‘Unionism’ isn’t about the Union Flag, the 12th and ‘Britishness’

Belfast Barman’s tongue-in-cheek look at what a United Ireland might look like got me thinking. Humourous as it was it perhaps wasn’t far from the truth on some counts, but of course nobody really knows what a United Ireland would look like.

Plenty of people have their own visions, but Sinn Fein and the SDLP do not (quite understandably) offer voters a blueprint for what an all-island state would look like.

There is no need of course. Their voters want a united Ireland whether today, tomorrow, in a decade’s time or in half a century’s time, because of a range of factors.

But the lack of that blueprint should be a positive for Unionists because a united Ireland would probably not look very different to what we already have today.

Rather than negatively argue for the status quo (or in the case of a number of elected Unionists, the status quo of 1922) articulating a vision about a new Northern Ireland can help to turn people off a 32-county state.

Doing so is unlikely to change the mind of the most ardent Sinn Fein voter, but Unionism is never going to appeal to anyone, in the same way liberalism or socialism will never appeal to everyone.

Keeping Northern Ireland within the union should not just be about appealing to 51 per cent of voters, but painting a picture of the reality of a united Ireland may help to convince a more sizeable majority to favour the constitutional settlement as it stands.

Let’s examine what we could realistically expect from a united Ireland.

One of the few things both Sinn Fein and the SDLP are clear about in the case of a united Ireland is that a northern Assembly would remain, almost certainly sitting at Stormont.

So either the Assembly will improve in the eyes of the public in the future and people will be happy being governed by it, regardless of whether fiscal policy is decided in Dublin or London, or it will remain an unpopular institution which voters will be stuck with either way.

What advantage a united Ireland?

In the case of a negotiated settlement for an all-island state we would not see the 1916 utopia Sinn Fein dream of being drafted together. Unionists would have a strong hand to play and it is fair to assume the Irish government (and the northern Nationalist parties) would be willing to make considerable concessions to reach a lasting settlement.

It does not take much of a stretch of the imagination to see Ireland entering the Commonwealth of Nations, alongside other republics like India and Pakistan.

Nor does it seem ridiculous that the devolved state in the north would have its own flag, perhaps even its own anthem (its own sports teams? Perhaps- there is precedent for this).

Given the proximity of Great Britain and Ireland it seems unlikely that the BBC could stop people in Ireland picking up its channels, likewise with RTE. A health service free at the point of access would continue in the north.

Northerners (perhaps all Irish citizens) would continue to be entitled to British citizenship if they wanted it. The 12th and 13th of July would remain public holidays.

I could go on- but you get the point. Of course I acknowledge these are only assumptions, but none seems to me to be completely out of the realms of possibility.

On one hand Nationalists could sell this as reasons why a united Ireland is nothing for Unionists should fear, but Unionism has more to gain by selling this vision.

A Northern Ireland where Unionism isn’t about the Union Flag, the 12th of July and ‘Britishness’ is a Northern Ireland where Nationalists will feel, at worst, comfortable and at best proud citizens.

They may well still have a soft desire to see the border removed and partition ended but is that enough to sway them in a referendum? For many I think not.

By building a Northern Ireland that would be little changed by Irish unity Unionists can preserve its place in the United Kingdom. It will take compromise and concession but the end result will not only be the preservation of the union, but a Northern Ireland where the majority of the people are happy with the (new) status quo

  • Ernekid

    What are Unionists vision for the future of Northern Ireland? Do they want this place to remain a backward isolated place that is totally subsidized by the big island across the water? A place totally dependent on the generosity of Britain, where the vast majority of the populace is totally ignorant of this place or actively resentful of this place as they see it an embarrassing drain on resources and a sectarian overhang from the age of the Empire that just won’t go away.
    The UK is changing and decentralizing, Scotland didn’t go independent in 2014 but who knows what it’ll be like in 2025? The UK constitutional set up is shifting, future British governments who have no memory of the Troubles and the hassle of the Northern Irish problem might come to the conclusion that Northern Ireland has no reason to remain in the UK and keep leeching off the English taxpayer. What will happen to Northern Ireland if the Majority of people decide that they want out of the EU? Will Northern Ireland become a forgotten little backwater cut off from the continent?

