Is unionism really ready for all the changes heading our way? You wouldn’t believe that was the case when you consider the past performances of some of their politicians in these past months and years .The world is rapidly changing in these past fifteen years since the Twin Towers bombing in New York. Europe and the Middle East are in uproar ; war roars across the east and refugees are pushing against fences as they try to escape to new lives; American politics have descended into a freak show since then with the likes of Donald Trump mugging outrageously on television like something out of a comedy show…..but still ,incredulously ,winning votes ; Scotland has threatened to leave the UK when the time is opportune and the UK is debating leaving the EU.
Changes are at hand.
In Ireland,as an island , Sinn Fein is gradually building itself up in a steady climb to be the biggest political party on the whole landmass.Having embraced the idea of eventually promoting and finally re-connecting the entire island to the ideals of a true egalarian republic as opposed to the current state of affairs pertaining in Southern Ireland , with its consistantly conservative outlook and its jobs for the boys. They hope to eventually have both An Taoiseach and a Joint First Minister in power north and south.They see it as part of a process to better eventually unite the hearts and minds of citizens across the land , north and south.
They have a plan.
Gerry Adams at some stage, away back some thirty-odd years ago was already thinking ahead and eventually convinced the SDLP’s John Hume that he thought the spiral of violence had become a dead-end and was merely a self-sustaining politically – motivated masturbation. I suppose it really was and It actually suited the British in some respects because it stymied real politics, real debate … and it certainly kept nationalism and republicanisn offguard and largely divided. It also provide a playground and training ground for the military -minded in the British Establishment. In a game like that the ordinary malleable man either English, Welsh , Scottish or British , was perfectly expendable and part of a revenge process.
Adams was already thinking beyond that scenario… out of the box … if that was what he believed was actually happening and Hume simply wanted a peaceful resolution to the street -savagery that was already self-sustaining .It took many years to convince anyone else and many are still not convinced. Many on the unionist side were happier when they could use violence to maintain their political crown as they had in the past and a percentage on the nationalist side still think it is best to physically attack unionism and by default “the British State”. Neither of these two factions were preparing themselves for a very different future . Sinn Fein soaked up virtually all of John Hume’s SDLP followers as soon as the IRA were no longer the violent face of republicanism. Voters would never have jumped otherwise and the republican project would never have evolved. The essential “republican ideal” appeared a better prospect when not associated with a brutal and unwinnable wargame which neither they nor the British could really win outright.There would always be another disaffected generation fed on the romantic glories of past conflicts to re-invent the conflict for another generation.
Sinn Fein were ready to then make slow inroads into both southern politics and the politics of the Norneverland adjoining it. They knew already that the climb would be a slow one. Dissident republicans do not appear to have any such plan at all, other than to inflict hurt to anyone perceived to be against them ..should that be political republicans , unionists, the police or the British in general. You’d imagine they had not experienced where that led last time it was tried.If you looked at it with a cool gaze you’d already know it was a pointless thing to do.You’d know how it panned out in the past.
On the unionist front there seems to be no appreciation of how Sinn Fein has made politics work for them. Sinn Fein are not slipping back .They have been successful. They are a growing party and each time they approach an election they make inroads and get better results.They envision a new kind of Ireland which unites them in politics , completely, with a hopefully newly – evolved unionism, some time in the future.There will be a census taken again in 2021 , some five years hence and if trends continue as they are now running, Irish nationalism and Irish unionism will be evenly balanced and the probability is that nationalists will actually outweigh unionism for the first time since this little statelet was deliberately forced and formed to be a specifically unionist haven. Those are the hard facts. There will be more nationalists available to vote for the first time.
The DUP , in the form of their leader Arlene Foster, appear not to countenance or be even aware that radical change of some sort will inevitably come and that the balance of power in favour of unionist hegemony will eventually tip over and slip back down that hill.That is coming as sure as the oncoming sea was lapping about King Canute’s sandals. There’ll be no pushing it back . At the moment there is not another alternative in sight.It is not cut and dried that every future “nationalist” will vote for a republican party , but people tend to back winners as they follow football teams, so there is some previous “form”. The same thing has happened in unionism when voters vote . Ian Paisley offered himself as a “winner” and went on to gather unionism around his hem. Donald Trump is attempting something similar in the USA.
What isn’t considered is that Sinn Fein is much more than a “republican” party. They are also much more socially progressive than their unionist counterparts who seem to be belatedlywaking to the realities of life in the 21st Century.Like Rip Van Winkle confronted with a modernism that he cannot understand , unionism is confronted with a party which is largely pro-feminist, pro Gay and pro -secular.It is a modern world very -unlike the world their little statelet was born in. Sinn Fein are also not averse to offering the hand of friendship to past enemies which makes them appear in a more positive light.In every respect modern unionism seems stuck in a time-warp.
Arlene Foster ,as “Joint First Minister” in all but name ,already in partnership government with Sinn Fein, has obviously not spelt out this simple truth to her potential voters because she appears to have an obsession in besting Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein on a daily basis and in the coming elections ,for no other reason than to see a unionist as being “Top Dog” in a little local Assembly.It doesn’t actually matter who is “First Minister” anymore. Sinn fein will propose that the title is largely meaningless but for unionism there is a seeming need to always appear as the people in charge. In many respects the title will really be meaningless anyway, given that no matter the tiny percentage separating these two large parties, they are already co-joined in matters of governance already and probably will be in the forseeable future.It’ll not really matter which dog pulls the sleigh as lead dog anyway.
From unionism there is no talk of future , social reform; there is no apparent plan for a more secular future, the kind which many obviously want across Ireland. Instead there is that same narrow, shallow vision . There appears to be no sense either of the social revolution that is already underway a few miles south in the republic, as the electorate gradually shuck off the church and conservatism that fifty years ago also strangled them there.The Democratic Unionist Party seem to be consistant in that they still exude some formidable bigotry, homophobia and racism from within their assorted ranks by their leading political figures , so we can assume that the people they are representing might have similar personal traits.Someone out there has, I’m sure, a neatly typed list with all the dates of the various offences of past vintage ,but it would appear that it’ll have no real effect on their leader’s future “vision”, in that she has already assigned the likes of Jim Wells as candidate for South Down in the coming elections.She obviously relies on a wholly heterosexual and White Anglo Saxon vote for the future sustenance of the party.
Sinn Fein on the other hand have spent many long years attempting to try a new approach other than the tired old eye- for- an- eye which had consumed everyone ,ending eventually as a violent stalemate .John Hume was then instrumental in allowing republicanism to develop politically instead of violently , when he talked with Gerry Adams.There’s no doubt that Sinn Fein have had a strange evolution as a party but no more so than many political parties throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. Many have violent past associations in their histories.
Now Sinn Fein have developed a well-thought out “real republican” populist vision ,working steadily this past twenty years or more , which hopes to embrace everyone in every small corner of the island, including even those recalcitrant unionists whose only current wish seems to be to build a wall along the “border”. Republicans are on their way to wielding power north and south , east and west and making all those changes .They seem to be gradually succeeding so far, whether people like their vision or not so they are obviously doing something that actually works for them , unlike their political foes in unionism or dissident republicanism.
You’d think that the dissident bomb -planters and Arlene might notice and mention that little political reality and probable future forecast, if only in passing, but there was no word of it at her recent conference appearance…