Cryptozoology: Unionist outreach to Catholics

Cryptozoology according to wikipedia is “the search for animals whose existence has not been proven.” Here in Northern Ireland we have our own version of this: not monsters in Lough Erne (though the pike can get pretty big) but rather the political version. The two most sought after fantasy animals are the fabled Garden Centre Prod and the unicorn that is the Unionist Catholic.

These creatures probably hide in the Craigantlet and Castlereagh Hills in the case of the Garden Centre Prod and the upper reaches of Cave Hill in the case of the Unionist Catholic – along with some smatterings of crypto settlement for both around Lisburn and the Triangle of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart.

Anyhow these creatures were going to come out to save David Trimble but forgot to do so. Then, however, a perfect plan was hatched to bring them out: the UCUNF. The UCUNF’s battalions could see the garden centre Prods emerging blinking into the sunlight, finally having been brought out. They could definitely see the unionist Catholic unicorns, their horns glinting as they turned towards the sunrise, preparing on that fateful May morning in 2010 to ride down the ghastly orges of the DUP and purify Northern Ireland. They would make it into a beautiful jewel of a place ready for the consummation of one of their own number striding into Number 10 as a cabinet minister; maybe even one day supplying the resident of the UK’s most famous terraced house. Unfortunately the New Force members then woke up next morning to nothing apart from the sight of Tom Elliott trying to shore up the leaking boat which was their party complete with additional leaks they then made when their deflating political ambitions ripped apart its already creaking timbers as they left.

Unlike the incurably credulous secular romantics of the UCUNF the hard headed disbelieving fundamentalists of the DUP actually went about working out the facts of the fantasy creatures. After toil, not in the Tolkien section of their local library, but rather with the electoral register the DUP established that although many middle class Prods do not vote the predominant non voting dynamic amongst Prods is the working class one. This is a feature predominantly of those east of the Bann but west of the Bann the same occurs albeit to a lesser extent. In light of this the DUP have been making significant efforts to reach out to the working class unionist communities which once supplied much of their (and to a greater extent than is sometimes appreciated the UUP’s) traditional voting strength. This strategy has made some early headway with Sammy Douglas taking Dawn Purvis’s seat and effectively finishing the PUP as a political force. The DUP are, however, unlikely to rest on their laurels and it is most unlikely that that victory alone is the sum total of their ambition for increasing their vote amongst working class P/U/Ls.

As was noted by many at the time of his 2011 conference speech, Peter Robinson also suggested reaching out to the unicorns of the Catholic unionists. He received many brickbats from the usual suspects and many of the complaints had a certain validity. Robinson’s personal and especially the DUP’s collective history being the most obvious problem, along with the repeatedly argued suggestion that the likes of the NI Life and Times survey are simply incorrect in terms of the reality of unionist Catholics or at least Catholics willing to vote for unionist parties. That last is an important distinction unlikely to be lost on the DUP but what parties really want is of course votes.

One issue which few seem to have looked at, however, is leaving aside the numbers of genuine potential voters, who is better placed to gather up whatever this group of voters (no matter how small it is): the liberals of UCUNF or Peter Robinson.

The obvious answer is of course the New Force types. They even disposed a few Catholics about the place. Certainly the assorted civic unionist prods seemed very sophisticated, liberal, urbane, cosmopolitan, non sectarian and lots of other “good things” which would surely have attracted those unicorns: except of course they did not. Against them the DUP’s unicorns attractants seem much less fantasy animal friendly. Peter Robinson seems the most interested in cryptozoology but he has some baggage including The Third Force and the invasion of Clontribet. Most other DUP types (to continue the analogy) seem more likely to devour than attract unicorns. That might, however, be a mistake (as well as a slur on the DUP).

The reality is that many of the UCUNF types at least appeared more fond of gaining political office than anything else; to many they looked as if they had some sort of bizarre view that they were somehow “entitled” to office and that they felt themselves desperately clever, urbane, cosmopolitan etc. Some undoubtedly were fairly clever, urbane etc. but then lots of ogre like non civic unionists (and lots of nationalists and republicans and lots of others) are also clever and sophisticated. There was at times a whiff of smug superiority which even if unfair clung to the UCUNF’s civic unionist types.

In addition sometimes the UCUNFers seemed very “West Home Counties English” to steal the “West Brit” concept from republicans. The UUP has been there before of course with Steven King (admittedly from Yorkshire originally) as its terribly clever, urbane, cultured (a genuinely nice guy) spin doctor: author of the “Decent People Vote Unionist” – the shortest suicide note in British political history. We have here in Northern Ireland a surprising degree of social egalitarianism in society along with a certain mistrust of our “elders and betters” almost bordering on inverted snobbery at times often most marked amongst the middle classes and (whisper it) nouveaux slightly rich. That attitude is just as prevalent amongst Catholics as Protestants (socially we are remarkably similar) and may have helped turn off any possible unicorns just as firmly as it did the assorted fantasy and non fantasy unionist prods.

The reality is that successful political machines rarely travel well: the Tories have not in recent years done well outside England (especially southern England) and their recent relative revival in Wales (and to an extent in Scotland) has been about minimising the feeling of being awash with southern English posh boy David Cameron clones. At times some UCUNF members seemed to want to be a bit too wannabe Home Counties for Northern Ireland.

