Alex Kane is a nice man. He was an adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party, which either took his advice and tanked or didn’t take his advice and tanked. He also appears regularly on BBC’s ‘Hearts and Minds’, which means he’s a republican-free zone, because that’s what you need to be if you’re going to do the commentary bit on ‘Hearts and Minds’. But in his latest piece in The News Letter, nice Alex has gone a bit, um, nuclear.
The source of his radioactivity is Gerry Adams’s recent seven-point agenda towards Irish reunification. I thought myself that list was an inoffensive enough document: work for consensus on unity, encourage all non-unionists to be persuaders for Irish unity, try and show at least some unionists how their self-interest lies in a united Ireland, challenge the status-quoers, push the Irish government into working for unity, push the British government into becoming persuaders for unity, draw on the Irish diaspora for support in the unity work.
Not exactly rape and pillage stuff, surely? Uh-uh. To Alex it’s “big, fat, lie-based, cynical, utter twaddle and congenital lying”. What’s more, Martin McGuinness, when he addresses his supporters, is engaging in “tired old rhetoric” to “a bunch of shroud-wavers” who are “increasingly doolally”. You get the feeling that maybe Alex is upset about something?
Your feeling is correct. Alex is very upset at the notion that there might be a place in a united Ireland for the unionist section of the Irish population. That’s because “a united Ireland represents the death-knell for unionism”. Well yes, assuming that unionists have only one political idea in their heads – the union. And of course, pursuing the same argument, Alex would have to say that a united Ireland would represent the death-knell for republicanism – what reason for existing would a united-Ireland party have if there were a united Ireland? My guess is republicans would tell you they are concerned for more than just a united country – they want a country that respects all its citizens and deals in the currency of justice, not bankers’ bonuses and brown envelopes.
Alex, on the other hand, gives unionists no credit beyond their British-link plank. What’s more, “their social/cultural/historical values will be wiped away in a united Ireland”. Eh? Who told you that, Alex? And what was Ian Paisley doing down at the Boyne site a few years back? And are those Orangemen marching in Rossnowlagh every year some sort of mirage?
No seriously, Alex, it’s OK. Sit down and take deep breaths and say “Ohhhhmmm”. I know you’re convinced that “the [Republican] language may have become softer, but it’s just as loaded and deadly as the bombs and bullets it now replaces”. But honest, it’s not. I’d much prefer to be insulted than shot. Anyway, it is a teensy bit unfair, wouldn’t you say, to damn people when they’re engaged in violence and damn them just as much when they’re not?
Relax, Alex. Think calm blue water, glinting sunlight, Spring flowers. Before you know it, Mike Nesbitt will be knocking on your door and saying “Here, Alex, you wouldn’t give us a bit of advice, would you?” And then you’ll feel much, much better.