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Appeasing The Orange Trumps Of British Unionism In Ireland Has Failed

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that there is a distinction to be drawn between unionists as an ethno-national minority in Ireland and unionists as a political caste, a body of men and women promoting an ethno-national and separatist ideology in the north-east of the country. Admittedly, the politics of the latter are shaped by the identity of the former, and both believe in a sense of continuity with their British colonial forebears (perceived or actual) coupled with an ongoing loyalty to Britain itself. However, a crucial part of that sense of Britishness is a rejection of any sense of Irishness, at least in terms of nationality or citizenship. Such things of course are never black and white, and there is much muddled greyness where conflicting and complimentary notions of self and community overlap.

Over a century ago a majority of unionists on this island regarded themselves as both Irish and British, content that their country was an annexed – if turbulent – territory within the so-called “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland“. The notable exception was the concentrated pro-union population in the northern province of Ulster, some of whom chose to see themselves in regional terms only: Ulstermen first, British second and Irish hardly at all. These were people who still acted like settlers on a wild frontier, homesteaders carving out an enclave of civilisation while fending off the barbarous natives. They saw their little world in terms of colonists and their descendants, an incoming community divided by language, culture and religion from the aboriginals they had displaced or usurped. Even when, in reality, the lines of ancestry between old and new ran crooked and diverse.

Controversial, hardline DUP leader, Arlene Foster, and her equally controversial predecessor, Peter Robinson
Controversial, hardline DUP leader, Arlene Foster, and her equally controversial predecessor, Peter Robinson

Antipathy to Ireland’s indigenous ethnicity, or any manifestations of it, has been built into political unionism since the 18th century. No matter the complexities and plurality of that ethnicity, unionist leaders have largely insisted on its rejection. Despite a few notable exceptions, very little has changed over the last two or three hundred years. So much so that even the politics of Irish nationalism displays an ambiguous relationship with the native language it supposedly represents. The legacy of eight centuries of colonial racism – where Irish was an identifier of the Gaelic other, of the figurative slave within and the actual enemy without – pervades pro-union politics in the Six Counties.

From the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) on the far right to the Alliance Party (APNI) on the centre-right, encompassing the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in between, mainstream ideological unionism is incapable of moving beyond a settlerist mindset. It is still waging a Wild West struggle, playing at Cowboys and Indians, opposing the native language and culture of “West Britain” at every turn. This report from the news and current affairs website, the Detail, illustrates that fact:

“New questions are being raised over the actions of DUP ministers towards the Irish language while in government.

Documents have emerged showing the extent to which Arlene Foster and her special adviser intervened in a policy row over Irish language tourism signs.

It has also emerged that the outgoing DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan did not carry out a key government equality test before ordering a controversial cut to the Líofa Irish language scheme in December.

[Foster and her former ministerial adviser Andrew Crawford] …are shown to have intervened in requests for Irish language tourism signs from two local councils while Mrs Foster was at the helm of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), advising the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) to refuse to fund the signs and adhere instead to its policy on using English.

The information on both issues was secured by civil liberties group, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and comes as equality issues are central to the political crisis that has forced the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.”

Mainstream political unionism at its most extreme and militant is irredeemably hibernophobic and sectarian. Its bigotry cannot be assuaged any more than one can assuage the ideological obsessions of the far right or alt-right in Europe and North America. The politics of the former are as poisonous and divisive as the politics of the latter. Yet the appeasement of ultra-unionism has been a doctrinal policy pursued by successive Irish governments and by the country’s political class as a whole for the last century. Instead of modifying or ameliorating the problem, repeated concessions have made things worse. It has given rise to a generation of pro-union Trumps in the electoral politics of the Six Counties, personified by the DUP leader and now defunct first minister, Arlene Foster.

We simply cannot reason with those who seek to wind back the clock to some fabled imperial golden age, a quiescent era when the supposedly homogeneous “Ulster-British” were masters of the fertile lowlands and industrial towns, while the resentful Irish natives knew their place in the barren highlands and sodden bogs. If we reject the anachronistic vision that Trump and company has conjured up for the United States of America, then let us be consistent and do the same at home, here in Ireland, with our very own Orange Trumps.

