Discuss (minus the squabble)

Unionists have in effect been squabbling over a diminishing share of the cake. They often appear to be largely oblivious of this reality.
• Improve the quality of unionist electoral organisation
• Improve voter registration
• Provide people with a reason to vote unionist.

Please discuss these key issues (preferably without turning it into another ‘squabble’).

  • Grassy Noel

    Good post, Fair Deal. Interested to see the reponses.

    To kick things off; I’m a non-unionist, sometimes practising a la carte Catholic.

    How would a unionist party persuade me to vote for them?

  • Alex. Kane

    FD,

    As you know, these are questions I have addressed in the column over the years.

    They are important.

    So yes, I hope that this leads to a serious debate rather than another squabble.

    Regards,

    Alex.

  • frustrated democrat

    The solution for many would be the formation of a tuly unequivocal conservtive/unionist party under the Conservative Party umbrella. It would give all voters who believe in the union the opportunity to vote for a non partisan party that could hold power in London and Belfast at the same time and have a seat at the heart of Government.

    What better guarantee is there for the union than the UK and Northern Ireland leaders from the same party?

    Of course the other unionist parties will rubbish it as it is definitely not in their interests and we will hear screams of Anglo Irish Argeement etc. even when it was the foundation on which the GFA/STA was built.

    They will just have to get over it as the have with SF/IRA.

  • fair_deal

    GN

    If I may ask are you a regular voter? Who in the recent past have you been voting for? Have you ever changed the party you voted for and if so why?

    If you do not wish to answer I quite understand but understanding the voter(s) is the crucial on basing future appeals.

  • Skintown Lad

    It strikes me in the run up to the Enniskillen by-election that the unionists (particularly the Ulster Unionists) don’t actually have much to say about how to run the place. You have Tom Elliot bleating away about some allegedly copyright infringing material on Sinn Fein’s website, and Basil Johnston making very vague overtures about how the DUP went back on their word and entered government. The vast majority of unionists now accept the power sharing government; it’s a dead duck of an issue in itself. The live issue is who actually will do the best job of running the place, and that primarily includes the issues that are of equal interest to nationalists as well as unionists. Unionists would do well to engage more with people on the ground and show capability on bread and butter issues, rather than retreating back to simplistic tribal stances on flags etc. It is too optimistic to hope that I am one of many who don’t give a sh1te about where people walk, or what song they sing?

  • Essentialist

    One of the most depressing facts about the unionist community is the poor overall quality of their political representatives. Without effective dynamic responsive leadership there is little prospect of bringing the young and the energetic into unionist political life. The O.O. play a part for both main unionist parties but this link comes with baggage.

    The paucity of good teachers of history and politics in schools hampered by biased texts adds to the problem. So too does the tepid leadership of the main Protestant churches. Take education reform as an example and point to one who has made a case for academic selection and grammar schools. Ignoring evidence while accepting anecdote seems to be a characteristic of unionism.

    My own children cannot see the benefits of voter registration except that an electoral card is a cheap form of ID. They mock and deride with examples of nepotism, cronyism, incompetence and double-speak.

    One Unionist Party combined with the Conservatives could serve most of the unionist well. Unfortunately the N.I. Conservatives suffer from the same paucity of effective political reps, thus explaining the need for a pret a porter UUP relationship. At least a unity of unionists and conservatives would start the move away from the extraordinary public sector dependency.

    Without restoration of a political opposition mechanism however the exercise is moot hence the growing anxiety over the TUV voice. It represents more unionist opinion than the DUP and UUP care to admit and is growing silently.

  • F_D, I think Unionist politicians have spent too much time talking about the Border and too little time developing links with the rest of the UK at grassroots level; they’ve appeared to be more anti-UI than pro-UK.

    There also needs to be an improvement in the calibre of the candidates and in the service provided to constituents.

  • One unionist party would not increase either registration or participation. Particularly with STV, choice is the watchword. I also believe that the UUP – Tory talks might emerge with a model which will attract more voters, disillusioned with the usual factional squabbles.

    In terms of voter registration, I live in an area where it is extremely low. Yet there are constant leaflets and invitations to surgeries coming through the door. It’s a social problem as well as a political problem.

  • slug

    Nevin is right. The recruitment of better quality, more diverse, candidates.

    The unionist Assembly candidates last time don’t exactly inspire, for example. There are better people out there.

  • Grassy Noel

    F-D,

    I’ve voted for the Stoops for nearly all of my adult life in General Elections (Shinners abstentionism swung it) – in local council elections, I would vote for a mix of Stoops and Shinners. Now and again have added an Alliance candidate or an independent.

