Why Unionism has a problem…

Nothing in life is inevitable so the old saying goes, other than death and taxes and maybe Arsenal finishing fourth in the Premier League, so the recent old news that the Catholic population of Northern Ireland may soon reach a voting majority might cause sleepless nights. Of course, Unionists will be quick to point out that substantial numbers of Catholics, including a proportion of SF voters, would not vote for a United Ireland if a referendum were to be held tomorrow. Such ‘soft’ nationalists, the theory goes, have been seduced by the NHS and generous welfare provisions into voting for their economic, rather than cultural interests. So far, so good, but nothing stays the same and the winds of change are growing strong.

For a start, there is no body of evidence to suggest Catholics are casting first preferences in any significant numbers for Unionist parties.  Their contentment (if that’s what it is), within the Union has been attained though EU membership which has made the border largely invisible, and the Good Friday Agreement which placed Nationalism on an equal footing with Unionism. All that changed with the last election. The DUP’s dire warnings about a ‘Radical Republican agenda’, got enough to the polls for it to just about keep its nose in front. The tactic, tried and tested since 1922, stopped votes leaking to Unionist rivals and maintained the DUP’s cherished position as ‘the leader of Unionism’, but the associated dog whistling – hostility to any manifestation of Irishness – which plays well to its voters also raised Nationalism from its slumber. Foster somehow managed to get twice as many SF stay-at-homes out than for her own party.  Now that they smell victory, even more armchair Republicans may turn out to deliver the coup de grâce next time.

It’s a mess and a mess of Unionism’s own making. Sectarian scare tactics win elections but they alienate the very moderate Catholics the Union needs if it is to survive beyond the next few years. Despite Scots-Gaelic and Welsh having legal recognition in other UK devolved regions, replicating the gesture in N. Ireland is portrayed as a ‘concession’ to ravenous reptiles that will inevitably return for more. Designated flag days are fine for Finchley but not Belfast. Here, being British means proving it by flying the Union flag wherever and whenever possible and by cheerfully following Theresa May over the cliff edge of Brexit, even if a hard border, either at Newry or Stranraer is the result. None of these things endear northern Catholics to the Union and unless enough of them can be persuaded they can live in a UK where their Irish identity is cherished, increasing numbers will be prepared to take a chance on the relative unknown of a United Ireland rather than a totally unknown post-Brexit UK. Massive constitutional and economic change is coming, so a border poll is no longer a choice between the status quo and change, but between two vastly different futures. Which one are Northern Nationalists likely to find more attractive?

Leadership and imagination is required from Unionism but it unfortunately neither are ever rewarded. Nesbitt tried in a humble way and failed. His move let Foster blame him for an electoral disaster of her own making. The DUP can win the next assembly election and maybe the one after that by casting Gerry Adams and Republicans as Lord Voldemort and his evil minions, but if she wants to win a real border poll, something more will be required – a generosity of spirit that so far, has been entirely lacking. If Unionism doesn’t change its obsession with opposing any form of Irishness and regarding any change as a concession, a United Ireland will be inevitable. Nationalists just have to sit back and watch as Unionists slowly destroy the very thing they claim to cherish.

As Napoleon said, ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’

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  • Reader

    Floreat Ultonia: If Unionists wanted to influence the running of the country, they would presumably have some strength in the Dail
    Based on current numbers, unionists would have as much influence in the Dail as the SNP has in Westminster. So, should the SNP give up the devolved administration in Scotland?

  • Hugh Davison

    There we have it. The Master race speaks.

  • mooncoin

    Excellent , you’ve hit the nail on the head .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We would point to the Good Friday Agreement as a fair settlement.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Could have fooled us

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I know, they do Ireland a huge disservice.

  • AntrimGael

    Correct and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise.

  • mooncoin

    I can drive to Dublin , Cork , Derry , anywhere in Ireland however if I want to travel to England or Scotland I must take a plane or a ferry . This is a very simplistic illustration of our geographical location but for some it may penetrate the self delusion which is so prevalent .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There’s more than one Tom.

    But also fir to say that not all nationalists on here are quiet in the face of the hatred and I’ve had some kind messsages of support from unexpected quarters, when subjected to sectarian abuse.

    What baffles me is how those sectarian posters on here, intent on bad-mouthing Ulster Protestants as a group, can square that attitude with their supposed desire to unify people on the island.

