‘The Siege Mentality’ by Joe McVeigh


One of the great problems facing all of us who want a democracy in Ireland is the Unionist Siege Mentality. ‘What we have, we hold’. ‘Ulster will fight.’ ‘We are the conquerors’ .’’Not an inch’ are just some of their slogans. This mentality is reinforced every year during the summer months.

The Unionist party which, from its beginning was linked with the Tory party in Britain, was handed absolute power in the six counties when they first met as the new government of the six counties (a phrase first used by King George V) in Belfast city Hall in June 1920. During the fifty years after that the Unionists never had to share power or consider the views of an opposition. They never had to negotiate with anybody for anything. They could do what they liked in government– hardly a very democratic arrangement. The British/English gave them a carte blanche to do what they wanted so long as they kept this little corner of Ireland safe for the British government.

The leadership of the UUP was taken over by Sir Edward Carson in 1910. Throughout his 11-year leadership he fought a sustained campaign against Irish Home Rule. That included the formation of the Ulster Volunteers (UVF) in 1912. In the 1918 general election, Carson switched constituencies from his former seat of Dublin University to Belfast Duncairn. He strongly opposed the partition of Ireland and the end of unionism as an all-Ireland political force, so he refused the opportunity to be Prime Minister of the little state or even to sit in the Belfast House of Commons, citing a lack of connection with the place. The leadership of the UUP was taken over by Sir James Craig later Lord Craigavon who was appointed PM –if you don’t mind.

Until almost the very end of its period of power in the six counties, the UUP was led by a combination of landed gentry (Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough and James Chichester-Clark), aristocracy (Terence O’Neill) and gentrified industrial magnates (James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon and John Miller Andrews – nephew of William Pirrie, 1st Viscount Pirrie). Only the last Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, was from a middle-class background. During this era, all but 11 of the 149 UUP Stormont MPs were members of the Orange Order, as were all Prime Ministers.

James Craig governed the Six counties from its inception until his death in 1940 and is buried with his wife by the east wing of Parliament Buildings. His successor, J. M. Andrews, was heavily criticised for appointing octogenarian veterans of Craigavon’s administration to his cabinet. His government was also believed to be more interested in protecting the statue of Carson at the Stormont Estate than the citizens of Belfast during the Belfast blitz. A backbench revolt in 1943 resulted in his resignation and replacement by Sir Basil Brooke (later Viscount Brookeborough), although he was recognised as leader of the party until 1946.

Brookeborough, despite having felt that Craigavon had held on to power for too long, was Prime Minister for one year longer. During this time he was, on more than one occasion, called to meetings of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland to explain his actions, most notably following the 1947 Education Act which made the government responsible for the payment of National Insurance contributions of teachers in Catholic-controlled schools. Ian Paisley called for Brookeborough’s resignation in 1953 when he refused to sack Brian Maginess and Clarence Graham, who had given speeches supporting re-admitting Catholics to the UUP.  He retired in 1963 and was replaced by Terence O’Neill, who emerged ahead of other candidates, Jack Andrews and Faulkner. This was the beginning of the end of the Ulster Unionist party. Dr Ian Paisley and the Democratic Unionist party were waiting in the wings ready to seize power.

He continued the traditional Orange /unionist policy of attacking Catholic clergy and the Catholic Church until he saw the light and entered into the Good Friday power-sharing arrangement with Martin McGuinness. When are the DUP leaders going to see the light and lead their party out of the darkness of the Siege Mentality?

24 Responses to ‘The Siege Mentality’ by Joe McVeigh

  1. St Patrick August 23, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    Dont forget the only reason he saw the light. As he admitted in an interview, he was shown Plan B in London.

    • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 10:38 am #

      That was for public consumption.

      He was reminded of his proximity to the Kincora scandal, and asked point-blank what he wanted his legacy to be remembered for.
      Dr. No instantly became Dr. Yes.

  2. Oriel27 August 23, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    The DUP will see the light when the headcount statistics tell them to. Thats exactly how it will happen.

    What is the headcount stats at the minute?

    Electorally, unionism is in the majority for the next 10 years.

    Until, they loose the first Minister position in stormount (if it ever comes back), the DUP will dictate the direction of the north.

    • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      Technically, Unionism isn’t in the electoral majority now. They lost that in March.

      But of course, the Tories will acquiesce to the DUP demand for a re-run in October to re-establish their dominance.
      It’s of little consequence anyway because Sinn Fein aren’t demanding an end to the Petition of Concern so Unionism can veto anything progressive for decades to come.

  3. Cal August 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    I don’t buy into the siege mentality excuse. That’s what it is, an excuse. An excuse to discriminate and act in a supremacist manner. These actions derive from bigotry, not a siege mentality.

  4. Tam August 23, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    What we have, we hold’. ‘Ulster will fight.’ ‘We are the conquerors’ .’’Not an inch’.

    None of these are unionist slogans. They are decades (in some cases over a century) old, and “We are the conquerors” has never been a slogan. Joe made it up.

    It’s untrue that the Unionist party was linked with the Tory party from the beginning. It was only linked with it from 1922-1986.

    It’s also untrue that they had absolute power in NI. Their power was restricted to devolved matters.

    King George V’s speech in City Hall was in June 1921 not June 1920.

    It’s untrue that the Unionists never had to consider the views of an opposition. The Nationalist Party formed an Opposition in the 1960s.

    The UVF was formed in 1913 not 1912.

    While Carson’s preference was for all of Ireland to be spared home rule that didn’t mean that he “strongly opposed the partition of Ireland”. On the contrary he campaigned for it.

    It’s good that Joe hasn’t repeated his mistake from an earlier article when he said Craig governed NI from London.

    The DUP didn’t exist during O’Neill’s premiership.

    The article doesn’t discuss the siege mentality.

    • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

      @ Tam.
      Let’s have that discussion about the “siege mentality” now.
      I was at the Orange museum* in Derry last week, and the mythology and ahistorical revisionism.was shocking.

      How do we break down and challenge that narrative?

      *actually, it might have been the ABOD museum. Them Prods all look the same to me!

      • Tam August 23, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

        Never been there so I wouldn’t be able to comment.

        • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

          No, not the museum, there was nothing overly heinous about the museum – and it was a lot less shocking than the CofI church in Banbridge that I visited.

          Im on about the actual belligerent ‘siege mentality” that spills into the political outlook of some, many, Loyalists.

          What’s the solution?

          • Tam August 23, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

            Lift the siege?

          • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

            Ahhh, right.

            A personal hero of mine is Captain Jack White – a Broughshane-born Themun who was a founding member of the Irish Citizen Army alongside James Connolly.
            He stands out in my mind because he made it his business to go to public meetings in Orange Halls to discuss the merits of Socialism.

            Is there any merit in this approach in the modern era?

          • Tam August 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

            It didn’t work then so I’d say there was even less chance of it working now.

          • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

            We’ll, in fairness, a little thing called World War One interrupted his progress.

    • ben madigan August 23, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

      ‘Ulster will fight.’

      here’s what the late Andrew Boyd had to say about that in 2001:

      “Under the influence of the Orange Order and similar societies the Ulster Unionist Party and the even more repellent forms of Orangeism and Unionism that prevail in Northern Ireland, loyalty has become nothing but another word for prejudice and for sentiments that can be transformed with sinister rapidity into threats and violence. The earliest Unionist threat “Ulster will fight” was an incitement to rebellion. How could it have been anything else?”

      page 33, Republicanism and Loyalty in Ireland

      • huge Celt. August 23, 2017 at 11:39 pm #


        How do you propose to combat it?

      • Tam August 24, 2017 at 7:46 am #

        It’s odd how nationalists think ‘rebelling’ is OK, unless unionists are doing it.

        • Michael August 24, 2017 at 9:30 am #

          What are unionists “rebelling” against?

          • Tam August 24, 2017 at 10:28 am #

            Nothing at the minute.

          • Dan August 24, 2017 at 11:31 am #

            Time moving forward!

          • Bridget Cairns August 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

            mostly rebelling against Nationalists rebelling against discrimination, sectarianism, bigotry etc, many Unionists see absolutely nothing wrong with this state of affairs now or in the past.

          • Bridget Cairns August 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

            civil & religious rights, equality, fairness etc

  5. Stephen Kelly August 23, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    Anybody seen Tam.