    Would consider voting differently next time around though as I do think this place needs a real shake-up.

    GN

  • Greenflag

    ‘The recruitment of better quality, more diverse, candidates.’

    What does Nevin mean by ‘diverse’ More Women ? Chinese ? Polish speakers ? Younger Candidates ? Catholics ? Professed Atheists ? Beauty Queens a la Alaska ? Churchmen ?

    What does ‘quality ‘ mean . Higher level degrees ? Higher IQ’s ? Better track records in business or the professions ,

    ‘There are better people out there.’

    Indeed there are – but as politics is only interested in winners and as the present and past crop of unionists provide mostly ‘entertainment ‘ the ‘better’ people would rather not waste their working lives in propping up the longest running political comedy on these islands.

    I can’t think of any reason why one would vote Unionist other than a strong committment to eternal political and economic inertia – and total opposition to or fear of a UI.

  • frustrated democrat

    Re: better candidates, couldn’t agree more.

    I think that a non partisan conservative/unionist party would bring better calibre people onto the stage from across the spectrum of NI.

  • Skintown Lad

    I’ll tell you what the problem is for me: it’s not cool to vote unionist. When you have Catholic friends and you live in a mixed community and you want to be popular, the last thing you want to be seen to be is politically concerned. It’s easier to say “ah, they’re all dicks, I don’t bother with any of them”. Sometimes I think it might be cooler to say “I might vote SDLP” just to show that I’m my own man and not at all a standard bearer for any goat-riding bowler hat-wearing stiff with big jowls and a dour disposition. The reality is that I do care about how the place is run and feel British, which should be enough to feel comfortable declaring that you vote unionist. But it isn’t. Someone mentioned it above but identifying with unionism carries a lot of unwanted baggage. Primary amongst that baggage is the loyal orders. Abject failure to reign in or boot out unruly members (or worse, encourage them), stomping around with a self-importance that defies the fact that most young unionists are completely bemused by their ritual charades and have no idea why on earth they still exist. They’re an embarassment. If the majority are like me, the silent young unionists (not the podgy ones with the turned up noses and supersilious air) would like to take pride in seeing Northern Ireland run well within the union: efficiently, delivering services and investment for its people, building on the things we are good at and happy to declare “I just don’t give a sh1te” when it comes to the petty squables for which Northern Ireland has become synonymous.

  • slug

    “What does Slug mean by ‘diverse’ More Women ? Chinese ? Polish speakers ? Younger Candidates ? Catholics ? Professed Atheists ? Beauty Queens a la Alaska ? Churchmen ? ”

    All of the above.

    “What does ‘quality ‘ mean . Higher level degrees ? Higher IQ’s ? Better track records in business or the professions , ”

    These would help but of course they have to communicate and have good ideas. Good businessmen aren’t always good politicians.

  • F Dem

    Non partisan party is a hell of an oxymoron.

  • fair_deal

    GN

    Thank you for your openess. Are the following reasonable statements:
    You are a regular voter, broadly within the nationalist ‘family’
    Participation in the process is important (dislike for abstentionism)
    The new dynamics have made you open to moving

    What areas do you think need shaken up?
    Where do you disagree with the SDLP?
    You mentioned sometimes practising a la carte Catholic, were are you on social conservatism?
    What would you consider the three issues likeliest to influence you vote?
    On the practical, does your home get canvassed by a range of parties?

    Sorry for all the questions but the nature of our society it is hard to have detailed conversations on topics like this very often.

  • Greenflag

    Nevin,

    ‘and too little time developing links with the rest of the UK at grassroots level;’

    Sadly grassroots UK is not very interested in grassroots NI . The reason why Unionists have not spent much time in this area is because they are only too well aware of this ‘unpleasant’ fact of political life . As for the Conservative & UUP reunion attempt life belt or drowning straw it won’t matter either way imo.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    “Provide people with a reason to vote unionist.”

    This is the major failing of Ulster Unionism, for it never sold nor advertised it’s brand very well to Irish Nationalists. The ‘Unique Selling Point’ was perhaps unappealing. Maybe they knew it was a lost cause given the history of the country! Too late now!

  • JD

    “F_D, I think Unionist politicians have spent too much time talking about the Border and too little time developing links with the rest of the UK at grassroots level; they’ve appeared to be more anti-UI than pro-UK.”

    I think that is the core of it. If unionism embraced maintstream British politics based on bread and butter issues the union might well be infused with a new dynamic. If Fianna Fail and the SDLP are to combine at some point a key part of their pitch would be based on bread and butter issues rather than abstract constitutional matters.

