change, and why.

  • Smithsonian

    IJP
    What is the Union for?
    You could just as well ask what is a nation for? What defines a country or a sphere of influence? Do you have to speak French to be French, do you have to speak Irish to be Irish?

    Most nation states evolved to maximise economic benefit for an elite. Nations represented the optimal sphere of economic interest for a particular group. Laws, language and culture were developed to regulated and encourage various elements and of course to maximise tax.

    It could be argued that at partition, Northern Ireland needed to remain a part of the United Kingdom to ensure access to the British Empire markets for its ship and linen industries.

    Of course times change, we no longer build ships nor produce linen, the British Empire no longer exists and the celtic tiger provides other economic opportunities. Some might argue that we no longer need the Union,

    but whilst the economic imperatives that created the Union may have gone, the orthodoxies, methodologies and shared values that devolved into a cultural identity remain and are pervasive. They cannot be dismissed simply because the original forces that lead to its creation have since disappeared.

    There is a British identity and Irish one. The differences may be subtle in the great scheme of things but they are highly significant and we are all well aware of them. They make us what we are. The value of cultural identity should not be underestimated.

    Being part of a culture offers huge benefits to an individual. It helps him or her compete in a competitive world. It provides a unifying framework with which to face external threats, it helps us identify friend and foe and it gives us a framework for the development of sophisticated interpersonal relationships that are the foundation of both commerce and family.

    The British identity is underpinned by the Union. This is not a trivial matter. In addition to a sense of belonging it provides us with long term economic security, a legal system which produces a tolerant progressive multicultural society, a defence force, and access to huge financial resources.

    Of course other cultures and nationalities provide similar resources for their people, but these cultures are not MY culture, these people are not my people and although I might be a welcome guest, in these countries, it would never be my home.

    So what it the purpose of the Union? It symbolises and secures the cultural identity of perhaps 800,000 people living in Northern Ireland.

    The Alliance party do not appear to value cultural identity and community (as evidenced by your rather smug question) but perhaps this strategic error explains why the Alliance share of vote struggles to exceed 5% (of those that bother to vote).

  • The Dubliner

    It’s interesting that Unionism is attempting to rebrand itself as a political philosophy in-order to create the bogus impression that it has some higher purpose beyond its base function of sectarianism. Unionism came into being in, essentially, 1921 because protestants didn’t like the idea of being a minority among Catholics and threatened a civil war if the will of the majority for an independent 32-county Ireland was respected. Having armed itself with weapons imported from Imperial Germany and a terrorist force, the UVF, the powers that be deemed it appropriate to yield to the threat of massive violence and partition Ireland, thereby keeping the genie of ethnic cleansing and civil war in its bottle – the genie that Unionists threatened to unleash if they did not get their undemocratic way. Not that northern nationalism, post 69, was any better, since it too used violence for sectarian purposes, threatening to bring about that endgame of ethnic cleansing that was avoided by partition. Indeed, northern nationalism was far worse, disguising its sectarian murder campaign as ‘republicanism,’ and launching a killing spree thinking that such a label gave it instant and absolute absolution – as it still does.
    Essentially, unionism only has to offer whatever English monarchy has to offer – and that is a very uncertain future. It doesn’t have any political philosophy to sell. Irish Republicanism, on the other hand, has lasting values as equal civil rights, belief in the rule of law, and the supremacy of a written constitution that serves as a guarantor of rights and checks the power of government. These values are core republican values. A monarchy, where supreme power is invested in an unelected individual and where laws are devised by unelected lords and no written constitution checks the power of government, etc, has nothing to offer those who weren’t born into the right family line.

  • darth rumsfeld

    ..and lo our Dubliner friend exposes the reason why we cannot unite with the RoI. What a sub-Dorothy McCardle view of history. Irish republicanism has indeed offered much to Unionists- Scullabogue, Dunmanway, Bloody Friday, La Mon,Teebane, Enniskillen- you know them all of course, and doubtless excuse them as unfortunate aberrations , and your finger is poised to list a series of counter-atrocities (usually starting with Strongbow throwing up on the boat coming over in my experience).Well don’t bother. Think for yourself.

    For the worst that Irish republicanism has done has been to ignore Unionism as an equally valid -many would argue intellectually superior- philosophy. The only core republican value, matey, is crude anti-Britishness. From that blindspot flows all the prejudice and justification for all the above atrocities. You can’t answer the points we make about our Britishness because of your mindset, so you focus on the extremists to caricature the group. It’s like me saying the great Jackie Healy Rae ( my choice for taioseach) is representative of the Celtic Tiger.

    Meanwhile, on thread again, we are reminded by Peter Brown of the strangely silent Reunion movement of Lady Hermon’s candlelit supper parties.Which reminds us of the Gimps’ Uninist labour Group of the 1990s, the Devolution Group of David McNasty in the 1980s, and the New Ulster Movement of the 1960s.

    Yup, the UUP has always been full of New Irelanders whose “Mom and apple pie” prattling are absolutely jurisdictionally interchangeable. Fundamentally these groups are contingent Unionists- i.e. they were/are factoring in the day when the Union ends because of election results into their assessment, and trying to build a core group of Protestant -friendly policies for the Eire Nua. No wonder the government encourages them.

    Watchman is right to say Unionism is not a tradition- well actually not just a tradition is the phrase I would use in light of the above paragraph. My Unionism is not the same as my tradition. Presbyterian/Whig Covenanter ideals motivate my politics- I recall Watchman to be more leaning towards the High Tory.Both can support the Union for very diferent reasons. Each can legitimately claim a different part of the multi-faceted term “Irish” without moving into John Hume’s cliche corner as Ringland and Kennaway have.

    Smithsonian also hints at a valid point-namely that economics determine which political ideas flourish. Even yesterday the great Crocodile(sorry- Dr Croc) sat down with the head of the EU, which he used to regard as the manifestation of antichrist. The economic tide flowed away from NI in the 1920s, and hasn’t often come back in since. You can bet your bottom euro that there would be no papers from the KKK (Krazy Kennaway Klan) if Dublin was performing economically as it was in 1981.Nope, they’d fall back on the shallow oneupmanship of “our benefit rates are better so we must be better than themmuns” etc etc, that permeated Unionism for decades.

