Progressive unionism

Over on Progressive Unionism’s blog I was reading an article by a young UUP member named Katie entitled “Will mistakes of the past now Haunt Unionism?” in which she points out how Edward Carson famously told the Unionist Government at Stormont to look after the minority Roman Catholic population and how in the progressive unionist mind they failed to do this and so were responsible for the IRA’s murder campaign in the troubles. We are of course given the now customary line of “we need to communicate” with the unionist people better and the ever present undercurrent in which Unionism is portrayed as sectarian is of course evident. But of course we know that the IRA fought a civil war against the Irish people in the Republic of Ireland, we know that Irish republican terrorists have waged murderous campaigns on the Irish people long before Carson or Craig were even thought of and we also know that Unionism has always been portrayed as sectarian by those who wished to destroy the party… but now things are different.

Where condemnation of the UUP was once for the Civil rights movements and then later the nationalist/republican parties and groups with a few rumblings from Paisely now it has extended even into the UUP itself. Where once the party was splitting over being too liberal (the vanguard years) some members of the party now view the party of O’Neill as being too hardline. In fact they even view the modern Roman Catholic welcoming, orange seperated, seeming secular party as being too hardline… and thus proceed to lambast it for its darkages stances and out of touch mentality though when one actually stops to see the progressive unionist’s mentality do we find one in touch with most ordianry unionist thinking? NO, instead we get some atheistic, wishful thinking, liberal vision of a northern ireland that quite simply doesn’t exist. Most people (on both sides of the fence) aren’t lovey dovey with their religious or political opposites and in fact quite a few don’t want anything to do with “the other side” and for all intensive purposes don’t. Yes when a camera is on or when their comments will be seen by more than “family and friends” people quite often don’t want to say their true sentiments but let’s face it going by the number of flags, painted kerbs, flute bands and orangemen I think we can safely assume that for quite a lot of Unionists the union is indeed important contrary to what some progressives may tell us.              

I believe that for the UUP to survive it has to reassert itself as a UNIONIST party and has to try to win votes from the ordinary man rather than pandering to the University crowd and I do honestly believe Tom Elliot can do that. It will take time and won’t have taken effect by the next election by hey who knows by the following elections the fortunes of the UUP might have changed

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11 Responses to Progressive unionism

  1. Dilettante says:

    So you don’t think that normalising the union by fighting elections on policy issues and treating the Union as the status quo is the way forward? What exactly does the UUP need to do to redefine back to being a “UNIONIST” party?

  2. realunionism says:

    Hi Dilettante and thanks for commenting. Of course I feel that elections should be fought on policy issues but we must also remember that the Union in this corner of the UK is not exactly a normalised situation. The feeling of Real Unionists are that we should base our policy issues on what is best for unionists and indeed the people of this country rather than based on what sounds good to the press or what makes all those over on slugger salivate. The UUP is a unionist party and should be unashamedly so and should stand up for the interests of it’s voters and for the interests of the union. The UUP in order to go back to being a “UNIONIST” party in any real tangible sense must rediscover its principles, the very same principles that have shaped this nation and indeed the party and then build policy around those principles….. unionism should be based on trust between the party and the electorate and hard work by the party for the people of Northern Ireland rather than duplicity and downright lies which serve no other purpose than to get a few names noticed in the press. While others are only interested in getting noticed by the press and chase photo-crews for the papers on a daily basis other “real unionists” are actively working to build up the party so it can come back from the brink.

  3. Dilettante says:

    Alright. Do you think there is a role for trying to attract Catholics (certainly the 25%-33% that support the Union) towards voting for pro-Union parties? And if so how would you suggest doing that?

  4. realunionism says:

    Of course there is a place for Catholics within the UUP and there has been for a number of years and yes as we all know there are indeed those nationalists out there who in a referendum would vote to maintain the union…. but… that does not mean that the party should have to change its entire politics and drop it’s principles just to try to win nationalist votes. The UUP should try to win unionist votes first and foremost, then undecided voters after that… nationalist voters who could potentially change to vote unionist should be a further option for increasing the party’s vote but it shouldn’t be the entire political strategy of the UUP. We should focus more on those unionists who don’t bother to vote rather than trying to attract people who aren’t even unionists.

    But now how do I suggest the UUP attracts Roman Catholics? Well by their actions, I would not support an internal demonisation of the loyal orders as some put forward whereby any one who is a member is pushed to the side and condemned as sectarian in order to “appear” more acceptable nor do I feel any false or empty words which are designed to make the UUP “appear” better in the eyes of the nationalist community but rather I believe that the nationalist community would rather see actions and I feel that our elected councillors and mla’s must do more to help and build up nationalist areas and help support GAA clubs etc. Housing in nationalist areas must be improved and in some places increased along with providing social activities in areas that have been traditionally forgotten by unionists politicians. Only then will nationalists begin to look at the UUP as a party that is worth voting for.