In that context the DUP’s appeal to Catholic Unionists is different and just might be greater. The DUP makes no secret of its unionism: neither political nor cultural. This was a mistake the UCUNF made: Catholics knew full well they were a unionist party – they had run the country for the fifty years and pretending to be unionist lite is not really credible especially when there is already Alliance which whatever its protestations is seen by almost all as unionist-lite. In terms of the “outreach” to Catholics, although DUP members have attended GAA matches there has been less of the song and dance which accompanied such revelations by UCUNF members. At times this sort of activity may have seemed a little patronising as well as too overtly a vote fishing exercise from UCUNF.

Even one of the criticisms levelled at the DUP by UCUNF might be somewhat attractive to some of the unicorns. The UCUNF often tried to paint the DUP as Ulster Nationalist and only conditionally unionist. The latter part of that is almost certainly unfair but the former may have a little validity. The DUP are very Northern Ireland in character and very clearly are not trying to ape or mirror any mainland GB political party. This may be more attractive to potential unionist voting Catholics. Many people of both sides here identify themselves primarily as Northern Irish (NI Life and Times again with all the attendant qualifications) and as such a party which is overtly and unashamedly Northern Ireland focused in its outlook may be more attractive than a mainland Tory party clone or offshoot. Unionist Catholics may support the union but not feel very English and the DUP might offer unionism without any of the wannabe Englishness some in the UCUNF seemed to want to imply.

The DUP do of course have major problems in attracting the unicorns. Thus far only Peter Robinson himself has made much running on this issue. It would require other members to talk the talk and the party to decide exactly what walking the walk of attracting Catholic Unionists would involve. This might be very difficult: significant policy change could annoy some hard liners. It might also be far too little to attract Catholic votes and it might simultaneously look like tokenism or appear crass and condescending. Avoiding those pitfalls sounds difficult, could prove nigh on impossible and might yield very few gains even if it was all achieved.

Much of the appeal Robinson seems to be outlining is, however, the same narrative he used to devastating effect in the 2010 and especially the 2011 elections. It is that the DUP are moving Northern Ireland forwards, making the big decisions even when they are difficult, improving or maintaining quality of life in the teeth of the financial crises which have faced the UK and indeed the world. This narrative notes and respects the past but is not bound to it. It has allowed the DUP to accrue to itself most of the credit for devolution’s successes and blame others for most of devolution’s failures. It is a narrative I and many others have attacked both in its claims and its outworkings but it has proved persuasive to very large numbers of unionist voters. There is no fundamental reason why that same narrative might not prove attractive to Catholics who are supportive of, or benignly indifferent to, the union. The fundamental issues facing the two communities are of course completely identical and the DUP’s narrative seems, whatever its failings, more coherent on a day to day level than those of the other major parties.

It is an enormous hill Peter Robinson has set himself to climb. Every unionist leader who has tried it before has failed: often spectacularly. The opposite trick of attracting any significant numbers of pro nationalist Protestants has proven even less successful and seems to have been largely abandoned by political nationalism. The two communities here may be very similar but politically the cross over has been extremely scant whatever some might like to believe. That said although Peter Robinson might seem less well equipped a cryptozoologist than UCUNF’s civic unionists he has a number of things on his side. Furthermore there is a long list of people in NI politics who have underestimated Robinson to their cost. After all Stanley (of David Livingstone fame) did find the Okapi though it was years before his claims were substantiated.

, , , ,

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Solid post. I usually think that the DUP ‘outreach’ to catholics and SF unionist engagement is more about attempting to hive off/lure away some ‘liberal’ nationalists and unionists from sdlp and UUP by proving ‘moderating’ tendencies on behalf of the big two.

  • Obelisk

    A good analysis from Turgon, as usual he does his best work when talking about the internal dynamics of Unionism.

    I once asked my parents when politics came up about this UCUNF stuff. Even though the UUP were trying to portray themselves as the ‘nicer’ of the two Unionist parties, my parents said they would find it impossible to ever cast a vote for them, the memory of the one party state was too strong for them. At least the DUP was more honest, the UUP carries the sin of being the governing party which sponsored and carried out the discrimination they suffered.

    And if that rules out the UUP, I’d argue that the Ulster Nationalism of the DUP rules them out too. Irish Nationalism is off-putting to anyone from a Unionist background because the politics and ethnicity of the group who are Nationalists have combined. Similarly, the Ulster Nationalist strand is as off-putting to Irish people in the North for the exact same reasons Unionist Outreach is failing.

    As a result, Peter Robinson will fail. He may have talked the talk, but his threats to resign over the Prison Service symbols and his beliefs regarding integrated education (which too me, sounded like abolishing the Catholic sector entirely and absorbing them into the state system rather than building a new mutual system from scratch) show that the leopard hasn’t changed his spots and will be unable to deliver on this particular goal. I expect it to remain nothing more than a vague intent to gain Catholic votes. In fact as per an earlier analysis Turgon did I think it’s more likely that whole speech was aimed at potential Alliance voters and liberal Unionists, trying to expand the DUP’s big tent.

    People are just far more comfortable voting for parties that come from their own ethnic bloc, especially as the border question seems locked down, at least for the short term (developments in Scotland and the rise of a Federal Europe notwithstanding).

