The DUP’s Shared Future- Protestants and the (unidentified) pro-Union Catholics need only apply

Mick has already linked a thread to Alex Kane’s article in the Newsletter regarding Peter Robinson’s Conference speech at the weekend. But the focus of that thread is on Kane’s observation regarding the importance of the DUP’s vocabulary in delivering on their ‘catholic’ project.

However, the most significant aspect of the unfolding DUP strategy is what it reveals about the nature of the shared future and society which the main political leadership of unionism is advancing.

Here’s the relevant paragraphs within Kane’s article:

You will have noticed that Robinson didn’t talk about sharing with Sinn Fein. His idea of sharing is within and between that majority of people in Northern Ireland who tend towards the United Kingdom rather than a united Ireland. Yes, of course, he will “respect” the views of those who want Irish unity; in exactly the same way that he wants them to “respect” his views. But he doesn’t want a shared future with them, because he knows (and I have argued it for years) that you cannot build a genuinely shared future between those who believe in a united Ireland and those who want to remain in the United Kingdom.

If there is to be a shared future and a shared society it must begin with those – from whatever religious or social background – who have the same response to the constitutional question. People who are content to remain within the United Kingdom will find it much easier to build common bonds and platforms than people who have different and contradictory responses to the question. So Robinson, starting from the premise that there is a comfortable majority for the Union (including a significant number of Roman Catholics) wants to prepare the shared future ground by encouraging the DUP and others to become “persuaders” for the Union (something else I have argued for years).

So, to summarise, the DUP’s shared future involves not seeking an accommodation with Irish nationalists and republicans, just pro-Union catholics.

This is interesting because it effectively amounts to a strategy which sees as the end objective the pitting of catholics against their fellow co-religionists, asking those disposed towards favouring the status quo to stand against Irish nationalists and republicans.

What is fascinating is that the DUP clearly believe this is achievable in spite of the overwhelming force of evidence indicating that this short cut to the realisation of Unionism’s Utopia is not only naive but illustrative of a rejection of the idea of a genuinely shared future and society, founded on mutual respect and equality.

It is a strategy which stands in direct contradiction to the Irish nationalist/ republican one of seeking to articulate an all-Ireland vision which finds a place for unionists as unionists, complete with a British and protestant identity, within that objective.

It is also a strategy which has the benefit of not compelling the leadership of political unionism to begin a process of educating the grassroots about the need for a society based on genuine partnership- indeed, the narrative remains one reflective of a conflict mentality.

This allows us to examine the actions of the DUP Leader in recent times through the prism of this unfolding strategy.

Following the local government elections some months ago, the DUP in Robinson’s heartland of Castlereagh wasted literally no time in moving to form a pan-Unionist alliance to prevent the Alliance Party and/or SDLP from gaining any influence within the overwhelming unionist council. It was classic control politics, utterly at odds with the notion of a shared society based on mutual respect and legitimacy. At the DUP leadership’s behest, this unionist bastion would so remain untainted.

Similarly, the DUP Leader’s response to the UVF’s sectarian assault on the Short Strand in his own constituency in June did not prompt an immediate vocal rejection of the sectarian attacks on the catholic minority in his constituency in such terms. Rather, Robinson sought out a meeting with the UVF leader allegedly responsible for orchestrating the attacks and, whilst keen to portray himself as primarily interested in stopping the violence, made no effort to act in a conciliatory manner towards the minority community in an area where unionism’s electoral and political dominance is a mirror reflection of that existing in Derry city for nationalism.

Furthermore, Robinson’s decision to align himself with the Loyal Orders in their row with the Parades Commission regarding the choice of band music to be played whilst passing St. Matthew’s Catholic Church only a matter of days after loyalists had launched the attack on catholic homes and the church in the Short Strand suggested a contempt for the plight of his constituents of a catholic persuasion.

But the reasoning behind those actions has become much clearer now. The DUP have essentially declared a business as usual approach to their dealings with those catholics whom they believe it will never be possible to persuade round to their way of thinking. Thus there will be no thought given to altering the party’s openly sectarian approach to dealing with educational underachievement (affecting only the working-classes after all), nor should we expect the DUP to begin a process of seeking to convince the broader unionist community of the merits of devising a more tolerant unionist vision.

On another thread, a senior DUP strategist (Fair Deal to Slugger readers) agreed with this sketch of the typical DUP target catholic voter by ‘Carnmoney guy’:

  1. Why is everyone missing the whole point of who the DUP are targeting – it is not nationalists – of whatever hue – it is Catholics.
    Typically – middle class home owners, kids in Catholic grammar / integrated or Protestant grammar like B.R.A.
    Professional / semi professional careers.
    Currently non-voters, Alliance supporters.

As a north Belfast-based teacher, I immediately laughed aloud at the mention of the ‘typically middle-class catholic home owner’ who sends his kid to BRA.

This is because I know many such individuals and their rationale for so doing (which for many essentially is that they fear that the catholic grammars are a bit, ahem, ‘rougher’.) Yet electorally, this demographic has shifted decisively away from the SDLP and towards Sinn Fein in the past decade, buying into the Gerry Kelly strategy pretty clearly in that local area.

But the inference remains clear: the economically prosperous catholics should be less into their nationalism and more enamoured to buy into a unionist vision.

In one sense, it reflects perfectly the old nationalist narrative which suggested hopefully that the protestant businessmen would buy into the all-Ireland economic potential once it was brought to their attention and waste no time in working within a united Ireland once achieved. Following this through to the next logical step, nationalist parties should really just have to camp out at the garden centre to begin the process of persuading the non-voting prods to see through the green-tinted glasses being sold.

The major flaw in that analysis- and the one being offered by the DUP- is that it ignored the significance of the political and cultural identity of ‘the other’ which continues to ensure that voting preferences are limited to the parties whose views are reflective of our own regarding the constitutional issue.

As the DUP are likely to find in the time ahead, history has ensured that there will be no short cuts in this game.

