Orange Order’s ‘disappointment’ over unionist election strategy

Rev Mervyn Gibson said upholding the Union must take precedence over party politics
Rev Mervyn Gibson said upholding the Union must take precedence over party politics

The failure to agree a formal unionist pact ahead of next month’s general election has been a “disappointment” for the Orange Order, its grand secretary has said.

Rev Mervyn Gibson said that while a single candidate supported by both the DUP and UUP in some areas is welcome, upholding the Union must take precedence over party politics.

“The institution is disappointed that there was no pact in certain areas, however, what’s more important than party interests is the Union and it’s vital that people come out to vote,” he said.

“Apathy is a friend of republicanism so it is up to individuals, where there is no single unionist candidate, to decide which unionist they believe has the best chance of getting back to Westminster and vote accordingly.

“The unionist community needs the maximum number of unionist MPs returned to Westminster because of the important issues that we face,” he added.

Although no formal pact is in place, the two main unionist parties have said they would work cooperatively to maximise voter turnout and in some constituencies – such as Fermanagh/South Tyrone and North Belfast – the leading unionist will stand unopposed by their main rival.

In a statement last month, the Orange Order said that as a “major stakeholder” in Northern Ireland, it will “always seek to do what is necessary and in the best interests of unionism”.