Unionist Unity is not a Sectarian proposition…

We republish this platform piece from Friday’s News Letter with kind permission of the author. It argues that there is an assumption that sectarianism only happens when unionists are involved. Nationalist involvement attacks against Protestant or unionist buildings tend to be discounted. Along with this, it argues there is a rather lazy assumption that unionists should simply give up everything they have without a fight: “Devolution does not mean giving nationalists a free run to take unionist constituencies”.From ‘Ulster Unionist member in South Belfast’

Liam Clarke in his column suggests Alasdair McDonnell is no threat to the Union (News Letter 13 April) and instead says that the Sandy Row Orange Order’s failure to condemn an Orangeman in England standing for the BNP makes them hypocrites for seeking to thwart the SDLP candidate’s re-election.

This is a straw man argument as the issue for the south Belfast Orange Order is who represents unionists in the South Belfast constituency. Currently we have a semi-abstentionist, double jobbing MP who was elected on a minority vote because Unionists had rival candidates in 2005.

Mr McDonnell’s response, despite him saying he has worked with the Orange Order, is typically abrasive and, as before, he tars his opponents with the ‘S’ word: “If their hostility is simply because I’m a Catholic then it seems to be little more than naked sectarianism.”

However you don’t have to be in the Orange Order to be concerned about nationalist triumphalism in South Belfast. You only need to go to the Holy Land area on St Patrick’s Day to see an unpleasant future. Or read that nationalist students stoned the City Church either in a sectarian or anti-immigrant response to the Roma issue.

That there have been 70 sectarian attacks on Orange halls in Northern Ireland in the last year is another telling fact.

Similarly Gerry Adams in calling for an agreed nationalist candidate in South Belfast says “That’s what we’ve been getting on the doorsteps ‘why don’t you guys get your act in order and try and ensure the Orange Order doesn’t end up choosing who’s going to be the MP’”.

Liam Clarke also argues that the “Border can only be removed” if a referendum so agrees” and that the current Stormont arrangements have stabilised Northern Ireland by “allowing nationalists a place in the sun.”
This may be so but we are in a “peace process,” a phrase coined by Sinn Fein to indicate unceasing political activity leading to Irish unity (after a 30-year war). And some continue the war. Devolution does not mean giving nationalists a free run to take unionist constituencies.

For the “peace process” reason, every election in Northern Ireland can only be a referendum on the border. The loss by Unionism of any and every seat is marked down as a step towards unity. Remember it was Eddie McGrady MP who said on his victory in South Down that the border had come to Belfast.

A victory for Unionism by means of a single candidate in South Belfast is not “a sectarian approach” Rather it would provide a psychological boost to those who want stabilisation of the Union and a non-sectarian city.

  • dundonald voter

    mick they can dress it up whatever way they like its plain utter secterianism.

  • Henry94

    I think the charge of sectarianism only has any standing when it is directed at the community the person making the charge comes from. Calling the other side sectarian always sounds silly.

    I certainly don’t see anything sectarian about like minded parties coming together to win seats.

    Of course I want to hold FST and SB but if unionists have the votes make a deal and take the seat then I don’t see any problem with that.

    Likewise if the SDLP nationalists in FST thwart unionist plans by voting tactically for Michelle Gildernew then I would expect unionists to take that disappointment on the chin.

    Elections are supposed to be tough and fun. If anybody ran on a sectarian Protestant or Catholic platform they would be laughed off the stage in every constituency in the north. That is progress.

  • Sam Semple

    More paranoid clap trap.

    I actually think “unionist voters” (coded language for something else surely?) deserve to have a choice.

    Um, isn’t that what elections are supposed to be about?

    This dead duck is well and truly dead.

  • Henry94

    Sam

    But Unionism is a political position. You wouldn’t run two Labour candidates in an English constituency to give Labour voters a choice. You’d be a afraid of ending up with a Tory and nobody would call you sectarian for it.

  • Keithbelfast

    “Or read that nationalist students stoned the City Church either in a sectarian or anti-immigrant response to the Roma issue.”

    where did he pull this one from?

  • abucs

    I guess this points to the inadequacies of the First past the Post System.

    In the Single Transferable Vote system parties routinely organise 2nd and 3rd votes etc.

