If Robinson pitches for Catholic votes, where does that leave nationalism?

There’s a long distance between Catholics preferring to stay where they are and getting them to actively vote for Unionist parties. But that’s what Peter Robinson’s pitching for. Good luck to him, though as Conal McDevitt points out there’s a considerable way to go to convince people the politics emanating from OFMdFM is not business as usual.

Robinson has some form on this, as Pete pointed out the day he took up the baton from his former leader to become the second DUP MLA to hold the post of First Minister.

Saying is not the same as doing. But just making the pitch makes a difference in how you are viewed. If it does not convert voters in any numbers, it might at least have the effect of removing the ‘anti Unionist’ motivation that impells so many nationalists to get out in vote.

Jude Collins captures it particularly well:

The question that faces those of us with a political interest/motivation is: what direction would we like to see public opinion move? If we’re nationalist/republican, we’ll want to argue our case, present evidence, show that being grown-up politically involves the responsibility of being like other countries, running our own affairs, not having them run by the man next door, no matter how nice or rich he is. If we’re unionist at heart, we’ll want to argue our case for having decisions made by Mother Britain and do all we can to convince nationalist/republicans that theirs is a lost cause.

But on Wednesday in the Irish News Brian Feeney articulated the ultimate of all inconvenient truths for political nationalism. Since the Belfast Agreement, northern Irish nationalists have simply never had it so good:

Now are Sinn Fein really asking northern nationalists to give up all this power and status and submit themselves to being a minority in a bankrupt state where all the goodies have already been divvied up among unfriendly cronyism.

Elephant? What elephant?

, , ,

  • Rocketeer

    This is certainly a difficult task for Peter Robinson to complete but I can say that as a Catholic I voted for the DUP at the last election: as did my family and many of my Catholic friends, largely because of the moderating influence of Peter Robinson on the party. I would never have considered voting for the DUP a few years ago but clearly the mood among my Catholic friends and colleagues towards the DUP is dramatically changing.

  • Henry94

    The current economic reality precludes a successful vote on a united Ireland. Nobody will vote themselves out of subsidy and into debt. For now nationalism has two main tasks as I see it. First to participate in the solution of the south’s problems by making the case for default and the restoration of an Irish currency.

    Second by making advances on the cultural front not just be the necessary demands for equality but by working to make the cultural side of nationalism more open and inclusive and also to be open to cultural expressions that we would not be traditionally associated with. If it happens on the island and people give their spare time to it then it is Irish culture. Unless it is violent of hostile we should embrace it.

  • perseus

    quite henry,
    Brian’s quote ignores the idea that in a united ireland,
    the parties, formerly known as SF and DUP
    would in all likelihood merge to form a Liberal Party,
    having a huge, even domiant influence in the Dail.

  • pippakin

    It leaves nationalism and ‘republicanism’ precisely where they deserve. If SF persist in promoting their aging operatives over the heads of real applicants with real abilities then that has a serious knock on effect which I have been concerned about for some time. Its not a game they are playing where they get to sit in the corner giggling at the latest ‘prank’. It can be said that both sides do it but only one side has to win a real majority.

  • south_down

    Perseus.

    >Brian’s quote ignores the idea that in a united ireland,
    >the parties, formerly known as SF and DUP
    >would in all likelihood merge to form a Liberal Party,
    >having a huge, even domiant influence in the Dail.

    I would imagine that Brian ignores that idea simply because [text removed- mods], he’s not completely stupid.

    The idea that
    1. even some small parts of DUP and SF could merge
    2. that the resultant chimera could in some way be labelled as “liberal”
    3. that such a party (having support in 1/5 of the island could have a dominant influence over the parties with support in the other 4/5.

    Well all I can say is “wow”.

    Just, Wow.

  • perseus

    south_down
    I accept that the juxtaposition of liberal and dominant
    is a difficult concept to grasp…

    But sure no-one knows what the make-up would be
    of the political spectrum in a united ireland.

    re the math should southerners be inspired
    by the politics of the new liberal party,( ulster people’s party)
    they could switch allegainces and that’d make up the numbers ..
    see got it all figured out cara ! No flies on me m8

  • JR

    Rocketeer,

    You have certainly come a long way in a few years. Going from someone who wouldn’t have considered voting DUP a few years ago to someone who has made praising Peter Robinson the subject of almost every post you have ever written on slugger.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s one of the benefits of archiving a commenters contributions.. You get a greater sense of where people are coming from, and how genuine they might be.

    Nice response to the Irish language hack on the DUP Rocketeer!

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    There is a great opportunity now for the Unionist parties to win over votes from the Catholic community and build on this over time, whereas Sinn Féin’s lingering hardcore hardman balaclava image will not win over Unionists. Peter Robinson & Co in a reversal of fortune regarding NI politics have a great chance to capitalize on the recent survey regarding NI’s Catholics and their opinion of living in the UK.

    Sinn Féin’s party political broadcasts during recent elections were rather appalling with mad diddly iddly music in the background, Gerry’s chesire cat smile and booming voice of doom enough to keep Unionism at bay for good!
    It’s why folk in the south were always reluctant to vote for Sinn Féin too. Kinda incredible to believe that they are the party that want an inclusive United Ireland, but they fail to realise that ‘inclusive’ includes the very British of Brits in NI too!

  • slappymcgroundout

    Mick:

    (1) “The same survey shows that only 2% of Catholics say they would vote for a unionist party, half for the DUP and half for the UUP”.

