Why Unionism cannot afford to divert attention from its own failings any longer.

board, write, change

The publication of the Census Statistics prompted, predictably, a flurry of party and non-party political commentary In an indication that Catholic Nationalism is alive and well, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP referred to the increase in the Catholic population as a ‘seminal moment.’ At least he spared us the ‘hand of history.’ Sinn Féin MP, John Finucane, in comments close to those of ‘Ireland’s Future’, Professor Colin Harvey, who spoke of ‘seismic change’, welcomed ‘irreversible change.’ Green peas in a pseudo …

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In view of recurring cultural controversies could we turn to a cultural, commemorative and celebratory Accord

ice cream, cone, strawberry ice cream

No matter how comfortable the pace and how stirring the music, it was a long walk on a very warm day for the Apprentice Boys of Derry who journeyed to the city with families and friends for the first time since the pandemic to attend the 2022 ‘shutting of the gates’ parade and pageant, enacted by a diverse range of performers. This may go some way to explain the evident fatigue of bands and marchers with what resembled the drains …

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Truth awaits the de-commissioning of a Sinn Féin culture of fact manipulation and the crescendo of silence offered to victims.

Secret

A connection between Claudy and Atlantic City may seem somewhat incongruous. As author Felicity Hayes-McCoy suggests in writing about memory, history and remembrance: “layers of emotion, inclination and unconscious prejudice intervene when looking back.” Atlantic City, NJ was a tacky and rundown place in 1972. Gambling had just been approved by the New Jersey legislature but the casinos had not yet opened. With the Godfather still showing in cinemas, there was chat locally that the Mafia was on their way. …

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Embedding the protocol within a constitutional/identity gridlock undermines our shared future

hd wallpaper, nature wallpaper, red meerkat

Unionism cannot be boxed into one definition, however broad opinion, within the pro-Union and the middle ground Unionist constituency, beyond loyalism, the Orange Order, bonfire groups and attendees at pre-election rallies, is hardening towards the ‘Protocol’. It is now firmly rooted within constitutional and identity issues; not viewed as a destination but as a process shaped by EU rigidity that will take Unionism to a divergent and politically homeless place where it does not wish to reside. Talk of protecting …

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Present tactics may ensure that in seeking to save the Union, political Unionism destroys it.

rats leave sinking ship, sea, lighthouse

There is much to admire about the United States of America. The dollar dictatorship of US politician Richard Neal, Chairman of the Friends of Ireland, is not one of them. Apart from his persistent but poorly informed belief that the United States is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, his approach to the internal politics of Northern Ireland exemplifies denial of the historical stains of armalite politics; a circular exchange of ideas with those sharing similar sentiment and a synthesis …

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Solution to protocol stand off could be an extension of grace periods and experimentation before local consent in 2024…

laptop, office, hand

One of many, Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, has talked of a ‘landing zone.’ Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie has referred to there being a solution if we can find one, or words to that effect. Hardly a confidence builder? In Northern Ireland, recently elected MLAs, reflecting the intensity of politics in a small place, are digging themselves deeper into the rutted terrain of blame, counter blame and limited concession on ideological preferences. Arguing themselves into institutionalised confrontation. Reports from London and …

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‘Any divided community is like a bottle containing two scorpions. If the scorpions cannot be persuaded to mate, or at least to co-habit in a civilised manner within the same space, it may be better to recognise the fact and look around for another bottle.’

scorpion, arthropods, poisonous

The quote above is from Scorpions in a Bottle: Conflicting Cultures in Northern Ireland: John Darby (1997). A lot has changed in Northern Ireland since then. The community is in a better place with periods of relative tranquillity and less political violence but then something ‘shakes the bottle’. When a local member in Sinn Féin in Derry in 2016 stated that BREXIT was going to be a ‘game-changer’ no one could have foreseen the extent to which the referendum result …

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Why not share the problem of First Minister and get Stormont back into gear?

close-up, cogs, gears

It was just after the UUP endorsed the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and agreed to enter government. Members of a divided Ulster Unionist Council had made their way to several often hastily arranged meetings in the Waterfront Hall, where the UUP decided to ‘jump first’. In the Ulster Hall and different hotels, the fractious differences over the Agreement were laid bare in the public arena. This was less the case at the party Executive although the Press was often briefed by one …

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Time to take off the blindfolds and look at the reality of the protocol…

eye, iris, pupil

A Committee of MPs has found the Ireland/ Northern Ireland Protocol to be ‘untenable’ if it is not ‘repaired, replaced or removed.’ Analysis published by the European Scrutiny Committee of the European Commission’s 2022 Work Programme, which outlines the EU’s law-making priorities for the coming 12 months, identified at least 29 proposals which Northern Ireland will or most likely will have to follow in the years ahead. These laws would be made with little or no input from the UK Parliament or …

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Will the Protocol (as it stands) deliver an economic ‘Hibernia irredenta’…?

