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'The Framework Document and its Discontents' from Identity, Ideology and Conflict by John D. Cash

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The following chapter has been contributed by the author, John D. Cash, with the permission of Cambridge University Press. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
This chapter is taken from the book:

Identity, Ideology and Conflict:
The Structuration of Politics in Northern Ireland

by John D. Cash (1996)
ISBN 0 521 55052 1 Hardback 230pp

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This chapter is copyright John D. Cash 1996 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the author and the publishers. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author or the publisher, Cambridge University Press. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Identity, Ideology and Conflict:
The Structuration of Politics in Northern Ireland

by John D. Cash


Introduction: Theory with an empirical intent
1. Competing paradigms in the study of intergroup relations
2. Conceptualising ideology
3. The structuration of ideology
4. Ideology and affect
5. Ideology and reasoning
6. Towards a depth hermeneutics of Unionist ideology
7. Crisis and the structuration of Unionist ideology, 1962 - 1969
8. Crisis and the structuration of Unionist ideology, 1969 - 1975
Conclusion: The Framework Document and its discontents
Select bibliography

Conclusion: the Framework Document
and its discontents

What momentum are you talking about? Nobody in Northern Ireland sees any momentum at all in terms of a peace process. All they see is the government making concession after concession to terrorists; they see the political concessions being made through the Framework Document; they see the IRA doing absolutely nothing by way of making any gesture in terms of setting out an agenda whereby it is going to stand down its organisation, where the killer gangs are going to be put down; or indeed where they are going to hand over any arms or ammunition, or explosives. They have done absolutely nothing. It is a one-way process of steady concessions being made to the IRA. That is not a peace process, that is a surrender process.
(Peter Robinson, 2 April 1995, on BBC World Service)
As I write this final chapter Northern Ireland is in its eighth month of cease-fire. The killing has stopped and the politics has become more frenetic. How are the various political actors and groupings in Northern Ireland making sense of this new moment? Is there, at last, the real possibility of displacing exclusivist forms of identity and relations and instituting a new political imaginary?

At the end of August 1994, the IRA, after detailed negotiations with the British and Irish governments, and under the tutelage of Gerry Adams as leader of Sinn Fein and John Hume as leader of the SDLP, declared a cease-fire. This act, and its parallel accompaniment by Loyalist paramilitary groups six weeks later, has created in Northern Ireland a set of circumstances which is quite unique for the period since 1969. By now, April 1995, Northern Ireland has experienced a sustained period of peace within which a second major process has begun to play itself out. In late February 1995 the British and Irish governments, after lengthy negotiations which had their immediate origin in the Downing Street Declaration of late 1993, jointly released a 31 page Framework Document (FD) which, as the title suggests, offers a framework for the future governance of Northern Ireland and the form of its future affiliations with both Britain and Ireland. These circumstances, as has been readily recognised by many commentators, offer Northern Ireland a unique opportunity to re-order the pattern of community relations and establish a society which, finally, has escaped the disfiguring conflict, and the distorting patterns of relations, privilege and access, which have exercised such dominance over the conduct of everyday life. At the same time this possibility has cast Unionism into crisis. As in 1968, inclusivist forms of identity and inclusivist forms of political and social relations have been imagined by various groupings and the politics of institutionalising such forms has begun. Inevitably such moves have given rise to a resistance within Unionism; exclusivist Unionism feels itself threatened and is searching for ways to re-establish itself. The most potent symbolic object around which this political process is playing itself out is the FD itself.


In a 'joint declaration', launched in Northern Ireland on 22 February 1995, by their respective prime ministers, the governments of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland set out a common and agreed framework for a re-organisation of political life in Northern Ireland; 'a shared understanding reached between them on the parameters of a possible outcome to the Talks process'.[1] Paragraph 8 of this joint declaration conveys the scope of what is at stake:

Both Governments are aware that the approach in this document presents challenges to strongly held positions on all sides. However, a new beginning in relationships means addressing fundamental issues in a new way and inevitably requires significant movement from all sides. This document is not a rigid blueprint to be imposed but both Governments believe it sets out a realistic and balanced framework for agreement which could be achieved, with flexibility and goodwill on all sides, in comprehensive negotiations with the relevant political parties in Northern Ireland.
Paragraph 10 sets out certain 'guiding principles' which have been agreed upon by both governments. These are (i) self-determination; (ii) consent of the governed; (iii) 'that agreement must be pursued and established by exclusively democratic, peaceful means, without resort to violence or coercion'; and (iv) 'that any new political arrangements must be based on full respect for and protection and expression of, the rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland and even-handedly afford both communities in Northern Ireland parity of esteem and treatment, including equality of opportunity and advantage'.

