With their majority gone, what is the point of Unionism?

Posted By: August 16, 2023


On December 23, 1920, the London Parliament—with the Royal Assent of the King of England—passed the Irish “Partition Act.” It undemocratically carved out Six Counties on a racist (anti-Irish) and sectarian (anti-Catholic) headcount to create an artificial, gerrymandered Protestant/Unionist majority that England could hold on to. It was doomed to failure and tragedy … And now, as Brian Feeney explains in this article, that false, gerrymandered majority is gone.” —Fr. Sean McManus


With their majority gone, what is the point of Unionism?

Brian Feeney. Wednesday, August 16, 2023.

Unionism is now a real-time re-enactment of Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’ where two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, engage in aimless, pointless conversation as they wait for Godot.

Donaldson is obviously playing the role of Estragon, put upon by Vladimir, who is a metaphor for the ‘hundred percenters’, as Senator Mitchell called them, the hardliners in unionism.

Donaldson/Estragon is dependent on Vladimir, obeys his instructions, and performs the tasks he’s told to do as he does when he follows the lead of unionism’s political extremists.

At times Estragon wants to leave Vladimir, but he can’t because he depends on him.

Vladimir/hundred percenter repeatedly reminds Estragon that he needs to wait for Godot.

You can see all that played out in Donaldson’s lengthy, exasperated whinging [moaning/complaining] email a couple of weeks ago.

Godot takes many forms in it, but they all amount to the same thing: Godot will provide salvation for unionism, or as the play has it, when Godot comes, “Godot will save us.”

So, Donaldson’s email runs over the various well-worn means of salvation. Unionist unity: vote for one party, don’t split the vote, avoid transfers but if you feel you have to, then transfer to the DUP.

Don’t expose the divisions in the DUP by shooting off your mouth because people don’t vote for a divided party.

Worse, some might agree with the criticisms voiced by the hundred percenters and maybe not vote at all.

Psychologists call the sort of explanations in Donaldson’s email cognitive dissonance: a desperate attempt to explain away evidence that undermines or negates your worldview.

Donaldson’s presentation of a recipe for unionist success is thus as hopelessly outdated as the perception of the North he cannot shake off.

There is not, nor will there be, ‘unionist unity’. The old monolith shattered irreparably 50 years ago.

However, even if there were unionist unity it wouldn’t matter because there aren’t enough unionists to make a majority. It’s counterintuitive, but more unionist parties transferring increases the unionist vote.

Donaldson doesn’t appear to understand that. He’s stuck in a first-past-the-post mentality. At what stage will a unionist leader face the evidence and act accordingly?

Academics consider the local government elections in May were a turning point with massive SF majorities in the west and Derry and declining unionist majorities in the east.

Next year there will be a British general election, probably in May. The DUP is likely to lose East Derry and/or Upper Bann given the new boundaries.

There will never again be a unionist party majority in Belfast city council. There is an overwhelming majority of nationalists under 25, many on the electoral roll, and increasingly more joining it.

Young, liberal, educated unionists are deserting the DUP in droves. Change is coming. Next year there are local government and Euro elections in the south in which SF is predicted to prevail.

There will also be a general election, probably in October, again with SF predicted to be the largest party. Should Fianna Fáil again prop up a Fine Gael government the electorate rejects it will be the end of Fianna Fáil.

As far as Donaldson/Estragon is concerned these changes may as well all be happening on planet Zog.

Since they are events that contradict his stultified view of the political world, he’s unable to come to terms with them or address them. Mainly that’s for psychological reasons, see above, but also because Vladimir/hundred percenters forbid such movement.

Donaldson/Estragon, they say, must wait for Godot. In Beckett’s play, a false prophet in the shape of a boy comes to assure the waiting characters that Godot will “surely” come tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes. Godot never comes. Vladimir and Estragon don’t move.

What then is the meaning of their existence? Since the raison d’être of unionism, its majority, has gone and partition has made the north the poorest part of the island, what is the point of unionism?