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Unionism’s continuing Orange Connection, the argument against.

The Orange Order’s Belfast County Grand Master, Tom Haire:

We are not a member of any political party, therefore I would say we are not political, but as an organisation we are interested in what happens in our country,” he said. “Orangemen and their families, are all part of the political scene, they all have their political views. I do believe we have a right to express the views that we are hearing from the people on the ground, from the grassroots. And people are fed up with one party sniping at the other and so forth.”

According to its own figures, the Orange Order presently has 35,000 members in Northern Ireland; that’s approximately 3% of the current Northern Irish electorate, 5.2% of the electorate who voted last May, 11% of the total who voted for the pro-Union parties. With those kind of figures, the Order is then merely a medium-sized lobby group in the context of the wider Northern Irish politics? No.

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A total of 37 Northern Ireland’s MLAs belong to an Orange Order Lodge, that’s over 33% of the total membership of the Assembly, a staggering 66% of the combined total of pro-Union representatives. Those figures don’t represent the strength of a lobby group, more of the all-pervasive influence the Trade Unions imposed on pre-Blairite Labour. And as over time that Trade Union link proved to be a liability rather than an asset in the modern age to the Labour Party, I believe the same is true with the continuing Orange Link with political Unionism.

Firstly, as the above figures prove, the Orange Order holds very much a minority position, even in terms of the pro-Union electorate. Yet despite “Orange Votes” (assuming they all voted of course!) being only one tenth of that pro-Union electorate , two-thirds of the Unionist representatives belong to and presumably hold views commensurate with that organisation. In other words, in 2010 the views of our elected representatives on a whole host of cultural and religious issues are unlikely to tie in with those of a large majority of the potential electorate.

In its own words:  “The Orange Institution is set for the defence of Protestantism.”
Fine, it’s obviously not on its own in nailing its identity firmly to the mast; other  social/cultural/political and even sporting organisations do exactly the same in Northern Ireland. But by doing so, the Unionist MLAs who belong to the organisation are also leaving no ambiguity open as to which side of the communal fence they are happy to be residing. The perception inevitably strengthens then that N.Irish Unionism is not about building a Union open and welcoming all, but is instead about primarily ensuring the protection and survival of Ulster’s “British/Protestant” “Community”. Unionism, to have any kind of future, needs to move beyond the communal.

As a pressure or lobby-group the Orange Order gets involved in a number of issues; for example, the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom, parades and most recently, “Unionist Unity”. Particularly the first topic has potential to embarrass elected representatives who are also members of the Order (although to be fair, several have disagreed with the  opinions expressed on this one by the leadership). However, once again, none of those issues mentioned ( and the other ones the Order tends to get involved in) are what you would expect members of a political party hoping to attract the widest and greatest potential support to associate themselves with.

The Marching Season is upon us and hopefully will depart without any outbreaks of the kind of civil disorder  seen in the past in places like the Ardoyne. If they do occur though, rest assured the media and the wider public focus will be full-square on the role and place of Order. Mud, even if it may be undeserved mud, sticks not only to the organisation itself, but also (because they are its public face) to its political members.

Due to largely its disproportionate representation amongst MLAs, Orange “business” tends to takes up an excessive amount of time and stress at Stormont, the latest case in point being the draft Parade legislation. In times of economic stress, such as we are facing now,  it simply shouldn’t be  the all-important priority, as it often seems, for the UUP and DUP. The general public seeing their jobs, homes and benefits slowly disappearing down the plughole surely can not be happy with this emphasis.

Finally, the fact that members of the Orange Order comprise such a high proportion of the Unionist political elite has an indirect effect of stifling alternative and diverse views within the wider pro-Union body politic. When Danny Kennedy sees fit to address the question of “Unionist Unity” at a Lodge meeting and when the vast majority of the Unionist leadership will be walking on Monday, what chance then of a secular, modernist, non-communalist voice being permitted to have its voice heard within the parties as a whole?

I’ve set up the six areas where I think the continuing Orange domination of  political Unionism weakens the overall pro-Union cause. That was the easy part; how it is addressed is much more difficult and can only commence if we collectively agree that it is a problem- I’m interested to hear whether other Unionists, of both the Orange and non-Orange variety, believe it is.

