So, just what would it take to gain Unionist confidence? #Haass

The SDLP have accepted the Haass proposals with Sinn Fein likely to formally follow suit this week. We have seen editorials and a lot of critical comments blaming the failure to get an agreement on the Unionist parties unwillingness to compromise.

I raise this question today as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Ulster Unionist Council’s rejection (427-374) of the Council of Ireland which ended Brian Faulkner’s leadership and effectively ended the Sunningdale Agreement. Faulkner’s miscalculation has haunted Unionist leaders ever since as they fear a similar fate.

The unease with which Unionism tends to approach these agreements has got me thinking what exactly would it take for a Unionist leader to feel comfortable enough to take a risk and compromise on the issues of dealing with the past, flags and parades.

I am a bit bored of hearing that objections are simply fuelled by instransigence. If we are ever to make sensible progress then surely the question has to asked why Unionism feels it cannot make these compromises? Do their leaders simply feel too insecure in their positions to sell an agreement? Or are they too detached from the voters they represent?

I appreciate in this post I am posing more questions than I am answering but I just think instead of pointing a finger and saying ‘bigots’ we should maybe conduct some analysis on why Unionist leaders feel so unable to take these risks,

I came across this clip from Quintin Oliver who made some points about what Peter Robinson would have to do to sell the Hillsborough Agreement in 2010 which is useful.


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  • Comrade Stalin

    Unionism is, in a lot of ways, schizophrenic.

    On one hand, among the consistent refrains to be heard, especially from the flag protesting end of things, are things like “we will never be defeated”, “we stand as one”, “we have never bowed down and never will” etc etc etc.

    Yet this confident and self-assured political creed can’t get its head around even the most modest of concessions from its own position.

    I don’t think there has ever been a time when unionism has been truly confident, and I doubt there ever will be.

  • Things have ebbed and flowed for forty years and will do so for another forty.
    There were times when unionism should have been confident and times when it shouldn’t.
    But I have spent my entire adult life watching unionist leaders (with an entourage of Followers) look down a TV News Camera and appeal for confidence building measures.
    Two points.
    They might actually….at times….believe it.
    But no serious commentator should take lack of confidence at face value.
    Is there a parallel in the World of Sport.
    I think so.
    Have I not heard Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rogers, Alan Pardew all look down a TV Camera and say referees give them nothing.
    A serious football observer might note that theres an ebb and flow. All teams get good decisions. All get bad decisions.
    The serious football commentator knows managers “chance their arms” to mark the next referees card.
    The Football Observer would be unwise to take it as a FACT that Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool “dont get the breaks”.
    Likewise Unionists “not getting the breaks” deserves …at times….a considerable pinch of salt.

  • David, can you please elaborate on your term ‘Faulkner’s miscalculation’?

  • sherdy

    Head-scratching time again!
    I wonder would it be a Catholic-Protestant thing – but don’t all shout ‘what else?’ at once.

    Catholics have only reasonably recently started taking an interest in the Bible. Previously they only used prayer books and missals, relying on the priests to guide their thoughts. This may have bred obedience into them.

    Protestants of different hues have always based their religion on the Bible and were encouraged to study it for themselves, and having independent thoughts was not a problem. So this may have bred a more independent streak in them.

    Maybe having been brought up differently has resulted in two differently-thinking peoples, thus we find it difficult to trust each other, never mind like each other.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “Catholics have only reasonably recently started taking an interest in the Bible.”


    Who told you that? I often get people calling to my door to tell me what is in the bible and I find out they do not even understand the book.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The prayer books and missals you’re talking about are pretty much all excerpted from the bible. If you want to comment on RC faith you might want to do a bit of independent learning yourself, instead of parroting what it sounds like you heard in the school playground.

  • … will do so for another forty…

    I think that may be at the heart of their intrangience. They have nothing to look forward to and so, for now, they hold on to what they (think) they have. They are, essentially, fearful. I think their constituency has moved beyond them and they just don’t know it. I’m talking about the politicians of course.

  • Kevsterino

    I won’t say that this is peculiar to the unionist/loyalist mindset, because I have seen it manifested in other places closer to my home, but there are people who are true believers in “An eye for an eye…” type justice. Until they have seen those who inflicted suffering upon them and theirs are seen to suffer, they will hold onto their grievance like life itself, or stronger.