  • Decimus

    So, to summarise, the DUP’s shared future involves not seeking an accommodation with Irish nationalists and republicans, just pro-Union catholics.

    Chris,

    Your analysis is flawed. The DUP are already sharing power (an accommodation) with nationalists and republicans.

  • Turgon

    In some ways this Robinson strategy seems a remake of Trimble or the woeful “Decent People Vote Unionist” etc. I am in no position to judge but is Robinson’s DUP more palatable to Catholics than Trimble’s UUP? The obvious answer is no but the DUP seems much more competent, less riven with splits, Robinson is a much more convincing leader and it is a decade on. At one level it looks most unlikely but presumably Robinson is planning a long term strategy to get Catholic votes: underestimating Robinson is rarely wise.

    Furthermore of course he is also indirectly targeting Alliance Prods. He may do fairly well there: I suspect he has more chance of getting them than the UUP even in its UCUNF or whatever it was called manifestation. Alliance seem to be achieving little positive and having problems with power.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Your analysis is flawed. The DUP are already sharing power (an accommodation) with nationalists and republicans.
    Decimus
    I’m afraid that if the DUP believed that merely the act of participating in a power-sharing arrangement at Stormont would bring the catholics through the red, white and blue doors, then they’re even less prepared for the slog ahead than I thought.

    And, in an ironic twist, the DUP actually aren’t sold on even power-sharing yet, as their antics on Castlereagh Council (and other similarly unionist-controlled local councils) will confirm.

  • Decimus

    Chris,

    Are you suggesting that the DUP should be trying to convert republicans and nationalists into unionists?

  • I might suggest that Robinson is also targetting migrants such as Czechs, Poles and indeed in this context “English” who might have no real interest in the constiutional question.
    Ive refrained from commenting too much on all these DUP “outreach” threads. They seem to be enthusiastically received by the people who believe in what they call “normal politics”.
    But even in constitutional terms “lets get alongerism” is not a neutral stance. It asks people to accept a status quo and in itself that is……unionism.
    It will never have any attraction for “Catholics” (Robinsons term) in any of our lifetimes.

    It is therefore all just a gross over-hype……..as Captain Manwaring might have said “ah we are now entering the realms of fantasy here Jones”.

    Simply put…..UNFNC.
    Reg Empey actually thought Catholics in South Antrim would tactically vote for him to keep out Rev Willie McCrea.
    So I cant see Catholics enthusiastically voting for McCrea.

    Not to mention that Catholics didnt vote for Harry Hamilton in Upper Bann……..so wishful thinking theyd vote for David Simpson.
    And they didnt vote for Lesley Macauley in East Derry so I cant see any enthusiasm for Gregory Campbell.
    And if they didnt vote for Trevor Ringland in East Belfast, will they vote for Peter Robinson.
    And why would they vote for Jimmy Spratt when they didnt vote for Bradshaw.

    In recent weeks the DUP has lost the run of itself…that broadcast devoted to British Army and now this risible outreach nonsense. …which is seized on by commentators who should really know better.

    Both DUP & SF are now at their optimum vote……and thats the message here. DUP arent actually reaching out to Catholics but are trying to make themselves more acceptable to unionists (UUP/AP) who wont have to hold their noses when they vote DUP…. as the voters can say but look how much they have changed.
    And of course this is a mirror image of what is going on in SF. They dont really expect any Protestant converts either but they can look more “respectable”.

    As yet….only SF have been able to parade Dr Latimer but in due course DUP will want to parade an “uncail Tomas”……and we will have a hundred threads to celebrate.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Decimus
    Though that may be the ultimate ideal, they’d be pretty foolish to believe that switch can happen in the short term.

    No, what I’m pointing out is that believing the DUP can identify a discrete non-republican, non-nationalist and non-culturally Irish constituency of catholics and essentially convert these individuals into DUP voters is naive in and of itself; believing it can be done without seeking to build a genuinely shared future with the Irish nationalists and republicans with whom even these as yet unidentifiable catholics will have a communal bond is utterly foolish.

    What unionism craves is security within the UK; given our political system, changing demographics and the reality that many of the political, economic, cultural and social ties are reflective of the Irish nationalist aspiration for a 32 county orientation and (crucially) are beyond the control of unionism, it is a far better idea to seek to build a shared future which is not aspirationally zero sum but genuinely committed to being reflective of this divided society.

    The extent to which political unionism can succeed in making Irish nationalists and republicans comfortable residing under British sovereignty will be the measures of that success; believing you can forego that process and simply convert ‘themmuns’ into one of us is utterly ridiculous.

    And, obviously, the extent to which Irish nationalists and republicans can convince unionists that their ethos is not threatened within a sovereign all-Ireland state will be critical to ultimately determining the success of the republican project.

  • Decimus

    Chris,

    You are sending out confusing messages. You state that nationalists and republicans cannot be switched to the joys of unionism in the short term, but you reckon that non nationalist/republican catholics will not be attracted to unionism without a genuine ‘shared future’ with nationalists and republicans. If they are not nationalists and republicans now then why would they care?

  • I hadnt seen Turgons post before I posted my own but to confirm his thinking……I hope my own comments show that the DUP is more unpalatable than the UUP/UNCFNP which was also toxic.
    The saving grace (no pun intended) that UUP/UFFCP had/has is that there are more secular types involved in it.

    The DUP give the impression that they are …….a bit exclusive and “saved”.
    It seems a big ask to walk up to a Catholic home and say “please vote for us because your kids go to a grammar school……but as you know they go to a Catholic grammar school and will burn in hell…unlike my kids who will go to heaven”
    Thats not a game-changer.
    The real issue is………posturing. Turgon specifically mentions “Alliance Prods” and I broadly agree. Alliance voters would happily vote for a competent alternative if it appeared a respectable thing to do at the coffee morning or golf club.

  • John Ó Néill

    I’ve found the coverage of the Robinson speech pretty amusing.

    Partly it is the obsession with religion by the DUP. I doubt most ‘Catholics’ see either their economic status or identity being bound up with religion. Scarily, the overall sentiment about voting attitudes being re-conditioned by the current state of the economy in the south (well, eurozone, actually) isn’t really far removed from Terence O’Neill in 1969 (If you treat Roman Catholics with due consider and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church etc).

    If, for the sake or argument, we go with that line: the words don’t rest easy with the actions of other DUP members, like Jeffrey Donaldson, who recently protested their outrage that the British monarch might be allowed to marry a Roman Catholic. That sort of casual discriminatory dimension tends to be disregarded since, well, it’s a kind of theocratic state with a religious-cum-secular head. But how illuminating would ‘Catholics’ find a DUP debate on whether they should openly support and promote either (a) the right of a British monarch to marry a Catholic, or (b) go the whole hog on the right of a Catholic to be monarch.

    I’d have been more surprised if there had been no attempt to do cross-community at the DUP conference (or if it had been believeable).

  • Decimus

    John,

    Isn’t the whole point of the use of the label ‘Catholic’ to provide a distinction from nationalists and republicans?

  • John Ó Néill

    Decimus – that is exactly my point – the DUP clearly believe that ‘Catholics’ have their politics conditioned by economics and not that the Catholicism may be incidental and is only historically connected to political and cultural values.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t think we have heard the last analysis of Robinson’s speech. But I picked up this from Sun Tzu:

    All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

  • Red Lion

    But i wonder just how many Catholic votes Robinson is really after, either for his DuP and then generally ‘for the union’ – the latter being a true longer term project.

    Even during the height of the troubles 8% of RUC officers were Catholic. Maybe its presumptious but i’d guess a lot of these were pro-union.If he was able to maintain this 8% across the Cathlic electorate, and perhaps grow it a little, and take votes off Alliance, maybe the UUP, and stir apathetic non-voters in his favour, and keep his own hardcore happy, then its a job well done from Peters point of view.

  • Mick Fealty

    The only target numbers he gives are only for generic supporters: 500 by the next Conference. I doubt they will be setting quotas for getting Catholics in.

    But whomever goes in first from the Catholic community will certainly need a pretty thick skin. The semi permanent nature of the social division means that some community norms will feel pretty repulsive to the other side and that will affect whomever crosses over.

    It’s in the party leadership’s interest to recognise that problem in advance and champion the process early rather than leaving it to chance. If disenchantment sets in, it will take a long time to sort it out afterwards.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It’s not so strange to think many of the 8% of catholic RUC personnel would have still been Irish nationalists. Some would’ve hated the actions of the IRA and INLA that much.

  • Dec

    Mick

    Personally, i’m llooking forward to the first high profile ‘Catholic’ member of the DUP demanding the right of the Orange Order to march at Drumcree.

    hris

    ‘But the inference remains clear: the economically prosperous catholics should be less into their nationalism and more enamoured to buy into a unionist vision.’

    Chris

    I also detect a suspicion on the DUP’s part that there is a direct link between intelligence and support for the Union.

  • Mick Fealty

    Income, I would say. Chris has given himself the arduous task of proving a negative. However you certainly cannot assume that Catholic parents who send their kids to BRA are ditching their traditional culture and politics.

    But it is an indication that: one, a certain Catholic demographic is choosing their own shared future option, regardless of how their own parties position themselves on this matter; and two, if they are going to fish for new votes they need to make the water clear and warm enough to enable the equivalent Protestant demographic (who in some cases have retained a hatred for the DUP that’s at times more intense than many Catholics) to come into the fold.

    Lining up your public policy positions with where the people you want to attract are is smart politics…

  • Mick Fealty

    Dec, on your first. Yep, that could be a gamechanger alright…

  • ayeYerMa

    Sounds like the usual clutching at straws by Chris as the truth hits him and he witnesses the corpse of the destructive cult of Irish Republicanism rotting all around him. A cult that only offers destruction and instability.

    The only way a stable Northern Ireland can work and the “shared future” agenda delivered is through the Unionism of the status quo. Irish Republicanism in NI is, by definition, a zero-sum game of instability – a zero sum game which has been lost by Republicanism, and a cancer which must never be accommodated by society if the desire for a “shared future” is genuine.

  • Mick Fealty

    What will kill this dead is triumphalism. The line between shared future and ‘let’s get the Catholic church cast as the main villain’ is paper thin.

  • JR

    Mick,
    I don’t think it has ever been alive in any meaningful way. Any “greening” of the DUP will push more votes over to the TUV than any Catholic votes it may attract. The low hanging fruit for all parties in the North are the non voters from their own communities. They are already floating about in game changing numbers.

  • vanhelsing

    I have Protestant friends who have always voted SDLP, some of them because their parents did. Is it so unreasonable to say that there are people who cross the secatrian divide and vote not according to ‘religion’ but socio economic values for example?…I actually think not. If we’re to project into the future I’d say that there will be more rather than less of this voting behaviour in the future.

    I know of RC friends who voted DUP 2nd choice in recent elections BECUASE of their stance on Grammar schools and were quite happy to tell me that.

    We’re not talking massive numbers crossing the divide but there are some.

    In terms of posturing, I would have to agree with Fitz [hell if I keep doing this will I end up in the SDLP!!]

    “The real issue is………posturing. Turgon specifically mentions “Alliance Prods” and I broadly agree. Alliance voters would happily vote for a competent alternative if it appeared a respectable thing to do at the coffee morning or golf club.”

    But also there is a large group of ‘non voters’ out there which I would imagine the DUP would be quite keen to get its hands on.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Mick,

    “that could be a gamechanger alright…”

    Nah, you always say that. I think you were in a similar state of excitment with UNCUMF!

    I think when it come to ‘Catholic’ Unionism, Conservatives in NI, non-religous unionism etc etc you otherwise great analitical skills seem to desert you.

  • Mick Fealty

    That was sort of tongue in cheek, Eddie… It could, not would, be but whomever it is would need considerably more latitude to express him/herself than is currently on offer from that party.

    A GAA member arguing the rights and responsibilities of marching for instance could change matters, a token taig in a gilded cage would not.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I suspect that the Catholic members Peter Robinson envisages joining the DUP would be a British as Finchley Mick.

    I would struggle to see how, given the DUP’s hardline anti GAA stance as a GAA member could be a member of the DUP, even if they were strongly unionist.

    I cannot as this stage see the DUP accepting with open arms any Catholic who was in anyway culturally ‘Irish’.

    Cant see a problem with a Catholic per say.

  • Mick Fealty

    They might need to keep a virtual ‘hurl’ with them to deal with some of their more regressive party colleagues. But if you were proved right, and they would never consider it, then more fool them.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Well, time will tell.

    But it my experience Catholic Unionist and the hurl don’t mix so I dont think it is a problem that Peter will have to confront anytime soon.

  • Dec

    ‘A GAA member arguing the rights and responsibilities of marching for instance could change matters, a token taig in a gilded cage would not.’

    But Mick that’s not the issue. SF and the SDLP support marching, under conditions, but there’s a hell of a difference between that and being in favour of forcing contentious marches through Nationalist areas which is where the DUP (currently) are at.

  • Munsterview

    “….So, to summarise, the DUP’s shared future involves not seeking an accommodation with Irish nationalists and republicans, just pro-Union catholics…..”

    Ah yes, back to the future big time, Planter Stock and Catholics, or to use the more historically correct nomenclature, ‘Queens Irish’ all together.

    Now why would not that combination work ? It certainly functioned well in the past and there is enough bloody pages in Irish History mile-stoning massacres of the opposing Gaels to prove their co-operation.

    I refer again to my remarks about Unionist self awareness in a recent thread. Reminds me of last year when a Protestant Pastor in a certain institution here in the South put up notices during a cold spell offering ‘free soup’ to get the mainly Catholic young populance in to the Chaplincy Centre !

    Obviously historical situations have a very different resonance depending on what side of the political divided one is standing on.

    While I regularly meet Northern Catholics that are a bit ambiguous about the UK and Queen, the same do not definitely apply to their views on Unionists. Indeed like across the pond, in a few of these situations, I am the person in the company with the more moderate historical and current overview regarding our temporarily ‘separated brethren’ ( and sisterhood of course, who because of recent information brought to my notice curtesy of Slugger, regarding a void in the lives of those of a certain vintage, I now have even more sympathy for these days ).

    Never let it be said that the Gods do not have a sense of humor !

  • MV,

    While I regularly meet Northern Catholics that are a bit ambiguous about the UK and Queen, the same do not definitely apply to their views on Unionists.

    Surely this is an argument for the idea that the true divide is intrinsic to NI, between self-professed Unionists and Nationalists, rather than an external one that has been foisted upon them?

    Back on topic though. If Robinson is merely interested in extending Unionism’s reach into “soft” Nationalism then, in the unlikely event that he succeeds, the effect on the rump unpersuaded nationalists will be a hardening of attitutes and a sense of betrayal. The mere threat of this will be sufficient to prevent his professed target audience from engaging with the project.

  • Decimus

    If Robinson is merely interested in extending Unionism’s reach into “soft” Nationalism then, in the unlikely event that he succeeds, the effect on the rump unpersuaded nationalists will be a hardening of attitutes and a sense of betrayal. The mere threat of this will be sufficient to prevent his professed target audience from engaging with the project.

    Andrew,

    How exactly would you see that hardening of attitude etc manifesting itself?

  • Cynic2

    Mick

    Can we get a label machine installed onsite with labels for Prods, Catholics, Castle Catholics etc to make it easier for some posters here to put people into wee boxes

  • antamadan

    OK, Robinson has an agenda. Nonetheless, it is encouraging that unionists are talking given a most-likely future with more from the Gael than from the Planter background. It’s one thing for unionists to ‘bitch’ about the catholics not coming into the state school system when catholic kids would have been only 33-35% and easily swamped by the dominant British ethos. It is surely another thing when a majority of the kids of an amalgamated education system would consider themselves Irish rather than British (and I know there are many in-betweens and both from both communities and full respect there too). Unionists have been dismissed in the past-and to be honest, I believe fairly- as being overly fearful and as a result of that somewhat intolerant. Surely the new -albeit swaggering confident unionism- is a much better partner for progress, whether you want an end-point of a UK or U.Irl.

  • antamadan

    sorry folks, a bit got deleted. I meant to post ‘it is encouraging that unionists are talking ABOUT A SHARED FUTURE, given a most-likely future with more from a Gael than a Planter background’.

  • unicorn

    There seems to be some doubt by a few here that there are unionist Catholics. Their existence should be beyond question unless we play silly buggers with the definition of words. About one in ten Catholic voters at present do not vote for a nationalist party. That’s before we consider Catholics who don’t vote at all, perhaps in some cases because they prefer the UK to a united Ireland and hence can’t vote nationalist but don’t like the traditional unionist parties or Alliance.

    When asked what best describes them, British, Irish or Northern Irish, about one in ten Catholics say British and about one in four say Northern Irish. That’s before we even discuss the number of Catholics who would prefer the current arrangements to a united Ireland but who may still vote SDLP or even Sinn Fein for communal political reasons, that we might call “Catholic nationalist pragmatic referendum unionists”. People who may not feel British but would still vote for the union.

    There are definitely Catholics out there who consider themselves more British than Irish, who would vote for the union over a united Ireland, but who don’t vote for a unionist party (unless one counts Alliance as unionist). For those people at least surely the label “unionist” should fit if it means anything, even though they are not UUP or DUP voters. Hard to say precisely but right now such people would appear to be about 5% of the total population. Some of the others who might prioritise a Northern Irish identity over a British or Irish one (as Rory McIlroy appears to do) and who would also vote to maintain the union may also be accurately described as unionists. That could be another 5% of the total population.

