Unionist Confidence

I blogged this over at Open Unionism and thought I would put it up here as well:

Confidence like momentum is vital in politics. Both of them are difficult to describe but very real. To varying extents since the fall of Stormont in 1972 unionism has suffered from a lack of confidence, only worsened by events such as the Anglo Irish Agreement and by those surrounding the IRA ceasefire; an occurrence which could have been seen as a unionist victory but instead was perceived as indicative of an agreement between the British government and nationalism to eventually end the union. The UUP reacted to this by electing a new leader in Trimble in part to regain confidence. This move, however, quickly compounded the situation and a withering series of concessions proceeded gracelessly yet with tedious regularity. Although lauded by many in the international community for his “flexibility” and that despite his rather prickly personality; no one interested in unionist politics can forget “No guns no government” and then “We’ve jumped – you follow.” Trimble may, as some UUP revisionists would now claim, have been drawing republicans steadily into a net, and trapping them within the confines of a partitionist settlement. However, he may also have been a hapless negotiator, weakened by dissent in his own party which heightened as he gradually Lundified himself.
Either way the net result was that unionism became both progressively disenchanted with the agreement and also felt increasingly weakened. The direction of travel seemed all one way, with the logical end result in a united Ireland. As unionist confidence ebbed that of republicans soared, little wonder Adams boasted about a united Ireland by 2016; it did not seem a completely unreasonable concept.
Of course then came the 2005 general election which ushered out the era of Trimble and in that of the DUP. The DUP began to give unionism back its confidence: no longer the litany of concessions; instead it was Sinn Fein forced into retreat and compromise, accepting decommissioning and acknowledging the police, then being out manoeuvred to an extent regarding academic selection and for the time being at least not achieving an Irish Language Act, a Maze shrine or policing and justice devolution.
However, the DUP have had to make concessions. They have gone into government with the political representatives of those (at times with the very people) who committed the bombings and murders. They have accepted mandatory coalition (at least for the mean time); they have had to witness the chaos into which Ruane has plunged the education system; they have been unable to change some of Conor Murphy’s directives and they are shackled to a coequal first minister whom most unionists regard as and unrepentant terrorist godfather. At times the DUP have suggested that the St Andrew’s Agreement was a huge success, at others that it was the best compromise that they could have got and that, although they were not delighted by it, the alternative would have been much worse.
Despite this somewhat Janus headed approach the unionist community has gained a great deal of self confidence since the DUP took over as the lead unionist party. Although the DUP cannot claim all credit for this, even the most hardened UUP supporter would find it difficult to deny that the DUP have had some involvement in this turn around. Such a UUP supporter might argue that the UUP created the architecture which trapped Sinn Fein within the process but they would find it difficult to argue that the DUP had not improved that architecture and had more effectively stymied SF within the executive (albeit at the price of future problems such as a highly possible Sinn Fein first minister).
The problem now for the DUP is that the unionist community have possibly gained more confidence (in large part thanks to them) than the DUP expected. Now the unionist community, far from en masse thanking the DUP and rewarding them with complete electoral dominance, seem to feel that the DUP have not achieved enough and indeed have conceded too much. Both the TUV and UUP are trying from somewhat different angles to make extensive modifications to the agreement. Clearly the DUP are now also talking in the same terms and to be fair they always wanted to modify the agreement in a relatively similar fashion to the suggestions of the other parties (centrally an end to mandatory coalition). The problem for the DUP, however, is that being the party in government they seem to be in danger of being regarded as supporting the current situation whereas the TUV have never supported it and the UUP with the Conservatives seem to be successfully portraying themselves as moving on beyond it (conveniently forgetting that they created much of the mess which the DUP to an extent got the unionist community out of).
Clearly it would be too much to expect the three parties to cooperate greatly in the coming months with an election in the offing. However, all three parties now seem to feel that whatever the merits of the current agreement it is time to move forwards to modify (or completely reshape) the current situation. The challenges are extremely complex: They are to gain broad acceptance within unionism for a suggested way forwards, persuade the British (and Irish) governments of the merits of such change and (possibly most challenging) have “massive outreach” to nationalists to persuade them of the need for and merit of such changes. These aims may be impossible but at least unionism now has the confidence to seek to move in new directions. Whom to thank for this confidence and which unionists may lose in such changes are less important questions than the fact that this confidence exists.

  • Delta Omega

    Turgon

    Given that Jim Allister is happy to do little side deals with the DUPes in N. Antrim, rather than standing up against them, it appears that some of this collaboration has already started. Jim offered some degree of hope to those of us who detested the DUP’s U turns, but it seems he is happy to jump in bed with his foes when it suits him.

    Delta

  • DC

    Turgon,

    “I blogged this over at Open Unionism and thought I would put it up here as well”

    Well as long as you’re having fun.

    But, what I can say is that I don’t agree with your take on confidence and more of it in unionist communities.

