10 things that political unionists get wrong…

From our good friend and diligent commenter, Am Gobsmacht… Choosing ramdonly, here’s number four on the list, living in denial

Everyone knows that Northern Ireland needs the Catholic vote to survive.

But the people who can make a difference such as the Loyalist bands, the Orange Order and indeed the IFA (see above) do nothing about it.

Feel free to make a suggestion but be prepared to be told why they can’t (won’t) do anything till Sinn Fein do something. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that this state of affairs suits Sinn Fein nicely

Do read it all

  • DC

    Every time i hear the word culture, i reach for my ulster press centre 😉

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    UPC = Ulster’s Protestant Cringe?

  • FuturePhysicist

    To think you could nearly walk down through the Garden of Rememberence with a Rangers Kit and an Orange Sash and no one would really notice.

  • Greenflag

    @ Red Lion ,

    ”I guess this is a hard question to answer, one for the academics of history, and probably happened over a long period of time, with clusters of specific change at certain times’

    The conventional Orange interpretation of NI history would include King Billy, the dastardly King James , 1641 , 1690 , the Siege of Derry and the Boyne , the Diamond etc etc .Mixed in with the above is the ‘prosperity’ and ‘progress’ brought by the Industrial Revolution and the growth of Empire and all held in place by the Crown .

    And while there is some truth in all the above it does not tell the whole story which is a complex mix of seemingly unrelated events .

    More interesting IMO is the history of the people of that time .We forget that the 200 years 1600 -1800 (known as the LIttle Ice Age ) was a period of colder weather with more snowfall and longer winters and poorer harvests and local famines in Scotland and Ireland and to a lesser extent in England .Scotland suffered most given it’s geographical location and Ireland suffered most during the 1585- 1603 Second Conquest .which ended the old Gaelic order .

    Events which impacted the Ulster Plantation and it’s relative success in comparison to earlier attempts in Munster and the Midlands were the following .

    1) The final defeat of the O’Neills thus removing any possibility of a restoration of the thousand year earlier Ui Neill High Kingship (note the O’Neill’s by 1550 were very much provincial overlords and the earlier Norman conquest had put paid to any possibility of Irish Kingship although had KInsale been a defeat for Mountjoy ? wwho knows .

    2) Climate -Colder weather led to poorer harvests throughout Ireland , Scotland and Northern England .This put pressure on people in terms of ‘survival ‘ This was also the period of the beginning of Empire in the Americas and Caribbean . The Border wars between Scotland and England -and the eventual ‘bailing out ‘ of Scotland following the Darie El Dorado /Ponzi scheme led to an end to the Scottish Parliament followed 100 years later by the Act of Union imposed (bribery & corruption ) on Ireland .

    The mass emigrations from Ulster to the Americas from 1720’s and 1740’s were largely due to harsh conditions in Ulster and for some religious persecution by the Established Church . Competition with the native Irish for scarce resources was also a factor with the locals less likely to move than those who as it were had already moved to Ulster within living memories of much of their population. Into this mix came the gradual spread of English as the ‘economic ‘ language of progress and Scotland also began to become more English speaking as the Industrial revolution took hold . Bonnie Prince Charlies 1745 failed attempt to remove the ‘German ‘ Hanoverian monarchy in hindsight looks like a doomed enterprise . The Irish 1798 Rebellion at the close of this 200 year era (1600-1800) was the last major battle fought on British or Irish soil .40,000 are estimated to have been killed -predominantly in Ulster and Wexford . Many Ulster Protestants were killed including Henry Joy McCracken , William Orr ,etc . .

    After 1800 in Scotland and Ulster/Ireland it ‘paid ‘ to knuckle down and work with the new order -Industrialisation , Empire etc etc . Very soon the Black Watch evolved into becoming the Queen’s most loyal Regiment from being the soldiery that provided the King’s enemy in North Britain.

