“All equally beautiful, in a Unionist sort of way…”

It’s been my view for some time that Northern Irish politicians take way to much comfort/discomfort from the fortunes/misfortunes of their opponents and spend too little time forward investing in their own projects. Patrick Murphy suggests nationalist conceit over the deadlock within Unionism, will also deadlock further progress towards nationalist goals:

Isolating unionists from a significant part of their cultural heritage has left SF/SDLP feeling pretty smug. But the more they isolate it, the more resistant unionism becomes to change and the more the nationalist dream of Irish unity recedes. The unionist fossil is not the only one in the Irish bedrock.

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  • Kensei

    There is a certain truth there, but it strikes me as simplistic. It’s unfair on Unionists for a start to claim not culture. The very act of creating Northern Ireland severed Unionists from a significant part of their heritage, not least the Dublin Anglo-Irish tradition and fostered a insularity. Furthermore, Unionism had half a century to form and mould their reaction to their hertitage as they saw fit. They could have organised St Patrick Day parades; it was Presbyterians I believe, that started it in America. They could have supported the langauge in various ways that didn’t threaten the political applecart, or supported the music during a period when there was a risk of it dying. There were plenty of ways to show Dublin up. But they didn’t do it.

    And they also kind of pushed Northern Nationalism into a cultural box where those things helped define them and separate them from the state they had created. Perhaps we have simply come full circle.

  • eranu

    the article started off interestingly but then went down the old traditional route of immediately switching to talking about cultural interests and sneering at themmuns because they dont have what we have etc…

    as far as i see it, unionism in the UK context is just the preference to be part of the UK and to participate in its society and so forth, to identify with the common ‘us’ of the UK. the people of the UK are all fairly similar and have so much shared history, and as he mentions, shared culture. i think it makes sense to be part of the same country (without even going into economic reasons). any cultural interest etc in NI that might be seen as irish could equally be classed as british simlply because it is found in the UK.

    many oddball attitudes and actions happened from people back in the 20th century, none of them are anything to do with me or anyone else in the 21st century. the way many unionists in NI seem to have distanced themselves from irish culture in the 20th century has resulted in them working themselves into a very weird corner indeed. but nationalists in NI dont seem to be aware that they have also worked themselves into an equally weird corner by their elevation of anything ‘culture’ to absurd heights of importance. Rome could burn, zombies could wander the streets, aliens could land in ormeau park and start zapping people, but as long as its possible to apply for a driving license in irish (in the name of culture), then all is well in the world. that type of pro cultural weirdness is as daft as unionist anti cultural weirdness. looking forward to patricks article on that! 🙂 I think this has mainly been caused by the troubles acting as an engine to push people to be as different from ‘the other side’ as possible, the boundaries of normality were crossed and long since forgotten. I think all this will settle out back to normality in time.

    most people in the republic are unionist, yes its true!! they are interested in being in the european union. they wish to be involved in european society and european affairs and so on. theres no point in going up to someone in the republic who is pro union and sneering at them and saying what is unionist culture? etc. their culture is probably whatever the culture is in their part of the union. it would be called irish culture, not nationalist culture. just because someone prefers to be part of the EU doesnt exclude them from the culture around them. the idea is daft. So why should cultural interests have anything to do with preferring to be part of the UK?

  • jivaro

    There is no specifically Unionist culture. Why should there be? Their culture is the general culture of Britain, and European art culture belongs to them as much as to anyone in Britain or Ireland.
    The fetishism of the provincial, which Murphy laugh s at, is as alien to most Unionists as it is to Nationalists.
    To give an example: when people from Unionist society migrate to other parts of Britain, they simply disappear into the society, marked out only by traces in their accents. They rarely hang around in Irish clubs and districts, cherishing memories of cultural warmth from the old country.
    So when Murphy mocks Unionists as having no culture, he merely demonstrates his inability to accept or understand that they are what they say they are, and participate in the general culture of Britain.
    You’d think a sociologist like Murphy would have dropped the ‘false consciousness’ theory of Unionism long ago.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think Murphy’s being slightly misconstrued here (which may be partly his fault for erring on the indirect side). Here’s my own reading:

    By adopting the culture narrative in response to Nationalism’s political emphasis on cultural matters, Unionism is playing to its weaker suite, and additionally runs the risk of the same kind of fossilization Northern Irish nationalism he believes is currently suffering from. And in pushing unionists out of that cultural space, nationalism is set to continually undermine its own publicly stated aims.

