“Ulster Unionists have never been adept at gauging the public mood…”

An English friend who knows more than the average Englishman about Northern Irish politics asked me in all seriousness, just a few days before the last election, whether the UUP was now anti Agreement. Well, I explained, not exactly and yet it  looked that way if you were taking seriously anything Reg said (which was not a lot) on politics in the run up to the election.  Davy Adams goes a little further than my English friend (or I would) in today’s Irish Times:

Faced with a DUP that was administering the Belfast Agreement with gusto and aplomb and pushing the political process ever forward, Sir Reg and his party were at a loss how to react. If some of those aforementioned “bright young things” had still been around, doubtless they would have pointed out to the UUP leadership that attacking the DUP for becoming what they had previously attacked them for not being would serve only to confuse the electorate.

But they weren’t around, and neither, it seems, was anyone else to offer sound advice – or at least no one who was being listened to. Acting purely on instinct, the UUP settled for spending its time being awkward and sniping at the DUP.

This not only came across as petty and spiteful, but pushed the party further to the right in the public mind. This was hardly the place to be, when the vast bulk of the unionist community had already settled on the middle ground, or was well on its way to that location.

Whatever, as Chekov notes, it might be better to choose a new leader (and thus direction) before choosing the candidates for the next Assembly/council elections…

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  • Bulmer

    It worked in the past. Always go to the right, break out the lambeg drum, accuse the others of selling Ulster out. Problem is that Reg was no Big Ian. In fact he’s the archetypical dead sheep when it comes to savaging anyone.Plus nobody really believed or had time for the lurch right. The nuts in TUV had already covered that position.

    I look forward to the UU demise. It no longer has a role, partly because the Ulster it created has died a long time ago.

  • Greenflag

    ‘“Ulster Unionists have never been adept at gauging the public (unionist ) mood…”

    Full marks for the obvious above

    Alas they’ve been even less adept at gauging the mood of the Irish nationalist /republican communities who make up almost half the population of NI .

    Any new leader will be between a rock and the proverbial hard place . Best for the party lleadership to head for the nearest precipice with any remaining shreds of integrity and honour and commit hari kari and advice their members to find political homes elsewhere in the NI political zoo .

  • Driftwood

    Greenflag
    There is a distinct lack of zeal for any form of real politics in NI now that it has morphed in to an offshore Wales. The Westminster MP’s have de facto become a coalition of the spongers, seeking only to keep the drip from the English taxpayer going. The Stormont gravy train puffs along without actually doing anything. A sandpit assembly.

    They made a desert and called it peace.

    At least there’s the World Cup to look forward to before the drip from England starts to be pulled.

  • slug

    Not so sure that there was a great mood in favour of devolution of P&J.

  • joeCanuck

    Maybe, but my impression from afar and talking to folks over there was that there was a general ennui with the whole thing. People just wanted the politicos to “get on with it”.

  • Liberal Unionist

    The UUP had very real concerns about devolving P&J and were not as you put it “awkward and sniping at the DUP.”
    The problems are that the party felt that the Executive is so dysfunctional that to devolve Policing and Justice at this time would be irresponsible. We must remember that this executive didn’t even meet for a year!
    If they cannot be trusted to transfter a child from primrary to secondary school, how can it be trusted to deliver a person from society to prison and back again?
    In addition we did not approve of Alliance being gerrymandered into the post of Justice minister by DUP/SF and thereby robbing the SDLP of there rightful post!
    In addition there are still very real concerns about Sinn Fein being anywhere near security issues! after all before they went all cuddley they were running spy rings in Stormont, murdering people and robbing banks! All of which would suggest that SF have no place within a million miles of Policing or Justice.

  • Greenflag

    ‘to keep the drip from the English taxpayer going.’

    I’ve been saying for a couple of years that NI was the political patient on permanent IV feed. I was not excluding the local politicians on all sides .

    ”They made a desert and called it peace’

    NI will never be short of rain so as long as the peace holds there is hope. More than that would be wishful thinking at this time .

