Unionism and the mainland

Some thoughts on Unionism’s task on the mainland are offered on the Our Kingdom blog. The analysis argues that while the decision lies with Northern Ireland’s electorate Unionism cannot afford to forget about mainland establishment and public opinion. It argues it is a task the Unionist Academy should include in its strategic goals. However, this generational task faces a number of barriers such as general disinterest in unimmediate political issues, lack of resources and the need for a full-time Westminster team. It concludes that devolution could integrate Northern Ireland into national discussions in key policy areas if it is innovative and successful.

  • Mick Fealty

    I wasn’t being prescriptive ken.

  • kensei


    I wasn’t being prescriptive ken.

    You’re not answering, either ;). I do believe when you’re opponent tells you he’s doing something you listen. I just don’t see what it is they are trying to say. I smacks of SF’s “outreach”. The use of “Unionist” is significant: if this was really about widening appeal, why limit it from the start? If Unionism was really moving on, why the blind spot to language that republicans are so good at?

    In any case the original Republicans cried “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” — Irish Republcians are big on the first too, but perhaps could dow ith some concentration on the latter.

    This is disappointing:


    I can appreciate the reasons, FF have a lot on their hands in the South, but strategically the reasons for coming still make sense. Especially as a downturn might help the SF vote in the South.

  • Greenflag

    olifear ,

    ‘Half a province cannot impose a permanent veto on the nation’

    The half province now has half a veto.

    ‘Half a province cannot obstruct forever the reconciliation between the British and the Irish democracies ‘

    Churchill got that right. IIRC did’nt some Unionists throw the ‘book'(bible ) at him for saying so ?

  • picador


    OK, here’s a suggestion. Why don’t they look at what’s going on in Wales and Scotland in terms of official recognistion for the Welsh and Gaelic languages and ask themselves whether either of these nations are any less British as a result of official recognition?

  • picador


    In a way, yes I do. Five years ago we told unionism (Chapter 2, para 5) this was precisely what they needed to do: ‘devote resources to research, analysis, and communication, helping them to listent to voters from both sides, understand their concerns, tailor both policies and messages accordingly’.

    Are you saying that the DUP should try a bit of Catholic outreach? Cos it hasn’t really been their stong point to date.

    If they gain influence in London on behalf of us all, it must be a good thing, surely?

    But that is the problem, Mick. We don’t know yet for sure whether a deal was struck on the 42 days. I don’t believe that there was no deal and I don’t believe that the DUP are capable of doing a deal without seeking sectarian advantage. Perhaps they might tell us what the deal was so we might judge for ourselves.

    And it should correspondingly be a worrying thing if northern nationalists are losing influence for us all in the Republic.

    Dublin has influence but the power lies in London.

    The ‘for us all’ part is the one component of that proposition that’s not yet clear, on either side. Whichever of the two sides takes that high ground before the other will have a strategic advantage for some time to come.

    Sinn Féin do not attempt to claim the high ground. The unionists merely look ridiculous when they try to claim it (collusion anyone?). The SDLP have the best claim to it and they are moribund – which perhaps goes to show that there isn’t any high ground.

    There is a begging bowl though.

    If they are still reading from A Long Peace? the DUP has a head start.

    Well, you are in a position to know. So tell us. Are you involved in this proposal?

    Maybe it’s time our nationalist leaders fetch their copies out again?

    Are you referring to the SDLP? Please elaborate.

  • wasting time

    What should worry you guys is that there is no equivalent of this kind of re-think within northern nationalism. In chess terms it’s still caught up with the movement of pawns when unionism is starting to think about how best to deploy its back row.

    lol! The republican movement has been play chess for years, the unionist movement is only learning how to play tiddlywinks now.

    Trying to sell their form on unionism back to the mainland is nigh on impossible. Ulster unionism has always been at odds with itself, from the Curragh mutiny and the Larne guns, to resisting any piece of legislature that they don’t agree with, even though it’s perfectly acceptable to the rest of the UK. Unionist on their own terms, many would even say loyal to queen and not government.