    Patrick?

  • jonnyfox

    But the Unionist culture isn’t the general culture of Britain though. where else in britain did we have to wait until the monday until the recent election count took place. where else in britain recently has a catholic been beaten to death simple because of his religion. Next month the place will come to a stand still because of sectarian marches. The minister for culture believes the world is 4000 years old, and the biggest party believes that intelligent design should be taught in science class. Where else in Britain do people want that. In the rest of Britain the minority languages (Welsh and Gaelic) are protected. Contrast that with Northern Ireland. Unionism is simple a rainbow coalision ranging from ulster nationalists and fundamentalist Christians on one hand to English tories on the other. The only thing it has to maintain its coherence is a hatred of anything Irish/Gaelic/Catholic. The Southern Irish are more British than the Northern Ulsterers.

  • NI Conservative

    The only thing it has to maintain its coherence is a hatred of anything Irish/Gaelic/Catholic

    What rubbish! I am very much a unionist and do not hate any of the above, being 2 of the 3 – I am an Irish Gaelic Tory, and I know of some who are all 3 + Tory. So stop with this English Tory nonsense – while a few local Tories are indeed English, they are very much the minority.

    What you wrote applies to a large % of TUV/DUP, and I’m sure there are still a few of them in the UUP for the minute, but you can’t lump the rest of us in with them.

  • The Spectator

    But the more they isolate it, the more resistant unionism becomes to change and the more the nationalist dream of Irish unity recedes.

    This theme appears often in these parts, often as a ‘stick’ to force compromises unto nationalists. But it’s based, to my mind, on a false premise.

    It suggests that if treated unkindly, Unionism will only retreat further, and become more opposed to nationalist goals. So you (“nationalists”) better be nice to them, or else.

    Bullsh*t. Unionism is already, irreconcilably, 100% and utterly opposed to change, and to nationalist goals, as is indeed its right. It always has been. It always will be.

    That will never change, regardless of what nationalism does, how reasonable it is or is not(see Party, Social Democratic and Labour, utter contempt for, conception to 1998). But it will never get any worse; it can’t become 101% opposed after all. The opposition is already final, total and complete, and it will remain so.

    If (and it’s a very big if) nationalism were ever to achieve its dreams, it shall have done so with absolutely no meaningful unionist help or buy in whatsoever. There is nothing nationalism can possibly do to change that. It would be utterly pointless even to try. The ground rules of our sick wee game have been set, and that’s that.

    Unionism, in the sense of genuinely engaging Nationalism, has already retreated as far as humanly possible. There is therefore no further real damage to be done to ‘the nationalist project’.Sure ‘they’ might collapse the Assembly; ‘they’ve’ done it before. It doesn’t really matter a jot, because, in this spiteful little place, the only thing that counts, is the headcount, and it shall be ever thus.

  • jonnyfox

    Well then NI conservative, you are proof that Mick’s premise is wrong since nationalism seems not too have alienated you from being irish and gaelic.

  • CW

    He’s fundamentally wrong on one particular point:

    “Ulster-Scots is Klingon with a Ballymena accent”

    Wrong – Ulster-Scots is English with a Ballymena accent.

  • Paddy Matthews

    What rubbish! I am very much a unionist and do not hate any of the above, being 2 of the 3 – I am an Irish Gaelic Tory, and I know of some who are all 3 + Tory. So stop with this English Tory nonsense – while a few local Tories are indeed English, they are very much the minority.

    What you wrote applies to a large % of TUV/DUP, and I’m sure there are still a few of them in the UUP for the minute, but you can’t lump the rest of us in with them.