    The above is just a short generalised history to get across the concept that ‘people ‘ adopt change for many reasons and these changes can and do impact their loyalties , religions , and language and culture and in this respect Ulster Protestants are no different than their Catholic Irish or Ulster Catholic or Scottish or English or Welsh or French neighbours . It’s just human beings trying to survive in difficult times .

    The period 1699 through 1800 was a pivotal one not just for the political history of Britain and Ireland but also for the North American colonies and the world .

    After 1800 and particularly after the Great Famine the desire to hang closer to London and the Crown grew thus accentuating ‘unionism ‘ and even prior to Catholic Emancipation the RC Church was beginning to see prospects for growth and more business as a ‘loyal’ arm of Empire .

    The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in the 1860’s was a recognition by HMG that the ‘myth ‘ was just that and that the Protestant political ascendancy was at an end . Ironically it was Parnell ( a protestant ) who recognised the new reality in Ireland and who pushed for Home Rule .

    I suppose we could now call him an early devolutionist ?

    As for the fiddling and Irish /Ulster Culture etc it was not always the case that the fiddle found favour among early Irish Republicans . Wolfe Tone was quoted on one occasion having been importuned by some persistent fiddler musician for a donation to his upkeep as shouting at the poor fellow .

    ‘Strum strum and be damned with ye ‘

    Not a sentiment I’d share as the fiddle & violin are cherished among our coterie 😉


  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Shouldn’t UPC be FOPOFOUPC (Fraction of Population of Fraction of Ulster Press Centre)? As an added bonus I reckon that there is an anagram for a favourite phrase of his audience in there somewhere…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Wolfe Tone was quoted on one occasion having been importuned by some persistent fiddler musician for a donation to his upkeep as shouting at the poor fellow .”

    He was part of the ‘other’ group though, a Dublin Anglican.

    Quite different from the Northern Presbyterians (even if they were his chief allies)

    Does any one know of any books marking the class and cultural differences between COI and Presbyterians, especially in the South?

  • Greenflag

    Am Ghobsmacht ,

    ‘Does any one know of any books marking the class and cultural differences between COI and Presbyterians, especially in the South?’

    The best book I’ve read on the subject generally is Marcus Tanner’s ‘Ireland’s Holy Wars ‘ which covers the period 1500 through 2000. Marcis is Anglo Welsh and also covered the Yugoslavian War for the Independent .He was sent to Northern Ireland to cover the Drumcree debacle .

    While he covers all of Ireland in the period I’m sure you’ll find references to what you are looking for .The fate of Southern Irish Unionists is covered in detail and that of Dublin’s working class Protestants as well as the COI v Presbyterian history in NI .Many of the more lurid ‘myths ‘ sometimes posted on slugger re the fate of Southern Protestants and Northern Catholics are subjected to Tanner’s excellent research and numbers . On a par with Robert Kee’s ‘Greenflag ‘ and Irish History but with much stronger emphasis on the religious , cultural and political issues faced by all denominations . Tanner pulls no punches and reveals the sometimes harsher truths with no favours to any side .

    Published by Yale University Press -yalebooks.com

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ah, Tanner, I know of him, I read his book on Croatia, was absolutely brilliant.

    Jolly good!

  • PeterOHanrahanrahan

    @ Greenflag

    I have Tanner’s book sitting here, one of the few that I own about Irish history, and I should finish reading it some day. But yes, as you say, harsh truth and little in the way of favouritism; worth the cash, I say!

  • Greenflag

    Its quite a tome and probably unless one is into the history of religious conflict in Ireland and between Britain & Ireland a tough read . The chapters from 14 (A Tendency towards Defeatism ) to the end pp 313- to 431 are probably of most interest to those looking forward .

    Tanner brings the issues onto a human scale by relating how individual lives were affected -sometimes introducing some dry humour . I read it a few years back prior to the financial crisis so it was interesting a year or so ago to read the last paragraph again to see if his conclusion was holding up ?

