Pat Doherty: unionist outreach and profile raising

The approach of a general election always seems to bring politicians out to speak. Pat Doherty the abstentionist (from his constituency as well as Westminster) MP for West Tyrone made the opening address to the Irish unity conference in London today (already mentioned by Brian).

To be fair to Doherty he pretended some recognition of the position of unionists:

“Of course, unionists have a different perspective.
They want to maintain the union.
For this reason some elements of political unionism are opposed to this new dispensation.
They seek to minimise, to dilute and to delay its potential or to oppose it entirely.
And that is their right.”

One meaningless gem from Doherty was this: “We need to look at what they mean by their sense of Britishness and be willing to explore this with them and to be open to new concepts.” If it were true it would of course be laughable: being British means exactly that and being a unionist means exactly that; wanting to maintain the union. Even Doherty may, however, understand that.
All this niceness does sit rather ill with Doherty’s alleged IRA army council past. Maybe he has worked out that supporting murdering unionists is a rather ineffective strategy to make them enter a united Ireland. For him to attempt unionist outreach is, however, possibly even more ridiculous than Martina Anderson; though the real reason for outreach is to increase the “outreachers” profile and considering Doherty’s invisibility a bit of profile raising before the election is useful.

Other parts of Doherty’s speech unfortunately contradicted this supposed interest in unionists’ views. Trying to get the British government and the Irish diaspora to “directly influence a British government and to persuade British political leaders of the imperative of facilitating Irish reunification.” makes remarkably little sense when since 1949 the Attlee doctrine has held that the constitutional future was in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland. Doherty seems to have been converted to this position from that of his support for the IRA murdering their way to a united Ireland rather late in his career.

Doherty’s speech also holds to other views which seem to conflict with the idea of unionists having a veto on unity: “It is this denial of the Irish peoples’ right to self-determination, freedom and independence which is the core outstanding issue which must be resolved.” Of course that is not the case: the outstanding issue as Doherty noted elsewhere is that unionists want to remain within the union.

Jim Allister has noted that Doherty regards: “The Good Friday Agreement is a key part of this. It is an accommodation – not a settlement.” A further example of this is “…the agreement on transfer of powers on policing and justice, which will take power from London back to Ireland” – not quite what the DUP might have wanted him to say. Potentially more sinister, however, especially in view of Doherty’s past were his comments that “For unionists, a new Ireland offers a real hope of stability.” For Doherty to offer unionists “stability” if they agree with him is fundamentally threatening, implying as it clearly does that to disagree will result in instability.

Most laughable were it not so insulting, however, is “Nationalists and republicans want our rights, but we do not seek to deny the rights of anybody else.” For Doherty to come out with a comment like that three days after the anniversary of the La Mon House Hotel bombing shows how little republicans understand or care about unionists. Which rights for republicans required the napalming of the Irish Collie Club? and what care did he ever have for their most fundamental right: that to life? Oh yes the IRA army council, the true legitimate government of Ireland, decided to end that right as was their “right:” is that not so Doherty?

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.