    When I find people who think like this in the PUL community, I find their hopelessness of ever getting justice for their murdered uncle, cousin or whatever quite heart rending stuff. I also think they are somewhat doomed to feel that way for the rest of their lives. Tragic stuff that nobody is in a position to resolve.


    I would suggest that the answer to the question is’ the support of the Orange Order’. History tells us that those unionist leaders who have shown leadership and defied the will of the OO by making compromises for the sake of the Union have soon ended up in the political graveyard whether it be O’Neill, Chichester-Clark, Faulkner or Trimble. Only those who rejected compromise …. Craig, Brookborough, Molyneaux …. achieved longevity …. although they achieved little else. Even Paisley only accepted compromise when age had rendered him dispensable and he was soon gone. Robinson, perhaps wisely, has ensured that the OO is firmly in the tent this time round even it means that compromise is out. The key question is perhaps therefore not why unionists are unwilling to compromise but rather why the OO is not willing to compromise?

    The OO has rejected every proposed change from the Act of Union, Home Rule, O’Neill’s reforms, the suspension of the old Stormont, Sunningdale, the Anglo Irish Agreement, Drumcree and the GFA. However history also tells us that the OO has backed the wrong horse every time. Indeed so often has the OO called it wrong, that it might be forgiven for calling into question the laws of averages.

    If previous form is anything to go by, the same will happen as regards the proposals re flags, parades and the past. If the OO opposes them, they will come to pass. It is just a question of time. And the Union will be stronger because of it.

  • Red Lion

    David, a few is interesting how you have framed the question

    The term ‘unionist’ is becoming an increasingly challenging term.

    It isn’t a homogenous group, though DUP/UUP are increasingly homogenous where self-analysis and critique are foreign concepts-perhaps this is who you meant?

    There has always been a moderate, intelligent ‘unionist’, probably most recently this creature inhabited the UUP and negotiated the GFA.

    However, history tells us that the moderate unionist, when he takes action in a moderate, pluralist, intelligent form, is quickly outmanoeuvred and engulfed by the more traditional, polarised unionist.

    That’s the age old dynmics of ‘unionism’, and it ain’t going to change.

    However, the moderates have realised they cannot live inside the unionist house, nor do they want to.They will never change NI from within that ugly monster. Hence NI21. And this chilled out but assertive cross community dynamic already is confident lets hope it grows.

  • Hopping The Border

    When one considers that a not inconsequential section of the “PUL” community appears to believe, for one reason or another, that they occupy a vaunted position in the world, or at least in Northern Ireland, (We Are The People etc), and that these same people adopt the mantra of not compromising on anything (No Surrender Ever), it is difficult to see, particularly when the “leaders” of Unionism kneel to this group for fear of usurpation, how any Unionist leader will ever be comfortable risking a compromise.

    As another poster opined above, the political landscape of NI is littered with Unionist leaders who took something of a risk, and in doing so, to paraphrase General Collins, signed their own death warrants.

    Until a Unionist leader emerges willing to educate and lead his/her electorate rather than be guided by the angry mob and the more undesirable elements of the OO, there will be very little confidence, and thus very little compromise.*

    *Unless the Governments return to provide direction (with a rather large stick).

  • Greenflag

    @ Kevsterino ,

    ‘Tragic stuff that nobody is in a position to resolve.’

    Indeed . For those who have faith they can hope that justice awaits the perpetrators in some next life .For those without faith justice has to be here in this life . Given the human condition that justice is not always found . Where there is law there’s injustice -Where there is no law there is even more injustice .

    I’ve known cases where justice was not served but ironically karma did the business .What goes around comes around or that which being but taught returns to plague the teacher as the Stratford Bard put it .

    It’s not much to grab on to but it’s better than nothing .

  • Comrade Stalin


    Indeed . For those who have faith they can hope that justice awaits the perpetrators in some next life .For those without faith justice has to be here in this life .

    On the contrary – it is no coincidence that support for things like capital punishment, the death penalty, harsh prison sentences and so on is stronger among certain branches of Christianity (esp. of the evangelical kind) than it is in general. The DUP, for example, support reintroducing capital punishment and the recriminalization of homosexuality.

