“Losing seats was never part of the inevitability narrative…”

At the Guardian’s CiF at the Polls self-declared Tory unionist, Christopher Montgomery, comments on the SDLP’s pass on participation in the ‘Save Michelle’ campaign. From the Guardian post

Sinn Féin know they won’t get in the British general election anything like the kicking the Irish Republic’s electorate handed out to them in theirs. But their leadership is understandably anxious about the fact that yet another element in what passed for their partition-accepting, post-republican strategy is unfurling. Losing seats was never part of the inevitability narrative, and worse still, neither was the SDLP holding them. Hence the paranoid ravings from Sinn Féin this week that the SDLP would live in infamy for a thousand more oppressed generations, if they didn’t roll over and let Gildernew try and scoop the communal pool on her own. Very wisely, the adroit new leader of the SDLP, Margaret Ritchie, has fallen for neither the confidence trick aspect of this, nor the ham-fisted element of intimidation.

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  • John East Belfast


    We need to see everytyhing in its historical context – it doesnt make it right of course.

    However often Catholics interpret what is really unionist fear and celebration of “still being here” as bigotry and trimphalism.

    Nationalists often like to use the “croppie lie down” phrase to portray they are an oppressed people who have risen up but that is not how unionism viewed nationalists in the north. Maybe it is something to do with how Catholics felt they were viewed by the English.

    Northern unionists may have viewed Catholics with suspicion – even considering them as enemies but I never met any who thought they were “second class citisens” or “inferior” – that is catholic myth.

    Unionism governed and acted the way it did to survive as a people on this island in the face of unrelenting efforts to have it removed.

    I think at Partition many who who opposed Home Rule did so out of fear of the Catholic Church and their assimilation into a Catholic, Gaelic Irish Culture that was alien to them. Essentially they saw them signing their own death warrant as a people.
    The working out of the Protestant and unionist community in the 26 counties has borne that out.

    Twentieth Century unionism in Govt carried on that policy – Brooke’s Protestant Parliament for A Protestant People must be seen in the context of being on an island where the neighbouring state had declared a Catholic Constitution for a Catholic Nation.

    There was historical and current context – the northern state did not exist in a vacuum.

    I have always thought that if nationalism was protestant or unionists were of a different skin colour you may have had a united Ireland long ago – as the culture and longetivity of the planters would have been visibly assimilated and maintained within any new Ireland.
    Of course if nationalism had been Protestant then there wouldnt have been any great Irish Separatist movement anyway and the UK would have long had several Irish Ministers by now.

    The meddaling of the Catholic Church on this island has a lot to answer for and in my opinion it may be the champion of Irish Separatism but it has little to offer in terms of Irish Unity.

    Unionism is about fear and survival not supremacy and triumphalism – nationalists read them all wrong.

  • John East Belfast


    Thank you for your detailed answer as to why Nationalists vote for SF in a way unionists cannot bring themselves to vote for the PUP.

    However are these not pragmatic “head answers” ?

    Do nationalists just suspend belief or something when it comes to the association between SF and PIRA ? Do they really believe Gerry Adams when he says he has never been a member of the IRA ?

    Or is that just not important to them ?

    If my only choice was between the PUP and the SDLP in all honesty I would exercize my vote for the SDLP because I think it would be the right thing to do.

  • socaire

    John, this is a very complicated subject (why people vote provo) and may need a psy-historian to properly explain. But at the heart of the nationalist community there are people who have been opposing English invasion and land theft for maybe 800 years in every generation father-son-grandson. It has developed in our psyche that this struggle and those carrying it out are the nearest thing to a state/government that we have. This lingers longest in the North for obvious reasons and allows us to view the unionist murder gangs as just that. They are unnecessary with a well equipped, well motivated State apparatus already in place to do that job of keeping Taig in check. From our perspective to label the anti English movement as wrong and not deserving of votes is invalid. Hope you see this and hope it helps?

  • John East Belfast


    I am afraid it doesnt and I dont buy the “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” etc.

    NI was a internationally recognised as a legal part of the United Kingdom and despite their illegitimate claim that was the view of the Dublin Govt as well.