    It often seems forgotten there’s more to life and politics than being Unionist or Nationalist

  • Mark

    It’s always been a bugbear of mine that huge swathes of people here basically vote on sectarian lines.

    And many of them don’t even vote on who can do the most for “their” side, but who provides the most effective oppostion to the “other” side.

    It would be refreshing to see people vote based on policies, but when the various parties electoral literature doesn’t set out what their policies are, then it makes it kind of difficult.

  • Greenflag

    slug ,

    ‘All of the above.’

    Chinese say journey of thousand miles begins with first step .

    Greenflag say before begin journey of thousand miles make sure to start from good base and in right direction and use mapquest.com :).

    It also helps if you

    a) Know where you are going
    b) Know why you are going there
    c) Know how much it will cost
    d) Know what benefit at journey’s end
    e) Otherwise might as well climb tree

    Going to visit green eyed yellow idol in Katmandu just because your great grandfather did the same in the late 19th century doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Skintown lad’s comment

    “I just don’t give a sh1te” when it comes to the petty squables for which Northern Ireland has become synonymous’

    is an honest stance in any debate on ‘unionism’. Sadly for skintown lad and his ilk as long as NI exists in it’s present format /dispensation the ‘petty squabbles ‘ of local sectarian politics are genetically wired into the system.

    ‘These would help but of course they have to communicate and have good ideas’

    For what ? To become a member of an Assembly that is virtually powerless ? and relies on it’s financing from across the water in that other house ?

    ‘ Good businessmen aren’t always good politicians. ‘

    I know and vice versa even less . It’s the addiction you see . Spending other people’s money can be very addictive 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Mark ,

    ‘It’s always been a bugbear of mine that huge swathes of people here basically vote on sectarian lines.’

    It should’nt be . It’s a given part of the nature of the State . That was the very basis on which the State was founded . Without that ‘sectarian ‘ line vote an NI State could/would not exist.

    It’s the iron bound circle within which any political party in NI has to operate . It can’t be otherwise . Alliance has tried to break out of the circle but like any wayward asteroid they are very quickly dragged back into orbit when they cross the ‘line’.

  • frustrated democrat

    Chekov

    Just for clarity for non partisan in the NI context I meant ‘non sectarian’ i.e. not Protestant or Catholic

    It would of course be very partisan in the normal political context re UK and other issues.

  • Greenflag

    JD ,

    ‘It often seems forgotten there’s more to life and politics than being Unionist or Nationalist’

    Of course 🙂 Full marks for the obvious but this thread is not about ”life’ this is about ‘unionism ‘. They are not the same 🙂

    For more on life I refer you to Richard Fortey’s excellent book ‘LIFE’ a natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth . Fortey is senior paleontologist at London’s Natural History Museum and a Fellow of the Royal Society .

    Best of all he doesn’t mention the words Unionist or Nationalist or Northern Ireland -not even once 🙂

  • Skintown Lad

    [“Skintown lad’s comment

    “I just don’t give a sh1te” when it comes to the petty squables for which Northern Ireland has become synonymous’

    is an honest stance in any debate on ‘unionism’. Sadly for skintown lad and his ilk as long as NI exists in it’s present format /dispensation the ‘petty squabbles ‘ of local sectarian politics are genetically wired into the system.”]

    I don’t agree that they are. There are a lot of people not properly represented and the system can be used to provide them with the service they have a right to expect. The problem is one of leadership. There is too much emphasis on trying to keep the shoes clean and not enough on trying to walk on clean ground. If unionist leaders would only steer a clear path towards effective government (starting on a local level), people wouldn’t be so bothered about their petty squabbles. There would be a pride in the place; a sense of higher, collective purpose; a sense of priority and proportion; a sense that Northern Ireland can achieve. What we need are big, puffed-out chests that say to the squabbler “listen up little man, I am sorting our roads and hosptials and schools and I don’t have time for your flags and memorials and general head-on-back-to-front feckwittery”. And people would follow.

  • perry

    And people would follow. Nicely put Skintown lad..but would they?

    Greenflag says,

    “Alliance has tried to break out of the circle but like any wayward asteroid they are very quickly dragged back into orbit when they cross the ‘line’.”

    As I recall Alliance’s biggest loss of support came was when they declared as Unionist to prop up something eventually unpropable. Alliance members/voters sometimes wriggle around the constitutional question but, in my experience, under interrogation, most admit eventually to a position on the Irish Constitution much the same now as that of their 19th century Liberal forbears – effective, benign, non-sectarian government, leading to peaceful and consensual Home Rule. Perhaps Alliance should admit that their long term policy on the constitution is much the same now as was Gladstone’s in 1886.