    On the subject of the World Cup I’m unsure on which team to place my modest investment ?

    Any ideas on who will deliver the gravy ?

  • the trouble with ‘get on with it’ is it’s a classic fudge that can deliver everything to everyone and nothing to nobody at exactly the same time.

    In other words, a favourite call from the local parties here with no practical experience of real government.

  • If SF can’t be trusted to run P&J then persuade the electorate to vote for somebody else. Begging Westminster to fiddle the system instead of trying to win elections on policies is just another symptom of the failure of the existing parties to come to terms with the responsibilities of power.

  • Drumlin Rock

    and I dont think the UUP really wanted to block it, but rather were making a protest at how things are managed.

  • TheHorse

    Who was the person in charge of the alledged spy ring at stormont – a British agent, Dennis Donaldson, so we can take those accusations with a pinch of salt. Do you really believe anyone actually robbed the Northern Bank ! The same people who controlled and directed the alledged Spy ring also facilitated the collection of money from the Northern Bank, no different than the millions given to the UDA, UVF, East Antrim UDA, OIRA, IRSP.

  • I think that’s a pretty good summary.

    The only non-politicals crying out for devolved P&J were the perma-cheerleaders of The Peace Process in the media.

    Frankly was anyone even remotely bothered about seeing yer man Ford sign off the P&J docs? I don’t think anyone’s idea of sorting out Policing and Justice here was too concerned at potential football hooliganism. Republican activity, diggers making off with ATMs and continued paramilitary gangsterism maybe.

    After all the bluster from the media about P&J, you’d assume they’d have an equally burning desire to see some improvements in the above real issues.

    In reality it’s just another meaningless tick in The Peace Process box. It may as well have been the Ministry of Funny Walks. As such I expect any politicians with an ounce of sense and grit to start questioning

    Whether or not the media will catch sight of any of this outside of their bubble of synthetic progress and cheerleading is another thing. If there’s one thing more wedded than the local parties to the current stagnant politics here it’s the press.

  • Actually the system is already fiddled to ensure people are in power whether they’re responsible or not Mr Gallagher.

    It encourages people to stay within their tribe. Although I agree with you on the persuasion bit, regardless of the difficulties the system presents this idea with.

  • union mack

    outside bet – Ivory Coast. worth a fiver… be nice to see an African side win it

  • slug

    Some of the analysis by Adams and Fealty misses the public mood.

    It also assumes that one can either be proagreement or antiagreement and nothing more subtle.

    The public mood – as far as I can see – is rather hostile to the whole “shooting match” up there at Stormont.

    The log jam. The pettiness. The stasis.

    The UUP argued that its dysfunctional and needs to be fixed. There is a public mood to that effect. The UUP can and should tap into that.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Newsflash – the public mood two weeks ago showed quite clearly that it really wasn’t interested in what UCUNF were offering.

    UCUNF weren’t even able to take out Boxcar Willie, never mind Daniel O’Donaldson (and who in the name of Carson thought that the voters of Lisburn were hankering after the return of the House of Trimble?). And when it came to devaluing the Punt, the voters turned elsewhere.

    To quote Adams’s original article:

    The user-friendly, anti-sectarian, hard-working brand of unionism on offer in North Down, as exemplified by Hermon and McFarland, was supposed to be where the Ulster Unionist Party was headed anyway after the Belfast Agreement.

    What did UCUNF do with that brand of Unionism? Well, it hounded it out of the party, with sneers from so-called liberal Unionists as to how McFarland was “imbibing his opinions from Sylvia’s teet(sic)”.

    The UUP can now repent at its leisure for that piece of stupidity.

    It may take some time for the election result to sink into the consciousness of the integrationist echo chamber that makes up much of the Unionist blogosphere, but sink in it eventually must.

  • Paddy Matthews

    The UUP argued that its dysfunctional and needs to be fixed.

