July 11, 2016

The political orphaning of moderate unionism

NI Life And Times 2015

The unionist people are far ahead of unionist politics. I've written here that for all the madness there is much normality in Northern Ireland - there are Two Worlds in Northern Ireland. Alex Kane wrote that "people in Northern Ireland are much more liberal, laid back and genuinely cosmopolitan than the main unionist parties realise." Newton Emerson wrote:
"The political orphaning of moderate unionism has been a particular source of wonder and despair. 
What party represents the vast majority of unionists — those who are not Orangemen, bandsmen, gunmen, Bible-bashers, flag-flyers, bonfire-builders or all the other overlapping little constituencies that unionist politicians never dare to disappoint? What party can represent the 400,000 “garden centre” Protestants who refuse to vote, or appeal to any Catholic “economic unionists” who might just accept a British province that treated them with respect? How has such a substantial need for representation not been met for almost a century?"

Newton Emerson also wrote on another occasion:
"Note also the use of Union flags to protest against a unionist-dominated council, with not a single Sinn Fein or SDLP member, where there had been no flag controversy up to that point. 
Businesses leaders expressed concern at the impact on the town’s image and Alliance mayor Tom Hill described the flags as “a chilling message of intimidation” but Bangor is 90 per cent Protestant, so who exactly was being intimidated? 
The target become clearer when more flags were erected in the seaside suburb of Helen’s Bay, much to the horror of well-heeled residents. What ICCP was doing was bursting North Down’s middle-class bubble. You would have needed a heart of stone not to laugh at the ensuing consternation. What most people could only condemn in irrelevant ‘inter-community’ terms was really an act of intra-unionist class war, although class passive-aggression would be a better description, with flags deployed outside nice houses and shops in much the way rubbish might be dumped in a garden to annoy a snooty neighbour."
Peter Shirlow and Mark McGovern wrote in ‘Who Are The People? - Unionism, Protestantism and Loyalism in Northern Ireland’ (1997):
"For many Protestants there has been a desire to distance themselves from events and actions, such as the Drumcree stand-off and the besiegement of Harryville Catholic church. Many people believe these actions are inappropriate and out-moded forms of political representation. Similarly, many Catholics find little or no pleasure in the boycotting of Protestant businesses or the re-mobilisation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Regrettably, such distancing tactics, which in many instances are attained through a process of apoliticisation, are more commonplace than a forceful condemnation of community representatives and politicians who thrive upon sectarian asperity."
John O'Dowd said on Sunday Politics, May 8 2016:
"There has been a shift and change I think across the electorate. Across upper bann i canvassed many areas where there would be a unionist voice and a unionist vote, and I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the reception I received on the doors. Often in the past you would have been chased or people would have taken great exception to you calling at their door. People were willing to, the unionist electorate were willing to engage with me on the doorstep. Now they were putting across their pony of view across as unionists, but it was been done in a way that was amicable, we were able to share ideas with each other, we were able to challenge each other, and I don’t think this fear of Sinn Fein that the DUP are promoting will work for them in the future… 
I don’t think Gregory Campbell represents the the majority within the DUP. I think the man is a lose cannon within the DUP. I believe, and it is my experience over the last 5 years and the last number of weeks, the unionist community want to work with republicans, and republicans want to work with unionists."
Alex Kane wrote:
"Increasing numbers of people do not trust the present unionist parties to champion the sort of unionism that matters to them… while they will be prepared to vote yes in any border poll which asks them if they wish to remain in the United Kingdom, they will not be prepared to vote for any of the unionist parties offering their wares at council, Assembly and general elections."
David McKittrick wrote in 2006:
"Each year, tens of thousands of people, Protestant as well as Catholic, flock across the border or go abroad to avoid 12 July."
He also wrote on another occasion:
"Next will come the lead-up to the Twelfth, when much of the middle classes fly out to the holiday sun while a small but raucous section of the working classes takes to the streets. On past experience real politics is unlikely to make a re-appearance before September."


CATHOLIC UNIONISTS


Malachi O'Doherty wrote:
"A cornerstone of the Union is its acceptance by the Catholic middle classes who call themselves ‘nationalists’. The jeopardy to the peace process after brexit lies in the prospect of them changing their minds."
Gerry Moriarty wrote:
"Many nationalists have been content to remain in the UK because of the economic security it brings, because of the British National Health Service, because of the strength of sterling, because of the welfare system, the educational system and so on. 
The majority of middle-class Catholics are especially happy with these arrangements. Their confident sense of themselves is bolstered by the Belfast Agreement which allows them to express their Irish identity within the current constitutional position. 
But if the exit from the EU does create serious economic instability – and it is an if – then satisfaction with the UK could change, particularly if British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s prediction that it would prompt a “profound economic shock” comes true."
I previously looked at the avatar of the Garden Centre Protestant and its origins, as the coiner of the title Professor Greta Jones explained:
"It described a good natured elderly protestant who had interrrupted his work in his garden one sunny day to phone up ‘Talk Back’. This gentleman was intelligent. He certainly would not regard himself as other than a person who took an interest in politics and he had no ambitions to do other than as Voltaire said 'cultivate his garden.’ His contribution was eminently sensible; strong unionist who distinguished his politics from his religion and wanted no man to be excoriated, pushed about or generally discommoded. However he did believe in the union and its defence. 
This person was meant to represent the views of many largely a-political members of the Northern Ireland community. 
He ended his contribution by saying 'I’ve got to get back to my wee flowers now’. He was obviously picking up the programme on a transistor in his garden and I surmised that a trip to the garden centre was probably next on his list of 'things to do’. 
When my husband [Professor Paul Bew] got home I told him about this useful, productive and non sectarian believer in the union and called him 'a garden centre prod.’ 
What this person was not - and since the word became current many have made him out to be so to my great irritation - was a wishy washy liberal, a member of Alliance party or the woman’s coalition. A 'plague on both your houses’ individual or any of the self appointed reconcilers or 'splitters down the middle’ whose contribution to the resolution of this problem are debatable; though there may have been points on which he agreed with these parties."
I considered here: Does a functioning Northern Ireland turns soft nationalists into soft unionists? And in that Newton Emerson wrote:
"As with integrated education, Sinn Féin sees mixed housing as a plot to ‘normalise’ Northern Ireland and therefore partition."
While Andy Pollak wrote:
"Northern Ireland's high-flying Catholics are not necessarily the ones old-fashioned Catholic nationalists would hope for and old-fashioned Protestant unionists would contemplate with dread and terror."
I wrote here that we're living in An Age of Perked-Up Unionism here.

