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When diversity of unionism is an advantage over nationalism, it’s a pity the stereotype is so off-putting

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It’s no wonder there’s a lack of confidence in unionism. Its leading political party tearing itself apart in public hasn’t lifted that community’s spirits.

But this embattled self-image has been taking a battering for decades.

In popular culture unionism is ‘The Baddie’. Over half a century of pop music and film, it’s the nationalist perspective that is the natural lens through which Northern Ireland is seen. Unionism has never been sexy.

In the popular imagination, unionists are dour, stubborn, backward-looking, uneasy with the modern world, wary of fancy talk and the imagination.

When media around the globe want to illustrate an Ulster Prod they reach for a stock image of an old man in a bowler hat, with a speech bubble saying just one word: “No.”

Given that stereotyping, who’d raise their hand and say “That’s me?”

It hasn’t helped that among the several characteristics of unionism – and Protestantism also – is a propensity to assume they have been betrayed and to follow this up with division.

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Lundys down the decades have encompassed everyone from the lowliest individual courting a Catholic to the Prime Minister and the current heir to the throne. There’s a strange comfort to be derived from being both pure and lonely, to having remained true while everyone else walked away.

In general, nationalism is a simpler idea and one which retains adherents across the classes: regardless of economic ambition, the starter-pack for Irish Catholics contains a united Ireland the way bicycle repair kits used to have a tube of glue and wee rubber patches.

But it would be a mistake for anyone now........

© Belfast Telegraph

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