    Look at what has happened with certain forms of identity on the mainland. What would your average Englishman make of a group of people, vigorously waving union jacks for example? Nowadays, this concocts images of football hooliganism and far right groups, rather than a fellow Briton on the same wavelength.
    Modern, liberal, secular Britain is light years away from a traditional unionist mindset. Can you see all this talk of abominations towards homosexuals and creationism helping strengthen bonds with the rest of the kingdom? It would stregthen bonds with Birmingham alright, Birmingham Alabama that is!

    And why would the rest of the UK even consider listening to what ‘the paddies’ have to say? John in London is worried about the rising costs of living in a dynamic city, and how the olympics will possibly screw with his timetable with the increase of numbers using public transport during that period.
    Joan in Newcastle will be wondering why all the prosperity is located in the south east of England and why is there no distribution of the nations wealth, and why all polices have the south east of England at heart to the detriment of everywhere else. Tom in Wales is probably wondering the same thing as Joan is and Tom in Scotland is either trying to get more power devolved to the Scottish government/Saor Alba/stop the SNP.
    Infact, the one thing that all the parts of Britain can agree on and truly unites them at the moment is their hatred of Brown and the DUPers go and prove that ulster unionism is still out of step with everyone else and help him out!
    What a number of politicians, renouned for their out of step positions on liberalism, homosexuality, abortion and sunday league football have to say on the union is largely irrelevant and completely unimportant.
    This is far more important to Ulster unionists than to everyone else and the DUP academy sounds like some high-brow solution for the elite to discuss over tea and scones. It won’t help the man on the street feel more British or more sympathetic towards unionism in Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m saying what I said back then, which is both sides need a dual mandate to operate successfully. It makes sense for each side to seek to broaden their areas of interest and constituency; and ultimately their capacity to get the outcome they are looking for.

    I’m not involved in the proposal, directly or even indirectly. But for reasons laid out above, I genuinely think it is good idea. Tús maith leath na hoibre, and all that…

  • Dave

    “It makes sense for each side to seek to broaden their areas of interest and constituency; and ultimately their capacity to get the outcome they are looking for.” – Mick

    How do both sides get the outcome they’re looking for in a zero-sum game unless one side wants to lose? On the macro issue of unity, both sets of players have mutually exclusive goals.

    I agree that it makes sense, however, for the players to cooperate on the micro issues (room temperature, fag breaks, sponsorship deals, etc) while the game is in play.

    But at the end of the day, Unionism won’t win unless the rules are changed by the judges due to special pleading by that player. And special pleading is all that Unionism has to offer as its end game.

    It’s not much of a game when your strategy is “Please let us win because we not as bad as you think we are and we really are worth £7 billion of your hard-earned taxes which in no way would be better spent on education and health care for those in real need of assistence.”

  • Steve

    The real problem with the academy is that it seems destined to try and teach the english to be more like the DUPers instead of trying to teach the DUPers that their insular little world is not sustainable for a long period of time. they would probably do better trying to teach unionists to be english instead of trying to teach the english to be unionists

  • slug

    I’d agree with Mick that the discussion on this thread has been disappointing negative and unimaginative.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Sorry, Pic, I should have said. A copy was sent to every single MLA and the headquarters staff of ALL parties. It was an honest attempt to write to the unionist position, but openly rather than behind the backs of nationalism.

    And since it contains analysis of the position that both groups find themselves in we thought it could be mined for ideas by anyone in the political game.

    You should take some time out and read it, if you haven’t already done so. It’s not entirely gone out of date quite yet.

  • El Paso

    “..the discussion on this thread has been disappointing negative and unimaginative.”

    A bit like Unionism, then.

  • picador


    I read a couple of chapters earlier and will finish the rest at my leisure. Not being a unionist I don’t find the sentiments expressed particularly appealing but then I never was going to! However things have obviously moved on since then, i.e. the DUP are now indisputably in the ascendant and, shock horror (!), have agreed to share power with SF. I suspect that at the time you were writing with a UUP / Alliance / very pale green SDLP audience in mind.