    (2) Perhaps to prove his sincerity Robinson might try supporting an Irish language bill, you know, provide some practical demonstration that he well and truly cares

    (3) SF and the SDLP could simply make this their campaign slogan, at least to keep their historic vote close to home: a vote for the DUP is a vote for Gregory Campbell. Perhaps Gregory explains the 1%.

  • JR

    I read Brian’s article and thought it was excellant. He hit the nail on the head. Though I personally don’t think the NI goodie bag is the magic bottomless santa sack that many seem to believe in.

    While a UI may be unattractive to many Catholics at the moment that is nothing that a few westminster cuts and an economic recovery in the south wouldn’t sort out.

  • Mick Fealty

    Some snippets from an earlier date in this ongoing discussion. It starts with Graham Gudgin in December 2002, just after those census results were published (mysteriously postponed from that July):

    “Nationalist expectations of a future Catholic majority have risen so high it will take more than a single census to bring them back down to earth. Sooner or later, though, there will have to be a re-assessment.”

    Gerry Moriarty:

    “The 53/44 figure will provide some reassurance for unionists who were confronted with a number of recent media reports suggesting that the Catholic population would be as high as 46 per cent and the Protestant/unionist population would be under 50 per cent.”

    “Such figures would have signified a dramatic rise in the Catholic population of 4 per cent in the 10 years since the last census, and an even more remarkable drop in the Protestant population of over 8 per cent. This would have essentially tallied with Sinn Féin’s analysis that a united Ireland was achievable by 2016.”

    Tom McGurk:

    “…the whole purpose of the new politics is to end the imperative of sectarian headcounts, indeed to begin the process of finally liberating the Irish body politic from the dysfunctional, post-colonial impact of Westminster, which imposed those sectarian headcounts.

    “In the Agreement in 1998 Irish nationalism made its political peace with those who caused the primary wound: the historic carve-up of the territorial nation. It adopted a political process whereby the political failure that this carve-up had created would come to an end. Partition in everything except as a line on a map was thereby ended.”

    ‘Job’, as my father-in-law would say, ‘jobbed’ then?

    Anthony McIntyre:

    “Nationalist number crunchers have been frustrated on two major counts. Firstly, the share of the nationalists fell considerably short of the anticipated 46%. Secondly, the unionists were more than 3% over the predicted minus-50%. Their psychological doomsday simply failed to approach the green horizon.

    “The big mistake of the nationalist hopefuls may have lain in paying too much attention to those writers who predicted the end of a unionist majority as a mere means of creating a comfortable discursive environment for Sinn Fein once the party had surrendered on the question of the consent principle.”

    Paul Murphy (then SofS):

    “Once the dust settles today, I hope the majority will see the census as a useful reminder of what the Belfast Agreement was all about. Because at the heart of the Agreement, was a recognition that the bitter divisions of Northern Ireland will never be solved by mere demographics.”

    And Chris Thornton:

    “The question of a united Ireland is far from settled. But for those who equate unionism simply with the protection of Protestant rights, it is clear that Northern Ireland will never be the same again.”

    Now that is where we were nine years ago when people were plainly treating a Catholic vote as a literal vote in the bag for a UI. And some still doing that. Is it time for that re-assessment yet?

  • slappymcgroundout

    JR:

    There is a much larger issue than putative Westminster cuts and ROI insolvency, to wit, the feeling of security that comes with having a veto. The real moment of truth comes when everyone is asked how they feel when the system reverts to a regular majority-minority system with no veto. Then you’ll find out how much the minority trusts the majority. Easy to feel all warm and fuzzy when nothing too bad can happen owing to the veto. We’ll see how it goes when the veto goes.

  • perseus

    greagoir
    It is difficult with GA at the helm;
    he seems content with repeating the creed like at mass
    ” I believe in one holy catholic and aposotilic church ..”
    is replaced by
    “I believe in one ireland, unity of its people .. and so on”
    How do people keep awake at these gatherings?

  • PaddyReilly

    It’s why folk in the south were always reluctant to vote for Sinn Féin too

    In the 2 elections held in Ireland in 2011, Sinn Féin won 398,885 first preference votes, or 13.75% of the total, only just being beaten into third place by Labour.

    The DUP won 198,436 first pref votes, or 6.84% of the total.

    It’s amazing what people can persuade themselves is true.

  • Will

    Impressive words from Robinson and I believe he himself has a genuine wish to bring Catholics on board so to speak. It’s refreshing to hear a Unionist talk about attempting to win the argument on the constitutional question and is a welcome change from SF’s insistence on demographics in achieving a UI.

    How much he can really bring his party with him on this though I wonder. As Liam Clarke points out above – “Many Catholics feel they can’t trust unionist parties to defend their interests. That is why they vote overwhelmingly for nationalist parties.” For the DUP to attract a significant number of Catholic votes then, they would need to soften their stance on Irish cultural issues. How far could they push this without alienating their own electorate? And how would DUP figures such as Nelson McCausland feel about the party becoming more focused on Irish cultural symbols etc?

    Clarke’s suggestion that they drop Unionist from the party name tickled me. As has been discussed in a recent blog on here, the SDLP has failed to attract left of centre Unionists despite its “Social Democratic and Labour” credentials. In politics, actions always speak louder than words and cosmetic changes like a party name change won’t fool anybody if it isn’t accompanied by a change in attitude or direction.