    It’s a question of how many and how we define them not of whether they exist or whether the DUP can summon them into existence. There are Catholics out there who don’t really have to change their opinion on anything other than voting for an actual unionist party in order to fit any sensible definition of the word unionist, and such people appear to be about 10% of the total population. Presumably the pitch is to them so why are so many people concentrated on the idea of the DUP “converting” SDLP or Sinn Fein voters, which would surely be a secondary matter? The DUP might have an ambition to one day convert SDLP voters but surely their first port of call would be those Catholics who already consider themselves more British than Irish. Surely they’d be an easier target.

    Also perhaps worth reminding people in case they had forgotten that the DUP did have a councillor elected in Ballymena who is Catholic though she later defected to the tories.

  • PaddyReilly

    In the Middle Ages, the search of alchemists was for the Philosopher’s stone, which would turn lead into gold. In Northern Ireland, the equivalent of this elixir is the magical process by which Catholics are transmuted into DUP voters, though equally any process which turned Protestants into any kind of Nationalist would be just as miraculous.

    It only requires something like 15,000 Protestants to change their minds, and Unionist rule would be over forever. Equally if a similar number of Catholics could be attracted to the DUP fold, a United Ireland could be retarded for a generation.

    Back in the 60s, Protestant Nationalists and Catholics Unionists were, if not more common, certainly more visible. One thinks of John McGuffin and Ronnie Bunting. Their characteristics are something like this. A Protestant Nationalist probably starts out from the Left wing of the Unionist body politic: McGuffin’s uncle started as Labour Unionist: there may be some element of youthful rebellion against authority, which becomes attached to Unionism. Polytechnic lecturer in Sociology would be the profession most susceptible to being occupied by a Prod Nationalist. Marrying a Catholic or having a Catholic girlfriend is another reason for adopting this stance.

    A Catholic Unionist is more likely to have no Irish blood whatsover, or to have missed out on the common experience by long residence elsewhere, to live in a purely Protestant area, to be very rich or to have military or police connections: possibly to be a Magistrate, or in some way to have been compromised by a connection to oppressive authority. This implies an older man: though Catholic wives of authoritarian Protestants sometimes end up in this category.

    Wikipedia has an article on Protestant Irish Nationalists:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Irish_nationalists
    most of whom are dead, and Catholic Unionists:-
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Unionist
    which equally fails to impress. Stan Gebler Davis’s movement was a joke (on his part): Conor Cruise O’Brien recanted when the Tories were voted out of power (and presumably he lost his subsidy). Hackett was an Australian who never lived in Northern Ireland.

    Turncoats are loose cannons: they keep turning. They make unreliable councillors, MLAs, as they are prone to moving on to something else. Formerly the Unionist state could promise them preferential employment: now there are very few lollipops to be distributed. I detect no enthusiasm among Protestants for a United Ireland, but there is a fair amount of resignation to the inevitability of such. The rise of the Alliance Party has probably been helped by a lot of Unionists who are looking for a way to survive into the new Ireland.

    The Stickies in the 1970s were always on about uniting the Working Class: they merely ran their own movement into the ground. The DUP will not make that mistake: they will stay as they are. Just because they think they can order Catholics to vote for them, doesn’t mean that they will. Rats do not leap onto sinking ships, they leap off.

  • Decimus,

    How exactly would you see that hardening of attitude etc manifesting itself?

    Can’t be sure. Initially, probably obstinacy and obstructionism, a retreat from engagement. Whether that turns into anything else would depend on the response. I’m thinking something along the lines of NATO’s advance into eastern Europe and its effect on Russian political philosophy. If all you do is redraw the line between “us” and “them” but without addressing the root causes of the division, you’re only kicking the can down the road.

  • Decimus

    It only requires something like 15,000 Protestants to change their minds, and Unionist rule would be over forever.

    Does this have any actual basis in fact?

  • Decimus

    Andrew,

    I don’t understand why you think that a hardening of attitudes by already hard nationalists would have a correspondingly hardening effect on soft nationalists. Neither can I understand why unionist outreach should harden the attitudes of any nationalists.

    Does that make sense? 🙂

  • PaddyReilly

    Does this have any actual basis in fact?

    Work it out for yourself.

    In the 2009 European Parliament election, the SDLP finished up 24,000 votes short of a quota. But there was a Sinn Féin surplus of 5000 votes undistributed. So the SDLP was probably 19,000 votes short of a quota.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fe09.htm

    Now if 10,000 UPP TUV or DUP voters changed their mind and voted for the SDLP, the Unionist vote would be 10,000 less, and the SDLP vote 10,000 more.

    A slightly less unlikely scenario would be if 10,000 Green and Alliance voters who currently give their second preference to the UUP, decided instead to give it to the SDLP. Same effect.

    So the number of Unionists who need to change their mind for a Nationalist majority to come into being is going to be between 10,000 and 19,000.

    But don’t worry, this isn’t going to happen. The leopard does not change his spots. Instead the Unionist vote is coming down much more slowly as the overwhelmingly Protestant over-65 year olds- Paisley’s generation- die off.

  • Decimus,

    I didn’t say that. I said that soft nationalists will be unwilling to engage with unionist outreach (as currently formulated at least) if it means being denounced as traitors by the rearguard. This is of course exactly the same thing that prevents unionist (or nationalist) outreach from being formulated in any meaningful fashion. Attempts by one side to steal votes from the other side in an incremental fashion will always founder on the trench mentality. If the communal divide is to be breached, tinkering round the edges of the existing political landscape is not going to be enough. O’Neill tried it in the 60s and I see no reason to believe Robinson will succeed where he failed.

  • Paddy,

    Unionist rule is already over forever. That’s the entire point of powersharing. The only thing that can change that is a border poll, and that will take a lot more than the few thousand votes required to gain a (purely symbolic) nationalist majority in the Assembly.

