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Empathy deficit May 13, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Was very struck by some of the comments on foot of the Assembly elections from some in Unionism. This from the IT:

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<p>“I feel sick that she will be running our country,” says another Orangeman from south Armagh in reference to Sinn Féin’s deputy leader and likely first minister, Michelle O’Neill.</p>
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<p>“Don’t be putting my name into that,” he adds. “Not where I’m from.”</p>
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And:

“It’s heartbreaking,” says one man, an importer and distributor of firefighting equipment, who does not want to be named – “250,000 of my compatriots have decided to vote for a party that is unapologetic for the death and destruction inflicted on us and which they glorify and celebrate. That is very sad.”

Yet it was, of all people, Newton Emerson, who recently noted that Unionism has been remarkably, perhaps inevitably and in a sense understandably, blind to what the reality of being a national minority within a state actually means. There’s very little sense with those quoted that they’ve thought through what the perspectives of those who did not belong to Unionism have felt within structures that were shaped for Unionism. 

Granted, and the second comment references this, there’s also a history of conflict in more recent times, but it is far from implausible that the same antagonism and hostility to any Republican or nationalist FM would have still been expressed. The history of the polity prior to 1970 suggests again no particular empathy at any level within unionism for those who were not unionists – whether political, cultural and otherwise. And those who did seek to support that cohort, or sought some other direction, were hardly well-treated, whether in Civil Rights, or even, and I’m no great fan, Alliance. 

In fairness others interviewed are more sanguine. Without question Brexit has destabilised some aspects of Unionism, and even if that has seen votes moving towards Alliance that’s still an important outcome. The point isn’t that this is delivering anyone to a UI, but rather the scope for overlapping solutions may be opening up to a much greater extent than hitherto thought possible. 

But for all that there’s something about the calls for ‘politics that are not hobbled by tribalism’ or the following entirely sincere call ‘I’d lie [my young daughter] grow up in a Northern Ireland where no one consciously, or unconsciously, asks the question whether she’s a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. I want her to grow up and vote on policies and not the constitutional question’.

It’s an understandable aspiration, but the problem is that until the nature of a state is defined it is near impossible for ‘policies’ to be determined upon. This is not to say that either the status quo ante or a Unite Ireland have to be in situ for ‘normal politics’ to further develop, but what is necessary is a degree of stabilisation that – unfortunately – in the context of a Brexit that continues to wreak its very specific magic seems distant at this point. These calls for a ‘normal politics’ are simply premature in the absence of that. 

Comments»

1. EWI - May 13, 2022

Would the IT have framed and published such a piece about unionism, or even FG and (MM-era) FF down here? Not on your life.

Liked by 2 people


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