United unionism: good preparation for glug-glug time?


Sam McBride, the political editor of the News Letter, made an interesting comment on telly just now. He noted that everyone knows the demographics of this state are shifting: there are more and more Catholics and fewer and fewer Protestants. Which means (fingers in your ears, Alasdair McDonnell) that the vote for nationalist or republican parties is on the increase and that for unionist parties is decreasing. Given that Peter Robinson and others have spoken of persuading nationalists /republicans to see how much they have in common with their unionist neighbours and to vote unionist,  it’s an odd message you send out when you elevate the union as of paramount importance and agree on four unionists “and Orangemen”  to run as your candidate in four constituencies.

You’ve put your finger on it, Sam. For a while there, some unionists half-convinced themselves that because a great number of people had ticked ‘Northern Irish’ in the census form, that meant they’d become supporters of partition. That may be true of some but it’s my guess it means nothing of the sort for the majority of those who so ticked.

Then what can you do if you feel the green waters begin to creep up to your knees, your thighs, your crotch (ouch!) and then waist? Well, you could try to persuade the man or woman in charge of the green-water tap to turn the bloody thing off; or you could pretend that nothing is happening and call on all like-minded, right-thinking people to consider how firmly above the waters your head and chest currently are. You could even shout “The treacherous scum tried to drown us but we’re still here, still breathing, still unmoved!”

One could almost admire the heroism of such a stand, with its uncontaminated not-an-inchery. Except that inch by inch, the green water continues to rise. How much more sensible to catch the eye of the person in charge of the tap and try to get an agreement with him/her that won’t end with your being submerged in a tide of those whom you’ve always sought to exclude.

But what was the last time you saw unionism act in its own long-term interests?  Pass.

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21 Responses to United unionism: good preparation for glug-glug time?

  1. ANOTHER JUDE March 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    Unionism is heading for it`s very own iceberg, a big green one, like the Titanic it is going down, down, down. If the Unionist leadership had a tither of wit they would try to modernise the philosophy, ditch the backwoods men and open themselves up to new ideas, you know, things like equality. They would condemn the sectarian antics of drunken bandsmen, they would call for an end to the Camp Twaddle nonsense, they would ask people not to insult their neighbours` religious beliefs, but then they wouldn`t be Unionists. At least we don`t have to listen to politicians refer to `the minority`, it only seems like yesterday when the likes of John Taylor and Ken` Road Rage` Maginnis would use that term, confident in the knowledge they would always be in charge, calling the shots, quite literally. Unionists will have to adapt, reach out for real agreement and take their chances with the rest of the country rather than spend their days making eyes at disinterested British leaders.

  2. sherdy March 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Jude, I hate to have to admit it, but when I saw the box on the census form ‘Northern Irish’, I thought that as I had spent most of my life in the north of Ireland that it was the appropriate box.
    Little did I know that it was a trap that would be used against me, and God knows how many others. Certainly if I ever see another census form I will view it somewhat more cynically.
    As far as deals are concerned, its what politicians have always done and always will do, so whether you thinks its fair or not, there is no law against it, and you should never rule it out.
    Poor Mike Nesbitt was just on radio a few minutes ago saying he didn’t think he had got the bad side of the deal with the DUP. God help his wit, but the DUP have got two odds-on certs and the UUP have been stuck with 1,000-1 long shots.
    When the pacts were announced Arlene Foster was giving the impression the fate of Tom Elliott was nothing to do with her, but now the Impartial Reporter has interviewed her and her attitude is somewhat more mellow. Pete must have had a word in her ear, but reluctant help is worse than no help at all, so goodbye Elliott.
    But on the nat/rep side, Alasdair McDonnell doesn’t seem to know that politics is the art of the possible, and that principles can have a price.
    Had he co-operated with Sinn Fein both parties could have enhanced their representation and therefore influence. His bitterness against the republicans seems to dull the workings of his grey matter.
    The mad doctor is prepared to see DUP MPs rather than maybe an extra SDLP or SF MP, with the result that he will be responsible for his party (and their lofty ideals) drifting into political oblivion.
    Is it not time that some of the straighter thinking SDLP members executed a coup so that the ‘P’ in the party’s name might stand for ‘pragmatism’?
    Poor John Hume must be tearing his hair out at what is being done to his once-great party!

