Pro-union Catholics… July 18, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
Interesting article in the Irish Times at the weekend interviewing Catholic unionists – or Catholic pro-union individuals, which is not quite the same thing, in the North. I won’t add too much to what has already been said. But some obvious thoughts sprint to mind.
Firstly they appeared to in the main tilt rightward. Very sharply rightwards, cleaving to the Conservatives. Secondly they appeared to find the current Unionist parties not fit for purpose as repositories of their votes and trust. Those not going to the Conservatives place their faith in the ‘new pro-union NI21 party’. Thirdly they appeared, and I say this as kindly as one can being a leftist in the South and therefore being aware of how it might scan, somewhat contrarian, something that might fit in with the first point.
In a way they reminded me of nothing so much as some of the cohort beyond the Workers’ Party – and to a more limited extent Democratic Left – some of who in the 1980s and early 1990s tended towards a functional unionism. I’m not talking, again in the main, about party members, at least not so much in relation to the WP where a Republican strand remained quiescent but very real throughout – causing no end of cognitive dissonance for many, including myself who would have identified with that strand. I’m thinking more broadly of a ‘halo’ of supporters or those who would be somewhat associated with it.
The arguments were not dissimilar, a wish to transcend the ‘traditional politics’, a view of the United Kingdom that saw it as intrinsically more progressive than the Republic, the idea of links to a broader labour movement in whatever form, economic and social ties that could be used, the concept of secularisation, a more developed economy and so on. And isn’t it notable that rather than finding common cause with the other much larger parties in the North those who espoused this view linked in with a party that was beset by problems and extremely marginal.
To read them inverted, at least in relation to the direction of the political arrow, right rather than left, is fascinating.
That said, hard to believe that the WP supporters of the 1980s might have come out with quite the following:
I think a constitutional monarchy is a good idea. If you are going to have a republic then perhaps you should go for a more executive-style presidency. Having a monarch who is completely above politics is a better embodiment of the nation.
But I think it reflects the broader political dynamics both locally and globally that this sort of right wing thinking is evident. Interesting how it breaks down, in the sense that given the realities of the context in the North their world-view provides no solutions to more contentious issues:
On parades I think the Orange Order has a right to march but they should respect the feelings of the people in the areas they are marching through. At the same time residents in areas shouldn’t go out of their way to be offended by the parades.
And ironic in the extreme, as noted in comments on the IT under the article, that the piece should appear this weekend given the events in Belfast and should include the following:
The old arguments about unionist discrimination and civil rights just don’t seem to feature because the Northern Catholics with such views either have no memories of these struggles or are confident that they have been resolved.
Telling too that they don’t actually cleave to Alliance which would seem on the face of it to be a more natural port of call being essentially centre-right in its socio-economic outlook, albeit in relation to issues of national identity a lot more nuanced/even-handed/nebulous (delete according to political taste).
Indeed it’s fascinating how actually existing Unionism doesn’t work for them, suggesting that those realities mentioned above in relation to structural and political sectarianism outweigh their political identification. This tangled knot of contradictions is expressed quite well in the following sentence.
Just because I am a Catholic does not mean I am a nationalist and it does not mean I am a unionist either. I am Northern Irish, Catholic, pro-union – so your religion does not define your politics.
Of course these views are marginal, although perhaps less so than might be expected. And it would have been enlightening to read the views of those who approach this from a left of centre perspective. What is their favoured option in terms of political expression?