Unionism: “Like most liberalism, when directed at others it’s patronising”

Christopher Montgomery thinks the hand wringing liberal unionist set need to accept that nationalists are not going to convert to unionism, and move on accordingly:

There isn’t going to be a 32 county Irish republic in 2021, and there is still going to be an Ulster in the Union. And it’s still going to have lots of nationalists in it who don’t want to be there.

It speaks well of unionism that its conceit has been to turn the other side. Certainly it contrasts favourably with the ethno-chauvinism whose never too well hid attitude amounts to, ‘just you wait till we’ve outbred you’.

At some point, though, a chill inner voice is going to have to say, ‘fine: you don’t want pluralism, inclusivity, tolerance, compulsory-power sharing and equal rights for all?

‘You do want to continue, at all costs, myopic, communal ill-will politically projected as national revanche? Okay, go ahead. Your problem: wallow away.’

If nationalists won’t agree to any Northern Ireland, the task of political unionism is to admit this and accept that it’s their problem. Let’s apply no more fantasy.

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  • RepublicanStones

    Apologies for the italics – and i see the superfluous ‘the’ before any of you point it out 😉

  • Comrade_Trotsky

    Mainland Ulsterman – “…to fly… the Northern Irish… flag…”

    What flag is that then?

  • foyle observer

    Ye’d think big ‘Alan’ from Newtonards went down to Dublin one day to support his team, Ireland, in the Six Nations, the way he’s talking and decided right there and then that it wasn’t for him, you know, supporting Ireland because they played the Irish national anthem. Imagine that lads, the Irish national rugby team, singing the Irish national anthem!!! Lets be all inclusive from now on…i have a friend from the USA who was a big Ireland fan who went to one of the Six Nations games and like big ‘Alan from Newtonards’, he disowned the Irish team because they simply weren’t inclusive enough, they wouldn’t play the American national anthem. What a disgrace they are. Us Irish should be ashamed of ourselves, we didnt fly the stars and stripes at Croker. After all, it was Ireland playing.

  • Alan N/ARDS

    Foyle Observer
    I definately haven’t deserted the island of Ireland team.
    I don’t have any problems singing the Irish anthem at away games. The anthem that is of course inclusive. Irelands Call does it for me. I have sang it at away games in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and of course….Belfast. You might prefer the anthem of the republic but I support the island of Ireland team not the republics team.

    Being an ulsterman you would be attending Ravenhill on a regular basis to support your province. Does the flying of the Union Flag annoy you?

    By the way, my wife is enjoying the “big Alan” comments. She thinks my “friends” are very funny.

  • JoeJoe

    Alan N’Ards
    I don’t doubt for a second that the south would agree on leaving a stormont assembly in a UI should northernerns want one, but you missed my point. If the north has a nationalist majority in say 30 yrs time, and an SF first minister, and more SF&SDLP assembly members than unionist; would all unionists want a Stormont assembly? OR would some unionist voters prefer (as a bad-but-slightly less-bad alternative) the more moderate politics of an all-Ireland Dáil e.g. Fine Gael Green and UU government or other combination that ditches SF

  • Lionel Hutz

    So after initially being quite revolted by this piece, I have to say there is a very simple point, which for Unionists, has to be the correct path.

    Unionism is in a state of self-doubt (or perhaps a heightened state of self-doubt). I guess he is appealling to those Unionists who are Unionist because of a belief in a pluralist, ethnically diverse, accomodating-to-all United Kingdom as oppose to those Unionists who are Unionist because (to quote a banner from the recent Asda protests) “our forefathers fought for that sash” and who are essentially British Nationalist.

    The point is simple, that Unionists need to stop worrying about the safety of the Union, deluding themselves in the process that Nationalists will somehow come around to the project. Instead they should just get on with being a Unionist.

    What I still find to be an almost unbearably patronising and ignorant, is his assessment of the difference between the aspirations of Nationalists and the aspirations of Unionists, neatly summed up in the paragraphs quoted in the OP. He paints a utopian view of the UK (which I am not going write about) while he seems to mix up the Irish Nationalist aspiration with the means by which some Irish Nationalists have sought to pursue it. Does he believe that should there be a United Ireland, we will still indulge in this national revanche, perhaps to cover what he implies are the cracks in our national identity? Does he believe that the Real IRA or whatever idiotic group is around at the time, will periodically launch attacks in London to avenge their fallen comrades?