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22 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    One small point you may have over looked mate is the Orange extension. For example, I’m in the Order but my sister, Fiancée, Aunt & Uncle and other family members are not. However, they do support the Order and attend parades, Church Services etc. Therefore, while the institution numbers around 36,000 members, the actual number of people connected to the Institution is much greater. This is why its say in Unionist politics is larger than it would be if its voting power was only based on actual members.

  2. thedissenter says:

    That the Order is viewed as having significant political impact is more of a comment on the weakness of Unionist leadership at the present time than it is of the strength of the OO.

    As Alan says it is not just the membership it is the entire cultural resonance which, though some would wish otherwise, is going to be with us for some considerable time.

  3. fair_deal says:

    Further to Alan’s point – a much larger proportion of protestant males have been thru the Orange at some stage in their lives, and still maintain an identification with it. There are 10 close male relatives i can think of whom 2 are active members and 5 more are former members. I can also think of a grandfather who hasn’t darkened an Orange Hall door in decades, walked nor paid dues but he’d still consider himself part of it all.

    Overall in the last 10 years the OO has started to put more distance between itself and politics which the ending of the link, the significant reduction in politicians speaking at demonstration and the greater emphasis unpon cultural and other aspects of the Order. With its policy agenda essentially focused on its organisational needs rather than the bigger politics – e.g. rates on halls, support for Orangefest, compensation scheme etc. I sense that their interest in unionist unity is essentially a pre-requisite to a further withdrawal (if it came about). The media, with its usual liberal misunderstanding of Unionism and the OO, hasn’t noticed this and continues to present the relationship as unchanged.

    Also the numerical logic underwriting your argument is ultimately weak. Apply the same logic to the Unionist parties and the OO looks positively booming in comparison – substantially more members with a broader geographical and social mix who can attract many more to its events than the Unionist parties can get to vote.

    “In times of economic stress, such as we are facing now, it simply shouldn’t be the all-important priority, as it often seems, for the UUP and DUP.”

    The capacity to do than more things at once is not beyond the DUP and probably not even the UUP. It is inaccurate to say it is a choice.

    Further to dissenter’s point your anlaysis makes the mistake that cultural Unionism can essentially be ignored is false and would cause even greater problems in terms of Unionist turnout. Instead of imagining the situation of Unionism as a simplistic choice between cultural or civic perhaps we should be applying our thinking to how a sufficiently sophisticated message can be developed to appeal to both.

  4. slug says:

    Regardless of how much I enjoy the 12th parades themselves the leadership of the OO have done a lot to damage the OO’s reputation. The OO have appalling Public Relations skills – to say the least. They are in short a disaster zone for the unionist reputation and indeed the self-esteem of unionists. Its hard to be proud of unionism at times and the OO makes it no easier. The OO does not deserve tp be given any special place in unionism. It has dug itself a massive hole. Unionist parties need to stay out of that hole.

  5. Andrew says:

    ‘when the vast majority of the Unionist leadership will be walking on Monday, what chance then of a secular, modernist, non-communalist voice being permitted to have its voice heard within the parties as a whole?’

    You write this as if a secular, modernist, non-communalist voice is the very thing unionist parties need most. It isn’t obvious that this is case, especially when secular, modernist, non-communalist parties are looking pretty wretched at the moment.

    One of the advantages of being so backward is being able to see the pitfalls of the future and heeding the warning this gives.

  6. oneill says:

    Alan & Fair Deal,

    Re the greater Orange hinterland, point taken. But it still wouldn’t approach anywhere near 1/3 of the total electorate (never mind 2/3 of the total pro-Union electorate) surely?

    Dissident,

    The article was supposed to be questioning whether the present Orange connection was beneficial to the Unionist cause. The weakness of the Unionist leadership in terms of even thinking it may be a question, never mind thinking how they can sell the Union beyond that connection, and all that it entails, is, imo, a fundamental part of Unionism’s problem at the moment.

    Slug,

    “They are in short a disaster zone for the unionist reputation and indeed the self-esteem of unionists”

    My own opinion is that there is no room within the present structures of the DUP and UUP for a civic, “non-Orange” (for want of a better expression) Unionism to flourish. Do you agree? If so what should be the next step for those in the UUP who (perhaps naively) bought the line being spun about the UCUNF?

