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The Inevitable Unionist And Alt-Unionist Failure

On the issue of the United Kingdom’s poisonous legacy colony in Ireland it’s rare to find a bit of non-apologist opinion in the pages of the right-wing Irish and Sunday Independent newspapers, but every now and again an article challenging the in-house consensus slips through. Joe Brolly offers some unusually realistic thoughts on the future of the UK-administered Six Counties and the running sore that is partition.

“Northern Ireland is a dysfunctional entity, a pretence.

The consensus that existed around the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has disappeared.

Unionism, in particular the now all-powerful DUP, has systematically squandered that opportunity. They have had almost 20 years to sell the idea of a fair, pluralist, respectful Northern Ireland. Twenty years to make us comfortable with the new state, to create a proper partnership, basically to do what they had signed up to do both in the Good Friday Agreement and later with the St Andrews Agreement.

At that point, nationalism, particularly middle-class nationalism, was open to the idea of a modern, pluralist Northern Ireland. Instead, they destroyed that consensus. Peter Robinson did his best to modernise their thinking and behaviour, and could clearly see what was going to happen if they didn’t.

…in the end he was overwhelmed by the bigots.

Since Peter’s resignation, the party, under the hard-line Arlene Foster, has gone back to being comfortable in its own skin, an old-style triumphalist, sneering, bible-thumping party of creationists, where the Irish language is something to make fun of, homosexuality is an abomination inviting the curse of God, gay blood is poisoned and cannot be donated, and the Catholics can wait in line.

Instead of them recognising, even tactically, that they should accommodate nationalists, they have chosen short-term electoral gain and gone right back to the old-style unionism that brought about the civil rights movement in the first place.

…the DUP, instead of showing a little leadership, have relentlessly mocked and sneered and vividly demonstrated to the wider Catholic population that doing business with them is an embarrassing waste of time.

Most of these nut jobs are fervent believers in creationism…

The result of all of this insanity is that a United Ireland is now inevitable. Within a decade, Catholics will be in the majority in the North and the statutory mechanism will be activated. But in the meantime, we will be in limbo. Maybe direct rule, maybe a pretence of a government at Stormont.”

Which leaves the post-colonial generation of alt-unionists in the Irish press, who spent most of their adult lives defending the division of our island nation, in full retreat, as the waves lap around their ankles, driven from land, to beach, to sea.


16 comments on “The Inevitable Unionist And Alt-Unionist Failure

  1. According to the article you linked to, simply on the basis of demographics and existing agreements, a united Ireland will be inevitable within around ten years. If so, the DUP and Unionism in general has no future, or at least a very limited future. So like the band on the Titanic, they might as well keep on playing the same old tunes in the time that remains to them, seeing as they’re doomed anyway and well know it?


    • Or do a deal in the here and now that will serve the needs of their community and cause, however compromised? I suspect the unionist end-plan is to “wreck the place”, as it was phrased during the organised protests by the UUP and DUP against the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the 1980s, when a future vote on reunification looks likely. Delayed reunification, joint-rule or Partition Mark II is the most likely outcome from a unionist defeat in any referendum.


      • Graham Ennis

        Re: Repartition.
        I think it may come to that, The population census will show that west of the River Bann, and Loch Earn, Unionists are a minority of the population. East of the Bann river, they are a majority, in absolute numbers, but very thinly spread, in terms of some Council districts, where they are a minority. If you consider partition of the North on strictly majority terms, its Belfast, and some surrounding areas. Even in Belfast, there are large Nationalist communities, as the peace walls proved. They would be left stranded, behind a UK border. if Belfast went. But that would have to be done. About 500,000 Nationalists, plus substantial territory, would revert to the South. Perhaps 300,000 would be left behind. However, it would, and could, be seen as the next stage of events, and of history. But it would avoid a renewed war, and the UK government would be left with an unviable, un-workable statelet, that was costing them about 8 Billion pounds a year, to run. A hard BREXIT border would do the rest of the work, in isolating the remnant statelet. The rest can be left to time, and in the meantime, the statelet can be further isolated, by rigorous enforcement of BREXIT. Due to BREXIT, the Anglo-Irish agreement can be effectively leveraged into a settlement like the above, in exchange for Ireland not blocking in the EU the terms on which the UK leaves. All of this sounds awful, but it is doable, and its a “60%” solution. Time will do the rest. After 900 years of oppression, another 20 to 30 years is endurable, if it avoids a war. All of this of course, assumes an Actual Dublin government that is not prepared to grovel to the London Government. The present bunch of carpetbaggers do not. Comments?


