By all accounts Ireland’s newish British Unionist party, NI
1921, is in grave difficulties following a series of internal squabbles over policy direction and the dominance of the organisation by its only recognisable faces, former UUP politicians Basil McCrea and John McCallister. A liberal, centre-right party attempting to make room for itself in the same electoral space shared by the ideologically-similar Alliance Party many media observers predict death-by-ballot-box as Unionist politics in the north-east of the country increasingly falls under the influence of militant extremes like the Protestant Coalition. However the Twenty-oners at least have shown how one can outperform the frequently janus-faced Alliance Party when it comes to recognising that the British Unionist community lives on the island nation of Ireland, not Britain. From the Belfast Telegraph:
“Five of NI21’s total of 30 billboards for the European elections have been written in Irish as part of a campaign which will be the fledgling party’s first test at the polls.
Party leader Basil McCrea denied the decision to put their slogan ‘This is Fresh Politics’ in Irish could backfire.
“As far as I know we are probably the first pro-UK party to use the Irish language in our election campaign,” the Lagan Valley MLA said.
Ahead of the party’s expected launch later this week of more than 50 candidates for the 11 new councils, he said: “We are taking a stand as conviction politicians.
“We are an inclusive party. We believe Northern Ireland should be a place where everybody can celebrate their own culture.
“Although we believe that NI is better off remaining part of the United Kingdom we do not see why we should not be pluralist and diverse.”
The former Ulster Unionist, who resigned from the party along with South Down MLA John McCallister, said his party was not against the Irish Language Act which Sinn Fein is demanding at Stormont.”
Given that a senior Alliance Party candidate, Anna Lo, recently voiced her honest opinions on the anachronistic remnants of the British colony in Ireland can we be viewing the emergence of a Fíorpholaitíocht or Realpolitik movement amongst the Unionist minority? A reaction to the dominance of the “No to Democracy” fringe who have controlled the news headlines for the last year and more? Whatever the case one at least must be generous in recognising that the NI21 grouping is taking a step in the right direction (albeit a step surrounded by provisos).