I was in the process of preparing a post on Alex Kane’s thoughts on the political outlook for unionism in 2008 on Monday, but then unexpectedly I escaped my workplace in mid afternoon with my exit resembling the proverbial hell-warmed bat. I notice that O’Neill has since picked up on the columnist’s urge for Northern Irish unionists to resist the nationalism becoming prevalent throughout the UK. It is certainly a fitting message in keeping with the theme of Unionist Lite.
Kane’s commentary is scarcely more optimistic than that of Gregory Campbell, but unlike the DUP man Kane is one of the most astute unionist analysts and propounds a scrupulously civic, pan-UK unionism which bears close scrutiny. His prediction is that the DUP and Sinn Fein will continue to administer a sectarian carve-up which obstructs any prospect of constructing a truly shared Northern Ireland and that the Union will therefore fail to be strengthened.
Kane is prepared to give Ian Paisley the benefit of the doubt when he speculates on his motivation for entering power sharing last May, but whilst he acknowledges the DUP’s success in performing spectacular U-turns and retaining electoral support, he believes the party’s pursuit of success at the polls has blinded them to very real dangers to the Union. The argument that the DUP prioritises short-term political success at the expense of their supposed overarching goal is an old one, but also has the moral strength of being 100% true. I would have no compunction in going further than Kane and contending that the DUP’s unionism has always been a flimsy edifice and rather than taking their eye off the constitutional issue the party is acting consistently with its Ulster nationalist agenda.
The kernel of the columnist’s argument is that the DUP’s agenda is in keeping with that of its supposed opponents.
“That sort of stalemate, in which neither side seems to gain the upper hand, may suit the mindset of those who continue to see everything in terms of us-and-them. But it also suits Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Fianna Fail, none of whom has any vested long-term interest in a successful and confident Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”
In this paragraph Kane provides a neat synopsis of the prevailing political climate and the reasons that it distresses right-thinking unionists. The DUP has little interest in integrating the two communities in an inclusive Northern Ireland. Their priority is the maintenance of their fiefdom and the representation of narrow sectional interests of their own community. Ultimately this will be greatly to the disadvantage of the entity of Northern Ireland as nationalists attempt to advance the notion that they have an equal right to cleave to the institutions and symbols of the Republic of Ireland.
Kane sees little chance of a major change in mindset of either the electorate or the main parties during the next year. Sadly I would have to concur.