Is this election about Europe or National aspirations?

On my thread about the SDLP chances, poster Chris made an interesting point. One which I suspect we’re all thinking about, but know the answer. Anyway I thought it would open a good discussion. My response to Chris is below.Chris’ point:

“I think you are putting forward two conclusions – that people here will vote based on the ‘tribal’ identities and then that people won’t vote for Alban based on their attitude to Europe. It’s hard to reconcile those two points.

I suspect that in NI, more so than most other parts of Europe, this will be a true ‘second-order’ election (see Rief & Schmitt) and that European issues will barely feature beyond the superficial farming, constitutional and immigration issues (which are themselves issues that neatly divide along tribal lines in NI).”

My reply:


My argument is confused I know because the issue is complicated. So let me dissect it a little. I would also appreciate your input/come back as anyone elses as its an interesting issue. [Perhaps worthy of another thread, but I’ll post it here anyway and see how we go.]

Are nationalists generally seen as pro-european? Probably so but national aspirations override it. [Others may disagree as why De Brun in 2004?, but she represented Sinn Fein the party representing nationalism at the time, the party people were voting for and secondly John Hume was stepping down.]

I suspect nationalists don’t care, as many Unionists may not. However as the RoI is generally pro-europe (however they demonstrated back bone over the EU Constitution in voting ‘no’) nationalists in NI you would think to follow their lead in aspiring to a Europe where all identities are equal (however some Unionists aspire to this too, like Lord Laird).

Unionists are generally anti-european; as being British they view the EU as eroding Britains identity and sovereignty.

However Albans focus is interesting. His use of terminology – the North, Ireland etc state his nationalist aspirations and the SDLP is a nationalist party (surprise surprise I know!). His appeal of being pro-european could attract some Unionist votes (maybe) and he is playing down the nationalist card – certainly in his PPB, I feel. For example he could explode the focus of his campaign on getting two nationalists elected and increasing nationalist turnout.

The aspirations of Nationalists and Unionists overrides everything else in this election.

This is a similar story in GB. But totally different scenarios. Its a case of being for the Government or against the Government – lets give them a bloody nose. In some ways this is the focus of the Ulster-Tories (UUP), following the Conservatives, but they also argue that by people voting for them people in NI are engaging in national politics.

Basically if you hate Europe vote Jim Allister (TUV), Diane Dodds (DUP), or Barbrie de Brun (Sinn Fein); alternatively vote Jim Nicholson (UCUNF/UUP/Unionist Conservative) if you believe in working with Europe but in doing so protecting sovereignty and deconstructing aspects of the EU deemed ‘not so nice’ for us. Alternatively vote Ian Parsley (Alliance), Stephen Agnew (Green) or Alban McGuinness (SDLP) if you support Europe either as it is or for closer relationship.

However I suspect, in fact I know this election is about Unionist/Nationalist politics.

Unionists: vote for the Union first (DUP, UUP, TUV)

Nationalists: vote for a United Ireland (SDLP, SF)

Other: non of the above? Vote Alliance. (Sorry … adds GREEN Stephen Agnew)

Maybe a slightly messy post, so apologies!, but the discussion is interesting.

Long time political hack