A rebel ‘Yes’ Unionism…

Eric Kaufman drawing from his book, ‘The Orange Order and ‘No’ Unionism since 1998′, draws a distinction between the substantial and highly effective anti Agreement activism within the UUP, and the apparent openness to change. He argues that there has always been thread of free thinking byond the mainstream Protestant tradition. He offers a number of historical instances: Lindsay Crawford (first Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution) who talked about accepting Home Rule; Paisley’s RTE Irish interview in 1971; UDA’s 1977 Common Sense document; also there was the potentially far sighted paper from Robinson and Millar “An end to drift” in 1987. And of course Paisley’s deal with Sinn Fein Until recently it has been the minor voice in Unionism, Loyalism and Orangism.On the 15th of April the meeting of the Grand Lodge, the general reaction was mostly couched in terms of shock and surprise. There is little doubt, even though the British were working hard to get the Orange onside, that they were not going to back it. According to Eric, James Molyneaux and Martin Smyth were particularly vocal in their opposition to Trimble and his deal, the latter confessing that he was shellshocked by his party leader’s actions.

Of the official Orange delegation to the UUC only 10% support the Agreement, even though amongst wider Orange membership attitudes are considerably more positive. Attempts to tighten party discipline and efficiency are blocked, and Orange delegates encouraged not pay their £100 fee. Gradually people begin to move across to the DUP: Denis Watson; Nelson McCausland; and Peter Weir, creating ‘a bridge’ between the two parties and offering the possibility of building a bridge.

They epitomise an older, mainstream and conservative strand of Unionism. Both come from a Anglican, rather than a Presbyterian background. They remain conservative on the constitution but profoundly anti-militant. In contrast Paisley’s anti Big House Unionism has been more flexible/original on the Constitution whilst espousing militant politics.

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