If If Unionists are serious about Catholic voters they must reflect Catholic values…

In today’s Irish News, Brian Feeney has an interesting line on any future border referendum (re the power of framing the question, ala the SNP), more or less riffing off Peter Robinson’s reference in an article for the Times (of London) that he could be unionism’s last first minister.

For all the excitement it caused, Robinson’s words seem to me to have had one purpose over all others: further concentration on the message that his party must retain that office.

However, Feeney cites the dumping of Lester Maddox (a vocal supporter of the segregationist independent candidate George Wallace in the 1968 Presidential election) by the Democrat party in Georgia in 1971, as a turning point for Georgia from which it has never looked back.

And it was in a way, although it should be noted that the ‘revolution’ took place within the Democrat party.

In fact that party until recently maintained an enviable dominance at state level; the real change has been that significant number of the party’s voters have voted for Republican candidates in the majority of Presidential elections since Maddox’s departure.

If Georgia is to be the model, then Northern Ireland’s revolution may go no further than widespread acceptance that old hegemonies are melting (albeit at a glacial pace), and reform, however reluctantly accepted, is here to stay.

Henry McDonald provides a less counter intuitive pitch for the lead unionist party leader, if he is at all serious about attracting Catholic votes:

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of academic selection, here is one area where the DUP and Robinson could win friends and influence on the other side of the traditional divide. If Robinson was serious about making the DUP more attractive, he and his spokespersons could express their admiration for the Catholic grammar sector as continuing centres of educational excellence.

The DUP chief has, in recent years, had some success in secularising the party. And, given the personal scandals that beset not only his family of late and those of some of his party colleagues, Robinson must realise that the days of the DUP as Ulster’s moral police force are long over.

People, in general, want to be good, as George Orwell noted, but not too good. And Catholic people in Northern Ireland don’t want to be told that their faith is blind and that they are living in darkness. They want – and deserve – respect for their belief system, rather than patronising insults.

Indeed. At the time of our research for a study of the future of unionism, I more than once heard it said that the values of a rural Orangeman and those of a rural member of the GAA were not that far apart. Even if we assume that that were true, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the mere sharing of those underlying values currently affects the way people vote.

Not least because they are rarely publicly expressed in those terms.

So, whilst Mr Robinson’s focus on winning the office of First Minister will no doubt help frame the next electoral question in precisely the way he wants in the minds of Protestant voters, it’s likely to have precisely the opposite effect on Catholic ones.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Robinsons interview was merely once again playing the “stop SF becoming First Minister” stunt that he manufactered at St Andrews, and didn’t exist before then, further proof if needed that he was probably the instigator of that stunt, as usual the media will play his game to the letter.

    As for cross community DUP, maybe the top faces are different but the grassroots party is still the Free Presbyterian Church in a different guise.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Whatever about everything – the future could be interesting – no more dreary steeples.

    Image a 50/50 future – politics would be all to play for.

    Image a situation where the majority (slim!) voted for nationalist parties but where only 40% voted for a united Ireland!

    But unionism might have to make some big choices in the future. I for one frankly think that it would be relatively easy to convince the Catholic middle classes to vote for the union – but almost impossible to get them to vote unionist.

    Could we end up with Sinn Féin in the DUP’s position as the largest party but unable to break the connection with England.

    What is fascinating for me are the choices facing unionism. What is more important – the union or the culture war on everything Gaelic?

    What is more important – the union or anti-Catholism?

    These are big choices – and the union could well be the loser.

    Some unionists will immediately answer this post by saying, not all Catholics like the Irish language, the GAA or Irish music.

    Perfectly true, but only a minority have absolutely no connection with these these and the vast majority will be frankly upset when unionists attack these things and act as disrespectively as possible.

    Vote loser.

    Then there is Catholism, frankly even the most anti-cleric post-Catholic is enraged when some backwoodsman unionist counciller fires off a comment about the religon of say that person’s parents or grandparents.

    Vote loser.

    Some bit choices.

  • Eddie,

    Spot on with the distinction between “the union” and “Unionist”. Political Unionism has a giant self-awareness problem: it pays lip service to the maintenance of the union, but acts as a vehicle for Protestant communal interests. If it was truly committed to the union, it would long ago have given up on communalism. If the union is maintained in a generation’s time it will be despite the efforts of today’s political Unionists, not because of them.

    Could we end up with Sinn Féin in the DUP’s position as the largest party but unable to break the connection with England.

    The Parti Quebecois had exactly that problem in the 80s and 90s. Despite winning overall majorities on four occasions, they failed twice to get a referendum on sovereignty passed.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s easy enough to criticise politicians for not striking towards the big prize, but STV PR leaves little scope for such grand gesture politics. BUt somehow each must try to feel their way to their chosen outcome by changing the terms of engagement; not unlike Salmond in Scotland that allow people to step outside their traditional allegiances.

  • galloglaigh


    I think your post just answers the content of the thread. If Catholics votes are to be sought, attacks on perceived Catholic culture need to stop. Simple as that.

  • History does of course move at a glacial pace.
    But there is a precedent of sorts……..the length of the 19th century.
    In 1800 Catholics looked to an Act of Union to better protect their interests. Protestants thought that their rights were better protected with seperation.
    By 1900 the situation had completely reversed. Not merely an Catholic Emancipation, literacy, education, land and Democracy itself of (almost) at that stage one man one vote……..and Catholics came to the conclusion that their rights were better protected under an Irish State.

    Can the same thing happen in the 21st Century…..in Norn Iron?
    Well of course we cant bind our successors……and none of us will be around in 2111 to see Catholics become unionist again and vice versa.
    No doubt tumultous events will happen in terms of economy, Europe,religion, democracy? etc over the next century…..but I doubt that it will lead to anything which really turns round affiliations.

