I’ve been reading and hearing a lot recently about unionist attitudes to the possibility of losing a border poll on a united Ireland, and am reminded of a remark that always pops up in my memory when I’m thinking about this the island’s future.
It was made at a British- Irish conference after yet another speech from then SDLP leader John Hume referring to the “unionist siege mentality” as if it were some kind of baffling illness afflicting an entire community. “We’d get rid of our siege mentality,” said a unionist friend, “if they’d lift the f**king siege.”
Having been born in Dublin into the Catholic nationalist tribe, it’s been my good fortune to expand my horizons by getting to know a lot of fine Ulster Protestants very well. My attitude to constitutional change in Ireland hasn’t changed very much from where it was when I first began to think about it seriously, early in the Troubles. I want what is best for all the people of the island and I regard the attempts to bully unionists into a united Ireland through political violence as not just immoral, but completely counter-productive.