    So in which camp do we put the likes of Jeffrey Peel, who some months back on his now-deleted blog was welcoming the decline in the number of students taking GCSEs in Irish as being evidence of a language that was “going away”?

    Perhaps the new cuddly non-sectarian Conservatism/Unionism isn’t all that different from the old non-cuddly variety.

  • kensei

    Mick

    By adopting the culture narrative in response to Nationalism’s political emphasis on cultural matters, Unionism is playing to its weaker suite, and additionally runs the risk of the same kind of fossilization Northern Irish nationalism he believes is currently suffering from. And in pushing unionists out of that cultural space, nationalism is set to continually undermine its own publicly stated aims.

    The more I think on this, I just don’t don’t buy this argument in anything like its totality. There is the polarising nature of the Troubles, which extends everywhere. But there seems to be two components to the nationalist political focus on culture. In the first, it is a statement of difference (and/or mingled solidarity with the South). We are unique and special and different. This is ours, and it is important to us. The second is that the space was left wide open, there were needs unaddressed, it brought benefits to communities (particularly during the Troubles) and formed a genuinely popular policy.

    Both of those are if not a reaction to Unionism, certainly shaped to a high degree by Unionism’s response to it. You can pull this back to the Gaelic revival and a collection of things that fused both culture and nationalist politics. But that too was in a sense, a popular reaction on similar themes to the above. If we talk about Northern Nationalism only, the Southern state was always going to lay claim on large parts of that heritage, leaving it fairly powerless to shape attitudes even if it had have wanted to. And Unionism evidently didn’t care enough.

    It’s a vicious circle. There is undoubtedly things Nationalism can do to make things more open, perhaps push things back towards a pre-Troubles mode. But Nationalists rhetorically at least support the idea it belongs to everyone. They get no traction, because they have no trust. The assumption is always that they’ll try to sell Nationalist politics with it. And that is probably right to whatever degree, otherwise they wouldn’t be Nationalist parties.

    So if Unionism wants it, it has to lay claim to it. But if the above hypothesis is correct, then doing so in theory weakens the Union, or at least the potential of the Union to stay alive. Which means Unionist leaders won’t do it. So we continue our dance of nationalist reaction causing unionist reaction causing nationalist reaction causing….

    I just don’t buy Nationalism pushing Unionism out. It’s more complicated than that.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Kensei

    Very good points above.

    Irish nationalism’s openness to accept the legitimacy of expressions of unionism’s ‘British’ identity is significant in several ways: firstly, it contrasts sharply with political unionism’s open and punitive attitude to ‘Irish’ culture; and secondly, it signals an acceptance of unionism’s repeated assertions that its own culture is British in orientation, something unionists repeatedly rebuked republicans and nationalists for not conceding.

    This last point seems to irk with Murphy, though it would appear to be an important development from a nationalist perspective and one which has distinguished it from political unionism to date.

  • NI Conservative

    So in which camp do we put the likes of Jeffrey Peel

    Eh… I don’t think Mr Peel is a generalisable phenomenon 😉 He is in his own camp.

  • páid

    suit in ait suite a mhicí.

    unionism – it’s a car crash when you think about it.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Actually Chris, Nationalism’s acceptance of Unionism’s cultural legitimacy is neither wide spread nor entirely obvious to those outside (and some backwoodsmen inside) its boundaries. The false consciousness theorem was the official SF leadership line until very recently.

    Murphy argues that having lured Unionism into an institutional Kulturkampf the trick is likely to backfire on Nationalism. Indeed, the recent shift in emphasis away from cultural arguments towards economic ones from both SF and the SDLP may indicate an internal recognition of the partial and recidivist character of past cultural narratives.

    I remember Richard Delevan a few years ago warning people in the mainstream parties in the south that if they were serious about tackling the apparent rise of SF in the south they should not attack the intelligence of the voters who were at that time planning to vote for the party, if you wanted them to vote for you.