  • Now are Sinn Fein really asking northern nationalists to give up all this power and status and submit themselves to being a minority in a bankrupt state where all the goodies have already been divvied up among unfriendly cronyism

    And where their (SF’s) form of monocultural ethno-nationalism would be regarded as much as an embarrassing archaism as loyalist/Orange culture is on the UK mainland?

    Rather obviously Robinson never says anything without some kind of well-thought out reason behind it. The DUP has seen off the UUP in Greater Belfast so what’s the next feasible target? Yep, it’s not so much catholic voters per se he’s after as catholic and protestant Alliance voters.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Bit of a misunderstanding by Jude Collins of unionism to see us preferring to defer decisions to an external “Mother Britain”. 1. we see ourselves as internal to Britain, it’s not us and them. It’s natural for some national decisions to made nationally, e.g. on foreign policy.
    2. most unionists want devolution, so as many decisions as possible to made locally.
    Ms Collins seems to be labouring under the old delusion that unionism is about doffing the cap to the English. Has she ever met one of us?

    But on the main point, Brian Feeney has it right of course: a 32 county Ireland seems to be a comforting reverie for nationalists, not an entity they have thought through realistically. Northern Ireland would not turn into some Gaelic idyll, it would still be screwed up old Northern Ireland, only in a different container. Only this time, it would be a thus far mono-cultural container, adapting for the first time to being a state of two peoples without a shared identity – a pressure cooker environment for ethnic antagonisms.

    The state NI would be leaving is a multi-national, multi-cultural state of long standing, with a deep culture of accommodating multiple identities. And it’s expected to be “progress” because …

  • Mick Fealty

    Paddy,

    You wouldn’t be trying to mislead the conversation there Paddy now would you?

  • perseus

    Now that is where we were nine years ago
    when people were plainly treating a Catholic vote
    as a literal vote in the bag for a UI.
    And some still doing that.
    Is it time for that re-assessment yet?

    Definately, SF might as well go after the protestant vote.
    Any sums on that one?

  • JoeBryce

    Change is coming from OUTSIDE Ireland.

    Scotland has a majority nationalist government.

    Scotland will have greater autonomy from Westminster.

    There is never going to be a United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Ulster prods feel their kinship to Scotland, not to England.

    If it is indeed the case that there is a de-alignment on the nationalist side between religious affiliation and political ideology, great.

    A similar de-alignment is, I sense, taking place on the other side of the street too.

    It’s getting easier for us all to work out a truly shared future across the Islands as a whole.

  • Mick Fealty

    It does Joe. And, much to Dewi’s regret, unionism is on the rebound in Wales. Besides, Scotland has an advantage that we don’t: its politics are not caught up in religious silos as we are.

    The resulting dynamism means that things there can move relatively quickly.

    Robinson’s intent is the way we recommended Unionism should go eight years ago. Nationalism is long overdue thinking through and then determining a credible countermove.

  • perseus

    re the loyalist vote here’s the pitch from SF;

    ” you don’t have to keep marching to please your masters in the orange lodges,
    come with us on a “REAL” march, a working-class march
    for imroved condtions; opportunity, we’ll even go with you.. ”

    If that can be made to work
    there’s an MLA in there surely aprox 5000 votes .

  • PaddyReilly

    There are twice as many SF voters on the island of Ireland as there are DUP ones.

    But perhaps this is unfair, the DUP didn’t stand for the Dáil elections, perhaps with their new philocatholic stance they should consider doing so. Ha ha.

    The answer to the question posed is that Nationalism is left in exactly the same position as it already is. The DUP isn’t going to win a single Nationalist vote, nor SF lose a single one, as a result of this laughable pitch. Though admittedly, there does seem to general drift from the UUP to DUP (and from the SDLP to SF) in the voting, so perhaps it might persuade some UUP voters with Catholic relations that it’s safe to switch.

  • ThomasMourne

    I wondered why anyone would switch from one sectarian party to another one at the opposite extreme of the political spectrum and then Rocketeer gave me the answer.

    I am still perplexed by supposedly sensible people having anything to do with sectarian politics.

  • And yet, is Robinson indulging in doublespeak. Not too many Catholics can be impressed with him having a private meeting with the leaders of an illegal sectarian murder gang (“If you can’t find your target, any Taig will do” – Gusty Spence to members of his gang.)
    I can imagine the howls of rage from the usual suspects if McGuinness invited the leaders of “dissident” republicanism to Stormont to discuss ways of dealing with their “grievances”.

  • Frankly Peter Robinson might pitch for Catholic votes. But I doubt (on say) the single issue of grammar schools a Catholic would vote DUP.
    Do devout Catholics vote DUP because that party has the strongest line on Abortion?
    Did Catholics vote for any kinda unionist on the basis of the National Health Service.?

    Ultimately we all vote on our own version of our high minded ideals and low self interest. There is no manifesto of issues the DUP could cobble together which any “Catholic”/ “nationalist” would accept.

  • Mick Fealty

    Paddy,

    It’s not unfair exactly. It’s just not useful (unless and until there is a unified island polity).

  • Mick Fealty

    FJH.

    I think people are being way too literalist.

    The pitch is, of course, the thing. But the immediate pay off lies not in the number of Catholic votes it snags them, but in how effectively it opens up the unionist middle class (which still has more votes than the average non-garden centre attending prod) to voting DUP by making warm noises about their Catholic friends and neighbours.