    Those carrying out “stuggle” in the latter part of the 20th Century were guilty of murder and criminality.

    There was then and there is now constitutional alternative.

    We cant have everyone in the world with a grievance within recognised and legal borders taking up arms to advance political aims on issues that everyone else has moved on.

  • Lionel Hutz

    John East Belfast,

    “I am afraid it doesnt and I dont buy the “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” etc.”

    If you don’t get that then you will never understand. Look at the middle east. The Israeli forces terrorise the Palestinians, squeeze their resources and hide behind sovereign and legitimate state nonsense. They are serial human abusers and have broken more UN conventions than any other state. In that atmosphere, Hamas, despite their appalling tactics are one mans freedom figter and another mans terrorist. Many Catholics see the the IRA that way.

    I don’t, by the way.

  • Brian MacAodh

    At each step of the way from the start of the the Civil Rights campaign to bloody sunday the Unionist/British government played right into the IRA’s hands. To those in the working class areas of the Catholic communities more and more it seemed that the Republican narrative of the 6 counties made sense.

    If the most reactionary elements in the Unionist elite, and their ignorant supporters, hadn’t fought against full Civil Rights with everyhting they had there would have been no troubles. gerry adams would still be a barmen with no helicopter.

  • Brian MacAodh


    Just curious as to your opinion…if Ulster hadn’t rebelled against Home Rule do you think Ireland would be better off today?

  • Alan N/Ards


    Here is a section of a report Erskine Childers did for lemass in 1961

    “Discrimanation is decreasing, although it still exsists. We hear of the local authories who show discrimanation in the allocation of houses, but there are quite a number who are not guilty of this practise, about who we hear nothing. Some of the new English and American industries permit no discrimanation whatsoever; in some cases they have been suborned by local pressure. In the case of the older industries, a few are absolutely fair and square in their attitude. Others employ numbers according to the population in the district to make sure no catholic men become foremen. In fairness to managements in some industries, it would be the men themselves who would create the trouble and who exercise pressure through the shop stewards regardless what ther managers think.”

    “Ireland since 1939” by Henry Patterson.

  • socaire

    JEB and Alan, I refer back to post 8 on page three. Why did the whole thing blow up?

  • Alias

    It is Shinner revisionism that the Provos’ campaign had the purpose of asserting civil rights rather than national rights.

    The reason they no longer mention national rights is because the Catholic tribe traded them for a cessation of the campaign and some guarantees about equal civic rights between the non-sovereign nation and the sovereign British nation within the legitimised British state.

    The Catholic tribe is unlikely to have been led to formally renounce its former right to national self-determination and to accept the legitimacy of its status as a non-sovereign nation within a legitimised British state without the activity of the state-sponsored murder gangs, with those murder gangs serving to create the conditions wherein said tribe would gladly give up its national rights and its claim to British sovereign territory for an end to the troubles that resulted from a state-sponsored murder gang asserting the former rights and making the former claim.

    The Catholics view the camapign as a success because they believe that it delivered them equal rights as British citizens, and they no longer support such camapigns because they also beleive that they’ve gotten all the benefits they’re going to get from them, with any further campaigns being counterproductive to their selfish interests

  • John East Belfast


    “if Ulster hadn’t rebelled against Home Rule do you think Ireland would be better off”

    I think two to three generations of 26 county Irish didnt reach their full potential unless they emigrated. Then when the Celtic Tiger did arrive the social and political environment was ill equipped to cope with the new wealth and we have the hangover now.

    In other words the economic success of Irish Independence has been about a 20 year phenomenon out of 90 years. And there is probably a lot more short to medium term pain to come before things get better.

    Throw in the deference to the Catholic Church, golden circles and the inherent corruption of senior politicians – including a still revered Taisoch – I dont think the record of Irish independence is anything to be proud off.

    Would things have been better if the 26 counties had been 32 – possibly marginally – the already existant NI Industrial sector and a different Dail culture brought about by northern protestants then I assume that could only have been for the good.

    However any gain to the 26 counties would have been at the expense of NI and the whole would have been less beneficial to NI than NI as an integral part of the UK.