    It is also the evangelically-oriented end of unionism that is most vociferously opposing the idea of some kind of amnesty for those involved in the troubles, even one which is requested by the victims themselves.

    It was pointed out to me over the holiday period that a lot of the traditional attitudes associated with hardline unionism look a lot like cross pollination from hardline evangelical or evangelical-like preachers. No surrender, not an inch, better die than dilute your principles, etc etc etc.

    I’m anxious to point out of course that not *all* evangelicals believe these things (there are evangelical Christians in Alliance) but there is a pattern there.

  • Greenflag

    “we mark the 40th anniversary of the Ulster Unionist Council’s rejection (427-374) of the Council of Ireland which ended Brian Faulkner’s leadership and effectively ended the Sunningdale Agreement. ”

    Thanks for the reminder of the UUC’s narrow rejection of the Council of Ireland by 53 votes out of a 901 all those years ago .

    As to what has changed in the interim -in terms of Unionist
    political confidence . I’d suggest that despite the Anglo Irish Agreement and despite the GFA -such confidence is much less today than back at the time of the UUC vote on the COI.

    The reasons are many and various . Much is historical detritus. Added to the mix is political uncertainty re the constitutional future and the widespread feeling that the union is slipping away and the political Titanic that is Northern Ireland is already halfway down the gangway heading for unknown seas .

    What can give some reassurance /confidence to outsiders and insiders alike in Northern Ireland is that half of the UUC voted to accept a Council of Ireland back in Faulkner’s time . That in my book showed confidence . Where are they now ? Perhaps I’m making too much of that vote but I interpret it as at least a large section within then ‘unionism ‘ had accepted the reality of their Irish connection and were prepared to compromise at least to that extent on their British connection .That in my book anyway would have eventually brought about more official and cultural acceptance of Ireland’s British connections both North and South of the border . It’s only now 15 years after the GFA that such Ireland’s (ROI ) British connections are being given increased recognition .

    In a very real political , historical and cultural linguistic sense the denial of all ‘Britishness ” by the majority Irish on this island was almost but not quite as farcical as the denial of Irishness by Unionists in the north east of Ireland .

    Faulkner always struck me as the only Unionist leader who could communicate directly with Irish nationalists confidently and not at them from a Unionist exclusive pulpit as it were .

    Perhaps those Unionists who voted Yes to a Council of Ireland back in Faulkner’s time realised that the political and economic future of the unionist people in Northern Ireland was more important longer term than the Union itself .

    Alas the narrow and fearful minds won the day and Sunningdale was cut down to be eventually replaced by the GFA and SF in ascendancy over the SDLP and unionism still in limbo between two worlds -one dead- and the other powerless to be born .

  • Greenflag

    @ Comrade Stalin,

    I accept your qualification above . I was associating ‘faith’ with the non evangelicals generally i.e those who are from the mainstream Christian denominations and who don’t wear their religion/denomination on their sleeves and who go about their lives doing the best they can with whatever faith they can muster . I’m aware that not all evangelicals are of the Westboro Baptist Church ilk.

    I can believe what you write about the current influence of the eye for an eye element within hardline unionism but that is not a new phenomenon either .

    Those who deny evolution and who prefer to believe in the literal truth of the Book of Deuteronomy are the same kind of people who would have read Mein Kampf and believed every word as gospel truth 🙁 .

    I can have some sympathy for the DUP’s position re capital punishment in certain circumstance i.e genocide- child murder etc.

    As to recriminalizing homosexuality ? Thats certifiably insane . Are the DUP suggesting that Northern Ireland adopt Ayatollah Koranic standards ? The scientific evidence is that some 4% of the population is homosexual and it’s a natural condition .

    These DUP evangelicals need to ask themselves why did their God have these peope created in the first instance ?I men why create a person that you want to see in jail ? What sort of a God is that ? A very angry one -one supposes – or perhaps even one in need of psychiatric counselling ?

    No perfect justice and no perfect God/Gods either !

  • halfsensible

    I would argue that it was the failure of all to reach mutually acceptable proposals rather than the failure of unionists to compromise. The fact is that the proposals in the Haass document are not acceptable to unionists. You argue that unionists should take more risks and compromise but where is the compromise from republicans in this document?

