Monday, 16 March 2009

If this is a joke it's a corrosive, damaging joke

‘Radical unionist’, Dr John Coulter, makes an unlikely proponent of the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral force. Indeed it is surprising to read warm words from the Irish Star’s political columnist as regards ‘pan-UK unionism’, given that the ‘radical’ notion which most conspicuously distinguishes Coulter’s ‘unionism’ from the philosophy’s mainstream is his advocacy of a united Ireland!

There is not, however, any need to recalibrate one’s assessment of the Star as an organ of political analysis. Nor is there any requirement to reassess whether a wilful absence of sanity still best characterises Coulter’s work. He has managed to get the reasoning behind Empey and Cameron’s initiative reassuringly arse about tit.

“The Unionist NF should not be used as a trendy trick to suck up to Catholics. Unionist NF will only emerge as a genuine new force if it can return to the party's Protestant grassroots and physically get them out to vote.”


Setting aside Coulter’s childlike glee at playing fast and loose with nomenclature, it isn’t difficult to spot where the two party leaders might take umbrage with his analysis. The rest of the article is along similar lines; maximising the Protestant vote, single candidate in Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast and so on. It is as silly, contradictory and oblivious to the stated aims of the new force, as it is possible to imagine.

‘Quelle surprise’, readers might reasonably respond. After all, what else would you expect from Coulter and the Irish Star? Nothing better I can assure you.

That doesn’t diminish the fact that it is corrosive to have such rubbish, presented as commentary, in a newspaper most frequently read by nationalists. Not only is Coulter’s view of politics in Northern Ireland shaped by crude nationalism, it is shaped by crude nationalism defined, in the most explicit fashion, by religion. It reinforces all the suspicions and prejudices which might colour nationalists’ view of unionism and it panders to nationalism’s need to reduce unionism to something which fits a nationalist template.

If, as I suspect, Coulter’s commentary is primarily meant to be entertainment, it is damaging and offensive entertainment which simply isn’t funny.

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