    “Each side had it’s offshoots –the pro British Castle Catholics and the radical Protestant United Irish . But both groups were alien to the mainstream of their community . The rise of a multi cultural and multi racial Ireland which seems irresistible in the absence of a massive economic slump , challenges all the old certainties . It will do what decades of ecumenism failed to achieve : render the struggle between Catholics and Protestants for the soul of Ireland redundant once and for all ”

    Tanner page 431 ( Ireland’s Holy Wars ‘

    On balance and despite the economic meltdown I think Tanner’s still got it right . But instead of multi cultural or multi racial which of course will have an impact I would think that growing secularisation within society both North and South have been the prime movers .

    But it will take longer in Northern Ireland mostly because of the high correlation between religious denomination and political voting patterns . But if and when the NI State is finally a thing of the past then I would expect Tanner’s prognosis re the redundancy of Catholic and Protestant to become just that . By then most of us will be Anglicised to the extent of not being regular church attenders etc .

    Still worth a read -the whole book that is , particularly if you wish to understand what makes Northern Ireland’s protestants and Irish Catholics tick ( and of course also thick in some instances 🙂

    But Northern Ireland is not a Balkans look alike despite some commonalities . Could it become another Balkans ? Very unlikely as neither the British Government nor Irish nor American governments would sit by and let it happen .
    When all is said and done that should be a comfort to the vast majority in NI and buy the time necessary for a more democratic and ultimately more economically stable permanent solution to emerge/evolve etc.

  • Here’s a challenge for someone with lots of time on their hands – DC maybe since he does try valiantly to defend unionism:

    Tell us 10 things that political unionists get right…

  • DC


    I consider myself a centrist! 😉

    but hey i guess the centre is relative and given that this place is flooded if not now overrun by nationalists i usually am found in among unionists, swash buckling my ceremonial sword trying to get the Nats out of my face and kept within safe distance.

    an all but lost battle, then the wonder weapon that is mick fealty is deployed. temporary relief and a much needed breather had, before being overrun again. and repeat.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC ,

    ‘an all but lost battle,’

    A perusal of Tanner’s book I referred to above particularly the chapter on ‘A Tendency to Defeatism ‘ might provide you with a sense of deja vu albeit in a late 18th /19th and up to mid 20th century context . But the parallels are there for NI in the 21st century .

    The battle for the ‘Union ‘ was lost as far back as the late 18th century and was accelerated by the exponential growth of the RC ‘middling ‘classes after 1829 . By the late 19th century there was a definite ‘fin de siecle ‘ sense within Irish ‘unionism ‘. The advent of WW1 and the defeat of Home Rule was in retro the Rubicon being crossed for any hope of avoiding partition . and that in turn i.e partition just added to ‘unionist ‘ angst and set the path for further longer term erosion .

    It was resurrected of course from 1912 and took on a new lease of life albeit in a much more restricted ‘provincial ‘ environment and then to just a regional corner of said province . The economic and political changes which have swept the world since then have some might think passed NI and political unionism by -have instead had their impact which is continuing . Ditto for the Irish Republic

    The task for unionists is to adapt to the changes afoot and to look forward instead of forever in the rear mirror at the good old days .

    Forward thinking ‘Unionists ‘ should of course be working earnestly for a longer term political realignment between Britain and all of Ireland in relation to the EU and the problems faced by all the peripheral economies . A relationship between both islands more akin to the Nordic Council but within the EU would be a good start .

    One thing is certain we (all of us ) British , Irish , British/Irish , Unionists , Republicans , Loyalists need to focus on the future more so than the past -for in truth there’s not much we can glean from the political past on this island except that it left us with two dysfunctional states only one of which has recently emerged from ‘unenlightenment ‘ and the other where both tribes are still looking for the light switch so they can see the new ‘realities ‘ about them .