  • carl marks

    A thread that is both interesting and timely, Interesting because as Obelisk say’s Turgon does his best work when he turns his attention to the dialectic within unionisn.
    Timely because those within Unionism who claim to wish to reach out to catholic’s, have a golden opportunity to prove that they are serious. A attempted murder took place in the village area of Belfast, the victim was dumped in a wheely bin (déjà vu anyone ) and left for dead.
    He was a catholic, on the Nolan show this morning there was a suggestion that some if not most of the 25 attackers had paramilitary connection’s.
    Catholics will judge unionisms commitment to outreach by the unionist parties and politicians reaction to this incident, so far Dawn Purvis is the only one to show any leadership .

  • FuturePhysicist

    It seems more of a way of trying to have their cake and eat it at times Twilight, I wouldn’t be advertising Martina Anderson’s Unionist Outreach as a crass attempt at SDLP outreach anyway.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It’s probably a case of conscience clearing to be honest folks.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    FuturePhysicist

    I agree. I never said it was a smart or effective policy!

    ….I also liked the cryptozoology comparison- have any canvassing sluggerites encountered Turgon’s ‘unicorns’? In what numbers?

    I now can’t get the image of a pringle sweater wearing prod slouching Sasquatch like through a Castlereagh garden centre out of my mind.

  • JR

    Twilight,

    I remember this coming up during the NILT survey thread. I asked if any of our contributers were Catholic Unionists or Protestant Nationalists. As far as I remember only Harry Flashman and O’niell (correct me if I am wrong) claimed to be Catholic Unionists.

    Though if I remember correctly both have lived in England for some time.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Cheers JR

    Anyone any doorstep electioneering examples of these peeps?

    Nice little deconstruction of garden centre prod myth
    http://ultonia.blogspot.com/2010/05/garden-centre-prod-myth.html

    from Mac Giolla bhain’s thread it seems any party looking to create an outreach friendly ‘civic’ version of itself might want to take examples from the SNP rather than anyone else in these isles (and especially not tories)

  • Excellent post by Turgon.
    Cant say that I agree with every single word but the reservations would have are so minimal that they would only detract from quality of the original post.

  • emanonon

    You are probably correct, there are few Catholic Unionists there are however Catholics, other religions and non believers who are in favour of the UK.

    You should not mix them up.

  • unicorn

    About 5% of us have one “Catholic community background” parent and one “Protestant community background” parent.

    In the primary schools today it’s more like 10%.

    That may have as much to do with the importance of “cross community appeal” as pouching full blooded people of the “wrong” religion does.

  • unicorn

    TwilightoftheProds

    ….I also liked the cryptozoology comparison- have any canvassing sluggerites encountered Turgon’s ‘unicorns’? In what numbers?

    All four major parties have had members elected at least at council level who were of a “surprising” religion. That includes both the DUP (Deirdre Nelson) and Sinn Fein (Billy Leonard). So the idea that any four of these creatures are strictly crytozoological is provably incorrect.

    Not that the analogy is thereby rendered useless or anything.

  • An entertaining piece, Turgon. If I can draw on a little piece of crypticology, a word count produced a number which reminded me of the year of Catholic emancipation.

    You’ve produced a long list of Unionist groupings yet, despite the length of the article, you’ve overlooked a beast I thought you favoured, the TUV zebra. ‘Born again’ Protestants, who have a certain tendency to portray things in black and white, could have been expected to flock in that direction but somehow largely failed to do so.

    I’m surprised that anyone should view or attempt to caricature the Alliance party as Unionist-lite. Anyone looking at my pedigree might think I’d be a keen APNI supporter but I seek and accept support from all parties and, from experience, found TUV to be far more useful than APNI.

    You’ve made quite a few references to the DUP yet, surprisingly, you’ve overlooked that other beast in the political arena that has had many mentions in DUP yarns, the developer. I was recently attacked in the presence of politicians from various parties by a prominent solicitor who was there to protect his wealthy client’s interests. I just smiled and thought of that great Denis Healey line ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’.

    David Trimble and Seamus Mallon prepared the way for those who were lesser than they – but I suppose we’ll just have to struggle on.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Good article, but to to be more accurate regular Zoology covers the subject as no-one really disputes the “unicorns” do of course exist, the dispute is are they a seperate species and of course what is their population levels, rare, endangered, or just experts at concealment?
    I would argue the “garden centre prod” fails the seperate species test and really should be lumped in with the general non-voting population.
    However the Catholic Unionist is much more complex and although distinct is often the result of cross breeding! (sorry if i’m streaching the zoology a bit far). I would think the species is rare but far from endangered, with a gradual increase in population.
    Much as some quarters want to see that population increase further, their is a price involving sacrifice of teritory and traditional practices, to date this price has been too high, or more accurately completely mishandled, their is no doubt they can peacfully co-exist, but it a proper planned programme is required.

  • antamadan

    Good article Turgon

  • plainly speaking

    A thoughtful piece although diminished by alluding to the fallacy that Northern Irish Conservatives are somehow wannabe home counties Tories or clones of posh English stereotypes. As a reflex to the mere mention of Conservatism, it is lazy shorthand for anti-English prejudice and a wholly inaccurate characterisation of Conservative activists in Northern Ireland.