    Is there a more positive vision of the future with in Unionism?

    Or the 6 counties could be part of New constitutional set up for Ireland. A United Ireland could have a con-federal or federal set up where Ulster (a six or nine county version) would have a significant devolved powers with an Assembly remaining in Belfast, Instead of having around 10 voices in 650 member British Parliament, Unionists would be a significant force in the Dail of United Ireland. with at least 50 members, It would be impossible for any Irish government to be created without including Unionists in a coalition. With Unionists holding significant Power in Belfast and Dublin , there would be significant protections for Ulster Protestant culture, redefining what it means to be Irish.

    Imagine a hard headed Ulsterman as Irish Minister for Finance,Driving Ireland as a dynamic small European Economy. Imagine Orange Parades down O’Connell Street. Imagine the Great Grandson of Ian Paisley in Aras an Uachtarain. An Ireland where all traditions, cultures and beliefs are cherished.

    Fantasy? Maybe but it might be a damn sight better than what we have now.

  • Practically_Family

    “What will happen to Northern Ireland if the Majority of people decide that they want out of the EU?”

    I’ve been ruminating on this for a while now and cannot reach a conclusion, suffice it to say it’s going to be a massive headache for whoever is in power.

    I do think however that if it does happen, we’ll see a (another?) serious dent in the “as British as Finchley” standing of NI, there will be some form of compromise.

  • Practically_Family

    On a wider basis, I doubt if there are many Unionists who would consider a United Ireland preferable to what they have now.

    But I do wonder if a Sinn Fein led Assembly might swing a few over to thinking a UI preferable.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “Nationalists could sell this as reasons why a united Ireland is nothing for Unionists should fear, but Unionism has more to gain by selling this vision.”

    I agree that Unionists have nothing to fear in a United Ireland. A united Ireland wouldn’t change day to day living here. Whether there is a UI tomorrow or NI stays in the union for a thousand years won’t make the slightest difference to how happy my (as yet non-existent) children will be.

    But I disagree about the conclusion you draw from this. The fact that a united Ireland won’t change things much doesn’t argue for or against unionism. It means that both unionism and republicanism are no longer practical solutions to practical problems. Catholics are no longer a discriminated minority and Protestants would not become one in a UI. Republicanism and Unionism are therefore solutions to problems that no longer exist. They are both based on inherited fears, grievances and aspirations that come from times when conditions were radically different from those that presently hold. As they are inherited ideologies rather than solutions to current problems both have become identity positions. That fact that people define themselves by these defunct ideologies is the problem and new ideas are needed to deal with the entrenched sectarianism which results from this.

    The irrationalism of the tribal ideologies is bought into sharp relief when we consider your observation that:

    “A Northern Ireland where Unionism isn’t about the Union Flag, the 12th of July and ‘Britishness’ is a Northern Ireland where Nationalists will feel, at worst, comfortable and at best proud citizens.”

    It is blindingly obvious to all that a peaceful and stable NI is the best way to reduce the urgency for the calls for a UI and therefore maintain the union. But the fact that unionism has, over the past few years (flag protests, Ardoyne riots), been the most destabilising force in NI shows that Unionism has become an irrational identity position obsessed with “the Union Flag, the 12th of July and ‘Britishness’” and lost sight of its own raison d’etre i.e. maintaining the Union.

    Holding a pure constitutional unionism or a pure constitutional republicanism is fair enough. But given that either answer to constitutional question won’t make much difference to our lives having our whole political culture revolve around this question is completely irrational. Nationalistic republicanism and orange unionism are two sides of the same coin; a coin which maintains sectarianism in our political culture. The solution to Northern Ireland’s problem (sectarianism) is not unionism or republicanism it is the overcoming of these positions. Telling people over and over again that a UI will change very little about their daily lives might help with this.

  • Morpheus

    Excellent post – have a thumbs up 🙂

    I would however disagree with this:

    “It is blindingly obvious to all that a peaceful and stable NI is the best way to reduce the urgency for the calls for a UI and therefore maintain the union.”

