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A Catholic Irish Unionist is a Roman Catholic in Northern Ireland who supports continuing or maintaining ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or a Roman Catholic in the Republic of Ireland, who supports the republic's rejoining the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is a constituent country of the United Kingdom, consisting of the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland.
Among those who vote for mainstream Unionist parties in Northern Ireland, Catholic Unionists usually support the more moderate Ulster Unionist Party, as opposed to the Democratic Unionist Party because of the anti-Catholic religious doctrine of the former DUP Party leader Ian Paisley. Many Catholic Unionists vote for the Social Democratic and Labour Party or for the non-aligned Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, notwithstanding the SDLP's support for a United Ireland.
Historically, after the enactment of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, a great number of Catholics served in senior positions in the British empire of the 19th century, some of whom supported various forms of Irish home rule, while others did not. Probably the most eminent was the lawyer, judge and politician Charles Russell.
Notable Catholic Unionists
- Richard Doherty, author, military historian and RUC reservist from County Londonderry.
- Sir John Gorman, a former Ulster Unionist Party member of the Northern Ireland assembly.
- Sir Denis Henry, was born in County Londonderry in 1864. A son of prosperous Catholic businessman, he was elected MP for South Londonderry in 1916 and later served as Solicitor-General for Ireland and then as the First Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.
- Tina McKenzie. The former chairperson, council candidate and European Parliament candidate for the pro-union political party NI21 and businesswoman. She is the daughter of Harry Fitzsimons, a former member of the Provisional IRA.
Many prominent members of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland have been Catholics, including the majority of its past leaders (such as John Cushnahan, Oliver Napier and Sean Neeson), some of its Deputy Leaders (such as Seamus Close and Eileen Bell), former MP (of the Northern Ireland Parliament) Thomas Columba Gormley, as well as three of its seven current Assembly members. The Alliance Party is not, as such, a Unionist party, as its support for the Union is based purely on that being the wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
Republic of Ireland
- Stan Gebler Davies (deceased) – a journalist for the Irish Independent, who stood as a Unionist for the Dáil in 1987.
- Edward Haughey, Baron Ballyedmond, OBE. Educated by the Irish Christian Brothers in Dundalk; self-made pharmaceutical tycoon who served as a nominee of Taoiseach Charles Haughey in Seanad Éireann.
- Conor Cruise O'Brien (deceased), former member of the UK Unionist Party and the Irish Labour Party.
Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey's 2005 poll results suggest that a quarter of Northern Irish Catholics favour Northern Ireland remaining as part of the United Kingdom. The NILT results also suggest that 5% of Roman Catholics would vote for the nominally unionist Alliance Party, but none would support any of the mainstream or 'hardline' Unionist parties. Similarly, the poll results suggested that 7% of Protestants would vote for the Alliance Party, while 2% of Protestants would vote for the moderate nationalist SDLP.
A 2011 survey by the Northern Ireland Life and Times survey found that 52% of Northern Irish Catholics respondents favoured Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom over a United Ireland.
- The Belfast Telegraph, 6 November 2013
- Obituary: Stan Gebler Davies The Independent 24 June 1994
- Northern Ireland Life and Times survey 2005 (question: "Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it…" followed by options listed).
- Northern Ireland Life and Times survey 2005 (question: "Which Northern Ireland political party would you support?" followed by options listed).
- The Guardian, 17 June 2011
- The Irish Times, 20 June 2011