The newspaper columnist Alex Kane, a former leading light of the Ulster Unionist Party until his surprise resignation, is widely regarded as the liberal voice of the British Unionist minority in Ireland, a much quoted source for those examining contemporary political events in the north-east of the country. So it may come as a surprise to many of his supporters and admirers that not even this doyen of Unionist intellectualism can identify what exactly “a Unionist” is – beyond not being of the island nation of Ireland. From the Belfast Telegraph:
“Personally, I never use ‘Ulster’ to describe myself, even though I belonged to the Ulster Unionist Party for 30 years. I have no sense of being Irish, even though I come from Northern Ireland. I have no problem with people choosing to learn either Irish or Ulster-Scots, but I do oppose the idea of either Irish or Ulster-Scots language acts. I describe myself as a ‘pan-UK unionist’ because my sense of unionism has always been much broader than local, parish-pump unionism. Yet I also have difficulty describing myself as British, because I feel no particular sense of kin with the English, Scots or Welsh.”
Which leaves one to conclude that for some people the only genuine definition of being a Unionist is not being “Irish” and that all else is secondary to that base rejection of geographical and territorial reality. It would seem that most political leaders of the Unionist community, even the most thoughtful, are simply living in a fevered dream of self-deception unable to face the real world around them. It is French Algeria in the 1950s transplanted to north-western Europe, apartheid-era South Africa under grey clouds.
However there are others who while agreeing with the “anything but Irish” definition also have a more fundamentalist “Protestant” ideology to sustain them. Again from the BT:
“Unionist leaders were afraid of cutting a deal during the Haass talks unless they had the approval of hardline loyalists, it has been claimed.
Flag protester Jamie Bryson claimed the conclusion of the talks in failure represented a victory for loyalism.
He even claimed to have been shown negotiation documents in order to get his opinion during the talks as the DUP and UUP sought to ensure loyalist approval.
“The derailing, for the time being, of the Haass process is a victory for those of us within the Protestant community…”
Unionist negotiators did not deny that Mr Bryson had been shown documents.
DUP negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson said he was not aware of it, but confirmed that Mr Frazer and others were kept informed.
Ulster Unionist negotiator Tom Elliott said he had no knowledge of Mr Bryson being shown the documents. “I am not saying it wasn’t happening, but not that I am aware of,” he said.”
And of course keeping the “hardliners” in the negotiations’ loop means that the main Unionist political parties were also keeping the main British terrorist factions informed of what was happening at the Haass talks too. How’s that for an axis of terror?