  • DC

    Yes true enough Greenflag – how do you do enforced powersharing with one main party that has such low expectations of N Ireland that it wants it wrapped up and doesn’t care that much about what it gets out of it as it doesn’t believe in it, the NI state. the other main party arguably with such high expectations both in terms of identity issues and delivery, its people passionate about northern ireland getting it to work. a clash of styles and attitudes as about states or particular statehood.

    The DUP glided into power using the ‘no surrender’ auto pilot only realising that when in power you need to go in all sort of directions than just one, you need to be mobile, you need to adjust.

    a party built for opposition by the looks of it and on its way out i would reckon – look at all the key figures, like match sticks, burnt. paisley snr, jnr, iris, the party leader in particular – i’m sure there’s more…

    i guess the key is to keep your expectations low and use a different style.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Mr J

    “Tell us 10 things that political unionists get right…”

    Good idea.

    Could also do 10 things that Republicans get wrong (that’ll keep the comments page alive!)

    Open for suggestions on the things that Unionists get right to get me started though.

    A little help?

  • between the bridges

    AG…Tom Elliott’s post election speech….

  • BluesJazz

    The documentary on BBC3 at 9pm tonight (Monday 5 July 9pm) looks interesting given it involves the recent protagonists in the Parades dispute.

  • BluesJazz


    meant to add link above, a catholic girl from Donegal gets to play drums with the ‘Pride of Ardoyne’ flute band.

    I’m guessing its middle class ‘anthropology’ towards the tribes but sure it can’t be worse than ‘the estate’.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC,

    “how do you do enforced powersharing etc”

    Short answer you don’t unless you are forced to which unfortunately is what NI has ended up with following decades of sectarian strife and a generation (25 years) of a local political vacuum (1974- 1998 ).

    Until some ‘Deus ex Machina ‘ or perhaps ‘Black Swan ‘ emerges or evolves to change the current political stand off equation between both sets of traditions then NI is stuck with the GFA . Although the current economic recession has helped to focus on the financial facts of life facing both communities in NI it has’nt dislodged either political side from their deeply held political aspirations . It however may have moderated some at least for a period which has helped to keep the ‘lid’ on the slow return to ‘normality ‘ if thats the word.

    ‘The DUP glided into power using the ‘no surrender’ auto pilot only realising that when in power you need to go in all sort of directions than just one, you need to be mobile, you need to adjust.’

    Indeed .But then historically ‘Unionist ‘parties ‘ either the old UUP or the multiple other brands up to the DUP have never felt the need to have to adjust .They had /have a captive electorate who stick largely to nurse for fear of something worse . I can only think of the Alliance Party and Brian Faulkner’s short lived NIUP ? as examples of a real attempt at ‘adjusting ‘ some might say Capt O’Neill tried but O’Neill was not an ‘Ulster ‘ politician and was too ‘English ‘ and forward looking for the mainstream Unionist electorate of the time .

    Very very very short answer to your question .

    ‘It ain’t easy ‘ ergo the eh collateral damage to the party leadership not just of the DUP but even more so of the UUP , SDLP and to a lesser extent SF probably because they have been in ‘adjusting ‘mode since 1981 almost 20 years before the DUP felt the need.

  • Greenflag

    @ mister Joe ,

    ‘Tell us 10 things that political unionists get right…

    I’d have added ‘ even if temporarily ‘ to the above to make it easier for those interested in attempting to answer . As a non unionist I can only think of a few

    1) Brian Faulkner and the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974 -later brought to nought of course by those Unionists who could not stomach a voluntary coalition with the SDLP .

    2) The failure of the vast majority of the unionist population to support the Loyalist paramilitaries and to generally continue to support the main parties .

    3) While many are not Church attenders one could suggest that a majority of unionists listened to the words of their Anglican , Presbyterian and Methodist ministers in restraining themselves from ‘acts ‘ of revenge -ditto of course for the majority of non unionists.

