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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty