The Catholic unionists
Catholics who believe Northern Ireland is better off staying with Britain – for economic and cultural reasons – say that there are many more like them who are keeping quiet
“I think on a very basic level the union makes more sense. There are better opportunities for Northern Ireland.
“If you think of the recent economic crisis and the trouble that Ireland got into, it would be very unsustainable if Northern Ireland was not part of the UK.
“I was 17-18 when I decided that I was pro-union. A lot of it came from when I was studying business and economics: that really made me officially decide, yes, I am a conservative and, yes, I am a unionist.
“I joined the Conservatives this year. I am financial and fundraising officer with NI Conservative Future and deputy chair of membership at Queen’s. I don’t think I will stand for election at this stage but maybe in a few years.”
“I want to build a better Northern Ireland”
Tina McKenzie (40) is chair of new pro-union NI21 party. Married with three children and originally from the republican Lenadoon area in west Belfast, she is managing director of a recruitment company
“I have never got grief about my viewpoint. Initially when I told people their response was one of surprise. But everybody who knows me knows what I am like; I want to build a better Northern Ireland.
“Everybody calls every Catholic in Northern Ireland a nationalist but what is a nationalist? It is somebody who wants a united Ireland, but that’s not me. Just because I am a Catholic does not mean I am a nationalist and it does not mean I am a unionist either. I am Northern Irish, Catholic, pro-union – so your religion does not define your politics.
“You can’t put people in one of two boxes, it is much more complex now. All the surveys show there are a lot of Catholics in Northern Ireland who are very comfortable with Northern Ireland being part of the UK but they don’t want anyone taking away their nationalism, as in their culture.
“I would have more culturally in common with my Protestant neighbours than with people in the South. That’s because we all grew up in the same society in Northern Ireland.”
“My reason for supporting the union? My wee boy and wee girl – what’s best for them”
Tony McMahon (45), from Newry, Co Down, lives with his partner and two children aged 10 and 8. The former Co Down minor and senior GAA footballer works for Invest Northern Ireland. He supports the new pro-union NI21 party.
“I played for the Down senior team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I played every year that they did not win an all-Ireland – they won in 1991 and 1994. I would say I am Northern Irish. I have an Irish passport and a British passport.
“If the Republic of Ireland was playing Northern Ireland in a soccer match tonight I wouldn’t watch it but if Ireland was playing England in rugby or in soccer I would be rooting for Ireland.
“As regards the Troubles I was lucky, I was very protected against that sort of stuff.
“My reason for supporting the union with Britain is primarily economic and it’s to do with the two children sitting beside me here – my wee boy and my wee girl – about what’s best for them.
“When it comes to the economy, a lot of business people don’t care about this Green and Orange stuff either.
“Being part of the UK and Great Britain has huge advantages from an economic perspective. It also has advantages in terms of doing things around the world, as opposed to simply playing the Irish card. And with regard to sterling, to have some control over your own currency is important. Coming from a nationalist, Catholic background you would think people like me would be all for a united Ireland but I genuinely wasn’t and I am genuinely not.
“In supporting NI21 I don’t think my views on the union have changed at all. I think time and energy should be spent on other things rather than fighting for a united Ireland.”