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