Posted By: June 27, 2023


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“Members of Congress should find the Irish News editorial of interest.”—Fr. Sean Mc Manus.

As United Ireland conversation gains momentum, Unionism must heed Archbishop’s warning and engage.

[Protestant] Archbishop John McDowell: “Unionists need to engage with a changing world.”

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Tuesday, June 6, 2023.

The outcome of last month’s council elections was another symbolic shift in the tectonic plates that shape the north’s political landscape, with Sinn Féin emerging for the first time as the single largest party of local government.

It was also the first time that nationalist parties secured a larger share of the vote than unionist parties. The result was the latest development in a general trend which in recent years has also seen Alliance gather support.

Unionism has not shown itself particularly adept at the introspection necessary to think through what the political, demographic, and cultural changes at play in Northern Ireland society mean for it.

From a Unionist perspective, though few will admit it, the Brexit fantasy has been a disaster, giving fresh energy and impetus to conversations around a border poll and Irish unity.

In this context, the [Protestant] Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Reverend John McDowell, has made a valuable intervention.

The archbishop is not a political spokesperson – a point he stressed himself in an interview published in this newspaper – but he does have a close understanding of the mood in the Protestant, Unionist, and Loyalist, or PUL, communities.

Although Archbishop McDowell cautioned firmly against Brexit – including writing to then prime minister Boris Johnson to warn about his government’s approach to the Irish border – he says that many in the PUL community today feel a sense of betrayal at how it has turned out.

As well as singling out Mr. Johnson for “misleading people”, Archbishop McDowell says people “should never have believed” the claims that there would be no difficult consequences to Brexit, “, especially in a place with a land border”.

However, he warns against commentary which argues that the PUL nervousness is a “fabricated grievance”.

Loyalist paramilitaries, meanwhile, “wreck their own front room” by posing a threat to their own communities; they are criminals, extortionists, and drug dealers who would be “called the Hutch and Kinahan gangs” if they were in the Republic.

At a time when there is a live debate around whether Northern Ireland’s future lies in a united Ireland or remaining in the UK, Archbishop McDowell says that Unionist leaders have never ‘sold’ the Union “in any significant or positive way”.

Ultimately, the PUL community needs to engage with the world around it and how it is changing, he advises.

Unionism needs to discover a sense of confidence. It is in the interests of everyone who wants a constructive and shared conversation about the future of the island that it finds it.