“Closing Stormont has only bound the [Ulster] Scots and [Ulster] English more tightly together…”

My old mucker, Andrew Breitbart once said “politics is downstream from culture.” Andrew was a lot smarter in that regard than many of his liberal critics. It’s something Newton Emerson explores in today’s Irish Times re Northern Ireland’s three tribes:

If it seems fanciful to speak of an English/Scottish unionist divide in the 21st century, consider the DUP’s promotion since the Good Friday agreement of “Ulster-Scots culture” and how the denizens of English Street laugh at that openly.

Yet the Scots have had the last laugh because, after almost a century of UUP rule, their party – the DUP – is the undisputed leader of unionism.

The ultimate beneficiaries of this should be the Irish. As Paisley indicated, Ulster nationalism tilts more naturally south than east. However, as the 1970s showed, it reacts badly to any threat of having the stool kicked over.

What the Scots want is some sense of a homeland; a place apart. An independent Northern Ireland may be a political non-starter, but a viable, functioning Northern Ireland is an entirely realistic proposition.

By area, population and economy it is on a par with the Baltic states, two of which have large Russian minorities. Whatever kind of distinct entity Northern Ireland could be, it does not have to be failed entity.

I particularly liked this kicker, which, like few others, neatly encapsulates exactly where we are right now:

Over the past decade the DUP started to feel it had a little country of its own and lost the run of itself – until Sinn Féin took Stormont away. The Scots need to learn from that.

But closing Stormont has only bound the Scots and English more tightly together, and driven the DUP into the arms of London, the belly of the Sassenach beast. The Irish need to learn from that.

When much of NI politics (and journalism) is descended into a Russian/US style info war, this is a useful punt back upstream to examine the cultural sources of our ongoing annoyances. But you really do need to read the whole thing.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I know what Newton means about the ‘English’ and ‘Scottish’ thing, though outsiders should be warned not to take those labels literally. My lot are most definitely on the ‘English’ side of that divide culturally. It’s what others have called the ‘civic unionist’ vs ‘Ulster nationalist’ divide; boils down to whether you feel more a British Northern Irish person (Newton’s ‘Scots’) or a Northern Irish British person (Newton’s ‘English’).

  • murdockp

    Scots and English more tightly together.
    I would have said Scots and Tories. Ones the Tories get kicked out the honeymoon is over

  • Marcus Orr

    I know what he means as well, and I’m definitely on the “Scots” side, but it can be a wee bit misleading as well because to be honest I would never vote DUP and of course I know Scotland is not my country. I also personally can’t stand parts of the Ulster Scots debate when I sometimes get the feeling that this dialect is being forwarded as a language just so that it can “compete” with Irish – i.e. this is no good reason for state funding etc.
    What is true historically is that 100 years ago some unionists opposed Home Rule & United Ireland out of a feeling of Britishness and belonging to England and the “mainland” in general, and some opposed it due more to religious concerns of what it would mean for protestants to be ruled by a (then) ardently strong and fervent Roman Catholic Irish State, and less due to particular feelings of identifying with the British. No idea if these 2 groups correspond to Newton’s “English” and “Scottish” groups though. I’m not well enough versed in this kind of thing.

  • Karl

    Closing Stormont may have bound the Ulster unionists more closely to the English due to a fortuitous Westminster result. In this case however, the English are only the Tories and will drop the DUP as soon as possible. There is no evidence to suggest that the English have become any more enamoured to the DUP and while the post election spotlight laid bare the DUP idiosyncracies it did not do any real damage to the Tories, it did at the same time not endear the wider English populace to the DUP.
    Wishful thinking to fire warning shots to scare the Irish, does not a policy make.

  • Jim Jetson

    Why don’t you both just consider yourselves Irish? You were born in Ireland after all.

    After all Scots and English who settled in Canada simply consider themselves Canadian.

  • Marcus Orr

    I do consider myself Irish, and I ‘m proud of the Irish harp on my British passport.

    If you were paying attention you would have noticed that I said that I am not a Scot.

  • jimbob622

    “But closing Stormont has only bound the Scots and English more tightly together, and driven the DUP into the arms of London”

    Can I be walked through how closing Stormont drove the DUP into the arms of London, I was under the impression it was purely (or at least very very largely) down to the Tories botching the election and having to welcome the DUP into its arms. Was that not the case?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Have you ever met someone from Nova Scotia or Newfoundland…?

  • mickfealty

    Quickstep do ya?

    – March 2007 “indigenous deal” between “the DUP and Sinn Fein”… “let no one interfere with that.” https://sluggerotoole.com/2007/03/28/let-no-one-interfere-with-that/

    – March 2017 SF collapses the “indigenous deal” handing all power to the Westminster legislature, and installing the DUP as kingmakers for the foreseeable.

  • mickfealty

    Go back and read that piece again? Or at least MUs warning to ‘outsiders’ not to read the distinction literally? This is gibberish.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    why should he have to be Irish? This is the 21st Century, Jim …

  • Pang

    This is really interesting stuff. Are Newton’s “English” the same as the old Anglo-Irish ascendency then? After partition those in the Free State drifted towards what was to become Fine Gael I think.

  • Nevin

    “between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, or to cast it back to plantation terms, between the English and the Scots. .. all counties west of the Bann were designated for English settlement; the Scots expanded their presence in Antrim and Down”

    Can’t say I agree with this analysis. There were plenty of Scots west of the Bann –
    1718 migration website – and IMO there’s no direct correlation between the sect and the region of origin. For example, in Ballintoy District Electoral Division (DED) in 1911 there were 207 Catholics, 211 Presbyterians and 436 Church of Irelanders with common names like McAlister in all three sects. A bit further inland in Carnmoon DED there were 24 Catholics, 589 Presbyterians and 179 Church of Irelanders.

    “Edward Carson understood with an Anglo-Irishman’s regret”

    Edward’s Carson grandfather migrated from Dumfries in Scotland to Dublin though he also had some genes of English origin – in the sense that we have two parents, four grandparents, etc.

    There’s an 1828 marriage in Co Armagh between a Joseph Emerson and an Anne Newton – perhaps a family connection with the current holder of both surnames.

  • jimbob622

    Unless I am completely misunderstanding what is being stated here and I am not purposefully being obtuse. I can’t see how the Tories needing the DUP can be a step that is excluded here. To me it seems the fundamental step. Wouldn’t they have needed those seats whether the assembly had collapsed or not? Isn’t part of the Westminster legislature to be a neutral player in Northern Ireland affairs, therefore negating any notion that the DUP should be considered ‘kingmakers’?

  • William Kinmont

    I probably stand to be well corrected but here goes. The Ulster Scots wither they be covenanter /Presbyterian or highland island and galloglass or even border riever descent span the range of our religious divide and none. What they all share is a strong independant streak , ploughing their own furrow in the world . How this equates to loyalism beats me.

  • 05OCT68

    “the Baltic states, two of which have large Russian minorities” Yes and they are mistrusted within those states, seen as loyal to a foreign state and a leftover of Russian imperialism. They embody how our two tribes are viewed by each other.

  • mickfealty

    Not in the terms Newton lays out. If you deny everyone (including all nationalists) a public voice in the ‘indigenous’ parliament in Belfast, you are driving power offshore to London. This is an action which directly contradicts last year’s election pledges to keep power on the island.

    It is strictly tactical subsistence politics.

    The influence (not strictly speaking power) the DUP has over the Tories is all there is available. I’m not saying they didn’t want it, but the DUP have always put devolution at number one spot in their priorities.

    This doesn’t get anyone a United Ireland because it’s having the opposite effect of what’s needed to create one.

  • mickfealty

    And yet they have functioning legislatures capable of carrying the burden of sovereignty.

    What these faux crises mask is the extent to which this partnership failed to even get the simple things done.

    High hedges and a SpAd bill. Whoopy do!!

  • Barneyt

    I accept the argument that the assembly cannot reform unless the DUP and uup reform themselves, which is perhaps beyond their capability. However the absence of the assembly provides cover for the DUP in particular. Issues here will remain localised and hidden beneath alledged nationalist intransigence and a failure to cooperate. England has reformed socially beyond the DUP which should present the DUP with some level of discomfort. It doesn’t however. Reestablishing the assembly might just put the cosy Tory DUP relationship to the test.

  • jimbob622

    OK I see what you are saying. If that was what Newton was saying he wasn’t very clear, surely the election result is worth a mention.