    Today the Union starts its fourth century- a contruct that has worked for all the people who were/are part of it -perhaps not in equal benefit- but infinitely better than if they had not been part of it. Perhaps the KKK should look again at the Union as a whole, and not what it can give to 900,000 of the 57 million who are part of it.

  • darth rumsfeld

    actually on rereading Dubliner he’s slightly more nuanced than I gave him, credit for. Too much wading through the posts of the usual S defenders. Still, he’s still not got what the Union is about, so perhaps the rant will help

  • IJP

    smithsonian

    What is the Union for? Here, I agree basically with your answer. So why have groups and parties going on about it? You don’t get parties in Germany saying “Vote for us and, er, be German”. It’s obvious!

    What is the purpose of the Union? So in other words you accept the view I posited above that the Union exists to protect Protestants.

    One distinction between Alliance and Unionist parties is that Alliance values the cultural identity of the whole community in NI, whereas Unionist (and Nationalist) parties reflect only one side. It’s no good going on about your own identity without also reflecting on your fellow citizens’.

  • Dec

    Darth

    Irish republicanism has indeed offered much to Unionists- Scullabogue, Dunmanway, Bloody Friday, La Mon,Teebane, Enniskillen- you know them all of course, and doubtless excuse them as unfortunate aberrations

    Ahh, whataboutery, that stout defender of the status quo you employ so effectively.

    and your finger is poised to list a series of counter-atrocities (usually starting with Strongbow throwing up on the boat coming over in my experience).

    If we’re listing grievances we don’t really have to go back that far.

    Well don’t bother.

    Fair enough; no grievances are as valid as Unionisms. (MOPE-alert)

    For the worst that Irish republicanism has done has been to ignore Unionism as an equally valid -many would argue intellectually superior– philosophy.

    Could you elaborate on that with examples please? Or like Watchman are you just going to hash on about ‘How Unionism is best cos it is, so there’. Actually I think I’ve answered that question.

    Oh yeah, one last thing:

    The economic tide flowed away from NI in the 1920s, and hasn’t often come back in since.

    No doubt, the simultaneous establishment of the Unionist dominated Govt of Northern Ireland was just a freaky coincidence.

  • IJP

    Darth

    In what way is Unionism intellectually superior to (or even different from) (Irish) Nationalism?

  • kensei

    “The only core republican value, matey, is crude anti-Britishness”

    What a crass generalisation. the only core rumsfield value, matey, is crude anti-republicanism.

    “Today the Union starts its fourth century- a contruct that has worked for all the people who were/are part of it -perhaps not in equal benefit- but infinitely better than if they had not been part of it.”

    Pure speculation.

  • kensei

    “One distinction between Alliance and Unionist parties is that Alliance values the cultural identity of the whole community in NI, whereas Unionist (and Nationalist) parties reflect only one side. It’s no good going on about your own identity without also reflecting on your fellow citizens’.”

    What “whole community identity”? There isn’t one. Wishing hard won’t change that. You could attempt to represent both but as demonstrated above you aren’t trying to do it.

  • Briso

    >One distinction between Alliance and Unionist
    >parties is that Alliance values the cultural
    >identity of the whole community in NI, whereas
    >Unionist (and Nationalist) parties reflect only
    >one side.

    On the contrary, Alliance values the cultural identity of neither side. You would rather create a new one in which we are all neutral on the central question of our politics. The border? Who cares? In fact, for those of us who consider ourselves Irish and consider the removal of the border our foremost political aim, we are somehow traitors for not supporting ‘Northern Ireland’ as an entity. An entity from which any recognition of the central fact that it is inherently partitionist has been drained. Northern Ireland is British. Supporting the continued existence of Northern Ireland means supporting the union.

  • seanzmct

    It is curious how these new designer unionists have nothing whatsoever to say about one of the most salient aspects of politics in the North ie that the region, whilst a constitutional part of the UK was excluded from the mainstream part system of the state and quarantined off into communal sectarian party politics of the six counties.

    This was not only fundamentally undemocratic but also socially divisive. In recent times the Conservatives have opened their ranks to local people as has Labour, but the latter does not yet stand candidates here.

    Sinn Fein and the Greens have the merit of being parties which transcend the boundaries of the six counties but hardly have the potential to develop meaningful cross-community politics.

  • darth rumsfeld

    IJP
    Unionism is intellectually superior because it is a pluralist construct- melding different identities, as opposed to nationalism which is divisive-you’re part of the volk or you’re one of themmuns. The European Union is thus..er Unionist in ethos, and I always find it funny that those who love being part of a united Europe brought about by economic and strategic considerations rail against a united British Isles brought about by economic and strategic considerations.

    Unionists, on the other hand, can obviously be nationalist in their wish to be distinct from RC/Irish/Gaelic expressions of Irishness. That sells Unionism as a philosophy short, but is probably understandable as a practical expression of defensiveness.

    kensei
    if the only core value of republicanism is not anti-Britishness, how come it can blithely jettison opposition to the EU?- pooling of sovereignty obviously threatens the purity of the independent state and the free will of the Irish people.
    How come it cannot accept that the GFA may mean we will all always be part of the UK?
    How come it demands to be regarded as Irish but refuses to concede to me the right to be British?

    The best I get is that I’m allowed to be a misguided Irishman with a tradition that gravitates towards Britain, but I’ll have to grow out of that.The same old republican blindspot.
    Republicanism ought to be equally comfort arguing for a form of accountable and elected government under either jurisdiction. SF can’t even go to Westminster to articulate their political beliefs in the chamber. Why?- because of their juvenile anti-Britishness. QED

    And while it’s pure speculation that Ireland benefitted under the Union, I don’t think any economist would argue the converse. An independent Ireland would have been an impoverished economic satellite from 1801 to…well I’d guess about 1992. You know, like it was from 1920. And yes we know all about the Famine- but how much worse would it have been in a small independent nation?

    Dec
    You’re correct in assuming the economic stagnation of NI was largely linked to the NI Government, run by unimpressive gerontocrats for years.We had an octogenarian Minister of Finance FFS.The idea of an 80 year old running a government department….er….
    It also wasn’t helpful when our fellow Irishmen boycotted goods from NI, and to find part of our country suddenly independent was naturally harmful to the economy- though it would have been much worse if the larger part of our country(GB) had been taken from us. “Burn everything English but their coal” was great economics (remind me about republicanism not being anti-British kensei)

  • Butterknife

    One argument for keeping the Union is that others are hell bent on destroying it.