  • sherdy

    halfsensible – You should not let your alter ego write this diatribe using your nom de plume. He/she should be using his own moniker ‘other half, not so sensible’.
    None of the unionist parties have, as yet, condemned the Haass package, apart from the one man party, Wee Jimbo.

  • streetlegal

    These are just a few of the things that unionists would like to see.

    A restoration of the old Stormont regime as it existed in the 1950s. Majority rule by unionists for unionists, removal of all equality and fair employment legislation, zero tolerance of the flying of the tricolor and all other displays of Irish nationalist emblems, the return of the RUC and the B Specials, the flying of the union flag on every public building including schools and hospitals 365 days a year and a requirement for all public officials, from binmen to government ministers, to take a public oath of allegiance to the English crown.

  • @Greenflag,

    There were two main deficits with the Sunningdale agreement from the non-bigoted unionist perspective: the free-floating nature of the Council of Ireland, which was seen by some SDLP members as leading to a united Ireland and the contingent nature of Dublin’s renunciation of its territorial claims to NI. The McGimpsey brothers sued the Irish government in an Irish court for violating Article 2 of the Irish constitution. The government’s defense was that its statement at Sunningdale was merely a de facto recognition of the status quo rather than a legal renunciation of the constitutional claim. This gutted the statement of all power as far as unionists were concerned.

    In the GFA these two deficiencies were corrected by the North-South Ministerial Council having carefully-defined powers, mainly of a symbolic character, and Dublin having amended the constitution to get rid of the territorial claim in exchange for London doing the same. But the contemporary equivalent of these two things is Sinn Fein’s claims that parity of esteem makes the GFA/St. Andrew’s into some sort of joint rule or joint sovereignty.

    The other problem is that mainstream unionism has always been weak with working-class loyalists many of whom take their political clues by observing the behavior of nationalist politicians. Even though Sinn Fein signed up to a partionist deal in 1998 it pretended that this was a big victory for republicanism and many loyalists took them at their word. Over the last 15 years the loyalist parties have grown much weaker than they were in 1998 with the UDP gone and the PUP not represented at Stormont. This means that people in the DUP who loyalists might listen to, those who are not evangelicals or too middle class, need to reassure these working-class loyalists. But does the DUP see an interest in doing so? Under Paisley for most of the party’s history it did not. Whether Robinson can change that is an open question.

  • halfsensible

    Sherdy- anyone who wants agreement on the Haass issues should be talking about the issues and proposals themselves rather than making pointless “they can’t compromise” statements.

    Streetlegal- Republicans would like to see a United Ireland and the eradication of British culture and nationality in Northern Ireland but that isn’t happening either.

  • sherdy

    halfsensible, – I don’t think I used the words ‘they can’t compromise’.
    But I have been cynical about the talks from the start as it was obvious to me that if Robbo wanted a deal done he would never have sent in the DUP member he can’t stand the sight of, Wee Jeff, with Big Merv of the OO looking over his shoulder, just to be sure to be sure.

  • streetlegal

    Well I was only trying to answer the question.

  • Alias

    Contrary to the hype, compromise isn’t by itself a virtue. The act of compromising a principle isn’t worthy of the praise that NI’s ‘getalongerists’ stand ready to spew upon it. Compromise, when it doesn’t involve negation of a principle, can be a virtuous act for the common good or a simple expedient.

    The so-called ‘republicans’ were lavishly praised for selling-out all of their, ahem, ‘principles’ in return for party bums on Stormont seats, so there is a general consensus on the British/nationalist side that it is a good thing for NI’s political parties not to have any principles – or, if they have them, to quickly trade them for practical concessions – as principles can get in the way of the British state’s desired outcome.

    That said, I don’t doubt that the DUP would have sold-out the three principles at issue (the right to justice, the right to national symbols, and the right to march) if they felt that such a sell-out would go without significant objection within their own community.

    There is a view that the Shinners are using the institutions of the British state to continue their sectarian war against ‘the other tribe’ by alternative means. This is why you will hear disenfranchised loyalist folks like Bryson and Frazer conflate the PSNI with the Shinners/PIRA in regard to contentious decisions of the PCNI and in regard to their seats on the NIPB. They will also see the assault on national symbols such as flags as a sectarian assault on their community. They are not wrong to take this view.