    Catholic Grammar Schools seems and selection in education seems a particuarly thin wedge for Unionism to drive into “nationalism”…especially when the two “Catholic” parties are against “selection” and quite a lot of those politicians have been educated thru the same Catholic Grammar Schools.
    The irony is that Norn Iron Catholic Grammar Schools tend to teach egalitarianism…they have always had a vested interest in opposing privelege in a way that English or Republics schools may not have done.

    I just dont believe that theres enough Catholics ..passionate about Grammar Schools for it to trump their committment to Irishness.
    Robinson would have to come up with something a lot bigger.
    If the Welfare State, National Health Service etc didnt inhibit Nationalist aspirations, Peter Robinsons fondness for Catholic Grammar Schools wont do it.

    Ultimately the DUP faces a crossroads. A secular way will undermine its own quasi-religious (and frankly anti Catholic) History.
    It just wont work.

  • Cynic2

    “attacks on perceived Catholic culture need to stop”

    What exactly is ‘perceived Catholic Culture’ these days? Or Protestant? Surely shared futures implies shared culture?

  • Nordie Northsider

    ‘What exactly is ‘perceived Catholic Culture’ these days? ‘

    It’s not so hardm Cynic – the Irish language, the GAA, the sense of belonging to an Irish nation bigger than the Wee Six. ‘Perceived’ is the key word, of course. Not one in a hundred nationalists can speak Irish.

  • Henry had a focus and not unreasonable point in that context. Equally, why the SDLP has not picked up on defence and attacked SF (for much greater electoral gain) can only be down to ‘principle’ which shows why it is electorally banjaxed for now: the SDLP is politically blind. And the UUP equally. Interestingly, this is the one area where a Conservative Party freed from UUP connections might well make headway. That the DUP does not defend grammars is partly a soft leftie element and also an unwillingness to show its complete impotence in dealing with a SF Minister who will ignore what the DUP (or anyone else says). Had that not been the case why agree a single authority with no doubt a set quangocrats more than symathetic to collectivist education as part of the PfG?

    Irish News readers can make of Feeney’s conjecture what they will. If it comforts them, it will prove to be a cold comfort.

  • John Ó Néill

    “People, in general, want to be good, as George Orwell noted, but not too good…” [Henry McD quote above].

    “Abuse of words frequently, as George Orwell liked to point out, reflects abuse of truth.” [Jude Collins in his blog today]

    Is it coincidental that we are having an outbreak of Orwellian quotations at the moment? Robinson was addressing his comments to an audience other than one he was supposedly pitching to. I don’t know if he could sufficiently re-calibrate the DUP’s standard vocabulary to make it chime with nationalists.

    As to Nordie Northsider – Cá bhfuair tú an uimhir sin (1 as 100)?

  • JR

    Bhí mé díreach ar tí an rud céanna a rá John.

  • JR

    Bheifeá iontas ort na daoine a bhfuil gaeilge agaibh.

  • Cén líon na léitheoirí na Slugger bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu?* Not exactly an inclusive conversation we’re having here.

    Can we run on Assembly rules perhaps, i.e if you speak Irish it’s polite to translate for everyone else? At least until Google Translate learns what prepositional pronouns are… :-/

    (* How many Slugger readers speak Irish?)

  • wild turkey


    thanks for a tenuous hook to post a link to Randy Newman singing Rednecks


    … last nite i saw lester maddox on the tv show

  • Red Lion

    Yes, or perhaps if unionists are serious about catholic voters they must reflect LIBERAL values would be more accurate, in the first instance.

    Step forward Basil McCrea

  • John Ó Néill

    Sorry, Andrew – Google Translate handles Irish quite well (prepositions included).

  • Sorry, John Ó Néill.
    It would still be polite to translate rather than forcing those who want to know what is being said having to go to the trouble.

  • John,

    Google Translate’s attempt at JR’s last comment* is:

    One would surprise you the people you are Irish.

    Which gets all the nouns and verbs in, but mangles the grammar beyond recognition. It doesn’t even manage to translate “agaibh” literally, let alone idiomatically (anyway, shouldn’t it have been “acu”?).

    (*It would surprise you the people who speak Irish)

  • Roy Walsh

    A couple of points relevant to this PR dream
    1) In 2011, if we remove the Poles, indigenous Catholic working population are still twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants. sorry no link
    2) The agenda here appears to be pushed by DUP/BBC in unrepresentative ‘opinion polls’ which, source/figures, I think requires clarification.
    3) No where is the level of Protestant (re)United Irish-men, and women adduced
    A person, regardless of religion is more likely to vote for equal status than a future of discrimination.

  • New Blue

    If any pro-union political grouping genuinely wanted to appeal to pro-union catholics then it must start by making it clear that it has no interest in the religious makeup of its membership.

    It must follow this by standing firm against sectarianism and intolerance.

    I believed this when I decided to become involved in politics, and while I still believe it (and believe there is a sizeable minority of people who want to see the same) the flag waving, drum beating MOPEry of too many of our politicians means that progress towards this will continue at the arthritic snails pace we have experienced for the last too many years.

  • John Ó Néill

    Andrew – you are spot on over the acu (although in fairness to JR even via Google Translate it is no more mangled than things I have written in English on here).

  • Mick Fealty

    Return to subject, please?

  • JR

    This is what happens mick when you deny us our weekly Irish language content!

    Sorry about the acu. To be honest if I provide a translation then why bother writing in Irish at all? For me I just feel like saying some things in Irish.

  • Mick Fealty

    Cuir r-phoist chugam?

