Thursday 21 June 2007

They must be getting REALLY worried ... !

On top of all of the other references to the (Protestant) 'brain drain' that are blogged below, the concerned unionist Tom Elliott MLA was reported in the Newsletter on 20 June 2007 as being "shocked to discover just how many more Roman Catholics are staying in the Province to study - suggesting a Protestant brain drain".

Poor Mr Elliott has inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. It is not the 'brain drain' per se that unionists are concerned about, but only the protestant brain drain. As the media-unsavvy Mr Elliott went on to say, "This is an important issue as many of these students who travel to mainland universities do not return to work in the Province". Of course, as previously pointed out, what really vexes him is that they do not return to vote in Northern Ireland.

If Mr Elliott was commenting on a report by an employers' organisation complaining of skills shortages in a booming economy, then his concern for the 'non-returners' might be reasonable. But he isn't, he is making a petty, sectarian point that illustrates the level of worry that is starting to permeate the unionist establishment.

It seems that their years of denying the inevitability of demographic change are starting to give way to anger; if they continue to follow the classic model of sequential stages of grief (for their dead Project Ulster), then we can look forward to bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Some may argue that the Good Friday Agreement, and the St Andrews diktat, were a form of bargaining, but there is little evidence that the DUP has really accepted the need to bargain. Maybe the next few years might see the beginnings of some real bargaining in the Assembly and Executive - however since the demographic changes cannot be 'bargained' away, the next stage - depression - is almost an inevitability for poor unionism. Acceptance will probably come sometime during the 2020's, when unionism is a political minority with an age-profile that will ensure that it has no future.

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