Alex Kane writes in Irish Times 'Unionism has itself to blame the the rise of nationalist elites‘ (1 February 2022) with regards the intellectual vacuum in Unionism, this should be extended to all politics in Northern Ireland.
There are many reasons for this, to list but a few: with the de-industrialisation of Ulster, there has been a consequent brain drain. and ongoing ‘ghetto-ising’ of politics pursuant to the Belfast Agreement. Now, more than ever, tribal politics, rules and thinking has become redundant. It is too easy for all parties here to simply bang a big sectarian drum, there is no encouragement to do anything else.
Currently, there is no political party attempting to explain why their ideological goals should be preferred to the others, of what benefits would accrue to all or just a significant portion of the other community’s members.
But such a politics requires intellectual thought and debate, not just from politicians but also from an electorate, able to stand up and argue in terms of real, rational and calculable interests that affect ordinary people.
Intellectual development has been replaced by populism. This is a shame since Ulster was the one part of Ireland that had an industrial revolution, was a centre of science and consistently returned a block of Liberal MPs to Parliament. Ulster was Ireland’s intellectual centre, reflected in it being the home of the ‘Father of the Scottish Enlightenment’ – Francis Hutcheson. The Francis Hutcheson Institute was established to recall that near forgotten intellectual heritage and to provide our politics with some intellectual input.