  • Reader

    Andrew Gallagher: Unionist rule is already over forever. That’s the entire point of powersharing.
    Power sharing may be too much unionist power for some. Perhaps the assumption is that power sharing will end if there is ever a nationalist majority. Otherwise, I don’t see how anyone will be able to detect the difference.

  • PaddyReilly

    Actually I got that wrong: or was a little too vague.
    In the 2009 Euros the Final Unionist vote was 132,227 + 115,722 = 247, 949
    See: http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/fe09.htm
    Two quotas is 121,144 x 2 = 242,288.
    The final Nationalist vote was 126,184 + 97,428 = 223, 612
    Subtract Nationalist total from Unionist: 247,949 – 223,612 = 24,337
    Half of 24,337 is 12,169.

    So the precise number of Unionists, Greens or Alliance voters needed to change their minds over their second preference to ensure a Nationalist victory was 12,169. (Though if not all SF voters transferred to the SDLP, the number would be higher).

  • PaddyReilly

    Unionist rule is already over forever. That’s the entire point of powersharing.

    I wish. But I often say that power-sharing would be better termed office-sharing. It means the Unionists mostly get their way over everything except who holds office. But here the tiniest of shifts would give this power to the Alliance Party.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    I am slightly saddened to see that, in the 21st century, there are still people out there who cling to the hope that they can achieve their aims by outbreeding Protestants.

    You are quoting figures from the European elections. However I am fairly confident that a referendum on a united Ireland would attract a much higher turnout from unionists than would be generally seen in an election which few care about. This does not of course include the many catholics who are also pro union.

    The other thing which I think you fail to take account of is the fact that the breeding programme, which was instigated by the RC church, has now come to an end as women in that community have come to realise that they are entitled to have a life for themselves.

    A more recent phenomena which may have slipped past your radar is the resurgence of emmigration. On the radio recently a woman was bewailing the fact that her entire GAA team had emigrated, or certainly sufficient numbers of them to prevent them from playing any matches.

    Finally there is also the fact that in our new found era of peace there are many more people coming into Northern Ireland from abroad, but perhaps more significantly from mainland Britain. A sort of Neo Plantation if you like.

    Taking these things into consideration I cannot see how your figure of 15,000 has any real basis in fact.

  • Decimus

    I didn’t say that. I said that soft nationalists will be unwilling to engage with unionist outreach (as currently formulated at least) if it means being denounced as traitors by the rearguard.

    Andrew,

    They can vote for unionist parties from the privacy of the polling booth without any of their more bitter friends being in anyway aware that they have done so.

    O’Neill tried it in the 60s and I see no reason to believe Robinson will succeed where he failed.

    There is no Paisley figure on the horizon to scupper Robinson in the same way that O’Neill was scuppered. Things have moved on quite a bit since the sixties.

  • Decimus,

    When the DUP takes the side of the Protestant rearguard, the Catholic will look to his own rearguard and will in good conscience choose it over the DUP. The privacy of the polling booth has nothing to do with it. The only political movement that can possibly attract cross-community support is one that can credibly face down both rearguards simultaneously.

    And it wasn’t Paisley that scuppered O’Neill, it was his own party.

  • Paddy,

    I often say that power-sharing would be better termed office-sharing. It means the Unionists mostly get their way over everything except who holds office.

    Sorry, what planet is this? Most people’s experience of power sharing is that it is a method of ensuring that neither the Unionists nor the Nationalists get anything done at all.

  • Decimus

    Andrew,

    But we weren’t talking about any DUP rearguard. We were talking about DUP outreach to Catholics. Your theory was that this would perversely lead to soft nationalists becoming more er, nationalist. I don’t think that theory holds any water, as their support need never be public and they therefore need never feel intimidated by hardliners in their own community.

  • Decimus

    Most people’s experience of power sharing is that it is a method of ensuring that neither the Unionists nor the Nationalists get anything done at all.

    Very, very true.

  • PaddyReilly

    Actually my piece was not about outbreeding, but the hypothetical question of how many Protestants would need to change their mind to ensure Nationalist victory. I stressed that I never believed that this change would happen, or the opposite, that Catholics would become DUP voters.

    The outbreeding you speak of has already happened: Catholics outnumber Protestants in all age groups under 35. It’s just a matter of waiting till the older generation dies off. But this is merely religious outbreeding, I must stress.

    The question of reunification I do not see as important. If there are more Nationalist MLAs than Unionist in Stormont, then Unionists have lost power, as far as I am concerned. They may say that they treasure the connection with Britain above all things, but what they really wanted was power in their hands: the British connection merely enabled this to come about.

    Good luck with the new plantation: does the peace dividend not bring in anyone from down South? The idea that English people would flock to Northern Ireland strikes me as ludicrous. It’s mainly Poles as far as I can tell: some Roumanians and Bulgarians, admittedly.

  • Decimus,

    But we weren’t talking about any DUP rearguard

    My point was that so long as the DUP remains a broad-church big-U Unionist party, it will always have to keep one eye on its rearguard, if only to ensure that a new Paisley doesn’t emerge to challenge it. That will hamstring it in any “unionist outreach” programme.

    Your theory was that this would perversely lead to soft nationalists becoming more er, nationalist

    I said nothing of the sort. What I did say was that in the unlikely event that soft nationalists did fall for Robinson’s charms, it would further harden attitudes amongst the hardcore, who would feel betrayed by their former comrades. But this will not happen, because soft nationalists will not let it happen. Not out of fear of reprisals, but out of solidarity.

    Attempting divide-and-rule tactics on nationalists by separating the soft and hard vote would be futile, as nationalist solidarity would kick in. That does not mean that soft nationalists would become more nationalist, just that they are going to turn up their noses at the thought of voting unionist. You have to remember that “Unionist” in NI politics does not mean “in favour of the Union”, it means “representing the section of society that tends to be in favour of the Union”. Those are two completely different political positions. One can be an Irish Catholic and in favour of the Union, or at least agnostic, but never dream of voting Unionist – because Unionist politicians can’t be trusted to look after either Irish or Catholic interests, which are not limited to the constitutional position.