    That seemed to me to be good advice from the sidelines. There is no alternative to cogent and persuasive political argument. Murphy merely believes that politicised culture (epitomised by the dFM’s ref to ‘leaders of the Planter and the Gael’ speech) will breed only further stasis.

    Some might say that’s good for Unionism and bad for Nationalism since it preserves the status quo. Others would argue that two communities turning ever inward is bad for everyone.

    Pid,

    When you think about it? Do tell?

    [Damn, that was me: Mick]

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    No comments on the false premise?

  • Mick Fealty

    I agree with Ken that it is more complicated than Murphy states. You cannot talk about Northern Irish nationalism without reference to the way relationships are playing out across the island.

    As for the false premise, Ken’s closer to the truth when he talks about reaction sparking reaction, sparking reaction.

    My baseline for understanding this double automy things it the prisoners dilemma, in which the tit for tat stratagem is undoubtedly the most successful. That’s based on the idea that you cannot know how the other guy will react to your play, but you always initiate with a positive move and punish a negative response with a negative one.

    It seems to me that’s a lesson BOTH incumbents in Stormont Castle have STILL not learned. In my post election analysis I suggested that the DUP need to move generously on with the programme, because the alternative is to loose momentum. Where they thought themselves previously invulnerable if they simply refused to move, they now know that there is an apparently viable alternative.

    That should not obscure the fact that on P&J SF led with a bad move (ie pretending to the electorate they had a deal that in fact they did not). Instead of helping the DUP create conditions of confidence within unionism their actions (motivated by a need to keep an activist base that is now largely going its own way anyway), it serially lied about what it had and created heat rather than light.

    The old rules, under which Mitchel McLaughlin could justifiably claim that his party’s greatest achievement was the undermining of confidence in the Unionist community, are defunct. Worse, they are counter productive.

    This is not about being nice. It’s about making something work, so that, in Sinn Fein’s case, they can demonstrate: 1 they are fit and serious partners for government in the Republic; and 2 that they are no longer mad, bad and dangerous for their Unionist constituents to know, and maybe even vote for further down the road.

    Kulturkampf as it has been waged in Northern Ireland is, I suspect just one reliable marker on road to Northern Nationalist hell…

  • Seymour Major

    I agree with a lot of what Murphy says but let me firstly say that he has contradicted himself. He says

    “In terms of a specifically unionist culture, there is none.”
    He then goes on to say “Isolating unionists from a significant part of their cultural heritage has left SF/SDLP feeling pretty smug”

    So he is effectively saying that SF/SDLP are feeling smug about isolating Unionists from something that does not exist?

    I dont wish to endorse Patrick Murphy’s analysis that the introduction of Ulster Scots is some kind of cultural “war crime” but I have to admit that I can not find any reference to anybody trying to promote Ulster Scts as a separate language prior to 1999. He has certainly made a case to answer.

    I agree with Murphy’s observations about Unionism generally but the implication that Unionism is somehow obliged, for the preservation of its credibility or in order to be competitive with Cultural Nationalism, to have its own unique culture which only Unionists can and should have is utter bunkum.

    Politically, I am a Conservative. That means that I embrace, enjoy and accept cultural diversity so it means that I dont look at a GAA T shirt as if it has red horns painted on it. Conservatives do not feel threatened, either, by Cultural Nationalism.

    As to the future, I dont think there is any doubt that Unionists who are intolerant of any kind of Irish Culture will become an ever-shrinking minority. Any other scenario would be contrary to the general trends of human history.

    The political question therefore is this:

    Will the DUP and the TUV remain identified with that shrinking minority or will they adapt and come out in favour of tolerance?

    If they manage to adapt, they might survive. If not, they will indeed become the “unionist fossils”

  • “I think Murphy’s being slightly misconstrued here”

    Mick, the Murphy article is quite simply a pile/bile of shite.

  • Driftwood

    Didn’t know there was such a thing as unionist or mationalist culture. Is it something to do with Manchester United?

