Friday, February 27, 2009

What Unionism needs ?

From "A Long Peace? The future of Unionism in Northern Ireland":
There must be space for enterprise, an audience for new voices, room for fresh ideas. Unionism would do well to cultivate a certain restlessness; to allow the questioning of hallowed principles; to let mavericks have their head; to encourage experimentation on a small scale to see what will work on the large. Ultimately,this is a battle for people and not for land. 1066 and All That tells us that the English Civil War was ‘an extremely memorable struggle between the Cavaliers(Wrong but Romantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).’

In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer,bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed. In a ‘long peace’, after all, people must want the Union for it to survive.

OK, I'm going to throw two thoughts related to this up here for discussion; one connected to the future of Unionism within the United Kingdom as a whole, the other specific to Northern Ireland.

The "battle for people" within the United Kingdom context requires a step back from the present obsession by the government to homogenise British "values" and "standards". "Britishness" must be considered more as an umbrella under which all the different peoples, faiths, cultures, interpretations of our joint history are sheltered, rather than a singular one-size-fits-all definition to which we all must conform.

Similarly, in a Northern Irish context, we cannot talk about a "Unionist Community". All we have in reality is people who have in the past voted for and in the present vote for pro-Union parties. The future of the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom is dependent not on the self confidence, consolidation or defence of that mythical "Community", but on ensuring that the total number of people voting for that Union, for whatever reason, is maximised. To do that, the metaphorical piece of blank paper must be produced and the case for the Union has to be made each time from scratch with no reference to "tradition", "culture" or "history".

Any thoughts?


Name: David Cather said...

Agree with the first comment wholeheartedly.

With regards to the second; of course the case for the Union must be made afresh in each generation, but there must also be a root in a shared history, tradition and community.

O'Neill said...

but there must also be a root in a shared history, tradition and community.

At the minute, (if *official* Unionism is to be believed)
the problem in NI is that's all there is. A point I made to Turgon night on Slugger is that by restricting ourselves to those battlegrounds we're playing right into the hands of SF. History, tradition and community is, by definition, subjective and whether we (or Irish nationalism)like it or not, will not provide the ultimate winning argument. Irish Nationalism is remarkably reluctant to move the argument onto economic and social grounds- that's where we should be moving the debate.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to shed some light on this issue myself ( ). To me, there are three benefits to be drawn from the Union; political, economic and social. If we base Unionism on culture, we narrow the electoral base for it. By default, we will have fed nationalist parties the voters who don't care about the constitutional issue because they will view Unionism as exclusive.