    It won’t have escaped the attention of the political anoraks that there are centre-right administrations currently in power in France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Czech Rep, Israel, Ireland, South Korea, New Zealand and Canada, to name a few. No-one ever regards these political movements as “English” (although the BBC tries its best, describing Fredrik Reinfelt as the “Swedish David Cameron”).

    If the British Conservative party didn’t exist, there would be a solid need for a the creation of a centre-right political entity in Northern Ireland that is genuinely non-sectarian and as much CDU or UMP as Tory, in as much as policy development would be centred on what is best for Northern Ireland, regardless of what might be good for Finchley or Richmond. The current so-called centre-right offerings here are too mired in sectarianism from the recent and not so recent past, as Turgon recalls.

    It would be a sign of maturity in political dialogue that a reformulated Conservative party in Northern Ireland were regarded as Northern Irish first and foremost.

  • Naughton

    Turgon, excellent article.

    I have to fess up – I’m a unicorn.

    And like many ex-maintained sector kids I know I am now non-church going and in a happy mixed marriage.

    The problem I have with our parties is that I don’t fit well with any except Alliance. Family background is SDLP and I know and like several of the MLAs, but from my perspective I’ve moved forward and they’ve stagnated – John Hume’s post nationalist european vision is long since binned for a confused sinn fein-lite mixed with “it was all alright when we wrote the Good Friday Agreement”.

    UUP can’t make up their mind what they are and, to be blunt, trappings of orangism especially under Tom Elliot are a fundamental turn-off.

    Sinn Fein – no way. I’m married to a border prod whose family suffered sectarianism, bigotry and threats as bad as anything I or my friends experienced growing up in north Belfast. My kids might feel different, but that is one vote I’ve never cast and can’t see I ever will.

    DUP… Two years ago I would have laughed at the mere suggestion. It is still far too early and I suspect a whole new generation of politicos will need to come through, before I could actively consider voting DUP. But I have watched the transition as they have been in government and despite the default need to often still to the old DUP roots, this increasing looks like a party that is still on a journey.

    This unicorn remains curious, but wary.

  • Obelisk

    “It would be a sign of maturity in political dialogue that a reformulated Conservative party in Northern Ireland were regarded as Northern Irish first and foremost.”

    We can’t even agree what Northern Irish is among ourselves, and a substantial chunk of the population would be alienated even by using the term. So the requisite political maturity, by your standards, doesn’t exist. Strikes me as an attempt to dilute my Irish identity by making me think I’m somehow different and apart from the rest of the Irish Nation.

    There maybe a need for a non-sectarian centre-right party in the North but it’s not going to be the Conservative Party, which will not gain traction within the Catholic community because its the Conservative party that has historically been hostile to that community, even its constitutionally minded representatives.

  • plainly speaking

    “Strikes me as an attempt to dilute my Irish identity by making me think I’m somehow different and apart from the rest of the Irish Nation.”

    Unintended and apologies if it sounded crass. A not too distant cousin of the unicorn is the Irish Conservative. Probably a much more common species than imagined, habitually disguised by its wariness of shedding its tribal garb.

    Still, many Catholics in GB have no problem voting Conservative, so I don’t accept that it cannot gain traction with Catholics simply because they’re Catholic. The Conservatives are the only major party to have had a Catholic leader in recent history.

    The origins of modern conservatism owe much to an Irishman and it’s about time an Irish voice (of whatever denomination or none) is once again heard in national government.

  • HeinzGuderian

    “I once asked my parents when politics came up about this UCUNF stuff. Even though the UUP were trying to portray themselves as the ‘nicer’ of the two Unionist parties, my parents said they would find it impossible to ever cast a vote for them, the memory of the one party state was too strong for them. At least the DUP was more honest, the UUP carries the sin of being the governing party which sponsored and carried out the discrimination they suffered.”

    Sorry,but I can’t let this nonsense go unchallenged. The old Nationalist Party refused to take their seats at Stormont. Whose fault was that ?
    They eventually came in from the cold when they realised the state wasn’t going to crumble anytime soon.
    The shinners used to follow that dubious example until they too seen the light.
    Slow learners……over and over and over again.

  • PaddyReilly

    The old Nationalist Party refused to take their seats at Stormont.

    Not true: they were there from 1927 onwards. They sponsored the Wild Birds Protection Act (1931). It was the only Nationalist sponsored bill which ever passed, which meant their presence was largely a waste of time. I don’t think Ob’s parents would have remembered that far back.

    The abstainers you are thinking of are probably the Republican Clubs. But their vote was relatively small.

    Whose fault was that

    The fault of the Unionists, who had devised an Ulster which excluded Donegal and Monaghan, with the result that Nationalists could do absolutely nothing, except look after the welfare of wild birds.

    If I were to invent a state which guaranteed a Nationalist majority by excluding Lisburn from the count, I don’t think any Unionist would be in a rush to attend its parliament.

    I think you must be about twelve.