        • You’re forgetting that Northern Ireland’s water supply comes from Lough Erne hence why Fermanagh Unionists are very hard line, but if the london government had to build desalination plants for the rump statelet well that’s their problem not ours.


          • Graham Ennis

            agreed. The remnant North would turn into a sort of British “Gaza-strip”. My own comments may seem very harsh, but the nationalist community in the North tried very hard to deal fairly with the Bigots, racists, and crazies of the Unionist community, and make the peace agreement work. They got treated appallingly, and therefore morally and ethically, they are in the same position as the Palestinians. In those circumstances, Irish people can have no qualms at seeking the best outcome they can get for the nationalist community. We are dealing with a nasty Fascist rump of former “White Settlers” who will never change. If a hard line has to be taken, and enforced re partition forced on the UK government, (this can be done by political and economic means) then it should be done. The broken, weakened statelet that remains can then be dealt with at a later date. Any attempt to take a “Reasonable” line in the past has been met by the Unionist bigots as some sort of Zero-sum game, that must be won at all costs. The nationalist community finally came to its senses, and withdrew from the Assembly, after appalling provocations and humiliations from the other side. So i see no other way out now, but taking a hard line and turning the screws on the Unionists until they are forced to face reality. Also, there is a serious other issue, that re-partition solves. If the entire Northern occupied zone was absorbed in one gulp by the South, the social, economic and political costs would be severe. It would result in the Unionists hurridly renaming themselves as the “Ulster Party”, or some such, and systematically wrecking any Dail they took part in, making alliances with FG, and generally being a major problem who had no interest in operating in a democratic parliament. This way they are excluded and left to fester. The re-partition would also lead to about 500,000 Irish being given, for the first time since 1922, their rights back to participate in a legitimate democratic State. it is horrible to say this, but the only thing that is going to deal with the situation, is repartition, and turning the Unionist statelet into something like the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The London Government would eventually get fed up with picking up the huge bills. We have to play the long game here. We have to minimise the impacts on the south, economically, and politically, and maximise the political and economic costs to the London government. All this might seem very extreme, but a hard BREXIT now seems inevitable, The consequences of that, for the six million Irish citizens living on the UK mainland, are going to totally dwarf the question of the North. About half of the Irish community in the Uk do not have dual nationality, and are there on a legal basis of residency that stems from the original 1922 treaty and agreements and the 1949 agreements, on residency, common travel area, etc. if the UK Government decided to terminate the agreements, their situation would be precarious. In the circumstances, it is a worry that no one has yet discussed the situation of the Irish in Britain, and their status, after BREXIT. Remember, the Loonies have taken over the Asylum, inside the Conservative party. That party is still a fundamentally racist, xenophobic and reactionary entity.Undoubtedly, there would be large scale implementation of right wing policies, destruction of civil liberties and human rights in the UK, after BREXIT, plus a serious economic crisis. If I was an Irish resident in the UK after BREXIT, I would be very worried. This issue is just as important as the Northern Issue. The two also intertwine.Ominous. Very ominous.


  2. Graham Ennis

    Well, the wheels of history grind slowly, but they grind deeply. The clock is now ticking, for the Unionist Hegemonists, and their little Orange statelet. The real reality is that they have very few supporters amongst the general UK population, except for a small minority of Scots. To be blunt, the rest of the UK looks at them as a bunch of loony nutcase extremists. They are also astonished by their bigoted ignorance. If a vote was taken on the Uk mainland, on returning the North to the Republic, they would get dumped immediately. It is only a narrow clique of Tory politicians and right wing English Oligarchs that want to hang onto the North, as it is “Theirs”. Not to be surrendered. The rest of the English population could not care less. So the first thing is that the Unionists are very isolated. No one loves them, no one cares about them. They are considered an irritation and a nuisance by the rest of the UK.

    Given this ugly truth, They would have very little support, this time around, if there was a major confrontation, , or a political crisis involving the North. Also, the UK military forces would have absolutely no appetite for another war. neither would the English public.

