The banality of northern politics has been upended recently by the news of the resignation of the Unionist First Minister and what appears to almost certainly be the commencement of a snap “election”, called several months early. “At last,” some may say, “the endgame of Unionism is here.”
Unionism, as a political force, has split into a tripartite; an otherwise moderate unionist party with some vestiges of Paisleyism here and there in the DUP, a party that has metamorphosed from its socially conservative roots to champions of liberalism in the UUP, and the party which have always had the reputation of being the legitimists of unionism, the TUV.
In a political ecosystem where the slightest splitting of the vote threatens the delicate balance of power in the six counties, it is a formality that Sinn Féin will, through the disintegration of their enemies, become the largest party in the six counties.
Whether this will compel the British “Secretary of State” to very kindly and gracefully allow their Irish subjects to have the privilege to decide, as a unit, on their destiny as a nation, only time will tell.
But nonetheless one must remain sceptical of this development. For even in the worst case scenario for Unionism, in which they may be outnumbered by Nationalists in the “Northern Ireland Assembly”, and they may ultimately be outnumbered by Nationalists in a border poll, the ghost of Unionism may rise from its carcass and find itself omnipresent in a “United Ireland”, the bogeyman constantly invoked by the Irish “Government” to extract concessions on things like say the flag or the anthem from those remaining Irishmen and women with self-respect.
The explicit political union linking Britain and Ireland may now be severed, and Unionism, defined by the preservation of British rule in Ireland, may die, yet the Unionists of Ireland would merely re-organise on different lines, lines that may begrudgingly admit the irreversible severing of their common citizenship with what they would call the mainland, yet lines that would not completely assimilate them into such an identity that was Irish in sentiment, and that these ex-Unionists may then through their relative strength in the North fancy themselves as kingmakers and extract such concessions not merely to secure their own rights, but to further chip away at the fetid ruins of nationalist Ireland.
Thus the term “border poll” is actually quite succinct, for a “Yes” vote in such a poll would in effect only mean the removal of the administrative border separating the island of Ireland, and that the island of Ireland may now constitute one polity, yet it would not and could not constitute a united Irish Nation. That such unification may only be achieved via the permission of the British Government through its “Secretary of State” seems to compound the present state of humiliation for poor old Ireland.
Unionism may die, but if it shall die, it might do so standing facing their enemies, like their beloved hero Cú Chulainn. Unionism may be doomed, yet it might do so standing proudly and defiantly, proclaiming to the world, “Damn your concessions!”
The loyalists may sink in their own stupidity, but at least they will not be brutally stupid enough to sacrifice their faith and heritage at the altar so that the whims and demands of their enemies may be satisfied. In that alone, Jamie Bryson may be said to have better political instincts than Sinn Féin.
And so, how may Nationalism in Ireland die?