Unionists know they have to reach out to find new friends

Unionists know their days are numbered

In an article in the Newsletter, there is a perceptible fear arising amongst unionists in Ireland. They know they are being outnumbered and their days as a majority are coming to an end.

Mervyn Gibson of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland
Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland

A speech by the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order at the annual Boyne commemoration in Scotland last Saturday is of major significance for everyone in Ireland – unionists and nationalists. The Reverend Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order sees the writing on the wall and is now ready to consider the once unthinkable – to reach out to their former enemies and try to form new alliances to save the United Kingdom.

“We need to articulate what it means to be British in a changing United Kingdom. That may mean making strategic alliances with those who we may differ with morally, fiscally or even theologically for the sake of the United Kingdom.”
If one reads between the lines of that statement, it is possible to see future movements to seek allies such as conservative Catholics (who they oppose theogically) who might have anti-abortion views that many Protestants have. I am not sure why they oppose people fiscally but perhaps it could refer to how to tax and spend revenues. Perhaps it means reaching out to left-wing groups who are very unlikely to join them. Morally refers to working with Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, who is openly lesbian. As traditional Protestants, the Orange Order would not approve of homosexuality but their commitment to the UK is bigger and more important than morals.

How will the Orange Order ditch their anti-Catholicism?

It would be very interesting to see what the Orange Order plan to do and how they will do it. If they need to reach out to Catholics will it mean having to tone down anti-Catholicism and talk more about the cultural aspects of the Orange Order? Will they manage to do it entirely as an organisation or will there be reluctance (to put it mildly) from the more extreme members of the lodges?
Loyalists engaging in rioting and violence

I have a feeling it is not going to be easy for them and probably will not likely succeed in attracting many Catholics to ally with them. Over two hundred and twenty years of nasty anti-Catholic bigotry does not disappear easily nor will it be easily forgotten and forgiven by Catholics. Even Gibson admits in the article that he would not try to introduce divisive changes in the Orange Order by lifting a ban on members attending Catholic ceremonies as he knows how difficult it would be to pass it.

The Orange Order feel the end of the United Kingdom is approaching

Rev. Gibson is worried and senses things are changing. He said:
“The issue of the United Kingdom is too important to be complacent about.”

This would not need to be said unless Gibson felt that the United Kingdom is under stress and maybe cannot hold for much longer. Again, reading between the lines, it is clear that the unionists are not feeling certain about the United Kingdom. They realise that they have to tread carefully and find new people to support the UK.

Catholics will soon form the majority in the north of Ireland

The uncertainty caused by Brexit and the continuous census results showing a growing Catholic majority in the younger age categories of the population are probably the causes of this uncertainty. Northern Ireland was based upon there being an in-built Protestant majority to maintain the status quo but that is no longer certain, and within a generation, Protestants will be a minority in the six-county area that they deliberately engineered to ensure that they would be a majority in.

The writing is on the wall – either some of the Catholics have to be befriended and convinced to become enthusiastic unionists or else there will be no Northern Ireland. Watch this space. It is going to get critical in the next decade.