Even by themselves, these two paragraphs establish that any new political arrangements which would satisfy the principles of the FD would inevitably involve a fundamental challenge to the exclusivist forms of both Unionism and Nationalism. This becomes even clearer as the document unfolds its proposed institutional arrangements and its proposed guarantees. Three institutional 'strands' are outlined. First, a set of structures within Northern Ireland. These structures have been given more elaborate specification in a separate document issued by the British government. They involve an assembly elected by proportional representation and a separate panel of three members, elected from within Northern Ireland, which would monitor and complement the Assembly.[2] Secondly, a set of North-South institutions charged with the following onerous objectives:

to enable representatives of democratic institutions, North and South, to enter into new, cooperative and constructive relationships, to promote agreement among the people of the island of Ireland; to carry out on a democratically accountable basis delegated executive, harmonising and consultative functions over a range of designated matters to be agreed; and to serve to acknowledge and reconcile the rights, identities and aspirations of the two major traditions.
The membership of this North-South body would be drawn from both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Irish parliament. As part of the arrangement members of the Northern Ireland Assembly would be required to be available for service on the North-South body; they would have a 'right of duty' to serve. Thirdly, the so-called East-West structures linking Ireland and the UK in order 'to enhance the existing basis for cooperation between the two Governments, and to promote, support and underwrite the fair and effective operation of the new arrangements'.

These proposals for new political structures within Northern Ireland, between the two parts of Ireland and between the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are complemented by a consideration of constitutional issues. Paragraph 17 states that 'it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland', thereby guaranteeing continued incorporation within the UK to any majority so desiring, for so long as it remains a majority. However, in a principled, if dispassionate, instance of evenhandedness the paragraph continues by noting that if 'in future a majority of the people there wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, the two Governments will introduce and support legislation to give effect to that wish'. In paragraph 16 the Irish government accepts 'that the democratic right of self determination by the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland'. It also makes a commitment to changing Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution in a manner which would 'fully reflect the principle of consent in Northern Ireland and demonstrably be such that no territorial claim of right to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland contrary to the will of a majority of its people is asserted'. Finally, in paragraph 55 the document states that both 'Governments intend that the outcome of these negotiations will be submitted for democratic ratification through referendums, North and South.'[3]

What are we to make of this set of joint proposals? Are they better viewed as either a trap or as an escape-hatch for Unionists? As Peter Robinson, deputy leader of the DUP, makes clear in the epigraph above, any reading of the FD in terms of exclusivist rules inevitably construes it as 'not a peace process, [but] a surrender process'. On the other hand an inclusivist reading, such as that by Siobhan Laird, a press officer for the Alliance party, construes the FD, and the process which generated it, as a guarantee that there is 'no threat to the legitimate rights of Unionists. There is, however, a challenge to Unionists to accept the equal rights of Nationalists.'[4] Such an acceptance would involve an inclusivist structuration of Unionist ideology; thereby creating the possibility of escape from the sectarian enmities of the past.

In a very interesting assessment of the FD one expert commentator, Padraig O'Malley, has suggested the following:

The remarkable thing is that, in the end, the IRA has settled for so little. Almost every proposal in the joint Framework Document has been on the table or discussed in one form or another during the last 15 years ... The Unionists have blinkered themselves if they cannot see that they are being given a veto not only in the matter of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland but in virtually every other structure of governance which the document proposes. Indeed, the document is replete with an almost obsequious acquiescence to the need for the consent of the Unionists at every stage ... [It] wraps the unionists' constitutional status in ironclad guarantees...

What would be the benefits to Unionists? ... [P]eace, an end to what they regard as a war of genocide against their people, a new parliament for Northern Ireland, and a copperfastened, guarantee of their constitutional status. In short, if Unionists are willing to accept a North-South body with executive powers ... the [Irish] Government will amend its constitution to drop its territorial claim to Northern Ireland. Negotiations necessarily imply compromise, and on this basis the Framework Document puts in place the parameters of a non zero sum game. Both sides can be winners, if only they are prepared to give some. Without a willingness to compromise on many important and deeply felt issues on the part of both Unionists and Nationalists, the process will go nowhere, setting the stage for civil strife to boil over into civil war. It is not just a matter of the seed withering on the vine; the seed itself will never get sown. [5]