  • kensei

    “if the only core value of republicanism is not anti-Britishness, how come it can blithely jettison opposition to the EU?- pooling of sovereignty obviously threatens the purity of the independent state and the free will of the Irish people.”

    The EU offers a partial pooling of sovereignty rather than the complete Union, which offers the chance to be completely subsumed, and while devolution weakens that slightly Parliament remains sovereign. The EU doesn’t affect the will of the people, because any major Constitutional change must be ratified by referendum, unlike in the UK.

    Attitudes evolve. It is unlikely that Ireland in the twenties would have been in favour of the EU. But experience has suggested that some pooling of sovereignty is a good thing, a song as it is firmly under control of the Irish people.

    “How come it cannot accept that the GFA may mean we will all always be part of the UK?
    How come it demands to be regarded as Irish but refuses to concede to me the right to be British?”

    Eh? Even SF accepts that is 50%+1 doesn’t happen, then the six counties are stuck in the Union until someone else dissolves it. We simply don’t believe it is preferable, and want to work to end it.

    Happy to concede you are British. Though the question of Unionist identity is a vexed one, seeing as you get a complete variety of answers.

    “The best I get is that I’m allowed to be a misguided Irishman with a tradition that gravitates towards Britain, but I’ll have to grow out of that.The same old republican blindspot.”

    No, Britishness is an identity, Unionism is a tradition. In a United Ireland its meaning would differ, if I told you otherwise you’d call me a liar.

    “Republicanism ought to be equally comfort arguing for a form of accountable and elected government under either jurisdiction. SF can’t even go to Westminster to articulate their political beliefs in the chamber. Why?- because of their juvenile anti-Britishness. QED”

    You are working backwards from a conclusion to suit yourself. I have no desire to make law for England, Scotland or Wales, and indeed, I have no right. In the reunification argument, the people that matter are in Ireland and what the rest of Britain is irrelevant – everyone has accepted that.

    Did going to Westminister help the SNP? No, what has helped them is the situtation in Scotland. Has it helped the SDLP?

    Britain also isn’t a republic and has precisely 0 chance of becoming one at the moment.

    “And while it’s pure speculation that Ireland benefitted under the Union, I don’t think any economist would argue the converse. An independent Ireland would have been an impoverished economic satellite from 1801 to…well I’d guess about 1992. You know, like it was from 1920. And yes we know all about the Famine- but how much worse would it have been in a small independent nation?”

    I don’t know, maybe an Independent Ireland would not have had the same structure of land ownership. Maybe if 1798 had have been successful and followed a US model than it would have been democratic and people would have demanded change. Maybe religious freedom would have arrived earlier and a more meritocratic society developed. Maybe relations would have been friendlier than 1921 and Ireland could have carved out a niche. Maybe being responsible for their own decisions would have meant success by 1950.

  • Dec

    Darth

    a few points

    Unionism is intellectually superior because it is a pluralist construct- melding different identities, as opposed to nationalism which is divisive-you’re part of the volk or you’re one of themmuns.

    Whilst you’re not the first Unionist I’ve heard trumpet British multi-culturalism, I’m assuming you’re opposed to the Irish Language Act.

    Unionists, on the other hand, can obviously be nationalist in their wish to be distinct from RC/Irish/Gaelic expressions of Irishness. That sells Unionism as a philosophy short, but is probably understandable as a practical expression of defensiveness.

    Again, not much tolerance of multi-culturalism there, but apart from that, there’s a bit of a tendency by your good self, to view certain tendancies of Unionists to be understandable, whilst treating similar tendancies in Nationalism as abhorrent.

    SF can’t even go to Westminster to articulate their political beliefs in the chamber. Why?- because of their juvenile anti-Britishness.

    I could make a similar point about Unionist refusal to entertain the prospect of speaking rights for Northerners in the Dáil.

    “Burn everything English but their coal” was great economics (remind me about republicanism not being anti-British kensei)

    Anti-English if anything. Similar sentiments exist today amongst the Welsh and the Scottish, you’ll find.

  • Alex Porter

    I wonder if anyone involved with ‘the Union Group’ could respond to the email I sent them yesterday morning? It’s a bit, er, frustrating to try and make contact with a group that promotes ‘social inclusion’ and ‘mutual celebration’ but doesn’t respond to its emails!

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Whilst you’re not the first Unionist I’ve heard trumpet British multi-culturalism, I’m assuming you’re opposed to the Irish Language Act.”

    Only in the sense that I oppose any government spending on culture-close the Arts Council!

    “there’s a bit of a tendency by your good self, to view certain tendancies of Unionists to be understandable, whilst treating similar tendancies in Nationalism as abhorrent.”
    well I hope not. Both are understandable and both are abhorrent, if you mean the refusal to allow different aspirations.

    “I could make a similar point about Unionist refusal to entertain the prospect of speaking rights for Northerners in the Dáil.”
    You couldn’t about me. I’ve said on slugger this isn’t an issue. Reg Empey’s whining about this is cynical posturing.

    “Anti-English if anything. Similar sentiments exist today amongst the Welsh and the Scottish, you’ll find.”
    But never expressed by the head of the government, unlike Senor Devalera

    Kensei
    An independent Ireland in 1798 would have been run by grandees like Fitzgerald, O’Connell and Parnell’s ancestors, neither of whom would have entertained redistribution of land or wealth.Jemmy Hope would have been as much an outsider as he was under British rule.

    The EU at present offers partial pooling of sovereignty, but noone in Brussels pretends that’s the final goal. The majority of UK laws implement EU directives-I doubt if the Dail’s any different.Republicans used to understand this threat to national sovereignty. Referenda weren’t invented in 1801, and even if they were the franchise would have excluded women and non-land owners. The standard used to ratify the Union then would never be tolerated today, but then neither would slavery.

    Going to Westminster may not have helped the SNP or SDLP but they did it. Why not SF?

  • George

    Darth,
    “But never expressed by the head of the government, unlike Senor Devalera.”

    Was that the boycott of Belfast good called at the time to protest against a quarter of the Catholic population of Belfast being driven from their homes by enlightened, multi-cultural, intellectually superior unionist mobs by any chance?

    Just to keep things in perspective like. Now back to your envisioning.

  • George

    “Belfast goods”

  • BonarLaw

    Darth

    Westminster provided the soon to be First Minister of Scotland with a platform which he didn’t have at home on account of not being an MSP.