In the run-up to the March 2nd election for the cross-community assembly at Stormont let us demand equality not appeasement!

23 comments on “Appeasing The Orange Trumps Of British Unionism In Ireland Has Failed

  1. Graham Ennis

    Sadness, anger, despair, and much else, at what is happening, but also a clear headed, sharp and focused view on what now has to be done, I think, are the watchwords now. Twenty years of appeasement of those that are unappeasable, uncontrollable, and nearly unbearable, are now over. Every reasonable effort has been made to make an enduring peace, a peaceful coexistence in the North, between the two communities, since the peace agreement. Sadly, it has been only partly successful. A minority of the Unionist community have accepted the need for a peace process, and reconciliation, whilst the majority, in various degrees, have expressed resentment, anger, and barely concealed hostility to the last 20 years. This element have systematically blocked any compromise, and are possessed of a total “White settler” attitude towards the indigenous Irish, which resembles that of the old Rhodesian National front. They are implacable, immovable, and full of resentment at their lost power and hegemony. We are not back where we were, in the 1960’s, when they did have such hegemony and power, and the result of which was NICRA, and its violent crushing. We are instead, in an intermediate State, and I mean “State” literally, with some political autonomy, some social and political progress, a general peace, and some social development. But all this has now come up against the red-lines of the Unionists, who have made, as they see it, “Concessions”, (For concessions, read “Basic human rights and civil liberties, and basic non-discrimination, which are considered normal in most of the rest of the West). Now we are at the limits of what can be done in the present situation. The existing Northern Ireland statelet has run its course. It can go no further. Red-neck politics, racism, and stupidity, and much else, have done it in. It has fallen. It is now in a terminal state, on the life support machine, and unlikely to revive in its present form. Better to switch the machine off. The North cannot subsist in a vegetative state. If it was a dog, the vet would put it down with a lethal injection.
    So what is to be done?….interestingly, the Nationalist community (also now the majority community) is in a far stronger position than at the end of the 37 year war and the peace agreement. The World has moved on, and there is no going back now to the orange fascist statelet. That would be impossible. So the alternative might be:

    Firstly: Total boycott of the statelet, as a part of the UK, and abstention from elected seats, refusal of cooperation in any form with the existing Bantustan statelet in the North, politically, civilly, etc… obstructionism and resistance by those local authorities in non-unionist hands, and general refusal to take any part of the public life. The PSNI are a delicate matter, but I think the minority should withdraw support from it…totally. No cooperation with the UK imposed statelet. But in the meanwhile, the UK is going to have to assume direct rule, and attempt Government. That also should be utterly boycotted. In other words, intransigence must be met with intransigence. Also, it should be made clear that the Peace agreement is now in deep freeze, The result is one of “No Justice, no peace” and also “No War, no peace”. Then wait. and wait, and wait….because of BREXIT. The impact of BREXIT is going to be decisive. The EU are not going to allow an open border with the South, and that is not even under the control of the Government of the Republic. Consequences that flow from that are inevitable. It means economic collapse in the North, political and economic isolation, and social polarisation. The situation for the UK Government will then be hopeless. This will mean the Nationalist (Majority) community in the North enduring some considerable hardship and suffering, but they are going to have that imposed on them anyway, by BREXIT. So this strategy is simply going to be imposed on what is coming, and over which no control can be exercised by either North nor South. Eventually, the situation will force reality on the UK government, and they will accept reunification. This strategy is going to take 10 years, but it will work. It means absolute freezing of the peace agreement, zero-cooperation with the UK and the Unionist community, and strong discipline and endurance. It is also the only alternative strategy to the breakdown of the peace, and resumption of the war, which would be a madness. Such a war cannot be won. But a heavy price must now be imposed on the Unionists for their attempts to gerrymander the peace process, and regain their lost hegemony. This is the price. It is a cold peace, which is better than a cold war, but verges on it. The UK Government, who are utterly without basic decency or principles, will ignore Ireland on every opportunity that it can. Now they will have to pay attention. Also, politics must not stop. NICRA, in modified form, has to come back….after 900 years, all it will take, is another 10. The Irish people, having endured a millennium of war, oppression, and genocide, can certainly withstand a decade of cold peace, and no justice, no peace….until the end arrives. Then Freedom comes……freedom comes……..