  3. ben madigan March 22, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    ” agree on four unionists “and Orangemen” to run as your candidate in four constituencies”.

    The orange order is the non-party actor/manipulator in this pact.

    Unionist voters in these constituencies (and probably elsewhere) are obliged to vote for the OO, whose members will be elected even though the OO is not a political party.

    This distortion of the democratic political process seems profoundly wrong


  4. daniel moran March 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Jude. The inserted bit in the census form about identity was put in for first time and both BBC Belfast and utv pounced on as to avoid the headline cebsus which would cause indigestion at teatime among their duo and UUP pals. Ditto, beltel naturally. Next opinion taken showed n.i. Identity took a big hit. The desperate ploy ti misrepresent nationalist census responses in question had failed. The pact between dup and uuo is a cry for help by unionist establishment, and their only honest call is to ask Westminster for repartition, but their spurious claims to be democrats, strips them of that option, poor things.

  5. Gavin Bell March 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    This, unionist pact, would surely appear to most right thinking constituents to be “The Last Stand.” We all seen the seismic shift in Scotland, similar thinking in Wales, even England, and now a realistion here in the north eastern corner of Ireland that “The Union” is fast swirling down the plughole.

    More and more people are feeling more and more comfortable with nationality question, here in this part of Ireland. However, I think it’s much more important for people to have the best quality of life possible on offer, by those responsible for the day to day running of a country. Let’s look at the austerity measures on both sides of the Irish border. Yes, I hear you say, it’s failing all of our people miserably, while those in power continue to help prop up a greedy and corrupt banking system.

    If those from a non-nationalist/non-republican persuasion would only allow themselves to explore their creative side and visualise how this small island would benefit greatly by ending partition, creating “A New Ireland,” “An Ireland of Equals.” We only need to look at the success of Ireland’s Rugby Team, something which couldn’t help if divided.

    The Good Friday Agreement has secured the rights of any citizens born in “Northern Ireland” to carry an Irish Passport, a British Passport or both.

    It’s upon this platform and ending partition in Ireland will move all her people into a new dispensation, where everyone can “feel at home.”

    Where are we now? We have two separate economies, people divided, duplication of public services leading to huge wastage in public spend.

    We are we going? The demographic numbers suggest that a majority in the north eastern counties will soon chose a United Ireland. Of course this is suggesting all those from a Catholic background will support a United Ireland. Some unionists will try to convince punters that not all nationalists will vote for a United Ireland. I believe this to be delusional, when we just have to look at the figures which came out of so called “unionist boxes” in the last Mid-Ulster & Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminister Election, we seen that not only did nationalists vote for republicanism but many from the Protestant community did also. Many opinion polls show in many areas across the six counties that Protestant people are beginning to voice their support for progressive, revolutionary
    parties and air their discontent with austerity.

    The two unionist parties offer non of the above.

    • Chunks March 23, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

      “[I]n the last Mid-Ulster & Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminister Election, we seen that not only did nationalists vote for republicanism but many from the Protestant community did also”.

      Gavin, this is very interesting where did you come across that? I never seen any figures that showed more than token Protestant support for a United Ireland.

  6. paddykool March 22, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I would agree with sherdy in that politics is no place for anyone with principles.Let’s get real and realise that politicians, as a side -dish to their grasping at the levers of power , might now and again , quite accidentally do some of us some good, but many lies have to be told and many hypocrisies coddled along the way. They have to know how to lie through their teeth and be circumspect with the parsing of the truth .Anybody out there caught the recent third series of “House of Cards” ? ….man what a show!!!

  7. Iolar March 22, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Pacts and partition

    “The constitutional question is settled…the union has never been stronger…united we stand…as British as Finchley…”

    Political unionism stands like a beleaguered male garrison girding its loins to engage in battle with a credible, female, political alternative. It is more comfortable for some to talk about pacts instead of unemployment and gender issues. It is easy to wave flags instead of dealing with zero hours contracts and the finer points of the recent budget.

    From 6 April 2015 employers with employees under 21 years old will no longer have to pay Class 1 secondary National Insurance contributions. (NICs) Employees will continue to pay the standard rate of primary Class 1 NICs through their salary. They won’t see any reduction in their payments. It is employers who will benefit from this change. Surprise, surprise.

    Instead of dealing with the implications of welfare “cuts”, the mantra from political unionism remains, “Where will the money come from…There is no more money.” The elephant in the room is the irrational and uneconomic reality of partition. No surrender really means no change to Canute male dominated political unionism which to date has not delivered economic prosperity or stable government.

  8. Perkin Warbeck March 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    One assumes, Esteemed Blogmeister, that the Quiet Man / An Fear Ciuin of Unionism is included in today’s reference to unionist parties: the Ciuinionist Party.

    Whose party manifesto is summed up in the pithy phrase: Whatever you say, say sweet Fanny A.

    When the SDLP (for it is they !) first descended upon Planet Earth, trailing both clouds of hoary old platitudes and crowds of glory-seekers with attitude, the Textual Revolution was still a ways off.

    So it was difficult to know what the party’s initials actually stood for or indeed the party itself. Apart from the throwing of shapes and, erm, of course,parties.Oh, their AGMs have long since entered the folklore of Knees-up.and Legless Falls-down.

    Certainly,they did give the Eyes-East Establishment in the Free Southern Stateen something to believe in and to look out for in Norneverland. It was an especial boon for all those over the moon hagiographers in the straight-backed editorial chairs of The Unionist Times to swoon over and a reason for to dip the nip in the inkwell marked purple.

    It didn’t take too long for even the more slow learning of spalpeens to figure out what the party was at heart, or perhaps a more apt bodily organ would be, at spleen: a Ciuinionist Party. Although much given to the three V’s: verbiage, verbosity and vacuity when they were granted the freedom of every studio microphone in the 31 Section Stateen during the reign-in of Dr. Conor Cruise O’Goebbels and after, they still contrived to achieve something truly wondrous.

    Dot,.ie: to invariably say that which is eternally associated with Sweet Fanny A. (no relation).

    Now, of course, that Text has been firmly established as THE contemporary mode of communications it is a doddle to suss out the odd ogham-like initials of this the most silent of Ciuinionist Parties, the S.D.L.P.

    -Saddle Up.

    Yes, indeed, that credit-rolling day has duly arrived (and credit-rolling where credit-rolling is due, is an old touchstone of the Warbeckian belief system) and the Party Leader must now mount his old pal’s palomino pony and ride gracefully off into the sunset.Humming, perhaps, Tumbling Tumbleweeds.

    As the Tombstone Chronicle once pithily put it: Time for a Holliday, Doc.

    Well, not exactly, the sunset, even though no one can gainsay that said ceananire is florid enough for Florida itself. Extravagantly so, indeed. No, about turn. Wrong direction. Rather, to the sunrise.

    It must be the House of Lords for Alasdair McDonnell Ifor it is he !) or else bust in a stampede of dust. There has been a vancancy for a member of the Ciuinionist Part ever since the departure the two-bit Lord Fitt for No Purpose.

    Now,while not even his greatest slanderers could ever accuse Gerry Salamander of being cut out for the Upper House of Westminster the same charge could never be levelled at the latest in a long line of less than successful successors.

    Why, the current ceannaire is a miracle of Extravaganza itself, the embodiment of Baroque and Roll, the very reincarnation of Rococo the Clown. Glanced at quickly from a certain angle and in a particular light his celebrated crop of hair could well be mistaken for the horse-hair wig of a Supreme Court Justice.