    If pro-union politicians truly want to leave behind their anti-Catholic and anti-Irish past then they need to publicly and permanently purge their movement. Take on the scourge within like Kinnock took on Militant. Find a Clause Four and use it to demonstrate that they have truly repented. That means facing down the hardliners and taking risks, but unionism has always been a risk-averse political philosophy.

  • Decimus

    If there are more Nationalist MLAs than Unionist in Stormont, then Unionists have lost power, as far as I am concerned.

    Paddy,

    The threat of that happening is of course what keeps the DUP in the top dog position. I am intrigued though by your theory that unionists would ‘lose power’. Does that mean that nationalists are currently powerless?

    The idea that English people would flock to Northern Ireland strikes me as ludicrous.

    Apparently, and please don’t ask for confirmation as this is second hand information, 80,000 of the people in the 2001 census were born in England and Scotland.

    Catholics outnumber Protestants in all age groups under 35.

    The very age group which is emigrating. Hence the GAA clubs with not enough members to play games.

  • Paddy,

    If there are more Nationalist MLAs than Unionist in Stormont, then Unionists have lost power, as far as I am concerned.

    Then you have shown yourself concerned with getting one over themmuns rather than substance. Unionists have already lost power. One more or less MLA on either side of the house will make absolutely no practical difference. What might make a practical difference is if SF become the single largest party, and can therefore nominate the Finance Minister ahead of the DUP, but that is a separate issue and can happen (or not) no matter which designation is more numerous.

  • PaddyReilly

    Apparently, and please don’t ask for confirmation as this is second hand information, 80,000 of the people in the 2001 census were born in England and Scotland.

    Returnees, probably. The children of emigrated GAA men. Pearse Doherty, TD for SW Donegal, was born in Glasgow. Your piece, I must say, bears a certain resemblance to the hand-rubbing of the Times over the potato famine- Irish in Ireland as rare as Indians on the banks of the Potomac. You seem to think that everyone emigrating is Catholic and everyone immigrating is going to be Protestant. I would suggest that they are equally balanced, so this movement is not electorally significant.

    What might make a practical difference is if SF … nominate the Finance Minister

    I still think you are confusing power with office. Somewhere along the line a matter has to be decided by a show of hands, and when that happens it will currently be in the Unionist interest.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    I tend to try and avoid bursting the republican bubble where possible. It is after all the ‘certainty’ in their minds that a united Ireland is inevitable that helped convince them to stop butchering people.

    If you read back over this conversation you will find that the hand rubbing over head counts was started by you. Despite the fact that said hand rubbing was based entirely on false assumptions.

  • PaddyReilly

    I’m not aware of any hand rubbing over head counts by me. Perhaps some neutral party would be good enough to point it out.

  • Paddy,

    Couple of things:

    They may say that they treasure the connection with Britain above all things, but what they really wanted was power in their hands: the British connection merely enabled this to come about.

    It’s not a “connection” with Britain that I value or even the more abstract joy of feeling “power in my hands”, it’s a British identity which for me personally nestles in quite comfortably with its Irish, Ulster and European colleagues. I only speak for myself but that’s the point- you are classifying everybody in NI as to falling into two easily identifiable boxes- Brit or Irish, settler or native, Rangers or Celtic, DUP or SF.

    Which would bring me onto the second point- the biggest demographic in NI by a long way now, is the “don’t cares” and “happy enough as it is-ers” (43% at the last election) and that being the case, the sectarian birth/death ratios don’t matter a jot.

    That’s not necessarily a bonus for Unionism but it makes it all a battle which is easier for them to lose than for their opponents to win (if you know what i mean).

  • PaddyReilly

    The Biggest Demographic

    This is a recurring rhetorical trope by which the non-voters are enlisted on the side that the rhetoric comes from. We do not know why people don’t vote: quite possibly they are dead, or terminally ill, or have moved, or were wrongly registered in the first place, or have two residences, etc, etc. One important reason is that they perceive that as things stand in that area, their vote is unlikely to make any difference.

    For myself, I can only state that I was unable to vote in the last referendum because I had recently moved: I would have been quite happy to change the UK’s electoral system to give the Liberals a fair crack of the whip, though if I had looked at the opinion polls, I would probably have realised that my voice was ineffective.

    The thinking behind opinion polls is that if you take a sample of 1000 persons, it will probably come out much the same as the election. A fortiori, an election in which only 57% of the (registered) electorate vote will indubitably produce the same result as when the turnout is an impossible 100%.

  • Decimus

    The thinking behind opinion polls is that if you take a sample of 1000 persons, it will probably come out much the same as the election.

    Paddy,

    Here’s one for you.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2010/Political_Attitudes/NIRELND2.html

    Enjoy.

  • PaddyReilly

    Yes, and the thinking behind the secret ballot and the need to provide identification is that opinion polls can be tampered with. But there we are: the weaker the Unionist cause gets in the elections, the more there will be recourse to the magic opinion poll.

    89.45% of statistics are made up on the spot.

  • PaddyReilly

    ….54% of Catholics state they will be voting DUP after Peter Robinson’s appeal at the DUP conference.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    So now you don’t think that opinion polls are all that accurate after all?

  • PaddyReilly

    I never did. I merely referred to the thinking behind them.

    But a secret ballot with 57% of the electorate voting is unlikely to give a different result to one with 99% voting.

    In Mid Ulster there was a movement among Unionists to stop Martin McGuinness getting in. They got out the Protestant lame, halt and blind, in the hope of stopping him. The result was that Sinn Féin had to do likewise, and the turn out soared to 86.12% in 1997. Since then they have finally realised that they’re not going to get Martin out, and the turnout has fallen to 63%, still higher than elsewhere.

