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8 April 2010 Edition

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The Taig Voter’s Guide to Unionism

Democratic Unionist. Ulster Unionist (now with new Tory flavour). Traditional Unionist. SDLP. One thing you can say for unionists looking forward to the coming Westminster elections, they’re spoiled for choice.
Thing is though, it makes things complicated for those of you going north for the elections. It’s even tougher for journalists who now have to report on a campaign when all they know about the place is what they learned from a Saturday afternoon’s shopping trip to Newry.
So here’s a rough guide to the unionist political parties, including, exclusive to An Phoblacht, the patented Carney System. It’s simple. Supporters of the various unionist parties were asked how they would react to their daughter getting married to a Catholic. It’s a useful way of gauging the level of sectarianism among their party members and is completely scientific. I even wore a white coat and glasses while writing this.

Traditional Unionist Voice
I love these guys. I really do. It’s not a party as much as a sound. It’s the sound of maddened, incoherent, frothing, gibbering rage given organisational form. They’re up front about hating you. They make no bones about their opposition to equality, human rights, social justice and a shared future. Their jackboot-clad candidates are out there to fight for a future where the croppies lie down again. 
Unlikely to say: “If both sides are prepared to compromise and work together on the basis of equality and mutual respect, we can build a better society.”
Reaction to Catholic son-in-law: Your father will disown you immediately. Your mother will never be able to show her face outside again. In parts of north Antrim you stand a very real risk of being stoned to death by drooling, inbred yokels. Change your name and flee to cosmopolitan Lisburn.

Democratic Unionist Party
The political wing of the Free Presbyterian Church should be living it up on lemonade and gospel music. They’re in power in the Assembly and the biggest party in the North. But certain planning controversies, all of which are undoubtedly above board and the product of a media witch hunt, are making this election a little tricky. They’re also scared of Jim Allister’s TUV, but then everyone is.
Likely to say: “I fully and completely support Peter Robinson at this difficult time and have absolute faith in his leadership... for now.”
Unlikely to say: “There’s no way I can support planning permission for that. It would be bad for the environment and frankly, it’s immoral.”
Reaction to Catholic son-in-law: Mixed. One wing of the party will react much the same way as the TUV but in recent years a new, pragmatic wing of the DUP has emerged. They will primarily be concerned with whether your fiancé has land and is looking for planning permission. If he is, they may ignore the fact that he worships the Anti-Christ.

Ulster Unionist Party (Now, Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force)
Only in the North could you find a political party that makes their new partners in the British Conservative party look progressive and has a name that stupid. Long dominant in Northern politics, the UUP enters this election with no seats and not much chance of picking any up. That means there’s an outside possibility of party leader Reg Empey breaking down in tears on the day of the count, so keep your fingers crossed and your eyes open.
Likely to say: “Of course Catholics will vote for us now that we’ve an alliance with the Tories. Catholics love Tories.”
Unlikely to say: “Sylvia Hermon’s not just a great person, she’s a great public representative.”
Reaction to Catholic son-in-law: They’d prefer if you didn’t but if he comes from a nice home, has a college education and takes daily showers they’ll go along with it. But he needs to know his place and never, ever, wear a GAA jersey where the neighbours or the chaps from the club might see him.

The party unionists vote for to keep out Sinn Féin, which means that as far as its owners in London and Dublin are concerned it still, more or less, justifies its existence. Charismatic new leader Margaret Ritchie has promised to marshall all the party’s political and intellectual talent to reverse their electoral decline. Sinn Féin election strategists are remarkably unworried.
Likely to say: “If it’s good enough for unionism, it’s good enough for me.”
Unlikely to say: “Wait a minute, I’ve just realised; partition makes no political, social or economic sense.”
Reaction to Catholic son-in-law: They’ll welcome the news publicly. Privately, their colonial inferiority complex means they’ll be disappointed you didn’t end up with Edwin, that nice boy from the UUP you met in Queens, and move to London to get jobs in the media. Your mother will take refuge in gin, your father in the arms of another woman.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1