    Basically, the GFA is about no one getting their own way all the time, sometimes it’s nationalists that come unstuck other times unionists.

    A disproportionate number of potential unionists leave N Ireland annually, a good number of nationalists too I must add. They leave and dont return, and I’m happy for them because they say “that (life) is on another level”. Good. I dont’ care about the outbreeding claims as I know people are happier.

    So the economy here is shitty and the knock on affects outlooks, which become more negative not positive. The NI economy is neither properly aligned strategically with key sectors in Britain nor Ireland. Neither does it have any sort of subtle mix of both. It is in tatters (as is manufacturing side of things in Britain).

    Coming from a unionist community myself, I know of people leaving and moving to Australia at the moment where things, economically, are a bit better – some moving to Britain.

    So spare me the confidence nonsense. All I see is talented people leaving from my foothills with the more rigid minded remaining here as intransigent and ossified as ever.

    Bloody useless. Never mind political identity and confidence it’s time we got a positive competitive identity in place that keeps all our young people here with decent jobs and an even better life.

  • Joe

    Nationalism can’t deliver [i]”confidence”[/i] to its polar opposite political philosophy. That is ridiculous.

    Unionism regularly asks the electorate to vote for pro union candidates. And Unionism’s share of the vote has been (on average) shrinking since NI’s inception. I am afraid the lack of confidence stems from this simple fact of life.

    Even if Nationalism [i]could[/i] help, it wouldn’t want to. This whole “confidence” issue boils down to another rhetorical maze of resistance, which is the DUP mantra, a party who only speak for a third of Unionists anyway.

  • DC

    And just to add Turgon while Trimble may have been a poor and weak leader at least he led.

    Peter Robinson has done absolutely nothing. Nothing. At least Trimble did a bit of jumping first. The policing and justice issue might be a bit of movement under Robinson, but after, what, say, 3 years of the handbrake fully on at Stormont, great!!!!!!

  • Jer

    as he lundified himself

    I think unionists will one day look back and see that the spectre of Lundy and the need to not be seee as like Lundy was the rock that Unionism crashed on.

    How can Unionism have confidence when its hautned by Lundyism and cries of treason.

  • Turgon, you seem to have overlooked the US role in our political affairs. IMO it put ‘manners’ on the Provisional Republican Movement; it wasn’t the DUP what done it.

    Has ‘joined-up unionism’ – an oxymoron? – talked to the British and Irish governments about the essential building blocks (and partners) of a New Deal? I suspect not.

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    “Such a UUP supporter might argue that the UUP created the architecture which trapped Sinn Fein within the process but they would find it difficult to argue that the DUP had not improved that architecture and had more effectively stymied SF within the executive (albeit at the price of future problems such as a highly possible Sinn Fein first minister)”.

    We were not interested in “trapping” SF anymore than “smashing SF”.

    Our primary goal was making Northern Ireland function and to do that required SF and nationalist co-operation.

    Unionists like yourself think stalemate, logjam, trapping etc are words of progress – I dont.

    It is not in Northern Ireland’s long term interest for its political system to fail

  • Sean

    Turgon you seem to labour under the impresion that nationalists are simply disafected unionists and that the dupers have something to offer them

  • Greenflag

    John East Belfast,

    ‘It is not in Northern Ireland’s long term interest for its political system to fail’

    Actually it is . It’s the only way it’s people (all of them ) can find an escape route from their ‘sectarian’ self imprisonment . I agree however that it’s not in Northern Ireland’s short term interest for it’s convoluted political system to fail at this point in time . Nor is it in the interest of the Irish Republic .

    On the broader theme of ‘Unionist ‘ confidence? How can ‘unionism ‘ have confidence when it’s electoral base in NI is whittling away , it’s numerous internal divisions , it being representative of approx 15% of the population of this island across about less than half the territory of NI ?. Not to mention the ‘lukewarm ‘ attitude expressed towards unionsm demonstrated since 1920 by the other 99% of Unionism across the water ?

    The current economic ‘crisis ‘ has brought some extra confidence to Unionism for a couple of reasons . One is the hope that a new Conservative post election administration will side with ‘Unionism ‘ to the discomfort of Irish nationalism in NI . Not a horse I would bet on mind you and the extent to which it becomes a serious contender instead of an also ran will have more to do with the size of any Conservative majority in England than anything else .

    DC ,

    ‘All I see is talented people leaving from my foothills with the more rigid minded remaining here as intransigent and ossified as ever. ‘

    It’s evolution at work DC on both sides of the sectarian fence 🙁 Oh and nature doesn’t care . The more successful and enlightened DNA will be passed on elsewhere to ‘elsewhere’s ‘ advantage .
    It’s the way of the world .

    Under natural conditions most people would not live much past the time they ‘reproduce ‘ the next generation. The advent of modern medecine and scientific advance has extended average life spans probably 10 to 15 years longer than nature intended .