    Politics being a funny business it could be the DUP / SF marriage of convenience goes tits up and a centrist coalition becomes an option – but I honestly can’t see it (just as I didn’t envisage the Chuckle brothers happening). I just think that anyone in the DUP has the authority or even the inclination to try reach beyond the P-U-L constituency and futhermore I even if they did (and survived the inevitable Lundy denounciations) I could’t see anyone from the nationalist community accepting their bona fides.

    I don’t understand your faith in the DUP on this matter – it seems like clutching at straws as their sectarian record speaks for itself.

  • picador


    I’d agree with Mick that the discussion on this thread has been disappointing negative and unimaginative.

    So go on then, say something positive and imaginative.

  • Mick Fealty

    You should bare with it till the end Pic. The prisoners dilemma stuff is a bit heavy going but rewarding, I think. The last chapter is commends the move towards to full blooded democratic engagement.

    I don’t have faith in the DUP. I’ve not said anything about how it will turn out. I’ve simply said that I think there are a number of conditioning factors that suggest it may be a departure with patterns of the past.

    It’s you guys who’ve been doing the Samson impersonation and predicting like crazy about the unsustainablity of something, the details of which none of us have even seen yet.

    Right, I’m off to do some paid work, then to bed. Night all!

  • doctor

    “It’s you guys who’ve been doing the Samson impersonation and predicting like crazy about the unsustainablity of something, the details of which none of us have even seen yet.”

    In that case, I’m not sure what the point of the thread is at the moment, if concrete details are still months away. Based on the little information we do have, anything anyone says at this point would be “predicting like crazy”, not just when someone offers reasons for thinkng the whole thing will crash and burn.

    Besides, we’ve got ourselves a well-estabished tradition of making judgements long before the actual details are known. How many threads have we had since the beginning of the year bashing the Eames-Bradley report, and yet the thing still hasn’t actually been released yet.

  • Dave

    Yeah, Mick, it’s crazy to predict that English taxpayers will object to committing £50 billion of their money every decade just to keep Northern Ireland within the UK when that generosity to those they have scant affinity with is depriving English people of extra schools, hospitals, police officers, and placing an unsustainable burden on English workers and business. Given the choice, English people would cease the practice in a heartbeat. The intrinsic immorality of Unionism requires that the English must work to provide the taxes that are required to sustain its contrariness and that others who are far more worthy of benefiting from those taxes are deprived of them, in addition to depriving Irish people within Northern Ireland of their right to self-determination. How long can a parasite live on a body before the body objects? Just because Unionism is the world’s oldest leech is no guarantee of immortality. They are entirely at the mercy of people who will eventually raise their voice against them. 😉

  • Billy


    I can understand a move by Unionism to try and make the Union attractive to Catholics.

    It is a matter of common sense that, if Unionism doesn’t make itself an attractive proposition to Catholics, it will lose out in the medium term.

    It was actually David Trimble who first “grasped this nettle” from a Unionist perspective.

    What I really don’t understand, (and frankly, no-one from a Unionist perspective has made it any clearer) is how the DUP intend to sell Unionism as an attractive proposition on the “mainland”.

    It’s not a matter of Unionist bashing, it’s a matter of dealing in facts.

    Unionists and Unionism in general do not have a good image and very little support in the UK – if you have any evidence to the contrary, please produce it.

    The vast majority of people in the UK don’t care about NI – a substantial majority of those who do care would be in favour of getting rid of it.
    Again if you can produce any evidence to counter this, please do so.

    NI has a basket case economy that sponges off the UK Exchequer to the tune of billions annually. There seems little prospect of this changing – in fact the assembly seems to be achieving nothing and asking for more public money to do so!

    There is absolutely no realistic prospect of NI not requiring billions in subsidy for years to come.

    With the UK plunging into recession, I fail to see why the people (who do not consider NI to be an integral part of GB whether Unionists like it or not) should be happy to continue pumping billions of their money into a place that they don’t give a shit about and that provides very little (if any) benefit to GB.

    I re-iterate that I am not trying to be offensive to Unionists or drag the debate down.

    I am simply dealing in facts as I see them.

