Unionist Academy

It seems a long time ago now but when Peter Robinson was first elected as leader of the DUP he made overtures to the UUP regarding unionist unity: the suggestions were of course rejected by Empey (as they had been before) and subsequently we had the establishment of the Conservative and Unionist New Force. Recently the unionist parties have been involved in the at times acrimonious European election campaign and there are now, at least for the meantime, three unionist parties. Whilst any prospect of unity is a very long way off (and it is far from clear if it was ever possible / desirable), Robinson at one stage mentioned the idea of a unionist academy.The TUV recently attacked Robinson for not having brought these plans forward and Robinson has announced that he would be making his plans public soon. (Hat tip to Horseman for first noticing this.)

Unionism has never been very adept at the idea of meeting to discuss and debate the past or the future except in a confrontational fashion where the objective is to defeat the opponent. Nationalism / Republicanism has, however, seemed rather better at this sort of internal debate with events held both ad hoc and at various community festivals etc. To be fair at times it is pretty clear that these events have been far from consensual in tone such as debates on the Hunger Strikes noted here on slugger by Rusty Nail. However, nationalism at least seems to be better at this sort of concept.

Leaving aside the TUV / DUP wrangles; some sort of “unionist academy” whether it is a one off event or set of events or a think tank of whatever degree would be an excellent idea for unionism. There are currently three competing strands of unionism and a large number of ideas within those strands. The objective of any meeting(s) should not be to create unity nor to subjugate other views below a dominant ideology: it would rather be an opportunity for people to debate and think through ideas in a more private and less adversarial setting than one usually encounters in public discourse (or even here on slugger).

Now with the dust beginning to settle after the European election campaign and with the general election likely to be at least some way off, there may be a window of opportunity for the possibility of an internal dialogue within unionism. Alternatively that may just be hopeless naivety and as one of those who has frequently spun against one side or the other maybe I should go back to what I normally do.