    If 2 or more parties can agree to support one party in a FPTP system then that’s much the same thing in my book. In fact, it makes good sense.

  • ding dong

    Sadly the type of unity that the DUP is looking has little to do with unionism, in fact increasingly the DUP are appearing less and less unionist and more and more ulster nationalist, thier yet to be analysed manifesto could and maybe has been written in a scottish flavour by the SNP.

    A simple question for the current campaigners for unionist unity, would they support catholic unionist candidate for Sth Belfast, would the Orange Order etc in Sandy Row campaign for such a candidate. If the Answer is yes then its not a sectarian issue if the answer is no then its equally clear.

  • dundonald voter

    But Unionism is a political position. You wouldn’t run two Labour candidates in an English constituency to give Labour voters a choice. You’d be a afraid of ending up with a Tory and nobody would call you sectarian for it.

    Posted by Henry94 on Apr 19, 2010 @ 04:07 PM
    the problem is henry the dup have split the unionist vote since its inception. they are now frightened stiff the sinn fein will become the largest party and its all down to them that martin has a chance of becomming first minister because they changed the goalposts and made the largest party the condition for first minister. they tried to blackmail the unionist voters into voting for them but its on their head and willo come back to haunt them

  • Neil

    But Unionism is a political position.

    Agreed.

    You wouldn’t run two Labour candidates in an English constituency to give Labour voters a choice.

    No, you’d likely end up with one labour candidate and one Tory candidate, both of whom would be Unionists. You’re not comparing like with like there. Basically no-one would consider running two candidates from one party as you rightly say, but the DUP and UCUNF are not one party.

    The ‘sectarian’ tag comes in when the discussion turns to a sectarian headcount. That would be when through the organisation of candidates the electorate manipulated in such a way that nearly all Protestants vote for one candidate and nearly all Catholics vote for the other. Sectarian meaning of or from a sect.

    You only need to go to the Holy Land area on St Patrick’s Day to see an unpleasant future. Or read that nationalist students stoned the City Church either in a sectarian or anti-immigrant response to the Roma issue.

    I know, the cheek of they fenians wearing Celtic tops and flying their flag. Unionists would never do anything like that, you wouldn’t see one with a flag. Well known for their non-triumphalist ways the old Unionists.

    And pardon my ignorance but the Roma issue was largely down to the good citizens of the Village, was it not? Even if the church incident was not a ‘village’ person, there have been fairly well publicised events that suggest there is a bit of stone throwing in a glass house going on right there.

    That there have been 70 sectarian attacks on Orange halls in Northern Ireland in the last year is another telling fact.

    Which is disgraceful and counterproductive. A stance I believe the SDLP and even SF have taken publicly.

    Devolution does not mean giving nationalists a free run to take unionist constituencies.

    No-one is suggesting it does. What is being suggested is that the agreed Unionist unity candidates are possibly going to lead to agreed Republican candidates, which in essence means we can reprint the election dockets with two boxes: one for Catholic, one for Protestant. This is being described as sectarian as it encourages voters to vote along with the rest of the people in their sect (of Christianity).

    For the “peace process” reason, every election in Northern Ireland can only be a referendum on the border. The loss by Unionism of any and every seat is marked down as a step towards unity.

    This is interesting too. Another little bit of paranoia. In the event of a border referendum whether Unionists miss the cut in a few constituencies in a Westminster election won’t matter at all, as it’ll be the combined vote for and against over the whole of NI that will matter. Losing a seat won’t make any difference whatsoever.

    A victory for Unionism by means of a single candidate in South Belfast is not “a sectarian approach” Rather it would provide a psychological boost to those who want stabilisation of the Union and a non-sectarian city.

    So in essence Unionism, through the removal of choice and through encouraging all Protestants to vote for one candidate is non-sectarian, however any non-Unionist vote is inherently sectarian, ergo, all Nationalist voters are sectarian by their very nature. LOL excellent.

  • Harry J

    nothign more sectarian about this that labour and libs tactically voting to keep out the tories.

  • Mack

    I think the author completely misses the point.