  • Cynic2

    Slugger tipiciúil. Lig thug dúinn go léir ag ár navels agus neamhaird a dhéanamh ar na saincheisteanna

  • Drumlins Rock

    don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the changes the communitity has under went in the last dozen yrs is massive, more like a landslide rather than a glacier (in Iirsh historic terms) and it goes far beyond the political realm. A new middle ground of somesort will eventually evolve in its own way, with a natural mix, not the artificial Alliance one. Yes the existing parties might shape and influence it but it will come about in its own time and form.

  • JR

    I think you have rested the case against Google translate there Cynic.

    A Mhic,

    Chuir mé r-phoist chugat ag gearán faoi sinn níos mó na sé mhí ó shinn.

    Ok Irish done, I am back on topic. There is as much chance of a catholic voting for Peter Robinson as a Protestant voting for Martin Mc Guiness.

  • John Ó Néill

    Sorry – to get back off the language issue and back to terminology – if the DUP was to fully secularise -at what point would the faith of the British monarchy be a non-issue? It is hard to conceive of enough of an ideological centre of gravity in the party to stay intact if you discard the elements that are articulated as forms of very specific resistance to Roman Catholicism or promotion of a very particular conception of society infused and constrained by observance of values that are defined by one reading of Christian teaching. I don’t think there would be a DUP left.

  • Cynic2

    “I think you have rested the case against Google translate there Cynic.”

    Call it Unionist Outreach

  • Cynic2

    “There is as much chance of a catholic voting for Peter Robinson as a Protestant voting for Martin Mc Guiness”

    Possibly ……but McGuinness was seen by Prods as a good and effective Minister and has respect for that

  • “but McGuinness was seen by Prods as a good and effective Minister and has respect for that”

    Really? How many pride have you heard say that? i dont know a single one who doesn’t see him as an opportunistic murderer.

  • People, not pride. Sorry, typing on a phone, in a taxi.

  • The yokel

    You can think what you like about Martin McGuiness, but he is widely respected, here among unionists, across the water and in the South. If he was born in Glasgow rather than Derry he could well be doing Alex Salmond’s job now!

  • JR

    Respect maybe but votes no.

  • Drumlins Rock

    maybe in the future the DUP & SF wil continue to merge, they are blending to an amazing degree at present, with something similar between the UUP & SDLP, Alliance will have to choose either or, but are very much bedding in with the big two at present.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Respect or maybe it’s just that Mc Guinness doesn’t seem to wind up Unionists to the same extent as other SF players such as Adams. Perhaps a parallel is Robinson and the likes of say, Gregory Campbell who maybe shouldn’t be appointed to any Catholic outreach committee.

  • Johnny Boy

    The core vote of the DUP is motivated by fear of them’uns; before anyone gets close to a ballot box the usual hysterical scaremongering will be to the fore.

  • Republic of Connaught

    The desire from the OFMDFM should be to fix a broken society irrespective of the constitutional arrangement. Unfortunately given Peter Robinson’s history, one can only assume the constitutional arrangement and the ever increasing Catholic vote is behind his supposed ‘outreach.’

    Robinson needs to prove his sincerity. Should integrated education exist north and south in Ireland? I get the strong sense if Ireland was united Robinson would want his grandchildren going to separate Protestant schools, which would highlight the duplicity of his behaviour.

    It’s noticeable he doesn’t mention the state funded separate Protestant schools in the South or call for their students to attend integrated schools.

  • It’s noticeable he doesn’t mention the state funded separate Protestant schools in the South or call for their students to attend integrated schools.

    I would imagine Robinson doesn’t believe the education system in the Republic is any of his business, being a foreign country and all.

  • Republic of Connaught


    It is indeed his business when he has been actively quoting a 19th century Priest from Co. Kildare who was speaking about integrated education in ALL of Ireland.

  • galloglaigh

    being a foreign country and all

    That’s exactly the attitude that stops Catholics supporting unionism. It’s not a foreign country, it’s part of our nation. The Irish nation which was split against the will of its citizens!

  • RoC,

    If he quotes Confucius does that mean he should profess his opinion about education in China?

  • galloglaigh,

    Don’t confuse country and nation. A nation is a group of people, and a country is a territory. The two definitions are not coterminous. Isn’t that the entire point of the constitutional argument?

  • Republic of Connaught


    A weak response to a question Robinson and people like him aren’t comfortable with. He used a quote specifically relating to integrated education on the island of Ireland from a 19th century Irish priest.

    His opinion on separate Protestant schools in South of Ireland is highly relevant lest he be revealed as a hypocrite.

  • unicorn


    It was split on the grounds that members of my nation were to be made foreigners, including my own blood relatives in Scotland and England, against the will of the citizens of Northern Ireland, on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number, and that the right of a nationalist to secede from the UK and a unionist to secede from a united Ireland were equal and should be equally respected and a compromise reached on that basis. Imperfect as it may have been the principle was moral and just, while a united Ireland would have been immoral and an injustice.

    Yes I consider Enda Kenny to be a foreigner who concerns himself with matters of which I know little, including southern Irish education policy, while I do not consider David Cameron to be a foreigner and he concerns himself with matters of which I know a lot, such as the education system in England with it’s GCSEs and A Levels some of which I myself possess.

    That’s just a gut feeling though and it’s not something either of us should feel offended about that we feel that we are members of different nations. It should be accepted as part of the furniture and naturally assumed. Knowledge so common that it might be said on CBBC Newsround but not mentioned on the BBC evening news because it would be an insult to the viewer’s intelligence to mention it.

    The question though is this. You say that the fact that unionists consider southerners to be foreigners, which is something that is not a choice but rather a gut instinct that naturally developed growing up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland, is the reason that Catholics cannot support unionism, but if you consider my aunt in Leeds to be a foreigner and you consider Enda Kenny to be your fellow countryman then why would you support unionism in the first place?

