Maybe we shouldn’t call them ‘conservatives’. Maybe if we called them ‘preservatives’, their political positioning would make more sense. It’s not a position I share, but I can see how some people would be focussed on preserving what they see as the good things in their society, and not allow change that might damage these precious things.
The problem is, you may focus on these things that are precious and in need of preserving, at the expense of other things which need changing.
In this morning’s Letters page in The Irish Times, there’s a man who declares that for some 35 years he has been driven by the desire for a united Ireland. But unfortunately it appears he wants to preserve his cake and simultaneously gorge on it.
“If the proposition being put to me involves my acquiescence in the dilution of the fundamental nature of the Irish state, or one that requires my country to be become more British, I will vote No.”
Change his flag? Change his anthem? Not a chance.
“Ireland is consistently rated as one of the best countries in the world to live in. It’s time we started to believe in ourselves”.
There, in two sentences, is the nub of the problem: this man apparently believes that Ireland consists of twenty-six counties. He’s very happy with the shape that these twenty-six counties are in. Despite his claim to be reunification-centred, he doesn’t give a damn about his fellow-countrymen and women living outside the twenty-six counties. And he will resist any moves to change that twenty-six county state. If unionists want to join it as is, fine. If not, that’s fine too.
This man’s letter alerts us all to a pressing problem: there are a considerable number of ‘proud’ Irish people in the twenty-six counties who don’t believe that northerners, Unionist or nationalist, are really Irish. They’re troublesome, intrusive, and the people of the south shouldn’t give them an inch.
How he squares all that with his claim that his political life has been driven by a belief in Irish reunification is probably best left to a qualified psychiatrist.