    4) Doc Paisley eventually making it to the power sharing table despite decades of opposition and his groundbreaking ‘deal ‘ with SF leader and now DFM McGuinness.

    Thats my lot -I’m afraid -I’m sure those who are ‘unionists ‘ may come up with with more .

  • Morpheus

    Can 2 and 3 really be attributed to political unionism?

  • ayeYerMa

    A Gobshite, from your posts prior you made it clear that you don’t actually give a toss what happens either way, so I don’t count you as someone who cares. I never claimed to know how long you were in Australia, but in another post you stated 10 years in Glasgow (which is good enough for being out of touch to me given we have clueless Professors from Strathclyde telling us how “sectarian” the red hand is). On most of your posts here, and from a casual look at your blog, you seem to concentrate most of your efforts in making childish insults at Unionism with a misguided “look at me aren’t I wonderfully above it all and independent” pretense. This will not get you listened to nor improve anything other than getting you a lot of Republicans chanting you on for doing great service to their cause (I mean, just look at all the unrelated slurs you’ve managed to throw in there).

    PeterOH, rather arrogant of you to act as if you speak for all expats. The reason I hate such attitudes so much is because I used to be an expat (far East, central Europe) myself for over 6 years after leaving the nest and wanting to show how independent and freethinking I was too. Amongst ex-pats I feel there is a tendency to lose all touch with reality and circumstance facing our small population. There is a tendency for some expats to define themselves by the ignorance of others concerning our circumstances (and I don’t blame others for being ignorant given our small 1.8 million population). To my great shame I had lost touch myself and once even thought it was a good idea to vote Alliance — thank goodness though I regained common sense upon returning home and snapped right back into reality! How embarrassing!

  • Greenflag

    @ Morpheus ,

    Can 2 and 3 really be attributed to political unionism?

    I suppose you could make the case that 2 & 3 should be attributed to the unionist people rather than their politicians , I had a quick lookback at Am Ghobsmachts top 10 for guidance but the distinction between people and politicians was in most cases not clear .

    Anyway 4 is better than 2 is’nt it and it may help others attempting to make it to the 10 😉

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Or, possibly, I just flicked that ever so fickle digital switch that many Unionists have which turns into a “you disagree with us, you must hate the tribe! Your opinion is not worthy!”

    If there is any way of discerning my care level it would surely be one of concern i.e. one who is willing to say that which is not popular and take the accompanying abuse.

    For you to say I don’t give a toss is with out foundation.

    You might deem 10 years in Glasgow (a.k.a Belfast lite) as being out of touch but as with the inhabitants of Dalriada, it was close enough for me to keep my finger on the pulse and live at home on occaision.

    Without an aloof academic attitude and tweed jacket with leather elbow patches in case you’re about to throw that at me too.

    The Strathclyde lecturer did say that. His argument was based on perception.

    I was ragin at first but soon simmered down when a friend of mine nearly got into a fight in an Irish bar in the Merchant city on account of wearing a Tyrone top, or, as her accuser labelled it ” a Loyalist top!”, so he wasn’t that far off was he?

    I make no childish insults, only accusations with low-grade humour, the easiest way to de-rail the blog and the points therein is to de-construct each point logically and tell me where I’m wrong.

    I have poor advocacy skills and would soon crumble under a torrent of logical dis-assembly, yet for all the accusations of inaccuracies in my blog none have stepped forward to tell me where exactly I am wrong.

    Please feel free to take up the baton and tell me which parts are so very wrong.

    I want Unionism to survive, which it will not do without the blessing of the Northern Irish Catholic or the English tax payer.

    Feel free to prove otherwise.

    I’ll admit that I am not privy to any potential Anglo-sino agreements that may be on the cards regarding exploration drilling off the coast of Ballycastle, but should I have missed something please be a dear and highlight this geo-political shifting dimension.

