Posted By: March 26, 2014

Brian Feeney, Irish Post

March 26, 2014

THE past week has been both instructive and revealing. It’s been an enjoyable
spectator sport too for anyone interested in what passes for politics in The North.
Enjoyable that is, unless you’re a member of the Alliance party watching the party
leader writhing in agony on the two-pronged pitchfork that is British and Irish. His
circumlocutions were like listening to some absurd theological meditation on the
number of angels the head of a pin can accommodate or arguing about two natures in
one person.

Nationalists kept silent as a new generation was instructed in the reductio ad
absurdum that constitutes the unionist view of the world. It’s simply this: to deny
the validity and sanctity of the Act of Union is automatically to hold a false,
untenable position. Nothing else in the universe matters but the Union [ of the
North with England]. Anna Lo didn’t know this. She imagined that she could present a
rational case, political, social, economic and (despite poor deluded Arlene Foster)
geographical, for a united Ireland based on consent and then move on to her next

What happened next was revealing about the essence of Unionism. Gerry Adams, Martin
McGuinness, poor Declan Kearney in his futile mission to reach out to Unionists, can
all go on about a united Ireland until the cows come home. No Unionist pays a blind
bit of notice because no Unionist is going to vote for them. However, the fiercest
Unionist reaction is and always has been reserved for anyone perceived to be any
class of Unionist who utters a word in support of any aspect of nationalism.

In the nineteenth century,  what is recognised by all political scientists, pace
Arlene Foster, as the descendants of the settler community thrashed about
frantically trying to find a basis for unity against home Rule. They found it in
Protestantism. Whereas at the beginning of the nineteenth century Protestantism in
The North was notoriously fissiparous in political terms, by the end of the century
Protestant unity in the face of the threat of home Rule had solidified. In the
twentieth century that was supplanted by Protestant unity in the face of the
prospect of Irish unity.

Thus for someone perceived or assumed to be Unionist to utter words such as “united
Ireland” is regarded as the most grievous sin. Unionism has special words like
‘Lundy’ for anyone among them who steps away from the one true faith. The
hysterical, irrational response to Anna Lo is a stark warning and reminder to any
unionist of his or her fate were they to go over ‘to the other side’.

The fate of Protestant workers (practising or otherwise) who advocated socialism at
the beginning of the last century established the rule. Take someone such as William
Walker, a joiner and Protestant who stood for North Belfast in elections 1905-1907.
Although only 12 per cent of the north Belfast population was Catholic the prospect
of Walker splitting the all-class Unionist solidarity produced the reductio ad
absurdum question to him. Was he a Protestant first or a socialist? If he answered
yes to the first part he lost Catholic support, if yes to the second he lost
Protestant support for ‘Protestant’ was code for unionist.

Thus, although Anna Lo has an excuse not being a Northern Prod, her ‘apostasy’ is
being used to tar the whole Alliance Party, which is basically a liberal Unionist
party. The DUP line is that they’re all closet nationalists because if you can’t
come out in the open and declare for the union then you must be a republican.

The more ominous essential element of unionism endorsed in the past week is violence
or the threat of violence initiated against anyone suspected of being a traitor or a
Lundy. It goes without saying that violence was visited on ‘rotten Prods’, that is
socialists in the shipyards who were expelled alongside Catholic workers. The threat
of violence such as inflicted on the Alliance party since 2012 is sufficient warning
to prevent any middle-class liberal unionist from becoming involved in politics.

In the 2001 Westminster election 400,000 voted for the UUP and DUP. In 2010,
270,000. Most of that collapse was dismayed UUP voters. The past week’s ferocious
rhetoric explains all you need to know.