DUP walking backwards towards united Ireland
Some DUP representatives attempted to minimise Sinn Féin’s victory in last week’s local government elections. They claimed that since 1998 ‘nationalism’ (meaning supporters of a united Ireland) has stood still electorally. That is not correct. In 1998 parties supporting Irish unity received 38.59 per cent of first preferences. In 2023 support increased to 41.31 per cent.
It can be argued that is not a large increase. Its significance is enhanced when we consider parties with the word ‘unionist’ in their name. In 1998 they received 50.77 per cent of the vote. Last Thursday, voters reduced that slim majority to 38.35 per cent. Unionism, as traditionally viewed, is in decline. The new dispensation increases the likelihood of a border poll. Unionists oppose holding it and comfort themselves with the thought that a significant number of non-unionists might support the union if it happened. That view is as speculative as a suggestion that some unionists might act likewise in the opposite direction.
Support for Alliance, which has grown from 6.5 to 13.3 per cent, also gives cold comfort to unionists. How its supporters might vote on a united Ireland is unknown. Since Brexit and DUP attempts to unravel the Good Friday Agreement, many pro-EU unionists have switched off. They are faced with a majority unionist party flailing about and abstaining from governing a territory set up to perpetuate unionist rule. It is possible that, faced with a choice of an ungovernable northern territory, some might opt for a united country that is part of the EU. If structures on health, education and other matters were agreed, that might seem better than hearing DUP spokespersons opposing abortion, gay marriage and a Sinn Féin First Minister. If voting for a united Ireland might be a stretch, not voting at all might play as significant a role in the outcome.
In olden days of the Orange state, forcing enough Roman Catholic emigration to perpetuate a Protestant-unionist monopoly was viable, politically. Since that period ended, unionists have experienced increasing difficulty operating in a more democratic, less sectarian environment. They have badly managed their electoral decline. Unionists have in consequence won no new friends, while alienating increasing numbers of those who might once have voted for them.
The DUP rely on a British government doing nothing practical about refusal to enter the Assembly and a majority not in a position at present to do anything effective about it. That too seems like a policy doomed, at some point, to fail.
The DUP, by their actions, are persuading more to vote Sinn Féin and less to vote unionist. They may also be walking, albeit backwards, towards a united Ireland.
Catholic Church urged to revoke civil war excommunications of republicans
Further to an article in The Irish News, October 2022 – ‘Bishops excommunicate Irregulars’ (October 11 1922) – the National Graves Association contacted Archbishop Eamon Martin requesting that all excommunications imposed on republicans during the civil war be revoked: “...many of the excommunications were never revoked and that proved very difficult for some volunteers as they progressed in age and it also became a stressful burden for their loved ones who had to watch their relatives pass away while still officially excommunicated from the Catholic Church. We would welcome a statement of intent to revoke the excommunications, in this the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the civil war.” (Extract from NGA letter October 11 2022.) For many surviving, and now elderly, children of those subjected to execution, imprisonment, torture and exile, the fact that their Church ‘looked the other way’ remains an enduring disappointment.
The archbishop’s office replied requesting “factual details of what happened and who was involved”. The NGA responded that “the facts regarding the Bishops’ Pastoral of October 1922 are a matter of historical record” and also provided a number of academic references and sources. The Irish Catholic Church is fully aware of the actions of their hierarchy of the time.
May 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of the civil war, although atrocities continued. The NGA (again) calls on the Church to immediately revoke the excommunications. Such action would be a significant element in bringing to closure the unfortunate divisions inflicted upon the Irish people in the Civil War.
LIAM Ó CULBÁIR
National Graves Association
DUP divided due to ‘old guard’
The DUP use the excuse that the unionist voters aren’t coming out to vote and a split unionist vote is costing seats. Why? It’s not the voters who refuse to go into government. The politicians were elected to serve the voters, not themselves. Who would come out to vote for a party that tells the electorate after an election that they won’t be taking their seats at Stormont? The DUP lacks leadership in a party divided due to the ‘old guard’ who dictate their own policies of years past. Maybe if we had a policy that if an elected politician refuses to take their seat then the runner-up takes it, be it Westminster or Stormont. The drift away from unionist parties doesn’t say much of the opinions of the unionist community regarding voting for them. For years the unionist voters have been taken for granted and now Sinn Féin have become the largest party in Stormont and local government. It is just reward for the DUP’s take-it-for-granted vote strategy along with it’s everybody else who are wrong. If you’re going to deny democracy then don’t stand in elections. The politics of fear and arrogance have run their course. The unionist people are saying – “we don’t fall for that any more and why vote for a party that thinks only about itself”. Democracy with honesty or sectarian politics is the choice.
No unionist threshold
Alex Kane – ‘Unionists need to start talking’ (May 19) – claims that, in the May 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), there was a “unionist/pro-union threshold required for the referendum to pass”. He is mistaken – there was no such unionist threshold. The GFA says clearly that the referendum passes if a majority of those voting choose ‘Yes’. The Agreement applied the same simple majority rule to the referendum in the south.
I recognise that many unionists want to insert a unionist veto in a border poll on constitutional change, but we shouldn’t rewrite history, to pretend that the 1998 referendum established a precedent by requiring a unionist threshold.