    I’m certainly not wonderful as should have been made plain by my referring of myself as wretched now and again, but, given your attempt at a rebuttal I can only assume that you didn’t even read it the whole way through anyway.

    I’m afraid you just highlight my concern regarding the lack of Unionist vision, for when I post a blog that should ruffle the feathers of Republicans (in a week or two hopefully) I certainly expect a higher degree of attack than what you’ve just posted. i.e “you’re a snob, you live abroad, you don’t know your peeps anymore…”

    Just tell me which parts are wrong and your sources and I’ll get cracking.


    BTW, if we lose touch for being expats, does that mean that we’re wrong when we think that the nationalist population is increasing at a rate than the unionist population?

    Oh yes, that’s right, ‘the Spotlight Poll’. How heartening that we don’t have to bother to make our country to appealing to others…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    BTW, if we lose touch for being expats, does that mean that we’re wrong when we think that the nationalist population is increasing at a rate FASTER than the unionist population?

  • PeterOHanrahanrahan

    “The reason I hate such attitudes so much is because I used to be an expat (far East, central Europe) myself for over 6 years after leaving the nest and wanting to show how independent and freethinking I was too”.

    Rather arrogant of you to assume that I, too, left due to intellectual insecurities, but then I guess that makes us even on the assumption stakes. If you feel that your time abroad was politically wasted, more’s the pity.

    I’ve met loads of expat/travelling Protestants and they’ve ALL given me the same answer; statistics isn’t my strongest suit, but I’m pretty sure sample size is on my side. Perhaps they are all intellectually insecure as well, and need to come back to “reality” like you did?

    Please tell me more about this reality to which I am apparently not privy, because the one I see is an ongoing and apparently brake-free unionist self-immolation by its own hand.

  • AG,

    Thank you for your offer but I’m too far away and have been for 32 years, despite biennial visits. I imagine that things that political unionists do right are probably on a small local scale. Greenflag had great suggestions.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I’m sure you can’t be that far off the mark. I think your perspective is quite normal/common/unsurprising. While people from a nationalist background who leave NI tend to remain sort-of nationalists (to the extent that they care) few Prods leave NI to seek their fortune elsewhere and hold onto “no surrender”. It’s a local phenomenon that doesn’t survive up against a worldly perspective.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Товарищ Stalin

    erewhon agreed similarly and posted as such in the blog about the lack of Unionist bloggers:


    erewhon (profile) 25 July 2013 at 7:28 am

    “Many educated Norn Iron ex-pats who may have come from a unionist back ground perhaps don’t have the same vim and vigour for their ’cause’ as they once had as once you’ve left NI you arrive at the conclusion that you are actually ‘Irish’ after all.”

    It’s a day of relentless rain here in Sanya, Hainan island, Southern China and there is nothing left to do so I’ve been driven to comment on n.i. Issues as an expat who left in 1970, spent 20 years in England then 16 in Asia then returned to NI.

    I think your comment on the transformation of unionist expats is correct. I know some ex-Ballymena people with multi-decade experience in china who would now identify as in favour of a unified republic where absence has removed the emotional trauma of using such terms.

    They would also consider themselves “Irish” by virtue of being of subtype “Northern Irish”

    They feel no affiliation whatever to people who march whether for provocation, recreation, “culture” affirmation or exercise with distraction. They equally feel no continuing affiliation with the peculiar NI version of fundamentalist Protestantism exemplified by the integrated bigot/preacher/politician extant on the scene.

    Whoa, rain has subsided. Time to head to use the Mandarin again and get a bus. Bei Ai Eric Lan is Mandarin for N.I. But that’s all anyone knows about it. Puts things in perspective.


    Like you say Товарищ Stalin, it’s seemingly quite a normal perspective for many people of a Unionist background who leave home which surely is a symptom that something is wrong?

    Other forms of nationalism can travel and survive abroad e.g. Irish, Serbian, Greek yet the Northern Irish brand of ‘British Nationalism’ seemingly isn’t so durable.