    And what goes for individuals applies also to States as the latter are based on millions of individuals who are required to ‘consent’ to the State’s existence under ‘normal democratic principles .Northern Ireland as a ‘State ‘ could not survive economically or physically (in present 6 county format ) without outside ‘life ‘ support i.e that annual transfusion of predominantly English taxpayer’s contributions . Switching off the life support is off not going to happen even if it is reduced somewhat – and so Northern Ireland will remain stuck between two worlds one of which is withering away and the other which can’t be born because the numbers are simply not there to make it happen .

    All that’s left for the Unionist ship as it sinks is to be kind to one another on the way down ;)? . This kindness if possible should also be extended to one’s Nationalist neighbours as they will sooner or later be needed to help refloat if not the Unionist political boat -it’s replacement whatever that may be .

  • dub

    “…as he gradually Lundified himself”.

    This priceless comment in a piece about Unionist confidence!!!!!

    In psycho-therapeutic terms Unionism is the patient who suffering paranoia, fear and anger, backs himself further and further into a wall of his own making.

    In everyday terms Turgon you are the most despicable apologist for out and out Unionist bigotry and intransigence. Despicable because you evidently have the intelligence to see beyond all this self defeating nonsense but choose not to use it.

    “and (possibly most challenging) have “massive outreach” to nationalists to persuade them of the need for and merit of such changes”.

    You know full well that the only way that Nationalists will be persuaded of the merit of such changes would be large scale ethnic cleansing. Is that your agenda? As I have said before you faux pacifism is wafer thin and clearly a rhetorical device. You would be better off communing with your like on the PULSE site. The only thing that keeps you on here is your intellectual and social snobbery. And the fact that everyone is SOOOO nice to you. Once again I am happy to break ranks because you do not deserve niceness.

  • Cushy Glenn

    “In everyday terms Turgon you are the most despicable apologist for out and out Unionist bigotry and intransigence. Despicable because you evidently have the intelligence to see beyond all this self defeating nonsense but choose not to use it.”

    If you can erect a monument big enough Turgon, then you would surely choose this backhanded compliment for your epitaph! If you only get a wee plaque in a municipal cemetery then you’ll have to make do with “He cast his pearls before swine”….

    “Nationalism can’t deliver “confidence” to its polar opposite political philosophy. That is ridiculous”
    Hoorah! straight talking from a republican at last. And after all those calls from Gerry and Marty for Unionists to..er..deliver confidence to nationalists by conceding with a smile(oops).

    All that’s left for the Unionist ship as it sinks is to be kind to one another on the way down ;)? . This kindness if possible should also be extended to one’s Nationalist neighbours as they will sooner or later be needed to help refloat if not the Unionist political boat -it’s replacement whatever that may be .

    “All that’s left for the Unionist ship as it sinks is to be kind to one another on the way down ;)? . This kindness if possible should also be extended to one’s Nationalist neighbours as they will sooner or later be needed to help refloat if not the Unionist political boat -it’s replacement whatever that may be .”
    Rumours of our demise have been around now for one hundred and thirty years, and we’re still chugging on. Perhaps your big ol’ ice berg has been melting rather faster. I was always told that green ice was singularly unpleasant on close analysis anyway…

  • andrew white

    At least Trimble did a bit of jumping first.

    yes letting the armed criminals of sinn fein into government was a really good idea, as was letting murderers out of jail.

  • I recall Unionist banners accepting the unconditional surrender of the IRA.

    Was this a sign of diminished confidence?

    Do unionists really believe the propaganda that catholic birth rates will continue at rates which lead to their forming a majority of tendentious voters? The evidence suggests that birth rates converge as women face increasingly common cultural norms.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    I respect your right to post your opinion, and Slugger is better for it, but the tone of your contributions is really starting to piss me off. I much prefer to deal with the present and future rather than the past but people like you keep digging it up. I hate having to go back into the past and remind you of the pain and suffering caused by Unionism running this state as a banana republic along with their gangs of paramilitary friends.

    As far as I am concerned the IRA was an illegal organization of criminals who had no right and no mandate to wage war on behalf of anyone. If they want to call it a war, then great – in that case I’d be happiest if they were all tried for war crimes and locked up. However, I also believe that there would have been no IRA worth talking about had the unionists recognized the need to share power with their peers. They had the power to create a plural democratic state in NI, but they screwed it up and now they are left in the position where they are having to defend what scraps they have left. This is the legacy that you have been left to deal with.

    When is the message going to get through to people like you, in the way that it got through to Trimble (who, despite his faults, showed true leadership when it was needed) and more recently to the DUP, that the world expects you to recognize your role in the conflict and expects you to try to get along with the people you don’t like ?

    If countries in Europe, like the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and so on can all join in harmony and friendship with Germany, despite its role in slaughtering millions of people, bombing their countries to bits, and in some cases enslaving their citizens, why can’t you get over a comparatively minor skirmish in a remote corner of the same continent ? I’ll tell you what it is – it is supreme arrogance. You, and the dissident republicans who feel the same way about things as you do, feel that your conflict, your pain and your shared perception of history is more important.

    You are insular, you have no perception of the big wide world outside, and you have no capacity for comprehending the fact that we all need to get over our past for the sake of future generations.
    You are a blight on this country and at times I wish the hell you’d bugger off somewhere else.

  • Greenflag

    Comrade Stalin ,

    ‘why can’t you get over a comparatively minor skirmish in a remote corner of the same continent ? I’ll tell you what it is – it is supreme arrogance. You, and the dissident republicans who feel the same way about things as you do, feel that your conflict, your pain and your shared perception of history is more important.’

    That’s a bit harsh Comrade Stalin . It’s not supreme arrogance -more of a ‘cultural ‘ inheritance not dissimilar to the kind of tribal /ethnic feuds found in the Balkans , the Appalachians and the American Deep South and other backward parts of the world . I urge you to read Morris Gladwell’s ‘Outliers ‘ in particular the chapter on Harlan, Kentucky . Gladwell describes in detail the origin of the thick as a plank sectarian feuding that plagues Northern Ireland and will provide an insight into NI mentalities such as Turgon’s and on both sides of the feuding divide.

    I’m not sugggesting that everybody in NI is afflicted by Gladwell’s Scotch Irish apparently non remediable behavioural deficiency or even that it’s restricted to only the ‘Unionist’ mindset for it isn’t. The ‘condition’ itself has however been exacerbated by local NI sectarian religious forces and by their political follow ons and by recent conflict.

    Not Turgon’s fault . He’s wired either to forgive or forget but not both .

    ‘you have no capacity for comprehending the fact that we all need to get over our past for the sake of future generations.’

    An eye for an eye says the Old Testament . And when the Lord commanded the Moabites to be slaughtered even women and children the Chosen people did as the Lord directed 🙁

    For Turgon’s Lord loves only the chosen people sorry the self selected chosen people . The others are all going to hell anyway so they don’t matter !

  • DC

    “yes letting the armed criminals of sinn fein into government was a really good idea, as was letting murderers out of jail.”

    Oh I didn’t know David Trimble and ‘Ulster’ had policing and justice powers back then.

    Try the Government instead, you know ‘our’ sovereign government!

    And also Andrew, Peter Robinson has had an easy ride of it up there, I’m thinking he hasn’t had to put up with serious political disruptions like that which the DUP meted out to the UUP et al when it wasn’t King Bill on the Hill.

  • Driftwood

    I hate having to go back into the past and remind you of the pain and suffering caused by Unionism running this state as a banana republic along with their gangs of paramilitary friends.

    Didn’t realise O’Neill, Clarke and Faulkner had such friends Stalin. And our cargo cult economy is reliant on friendly relations with Cameron, Osborne and Co. They pay our way. Be nice to keep in with them, doncha think? Or has Alliance got a cunning plan that involves telling the mainland (next government-Conservative and Unionist) to stuff their £7 Billion subvention? Be nice to hear the details, be my guest.
    David Ford’s 30p tombola ticket/bran tub policy doesn’t quite cut it.

  • Interesting post, Turgon.

    As a nationalist, this intrigued me:

    “However, all three parties now seem to feel that whatever the merits of the current agreement it is time to move forwards to modify (or completely reshape) the current situation. The challenges are extremely complex: They are to gain broad acceptance within unionism for a suggested way forwards, persuade the British (and Irish) governments of the merits of such change and (possibly most challenging) have “massive outreach” to nationalists to persuade them of the need for and merit of such changes.”

    If unionism en masse intends to have a “massive outreach” to nationalists I hope it will not be empty rhetoric to disguise unionist retrenchment but concrete actions where nationalists can see a future within the union where their culture can flourish and be respected by unionists. If this is the unionists’ genuine intent, they may well indeed succeed in preserving the union for several generations. If, however, the goal is just to kick the shinners out of government…

  • Having been threatened by an unarmed McGuinness in the distant past I must say I prefer him unarmed and in useful employment in Government.

  • Turgon

    Cushy Glen,
    “He cast his pearls before swine”….

    You may very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Regards as ever

    Exile1,
    Yes I agree. The issue is of complex and intra unionist wrangling may well scupper it. However, I think unionists should make it extremely clear that this is about a proper functioning efficient democracy and that in a voluntary coalition deals would be done to get things to happen. If they were not at the next election the coalition could be thrown out and replaced by another one.

    Clearly deals would be about bread and butter issues but also about things dear to each side and I would personally hope it would see a mechanism of government in which a number of nationalist requests would be advanced much more than they are at the moment.

