Is it time to give up on power sharing as a bad job ?

A couple of weeks back I wrote about whether or not the time had come for Alliance to adopt a constitutional position (TL;DR – it hasn’t). As is typical of articles that touch on the constitutional issue, there were quite a few comments, most of which spectacularly avoided the point and tended to rehash boring talking points and clichés from the 1970s. But there were several fair remarks which merit further discussion, so I thought I’d start with the most …

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Alliance : time to get off the fence ? 

Some weeks ago I noted with interest the outcome of the University of Liverpool survey into the makeup of the Alliance Party membership base and their views on constitutional matters, finding that a larger number of members believe that Irish unity should occur in the future.  The title of this piece refers to an old cliché, which I’ve heard since 1994, that the party are a bunch of fence-sitters. More recently I’ve been hearing “constitutional change is coming and Alliance …

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Last Call for Jeffrey? Step up and play.

Over the course of 2023 I had 4 pieces published by Slugger on the challenges facing Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in getting his party back into government in Stormont. To recap, my line on all 3 was that he needed to face down the old Paisleyites in the DUP by claiming victory from his negotiations with HMG and using that claimed victory to lead a realignment of mainstream unionism into something currently lapsed voters can embrace. I seriously hope this is …

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The Hope of Possibility

My Dad died two days before Christmas. I was on my way up to see him when I got a missed call and a text from my brother telling me he’d passed away. He had pancreatic cancer. The time between diagnosis and death is often short. Before you’ve had time to wrap your head around the fact that your loved one is ill, they are gone.  The shock of the loss is as sharp and painful as the grief. How …

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Is Jeffrey ready to hit his home run?

This is the fourth piece I’ve submitted to Slugger in 2023 on the challenges facing Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in getting his party back into government in Stormont. The essence of the previous 3 was that Jeffrey needed to face down the old (literally and figuratively) Paisleyite rump of his party by claiming victory from his negotiations with HMG and using that claimed victory to lead a realignment of mainstream unionism into something currently lapsed voters can embrace. It certainly hasn’t …

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The opportunity grown up Unionism needs to grasp…

I submitted this article  six months ago and three or four weeks after the announcement of the Windsor Framework.  The essence of it – from an unapologetically pro-union perspective –  was that  Jeffrey Donaldson had stalled very quickly in his efforts to present the gains of the Windsor Declaration as something to be built on by his party and by unionism in general to enable the return of Stormont to stabilise things at least psychologically and allow unionism to present …

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A celebration of unionist culture

A showcase day of unionist culture was held at 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast, with activities of a cultural identity video; a “living library” event; a talk by historian and broadcaster, Dr David Hume; an exhibition of archival footage by NI Screen of cultural events; and music performances. The event was organised by Belfast City Council, through its Good Relations Action Plan, Cultural Inclusion and Co-Design. This programme has been running since June 2022, with participants engaged in a process to …

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Review: A People Under Siege by Aaron Edwards…

This is an important book for a number of reasons. While genuine students of unionism and the pro-union community here will be familiar with the historical timelines that hold the narrative together, there is a level of honesty and an attempt to explain the unionist community from an empathetic, sometimes sympathetic, position that has been too rare for too long. Edwards – unlike far too many writers from what is now euphemistically  termed “a unionist background” – does not set …

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Unionist Pacts: Deal or No Deal?

two human hands painting

Although it has only been some weeks since the results of the 2023 Council elections, already there is discussion within unionist circles on how best unionism can prepare itself for the next foreseeable election: the general election, which is scheduled to be held no later than the 28th January 2025. The Purpose of Pacts Nationalists and republicans view unionist pacts very negatively, even though political nationalism and republicanism have used pacts historically in attempts and to actually defeat unionist candidates. …

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Unionism needs plurality not unity; strategy not the reactionary…

Callum Jones is a Senior Parliamentary Assistant to a Conservative MP, based in Westminster, but originally from North Down. The overwhelming unionist takeaway from the local elections has been that it is in dire straits: eclipsed by republicans, demoralised and split in three separate directions. Discussion over the cold slab of unionism’s post mortem has drawn one common conclusion: unionism needs a ‘rethink’. It is more stark than that: unionism needs nothing short of a reformation. The DUP has sought …

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Searching for the holy grail of Unionist Unity…

An often-discussed but little-understood aspect of Unionism is how divided it is on almost every topic. The divisions go far beyond competing visions and healthy debates and are frequently about power, control, and egos mixed with a generous dollop of Ulster thran. As a consequence of internal divisions and warring factions, Unionism has suffered, the bloc has shrunk, it’s continually on the back foot and there are endless fears about further splits. A movement whose core objective is to maintain …

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As the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches, the immediate outlook is uncertain. But reform is in the air

As the Great Anniversary approaches, unionist opinion in its supporting  press is in turmoil over whether or when to return to the Assembly. Worryingly there is talk of being resigned to loyalist violence in the event of a border poll.    Opinion is tilting against accepting the Windsor Framework. Its gaps and deficiencies are forensically taken apart in the Belfast Telegraph by Sam McBride.  In the Newsletter, the voice of sceptical unionism, the editor Ben Lowry comes down against the Framework …

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The DUP are struggling to find reasons of principle for continuing their Assembly boycott

Photo; The Irish Sea  Many unionists are doing what unionists do, poring over a legal text. Not all of them may be clear in their own minds why they’re doing so. Looking for fresh evidence of betrayal or points that need improving?  For one, Sam McBride has delivered a glass half empty exposure of Rishi Sunak’s bouncy oversell.   The border in the Irish Sea may have been replaced by the green channel but it is alive and well in the …

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The Act of Disunion?

The latest ruling from the Supreme Court should surprise no-one. The justices affirmed previous precedent and confirmed what was obvious: the Protocol was lawfully implemented. Since the ruling, there have been calls to ditch the Good Friday Agreement. Anti- Agreement unionists say the consent principle isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because it didn’t stop the Protocol If the Agreement should go because it’s useless, what does that say about the Act of Union? In its ruling, the Supreme …

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Rebuilding Unionist Support for the Belfast Agreement…

A Book Full of Hope book

I read the recent LucidTalk poll published in the Belfast Telegraph that showed only 35% of unionists polled would still support the Belfast Agreement “if there was a vote on it today.” A majority of unionists at 54% would not vote for it today, with 11% saying that they “Don’t Know” or are “Not Sure” or have “No Opinion.” As a pro-Agreement unionist, I am saddened by the results but I accept them. It’s been clear to me for many …

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Unconditional Unionism: blind loyalty and why it doesn’t work…

people holding flags during night time

For some time, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why unionism seems to be in a state of perpetual existential crisis, and have managed to settle on some semblance of an explanation. I put it down to unconditional unionism, a condition amongst the most ardent political unionists that pledges unconditional support for the UK Government, Union and its institutions. Critically, unconditional unionism restricts any criticism levied towards the UK Government to the superficial, thereby weakening the ability to …

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Choyaa on Ireland’s Future…

Ireland’s Future held its latest conference at the 3Arena on Saturday, with the event being heralded by organisers as a significant step forward in the push for Irish Unity. Predictably following the conference, opinions were divided with some deeming the event as a defining moment in Irish history whilst others felt it was a misfire and many in between were unaware it even happened. Having watched the event online, I thought I would give a Unionist perspective on the proceedings. …

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DUP Conference 2022: Where unionism is and where it might go…

red and blue arrow sign surrounded by brown trees

The Three Kingdoms of Unionism The DUP will be holding its annual conference this weekend. I can remember in August 2021, the DUP was at its lowest point in LucidTalk’s opinion poll at 13% with its rivals the UUP and TUV at 16% and 14% respectively. Now, one year on, as of August 2022, the DUP sits at 24%; the UUP at 11%; and TUV at 6% according to LucidTalk’s opinion poll. This time last year, it was believed the …

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Should Unionists engage with Ireland’s Future?

Arnold Carton is a retired schoolteacher from Belfast. I was one of the minority of unionists who ignored the advice and abuse from Sammy Wilson and attended Ireland’s Future in Dublin on 1st October, so was the €10 ticket, money well spent? What was the event for, and what did I or anyone else gain from going? We must accept that the perception of a unionist attending this event will probably be different from that of a nationalist, but Ireland’s …

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Houses of sand: Unionism has a problem with younger voters. A huge one.

Whither the union. I find myself becoming weary as I write this. Articles about the demise of the union, about unionist malaise and mistakes, are so common these days that they all sound the same. I stopped writing them at one point because I had nothing new to add. Even now, people write these pieces with a weird air of arrogance. They want you to know that they and they alone have figured out that unionism is in a difficult …

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