  • eranu

    can nationalists give us a list of things that are nationalist culture? GAA, fair enough. but i cant think of anything else? plenty of cultural things come to mind, but they couldnt be said to be only for people who are nationalist.
    with all the huffing and puffing from nationalists about all the culture they have, im sure there will be lots of replies to this request!!

  • kensei

    eranu

    It is isn’t “nationalist” culture – it’s Irish culture. That would be GAA, the language, the music, the dancing, the drinking… I’m sur eothers can go further. That doesn’t mean that others can’t participate, but they are uniquely Irish.

    If that has been painted as “nationalist” then it is because Unionism has abdicated any desire to be associated with it.

  • Driftwood

    Drinking is uniquely Irish???

    Bit stereotypical, but we get the picture.

  • Driftwood

    And the dancing….
    Comely maidens at the crossroads no doubt.

  • kensei

    Drift

    Seriously, stop trolling. It’s not big, it’s not funny, it is just annoying.

  • eranu

    yes, agree with you there ken, to me unionists distancing themselves from irish culture makes no sense. the cultural interests and the political/social view arent anything to do with eachother.
    gaa having an ethos that is nationalist could be counted as ‘nationalist culture’. if you admit that traditional music and the irish language arent nationalist, but are just irish, then where is all this nationalist culture that we hear about?

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    This is not about being nice. It’s about making something work, so that, in Sinn Fein’s case, they can demonstrate: 1 they are fit and serious partners for government in the Republic; and 2 that they are no longer mad, bad and dangerous for their Unionist constituents to know, and maybe even vote for further down the road.

    Sorry, Mick, but that’s just spitting in the face of experience. The approach you suggest was tried to the point of exhaustion by the SDLP for the best part of 30 years, and for a whole variety of constitutional nationalists before the troubles even began.

    It didn’t work. Unionism moved not an inch. Unionism is not unionism in reaction to anything. it simply is, and shall always be. It moves, it has only ever moved, when threatened by HM government.

    What’s you argument, and evidence, to the contrary?

    Kulturkampf as it has been waged in Northern Ireland is, I suspect just one reliable marker on road to Northern Nationalist hell…

    I’m sorry, but what is this supposed to mean? In plain, non-metaphorical english, please.

  • Eranu, when it comes to culture, I just disregard the seedy efforts at national ‘branding’.

  • Swerve

    The Scottish and Welsh assemblies are the result of nationalist agitation for political recognition of their national cultures and identities. The Scottish and Welsh are nations. Unionists are not. In the long-division of Irish history they have opted to be the remainder.

    Unionism does not have a culture but unionists do. After 500 years in Ireland, their culture is the culture of Ireland. Three hundred years after the Anglo-Normans came, they had integrated into Irish society. Their descendants now form the back bone of county hurling teams in Leinster and Munster. In Ulster, the post-reformation invaders have never seen hurling. (Many natives have never seen it either but that is a story for another day).

    Simple chauvinism and irredentism.

    Nations are NOT cultures anyway. Canadians are not just USians who have no culture of their own and are therefore not a nation. Nations are constructed from will and esprit de corps. Unionists may not be a nation, being part of the British nation, but they are a different nation from the nationalist Irish because they have a different esprit de corps. No examination of whether orange sashes or Mountie uniforms or a somewhat greater interest in rugby or ice hockey than their neighbours constitute a “culture” is necessary or even that relevant.

    In any case you may as well say that culturally Ireland is British. Kilts or caber tossing and St Patricks day and a language used as a flag and emblem rather than as a medium to communicate thoughts and ideas (and for 99% of the Irish that’s what the Irish language is) does not a culture make, from the point of view of an anthropologist looking at a New Guinea tribe and putting them in boxes. A nationalism yes, a culture, hardly. Culture is what you do in your daily life, what you eat, what music you listen to etc. not a set of symbols. Bagpipes, sports and the like are neither necessary or sufficient for a nation. Nor are silly things such as Germanic or non-Germanic Y chromosome haplotypes, as if haplotypes belong to language groups.