    I would argue that it would also be in the interests of nationalism for Northern Ireland to be both peaceful and stable. In the past I have used the analogy of Endeavor docking with the IIS. When they latch on they don’t simply open the hatch…they normalize the pressure on both sides or else kaboom – just ask Bruce Willis! Normalizing – ensuring things are peaceful and stable – on both sides of the border before opening the hatch is vital otherwise…chaos.

    But the net result is a peaceful, stable Northern Ireland so everyone’s a winner. If at this stage a majority vote to remain part of the UK then ‘thy will be done’ and likewise for a UI

  • And you believe the Southern electorate would pay (fiscal transfer etc) for this to continue http://airo.maynoothuniversity.ie/mapping-resources/airo-census-mapping/national-viewers/all-island-deprivation-index

    That’s the reality.

    Never heard a nationalist provide a rational case as to why Unionists would suddenly feel the Union wasn’t for them and that Britishness would be respected in a United Ireland. History suggests not. So what’s going to be different in the future. So put aside the emotional 19th Century romantic self-determination misty green glasses and put a rational case. Because the GFA was thought to be a ‘settlement’ for a brighter future, but clearly that is not enough and is now in a state of disarray, so what sort of society do nationalists want within an NI affirmed and agreed under the GFA to remain within the UK. If the GFA wasn’t it, what is the ‘settlement’?

  • Morpheus

    Basil’s your man teehee. He travelled all the way into ‘the belly of the beast’ to a SF Summer School – a hotel room full of republicans somewhere in Micheal Collins’ territory in deepest, darkest Cork no less – and sold the union in his usual witty, humorous, intelligent way and was very warmly received.

    I can’t describe how gutted I am that NI21 went belly-up

    Can you see Peter Robinson doing this?

  • Morpheus

    There’s your problem: “settlement”.

    The GFA was about creating a country of equals and democratically putting the future of Northern Ireland into the hands of the people of Northern Ireland. If the majority decide to remain part of the UK then that will happen and conversely if the majority vote to be part of a UI then that will be done too – the key ingredients being equality for all and both the British and Irish Governments signing up to respecting and implementing the will of the majority.

    It’s an AGREEMENT, it’s right there in the title

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Jeffrey Donaldson did it.

    In relation to Basil, the fact he has allegations of being a sexual predator labeled against him is enough to put not only Nationalists but Unionists off him.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    What’s in place if the majority choose to be part of a UI but a few years down the line want to return to the UK or is it just a case of keep polling until a UI is gained and then shut up shop?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Well Belfast Barman that good ole traditional, honest to goodness Unionist will probably vote for a UI in those conditions.

  • Morpheus

    No Joe, then we import 25,000 guns, sign a document (I nominate Willie to do it in blood), present it to no one then put it in a drawer etc.

    [That’s a joke Joe, calm down.]

    The honest answer is that I don’t know the answer to that one – I don’t think anyone does but it is 100% a genuine concern that needs to be addressed.

    Are you suggesting that if we vote for a UI there should be a mechanism whereby those who were citizens of what was Northern Ireland should get to vote again to reinstate the border? A ‘do-over’ of sorts? Might be tricky to organise but not impossible I would’ve thought.

    What are your thoughts?

  • Morpheus

    The more the merrier Joe, I’ll bow to your superior knowledge of invitees to Shinner events – when did Jeffrey do it?

    I’ll defer on comments regarding Basil until the gavel drops if you don’t mind

  • Ernekid

    Basil and his ego has done more damage to liberal Unionism than Nationalism will ever do. By tarnishing what could have been quite successful ideas with his sleaze and half cocked approach, he managed to halt any liberal pivot with in Unionism leaving the extremist fundamental branch of Unionism to remain dominant.

    If NI21’s ideas weren’t presented by a total eejit, they might have been successful at carving out a liberal Unionist niche in NI politics. No hope of that now. I wonder if Basil will ever bother running in the 2016 election .

  • Morpheus

    Hense why I am absolutely gutted at the NI21 implosion Ernekid

  • Ernekid

    I think it was mooted in one of the Home Rule conventions at either the ones in 1914 or in 1917 that the Counties of Ulster would be able to hold a plebiscite to abstain from any Home Rule body for a period of 10 years. Of course Home Rule never came to pass but maybe similar ideas could be suggested in any reunification project?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Apologies it was the West Belfast Festival he spoke at, if that has any merit?