    Secondarily it opens a narrative, that it may or may not be able to capitalise on at a later stage.

  • fingal cave

    Two undercurrent of our politics have always been:

    1. the telling statement from any constituent who approaches their MLA surgery that whatever colour your flag – “(Insert DUP or SF name) doesn’t care if you are a catholic/protestant, they’ll do their best for you”. Robinson and McGuiness are associated with this maxim, more than many. For goodness sake, even during pre-Chuckle days, a Ballymena catholic would have gone to Paisley (Snr, not Jnr) to get help with their benefit/boundary/council problem first rather than drive down to Andersontown and run the risk of losing the hubcaps on their disability car.

    2. There are as many catholics up north who would think it nothing worse than a nightmare to be trapped in a lift with a bunch of Southerners (who generally can’t bear their Northern brethren) as there are protestants who travel to London and realise how despised they are by those supposed com-padres – to paraphrase Tom Paulin – we are all waiting like dogs in our own province.

    So let’s be honest, you don’t need to be John Nash on a good day for the voices to tell you that once you enter into political mutuality with your supposed enemy, you set up a game of more formalised zero-sum politics.

    The DUP’s gain or loss in terms of pitching for catholic voters interested in maintaining the union is balanced by the losses or gains of Sinn Fein pitching for protestant voters interested in tapping into some of the street level, social gains they may perceive SF are better able to acquire for their electorate.

    The truth is the DUP no more wishes to diminish the SF vote than Aslan wants to cut off his own mane. Robinson’s attempt at the centre-ground is truly welcome indeed because pitching outside your traditional camp for more votes is a sign of healthy party positioning – but lets not pretend it is going to lead to mass defections. The DUP are tickling the tummy of the floating voter who has been sitting it out on the Alliance park bench and it wants to coax them to their bench with the promise of a nice, non-sectarian ice cream before they ask for a grope.

    In all, I for one will continue to vote in the manner we all vote now – better to keep the ‘enemy’ you know in power as a bulwark against the extremists in your party who are crazy enough to believe in this world of internationalism and geo-politics that a strengthening/weakening with the UK or The Republic is going to stop us all stitching footballs for Chinese kids in a hundred years time.

  • PaddyReilly

    Thought this would be an appropriate moment to announce the All-Ireland voting (Dáil + Stormont) for 2011. First preference. For reference only. Just so you can see the degree partition creates insoluble problems which would otherwise be soluble.

    Fine Gael 801,628 27.64%
    Labour 431,796 14.89%
    SF 398,885 13.75%
    FF 387,358 13.36%
    INDs(Rep) 279,459 9.63%
    DUP 198,436 6.84%
    SDLP 94,286 3.25%
    UUP 87,531 3.01%
    Alliance 50,875 1.75%
    Green 47,070 1.62%
    Socialist 27,589 0.95%
    Pb4P 26,989 0.93%
    TUV 16,480 0.56%
    S Kerry IA 4,939
    WP 4,211
    UKIP 4,152
    INDs (NI) 3,003
    Prog Un NI 1,493
    BNP 1,252

    In total, 2,899,580 votes were cast. The total Unionist vote is about 11%.

  • An excellent point Mr Fealty.
    But the unionist who does not currently vote DUP has no need to hear ant warmth towards Catholics to consider switching to DUP.
    Indeed the ineffectiveness of UUP (mirroring the ineffectiveness of SDLP) should be enough to persuade any reasonable unionist that their principles and interest will be better looked after by DUP.

  • Mick Fealty

    Of course, I agree it is not *necessary*. But that is also, potentially, part of the attraction. They don’t have to do it.

  • Alanbrooke

    It’s about time the Unionist parties decided to bury Ulster Unionism and restored Irish Unionism.

    I seriously doubt any unionist party will have credibility until they categorically break all links with the OO. None of the current crop have the urge or indeed the balls to do so.

  • USA

    In the Tele, Liam Clarke described the study as “A major survey”. While I certainly respect the work done by ARK, the fact remains that the survey only had 1,205 respondents. For me the small survey sample limits it’s usefullness.

    If Robinson is serious he could move on the Irish language issue. That would be his litmus test.

    The task facing the DUP is equal in scope to the task facing SF in their efforts to win support in the Unionist community. Sustained efforts by both may bring them closer to center ground politics, that should benefit society.

  • USA,

    1205 is a reasonable sample size. Statistical analysis implies that the results should be correct to a very few percentage points 19 times out of 20.

  • Mick Fealty

    USA,

    I don’t know what your experience was at school, but nothing Ive heard from unionist pols compares to my mates at school re Irish.

    I would recommend an attack. But backing it would just p!ss off the base for no tangible benefit.

    Get a hold of Feeneys piece if you have any doubts on the study.

  • This is a very clever move by Robinson.

    Northern Ireland Conservatives, meanwhile, will be scratching their heads. This is how they wanted the UUP to be. The DUP was supposed to be the bible-thumping anti-papist gay bashing unacceptable political face of extreme protestantism. Now they look ready to hold their Christmas Party at a GAA club.

    The UUP was supposed to be the forward – thinking liberalising face of unionism. Now they are the main hotbed for anti-green “scum” bashing.

    Of course, it will take some time for Catholics to start transferring their votes to unionist parties in significant numbers. However, this will plant a few seeds for the future and if the DUP continues along this path and does drop “unionist” from its name at some stage further down the line, he will eventually reap.

