Perhaps my last post was too subtle!
Here are three facts:
- flags, cultural identity and parades are not the main issues for anyone in Northern Ireland right now (and politicians should stop pretending they are);
- Unionists will solve nothing on those issues by talking only to each other (rather than others);
- things will get a lot worse for Unionists if they continue to make “demands” rather than seek compromise (as they are a minority).
A lot of people take objection to these facts. That does not make them cease to be facts!
To be clear, many Unionists still believe that violent, disruptive and illegal protests are a reasonable response to a democratic vote. If they continue down that route, things will only get a lot worse for them. Deals which were available to them will be taken off the table. Deals which become available will come at a much higher price. This can be the case, because Unionists are a minority.
To be clear also, I personally did tick “British” and “Protestant” in the census. If Unionists cannot appeal to ostensibly pro-Union people like me, and instead go around trying to dictate what is “acceptable” and such like, things will get a lot worse. I keep using that phrase, because it is what will happen if they continue on their current course.
For that reason, I declared the Unionist Forum “dangerous”. It hints that a better deal may be available to Unionists on flags and parades. It isn’t (unless you take flying the Union Flag on designated days everywhere in return for, say, Irish language road signs as a “better deal”). It suggests that Unionists can solve these problems just by talking to each other. They can’t (they lack the majority required to dictate such things). Worst of all, as was the point of the blog yesterday, there was not a single mention of the real issues facing inner-city “Loyalist” areas – lack of education opportunities, much poorer health outcomes, and so on.
Unionists have to grasp this: if they keep to a zero-sum game, things will get a lot worse for them (there’s that phrase again). Demographics, sympathies of the professional class and so on are increasingly against them.
Of course, the biggest fool in all of this is Mike Nesbitt. He has allowed the DUP’s divisions to go unchallenged; and then allowed the DUP to circle the “Unionist Forum” around itself. Far from sleepwalking into Unionist Unity, he is charging towards it eyes wide open – frankly, one man’s “cooperation” is another man’s “unity”.
There is another route for Unionists: a Shared Future. That other route focuses not on better outcomes for Unionists, but for Northern Ireland as a whole. That other route focuses on removing the fear from inner-city “Loyalist” communities by developing a recognition that many of their problems are shared and widening the pool of expertise available to solve them. That other route involves empowering inner-city communities (regardless of communal identity) to identify the real issues correctly and tackle them using ideas from across society.
Unionists must embrace a Shared Future to make Northern Ireland a better place. That way, things will get a lot better for Unionists – and for everyone else.