In my opinion this is a very acute analysis of the character of the FD. I would extend the claim by suggesting that the FD is itself a principal repository and carrier of inclusivist rules for the patterning of identities and relations in Northern Ireland. It amounts to a politically negotiated attempt by the two sovereign governments to reimagine the pattern of relations in Northern Ireland and establish an inclusivist framework within which the particulars of new forms of identity and novel forms of relationship can start to develop. For Unionists this entails two linked possibilities. First, the opportunity to secure, indefinitely, an inclusivist Unionist identity at the cost of discarding exclusivist Unionism. As O'Malley puts this, Unionists have an opportunity to begin playing 'a non zero sum game'. But, of course, in order to be able to do so they need the capacity to read the FD for what it offers; i.e. they need to construe it from outside the rules of exclusivist Unionism; hardly an easy option given the deep layering of such exclusivist rules into the practices and institutions of social and political life. Second, as just implied, Unionists may have so much invested in exclusivism, and the exclusivist rules themselves may be so deeply entrenched, that such an 'outside' reading is difficult to sustain; indeed is an affront to commonsense and the established exclusivist ethic. In this case the structuration of Unionist ideology will tend to consolidate around exclusivist forms of commonsense understanding.

As we have seen throughout this study, it is a mistake to ignore the internal differentiation within Unionism. Unionist ideology is never entirely exclusivist or inclusivist. Rather these two broad forms of the ideology, and the more particular sets of rules which they subsume, contest to establish themselves as the predominant form. Characteristically in Northern Ireland, this conflict has produced a preponderance of exclusivist forms which have achieved near hegemony in the structuration of politics and everyday life. But at each moment inclusivist forms have also been in play, no outcomes have been automatic and inevitable. What we are seeing in the contemporary period is yet another conflict within Unionism to establish whether inclusivist or exclusivist forms will become predominant. This time, however, the field within which Unionism is operating is more constrained in scope than ever before. This constraint arises, principally, from the whole set of intergovernmental relations between Ireland and the UK which have consolidated around the FD process. It also arises from the new international respectability afforded to Sinn Fein and the constraints which this status imposes upon any tendency to, again, advocate recourse to 'the bullet' as well as 'the ballot-box'. Similar processes also have occurred within the Unionist community. Exclusivism and inclusivism coexist as before, but now the inclusivist aspects of Unionism are operating in a quite transformed environment. The very fact of a sustained cease-fire is itself a major change. Beyond this, Direct Rule, intergovernmental cooperation, changes within both the SDLP and Sinn Fein; all these have created a context within which inclusivist rules have become the common currency; even when only half-heartedly embraced.[6] In such a context the inclusivist forms of Unionism have a renewed opportunity to establish their predominance within the Unionist community, for the very reason that they offer a way forward, an escape hatch rather than a trap. Whether they will be seen as such, whether they will be adopted as the predominant form of Unionist commonsense; these are the issues around which the future of Northern Ireland will be determined.


A few weeks prior to its official release a partial draft of the FD was leaked to The Times newspaper. It generated such fury within the two major Unionist parties, the UUP and the DUP, that the British prime minister, John Major, hurriedly arranged a televised broadcast in an attempt to allay Unionist anxiety and suspicion. In this broadcast Major granted that the FD would propose a North- South body but stressed that 'nothing is going to be imposed in Northern Ireland', that any 'North-South bodies must be accountable to the people of Northern Ireland' and that such bodies 'will not be run by London, and they cannot and will not be overridden by the British and Irish governments.[7] Within Unionism these reassurances met with a mixed reception. Both the DUP and the UUP rejected them in hostile terms. Paisley announced: 'You can't expect any self-respecting Unionist to sit down at a table if that is going to be on the agenda', Molyneaux, then leader of the UUP, stated that 'People in Northern Ireland have already made up their minds, and don't like what they see', and David Trimble, an Ulster Unionist MP at Westminster (and, since September 1995, the new leader of the UUP), announced that if 'the Government endorse this, there is no question of being able to maintain any relationship'.[8] The reaction from two fringe Loyalist groupings with strong links to the two principal Loyalist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), was more measured. Speaking for the Ulster Democratic Party, closely linked to the UDA, John White criticised 'kneejerk' reactions by the UUP and DUP and suggested that their response to the leaked document was 'creating the wrong impression in the Loyalist community and intensifying fears. They don't seem to be trying to give the peace process a chance.' David Ervine, of the Progressive Unionist Party, closely linked to the UVF, favoured publication of the FD despite his rejection of 'grandiose' plans for cross-border bodies. His rationale was that although 'We may never resolve the implacable differences in Northern Ireland ... I think we can transform the circumstances in which the argument takes place.'[9]

