When I first became interested in the topic of Unionism back in 2011, I found it hard to pin down the exact dimensions of the movement. Were they all Protestants in bowler hats based in the troubled north of Ireland? Was there some central headquarters for them, or did they muster in underground tunnels? Did they have direct contact information, or did they and communicated with each other using invisible ink? It took a while to answer these questions, but when I finally did get in touch with Unionist blogger, Paul Watterson, the picture became just a little clearer and my journey of exploration into this fundamentally British movement took off, full speed ahead.
Broadly speaking, Unionism is a belief in the unification of any variety of individuals, entities, or ideas. With regards to British politics, it is a belief that the nations of the British Isles would be better off unified under a single government and embracing a common national identity. Unionists believe that the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) should remain interdependent as a single working unit. Currently, the greatest threat to this unity is the Scottish Independence Movement, which will culminate in a deciding referendum in the autumn of 2014. Naturally, that is the main battlefront and key focus of those on both the pro- and anti-union sides of the debate.
Even my relatively short time working with the adherents of Unionism has proven to me that they make up a colorful bag, full of diversity and sometimes pure and simple disagreement. Some are committed liberals, while others are strong conservatives. Some believe strongly in the benefits devolution, while others think it is unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Some, like the members of the Orange Order, are stridently Protestant, while others are devoutly Catholic. Some are outspoken activists for the Union, while others remain unassuming observers who utilize their clout at the ballot box. They come from every section of the UK and from every background.
The thing that makes Unionism difficult to grasp easily is the fact that it is something of a volunteer movement which, like the British monarchy, stands apart from party politics. Unlike the monarchy, it is still highly involved in the often grubby political ground game, facing obstacles from the rantings of fanatical nationalist opponents to the reluctance of sideline sympathizers to join forces and enter the arena. While national unity is espoused as a matter of course by the monarchy and the mainstream political parties, the fight to uphold it is, in the end, a very organic operation. It is also loosely organized, bringing into play both pros and cons for the Unionist cause, especially for online activists.
The purpose of the site "Union Jack Chat" is to serve as biographical guide to Unionism, using interviews to create a full-blooded portrayal of the movement for the benefit of the public at large. My hope is that, through this condensed survey, more people will become interested in an extremely fascinating and admirable facet of British political and cultural history and perhaps even get involved with it themselves. Whatever the outcome of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum or any political battle to come, the British people who are willing to devote so much time and effort to preserve the unity of their country deserve to be remembered, and with honour. As an American supporter, I will always be proud to have had the opportunity to take part in their cause.
(An variation of this introduction to "Union Jack Chat" appeared as an advertisement on "Open Unionism": http://www.openunionism.com/discovering-unionism-introducing-union-jack-chat/)
|London Union Jack|