    It also provided Saemus Mallon cheap drink 🙂

  • kensei

    “An independent Ireland in 1798 would have been run by grandees like Fitzgerald, O’Connell and Parnell’s ancestors, neither of whom would have entertained redistribution of land or wealth.Jemmy Hope would have been as much an outsider as he was under British rule.”

    If the United Irishmen had have won then the momentum would have been with them, and the state would have been a democratic, and it would have been a Republic. It may have ended up like France, but I doubt there would have been a cosy ascendency. It’s all speculation, anyway.

    “The EU at present offers partial pooling of sovereignty, but noone in Brussels pretends that’s the final goal. The majority of UK laws implement EU directives-I doubt if the Dail’s any different.”

    Brussels might wish it, but as the Constitution showed, there isn’t nearly enough consensus to get it. The Dail will come under European law just like Westminster, but that is a by product of the pooling of sovereignty.

    “Republicans used to understand this threat to national sovereignty. Referenda weren’t invented in 1801, and even if they were the franchise would have excluded women and non-land owners. The standard used to ratify the Union then would never be tolerated today, but then neither would slavery.”

    The situation is understood but not viewed a sa threat – Constitutional changes must be ratified by referenda and withdrawal can be carried out by the same process if so desired.

    I assume, as an intellectual superior Unionist, you’re all for this integration anyway?

    “Going to Westminster may not have helped the SNP or SDLP but they did it. Why not SF?”

    Because while the consent principle was accepted as the only possible means for constitutional, Westminster rule would still be seen as illegitimate. As would republicans interfering in the politics of another country; suppose SF votes kept a centre-left government on a Tory England – would that be fair? And because it’s pointless and without influence or significance.

  • Ginfizz

    “Reunion rebranded and relaunched with the same backers, the same Hume speak language and presumably the same lack of success!”

    Rarely is an entire thread summed up in a single sentence, but Peter has achieved it here.

  • BonarLaw

    kensei

    “Because while the consent principle was accepted as the only possible means for constitutional, Westminster rule would still be seen as illegitimate. As would republicans interfering in the politics of another country; suppose SF votes kept a centre-left government on a Tory England – would that be fair? And because it’s pointless and without influence or significance.”

    Have you been drinking over lunch time?

    The consent principle is the only possible means for constitutional change.

    A non resident, non candidate republican namely Gerry Adams MP, MLA is currently intefering in the politics of another country in attempting to get party comrades elected to the Dail.

    England votes Tory yet the celtic MPs keep Labour in power. Whether that’s fair or not it’s the realpolitik of Westminster. But then again you don’t seem to think keeping a party in power woild give another influence or significance.

  • kensei

    “Have you been drinking over lunch time?”

    No, I don’t drink, so maybe that explains it.

    “The consent principle is the only possible means for constitutional change.”

    Yup, but it doesn’t retroactively confer legitimacy to partition, merely states there is only one way to get rid of it.

    “A non resident, non candidate republican namely Gerry Adams MP, MLA is currently intefering in the politics of another country in attempting to get party comrades elected to the Dail.”

    Most republicans wouldn’t see it as “another country”. And Gerry Adams MP, MLA is an irish citizen.

    “England votes Tory yet the celtic MPs keep Labour in power. Whether that’s fair or not it’s the realpolitik of Westminster. But then again you don’t seem to think keeping a party in power woild give another influence or significance. ”

    It would, but it is an unlikely circumstance and the point I was making is that it is fundamentally wrong to do so. Why do you want to deny England democracy?

    Anyway, what could SF ask of Labour that they could give that would materially moves us closer to a UI? Nothing I can see that hasn’t already been tied up in current arrangements.

  • BonarLaw

    “it doesn’t retroactively confer legitimacy to partition, merely states there is only one way to get rid of it”

    Doesn’t it though? If partition was somehow unlawful or illegitimate the NI state would have no right to exist. The fact that that right has been accepted goes some way to conferring legitimacy. Further, the only way to end the NI state is by the people of that state expressing that view democratically. Again if the state was illegal like The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus its’ survival would not rest solely with the citizens of the illegitimate area.

    Gerry Adams is not resident in the state he is currently campaigning in.

    It is not fundamentally unfair for the largest party in UK terms to govern the UK even if that majority does not extend to one part of the kingdom. The Tories did it to Scotland in the ’80s and Labour is currently doing it to England. What is unfair is asymetrical devolution leaving the West Lothian Question unanswered.

    “what could SF ask of Labour that they could give that would materially moves us closer to a UI”

    Perhaps some of Gerrys’ West Belfast constituents could think out of the box and come up with some socio-economic issues that central government could assist with.

  • Dec

    Gerry Adams is not resident in the state he is currently campaigning in.

    So what?

  • Whatever Next

    Even you Dec would probably get the ‘what?’ if, say, Bob Geldof, Gerry Robinson, Terry Wogan, Des Lynam and Lord Haskins all pitched up in Dublin 4 tomorrow, singing the praises of, oh, I don’t know, let’s have . . . the PDs, funneling them dosh, doing some spots on the telly for them, and then buggering off back home [sic] to England, leaving the Free State to deal with the consequences of an inflated, celeb-endorsed Blueshirt campaign.

  • kensei

    “Doesn’t it though? If partition was somehow unlawful or illegitimate the NI state would have no right to exist. The fact that that right has been accepted goes some way to conferring legitimacy. Further, the only way to end the NI state is by the people of that state expressing that view democratically. Again if the state was illegal like The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus its’ survival would not rest solely with the citizens of the illegitimate area.”

    Balls. In the 1920’s it came down to who was going to tell Britain otherwise. No one, and might makes right. And now, there is a whole of history behind it. Cyprus is a completely different proposition.

    “Perhaps some of Gerrys’ West Belfast constituents could think out of the box and come up with some socio-economic issues that central government could assist with.”

    Er, like what they haven’t got money for already? Yet more money? No closer to a UI, either.

  • Dec

    Whatever Next

    If Irish citizens wish to campaign in an election in Ireland I, oddly, don’t have an issue with that. I have even less problem with a member of SF from Belfast campaigning for a member of Sinn Fein in Dublin. That’s the nature of 32-county politics for you.

  • George

    BonarLaw,
    If partition was somehow unlawful or illegitimate the NI state would have no right to exist

    In Ireland we are looking for a modus vivendi for everyone on this island, not a final solution.