The leaking of a partial draft of the FD gave both the UUP and the DUP a head start in preparation of their response to the final documents. Indeed in a scene which might well have been drawn from Alice's experiences 'through the looking-glass', both parties promulgated their response to the FD prior to its actual release. In its pre-emptive response, 'A Practical Approach to Problem Solving in Northern Ireland', the UUP invoked 'the fundamental principles of democracy' and went on to advocate the creation of a Northern Ireland Interim Assembly which would play the pivotal role in determining the character and extent of any relations with the Republic of Ireland. In effect this proposal amounted to advocacy of a return to an exclusivist governmental institution in which Unionists would hold all the cards. Viewed from within an exclusivist perspective such a proposal is the obvious and proper way to proceed. Viewed from outside such a perspective, however, it amounts to an attempt to foreclose any possibility for a re-working of identities and relations in Northern Ireland which might prove acceptable to both traditions. Hence it is a nice irony that the UUP response should have pre-dated the document to which it was intended as an answer.

One feature of the FD attracted special scorn from the UUP: its advocacy of referenda in both Northern Ireland and the Republic as the final moment in the ratification of any new arrangements generated from the process of all-party talks. Instead of regarding this as a further guarantee of the Unionist veto over unacceptable arrangements, the UUP saw it as a ploy by the British government to divide the Unionist community from its political leadership. 'It would now appear that the government believes it can create a divide between the greater number of people in Northern Ireland and the Unionist leadership, and hopes to use a referendum to deliver Northern Ireland's affairs into the hands of all Ireland political institutions.'[10] Of course it is the case that one of the many possibilities opened up by the referendum process is exactly the possibility of achieving majority support for proposals with which one or both of the principal Unionist parties is unhappy. However the other, more likely, possibilities include achieving majority support for a position advocated by one or both of the principal Unionist parties. As it stands the FD can guarantee nothing about outcomes from inter-party discussions. The political process is inevitably contingent. It is this contingency and the possibility of inclusivist outcomes from inter-party talks to which this UUP 'Approach' raises objections. These objections would appear to arise from a reading of the current political process through a lens provided by the rules of exclusivist Unionism. Of course, insofar as this is the case it is likely to produce a systematic distortion in any inter-party discussions with parties drawing upon inclusivist rules and to lead to a complete stalemate, and the probable breakdown of the negotiation process, in talks with parties from the other tradition drawing upon exclusivist rules.

The DUP response was broadly similar in kind.[11] Paisley branded the FD a 'nefarious conspiracy' and claimed that the British and Irish governments were 'planning the eventual betrayal and dismantling of the Union'. In a statement uncannily reminiscient of William Craig's exclusivist reading, in 1968, of the Government of Ireland Act of 1920,[12] Paisley continued: 'It (the FD) is setting out the only conditions whereby we can have an assembly, and what sort of assembly we are going to have, and what will be the restriction of that assembly, so it is a blatant interference in Northern Ireland's right to govern itse!f.' [13] Again, as with the UUP, this would appear to be an exclusivist reading of the FD. However, given the evidence I have discussed, such a judgement remains an impression, although one with a basis in the analysis of Unionist ideology already developed in this study. In particular it is important to note that disagreement with the FD is not, per se, exclusivist; such disagreement could proceed from an inclusivist perspective. It is the form which any such rejection takes, and the consequent implications for intergroup relations, which are of critical interest in this regard. To explore this further I now want to focus on two significant Unionist figures: Peter Robinson of the DUP and John Taylor of the UUP.

Peter Robinson, the deputy leader of the DUP, responded to the FD in the following vein:

The people I represent, more than any others, deserve peace and stability. They are the most wronged, persecuted and vilified people in the civilised world. For a quarter of a century, they have refused to bow to terrorism and many have paid for it with their life's blood. They have been bombed and shot at, bullied and blackmailed, yet even in their darkest hour, they held on to their cherished membership of the British family.

Being British, for them, was no nominal condition. Their citizenship was under attack, but that danger only caused them to cling more tightly to their Britishness. A dagger wielded by the hand of a friend is the cruellest cut of all and they now see, once again, a Tory Prime Minister betraying loyal Ulster.

The process is clear. It is to bring about a United Ireland, incrementally and by stealth. This week's published Framework Document offers no Union-strengthening option. It is entirely a nationalist agenda for bringing about a united Ireland. We are told rejection of this proposal could end the peace process. As if we, who have been the victims of violence, would be responsible for the terrorists starting up again because we refuse to surrender.

Politicians have a duty to talk, but it would be an irresponsible politician who would sit down at a negotiating table if the agenda excluded any outcome that would be satisfactory to those he represents. It would be an even more foolish politician who would sit down at a negotiating table knowing that the other negotiators had previously pledged themselves to a predetermined outcome.