    Ordure ! Ordure !

    The moving finger of the Privy Counsellor has writ upon the Pirvy Walls and having writ, has moved on, bowel movements being such.

    He may well have the airs, but none of the graces
    And can catch a cliche from all of forty one paces
    For pomp and circumstan
    Lord McD’s your only man
    Upstairs goes Alasdair and mind the two maces.

  9. Ryan March 22, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    I have to admit, I am one those people who have ticked the “Northern Irish” box when I enrolled at part time courses at a local college. Why did I do that? Do I see myself as “Northern Irish”? No, not at all, I’m unashamedly Irish and proud and nothing else and have the accent, freckles, and Irish passport to (needlessly) back it up. So why did I tick the Northern Irish box? because I was making new friends at the college at the time and while filling out our forms avoided the topic of politics at all cost, we all said the usual “I couldn’t care about politics or nationality, its crap” and just ticked Northern Irish in a way of ticking “neutrality”. Do I believe this is a common occurrence amongst people from both communities in social events and the like? Yes, absolutely. Its a way of saying “I’m neutral” and avoiding any political talk. It’s also a way of keeping it obscure what “side” you come from until u know people better.

    Now, as everyone who reads my comments on here maybe already knows , I’m deeply interested in politics. But also in History, science, economics, etc My bedroom is more like a Library than a bedroom (Yes, I’ve heard of Kindles and other devices that hold thousands of books but I prefer an old fashioned, hard cover book). So obviously I was telling a few white lies to my new college friends and I’m 99% sure they were telling me white lies too but all is good, we get along and enjoy our night classes.

    I’m not saying there’s not people who don’t regard themselves as Northern Irish but I suspect that a lot, if not the majority, are not really serious. When it comes to the elections, they will retreat into the perceived views of their community, Catholic or Protestant, Nationalist or Unionist. Its a sad state of affairs the way our society works but that’s the reality, no point in pretending it isn’t.

    Unionism, unlike SF/SDLP, has done very little or absolutely nothing to reach out to “the other side”. These pacts are going to be a very common theme with Unionism in coming elections and I suspect the Assembly Elections next year UUP/DUP (and their silent partners UKIP/TUV) will do even more pacts to “keep them’uns out” instead of engaging in progressive politics and attract new voters. Its also a sign of the desperate times Unionism is it. Its greatest weapon in the north is gone, its inbuilt protestant majority, and now its facing the inevitable Nationalist majority. Unionisms history of sectarian politics and headcounts have gone from its greatest strength to its greatest weakness.

    The SDLP/SF should do a pact of their own, not to “keep them’uns out” but to counter this anti-GFA alliance Unionism is forming, meanwhile its essential to keep reaching out to those protestants that are small u unionist or who are left leaning in political outlook. Three quarters of Belfast could, and should, have Nationalist MP’s in May 2015 and only the SDLP is holding that back, which I think will be a massive mistake for them in the long run, especially if they lose South Belfast.

    Whatever way the election goes, Unionism is just in the same situation as before, its backward politics and it being willingly padlocked to the Orange Order will turn away any Catholic voter and in the long run end the Union with Britain or at the very least have the 6 counties under a Sinn Fein run government, there may as well be a United Ireland in that case……

  10. boondock March 22, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    All this SDLP bashing is a bit tiring. I want as many nationalist MP’s as possible but what have SF offerred. A free run in South Belfast which they will likely win anyway in return for a free run in UB, FST, NB and maybe somewhere else – makes the UUP deal look amazing. As for all the all the tweeters and even Conor Murphy and Gerry Kelly dreaming up some conspiracy theory that the SDLP are in on the unionist pact – WTF are they on. One valid point brought up over on bangordubs site I dont remember SF being too bothered about stopping/delaying mcgrady or mallons victories for years. If SF want to win these seats well they can easily do it. Turnout will be around 50 percent so if they can persuade their voters to turn up in good numbers then they can win these tight seats on their own.