  • USA

    Mick,
    Sorry but I am having difficulty understanding the meaning of your response.

    I would recommend an attack” ? Do you mean you feel Robinson should indeed back a move on the Irish language?

    But backing it would just p!ss off the base for no tangible benefit.” But you feel Robinson may calculate such a move may cost him more that he gains?

    If I have understood you correctly, then I agree with your comments.

    I will try to seek out Feeney’s review of the survey. I did think Feeney called the Short Strand events 100% correctly on UTV. I was equally suprised and dissapointed by the ineffectiveness of Trevor Ringland on that same panel, who I would have hoped had more about him. Feeney had to carry him through.

  • USA

    Mick,
    I don’t know what your experience was at school, but nothing Ive heard from unionist pols compares to my mates at school re Irish.

    Don’t really understand that bit either?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Was Peter a member of the DUP under its former name, the Protestant Unionist Party? don’t know about the top brass but I don’t see how the party can appeal to Catholics at grass roots level, in fact take a look at how strong the Free Presbyterian element remains and it is very hard to match up the two images.

  • nightrider

    I may be misinterpreting here, but I know many, many people ‘of a Catholic community background’ don’t give a shit about the Irish language. Not quite as embarrasing as ‘Ulster-Scots’ is to many Prods, but more of an irrelevance than anything else.

  • Comrade Stalin

    slappy:

    (2) Perhaps to prove his sincerity Robinson might try supporting an Irish language bill, you know, provide some practical demonstration that he well and truly cares

    Trust me. The Irish language issue isn’t something that illuminates people. After the events of this week isn’t it clear that there are more important things than language tokenism ?

    If Robinson wants to do cross community outreach, he might get somewhere by using his position as the leader of unionism to disown loyalist paramilitaries, and perhaps doing something to try to sort out the marching problem.

    The other problem the DUP have here is that there is a possibility that they will lose votes on their other flank. They’ve managed to mostly avoid this but I’m not sure how long they’ll be able to keep that up. And the comments from Nelson McCausland the other day are, unfortunately, not where all we need to be going on the marching question.

    fitz:

    Ultimately we all vote on our own version of our high minded ideals and low self interest. There is no manifesto of issues the DUP could cobble together which any “Catholic”/ “nationalist” would accept.

    The part you are ignoring is that the electorate may move, however slowly, beneath your feet. It’s very cynical to assume we will all be wedded to the same tribal mindset for all eternity, especially if the cost of doing so begins to become unbearable.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Seymour,

    Indeed. Tom Elliott embarassed himself again today, adjourning a meeting because Francie Malloy dared to suggest that the manager of the Linfield football club didn’t like republicans.

  • Mick Fealty

    USA,

    I was on an iPhone. Thus the shorthand (and the missing ‘not’). Sorry.

    My mates at school threw far more crap at the language than I’ve heard from any unionist politician. Ergo, there’s Catholic votes for him even if he did not do what you suggested. I was trying to argue merely that he did not need to attack, but not defending it would not repel Catholic voters most likely to jump to the DUP.

    UCU-NF’s problem is that they gave the impression they were keener on Catholic votes than Protestant ones. Something that was certainly not true, but it gave rise to confusion in the base and almost certainly lost them votes.

    I could hand him a case for backing the social enterprise that is NI’s Irish language community, but he might find it wise not to commit public money to new projects when so many of the old ones are about to get cut.

  • Mick Fealty

    Drumlin. I can’t be sure, but I think he joined the DUP in 71 after his mate Harry Beggs was killed at Danesfort, the then headquarters of the EBNI (NIE) in August of that year.

    The DUP started on the 19th. Beggs was killed on the 25th.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OvBUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ljwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1174,3212075&dq=desmond-boal&hl=en

  • Cynic2

    I think you saw your answer today in Ritchie’s shameless attempt to appeal; to hard line republicans by attacking the RUC when SF do it so much better. What was it the State Department said? Wooden? Disaster? Yep …in spades

  • Comrade Stalin

    UCU-NF’s problem is that they gave the impression they were keener on Catholic votes than Protestant ones.

    I really don’t know where you come up with this stuff, Mick. You surely haven’t forgotten the set of UCUNF Catholic candidates who mysteriously resigned en masse some time before the election ?

  • Funny that. I remember when I was at University back in the late 60s where a member of the Uni Young Unionists who was a Catholic from Newry put himself forward as a potential MP. He was convinced that he could attract Catholic voters. I can’t remember his name, perhaps something like Louis Boyle. The Newry Unionist branch more or less told him to get on his bike.

  • Longridgeofthecow

    DUP/SF party, I can’t wait to see that happen. I hope I live to be as 970 years (Methusala I’m on your ass!) and if I do live that long I shall never witness that monstrosity!

    god(deliberate lower case) help us all, are we all out of ideas in this place/country/province/hell-hole?

  • south_down

    Perseus

    > “I accept that the juxtaposition of liberal and dominant
    > is a difficult concept to grasp…”

    No, it’s the juxtaposition of “DUP/SF” and “Liberal” that’s difficult o grasp.
    Did I say difficult? Sorry I meant impossible.

  • George

    Where does this leave nationalism?

    Where it always has been – the voice of northern Catholics. This type of talk gets wheeled out all the time and I take it with the exact same pinch of salt as I would an “outreach” from a certain Gerry Adams towards unionism.