For the Unionist community of Northern Ireland, this document confirms their worst fears - that they are no longer wanted and that their Government no longer has any selfish, strategic or economic interest in them.

I do not point an accusing finger at Gerry Adams, John Hume or John Bruton. They are acting out their republican role. Just as a dog barks and a pig grunts, I expect nothing else from them, but when I hear John Major proclaim that he is a Unionist while taking an axe to the root of the Union, I find it hard to come to terms with such nauseating hypocrisy. Mr Major's framework is for an all-Ireland structure with executive power, which will be a precursor to a united Ireland.

Mr Major knows the principle behind this proposal well - it is based on the European modus operandi ... Just as in the EU, two territories are brought together and in a number of practical, functional ways, they are treated as one. They are told that it is for economic reasons or for better co-operation, but the truth is that it is to bring about a political union.[14]

This is an eloquent statement concerning the current position of the Unionist community, as construed according to exclusivist forms. The rules of both the persecutory position and the affiliative-corporate mode of Unionist ideology are at play in organising this response to the challenge contained within the FD. Robinson draws on the rules of the persecutory position to construct a split world in which his people (the people I represent) are uniquely entitled (more than any others) to 'peace and stability'. Instead, however, they have been continually assaulted and murdered ('shot at, bullied and blackmailed; paid ... with their life's blood') and have become 'the most wronged, persecuted and vilified people'. Throughout this ordeal they have clung ever 'more tightly to their Britishness'. Now, once again, they have been betrayed by 'the hand of a friend', this time by the Conservative prime minister, John Major. His treachery (a dagger wielded by the hand of a friend) is a gross betrayal. Robinson implies (although he does not state this explicitly) that Major is akin to Lundy, the infamous Mayor of Derry. Major is worse than Adams, Hume or Bruton because he is a hypocrite who proclaims 'he is a Unionist while taking an axe to the root of the Union'. They, on the other hand, are mere ciphers of their 'republican role'; ('Just as a dog barks and a pig grunts, I expect nothing else from them'). In this split world the affective structure also contains feelings of abandonment; Unionists 'are no longer wanted', not even for interests which are 'selfish, strategic or economic'.

The discussion of Major also highlights the affiliative-corporate character of this construction of the FD. His authority as prime minister is repudiated because of his failure to subscribe to an affiliative-corporate construction of the proper forms of identity and intergroup relations in Northern Ireland. Because he is part of a process which is attempting transformation, because he regards himself as a Unionist without agreeing to the exclusivist construction of what this entails, he is cast beyond the pale.

The dismal outcome from such constructions is provided quite explicitly by Robinson in his discussion of talking and negotiating. A politician's 'duty to talk' is extinguished by the presumption that everything has already been decided and stitched up, so to speak. However we have already seen that this is not a necessary reading of the FD; indeed an argument has been made that the FD has much to offer Unionism, if only Unionism can see it for what it, mainly, is; more pointedly, for what it could become with enthusiastic Unionist engagement. However the effect of construing the FD through exclusivist forms is exactly as this example indicates. Robinson talks about the exclusion of 'any outcome that would be satisfactory to those he represents' and about a 'predetermined outcome' to any talks. The feelings of persecution, betrayal and abandonment and the evaluation of what is 'satisfactory' in terms of the affiliative-corporate mode have produced a refusal to entertain inclusivist forms for the organisation of identities and relations in Northern Ireland. Talks on such grounds are forbidden because they challenge the established commonsense assumptions of the dominant form of Unionism. The effect of such a reading is to promote further a form of Unionist commonsense which trades in presupposition, which is locked into a vicious cycle in which all opportunities for change are discounted and disabled and in which compromise is seen as weakness and treachery. The previous sections of this study have documented in some detail the characteristic effects of such exclusivist readings of events.