    Although, perhaps we’re seeing why here, as when some one offers some points, which to be fair are hardly likely to handicap the Unionist or Protestant community, said silly individual will be told that he is wrong.

    But not why.

    They only thing we’re not surrendering is the ‘No Surrender’ attitude, that great ball and chain that our community has happily manacled itself too.

  • Red Lion

    Aye Yer Ma,

    Political unionism has to learn to be self-critical and be at ease with self analysis. Only then is any headway made on questions such as, what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, how can we improve, where do we want to be in 10 years and how do we get there?? And only then may it cease to blunder from one cock-up to the next on an ever decreasing mandate.

    Asking such questions of oneself are absolutely necessary to develop a strategic vision. And yes this means a degree of intellectualism is required.

    ‘Strategic vision’ and ‘intellectualism’ are two phrases the DUP and UUP cannot comprehend. This situation is untenable, especially if you want to preserve the union. The head in sand approach won’t work, nor will decrying anybody who has alternate thought as a lundy or as gifting one to nats.

    This strategic vision/intellectualism void has to be filled, not by nationalists utterly unchallenged or woeful unionist leaders who are paralyzed by fear/inability for genuine discussion/debate in an evolving NI where their old ways are starting to be overtaken.

    I am heartened that things like A.G’s blog and the organising of NI21 are making moves to attempt to fill this void.

    I agree with each and every one of A.G’s points about what political unionism gets wrong. I can only say for myself, that to let self-critique in, is liberating, and then it paves the way to creatively, ie, what can we do to fix this bullshit.

    Political unionism represses itself intellectually from which it’s destructive self-harming seamlessly follows. (They are of course aided in this long slow death by 1000 cuts by a light-on- its-feet and strategic republicanism)

    To watch the flags protest and as a pro-union man to be able decry the political leaders of unionism for their part in it, is empowering.This means that one has to agree with nationalists on certain issues. Defending the indefensible (ie the long history of inept unionist leadership) is corrosive and makes one look and feel ridiculous to the outside world.

    One final point, I too have travelled and lived away for a few years. I never once felt embarrassed about my Northern Irishness or my Britishness, I felt completely at ease and a degree of pride in it. But it made stark my negative feelings towards political unionism. When I explained this on occasion to fellow travellers from the South of Ireland, or others eg from England, they often had a new found respect for Northern Ireland.

    The union can endure, but it and all that goes with it has to evolve and develop and reform according to the times we live in. If the union stands still, it will ultimately be rejected.

  • Red Lion


    A couple more suggestions to add to the ‘got right’ list by political unionism, and I use ‘political unionism’ in a broad sense;

    1) it was unionists who formed the Alliance Party, an important middle ground feature of NI politics,

    2) the UUP actually taking the brave leap in helping negotiate the GFA in the first place, much to their own party’s cost

    3) more recently, and I hope the most important, the formation of NI21, a hopefully genuine attempt to break support for Northern Ireland’s constitutional set-up out of being linked to perceived ethno-religious background.

    4)SPADS bill by TUV, which gained a cross community support in curtailing the SF march of putting perpetrators of violence into positions over the heads of the rights of victims to feel that Stormont also belongs to them.

    5) linked to GFA, but to some degree moving away from Anti- anglo Irish feeling to acceptance of some sort of a role or dimension for Dublin in NI affairs.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Okay Lads, very good, just a couple more please.

  • Greenflag

    @ Red Lion ,

    Items 1,2, and 5 I’d agree . On 4 all I would say is that while I sympathise totally with the victims of NI violence on all sides I would maintain that given NI local conflict history it’s inevitable that some ‘perpetrators’ of past violence will inevitably end up in political power . The only ‘way ‘ to defeat SF is at the ballot box eventually and by having alternative practical policies which commend themselves to the SF electorate .