    Montgomery is certainly of the belief that his pure Unionism (anathema to any form Nationalism) is a higher form of ideology than that the ideology of Irish Nationalists. It has been a feature of Unionist paranoia that the Irish Nationalist aspiration is to achieve a homogenous nationstate (For which the latter group only have themselves to blame).

    That has not been born out however. The constitution provides for a state that is anything but homogenous. It couldn’t even decide on a state religion. Sure it had a language, but most people do not even speak it. Further as some posters have remarked, the tricolour itself is a symbol of “pluralism, inclusivity, tolerance …. and equal rights for all”. Furthermore, ultimate power within this state lay with the people (certainly something the United Kingdom cannot claim).

    But an Irish State, whether in its current form or as a United Ireland is tied to some notion of Irishness and all of its cultural trappings, and will be surely there to represent the Irish …… won’t it?

    It leads me to this doublethink surrounding what is 21st Century Nationalism? If these are the goals of Nationalists, then has Nationalism now moved from being a link to those of a common ethnicity to a link to those of a common aspiration who just happen to live near you (which may have as a central tenet the rejection of the strictly ethnic nationalism of the past) and if so, what is the point? Or perhaps it has moved from being a devotion to those of a common ethinicty to devotion of the land (or perhaps the state) itself and whoever, regardless of ethnicity, happen to live on it?

    Certainly so far as Ireland is concerned, we are moving to a post-nationalist age, to use the immortal line, certainly in the true sense of term. Nationality (being that kinship to certain people of common ethinicty, religion, culture etc etc) has almost become a myth and to an extent Nationalism exists simply by reason of its own existance. It is essentially redundant in the Irish Context.

    For if you ask any serious “Irish Nationalist” what they want from this United Ireland and they will tell you that its all about parity of esteem and all folks working together on this Island. Sure there will be focus on the traditions of indiginous Irish but no group will or should recieve preferential treatment. Thats not Nationalism.

    I think that we should no longer use the word Nationalist to describe our aspirations for an All-Irish State, for if it ever was correct to think of this aspiration as one based on nationalism, it is certainly is not now. The focus is on central values that form the basis for this United Ireland, and the term Irish Nationalism seems to take away from that and bring up conoctations that Montgomery has pointed to in his descriptions of “them.”

    Perhaps its Irish Unionism?

    P.S. I cannot sign in for some reason

  • John East Belfast

    “The point is simple, that Unionists need to stop worrying about the safety of the Union, deluding themselves in the process that Nationalists will somehow come around to the project. Instead they should just get on with being a Unionist”

    I dont buy this line for one simple reason – we dont know how future generations will react.

    We have a tendency to see things with history behind us and our own three score in ten as the present and future.

    It is totally plausible that our grandchildren will see things very different from us – nothing is set in stone – and that works both ways.

    The UK will be very different in 50 years time and so will the ROI – we simply dont know how future generations of catholics and protestants will view the constitutional argument.

    Therefore the battle for the Union and Irish Nationalism/Separatism should not be seen via one generation

  • what next

    John

    You raise possibly the key issue that must become the central pillar of forward planning for Northern Irish Unionists.

    The coming generations will be looking for more than stories from the past to help them to shape their future.

    The union will be very different in 50 years time, the challenge is can we bypass the ‘traditional’ Northern Irish unionist positions and create a truely pluralist society for those living in Northern Ireland.

    If we are serious about the union then we have to become less interested in what makes us different and more interested in creating one society, working together, regardless of religion or culture..

  • Lionel Hutz

    John,

    I’m not sure I understand that one. How will our children react to what exactly? The past? The ideology?

  • Lionel Hutz

    And I suspect that will be it’s undoing, especially when it seems the English, Scottish and Welsh are becoming increasingly nationalist. It appears to me that whatever nationalism or nationhood is today, it is felt more keenly that ideologies such as Unionism. Doesn’t Northern Ireland retain it’s place in the Union because the majority moved from being unionist and paranoid about persecution in an Irish Nationstate to British Nationalist? The ties strengthened on ethnically, religious and cultural grounds not by reason of shared ‘British Values’.

    This is the problem for as Irish Nationalists. We’re not dealing with 1,000,000 unionists, a life choice that could be changed or pursuades to 1,000,000 Britons, an identity that will not be so easily dealt with.

    If the Northern Irish-British move back to being Northern-Irish Unionist at a time when the restof the Union is feeling increasingly nationalist, it’s only a matter of time before Northern Ireland falls back into a United Ireland.