    Of course in 1886 Gladstone dissolved parliament on the deafeat of the “better government for Ireland act” saying it was “for the decision by the nation of the gravest and likewise the simplest issue which has been submitted to it for half a century.”. He then went on to lose 127 seats to the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists.

    The even older Tory policy was union of the parliaments and good traditional British government with a view to winning the hearts of the Irish people. If the Tory policy failed to win over, or even to dilute, Irish nationalism in C19 (Parnell cleaned up in 1886 in Ireland though with too few votes to hold up the Liberals), why would it work any better in C21?

  • Skintown Lad

    I think they would Perry. The current unionist voters probably less so, but that is not the question. The question is how to reach those disillusioned but natural unionists: the non-orange; the Prod who watches the odd bit of GAA; the entrepreneur who admires the celtic tiger, not wishes it was back in the zoo; the NI football fan who really hopes that fantastic big striker from Lurgan plays for OWC instead of ROI; the British Irishman; the artist; the young; the ambitious; the free thinker; the student who has recently learned that the Unionists were not always exactly the model governors of their beloved country and need convincing that they have learned from their mistakes. There are a lot of these people out there. To constantly retreat back to tribal, easily-digestable, pointlessly defiant one-upmanship might secure you the admiration of the last election’s voters, but that is to ignore, and worse, alienate, a whole other market.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    “a) Know where you are going
    b) Know why you are going there
    c) Know how much it will cost
    d) Know what benefit at journey’s end
    e) Otherwise might as well climb tree”

    True Greenflag, for some misguided folk are ignorant of teleology!

  • DC

    Easy on Skintown lad or else you’ll be giving unionism vision for nothing.

  • Grassy Noel

    Fair Deal,

    busy old day, so sorry for the lateness of my reponse:

    Thank you for your openess. Are the following reasonable statements:
    You are a regular voter, broadly within the nationalist ‘family’
    Participation in the process is important (dislike for abstentionism)
    The new dynamics have made you open to moving

    I would agree with all of those statements, yes, although saying that I’m open to moving is more a thought experiment at the moment, rather than any gut instinct. The latter being the usual final determinant in where the X goes.

    What areas do you think need shaken up?
    Economic policies, and by that I mean the basic bread and butter stuff. I am sick, sore and tired of petty issues being used to avoid tackling the more substantive, sometimes life and death matters, such as health provision, urban regeneration, and social justice.

    Where do you disagree with the SDLP?
    It’s not that I disagree with them per se, but they just come across as so darned lightweight and seem to lack a coherent vision or strategy.

    You mentioned sometimes practising a la carte Catholic, were are you on social conservatism?

    Not quite sure what you mean by social conservatism, but I’m pretty liberal on most things, and would describe myself as a libertarian in outlook. Very strongly libertarian in outlook.

    What would you consider the three issues likeliest to influence you vote?

    Economic policy, social justice and equality.

    On the practical, does your home get canvassed by a range of parties?

    Yep. DUP, SF, SDLP all visited my house during the last campaign. I live in a mixed area of west Belfast.

    BTW – don’t know if this is relevant, but the last party I would ever vote for is the Greens, as I care about the environment deeply but detest environmentalists and resent Green taxes deeply.

    Thanks for getting me thinking.

  • fair_deal

    GN

    “so sorry for the lateness of my reponse:”

    No apology needed.

    Thank you for the answers and yes I have a few more.

    “Economic policy, social justice and equality.”

    From any particular ideological perspective? left/right etc

    Are there any absolute musts of what a Unionist party would have to change for it to become attractive?

    What are the things that would put you off voting Unionist but if the broader package was to your liking you would ignore/tolerate?

    Has the canvas effort positively influenced your vote (possibly in lower preferences)?

    Has something occured that put you off voting for a party or candidate?

    Has the process been minimal communication with little real attempt to influence or engage in debate?

    “Thanks for getting me thinking.”

    Likewise.

  • Skintown Lad

    [“Easy on Skintown lad or else you’ll be giving unionism vision for nothing.

    Posted by DC on Sep 03, 2008 @ 03:39 PM”]

    sorry – not sure I’m with you here. can you explain?

  • Greenflag

    perry,

    The Second Home Rule Bill 1894 was passed in the House of Commons by 300 to 260 votes . It was vetoed in the House of Lords by the Conservatives by 400 to 41 IIRC . A major diiference from the first Bill would have enabled Irish MP’s at Westminster to vote but only on matters affecting Ireland . The First Bill did not envisage any Irish MP’s at Westminster .