    It’s another reason I distrust the united Ireland idea. I think the idea of seeking ‘unity’ is a fig leaf for something much darker and largely unacknowledged. The truth is we are an inconvenience, a barrier and as such are dehumanised by nationalism so that it can justify its desire to push us out of its way.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You mate are a disgusting sectarian. Away with you.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes they shouldn’t allow that really. McAleese was a horror show.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But people calling us Paddies are idiots, no? You’d have to be a bit of a fool to regard them as the voice of the nation 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’d say Ulster Protestant attitudes to the English are pretty similar to those in Scotland.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Unionist voters though are well aware of demographic change and that you can’t rely on everyone in England. Being away so long, I wonder if you’re seeing Ireland through an English prism? Reality back home is, pro-Union sentiment is still over 60 per cent, despite decades of this demographic change. There are important things about NI that just don’t get discussed much outside NI itself. The grand narratives of inevitable unity keep having to be adjusted and adjusted again as they consistently read NI wrong.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Why do polls always show otherwise?

  • Ray Lawlor

    A horror show? How so?

  • mooncoin

    Year after year , the north of Ireland is festooned with flags ,, , buntings , and painted kerbs all which is intended to mark territory and remind the ‘taigs’ as to who rules . Then we have marching for nearly six months and the offensive displays of triumphalism . However ,the burning of tyres all across the north of Ireland on the 11th night is perhaps the most offensive display of protestant culture . Thousands of tons of carcinogenic airborne pollutants are pumped into the atmosphere which we all inhale . Not only is burning of tyres detrimental to the environment but it is illegal . We have a police service here which is too intimidated to act to uphold the law or they’ve been instructed not to . Either way it is another example of the complete double standard which exists and sadly , has for the most part been viewed as normal . Nationalists are expected to suck it up and be quiet . The media go along with complete double standard , I’ve heard very little condemnation of the annual pollution fest or of the cost to the taxpayer of the clean up afterwards . So when we want to discuss what is ‘covertly acceptable that they don’t even raise a challenging comment ‘ . Maybe some discussion on the points raised above might be enlightening .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    McAleese never liked us Ulster Brits. Look at her speech for the Queen’s visit. It was an insult to British people in Ireland though so subtly delivered a lot of people missed it. As a former lawyer myself I could see exactly what she was doing. Pointed this out on Slugger at the time. A lot of people surprised when they read it again.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I suppose that makes sense the bearded one does like floating around the world thinking he is some sort of Foreign Affairs Ambassador just make sure he leaves Martina behind in the Bogside !

  • Ciaran74

    Who ML? What broad church of the Irish population is hinting at domination? You’re gaming. Is it, ‘we voted for the the GFA’ again, because without the ‘we’ as in ‘us’, unionism didn’t but have endorsed its serial and leisurely strangulation. Until……

  • Ray Lawlor

    And that one speech translates into a “Horror Show”…?

    Firstly you’ll have to point me to where in this speech it was an “insult”?

    http://www.thejournal.ie/in-full-the-speech-of-president-mcaleese-at-the-state-dinner-139302-May2011/

    How about focussing on meetings with Loyalists, facilitating the peace process, offering the hands of renewed friendship with the British monarch…?

  • The Irishman

    ‘If we don’t fly our flag, our enemies and those in Government may mistake this for lack of unionist conviction and may enact laws to the detriment of the very Union that will and must survive at all costs’.

    If you can show me an equivalent post from what you call my fellow republican contributors, then I will take you comment on board, but I think you’ll have your work cut out for you.
    But I must say, anyone that does have that mindset in the republican community, I feel as sorry for them.

  • Old Mortality

    Maybe we should encourage a bit of benefit tourism. Is West Belfast aware of the financial advantages and pleasures of living in Bundoran, for example? I think they should be better informed.

  • Tom Smith

    Well that’s a few seconds I’ll not get back.

    It would have been more honest and straightforward to just have simply said ‘I agree with that poster’.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sorry wrote a response and I somehow got logged out and lost it. Quickest thing may be to dig out the discussion on this from the time. Will try.

  • Fear Éireannach

    People can have views on their national identity and not go to church. As for economics can any unionist claim that British ruled Ireland will in 10 years time be more prosperous than independent Ireland?

  • Sam Thompson

    Thanks. I appreciate your kind comments

  • Sam Thompson

    Take your point about Arsenal 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Here’s what I posted on Slugger at the time:

    “I just read McAleese’s speech and I think it’s a petty-minded disgrace and a kind of dog-whistle insult to Ulster British people that only we pick up. But we do get it.
    Talking of Irish-British connections, she says:
    “The contemporary British-Irish relationship is multifaceted and strongly underpinned by the most important connection of all — people and families.
    Large numbers of British born people live here in Ireland and many more of our citizens have British backgrounds, ancestry and identity. In Britain, those of Irish birth, descent or identity are numbered in millions.”
    Now, where are we, the million or so British people living on the island of Ireland, in this account? One might have expected us to feature in any account of the British connection with Ireland. The only possibilities seem to be:
    1. she means us when she says “British born people” who live in Ireland – but the tone suggests she means mainland British people who have emigrated to the Republic.
    2. she means us when she says “many more of our citizens have British backgrounds, ancestry and identity.” If so, she’s then making us Irish citizens against our will.
    She then goes on to refer to ‘Ireland”s relations with ‘Britain’ throughout, as if Northern Ireland were not part of Britain. Britain is usually used as a synonym for the whole UK, not just the Great Britain bit of it. Her use of Britain to mean mainland Britain once again shows her failure to recognise the Britishness of most people in Northern Ireland.
    At best, this is cack-handed; at worst an example of the failure of old-style nationalists like McAleese to accept Britishness in Ireland. It felt like she was talking over our heads towards a Britain that, in her eyes, does not include us.”
    And I also posted:
    “Another McAleese howler: “Though the seas between us have often been stormy …”
    Um, last time I went to the Republic of Ireland from the Queen’s home country, I drove across the land border we share. Not too much sea involved.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Loyalist stuff really, come on – she loves bigging up Loyalists of course as it suits the Republican narrative to give Loyalist terrorism pride of place within unionism, even though those people are rejected by the vast, vast majority of unionists. It’s a way of digging at ordinary non-violent unionists, whom she can’t stand and she can’t actually handle, while looking to all the world like the peacemaker. I wasn’t born yesterday.

    She’s all for good relations between Republican Ireland and a Great Britain without Northern Ireland. What she seems to struggle with is true respect for UK sovereignty in Northern Ireland and a real embrace of Britishness as an indigenous identity in Northern Ireland, belonging there as much as Irishness does.

  • Ray Lawlor

    Wow… it seems the former Irish President was more willing to involve Ulster Loyalism in the process than ordinary unionists…

    And they wonder why loyalists feel left behind.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If they seek to justify the murder of Catholics, they ought to feel left behind. There is just no place for paramilitary apologism for me, sorry.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    @Reader- why assume the Dail would replicate Westminster? There’s no longer one dominant party in the former, so Unionists might well hold a balance of power long term.

    The SNP have real power at Holyrood. Unionists wouldn’t at a future Stormont any more than they do now. Hence my suggested role for district councils

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Aye, agree with TS. If people in Castlebar (say) feel unloved by Dublin, just give Mayo Council more money and beef up their role.

  • Ray Lawlor

    It’s not apologism… it’s pragmatism…

    If the recent history of Northern Ireland has taught us anything is that the moderates can agree all they want… if the extremes can’t agree then there’s no agreement… which is why we ended up with SDLP/UUP sidelined and SF/DUP at the centre of government.

    I don’t think “seeking to justify the murder of catholics” is the only aspect of Loyalism… surely there are other facets to that community and that section of our people?

    They have needs (some social needs quite substantial) they have desires and they also have the means to fight a paramilitary war for those desires. Getting them “onside” was a major key to getting a peace here. Your myopic dismissal is telling.

    Telling too, is the fact that all flavours of unionism jumped into the Graduated Response…

    On the one hand we have this attempt at a joined up response to parades etc, and on the other you have you utter dismissal of loyalists.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The union jack will be a mere historical anachronism by that time, England and Wales will have a different flag. If someone was still flying it, I think people would pity them.

  • Tom Smith

    Let me know when you intend to drive to Rathlin. I want to be on the quayside to wave you farewell.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Firstly the German situation is different in many important ways, NI does not have a different economic structure than the ROI, it merely isn’t as good at it. It is not obvious why it should do worse under similar conditions, are NI people inferior in your opinion? Secondly, I would like to see some evidence for the contention that most “State investment remained in the former Federal area”, given the substantial funds invested in the East. I’m sure in a UI that most state investment will be in the 26 counties rather than the 6, as there are more of them! Donegal might always have had some problems, but these have been magnified many times by partition. Why should the East coast be like Donegal?

  • Fear Éireannach

    If people considered themselves indigenous then they would not have another island as their primary identity. While people from many countries are welcome in Ireland, the Irish identity has to be Primus inter pares. The likes of the many Polish people here have no problem with this, only the British.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The other island isn’t the primary identity. Our Britishness is rooted in Ulster. If you miss that you miss a lot about the dynamics of N Ireland.

  • Fear Éireannach

    If it was primarily rooted in Ulster you would call it Ulsterness.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Some do

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Are you confusing ‘english’ for ‘British’?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I don’t see how it can be spelt out any more clearly for big U unionists.