    UCUNF started with many cheerleaders claiming that there were large numbers of small ‘n’ Convervative nationalists who favoured the union over a united Ireland who would vote for them. Commited Unionists can convince themselves that Unionist unity isn’t sectarian if they like, that won’t change how small ‘n’ nationalists interpret it.

    They’ve mugged themselves on their own terms. Or maybe they were never serious?

  • dundonald voter

    glad to see you back harry j your party is a wee secterian party

  • ding dong

    Harry look at the pathetic document released today that your crowd call a manifesto.

    Why should anyone join with you on the basis of such a vacuous pretence of being a political party? Why would anyone want to return your crowd to Westminster unless it was for a sectarian reason? there are no policies to vote, for just whimsical wishes and some of these are daft!

    You people are an embarrassment –

  • dundonald voter

    when did the dup ever call for unionist unity harry? ONLY SINCE THE WEE SIDE DEAL FROM ST ANDREWS were it was made possible by the dupers to change the condition for first minister comes from the largest party. good deal punt. so when sinn fein have the first minister on your head be it punt. now the call for unity is down to their heads

  • dundonald voter

    they split unionism from the start. heres one harry if the dup are so concerned about electing a unionist candidate in south belfast why do they not simply stand aside? its never been a duped seat. dup want unionist unity so its preserves their interests. sorry harry dosnt work like that

  • Alias

    Creative ambiguity in the definition of sectarianism. If it applies to nations then all nations are sectarian by default since all of them further their own interests as a group over and above the interests of other nations. That is why states exist. It is therefore “sectarian” to compete with other nations for FDI since this discriminates against those nations and it is also “sectarian” to demand that taxes are spent to further the interests of the nation and are not spent to further the interests of other nations. Clearly then it is rather silly to extend the definition of “sectarianism” to nations.

    States exist to further the interests of the sovereign nation – and the Irish nation in the British state of Northern Ireland is not sovereign, so the British state only properly exists to further the interests of the British nation. Despite the waffle about a “shared future” between two nations within the British state that is simply not possible when one of those nations falls outside of the banner of the British nation. What they have is a shared civic future in the administration of specified devolved powers of the state but that is a very different animal.

    The purpose of using the word sectarian in this inappropriate context is to create the impression that it is a bad thing for nations to pursue their national interest. That is sectarianism within this definition since the default constitutional position is one where the British nation is sovereign and the Irish nation is not, and the tactic is aimed at discouraging any attempt to change that position. If the Irish nation can continue to be tricked into thinking that it is sectarian to pursue its national rights then the status quo will remain one where the British nation retains its national rights and Irish nation in NI continues as a non-sovereign nation devoid of its national rights.

    Of course, the only way to equalise the position so that both nations have equal national rights is for both nations to renounce their national rights and to run a non-British state as two non-sovereign nations sharing one state – and good luck with that.

    The reality is that the Irish nation in NI renounced its national rights in return for civil rights and a shared civic future as a non-sovereign nation within the British state. As always, however, the eaten bread is soon forgotten and that nation wants more of it, with the British nation left wondering if it made compromises for no good reason, i.e. no shared future within the British state after all. Well, it didn’t, but it will seem that way until the non-sovereign nation settles down to life as happy, well-fed British citizens. Give them another 20 years and they’ll be waving their little flags at King William when he pays a visit to that part of his kingdom.

  • dundonald voter

    nobody will take lectures from the duped party about unity

  • I always thought it odd that the SDLP are happy enough for unionists to vote for them in South Down or Foyle to keep out the shinners, but if they elected a unionist to keep out Sinn Fein then that’s sectarian.

    Similarly, plenty of Shinners queue up to denounce the FST situation as sectarian when they wanted a similar nationalist pact to keep out the prods.

  • Dec1

    Unionist Unity is not a Sectarian proposition…

    No, but conjuring up images of drunken, looting nationalist hordes unless a ‘Unionist’ is elected, is.

  • dundonald voter

    by the way harry every one caught on to stalford wee game with the sandy row orangemen. there was stalford interviewing the leading lights and then denying he had anything to do with the statement from sandy row orangemen. and using a leading orangeman from sany row who moved out of south belfast nearly 20 years ago!! oh its getting like the model fiasco isnt it.

