by Frank Schnittger
Tue Jan 11th, 2022 at 11:53:50 PM EST
Unionist sense of entitlement still exerted in UK politics
In 1933 Basil Brooke, later Lord Brookeborough and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said the following: "I appreciate the great difficulty experienced by some of them [Protestants and Orangemen] in procuring suitable Protestant labour, but I would point out that the Roman Catholics are endeavouring to get in everywhere and are out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster."
A few days ago, in comments later endorsed by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, former Labour minister Baroness Hoey wrote: "There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power".
Neither comment would have been out of place if applied to Jews in 1930's Germany or African Americans in much of the USA in more recent times. They speak to a unionist sense of entitlement to the leading roles in the professions and civil society and a sense of horror that this is changing, despite the fact that this change is only reflective of demographic trends more generally, and a welcome increase in social mobility and reduction in social inequality.
I suspect that for many "of a nationalist persuasion" who have made it into the professions, the abiding sense is one of pride that they have made it despite there being no family history of such employment, with their background being seen as just another barrier which had to be overcome on the way. Indeed, many may have become agnostic or apolitical on their career journey and some may even have become unionist in their politics.
Baroness Hoey's crime is that she conflates all the myriad factors which can influence anyone's past, present and future allegiances and reduces people to their family and cultural background despite all their efforts at educational and professional advancement. One would have thought that any rational strategy to secure the place of N. Ireland within the UK would have included ensuring there is a large middle ground from all backgrounds benefiting from the status quo.
But no. At a time when Brexit has re-ignited communal tensions Baroness Hoey has thrown petrol on the flames and sought to divide the professions on sectarian lines - thereby ensuring that many who were becoming neutral or agnostic on the union have no option but to conclude that N. Ireland as part of the Union isn't working for them and that they must re-consider the alternative.
So well done Baroness Hoey. You have advanced the cause of a united Ireland more than any nationalist could by underlining how dysfunctional N. Ireland still is. It seems that attacks on people just because of their background are still acceptable to too many in N. Ireland.
Submitted as letter to the Editor to various newspapers. The Irish Independent has published an edited version of the letter here, and the Irish News has published the entire letter without the last sentence here.