    • Antonio March 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

      It’s hard not to bash the S.D.L.P when their leader gives interviews to the Newsletter and calls Sinn Fein a Stalinist party. I don’t have any illusions about Sinn Fein but to come off with vilification like that in order to get into Unionism’s good graces is sad. Especially sad when most Unionists still define the S.D.L.P as ‘sinn fein lite’ (lord know why)

      As for the stalinist party jibe the Doctor needs a book called ‘Russian history for dummies’.

    • cmac March 24, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

      Boondock, As for all the all the tweeters and even Conor Murphy and Gerry Kelly dreaming up some conspiracy theory that the SDLP are in on the unionist pact – WTF are they on.’

      Have you not noticed the Bishops now calling on Catholics to vote DUP and none of the pact seats will affect the SDLP chances of re election?
      Why not join in a pact with Sinn Fein and make Irish unity, equality the main issue as Unionists are doing with the Union.
      At the moment the SDLP think they can take votes of Sinn Fein by blaming them for Tory cuts that Sinn Fein and none of the parties have any control over.
      Behaving and acting in the interests of Unionists, and thats how it seems by not having a pact, will not win anyone from Sinn Fein and only empower the bigots for longer than necessary.

  11. gendjinn March 23, 2015 at 1:07 am #

    Unionism is in complete denial that there will ever be a majority voting for UI. You see it in full effect on p.ie and slugger.

    In 15 to 20 years there will be a majority of Nationalist MLAs & MPs in NI. Then there will be a referendum in NI for UI, which will pass. Then the Unionists will start planting no-warning bombs in the south to prevent them voting for a UI.

    Followed by a civil war as Unionism will never respect the democratic wishes of the people on this Island. Why do you think the arms of the DUPs Third Force were never handed in? The length & brutality of this war will depend on how much support they get from the UK. Without support they will be the keystone kops of guerrilla insurgency but a lot of innocent people will die.

  12. Am Ghobsmacht March 23, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Dr C

    It is even more baffling than this.

    No doubt over on Slugger you’ve seen the odd “not all Catholics want a UI anyway!” argument hastily drawn from the hip of some unionist on the back foot.

    Fair enough I suppose, even though I think this is a very over played card which becomes less and less true every time a smug politician reels it off with all the self satisfaction of Father Brendan Stack (as in, if you are 50-50 on the union surely seeing Arlene foster or Gregory Campbell gloat about it would be enough to push you into the re-unification side of the fence?).

    But then, sometimes the same posters will palm off political unionism’s latest pig headed stance with the “so what?! It’s not like any Catholics will vote for the union no matter what we do!”

    Jeez, a bit of consistency would be nice.

    IF you believe that some people of a Catholic background will vote pro-union/pro-status quo even with the present behaviour of the greater unionist family then surely it makes sense to go on a charm offensive and bring MORE into the fold?

    “Apparently 20% of the market segment like our product even with our current strategy of marching up and down their streets, putting flags all over the place, badly spelt sectarian graffiti and the odd red hand with five fingers and a thumb”

    “Hmmmmm, so, IF we eased off on the sectarianism then we might attract more people?”

    “Yes, that’s the logic. Shall we do it?”


    “But….why…? This could be our big break?!”

    “I. SAID. NO”

  13. ANOTHER JUDE March 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    The stoops hate the shinners, that`s just the way it is. As for the Unionist pact, if (God forbid) the UUP do win a seat, you can be sure the Dups will throw it in their faces next time they have a lovers tiff, `you only got that seat because we let you have it`.Speaking of nationality, I have always put mine down as British, because I don`t want some Orangeman `accidentally` losing my vote down behind a desk. Call me cynical if you want, the end justifies the means as I have voted for Sinn Féin since 1982, when they re-entered the political scene.

  14. moser March 23, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    Sinn Fein may be attempting to move us through Unionist intransigence, but they are moving at a snail’s pace.

  15. Chunks March 23, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

    Like so many things the “Unionism-needs-to-reform-or-die” debate turns on a definition viz. “what is Unionism”?

