Well… I guess it’s an idea: or Magill, and the concept of Revolutionary Unionism. January 18, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Unionist Party, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Progressive Unionist Party, Ulster, Unionism.
Reading the December/January issue of Magill (the site is a month or so out of date) was quite an experience. First up was the editorial by Eamon Delaney which calmost constituted a point by point riposte to smiffy’s recent piece about the quality of Magill (not that we’re so self-important round these parts that we think he’s ever read us). Delaney gave a staunch defence of the magazine listing the various areas covered in the current issue lauded as a ‘reinvention’ and ‘a vibrant use of graphics, illustrations and photography’ (useful if you intend to publish a text based pictorial magazine, one would think), these including the ‘political front…foreign stories…cultural content’ and so forth (again, of some worth if that magazine covers current affairs). In fairness it is a better issue than the previous one. One of the strong points according to Delaney is the ability ‘to keep the mix varied and lively and not appear predictable’. True, very true. But if one is looking for any real divergence from it’s centre right course one will be, perhaps predictably, disappointed.
Anyhow, enough damning with faint praise, I buy it every issue, and little publicity is bad publicity, so everyone is happy – eh?
Ah yes, consider an article nestled between the covers by Dr. John Coulter, political journalist for the Irish Daily Star. In it we get a brisk run through the Unionist thinking on the St. Andrews Agreement and after. Coulter thinks that Sinn Féin might by delaying it’s response to the policing issue deliver a ‘double whammy’ on the DUP by boosting dissident anti-power sharing Unionists and ultimately forcing Paisley into powersharing.
Later on in the article some good points are raised. Because Coulter notes something which isn’t often examined in the Good Friday Agreement process, the impact of operational North South bodies on the Unionist community. He appears to think this will have a fractious effect upon the various strands of Unionism, but particularly on DUP support.
However, it’s after this that things get…well different. Coulter spins off into the necessity for Unionism to consider an all-Ireland dimension, particularly if the GFA collapses and Dublin and London implement Plan B. He proposes that Unionist parties will in that context be irrelevant. Or alternatively if the GFA prospers the all-island dimension will negate Unionism.
He posits that something he terms Revolutionary Unionism (named after the Glorious Revolution) should step forward. This would see a 32 county dimension for Unionism, one that would push for rejoining the Commonwealth, withdrawal from the EU or as he puts it ‘Unionism needs to start believing in the concept of the Occupied Twenty-Six Counties, and begin the process of feeding the rapidly expanding Southern Irish middle class the reality their future lies in rejoining the British Commonwealth of nations’. This idea, which he has been hawking around the most unlikely points on the net for some time now (including the free market Open Republic and the vaguely dissident Republican Blanket), includes the concept (that he uses on the Open Republic site): “On the religious front, the ‘one faith’ concept seeks to unite the various Protestant denominations under a single Biblical foundation as espoused by the New Testament text St John Chapter 3, verse 16, commonly known as the Salvationist principle. Given the growth of the evangelical movement within modern Irish Catholicism, Revolutionary Unionism could have a strong appeal to Catholic voters because of its Scriptural stance on opposition to radical Islam, civil partnerships, divorce and abortion”.
He advocates the establishment of a Unionist ‘Embassy’ in Dublin. Not a particularly bad idea as such, and certainly one which by it’s own ideological lights makes sense for the projection of a Unionist identity.
He also notes, at least on the Open Republic site, being perhaps a tad more reticent on the Blanket, that “Given the increasing European federalism, Ireland as a geographical entity, could find itself well and truly on the fringes of the planned United States of Europe. The real danger is that the whole British Isles, but especially Ireland north and south, would become an ethnic dumping ground for vast legions of unskilled migrants or asylum seekers who want to take advantage of their nations’ new-found membership of the European Union, but who cannot find work or will not be admitted into the EU’s so-called ‘super nations’ of France and Germany. A United British Isles may well have to seriously consider the option of leaving the EU and form an independent economic global block based on the British Commonwealth.” On the Blanket we are treated to the idea with a different spin ‘Revolutionary Unionism would take the British islands – including Ireland – out of the EU and into the global economic security of the Commonwealth’. Hmmm… yes, those balmy climes of the economic security. A further justification for this economic act of self-immolation is that ‘Many Southern Catholics and Northern Prods could be attracted to a pro-Commonwealth Unionist movement – driven by an evangelical radical Presbyterianism – which guaranteed their middle class lifestyles would not be threatened by the ever expanding European Union’.
In Magill this is somewhat massaged into a more emollient, but no less striking, analysis which warns of a new set of Troubles as ‘Christianity goes head-to-head with the growing ethcnic communities and Islam in particular. Given the rise in racially motivated crime, it is only a matter of time before the ghost of former neo-fascist (neo? Surely some mistake) boss, General Eoin O’Duffy of the Blueshirts returns in the form of a populist party or candidate campaigning against migrant workers, asylum seekers and Islamist radicals living in Ireland”.
Gloomy stuff, but what on earth does it all mean? On Slugger O’Toole his writings have been likened to Conor Cruise O’Brien, well, C O’C at his most eschatological, and there’s more than a hint of that there. But it’s strange stuff.
Not so much the idea that an all-island Unionist identity is such a bizarre notion, although one it is difficult to see sustaining itself in the manner he proposes. But more the strange lack of empirical evidence for any such ‘Revolutionary Unionism’. If one uses that universal “find an ideology” Google one will see nowt about it. Consult learned tomes on the subject of Unionism and one will find nothing. Perhaps it’s about to manifest itself, but so far nothing. Perhaps it’s so new, despite it’s intellectual origins that it’s springing up all over. Or perhaps, just perhaps, and I know I’m going out on a limb here, this is a very very recent invention…
Then there is the curious slide into the apocalypse regarding what appears to be warnings about an incipient race war on the island. And what exactly is the prescription to solve this problem? An evangelical Unionist party dedicated to removing the RoI from the EU? One could reasonably ask whether the cure would be any better than the disease.
But worst of all is the way in which at various points previous progressive, or reasonably progressive, Unionist incarnations, from Norman Porter’s civic unionism to the ‘new’ unionism of David Trimble are dismissed. Worst of all because in the absence of any vehicle within which Revolutionary Unionism can be driven forward all this is simply rhetoric.
Entertaining rhetoric, sure, but rhetoric nonetheless…