  • I have argued before that there are three tribes rather than two within Norn Iron and last night I was reflecting on the subject of “conversion”……religious, political etc and I think its fair to say that we have all known a convert in our lives.
    Like my Uncle Robbie, the shipyard man who went to Mass every morning. He was simply too Catholic.
    And back in the 1960s my father used to read an English Catholic newspaper (The Universe) every Sunday. One of the star columnists was a man called Douglas Hyde (sic). I dont know if that was a nom de plume or he was actually called that (coincidences happen) but Hydes story was that he had been a communist in the 1930s. Actually my father, a man of Labour didnt like him.
    And we have surely all seen those Staurday night Belfast Telegraph adverts where ex-Catholics were lined up to speak at the Big Tent Mission.
    Indeed no visit to Cornmarket in Belfast in the 1970s/80s was complete without an old school friend telling me that Jesus loved me. And Im sure he does.
    When people convert from anything to anything……they often do with a zeal that marks them out as more enthusiastic than socially acceptable.
    And I suggest in Norn Iron that it is almost impossible to make a religious or political conversion without leaving behind something significant.
    Conversions from unionism to republicanism and vice versa are rare. Rather more usual is the seemingly easier conversion into the “middle ground”.
    And while people are indeed born and brought up in a middle ground, the CONVERTS to the middle ground seem to make more of an issue of abandoning their past “my father was an Orangeman” or “my uncle was in Long Kesh” than they do about actually embracing the middle ground.
    There is something about a convert …of any kind…..that repudiates past, a family history. They dont make it easy for those they leave behind. And those they leave behind dont make it very easy for them either.

    Was actually thinking of this in the context of a school friend …….grammar school…..who had rather unfortunate family circumstances of which he was frankly ashamed.
    At 16 his family insisted he start working……which he did in ….the NI Civil Service. And he affected to “look” different from us. He had never played Rugby but played for Civil Service IVs or whatever. He cut an unlikely figure carrying his umbrella thru the Troubles in West Belfast.
    He was a francophile and joined the Civil Service in Brussels. At heart he was a unionist. I lost contact with him after 1979. He died in the mid 1990s.

    And I dont think its atypical.
    That the “converts” I have known seem incapable of embracing something without being derogatory and insulting about what they once were. They are essentially rather unattractive people.
    And essentially this means their example is an unattractive one.
    Of course the attitude of those they are perceived of abandoning is not exactly brilliant.
    But Conversion does carry a certain stigma.
    In some cases…..deservedly.

  • JR

    I have come to know a free-p to Catholic convert over the last year or so. There can’t be many of them!

    He met and married a Catholic and now is very much a practicing Catholic. He is also learning Irish. I woluld love to know what way he votes!

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: Not true: they were there from 1927 onwards. They sponsored the Wild Birds Protection Act (1931). It was the only Nationalist sponsored bill which ever passed, which meant their presence was largely a waste of time.
    A great meme, but since the main business of Stormont was to roll selected Westminster legislation into Northern Ireland, the sponsors probably achieved more than a lot of the MPs on the government benches. Mind you – the new Assembly is not actually very productive either.
    And between abstentionism, obstructionism, and anti-partitionist activity, it may be that nationalists achieved more in the old Stormont than their contribution warranted.

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse: That the “converts” I have known seem incapable of embracing something without being derogatory and insulting about what they once were.
    Did you ever explain fully why you switched your vote from SF back to the SDLP?

  • Twilightoftheprods, I agree with your assessment that DUP and SF outreach is essentially ‘window-dressing’ to eat into the UUP and SDLP vote respectively. Peter and Martin call the shots, in a manner of speaking, and London’s change to the appointment of First Minister further weakened the positions of the UUP and SDLP.

  • Reader:
    I was not aware that I had to to explain….fully or otherwise…. my switch from SDLP to SF to SDLP again.
    Its hardly a conversion on the road to Damascus.
    Conversion is what happens when you approach a Free Presbyterian Minister on the Ravenhill Road and say “Id like to be converted” and he takes you up the road to the Rugby Ground and kicks you over the posts.

    A very old joke……but Im a very old person.

  • Sounds like an old joke, fjh. On January 11 eight years ago Paisley led a protest at Ravenhill against Sunday rugby: Ulster v Leicester 🙂

  • HeinzGuderian

    The Nationalist party did not even take their seats during the first Parliament (1921-25) and did not accept the role of Opposition until 2nd February 1965 –

    I had finally realised that Northern Ireland was here to stay.

    Nationalists could have taken their seats.
    They could have voiced concerns over housing and employment.
    They choose not to. They choose to sulk on the sidelines and do what they do best……..WHINGE.

    I’m slightly older than 12 Paddy,and I do realise the truth may hurt,but isn’t it long past the time that Nationalists took responsibility for doing nothing ?

  • Obelisk

    Maybe you’ve a point Heinz. After all, following 1965 Nationalists began to be more politically active, organising to engage with the system to bring about peaceful change and to deal with some real abuses in the system. And seeing this engagement, the Unionist population was thrilled at the prospect of …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burntollet

    …and then the whole ‘Nationalists should have engaged’ theory unravels when it becomes apparent that that was the last thing the Unionist establishment wanted.

    Having a toothless Nationalist party that sat there and got routinely ignored but could be shown off on cue as a demonstration of a working democracy is apparently in your eyes the height of what we should have expected.

  • JR

    Yea Heinz and it’s time those blacks in Missippi took responsibility for not using the same public bathrooms as Whites too.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: After all, following 1965 Nationalists began to be more politically active, organising to engage with the system to bring about peaceful change and to deal with some real abuses in the system.
    By 1968 they had achieved major changes in Stormont legislation relating to the franchise, electoral boundaries and housing allocation. Three years. If only they had started work 45 years earlier instead of mucking about with the anti-partition league and the Northern Council for Unity.