    And, of course, they will also see the British state as enabling these sectarian assaults on their community. This view is more complex (and unspoken) since they begin to see the British state as their enemy (and it’s rather hard to be a loyalist to an enemy). Again, they are not wrong to take this view.

    They never seemed to notice that there is no parity of esteem at all offered to the so-called Orange in the GFA or in the British Irish Agreement. Indeed, neither document offers a single mention of the Orange. Instead, the proposed parity of esteem in the British-state authored (and Irish state signed) British Irish Agreement is offered to the British nation and to British nationalism. This is the British state conflating itself with the people of NI to ensure that its national interests are constitutionally protected in any future amalgamation of Northern Ireland and Ireland.

    This was the death knell of the old Orange & Green version of Irish history and nationalism – a version which held that there was one nation but two traditions. Now it is only held that there are two nations, not one. In effect, the Orange was written out of the future and is to be replaced with the British. What the loyalists are seeing is the long outworking of that position wherein Orange culture and tradition – insofar as it differentiates from British culture and tradition – is to be systematically eradicated. It is, as I said before (Did you really? – Ed), the British state ‘doing a cuckoo’ in the Orange nest.

    If loyalists were just British they’d have nothing to fear, and unionists who are just British don’t have anything to fear. The DUP will find those two horses difficult to ride at the same time.

  • Charles_Gould

    Alias….interesting comment.

  • “Alias” is of course right.
    Rightly or wrongly five parties have mandates.
    After 1994 and in 1998, it was entirely honourable to try and find a degree of compromise which might ensure people stayed alive.
    On balance the probability is that there are people alive today who might otherwise be dead.
    Thats a triumph of Compromise.
    But with one party having a. Mandate to pursue a stridently unionist agenda and another a stridently republican agenda….and two others unionist-lite and nationalist-lite….then it I’ll behoves the fifth party,the only avowedly LetsGetAlongerists to condemn them for not compromising.
    The fifth party has the smallest mandate….and after all the other four are only doing the same thing as the LetsGetAlongerists…pursuing an agenda.
    The situation in 2014 is completely different to 1994 and 1998.
    Two decades ago, the situation was tragic and the intent was to prevent further tragedy.
    By contrast 2014 is total farce.
    Flags. Parades. No real issue there is there?
    Entirely academic.
    And the Legacy of the Past….hardly registers.

  • babyface finlayson

    If we apply the Kubler-Ross model of grieving to Unionists we could say that they have been through the first stage of denial.
    Denial that there exists a group of people who do not accept their way of seeing things and aspire to something else. That was a long stage of at least 50 years (or 800 if you want)
    They are now in the second stage, anger.
    Anger that these people are not going away and must be treated as equals.
    The next stage,which we eagerly await is bargaining. And not before time too.
    After that there will be depression (we are not in charge anymore)
    Then acceptance (we quite like being a significant minority in a United Ireland. )
    So it is all downhill from here on.

  • aquifer

    Sherdy 4 Jan 9.36 pm

    You nailed it I think. Protestants take authority from the Bible that allows multiple interpretations and have a religion that respects individual adherents. Brought into political parties this is a recipe for disaster. Paisley’s alignment of a religious and political extremism in one person seemed to avoid this weakness, but in fact promoted political collapse, backing political Unionism into a sectarian ghetto with scant prospect of escape.

    Religously Catholics have hierarchies and loyal adherents.

    Brought into politics (or military campaigns) this makes them formidable opponents able to implement decisions.

    Such as ensuring Unionism does not long have leaders such as David Trimble or Edgar Graham who were capable of strategic thought.

    Trying to group bond around fractious religious identities is a bad strategy when the economic world needs them suppressed to improve scale economies and reduce transaction costs.

    If coherent political movements with mostly catholic adherents can deliver states friendly to Anglo American economic interests, the future is not Orange.

  • Charles_Gould

    @post98victims are very actively complaining about Haass, and its strong distinction between pre and post 1998 victims.

    Robert McCartney’s relatives et al.

  • aquifer

    “Faulkner’s miscalculation ”

    Surely going by subsequent events the miscalculation was by Orange backwoodsmen or Ian Paisley?