    If you can suggest any benefits that the Union with NI provides to the average person in GB (and which is costing them billions each year), then I’d be interested in hearing them.

    The vast majority of British people I know are happy (as am I) to adhere to the principle of consent as enshrined in the GFA.

    However, I see no evidence of any meaningful pro-Union with NI feeling in GB. If the majority in NI vote for a United Ireland, the vast majority of people in Britan won’t care or will be glad.

    If Unionists want to try to turn around public perception and make British people feel that Union with NI is great and worth billions of taxpayers money each year, then good luck to them.

    I think they’re facing some struggle and the greatest irony of all is that even the GB govt ( Lab or Con) are very happy to increase RoI involvement and weaken the Union.

  • Dave

    “Britain has always favoured a ‘continent ‘ with an internal balance of power preventing one power from achieving hegemony .” – Greenflag

    The prospect of one state within Europe gaining control of the other states was non-existent, and seeking to prevent the non-existent risk had absolutely nothing to do with why England joined the EU or remains within it. Indeed, the risk was non-existent until it was created by the EU’s Treaty of Rome that constitutionally binds the EU to seek “ever closer unity” between its member states – the only logical outworking of which is unity. The “hegemony” that is aimed for is control of Europe by the EU. The bullshit that the countries of Europe would be busy launching war on each other was created by the French and German founders of its forerunner in 1957 as a form of self-aggrandisement in order to dress up their 6-nation cartel as something more significant (rather than being an exclusionist, anti free market cartel that sought to control the steel and coal industries), and was proffered twelve years after WW2 in a climate of fear and uncertainty created by the emergent Cold War. The steel and coal industries died through early EU bureaucracy but the bullshit survived. The UK sees itself as an independent, sovereign nation and sees the other states on the continent of Europe as the same. This is a shift from its former colonial position where it saw those states as places to extract resources and wealth. Ergo, the EU project is increasingly at odds with that perception as it mores irreversibly towards federalism and onto full integration. As the president of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, said “Sometimes, I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimensions of empire.”

    “The EU introduces a new element into the equation and despite the UK’s aversion to aspects of the EU it’s not going to isolate itself on the celtic fringe.” – Greenflag

    England is the centre of England. Withdrawal from the EU would mean less interference in English sovereign affairs and greater wealth for its citizens, saving it the £15 billion plus of taxpayers’ money that is squanders on the EU every year. When Tony Blair agreed to surrender £7.1 billion of the UK’s rebate to the EU in 2005, he explained it that is would “transfer wealth from rich countries to poor countries and to invest in Eastern Europe.” Err, isn’t that socialism – whatever about the dubious position of the taxpayers in one country paying taxes to their national government to benefit the citizens of foreign countries taxes rather than their own citizens. I suggest you acquaint yourself with Cameron’s pledge to undo the Lisbon Treaty if it is successfully implemented because it “transfers too much sovereignty to the EU.” I’d like to see how that can be done without withdrawing from the EU. Give them a decade and they’ll be well rid of the EU and its little club for self-aggrandising political hacks.

    “Will the same standard apply to Cornwall , Wales , Scotland , North West England , North East England -all are regions/countries where ‘self sufficiency’ would be an issue following ‘independence’. ” – Greenflag

    Ye olde slippery sloppe argument, eh? “They won’t let NI secede because others would want to secede too.” Great, except the UK has always said that the decision about NI’s constitutional status was a matter for the people of NI and not for national government. See the Government of Ireland Act circa 1921 and subsequent legislation. Ergo, this argument is entirely bogus. Self-sufficiency is a condition of sovereignty for both individuals and states. It isn’t a condition for granting it or not granting it (see the Article 3 of the UN’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples) , but those who can’t be self-sufficiency can’t be sovereign. This is why Unionists are 86-year-old ‘kids’ still living with their parents… and tis’ why they don’t want sovereignty, merely to be dependent.

    P.S. Apology to Mick Fealty and Fair Deal if this reply is way off-topic.

