After the UK’s stuttering final exit from the European Union, veteran newspaper columnist Alex Kane seems to have very similar thoughts as mine about where the UK’s political and economic priorities lie in relation to its colonial legacy, the island of Ireland. The former spin doctor of the Ulster Unionist Party writes in the newsletter:
What Johnson did wasn’t unique. Like so many Prime Ministers before him – most of whom claimed to be advocates of the UK’s geographic / constitutional integrity – he prioritized other interests over the interests of NI unionism. What conclusion should unionists draw, considering that he is only the last in a long line to follow the same course? The most immediate is that Prime Ministers and their parties say nothing about NI: because they are not emotionally attached to it.
… Why should successive British governments, especially in the years when the IRA was armed and active (1969-1997), seem so determined to find a way to appease SF rather than crush armed republicanism?
Why have successive UK governments invested more time and energy in establishing working relationships with successive Irish governments? Why did successive UK governments – after the 1998 referendum – have so many deals and deals under the radar that would have required approval by the IRA Army Council (and we know the council is still acting across the board?)? Why did the May / Johnson administrations – both backed by the DUP – seem to find it more necessary to pacify the Irish government than the DUP or broader unionism?
Why is the DUP now reduced to the absurdity of pretending – and it really is an excuse – that Johnson’s betrayal is actually not a mound of beans? Why is it continuing the pretext of finding ways to mitigate the effects of an agreement that has the impression of the EU, the Johnson administration and a whopping parliamentary majority?
The answer may be obvious to you and me, but like many other leaders in the country’s union-friendly minority, Kane cannot or does not want to see it and instead takes comfort in the idea that it is him.
… Not overwhelmingly convinced that successive British governments have been actively determined to break away from Northern Ireland. That said, I am also not convinced they would shed tears if a majority in a border poll voted to leave.
The job of unionizing in NI’s centenary year is to take this into account and find a strategy and narrative that understands and takes into account the UK’s long-term priorities for this.
A task at which modern unionism has repeatedly and deliberately failed. And there is no reason to believe that this will change. On the contrary, the Democratic Unionist Party’s self-destructive Brexit strategy, its counterproductive backdoor coalition with the Conservative Party government in London, despised even by Tory supporters, shows that no rapprochement is possible between the party’s long-term priorities pro -british minority in the north east of Ireland and in the UK itself. That leaves this community only a realistic option for years to come. The one Alex Kane can never fully recognize, no matter how often his own logic and reason bring him close. Which of course is a metaphor of its own for the current plight of political unionism.