The identity of so called small ‘u’ unionists has always intrigued me. My interpretation is that they are British not Irish but uncomfortable with participating in party political unionism. Whatever the connotation they are a solid constituency who deserve to be addressed with respect.
It would help if this silent majority of pro union supporters came out and told unionists what needs to be corrected to make access to political unionism a welcome move. It would be significant that while they are obviously not attracted to the fence-sitting Alliance Party they would say what it takes to vote for the DUP-UUP-TUV. – more to the point what a unionist party must do to be attractive to winning their electoral support.
Amazingly it appears that this lost tribe of unionists is determined to vote against Irish unity in a border poll but does not exercise its vote otherwise. From a selfish preservation of the Union perspective, small ‘u’ unionists are numerically strong and capable of nullifying any surge of republicanism. That alone makes them important.
Indeed this whole aspect of unionism’s appeal should be under urgent investigation.
Professor Pete Shirlow’s assertion that the majority of unionists do not vote has passed by unchallenged which lends authority to his claim. The same however cannot be said about republicans and nationalists passionately determined to register their support for anti-British political electoral machines. It says a lot about the complacency of unionists when if ever they need backing, it is now.
When those who really know me who are within the small ‘u’ unionist framework wince at my hardline opinions usurping my instinctive moderate attitudes, I point out when questioned that it is a reaction to the barrage of ‘in my face aggressive lectures on stability, peace and not an inch outrageous temerity that my Britishness is doomed to destruction as dished out by Sinn Fein daily’. Frankly it is good enough in response to anyone threatening of my identity, worth defending and definitively talking about, because unionism is a worthwhile cause.
Unionism may currently feel punched out by the dual bruises of self-inflicted division and brutal assault by republicans, but believe me , ‘we’ have been in tighter fights and survived with the Union shaken but still safe. Politics here is about playing the long game as unionists verify in celebrating Northern Ireland’s centenary. Unionism is the direct opposite to republicanism with its endless process of provocation deliberately designed to upset community stability. Hopefully Jeffrey Donaldson, Doug Beattie and Jim Allister will shake off the shackles of personality ego trips by finding common ground within a genuine unity of purpose, the purpose being to ensure that a single entity designated unionist coalition is formed in time for the next election.
Jeffrey Donaldson is well capable of being an accepted unifier. He can appeal to small ‘u’ unionists and across the broad spectrum of unionism who support moderate policies and welcome diversity, including maligned loyalists ! That’s the pitch Jeffrey can clear from the path of uncertainty.
If republicans cannot understand the anger vented by all shades of unionists over the NI Protocol and the weaponizing of the Irish language then it is a case of not wanting to understand and making a mockery of sharing power.