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Archive for May 26th, 2018

Unionism needs a bigger vision, a way of defining Northern Ireland that allows for the Irishness and Catholicism of a huge section of the population, as well as other diverse cultures here.
The state was established to preserve a Protestant/British majority which is disappearing.
Politicians used to speak of ‘the people of Ulster’ when they meant only the Protestant majority.
Unionists and proponents of the Orange culture have sneered at Catholicism and expressions of Irishness. The ‘curry my yoghurt’ jibe was a huge miscalculation – based on a confidence that Unionists could still get away with that shit.
At the time, I suggested it just be laughed off, that there was no need to take the bait, because Irishness was strong enough here not to need to even notice the prejudice against it.
Prejudice like that is Unionism’s own problem in a Northern Ireland which is no longer defined by not being Irish.
So how should Unionism evolve?
It’s core objective is to retain partition and membership of the UK. It can not do that by appealing only to the Protestant community.
And it has to do something or it will be perpetually vulnerable. A crisis like Brexit can trigger a border poll. That might not bring about a united Ireland in the next ten years, but it might. And the future prospects of unity will feel like a threat against the Union which will never go away.
Arlene and others say that in the event of a united Ireland they would leave. They would not stay on with neighbours, though those neighbours had stayed within the Union when they would have preferred a united Ireland.
That is a suicidal position to take, potentially a prompt to other unionists to flee before unity looms, accelerating the prospect of a united Ireland.
The only obvious comfort for Unionism is that, in the past, non unionists were content within the Union. But that was probably because they were materially better off. My own family moved from Donegal in the fifties to settle here for better housing, better healthcare, better welfare, better job prospects. But who knows where the material advantage will be in ten years?
So, if Unionism wants to preserve the Union it needs something better than a material argument that we are better off in the UK – because that might not prove to be the case.
It has to define Northern Ireland in terms that appeal to people it has previously discounted as not part of their community.
And those surely have to be secular and liberal. It has considered making a pact with the Catholic right, standing together against abortion and same sex marriage. That doesn’t look like a winner to me.
I personally think that the vision of a pro monarchy, Orange sympathising, Protestant and socially conservative Unionism has no hope of preserving the Union in the log term.

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