    Also if you do feel that, but you would support unionism regardless for whatever other reason, why on earth does the fact that I exist and consider my aunt to be a member of my nation and Enda Kenny not to be a member of my nation prevent you from supporting the union? Saying that you would support the union but you can’t possibly do so while I still consider Enda Kenny a foreigner and have not yet come to view my aunt as being a foreigner would seem rather ludicrous.

  • Republic of Connaught


    So where do the nationalist majorities in Fermanagh and Tyrone undemocratically cut off from their nation in 1921 sit in your ‘moral and just’ partition theory?

    Thankfully I believe anyone who uses the term ‘foreigners’ when talking about any part of Ireland or Britain is dwindling to a sad minority.

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    The ‘United Ireland’ project is currently dead in the water given the state of the Irish economy. NI Catholics may as well stay within the UK, and that’s very understandable. Besides I have found NI Catholics attitude to be rather indifferent at times toward the Irish Republic. Robinison may as well plug for NI Catholic votes given that SF is going from strength to strength, whilst the Unionist vote splits. The thing is that the DUP will have a Papist hue to it’s once uber Prod ethos.

  • galloglaigh

    It was split on the grounds that members of my nation were to be made foreigners, including my own blood relatives in Scotland and England

    No matter what grounds it was split on, it was split against the will of the Irish people, and against the democratic process.

    Saying that you would support the union but you can’t possibly do so while I still consider Enda Kenny a foreigner and have not yet come to view my aunt as being a foreigner would seem rather ludicrous

    Who said anything about your aunt in Leeds. I often find it funny when the question of nationhood comes up.

    I have a cousin born in England. He grew up there and his surname is Murphy. His great grand father came to England as an immigrant. England is full of Irish diaspora – most of us share the same genes. None of us are foreign, Union or no Union. The same can be said of all the nations on these islands. We have all intermixed. What divides the nations on these islands, is an accent defined as being one or the other.. What divides Ireland is religion. And indeed has done for five or six hundred years

  • galloglaigh


    Surely if nation and country are not coterminous, then surely Enda Kenny is no more foreign than Alex Salmond?

  • galloglaigh

    Breaking news. The Police Ombudsman will no longer investigate 50 alleged RUC murders. There’s a shock!

  • unicorn

    Republic of Connaught

    You can disagree with me on the moral aspects, fair enough, that’s to be expected. We are all entitled to our own opinions but we are not entitled to our own private facts.

    When I said that I considered the south a foreign country and a different nation and that I consider Leeds to be part of my own country and my own nation I was informing galloglaigh of a fact, I was not instructing him that he must feel the same way about this as I do. A fact which may explain why Peter Robinson would not concern himself with the education system of the Republic of Ireland. He probably like myself feels no ownership of it and it has never been a matter of which he, or even members of his family, have encountered in their life course. He would also feel it is not his place to go mouthing off about the private affairs of another state representing another nation of which he does not feel he belongs. Again these are facts by way of explanation, and we are not entitled to our own private facts. What Robinson OUGHT to feel isn’t really the issue when trying to explain how he acts.

    Saying that I see Enda Kenny as a foreigner is not an insult. I’d much rather have a meal with Audrey Tautou than Rose West. It simply explains that I feel no ownership of the south or it’s institutions but I do feel ownership of the UK and it’s institutions. I would spend time engaging in political debates on the internet not only about those UK matters that concern Northern Ireland but also about the like of English tuition fees, but I don’t actually even know whether Universities down south have tuition fees or not. This state of affairs was not something I sat down one day and deliberately chose to bring about. It’s as natural as rainwater. Perhaps if I had been brought up in a nationalist family and went to a Catholic school it would be different, you tell me, but I am not in any sense choosing to deny some kind of natural pan Irish element to myself. It was never there to start with. On the other hand Britishness, sitting down and watching a documentary about the Battle of Britain and feeling pride that we defended ourselves from German aggressors for example, including that concept “we”, has been in me since I was a small child I guess. Perhaps a few streets away another small child watched the same documentary and felt no sense of “we”. Again you tell me. When watching Father Ted I saw it as a comedy featuring “them”. Perhaps the other guy saw it as a comedy featuring “us”, but there is no inherent nastiness about that and one isn’t worse than the other. If so I’ll accept that without throwing a fit and telling him he’s somehow wrong. So can we please have the same respect shown the other way.

    You may think my view wrong or crazy or whatever but frankly it’s none of your business just as it’s none of my business if you do the opposite. The agreement implicitly accepted not just the right to be British and the right to be Irish but also the right not to belong to any pan Irish or pan British nation in terms of self identification. What you are not entitled to do however is pretend that you are not surrounded by many people like me, because again we are not entitled to our own private facts.

    Again you may disagree with unionists being given a right of self determination when the UK was partitioned, and we can all quibble about Fermanagh this and why was Dublin Rathmines not made into a West Berlin, but the big question is whether unionists had the same right of self determination to take themselves out of a united Ireland as nationalists had a right of self determination to take themselves out of a United Kingdom. To me the granting of one right but not the other would be immoral and an injustice. You may disagree with that opinion but you cannot disagree with the fact that partition occurred by unionists demanding an equivalent right of self determination and rejecting the social contract of any all Ireland state. You may say that unionists demanding self determination was wrong, that’s an opinion, but you cannot say that is not how or why partition came about, that’s a fact.

  • unicorn


    No matter what grounds it was split on, it was split against the will of the Irish people, and against the democratic process.

    The only democratic process at the time was the election to the United Kingdom parliament. The United Kingdom parliament did not legislate for a united independent all Ireland state, so your “democratic process” was a make believe one where the island of Ireland was a pretend state, which is no less make believe than one where Northern Ireland is a pretend state and voted to stay in the union.