    As for item 3 I ‘m leery of commenting as I don’t know much about this new party other than it’s leaders seem to be more progressive and forward thinking than the root parties from which they emerged .

    Won’t be easy for them in the crowded bazaar that is NI politics . Moreover in an age when people everywhere not just in NI look less and less at politicians for leadership of any sort – given their demonstrated failure to prevent the current economic recession and their seeming paucity of ideas as to how to ‘fix’ it.

    As to your previous post

    “Strategic vision’ and ‘intellectualism’ are two phrases the DUP and UUP cannot comprehend. This situation is untenable, especially if you want to preserve the union. ‘

    Ironically political parties in the early Free State up to 1949 and indeed some would say in the Republic up to very recently could also be said to have been afflicted by what you refer to as DUP/UUP lack of strategic vision and ‘intellectualism ‘.

    In the early years of the Free State most of our later to be famous writers chose to live elsewhere , Joyce , O’Casey , Beckett , Shaw , McGahern and many others . The political climate was not conducive to ‘dissenting ‘ voices .And the ‘community ‘ which had and could produce those ‘voices ‘at that time i.e the Southern unionists with a few exceptions chose quiescence . Apart from a very brief period of political innovation e.g the Limerick Soviet the new parties in the wake of the Civil War very quickly ‘conformed ‘ to the economic and political realities . Policies were tailored after what had been seen to work in the UK . Indeed much of the Republics social and educational policies derived from Aneurin Bevin’s ‘reforms ‘ in the Britain of the 1950’s .As late as 1966 the Republic was still playing catch up with more advanced UK educational policies when Donough O’Malley pushed through ‘free secondary education ‘ in the face of hardly disguised opposition from the RC Church and some of the more conservative politicians of FG of the time.

    In the light of recent (past two decades ) of revelations re the RC Church scandals , political corruption on a scale unheard of on the island , and the Anglo Irish banking bailout etc etc -one could if one was from NI genuinely ask where was the accountabilty , transparency , aggressive journalism , questioning citizenry , opposition politicians etc etc . There were a few of the ilk of David McWilliams among others but complacency and a sense of powerlessness in the face of huge numbers was the and still is the order of day .

    Aquifer in one of his earlier posts called for more transparency . Thats all very well but one also needs a vigorous and vigilant citizenry to let those who would corrupt the public good for their own private ends that there will be penalties of an order that should deter most of them .

    But we’re not there yet:( Back to NI under Unionism -there was no tradition of dissent or criticism and apart from a brief class based political revolt from ‘socialist ‘ unionists in the 1930’s when common cause was made with some from the non unionist tribe there has hardly been any ‘intellectual ‘ dissent . Instead the impetus for change came from those who considered themselves to be more ‘unionist ‘ i.e even less intellectual and more right wing and anti Catholic/Fenians than the earliest brand ?

    Thus in both parts of the island the battle for ideas and developing practical policies which can lead to further economic growth and development and rising living standards has been subverted to an extent by the established parties in power pandering to their agendas of maintaining the status quo from which they above all have benefitted.

    While recent economic setbacks have rocked the Republic’s elites they have had a less rocky impact on NOrthern Ireland’s -mainly because politicians in NI can point back over their shoulders to Westminster and ‘blame ‘ themmuns for it 🙁

  • carl marks

    Aye Yer Ma,
    For someone with such a poor understanding of the history of Ireland (particularly the period round the forming of the UVF) you really have a cheek telling other people they don’t understand what’s going on here (by the way I asked you to enlighten me earlier on what exactly you were referring to as “Mickey Collins northern excursion “any chance of a answer)
    Now since you believe that living in Scotland for ten years removes your right to comment about our wee country, I’m sure you will join me in asking all those Scots who come over for band parades and Linfield matches’ to keep their nose out of NI politics since they won’t know anything about it(or is it just those who you disagree with that this theory applies too) , seriously would to hear about that oul Northern Incursion thing!