  • PaddyReilly

    The Nationalists did not take their seats during the first NI parliament because the UK was treaty bound to hold a border commission which would reasonably have placed them back in the Free State.

    There was no proportional representation in those days, so if a Nationalist won a constituency, and it wasn’t Belfast Falls, then it should logically have been sending its reprsentative to Dublin, not Stormont.

    The UK was though overawed by the RUC display of strength in the border regions and restricted the border commission to dealing with trivially small areas within a couple of miles of the border.

    Result: the achievement of democracy in those areas has to begin with the killing of policemen.

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse1745: I was not aware that I had to to explain….fully or otherwise…. my switch from SDLP to SF to SDLP again. Its hardly a conversion on the road to Damascus.
    Of course you have no obligation to explain, just as you had no obligation to mention it in the first place. This was just your chance to explain why you thought that each party was in turn worse than the next. Converts do that sort of thing.
    And most of your original examples were hardly epic biblical conversions either.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: The UK was though overawed by the RUC display of strength in the border regions and restricted the border commission to dealing with trivially small areas within a couple of miles of the border.
    It still offered to transfer too many hill farms and pension liabilities for the Dail to accept the changes though. And I can understand them rejecting Crossmaglen, but what was wrong with Belleek?

  • PaddyReilly

    instead of mucking about with the anti-partition league and the Northern Council for Unity.

    In other words, Nationalists are all right as long as they don’t espouse Nationalism. If a Nationalist doesn’t believe in Nationalism then he is effectively a Catholic Unionist, that unicorn-like creature which is the subject of this thread.

  • PaddyReilly

    It still offered to transfer too many hill farms and pension liabilities for the Dail to accept the changes though. And I can understand them rejecting Crossmaglen, but what was wrong with Belleek?

    If you owe me a million pounds and suggest I accept £50, then the loss that I incur in refusing this kind offer is offset by the pleasure I get at spitting in your face.

    Keep your Crossmaglen, and I hope it chokes you: which of course it did.

  • Obelisk

    “If only they had started work 45 years earlier instead of mucking about with the anti-partition league and the Northern Council for Unity.”

    I’m sorry my ancestors reacted so badly to their country being ripped in two at the behest of a minority. I mean who could have guessed they would take it so badly?

    I’m sure if Nationalism had prevailed, as they should have after the votes were counted, your ancestors would have co-operated happily with the new government, despite saying for ten years how they wouldn’t and forming a paramilitary militia and importing weapons from abroad to wage a civil war coupled with blood and thunder demonstrations.

    The utter hypocrisy of Unionism in the period never fails to astound me. Not only did they then do unto their new minority what they said would be done to them in a Home Rule Ireland, but they expected that minority to behave in a fashion utterly different to the behaviour they themselves threatened if Home Rule came to pass.

    When you get right down to it, this is why Irish people can’t vote Unionist even if they might prefer staying in the UK for the moment. You’d be as well to ask Israeli Arabs to vote for Likud.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: In other words, Nationalists are all right as long as they don’t espouse Nationalism. If a Nationalist doesn’t believe in Nationalism then he is effectively a Catholic Unionist, that unicorn-like creature which is the subject of this thread.
    There’s nothing wrong with *wanting* the moon on a stick (as indeed they still do) but there is a lot to be said for also paying a bit of attention to more practical projects. They would still have been nationalists then, just as those nationalists who work in Stormont now are still nationalists.

  • Obelisk

    ” They would still have been nationalists then, just as those nationalists who work in Stormont now are still nationalists.”

    Except the Nationalists now have a veto over anything that happens. Sure the Unionist side does too, but I’d say the veto is more psychologically important for us.

    They’re not a group to be discriminated against, or shouted down, or gerrymandered, or ignored or in permanent opposition. They’re in power.

    The Old Nationalist Party’s greatest legacy may end up being the maintenance of the ugly scaffolding for a very long, long time to come. An unnatural system of governance to be sure, but it’s an unnatural state and it’s the only way I’ll ever be able to have some trust in the local government here.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: If you owe me a million pounds and suggest I accept £50, then the loss that I incur in refusing this kind offer is offset by the pleasure I get at spitting in your face.
    No one owes you a million pounds. The Southern government wanted to extend its jurisdiction over 500,000 nationalists and 1,000,000 unionists, and had a tantrum when offered less. Easily predicted in advance as they sent a (metaphorical) turnip to act as the southern commissioner. Only slightly more stylish than the unionists, who refused to appoint anyone at all.
    There’s no point in complaining about the boundary commission proposal – it was vastly more just than any nationalist demand at the time.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: I’m sorry my ancestors reacted so badly to their country being ripped in two at the behest of a minority.
    Two countries were created, each to the satisfaction of local majorities. The opportunity to refine the border was missed, deliberately, by both sides.
    I know that the Principle of Consent is viewed by some nationalists as a distressing, pragmatic, compromise, but so far as I am concerned it is the most moral option available right now. In essence, it was the most moral option available back then, too.

  • Obelisk

    “Two countries were created, each to the satisfaction of local majorities”

    There was no Unionist majority in any recognised constituency, whether the island of Ireland or the province of Ulster. There was only a majority in a constituency devised to produce an artificial majority.