    These are raw, harsh truths. So where does that leave us, with the clock ticking relentlessly away to BREXIT?. Actually, it leaves the nationalist community in a better position than they have ever been in. Since the 1998 agreement has led absolutely nowhere, and has been undermined, abused, and violated, repeatedly, by the Unionists, in the North, I think that morally, and ethically, the time has come for a concerted campaign to recover the North, and bring reunification. Eventually, after another 20 years, the nationalist majority will force a referendum. But we cannot wait another 20 years. That would be, factually, another 20 years of UK control, and Unionist bigotry, and economic stagnation and poverty. ,
    The issue is, I think, now one of tactics. I also think it can all be done politically, by using the BREXIT issue, a resurrected civil protest movement, and international pressure. What I am proposing here is a campaign of “Zero tolerance”. Zero tolerance means firstly simply not tolerating, or accepting, the legitimacy of the Northern enclave. De-legitimisation is the key tactic. Also, boycott, of all the main Unionist statelet institutions, politicians, and processes. etc. es. Withdrawal of any acceptance of legitimacy would be quite powerful. The second thing is to make any renewal of the “Assemby” in the North unworkable, by boycott, absentionism, etc. Also zero civilian cooperation or any involvement in the civil institutions by the Nationalist community. It would essentially make the Unionst controlled statelet unworkable. This would also mean total boycott of the Nationalist Community of the UK london government, and its program, (now being implemented) of “Direct Rule by Stealth”. Make the North, and the occupation, unworkable. BREXIT also is going to force a hard border on the North, so that can be the spearhead, of a mass campaign of civil disobedience, mass actions against the physical border, and refusal to conform to any official travel requirements, or crossings. a number of other tactics and campaigns will also emerge. the objective is to make the North an impossible burden on the British state, to garner international support, and to leave, ultimately, the UK Government no room in which to operate, and to accept defeat. Sad, but now, i think, the only possible path that does not restart the war. Comments?


  3. One thing has always puzzled me : if unionists are all “loony nutcase extremists” who have no redeeming features and are all likely to vote for Fine Gael if there is a U.I., why are Republicans so anxious so anxious to incorporate them into said U.I.? Answers on a postcard please.
    And to those who haven’t noticed : N.I. ceased to be a unionist controlled statelet in 1972.


  4. That’s an interesting question. The answer is that the perception is that they are loony nutcase extremists in the eyes of some in England (and being half-English myself I’ve heard precisely that sentiment about Unionists on numerous occasions). From this side of the Irish Sea they are rather more familiar. The broader point being that culturally the distance is much greater between them and English people than they might suppose.

    Sure, there are huge contradictions in the positions of Republicanism over decades from ignoring the reality of Unionism to having a sort of rosy eyed belief that it is just a false consciousness that will vanish in a UI while believing precisely the opposite about Nationalism/Republicanism in the North. But. As Republicanism per definition has to at least pay lip service and really much more to all the people on the island it cannot and should not ignore Unionism and certainly should do all it can to encourage it to participate – as the participation of Southern former unionists was key to that state.

    All that said there are clear indications that at some point in the not too distant future the balance is likely to tip towards Nationalism/Republicanism and to my mind it makes sense for Unionism to prepare itself for the day when that occurs (and I remember all too well how twenty years back there were all these earnest think pieces in the wake of the BA/GFA about how talk of demographic change etc were overstated and I look at Belfast and elsewhere and register how matters have changed subsequently and think, okay, it might stall, but it might not and that’s not a bet I’d make one way or another) . Personally I don’t think a UI has to be a traditional one, continuing political links of some form between the UK and the north could be plausible well into the future even in the context of a UI (though Brexit is throwing a spanner in the works in relation to all this). But given all that now is precisely the time, or at least soon, for Unionism to start mapping out how it can as it were shape the future both in relation to NI, the island as a whole and the UK.

    Re the unionist controlled statelet, that’s true in a sense, and yet, functionally the linkage to Britain through direct rule and so on and even in certain ways today has been one where the union is reified.

    On a complete tangent ASF, I’ve a copy of that leaflet the picture of the house is from above. It’s a fantastic albeit kind of crude piece of work from the late 40s.


  5. Oh what does it matter, the 26 counties are as British as anywhere else in the British Isles. The whole independence thing is a sham and always was. “The Irish free state” or “Eire” or whatever, has done nothing to save the Irish language or culture, on the contrary it’s done it’s best to put the final nail in the coffin, something the author of this blog regularly bleats about, whilst – like the typical “Irish” person – not bothering to do his bit and actually learn the language. Long live the Republic, land of the BBC, Sky and ITV, proud Blackpool Eastenders of a Coronation St. nation, a Manchester United Ireland, a Fianna fail.