John Hume wrote in his famous Irish Times letter from 1964:
"It must be said at once that the blame for the situation which prevails must lie principally at the door of the Unionist Government. But the present Nationalist political party must bear a share of it."    
For many Catholics the RUC were vicious foes, as Joe Brolly said:
"In 1993, the first ever religious breakdown of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was published. Of the 13,014 police officers, 6.9 per cent were Catholic. I remember consternation in our circles that so many Catholics were working for the enemy. In Dungiven, like other Catholic towns, the police weren’t served in the shops and no one spoke to them, save to call them black bastards or chant, ‘SS RUC’."
For some protestants,being Catholic meant you supported the IRA. Geoffrey Maxwell, a Protestant in his thirties (written 1994), wrote:
"If you are Protestant, you grow up believing that all Catholics support the I.R.A. and want you to come to harm."
The 2008 Report On Ireland's border communities, ‘Whatever you Say, Say Nothing’, found:
"The vote for Bobby sands in 1981 is an example of an issue - and a myriad of associated questions - which hangs between the two communities and continues to hamper efforts to build trust and cooperation... Another powerful and lingering issue for a number of people is the vote of their neighbours in 1981, which saw Bobby Sands - a convicted IRA activist and hunger striker - returned as MP and elected representative for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It was a substantial vote - 52%, against Harry West's 48%. Many protestants and unionists, both then and now, as a clear and unambiguous vote of support for the retention of the "armed struggle" and the purging of protestants from the land.  The collective "nailing of the colours to the mast" was stark and shocking, but made things very clear - whatever about our precious neighbourliness, whatever about our friendly and cooperative arrangements, all of this is now over."
I've also written about Catholic bigotry here.

I wrote here about being a Protestant and Bloody Sunday. Ulster protestant Jimmy Nesbitt who portrayed protestant nationalist and founder of the SDLP Ivan Cooper in the BBC production, ‘Bloody Sunday’ (2002), said:
"The school I went to taught a very different history from the Catholic grammar schools, for example. So my memories of it were non-existent in a sense. The problem with the Protestants and the British is that no one ever wanted to own Bloody Sunday, and it’s as much a British tragedy as an Irish tragedy. We’re trying to make sense of it."
And I wrote about Northern Ireland's apartheid education here. I wrote about Northern Ireland's dance here.

I also wrote about 'Being a Planter' here, and for protestants today the legacy of the plantation is best summed up by Hubert Butler who wrote in his 1954 essay, 'Portrait of a Minority':
"We protestants of the Irish Republic... a generation ago we were regarded dramatically as imperialistic blood-suckers, or, by our admirers, as the last champion of civilisation in an abandoned island... Our brothers in the north are still discussed in such colourful terms."
I wrote about how United Irishmen joined the establishment and became unionist.

Here I explained that IRA violence strengthened unionist resolve and hardened partition. I wrote here that violence more-or-less wiped out Protestant self-identification as Irish.

However I also wrote here that, Green or Orange the people of Ireland are all Paddies. I wrote here about Northern Ireland's vanity of small differences.

Nick Laird wrote about Protestant-Irish identity here. I wrote here about being a protestant atheist. I wrote about the stereotype of the northern protestant here.

Here I explain how unionists have great affinity for people and the culture in Britain, archipelagic peoples as I call the phenomenon.

Here I look at how the north and south have inverted, and the south is no longer backward compared to the north, but in fact is probably more progressive. I wrote here about the protestantisation of southern Ireland. I wrote here about the catholicisation of Northern Ireland protestants here. I wrote here about two northern protestants, Andy Pollak and Alex Kane, who took opposing views on the prospect of a united Ireland.

I've written about the strength and permanency of unionist allegiance here in 'Dublin's Dentist's Wives' where Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote:
"Irish-Ireland wrote and talked as if it assumed that the battle [the Easter Rising of 1916] would be over once Dublin with its garrison of dentists’ wives had surrendered."
Michael Longley wrote about "Orange wank and Green wank" here.


Read the NI Life and Times Survey 2015 here.
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