    I do think, however, that such is the legacy of mistrust for which unionists are mainly responsible (50 years of misrule etc.) that unionists need a real version of “massive outreach” and not as a rhetorical device.

  • Brit

    Unionism is clearly in “retreat”, divided and experiencing massive difficulties with power-sharing. A significant number of their constituency, particularly working class Prods/Unionists, see the GFA as a surrender to the IRA, a reward for terror and the first steps towards a UI. There is something of the siege mentality of those who have lost their privileges (or perceived privileges) in this community and you can see echoes of the whites in Zimbabwe or South Africa after the end of white rule or the Jewish/Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank.

    And yet.

    The truth is that the IRA did surrender. Gerry and Co have spun it well, got some of their mates out of prison (and the loyalist murderers and thugs were also let out of couse), and got into government. But ultimately they accepted British rule and the British status of the 6 counties, and also the principle of consent (the presence or absence of consent being the different between an act of love and of violence), implicitly accepting the partition. The Unionists won but they just don’t realise it.

    As for those nationalists who thing this is just a short term measure until the Catholics out-breed the Prods – they need to reflect on two interconnected factors:-

    1. We may have 40-50 or, who knows, a hundred years before that majority comes into existence.

    2. That is a long time in politics. An extended peace, a (hopefully) succesful econcomy, a decrease in the relevance of nation states, full rights for the minority may fundamentally change the nature of politics and political aspirations of NI’s Catholics. We may see the development of Catholic Unionism which puts the Nationalist majority maths into a different perspective.

    This gives Unionists the chance to jettison their sectarianism, and to be clear that they are not a Protestant only force, that they can offer something to Catholics (putting the ‘national’ question to one side). That is the challenge and the reason for optimism.

    And if a UI does come to pass, in the medium term future, Northern nationalism could have matured and mellowed (perhaps renaming Derry londonderry in 2048 as a goodwill gesture) and Protestants may feel happy to live in a United Ireland where the 6 counties are given a great deal of automony (like the Catalan or Basque regions of Spain) and where the rights of the (as it will then be) large minority respected. If they hate it plan B is population exchange and Down and Antrim re-join the Union (and no the Scots will not want independence).

  • elvis parker

    Interesting post Turgon – lays bare the worst elements of insular, parnoid ‘unionist community’ thinking.
    Thank God the Conservatives and Unionists project is giving an outlet for more open minded truly unionist thinking

  • Brit,

    As for those nationalists who thing this is just a short term measure until the Catholics out-breed the Prods – they need to reflect on two interconnected factors:-

    1. We may have 40-50 or, who knows, a hundred years before that majority comes into existence.

    2. That is a long time in politics.

    I am one of ‘those nationalists’, but I dispute some of your assertions. It will not be 40-50 years till there is a Catholic majority – the current best estimate is 20 years. i.e. within all of our lifetimes, so we are the generation that is going to have to deal with it.

    Secondly, while you are right about the soothing effects of peace, why are you ignoring its two-way nature? Yes, there may be soùme Catholic unionists, but why not also Protestant nationalists? As the ‘troubles’ fade into the history books, a new generation of young Prods may question why there are not much closer links with the other part of their island – one that they share a religion with, a rugby team with, place-names with, a history with, family ties with, etc etc. As businesses increasingly organise on an all-Ireland basis (why wouldn’t they), and as the border becomes more and more irrelevant, why would Protestants not rethink their unionism? Especially since the UK is going to offer less and less as time goes on?

  • Sean

    LOL brit you should take that act to the stage

    Unionism as it is now exists soley for the purpose of sectarianism, it doesn’t take a lip stick on the pig to fix it but a complete razing and a rebuild so much so that in the end it would have to be given a new name

    Turgon is a perfect example, for all his flowery words and self depricating style the supremacist bigot underlies his mind set as much as it does Ian the wrecker reverand

    But you brit just are in complete denial of history and custom, you are more out of touch with the place then I am

  • Joe

    Parity will not happen in “who knows maybe 100 years time, if at all”.. It will happen in 10-15 years. Even in the last 5 years the gap has clearly narrowed.

    Unionism is in [i]clinical[/i] denial about this. They say it ‘might’ happen, as some distant point in space and time. The fact is, its already happenning, and whats more the people know it.

    Unionism is not going to attract the new Catholic voters (that they need) at this rate, not with the ever growing Nationalist demographic sucking in more and more votes.

    Quite the contrary, as there is evidence that more and more small-u unionists are distancing themselves from the old haughty 20th Century brand of Unionism, and into a more honest and open minded dialogue about NI’s future.

  • dub

    Comrade Stalin and Sean,

    I’m glad to see i’m not the only one. I actually feel bad attacking Turgon sometimes but his partisanship to the point of violent extremism needs condemning and condemning loudly.

    Turgon,

    Like the way you picked up on “rhetorical device”.

