In 2013 Arlene Foster told the BBC that the DUP was considering holding a border poll in order to consolidate Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. Yet that confidence has since evaporated with Mrs Foster this week pointing to Scotland and claiming that a border poll would be divisive and destabilising. Indeed she has spent much of this election campaign talking about the risk of such a vote were Sinn Féin to top the poll in the upcoming assembly elections.
In using the example of the Scottish referendum on independence Mrs Foster has shot herself in the foot. For despite her claims that the DUP is the only party that can defend the Union, Mrs Foster is directly responsible for bringing Northern Ireland to a place where a border poll is not only conceivable but where the exclusive, angry brand of Unionism she preaches has risked the very future of the Union she claims to be defending.
One only needs to look at the Better Together campaign in Scotland to understand just how far the DUP has damaged Unionism’s ability to build the winning coalition needed to win such a referendum.
Where the DUP discriminated against ethnic and religious minorities, Better Together embraced them. Where the DUP blocked LGBT rights, Better Together marched in Pride Parades. Where the DUP mocked the Irish language, Better Together produced leaflets in Gallic.
And nowhere was this divergence in approaches more clear than at Better Together’s HQ where staffers from a dizzying array of backgrounds worked together to save the Union.
In drawing our attention to this the DUP have revealed precisely why they are now so reluctant to call a poll. They have spent years and years discriminating against the very groups that saved the Union in 2014 and should a referendum be called it’s hard to see how exactly the DUP could appeal to these very groups to help secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
The idea that economic arguments alone would do so went out the window with the European Referendum. Identity matters and the DUP’s circling of the waggons approach, which closes off Unionism to anyone who isn’t white, heterosexual and Protestant, has put Unionism in a very dangerous position indeed.
This reckless behaviour has not been helped by their total inability to govern Northern Ireland. Nothing will secure the Union more than a devolved settlement which actually delivers for everyone in Northern Ireland.
Instead, for the past ten years, the DUP has led an administration that has staggered from scandal to crisis with the one constant being demands for ever more money from London in order to keep the show on the road.
The RHI scandal marks the crescendo of this piece, combining the failed structures of Stormont with DUP incompetence in a whirlwind of political rhetoric at a time when we are without a budget and our NHS is close to collapse.
The DUP should be ashamed. Yet they now have the brass neck to tell voters that only the DUP can defend the Union.
And in what has been one of their angriest campaigns to date they have turned to fear tactics in an attempt to scare Unionist voters into voting for the very party that has brought us to this precipice.
Meanwhile they have mocked Mike Nesbitt for daring to suggest that he might give a transfer to the SDLP when we all know full well that an untrustworthy or incompetent Unionist MLA will do far more harm to the Union than any Nationalist ever could.
In all of this Unionist voters have a choice to make. We can either vote for a vision of Unionism that is both progressive and competent, that delivers for everyone in Northern Ireland, or we vote for a form of Unionism that appeals only to a dwindling core of hardliners and fails to deliver for anyone.
With that in mind, choose your preferences very carefully.
James McMordie is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews and previously worked on the Better Together campaign during the Scottish independence referendum. Amongst other things he blogs about foreign policy, education and LGBT issues.
You can follow him on twitter @JamesMcMordie