    Skintown lad ,

    ‘The question is how to reach those disillusioned but natural unionists:’

    I wonder were they ever reached?

    ‘the British Irishman; the artist; the young; the ambitious; the free thinker; the student who has recently learned that the Unionists were not always exactly the model governors of their beloved country and need convincing that they have learned from their mistakes. There are a lot of these people out there.’

    A comparison with their southern counterparts experience might illuminate the ‘options ‘ for this section of NI unionism going forward.

    Following the setting up of the Free State many ordinary southern unionists opted out of politics altogether . Many left the State for the white ‘commonwealth’ where their economic prospects would be enhanced . Although the Free State established ‘safe seats ‘ in the Senate for former ‘unionists ‘ their input into political life was inevitably drowned out by the intense competition between the nationalist parties FF and CNG (FG). In NI today substitute DUP v SF & DUP v UUP competition. Dev’s 1937 Constitution and Free State neutrality in WW2 convinced many that their type of ‘unionism’ would never resonate with the vast majority in the Free State or later Republic. Almost 50% of NI Unionists were not to keen on the GFA to judge by the referendum results at least compared to RC’s in NI.

    Perhaps the same kind of ‘detachment’ has been taking place among ‘liberal ‘ unionists in NI . Many may find an economic and/or political future in the UK or even in the Republic where they are more likely to meet like minded individuals than in NI.

    Northern Ireland as presently constituted is likely to remain a political ‘desert’ for them for another generation if not longer imo. Those who have wandered into Alliance don’t seem to have found a comfortable home there either .

    Might be time for a new departure but where and how ? There are now more ‘unionist ‘ parties than brands of cream cheese and yet there is no real choice ? Perhaps the cheese has gone off and is long past it’s sell by date but the retailers don’t and won’t admit it ?

  • Tazia Doll

    “This is the major failing of Ulster Unionism, for it never sold nor advertised it’s brand very well to Irish Nationalists.”

    Works two ways.

    Most early SF documents made no sensible menton of core economic aspects of NI.

    That goes right back to the beginning, the first mentions of the Shipyard related to attacks on trams by the IRA. (After the Craig/Collins pacts fell to pieces)

    Did Arthur Griffith ever mention shipuilding?

    The way to sweet talk unionists ( in the beginning) was to give the impression that SF had a vague idea what many Protestants did for a job.

    Tazia

  • Skintown Lad

    [‘The question is how to reach those disillusioned but natural unionists:’

    I wonder were they ever reached?]

    Your question assumes they always existed, at least in significant numbers. I’m not sure, but based on my own experience, they are a growing demographic that cannot just be explained by general voter apathy.

    The key to this whole thing is that the union used to be under direct threat and unionists had a positive goal in maintaining power and ensuring NI remained British. Now that it is clear to most that the constitutional issue has been settled and the only thing the politicians seem concerned to row about are the petty squabbles, many have simply turned off. They think that the liklihood of a united Ireland depends merely on which side breeds more. It is out of thier hands, therefore there is no reason to vote. The roads are abysmal, the hospitals kill you and there’s a shortage of high-skilled employment, but unless you have want to have some flags removed from a lamp post there’s no point complaining to the politicians about it. The thing that always incensed me about republicanism is the cry that the “statelet” of NI is a failed entity, when they had spent my entire lifetime trying to wreck it. As a unionist I am not blind to the recognition that my forefathers sometimes contrived to back up this assertion with their stupidity and cronyism. And the thing that incenses me about unionist leadership now is that we’re doing it again, except this time not in terms of discrimination in jobs or housing, but just generally being impotent and parochial and tribalist. The best way to atract floaters to the unionist parties and secure the union is to show that the “statelet” has not failed, that it is working, and in areas where it is not working the unionists are the best people to sort it out.

  • Skintown Lad

    Oh and another thing, for feck’s sake start making some meaningful progress on ‘loyalist’ weapons.

  • DC

    Skin,

    I was saying that you were challenging unionism to think outside the box and in doing so probably encouraging new political vision, which is okay but people would charge for that – like in think tanks and stuff.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>I was saying that you were challenging unionism to think outside the box<

  • Skintown Lad

    Oh I see! I read “vision for nothing” as having a vision of nothingness for the future, complete oblivion! Which obviously I was slightly disappointed about.

  • Some good stuff there Skintown lad. I can sympathise with pretty much everything you said. Glad I’m not the only one.

    ” They could champion an Irish language Bill, and a conflict memorial site at the former H-Block/Maze prison.”

    I thought the point was to dispense with the tribal shite?!

  • Some positive ideas in this topic, which is nice.