    Threats of violence and/or actual violence by British or Irish traditions to solve political differences or enforce present, future or past constitutional or territorial claims are to the advantage of nobody on this island.

    That is what the principle of consent is all about.

    It is for Northern Ireland as an entity to earn its legitimacy from the people it rules over.

    If it fails to win even them over, then it won’t convince anyone else.

  • darth rumsfeld

    when neo-Redmondite John Bruton made some relatively anodyne comments about our ethos he was sneered at in the Dail as “John Unionist”- the most abusive thing his detractors could come up with-some parity of esteem!

  • George

    Are you talking to yourself Darth with that last comment or is this some sort of stream of consciousness thing you have going on?

    By the way, the sentence has a couple of inaccuracies. The comment wasn’t made in the Dáil and wasn’t a sneer either. It was a slip by Burt Reynolds (sorry Bert) while speaking on radio.

  • Dec

    Darth

    He wasn’t run out of office like some Unionist Prime Ministers (“Tea with nuns? Lundy!!!!”) I could mention. But perhaps we can move on from all that and leave it in the past.

  • Darth,

    I do have High Tory leanings, but I also have suppressed Covenanting streaks. I’ve just finished reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Old Mortality” for the first time and found myself squarely on the side of the Covenanters.

  • PaddyReilly

    England votes Tory yet the Celtic MPs keep Labour in power.

    Very doubtful. As I recall, after the 1997 election there were only about 10 constituencies in the country where the Tory vote exceeded 50%. There are more now, but I doubt that it’s 50%, or anything like. Independence for Scotland would certainly mean the end of Labour rule, but it would not lead to permanent power for the Tories. Instead there would be an alternation of Conservative and Liberal, as there was in the 19th Century, or Lib/Lab, as there was in the 1920s. As the Liberals these days are reckoned to be to the left of New Labour, this wouldn’t change much.

  • Nathan

    NI already has a outlet for the doddering dullards of unionism…its called Cadogan.

    Its a nice website with nice rhetoric, but naturally enough as a republican, it cuts no ice with me.

  • páid

    Bonar Law,

    I am one of many Nationalists who is prepared to wait for an agreed unity if it comes about.

    Not because I recognise the legitimacy of partition, it was a sectarian stitch-up.

    But because I don’t want a pissed-off rebellious disloyal substantial minority in my country.

    It doesn’t make for a great place to live, does it?

  • Snaz

    I attended the launch and spoke at the meeting and there was a significant cross section of Northern Irelands (and Southern Irelands) political opinion present.

    The crux of the matter seemed to be. If a significant majority within the Unionist community still dont vote DUP (most just dont vote) what differentiates the 200,000+ DUP voters from the circa 400,000 that dont vote DUP?

    My personal opinion is that very little seperates at least half of the DUPs (Democtraic UTurn Party)voters from their fellow Unionists. They lost trust in the UUP brand over a number of years due to the public in fighting and gradually moved to the DUP. Some will be hard to get back, some might prove easier but the alternative has got to have new blood to sell its core message.

    The group debate last night centred around how “Ununionist” elements of Unionism has become.
    A good example is Unionist politicans asking for Corporation tax parity with a foreign neighbour as opposed to concentrating on the economic succesees of the 4th largest individual economy on the planet? Is that how you sell and promote the Union.

    90% of NI businesses are SMEs and so dont pay 30% Corporation Tax in the first place.

    5% inflation v 3%

    Significantly Higher PRSI rates (Company National Insurance)

    Personal Taxation still significantly cheaper in the UK than in Ireland.

    Massively inferior Public Services not free at the point of entry to all citizens.

    Nearly half of the citizens have private health policies as a result of the shocking Irish Health Service. Watch the Irish Election if you think the NHS is bad.

    40 year mortgages at 6/7 times salary.

    No ability to control your own fiscal policy meaning that the main mechanism (interest rates) to control inflation lies with the German Central Bank.

    These are just a few of the Economic benefits the UK has over Ireland but our “Unionist” politicans prefer to concentrate on a few areas were there is a largely cosmetic advantage.

    Of course there are many more General points that are not related to economics but in selling a Unionism for all we need to articulate the benefits.

    Unionism needs a party to celebrate the strength, culture and benefits of living in the UK as opposed to the still to significant “little Ulsterism” of a substantial part of the DUP. We need to play a full and active role in National and local politics and I think the electrate might wise up to the Councillor, MLA, MP and Stormont Minister brigade. This means that we are not playing our full part in the legislative life of our Country.

    Hope I am painting a picture as to how, with the right quality of delivery, accross the secterian, race and gender divide, there might yet be a sting in the “Little Ulster” tail. I also believe there are many in the DUP who share these concerns.

  • dub

    dear bonar law,

    you are one of very very many people who describe northern ireland as a state… could you please explain this as it is simply not true… it is a semi detached region of the uk state with the unique feature that none of the parties of government in the uk state have traditionally stood for election in it…

    snaz,

    the reality of the uk for a far flung region like ni is simply this: as you are not in the south east of england your economy is fucked…

  • Briso

    Posted by dub on May 03, 2007 @ 01:18 AM
    >the reality of the uk for a far flung region
    >like ni is simply this: as you are not in the
    >south east of england your economy is fucked…

    While this is indisputably true, it’s only five minutes since Dublin rule could finally be said to be on the whole positive for Donegal… Years and years of studied neglect precede. Belfast would probably do extremely well out of a UI, but I’m not so sure about the rest of us.

  • darth rumsfeld

    watchman
    good man yerself- old mortality is a cracking read, even though Scott ..er..was anything but a Covenanter

    snaz
    yup, I can’t believe that Unionists are grovelling for tax harmonisation with the RoI for the benefit of a relatively small number of people in the Institute of Directors. It must be Ian’s craving to be respected by the capitalist classes again.
    And yup, only the UUP was able to develop a political ideology for Ulster’s Unionists. But it’s dead, and the DUP doesn’t do ideas. The UUP had the key to Unionist politics when Molyneaux had Paisley in his pocket circa 1990-1995, but thegood ol’ boys who are still at the top were fixated on ministries at Stormont, and the deadwood at Westminster blew the opportunity of the Major government’s weakness when it was wobbling. Your Reunion mark 2 is now firmly in Alliance territory and will be forgotten about by Christmas.