    Words are cheap. There are no Catholic Unionist MLAs, and I am also unaware of any Catholic unionist councillors so unless Mr Robinson is going to put his money where his mouth is and produce a raft of Catholic candidates in winnable unionist seats at the next election, it will just have be chalked off as hot air.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I do think that pretty much all the parties apart from Alliance would need a major rebrand, name change and refocus to have any chance of appealing to the other side.

    SF need to lose IRA / Troubles baggage; DUP need to lose Paisley baggage; SDLP needs to lose Humist green baggage; UUP needs to lose the 1921-72 baggage.

    Given that they’ve all either hit their limits or slumped badly now in one way or another, why doesn’t one of them try this? The first step in actually radically changing what you’re about is to start acting like you’ve changed.

  • ayeYerMa

    UCU-NF’s problem was that the UUP were never actually 100% behind the idea.

  • Sam Maguire

    Jesus wept. I can’t wait to see the charm offensive that Peter has up his sleeve that will have Catholics tripping over themselves to vote for Nelson, Gregory, Willie and Ruth.

  • Lionel Hutz

    As a few other posters have said, I agree that this is a simple pitch to the moderate unionist who has historically seen the DUP as to ‘extreme’ for them? They are going for the Alliance and UUP vote.

    But fair play to him. We all raise a wry smile when Sinn fein claim that they get loads of working class unionist votes. They’ve been doing that for a while.

    The funny thing is that the SDLP do get protestant votes (but that is interpeted as being a further example of being weak on a United Ireland), UUP do get catholic votes (but that is interpreted as being a further example of being weak in championing protestants and unionists).

    It seems the SDLP and UUP are just damned whatever they do. The future is Sinn Fein and DUP and they have the ability to whipe out the other two with the right soothing noises. After considilating their positions, this is the logical next step.

  • Mrs jones

    PaddyReilly -Thought this would be an appropriate moment to announce the All-Ireland voting (Dáil + Stormont) for 2011. First preference. For reference only. Just so you can see the degree partition creates insoluble problems which would otherwise be soluble.

    Fine Gael 801,628 27.64%
    Labour 431,796 14.89%
    SF 398,885 13.75%
    FF 387,358 13.36%
    INDs(Rep) 279,459 9.63%
    DUP 198,436 6.84%
    SDLP 94,286 3.25%
    UUP 87,531 3.01%
    Alliance 50,875 1.75%
    Green 47,070 1.62%
    Socialist 27,589 0.95%
    Pb4P 26,989 0.93%
    TUV 16,480 0.56%
    S Kerry IA 4,939
    WP 4,211
    UKIP 4,152
    INDs (NI) 3,003
    Prog Un NI 1,493
    BNP 1,252

    In total, 2,899,580 votes were cast. The total Unionist vote is about 11%.

    In the space of 4 years FFs vote dropped from 41.2% to 13.36%.A 60% decrease.FG/Labour party policies towards the unemployed are going to back-fire.Trying to force people,grown men,to work for their unemployment benifit is not going down well in dublin.They’re threatening people to work for nothing,(7.5k)while at the same time giving State Managers a salary cap of 200k,and it’s making them look as bankrupt as the workers party and sf.Sf don’t forget,were selling they’re own water two years ago,and are in exactly the position that James Connolly predicted the ‘rising buergeoise’ would be in 1913(Erins Hope).Peter Robinson pitching for catholic votes looks good,but it only adds another layer to the veil of the face of failure.Paddyr hit the nail on the head-Partition has created insoluble problems which would otherwise have been soluble,and that brings us full-circle to the Carnival of reaction,with approximately 50% of the population living below the poverty line.The struggle is not between catholic and protestant,it’s between the needy and the greedy,the rich and the poor.

  • Zig70

    Successful politics here seems to me to be identifying your tribe and playing up attacks on your tribe to give a sense of belonging. A lot of people think being unbranded from tribal politics gives you more room for growth but the good Ulster folk just don’t get what you stand for then. In attracting the liberal unionist, he may drop more votes out the other end.

  • Mick Fealty

    CS,

    It’s all relative. As a mutual friend of ours once said to me, when given the choice between a liberal and a politician adopting a liberal position, liberals will vote for the liberal first and foremost.

    I would not expect the DUP to pitch for Catholic votes on their ‘liberalism’, but on where there might be shared values. That’s likely to be some forms of conservativism; economic and social. Under Robinson we are likely to see a further filtering out of the more regressive and backward looking voices. Unlike Reg, he has sufficient power to trade.

    George,

    “Where does that leave Nationalism?”

    If it is true that less than 50% of Catholics in NI currently want a united Ireland it does not mean they are about to jump ship to political unionism, but it does mean that political unionism may have been fighting an unnecessarily reductive fight.

    If this is true there is a opportunity here for political unionism to take a more expansive view of its mission. Just look at the quote from Chris Thornton back in Dec 2002. It’s taken until now (to tidy away several political messes) for Robinson to begin to articulate that message.

    Whatever you think about that, it is a move. I’m scratching my head to understand what political nationalism’s counter move is, other than wait to see it fail. My view is that that is foolish, and leaves nationalism open to talking up ridiculous talking points when survey’s like the NILT demonstrates the historical determinism that has been sustaining the fantasy that it will all fall into nationalism’s lap as Catholics outbreed Prods.

