Monday, May 31, 2010

Civic Unionism is for life...not just for after election defeats

Even An Phoblacht’s decided now to have its tuppenceworth on "Unionist Unity" this week. With an ending sentence of "The days of the Orange state are over and gone" you can probably have a pretty good stab at tone of the rest of the piece, but these couple of quotes first from Tom Elliott, then Basil McCrea and Laura Friel’s analysis still stood out:
"I am accepted as pretty right wing within the Ulster Unionist Party but if I was in the DUP I’d look like some sort of liberal. We are relatively comfortable with many issues that the DUP have difficulty with," said Elliot.

Any suggestions on what those "issues" may be because I'm as sure as hell stumped.
"I believe in standing on our own feet and reaching out to all members of the community," said McCrea.

In other words "no" to both the Conservatives and the DUP. But achieving that next step will be problematic to say the least, especially since apparently a majority of both the party’s leadership and rank and file saw no contradiction in preaching a new form of inclusive politics, whilst agreeing to a communal candidate in FST.
Rather than an alliance with the DUP, Elliot and McCrea hope to attract those who find the DUPs religious fundamentalism too much, perhaps even a few Catholics, by re-branding the UUP as a kind of "civic unionism".

OK, just a quick revisit of what "civic unionism" means; from Norman Porter’s seminal work on the subject "Rethinking Unionism":
It (Civic Unionism) does not start from the conviction that the ‘Union, the whole Union and nothing but the Union’ is what matters most; it does not regard the Union as a sufficient end in itself but as one amongst other ends. And if working with some hierarchy of ends is inevitable, which I think it is, then the ultimate end for civic unionism is not the Union per se but the quality of social and political life in Northern Ireland – a Northern Ireland that includes not just unionists but also nationalists and non-unionists of other descriptions. This is a shocking inversion of unionist priorities. And that is why civic unionism lies beyond the horizons of most unionists
Certainly most political Unionists and I’m afraid that includes not just the DUP, but also the UUP:
Put another way, in so far as it poses a unionist position at all - which it does – it must seem to jar with typical unionist sensibilities, for it comes perilously close to committing the most unpardonable of all sins: compromising the Union in the name of Unionism
Or compromising political Unionism and its political advocates in the name of the Union?

If that’s what Messrs McCrea and Elliott are seriously thinking about, then they’re not just anticipating a realignment of Unionism but to blow many of the principles they have held dear right out of the water. Is that seriously what’s being contemplated here or, once again, are they merely playing around with the semantics?


thedissenter said...

TH biggest issue lies in the quote from Porter, as surely the political structures as they are under GFA/StA/H are substantially less than quality, but unlikely to change. So where then, and what of civic unionism in this context? Not a negative, but a question to be considered.

O'Neill said...

So where then, and what of civic unionism in this context?

With the inbuilt sectarianism of the system, it's a very difficult question to answer. Perhaps civic unionism needs to building the foundations outside Stormont until that core weakness can be addressed?