    George
    I appreciate I get much of my news about RoI from the Sunday Independent,which entertains more than it informs but I’m quite certain Burt Reynolds'(if it was he) comment was not a slip of the tongue as he crammed a horse into a can of dogfood. It was remarked on at the time on both sides of the Border, and not in the context of a Freudian slip either. It has received more currency than any slip of the tongue could do. And it didn’t, as I recall, produce a retraction or apology. Though nor did it cause much controversy either. Imagine if poor old papa had got his faculties mangled and called Bertie Ahern Seamus O’Gunman- we’d be reading about it for a hundred years and the Dail would declare war on the Free P church.

    So I ask again, why has noone-especially on this thread- thought it appropriate to express disgust that the ethos of one section of the people of Ireland became a term of perjorative description?

  • BonarLaw

    PaddyReilly

    if you will use out of date data you will always get the wrong result. The last UK general election was in 2005, not 1997, and the share of the vote in England (not the UK) was Tory 35.3% Labour 32.4% giving a Tory lead in the popular vote of 65,000. See here.

  • BonarLaw

    Snaz

    “we are not playing our full part in the legislative life of our Country”

    That is because you have one MP and your peers are deserting.

    Good luck with the party officer thing BTW.

  • Dec

    Darth

    So referring to John Bruton ‘John Unionist’ is comparable to calling Bertie Ahern ‘Seamus O’Gunman’? Yeah, like for like.

    Of course, the incoming 1st Minister has previous form in the name-calling stakes: ‘Babbling’ Brooke, David ‘Liver Salts’ Andrews and of course his tasteful, mature remarks about Brian Cowan’s lips. The remarks about Cowan were delightfully ironioc considering his youngest son has a face like a dog lickin pish off a nettle.

  • IJP

    Briso

    Care to point to where Alliance has ever proposed constructing a new identity?

    The assumption that “identity of the whole community” means the whole community can have only one identity is a sectarian concept which I oppose.

    (Kensei can deny reality all he likes, but 50 years of majority rule followed by 30 years of sectarian strife combined with a segregated political/education/housing system is, in itself, at the core of a unique NI identity. The fact we all choose to ignore to promote exclusively one aspect of our identity it is, in itself, an NI thing!)

    Darth

    You’re comparing the best forms of Unionism with the worst forms of Nationalist. That’s not a fair comparison.

    Yet is you read “Unionism” to mean the xenophobic, backward, socially conservative, ultra-evangelical version (think Willie McCrea) and “Nationalism” to mean enlightened Irish Republicanism (think Francie Brolly), then it is clearly Nationalism which emerges intellectually superior.

    In fact both what we call “Unionism” and what we call “Nationalism” are basically at their core ethnic Nationalisms designed to promote the interests of only one section of the community. Is it not about time we moved on?

  • Briso

    >So I ask again, why has noone-especially on this
    >thread- thought it appropriate to express
    >disgust that the ethos of one section of the
    >people of Ireland became a term of perjorative
    >description?

    For goodness sake man!!! If I called Ian P, “Ian Nationalist”, who would be required to “to express disgust that the ethos of one section of the people of Ireland became a term of perjorative description?”

    LMAO!

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Snaz is exactly correct!

    If Republicans/Nationlists want a United Ireland then they need to prove that it is in current Unionist’s best economic interests over the next say 20 years to join with the ROI.

    I know I am much happier being joined to a large stable economy than to be part of an economy where much of it’s prosperity is linked to an overpriced building boom that is showing signs of stagnation. It will take some very small changes in the ROI property market to bring it crashing down and the repercussions for all of ROI industry could be disastrous.

    Let’s all beware the ‘Bertie Bubble’ doesn’t burst and leave lot of people very seriously damaged on both sides of the border.

    From my perspective it is much better to part of a large stable economy, than to be part of some ‘green dream’ where everybody lives happily ever after. I would even suggest that moving the border would be a good idea but only if it is moved somewhere South of Cork. Maybe Bertie tacitly agrees since he is now addressing the Houses of Parliament in London.

    We are in for an interesting few years!

  • PaddyReilly

    Bonar Law

    You may not have noticed when you were Prime Minister but there is no proportional representation in England. As a result, to be certain of obtaining political power, you have to gain over 50% of the vote in over 50% of the constituencies. This, in 1997, the Conservatives succeeded in doing in not more than a dozen constituencies. Definitely more in 2005, but still not that many. Thus, there is always the possibility that the opposition will combine against them.

    When England is joined to Scotland and Wales, there is a possibility of a Labour majority in this system, but if it is severed from them, the obvious result will be a realignment of parties on two party lines. Labour voters will realise than they can never win as such, and switch to Lib Dem, as Communist voters already have done by switching to Labour.

    33.5% of the shares is sufficient to control many limited companies, but in politics, the other voters eventually realise they are being stuffed and switch their allegiances accordingly.

    So the overall result will be an alternation between Tory and Liberal, as it was in 19th Century.

  • Snaz

    Bonar Law,
    I was trying to make an Overall Unionist point not a UUP one.

    The problem is that with the DUPs MPS now mostly doing 4 jobs (Councillor, MLA, MP, Minister or Chair Vice Chair) our only MP that is contributing to the legislative life of the UK is Sylvia.

    You might not believe me but I genuinely regret that but ultimately it is the people that decided it. The role of an MP has somehow become blurred over the years (some MPs are turning up at micro events that Councillors used to run and are talking to Constituents about Speed Humps) and the Single Tranferable Vote system which was brought in to keep the extremes out is now being used by the big vote getters at both Council and MLA elections to “bring in” the minions.

    I believe that once develoution gets up and running and the public get to see how often our MPs are in Westminster that there will be pressure to do one job or another. Personally I think the Government should legislate as such.

    Unionsim needs to promote the Union or people will lose sight of what it really means (not super prod, fenian hating, little Ulsterism)

    Darth,
    Middle ground secular Unionism will never translate to Alliance type thinking. It has been allowed to by the drift of the UUP and that ambiguity has got to stop.

    Yes we want all sections of the community to work together, blah, blah, blah but we exist to promote the Union and Northern Ireland with in it.

    That promotion is not dependent on what everybody else wants (Alliance is like the Irish Government, shinners and the SDLP, not to mention our own A la Carte Government were it will trade Britian for Ireland if thats what everyone wants to do).

