A SENIOR Ulster Unionist predicted to be an impediment to his party's talks with the Tory Party has gone public to say the venture is "okay by me".
North Belfast MLA Fred Cobain - renowned for his trade union background and lobbying on social issues - has been the target of a DUP campaign to unsettle the UUP, with questions being raised as to how he must view a potential link-up with the Conservatives.
Yesterday, however, an angry Mr Cobain went public to shut-down the DUP line of attacks by categorically stating: “I freely and willingly endorse the vision set out by Sir Reg Empey and David Cameron” and adding that he did not see the relationship impacting on “commitment to social justice”.
He said the possible gains for the Union, for bringing further integration between the mainland and Ulster, energising his party and the local political scene could not be denied.
And given the Cameron Tories’ new emphasis on the social agenda, he was happy to support the exploration of a new relationship with the Conservatives, while reserving final judgement on its shape until it was decided.
Mr Cobain said: “So Nelson McCausland and his DUP colleagues want to know how I feel about my party leader’s joint statement with Conservative leader David Cameron. It is touching that those who, especially over the past 10 years, have done nothing but throw political invective my way are now concerned about my views.
“Unlike Nelson, a one-time supporter of breaking the Union and creating an independent Ulster, I have been consistent in my views over decades. I have always believed that Northern Ireland needed to take its rightful place in national, UK politics.Sir Reg’s joint statement with David Cameron helps to bring that vision closer.”
He continued: “The alternative to national politics is the sectarian headcount offered by the DUP and Sinn Fein.The performance of the DUP-Sinn Fein led Executive should leave us in no doubt that these parties are committed to perpetuating the sectarian headcount mentality, balkanising Northern Ireland, rejecting a shared future and condemning our children and grandchildren to a form of politics that separates us from our fellow-citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom.
“The DUP believes that such separatism promotes the Union. That is illogical nonsense.”