Unionist unity is a debate worth having rather than a ‘fate accompli’…

Nope, not Scottish Unionism. Lee Reynolds writes in the News Letter this morning laying out some keen, existential reasons for at least considering some form of Unionist unity:

As we look forward to the centenary of Northern Ireland in 2021, would focusing our efforts on these challenges and changes not produce greater benefits for the Union and unionism than finding arguments for the sake of them?

Unionist unity could be an opportunity to create something new and better. This is its litmus test. If after a thorough, intense and constructive debate the conclusion is that we can create something better then we should proceed.

If it doesn’t then we shouldn’t. The debate itself is something no unionist or anyone else in Northern Ireland should be fearful of.


  • Carsons Cat

    Meanwhile the Ulster Unionists have decided that their new strategy is that, in any argument you must play directly into the hands of your opponents.

    1) Reg Empey & Tom Elliott’s increasingly hysterical screamings about Scottish independence are manna from heaven for Salmond.

    2) Not to be outdone, Shillers weighs in with his anti-unionist unity piece which must have anyone in the DUP rubbing their hands with glee.

  • Framer

    Poor French here – Fete has a circumflex and means festival.

  • Stewart Finn

    I think it is definitley a debate worth having as far as Unionism is concerned especially given the Scottish independence debate.

    As far as my own opinion goes it is an overdue ‘realignment’ rather than full blown ‘unity’. Yes given how the DUP have evolved in recent years there is now not an awful lot of ‘clear blue water’ between the two main Unionist parties. However I would argue that there is much more variety in the politics of ‘Unionists’ on the street than there is in their elected reps.

    So even (skipping ahead 50million steps) if the DUP/UUP were to negotiate and form what they percieve to be ‘one Unionist party’ I dont think it is possible for that to be representative…..so two people agree that there should be a Union between GB and NI…so what? does that mean they agree on what that should look like and how it should be governed? Labour and Conservative are both Unionist parties but offer different politics.

    My personal view is that ‘Unionism’ should realign and that the better working relationship we have seen of late i.e. not kicking the tripe out of each other at every step should continue regardless AND that some form of cooperation and strategy should be developed on issues connected to ‘Unionism’. However the rest of politics still needs more than one ‘Unionist’ political position.

    Unionists agree on the constiutional position, but as our politics normalises, what do they do between theoretical referendums/referenda? Our children still have to be educated, hospitals run, taxes spent and social needs prioritised…..Unionists dont all agree on those things…nor should they.

  • Catherine Couvert

    This may be a naive question, and not particularly welcome from someone who is not a unionist, but as the unionist community is not a monolithic bloc, is it not healthier to have room for differing views rather than a single party line?

  • Obelisk

    “This may be a naive question, and not particularly welcome from someone who is not a unionist, but as the unionist community is not a monolithic bloc, is it not healthier to have room for differing views rather than a single party line?”

    You are correct. The problem though is that the UUP has never gotten over the DUP taking over their constituency and instead of reinventing themselves to appeal to other sectors of Unionism, such as the working class or the non voting Unicorns, they’ve instead kept to their path in the forlorn hope that the voters who deserted them will see the light and return to them.

    They tussle over the same piece of political turf, though the word ‘tussle’ implies that there’s an actual conflict going on rather than a pygmy versus a giant. So even if the two did merge into one Unionist party, the sectors of Unionist opinion that are currently unrepresented would still remain unrepresented.

    As an aside, I think that if the two parties did merge, it should be completely fair and balanced with respect to the history of both sides. For example, a new name should be selected for this one Unionist party, composited from the names of the two parties to show their individual heritage, much like the Liberal Democrats.
    From the Ulster Unionist Party, given it’s heritage as the oldest of the Unionst parties, the word Unionist should be taken.
    From the Democratic Unionist Party, given their well professed belief in majority rule, the word Democratic should be taken.
    Hence the new, united Unionist party (which respects and values in heritage from both parent parties) should be named the Democratic Unionist Party.

  • Catherine Couvert

    Riiiight! That’s it sorted then 😉
    As for solving the problem of representing the needs of ‘the working class or the non-voting Unicorns’…? I guess there’s plenty of other parties out there and I have just answered my own question.

