Battle for the soul of Unionism

Ulster Unionism never recovered from the existential trauma of Partition. Over time, and under assault from simplistic-minded forces both internal and external, it shied away from accepting itself as a truly Irish thing. Of course Ulsterness and Britishness are also cornerstones of Ulster Unionism. But too often it appears that Unionism is desperately trying to make a three-legged stool balance on just two. Continue reading...


Deconstructing “Unionism”

I have long maintained that the terms "unionist" and "Unionism" as currently used in Northern Ireland are an obstacle to discussion and understanding. Because there is much more to unionists than Unionism. Indeed, there is much more to Unionism than Unionism. What have tray bakes and soda farls got to do with the constitutional question?… Continue reading Deconstructing “Unionism”

The end of the world

In the 19th century national identity in Europe was more deeply entwined with religion than it is today. Witness the creation of Belgium in 1831 from the remains of the Spanish Netherlands, when formerly Hapsburg areas seceded from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands to form a Catholic-majority, multilingual state with a French-speaking aristocracy. In… Continue reading The end of the world

One thing that unionists might want

In a previous article, I made the bold assertion that "Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants". What I should have said was "Northern Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants, and Nationalism in general has nothing that Unionism wants... yet". While Northern Nationalism may still not have much to attract Unionism, after 30th March next year… Continue reading One thing that unionists might want

Making friends with the cat next door

One of the most disappointing things to come out of recent NI political history was Sinn Féin's much-vaunted, but quickly forgotten, Unionist Outreach project. In theory, this had a lot of potential. In practice, it was like a toddler trying to make friends with a cat. To make friends with a cat, you have to… Continue reading Making friends with the cat next door

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

In praise of pejoratives

I have complained before about the giant hole in NI cultural terminology. There are things that exist that do not have names, and because they do not have names we cannot discuss them. Instead we use euphemisms that mean different things to different people, and waste our breath fruitlessly arguing over semantics. To demonstrate, consider… Continue reading In praise of pejoratives

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

The recent News Letter series of opinion pieces on the future of Unionism has had its moments, particularly when the more thoughtful commentators have tackled the limitations of political unionism. Mick Fealty makes a good start: In my view, the key to a settled political future is leadership, vision and the selection of coherent policy… Continue reading Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

Can unionism and republicanism be reconciled?

The short answer is a qualified "yes" but to explain why, we must first define our terms. It is a sad truth that words often mean something different in Northern Ireland than they do elsewhere, but then clarity of thought is often the first casualty of any ideological conflict. Compare the use of the terms… Continue reading Can unionism and republicanism be reconciled?