  • Morpheus

    It’s possible. Look at Derry/Londonderry/Stroke City/Walled City – whatever you want to call it – a ‘nationalist’ city that did a superbly mind-blowing job of the UK City of Culture, is looking amazing these days, hosted the largest 12th in Northern Ireland passing off peacefully, neutral council offices, excellent relationship between residents and marchers, Radio 1 Big Weekend, largest Halloween Festival in Europe etc. Could be a sign of things to come?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think it would take away some of the genuine fear Unionists have, however if the government says there is no going back as with Scotland then this could be another issue.

  • Morpheus

    Joe, any time ‘themuns’ speak at ‘ourwans’ events and ‘ourwans’ speak at a ‘themuns’ event in a respectful, dignified, meaningful way is to be welcomed.

  • Morpheus

    Excellent point.

  • Marc Geagan

    ‘Ulster is different…This was so before Partition; indeed to some extent, it was true before Plantation’. Historian Liam de Paor in ‘Unfinished Business: Ireland Today and Tomorrow’

    As always Mick…Interesting article. I do think however that
    we need to look at an ‘Alternative Ulster’. One that not only embraces the
    Unionist community but celebrates their contribution to British and Irish culture.
    The ISLAND that we dreamed of (to quote Dev) should not be a Trojan horse but a
    more inclusive consciousness that involves greater co-operation between Britain
    and Ireland. I’m a big fan of John Hume’s “Not Brit’s out but Irish in”
    approach. As someone who lives in the republic and works in NI, I know all
    about the issues that partition presents. There should be no dilution of
    anyone’s identity.

    Stormont stays. The 12th will be celebrated. Flags
    and symbols, ideally should not be a divisive issue but settled in a forum
    where diverse opinions are discussed and acknowledged.

    Both Gerry’s and Gregory’s recent comments are about as helpful
    as getting Anne Frank a drum kit for Christmas (comment intended as an example
    of black Ulster humour…I’m a Donegal man…certainly not intended as an
    anti-Semitic comment). Let’s not allow ourselves to get carried away by
    sectarian rhetoric and age-old arguments.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    It is undoubtedly in everyone’s interests for NI to be peaceful and stable. I think though that in the short term it would undermine the case for unity. If we are all living happy lives as part of the UK with a functional devolved government why rock the boat? What urgency is there for change?

    However, in the long term maybe you are correct in that if we can move away from sectarian identity politics and normalize NI maybe we can raise a generation who aren’t brain washed into being for or against Irish unity depending on their grandparents religion. A non-sectarian Northern Ireland, with its sight unclouded by old animosities and tribal myths, would be better placed to identify what is in the best interests of the people here and take a rational stance in considering all the arguments. People who are inclined to the pro-union camp would be more easily persuaded by republican arguments if they didn’t see the person making the argument as their tribal enemy. And the same would also be true the other way round.
    So perhaps normalization and the “desectarianisation”(?) of politics here wouldn’t necessarily benefit either position. It might just make the arguments more rational. It would however make life here better for all concerned.

  • Morpheus

    Maybe ‘…as helpful as a fart in a spacesuit’ would have been better 🙂

    Good post though

  • Morpheus

    I suppose it’s possible that a person could set aside being a nationalist if they were living a happy life but then again I am sure many are living a happy life now but remain nationalist.

    I wouldn’t call holding a ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’ position sectarian per se – both are legitimate positions to have – but I agree, we could really do without the bollix that comes with it.

    On the plus side only 29% say they are ‘unionist’ and 25% say they are ‘nationalist’ which leaves shed loads in between which can hopefully bring forward a brand of politics which are desectarianized

  • Robin Keogh

    The GFA was only a ‘settlement’ in terms of bringing an end to violence and creating the conditions where both communities could try to achieve their aspirations by peaceful means. It was never sold as a final settlement on the constitutional question. That settlement will come when there is vote in Ireland where the citizens of Ireland decide themselves to either maintain the status quo or unite to form one independent country.