    A partition at the Irish Sea may have been supported by the majority on an island but so what? In Irish nationalists’ breaking of British nationality two nations then existed on the island of Ireland. Each such nation should have it’s respective rights treated equally, just like the USA and Canada / British Empire. There is no right for a particular section of the Earth’s surface to be a state. Inanimate objects do not have rights. Only people or peoples have rights. The creation of a nation comes from the consent of it’s constituent members to the corporate social contract. History, race, religion, geographical features such as lakes and mountains are only important to the extent that they might influence such a contract from forming or not forming, they are not justifications for anything in themselves.

    It’s understandable that many nationalists feel aggrieved in that many of them ended up living in the United Kingdom against their wishes. That is a tragedy, but it is no more or less a tragedy IN ITSELF than that unionists ended up living in the Republic or the tragedy of a unionist in Northern Ireland ending up living in a united Ireland against their will. All these things are equally tragic and none should take precedence over the others as a thing to be avoided. For every person who ended up living in the United Kingdom against their will there were two people who avoided living in a united Ireland. The right of the former is equal to each of the rights of the other two, but the former has no special right that can be worth more than double the rights of the latter to thereby override them. At the end of the day no amount of potato famines or pointing at a map and showing that there is water or shouting “we were here first” when we are discussing decades, never mind centuries, can alter that fact. I’d say exactly the same about Israel / Palestine, Quebec, Kashmir, and so on. The key to everything in all these places is consent where each human has a right which is weighed equal to every other human.

    I have a cousin born in England. He grew up there and his surname is Murphy. His great grand father came to England as an immigrant. England is full of Irish diaspora – most of us share the same genes. None of us are foreign, Union or no Union. The same can be said of all the nations on these islands. We have all intermixed. What divides the nations on these islands, is an accent defined as being one or the other.. What divides Ireland is religion. And indeed has done for five or six hundred years

    Foreignness has nothing to do with blood, religion or accent. A nation is a contract in the manner of Locke. Much like a marriage it is defined by being entered into by consent and with continued loyalty. Enda Kenny has not consented to the British social contract and has no loyalty or esprit de corps with Britain. That’s ultimately what makes him a foreigner, not his religion, accent or DNA. Similarly I have not freely by consent entered into any all Ireland social contract to which Mr Kenny belongs. Again I’d point out that me calling someone a foreigner is not an insult any more than me saying that a woman is not my wife would be an insult to her. It’s not intended as an insult.

    As to the division in Ireland being religion, religion may be a cause that created the division but the division itself is not of religion but of nationality. If religion was a necessary divider then mixed Catholic / Protestant countries like Germany could not exist and there wouldn’t be all these non-religious unionists and nationalists running around. The divider is nationality and national loyalty.

  • Republic of Connaught


    Firsty, Peter Robinson has been using a quote from an 18th century Priest from Co. Kildare who at the time was talking about integrated education on the island of Ireland. If Peter is so comfortable using that quote then simply asking his opinion about integrated education on the island of Ireland in 2011 is perfectly valid.

    Re: Fermanagh and Tyrone, You conveniently didn’t answer the question. Even If I agreed a majority of Unionists in Antrim or Down or Derry or Armagh had a right to self determination and to reject a united Ireland, so too did the majority of Nationalists in Fermanagh and Tyrone have the exact same rights to make their choice about the Republic or UK. You cannot pontificate about ‘self determination’ and say majority Unionists in county Antrim had certain rights but fail to admit majority Nationalists in county Fermanagh should have had the exact same rights.

    Northern Ireland was created along county lines so each county should have had their democratic say if self determination is what Unionists were so worried about.
    That Fermanagh and Tyrone were denied their rights proves the undemocratic landgrab that undoubtedly occurred. If only the majority Unionist counties were partitioned your self determination case would carry a lot more moral substance.

    As regards identity, that you consider yourself British and not in the least Irish is your own business. But to live on an island as small as Ireland in a 21st century globalised world, your own home island I presume, and talk about the vast majority living on the island as being ‘foreigners’ is unfortunately indicative of the ‘backward Ulster’ mentality that has made the north of Ireland the troubled place it was for so long. No one on this island or the neighbouring island are really foreigners to each other. Hundreds of years of mixed history and culture guarantee that. Indeed I believe most from these islands don’t consider anyone from America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand ‘foreign’ either.

    However, Unicorn, Audrey Tautou is certainly one of my favourites on screen so on your fine choice of actress I must concur.

  • andnowwhat

    I’ve always loved this idea that a man form Newry looked at a man from Carlingford as a neighbour in 1921 but in 1922 he was looking at a foreigner.

    That’s the logic of Unicorn’s argument if there is any.

  • Republic of Connaught

    The logic of his statements is that Scottish people will be ‘foreigners’ in his eyes too if they secede from the UK.

  • andnowwhat

    Very good point ROC.

  • New Blue

    How unusual for commentators on Slugger to move off the issue and into the semantics.

    We are where we are – that won’t change, there are those who want Ireland to be one country, independent of the UK and those who want Northern Ireland to remain within the UK. Both groups have the right to discuss and campaign for their preference. To claim that a country that was created almost 100 years ago (no matter if the process is seen as flawed) is not a country is the most blatant example of head-in-the-sand wishful thinking.

    This thread is not about who is or is not a foreigner, it is about growing our country to the point where people who want to remain within the UK believe that they have political representation that they feel represents them.

    As I keep saying, there is no equation that suggests that Catholic = Nationalist or Republican and Protestant = Loyalist or Unionist.

    The move towards political groupings based on issues and not religion is a step that will happen and no amount of Whataboutery can stop it.

  • RoC,

    Firsty, Peter Robinson has been using a quote from an 18th century Priest from Co. Kildare who at the time was talking about integrated education on the island of Ireland. If Peter is so comfortable using that quote then simply asking his opinion about integrated education on the island of Ireland in 2011 is perfectly valid.

