Current Affairs Politics

How Brexit Is Killing Britain’s Rump Colony In Ireland

Northern Ireland

The Irish-born author and activist Richard Seymour, who hails from a unionist background in County Antrim, has written an excoriating opinion piece for The New York Times on the Brexit crisis in the United Kingdom and the consequential death spasms of the UK’s legacy colony in the north-east of Ireland.

The Democratic Unionist Party, the hard-line Northern Irish Protestant party that essentially has both Prime Minister Theresa May and the Brexit process in a death grip, is not merely stupid or fanatical. The party understands that its fortunes depend on an increasingly threatened British nationalism.

Unionism is dying in Northern Ireland. During the 30-year war, the Protestant majority was mostly loyal, even though Northern Ireland was one of the the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. With a dwindling industrial base, it was subsidized by war, infused with money for an occupying army and giant, garrisoned stations full of police officers.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, in a small Protestant town in the east of the six counties, Protestants could believe that those men of violence were there for us, that the Union was ours. Electoral gerrymandering shored up Unionist power. There were jobs for the “Prods,” as Protestants were known. Protestants occupied most of the skilled work and the few professional and managerial jobs available…

What, today, is the point of Northern Ireland? Built for perpetual war to keep the British in Ireland, it has lost its war, and with it the enormous, animating reservoirs of feeling and meaning that kept the “Prods” loyal. The barracks are gone, the stations empty hulks…

In the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of 2017, Unionism lost its majority. Sinn Fein came close to beating the D.U.P. as the biggest single party. In the 2016 referendum, most people in Northern Ireland voted against the D.U.P.’s pro-Brexit position…

For the theocrats at the core of the D.U.P. leadership, this is a threat to the political self-defense of Protestants… Hence, the D.U.P. obstructs gay marriage, abortion rights and Irish language rights. The party and its Loyalist base are waging a cultural war to defend “Britishness.” They’ll spoil a deal with the European Union, even if the Good Friday Agreement must be rewritten or collapses.

The Union, forged by empire, looks purposeless; Britishness forlorn. The institutions of government are losing legitimacy…

…in the pebble-dash, gray concrete, rained-on estates of Northern Ireland, Unionism is slowly dying. And with it, an idea of Britain.

Read the whole thing here, and follow the journalist at Salvage magazine. Meanwhile, from Scotland, the parliamentary hostage-taking of the British premier Theresa May by the DUP, and the Tory leader’s repeated use of bribes to appease the extortionate demands of the Democratic Unionists, is infuriating many Scots.

19 comments on “How Brexit Is Killing Britain’s Rump Colony In Ireland

  1. Yes Seymour gets it – always worth a read.

  2. In some ways it is a bit puzzling, why Britain wanted to keep that particular part of Ireland that badly. I mean let’s face it, Hong Kong The North is not.

    If Mr. Seymour is right, it looks like a real possibility that a fair number of Protestant Ulstermen will at least attempt to immigrate to others part of the UK, or perhaps some other English-speaking country. In each case there are reasons they’d probably be very disappointed with the modern {insert English speaking country} culture and society. I could even see some of them taking a stab at moving to parts of South America-the historical precedents for that are rich.

    But it seems very likely if that they would become a long term “grievance voting block” and would support whatever right wing factions are in power. (Hint: it’s a darned good thing Apartheid is over, or else South Africa or Colonial Rhodesia would have likely been very, very attractive.)

    • Given the number of young unionists that want to leave, it looks likely that if there is a non-unionist majority they would do so. Given the logistical complications, the obvious way to deal with the problem would be de Valera’s method of forced population exchange.

      • I remember various versions of that proposal.

        Somebody here responded to that by saying that nobody else in the UK would want them as “new neighbors”. They wouldn’t necessarily adjust well to other parts of Britain, and that many people in Scotland and Wales would fear that they’d frustrate their own independence movements-good point.

        If it did end up turning into a case of forced -versus voluntary- migration, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them decided to “fly the coup” from the UK entirely. People with that kind of political siege mentality can do a political 180 turn from uber-patriotic to willing to turn their back on their country entirely-and they can do it on a dime.

        • Jams O'Donnell

          Aye, we don’t want their sort in Scotland. Maybe Trump would take them in? Or maybe go to Poland.

          • I doubt they’d adjust well to that heavily Catholic country-or be that quick to learn a complex Slavic tongue-If they thought co-existing with Irish language was tough, I can’t imagine Polish would be easier.

            I also doubt Poles would have much patience for some of their guff.

            Trump might want them. But let’s face it Ulstermen-coming to the US ain’t exactly a new thing. It’s been my understanding that in most countries with a lot of Irish immigrants people with Scots-Irish origins often gravitate to different political parties, than the Irish Catholic community does.

            I don’t see any great options for that.

          • Don’t get me wrong. My experience with Poles has never been anything but fantastic. I just don’t think they’d have all that much tolerance for militant orange order types.

            • Jams O'Donnell

              Possibly Poland was a wrong choice – it just seemed to be going rightwards at a clip – substitute Ukraine then? They could form an enclave, just like in NI.

              • I was half-joking Jams O’Donnell. But on a more serious note, that was speculation of how at least some members of that community might react to certain scenarios-no recommendations intended.