    Instead, the principle of democracy, that the majority should decide was sacrificed.And look what it got us, this bear pit of a state where the two sides can never escape our history.

  • Reader,
    As I pointed out to to Mr Chris Donnelly about a week ago…..he had referred to me as a SDLP loyalist, I said I was hardly that.
    Indeed I pointed out that since 1970 I voted SDLP (Fitt in West Belfast) before it even existed….as I put it.
    And I further pointed out that since that date……I voted SDLP to 1993……….and SF to 2009……….and in any PR Election where I have given a #1 to SDLP, I have given a #2 to SF and vice versa.
    The single exception was in 1993 itself, a personal gesture of disgust….when I wasted my vote deliberately.
    I have never given any preference at any Election to a unionist or lets get alongerist Party.
    Some think that I “should” give a preference to the middle ground to keep a unionist out. I would never do that……..I vote FOR parties. I dont vote AGAINST parties.
    Never have. Never will.
    While wishing them both well, they are not my community and it would be wrong for me to influence the Election in those communities. Those tribes dont represent or seek to represent my values/self interest.
    I am not a unicorn or a convert.
    And I dont think Turgon who started this thread sees voting within the Tribe as “conversion”.
    Im surprised that you dont recall that I believe nationalism (and indeed unionism) needs two parties……as an alternative. I like to have a choice in the polling booth.
    For the record, I have often stated my own reasons for the change in voting pattern as required to look after my own set of ideals and self interest.
    It would take minimal effort on your part to look at the reasons again.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: There was no Unionist majority in any recognised constituency, whether the island of Ireland or the province of Ulster. There was only a majority in a constituency devised to produce an artificial majority.
    When was the ancient GAA province of Ulster ever a ‘recognised constituency’? In fact what *is* a recognised constituency? Does North Down count? (That’s my own constituency, by the way).
    But if you’re just complaining about the boundaries of Northern Ireland, remember that nationalists seriously messed up the fleeting opportunity to produce a better (less artificial?) border.

  • PaddyReilly

    There’s no point in complaining about the boundary commission proposal – it was vastly more just than any nationalist demand at the time.

    You obviously inhabit a parallel universe. The Treaty party’s demand was for:

    1) County Fermanagh
    2) County Tyrone
    3) All of County Londonderry apart from the Coleraine district
    4) The Southern and Western parts of County Armagh, including Armagh City
    5) The Southern and Eastern parts of County Down

    An area which contained 270,000 Nationalists and 250,000 Unionists.

    Instead the Boundary Commission contented itself with minor adjustments: crumbs, in fact. Nationalists were a third of the voting population in NI: what were they awarded? 1% of the territory?

    This event ruined the Treaty party and the peace movement in Ireland. Fine Gael has been a minority ever since. Instead those who believe that political power proceeds from the barrel of a gun will always have more credibility.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: An area which contained 270,000 Nationalists and 250,000 Unionists.
    There’s the giveaway right there. They claimed a massive area with a net improvement of 20,000 heads, but rejected a smaller area with a better net improvement. The boundary commission report would have affected about 27,000 people, almost all of them nationalist, so the extra turf claimed by the treaty party would actually have made things *worse*. That’s besides the fact that it was a blatant land grab, and that they made no serious effort to engage with the process.
    Presumably the ‘artificial majority’ / ‘artificial boundary’ meme implies that some sufficiently honest, honourable and competent person could have done considerably better than a 20,000 net improvement in an island with a population of 5,000,000. Any nominations for such a person from that era?

  • Obelisk

    As PaddyReilly points out, a fairer border would basically have meant no Northern Ireland at all.

    That’s the worst irony of the entire farce.

    There simply weren’t enough Unionists on enough territory to justify a state. Half a million Nationalists had to be disenfranchised to subsidise this artificial creation.

  • PaddyReilly

    If I may return to the subject of the thread. Catholic Unionists do, apparently exist. I have the impression that Catholics who live in Protestant majority areas have a tendency either to vote Alliance, not to vote at all, or vote Unionist. The following BBC report on Larne states “Bizarrely, the prevalence of intermarriage and Catholics and Protestants living side by side, has led to a situation where there is evidence of Catholics being involved in loyalist paramilitary organisations.” see

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1183013.stm

    For many people, their political beliefs largely depend on what Housing Estate they were brought up in.

    However this tendency is subject to rapid reversal. One condition that can wipe the Unionist grin off a Catholic or mixed-marriage face is rejection by Unionists. This would be the case with the late Bobby Sands, M.P. Burnt out of his home, intimidated out of his job, he turned to Republicanism. However, in some cases rapid reversals happen without any provocation at all. The election of a Sinn Féin MLA for East Antrim at the last Stormont election is an example of such. With a Catholic population of only 13-15%, (possibly this is before reinforcements of 4% from a boundary change), SF were able to gain a seat in this overwhelmingly Protestant and Unionist constituency. This shows that even the proverbially quiet Catholics of Larne must have given them their 2nd pref.
    So it would seem that a necessary part of the process by which Catholics become Unionists is the removal of any opportunity to be Nationalist. The new constituency boundary changes have ensured that their are now no constiuencies in the country where the Catholic population is less that 14.29%, which is the minimum necessary, in the political sphere, for any particular faction to gain a seat.

