I've been out of my 'sectarian comfort zone' for a while

A recent article in this column on the link-up between the Ulster Unionist Party and David Cameron's Tories sparked-off a debate on the Slugger O'Toole political web site.

Most comment was favourable but one contributor said something to the effect that it was interesting to see Hamill out of his "sectarian comfort zone."

One of my troubles is that I haven't had a sectarian comfort zone for almost as long as I can remember. I only have a sectarian discomfort zone. In our tribal society, anyone from one political tradition who agrees with the other is unlikely to be comfortable. My family background is Protestant and broadly unionist but I believe the ultimate solution to some of our political problems lies in the creation of a fully sovereign united Ireland.

Such a view isn't exactly wildly popular amongst some Protestants and I'm always vulnerable to a charge of trying to ingratiate myself with "the other side". In another sense, it's a liberating place to be. Why inch forward painfully for years towards the only real solution when the big step we need to take is already perfectly obvious?

On the other hand, if I'd tried harder to stay in my little box at least one reader would have been denied a certain pleasure. Maybe we should all just give up on trying to help this little sectarian place and just stick to our labels.