  • SilverDollar

    For if you ask any serious “Irish Nationalist” what they want from this United Ireland and they will tell you that its all about parity of esteem and all folks working together on this Island. Sure there will be focus on the traditions of indiginous Irish but no group will or should recieve preferential treatment. Thats not Nationalism.

    But a united Ireland is a complete denial of parity of esteem. It holds that one of the two nationalisms on the island is deserving of the right of self determination, while the other should receive the same treatment as a second generation Pakistani in Bradford who fails the Tebbit test.

    The only squaring of the circle of the “Irish question” which can respect equality for all and might, just might, be squeezable into a “united Ireland” as such at the same time would have to be some kind of multinational state or pseudo-multinational state if you prefer on the lines of Belgium / Bosnia Herzegovina / Annan plan for Cyprus.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “But a united Ireland is a complete denial of parity of esteem. ”

    There is absolutely no reason why a United Ireland should entail a parity of esteem. If you have some explanation of why this is, I’d love to know about it. In fact, it would seem to me that you are mixing up the notion of a United Ireland with a state for the United Irish. The former refers simply to the land mass, this island, and therefore far from denying the esteem of any tradition that is not intrinisically Irish, it is inherent that there must be parity of esteem.

    “It holds that one of the two nationalisms on the island is deserving of the right of self determination, while the other should receive the same treatment as a second generation Pakistani in Bradford who fails the Tebbit test.”

    Self Determination and Parity of Esteem are to some degree contrary to each other. They form the great contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement insofar as to the whole notion of self-determination allows the majority to rule over the minority. There is no reason why this Island being governed by a single sovereign state should infer that those who do not consider themselves to be culturally Irish are somehow committed an act of betrayal by staying here.

    “The only squaring of the circle of the “Irish question” which can respect equality for all and might, just might, be squeezable into a “united Ireland” as such at the same time would have to be some kind of multinational state or pseudo-multinational state if you prefer on the lines of Belgium / Bosnia Herzegovina / Annan plan for Cyprus.”

    Or it could just be a constitutional republic that has written into its constitution, guaranteed rights for the minorities.

  • Comrade Stalin

    st etienne:

    Did one of their reps intervening on the previous occasion cause you to rethink your slanders?

    A UUP court case protesting the accusation that the party is sectarian and has a history of being so would be quite hilarious. I’d relish the opportunity to put Peter McCann on the stand and get him to tell us under oath what actually happened around his selection.

  • Greenflag

    ‘if we are serious about the union then we have to become less interested in what makes us different and more interested in creating one society, working together, regardless of religion or culture..’

    Probably an impossible task for ‘unionism’. Given the state’s foundation rationale and it’s history of exclusion of almost half it’s population . Irish Nationalism and Republicanism can reach back into it’s histories and extract leaders and iconic figures from the non RC and even non Irish backgrounds .

    But when ‘Unionism’ reaches back into it’s history there is nothing there except ‘exclusion’ and priviliged treatment for the self chosen people even if that ‘privilige’ was well watered down by the time it reached Sandy Row .

  • Greenflag

    In the period after World War II Germans consoled themselves on the partition of their country by repeating in private too each other what the French said after the Franco Prussian war in 1870 , and the loss of Alsace Lorraine -until 1918 .

    ‘N’en parler jamais , y penser toujours -On les aura ‘

    translation

    ‘lets not talk about it , but think of it always and we’ll get it back (Alsace Lorraine)

    The difference between those countries and Ireland apart from the obvious one of size and importance in both the older european balance of power and the later Cold War seems to me to be that rather than actually ‘think’ about the unification of Ireland -we would much rather talk about it .

    Perhaps it doesn’t bear thinking about ?

  • Alan N/ARDS

    Don’t have problem with your point about Unionist leaders being pretty pathetic. Big house unionism did nothing for my grandparents and their families. They used and abused them. They lived in squalor for decades. Thats’s why they mainly voted labour. My grandfathers song as a party piece was not the sash but the Red Flag yet he didn’t want to live in a Dublin controlled UI. He wasn’t a church goer or in the OO so had no religious axe to grind. Mind you it took decades for the south to lift their poor out of squalor after they took control of their own country.

    Nationalists can look back in their history to some great leaders. That’s a fact. But they also can find a good number of people with the blood of the innocent dripping from their hands. Especially in the not to distant past.