    The failure of successive Ulster Unionist leaders to remove the autonomy of constituency associations infiltrated by the Orange disorder looks plain daft.

  • “If we apply the Kubler-Ross model of grieving to Unionists we could say that they have been through the first stage of denial.”


    As opposed to those who insist that Northern Ireland is politically part of Ireland?

  • babyface finlayson

    “As opposed to those who insist that Northern Ireland is politically part of Ireland?”
    Well yes there is plenty of denial round here.
    Apt I suppose that ‘denial’ is an anagram of ‘NI deal.’

  • Comrade Stalin


    None of the unionist parties have, as yet, condemned the Haass package, apart from the one man party, Wee Jimbo.

    Watch this space. Both the UUP and the DUP will reject the proposals. The UUP have already been saying the Alliance Party scuppered the talks so they have been trying to set the scene for their rejection (and who is to blame). The DUP will probably say that further talks are required.

  • Greenflag


    ‘There were two main deficits with the Sunningdale agreement from the non-bigoted unionist perspective:’

    Had they a choice today between Sunningdale and the GFA I’m sure most unionists would have preferred Sunningdale given the history since the latter’s breakdown .

    ‘ the free-floating nature of the Council of Ireland, ‘

    This was just more fudge – but fudge which had the potential to evolve unlike the present ‘fudge ‘ of the GFA which basically condemns ‘Unionists ‘ to the strait jacket of the GFA until such time as they become a voting minority at which point it’s sayonara ‘unionism ‘ in Ireland. Sunningdale had it succeeded would have strengthened ‘unionist ‘ moderates i.e those you refer to as having a non bigoted perspective .The GFA appears to have has strengthened those ‘extreme unionists ‘ in that the deficiencies you refer to re Sunningdale have become as I said a straightforward black/white / orange /green straitjacket within which ‘unionism ‘ is politically trapped .

    ‘The other problem is that mainstream unionism has always been weak with working-class loyalists many of whom take their political clues by observing the behavior of nationalist politicians.’

    You might want to give an example of what you mean .
    Nationalist politicians certainly in the SDLP have been law abiding since the onset of the troubles . Other than Austin Currie and others sit in demonstration in the late 1960’s .

    Mainstream unionism has always protected the interests of mainstream unionism .Whenever the loyalist or unionist working class looked as if they might create a viable political unionist opposition within Northern Ireland they were quickly condemned as lundies or worse . They were and still are ‘used ‘ as the useful pack dogs of their social and economic betters .

    Nothing new there .

  • “I wonder would it be a Catholic-Protestant thing”

    sherdy, just as I’ve looked at the politicking of the 60s in a unionist, nationalist and socialist context, I’ve also looked at leadership in a Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopalian one. Catholic structures are the least democratic, Presbyterian the most democratic and Episcopalian somewhere in between. My roots are mainly Presbyterian but my connections during the course of the past fifty or so years have been ecumenical, not getalongerist but inclusive. I think some of the problems within the Catholic system have been caused by folks in the pew who’ve failed to challenge their own leadership whereas those in the Presbyterian one have challenged too much and been unwilling to accept majority decisions. A local Presyterian church was built in 1830, seemingly there was disagreement about the choice of minister and half the congregation immediately departed and built a church of their own less than a mile away!

  • Greenflag

    @ babyfinlayson,

    In real life and real politics stages are never so clear cut as your example above makes out . .

    Elements of all three stages can exist together in time which of course increases the potential for political chaos emanating from the unionist parties . Some have not yet passed stage 1 and alas some never will .

    The later stages you refer to are all currently extant although to what degree within each of the various unionist camps is impossible to say .

    As for the downhill bit ? A necessary requirement for the later uphill perhaps . Some people will of course keep insisting they are still in the Nile when they are already halfway out into the Mediterranean 😉 But those folks on all sides – need toleration. Some worlds cannot be changed -for individuals I mean .

  • Greenflag

    @ Nevin ,

    ‘Catholic structures are the least democratic, Presbyterian the most democratic and Episcopalian somewhere in between’

    Historically true but less so in modern Ireland I would say . Seems to me as if the Catholics (younger generations ) are becoming the most ‘Presbyterian ‘ whereas the Presbyterians are becoming more Catholic in the ‘leadership’ sense whereas the Anglicans remain as ever in between ?