  • Robin Keogh

    Joe that question would be up to the British to answer. If NI divorces from GB London would be under no obligation to accept it back. In terms of the vote for Unity i know there is a notion among many people out there that we can just keep voting until such time as the answer is yes to a UI. I think this is probably how it will be but I imagine if the first one doesnt succeed it could be twenty or even thirty years before another would be called. Personally I feel that we should have no vote until 2025 at the earliest, this is when we are most likely to nationalist political majority

  • Morpheus

    So much has to be done before a referendum is called Robin and I have written several times before about how I think political nationalism has been incredibly lazy in this regard. The Catalonian style mock border polls in highly partizan areas got the media attention they deserved – zilch – but other than that I have seen no effort whatsoever to address the one issue which makes them nationalist, their USP. Maybe the plan is to normalize Northern Ireland first, as I talked about elsewhere in this thread, but there has been no articulation of this plan whatsoever – hell there has been no articulation if there even IS a plan!

    What will the health system look like? What will the education system look like? Judiciary? Social Security? Health? None of us have any clue whatsoever. Asking anyone to give an opinion on a UI -as our polls tend to do – when they know nothing about a UI is absolutely pointless.

    It is essential that all this,and more, is talked about with concrete proposal put on the table before a border poll is even considered.

    I have also talked a few times about the need for this analysis to be completed by an independent organisation who will work hand-in-hand with the British and Irish Governments. There is no point in SF/SDLP producing a document which will be thrown in the bin by a sizable section of the population without even reading it…it will be dismissed as republican propaganda.

  • antamadan

    A Sinn Féin led assembly would likely swing the attitude of GB to the union also.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Absolutely. As i said in my original post there is nothing wrong at all with being a constitutional unionist or a constitutional republican. The problem isn’t either of those positions. The problem is why some people hold them i.e. an unthinking tribal loyalty. Tribal unionist and tribal republicans are only secondarily concerned with the constitutional question. For the most part its primarily about culture, symbols, identity etc Hence the complete irrationality of modern political unionism. To paraphrase a quote from Game of Thrones: Orange unionists would see Northern Ireland burn as long as they could march over the ashes.

    The percentages you quoted sound great. I include myself in the ‘other’ category. But if those figures are true why aren’t they reflected in the assembly? The alliance, greens and NI21 haven’t seemed to be able to capture the ‘other’ vote.

  • Barneyt

    Great post. I dont quite agree that in a United Ireland, NI would effectively remain as is. A separate flag, anthem etc. I just dont see it as there is no real change.

    Of course a settled NI as is would reduce the demand for UI, and had we had the same fairness in the 50s that we have now, there would be a limited call for a UI.

    In a UI, I would think it is more feasible for Ulster to reform, and for Stormont to extend its scope. Instead of unionism, a British identity would emerge, without being skewed as it currently is, with fleg this and march that.

    Ulster could be run as a state within a federal Ireland. The same for the other ancient provinces.

    A settlement will have to push the boundaries. We need to think differently and consider the most uncomfortable of scenarios. Unionism needs to consider one inevitability that Ireland will be reunited. Equally nationalism has to consider NI as remaining a permanent part of the UK. If we make these considerations respectively, we can rest a little easier with each other and perhaps let a new compromised naturally emerge, as if the threat has been removed.

    I don’t know what is will take, but we will need to try something extraordinary.

    An autonomous nine county Ulster, devolved from both Dublin and London?

  • Practically_Family

    Do you think there’s much support for it as stands?

  • Bryan Magee

    One of unionism’s strengths is that is is many things to many people.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Good article with some great questions raised. For me as the lesser-spotted token unionist, the unionist issue for me is a referendum issue and nothing else. A flag in a building doesn’t change that my vat goes to HMRC..a parades accessibility to a particular street on a particular day doesn’t change that my MP has the ability to vote whether or not or soldiers go to war or our foreign aid is given to a disaster zone. Nationalist people who consider themselves irish have managed to maintain that identity and that self-knowledge despite not having a tricolour on city hall, I too shall remain british and if I forget what I am I’ll just take a wee look at my passport. Up until a referendum, unionism to me matters not a jot. When a referendum arises I will put my support behind a cause and may the best man win.