Given the extent of DUP commitment to exclusivist forms, and given the absence within its ideology of any genuine scope for inclusivism, attention inevitably turns to the UUP as the potential agent of transformation within established Unionism. The UUP has always been a container of both inclusivist and exclusivist forms of Unionism, but throughout the history of Northern Ireland exclusivist forms have always become predominant within the party at critical moments. Terence O'Neill in the 1960s, and Brian Faulkner at the time of the power-sharing executive in 1974, were, in their different ways, leaders of the UUP who, in attempting to make a difference, precipitated a resurgence of exclusivism. In the current circumstances, due to various factors, such as intergovernmental cooperation and its consequences, such a resurgent exclusivism is somewhat less likely to re-establish itself as the predominant Unionist reality principle. Inclusivism has become the common currency in terms of which all parties are expected to conduct the business of politics. At the same time it is clear enough that inclusivist forms have only a loose purchase on intragroup readings of contemporary events. In the changed circumstances of the current moment it has become pragmatic for predominantly exclusivist groupings from both communities to, at least, affect an inclusivist façade.[15] Whether such pragmatism will win out, whether it can be sustained through lengthy and inevitably difficult negotiations, whether it can lead on to a genuine re-working of the core assumptions of hitherto predominantly exclusivist groupings, be these DUP, UUP, Sinn Fein or, at times, the SDLP, or whether, yet again, exclusivist forms will reassert their hegemony within Unionism and Nationalism; these are the critical issues which will determine the future of Northern Ireland.


As we have seen, the FD has been rejected by both the DUP and the UUP. These rejections have, in the main, been conceived and couched in exclusivist forms. As such they are inevitably part of the problem rather than part of the solution. However within the UUP an unlikely figure, John Taylor, has emerged as the carrier of what, at least for the moment, I will term pragmatic Unionism. Taylor's rejection of the FD has been sharp and clear, as will be illustrated below. At the same time he has refused to resort to the bunker and the certitudes of the traditional forms of exclusivism. Instead he has taken a striking political initiative by visiting the Republic of Ireland and presenting a series of speeches in which he has set out both strong Unionist claims and some pragmatic propositions for cooperation. Writing in the Irish Times Taylor greeted the FD as follows:

The government's proposals represent an unconditional surrender to the IRA and a denial of democratic control to the majority within Northern Ireland. They are designed to create all Ireland bodies with executive powers and to bring about harmonisation of all policies within the island of Ireland until there is an eventual acceptance, i.e. consent, for a united Ireland and the departure of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.

The British government states that it wants a democratically elected assembly in Northern Ireland which will reflect the wishes of the electorate and be straightforward to operate. But the Framework Document proposes, instead, a complex institutional arrangement which has so many interlocking mechanisms that it would collapse from gridlock. It would also deny the will of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland to support and enhance the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[16]

If these are the common-place Unionist objections, Taylor's willingness to engage with the Republic is more novel. As part of his, eventually unsuccessful, attempt to challenge Molyneaux for the leadership of the UUP he gave talks in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. Speaking in Belfast to the annual conference of the Friends of the Union early in April he argued that Unionists must 'take risks' and make their ideology attractive 'to people of all religions and of none'.[17] As part of promoting Unionism, in a context where 'the British government no longer supported the Union', he urged the following:
We must promote Unionism in Britain in a manner which appeals and gains support. We must internationalise the message of the Union in the US and Europe by, for example, developing support groups within the USA and joining the European Democratic Union. And we must not hesitate to talk to our neighbours in the South to build a new island of Ireland within which two states cooperate as neighbours.[18]
In the Republic Taylor has been engaged in what one commentator has termed a 'charm offensive of speeches and articles, subtly distinguishing "cross-border" (acceptable) from "all-Ireland" (anathema) institutions, and putting himself about in the Irish Times and cities across the island as the verligte voice of Unionism.'[19] Two aspects of Taylor's new position are of particular significance. On several occasions Taylor has said something like the following: 'The onus is upon Unionists to convince the SDLP and the Dublin Government of our willingness to co-operate and to normalise relations based upon democratic will and the resolve of the people in the two parts of the island.' [20] He has also commented favourably upon the many changes in the Republic over the past several years, noting 'the creation of a pluralist society free from church control' [21]

For someone once seriously wounded by the Official IRA, for a Unionist politician who strenuously opposed both O'Neill and Faulkner, these recent initiatives by Taylor are both brave and significant. Construed from within an exclusivist position, they are quite radical both in their opening towards Dublin and Sinn Fein and in their preparedness to put the past behind. However, whether they could sustain the weight of future negotiations, whether they could provide a fulcrum upon which a more developed Unionist inclusivism could be swung into practice, these are difficult issues to determine.