    Actually, on second thoughts, it’s true – the UUP is dysfunctional and needs to be fixed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The public mood – as far as I can see – is rather hostile to the whole “shooting match” up there at Stormont.

    That’s a bizarre way to interpret the recent election results clearly showing huge support for the parties strongly arguing for the ongoing development and expansion of devolution.

    The UUP argued that its dysfunctional and needs to be fixed. There is a public mood to that effect. The UUP can and should tap into that.

    The UUP tried and failed.

  • 100k voters says something’s not quite right.

    With assembly elections in the not too distant future discounting the liberal unionist bloc is a nice way of stifling legitimate political opinion. And they wonder why the turnout keeps dropping…

  • Hermon is far from a repeatable product – everything about her situation is North Down is equivalent to that of Long in East Belfast – localised issues winning the day.

    To somehow exalt Hermon’s brand of unionism (what is that exactly, because I’ve never heard her articulate it, perhaps the anti-Tory MSM here would be able to enlighten me though) above an actual manifesto that ended up being the dominant power in the government shows who really got it wrong.

    The same media who were rubbishing Cutback Cameron prior to the election where out today en masse to have a right good kissy uppy session.

    The media in NI really are a herd of particularly useless sheep when it comes down to it.

  • Johno

    Ulster Unionists have never been adept at gauging the public mood…

    Clearly they’ve been spending too long on this site then, eh?

    Finger on the pulse? My arse.

    Blogs are for nerds back in 2002.

  • Clanky

    And yet you choose to post?

    It is not that the UUP cannot gauge the public mood, it is also that they are not anywhere near as adept at manipulating it as the DUP. The brinkmanship and use of the politcs of fear that the DUP have employed over the last years have led people to believe that they are the only party who have the balls to stand up to the forces of nationalism, having created that image they are now in a position where they have the credentials to move to the centre without losing the trust of a mistrusting unionist population.

    The UUP by starting out taking the middle ground left themselves open to accusations of selling out from the DUP and lost the trust of the unionists, I don’t see how they will ever get it back even now that the DUP are implementing the same policies which the UUP were advocating 15 years ago.

    The same has happened (maybe to a lesser extent) with the 2 nationalist parties.

  • Liberal Unionist

    So it was the British Security agencies who ordered Dennis to setup a spy ring?? Silly me I thought it was the IRA godfathers who ordered him to do that!
    The fact he was a double agent allowed him to supply the security forces with the information to shut the spy ring down!
    As for the Security forces being anyway involved in the Northern Bank, total Ruplican spin. The money has been traced to countless SF activists throughout Ireland and has resulted in these criminals being sentanced accordingly.
    The PIRA has not gone away, they are still involved in organised crime on a massive scale, fuel smuggling, drugs, money laundering, protection rackets and have no place involved in P&J or government.
    What is to stop a SF minister tipping off his auld mate ‘Slab’ about a raid on his fuel smuggling racket?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Davy Adams is right: the UUP should have fought as more credible occupiers of the middle ground than the DUP. The DUP has done one thing much better than the UUP – work out the deeper values that make unionist people relate to and talk to those.

    The UUP’s attempt to sell the mainland brand of Conservative politics in NI was a mistake, but not because there’s anything wrong with ‘integrationism’ (what could be wrong with having some of the parties standing elsewhere in the UK standing in NI too?). It was a mistake because they seem to assume unionist people are innately right wing. While they have voted for a UUP in the past that took the Tory whip etc, it doesn’t necessarily follow those voters have the same values as Conservatives in Surrey.