    This indicates a return to normality, not a surge of crypto-Unionism.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    So this claim by you is nonsense?

    The thinking behind opinion polls is that if you take a sample of 1000 persons, it will probably come out much the same as the election. A fortiori, an election in which only 57% of the (registered) electorate vote will indubitably produce the same result as when the turnout is an impossible 100%.

    I think you will find that it was a boundary change which got McGuinness into Mid Ulster. Perhaps someone of importance in the British establishment thought that he would be of more use as a British MP.

  • PaddyReilly

    Not at all, that is the thinking behind an opinion poll. It is not my thinking. For a start, we don’t know if the poll was made up by the pollsters. We don’t know if the pollsters were bribed to produce a favourable result. We don’t know if the people at the end of the phone are who they say they are.
    There are so many things that can go wrong. And the leap from the sample polled- 200, 500, 1000 to the election- half a million or more- is a very large one.

    An election with a turn out of 57% is probably going to produce the same result as one of 97%. It would be quite amazing if all the missing 40% turned out to be from one side, and the losing one at that.

    What got McGuinness into Mid Ulster was the fact that he won most votes.

    2001 Census: 65.26% community catholic. 2001 election, SF 51.1%, SDLP 16.8%.

    Where are the Catholic Unionists here? Why do all these Papes who are desperate to stay in the Union keep voting for parties who are committed to taking them out of it? That is the question Peter Robinson needs to address.

  • Decimus

    Paddy,

    You are tying yourself in knots. On the one hand you deride opinion polls, but on the other hand you say that their results must mirror elections. Laughable nonsense. Does it occur to you that the catholics who do not bother to vote don’t bother because they are happy with the status quo? Ditto for the Protestants.

    2001 Census: 65.26% community catholic. 2001 election, SF 51.1%, SDLP 16.8%.

    These are remarkable statistics. How come there is not a united Ireland then?

  • PaddyReilly

    I fear I may have confused you by using big words like a fortiori. When one says “the thinking behind astrology is that…” it does not mean that one endorses astrology. I was assuming that the people I was addressing would endorse opinion polls, and you showed me that I was right.

    An interesting oversight on the accuracy of opinion polls can be formed from reading this article in Wikipedia:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_Alternative_Vote_referendum,_2011

    There was a referendum in the UK. 32% wanted the Alternative vote, 68% wanted first past the post. This is a very simple matter, and you would expect that 1 person in three would tell the pollsters AV, and 2 FPTP.

    Now page down to the article headed “Polling” and look at the various surveys. In a substantial number of them AV won! It’s so funny. Opinion polls are about as accurate as tossing a coin. It reminds me of the astrologer who tried to guess my sister’s star sign and got it right 12th time!

    How come there is not a united Ireland then?

    Because they are the figures for Mid Ulster only, which is the only area mentioned in my post. You are, you will forgive me for saying, more than a little dense.

  • Decimus

    I fear I may have confused you by using big words like a fortiori.

    Paddy,

    That will no doubt be on account of the unionist policy of keeping their working class thick.

    However did you have a point re opinion polls?

    Because they are the figures for Mid Ulster only, which is the only area mentioned in my post. You are, you will forgive me for saying, more than a little dense.

    That has already been established by drone HQ. Can you confirm please if being intelligent also requires a degree of mind reading though? Because I don’t recall you qualifying your figures by stating where they applied to.

    Also can you explain what point you were trying to make? I had already pointed out that the Sinner victory in Mid Ulster was entirely due to the evil Brits adjusting the electoral boundaries to suit a certain favourite Sinner.

  • New Blue

    In the last two years I have spent a lot of time in West Belfast, meeting with people who come from all religious positions and none.

    I have been invited into a sizable number of ‘catholic’ homes to discuss ‘my politics’. On a number of occasions, both in peoples homes and on the campaign trail I have heard the following; –“I am not a Nationalist, I would vote not to join a United Ireland but I cannot vote for a Unionist because I believe that Unionists don’t like Catholics.”

    The biggest issue facing any pro-union movement in appealing to Catholic voters who share pro-union feelings is the language. The very word Unionist implies intolerance and the word British implies Protestant.

    I know, from personal experience, that there are a surprising number of practising Catholics who would vote for a pro-union candidate if they believed that the ‘party machine’ was not created to be against everything they believe in.

    The assumption that all Catholics are Nationalists and all Protestants are Unionists is as ignorant as it is wrong.

  • Paddy,

    This is a recurring rhetorical trope by which the non-voters are enlisted on the side that the rhetoric comes from

    I didn’t claim them for Unionism, I have as much an idea as you as to they fall on the constitutional question. The fact that they are not voting, I think, benefits Unionism at this juncture but that is obviously only a hunch and is most definitely something the pro-Union side should rely on.

    One important reason is that they perceive that as things stand in that area, their vote is unlikely to make any difference

    Not necessarily. The vote turnout has also dropped in the sectarian cockpits (more apparent at council and Assembly elections). And over all, it would only take 5% or so of those not voting at the minute to come out for the UI party to push into a completely new scenario. But they’re not doing it.

    New Blue,

    How can we sell a pro-Union message minus the baggage connected with “Unionism” here? I don’t thjnk it can be done through the present parties.

  • Darn, make that, voter apathy…

    “,,,is most definitely not something the pro-Union side should rely on.”

  • New Blue

    oneill

    If I had the answer to that, I would be a happy chappie.

    The answer is not as simple as ‘start a new party’, nor is it what Peter is trying.

    Personally I think it is more about creating a movement that refuses to be drawn into ‘whataboutery’, is prepared to deliver on the ground to address the needs of people and makes being ‘Northern Irish’ something to be proud of.

    But then I still believe in Santa.

  • Somewhere along the line a matter has to be decided by a show of hands, and when that happens it will currently be in the Unionist interest.

    You do understand how a cross-community vote works, don’t you?