    What if Enda had used those same quotes in an education debate in the Dáil? Would that force him to give an opinion on integrated education in the north? Or are you saying that since Robinson is in favour of partition he cannot quote anyone who lived before 1921? What if Enda had quoted Gladstone or William Pitt the Younger? Would he be forced to give an opinion on modern British politics? Partition separated the responsibilities of North and South after 1921, but it did not invalidate history. Northern Ireland has as much ownership of Irish history as the Republic* – from a unionist point of view it is the Republic that is the novel state on the island, not the North.

    Robinson was elected to the Assembly, not the Dáil, and education is not a cross-border subject, therefore the education system in the Republic is none of his business. If he was a nationalist he could justify it on the basis of his national aspiration, but being a unionist it would be hypocritical of him. Who he quotes has nothing to do with it. Maybe you’re just annoyed that he isn’t conforming to your own preconceptions.

    (*Equally of course, the Republic has as much ownership of British history pre-1921 as the modern UK, but has been reluctant to acknowledge it)

  • Republic of Connaught


    Your problem with Robinson answering such a simple question is very telling.

    Catholics in the north of Ireland are entitled to know if Peter Robinson is a genuine believer in the concept of integrated education in any society or if he is cynically using the issue to attack the Catholic school system in the north.

    If he is a believer in integrated education he should have no problem whatsoever saying he believes the same system is the best for the South of Ireland, where there are state funded separate Protestant schools, or any other society as well.

    Some journalist will put the question to him eventually and his answer, or refusal to answer, will be very interesting.

  • RoC,

    Ah, so you’re really asking does he believe integrated education is a universal ideal rather than an NI-specific one? So 18th-C priests were a distraction then.

    You propose a false dichotomy. He may genuinely believe in integrated education in NI, based on its unique circumstances, but that this conclusion cannot be generalised to all societies. Or he may believe that what people do in other societies is none of his business, and is therefore keeping his mouth shut. Your insistence that he pronounce on the policy of the Republic says more about your worldview than it does about his.

    I have no problem with Robinson answering the question, BTW. I’d quite enjoy it if he made a complete fool of himself. I do have a problem with you drawing erroneous conclusions from him not jumping through your hoops though.

  • Republic of Connaught


    His sincerity on the issue is what needs to be examined. So I’m sure many Catholics in the north would like to see him answer the very simple question about integrated schools in the South and the issue of the state funded Protestant schools here.

  • RoC,

    See, you’re using one question to disguise another. His opinion (or lack of it) on integrated schools in the south only tells you that he is a unionist (big surprise). It doesn’t tell you what you really want to know, which is what sort of integrated education he is proposing for the north. His sincerity will be proved or disproved by the actual content of his proposals, not hypothetical waffle about schools policy outside his jurisdiction.

    Robinson’s real problem (shared with the bulk of Stormont, to be fair) is that he talks a good fight but shies away from anything concrete. Challenge him to put a detailed proposal before the assembly and then you can tear it (and him) apart. All else is student politics.

  • Republic of Connaught


    Integrated education is something I believe in. And I’d like to believe Peter Robinson sees the Catholic/Protestant divide that has cursed the island of Ireland for so long to be something that must be defeated.

    The problem with Robinson is that Catholic parents have no reason to trust him. Trying to attack the Catholic school system is expected from the DUP. Maybe now the tactics are a little more subtle. A simple way to earn the trust of Catholics is for him to say that yes he believes across the island of Ireland Catholic and Protestant children should not be separated at school level. It has been an island wide religious divide for centuries, after all.

    It’s very simple but gives an important message to Catholic parents, who are predominantly nationalist and look at things in an all -Ireland context.

  • RoC,

    It’s something I believe in too, and I share your doubts about Robinson’s sincerity. But can you not see that your litmus test is a shibboleth? How can an honest unionist deny that policy should be made island-wide and then make an island-wide policy statement? You are condemning him for not being hypocritical.

  • andnowwhat,

    I’ve always loved this idea that a man form Newry looked at a man from Carlingford as a neighbour in 1921 but in 1922 he was looking at a foreigner.

    It’s even worse than that. A man from the Shankill Road saw a man from the Falls Road as a neighbour in 1900 but by 1918 he was looking at a foreigner. And he didn’t understand why.

  • Republic of Connaught


    He can give his opinion without calling for the South to act on it. The real answer that needs to be given in my opinion is this: Unionists want Catholics in the north to join an integrated education under a BRITISH education system.

    But if the same Unionists/Protestants found themseles in a united Ireland, or having to live in Dublin, would the same Protestants then still be strong advocates of integrated education or would they want their kids sent to separate Protestant schools which might reflect their culture more?

    Because it’s deeply hypocritical and morally dishonest to advocate integrated education like Robinson is doing, as long as the education system is British, yet knowing full well they’d want separate education if the education system was under Irish jurisdiction.

  • RoC,

    He can give his opinion without calling for the South to act on it.

    So it is a shibboleth, then.

    Education is a devolved matter, so it’s more a Northern Irish education system than a “British” one. What Robinson may want under some hypothetical situation is beside the point. He could make all sorts of empty statements about what he would do if, if, if. But sincerity can’t be proven by waffling. What matters is what’s written in the legislation. Until that legislation is published (and I’m not holding my breath) we’re arguing over a load of hot air.

  • Republic of Connaught


    The education system in the north is part of the British education system.

    But I agree we are arguing over hot air because, quite honestly, I think it will be years before enough trust is there for Catholic parents to send their kids to integrated schools.