    As for me, I’d like to see sensible proposals from unionist parties on how they’d like policing to work, after it does eventually get devolved.

    Something about how to promote the Irish language, without having to close too many hospitals (preferably without forgetting that there are at least as many speakers of non-native minority languages in the province).

    A defence of the union based on a recognition of more complex mixtures of identity than the sterile fenian/hun dichotomy of the past. A commitment to pluralism and the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Concentrating on the esteem, rather than the parity, in “parity of esteem”.

    A sensible education policy, that does not throw out the successful parts of the system, but that addresses the real failures – the ghetto PRIMARY schools where kids are too often not learning to read and write – instead of chasing the red herring of selective SECONDARY schools.

    An awareness of how new technology is likely to affect society and the economy – with ideas on how consumers can be protected from the greed of major corporations, from incompetent data loss, and the creeping government tracking of our every move.

    And if they could extradite and imprison a few US spammers, to make up for the Gary McKinnon (UFO nut being extradited to the US to face decades in prison for logging on to military computers with no passwords), that would be nice too.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>“ They could champion an Irish language Bill, and a conflict memorial site at the former H-Block/Maze prison.”

    I thought the point was to dispense with the tribal shite?!<

  • Grassy Noel

    Okay, F-D, back again:

    From any particular ideological perspective? left/right etc

    Left of centre.

    Are there any absolute musts of what a Unionist party would have to change for it to become attractive?

    Their absolute aversion to any Irish cultural representation i.e. Irish language. Just becasue you love Britain and Britishness, doesn’t mean you have to hate Ireland and Irishness.

    What are the things that would put you off voting Unionist but if the broader package was to your liking you would ignore/tolerate?

    Links with the Orange Order. First and foremost, and forever.

    Has the canvas effort positively influenced your vote (possibly in lower preferences)?

    It didn’t really to be honest. They were very underwhelming in selling themselves.

    Has something occured that put you off voting for a party or candidate?

    No, not really.

    Has the process been minimal communication with little real attempt to influence or engage in debate?

    that would describe pretty accurately.

    This has really got me thinking about my electoral choices, and I do think I’d conclulde that – emotionally, and to some degree, intellectually – I am an Irish nationalist.

    However, I’m realistic enough to note that Irish unity will never happen this side of 2050, and if it happens on the other side of it, then chances are I probably won’t be around to experience it.

    That said, here we are and this is how it is: we live in Northern Ireland and it has to be governed, and as the years go on, the artifice of the old will rot and fall away.

    There will come a time when it is highly possible that I will vote for a unionist party – because at some stage the unionist part of the label will become meaningless as bills get higher, waiting lists grow, crime rises, services falter etc.

    So, F_D, you’ve got my political profile, you’re on my virtual doorstep, sell me a unionist party!

  • fair_deal

    GN

    On the issues the cultural one will take time but not one that I consider impossible especially if the emphasis is ‘cultural’ representation it’s were the cultural and political meet or where the political is defended as cultural that the issues really develop eg GAA broadly fine IRA/GAA linkages unhappiness develops and vice versa. However, I get the sense from parties on both sides that culture is something they would have as the issue rather than deliver on.

    I appreciate the willingness to tolerate the OO links. It is often the first on many lists and near impossible to satisfy without losing much more than you gain. Although the developments in and around the OO may also start to have an impact over time.

    Unsurprisingly none are presently ‘fit for purpose’ as regards your doorstep.

    From a left of centre position the PUP would talk that talk. However, it has the millstone of the links to the UVF. Also they would lack the policy depth that you desire and too small to have an impact in real terms.

    The UUP could try you on McGimpsey’s work on health and Empey and employment and learning (if they prove successful). However, the link with the Tories (even Cameron’s watered down version) could undermine that and lack the policy depth.

    The DUP dance between populism and efectiveness/efficiency with public finances but the social conservatism would clash with the libertarianism. They have a bit more policy depth but not much (an inch compared to a centimetre isn’t a real advance).

    The common strand in all this between the parties is the lack of policy depth. Simply come the next Assembly election we need to have done some thinking on making this place work to be able to engage with your concerns. The added bonus for the Unionist parties are that may of its existing voters are expressing similar sentiments.

    Plus the practical improvement of actually engaging with you in a canvas may be of some benefit (an issue of recruitment to get enough people to have the time to engage and the training to communicate well and have a knowledge of the party’s policies).

    Overall in ‘perfect scenario’ politics my hunch is a PUP (who has ditched the paramilitary links/got UVF to decommision and go away) made a successful pitch to the left of centre UUPers who don’t like the Cameron linkage making them a larger party with a decent policy pitch might be the closest to what you desire.