  5. Dilettante says:

    From your writing I sense that you are communalist, as you use ‘Catholic’ and ‘Nationalist’ interchangeably. I would argue that a continued close association with communal, ‘Orange’ unionism offers no prospect for encouraging pro-Union Catholics to vote for them, and neither does it offer a route for salvaging the party as the DUP and TUV do the communal thing better. The UUP has to go in a new direction in order to recover – the old, pan-unionist party model is neither retrievable nor relevant to modern Northern Ireland, IMO.

  6. realunionism says:

    Not at all I just assumed when you were referring to winning votes from Roman Catholics you were in actual fact referring to nationalists because to most unionists religion has little to do with politics. What need is there of pro union Roman Catholics is a debate raging at the minute internally and most cannot see the point on trying to secure voters that may simply be imaginary or that may never vote unionist regardless of what appeasement process takes place. The Union is the same, most nationalists will always want a united ireland and no amount of appeasement will change that. What the UUP needs is to focus on unionist parties and a greater sense of cooperation between the parties, if what you say is true then I would expect the tories to make headways in the next elections but forgive me if I say I just can’t see it happening.

  7. Dilettante says:

    Polling shows that 25-33% of Catholics are pro-Union, but only a few percent vote for pro-Union policies due to the continued communal/orange/anti-Catholic attitudes/appearances of the pro-Union parties. Surely with the TUV and DUP already pitching to the ‘unionist community’ there’s little need for the UUP to tread that ground as well?

  8. realunionism says:

    Some Roman Catholics will never support the Unionist parties, nor the Orange Order’s right to march, nor the police service nor the government of this country… the reasons may change but the opposition always continues regardless. The UUP is the Ulster Unionist Party and as such should primarily appeal to Ulster Unionists rather than ulster Nationalists and for over 50 years the UUP dominated unionist politics but did that mean the DUP didn’t bother? Of course not, now look where the DUP is… what happened was the UUP changed but the People didn’t and while we were running ever onwards (as some want to do again) the DUP were left to catch all the UUP’s disenfranchised voters… which lets face it was nearly everyone. We have to appeal to the people not the media and we cannot afford to waste money targeting voters who may never vote UUP when we have literally thousands of potential voters who are unionist already but just need to get motivated again.

  9. dilettante11 says:

    Still a bit confused. You say that there are some nationalists that will never vote for the union – that is entirely true. But that is not who I’m talking about. I am talking about the 25-33% of Catholics who are UNIONISTS – or at least pro-Union – but can’t vote for the DUP etc. because it is rooted in Orange, communalist politics.

    The UUP shed votes during the peace process because people wanted the party viewed as least likely to compromise on the Union – that is without doubt the DUP in that context. But the Union is safe now, it can only ever be dissolved by a referendum. There is no need for pro-Union parties to continue to operate in the way they did before the agreement when there was sometimes a serious risk of the British state cutting and running from the province.

    One more point: if what you want is the UUP to just go back to doing what the DUP is doing to replace the DUP, why bother? Why not just join the DUP?

  10. realunionism says:

    They are not Unionists… they are pro union in a referendum context which is very different. Unionism is about far more than simply the border, it is about a jobs, housing, family values, education and many other important aspects of people day to day lives and that might I add is all people not just those who are anti-orange order. I myself am a member of the Orange Institution as are the majority of Protestant males in Northern Ireland and the orange is one of the biggest voting blocks in Northern Ireland today… why should we exclude ourselves from such a voting base and from one of the groups which founded our party? The Union may be safe but does that mean that armed republicanism has died down? are we safe in our beds at night? Are unionist clubs still being attacked? What about orange halls? We can all look for the good but the party cannot afford to ignore what bad is happening within our communities. I don’t want the UUP to do what the DUP does… I want the UUP to do what it does best and fight on the ground which it had done for almost 100 years… here is a question for yourself… if you want the UUP to become more liberal and progressive why bother? why not just join the Conservatives or the Alliance party?

  11. Dilettante says:

    Because sad as it is, neither of those parties have broken through (and the Alliance is border-neutral, if it were the old Alliance I’d back it but I’m not neutral). The UUP has the prominence and representation to be the vehicle for a new unionism.

    My point was that this thing that the UUP did for the last hundred years (as you put it) has been very effectively taken by the DUP. They’re the party that do that stuff now, with some of the loonier elements going TUV. There’s simply no need for three parties to do the same thing.

    What does the DUP do so differently from a communalist UUP that you won’t join it?

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