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Show Us The Money

IRA decommissioning could pose a real danger for middle class Unionist parties in that working class loyalists could eventually look to Sinn Fein to get them their cash benefits.

Dr John Coulter • 2 October 2005

Sinn Fein could set up an advice centre in the loyalist Shankill Road if middle class conservative unionism does not start looking after the interests of the Protestant working class.

With last week’s historic IRA decommissioning, unionists would be well advised not to dismiss the recent comments by Sinn Fein supremo Gerry Adams about the need for republicans to hold out the hand of friendship to unionism.

As the DUP battens down its hatches in preparation for a right royal political lashing from Hurricane Gerry over IRA arms, the unionist family – which is dominated by the middle class – should not merely write off the Adams appeal as media spin or empty republican rhetoric.

Since partition, it has not just been nationalists who have suffered under the domineering attitude of the ruling elite of the Unionist Party, the Protestant aristocracy, landed gentry and major middle class farming families.

For more than 40 years, elitist Unionism ignored the plight of working class Protestantism, content only to call the workers out for elections, but using the Orange Order to keep ordinary Prods in check.

With the advent of political Paisleyism in the late Sixties, the aristocratic Unionist grip on the Protestant working class was snapped. The DUP gave ordinary Prods the chance to become branch chairmen, treasurers and secretaries in a political movement – a privilege denied the working class by Unionist aristocrats.

A major malaise of Unionism has been it’s totally inability to look after the needs of the Protestant working class. Socialist politics was a dirty phrase; the development of a genuine labour movement within the Unionist Party reeked of Godless marxism.

In urban loyalist heartlands, Unionist fundamentalists would jibe at working class Prod movements as being little more than ‘Shankill Soviets’.

Until it became the lead voice for the Unionist family, the DUP was always viewed as the working man’s movement. The rural born-again Christian middle class sat in an unholy alliance with the socialist working class city Prods.

But the DUP has not only stolen the traditionally middle class UUP’s votes and policies, it has also now realigned itself as the middle and upper class voice of Unionism. The Whiterock riots were firm proof the DUP has abandoned the loyalist working class.

For a generation, the Paisley camp called the working class people onto the streets, but now that it has the trappings of power, like the old Stormont Unionist Party, the elections are over and it no longer needs working class Protestants.

Ordinary Protestants are right to feel alienated. They look at Sinn Fein and how the republican movement has squeezed every benefit imaginable out of the Brits for the Catholic working class.

Loyalism blames its present violent streak on its frustration that republicans seem to be getting all the political benefits. But what the loyalist working class must be asking is – why can’t unionism become a Protestant Sinn Fein and get our people all this cash aid, too.

Now we see the republican movement fully on board the peace train. London and Dublin’s next migraine to cure is to get the loyalist working class on board.

The Governments must find some way of getting working class political representatives elected to the Assembly, otherwise they will never be able to lance the boil of loyalist anarchy.

The real nightmare for unionism is if Sinn Fein decides to cultivate a Protestant Patriotism, more akin to the radical Presbyterianism of the United Irishmen, and begins a process of getting every benefit under the sun for working class Prods.

Unionists laughed in the past at suggestions of IRA ceasefires, sharing power with Sinn Fein, a ‘dump arms’ statement, and they’ll probably laugh again at decommissioning.

But will they be sniggering so smugly when they find Sinn Fein also doing their constituency work in working class loyalist districts?

The IRA decommissioning has put Sinn Fein on the political moral high ground, and the basic problem facing the DUP is that it doesn’t know how to handle the situation. In reality, how does it cut a deal with republicans to bring back the devolved Parliament at Stormont?

The Paisleyites have always been a devolutionary party, hunting the Holy Grail of a return to the ‘Gud Auld Days’ of unionist rule at Stormont. Only this time, the main opposition benches in the Chamber are not occupied by the pushover Irish Nationalist Party, but by a vibrant and growing Sinn Fein.

For more than a generation, the DUP has built its power base on two pillars – ridiculing the Ulster Unionists, and wanting to smash militant republicanism. For the first time since it was founded in 1971, the DUP has had those rugs pulled from underneath its feet.

In three successive elections from November 2003 to May 2005, the DUP has virtually obliterated the UUP in every elected forum. It is now the main voice for the Unionist family, not the UUP. Now that the republicans have proven they have ‘dumped arms’, the DUP will have to either become the party of its title – democratic – or find a whole series of new enemies with which it can indulge in the ‘blame game’

Of course, it can be said the DUP is not wanting to make the same mistake as former UUP boss David Trimble, who was regularly accused by his rank and file of not keeping the UUP grassroots informed fully of developments.

The DUP wants to avoid a head-on confrontation with its highly volatile Right-wing religious fundamentalist faction. The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster may only have about 14,000 regulars in the North, but it could create enough of a political stink as to fatally split the DUP.

The two governments need to come up with some appeasements to get the DUP off the hook with its own electorate. But the big question still remains – has the DUP got the brains and guts to grab these concessions?

The DUP needs to deliver something for a depressed unionist people. The loyalist anarchy in Belfast and other parts of the North proves that in some areas, working class Protestants have lost confidence in the Paisleyites.

Ulster Unionism faces the uphill struggle to rebuild itself in the coming years. For three elections, the DUP has managed to hoodwink the unionist people by using its clever spin doctors to divert attention onto the myth that by hammering the UUP all will be rosy with the Union.

Since November 2003, the DUP has delivered nothing. Like it or lump it, the Paisleyites must now face the reality that it is ‘put up or shut up’ time – they must either deliver devolution, or shut their mouths in their constant whinging about the UUP.

The real question is, what sort of deal would a post-Paisley DUP deliver for the Protestant people? Will we see the DUP becoming a proper ‘Protestant Sinn Fein’ and providing some political clout for unionism?



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

6 October 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

A Bleak Future
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Provos Censor de Chastelain in Bid to Lie About Guns
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Taking Politics Out of the Gun
Brendan O'Neill

Sinn Fein - The Shark's Party
Mick Hall

Live From Hollywood: The IRA Disarms
Harry Browne

Show Us the Money
Dr John Coulter

Doris Dead
Anthony McIntyre

Whatever Happened to... 'er, You Know... Whatshisname?
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The Dirty War Goes On
George Young

Reject All British Institutions
Kevin Murphy

Capitalism Vs Socialism
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Apology to Dr Dion Dennis and CTheory website
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27 September 2005

Analysis: Seconds Out — Round 2005
Anthony McIntyre

Reflections: British Victory at Culloden
Anthony McIntyre

Decommissioning Will Reveal Real Problem
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Inclusive Republicanism
Maire Cullen

Wish List for Unionist Leadership
Dr John Coulter

Sunday World vs. Thugs
Mick Hall

Real and Relative Poverty
David Adams

How the Poor Live and Die
Fred A Wilcox

Poverty — Do You Get It?
Jan Lightfoottlane

Defending Multiculturalism
Anthony McIntyre



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