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    (with apologies to Mick & Fair Deal in advance)

    ‘The prospect of one state within Europe gaining control of the other states was non-existent,’

    Better weather for the Spanish Armada ?. Had Napoleon sent his army to the UK instead of Egypt ? Had Goering continued his Luftwaffe for another couple of weeks ? Had the USA not entered WW2 there would have been nothing to stop the USSR having it’s western border on Galway Bay. It’s a nonsense to say -WAS non existent.

    ‘had absolutely nothing to do with why England joined the EU or remains within it.’

    England did’nt join the EU -the UK did . I did’nt state it was the reason it joined . It is one of the reasons why the UK won’t leave the EU . The HOC and Lords have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

    ‘ England is the centre of England’

    I would’nt think so . Is the EU the centre of the EU ? Did you mean perhaps the centre of the UK ?

    ‘Self-sufficiency is a condition of sovereignty for both individuals and states.’

    Rubbish . I can’t think of any State apart from the USA 1940 to 1955 that was self sufficient but even then they were dependent on foreign oil. All states are interdependent given the global economy . Look at what the price of oil is doing to world food prices . Grain farmers (ethanol producers) make money while millions in the developing world face starvation .

    ‘This is why Unionists are 86-year-old ‘kids’ still living with their parents… and tis’ why they don’t want sovereignty, merely to be dependent. ‘

    Nonsense . Unionists prefer to be ‘protected ‘ by a nuclear if second rate world power and more importantly it’s probably the only road open to them to avoid being ‘dragooned’ into a UI which for ‘unionists’ would be like becoming a ‘minority’ in their own country . HMG’s Exchequer has longer and deeper pockets than Mr Cowen’s ROI government .

  • Mick Fealty


    I have one problem with this whole conversation: it barely refers to what FD actually says in his article. His case is that the union can only be broken in NI or Scotland (or Wales from that matter), not London. His case is more subtle than that.

  • Greenflag


    ‘NI has a basket case economy that sponges off the UK Exchequer to the tune of billions annually. ‘

    A crude way to put it . IIRC NI is 70% public sector dependent -Scotland is 50% and Wales 55% . So if NI is a basket case then Scotland and Wales are almost ‘basket cases’

    ‘There seems little prospect of this changing ‘


    ‘in fact the assembly seems to be achieving nothing and asking for more public money to do so! ‘

    Indeed .

    ‘There is absolutely no realistic prospect of NI not requiring billions in subsidy for years to come’

    Absolutely and even less of a prospect given the downturn in the world economy.

    As an aside to the above perhaps one of the reasons why Unionists are looking to sell ‘unionism’ to the mainland is that they have nothing else to sell 🙁

    Look on the bright side . It keeps them busy and takes their minds off the ‘real ‘ problems of NI i.e the things thay can do nothing about . Ditto for SF swanning around the world selling ‘peace solutions ‘

    As Joxer Daly said ‘the wurrld is in a state of chassis ‘ not just NI .

  • sunny south east

    The idea of dialogue with the mainland maybe too little to late if the UK fragments. It is confusing to understand how unionists still react politicallyafter the ceasefire, the gfa agreement, the SNP are becoming the biggest players in scotland causing the stirings of growth in English nationalism. Maybe the question is not ulster is British whether they will be a Britain to call home. It seems Scotland, England and Wales are moving to a defacto independence. If so it does not matter if ulster trys to reengage.
    Ironic the unionists have battled with nationalists to stop becoming a minority with in ireland now they could become a minority in the UK the only british people in britain. David Lynch could not have imagined this

  • Greenflag

    SSE ,

    ‘Ironic the Unionists have battled with Nationalists to stop becoming a minority with in Ireland, now they could become a minority in the UK the only British people in the UK .’

    Now that is seriously ‘funny’ even if unlikely :).

    In the meantine let’s wish all Unionists in NI a happy and peaceful Twelfth 🙂

  • sunny south east

    Maybe not Greenflag would you 10 yrs ago regard scotish nationalism and the situation with the uk i.e. The act of settlement, the saga with the royal family having an effect on the troubles. Who knows what is next the relations regards orange and green may end up being regarded as civil compared to future rifts in the uk. What effect it has on ireland will worth watching.