                My thought is that this particular community is high-risk for becoming a long term “grievance voting block” whether in the UK, a United Ireland, or any number of other places at least some of them might try to migrate to.

      • Pat murphy

        From what I can see when the vast majority of young ‘unionists’ do leave for foreign climes they quickly become indistinguishable from their nationalist counterparts. The pull of the ‘mainland’ seems to end. Maybe it’s because they finally realise that they are ‘paddys’ like the rest of us. A short time away from the ‘kkk’ influence seems to work wonders. I have seen numerous unionists taking part in and obviously enjoying paddy’s day parades in various country’s. and non suffered any ill effects other than the obvious( that devils brew). Some even worked for fenians.

  3. i would love to know which town in N.I. this guy grew up in in the 1980s. By that decade gerrymandering in places like Derry was a thing of the past, Unionist power had ended in 1972, equal opportunities legislation had been in place for years, it would have been impossible to discriminate on the grounds of religion and the public bodies (N.I. Civil Service, Housing Executive) that I worked in from 1978 onwards were full of Catholics in managerial positions. Like him my home town was in the east of N.I. and, though it had a Unionist majority, Catholics and presumably Nationalists, were amply represented in the ranks of the professions like law, accountancy, medicine, dentistry, the public services, etc. I presume he’s tailoring his copy to appeal to the prejudices of a section of the readership of the New York Times. He’ll be telling them next that all Catholics worked on potato plantations run by Orangemen.
    And, as I pointed out previously on this site most people in N.I. (as he asserts) did not vote “Remain” in 2016, it was around a third of the total electorate, 34.95%. And before you ask, no I’m not a DU.P. supporter : I find them and their Siamese twins Sinn Fein equally repellent.

    • I too was born in the east of the North. I too thought the comment about gerrymandering odd but then I remembered the DUP’s ongoing efforts to overturn the electoral boundary commission’s report, due to their fear of losing seats in Belfast and east Derry (their last west of the Bann). Were any of the 26 old council areas gerrymandered? I don’t know but Rathfriland moved from Newry and Mourne into Banbridge. Regarding employment, my subjective memory is that there were very few Taigs in high positions anywhere in the 1980s (or women either), the North was run by golf playing Orange Billys. Compare the credits on TV programmes then with now. Few Sinéads in 1984. Finally, do you remember the efforts of the British to stop American companies adopting the MacBride Principles? Why were these needed and why were they opposed ?

      • It’s certainly true that Gerrymandering is notoriously hard to regulate out of existence.

        • Not to be a pain Ginger but as far as I can make out it was the Fair Employment Act of 1976 which seems to have been one of the main drivers in relation to equality of opportunities legislation. Even with the best will in the world it would take more than a decade for it to even to begin to work through the system given people already employed and in place in businesses etc (and soft as distinct from hard constraints on employment would still exist). In the PS the situation would be somewhat different, but the point made above is reasonable that the small numbers in high positions would still take a considerable time to be supplemented. Not sure if you’ve read Gudgin’s analysis of this (available on CAIN) which is actively hostile to the very idea of discrimination and continually plays it down but it’s a useful text (despite its intentions) because of what the evidence shows in relation to the lack of political leverage of CNR as against PUL and how in some instances there was space for the former to exercise authority but this was outweighed by the realty of PUL access to effective state power.

          re the percentages on the referendum, that reminds me of Remainers in Britain making the argument the opposite way that only a minority of people voted for Brexit there of those able to vote. True but irrelevant. The vote there is legitimate (in my view) – even if problematic and the manner in which it has been distorted from the actual question put (so we see a hard Brexit rather than a soft one despite the latter being more accommodating of a larger viewpoint), but equally the broader societal sentiment in NI is antagonistic to Brexit. That doesn’t mean Brexit won’t happen but at the least it should strongly inform the nature of Brexit as it impinges on this island NI in particular.

          • BTW Gudgin is an interesting character – from advisor to Trimble to proponent of a hard Brexit and the Brexit Policy Exchange.

      • Here here.

  4. According to Wikipedia Richard Seymour was born in Ballymena

  5. Interesting that he was born in Ballymena in 1977, which would have made him 13 years old in 1990. My home town, referred to in my post, was the same place, though I actually lived on a farm about ten miles from it. As someone a bit older than him, I don’t suppose I imagined that fact that my dentist was a Catholic, ditto my widowed mother’s accountant and the district nurse who visited my grandmother. Catholics, like most Protestants, had benefited from the opening up of education after World War 2 and this fed into the frustration of the teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc, who were prominent in the Civil Rights movement. Gerrymandering should have disappeared when the new system of local government was introduced in 1973. Interesting to note that the only men of violence he can bring himself to mention are the police and army, perhaps it slipped his mind that 90% of those killed in the troubles were killed by Republicans or Loyalists. The impression I get is of someone on the far left of politics, writing articles which will only be read by others from this rarefied world, but with no connection with real members of the “proletariat.”

    • Pat murphy

      If you are going to quote statistics at least get your facts right first. 90% killed by loyalists or republicans. As is becoming more apparent by the day the vast majority of loyalist killings can be attributed to the so called security forces either in their actual carrying out of the deeds or their complicity in setting up innocent catholics. Seymour is not so far away in his assertions. At times it is better to remain quiet and appear stupid than to speak and remove all doubt.

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