Unionists welcome choice but not in marginal seats

Morning View
Morning View

As the stories on pages 6 and 7 today show, and as some letters on these pages also demonstrate, there is a strong desire across unionism for unity in this election.

That desire among the unionist electorate has been there in several recent elections, after many years of multiple divisions and often deep hostility within unionist factions.

But the desire for unity is as strong now as it has ever been, after the Stormont election at the beginning of March, in which Sinn Fein came within 1,100 votes and one seat of the DUP.

Since then the republican party has repeatedly disgraced itself.

It ought not to be allowed near power, given that it seems to want to destabilise this society.

But unionists have been forced to share power with Sinn Fein at all times.

In those circumstances, unionists need a hefty mandate at every election. Any failure to achieve that will lead to nationalist demands for a border poll, which will be used as a further destabilising event by Sinn Fein.

Despite all this, there is surprisingly little in the way of demands for a single unionist party.

Most unionists seem to welcome choice, but not in seats where a unionist candidate is likely to lose.

It was encouraging to hear yesterday that the Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP are continuing discussions on co-operation and it is to be hoped that further pacts will be agreed in marginal seats, to complement the existing single candidates in the key seats of Fermanagh and South Tyrone and North Belfast.

The very future of Northern Ireland must always come before petty party ambitions.

With Sinn Fein running rampant on matters ranging from legacy to Irish language to Brexit, a strong unionist mandate is badly needed on June 9.