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.

  • SM

    To what extent do you think that the incessant focus by the local political media on tribal nonsense while largely ignoring EU issues and indeed sometimes being openly derisive of their relevance when they are raised is responsible for the tone of the election? Are the media perpetuating the supremacy of tribal issues? Can a candidate who seeks to downplay or ignore tribalism get a serious hearing from the media?

  • Chris Donnelly


    I’d be interested to know if European elections in any part of the European Union are more about Europe and less about the public attitude to their domestic parties’ performances at a National level.

    One of the reasons that Fianna Fail aren’t overly worried about the prospect of meltdown in the 26 counties is because the 2004 Euro elections delivered such a blow to the party as the public sought to register annoyance with the party at that time.

    Similarly, incumbent administrations in Britain regularly face bloody noses at Euro elections.

    Local attitudes to Europe are actually quite diverse but are certainly overriden by our own National preferences, at least for the considerable majority of people here.

  • Andrew


    I do not know the answer to your question but it would be interesting to find out.

    I very much suspect you are correct.

  • Driftwood

    Chris, i’m sure your spritual nationalist comrades in the BNP are hoping to do well.
    Those of us who (like Einstein) despise petty nationalism hope mainstream secular parties succeed.

  • Driftwood

    Unionists are generally anti-european…

    Nonsense. At least for the CU’s.

    What a daft suggestion. How can any sane person be ‘anti-european’?
    Oh hold on, I’d forgotten about the DUP/Free Presbyterians.

  • Andrew

    “Unionists are generally anti-european…

    Nonsense. At least for the CU’s.

    What a daft suggestion. How can any sane person be ‘anti-european’?
    Oh hold on, I’d forgotten about the DUP/Free Presbyterians.
    Posted by Driftwood on May 13, 2009 @ 01:25 AM”

    I have only met one Unionist who is pro-European Driftwood. However I know there has been a policy shift since the new Tory-UUP alignment.

    Also for the record: I am not a Free Presbyterian in any shape or form.

  • Silverline

    (TUV) Turncoats Unionist Voice could cost Unionism a seat, it was interesting to hear Allister propose a new Committee for Stormont in a debate with Dodds for the three MEPs to sit on aswell. I thought he was against extra waste, this is hardly a sign of someone not wanting to share power with Sinn Fein. In fact lets look at his record.

    A) Prepared to share power with Sinn Fein in a super council styled model
    B) Agree that not elements of the St Andrews Agreement were bad
    C) Wont reveal expenses in Europe
    D) Now proposing a new Committee for Stormont
    E) Left the DUP over one issue wanting to have a longer testing period for Sinn Fein before agreeing to go into a Voluntary Coalition

    Seems like alot of double standards by the (TUV)

  • Dec

    Those of us who (like Einstein) despise petty nationalism hope mainstream secular parties succeed.

    I sense that’s where the similarity between yourself and Einstein ends, Driftwood. I doubt Einstein would have viewed the pro-Union DUP, UCUNF (secular?) or even Alliance as anything other than nationalist parties. I’m can only assume you’re intending to vote Green.

  • Greenflag

    It’s just another headcount and probably the only part of the EU which uses Euro elections as an interim census on the sectarian demographics of both communities and on the relative standing of party support within each ‘national’ community .

    If a referendum were held in Northern Ireland on the Palestinian State issue, no doubt Nationalists and Republicans would come out and support the creation of such a State and Unionists would support the opposite i.e the status quo.

    Reminds me of the yarn of the former Unionist who applied for membership of SF and is required to answer a few questions .

    ‘Who was Wolfe Tone ?’

    ‘Don’t know ‘ says FU (former unionist )

    ‘Thomas Davis ?’

    ‘Never heard of him ?’ says FU

    ‘Countess Markievicz ?’

    ‘Don’t know ‘ says FU

    ‘Are you playing games ?” asks the SF recruiter .

    ‘Not at all ‘ says FU ‘ ‘Have you heard of Schomberg ?’

    ‘No ‘ says the SF man

    ‘What about Dan Winters ?’

    ‘No ‘ says the SF man

    ‘Bonar Law?’


    ‘Well,’ says FU -That’s the way it goes . You’ve got your friends and I’ve got mine ‘

    Que sera .

  • Barnshee

    ” Turncoats Unionist Voice could cost Unionism a seat,”

    Good for dupers –will kill off Trad unionists and UUP at a stroke.

  • Andrew,

    I have only met one Unionist who is pro-European Driftwood.

    I hope you meant pro-European Union there, plenty of Unionists see themselves (logically) as also Europeans!

    Regarding you main point, in the New Europe anyway, the countries which joined post 2004, the fight amongst the mainstream is based on almost totally domestic issues, or actually is just a confidence motion in the present government. The various far-right parties, which will do much better than they should, do almost to a man or woman follow a “Better out than in” line, but mainly because they believe Brussels is in the clutches of those dastardly cosmopolitan Zionist financiers!