  • dundonald voter

    That all the main paramilitaries groups would have given up weapons and ceased their activities. this is the punts claim on the dup manifesto. wee reminder punt the ira decommisioned 60% of its arsenal keeping 40% for its own retention. more spin from the dupes trying to dupe the public

  • dundonald voter

    No one would have predicted that the Democratic Unionist Party , or any local party, could be unveiling a Westminster manifesto emphasising, not the inadequacies of Direct Rule, street protests or the need for more troops; but instead about creating jobs, a better health service, improving standards in education and tackling anti-social behaviour.

    more dupe manifesto. is the punt serious???
    but instead about creating jobs, has the punt not heard about all the job losses in east belfast? has he not heard how bad shorts did last year

  • dundonald voter

    a better health service, punt have you not heard from your own minister (sammy wilson) that next year there will be 100 million less for the health service??? so how can you improve health care when theres 100 million less????

  • dundonald voter

    improving standards in education my God does this need explaining???

    is the punt serious??? is he on drugs???

  • dundonald voter

    No one would have predicted that the Democratic Unionist Party , or any local party, could be unveiling a Westminster manifesto emphasising, not the inadequacies of Direct Rule, street protests or the need for more troops;

    give this one time punt as the dissedents are making a wee noise.

  • dundonald voter

    just listening to the radio and the talk about north belfast and nationalists and republicans being inyterviewed and expressley refering to the wee pact in fst. they are planning to vote tactically to try and ensure their voice will be heard. the wee pact in fst could come back to haunt them

  • Lionel Hutz

    That article is hillarious:

    The contradiction is clear form the second paragraph.

    “This is a straw man argument as the issue for the south Belfast Orange Order is who represents unionists in the South Belfast constituency”

    Therefore, all they are interested in is who represents Unionists, no-one else. It is therefore inherently sectarian.

    The scare tactics regarding nationalists taking over the Holylands are hillarious. Firstly, I was in university before SDLP held the seat and it was much worse then. The attck on that church was not considered to have anything to do with the Roma, and in fact the difficulties happened in the loyalist village. Fantastic article… really.

    When you have a candidate who is tobe put forward on the basis of his relationship to one tribe, it is a inherently sectarian arrangment. Labour and Tories are divided on more than one issue and it isn’t their nationality. Both Nationalist and Unionist candidates should go door-to-door on who is best at representing everyone. UUP,DUP and SF canvass on the basis of who is best at preventing the other tribe getting the seat. All three are inherently sectarian in doing so.

    Atleast SDLP and Alliance have tried to move beyond this and I thank God SDLP didn’t give in to SF demands of a similar sectarian pact in FST

  • Re-engaged

    Wow – followed Slugger for some time now and decided to eventually post

    Dundonald Voter – serious issue you should get addressed there – a bit to angry in your responses even if Harry J persists in his unfettered love for the DUP

    Yes east belfast has its problems but name a part of NI doing well – if Shorts addressed their complete cave in to the unions which guaranteed jobs for no work and over pay (they have a Mexican plant creaming the work out at 30% less now than it was done in Belfast!!!), our problem is not Unionist unity lack off, recent conversion to it or GFA / StAA but a complete failure to address wealth creation and opportunity in our wee country – if you want to call that ulster nationalism so be it but it is no different in Cornwall, Lancs, Wales or Scotland – doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the union or whatever it is these days.

    Addressing the original thread though – perception and subjectivity are clouding to many peoples judgement, post 9 neil – wrong – UKIP are not standing in areas where anti-EU MP’s are seeking re-election – is that not putting a cause ahead of party gain?

    SB however has not been unrepresented like FST and therefore the query must be what is the advantage there? surely if some of the arguments were followed through only one unionist candidate would be standing in Newry and Armagh and Mid-Ulster. Or does unionist unity only count if you can win a seat? This is the real question whether it is sectarian is never going to be answered to everyones approval

  • dundonald voter

    On the economy, the DUP backs reducing VAT on construction work to 5% and lowering corporation tax. However did anyone consult the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson about this? The DUP manifesto says “We have a particularly strong case in Northern Ireland for a reduction in corporation tax. Northern Ireland suffers from having a land border with another EU state and a step change is needed in the province’s economy. Any reduction in corporation tax for Northern Ireland should not be on the basis of a compensating reduction from elsewhere or the Northern Ireland block grant. ”

    However a Stormont written answer published today from Sammy Wilson on a recent Economic Reform Group report advocating such a measure argues the Group’s understanding is flawed and the Finance Minister “would advise against engaging further with HM Treasury on this issue at this point in time.” Maybe Sammy will argue there’s no direct contradiction because the DUP manifesto is calling for no cut to the local budget.
    so there you have it folks the left hand of the dupes dosnt know what the right hands doing its official!!!