    In realistic terms probably the UUP with a successful track record in their two ministries and a good policy platform could engage with you (if they didn;t wave the tory thing in your face too much)

    If I dare ask a couple more questions:
    Could a pitch be made that may not get you to vote for a Unionist party but would get you to chose to stay at home i.e. not vote nationalist? What are your barriers to voting Alliance?

    PE

    Becoming a carbon copy of nationalism is not going to be a sucessful for strategy. Big bold moves tend to fall flat especially ones that alienate what you have. The aim is more about consistency and targeting of select segments that is the aim rather than mass conversion.

  • Greenflag

    skintown lad ,

    ‘ based on my own experience, they are a growing demographic that cannot just be explained by general voter apathy.’

    Why not ? Any numbers to back up your assertion ? Could it simply be that in overwhelmingly unionist constituencies east of the Bann that ‘unionists ‘ don’t bother to vote because ‘victory’ is assured anyway ? Likewise the turnout for Unionists in heavily ‘nationalist’ areas may be down because of the inevitable ‘loser’ tag ?

    ‘The key to this whole thing is that the union used to be under direct threat ‘

    Perhaps for a brief period under Harold Wilson but once Jim Callaghan sent the troops in the game was over. There was no way that HMG would vacate NI and leave a bloodbath of Balkan proportions behind . The Sunningdale failure and the hunger strikes dragged out the inevitable which was that NI would have to have an internal political agreement of a power sharing nature before British troops would be returned to barracks.

    ‘Now that it is clear to most that the constitutional issue has been settled ‘

    Eh ? I would’nt go that far . A political peace has been established but neither of the main parties or other parties have ‘given up’ on their constitutional aspirations .

    ‘ They think that the likelihood of a united Ireland depends merely on which side breeds more.’

    I tend to agree that that is what it will come down to in the end . Unpleasant fact of political life but there’s no point in pretending otherwise . This is why Unionist ‘outreach ‘ efforts to win nationalist voters will not bring in new members and vice versa . But that does not mean that once people become adept at using PR some nationalists and some unionists will not give ‘preference ‘ votes to the other side based on a percception of who is the less ‘nasty’ or less ‘tribal’ unionist or nationalist .

    ‘The roads are abysmal, the hospitals kill you and there’s a shortage of high-skilled employment’

    NI missed the economic investment boat over the past 25 years or longer . Due to it’s 70% public sector dependent economy it has put private sector investment at a major disadvantage.

    ‘ The thing that always incensed me about republicanism is the cry that the “statelet” of NI is a failed entity, when they had spent my entire lifetime trying to wreck it.’

    I can understand that. But ‘Unionist leadership’ had several opportunities to ‘defeat’ northern republicans of the gun toting variety . Sunningdale was the major missed opportunity . Unionist over reaction to the CRA marches was another .

    ‘As a unionist I am not blind to the recognition that my forefathers sometimes contrived to back up this assertion with their stupidity and cronyism.’

    Nothing new here . It happens and has happened everywhere often to a much worse degree than in NI .

    ‘And the thing that incenses me about unionist leadership now is that we’re doing it again, except this time not in terms of discrimination in jobs or housing, but just generally being impotent and parochial and tribalist. ‘

    It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks . The koala bear developed an extra keen sense of smell so that instead of having to look for the nearest eucalyptus leaf he could smell it . Almost blind through non use of they eyes the koala bear is under threat of extinction as Eucalpytus trees come under environmental pressure .

    The ‘Unionist ‘ leadership has clung so long to it’s own version of the bountiful eucalyptus tree i.e that 6 billion a year in subvention -that they are rooted to the politics of stagnation and defending a slowly declining political base in NI.

    ‘The best way to atract floaters to the unionist parties and secure the union is to show that the “statelet” has not failed’

    Well it continues to exist and there will be no change to it’s ‘existence’ until such time as a majority of it’s citizens decide that they wish some other constituional arrangement .

    The question for ‘unionists ‘ ought to be not just ‘existence’ but ‘quality of existence ‘ ?

    What is that ‘quality ‘
    Forced power sharing ? No official opposition? No possibility of a change of government? Sectarianism cemented into the marrow of the State.

    All of the above is the price which NI has to pay for being an ‘abnormal ‘ State i.e one in which there is insufficient popular support for the longer term existence of the State in it’s present format .