    There are big cultural differences:
    1) being a right of centre unionist in NI is not often the kind of right the Tories embody. Even those on the socially conservative side within unionism are often egalitarian in their assumptions about how society should be structured and deeply hostile to inherited privilege. They are to the right in that they place a lot of importance on self-reliance and individual responsibility and are deeply pessimistic about the perfectability of man. But they are ill at ease with the kind of plutocracy that Tories take for granted.
    2) many people are unionist not through adherence to any kind of values of the right, but reluctantly because the continued existence of Irish nationalism necessitates it. The values of many are in the centre or left of centre. This has remained under the surface in the past, partly due to mistrust of the ‘ideological left’, born of its association in the past with Irish nationalism and also its narrow championing of the urban working class, rather than a vision for the whole of society. Fairness and social solidarity are much more important among unionists than among English Conservatives. For a guide as to how unionists would have lined up had there been no terrorist or national identity threat, look to Scotland not England – I think we’d be a mix of Labour and Lib Dem with the odd Conservative here and there.

    The DUP feels more in touch with those egalitarian and unpretentious values of the unionist mainstream. The UUP needs to abandon English Toryism if it is to have any future.

  • Greenflag

    On third thoughts the UUP has been fixed- as in neutered .
    The Tory link up may in hindsight prove to be the extinction tipping point . Got to hand it to the Tories .

    The Tories suspended the UUP controlled Stormont in 1972 and now with Conservative assistance the UUP has been removed from Westminster.

    With friends like the Tories does the UUP need enemies ?

    The Tunbridge Wells wanna bees will have to move to Tunbridge Wells if they want to elect UCUNFERS . I would however recommend a name change from the latter farcical moniker.

  • Greenflag

    mainland ulster ,

    Interesting post and comment on the ‘unionist’ political mindset .

    As I read through your listing of ‘unionist ‘ values a cold chill ran up my backbone . For a brief moment or two I began to think -no simply not possible there’s no way I could be a ‘unionist ‘ but there it was in black and white the same basic set of values I like to think I hold being trumpeted as ‘unionist ‘

    A reread of your post however pointed out the critical flaw in your post . The vast majority of Irish nationalists in Ireland -North and South are probably centre or centre left.

    I can see how being ‘marooned’ on the mainland may have distorted your vision in that respect . You are not alone . The Tories have just been made aware of the same view distortion 😉

    In essence what your saying is that ‘NI unionists ‘ are a mirror image of most Irish nationalists in terms of political values (minus of course the constitutional business) . Ironically we have seen in the election campaign attacks being made by the UCUNFers that the DUP were not real ‘unionists’ but in actual fact ‘Ulster ‘ nationalists .

    The UUP has to hope that the English Tories with their new Lib Dem coalition partners prove to be a success and provide a small window of opportunity for the UUP to climb back .

    Two very long shots there imo but theres always hope eh ?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Green Flag,
    “A reread of your post however pointed out the critical flaw in your post . The vast majority of Irish nationalists in Ireland – North and South are probably centre or centre left.”
    Not sure what the flaw is – I’d agree with you entirely there about nationalists and don’t think I implied otherwise. I was talking about unionists.

    So yes, you understood me right: I think it is quite possible that there is, at the level of values (rather than party politics) a broad consensus between the communities that is more centre / centre left than anything else, e.g. expecting a lot of public services and a fairly big public sector, instinctive empathy with the least well off, belief in social inclusivity, comfortable about the wealthier paying (a fair whack) more in tax.

    As politics becomes we hope, increasingly less about the border, there is a chance this kind of commonality can be more obvious and find political expression. But, sorry to this, but in reality that largely depends on Irish nationalists putting their border-moving ambitions on the back burner. That’s not seeking to reduce their opportunity to win any future border poll, but to take national identity out of the political equation in the meantime. It sucks the life out of everything else (and as a unionist I would say has played a big part in the the problems NI has suffered). Difficult to see a shared Northern Ireland truly happening without that shift in mindset. I’m not really expecting it though, nationalist distaste for Britishness and assumptions about historical teleology are too ingrained.

