Jim Allister is one of the most interesting politicians in NEI. He’s certainly courageous – the fact that not only do nationalists and republicans disagree with just about every word he says, so too do the DUP, the UUP, Alliance, the Greens, People Before Profit and Aontu. He is your classic voice crying in the wilderness.
Some of what he cries makes sense. For example, his claim that an Ireland economically united may well lead to an Ireland politically united. Yes, yes, you still need to have that border referendum, nobody leaves the union with Britain until a majority north and south say so. But if an economic united Ireland were to prosper – as it almost certainly would – it would seriously weaken the case for political partition. With a strong economic foundation, the case for building a new Ireland would be obvious.
So Jim’s right on that one. Where he’s rather less right is when he claims that no unionist worth his/her salt should prop up a Sinn Féin First Minister. It’s not propping up, Jim, it’s working alongside. As equals. If Jim were logical on this, he’d have been denouncing Sinn Féin for propping up the DUP all these years – yet I don’t remember him making such a declaration. Not a whimper. So if it’s the Shinners in first place, they’re being propped up by the DUP; if it’s the DUP in first place, Jim goes rather quiet.
Although that’s not totally true: Jim has always thought Stormont, regardless of who was the biggest party, a sham. His call is always for voluntary coalition, not mandatory coalition. But has he ever wondered why that mandatory coalition notion was devised in the first place? Because unionism simply couldn’t stand the idea of shared power. And so they had to be compelled to share, and thus mandatory coalition. Of course voluntary coalition would be a more normal, maybe more democratic system; but Jim should keep in mind that it was unionism which created this mandatory coalition. They made the bed over fifty years, and now, like it or lump it, they must lie in it.
But if you want to get to the not-so-secret heart of Jim, all that’s needed is a look at the title of his party:Traditional Unionist Voice. The Voice that gerrymandered, the Voice that discriminated, the Voice that swaggered through every marching season, choosing which part of the Queen’s Highway they’d grace with their presence, the Voice that reminded the inferior minority that they should be grateful for crumbs from the unionist table.
In fact, maybe that’s what makes Jim Allister truly interesting. He really does want a return of that Old Time Ulster. But you may call for it until your throat is raw, Jim, but fings ain’t wot they used to be, and, I’m happy to add, they never will be again.
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