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11 June 2009 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

The reality of ‘traditional unionism’

THERE was something pathetic about the ‘dolly mixture’ line up of unionists singing God save the Queen in the Kings Hall last Monday, all of them claiming to be the ‘traditionalist unionist voice’. What was missing was the traditional rendering of God our help in ages Past led by the man who had topped the poll in the 30-year life of European elections.
The traditional and unmistaken voice of Paisley has been replaced by the demented Jim Allister, leader of the TUV, another fragmented rump of UUP’s, PUP’s DUP’s, UDA’s and UVF and all manner of fundamentalist alphabet men, who have littered or lettered the pages of Six County politics, during the course of the past 50 years.
What they all share amid the cat calls, jeers and sneers and punch ups, is their claim to be the legitimate heirs to a brand of unionism still engulfed in the centuries old  swamp of bigotry and sectarianism.
It was simpler in Old Lord Brookeborough’s ‘golden days’ when the traditional voice was identified by the size of the bowler and the position of its wearer within the loyal orders. The Ulster Unionist Party then ruled the Stormont roost, depriving nationalists of votes, jobs and houses, to which they were entitled.
Unfit to govern then, world opinion forced the British to deal with its sectarian caretakers and impose Direct Rule. Still unfit to govern,  collective unionism has sought since then, to wreck every attempt at a fair and equal settlement, aligning themselves with paramilitary assassins trained by the British Army and the home guard of the UDR and the RUC.
Ulster says ‘No’, the slogan at the mass rallies led by Molyneaux and Paisley is still their watchword.
Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the power sharing arrangement approved by the majority of voters on the island, traditional unionists are like dogs fighting over a bone, unaware that it has changed to plastic. They have stymied every move towards equality and cultural mutual respect, for such politics is not within the gift or indeed the DNA of  traditional  Unionism.
The ungracious and surly refusal of Diane, the female part of the gruesome twosome, the Dodds, to shake the proffered hand of Bairbre de Brún, the woman who knocked Paisley off his poll topping pedestal, is a sure indication that the traditional voice of the DUP is still living in the past, forever looking over their shoulders at the ultra right turn of their former colleagues, one trying to outdo the other in bigoted and sectarian utterances.
Nor have they detached from their past unholy alliance with the Protestant Volunteers, The Third Force, Ulster Resistance to name but a few of the shadowy groups who also claim to be the authentic voice of traditional unionism.
That a majority of the unionist electorate choose to stay at home rather than vote in the European elections says a lot about the quality of the candidates who presented themselves as the traditional voice.
Dodds, whose virulent campaign was based on the notion of ‘smashing Sinn Féin’, should reflect that it is the DUP who is likely to fragment and is in grave danger of being smashed by that other contender for the title, but who has lost his European seat.
The reality is that the majority of people on this island have bought into power sharing as the way forward. That many unionist choose not to vote has more to do with the image of ‘snouts in the trough’ than with a contest for the dubious prize of  unionisms traditional voice.

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