  • RoC,

    If unionists have to profess their loyalty to a hypothetical future all-Ireland integrated education system before nationalists will accept an actual NI integrated education system now, then we may be stuck for a very long time. There are other practical ways to build trust in the education system by reducing the (real and perceived) dangers. But this would require detail, something which is so far unforthcoming.

  • Republic of Connaught


    To simply state that you believe in integrated education for Catholic and Protestant kids in Ulster – irrespective of who holds jurisdiction – shouldn’t be difficult. If your opinion on that would change because of Dublin jurisdiction then you’re trying to sell something to the Catholics that Protestants wouldn’t accept themselves if the shoe was on the other foot.

    That’s a morally dishonest way of dealing with an important issue.

  • Reader

    Republic of Connaught: If your opinion on that would change because of Dublin jurisdiction then you’re trying to sell something to the Catholics that Protestants wouldn’t accept themselves if the shoe was on the other foot.
    The constraints on the Good Friday Agreement and the devolved Assembly are *already* guarantees of equality in any integrated education system that gets off the ground. A United Ireland and the Dáil offer no such guarantee.

  • unicorn

    Republic of Connaught

    I think you are drawing all kinds of false analogies. Advocating one policy for the north and another for the south does not necessarily make one a hypocrite because they are two different places, and a united Ireland would be a third place again.

    For example in Protestant schools in the Republic Irish is compulsory. In Protestant schools in Northern Ireland it is not. If I were to say that Irish should be compulsory for Protestants in the south but not for Protestants in the north and not for Protestants in a united Ireland then it would not necessarily make me a hypocrite at all. It could simply reflect that I would see the south as a Gaelic state in which Protestants are a tiny minority and a knowledge of Irish a practical matter, Northern Ireland as a state within the UK which like Scotland but unlike Wales has a minority of the population with a recent Celtic speaking heritage, and a united Ireland as a multi-ethnic state in which it would be wrong to try to turn northern Protestants into little Gaels just as it would be wrong to try to turn Turkish Cypriots into little Greeks in a re-united Cyprus. All three areas are different places for which different education systems may be appropriate to fit the different circumstances.

    For a perhaps even more telling example suppose I was a bit of a loon and advocated that Ulster Scots should be a compulsory subject in Protestant schools in Northern Ireland, or even in all schools in Northern Ireland. Would it then make me a hypocrite if I did not also advocate that Ulster Scots should be a compulsory subject in Protestant schools in Cork? Of course not. I’d be an eejit but I wouldn’t be a hypocrite. A Protestant school in Ballymena is a different thing to a Protestant school in Cork and serves different people in different circumstances. Teaching Ulster Scots to the descendants of Elizabethan English planters living in the Republic of Ireland would be daft. Arguably it would be even more daft than teaching it to Catholics living in Donegal.

    The same applies in principle to advocating integrated schools. Mr Robinson considers himself British and the taxes he pays go into a pot which amongst other things pay for Catholic schools in England. Would he even be a hypocrite if he advocated integrated schools here but declined to comment on Catholic schools in England? I don’t think so. A Catholic school in Woking is a different thing to a Catholic school in Lisburn and serves different people in different circumstances. They each may cause different issues to arise.

    I guess you fear that Robinson’s integrated schools may make Catholic children feel more British and less all-Irish but is that really a bad thing to wish for when it is coupled with a similar opportunity to make Protestant children feel more all-Irish and less British? Is it wrong to aim for a situation such as that in Scotland where support and opposition to the union is based on individual preference rather than artificially bolstered by a system of physical apartheid that shelters children from being influenced by the Britishness or Irishness of the children of their fellow citizens who live a few streets away from them as they grow up? I don’t think so. Making Catholic children feel that Britishness is less alien to them and making Protestant children feel that all-Irishness is less alien to them is quite possibly the most useful contribution that integrated education can make to preventing future violence and de-sectarianising politics and I don’t think that people who might want to see that happen should be ashamed to say so. It’s not the only possible justification for integrated education but it’s perfectly possible to see it as a feature rather than a bug.

    Having a few more people with complex identities like Rory McIlroy would probably be a good thing for this society even if it does not alter the percentage support for the union or a united Ireland one jot. If it does happen to increase support for the union or for a united Ireland well at least that would be as a result of a freer marketplace of ideas rather than our present command economy of ideas which physically separates our children from influencing each other through physical apartheid by fiat, so I still say tear down the artificial barriers and may the best ideas win.

    Of course the tricky issue is what really constitutes a neutral environment for an integrated school. Obviously not advocating specifically Protestant or specifically Catholic religious ideas, or a British or Irish nationality but it isn’t that simple. A Protestant parent might want to send their child to a school where they will make Catholic friends but will not be taught Catholic religious beliefs, play Gaelic games or learn Irish. A Catholic parent may want a school which leaves religious instruction a matter for the home or the church, where they will mix with Protestant children but learn Irish and play Gaelic games. An agnostic parent of Protestant background married to an atheist parent of Catholic background may want no religion in the school, have no objection to the playing of Gaelic games but not want their child to “waste time” learning Irish when they could learn something else instead. I guess the devil is in that kind of detail, but I don’t see how you can criticise Robinson for that kind of thing until he provides us with that kind of detail in order that we may then criticise it.

  • unicorn


    I’m not sure that there is any objective standard of equality in integrated education. The present system of integrated schooling is religiously neutral and guarantees both the provision of Irish language teaching and Gaelic games and the right of a parent to withdraw their child from being taught Irish or playing Gaelic games.

    Suppose that someone said that equality in integrated education could only come if Gaelic games and the Irish language are, like the Catholic religion, left for outside the school gate on a Saturday or Sunday, or that equality could only come where all children take part in a mixture of sports including Gaelic football and cricket and all children are taught at least some Irish, if not necessarily to GCSE level. Could we objectively call either of these people wrong?