    The reverse is not, in my experience, the case: Protestants this side of the border never give up, and in fact become more vocal, the more they are outnumbered. However, Protestants who are married to Catholics and live in Catholic areas usually do become Nationalist, or agnostic. Those who live in the Southern part of the country, away from the border, do ordinarily identify as Irish. But this again may come under the “removal of any opportunity” rule.

  • PaddyReilly

    There’s the giveaway right there. They claimed a massive area with a net improvement of 20,000 heads, but rejected a smaller area with a better net improvement.

    Yes, and the giveaway from the other side is the rejection of majority rule, where ussuns are not the majority. 50% + 1 is the rule: and Unionists believe in it as long as the 50% and the one are Unionists.

    Net improvement is only the start: obviously if the net improvement is 20,000 before the transfer, then a couple of decades or so later it will have risen to 100,000 or more. Equally the Catholic population in the remaining Unionist area would have a tendency to fall, as they drifted to the Nationalist side of the border, and those who remained would be more likely to turn into unicorns.

    As PaddyReilly points out, a fairer border would basically have meant no Northern Ireland at all.

    I’m not sure that that’s what I said at all. If the treaty had been fairly implemented, there would still be a Northern Ireland in Co Antrim, North Down and North and East Armagh. But there would have been no call for excessive numbers of Unionist policemen to keep the Fenians down, so Ulster unionism would have lost its best earner.

  • Obelisk

    “I’m not sure that that’s what I said at all”

    My apologies in that case. I have always thought that had the borders been drawn fair Northern Ireland would have been non-viable at birth.

  • PaddyReilly

    non-viable at birth

    Even the larger NI is non-viable, but they still kept on with it. A problem with the truncated state (that was raised in the Border Commission) is that its reservoir would be (across the border) in South Down, but I don’t see that rain is so rare in Antrim and North Down that they couldn’t improvise something.

  • SK

    “Two countries were created, each to the satisfaction of local majorities. The opportunity to refine the border was missed, deliberately, by both sides.
    I know that the Principle of Consent is viewed by some nationalists as a distressing, pragmatic, compromise, but so far as I am concerned it is the most moral option available right now. In essence, it was the most moral option available back then, too.”

    This island, even under British rule, was conceptualised and and administrated as a single political entity. It was a country, and 80% of the people within this country demnaded Home Rule. The Unionist response to this, the will of the majority of their countrymen?

    “Balls to democracy, we say no”. Like spoiled little brats who didn’t get the toy the wanted.

    That their descendants still, all these years later, try to rationalise such a blatant, bigoted disregard for democracy demonstrates that you do not have a reasonable bone in your communal bodies.

  • “This island, even under British rule, was conceptualised and and administrated as a single political entity.”

    Agreed, SK. Irish nationalist MPs had sufficient numbers on occasion to act as king-makers at Westminster so I suspect that played a significant part in Gladstone’s offer of Home Rule; he was certainly no fan of the Vatican’s role in international affairs. Following that Gladstone outburst you can see how the welcome from certain Protestant quarters – Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Methodist – flipped with the potential prospect of Ireland becoming a Catholic state with a strong allegiance to the Vatican. Presbyterians and Methodists, having recently escaped from the clutches of the Church of Ireland, would have been in no mood to move, in their lights, from the frying pan to the fire.

    Unionism, especially in Ulster, grew out of an alliance between Conservatives and those Liberals who couldn’t accept the Gladstone strategy. From the above you can see why Unionists wished Ireland to remain within the Union. The Ulster Unionist Convention of 1892 drew on earlier conventions in Ulster a century earlier so you can also see why the Ulster Custom wasn’t the only thing that set it apart from the other provinces.

    I suspect that had the various Protestant sects as well as economic prosperity been evenly distributed across the island Home Rule would have gone through without much of the turmoil that ensued.

  • SK

    ” From the above you can see why Unionists wished Ireland to remain within the Union.”

    _

    Isn’t that the irony of it though?

    Had unionists consented to Home Rule, Ireland would have remained within the UK, in a devoltuionist set-up akin to that which Wales enjoys today.

    Protestants enjoyed a disproportionate degree of economic and legislative power relative to their numbers,and it was a desire to perpetuate this imbalance which motivated unionism- especially, as you say, in Ulster.

    Democracy was secondary to the sense of entitlement fostered amongst them since the plantations.

  • “Isn’t that the irony of it though?”

    SK, Gladstone didn’t view the Vatican input as benign so I should imagine that the various Protestant sects, especially in Ulster, took at even stronger view at the time. As you can see from this link, Home Rule would have been viewed as Repeal and opposition to the latter had been building for two generations prior to Gladstone’s proposal.

    You’re quite right that some Protestants did indeed enjoy great economic and political power but the make-up of the 1892 Convention was much more broadly based and some of the key figures in it were descendants of Volunteers and United Irishmen from just a century earlier.

    Catholics and other Irish nationalists drew from a different well but Unionists and Nationalists appeared to have little tolerance or, indeed, understanding of one another’s stances. Various events from 1798 onwards had brought the various Protestant sects together poltically and Unionists and Nationalists both played the majoritarian card.

    A downside of blaming ‘themuns’ allowed the foul activities, faults and weaknesses of ‘usuns’ to flourish and children, in particular, were not cherished to the degree that they deserved and to which they were entitled.