ssl, https, safety

In ‘My Secret Brexit Diary” Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier refers to Brexit as ‘La Grande Illusion’. It hardly needs translation; in meaning or perspective. Is it applicable to refer to the Ireland and Northern Ireland Protocol and the premise on which it is built in the same vein? in 2016, the Irish Government responded quickly to confront the implications for Ireland’s continuing membership of the EU, future relations with the United Kingdom and managing any potential economic fallout for the Irish …

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Can you be pro-Union and not a Unionist?

thread, rolls, needle

Shortly after launching NI 21, the leader of the short-lived party, Basil McCrea MLA, insisted in a studio discussion that he was supportive of the retention of the Union but did not describe himself as a unionist. He was treated with derision, bordering on scorn. A few years down the line, and this is no longer generally the case, with a growing constituency identifying as ‘pro-Union’ whilst distancing itself from ‘party political’ Unionism. Are Northern Ireland’s Unionist political parties capable …

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Legacy: “There are others who live with not knowing whilst hoping for something else…”

cherry blossoms, landscape, spring

A good friend whose political views differ from mine was also in attendance on the evening before. He wondered why I did not engage in the discussion. I explained that had I done so, my comments would have presented as… “but, what about..? Until the victims of Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy are ready to say: ‘What about Claudy and Ballykelly’ and the victims of Claudy and Ballykelly feel they can say: “What about Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy,’ will we be where …

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After fifty years of improvement and reform in Northern Ireland isn’t it time we gently surrendered to a vision larger than our old sectarian selves?

Who recognises the profound shift towards fairness and equality in the last fifty years in Northern Ireland? Historical facts may not change, but as the world transitions and power shifts, our perspectives should also adjust. Otherwise we may be condemned to an interminable cycle of Groundhog Days.

Adams doesn’t understand how human conduct is coded in the language we choose to use…

cat eyes, eyes, color storm

My first reaction to the now defunct Christmas video by Gerry Adams was that ‘he had murdered a good tune’. The responses to the video and the dutiful view of the Deputy First Minister that it was’ just a bit of craic’ provide sanguine evidence that individuals and groups within all communities emerging from conflict, do not take kindly to any display of insensitivity or frivolity from a key player, linked with self-professed combatants, in a 30 year war that has left a legacy of a deeply …

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Sinn Féin’s vision of the future looks remarkably like its one model version of the past

automobiles, henry ford, vintage

Of the recent visits to the USA by politicians with influence on political development in Northern Ireland, Mary Lou McDonald  seems to be the one who has been reported the more fully. Something to so with the nature of the events in which she held centre stage, perhaps. As reported in the Irish Times, Sinn Féin leader and TD, Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the New York Bar Association described Ireland as living in ‘dying days.’ Albeit that she was …

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Return to the ‘radical ways’ that Micheál Martin referred to in 2016 merits consideration.

The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin in November 2016 hosted the first All-Ireland Civic Dialogue. To my knowledge no Unionist political representatives were present. Some made a point of not being there; foolish in the light of subsequent events. It is hard to make a case without dialogue. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD outlined the difficulties faced by ‘the most significant challenge in 50 years for the Irish economy’ and noted that a majority in Northern Ireland voted to ‘remain’ but that ‘the vote …

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Faced by demands of Net Zero, digitisation and changing trade, old party tunes are not enough, even for Sinn Féin…

caterpillar, branch, larva

Unsurprisingly An tUachtaráin of Sinn Féin Mary-Lou McDonald TD received an enthusiastic reception from the reduced number of delegates at the 2021 Ardfheis on her home turf in Dublin. There were all kinds of everything for the party members, present and online. The event, organised, as always, with military precision was an interesting occasion for the non-partisan observer. The comments of a seasoned Sinn Féin member in Derry that the party has an ‘army of activists’; that ‘there is nothing …

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Somewhere along a slightly different path is a better future for the union, if we look for it now…

phone, old, year of construction 1955

“I don’t care what religion you are. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care what your ethnic background is. You can be Unionist and will be welcome in a Union of people?” – Doug Beattie, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, 2021 Is this as inclusive, diverse and progressive as political Unionism gets? Is there deeper meaning in saying to those of diverse ethnicity, gender and religion that as a Unionist…….. I do care? Individuals in Northern Ireland …

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Why mixed messaging cannot work for Doug Beattie or indeed the UUP

implement, do, implementation

‘In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.’ – Miyamoto Musashi Following the General Election of 2010, the UUP produced an internal report addressing the electoral performance of the party which had campaigned with the Conservative party in what was known, rather clumsily, as the UCU-NF initiative. Probably not enough time was given to the process. Based on an earlier European election in which UUP …

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UUP conference has seen the party talk well, but Doug Beattie must find a way to walk better

You cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. After more than twenty years of political stasis, this old commonplace saying is now supremely applicable to Northern Irish politics (and all of it, not just on the unionist side). Judging from the subliminal imaging and aspirational messaging evident in the UUP Political Broadcast and Conference on Saturday, Doug Beattie must have disposed of quite a few political egg shells in setting a long overdue re-boot agenda for the party he …

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