“Unionist Unity” now certain

Unionists, as ever, instantly misdiagnosed the cause of their calamity last Thursday, suggesting it was due to Unionists “not coming out”.

Actually, more people voted Unionist first preference than in any election since the first Assembly Election in 1998. What happened was not that Unionists did not come out, but that non-Unionists did.

Only ten months ago, non-Unionists saw no real issue with the constitutional status quo. It was possible to live in Northern Ireland with the benefit of the UK subvention and UK-standard public services while, if you so choose, living an all-island life (trading freely across the border, accessing Dublin Airport, playing GAA or whatever). From June to December, all that changed. Suddenly, the all-island life came under threat – it may no longer be straightforward to trade or travel freely across the island; your identity was openly abused by DUP Ministers; and on top of that DUP Leaders were blatantly taking money from your public services (at best through incredible incompetence).

The DUP was primarily responsible but it had been backed to nearly every intent and purpose by other Unionists. They had been involved in pacts not just to unseat abstentionist MPs but also perfectly capable and hard-working ones such as Naomi Long; Mike Nesbitt’s sudden attempt at moderation on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to Europe was rejected by most of his colleagues and most of his voters; and Unionism as a whole suddenly looked not just unattractive but outright dangerous. The UK itself, with its obsession with Trump-like figures such as Nigel Farage, also became much less attractive.

Therefore, on Thursday, the voters decided to remind Unionism that it is a minority.

Still, Unionists are in denial about that. At the last census, fully six years ago, the number of people ticking “British” was 48% and the number of people ticking “Protestant background” was 48% – noting that Alliance voters like me were among that number! Thus “Unionism” was a minority interest even back then, shielded from this reality at elections only by the low Nationalist turnout.

Going by census trends, it is now almost certain than there are more people of Catholic background than Protestant background in Northern Ireland. If the Union were such a brilliant idea, this would not be a problem for Unionists; but Unionism presents itself consistently as a Protestant and socially conservative front. There is zero chance, with the DUP to the fore, that that will change. It is therefore a minority and declining interest.

The inevitable response to this will be to deny it is true, but also to recognise at some level that it is. It is the heritage of Unionists that the response will, more than ever, be appeals towards “unity”, even though this unity will not appeal to any more than 45% of the population (and, given its likely social stances, probably rather less).

Unionist Unity is now a matter of when, not if. Yet it is not Unionists who will decide Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.


4 thoughts on ““Unionist Unity” now certain

  1. Seymour Major says:

    I totally agree with this analysis. Protestant Unionism is right at the heart the idiopathic political paradox which has been opened up by Brexit. On the one hand, the PUs wanted to support Brexit because they thought it would create more distance from the Republic of Ireland. On the other hand, their arrogance, borne out of a history of successfully defeating nationalism, led them to persuade themselves that closet unionists from the Catholic community supported their model of how the union survives. I recall Peter Robinson’s triumphalism a few years ago when the NI Life and Times survey indicated that a majority of Catholics supported the Union.

    There is a lack of political intelligence within [protestant] unionism which defies belief. A combination of Brexit and the unwillingness of these unionists to re-position themselves away from sectarianism during the most recent years has now drawn the United Ireland genie back out of the bottle.

    Make no mistake, once the border becomes visible (the UK has to protect itself against smuggling), a vote for a united Ireland based on demographic trends towards a catholic communal majority is now a very distinct possibility.

    • Paul says:

      There are plenty of sdlp voters I know who do not support a UI majority of alliance voters don’t either and even SOME AD voters don’t either so majors points about shift in changes is utter none sense

  2. 416 says:

    I don’t call myself a nationalist, but I definitely don’t identify with unionism one iota.

    For once, I am somewhat optimistic about our direction, but still feel it’s fragile. If the nationalist majority in Stormont bring down devolution I’ll be pretty miffed.

    • Paul says:

      People as getting far too head of themselves predicting about unionism I suggest you wait and see I think there will be a period of reflection some of the stuff I have heard and seen alliance liberals and n I Tories is utter none sense

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