I want to analyse an almost throwaway comment Alex made in his piece and take it off in another direction :
The right to parade is a right to be cherished: but there is no accompanying right to offend (so I don’t think the RBP and some bands did themselves or the wider pro-Union community any favours by some of their actions on Saturday).
Alex is a dedicated unionist with both republican (caution: small “r” there!) and atheistic views and so I felt it strange for him to imply there is in fact a homogeneous pro-Union “community which has been “damaged”- although the reverse may well be true at a very basic level , it is surely not accurate to say that “pro-Union” means 100% of the time “pro-Loyal Orders”?
Whilst it is true all three Unionist parties in Northern Ireland make no bones about seeing themselves as the defenders of a particular stratum of Ulster society and its related culture, there isn’t a homogeneous, “one attitude-fits all” pro-Union “community” in Northern Ireland.
Many who vote DUP, UUP, TUV are indeed members (or family of members) of the Loyal Orders, loyalist band members and supporters, royalists, conservative Christians, even Glasgow Rangers supporters.
Politically then it is prudent for those parties to represent the values and beliefs of their active electorate. But as survey after survey has proven, the numbers of those who wish the Union to continue (for whatever reason) greatly outweigh the numbers who turn out on election day to vote DUP, UUP and TUV.
Research points us to the fact that a large majority of the potential electorate, holding an array of varied views, believe that the constitutional link with Great Britain should continue. When there is trouble connected with parading, bonfires and on a more passive level arguments concerning, for example, language rights, the GAA and sectarian employment practices… are those people put off the Union because of the inevitable and predictable stance which the Unionist parties take in each case?
If so, they aren’t showing it at the ballot box- the % of the electorate voting for parties which advocate us splitting from the rest of the UK has remained pretty constant now for over a decade.
The truth is that many of our “communal” problems are not dependant on or resulting from our constitutional status; the Republic of Ireland’s government is no better placed to solve these disputes than Westminster.
If we were in a 32 county state tomorrow would the residents, of say, Tullycarnet or the Fountain a bit more blasé about accepting Irish language translations on their street names?
Would the GAA clubs in Ulster who presently flaunt their support for the “armed struggle” against their fellow Irishmen by naming clubs, grounds and tournaments after terrorist murderers, see the error of their ways in a new “United” Irish utopia?
Would Brendan McKenna be doing a jig with the Portadown Orange Order as it once again walks down a rose petal-strewn Garvaghy Road?
Would there be local Rangers and Celtic fans, singing “All you need is love” as they wield their hammers together to destroy the Belfast “Peace” Walls, reuniting the city in a rerun of Berlin ’89?
Of course not. Because the underlying sectarianism and communalism present in Northern Ireland exists independent of its constitutional status and those who believe the continuing Union is their best pragmatic option at the moment know this fact very well.
I think it is in the long-term partisan interest of the Unionist parties to try to attract those who presently lie outside that self-defined “Unionist community” and they won’t do it that by instinctly falling in line with everything that the Orange Order or indeed the principles of protestant fundamentalism dictates.
It is also in all our longterm interest that knee-jerk communalist politics becomes a thing of the past.
But ultimately the result of the Border Referendum will not depend on Ken Magennis’s views on homosexuality or whether a loyalist band plays The Famine song (sorry, the tune of what some people might think is The Famine Song) outside a chapel.Share on Facebook