Pity or contempt?
by the editor
AT TIMES it is difficult to know whether it’s more appropriate to react to the occasional, ill-thought-out, xenophobic outpourings of Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble with contempt or pity. The truth is that a combination of the two is about right.
However, exactly what Trimble thought he was likely to achieve for the unionist cause by describing, at a recent Ulster Unionist Council meeting, the twenty-six counties as “pathetic, sectarian, mono-ethnic, mono-cultural state”, is harder to fathom.
Admittedly, his comments were primarily aimed at fellow UUP council members, whose response was to back, overwhelmingly, Trimble’s re-election bid. Sadly, Trimble’s offensive, illogical and ill-conceived sectarian bluster is confirmation that while much has changed for the better since Good Friday 1998, unionists’ supremacist mindset remains intact.
In the somewhat anti-diluvian world of Ulster unionism, reliance on sectarian dogmas still appears to be thought of as the most effective way to boost a leader’s ratings with the party faithful. Even so, out-bigoting the bigoted while accusing others of being ‘sectarian and mono-cultural’ has taken this particularly dark and unpleasant art to new seemingly and bizarre heights.
Even George’s Bush’s special adviser on Northern Ireland, Richard Haas, who has been doing his best to embrace unionists on behalf of the capitalism’s biggest bully and dominant word power, was forced to throw his hands up in despair and issue a condemnatory statement. Dr John Reid has found himself in a similar position.
However, Dublin and Westminster appear to have combined forces to save Trimble from an even more potentially damaging gaff, from a unionist point of view at least —Trimble’s call for a border poll next May.
While unlikely to result in a victory for Irish unity this time around, such a poll would trigger the beginning, not the end, of a formal process that would eventually lead to a united Ireland. Neither the Dublin nor Westminster governments, for differing reasons, are ready for this eventuality just yet. But they at least recognise that only a small proportion of the Protestant/unionist community needs to be won over to form a majority in favour of unity in the six counties —- unlike, it would appear, David Trimble.
An end to bi-party consensus?
THE TRADITION of Tory/Labour bipartisanship over British government policy on the north appears to be at an end, at least for the time being, just six months after Iain Duncan Smith took up the leadership reigns of Britain’s ailing right-wing political party —- that’s the Conservatives for those who are a little unsure these days.
Dissatisfaction over the government’s failure to align itself totally with unionist concerns surrounding the Good Friday deal is rife among the Tory ranks. What seems to have finally tipped the scales for the new Tory leader and his increasingly irrelevant rump has been Labour’s supposedly change of attitude over the provision of facilities at Westminster for Sinn Féin MPs and the possibility of an amnesty for ‘on the run’ republicans.
Since being elected as the new Tory leader, Duncan Smith has gone out of his way to prove himself a committed ‘unionist’, even though he has not gone so far as to restore the word ‘unionist’ to the party’s official title. Traditionally known as the Conservative and Unionist Party, it wasn’t until 1974 that Unionist Party MPs were denied the Tory whip at Westminster —- following a cooling of the relationship between the Conservatives and unionists in the wake of the modest reforms proposed in the Sunningdale agreement.
Given historical trends and the likelihood that of time when a majority of people in the six counties — a majority of unionists is not required — accept the inevitability of a united Ireland once more, how long will it be before Trimble’s unionists formally re-enter the Tory fold in an attempt to preserve the influence of both parties?
Connolly Publications Ltd, 244 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8JR
Copyright © 2001 Connolly Publications Ltd?