  • John East Belfast

    Horseman

    “As businesses increasingly organise on an all-Ireland basis (why wouldn’t they), and as the border becomes more and more irrelevant, why would Protestants not rethink their unionism? Especially since the UK is going to offer less and less as time goes on? ”

    The exact opposite is happening.
    We have had recent economic partitionist comments from the ROI political and business class about buying from “our own”, the evils of shopping in the north and the desire by the ROI dairy industry to specifically rebrand itself as such.

    With the demise of the Celtic Tiger and the ROI membership of the Euro pulling it towards Europe then any NI business person who is not trading on all UK basis is quite clearly incompetent. 85% of my employer’s activities are GB based. The UK is set to have the biggest population in the EU in the next few years. You dont put barriers to trade with your biggest nearest neighbour who speaks the same language.

    I wish there was as much effort put into NI – GB trade as there is with the politically motivated north southery – something our southern neighbours are now clearly only interested in if it involves the flow of sterling to south of the border.

  • John East Belfast,

    The kind of protectionist nonsense we’ve seen and heard from southern politicians about buying ‘Irish’ products is quite (totally, in fact) irrelevant, unless backed up by protectionist laws – which it categorically is not.

    The business community, north and south, is not interested in anything except profit, and to get profit you must be efficient. and efficiency is helped by having no border or unnecessary restrictions. Hence business, over time, will seek to have the border removed in effect if not in law. Business will treat the whole island as one market (many already do), and will rationalise their sales, distribution, marketing, etc accordingly.

    Of course GB is a big market – for both north and south. But there are few impediments in the way of trade for either. You’ll be awatre that we are all in the EU, with its freedom of movement for goods, services and people. Only the currency issue still remains, and for how long?

    Unionist business people who try to ignore the south (and concentrate on GB) will do less well than those who trade equally with the south. Over time the latter will put the former out of business. Economic Darwinism, you could call it. Survival of the fittest, aka the most border-blind. Think of the consequences.

  • John East Belfast

    Horseman

    ROI Market – 4 million, different currency, different laws

    GB Market – 60 million +, same currency, same laws

    I am a NI business man – please dont tell me I am better off trading with the ROI than GB – that is just silly.

    You are the one who said that Trade will foster good relationships – true but it works both ways.

    And it is logical that as Trade could lead to the desire to remove a border then it equally will prevent one, with a bigger and more prosperous market, being established.

    I am now away back to work – on our GB contracts actually.

  • Brit

    “Secondly, while you are right about the soothing effects of peace, why are you ignoring its two-way nature? Yes, there may be soùme Catholic unionists, but why not also Protestant nationalists? As the ‘troubles’ fade into the history books, a new generation of young Prods may question why there are not much closer links with the other part of their island – one that they share a religion with, a rugby team with, place-names with, a history with, family ties with, etc etc”.

    Well given that the subject matter of the post was Unionst confidence I have focussed on the positive challenge for progressive Unionism and make no apology for that. That said I did implicitly acknowledge the possibility of Protestant nationalism (or at least a kind of neutrality regarding the Union) when I wrote ”
    ” if a UI does come to pass, in the medium term future … Protestants may feel happy to live in a United Ireland”

    “As businesses increasingly organise on an all-Ireland basis (why wouldn’t they), and as the border becomes more and more irrelevant, why would Protestants not rethink their unionism? Especially since the UK is going to offer less and less as time goes on?”

    I think this is projection. Given the huge British market surely sensible businesses would focus on that, although in truth many British companies operate on a British and irish isles basis. And you may equally say as nation-states become irrelevant and the Irish nation moves further and further away from its monocultural Catholic nationalist past perhaps irish nationalism will mellow. I’m not sure what you mean by the UK offering “less and less”, but if

  • John East Belfast

    I am a NI business man – please dont tell me I am better off trading with the ROI than GB – that is just silly.

    It is not either/or, John. It is both. If you are not doing your best to promote your business in the south then you’re ignoring a potential market. Others won’t, and they’ll make the profits, and put you out of business. Its very simple.

    In the EU (remember it?) there are no ‘new borders’ being established. Barriers are being removed, not created. Those who take advantage of this will prosper, but those who willfully ignore the potential markets on their doorstep will fail.

    You are the one who said that Trade will foster good relationships – true but it works both ways.

    Of course. What’s your point?

    I am now away back to work – on our GB contracts actually.

    Good for you, but bear in mind that there is another market just down the road. Ignore it at your peril, because your competitors won’t.

  • Brit

    “Parity will not happen in “who knows maybe 100 years time, if at all”.. It will happen in 10-15 years. Even in the last 5 years the gap has clearly narrowed.

    Unionism is in clinical denial about this. They say it ‘might’ happen, as some distant point in space and time. The fact is, its already happenning, and whats more the people know it.”