    When people of NI realise, like me, that voting for assembly/council/parliament/EU doesn’t have any bearing on the secession argument, we may be able to progress more as an integrated society. People vote for an umbrella term and not for the person…and all too often we end up with a kn*b as representatives because they tick that one box required. Take one vote at a time.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I would love to get involved with something, I do feel though that the ni21 affair has sullied the potential for new parties for the best part of a generation “why vote for them…sure they’ll just collapse like the last one”

    Of course with a real opposition based assembly, all bets are back on

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    If only people like the article author and myself were represented or representing in things such as the “ulster people’s forum” (or is it people’s front of ulster??) as opposed to Bryson and Frazer, perhaps forward wouldn’t feel so backward

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “An autonomous nine county Ulster, devolved from both Dublin and London?”

    Well, if you’re bored and in the mood for (my) bad grammar then try this: http://sluggerotoole.com/2014/08/19/more-thoughts-on-irish-unity/

  • Practically_Family

    I agree. It’s difficult to see how the decision (to return) could be made solely by the population of NI though. It would almost certainly involve the rUK and/or ROI populations in some fashion. And we is not popular.

  • Practically_Family

    “An autonomous nine county Ulster, devolved from both Dublin and London?”

    Personally speaking, as a unionist with some little knowledge of the border counties and some lesser knowledge of all 32, I’d find a nine county independent entity trailing behind status quo, six county independence or a 32 county united island in terms of desirability.

  • Barneyt

    I enjoyed that. Settling the problem here will require compromise. I agree that pushing Ulsterism and Scottishism with respect to the use of the native language is the way to go. There is far more commonality in terms of heritage, ancestry and symbology. A nine county ulster provides us with the best opportunity for settlement. Only fly in the ointment is the level of British involvement, and whether it would appear to be a creation of a 9 county British Northern Ireland. How we balance the need to accommodate the British identity and traditions without “giving away2 three Irish counties, is the challenge.

    I like the notion of Tyrone and specifically Dungannon becoming the new regional capital.

  • eiregain

    “things”… all of which varied and sometimes counter-intuitive even to those who try to explain them! or explain their position! or explain their genuine political persuasion without spewing party political and meaningless rhetoric. Modern unionism has gutted itself, so that it may mean one thing to one person and another to everybody else. This has left a highly divisive sticking point within unionism, one that will asphyxiate NI for as long as it exists, the Unionist obstruction of any form of compromise or reasoned debate over anything that isn’t the status quo, is slowly dragging their party and the electorate back to the past. Seemingly for no other reason than to maintain majority, maintain power, and grab votes. With no regard for the well-being or the population, the social cohesion of communities or the integration of different aspects of society. Modern Unionism is failing everyone in NI.

  • ted hagan

    But how long would unionism last as an entity into the future of this all-Ireland?

  • Paddy Reilly

    What is this Britishness that needs to be respected? Is Britishness respected in France, Spain and Portugal? If not, why do British people settle there? Are Bulgarianness and Roumanianness respected in Britain? Are not Human rights sufficient?

  • Practically_Family

    It would have to become titularly Reunionist almost immediately I suppose…

    As anything more than an aspiration… No more than a generation.

  • Practically_Family

    If a real opposition based assembly lasted more than six months, which I’d make a fairly substantial wager that it wouldn’t.

  • Robin Keogh

    I doubt it. london left the north years ago. In any event, the seeds for good relations with london have already been well sown with Martys visit to windsor and his palling up with her Maj. Moreover, civil servants between Dublin and London are on such good terms, that wont change with SF in power in the South. No I think the shinners in power in Dub and Bel will drive that final wedge between westminister and Belfast.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I imagine that part of Unionism, particularly the UUP, would hive off and join Fine Gael, (and possibly other Irish parties) part would form a high-dudgeon-we-don’t-recognize-your-state religious group on the analogy of the Amish or Reformed Presbyterians, or just go non-voting like Jehovah’s Witnesses and (some) Brethren, and that the remaining Unionist rump would fit into the Irish Political system among the many existing Independents, always ready to do a deal with any coalition that did not include Sinn Féin.