    NB, I asked the question to provoke thought, not to force people onto the defensive.

  • PaddyReilly

    If it is true that less than 50% of Catholics in NI currently want a united Ireland it does not mean they are about to jump ship to political unionism, but it does mean that political unionism may have been fighting an unnecessarily reductive fight.

    Fallacy here- Unionism has never been about preserving the Union, it is about preserving power (office, wealth) for people who style themselves Unionist. Loyalty is primarily loyalty to self. The Union is only valuable because it benefits Unionists.

    The two enemies of the Unionist people are 1) Irish Nationalists and 2) the British. The British are needed to fight off the Irish Nationalists, but when that has been achieved they have to be defied, threatened and out-manoeuvred. Unionists do not want the British egalitarianism, wishy-washy liberalism, godless disregard for the rights of the covenanted people and spineless acceptance of European imposed Human Rights.

    The Ulster plantation, if it is to survive, requires constant weeding. It requires that the right sort are placed in office. The British are too stupid to see this.

  • backstage

    More warm words from Robinson. He must realise that with Nelson et al in the party he has little chance of carrying any Catholic votes. Perhaps the real political motivation is to steal more ground in the middle from the UUP – expanding the centre vote and further weakening the UUP.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Paddy you havn’t a clue and sadly I suspect you are expressing the standard republican view of Unionists. How disgusting for you to say the majority in Northern Ireland have no principles, morals or political conviction but instead are just mercenary spongers, because that is what your implying. Can I tell you simply I am a Unionist because I am BRITISH, London is my capital, English is my language, the BBC is my main entertainer and news provider, the NHS is my health service, the British Army is my army, and so many other things, most of which my Catholic neighbours would also share. I can’t see how wealth and office comes into it, in fact during the “boom years” the Republic probably offered both of these in abundance it seemed, but it attracted few “converts”. So I would suggest you actually get out there and talk to a few more Unionist a hear some reality, and maybe we need to do the same with the catholic unionist.

  • PaddyReilly

    British you may or may not be, but Unionism is not an organisation for ensuring the obtainability of the BBC, Twining’s Tea and cheap excursions to London. It is a movement for obtaining political power for itself, through providing some sort of pecuniary advantage for its voters.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Whatever you think about that, it is a move. I’m scratching my head to understand what political nationalism’s counter move is, other than wait to see it fail.

    Mick
    Chronologically you’re incorrect. Nationalism has been making such positive soundbytes for a while now, so this would appear to be the second counter move from political unionism (following on from the UCUNF disaster.)

    Ultimately, however, soundbytes will remain just that as the steps required to actually succeed in cultivating a catholic vote for unionism are beyond what unionist parties would countenance as they would necessitate ending unionism’s war with all things Irish- sporting, language and culture- as well as requiring a willingness to accomodate and legitimise the Irish nationalist identity of those they seek to court.

    The flip side is, of course, true for nationalists, though at least Sinn Fein, the SDLP and southern parties have now effectively altered their political vocabulary in an attempt to find a place for the British identity of unionists within their ideal all-Ireland entity of the future.

    Still baby steps, mind you, and Sinn Fein’s unwillingness to pull out all the stops to hold onto Billy Leonard as a protestant party representative with a past background reflective of many unionists suggests there remains considerable grounds to doubt the seriousness of the pary’s intentions in this regard.

  • Although I’m no fan, and cannot see myself ever becoming one, I have to admit Robinson is ahead of the curve here.

    If, as it seems, he and his coterie (though obviously not the DUP as a whole, which is still in the slow-learners stream) are thinking ahead, and redefining their “unionism” for a post-devolutionary and developing situation, good luck to him. This is the best time in the electoral cycle for such musing.

    Outside a dyed-in-the-wool flock of “nationalists” in NI, a breed largely extinct elsewhere except in the bars of Brooklyn and Boston, in the other green fields the same process is underway.

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    The main fault of the so called Irish Republican movement …(or should that be ‘pseudo’ Irish Republican movement) is it’s inability to recognize the very British and Unionist folk of NI…just like Drumlins Rock – and NI is home to over 800,000 of such folk.

    To counter such a move by Peter Robinson the Irish Republican movement will have to alter it’s current strategy -perhaps adhere to true Republican values. The playing field is now the political arena – grabbing NI peoples votes (not bombing them into a United Ireland)

    By clearing out most of the current Sinn Féin leadership that have a chequered past associated with the Troubles would be a start. The likes of Pierce Doherty will make an excellent future leader of Sinn Féin. Also Sinn Féin should drop the unappealing Marxist/Socialist mumbo jumbo and recognise the reality of business and economics of today.

    It’s understandable why NI Catholics might vote for Robinson yet it’s even more understandable why Unionist folk would never vote for the current Sinn Féin lot and it’s association with past murders, bombings, ‘war’ crimes or plain crimes!

    Sinn Féin’s goal of a United Ireland is even further away should Robinson win Catholic votes and should Sinn Féin never wish to appeal to the Unionist community.
    Afterall who wants 800,000 beligerant and angry Unionists living in a United Ireland.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I would still think that most Catholic Unionists would back the Alliance, UUP or the SDLP.

    Many Catholic Unionists would be GB & Emigrant Catholics who don’t know what the DUP actually is other than being “Little Ulstermen” naturally there are others, disillusioned nationalists perhaps as well as mix marriage Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, cultural Catholics etc.