    Well this is factual rather than philosophical issue. I expect it will happen sooner or later but population trends are hard to predict and the differential in birth rates and / or immigration v emmigration may equalise for all sorts of reasons, including unanticipated ones. Furthermore, to reiterate, any signficant number of Catholic Unionists (unless cancelled out by Prod nationalists) would change the projections. In any event when and if it happens the political repercussions are known and agreed upon by all under the GFA and the Unionists will have to accept it.

    “Unionism is not going to attract the new Catholic voters (that they need) at this rate, not with the ever growing Nationalist demographic sucking in more and more votes.

    Quite the contrary, as there is evidence that more and more small-u unionists are distancing themselves from the old haughty 20th Century brand of Unionism, and into a more honest and open minded dialogue about NI’s future.”

    I think that sounds slightly contradictory. On the one hand Unionism is losing out as the Catholic nationalists outbreed them. But at the same time more unionists are moving towards a progressive, inclusive and non-sectarian version of Unionism. The latter is the only hope for Unionists and whether it “works” in deferring or preventing UI the agenda, or fails, it can only be a good thing no matter what the constitutional future of NI.

  • Brit,

    I’m not sure what you mean by the UK offering “less and less”, …

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2009/0922/1224254989480.html

  • Brit

    “Unionism as it is now exists soley for the purpose of sectarianism, it doesn’t take a lip stick on the pig to fix it but a complete razing and a rebuild so much so that in the end it would have to be given a new name”

    Well thats a very deep and nuanced understanding of the identity, ideology and objectives of your fellow “Irishmen”.

    What about New Unionism?

  • Sean

    Horseman arguing facts with brit is a lost cause

    Brit
    I am not Irish I am Canadian, which is why I pointed out you are more out of touch with the place then I am and I live 5,000 miles away

    PS Third star to the left and straight on till morning

  • Brit

    Horseman – that article just shows that NI is suffering from the recession along with the rest of the UK. It does not have any relevance to the medium to long term prospects for the UK economy vs the Irish economy or how this may impact the specific economy of the 6 counties.

    Given the freedom of trade and labour within the EU I think these econcomic arguments are never going to be determinative.

  • Brit

    “I am not Irish I am Canadian”

    No doot.

    Presumably you are some sort of 5th generation Irishman if you’re on here?

  • Sean

    New Unionism sounds exactly like the lip stick on a pig scenario I mentioned earlier

    Old Unionism as it is practiced now isn’t about objectives or Ireland or identity its about keeping the damn catholics in their place, which is as far away from the “decent people” as you can make it in a postage stamp sized country

    By the way I am not catholic or protestant either I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. May his noodly appendage touch you. RAMEN

  • Brit,

    … at the same time more unionists are moving towards a progressive, inclusive and non-sectarian version of Unionism.

    Um, are you referring here to the meteoric rise of the DUP? Or Jim Allister and his TUV?

    Or is it just wishful thinking on your part?

  • Brit

    “By the way I am not catholic or protestant” But you’re irish no?

    Whatever, seem to have swallowed a very simplistic and one-dimensional narrative about the nature of Unionist politics. Unionism can be lots of things but all it necessarily is a perspective which says that the continued Union of NI with the rest of the UK is a good thing. It is an expression of the reasonable and legitimate desire of those who have been NI Brits for 400 years to remain British.

    It has sometimes (maybe even often) been expressed in supremacist and anti-Catholic terms and policies (sectarianism and bigotry are not unknown the other way either) but there is no reason why it cannot jetison those and call for equal rights and dual nationality. After the GFA there is no going back to gerrmandering and denyting Catholics their civil rights.

  • Sean

    Wrong again brit if you follow the western tradition of patriarcal lineage I am a 2nd generation Dutchman. Though most of the rest of my lineage does come from the Western European Archipeligo

    I am on here because I was seeing a woman from nIreland and tried to find out more about the place. The politics there are fat more fascinating then Canadian politics which is based mainly on who tells the most lies about their tax policies

  • Brit

    “Um, are you referring here to the meteoric rise of the DUP? Or Jim Allister and his TUV?

    Or is it just wishful thinking on your part?”

    I was just referring to a post by Joe. I am not familiar eneough with the detail of NI party politics to answer your questions although it is an expression of hope that Unionism will move forward beyond anywhere it has gone to before.

  • Sean

    Brit
    “It has sometimes (maybe even often) been expressed in supremacist and anti-Catholic terms and policies (sectarianism and bigotry are not unknown the other way either) but there is no reason why it cannot jetison those and call for equal rights and dual nationality”

    Except for the fact you couldn’t get elected as a dog catcher in Ballymena if you did

    If you believe that drivel you wrote above you haven’t read anything about the nIreland or the way it was governed and the way the “majority” wish it was still governed

  • Brit,

    … it is an expression of hope that Unionism will move forward

    We all have that hope, but it has not yet been realised. Look into the actual policies and pronouncements of the DUP, TUV and other alphabet spagetti unionist parties, and their members, and then look at their popularity within the unionist family, and you’ll soon see how far from your assumptions NI politics actually are.

