‘Unionism must take honest look at itself’

Terry Wright
Terry Wright

In the light of the recent local council results, there is merit in some unionist representatives and commentators recognising a need to ensure that support for the union is not the sole preserve of what is seen in a binary analysis of society, as one section of a divided community, namely Protestant.

If this is a survivalist strategy driven by a crude demographic calculation and electoral trends, political unionism will gain little and at best buy time. There are indications

Intentionally or otherwise, the tone adopted seems condescending and the comments patronising with echoes of Captain Terence O’Neill’s suggestion that ‘if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house, they will live like Protestants.’

This was never appropriate or relevant and the same is the case today.

It smacks of the expedient couching of identity politics, old attitudes and prejudice in new language but limited conviction.

There is similarity in the politics of rights and equality. Addressing a problem requires that you identify it correctly.

Political unionism would do well to take a long and honest look at itself.

Those within who obsess anxiously about holding a line where the union encompasses everything they touch or long for a return to an idyllic normality of party patronage never experienced by a majority of the population should not be permitted to act as an impediment to overdue political changes.

Unionism for a shared and agreed Northern Ireland should be leading the discussion within the structures and in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

Instead it opts for timid and tentative expediency.

This is the politics of the false prospectus.

There is strong evidence to indicate that some of the unionist electorate either did not vote and contributed to the barely acknowledged 50 per cent absent from the polls or voted for representatives more closely aligned to their views on Brexit and social justice issues not reflected within the unionist parties.

Generationally, the evidence is compelling.

It is also the case that some who voted for unionist representatives did so in spite of their policies: Better a flawed union than no union.

Within civic and community unionism there is an unsatisfied desire for political stability and an end to the current impasse which has been allowed to become too deeply embedded.

It is at odds with a self-limiting and conformist unionist hierarchy in terms of policy preferences. In terms of unionist politics, unionism is becoming its own trojan horse

A shared future can only be built on finding collaborative solutions to current problems.

This means offering a sustainable modern agenda for unionist politics which breaks with outdated thinking on Gaelic, Marriage Equality and other rights issues to create space for effective measures on job creation and reform in other important areas affecting everyone.