In a few weeks time I will go to the polls to be greeted by a plethora of unionist parties listed on the ballet paper.
Alex Kane (April 4) writes about the splits and breakaways within unionism but also asks why it is so prone to ongoing division.
I have the answer. It is an overactive Protestant gene!
That’s to say, people with this condition have a genetic predisposition to disagreement, dislike large organisations so set up alternative organisations that are only minutely different from the ones they left.
This subdividing continues until you are left with an independent – the smallest known particle in party politics. Ironically they all call themselves unionists.
The Protestant gene has a long history, first appearing 500 years ago when Martin Luther started the reformation by protesting at the established church (now the Catholic Church) to form the Protestant Church.
This new church naturally attracted people who were inclined to dissent.
With all the dissenting apples in one barrel, one church would turn out to be wholly inadequate for the Protestants whose gene was working flat out to create as many as possible: Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist etc with further Free,
Independent or Reformed subdivisions of those.
Since unionism has a Protestant background, this subdividing gene infected unionist politics. The gene may also be at work in the EU referendum.
It seems that generally Protestants are less enthusiastic about the EU than Catholics if party politics are used as a rough guide (although the UUP have bucked that trend officially at least).
Given that the EU is a large bureaucratic grouping trying to coalesce as many countries under its single roof as possible, it can be seen how the Protestants would rail against this – no self respecting Protestant gene would be seen dead working in a single large body co-operating with other people.
Dissenting can be healthy, but it is local politics where the Protestant gene may cause its unionist host harm.
United we stand, divided we fall is a familiar call but with so much unionist division it can only assist opponents.
With genes like that who needs enemies.
To sum up, unionists divide because – they can’t help it!
Thomas Stewart, Belfast BT4