    Fair Deal,

    Re the Order withdrawing from politics, post whatever Unionist Unity delivers; that was actually the most interesting part of your comment. I see them as a lobby group, continually pushing their own agenda (which, as with any other lobby group, they have a right to); what kind of arrangement would convince them to step back from the political arena?

    Andrew & Fair Deal,

    It may not be my preference, but I accept the reality that cultural Unionism is, by far, the predominant strand within political Unionism at the minute. What I’m asking is whether predominance, near enough to the exclusion of any other form of thinking, be it civic or otherwise, is healthy for the long-term future? *If *we agree that it isn’t, then it is surely the job of all Unionists to think how we can accommodate and promote all pro-Union voices within the present party networks.

    Fair Deal,

    Re the time devoted to Orange and cultural issues generally; as I get older, I’m becoming steadily more crabby/intolerant/libertarian and I don’t see why my representatives’ time and, more importantly, my tax money should devoted to other peoples’ cultural and religious pastimes. My own opinion is that (as happens in one or two other EU states) we should be given a choice as to where the “cultural” part of our taxes should be devoted. With regards the time issue; then once the economy, health, education, policing are dealt with whatever seconds are left over our MLAs can use to worry about culture and religion!

  7. slug says:

    “My own opinion is that there is no room within the present structures of the DUP and UUP for a civic, “non-Orange” (for want of a better expression) Unionism to flourish. Do you agree? If so what should be the next step for those in the UUP who (perhaps naively) bought the line being spun about the UCUNF?”

    I agree and I can understand your frustrations. I would suggest staying. There UUP iand Conservatives working together is as good as it gets on this.

  8. ranger1640 says:

    The street perception of the UUP/DUP is that they are reactive to the nationalist agenda, rather than proactive and setting the agenda. The perception is that the UUP/DUP suffer the Unionist working class, the same Unionist working class that the Orange Order draws most of it support form.

    Its time the UUP/DUP started taking the lead in government, one just has to look at the mess the UUP have got themselves into over Health cuts and the DUP on every issue that requires a minister to make a difficult decision!

    The DUP’s Edwin Poots, even by Irish politics both north and south, must be the most indecisive minister in Irish political history. He’s so indecisive his mummy still has to dress him in the morning.

    The UUP/DUP will always be looking over their shoulders at the Orange Order, as it is a barometer of Unionist feeling at street level.

    Until the Unionist parties get their act together and become one party and get their collective fingers out, quite rightly they will have to suffer the Orange Order criticism form the sidelines.

  9. fair_deal says:

    oneill

    I don;t get the sense that you have dealt with my central criticism of your numerical logic being a weak argument.

    “But it still wouldn’t approach anywhere near 1/3 of the total electorate (never mind 2/3 of the total pro-Union electorate) surely?”

    Your core problem here is you are seeking to minimise no matter what the answer. Please list other organisations that have such reach and ability to motivate among the Unionist electorate. This is the OO’s significance especially now that the main churches are in decline and only open their mouths if the NIO tells them too.

    “I’m becoming steadily more crabby/intolerant/libertarian and I don’t see why my representatives’ time and, more importantly, my tax money should devoted to other peoples’ cultural and religious pastimes.”

    The base of a party or an ideology is not built on selfish desires. A coalition is always built and maintained no matter what the party. By your own reckoning there are 35K of them and 1 of you, i’d bet on the 35K getting the attention 😉

    “what kind of arrangement would convince them to step back from the political arena?”

    My hunch is gettingt the things sorted that you don’t want sorted namely the parades legislation and unionist unity. I’d expect after that it’ll largely just be ensuring public bodies engage with it around promotion of the Twelfth.

    “My own opinion is that there is no room within the present structures of the DUP and UUP for a civic, “non-Orange” (for want of a better expression) Unionism to flourish. Do you agree? If so what should be the next step for those in the UUP who (perhaps naively) bought the line being spun about the UCUNF?”

    I’m afriad this line is what has been seriously trying my patience around ‘civic’ unionists and the unity debate. They are simply not contributing to its progression – they could be raising their concerns and issues as part of the debate to ensure any process or entity for Unity took them into sufficient account. Instead they simply condemn it on spec and try andstop the conversation at birth. I reiterate my earlier point “Instead of imagining the situation of Unionism as a simplistic choice between cultural or civic perhaps we should be applying our thinking to how a sufficiently sophisticated message can be developed to appeal to both.”

