Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Quiet confidence…

The GPO in Dublin (image via infomatique's flickrstream)

If you were an Irish Nationalist how would you feeling as of, 1st of January 2011, at the beginning of yet another decade “under British Rule”?

How far away do you think your nirvana of the 32 County Republic is at this point?

Well, if I were a nationalist at this juncture, two things in particular would be disturbing me:

  1. the confidence of not just the Unionist elite, chattering classes and bloggerati
  2. the maturity of the pro-Union electorate (defined as only those who presently or previously voted for Unionist parties).

For the first point, check out the News Letter’s Union 2021 series. Ignore the obvious troll (aka the prospective Right Dishonourable Member for Louth), what was the overall feel, the overall atmosphere of the series?

If I had to sum it up in a phrase, I’d say “Quiet Confidence”.

The vast majority of commentators most certainly weren’t saying: “We have the Union of our fathers and grandfathers”, but that is not *necessarily* a bad thing. Put it this way, a Unionist of 2011 can look forward to the future under the Union flag in a much more relaxed and assured way than the Unionist of 1970 could ever have anticipated, yes or no?

If I were a nationalist, the last two election results and their consequences would also greatly disturb me. In the Euros of 2009, the DUP fought on the traditionalist (accept no substitute) –

“Vote for us, Keep them out!” ticket. They didn’t “smash Sinn Fein” because the pro-Union electorate wasn’t that bothered about “smashing Sinn Fein”- it was self-confident enough to instead exercise its democratic right.

East Belfast 2010 also proved that merely putting on the red, white and blue rosette was no longer a guarantee for the Unionist flock to fall behind its assigned candidate. In both cases, the Union was no longer the question for the voter because the Union at this juncture in our history is no longer a serious question open for debate.

But let’s push the counter-intuitive boat out here and, as I said at the beginning of the post, put ourselves in Irish nationalist shoes.

I’ll get the ball running, with a quote from Sun Tzu (or was it Eric Cantona;))

“If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of our enemy float by.”

Is that it­? A “United” Ireland is inevitable “just because” and will happen if we/ they wait long enough for it?

Come on, rack your brains; make the argument for the “United” Ireland to the uncommitted voter, more pertinently, for a Unionist readership; make the argument why a “United” Ireland is inevitable.

A Pint of Unionist Lite


Filed under: civic unionism, Union 2021, ,

9 Responses

  1. john says:

    Certainly Unionists do not need to fear a United Ireland soon but I dont agree with your view on the recent elections. The nationalist vote is still slowly increasing yes not at the pace of say the 90’s but it is still increasing. AS for the Alliance victory in East Belfast it had nothing to do with the electorate showing such confidence in the union so as not to vote Red White and Blue it was simply a protest vote against a clown who actually felt he was untouchable, above the law and could do anything he wanted. Fair play to the people of East Belfast for giving him the boot he deserved

  2. oneill says:


    Nicholas Whyte who is probably NI’s top electionologist (not sure that’s a real word, but you know what I mean) wrote this article during the summer.

    The difference is small but at this point in time (and I always add that as a caveat) it remains.

    Concerning E Belfast, I believe it’s the first time a sitting Unionist MP has been turfed out in favour of a non-Unionist for reasons other than demographic. Of course, the collective nonsense of last year helped that greatly *but* would it have happened in 1995, 1985, 1975? I don’t think so and that’s what has changed in my opinion. If anything though, the comparative failure of Mrs Dodds in the Euros perhaps was more telling for the reason I gave.

  3. John McCormick says:

    Hello O’Neill but Nationalism/Republicanism is at a disadvantage in that there is no viable alternative to Sinn Fein for dissident’s to vote for. Unionism has the TUV to represent their dissident’s. When they manage to form a viable party then we can make a better judgement about whether the Nationalist vote is stopping it’s growth.

  4. oneill says:


    Well, possibly. Although what’s stopping them organising and standing in elections at the moment?

    • John McCormick says:

      Two main factors would be the large number of groups ex: RNU, RSF, Eirigi, 32 County and independent Republicans. Another factor would be their dislike of politics in the 6 counties as they see it.

  5. Blissett says:

    I think while there are valid points for republicans to consider here, I would think theres a bit of hot air. The basic gist of a lot of it is that Unionism has a more urbane bloggerati and commentariat. Which may or may not be true, but I think its a point which is stretched a bit here.

    On a technical point Mr Adams would neither be the right dishonourable nor honourable member for Louth if elected, he would be the deputy for Louth, plain and simple.

  6. Progressive Unionist says:

    Great post O’Neill!

    If I was a nationalist I’d be asking what kind of ‘united Ireland’ I was after:

    – the old-style, almost 19th century (yes I know we unionists can get 19th century too) “painting the map green” version of a ‘united Ireland’ – in which case there’s little or no chance given voting and demographic trends.

    – or a softer, still Irish nationalist, idea of ‘uniting Ireland’ that focussed on building bridges between the two historical traditions and building an island which we all can be proud of (which, for unionism, means continuing with the constitutional settlement of a power-sharing NI within the Union)

    I reckon a significant majority of nationalists in the South are for the latter when they think of ‘uniting Ireland’. Nationalists in the north are probably more evenly split.

    If I was a nationalist, I’d be putting everything into the ‘building bridges’ strategy because it’s the only one that would actually unite the peoples of Ireland in their diversity – regardless of what colour the map looked like.

    Even if the 19th century ‘paint the map green’ ended up working in the limited sense of ‘50%+1 voters going for a united Ireland’ it still wouldn’t be any kind of united Ireland worthy of the name – how could an Irish Republic get off the ground or have long-term sustainability faced with the total opposition of the Unionist tradition? It would have a Quebec problem from the get-go with the Northern Unionists always a few votes away from secession.

    To nationalists I’d say that you could paint the map green but it wouldn’t be a ‘united’ Ireland at all in any meaning of the word.

    Equally you could respect Northern Ireland’s right to remain in the Union and have a far more ‘united’ Ireland in terms of all the people of the island of Ireland working together than you’d ever get otherwise.

  7. oneill says:

    “…basic gist of a lot of it is that Unionism has a more urbane bloggerati and commentariat”


    That’s what I said or even implied!
    I certainly think Unionism has a much more open blogosphere and less “tribal” journalists (there are no Unionist equivalents of Feeney, Collins and the ATN stable for example)and I think that is a healthy thing but I’m not sure how much it impacts on the bigger picture.


    The last paragraph hits it on the nail. If we (those who also see ourselves as British) are allowed the space to develop our own Irish identity, then a “United” Ireland is the inevitable result. Would that scenario (tied in with a majority in NI wishing to remain a part of the UK) be enough for the typical Irish Republican? I’m guessing not.

  8. oneill says:


    “That’s what I said or even implied”
    Sorry, that should read:
    “That’s not what I said or even implied”

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