The example of John Taylor makes it clear that Unionism, as at all moments of its past, contains a capacity for a pragmatic orientation to future negotiations and relations in and about Northern Ireland. Taylor is one figure, and no doubt there are several others, who is prepared to draw cautiously upon inclusivist forms of Unionist ideology to reimagine intergroup relations within Northern Ireland and relations with the Republic. In so doing he and others open up the possibility for Unionism to be more securely incorporated into the emerging inclusivist vision of future relations and identities. However it is not clear whether or not this opening will be sufficient for an eventual re-working of the basic rules of Unionist ideology. Clearly, in so far as such a re-working is possible it will only be so, in the short to medium term, under the guise of pragmatism. In other words, the principal chance to re-work Unionist commonsense from within Unionism will not arise from some overnight conversion to inclusivism but rather from the complex balance of opportunity and vulnerability which the prevailing circumstances entail. In these circumstances of peace, intergovernmental agreement, etc., the fact that pragmatism now speaks only in an inclusivist idiom is of critical significance. This feature of contemporary pragmatism provides a fundamental support for inclusivist tendencies within the various political groupings; it provides the opportunity for inclusivist forms to begin to re-work commonsense assumptions. Can they succeed?

It is not possible to offer any definitive answer to such a question. However, what my analysis does highlight is the likelihood that the outcome of this conflict within Unionism, and more particularly within the UUP, will determine the future of Northern Ireland. My analysis throughout this study has indicated that such has always been the case. However, in all previous instances the hegemony of exclusivist Unionism, the parallel exclusivism of major nationalist groupings and the absence of an authoritative inclusivist idiom as the lingua franca of interparty talks proved fatal for a re-working of identities and relations. This time things have changed, although not utterly.

Almost paradoxically, the very process of moving towards a consolidation of peace through re-formed political arrangements, reimagined identities and re-worked forms of relationship is also the very process likely to produce political conflict and its inherent dangers. Indeed, here lies the rub. Interparty discussions with any chance of a successful outcome necessarily presuppose at least a pragmatic acceptance of inclusivist rules as the lingua franca of political negotiation. But if this acceptance remains a mere façade then the very progress of the talks is likely to uncover systematic distortions in the pattern of communication between the parties and to exacerbate interparty conflict. If, on the other hand, the pragmatic acceptance of inclusivism begins to work itself into the core unconscious rules for the structuration of Unionism or Nationalism and to institutionalise itself within particular parties such as Sinn Fein, the DUP or the UUP, then it will inevitably experience resistance from within, thereby uncovering systematic distortions in the pattern of communication within the party and exacerbating intraparty conflict. To walk the wire between these various tendencies without overbalancing is a very demanding task for any political circus!

These are the dangers inherent in attempting to implement a new political order. There is a distinct possibility that the same vicious cycle which has played itself out so destructively in Northern Ireland over the past twenty-five years will do so yet again and that very similar processes to those I have specified with regard to the period from 1962 until 1975 will recur. If so I would expect to see an unfolding process of polarisation within the Unionist community, and between Unionists and Nationalists, with first the DUP and, subsequently, part of the UUP withdrawing from negotiations and attempting to re-groove Unionist ideology in entirely exclusivist forms. Such circumstances would inevitably involve renewed political activity on the streets of Northern Ireland and the high likelihood of renewed paramilitary activity. Parallel movement within Nationalist ideology, and especially within Sinn Fein, would also be likely. For Unionists the world would have become an entirely treacherous place, the presumptions at the core of exclusivist constructions would have become self-fulfilling prophecies. In such a situation a movement akin to the Vanguard movement of the 1970s, one which would attempt to integrate religious and secular exclusivism and to establish ideological hegemony in Northern Ireland, would be likely to emerge.

The hope for avoiding such a dread recurrence lies in the novelty of the current situation, a novelty which has been produced through the difficult, and often courageous, work of various political actors and agencies. Between them, although not always in concert, the British and Irish governments, the SDLP, Alliance, Sinn Fein, the UUP and even the DUP, along with the United States government and the European Community; all of these corporate actors have, to varying extents, contributed to establishing the authority of an inclusivist lingua franca for the conduct of political life in Northern Ireland. At the moment this lingua franca is, as it were, a foreign tongue for the principal Unionist groupings. They fear it and they resent it, even though they may occasionally condescend to use it. However, in the case of John Taylor, to take him merely as an example, we may be seeing the emergence within the UUP, the principal Unionist party, of an inclusivist Unionism which has the capacity to carry pragmatism beyond itself and into the unknown of a future beyond the politics of exclusivist identity.