    I agree it’s been interesting that the UUP have flagged up the two competing strains within Ulster British identity, one with primacy for the Ulster aspect and one with the pan-British aspect louder in the mix – and identified themselves with the latter. And there is some broad truth there that the DUP have a ‘little Ulster’ mentality, in contrast with the UUP’s espousal of more comfortably outward-looking and pluralist civic unionism, placed within the wider British multi-cultural context. I think they are right to notice this as a point of difference, which can help craft a distinct positioning for them as a party. But they shouldn’t get too carried away with it. It’s only really a minor distinction: there isn’t a big schism within unionist identity in my view, there are different visions and atittude but a lot of common ground. Even in the UUP strain of Ulster British identity, the ‘Ulsterness’ of their British identity is central and assumed. So it may well not have found much grip with swing unionist voters. I wish it would, as I think it’s a better and more inclusive worldview, but that’s another thing ;}

    By the way Green Flag, your automotive mobile repair network isn’t a patch on the AA 🙂

  • nationalist distaste for Britishness and assumptions about historical teleology are too ingrained

    That cuts both ways, of course. But it’s nice to see people arguing about who is more broad-minded, instead of who started it. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

    The vast majority of Irish nationalists in Ireland -North and South are probably centre or centre left.

    By what measure? It’s a while since I’ve heard Fianna Fáil described as centre-left. People down here laughed heartily at Bertie when he tried to claim he was a socialist…

  • Greenflag

    mainland ulsterman ,

    ‘that largely depends on Irish nationalists putting their border-moving ambitions on the back burner. ‘

    That in fact has already happened . The overwhelming acceptance of the GFA by the nationalist communities across all of Ireland -North and South is testimony to the fact .

    ‘I’d agree with you entirely there about nationalists and don’t think I implied otherwise.

    I think most readers would have seen an ‘implication’ in your comment that all Irish nationalists are on the ideological ‘extreme ‘ left whereas most unionists occupy the centre /centre left political spectrum . Whatever about the latter the former is simply way off the mark . SF get 8% of the vote in ROI and 26% in NI which averages out at about 11% across the whole island . All other parties get 89% .

    Re your other points I don’t believe it’s realistic or even practicable at this time to take the ‘national identity’ issue out of the political equation . Perhaps a generation or half a generation hence when many of the old guard in both tribes will have moved on . I agree with you that the ‘issue’ sucks the life out of everything else . But that’s politics in NI since the State’s establishment and it’s likely to remain so until it’s disestablishment or ‘reformation’ .

    ‘ Difficult to see a shared Northern Ireland truly happening without that shift in mindset. ‘

    Agree .One can only hope that by some ghost in the machine or some quantum leap in consciousness brought about by longer term power sharing that mindsets will shift enough to ensure that a repeat of the 1968-1989 violence becomes impossible to envisage . NI is not there yet but the recent election and the coming Assembly election have and will imo settle ‘nerves’. The ‘new ‘ extremes be they dissident or TUV have been shown the political door .

    ‘.I’m not really expecting it though, nationalist distaste for Britishness and assumptions about historical teleology are too ingrained.’

    I’m somewhat more positive probably because I disagree with your assumption above re ‘nationalist distaste’ for what you call ‘britishness’ and historical teleology being too ingrained among the vast majority of Irish nationalists .

    Irish nationalists are NOT anti British -they are anti Unionist .
    Irish nationalists are somewhat more sophisticated in their political distastes than you give them credit for . The vast majority of ‘nationalists’ and I include even most republicans in that category do not so much have a distaste for ‘britishness’ as a distaste for ‘unionism ‘ as it’s politically expressed in a part of this island .

    ‘in contrast with the UUP’s espousal of more comfortably outward-looking and pluralist civic unionism, ‘

    Ironically I have some respect for this aspect of recent UUP aspirations even if the whole effort ended in a mess of pottage . Their political counterparts (the majority Irish nationalist community in ROI) having been isolated for several decades in the post independence period did become more outward looking from the time of Sean Lemass in the early 1960’s and eventually the Anglo Irish Free Trade agreement and common EU membership helped bring about closer economic and political cooperation than was possible in the 1950’s and earlier.

    ‘By the way Green Flag, your automotive mobile repair network isn’t a patch on the AA’

    I would’nt know . I haven’t had to call a repair service for 20 years . Regular service ye see and oil change and NOT driving a Vauxhall Viva or Ford Anglia is half the battle 🙂

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Not sure it does cut both ways … while there is of course such a thing as unionist distaste for Irish national identity, unionism does not care about nationalists’ national allegiance or ethnic identity – it assumes it’s up to them to decide their own allegiance and identity, even if it is irksome for unionists. Unionism is pretty realistic on that score, for all its other faults.

    So I’m not sure how much longer nationalism can cling to its core belief that Ulster British people ought to ultimately convert to Irishness. This central tenet of Irish nationalism – the building of one nation on the island – is of course deeply problematic, swathed as it is in ethnic chauvinist assumptions about the ‘wrongness’ of being British in Ireland. And it has of course been very damaging to relations between the two nationalities that exist in reality.

    If the leaders of Irish nationalism made it clear they are just interested in an ethnic head-counting route to Irish unity, based on demographic changes over the years, that would clear the air a lot. That would be a perfectly rational and respectable form of nationalism that didn’t present itself as somehow morally superior. It would transform unionists’ view of nationalists and really help build the mutual trust that has been too slow to grow post-GFA, but which we need if there is to be peaceful co-existence long-term.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Green Flag,
    Sorry, posted last one without having read your most recent missive. A lot of sense in there. I’d take issue with one thing though:
    “The vast majority of ‘nationalists’ and I include even most republicans in that category do not so much have a distaste for ‘Britishness’ as a distaste for ‘unionism ‘ as it’s politically expressed in a part of this island.”
    But I meant they have a distaste for Britishness in Ireland, which you seem to confirm they still do. They expressly promised differently in the GFA (Constitutional Issues, s1(vi)):
    “The participants endorse … they will recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British or both, as they may so choose …”
    The key words are “be accepted as”. I just don’t think even 12 years on a lot of nationalists in Northern Ireland really accept the Britishness of my tribe. Glad we got in writing!
    If you can separate British identity in Ulster from the unionism you’re doing well … but of course it’s fine to not like unionist politics, so if there’s distaste towards that as opposed to unionists’ Britishness, then no problem.

  • Paddy Matthews

    To somehow exalt Hermon’s brand of unionism (what is that exactly, because I’ve never heard her articulate it, perhaps the anti-Tory MSM here would be able to enlighten me though) above an actual manifesto that ended up being the dominant power in the government shows who really got it wrong.

    The North Down electorate, obviously.

    Perhaps the UUP should demand that the North Down electorate should consider whether their position is tenable, in view of their failure to appreciate the charms of UCUNF. They could, for example, be reshuffled with the population of Wokingham or Royal Tunbridge Wells.

  • HarryJ

    The PIRA has not gone away, they are still involved in organised crime on a massive scale, fuel smuggling, drugs, money laundering, protection rackets and have no place involved in P&J or government…

    please take your information to the police, or the Telegraph or even Sir Reg

  • HarryJ

    The UUP argued that its dysfunctional and needs to be fixed. There is a public mood to that effect. The UUP can and should tap into that…..

    the UUP have been neutered on that, they are in chareg of a committee designed to highlight any flaws.

    When did you actually hear from the UUP what or who is causing the blockages in the Stormont system?

  • Greenflag

    ‘But I meant they have a distaste for Britishness in Ireland, which you seem to confirm they still do.’

    No I don’t . Put it like this -all unionists may be or are British but all Britons are not ‘unionists ‘ . Rather than try to define Britishness or Irishness ( you can read several books and for every definition found you will another equally opposite and contradictory ). I prefer to stick to the straight politics of the situation and in that sphere it’s at least clear that most Irish nationalists are not unionists and the same is true vice versa . There are British Irish and even Irish Brits but these are seen as cultural combinations and usually reserved for those in higher income brackets who understand that life has more to offer than a piece of coloured cloth and we are all just human beings at the end of the day -well mostly anyway 😉 move along to next business and all that .

    ‘I just don’t think even 12 years on a lot of nationalists in Northern Ireland really accept the Britishness of my tribe.’

    I’d see that as a quid pro quo for the non acceptance of the Irishness of their tribe by the Unionist political establishment over most of the period of NI’s history . While that seems to have changed for the better in some areas there is still a strong anti Irish language element within political unionism which doesn’t really help anyone least of all unionists imo. And I know all the arguments from the unionist perspective about the waste of public funds monies etc and I may even agree with a lot of them .

    ‘If you can separate British identity in Ulster from the unionism you’re doing well’

    British identity is a given imo . People are what they are or believe they are regardless of what other people wish them to be . I’d no more try to persuade a Unionist he or she is non British than I would try to change mercury into gold .

    Unionist politics is however a separate issue imo . I don’t doubt that most unionists are decent people and do the best they can in the difficult circumstances of NI politics but I see ‘unionist ideology ‘ as a political movement which has been destructive for the politics of this island and the neighbouring island for a century and is potentially destabilising which is in nobody’s interest british or irish . I see Irish ‘nationalism ‘ as capable of growing more inclusive of those who’s ethnic or cultural roots lie outside this island . I’ll admit that this perception is an ROI one and that in NI due to local circumstances it may be less so . But again NI Irish nationalism is a subset of the total and represents less than 20% of Irish nationalists ‘ on this island . Admittedly in NI that numerical perception will be very much different depending on whether one lives in West Tyrone or East Belfast .

    Politically I happen to believe that ‘unionists ‘ are wasting their political energies on ‘unionist ‘ politics . I can agree that in present economic circumstances selfish Ulster nationalism a la DUP is the trump card . But longer term I believe ‘unionist ‘ politics is as inimical to the well being and longer term prospects of the unionist people on this island as I believe that SF’s economic policies as of now would be to the mass of Irish people .

    ‘Glad we got in writing!’

    Actually on that point I’m more inclined to agree with Ian Paisley when he commented one time in booming voice that pieces of paper are ultimately worthless and that the voice and will of the people is paramount . He was of course referring to the massed voice of what he called the Ulster protestant people . The same applies in the matter of pieces of paper to the massed voice of the Irish nationalist people .

    Neville Chamberlain learnt that lesson the hard way eh ?

  • Newt

    Greenflag says:

    “‘I just don’t think even 12 years on a lot of nationalists in Northern Ireland really accept the Britishness of my tribe.’

    I’d see that as a quid pro quo for the non acceptance of the Irishness of their tribe by the Unionist political establishment over most of the period of NI’s history . While that seems to have changed for the better in some areas there is still a strong anti Irish language element within political unionism which doesn’t really help anyone least of all unionists imo.”

    I don’t think it’s the same. There is a difference between saying “Ulster is British” and saying “Gerry Adams is British”, and there is a reticence for Gerry Adams to say “Peter Robinson is British” that does not apply to the average unionist for saying “Gerry Adams is not British”. All the more so for saying “Peter Robinson is not Irish”.

    The argument against the Irish language is not so much “Gaelic is foreign to NI Catholics” as it is “the majority don’t want a bilingual sign so it’s a no go”.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Green Flag,
    “I’d see that as a quid pro quo for the non acceptance of the Irishness of their tribe by the Unionist political establishment over most of the period of NI’s history .”
    I can understand where it comes from and unionists were wrong in the past to be so down on Irish identity: it wasn’t necessary. But if that was wrong, then let’s not copy it. The lesson is surely that we have to recognise each other’s ethnicity – as reflected in the GFA wording I quoted before. No point in revenge.

    Your comments on unionism as bad for the island etc – well, we can’t help being British and having British loyalties and I’m sure you wouldn’t seek to change that. Unionism isn’t a political ideology in the sense nationalism is. Its role is essentially is to ward off the threat of Northern Ireland being pushed out of the UK. It has to exist because of the failure of Irish nationalism to recognise there are two nationalities on the island and the need for an international border on the island. It’s a reluctant position – in an ideal world, unionists would not have to be unionists at all, but socialists or conservatives or liberals or whatever. But as I say, that needs an admission by Irish nationalism that it is founded on the fallacy of seeing only ‘one people’ on the island – and a true move forward into post-nationalist politics.

    Newt:
    I am embarrassed by the DUP’s resistance to Irish language measures and you’re right to be annoyed.
    It’s also wrong if people insist Gerry Adams is British. While he is technically a British citizen, it’s up to him what identity he chooses. As I say, you can’t impose a national identity on people. I see him as part of the Irish national minority within Northern Ireland. Identification with the wider British family is open to him if he chooses it, but it’s his right to reject that if wants, Likewise I have the right to identify with a wider Irish identity, but I don’t find it very relevant to my emotional connections and loyalties. We all have a right to make our own choice as to what’s important to us. But for me nationalist ideology sits ill at ease with that simple truth.

    I do want all Northern Ireland people to find a shared identity – the best hope being one related specifically to the Province itself, which we all have in common – but if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine too – we’ll just have to live with each other’s difference.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Liberal Unionist :

    The PIRA has not gone away, they are still involved in organised crime on a massive scale, fuel smuggling, drugs, money laundering, protection rackets and have no place involved in P&J or government.

    OK, so you’re lying – you’re not a liberal unionist.

    What is to stop a SF minister tipping off his auld mate ‘Slab’ about a raid on his fuel smuggling racket?

    What’s to stop a UUP minister tipping off their old mates in the loyalist paramilitary organizations ?

  • Bulmer

    Mainland Ulsterman and Greenflag

    Thank you for your reasoned, articulate debate. A pleasure to read.

  • Greenflag

    mainland ulsterman ,

    ‘Its role (unionism )is essentially is to ward off the threat of Northern Ireland being pushed out of the UK.’

    As Northern Ireland can only be pushed out of the UK by the people of NI voting to be pushed then surely the role of ‘unionism’ would be to persuade those NI people who do not favour the Union to support it . The question then becomes how do they go about doing that . ?

    The Grand Master of the OO has again called for ‘unionist ‘ political unity in order to maintain the Union . This suggests to me that the OO has no faith in any persuasion techniques being effective against their constitutional opponents . The election result from FST shows that such OO political intervention can backfire badly . Does the OO think that the ‘other side’ are incapable of ‘uniting ‘ in the face of ‘unionist political unity ‘ ??

    If ‘maintaining ‘ the Union at all costs is the sole political raison d’etre of ‘unionism ‘ then it should not be a surprise to anybody as to why ‘unionist ‘ politics is in such a mess .Politics in the 21 st century in modern western states has to be about much more than ‘tribal ‘ identity or ‘religious ‘ denomination . The problem for NI is that it’s politics are still largely based on those two factors and in it’s present set up NI can’t escape from the cage imposed on it by history and by it’s own hand/hands . And it’s from that perspective that I see ‘unionist’ politics as ultimately destabilising both for NI , for Ireland and for Britain .

    What has been achieved to date will have to be worked with and built on and in the mmeantime as you put it we’ll just have to live with each other’s difference.

  • midulsterunionist

    UUP needs to get more ordinary working class people on board otherwise it is consigned to the history books! We need real local people who understand what it is like to be ordinary and work in an ordinary job and live in ordinary house in an ordinary area because quite simply to have someone called Lord so and so or Sir this or that who grew up on a country estate, schooled in England and now looks after what was once Daddies estate (and has been in the family since the 1600’s don’t you know) telling me to Vote UUP because “we are better than you” just won’t cut it anymore, this isn’t the 1930’s people want politicians who will actually do something… and a change from the usual farmers or businessmen might be nice too… or am I dreaming again?