    • Lord Shire

      Having finally managed to plough through that – paragraphs please – I don’t find what you’ve written to be very realistic.

      • Graham Ennis

        Lord Shire, I don’t find your comment realistic either. The peace process is now dead. We have to do something else, whilst preventing the restart of the war. So what are your ideas then, for solving this situation? Do tell!

  2. TurboFurbo

    Excellent piece Graham.
    The Nationalist population is in a far stronger place now than in 1968.
    “Downing tools” is an option but perhaps not the first option. Full implementation of the totality of equality in everything as per the GFA right across the board IN ADVANCE of any resumption of a power-sharing Administration would be a first step.

    • Graham Ennis

      Dear TurboFurbo….many thanks for your sharp observation. It significantly improves the strategy.
      It makes the move to boycott much stronger, as a threat, and it would split the Unionist community even more.
      A “Peace Ultimatum” must be given to the Unionist Community, as per your idea of no participation in Stormont unles there is a new agreement…and solomn undertaking, which has teeth in the form of an Anglo-Irish agreement “Junta” using the agreement powers, and the irish government presence in the North…to adjudicate disputes. ..(which the Unionists would never agree to). That way, the proposal has real teeth, also a carrot, not just a big stick. My proposal is strengthened by it. It does show that in spite of everything, We did all we could. The blame then lies with the Loyalist community. Totally. I am heartened by your comments, as my proposal is a starting gun, but not the full bang!!. I want a debate on here, that takes this forwards. I am going to wait on a few more comments, then send a transcript to Martin McGuiness, for his opinion, and also to SF leadership in the North. If nothing is done, then violence is probably unavoidable, at some point in the future, and after the suffering of the last war, I would not wish that on anybody, of both communities. I cannot see any other alternative, except this one, that exacts a severe price on the intransigence of the Loyalists, but unites the Nationalist community, and avoids a breakdown of the peace agreement in totality. At trrhe point where BREXIT is actually close, say 6 months, then further political actions can be taken, built on what has been done by this strategy. Lastly, I would put a severe time limit on the Stormont election outcome. Give them a month to come to their senses, then if no agreement and undertakings, and a joint Irish/British referee from the Anglo Irish agreement, then thats it. The “Great Strike” commences. Comments please.

  3. TurboFurbo

    No “solemn undertakings” or other flowery terminology.
    From memory, Churchill pledged a “solemn undertaking” to withdraw from the North allowing for Re-Unification during WW2 if Ireland would join WW2. Hopeless posturing.
    Advance payment – not worthless IOU’s – is the only way to go.
    Full implementation of the GFA – period.

  4. the Phoenix

    I fail to see any similarity between the secular,centrist,isolationist,forward looking economic nationalism of Trump and the sectarian,monarchist,imperialist,right wing atavism of unionism but carry on Seamy.

  5. An_Madra_Mór

    @Graham Ennis, Unionists would never agree to your plan. You say so yourself.

    • Graham Ennis

      Well, I agree. Thats why I advocate withdrawal from the peace process, boycott of the institutions, zero cooperation with the direct rule regime that will then be bought in, and isolation of the Unionist leadership. No justice, no peace. No doing anything to make the administration of the North by the London Government possible., Total non-violent resistance to their rule, and anything else we can think of, while BREXIT works its evil force on the North. I think it will take about five years. We must present the Unionist community with a blunt choice. Having deliberately and systematically sabotaged the peace process for the last 20 years, they no longer have a right to do so. Boycott will bring that particular Unionist scam down in ruins. It will force them to face harsh reality, which is that outside the English Tory party, they have absolutely no friends, anywhere else on the Planet. They can now choose one of two choices: Either agree to reunification, or stay in a state of political social and economic siege for the next 20 years. Choose one. I really don’t care anymore. They now deserve what they get.

      • You’re forgetting a few South Africans, bible bashers in the american south but apart from that yeah they’re isn’t any other friends of unionism on the planet.