    My Britishness and I believe hundreds of thousands like me is non negociable. It flows through my veins, it depicts my values, my culture. It says that I want to run my own economy not be gobbled up by the EU, It celebrates Diversity and welcomes people who arrive through the law and want to experience our great British values.

    I told the meeting on Monday night that whilst I agree with the vast majority of values within the document that I want to see the Union promoted more.

    I have a good relationship with my Alliance colleagues on Council and I have a lot of respect for their values but I cannot have any grey areas/conditional support for our United Kingdom!!

  • PaddyReilly

    If Republicans/Nationalists want a United Ireland then they need to prove that it is in current Unionist’s best economic interests over the next say 20 years to join with the ROI.

    No, they need to win over 50% of the vote in a referendum. Unionists by definition will not go with them. As you demonstrate, even if this interest were proved to them, they would not believe it.

    The prosperity of the 26 counties is not based on a housing bubble: on the contrary, the housing bubble is the greatest threat to this prosperity, because it pushes up the costs of everything and makes Ireland uncompetitive. Ireland’s prosperity is based upon IT, low corporation taxes, a hard working population, a distaste for expensive military ventures, use of the Euro and membership of the EU.

    As the UK also has a false market in housing and EU membership, there isn’t too much to choose between them: the ROI wins out on the other factors.

    The problem is not that Unionists would be economically disadvantaged by a UI, but that they would be politically isolated. In fact, Unionist parties would be so ineffective in such a system that they would be better off disbanding.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Paddy Reilly

    it would be helful if you read exactly what I wrote – ‘current unionists’ who may decide not to be so if it can be proved to them it is in their best interest not to be.

    I didn’t say all of its economy was based on property, I said ‘much’ of its economy, over 25% I believe which is extremely high for any economy.

    I believe Unionists(and Republicans/Nationlists) WOULD be economically disadvantaged in the long run by a United Ireland, however I am willing to look at any EVIDENCE to the contrary.

    PS you can’t have a Unionist party in a United Ireland only a Former Unionist Party

  • PaddyReilly

    It is true that the economy of the ROI has an unusually large building section. This is because the Irish are traditionally builders. The economies of Iceland and Greenland have large fishing sections. The economy of England is disproportionally dependent on financial services, which are equally unpredictable.

    Fortunately, we are all in the EU. If the building boom in Ireland collapses and is replaced by a building boom in Portugal, then affected parties will make their way to Portugal, or move into some other industry. If the financial services market in London collapses, its operatives will be headhunted to some other location, even outwith the EU.

    It is fairly obvious that partition is an economic depressant. If it’s a useful strategy, why not replicate it? Have two Northern Irelands, or three or four. Ireland, being an island, makes a natural economic area. That Ireland is best served by a single government was obvious even to King George V: he’s hardly Gerry Adams, is he?

    As regards current Unionists, studying the behaviour of the electorate over the last 100 years reveals that there are next to no floating voters who have abandoned partitionism for a belief in a United Ireland, and such as there are, are matched by an equal number going the opposite way.

    If you were brought up Protestant and Unionist in NI and have not married out of that community, or been converted to something approaching modernity by prolonged residence abroad, you will continue to favour partition, or at the very least not wish to be seen advocating its abolition, right to the bitter end.

    (Probably quite sensibly too: there was a (Protestant) man in Glenarm who proclaimed his belief in a UI. They shot him of course- the partitionists, I mean-, though he was totally non-violent.)

    But when that bitter end comes, it will be discovered that many former Unionists do not really object to the new status quo.

    Still, there are some residents of NI whom it is worth trying to persuade of the economic benefits of unification, and those are the non-natives. Nationalist parties seem to have set about this already quite efficiently, so no problem here. Trying to persuade those people whom you call ‘current Unionists’ is a complete waste of breath. Either they will persuade themselves or they will not be convinced at all.

    At the same time, it is probably true that being on the losing side in a power struggle will prove an economic and psychological depressant even if the economy of the state as a whole improves. In Chicago, if you didn’t vote for the winning mayoral candidate, your roads didn’t get repaired. This was 1980- may still be the same, for all I know.

    I’m not sure what the Unionist perception of their economic role is, but I think of them as being disproportionately made up of policemen and jailers. This class of person probably would not like the changes brought about by a UI. They would be more likely to resign, and therefore suffer economically.

    Equally, I would agree that a government based in Dublin would not optimally benefit the 6 North Eastern counties. For this reason I think the capital of a United Ireland should be Armagh. However, improved transport infrastructure could help smooth out the difficulties, even if the capital remains in Dublin.

    PS There is no reason why a party in a UI should not call itself Unionist, though it would be campaigning to effect a new Union, not to preserve an existing one.

  • Snaz

    Paddy Reilly,

    Your blog has disturbed my work but I had to respond.

    Firstly I have no axe to grind with the Irish people. My company has substantially more business there than it does in Northern Ireland but crucially for this debate a fraction of the whole UK of which Northern Ireland is a region.

    I enjoy my time spent in Dublin and Cork I like its people, I have many, many friends, customers and suppliers there but in terms of an overall economic entity, the United Kingdom it is not!!

    UK PLC is the fifth largest economy on the planet.On its own. (It fluctuates from 4th to 5th)

    It sets its own fiscal policy.

    Consequently as it only needs to review its own unique set of circumstances (not France or Germanys) it has low inflation.

    The Republic of Ireland has high inflation at 5% and this is costing a significant amount of wage inflation, and pressure on the public partnership arrangements.

    The UK has had a developed economy for many decades. It is great to see the great strides that the Irish economy has made in the last decade and this has resulted in significantly increased trade between us in the UK and them.

    The big differential (and UK citizens who moan about our Public Services should have a stint at living in Ireland) is in our public services and the maturity and provision thereoff.

    Be it the Dentist or the Irish Health Service they do not compare in any shape or form.

    That is why a very large percentage of Irish Citizens have purchased Private Medical insurance.
    Under Fianna Fail massive strides have been made but a country of 5,000,000 cannot ever hope to compete with a more developed one of 60,000,000. It will never have the tax base to compete which leads me on to two final points.

    1. Have you ever tried to work out how much every working person in Ireland would have to pay to afford Northern Irelands annual 9,000,000,000,000 BILLION Euro subsidy!!! (6m GBP which makes us 10th out of 12 UK regions)

    2.Why do more Irish live in the UK than live in Ireland itself.