  • John East Belfast

    Horseman

    The point I was making was in response to what you were saying that as NI business men trade with the south (and setting aside the demise of the Celtic Tiger and Protectionist & partitionist mutterings from southern politicians which is actually working against that) then such businessmen will wake up some morning and say what do we want this border for ? Infact with the strength of the Euro now the Border is actually a reason to trade !

    I am simply pointing out that it is exactly the same in reverse – ie such businessmen with a bigger and easier market in GB are equally not going to start erecting borders.

    I am not against trade with the south – but I am not going to foster it at the expense of trade with GB.

    The bottom line is there is no economic argument for a United Ireland – especially with the ROI as an EU member.

    The desire for a UI is a heart thing not a head.

    Therefore dont deceive yourself that unionists can be convinced at a head level – it wont work.

    What a UI needs is all those Catholics who we are told will make up a majority in 20 years to have a stronger heart than head.

    That is the United Irelander’s problem and is exactly why unionists can be confident.

  • borderline

    “It is an expression of the reasonable and legitimate desire of those who have been NI Brits for 400 years to remain British.”

    NI Brits for 400 years, eh? Didn’t read the history books I recommended to you then, Brit.

  • borderline

    The major trade between NI and the South is diesel, cigarettes, and alcohol. Oh, and livestock now and again. And cars. Mostly to do with tax and duty evasion or avoidance.

    I may wish it were different but there you have it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    John,

    Must be a full moon, because there is much that you’re writing there that I agree with.

    I would point out that the partitionism that you describe already exists with our relationship with the UK. Northern Ireland car insurance and fuel (and indeed cars themselves) are more expensive than in the UK. And in general terms, the UK government is never going to act in a way that is inimical to the interests of “their” people.

    There are a range of changes that could be made within the UK to enhance economic cohesion. I’d like to see a single UK-wide vehicle registration/licensing and test system, and a single UK-wide issue of banknotes. Whether you are a nationalist, a unionist, or whatever else, these differences achieve nothing except create inconvenience and waste public money through duplication.

    The actions of the Irish government are clearly partitionist, but it’s interesting that the actions of the Irish consumer are not.

  • DC

    CS,

    I’d actually prefer the Euro.

  • Greenflag

    sean ,

    ‘Unionism as it is now exists solely for the purpose of sectarianism’

    Not at all . Here’s a priority listing

    1. Security.
    2. Money – 6 billion pounds annual subvention
    a huge amount when compared to Northern Ireland’s GDP and even more when compared to the 30% ‘private sector’ contribution to overall GDP.
    3. Loyalty to Queenie & Co – Being British.

    4. 200 years of participation in the Union.

    5. Fear of becoming a ‘minority’ in any UI.

    Just to be ‘sectarian’ would be about number 20 on the list which is probably 5 places ahead of what a UI would be on the Republic’s voters list of priorities.

  • Ear to the Ground

    News closer to home:
    A Lisburn flower business that employs a accountant has went bankrupt. No news here, however this accountant is said to be, allegedly, the honorary auditor for the Lagan Valley UUP and creative. More woes?

  • Sean

    Greenflag

    I know there are more reasons then the one I stated however as it is practiced now in nIreland unionism is only to keep the fenians in their place. Look at how the local councils are run as proof

  • Padraig

    Sean-as a Unionist I find your comments abhorrent and deeply offensive.

    For your information I am from what would be termed here (unfortunately) a “mixed” family.

    Your utterly misinformed, simplified and vitriolic “Hollywood” take on the situation is risible, to be kind. I find it more than a little sickening to have members of my family perjoritively and dismissively described as “fenians”-I assume you assume they are viewed as 2nd class citizens where I live? I can assure you that use of such language would raise a few eyebrows and prompt a bit if temple tapping.

    I speak only for myself and as a native of this place. What may I ask are your qualifications for such bitterly expressed words and opinions?

    Submit word “live”-I’d recommend you did a bit.

  • Sean

    Padraig

    with that diverse a family I am sure somewhere in the walnut tree there is a farmer who could use that strawman to keep the black birds away

    PS virtually every one I know in nIreland comes from some kind of a “mixed” family, that whole 2 solitudes is more shit than bull

  • Greenflag

    ‘however as it is practiced now in Northern Ireland unionism is only to keep the fenians in their place’

    That may have been true 40 years ago and it may well be still true to an extent among a small number of councils but it’s hardly true of them all . Probably half the councils have nationalist majorities anyway .

    Writing off all ‘Unionists ‘ as irredeemable sectarian thugs is no different than writing off all ‘Nationalists ‘ as terrorists .

    I don’t like unionism any more than you do but whether I do or not is immaterial . But believe it or not they i.e Unionists are human beings just like yourself and the vast majority of them have more on their minds than ‘sectarianism ‘