    • If national identity is reducible to that then what is the difference between New Zealand and Scotland and the United States given all share a common language? Or between Austria and Germany? I speak Irish on a near daily basis, a bit here and there and I’m no great shakes at it and my written Irish is much much worse, but I don’t think that’s the only token of national identity and I wouldn’t argue that someone who has none at all is somehow not Irish any more than those who are absolutely fluent are the only exemplars of Irishness. Indeed the irony is that those who often seem most likely to make the argument ‘well sure we’re all the same as Blackpool or Denmark Hill’ are most likely to be those who actually wouldn’t care a bit if we did fold into the UK. Being part English my sense is that while humans are fundamentally the same there are characteristics drawn of place and time that shape broader attitudes and perceptions. But even if there weren’t correct (and it might not be) one fundamental aspect of Republicanism, for me, would be that a polity that looked to London as the centre is one where those making and taking political decisions was simply too detached from this island for there to be certainty that they would act in its interest – certainly the historical record isn’t great.


      • Countries that share a common language have far more in common than countries that do not. An Irish speaking Ireland would be pretty different from the one that we have now.


        • Of course, it would be different, but that ship sailed a long time ago, and arguably well before independence, and what is left short of it returning (not entirely impossible but perhaps unlikely for a long period of time) is the situation we do have of a multi-lingual island etc.

          I’m also unsure as to whether that commonality takes us very far. The United States and Ireland and the UK all share a common language but the cultural and other differences are very significant – on social issues, on political issues, on cultural issues. It is, unquestionably, easier to talk with someone who has a common language – but spend any time in the UK or the US and the distinctions and differences become pretty apparent rapidly.


    • @ Miller
      I could critique your point over the word Irish in Inverted commas.
      Or for your needy and “handsy”
      ( a new phrase-courtsey of British upper class Gropers- bTw Who’d have thunk English Elites would find a word to trivialise their crimes??? ) way in which you try to tag Ireland into your discredited collective noun.
      But you are guilty of an even more grave error.
      You seem to stake your various views on the existance/ popularity of the BBC, ITV and SKY and Coronation street.
      as supporting evidence.
      Well I have news for you.
      There are things called YouTube Netflix. HBO and Showtime and Facebook and Twitter and Google and Apple
      [ None of which are “British” auld bean-Expect the Apple brass plaque on Jersey.ofc.]
      which makes you look like you have based your entire strategy on a Magnot line manned by French Conscripts armed with the worst rifle in the World; whilst the Germans are in Belgium driving past their panzer Kampf Wagen.
      So, Pierre If I may call you that. How does it feel to be Betamax video in a streaming World?
      A floppy disc in a cloud universe?
      An Apple Newton in an Samsung Galaxy?
      In case you didn’t get the memo. Terrestial TV is dead.
      Deader than a dead Parrot.
      Which probably explains why the USA Disney Corporation wants to buy Murdochs’ Film business and F/X cable TV
      whilst leaving SKY and the newspapers to rot on the vine.
      It is so dead in fact, that I personally wouldn’t use it to hang my hat on.
      But that’s just me.
      I suppose you have good auld British propaganda to shield you from the truth.
      Your “nation” is irrelevant.And thanks to Brexit. it has gone from managing decline to instead going up to a bar and asking “decline ” whether it has spilled it’s pint in a Glaswegian pub.
      And why not, eh?

      But I am grateful you took the time to let us know of Irish ” shortcomings”.
      It was most generous.
      I suspect your views are shared by the Orange brain trust in the Slugger-Belfast Smellograph and Newsletter
      axis of incompetents and various “academic” chair moisteners in the QUB /Boris Johnson school of tomfoolery.
      which passes for the Unionist intelligentsia these days.
      It’s so lucky to have paid liars on the payroll saving you from actually “thinking ” and /or been presented with facts outside the Unionist/British B.S. exceptionalism
      I do hope you stick around you have a bright future working for the Unionist Times or Jamie Bryson at the very least.
      Your Failed State needs you as Kitchener ought to have said. And all that
      Still at least I now know who bought that Back to the Future BMW confiscated from a Drug lord. sold at auction recently.
      Tally Ho. The Future’s bright the Future’s Orange.
      Except it isn’t ofc.
      But don’t tell the public that.


  6. Wee Jimmie

    The term Unionist is misleading. There are two intermingled aspects to it – the self-definition as British and the self-definition as a different kind of Irishness.. It’s at least as separatist as it is unionist. Ending the British connexion won’t mean a united Ireland.
    The problem with the enforced co-operation between opponents which the Good Friday Agreement is that the best way for the opponents to get what they want is to elect their most extreme representatives. DUP/SF governments probably ended up with much the same policies as UUP/SDLP governments would have, but the rhetoric and the attitudes inspired by the rhetoric were different.


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