    I rest my case but enjoyed making it. I am sick of patronising rubbish comparing the Northern economy to that of the South. That is like comparing the Kerry economy to that of the UK.

    Northern Ireland is a region of one of the greatest Nations on earth and you should be glad to be able to call it home and avail of its services.

  • 40 year mortgages at 6/7 times salary.

    Transient issues are a bad basis for an existential belief. In any case, you don’t think it’s that bad up here as well? Dude, what planet do you live on?

  • PaddyReilly

    Well here we have the old subsidy chestnut. Put it this way: the UK needs to subsidise Gibraltar to keep it afloat, gaining nothing much in return for doing so. This costs a lot of money. If the UK had 50 Gibraltars on the coast of Spain to support, it would be broke. But if you took those 50 Gibraltars and gave them back to Spain, would Spain be broke? Of course not. They would just be Spanish seaside towns. It is the separation of these towns from their natural hinterland which makes them expensive, not the nature of the towns themselves.

    Ireland would have to pay to afford Northern Irelands annual 9,000,000,000,000 BILLION Euro subsidy!!!

    Don’t shout too loud. If the inhabitants of England become aware that they are losing this enormous sum annually in return for no other benefit than having their cities bombed periodically and their politicians’ time wasted catering to the biggest political babies on the planet, they might wish to diminish the burden.

    But as has already been established, the economic policy of the UK is set to benefit the SE of England. This means that all other regions are losing out to that fortunate quarter. The so called subsidies are merely a way of restoring to the outlying regions something of what they have lost in this process. The subsidy to NI has the added burden of underpinning an uneconomic partition, to cater to Unionist intransigence.

    Your strategy for demeaning the Irish Republic is merely to take those ways in which it differs from the UK and cite them as stumbling blocks. As both the UK and ROI are in the EU, then they are part of the EU economy, the biggest in the world. I’m afraid you’re living in the past. I have to admit that one gets that way, as one gets older. Everything you think you know is out of date.

    The size of the economy one is in is not the be all and end all of economic well-being. Why do you think the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands keep out of mainstream UK and even the EU? Why did Greenland leave that entity? They coldly calculated what it was worth to them and decided it wan’t worth it.

  • BonarLaw

    PaddyReilly

    “If you were brought up Protestant and Unionist in NI and have not married out of that community, or been converted to something approaching modernity by prolonged residence abroad”

    Ah, those poor neanderthal unionists, only fit to be “policemen and jailers”.

    “At the same time, it is probably true that being on the losing side in a power struggle will prove an economic and psychological depressant even if the economy of the state as a whole improves”. Being of a nationalist disposition I suppose you’d know.

    “But when that bitter end comes”. Don’t hold your breath.

    On second thoughts, do.

    Snaz

    my nationality isn’t dependant on the size (red or black) of my bank balance. If it was at various times I would have sought German, Janapese, US or Swiss citizenship. British and broke is always preferable to Mick and minted!

  • Northern Irelands annual 9,000,000,000,000 BILLION Euro subsidy

    9 trillion billion? You mean 9 quintillion Euro? That’s how much subsidy we get. Japers, I didn’t realise I was getting a personal subsidy of 5.3 trillion cool ones.

    Right, where’s that yacht? I’m off to Barbados with my harem of concubines!

  • Butterknife

    Does it really matter in today’s society if Billy views himself as British while Liam views himself as Irish? Do we not have the best of both worlds, in that Northern Ireland can have the best of both cultures?
    The only issue now is that both cultures are in danger of being misrepresented at Stormont by political players who will carve deals out of prejudices instead of what is good for the community as a whole.

  • Snaz

    Bonar Law,
    Of course I agree with you in that my Britishness is not a financial costing exercise.

    I am just sick of Nationalists/Republicans talking about all things good in the Irish economy as though the UK was a backwater.

    It is not Irish bashing as I think it is brilliant the advances that have been made and of course it is better having a prosperous trading neighbour than a skint one.

    Sammy,
    All of the UKs 12 regions excluding three, are net receipients from the treasury and MR Blairs is the worse so its not a NI/English thing, its a regional fact that is no different in South Wales, The North East as Northern Ireland.

  • Dec

    Northern Ireland is a region of one of the greatest Nations on earth and you should be glad to be able to call it home and avail of its services.

    Snaz

    Should we also tug our forelocks at regular intervals at passing British gents?

    Ps You must really miss the days of the Raj.

    BonarLaw

    British and broke is always preferable to Mick and minted!

    I don’t think any sane Irish person would want to beassociated in any way with you, so no worries on that score.

  • All of the UKs 12 regions excluding three, are net receipients from the treasury

    Dude, your sums are badly wrong. That was my point.

  • Two Nations

    Maybe someone can riddle me this…

    Accepting that the ROI has been a roaring success for the last decade why are northern Nationalists NOT migrating down South in their droves? If it is supposed to be the same nation after all then there should be no emotional barrier in moving to the ROI. Yet, in the scheme of things there has not been that great a number making the move.

    It makes no sense to me.

    A soaring economy, high standard of living, free of British rule, no RUC (PSNI), no pesky prod parades. It should be a Irish Republicans wet dream.

    Why stay in the North?
    Could I suggest that for many Nationslists, Ireland is mentally/emotionally partitioned and that they really do not have an affinity for the rest of the island? Home is the six counties and not the 32.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Paddy Reilly

    ‘It is true that the economy of the ROI has an unusually large building section. This is because the Irish are traditionally builders.’

    Thye used to build everywhere else except in the ROI which caused the ROI to benefit, now they are building at home it has not the same economic benfit in the long run.

    Also where are the facts and the evidence on the economic benefits, this wishy washy ‘It is fairly obvious that partition is an economic depressant.’ That is a load of rubbish, why is it an economic depressant? – seems a lot of people have generated massive fortunes out of the border, on which they have not paid tax, but have spent it on assets e.g. the trickle down economy around the border.

    More of this ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality I see from many Nationalist and Republican commentators
    here and elsewhere, be aware it only happens in the movies!

    If they really want a United Ireland they had better start persuading ‘cos if they don’t they will NEVER have one, the unionists (small u) here are a least 60%+ maybe even 70%+ of the population and they therefore need to switch 10-20%. According to P Reilly it won’t happen and he wouldn’t even try!