    The new Pope is making waves re ‘democratisation’ and greater ‘tolerance ‘ . But it’s early days yet . The Roman Curia has’nt gone away . As Ireland becomes more secular the ‘religious ‘ sector will adapt or become increasingly marginalised .

  • between the bridges

    FJH ”Likewise Unionists “not getting the breaks” deserves …at times….a considerable pinch of salt.” ssssh, don’t be giving the game away, in the battle of the preoffended he who mopes most reaps the mo(pe)st rewards…

  • “You might want to give an example of what you mean .
    Nationalist politicians certainly in the SDLP have been law abiding since the onset of the troubles . Other than Austin Currie and others sit in demonstration in the late 1960′s .”

    “Even though Sinn Fein signed up to a partionist deal in 1998 it pretended that this was a big victory for republicanism and many loyalists took them at their word.”

    My example was in the sentence above. In American presidential debates voters who don’t normally pay much attention to the news will look for non-verbal clues to sus out the character of the candidate or look for his degree of sincerity. In the zero-sum context of NI politics the loyalists saw Sinn Fein throwing “victory parties” after the ceasefire and figured that there was a secret deal with the British. Henry McDonald mentions this in his book “Gunsmoke and Mirrors.”

  • Greenflag

    @tmitch 57,

    So what you are saying is that SF pulled a hyped con job on the loyalists of the time and they fell for it hook line and sinker . More fool them 😉

    The problem with that kind of analysis is that it understates SF’s effective political skills and exaggerates loyalist for want of a better word gullibility .

    But you make the same claim for the older SDLP vis a vis the UUP and later the DUP .

    Perhaps it’s the fact that the ‘nationalist /republican ‘side were defeated in 1920 that leads to them exaggerating any compromise as a ‘victory’ . Unionists /Loyalists pre 1974 were so used to winning by default that for the other side to claim a victory of any sort came as too great a shock to the system to accept .

    Northern Ireland’s loyalists are not Americans . Their political culture is a subset of general Unionist political culture .

    As long as big house ‘Unionism ‘ could deliver and maintain reasonable full employment for the loyalist working class the latter were prepared to go along with the show . Not that ‘big house ‘ unionism just as big house ‘conservatism ‘ or big house Irish nationalism seem unable to deliver anything bar cutbacks for increasing numbers of the population -thus George Osborne the British Chancellor now promising another 25 billion pounds cut in welfare in the new year -loyalists are being hung out to dry by the unionist haves .

  • Alias

    “So what you are saying is that SF pulled a hyped con job on the loyalists of the time and they fell for it hook line and sinker . More fool them”

    The con job was on their own supporters. The black taxis were sent up and down the Fall Road with giddy dupes hanging out of windows waving tricolours as though they were having some sort of victory parade.

    Loyalists were also unwittingly duped, as were many unionists, since they could believe that the ‘republicans’ would celebrate before they had any deal to celebrate and, therefore, they must be celebrating some secret deal.

    It didn’t occur to them that the Shinners were simply deceiving their own supporters since that was before such deception of the wee sheep was rebranded as ‘leadership’ and before it was widely known that the sheep were led by such deception.

  • Alias

    Typo: “…since they couldn’t believe…”

  • Greenflag, is this what you mean by ‘secularisation’: a paramilitary linked youth group on church premises?

  • BarneyT

    I very much have a sense that the OO is in control, and I would agree with many of the posts on this point above.

    Confidence has been eroded within unionism, hence the perceived threat to their culture and way of life…and they are right to be nervous here.

    You could argue that confidence comes with control and unionism had it by the bag full. I saw a post in today talking of Thatcher’s considerations towards a redrawing of the border i.e. repartition. Ironically events in Brighton put that on the long finger, however repartition is perhaps the only thing that will restore unionist confidence.

    It at least would make an interesting discussion topic and I would love to see some analysis on here i.e. would it happen, how would it be achieved, where would the new diesel plants…sorry…border be?

    What if it had happened and what would NI looks like now if it had

  • Barney,

    Greenflag flogged that one here over a couple of years a few years back but even he eventually realized that it was a non-starter. Nationalists and Republicans would never agree since they think that the end game will soon be here and Unionists will not give up what they have, regardless. It’s never, never, never.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Babyface Finlayson et al

    Re. The Kubler-Ross model.