  6. @the Phoenix

    Trump a centrist? Whaaaaaaat? Are you crazy? He’s easily the most right-wing president my country has ever had. Easily. He’s rabidly anti-immigration, pro-gun, connected to actual Nazis such as Stephen Bannon and Richard Spencer, a peddler of falsehoods, a corporate plutocrat…need I go on? And “secular?” Are you still crazy? He just yesterday imposed a religious test on refugees – which actually goes against the spirit of our constitution.

    He is an economic nationalist, yes, but if you actually paid as much attention to American affairs as your fountain of babble seems to indicate, you would know that Bernie Sanders also inspired opposition to free trade on the progressive side. Being an economic nationalist doesn’t say a thing about whether you’re right-wing or not.

    Plus, the whole idea of Trump being special because of his wealth – which was one of the big themes behind the Trump brand from the start – strikes me as very similar to monarchism.

    Personally, I see Trump’s right-wing, racist, Nazi movement as verysimilar to British Unionism in Ireland.

    Stick to Irish politics, Phoenix. I worry that knowing things about goings-on in other countries might be beyond you.

    • TurboFurbo

      An Scríbhneoir Gael-Mheiriceánach :

      Very good post – GRMA.

      “Stick to Irish politics, Phoenix.”
      – An Scríbhneoir Gael-Mheiriceánach :
      That is exceptionally cruel of you to inflict him on Irish politics – why not ask him to stick to Marshall Islands politics instead ? 🙂

    • the Phoenix

      An extreme right winger? Trump? A man until 2015 most Americans presumed was a democrat and most republicans see as too liberal. Anti immigration? His wife and mother are immigrants. He is restoring sanity to a broken US immigration system. Too bad Europe doesn’t have a Trump. We would’ve been spared the Bataclan,Brussels and Berlin attacks carried out by muslim refugees. Care to provide proof Stephen Bannon is a nazi? Yes Trump is secular. In fact I believe he is atheist. He is banning people from theocratic shitholes where people follow a fascist death cult.

      • I would take the allegations that refugees carried out these European false flag attacks with hefty doses of salt. ‘Fakenews’ works both ways. These attacks had the welcome effect for most European leaders(that includes the so called liberals) of blocking refugees from entering Europe. These attacks allowed European leaders to appear to care in public but behind the scenes delighted they didn’t have to cater for refugees they created. ISIS gave them the get out card and the European public bought it hook, line and sinker.

        Christians/non faith Europeans are a bigger threat to the Muslim people’s way of life rather than the other way around.

        • the Phoenix

          Total nonsense. I guess thats why European authorities continually cover up muslim attacks and double down on muslim immigration.
          I don’t see christians forcing their beliefs on muslims but i sure see the opposite.

    • ThisTrump thing is getting tiresome but just for clarity would all have been right with the world if Clinton had taken the White House? Answer that and we will see what you truly know about US politics.

  7. You might need a longer time frame, to incorporate a resolution to the Scottish Independence movement, the implications of which at this time are impossible to quantify, except to say that a Westminster without Scotland’s huge revenues, will be a very, very different master to NI.

    Brexit will inevitably bring instability – it’s already here – to these islands for some considerable time to come. It is difficult, in such a scenario, to imagine a ‘settled will’ anywhere in the archipelago any time soon.

  8. Where is my comment?

  9. The hyperbole about events in the North is getting out of hand now. Nothing is wrong with the peace process that wasn’t expected. Nothing is wrong with the institutions that standard politics won’t solve. It might be cliched but thing just aren’t too bad. Things are an awful lot better than they were and it looks like that trend is set to continue. What’s the point in poking sleeping dogs at this stage, is it just boredom? Because acting too fast, getting impatient when the end is in sight, is the mark of a child.
    Ok, change isn’t happening too fast, but how could it – the status quo prevailed for almost 400 years. Give it time, let the ideas seep in and good things will come.

  10. Enda and Co want to be loved by the Brits and Americans they need the pat on the head. We have had no real leaders in Ireland for the past many decades, who have the balls to tell the Brits their time in Ireland is finished.

  11. Seán MacBhloscaidh

    I’m pretty sure I got this quote from AFRICA by Richard Dowden. The author worked in Africa for many years, and in the section about South Africa describes a conversation with an Afrikaaner:

    “The only difference between the USA and South Africa is that the Americans killed all of their Indians.”

    In my opinion, the situation is completely analogous in the North.

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