One of the fascinating aspects of this election has been the relish with which has been consumed in detail by Northern Ireland’s Unionists. Calton Media’s analysis was congratulatory of Bertie Ahern. And even today in the Sunday Tribune, Ian Paisley has defended Ahern against the allegations of financial impropriety. Which begs the question: is this the end of the so called ‘pan nationalist front’? Many nationalists would argue that this ‘front’ was only ever a malicious figment of the collective unionist imagination, and which, on occasion, was used as pretext by some loyalist paramilitaries to conduct sectarian killings. Indeed, considering the way Sinn Fein has been systematically airbrushing the SDLP’s pivotal role in the peace process out of existence, it’s now hard to believe that it ever had substance.
But there is something quite distinctive in the way the DUP is embracing Dublin as good neighbours, building friendships and even partners – that doesn’t seem to have featured in the futuring scenarios of many commentators on Northern Irish affairs. This departure of ‘standard unionist behaviour’ is likely to prove problematic to some of their Northern Irish nationalist counterparts.
As Jim Gibney noted on in his Thursday column:
For almost 80 years the political establishment in the 26 counties, including successive Irish governments and parties like Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, were indifferent to what Peter Barry, a Fine Gael minister for foreign affairs, described as a “nightmare” existence for nationalists and Catholics.
If a battle for hearts and minds south (as well as north) of the border, is the only way forward, (and for the union as much as for unification), it looks like the DUP is declaring “game on”! Whatever tactical solidarity existed between northern and southern nationalism before this election now appears to be under serious threat from a DUP ‘Love Bomb’.
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