  • dundonald voter

    SB however has not been unrepresented like FST and therefore the query must be what is the advantage there? surely if some of the arguments were followed through only one unionist candidate would be standing in Newry and Armagh and Mid-Ulster. Or does unionist unity only count if you can win a seat? This is the real question whether it is sectarian is never going to be answered to everyones approval

    Posted by Re-engaged on Apr 19, 2010 @ 06:19 PM
    good post good questions. but i feel you may have answered your own questions about secterian politics

  • dundonald voter

    were theres no chance of the seat being won theres no call for unity. the reason they want unity in fst is because the mp dosnt go to westminister. the one in sb does. they want rid of nationalists republicans no matter what. the question is. alister mcdonnell is he a good mp?? if he is then the unity thing is really about secterianism, to keep a good man out and try to put jimmy spratt in. i used to live in south belfast and have family still there and they tell me that paula bradshaw does a lot of good wotk around the village area and finaghy areas. they dont even know of spratt

  • Fabianus

    As a matter of interest, how do we know that those 70 attacks on Orange halls were sectarian?

  • The attck on that church was not considered to have anything to do with the Roma, and in fact the difficulties happened in the loyalist village.

    Lionel Hutz,

    This was the attack he was referring to, I presume:

    http://tinyurl.com/ykaprav

    Why the two scumbags picked on that particuliar place of worship is up for debate, but the motives of racism and/or sectarianism, as well as good old yobbery surely can’t be discounted?

    Re the article, interesting to see the pressure ratched up over the last few days as the last nomination-date approaches not by the Dupes but with both this article and Montgomery’s piece in the Tele tonight.

    The premise on which the Conservatives and Unionists arrangement was based has suffered a still possibly fatal setback after FST, an agreed candidate in SB would mean it’s officially well and truly dead. For the advocates of “Unionist Unity” in both the DUP and the UUP that’s the true target here, not the defeat of a non-abstentionist, constitutional nationalist.

  • South Belfast Opinion

    Questions for the DUP and Christopher Stalford in particular….

    South Belfast DUP chairman, who has been rattled after a Senior South Belfast Orangeman has spoken out against the use and abuse of the Orange Order, said that he had no role in the letter and then he praised the four Sany Row men for putting their name to it! No role in the letter, Christopher???

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Orangeman-breaks-ranks-on-unity.6233697.jp

    Now have a look at Stalford’s DUP video on you tube. Who is in the middle of it? Ask yourself do you think the ordinary Sandy Row men are behind the open letter? contacting Mark Devenport? contacting the Newsletter? Or do you think it may have been someone else in the video?

    The DUP have been found out!

  • Lionel Hutz

    Oneill,

    As I understnad it, that is the attack that was mentioned. It occured during the time the Roma were sent packing out of the Village.

    Whether its racially motivated or not, it does seem a bit imbalanced to use it as an attack on Nationalists when the whole crisis was caused by Loyalist mobs

  • wild turkey

    on the evidence above ‘Ulster Unionist member in South Belfast’ has a brilliant future doing analysis for Fox News. I mean really…

    ‘McDonnell’s response, despite him saying he has worked with the Orange Order, is typically abrasive’

    unlike the reasoned and empathetic approach practised by th OO over the years.

  • cut the bull

    the Orange Order which claims to be a church grounded and bible based institution has claimed on several occasions that it is non political.

    Its call for a single candidate in south belfast shows that the OO is in fact a political organisation.

    I have no problem with the OO being involved in politics, but I think as an institution its leaders should grow a pair and stand in elections and reform the Order as political party.