    During the early history of the North, Unionism was congruent with Protestant Supremacy (the corollary of that was anti-Catholicism and therefore anti-Irish and anti-Rome).

    Various historical forces have split the Unionist ideology into what is now called “Traditional Unionism” and “Soft Unionism”.

    Traditional Unionism is still the same old ideology of Protestant Supremacy. By definition it cannot accommodate change. In no meaningful way can it accept Catholics, Catholic concerns or Irishness.

    Interestingly it turns out that Traditional Unionists/Protestant Supremacists are uncomfortable with any and all difference. See Peter “Trust a Muslim to go to the shop” Robinson; Iris “cure-gays” Robinson; Ballymena “no-Muslim-plaque-wanted-sure-they’re-all terrorists” Council; gay-cake; anti-Marie-Stopes clinic, affiliations with far right groups from England and racist attacks on migrants. Is there a progressive cause that Traditional Unionists won’t set their backs against?

    Soft Unionism dispenses with the Protestant Supremacy and sticks to the basics; the North is better run from London. By dropping the religious and social baggage it is an ideology more amenable to Catholics.

    Changing demographics will put the squeeze on Traditional Unionist but not necessarily Soft Unionist.

    Tradional Unionists of the DUP, UUP, TUV (literally the avatar of Traditional Unionism), UKIP, Jamie Bryson, Wilie Frazer and the OO can talk about parades, flags and poppyology. They can even denigrate the Irish language, the GAA, and the Pope in Rome. Yet still they will have the support of a major section of the Protestant population.

    For everyone else of the Soft Unionist bent there is Alliance and NI21.

    Combined they will have significantly more than 50% of the population for decades to come. So there is no prospect of a successful referendum on a UI.

    Therefore, Traditional Unionism (even if it could) does not need to reform.

  16. Willie D. March 24, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    I am one of those “small u unionists” and yes I am willing to be persuaded on the merits of a United Ireland. But I need a detailed blueprint, which has so far failed to materialise. In the meantime I am expected to believe that the union of an entity where the economy is dire, with an entity where the economy is poor, would somehow magically transform everything. The current argument for a U.I. seems to be based entirely on “there’ll soon be more of us uns than them uns,” the sort of sectarian triumphalism that Unionists are so often accused of.

  17. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr March 24, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Political Unionism is playing a blinder, they know if it was a fair playing field then the game would be up. This way they can get what remaining protestants backed into a corner, ready to bite back. They have not and never will accept democracy, they will soon restart the ‘troubles’ in an effort to just to maintain the status quo.

    The whole debacle about welfare reform (Tory Cuts) just shows how farcical that this place is. Its a failed statelet with no ability to influence politically for the betterment of its people. The union can only survive with hand-outs from the English public.

    Everyone keeps going on about the GFA and how NI will only change via referendum. I for one don’t believe that this will be the case. Sure what’s the point in voting when one side don’t respect the validity of the vote or even understand Democracy. Sure if the vote doesn’t go your way, just have a repartition (they have form for that).

    Unity will soon be imposed upon us from our English overlords who are fed up paying high taxes to support a population that does not see itself as British. Unity is slowly happening in front of our eyes, can no one else see this?

    What will be interesting will be to see what lengths Fine Gael will go to keep the border in place (merger with DUP), knowing full well that if unity happens, the party will never be in government again.

  18. Willie D. March 25, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I’m not quite sure of the logic which says that, post Irish unity, Fine Gael will never be in government again. I would imagine that, for a while, erstwhile Unionists will try to continue with some sort of party/parties of their own, but as there won’t be a union to defend these will eventually peter out. Former Unionists will never vote for Sinn Fein and are unlikely to find Fianna Fail attractive, so I would guess that in rural areas Fine Gael would be their most likely home, with the urban working class perhaps attracted to the Labour Party. The S.D.L.P. would also have no raison d’etre, so some of their people could switch their allegiance to Fine Gael.