‘Unionist Concerns and Fears of a United Ireland’: New research report by Senator Mark Daly: Fears include Retribution, Triumphalist Nationalism and Loss of Identity

The research report includes contributions from Reverend Kyle Paisley, the son of the founder of the DUP Reverend Ian Paisley, Trevor Ringland, former Ireland rugby international, Michael Nesbitt, leader of the UUP (2012-2017) as well as former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Norman Hamilton OBE, unionist politicians and community activists. Senator Daly commissioned Dr James Wilson a former member of the British army who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles to conduct focus groups in the Independent Orange Order, a Loyalist Flute Band, UDR/Irish Regiment Veterans and East Belfast Mission.

Over the past 18 months, in compiling this ground-breaking research, Senator Daly has met a wide range of members of the protestant/unionist/loyalist communities including former loyalist paramilitaries leaders. The report entitled ‘Unionist Concerns and Fears of a United Ireland: The need to Protect the Peace Process and Build a Vision for a Shared Island and a United People’, is the first research report by any member of the Dáil or Senate on this subject. Senator Daly also compiled the first ever report by a Dáil or Senate Committee on Uniting Ireland.

Senator Daly’s research identified 7 key areas of Unionist Concerns and Fears regarding a United Ireland:

  1. Loss of Identity and the place of unionism within a united Ireland
  2. Triumphalism by Nationalist
  3. Retribution on former members of the RUC, British Army and Prison Officers
  4. Land being taken from unionist farmers
  5. A Return to Violence
  6. Returning to the European Union after voting for Brexit
  7. Healthcare, Welfare and the Economy

Former Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt states in his submission to the research that “the fear is that their identity is denied”. He went on to say, “I do not speak for unionism in fact, nobody does”. Senator Daly said similarly “this report does not include every fear and concern that the Unionist community has in relation to a United Ireland”.

“’The mother of all fears’, as described to me by some members of the unionist community,” said Senator Daly, “is that effectively their home would become a foreign state.”

“A fear that is not on the political radar in the south, is the fear in the unionist farming community that the land would be taken from the unionist farmers. This has to be addressed by the government, as does the issue of the fear of triumphalist nationalism after a referendum on a united Ireland”.

Senator Daly criticized that the government to date has failed to implement any one of the 17 recommendations of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement report, ‘Brexit & the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland & Its People in Peace & Prosperity’. Senator Mark Daly was appointed by the all-party committee as rapporteur to compile that report, the first ever report by a Dáil or Senate Committee on Uniting Ireland. It contained a key recommendation: “Fears and concerns of the Unionist community need to be examined, understood and addressed comprehensively by all stakeholders in advance of any referendum”.

Senator Daly commented, “It is the responsibility of the Irish Government to address the concerns, that is why it should immediately implement another recommendation of the Committee’s report, that being, the “establishment a New Ireland Forum 2” which would look at all the issues in relation to a united Ireland. Senator Daly said that “the New Ireland Forum 2 should include in its work addressing unionist fears and concerns.”

Senator Daly also said the advice of Seamus Mallon, Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland 1998-2001, should be listened to by the Irish Government when he says, “Nationalists need to show generosity if they’re ever going to persuade unionist of the benefits of a united Ireland”.

“This is needed”, said Senator Daly, “to counter the view in the unionist community as articulated by Trevor Ringland when he said, ‘no space in a new Ireland for me’”. Senator Daly pointed out that in a BBC interview “Lady Silvia Hermon, independent unionist MP for North Down, has said ‘I am worried about the consequences of Brexit. In my lifetime I never thought that I would see a Border poll and I am now convinced that I probably will see a Border poll.’”

“However, the Brexit referendum has taught us an important lesson,” said Senator Daly “you do not hold a referendum until every probable outcome has been examined and prepared for, where possible. The hard-won peace we all enjoy on this island is at stake. The holding of a referendum without proper preparation and engagement, particularly with the unionist community, would lead to the fulfillment of the warning ‘policy neglect seldom goes unpunished’”.

The report in full is available here: Unionist Fears and Concerns of a United Ireland

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