Northern Ireland’s new minority community

Northern Ireland is a society in transition.

That much is clear.

The changing demographics are unarguable and they will impose a new dispensation on the north east of this island.

The Ulster loyalist identity was socially constructed with xenophobia at its core, a fact that new comers to Northern Ireland would readily corroborate.

As I have written before, I do not expect a Catholic majority in the Six Counties in the next decade or two to be an ipso facto vote of reunification.

If the 32 Counties of this island are once more within the same state at some point in the future then it will be because it is the will of the people of Ireland.

Ireland was not partitioned on the consent principle.

It was imposed on the Irish people by a world superpower, which is no longer super.

Even in 1920, after the de-mobilisation of the Great War, the regular British army had over million men under arms.

Soon, all of the Queen’s boys will be small enough in number to fit into Croke Park.

History never ends and things change.

The old days of the Northern state are gone.

If the “Loyalist identity” is based on coat trailing and the taunting of their Catholic neighbours then that identity is finished.

These days there seems little enthusiasm for “Ulster Scotch” and the rest of the flat pack culture that was artificially respirated by the funding that flowed after the Good Friday Agreement.

If their opportunities to abuse their Catholic neighbours are amputated from civil society, what do they have left?

What is currently battling with the PSNI is a subculture of white trash triumphalism that can no longer behave, as they once could, with impunity.

There is little else left but their fleg and they instinctively know that they are on the wrong side of history.

It can’t be easy for them and I believe that they need help to allow them to cope with historic and irreversible change.

Northern Ireland was established to have a nationalist population that would always be in a minority position.

The utility function of the Orange state was to maintain the sectarian status quo.

The equality agenda that was written into the Good Friday Agreement means that this is no longer the case.

Moreover, people from nationalist backgrounds are likely to be more highly educated and therefore far better equipped to succeed in a modern knowledge-based economy.

The palpable anger of The People on the Stephen Nolan Show, broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland recently, showed the genuine pain that the Loyalist community is experiencing.

When an opposing view to the flegs folk was offered from an audience member there were attempts to shout the person down.

After watching the show several times I thought that Gerry Kelly MLA  somewhat rescued the studio debate from descending into chaos as anchor Stephen Nolan looked like he was close to losing control.

The “debate” was pre-recorded so we don’t know what ended up on the cutting room floor.

The issue is over a group people disagreeing with a democratic decision made by people elected in elections that were free and fair.

Unionists are now in a minority on Belfast City Council and they had better get used to it.

The 2011 census established without questions that it is no longer their wee country exclusively.

Only 40% stated that they were of British ethnicity.

People seemed increasingly comfortable with ticking the “Northern Irish” box.

The new Northern Ireland will go forward as a shared space and public buildings should either reflect both traditions and none.

The new deal is equality or neutrality.

The old Northern Ireland represented a mono-cultural Britishness in the public spaces.

That day is gone.

As the demographic glacier slowly greens Norn Iron, the unionist community will be thankful that there are the structures of formal power sharing in place at Stormont.

In 51 years of the old Stormont, during the days of unionist hegemony, only one bill – yes, ONE bill – from a non-unionist was successfully passed.

A century ago the Loyalists in the north east of this country opposed Home Rule and their rationale was that a 32 county Ireland with a developed assembly in Dublin would be dominated by Catholics.

It is almost a hundred years since the Clyde Valley, stuffed full of weapons, landed at Larne for a treasonable defiance of the King’s government by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Stormont was the Protestant parliament for a Protestant people.

The new Stormont in the decades to come may well prove to be what the old legislature never was – a guarantor of minority rights.

The fleg people will have to become accustomed to being a minority in the Six Counties because that is their destiny.

I hope that the British minority in Northern Ireland are well cared for on the basis of respect and equality.

However the days of having a place in society based upon privilege are over.

Generations have been reared on nightmares of them being swamped by Fenians.

It created a narrative that authorised political and cultural oppression that lasted generations.

That hegemony incubated a rebellion among Northern nationalists.

Ironically, what initially emerged was the opposite of the Fenian physical force tradition.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement was peaceful and sought internal reforms to the statelet.

Indeed, NICRA wanted to make Northern Ireland MORE like Britain in terms of equality and fairness.

It was Rosa Parks rather than Padraig Pearse that was the inspiration for the marchers who where beaten at Burntollet Bridge in 1969.

When the demographic tipping point is reached in the next decade or two, hopefully The People will finally realise that for generations they have been frightened and enraged by fairy stories.

The awful fate that awaits The People in the Northern Ireland is to have a secure place in the society based on equality.

That means that they are equal with their Catholic neighbours and vice versa.

Nothing makes people unite like a common enemy.

In a UK that is currently governed by a bunch of Bullingdon old boys it is saddening that working class people cannot find common cause.

The old Orange state was, as David Trimble admitted, “a cold house” for the Catholic minority community.

By the time Northern Ireland celebrates its centenary, less than ten years from now, the statelet could have a new minority.

This is not how it was meant to be.

Moreover, the partition of this country was not based upon the consent principle – an important point conceded by Mo Mowlam to the Sinn Féin negotiating team during a bi-lateral with the British government at the time of the Good Friday Agreement.

However, we are where we are.

This transition in Northern Ireland must be managed and people in the unionist community  who have leadership positions must act with good authority.

The old days are gone and they aren’t coming back.

Therefore, as Chris Donnelly of Slugger O’Toole said on the Stephen Nolan Show, it is important that the leaders of political unionism needs to tell people, especially The People, that they have to get with the programme.

The British of Northern Ireland must be prepared for minority status within the next two decades.

What must haunt their dreams is that once there they will be treated as they treated others in the 20th century.

When they realise that their fears are unfounded then all of the people of this island can move forward.

In the meantime they fixate on Fenians and flegs while old Etonians in London push them further into penury.

Tragic seems to be the appropriate word to describe that.

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