Both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, we live in a world in which it is essential to take ideologies and identities seriously. Such has been the broad claim of this study. The first five chapters have developed a novel theory and method for the analysis of ideology, identity and intersubjectivity. I have argued that, in the contemporary world, such a theory and method is more necessary than ever. In chapters 7 and 8 I have carried this theory and method to the analysis of a particular ideological formation by exploring the structuration of Unionist ideology over the critical period from 1962 until 1975. These chapters have observed the re-production of exclusivist identities and patterns of relationship in Northern Ireland through a political process which, while contingent upon political action, has been played out within an ideological field in which exclusivist forms held a massive predominance. In order to develop such an analysis I have, first of all, identified a variety of unconscious rules of Unionist ideology, rules which are drawn upon in the making of subjectivity and history. Second, I have explored the ways in which these different rules for the construction of subjectivity and intersubjectivity constitute the forms through which, and about which, intra-Unionist ideological conflict is fought out. From this perspective the political conflict within Unionism is, first and last, an ideological conflict. This does not mean that class processes, material interests, religious beliefs or political advantage are not part of this conflict. What it does mean is that these and other interests are organised through ideology and fought over within ideology; which is to say within the field of subjectivity and intersubjectivity.

In this concluding chapter I have tried to develop, rather gingerly, some of the principal implications of my approach for the analysis of contemporary events in Northern Ireland. These events involve a concerted attempt to re-order political identities and relations. Hence I have tried to analyse the internal dynamics of the political and ideological conflict which has been set in motion by such a bold attempt. I have done so as it is starkly evident that the processes involved in changing the rules need to be understood as inevitably and irreducibly ideological and because I believe that the failure to take this ideological feature into account is likely to lead to significant misunderstandings of both the ongoing process of change and the inevitable conflicts and reversals which will be encountered. The current attempt to make a difference in Northern Ireland has a long way to go before inclusivist forms of identity and relations will have any real opportunity to institutionalise themselves. In a world rapidly experiencing globalisation and diverse social and cultural transformations, this attempt at re-imagining and re-working political identities and relations will carry lessons for all of us.


[1] Framework Document, paragraph 7. Reprinted in the Irish Times, 23 February 1995.
[2] 'Britain proposes new Northern Ireland assembly', Reuters, 22 February 1995.
[3] All the above quotations are taken from the Framework Document, as reprinted in the Irish Times, 23 February 1995.
[4] S. Laird, 'Agreement threatens all', Fortnight, no. 338, April 1995, p. 17.
[5] P. OMalley, 'North Needs Its DeKlerks and Mandelas to Move Centre Stage', Irish Times, 13 March 1995 (reparagraphed for convenience of presentation).
[6]Sinn Féin is another party in which inclusivist rules hold only a fragile purchase, for the moment. The peace process itself has virtually locked the Sinn Fein leadership into a position whereby they must draw upon a public discourse of inclusivism in their relations with other parties and groupings. This condition has provided an opportunity for a more thorough-going transformation of the rules of ideology through which the party construes Its relations with Unionists, Britain and the Republic. However, whether such inclusivist rules will reach into the commonsense assumptions of the party and its supporters is an open issue. Its outcome will depend, in large part, upon whether Unionists can themselves make such a transition.
[7] Alan Wheatley, 'Major pleads for trust on N Ireland peace plan', Reuters, February 1995.
[8] P. Vallely, 'Low-Key Theme to Historic Day', Independent, 23 February 1995.
[9] N. Watt, 'Fringe Loyalists Attack "Kneejerk" Reaction to Leak', The Times, 3 February 1995.
[10] 'A Practical Approach to Problem Solving in Northern Ireland', published by the Ulster Unionist Party and reproduced in the Irish Times, 22 February 1995.
[11] For details see Gerry Moriarty, 'DUP Issues Alternative to Framework Document', Irish Times, 21 February 1995.
[12] See the discussion of this in chapter 8, p. 169 above.
[13] Moriarty, 'DUP Issues Alternative to Framework Document'.
[14] P. Robinson, 'Dagger In A Friend's Hand', Independent, 24 February 1995.
[15] Indeed a figure such as Peter Robinson can be understood as someone who finds such affectation repugnant. The purpose of this study is not to question the integrity of such a position and it is not to in any way denigrate the obvious courage and commitment of such a political figure. Its intention, from this perspective, is to point to the vicious consequences of a politics of exclusivist identities in which major groupings from both communities are unable to imagine and help to institute a novel set of identities and relations which move beyond the disfiguring certainties of exclusivism.
[16] John Taylor, 'Proposed Assembly Will Not Reflect Unionist Concerns', Irish Times, 9 March 1995.
[17] S. Breen, 'Taylor Says Unionists Must Attempt To Make Ideology Attractive', Irish Times, 3 April 1995.
[18] ibid.
[19] N. Biggar, 'Taylor-Made', Fortnight, no. 338, April 1995, p. 16.
[20] M. Holland, 'Challenge of Making Historic Transition for Taylor', Irish Times, 30 March 1995.
[21] M. M. Tynan, 'Framework Document Seen As Conditional Surrender By Taylor', Irish Times, 28 March 1995.

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