  • eranu

    probably a good policy nevin.

  • Mick Fealty

    TS,

    Moved not an inch? Pull the other one! 🙂

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    Sorry, just exactly what movement, of an inch or more, has Unionism made towards the dream of nationalist unity?

    Indeed, what movement of any kind has unionism made politically unless threatened (fairly or unfairly) with worse from HMG?

    Paisley moved under threat of ‘Plan B’. He said so himself. Admittedly the ‘partners’ at the time were SF.

    He never showed much interest in the SDLP though.

    Trimble moved because of a combination of threats and empty paper promises. He admitted as much. He barely moved afterwards.

    Molyneaux never moved. We got years of stasis.

    Sunningdale was agreed at the end of a series of serious threats. The only nationalism involved was the polite constitutional variety; Unionism still walked away. At speed.

    Look, don’t get me wrong. It is absolutely and entirely their right to walk away. No judgment on it is intended. I’m interested only in honesty, not judgement.

    But to suggest that unionism, political unionism has ever walked forward on nationalist goals and dreams, on the foot of ‘nationalist good behaviours’ is just seven kinds of poppycock!

  • Driftwood

    Kensei
    Your attempt to define Irish culture was a bit ‘plastic paddy’. Culture and everyday life are 2 different things, the former being quite hard to define.
    I think the prevailing culture in all of ireland is Anglo American. Going by the southern media outlets i’ve just looked at, RTE, Irish Times, Irish Independent, its very Anglocentric, Brit Celebs, Brit pop stars, Brit football teams etc.
    Not much different from Witney, Oxfordshire really.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, I see TS. Why would unionism seek to become an agent of its own demise? See my quote of Delevan earlier in the thread, about how to ‘win friends and influence people’. Treat people with contempt and you will get nothing but contempt back.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    Ah, I see TS. Why would unionism seek to become an agent of its own demise?

    But, Mick, that is precisely my point. Why would Unionism move forward on Nationalist goals and dreams, regardless of whether it’s treated with contempt or not?

    Do you not see the contradiction in your own argument?

    One the one hand you say Unionism will not “be an agent in its own demise”. i.e. it will not help further nationalist goals. Full stop. I agree entirely, and I fully accept Unionism’s right to that stance. Remember, honesty, not judgement.

    But then hen you support the suggestion that nationalists should act better towards unionism or else unionism will not help further nationalist unity, dreams and goals.

    The ‘else’ is the false premise (though in theoretical terms premise is the wrong word, but anyway).

    If Nationalists act nice, unionism will note move on this issue.

    If Nationalists are neutral, Unionism will not move on this issue.

    If Nationalists act nasty, unionism will not move on this issue.

    In other words, it doesn’t matter how Nationalists act, it won’t make any difference to how Unionism behaves. It’s irrelevant. Experience has proved this.

    Those arguing, therefore, for Nationalism to act ‘nice’ to Unionism to further the ‘unity’ project are essentially being dishonest. And the people making that argument frankly know that.

    Which then rather opens the clear question of why are they making the case when it’s obviously not true, and they obviously know it.

    treat people with contempt, etc., …

    What contempt did the SDLP show over all those years, Mick? I’m genuinely interested.

  • kensei

    Drift

    Your attempt to define Irish culture was a bit ‘plastic paddy’.

    Stereotypes exist for a reason; there is a serious grain of truth in them.

    Of course the culture in the Republic (and here) is heavily influenced by both the UK and America. But there are big serious differences and that Anglo American culture gets a distinctly Irish slant. That’s why Josh Ritter can become huge in Ireland long before he makes any dent in America, nevermind the UK. Or why the punditry on Premiership football takes a somewhat different slant on RTE than it does on the BBC. We’re not all just the same, and that is true even within the UK.

  • jivaro

    The 40-odd years of Kulturkampf against the Unionists has not made one ounce of difference: Unionists are still there, and they are what they are, and vote how they vote, in defiance of all sophisticated and bien-pensant opinion in NI and beyond.