    I will say that it’ll take more than backing integrated education to win them over.

  • FuturePhysicist,

    “I would still think that most Catholic Unionists would back the Alliance, UUP or the SDLP”

    Alliance and SDLP, yes but not the UUP. Tom Elliot’s elevation to the leadership and his public utterances since the UUP leadership campaign have reinfoced Catholic prejudice the UUP.

    About the DUP

    “I will say that it’ll take more than backing integrated education to win them over”

    Agreed but Robinson is certainly moving in the right direction. Furthermore, despite his party’s “little ulsterman” past, he has not got far to go before his party becomes the preferred choice amongst Catholic voters whenever there is nothing else on offer except a carve-up between the DUP and the UUP.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Seymour, look at the transfers from the last election, on the few occasions when transfers go nationalist to Unionist it is overwhelmingly to UUP candidates.

  • RyanAdams

    Thats very true DR, but the amount of transfers from nationalists has dropped to nearly have what it was in 2007 (Prominent orange man leading the UUP is where I lay the blame).

    The liberal message from the DUP is about gaining ground in form extra seats, should the current constituencies be around in 2015, although i have a strong feeling they won’t.

    Had the DUP had four candidates in East Belfast and North Down, I think they would have stood a very good chance of getting them both elected. They had spare first preference votes in North Down, and outpolled the UUP nearly 5:1 in East Belfast to make a good shot at it.

    At the next election (with uup under elliot) the DUP will wipe the UUP out in Belfast. Thats Peter Robinson’s goal.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I’m still wary of the poll figures in the NILT on that particular vote. My guess would be a lot of the non-nationalist sentiment expressed by Catholics could well be ‘soft’ in nature – going with whatever seems to be the majority will as they are bored or disengaged with the nationalist project. But if there were a Catholic majority, I suspect a lot may be very quickly converted to Irish nationalism again.

    Unionist parties have to do more than flirt with this constituency if they want to effect long term change in voting patterns – they have to understand and accommodate their values. I’m not sure if the DUP could do that and stay together as a party – the stretch with the irridentist right of the party could be too much. But it is an interesting and good thing for them to thinking about, for sure. I hope they are serious.

  • Here’s the evolution. People are frustrated with the choices they have to play with. They want to change but their opportunities to do so are limited. Moving from UUP to DUP or SDLP to SF is hardly a radical shift so more and more people are considering what is going to be a game changer in their voting pattern. There is a culture of participating here in elections so people will try not to get to the apathy of not voting although that is happening too. Therefore what to do? Well by voting across patterns messages can be sent that status quo is not an option then that is where the energy will go.

    in the last election I wanted to send a message to the local candidates that I don;t care a toss about their constitutional position – there will be plenty of time for that in the future. I care for issue based politics and I care for personality. I am no longer prepared to vote for the party monkey.

    For the first time I voted across the boundaries as if they weren’t there – GP, SDLP, DUP, UUP and finally SF. In the local elections I voted different patterns depending on the candidates there too.

    I don’t know where this realisation sits in the bigger picture but I tell you what it felt a bit liberating and a welcome change from the depressing feeling coming out of the booth with the sense that nothing will change.

    With a limited choice people are yearning for some form of creativity and I get the sense that is where the NILT responses are coming from. Creativity is sought – not in constitutional terms but in genuine effectiveness on the big policies.

  • george 1,02a.m.
    The headline should more accuratwely read, ‘If Robinson successfully pitches for catholic votes……’ PR has realised that there’s a difference btwn voting for the Union, and voting Unionist. He and his party have too much baggage for that prospect to be realistic in another hundred years, and then it will be epidemic [as del trotter would say].Next?

  • vanhelsing

    @madraj55 “He and his party have too much baggage for that prospect to be realistic in another hundred years”

    Not so. Whilst I agree with DRs post that transfers currently move more naturally to the UUP from RC voters [than DUP] I think that Robinson is cleverly starting down a long term strategy of ‘out governancing’ other parties. There will be several streams to this I think.

    1. DUP Ministers simply being seen as more competant than the Ministers of other parties [I’m not saying they necessarily are but that would be the aim]

    2. As Mick pointed out – starting to focus on issues that reasonate with some RC voters – starting points would be social and economic. I have plenty of qualitative data that suggests RC parents like the DUP stance on education for example.

    3. Positioning the party to be talking about ‘bread and butter’ issues more than anything else. Oh and doing it well.

    Like it or don’t like it, its clever, it’s timely and it’s strategic.

  • VanHelsing. Maybe I should have stressed ‘his party’ rather than PR himself. He would have trouble bringing on board those who were called the ‘dirty dozen’ or snowmen as Jim Allister called them. I would agree that the more conservative catholic parents would have sympathy with Robinson on the education matter. In particular, desegregation, but as Liam Clarke pointed out, ‘It’s easy for the FM to suggest slaying sacred cows of the other side, not so quick at suggesting axe for those on his own side to reduce the divisive elemenmts in society. Doesn’t Robinson think Orange marches every summer is a long standing source of division?
    He doesn’t

  • backstage… Well, Robinson has been restricting Campbell appearances on airwaves to judge from the election campaign, so maybe he’ll move on Nelson later.

  • This is much longer term than Campbell or Nelson. They are yesterday / today – the transition team, a legacy. Everyone will be looking for signals that they are increasingly marginal figures but today they are important as rotweilers for the masses.