Category Archives: This Union

Unionist? Don’t be shy.






At a recent gathering of representatives of what could be called Unionist ‘middle Ulster’ – middle class, middle ranking, middle politics citizens – one attender made an interesting observation. She had returned to Northern Ireland after a long spell in the US and was struck by the political timidity of those Unionists she encountered.

She thought that both instrumentally – they understand the social and economic importance of the Union for the well-being of people in Northern Ireland – and non-instrumentally – they have strong affinities with what academics might call British ‘values’ – these people are solid in their beliefs and convinced of their identity.

In other words, they do not share that fashionable condition which lazy journalists or convinced nationalists think is gnawing away at them: there is no ‘crisis of identity’ (whatever that may mean); nor do they doubt their allegiance to the United Kingdom (despite being mainly supporters of the Ireland rugby team).

So why is it then, she asked, that one rarely hears these people publicly? How is it, when it comes to civil society, there is a crisis of representation? What is the reason for soft nationalism being apparently the default position of those in positions of authority?

A sensible deal on the Northern Ireland border is very achievable






Brussels and Dublin should stop playing games.

Hell hath no fury like a Commission scorned.

Since the UK is breaking up the European Commission’s cherished Union, the Commission retaliates by supporting those wishing to break up the UK.

The first attempt was Jean-Claude Juncker’s wooing of Nicola Sturgeon when she visited Brussels to drum up support for Scottish independence. The hugs and kisses to camera signified EU support for her efforts, but it all came to nought as falling oil prices rendered an independent Scotland financially unviable.

The second attempt will be equally futile but could cause trouble along the way. This is the suggestion in a Commission document ‘Dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland’, leaked last week, that ‘it is essential that the UK commits to avoiding a hard border by remaining part of the EU customs union, and continues to abide by the rules of the EU single market and customs union’.

Mind your language






Ever since Irish Republicans realised they had lost their so-called ‘armed conflict’ there was no doubt that culture wars would emerge to take precedence. That became apparent in the development of residents’ groups and the demonization of parading – it was no coincidence that among the first targets were parades relating to Somme Commemoration.

The latest frontier is the Irish language – rather the specific Irish Language Act,  the latest campaign on the front line of Sinn Fein’s culture war; though forays have been taking place for many years locally.

So far the campaign promoting an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland has been notable by its crude rhetorical bombardment on, and desperate frontal assaults against, logic and common sense.

The sins of memories past?




There is an interesting piece from the Dublin Review of Books entitled: Troubles with Remembering; or, The Seven Sins of Memory Studies.  The piece is actually a review on: Remembering the Troubles: Contesting the Recent Past in Northern Ireland, by Jim Smyth (ed), University of Notre Dame Press, 218 pp, $40, ISBN 978-0268-101749.

The past of course is entirely memory, albeit in the context of events that are fact. The review quickly becomes a wider exploration of the nature of memory, and in particular “Memory Studies”, and more particularly the seven deadly sins thereof: laxity, dualism, crudity, moralism, insularity, myopia, and overlooking forgetting.

Not spooked






Alex Kane increasingly sounds like the elderly Auntie who is forever telling everyone in the family how what they are doing is not the right way of doing it; and if we have heard it once, we need to hear it over and over again – maybe different words, same message.

Alex’s most recent piece in the News Letter “Why the leaders of Unionism should be well and truly spooked” is a case in point.

Referenda, Majority & Consent







It seems odd that those most vocal within Irish nationalism who challenge the majority outcome from the Brexit referendum are to the fore demanding a Border Poll where frankly fifty percent plus one vote would be acclaimed a victory.

That is evident in the squeals in response to Lord Kilclooney’s recent tweet on the subject 

That tweet was a comment to Leo Varadkar’s wider reflection on the nature/outcome of a border poll. 

We need new arguments not new parties


It’s become common to assert that Brexit has changed the contours of British politics forever.

That remains to be seen. After the UK leaves the EU, older loyalties and divisions may re-emerge, as allegiances and rivalries that developed since the referendum become irrelevant.

That hasn’t prevented some fairly animated discussion about the potential for new parties to reflect a ‘realignment’ of politics after Brexit.

Mutual Interest






The Legatum Institute has taken a look at maximizing the UK and Republic of Ireland mututal interests in trade opportunities around the world, post-Brexit: depending on the output of current UK/EU negotiations.

Forwards into the past, backwards into the future.






For a post-Truth Past; an Inverted Present?

There is genuine frustration within what might be described as ‘Middle Ulster’ – a term of art which includes both Unionists and those Nationalists that have not yet been seduced by Sinn Fein mantras. That frustration is in making sense of what passes for political discourse in Northern Ireland, which seems to exist in a land where morality has been turned on its head, where the moral compass has lost its axis.

How can this apparent condition of moral inversion be explained?

History repeating




As you approach the Military Museum in Vienna there is a large sign at the entrance proclaiming ‘Kriege gehoeren ins Museum’ (wars belong in the museum). That is a fine sentiment indeed and a striking one.

If you are interested in the wars of the Habsburg Monarchy – especially the Empire’s calamitous experience in the First World War – then the Military Museum is a must see if you are ever in the city.

Austrians are, however, still reluctant to devote the same attention to the country’s incorporation into the Third Reich and its military role in the Second World War.

It isn’t that there is no information. It isn’t that the appeal of Hitler and Nazism is ignored. It’s just that 1939-45 appears to be someone else’s war – suggesting that some wars don’t belong so easily in museums after all.

Despite this coyness, one exhibit is striking.