    Time for the OO to stop hiding behind the the bible covers and join the elections by fielding cancandidates on an Orange Order party ticket

  • cut the bull

    Getting a name that will not make the party sound stupid could prove problematic. Imagine

    Orange Order Party OOP’s or the Protestant Orange Order Party POOP’s.

    Just as well Reg and the team at UUP head quarters didn’t settle on the title United Conservative Unionist National Team, that would have been funny, vote for Reg Empey,followed by the party initials.

  • Stephen Blacker

    The problem in this country is that no matter what area you are in everyone has a bit of bigotry. There is really very little between the parties except United Ireland or stay in the Union. Catholic voters in SB will not vote for a unionist because of the pact chat, a case of, “those orange bastards are not going to get this seat” All the OO have achieved is to copper fastened my prediction.

    I dont believe there should be any pact by the Unionist family in SB, they should just change their message and make themselves more appealing. In FST it is very important that there is an attempt to get SF out of that seat because the Unionist and Nationalist people of that area have had no voice at Westminster for 9 years now.

  • aquifer

    Unionists need exactly to let catholics and cultural nationalists be at home in the UK.

    Unionists lack confidence and ambition. With the separatist republic looking a bit sad and silly, the time to be big and inclusive is now.

    If they don’t want to end up a sad sectarian declining rump Unionists should stop painting themselves into a red white and blue corner and offer voters choice.

    The Disaster for the Union Party or Ulster Under Conservatives Now Foundering. Everyone can then choose Alastair to stick Sinn Fein in the eye.

  • John East Belfast

    If the UCUNF and the DUP merged into one permanent Unionist party and stood for elections against two nationalist parties would that be sectarian ?

    Of course not and neither is two unionist parteis agreeing to ensure that 75% of the electorate does not get disenfranchised from Westminster by a minority republican party with a history of trying to bring the constituency to its knees.

    How unionism arranges itself is its business and calls of sectarianism is intellectually lazy and not worthy of comment

  • SDLP Man

    As a matter of public record, the guy who wrote this ludicrous article should be aware that in 1987 it was the Orange Order, not Eddie McGrady, which said that if McGrady won (which he did) the border would move from Carlingford Lough to Strangford Lough.

  • seandubh

    When Sinn Fein are the largest party then you will see sectarism,at its worst,have no fear its not far off.Then the unionist will unite,they wanted politics but on thier terms.We all want peac.Ina civilised arena I would vote unionist if it was for the best.They have yet to prove themselves as all inclusive to all of Ireland.

  • USA

    A UUP guy wrote that piece, Christ they are a mess.
    The first part of his contribution to verbal diarrhea does not even make sense. Suffice to say it’s no surprise that a member of the sectarian Orange Order should stand as a representative of the racist BNP. Birds of a feather and all that.

    He then goes on to infer that McDonnell is somehow unqualified because he was elected on a “minority vote”. Well, Jesus H Christ, it’s called First Past the Post, it’s an electoral system preferred by the British parliament. I would think approx 50% of British MP’s are elected by minority vote – what’s his point?

    “However you don’t have to be in the Orange Order to be concerned about nationalist triumphalism in South Belfast”.
    Really? It’s south Belfast FFS, the average house price is probably the highest in the North. What are the Catholics doing? Rubbing the Orange noses in champagne and caviar?
    And then as an example of this Nationalist aggression he points to a bunch of drunk students celebrating St. Patrick’s day. That’s right, things have gotten so bad in South Belfast they even have their own University.
    Christ this guy is a knob of the highest order. Absolute sectarian drivel.

    “That there have been 70 sectarian attacks on Orange halls in Northern Ireland in the last year is another telling fact.” Tells us what exactly? That sectarianism like yours is rife in society? I guess no Catholic churches were attacked, no GAA halls burned, no Catholics beaten to death in places like Coleraine, Ballymena and Portadown (to name a few), no sectarian marches through Catholic villages? Eh? Eh? Knob head!

    The UNCUF talked about offering a new path, a way out of the past. Drunk on the sound of their own voices they even talked about Catholic candidates. Whow! Think of that, in the 21st century the UUP would actually consider a Catholic candidate, aren’t they fucking wonderful!
    No, they couldn’t even do that. Just the same old sectarian headcount.
    At least the SDLP girl has balls, more than can be said for the sterile prick who wrote that article.