    I guess what we have here is a mutual veto rather than a guarantee of equality as such, but it seems to me that unionists are more supportive of making integrated education the norm than at least members of Sinn Fein, if not all nationalists, are. I don’t think this has anything to do with sending Catholics to British schools as Connaught has it, after all they are attending British schools already, paid for by English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish taxpayers, and sitting GCSEs and A Levels sometimes even set by examination boards in Great Britain.

    Is it because unionists see these proposed schools as simply existing state schools and envisage them as institutions without a priest, a fada or a hurley stick about the place? I think not, presumably what they have in mind is the existing integrated system with no priests but with fadas and hurley sticks where the fadas and hurley sticks are optional.

    So why the difference? Well what would happen if all schools were integrated? Less Catholics would receive specifically Catholic religious instruction in schools, which would be left for the home and the church, as it basically is in almost all so called “Protestant” schools in Northern Ireland. Catholic parents could more easily choose for their children not to bother to learn Irish. Protestant parents could choose to allow their children to pursue learning Irish or playing Gaelic games. What would be the likely knock on effects of all this?

    Less people would receive Catholic religious instruction in school than do now. The amount of children receiving specifically Protestant religious instruction in school would be essentially unchanged since it is currently virtually nil anyway. What religion exists in the current state sector is of a generic type. Schools might have nativity plays, but nobody would be being taught the alleged correctness of saying Hail Mary or of Sola fide except outside the school. This would appear to potentially weaken the hold of the Catholic church from it’s current position but neither weaken nor strengthen the hold of Protestant churches. Whether that is a good or bad or irrelevant thing for an advocate of a united Ireland is open to debate. It doesn’t seem to do anything to harm the union though. Is a less religious Catholic more likely to vote for the union or abstain in a referendum? Arguably so, but perhaps not.

    More Protestants would learn Irish and more Catholics would by their own choice avoid learning Irish. Almost certainly though there would be more of the latter than of the former. A Protestant who wants to learn Irish, a language not spoken by many of their ancestors, would be a bit eccentric. A Catholic who would prefer to spend their time learning German or Chinese rather than Irish would be less eccentric and more commonplace as I see it. The net result therefore would appear to be that less people would learn Irish in school than do now. On the other hand those who would not be learning Irish would be doing so by choice.

    On Gaelic games it would seem to be the case that more Protestants would end up playing them than do now and that more Catholics would end up playing cricket, hockey, rugby and so on than do now. I’d imagine though that there would be greater resistance in the former case than the latter case, because of the Gaelic and even to some extent Catholic ethos of Gaelic games, while cricket (say) today is not really comparably only for those with a good dose of Anglo-Saxon-Jutish ancestry or only for Anglicans and not for Hindus, and hockey or rugby even less so, they are international sports and less specifically ethnic in how they present themselves to the world than Gaelic games. This one is harder to call but I don’t think there is too much to worry those who want to see the union continue in this case. For the GAA it would present both opportunities and threats and perhaps act as a spur to de-politicise and present the sports as more Irish and less specifically Gaelic, maybe one day Gaelic football would be rebranded as “Irish football” to attract Protestant interest in the schools when all Protestants have the opportunity to play it in school. That would of course be the free choice of the GAA.

    I do see why Sinn Fein may have some reasons to be a bit more wary of integrated education becoming the norm under the current model than the DUP have but much of that is a worry about giving Catholic parents and children greater choice, so is it really legitimate? Is forcing people to learn Irish who would chose not to but who would fear to send their child to a state school in case they were bullied and want them to play Gaelic games a legitimate sacrifice to increase the probability of a united Ireland arising in the future? Segregated schooling may be on balance better for the ultimate Sinn Fein agenda but not necessarily better for the individual Sinn Fein voter who may wish to pick and choose between a religiously Catholic ethos, Gaelic Games and learning Irish rather than having to have either all of them or none of them.

  • galloglaigh


    Your last post is so short sighted. Two points I would like to raise (I could raise a lot more but don’t have two days), are as follows:

    More Protestants would learn Irish and more Catholics would by their own choice avoid learning Irish

    Where did you get the information on this? Was there a survey carried out? You seem to think, that all Catholic school children learn Irish, and indeed don’t want to learn Irish. What made you come to that conclusion? I can assure you that you are way up the left with that thinking. The next time they find a new star, perhaps they could name it the unicorn, as it will be as far out as some of your assumptions!

    A Protestant who wants to learn Irish, a language not spoken by many of their ancestors…

    Again – Where did you find this out? You seem to have a prejudged or preconceived idea of what and where the Irish language came out of – and indeed who spoke it. Maybe it’s something to do with your primary socialisation, but I can’t say for sure?

    Have a wee look at this article, and you’ll find that the Irish language was indeed a language spoken by many of all our ancestors – be they Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise. People forget that we are all the same people. What divides us is our religion…

    I do wish people would look into their accusations before typing. It would save me time explaining their errors!

  • FuturePhysicist

    That was a harsh red card.

  • dwatch

    gaelic was once spoken in england long before the romans came

  • dwatch

    “Before the Romans came to England, the British Isles were inhabited by the Celts (pronounced [kelts]), or Ancient Britons. But there are few obvious traces of their language in English today. Some scholars have suggested that the Celtic tongue might have had an underlying influence on the grammatical development of English, particularly in some parts of the country, but this is highly speculative.”


  • separatesix

    I didn’t realize the DUP were so desperate for votes. I’ve never come across a catholic unionist before the term seems a bit of an oxymoron. If they even exist It’s unlikely they would bother voting for any unionist party. The DUP should just be themselves, become more moderate and centre ground if they so wish. There may be catholics who don’t feel strongly about a United Ireland one way or the other and supported Alliance in the past but that dosen’t make them unionist.