The Achilles Heel of Unionism

“If Northern Ireland ever comes to an end, it will be because the Protestants started fighting the British

(Lord Craigavon, ‘Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister, 1922)

The veteran Irish columnist and Falls Road born “father of Irish journalism”, James Kelly, described Derry during the the de facto Stormont one party junta era as ‘Unionism’s Achilles’ Heel’.  Kelly, who’d visited Dublin as a child in the aftermath of the Easter Rising and wrote his last opinion piece at the ripe old age of 100, just prior to his death, had spent a lifetime chronicling  Unionist supremacism, it’s hard-wired sectarianism and indeed it’s use and abuse of it’s own deferential working-classes.


Times may have changed in the likes of Derry where the supremacist notion of a Maiden City has long been penetrated very publicly by a Nationalist middle-class whose trophy-like Haciendas stretch along the city from the outskirts of Killea to the likes of Culmore Road and well beyond with not a Stad sign in sight.

The days of the blatant Tammany Hall-like graft of the local Derry Unionist  political Burghers who could blatantly discriminate in allocating a lowly paid municipal post to some barely literate Loyal Order member whilst sending some Bogside candidate applying in vain  for the same job (who may even had the temerity to achieve a degree courtesy of The Education (Northern Ireland) Act 1947) back to the street corner “post” where the then be-sashed City Fathers believed disloyal ‘Taigs’, even those with a few letters after their names, belonged.  Gerrymandering (which perhaps in later times may well be referred to as ‘Derrymandering’) may now be a thing of the past  but observers of politics in the noth east of Ireland are undoubtedly getting a high definition view of Unionism’s 6 county wide Achilles Heel being  exposed again and again on 24 news loops globally.  Of course, for the working-classes, in Derry for example, the political colours of those in a position of patronage may have changed but like any ‘changing of the guard’ where Capitalism is concerned, the lot of the proletariat never changes and cold facts confirm that there has been no significant shortage in the queues at Asylum Road, during or beyond ‘Derrymandering.’


Belfast is not Derry, yet, but the supremacist frustration amongst Unionism is clear to see, as the Orange Statelet is just not what it used to be.  The ticking clock of demographics aside, even the 2013 Census starkly points out that nearly 6% of Catholics are unemployed, compared to 3.9% of Protestants despite Catholics being significantly better educationally qualified.  It is worth noting that when Western Europe’s largest supremacist sectarian paramilitary marches are annually given an hour+ coverage, much of it during primetime on both local TV channels, including the BBC, who still continue to propagate the myth of “Orangefest” then it is difficult to really say that the Orange State has been really smashed.


The forced ‘normalisation’ at gunpoint of the first Stormont regime’s 50 years eventually proved to be it’s real Achilles Heel and the forced ‘normalisation’ of the contemporary Stormont mini-parliament, the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Accord have done little but create a facade of democracy as unreal as the fake shops created in Fermanagh for the benefit of the G8 war criminals.  The manufactured hope of a progressive working-class leadership for the Protestant working-classes has been exposed as, at best, a type of neo-Strasserism.  The Loyalist working-class are proving as pliable as ever by leaders who live in areas where flags and bunting would be frowned upon less they lower property values in the leafy lanes of the stockbroker belt, let alone the Condos of Florida!  The Achilles Heel of Unionism in times of uncertainty shamelessly uses and exposes the Protestant working-class to the latter day poison arrows of Paris.

Class Solidarity: The Only Solution

James Connolly’s observations on the north of Ireland at the turn of the century in The Reconquest of Ireland are relevant, considering that those who have use the Protestant working-class as canon-fodder for centuries in vain attempts to cover up the Achilles Heel of Unionism care not one iota for them and will parcel them back into their respective estates, just as soon as their muscle is not longer needed:

  “The majority of the poor slaves who work under such conditions and for such pay, as also the majority of the mill and factory workers amongst whom consumption claims its most numerous victims are, in Belfast, descendants of the men who “fought for civil and religious liberty at Derry, Aughrim and the Boyne”.

If those poor sweated descendants of Protestant rebels against a king had to-day one-hundredth part of the spirit of their ancestors in question, the re-conquest of Ireland by the working class would be a much easier task than it is likely to prove.

But into the minds of the wisest of both sections there is gradually percolating the great truth that our common sufferings provide a common basis of action – an amalgam to fuse us all together, and that, as we suffer together we should fight together, that we may be free together. Thus out of our toil and moil there arises a new Party – the Party of Labour – to

Tell of the cause of the poor who shrink
Crushed grapes in the wine press,
While rich men drink
And barter the trodden wine,
And pray.

(James Connolly: The Reconquest Of Ireland; Chapter 5: Belfast And It’s Problems)

Only a united working-class, irrespective of what church, if any, one attends, has no Achilles Heel and history, however briefly, has proven this to be the only real credible threat to the Status Quo.  Ironically, a united working-class is the only certainty that Protestants and indeed Catholics workers in the north are not to face economic exploitation in a Gombeen state where the harp sans crown is as viciously anti-proletariat as the Big House Unionism of Craig, Brookeborough et al.

National liberation and Socialism

This is why, for instance, that the Irish  Republican Socialist Movement’s  aspiration of National Liberation and Socialism has attracted members and indeed leaders from both sides of the divided and ultimately irreformable 6 county statelet.  It is also tragically why the IRSP has faced the most vicious repression from both the Leinster House regime and the British military industrial complex. Is it any wonder that Noel Browne stated of the IRSP’s tragically murdered co-founder, Seamus Costello, that:

“They will have to shoot him or jail him or get out of his way but they certainly won’t stop him”.

Needless to say, those repressive tactics may remove individuals but not the collective ideology of a movement that has yet to be ‘stopped’ in nearly 40 years of existence.

Alex Mcguigan.


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