Dictionary definitions

Sir, Darach MacDonald (June 12th) makes a spirited defence of the dictionary definition of "unionism", and rightly points out that purity of blood is a fiction in the modern world. But culture is not transmitted through the genes, and anyone observing an Orange parade should be left in no doubt of the existence of "unionist"… Continue reading Dictionary definitions


The ethnic basis of “Unionism” and “Nationalism”

Seems I'm on a roll. I wrote another letter to the Irish Times... Sir, Cian Carlin (June 10th) repeats one of the cardinal errors of Irish politics when he reduces "Unionism" to a mere political preference. The divisions in Northern Ireland span not only politics but also culture, religion, history and ancestry. "Unionist" and "Nationalist"… Continue reading The ethnic basis of “Unionism” and “Nationalism”

A people without a name

It seems to me that the root of many of Northern Ireland's problems is that Huns do not have a well-defined sense of communal identity. For the last hundred years or so it boiled down to the Orange Order – understandable given the Order’s involvement in the foundation of NI and the UUP’s political hegemony.… Continue reading A people without a name

Rethinking “Irishness” – definitions and symbolism

We have already seen how the unique geography of Ireland rules out some of the usual political options for solving its ethnic dispute, by making the redrawing of borders to match the ethnic divide impractical. But it also leads to problems defining an Irish identity, because unlike most other countries in Europe, it is not… Continue reading Rethinking “Irishness” – definitions and symbolism

The supposed fragility of “Unionist” identity

Alex Kane is on the warpath again: Sinn Fein has been inviting all sorts of non-republicans to address their ‘uniting Ireland’ conferences. They would have you believe that it’s part of their ongoing mission to persuade us that we would be better off outside the United Kingdom and that we would have nothing to fear… Continue reading The supposed fragility of “Unionist” identity

The island of Ireland is a political straitjacket

One of the great ambiguities about modern Ireland is the confusion between Ireland the island and Ireland the independent state. Both officially go under the same name, although one can often avoid ambiguity by using prefixes (Republic of Ireland, island of Ireland). This actively contributes to Ireland's political problems, because it closes one of the… Continue reading The island of Ireland is a political straitjacket

Ethnicity in Northern Ireland

In my previous post, I argued that the terms "Protestant community" and "Catholic community", as used for fair employment monitoring in Northern Ireland, are merely proxies - it is not your personal faith (or even your personal political beliefs) that are being monitored, but your ethnicity. And the only words we have that accurately describe… Continue reading Ethnicity in Northern Ireland

Whatever clothes befit the times…

I found this a while ago and forgot about it. It seems apposite now, considering that I recently mentioned the fluidity of the labels "Unionism" and "Nationalism": Since its formation, the Orange has tended to undermine constructive unionism and bolster its regressive wing.  Indeed the Order, which might present itself as a stalwart of the… Continue reading Whatever clothes befit the times…

Are you a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?

If you have ever been employed in Northern Ireland, you will have come across the following question: Regardless of whether we practice religion, most of us in Northern Ireland are seen as either Catholic or Protestant. We are therefore asking you to indicate your community background by ticking the appropriate box below. □ I am… Continue reading Are you a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?

Taigs and Huns – no better option?

In my previous post, I argued that we need new words other than "Unionist" and "Nationalist" to describe the ethnic (as opposed to political or religious) divisions within Northern Ireland, and that we already had perfectly good words in "Hun" and "Taig" if we were willing to overlook their origin as tribal insults. But are… Continue reading Taigs and Huns – no better option?