    That’s a really interesting observation. I would only add that unionism is not monolithic, never has been, and that one can identify different sections of that community at different stages.

    For example, one looks at Jim Allister’s crowd, and the dinosaurs of the Orange Order, and one sees the denial is still strong.

    And obviously the Fleggers give us a good illustration of what Anger looks like.

    Conversely, the Letsgetalongerists and assorted crocodile-smile unionists, with all their guff about ‘Northern Irish identity,’ and their ridiculous polls showing almost no-one actually wants a UI, are a textbook example of Bargaining.

    And perhaps the 35-40% of PULs who don’t bother voting and are disillusioned with the whole thing, and the youngsters who leave and have no intention of coming back, can be understood to be in Depression.

    Or perhaps the Fleggers are much further along than is commonly supposed, and their emotional spasm is actually a manifestation of Depression rather than Anger. Who knows?

    The last stage of course is Acceptance. Perhaps the one-third of PULs who don’t vote are already there, but it’s harder to definitely identify much of this at present. It’ll probably manifest itself in a collapse in the combined unionist vote, much more dramatic than the incremental pattern of decline that has been happening for decades. Perhaps at the next election, or the one after that.

    Perhaps commenters here like Am Gobschmacht and David Crookes give us a glimpse of the future, of what an ‘accepting’ unionist might look like?

  • redstar2011

    The Shinners are also left looking somewhat useless after the latest debacle.

    Their idea of getting a deal with mainstream unionists- who we all knew were having their strings pulled totally by Jamie/UVF etc makes them too look irrelevant.
    On the ground, increasingly in N Belfast the pointlessness of SFs charade at Stormont is coming home to mire Republicans

  • redstar2011

    More Republicans (typo)

  • BarneyT

    Thanks Mister Jo…but just became something has been flogged to death does not mean it cant reemerge, particularly in this climate. Weren’t the Haass talks very much a regurgitation?

    I am not so sure that nationalists would reject South Armagh, or Fermanagh….and would the Unionists really want to cling to South Armagh….maybe…to prevent Frazer becoming an official ROI citizen 🙂 Did anyone attempt to plot out the “new” border. The only thing that would bother me is that at least two counties (perhaps Armagh and Down) will each be split in two. Who knows what would happen to Derry and Tyrone.

    Anyhow, back to the confidence thing. Surely the DUP briefing of Frazer regarding the Haass talks is an indication of little confidence. Whilst this can be spun as consultation with the many faces of unionism, I am not sold. Any DUP association with the likes of Frazer and his conduct is doing a disservice to the DUP and their own credibility. It was bad enough having the OO on the DUP ranks, something I felt was a mistake, as surely they didn’t need to do that if they were already in tune with loyalism. Perhaps the OO inserted their man and insisted upon it.

  • Seamuscamp

    “I am a bit bored of hearing that objections are simply fuelled by instransigence.”

    All cliches have truth in them. The reason that there is a belief that the Unionist parties are intransigent lies in their refusal to back compromise in whatever form it appears. Example: Flegs on the City Hall was a compromise – response was an unwinnable “No Surrender” and rioting.

    Haass would be a triumph if it induced a rational response from either the DUP or UU parties – a response that says: “Here is what we accept; here’s what we don’t like but will accept; here’s what we can’t accept; here’s what we would put in it’s place.” But they won’t do that. They want the future to be as it was in the past (under the pretext of “tradition”); or at least some version of the past that they can’t articulate.

    The DUP response is a political version of Schrodinger’s Cat; unless they open the box we cannot know whether it exists or not.

  • Charles_Gould


    The SDLP is better than Alliance in terms of Labour values.

  • Charles_Gould

    Moreover out of all the candidates selected so far to stand for Europe, the SDLP’s is the highest caliber.

  • David Crookes

    BarneyT: “Perhaps the OO inserted their man and insisted upon it.”

    With every passing day it becomes harder to resist that idea. Civilized unionists who want a real British union (rather than a barbaric cultureless political affiliation with GB) may punish the DUP in 2015 by refusing to vote.