    It seems to me that most of NI’s citizens are at least for now prepared to live with that ‘uncertainty’. Not that they have any real choice to do otherwise -imo.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    It is within the gift of Unionism to cease playing to the more bigoted end of the scale. Act moderately in terms of Irish heritage and language, and overseeing a community/touristy type troubles museum should not be a road too far. These are just examples, there are several other areas that Unionist parties could take the lead on, that would be inclusive.

  • Greenflag

    FD

    ‘Becoming a carbon copy of nationalism is not going to be a successful strategy.’

    Not unless ‘Unionists’ opt for repartition at a point when the writing is not only on the wall but the slim demographics underpinning the State have moved into reverse.

    ‘ The aim is more about consistency and targeting of select segments that is the aim rather than mass conversion.’

    ‘Divide et Impera ‘ was always a favourite strategy for those with imperial tendencies and it certainly worked in an age when ‘information’ and information ‘transfer’ was the preserve of a small minority ‘

    Targeting ‘select’ segments sounds like the only plan that could work given Irish nationalism’s and republicanism’s long history of being open to ‘destabilisation ‘ from without and from within .

    Just as well we Irish are not as focused as the Israelis or as responsive to oppression as the Americans . The Yanks were ‘oppressed ‘ on their own territory for half an afternoon (9/11) and they’ve responded by blowing up half the world and turning their economy to meltdown status :(.

    Patient people the Irish despite the bad press -and it’s just as well – for all of us on this island .

  • Grassy Noel

    Could a pitch be made that may not get you to vote for a Unionist party but would get you to chose to stay at home i.e. not vote nationalist? What are your barriers to voting Alliance?

    I don’t respond to negative campaigning at all. I ALWAYS ALWAYS vote – I consider this a personal value.

    The Alliance party are a little sanctimonious, if they could get over that, then maybe. Bit if Naomi Long was the cadndiate, probably.

  • fair_deal

    GN

    Yes Alliance do have that vibe. Naomi does seems to pull them in.

  • perry

    Are Alliance a unionist party?”The Alliance party are a little sanctimonious, if they could get over that, then maybe. Bit if Naomi Long was the cadndiate, probably.”

    Naomi has the advantage that she’s not a psychiatrist (alderdice) or a social worker (ford). She’s a civil engineer. She gives the impression that she knows everyone’s shit’s always going to stink and she has the ability to do something practical about it.

    Are Alliance a unionist party though?

    They support a language act
    They support integrated/comprehensive schools
    They support devolution of policing
    They support a national stadium
    They’ve given the republic at least one MEP

    FWIW I’m a member and I’ve no worries about a single H-block souvenir museum piece. It’s as likely to become a republican shrine as any number of other buildings or gravesides around this island, but so what? There were republicans (and loyalists) in Crumlin. Will we demolish that too? They’re doing tours there this week.

  • Grassy Noel

    F_D,
    I’ve been discussing this thread with friends (some more committed to nationalist ideals than myself), and we’ve concluded that the best inroad for unionists into the nationalist family – in our considered opinion – is through the social conservatism angle.

    I know a lot of people – my parents for a start – who are resolutely anti-abortion, pro-marriage and anti-cohabiting, uncomfortable – to put it mildly – with gay marriage, all for ‘decency’, and – as people who’ve worked their backs in all their lives, opposed to those who they now see ‘living on benefits’ while there is plenty of work around for those who want it.

    They are very, very in favour of a strong law and order response to crime – now that the troubles have ended.

    And they are unhappy with SF/SDLP pronouncements on all of these issues.

    I know one person who goes a shade of purple when SF talk about ‘police heavy-handedness’- and they vote Sinn Fein!!!

    Most, but not all, of these people (my parents included) are not only very religious and but are very respecting of those with religious faith.

    It is, in their eyes, and I suppose they are of an older generation, a mark of ‘decency’.

    I would say, as an extension of my view that as soon as the word unionist fails to be a factor in voting choices (as it surely will) these are the type of people unionists should target.

    And I can detect in the DUP election literature and from some of their public pronouncements, that they are starting to send feelers out in this direction.

    Of course, the flip side of the coin is that left wing bleeding hearts and radicals from the Protestant/Unionist community will start to gravitate toward SF and/or the SDLP.

    So tell me, I take it from your handle you’re a DUPer, am I right?

    It’s a fair strategy to be honest.

  • GN:
    “the best inroad for unionists into the nationalist family – in our considered opinion – is through the social conservatism angle.”

    That’s thoroughly depressing. And I think you underestimate the repellence of SF to unionists – though I can see the lefties/liberals floating to SDLP if they stop trying to out-green Sinn Fein (and those candidates who don’t go to odd lengths to avoid uttering the term “Northern Ireland” won’t do themselves any harm either).