  • What unionists have never understood is that when you win the battle you stop fighting. They kept fighting after they “won” in 1922, and they’re still fighting after they “won” in 1997. That’s because from the Unionist point of view the political battle has no victory, but is an eternal struggle for survival. So long as there is a single nationalist in NI, Unionism must keep fighting. But so long as Unionism keeps fighting nationalism will thrive. The counter-intuitive corollary is that in order to preserve the status quo, unionism as a political movement must declare victory and disband. But Ulster Unionism is based in large part on existential fear, and doesn’t have the self-confidence required to take that leap.

    Unionist unity will just encourage nationalist unity, and then we’re back to the 1930s again. Robinson has already dusted off Lord Londonderry in preparation. We’ve had the tragedy, maybe now it’s time for the farce.

    It’s “fait accompli” BTW.

  • quality

    Agree entirely with Andrew Gallagher – trying to maintain the status quo is difficult for unionism, and every concession (no matter how necessary in a given overarching strategy) is seen as a defeat of sorts.

    I shudder to think of how unionist unity would play out – whether a FST-style election pledge (that worked out grand) or a united unionist party. The latter would just be a massive insult to their own voters in my eyes.

    The three unionist parties in the Assembly at the moment (plus David McClarty, and the tacit unionism of Agnew and the Alliance) is a broad enough church, trying to roll that under one heading would be a challenge for anyone.

  • RyanAdams

    I don’t believe ‘one’ unionist party is the answer at all. The perception of ‘unionist unity’ by the nationalist community is that is for the purpose to spite them, or deny them representation, and in recent times that has been the case. The failed experiment in 2010 in Fermanagh and South Tyrone just provoked an equal and opposite reaction in the nationalist community, pushing Sinn Fein to heights they’ve never seen before in FST, squeezing the more moderate SDLP vote. In 2011 they took the SDLP seat and I don’t think its fair to say what happened in 2010 wasn’t partly to blame.

    Given the two very different directions being taken by both leaders, I think a merger would alienate many liberals and indeed hard line orange men (and women). I think you would see defections both to Alliance and the TUV and what exactly would that achieve in the overall aim of ‘unionist unity’? That’s before you even look at the possibility of voters being turned off by one party.

    However, I think there is some common ground on which the two parties can build upon, for example building a common policy on education, and that shouldn’t be hard given the number of ex-teachers and experience in both assembly teams and the excuses we’ve had for education ministers along with the messes they’ve left behind.

  • HeinzGuderian

    What nationalists fail to comprehend,even after 100 years of Northern Ireland,’we’ have absolutely no desire to be ‘irish’.
    You can murder,maim,bomb and blast. Threaten and terrorise………it doesn’t work.

    As long as nationalism keeps fighting,Unionism will thrive…….

    There we have it folks. The Gordian Knot.

    The old Nationalist Party refused to recognise Northern Ireland,or take their seats at Stormont.
    After 40 bloody years of sectarian bloodshed,at least the shinners realised,eventually,’we’ are not for turning.

    One Unionist Party,or Sixteen-Ninety,makes no difference at all.

  • galloglaigh

    What unionists fail to comprehend, even after 100 years of Northern Ireland, ’we’ have absolutely no desire to be ‘British’.

    You can murder, maim, bomb and blast. Threaten and terrorise… it doesn’t work.

    As long as unionism keeps fighting, Nationalism will thrive…

    There we have it folks. The Gordian Knot.

    The old Unionist Party refused to recognise Northern nationalist aspirations, or share power at Stormont (gerrymandered local councils and discriminated in jobs and housing etc. etc.).

    After 40 bloody years of sectarian bloodshed, at least the DUP realised, eventually, ’we’ are not for turning.

    One Unionist Party, or Sixteen-Ninety, makes no difference at all.

    Nationalism is strong, and is here to stay.

    Unionism is weak, and will one day disappear!

  • Heinz, galloglaigh,

    Nicely done. What counts as “fighting” though? Organising politically, talking, breathing… ?

  • Reader

    Framer: Poor French here – Fete has a circumflex and means festival.
    Irrelevant, as the word he needed was ‘Fait’

  • RyanAdams

    “Nationalism is strong, and is here to stay”

    Of course nationalism is here to stay. The Union isn’t going anywhere anytime soon 😉

    “Unionism is weak, and will one day disappear!”

    A prediction about as vivid as 2016, if not more so.