    To express a Unionist political opinion in kulturni circles in Northern Ireland is to enter a Bateman cartoon.

    But the 40 years of taunting of Unionists – especially working-class Unionists – as deracinated culture-free savages has done little more than turn some of the wounded animals vicious.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not seeing your logic TS. Possibly because you don’t see mine. Laters; as my older children say.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    The point I am making seems fairly obvious. Which part is causing the problem?

    And If i’m missing your logic, lay it out for me, and we’ll examine it.

    The initial column argues that the ‘smug’ ‘exclusion’ of Unionists from the ‘Irish’ cultural sphere ‘by’ Nationalists makes it harder for Nationalists to get their goal or dream of unity because it makes Unionists more resisitant to change of that type. And thus presumably is a bad thing.

    But I am retorting that it can’t make unionists more resistant to unity, because they are already 100% resistant to unity, and will remain so,as is there right.

    So since acting nicely won’t change unionism’s behaviour on this issue, there is no benefit to ‘acting nicely’ in terms of Unionist attitudes to the ‘unity’ project. Unionism’s attitude is fixed, regardless of Nationalist behaviours.

    The evidence backs this up. The SDLP ‘acted nicely’; the ‘New Ireland Forum’ ‘acted nicely’. The Irish government ‘acted nicely’.

    It has never been reciprocated, and it won’t ever be recipricated. Why should it be? The Prisoner’s dilemna is irrelevant because Unionism is happy with the status quo, and places the Union above every possible thing or behaviour that any part of Nationalism, nice or otherwise, could possibly offer.

    You state that SF may-

    ” demonstrate: 1 they are fit and serious partners for government in the Republic;

    Even if they did precisely that, it doesn’t matter. Unionism wouldn’t flinch, because it doesn’t care (why should it). The SDLP were just such fit and serious partners for thirty years, and not one Unionist budged on the issue of unity.

    Not one.

    Unionism does not resist the unity project, a United Ireland, because of nationalists. It resists because it is unionist. Full stop. This reaction begets reaction thing is. Just. Not. True. You may philospohically like it to be true.

    But it’s not.

  • TS, some Nationalists have convinced themselves that Unionism is merely an identity on the island of Ireland. That was the John Hume line. No recognition was given to what might be called the Unionist aspiration: that NI would remain a constituent part of the UK.

  • The Spectator

    Nevin

    I can’t answer for anyone else. to me it was always clear – Unionism is a political position, the content of which is a preference of sovereignty, nothing more, nothing less.

    One can argue about the ethics of that political position, both abstractly and pragmatically, much like any other, but I have never bought any ‘false conscience” line. I’ve never really heard one being sold.

    Culture comes into it only in so far as the unionist position, in terms of adherents, overlaps broadly with the portion of the population who most clearly express a British national identity, and who share what might be described as an Ulster-British culture (if such a single monolith exists).

  • The Spectator

    Sorry, ”false conscious”

  • slug

    The Spectator=Horseman=Stephen Copeland.

  • The Spectator

    Slug

    No he doesn’t.

    He does equal The Beach Tree – but for reasons that make sense tome, I am now but a Spectator.

  • Devil Eire

    Slug,

    Can you explain what prompted you to link a real-world name to TS (albeit in error)?

  • dub

    TS,

    You are right about unionism but not, i would suggest, about the “unionist” population, or to be more precise, the ulster protestants.

    Nationalists need to make it clear that Ireland is a country in which many protestants feel completely at home and that Irishness is not linked to catholicism. Irish nationalism is a political option; the option for secular democracy on this island in which all sections are cherished. That is what needs stressing.

    Unionism as a political philosophy needs to be confronted. That does not mean alienating protestants.

    The reduction of nationalism to a cultural identity has been a disaster.

    Nevin,

    I hear what you are saying but I genuinely believe you to be wrong. Unionism is an irish tradition. If unionists wanted to be british they would have joined up with the tories and labour parties and integrated into britain. they have never done so.