Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Civil unionism?

At Open Unionism Turgon appeals for ‘unionist civility’ but stops short of advocating ‘unity’, contending that a monolithic unionist party, in Northern Ireland, could not possibly represent the breadth of opinion which the pro-Union electorate encompasses. It is hard to argue with any call for more ‘civility’, whatever the context, and I believe that Turgon is right to argue that unionism would not draw strength from coalescing into a single Northern Irish party.

The essence of unionism is very simple, maintenance of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state. Its Ulster variant favours the retention and strengthening of Northern Ireland’s Union with Great Britain. Necessarily such a broad political mission statement must admit a wide variety of sub categories. Unionist parties, whether they are organised nationally, or stand only in one of the UK’s constituent parts, will subscribe to different interpretations of what Britain should mean, and will offer different strategies to underpin the Union.

It is sufficient for nationalist parties to offer a template for destroying the United Kingdom, but unionist parties are constrained by weightier responsibilities. Of course they must continue to develop policy with an eye to countering centrifugal and separatist forces, but they must engage primarily in the ordinary political discourse of a state. Northern Irish parties should not be the exception.

Naturally, where there is a pervasive threat from nationalism, those who wish to preserve the UK’s integrity should cooperate. And if a party purports to be unionist, it should offer policies which strengthen, rather than undermine, the Union. But membership of the Kingdom, and British politics, cannot always be centred on constitutional issues.

The Union will be safest, when parties’ unionism’ is taken as ‘read’, and real policy differences form their electoral battleground. In Northern Ireland that lies at the end of a significant process of normalisation, but it can be started now if voters here opt to participate in the next government of the United Kingdom.


Loki said...

Yep. Couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that we need a realignment of politics here. We could have two parties who are Unionist and then Labour and Conservative. Then two who are Nationalist and then Labour and Conservative.

If this happened we could have a serious cross party interaction of groups who are Unionist and Nationalist and also Conservative and those who are Unionist and Nationalist and also Labour.

Is there any chance of that happening in the near future?

thedissenter said...

Unionist parties may have their 'unionism' taken as read if any of their other policies mattered. With the present governmental framework that is unlikely. No party is actually able to implement any policy. Nor do they have to 'negotiate' or 'compromise' because they know there is no chance of give and take, because there is no need, no point. Result, all parties (all hues) ultimately resort back to the constitutional issue as the only one that creates distinction between their political offerings. What is so disappointing about the Conservatives in Northern Ireland, to date, is that other than offer access to the big Union (Westminster) and to be relevant, we've heard little on the 'bread and butter issues'. Of the hint by Ian Parsley in the Belfast Telegraph of tackling the 'client state' I eagerly await to hear more... but I am not holding my breath.

fair_deal said...

" It is hard to argue with any call for more ‘civility’,"

But perfectly possible to ignore it e.g. "super troughing homophobe couple"

Chekov said...

Falls under fair comment.

fair_deal said...

I think that is worth a Paxmanesque Yesssssssss