Monday, 8 February 2021
The Orange Stripe
I have been taken to task for using the term "Irish Unionists". Here, albeit from memory, is an exchange from my youth:
Ali G in Belfast: Are you Irish?
Orangeman: No, I'm British.
Ali G: So, are you just over here on holiday, then?
You are the most Irish of the lot to us. You exist only in Ireland, or as good as; there is a Catholic church in every town in England, but there is not an Orange Lodge. And you speak with the heaviest of Irish accents. In the way that many English people use a kind of French accent to say the names of wines, so they also use a kind of Ian Paisley accent to say the word "Protestant". Although, unlike "Catholic", which is pronounced as a normal English word, "Protestant" is almost never uttered in England except in relation to Ireland.
So yes, you are Irish Unionists. You did not initially want Partition. You wanted the whole of Ireland to remain in a United Kingdom that even 100 years ago it was a stretch to believe was in general much like you. Although in those days there was still a populous and prosperous country within this country, what Ian Jack now calls "the country formerly known as Great Britain", defined by imperialism, industrialism, and a combination of Scottish Presbyterianism and that most misnamed of phenomena, English and Welsh Nonconformity. The desire to keep Greater Belfast in a Union with that did at least make sense. But that is now a world as vanished as the Aztecs.
By the way, I was wrong to be amused that Arlene Foster's maiden name was Kelly. There were of course Protestants in Ireland before the Plantation. Nor were they all Anglo-Irish. The Book of Common Prayer was first translated into Irish in 1606, and the 1662 edition was translated in 1712. That must have been for somebody's use.