The East Belfast DUP MP, Gavin Robinson spoke to the Irish News Political Correspondent, John Manley about Unionism and the issue of a border poll. For context, readers will remember the former First Minister, Peter Robinson argued that Unionists should prepare for the possibility of a poll at some point in the future.
Speaking to Manley he said;
Asked by The Irish News about his namesake’s remarks, Gavin Robinson said the former DUP leader was correct to urge unionism to get ready to contest a unity referendum. “Peter is absolutely right not only about how we should think about these things; how we should engage in wider discussions within unionism; about how we strategise for ourselves; how we position ourselves, and how fundamentally we advance the cause of the union through thought and argument – so he is absolutely right,” the East Belfast MP said. He said it is “incumbent on unionists not to take the status quo for granted” but to find ways to “augment, enhance and solidify” the union.
Other Unionists have echoed similar sentiments, as former DUP SPAD, Tim Cairns told the Irish News
Tim Cairns echoes Peter Robinson’s call for unionism to prepare for a referendum, likening it, as the former DUP leader did, to having a house insurance policy even though you don’t expect your home to be destroyed. Mike Nesbitt notes that some unionists will shy away from the debate on a border poll on the basis that “the more you talk about the more likely it is to happen”.“I fear we’re like the frog in the water that’s being slowly heated up – because the environment around us is changing pretty rapidly,” he says.
Professor Jon Tonge of the University of Liverpool says it wasn’t so long ago that the DUP enjoyed its “best election result ever” in 2017, giving the party the balance of power at Westminster. That, however, may have been a high water mark. “The demographics are against unionism and these days fewer and fewer people are opting for the label unionist,” he says.“At the time of the Good Friday Agreement around 40 per cent of people in Northern Ireland described themselves as unionist, whereas the corresponding figure today is closer to 28 per cent.”
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs