Unionists should take the cross-border structures
set up by the Good Friday Agreement a stage further
by giving themselves a clear say in the running
of the Republic by contesting Dail seats, and demanding
representation in the Seanad.
DUP and Ulster Unionist MPs and MEPs should also
grasp the opportunity of speaking rights in the
Dail with both hands, as well as establish a Unionist
Embassy in the heart of Leinster House.
a political tactic would throw Sinn Fein demands
for Dail speaking rights and Seanad voting reform
into a tizzy by giving the perception that Unionism
was a truly all-Ireland organisation.
2005, the Ulster Unionist Council, the governing
body of former Northern First Minister David Trimble's
Ulster Unionist Party, celebrates its centenary.
Amongst some sections of traditional Unionism, there
is still 'bad blood' that the UUC - originally formed
to mobilise Protestant and Orange opposition to
the Home Rule movement - was overtly controlled
by Northern Protestantism.
is a significant body of opinion which believes
the mobilising organisation should have been called
the Irish Unionist Movement to reflect the concerns
of the Southern Protestant population, estimated
to have been about 20 per cent in the geographical
26 counties in 1905.
giving itself a distinctive Ulster flavour, the
feeling exists in some Unionist circles that their
forefathers betrayed the Southern Protestant community.
It has been a long-held political grudge that after
the formal creation of the Free State, Northern
Unionism under Sir Edward Carson and James Craig
effectively abandoned the Southern Protestant population
to its own fate.
Unionist opinion was that Carson and Craig should
have used the fledgling Northern state as a haven
for political, financial and religious support for
the minority Southern Protestants, then facing the
physical threat from both the pro-Treaty Free State
Army and the anti-Treaty IRA.
Southern Protestant families watched in horror as
the Ulster Unionist Council openly retreated into
the six counties and organisationally turned its
back on the all-Ireland organisation of the Irish
Protestants were then left with two options - they
either moved out or got involved largely with Fine
Gael. In the border counties of Donegal, Cavan,
Monaghan and Leitrim, the Orange Order became the
rallying point for Protestant political activity,
whilst further south, the Church of Ireland became
the voice for liberal Protestant opinion.
development of a liberal - even ecumenical - Protestant
theological ethos in the South should not be misinterpreted
as Southern Protestantism turning its back on the
evangelical principles of the Reformed Protestant
it was a pragmatic move by Southern Protestants
who had come to terms with the harsh reality - especially
in the west of Ireland - that if they wanted to
survive in a Catholic-dominated state, they had
to 'keep their heads down politically'.
they knew they could not rely on their Northern
Protestant counterparts for support. They were on
their own as a minority and the only way to gain
effective and meaningful political representation
was to involve themselves with the Southern political
parties - not establish potentially provocative
feeling of betrayal was not only shared by many
in the Southern Protestant community, but by a significant
section of the ultra-Right Carsonite Unionist lobby
in the new Northern Ireland.
Craig was the guiding political hand in the new
state, Carson had been mobilising messiah who had
conceived the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912 and
armed it through the Larne gun-running escapades.
Hardline Carsonites had wanted a nine-county geographical
Ulster as the Northern state whereby the three Southern
counties with Catholic majorities would be ethnically
cleansed and used as a buffer zone with the new
Carsonites held the view the Free State's provisional
government - under the direction of republican hero
Michael Collins - had, during the early 1920s, supported
IRA attacks on the North, hoping to force it into
a union with the South. Indeed, many Carsonites
held the opinion that Collins - once he had dispensed
militarily with the anti-Treaty forces in the Irish
Civil War - planned a full-scale invasion of Northern
this plan effectively died with Collins' assassination
by anti-Treaty rebels in 1922, these same hardline
Carsonites wanted to take advantage of the conflict
in the South during the civil war and open up a
second front by invading the Free State itself.
is doubtful whether Carson himself would have approved
such a venture, although it became a military Holy
Grail amongst many of his more hardline Right-wing
supporters. Their plan was to establish a Protestant-controlled
state comprising around 18 of Ireland's 32 counties.
both invasion plans were effectively mothballed
as the two fledging states concentrated on political
stability in the late 1920s rather than further
bloodshed and territorial expansion.
hardline Carsonite 'blueprint' of annexing counties
from the South took its ethos from the Glorious
Revolution of King William III which established
the Protestant Ascendancy on the island in the late
17th century. This expansionist ethos did not die
with Carson in 1935.
a century later following the signing of the Anglo-Irish
Agreement, the Unionist political backlash saw a
series of fringe and mainstream organisations founded
to combat Dublin's role in Northern affairs.
1986, one such Right-wing loyalist group, the Ulster
Movement for Self-Determination (MSD), advocated
an independent Ulster. MSD's emblem was a nine-county
Ulster and part of its philosophy was that an independent
Northern Ireland would annex the three remaining
Ulster counties from the Republic.
MSD was a political movement with no paramilitary
connections, it is difficult to imagine how its
aims could become a reality without sparking another
civil war. Not surprisingly, by the loyalist ceasefires
of 1994, MSD was largely defunct.
'Northern say in Southern affairs' debate was reopened
in 2003 by Sinn Fein when it launched a strategy
document, The Ireland of the Future - National Representation.
key plank was Northern representation in the Oireachtas,
which if it became reality, would further strengthen
Sinn Fein's claim to be a truly all-Ireland party
and would increasingly isolate Mark Durkan's SDLP
a relevant voice of nationalism on the island.
first reading, the Sinn Fein proposals would also
appear to be 'a red flag to a bull' to Northern
Unionists. Republicans would be hoping that Unionists
would misread their demands as another political
paving stone on the path to joint authority in the
North and ultimately a united Ireland.
Unionists should avoid making the same mistake as
they did in 1985 following the signing of the Anglo-Irish
Agreement. That accord gave the South an effective
voice in the running of the North with the establishment
of the successful Maryfield Secretariat, located
near the present suspended Stormont Parliament.
reacted in typical historical fashion by resorting
to the traditional Marching Season tactic and hosted
a series of rallies across the North, leading to
the formation of hardline loyalist groups such as
the Ulster Clubs Movement and the paramilitary Ulster
Unionists completely missed the point that the 1985
Agreement gave them a say in the running of Southern
affairs, too. Suspended Northern First Minister
and UUP boss David Trimble has been at times highly
critical of the Republic, drawing considerable political
flak for referring to the South as a monolithic
is somewhat ironic that Trimble, who cut his political
teeth on Right-wing movements such as Ulster Vanguard
and the Ulster Clubs, should make such comments
during his time as UUP leader.
the late 1980s, during his Ulster Clubs era, he
could have had a platform in Dublin to criticise
the South from within its own state borders.
is now, in the aftermath of the 1998 Good Friday
Agreement, an increasing mood within Unionism that
Northern Protestants should 'return the serve' on
the cross-border debate and start interfering, commenting
on and even trying to influence the internal affairs
of the Republic.
Unionists already travel south to speak at various
functions - a strategy, which in the 1980s could
have led to people being disciplined by the Unionist
parties. However, the new 'look South' tactic should
not be misinterpreted as Northern Unionism warmly
embracing the Republic, but rather a desire by Protestants
to copy Sinn Fein and open a 'second front' politically
in the limping peace process.
the UUP has openly said it would not contest Dail
seats, already there are moves to relaunch the former
pre-partition Irish Unionist Party in a bid to give
the rapidly dwindling Southern Protestant population
an effective voice. The IUP would eventually directly
contest Dail and Seanad elections.
on a strong Euro-sceptic and anti-abortionist ticket,
the IUP could also attract considerable Southern
real danger is that if the peace process stalled
or even collapsed, and if constitutional unionism
does not seize the initiative and organise in the
South, loyalist extremism may steal that mantle
from unionism and start exploding bombs in the Republic.
2004 witnessed the 30th anniversary of the Dublin
and Monaghan bomb massacres.
price for total failure in the peace process will
be the return of the mainstream paramilitaries to
the fore. The practical danger is that there may
still be those within modern loyalism who could
be preparing an Omagh or an Enniskillen for a Southern