By Jamie Bryson
In recent days a number of novel and naïve ideas have gained traction on social media in regards unionism/loyalism and a United Ireland.
These ideas do not of course gain traction because they are genuinely reflective of the thinking of anyone within the community from which they purport to emanate, rather they gain traction because they are gleefully seized upon by nationalists and elements of the media who are only too keen to present them as alternative unionist thinking.
Put more simply, they are viewpoints which superficially at least can be used by nationalists as ‘evidence’ of a brand of Unionism that wouldn’t rule out a United Ireland (despite the plainly obvious contradiction at the heart of such a position).
The danger of even engaging with such superficially pseudo-intellectual concepts is that you bestow them, or the messenger, with undue credibility. However, that must be balanced against the danger of allowing such concepts to exist unchallenged.
Accordingly, this piece seeks to once and for all dismantle the concept (from a unionist/loyalist point of view) of engaging with the notion of a ‘New Ireland’. That should not be taken as bestowing the concept itself or those who promote it with any credibility, rather it simply seeks to put an end to any notion that such a concept should be treated with anything other than utter contempt by all those who value the Union.
In recent months we have seen the promotion (largely by nationalist manipulation) of the concept labelled as a ‘New Ireland’. In the past 24 hours this has been compounded with the specific promotion of a purported component of that concept (which first derived itself from Mary Lou McDonald); namely the suggestion that unionists would have greater representation in a ‘New Ireland’.
I deal with both the ‘New Ireland ‘proposition (inclusive of the linguistic trick being played) and the specific proposition of a ‘New Ireland’ having an attractive component, namely “greater representation for unionists”, in this short article.
A ‘New Ireland’ has one core unchangeable component: the unifying of the separate jurisdictions of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland into one united entity. That for slow learners is a United Ireland. The adoption of the new terminology is simply a deceptive effort to change public discourse via a ‘nudge’ approach.
In short, the purpose is to deceive the naïve into believing that a ‘New Ireland’ is conceptually different than the United Ireland cause for which Sinn Fein’s IRA murdered and maimed in a three decade long terrorist campaign.
If you accept the proposition that the terminology deployed is a deceit, as set out supra, then it follows as a matter of irresistible logic that you must concede that the term ‘New Ireland’ in fact represents the weaponisation of language to aid nationalism’s political objectives.
As such, those using that term are either naively, or deliberately, assisting in a carefully designed nationalist strategy to shape public discourse, in aid of their ultimate political objective. Given that terminology issue has (I hope) been explained, I will revert to describing the concept of a ‘New Ireland’ as it really is: a United Ireland.
As part of the foolishness of those being lured- with the trap greased by nationalist media surrogates and social media activists only too keen to promote ‘helpful’ voices which purport to emanate from unionist/loyalist communities- there is the belief that discussing a United Ireland is “harmless”, and that unionists/loyalists should be “open” to the idea.
I will say something only (relatively) briefly on this specific suggestion for the sake of brevity in this article. I would however recommend recent articles by Owen Polley and Emma Little Pengelly for a fuller dismantling of this proposition.
The concept of a United Ireland requires the destruction of the Union. Therefore, any form of United Ireland- even one in which the streets were paved in gold- requires first the acceptance of the proposition’s pre-requisite of the end of the Union (and thus unionism as a political concept).
People who identify as unionists could of course exist in a United Ireland as individuals; however, that is confused by the naïve with the proposition unionism as a political concept could co-exist with a United Ireland. Those two propositions are entirely different.
The first proposition is of course straightforward. In a United Ireland those who wish to identify as unionists would be permitted to exist as human beings, and to be treated equally and fairly (nevertheless I harbour some doubts even about that). So too could I also exist in the same terms identifying myself an Apache Indian or a descendant of the lost tribe of Israel.
That is entirely different than the coherent existence of unionism as a political concept within a United Ireland. On the plainly obvious footing that a United Ireland’s pre-requisite is the destruction of the Union, it therefore follows as a matter of elementary logic that come the point of a United Ireland, the Union as a political concept could not co-exist.
Therefore, participation in discussions about a United Ireland (regardless of the phraseology which cloaks it) is a discussion which requires acceptance of the aforementioned pre-requisite (the destruction of the Union). You can not discuss how a United Ireland would look without first reconciling that proposition with the fact that however it would look, it would involve the destruction of the Union.
As a side point, how many nationalists participate in discussions about how to strengthen the Union? The only remarkable thing is that the idea that unionists should discuss the dismantling of the Union has somehow become part of mainstream discourse.
This is what to remember; unionists/loyalists being deceived into the trap of discussing a United Ireland are simply being used as useful idiots by nationalists to assist designing the wrapping paper. That which is in the box is pre-defined. Put simply, you are designing the symbol under which the nefarious substance is to be ushered in.
It is from this fountain of foolishness, eagerly replenished by nationalist activists and their media and social media surrogates, that flows the latest suggestion that a United Ireland would confer the benefit of increased representation for unionism.
This naïve assumption fails to appreciate the basic point already addressed that come the point of a United Ireland, unionism as a political concept would be defeated.
The naivety seems to flow from a basic misunderstanding of the entire premise of the Belfast Agreement and constitutional statute flowing from same, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (‘the 1998 Act’).
As I have written about on numerous occasions (including in recent book Brexit Betrayed, and in a lecture delivered on the Shankill Road which you can read HERE) the ‘process’ born from the Belfast Agreement has only one end point.
I need not rehearse that argument in this article, save for pointing out- again as a matter of the most compelling logic- that a ‘process’ by its very definition has a start and an end point. If you want to discover the end point, you turn to the Belfast Agreement’s enabling statute, the 1998 Act. That constitutional statute envisages only one end point, and that is a United Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s place within the Union is permitted to prevail, until we reach the end of the ‘process’. At that point (changing of the ‘last thing’) the process ends, a United Ireland springs into being and there is no provision either in the Belfast Agreement or the 1998 Act which confers upon those who would identify as Unionists any statutory right or architecture by which to seek- at any future juncture- re-integration with the United Kingdom.
It therefore resolves to this; unionism needs to win a border poll every time, nationalism need only win once.
Turning to the two specific cardinal errors which infects the most recent ‘idea’ flowing from the fountain of foolishness.
Firstly, unionist representation in the Dail (or its United Ireland incarnation) would be representation in a United Ireland, which necessitates that unionism as a political concept would be defeated. It sounds like the type of 1930s theory promoted by Neville Chamberlain. It really requires no further canvassing, at least for the purposes of this article.
Secondly, if the desire for greater representation is the motivating factor (rather than a United Ireland), then such a concept could easily be promoted by arguing in favour of the theory previously argued by Bob McCartney QC, namely that the mainstream political parties in the United Kingdom – Conservatives and Labour – should organise in Northern Ireland. In that way, any proponent of a greater representation and influence theory could urge people to vote- for example- for the Conservative candidates in Northern Ireland and thus fuse Northern Ireland into greater representation via a political bloc in the United Kingdom Parliament.
By way of coda I would simply add that unionists and loyalists must be alert to the danger (especially in regards hyper-liberal social media and elements of the inherently pro-nationalist media establishment) of being used by nationalists, and some of their surrogates in the media, who are only too happy to woo persons (via the warm glow of Likes, RTs and agenda-driven puff pieces) into making politically novel and ultimately naïve comments which fits into the United Ireland agenda, which they can then contrast with their politically desired outlook of the mainstream of unionism being ‘backward looking’.
If those championing the end of the Union- by virtue of the destruction of the Union being a pre-requisite to a United Ireland- are promoting and embracing your ideas, that should give any unionist cause to pause to consider that which they are publicly articulating.
Nationalism is very adept, via their ‘social media activists’ (aka Shinnerbots), shadow organisations (such as Shared Island, Think 32) and media surrogates, at identifying and promoting those views which are advantageous to their political objectives. It is important to be alert to those deceptions.