Sunday, May 16, 2010

What if we woke up one day and the Union was secure?

The recent election results in Northern Ireland have generally been heralded as a *bad thing* for Unionism, not least by Unionists themselves. But in the couple of weeks since, we've seen no kind of resurgent United Ireland bandwagon rolling into action to take advantage of our apparent disadvantage and intriguingly enough, a second, much more nuanced narrative (promoted here by Liam Clarke and here by Anthony McIntyre) has started to compete for our attention. What if the electorate (and our opponents) have sussed out the truth before the DUP, UUP, TUV and us armchair pundits, the truth that...the Union is now as safe as it ever can or will be? Follow that logic through and the next obvious question they have asked themselves: is what then is the point now of the "Unionist" parties? Put like that, it's a difficult one to answer and rather than bothering about doing so, an increasing proportion of the electorate simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home on polling day

To deal with this outbreak of apathy I have my own opinion about what I'd like to see happening; the "what", unfortunately, is much easier to answer than the "how". Others disagree but what is very promising and something which is unprecedented for Northern Irish Unionism is that debate is taking place and taking place, for once, when the Union (or our place in it) is not under immediate or even medium-term threat.

Over the last couple of weeks, Open Unionism has hosted a lot of that debate and there has been almost daily an article on Unionism's future to get your brain-cells moving. Today is no exception with Arthur Aughey contributing an excellent piece extolling Unionists to stop the self-inflicted psychological retreat and start adopting a much more outward and positive look.

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