  10. thedissenter says:

    I think that nationalists and particularly republicans will paint unionism in an orange corner regardless.

    As Fair Deal notes, the point is to gain a sense of purpose that all unionists can buy into and believe that there is a leadership that is positive rather than, as Ranger puts it so well, being constantly reactive. The Orange is attirbuted the volume of its voice because in the absense of leadership they are reflecting the deep discontent and unease among ordinary voters.

    In fact, all here on this thread are largely voicing the same exasperation with unionist leadership, and are stuggling to provide an answer, or explanation as to what might lift the debate out of its present doldrums. At some point all this talk will have to break out into the real world.

  11. st etienne says:

    Saulters is the man I see leading the ‘order into politics’ argument.

    He is probably the most reactive personality I have ever had the misfortune to have to endure.

    Agree entirely with the dissenter’s point:

    That the Order is viewed as having significant political impact is more of a comment on the weakness of Unionist leadership at the present time than it is of the strength of the OO.

    And am somewhat incredulous that the movements from certain reactionaries within the Order has seemingly reached such a broad audience.

    The Order has more pressing matters – getting rid of the paramilitary flags around the twelfth bunting is one area, and combat the wider role of these drug pushers in loyalist areas.

    But it’s easier to stand on a platform and give out meaningless inarticulate diatribes on unionist unity, whatever that is.

  12. oneill says:

    Please list other organisations that have such reach and ability to motivate among the Unionist electorate.

    In my summing up, I said “…I think the continuing Orange domination of political Unionism weakens the overall pro-Union cause”. It’s an acknowledgement that it dominates both in terms of personnel and ideas, political unionism- those ideas are not held by a majority of the overall electorate and I’d say a large minority/ small majority of those inclined to vote pro-Union.

    The base of a party or an ideology is not built on selfish desires. A coalition is always built and maintained no matter what the party. By your own reckoning there are 35K of them and 1 of you, i’d bet on the 35K getting the attention

    That wasn’t really the point I was getting at, it was more the removal of culture and religion completely from the governmental domain and (back) to the individual. It is, admitedly, peripheral to the debate.

    My hunch is gettingt the things sorted that you don’t want sorted namely the parades legislation and unionist unity. I’d expect after that it’ll largely just be ensuring public bodies engage with it around promotion of the Twelfth.

    My argument on parade’s legislation is the emphasis placed on it, not the fact that I don’t want it “sorted”. After “Unionist Unity” would be achieved they’d be content to stand back on advice and policy? That would be their ultimate target achieved?

    “I’m afriad this line is what has been seriously trying my patience around ‘civic’ unionists and the unity debate. They are simply not contributing to its progression – they could be raising their concerns and issues as part of the debate to ensure any process or entity for Unity took them into sufficient account.”

    The “debate” reminds me of the “debate” republicans periodically try to force upon us, asking us what we want from a United Ireland; ie those trying to force the debate simply won’t take “No, not interested” for an answer. My personal opinion is that with the strength of cultural unionism within the UUP, what bothers civic unionists within the party about closer ties with the DUP will have absolutely no effect on the final outcome. That being the case, civic unionists should be looking at the post/unity scenario- that’s a more realistic debate to be having because that’s a scenario they have a chance of influencing.

  13. […] clout that it’s extremely reluctant to give up. I cite this analysis from the invaluable Open Unionism blog: According to its own figures, the Orange Order presently has 35,000 members in Northern […]

  14. fair_deal says:

    Apologies if I mischaracterised your views on the parades legislation.

    “After “Unionist Unity” would be achieved they’d be content to stand back on advice and policy? That would be their ultimate target achieved?”

    That is my sense of the situation yes.

    Furthermore as far as I can see OO people who have spoken on it have been more in favour of the principle than prescriptive of the model and policies of the final entity. They don’t seem to be saying it must be abcdef rather they just want to see it happen. My hunch is they’ll endorse whatever came out the other end.

    “what bothers civic unionists within the party about closer ties with the DUP will have absolutely no effect on the final outcome.”

    I would gently remind you of the motto of your blog is “Resignation is our biggest enemy”. So why are you displaying resignation?

    It will most definitely have no effect if a debate is simply rejected at the start and the best way to have concerns ignored is not to raise them. I’d even suggest engaging in finding solutions to these concerns wouldn’t be amiss either.