  • Robin Keogh

    Morph. I dont believe it would be any way helpful for SF or the SDLP to produce any kind of plan on what a future UI would look like. Firstly, it would be roundly rejected by Unionists instantly. Secondly neither party could seriously stand over a plan that didnt have the approval or tacit agreement of Dublin. Thirdly, both London and Dublin would be forced to comment on any such plan if produced and in later discussions or negotiations they could be accused of Bias if they took up any suggestions contained in that plan. Fourthly, there would be a media frenzy whipping up tensions as if we already didnt have enough. Finally for a UI referendum to succeed it has to be backed by unity of purpose by all nationalist parties north and south along with the Irish government; this in itself will be a mammoth task.

    Discussions didnt heat up on scottish independence until after the poll was called and we didnt really get a clear picture on how the SNP saw a future independent Scotland until then either. And bare in mind that the SNP only really had to draft it themselves they didnt have to worry about other parties or any domestic government on the same page. If SF or the SDLP unilaterally published a comprehensive description of how they see a future UI, any disagreement coming from the Shinners or the Dublin Gov would weaken the project instantly.

    I see it this way. First the SOS and Dub Gov announces an ‘intention’ to set a date for a poll. This fires a volley across the heads of all parties and gives them all time to accept that a poll will be held on a specific date to be agreed by all parties. If the parties cant agree on a date, then the two governments do it for them. Straight away their will be an allignment into camps. Pro and Anti UI.

    Second. The poll date is announced giving approx two years for everybody to get their respective houses in order and to give all parties time to avail of impartial exogenous opinion and expertise. This also allows the SDLP and SF to build a common plan that the Dublin Government will swing behind. Unionists dont actually have to do very much, for them it will be simply a case of ‘NO’, crying ‘BLOCK GRANT’ at everyone. And London will ‘Dun Do Bheal’ praying that the vote will carry.

    Remember Unionism only has to convince people that nationalists claims on the benifits of a UI are false and that remaining in the UK is better. The least amount of time they have to do this, the better it will be for nationalism. The task for nationalism is much greater, which means it absolutely has to be solid, consistent and resilient. The only way for this to be a success is to wait untill the SOS is warming to the idea of a poll. Once we know its on the horizon, minds will focus sharply on the race.

  • Bryan Magee

    “spewing” eh?

  • Bryan Magee

    Its all about withering them, for you, isn’t it?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    our region would also probably lose its future right to self-determination if it voted in a United Ireland. So in a united Ireland, the province would no longer have the right to determine its own future sovereignty. That’s a massive loss of local democratic rights.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I suspect the parochial ‘little Ulster” form of British identity in the Province would predominate and would probably become more aggressive and focussed on grievance. It’s one of the many not great prospects ahead if people choose that direction.

  • Practically_Family

    I’d envisage a more conservative “West Brit” leaning bloc than currently exists. Probably push for NATO membership, closer fiscal links to the UK… That sort of gubbins.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    is pessimism a basis for legislating though?

  • Mike the First

    If Basil and a few of his friends hadn’t decided to junk the whole liberal unionism thing and turn NI21 into a content-free platform for empty social media platitudes…

  • The Lagan

    Unionism nowadays is less about preserving the union and more about hating Catholics.
    This is the view of many of young Catholics.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Ordinarily I am fascinated by, and supportive of, any kind of national minority: the Welsh in Britain, the Bretons in France, Sorbs in Germany, Basques in Spain, Shqiptar in Italy, Vlachs in Greece, Sami in Sweden, Gagauz in Moldova, and the native Americans in their reservations.

    But these are all cases where the minority is merely asking for fair treatment within someone else’s national territory. When a minority uses arms from overseas to seize vastly more territory than it can fill with its own kind, when it thwarts plebiscites, when it arms its police force way beyond what is normal for the region, when it imprisons those not of its own sort without proper legal process, it loses any sympathy that I, and many others like me might feel for it.

    So yes I would like to see a distinct withering in Unionist presence and power, to what I believe is its natural level. A Unionism which controls Lisburn Council, and Ballyclare, and such like minor entities, while Ireland as a whole goes on unimpeded, would be a lot more acceptable.