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…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty