Unionist can add to the UK by commanding ‘respect’…

Given we are now heading into the decade of Centenaries, this is a nicely provocative piece from Arthur Aughey in the News Letter today, in which he gently teases some Republicans who seemed ‘convinced’ there would be United Ireland by 2016. More likely, claims Aughey that Northern Ireland will still firmly be part of the UK:

…debating the future of the Union is no longer a peculiar Ulster pastime but is central to a deliberation about constitutional politics that is happening across the UK.  Until recently, Northern Ireland’s future was discussed separately in terms of a range of constitutional options including Irish unity.

No longer. In British politics today, there is no serious constituency advancing Irish unity. There is no serious constituency in Irish politics advocating it today, either and not only because the economic crisis makes it impossible.

But the question Aughey asks of local unionists is, can they contribute the national (or  rather, to use his terms, ‘multi national’) debate. Clearly he thinks so:

The unionist ideal is multi-nationalism in that, unlike the Republic of Ireland, it is not a nation state but now a state of unions between four countries.

The principle it upholds is free association – in other words you are not compelled to stay within it (what people here know as the principle of consent).

And what of the call for Unionist Unity? Well, Aughey is a sceptic. Not because it won’t work, but because it risks the attainment a larger prize: substantiating Northern Ireland legal status inside the UK, into a harder political one and of bringing outsiders (those who are currently nationalists and others) in:

Firstly, it doesn’t respect the new Northern Ireland which unionists themselves have helped bring about. It suggests a retreat back into the old defensive, paranoid mentality which is no longer required.

Secondly, it doesn’t respect the diversity of opinion within unionism. It denies it.

Thirdly, it doesn’t respect the big question but returns to talking to ourselves again, what Lord Castlereagh called the curse of ‘tumultuous pedantry’.

It pins on again that badge of exclusion which took so long to remove.


  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well I daresay that the nicely provocative piece would have had Republicans choking on their cornflakes as they read their News Letter……if it wasnt for the unfortunate fact that Republicans dont read the News Letter and Id be surprised if any of their journos was actually writing for the Republican community.
    Much more likely that the News Letter journos are writing to bring hope and succour to the divided tribes of Unionism.

    Whether individual or communal rights can be better guarded in the pre-Enlightenment World of Unionism or the post-Enlightenment world of Republicanism is of course an interesting debate.
    But Id suspect that by 2016, Norn Iron will just be a little further along the road that is currently on….a semi-detached and unloved part of the “UK”.
    But it probably wont have a football team.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, Fitzy, it’s t’Internet. You don’t have to buy the News Letter to read it. All you have to do what you always do: which is ignore the links and keep pretending no one spoke.

  • slug

    Oh I am sure the football team will still be there.

    2016 isn’t far away I suspect there will be not much change at all.

  • Michael

    The links that don’t work links?

    This protestant work ethic is overrated, an online newspaper that doesn’t work and awarding themselves two days off for a ‘national holiday’ compared to everyone elses one 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    They’re still working for me Michael.

  • Michael

    Working again
    http500 a few minutes back, someone needed to give the server a kick

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well Fealtytyty,
    How many Republicans woke up this morning saying “I really must check out the News Letter online edition”. Not many.

  • Mick Fealty

    Is cuma. Agus, ni hea sin an pointe.

    Not everything is about sticking it on the scales of public opinion and going with the big numbers.

    I point you back to Mr Fodor (and the nose on your face), the man you cannot bear to read, for some reason.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Isnt it?
    Keep pointing.

  • Northern Irish unionism is in a most peculiar position at the minute. As Arthur implies, unless there is a game-changer of presently unimaginable proportions, then our link will remain strong. But before the pro-Union political elite gets too carried away though, the inescapable truth is that strength is despite, not because of, their best efforts.

    Shifting the politics here away from the sectarian, culturalist, zero-sum is in the long-term interests of Unionism not Irish Republicanism; in the year 2020 I sincerely hope we’ll all be debating the same parochial and boring issues as the good burghers of Sutton and Dumfries.
    If that’s the case, then the UUP and DUP will also have long llost their relevance.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The other side of that particular coin is that nationalists/republicans havea vested interest in zero sum politics and the unionists are playing along nicely.

  • oneill

    My point exactly Mr F:

    “Shifting the politics here away from the sectarian, culturalist, zero-sum is in the long-term interests of Unionism not Irish Republicanism”

    Unfortunately too many of the Good Ole Boys presently in control are too bigotted steeped in our ancestral and cultural traditions to realise it.

  • oneill

    Er.. doesn’t work here apparently, if it did, then it would be surrounding that subjective “bigotted”.

  • Michael

    Unionism I ‘get’.
    Alot of Unionists on the other hand are a different kettle of puffer fish.

  • slug

    Well O’Neil I imagine our politics will always have a cultural element-just as Welsh politics has too. But I can also forsee the centre ground of society melting together a bit with integrated housing, intermarriage, migration, education etc making it less of a binary division and more pluralistic.

  • Seymour Major

    There is a distinction between the ideologies of UK unionism and Ulster Unionism. The former is no more than about keeping the four constituent parts of it together. The Unionism of the Conservative Party until 1997 was about opposing all forms of devolution for Scotland and Wales. Now that has completely changed to an emphasis on maintaining relationships between the four constituent parts of it.

    UK Unionism is not something that is discussed much amongst Northern Ireland Unionists – yet whereas UK Unionism has a function, as an ideology, Ulster Unionism, post the Good Friday agreement, is redundant as an ideology for defending the Union. All that is left of Ulster Unionism in politics is Protestantism and a disgusting hostility towards Irishness. That part of its ideology tends to rear its ugly head whenever debates take place between politicians on cultural issues.

    Unionists in Northern Ireland need to move on. They can do that by embracing multiculturalism and stop being hostile to the Irish Language and Gaelic Games. They need to rachet up the importance of “bread and butter” issues in politics and consign the idea of unionist unity to the dustbin of political history. Most imprrtant of all, if they want to start acting like proper UK unionists, they must accept democratic principle, no matter how unpalatable the result of it may be. They must show a willingness to work with a first Minister from Sinn Fein.

    Are they capable of that? I have very severe doubts.

  • oneill


    Many Welsh Conservatives are now confident enough in the strength of the Union to embrace fully elements of Welsh national identity traditionally reserved for Plaid Cymru, eg the Welsh language. There is also a much more wide-ranging debate (than we are permitted) on the future of their relationship with the rest of the Union (ranging from out and out Federalism to 100% integrationism). Northern Irish Unionism, by contrast, is very much following a monocultural, very narrow road.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    No they are not capable.
    But its hardly in the interests of Republicanism that the unionists get their act together.
    Basically every Republican (except of course the dissidents) know that its case of “heads we win….tails you lose”.
    Embracing the Gaelic language or supporting the GAA would defeat the whole purpose of “Ulster Unionism” which defines itself as merely not being Irish.
    The “gotcha” moment was Trimble signing up to parity of esteem……not something that broader unionism can accept.
    For them Plan B is muddle along.
    Plan C is become “conservatives”
    Plan D is Jim Allister as the new Messiah
    Plan E is lets all go to the Garden Centre
    Plan F is lets all join Belmont Bowling Club.

    “A beaten docket” as they say in the best circles

  • union mack

    well, as you point out above, you don’t pay much heed to what unionist media outlets say. So you might have missed the growing anti-unionist unity consensus amongst non-party political unionists. The sort, like me and many others, who don’t vote because the union is under no threat, and the unionist parties offer us nothing. A change is happening, however slowly. Hopefully, a symbolic break can be made by the election of the southern-born, non OO Basil McCrea as leader of the UUP. That would be a small, but significant step

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The crunch date will be 2011, not because of the assembly elections but because of the census – that will indicate how many Assembly elections unionism will have as the largest community grouping.

    If the good guys are still clealry gaining ground then 2016 will be celebrated as vindication of the Republican peace strategy but if not the dissers, if – they havent gone away you know – may start just be able to gain some political traction.

    Either way dangerous times lie ahead.

  • slug

    I completely agree with you. I did not mean to convey any message contrary to what you say.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    union mack,
    I take your point re Basil McCrea. Undoubtedly a decent man but Id be surprised if he was still in UUP in five years. Maybe in AP but maybe another guy who gives up on politics.
    But there is no history of Unionism electing a leader from the Partys “left”
    Chichester-Clarke …Faulkner….West…Molyneux….

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Good points…but Id be surprised if there was not a re-labelling of “community” so as not to scare unionists. A third community possibly.
    While I see a certain stumbling into violence as possible, on balance I dont think it likely.
    The one thing missing from every analysis including my own……is “events dear boy ….events”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    There is also a much more wide-ranging debate (than we are permitted) on the future of their relationship with the rest of the Union (ranging from out and out Federalism to 100% integrationism). Northern Irish Unionism, by contrast, is very much following a monocultural, very narrow road.

    There is an apparent contradction in the above statement, on the one hand you are stating that Unioinsts are not ‘permitted’ to have a wide ranging on the future of the Union – which is correct – as the GFA legislation precludes any consideration of integration with Britain (as Nationalsits have a veto) and on the other hand you are decrying Unnioists for “following a monocultural, very narrow road” which is inevitable as the GFA legialstaion not only gives Southern politicians a say in Ulster affiars but allows for ever increasing harmonisation between the two parts of the country.

    As the DUP likes to put it – you cant trust the British with the Union.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    union mack, FJH,

    Basil is a reasonable chap and once he gets his hairdressing appointment sorted out could be a contender but probably too much of a wobbly liberal and too colourful to get the top job.

    The UU will probably show their true colour over the parades isssue ie Orange – as they will knock eight colours of red-white-and-blue out of the DUP for the Pigs Mickey they have made out of it, with SF sniggering as they somehow fail to reach agreement with the DUP.

    That dreadful, long drink of water, OrangeGrandMeister chap Tom Elliott – who has the usual UUP leadership qualities ie none, was jabbering on the 6 oclock news about it.

  • Seymour Major


    Union Mack has a point regarding McCrea. He is perhaps the one person who can steer the UUP in the right direction. He has said the right things, as per the following piece


    However, he is up against it. For one thing, he does not have as great a power base as Elliot within the party. If McCrea does become leader, he will only have a short time to campaign for the next Assembly Elections. My big fear is that the DUP will successfully use the prospect of Martin McGuinness becoming first Minister to take more votes away from the UUP.

    The St. Andrews Agreement Act, which provides for the appointment of the FM from the largest party, was agreed by the DUP, so that Unionist voters would be scared away from voting UUP. It looks to me as though the strategem will work.

    If McCrea or the new UUP leader has the guts to declare that he would work with a Sinn Fein first Miniister, they may lose some votes but they will gain others. That would be a game-changing moment for Northern Ireland politics.

  • PaddyReilly

    Caesar: The ides of March are come.
    Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Apparently Elliott is in the inner circle of the Grand Lodge and was at last nights meeting.
    Although the Orange Order is supposed to be one big happy family, it s hard to see how Elliott, and McNarry, McCausland, Donaldson (if they were there) would not have voted along Party lines.
    Its likely that Elliott, McNarry etc would have enjoyed the discomfort of Donaldson and McCausland.
    There must be a question mark over whether the DUP can actually deliver the Orange Order.
    And a lesser one over whether SF-IRA can actually deliver some or all resident groups. Although seemingly they wont have to.
    I tend to see Basil McCrea as a Richard Ferguson type. The great white hope of liberal unionism who will drift towards AP or out of politics.
    But Elliott is maybe the sorta typical unspectacular west of the Bann type that wont scare traditional unionists. But I think Danny Kennedy is still the man most likely to emerge as the new Leader.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Just like with Wee Reggie, pick the worst contender and he will probably get the job – therefore Elliott is yer man.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I did not see your reply and would have referenced it in the reply I posted a few minutes ago. Apologies.
    Elliott has certainly a bigger power base than McCrea (Orange Order) but I think the more people see Eliott in the front line, the more likely they are to go for Kennedy. Kennedy is cute enough to sound more right wing than he actually is.
    Im not sure the scare tactic will work and there are other factors.
    First off, some of the Westminster DUP people wont be standing and their nominated replacements will not be fully bedded in. For example there is no way they will hold four seats in Strangford and Id guess that TUV will pick up three to five seats in a PR Election.
    Its to Allisters advantage if the DUP play up the “scare”.
    With 36 or so seats to defend, the DUP will do well to top 30 but this might well be two or three ahead of SF (28 elected las time including McHugh) who with boundary changes in County Antrim would be hard pressed to repeat it.
    A factor here might be that playing up the first minister scare might actually embolden SDLP supporters to vote SF.
    As we saw in FST they pretty much deserted the SDLP just to get Gildernew elected to a seat that she wont take up.

  • Alias

    As 2016 passes and 2021 approaches, the emergence of the Northern Irish nation (born out of resignation by the nationalists and magnanimity by the unionists, and helped along by covert social engineering from the British state) will ensure that Northern Ireland will become less dysfunctional as it moves to the model of one nation and one state. Aughey is right to see diversity and respect for it as being key to its development, and it’s not at all paradoxical. If NI gets to grips with its regional economy it will create new jobs and these jobs will attract immigrants. Since these immigrants will have chosen to live and work in the UK they will likely vote to remain in it so the more of them that NI can attract the better the future for unionists. The best way then of securing the status quo is to work to improve it.

  • oneill

    Sammy Mc etc

    My point was linked to the inner dynamics of the Welsh Conservatives, “integration” meaning a stronger focus on Westminster and the UK as a whole, “federalism” meaning much more of a stand-offish stance, still Unionist but much more localist. Within the NI Unionist political elite we don’t have that breadth of belief.

    The GFA should have given that elite that confidence to explore politically-culturally-socially our position vis-a-vis the rest of the UK and indeed our position with the rest of the island we’re on. It hasn’t, the contrary is the case if anything and in that respect their electorate (or non-electorate as it is now) has moved ahead of those they are expected to vote for.

    The census next year may well give a boost/jolt to ethno-nats on one side and the culturalist wing of Unionism on the other, but even if there is a massive change in sect-o-graphics, it’s not being reflected in an upsurge of total votes for the nationalist parties, their % vote of the total has been static for almost a decade now. And in the end that’s all that counts is votes in the ballot box not the number of prods heading for the graveyard or little catholic babies being born.

  • Seymour Major


    Kennedy has ruled himself out of the race. So far, only Elliot has thrown his hat into the rign. According to reports, Kennedy, along with many of the other big names at the top of the UUP, are backing Elliot. I do not know how the UUP rules work. I presume that the grass roots members have their say in the leadership election. If that is the case, the contest, if it includes McCrea, might be much more even.


    Looking further into the future, I think it is entirely possible that a Northern Irish identity, comprising of people from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds could emerge to eclipse the Ulster British and Nationalist identities. It all depends upon progress towards tolerance continuing. A sign of this happening would be a breakthrough by the Alliance Party or another political party which adopts a Northern Ireland centered (regionalist) ideology.

    That does not necessarily mean that a United Ireland will not happen although the Union will be more likely to be preserved than if Ulster Unionism continues to play a part in Northern Irish Politics.

    If that middle identity emerges, people here will care less about who is head of state but as a region which shares an intimacy with both Britain and the Republic of Ireland, they will want to see stronger ties between those two states.

    However, a United Ireland may become more attractive to people in Northern Ireland if a case can be made that it will lead to greater prosperity coupled with the maintenance of a special relationship with the UK.

    You may also find that the British Isles Council, practically impotent at the moment, plays a much more prominent role in the future than it does now. The Queen’s visit next year will have strong symbolic importance. Ireland re – joining the Commonwealth could be on the agenda. Such a development would, ironically, make it more likely that NI would wish to become part of a United Ireland.

  • PaddyReilly
  • slug

    ONeill I do think that the very discussion that the Newsletter is having is indicative of a debate about the union in a context where the union is safe.

    I have spent some time looking at demographics and I don’t think that they have anything to worry about at all to the extent they can be forecast.

    As for our politicians I think the attendance at Westminster is going to rise because double jobbing is being phased out. And they are certainly attending more (with exception of Hermon who I will make sure will be exposed on this if she does not change tack).

    And as far as certain constitutional changes are concerned (i) the AV system combined with larger constituencies will make a moderate politics important on both unionist and nationalist side (ii) the AV system should make parliament more balanced more often giving our region greater sway and (ii) elections to the House of Lords will further give people from NI a role.

    There are also other changes – I know that UCUNF didn’t elect anyone this time but these tie ins to national parties of government are a most natural and sensible way for NI MPs to have a more worthwhile time in London (Naiomi Long looking a little bored there on the opposition benches). So that is there for the future, and will grow, I predict.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “it’s not being reflected in an upsurge of total votes for the nationalist parties, their % vote of the total has been static for almost a decade now. And in the end that’s all that counts”

    That is true when speaking of the overall situation, but when you look at individual seats then the picture changes as the % of the Nat vote in some constituencies is increasing with the likely swapping over of 4 or 5 seats to the good guys, not 2011, but the one after that.

    In Westminster terms South and North Belfast % Nat vote has been very marked – and when you leave out SB where tactical voting may be a factor – and look at NB then Deputy Dodsy may well lose his seat if the boundaries are not changed before next time out – not sure there is any evidence of non-Unionist turnout there just a declining % of Unionists.

    See Horseman’s analyis below.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh Ive read that Kennedy wont stand but I fully expect that he will ride to the rescue as a compromise candidate.

  • oneill


    The Lady H situation is a strange one, look at her attendance record in March this year, she was hardly out of the place. And now…I hesistate to put the boot in too hard in case there are genuine extenuating circumstances, but if there aren’t then she is displaying an astonishing level of contempt for both the parliament of her nation and her constituents.

    Sammy Mac

    No doubt that certain seats may change hands, it happens everywhere in the normal ebb and flow of politics. A certain gnashing of teeth when that inevitably happens I can live with if the overall figure remains static.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “normal ebb and flow of politics”

    There is nothing ‘normal’ about politics in Ulster – the more seats Nationalism has at the assembly the more Departments and the more the North South agenda will be the order of the day rather than the East West one with two different and totally opposing ideologies continously jockeying on every issue for control whilst the British look on unloved by both sides in bemusement.

  • oneill

    the more seats Nationalism has at the assembly the more Departments and the more the North South agenda will be the order of the day rather than the East West one with two different and totally opposing ideologies continously jockeying on every issue for control whilst the British look on unloved by both sides in bemusement.

    With the various inbuilt checks they can’t go willy-nilly bringing in an all-Ireland postal or health system when our backs are truned. More importantly I think you underestimate the pragmatism of those who would consider themselves pro-Union, North-South cooperation which brings benefit for NI, very few of us would have any problem with. A N-S “agenda” which ends up costing us more than it benefits will not do Irish Nationalism’s cause any good whatsover in the long-term.

    A fair proportion of the potential pro-Union electorate are now “post-idealogy” as the last GE surely proved. They have made the subconscious decision that the Union is as safe as it ever can be and its time to move on to the type of non-communal politics enjoyed in the rest of the Uk and even in the ROI. That being the case, election results, which I think may well move in a SF/SDLP direction ib the short-term are no real guide as to the constitutional future of NI as would be decided at the next (if it ever happens) Border Poll.

    Interesting fact about the Border Poll is that if you check the GFA, it can now only be called if it is believed by the SOS that there is a good chance the pro-“Unity” lobby would win and if you listen very carefully you will hear the absolutely stunning silence from the nationalists who know the score, ie they would be hammered if such a poll would be called tomorrow.

    And final point, you’ve forgotten that it’s not just on the mainland the British live (and pay taxes!), check the GFA, my right to call myself British was recognised even by Grizzly and Co!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I agree about the border poll but if demograpics continue to move in Nationalism’s favour then Stormo will increasingly move its focus south so it will be interesting to see Unionism’s reaction – the first test may come if the pigs Mickey the DUP have made out of the Parades issue breathes life into the dead TUV or the undead UUP – and the boul Marty becomes first minister.

    ps Did the current minister for Health have a previous career as a horror actor?

  • Uninist Unity need do none of the things he claims

  • John East Belfast

    Is it just me or are nationalists obsessed with unionism – more so than unionists themsleves ?
    This thread like so many similar others is dominated with nationalists throwing their tuppence in ?

    If there was a thread about northern nationalism and the ROI I might be hard pressed to even read it let alone comment on it

    Just an observation

  • Is that a Republican admitting maintenance of the sectarian division is what they prefer?

  • not only still be here, but likely have qualified for our first ever Euros.

    Onwards and upwards!

  • Fitzy


    Its perfectly normal for individuals (of whatever hue) to comment on topical issues. The fact that many of your fellow countrymen can’t muster any interest in what’s going on in ROI, within 50 miles from their homes, is mind boggling in its insularity.

    Perhaps the fact that most in NI work in the civil service renders many disinterested in the broader economic/political discourse taking place throughout Europe as there might be less at stake if the recession continues compared to your average private sector employee.

    A quick read of CIF on the guardian website (one of most popular in UK) proves that right wingers are possibly more likely to comment on left wing articles (especially when related to US), and vice versa for right wing articles related to Cons.

    Being less curious isn’t a virtue, its usually a disadvantage, especially in politics.

    What’s you’re opinion on the piece? Are you put off by the fact that ‘nationalists’ seem to be dominating the thread? Or are they not worth engaging with?

    I’m just a curious onlooker with no thoughts on Unionism generally, other than it seems very zero sum and defensive, but then so does much of what passes for political debate in NI.

  • PaddyReilly

    I quote:

    Arthur Aughey in the News Letter today… gently teases some Republicans who seemed ‘convinced’ there would be United Ireland by 2016. More likely, claims Aughey that Northern Ireland will still firmly be part of the UK:

    This doesn’t seem like an internal Unionist thread to me: it is a discussion of the future of the province of Northern Ireland from a Nationalist as well as a Unionist point of view. I mean, if it was whether McPurple or McRoyal-Arch was going be leader of UCUNF or something, that would be an internal Unionist affair.

    JEB’s lordly indifference seems to stem from an inability to perform simple comprehension. I suggest that if you look back at your old school reports it will be evident that you scored much higher in Maths than in English. Am I right?

  • John East Belfast

    Fitzy, Paddy

    Ok keep your hair on I was only thinking aloud – and I was an all rounder at school in both maths and english

    I have no problems cross community debating – I comment lot on nationalist and ROI matters as well.

    Where I am probably coming from is when Nationalist talk about Unionists – and even setting aside those who don t know what they are talking about – it is from a complete position of antagonism.

    eg Even the first post from FJH1945 (same Fitsy ?)

    “Whether individual or communal rights can be better guarded in the pre-Enlightenment World of Unionism or the post-Enlightenment world of Republicanism is of course an interesting debate.”

    Nationalists do not see unionists as legitimate but competing equals

    All I read are the usual suspects jumping in with both feet about Orange bigots and Klu Klux Klan and Afrikaaner comparisons as if Irish nationalism are the good guys and we are the bad guys.
    It is almost as if some people think Slugger is big propaganda sheet that if a lie is repeated often enough then it becomes generally accepted wisdom.

    It just gets a bit tiresome that’s all having to counter that.

    Instead what Unionism and Nationalism have to offer from hereon should be subject of debate ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Indeed !! I’m a gambling man,so I’ll lay odds of………….ermmmmmm………….oooh……………ah to hell with it,pick your own odds,of a UI by 2016 !! 🙂

    Ah,Sammmy McNally,hows about ye boy ? How much ???? 🙂