    Study the above, go through each paragraph and write down ‘I’ for every point that is logically sound and a ‘0’ for everyone that is clearly wrong and then count the tally thereafter.

    In my experience the response of big ‘U’s is to ignore the salient points, concentrate on the messenger and ignore the message or claim ‘hatred’.
    Strawmen , man playing and selective blinkers serve no purpose in furthering unionism.

  • Sam Thompson

    Thanks Kevin. Appreciate your comment.

  • Hugh Finnegan

    ‘facist chauvinism’, erm…..what?

  • Hugh Finnegan

    ‘they just don’t want a prod about the place’ strange comment comming from an account calling itself ‘North Down DUP’ considering the DUP’s record of tolerance. Also, associating a political ideology with a religion is not a great way to end your argument. Unionism doesn’t always have to be ‘prod’ just as nationalism doesn’t always have to be catholic

  • Hugh Finnegan

    ‘n what way were the Catholic people discriminated’ by even asking that question proves many opinions people have about the DUP’s attitude. Crying about being oppressed by Catholics and not recognising the oppression that happened in the 70s and 80s that caused conflict in this country. The double standards are astounding

  • North Down dup

    Let’s hear your crap, come on mow tell me the oppression that has happened to every Catholic, can wait to what you have to say

  • Hugh Finnegan

    I don’t need to. Enda summed it up perfectly with a video of Ian Paisley admitting to as much. The biggest leader of the DUP’s history can’t be ignored

  • North Down dup

    You don’t need to because you can’t, tell me how catholics were oppressed, tell me how your family were oppressed, you can make it up if you want

  • Hugh Finnegan

    I don’t need to because it is well documented (jobs, election rigging, housing, etc in the 70s and 80s). The funny thing is as I have already mentioned – you are quick to claim that Protestants are being oppressed yet refuse to acknowledge the history of this country. Somebody being ‘oppressed’ should be able to recognise the plight of others.

    Why don’t you back up your own claims by providing examples.

    One other thing, don’t bring my family into this – they suffered plenty during the troubles.

  • North Down dup

    When did I say prods were being oppressed, your making that up now, catholics were never oppressed, tell me how catholics we being oppressed, tell me how your family were oppressed compared to your protestant neighbour, that’s nothing to do with your family suffering

  • Hugh Finnegan

    I refer you back to mine and Enda’s first comments and I will say no more on the subject

  • North Down dup

    Yes read the posts yourself never said to enda or you about prods being oppressed, stop trolling if you can’t back up your facts, I will say no more

  • John P Hughes

    Any significant demographic change which creates at some future time a Catholic majority in the present Northern Ireland is much less likely to lead to the unification of Ireland than to a re-partition with some of the western and southernmost Districts joining the republic and the remainder staying in the UK. That would create as many problems as it would solve and would be difficult to carry out without a revival of violence. It is not a new idea and was discussed in various circles during the period from 1972 to 1998.
    See details at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repartition_of_Ireland

  • DaptoDogs

    Given the oxymoron in your screen name: they’d be your idiots, and you claim to be theirs.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t claim to be ‘theirs’. What a strange idea of citizenship you must have 🙂

  • northstar

    Simple Answer: Unionism has a problem because as a community they believe their own propaganda.

  • DaptoDogs

    Yes, it is unusual, in an age of airy-fairy ‘it means what I want it to mean’ post-modernism, to cling to the long understood legal concepts and definitions. Changes in the UK’s legal account of citizenship were effected to make EU membership possible. You’ll be one of Her Majesty’s subjects again soon enough because the UK’s sovereignty is not derived from the people, as it is in other European legal orders. It is a feature of the powers of ‘the Queen in Cabinet’, and will undoubtedly return to those terms once the complications of treaties made to enable external association are nullified.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sovereignty resides in parliament and parliament derives its real moral authority through the democratic mandate of the Commons.

    We never stopped being Her Majesty’s subjects. As we have the ultimate power to remove Her Majesty, subjects is a word that hides the reality – our citizenship is little different from that of any other Western democracy, constitutional monarchy or otherwise. I’m not a monarchist but when you look at the countries that are constitutional monarchies now, we’re not in bad company: Netherlands, Denmark, Norway etc.

  • DaptoDogs
  • MainlandUlsterman

    Possibly but can you throw me a clue as to what I’m looking for in there? I.e. your point.

  • John Collins

    Maybe not. They just can wait in their own balliwick and realise that Utopia will come to them over time. Patience is a very commendable virtue.