    The question that should also be asked is would the UK of GB & Ireland have been better off for the vast majority of the period 1921 to 2000 and I believe the answer is most definitely yes. Ireland would have been at least as good as Scotland and Wales and the UK would have had senior Irish politicians by now – maybe even a UK Prime Minister.

    My unionism is simply based around my belief that we have more in common on these islands than that which divides us and for many reasons we are better off hanging together than being apart.

    I dont do small nations in the 21st Century world – certainly ones that want to be part of the EU and give up sovereignty to other larger nations with which they have less in common. The most logical model for the 26 counties was within a UK context.

    Irish Nationalism is mostly founded on anti English prejudice for actual and perceived past wrongs.

    I have no desire to be part of a small state on the Western edge of Europe and closing the door on its most natural partner and neighbour.

    Therefore in summary Ireland would have been better but the Northern Irish would have paid the price and without Home Rule at all the entire island would have been substantially better off.

  • John East Belfast


    Are you saying that the only people with a right to determining the national identity of Ireland are the “catholic tribe” as you call it ?

  • Munsterview


    ‘’….The Catholics view the camapign as a success because they believe that it delivered them equal rights as British citizens, and they no longer support such camapigns because they also beleive that they’ve gotten all the benefits they’re going to get from them, with any further campaigns being counterproductive to their selfish interests…..”

    There very well may be such Catholics but like the ‘Catholic Unionists’ so often referred to in slugger, I have yet to meet any. ( When I do they will probably be leading a unicorn having come from the same mythical land)

    I went up there and helped sell the peace process for a number of reasons, foremost among them was that the Nationalist/Republican cause could be advanced using the democratic process. Neither I or others expected a level playing field to do so, and just as well! War is politics carried on by another means and sooner or later war has stop and politics restart.

    This has been a fact of life for the Brits in the South, the U.S. in Vietnam, for the French in Algeria etc, as it will be for the current Middle East wars including the Palestine Freedom Struggle. I have seen far too many lives devastated by the Northern Conflict and the effect the Low Intensity Warfare ( as the Brit Senior Army Officers on lecture circuit with their North American and Nato Officer colleagues refer to it) had on whole communities.

    That last vicious kick to the nationalist community locked down for the weekend by Molan so the Orange Order could have one last trample over their neighbors was straight out of the Jews and the Warsaw ghetto!. That scene carried live on t.v. also gave the last big influx into the I.R.A. and this segment were in no mood to talk peace. The younger element of Armed Republicans still involved a military campaign did not just come out of nowhere and there are very good reasons for their support base.

    Many of these reasons have not gone away you know!

    Whatever chance Unionists had in placating Catholics/Nationalists with a Civil rights half-way house, it was well and truly blown by the never ending list of Unionist demands, intransigence and obstacle course building on the way to inevitable power sharing. As I have written before by the time it eventually happened whatever goodwill existed on the Catholic/ Nationalists side had long been drained dry.

    Every since power sharing there are constant unpleasant reminders that the Orange leopard has not changed his spots. Every time Sammy Wilson denigrates the Irish Language he is not just only thumbing his nose at Republicans he is doing likewise to almost all Catholics/Nationalists irrespective of how much they practice or participate in the culture per se, it is part of their heritage.

    Silence is toleration and those who do not speak out against these antics are seen to be onside with him. From what I have seen of Stormount on debates on this and related matters, Sammy is by no means a lone voice.

    Republicans whether in Power Sharing or opposed to, it have not forgotten. The Unionist got opportunity after opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. Those days are past. And some on the Unionist side are surprised that despite all the negative publicity why Gerry Adam’s community will still vote for him, possibly in even greater numbers than before. I am from the heart of Munster, not Ulster and even I can answer that!.

    There is one stark difference between Republican and Unionist politics regarding the Peace Process, we prepared the ground and brought the majority of our community North and South with us for peaceful politics: the majority of Unionists cannot still believe that the ground has irrevocably shifted and moved from beneath them!.

    That particular penny has still apparently to drop, when it do we may have real politics in The Six Counties and a proper of collation Working Class of interests to co-operate in cleaning up the poverty in the Falls and Shankill alike, the stuff of real politics for people in most need. ( john East B. considered response coming up, you merit that, a few things to do first)