    Personally I have always had a broadly sceptical eye of the unity concept in the past (as past comments on slugger would demonstrate). However, it has grown on me as an idea but I too would have concerns about what came out the other end of the process. As a past member of the UUP I can probably empathise with some of your experiences.

    As I argued in my earlier blog, I think the idea is worthy of examination, a good debate around it can be constructive for Unionism overall, a final entity (if any) would be the better for it and even without a final entity internal Unionist understanding could be better.

    I must admit I’ve been surprised by the poverty of thought around this from civic Unionists. For example on another blog today the response to the argument above was to say I was a liar who was talking bollocks. Aside from that lots of assumptions outdated pre-conceptions and personal dislikes seem to be at play.

  15. […] are still a hugely influential political force: while only 3% of the population belongs to a lodge, 66% of all the Unionist members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are members. The OO are keen to assert their […]

  16. oneill says:

    I have taken these two points together because for me personally they are connected:

    “Furthermore as far as I can see OO people who have spoken on it have been more in favour of the principle than prescriptive of the model and policies of the final entity. They don’t seem to be saying it must be abcdef rather they just want to see it happen. My hunch is they’ll endorse whatever came out the other end.”

    “It will most definitely have no effect if a debate is simply rejected at the start and the best way to have concerns ignored is not to raise them”

    One of my concerns about the UCUNF (never mind any entity that may follow from “Unity”) was that, despite the hype, a fair proportion of the troops in certain areas would never have countenanced voting the one most suited for the job of their prospective candidate if he-she just happened to be also a Catholic candidate, a gay candidate or a non-white candidate. That being the case, would ”Unity”, not only endorsed by the Orange Order, but with a more socially conservative party deliver a *better* chance for anyone, irrespective of religion, sexual orientation or colour to be chosen as candidate? I personally could delude myself and try and raise that particuliar concern during the “debate” (that the leadership is excluding the rank and file from anyway) but whilst the answer to that question for the foreseeable future has got to be “no”, then it’s banging my head against a brick wall.

    Much more constructive way forward for civic unionism is to think how we can bring about a situation where that scenario I mentioned isn’t merely words but an imaginable reality. Where I will agree with you is that civic unionists are obsessing too much on preventing “Unity” rather than letting the logic (ie very little on the topic of policy divides the leading members of the UUP from the DUP) take its course and assess the possible alternatives.

    Those alternatives, off the top of my head, would be joining local branches of the UK parties, setting up a pressure group (eg different scale of course, but look at the effect Tea Party has had in the US debate) or more unrealistically, setting up their own party. Civic Unionists should be thinking of the alternatives rather than just simply saying “No”.

    “I would gently remind you of the motto of your blog is “Resignation is our biggest enemy”. So why are you displaying resignation?”

    Without wanting to be too melodramatic, it does have an indirect connection with the topic.It is a quote from the assassinated Swedish Foreign Minister, Ylva Anna Maria Lindh. Her murder was also regarded as “an assassination of the free and open society” and this quotation was the Swedish government’s response to those that attempted to close down that free/open society. But simply standing back from the majority and deciding the best way that a (still very much minority) opinion can be heard as freely and open as possible is not a “resignation” or “surrender” as long as an alternative means is found to make sure the opinion is still heard by as many as possible

  17. fair_deal says:

    I sincerely believe you are over-estimating the number and breadth of issues people would have. If I could try and frame your concern in a more positive frame would your questions be:
    How can the standard of unionist political representatuve be raised?
    How can a broader cross-section of people be brought forward to be more reflective of Northern Ireland society and Unionist voters?
    What mechanisms does it propose to manage areas of controversy among Unionist voters?
    These are three perfectly good questions to ask of any new entity.

  18. I agree with the following comment by Dissenter

    “That the Order is viewed as having significant political impact is more of a comment on the weakness of Unionist leadership at the present time than it is of the strength of the OO”

    But I would go further than that. It is not so easy to be an open-minded, laterally thinking, politician if you identify with an institution which engenders divisiveness.

    Since it appears that membership of the OO carries weight on the CV of aspiring unionist candidates, I would suggest that the prospect of finding quality political figures, let alone leaders, from the Unionist parties looks rather bleak.

    Fair deal alludes developing sufficiently sophisticated message can be developed to appeal to both the civic and cultural wings of unionism. What could that message possibly be? The two wings have little in common apart from the fact that they believe that Northern Ireland should remain part of the Union.

    Consider also the unionists who are Catholic. 47% of the Catholic population would like Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom either by direct rule (8%) or by devolved government (39%). Hardly any of these people vote for one of the Unionist parties. Why would they? Given the history of intolerance towards catholics by Orangemen and Ian Paisley’s open bigotry, how could Catholics possibly find anything endearing about the UUP and the DUP?

  19. oneill says:

    Fair Deal,

    “How can the standard of unionist political representatuve be raised?
    How can a broader cross-section of people be brought forward to be more reflective of Northern Ireland society and Unionist voters?”

    Those 2, definitely, I’m not sure about the third one- in the ideal scenario, those controversies would be dealt with offering the widest possible choice at the ballot box, rather than trying to shoe-horn everyone into a one-size fits all.

    Something Robinson said (or at least was reported today, I guess the NL got the call from HQ to bring it forward after Big Ian threw the spanner in the works yesterday;)) highlighted the problems of a civic/cultural unionism merger:

    “It is meaningless having unionist unity unless it is a unity based on a common strategy with common principles and common values.”

    Other than the Union, what principles or values would I be likely to have in common with Robinson (never mind the backswoodsmen lurking in the dark corners of the DUP)? Not nearly enough to feel comfortable with endorsing the kind of jt candidates who are likely to emerge from any “unity” strategy.

    And as for this:

    “Setting out the reasons why he believes a single party is preferable, Mr Robinson says: “The nature of politics in Northern Ireland has changed forever, Sinn Fein is now a very significant presence, there is no indicator that the SDLP are making a comeback, and therefore it does need a strong unionist presence to be able to counter that.””

    Completely back-foot, defensive, reactive politics- I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be agreeing with Paisley, give the voters the widest possible range of pro-Union options and let the inherent strength and benefits of the Union take care of the rest.

  20. fair_deal says:

    You are both trapped in a miserablist outlook. Don’t like the idea so it must be impossible. You will also look for areas of dispute rather than common.

    SM

    “The two wings have little in common apart from the fact that they believe that Northern Ireland should remain part of the Union.”

    The working class voters who helped secure Thatcher her terms in government had little in common with the fat cats in the city but a message was still developed. The Republican party in america manages to attract social conservatives and liberterians.

    “47% of the Catholic population would like Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom either by direct rule (8%) or by devolved government (39%).”

    Recognition of practical reality and political aspiration are not the same thing.

    Oneill

    “Other than the Union, what principles or values would I be likely to have in common with Robinson (never mind the backswoodsmen lurking in the dark corners of the DUP)? Not nearly enough to feel comfortable with endorsing the kind of jt candidates who are likely to emerge from any “unity” strategy.”

    Do you agree with the hatfield principles? Again a presumption of what will come out. Approach the subject from how a party can be designed for now and the future rather than on what is there.

  21. Fair Deal,

    “The working class voters who helped secure Thatcher her terms in government had little in common with the fat cats in the city but a message was still developed.”

    It was not a message that got Mrs. Thatcher elected. It was a range of policies. The introduction of the right to buy scheme took votes from working classes. That is hardly likely to be a policy to interest the “fat cats in the city.” On the other hand, those “fat cats” would have been very happy with the reduction in the top rate of income tax. That would have been of no interest to the working class.

    In any event, you are not comparing like with like. Tribal “headcount” politics, where the border issue still dominates, does not operate in Great Britain and policies, however good or bad, are very unlikely to influence your average Northern Ireland voter.

    Oneill is right. Unionists across a broad spectrum have very little in common. There are those who want to move Northern Ireland towards a shared future and those who are just not interested. There are those (like Dawn Purvis) who believe that the two main Unionist parties have nothing to offer Protestant working classes. Some Protestants do not agree with academic selection. Who represents them? A fair deal for some is not a fair deal for others (sorry – couldn’t resist the pun).

    There is a big fault line dividing the unionists. However it is not between the UUP and the DUP. It is within the UUP itself. All that is keeping the UUP together is voting habit and historical loyalty. If you merged those two parties, their combined vote would drop dramatically. That is the reality.

    However, lets suppose that a common message can be found. What do you think it should be?

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