UNIONIST voters are not simply supportive of a unity candidate – but it seems that most want unionist unity, “either on a practical basis, or totally”.
A street interview in Portadown revealed that unionist unity candidates should be offered in the “marginals”, like South Belfast and in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, with others at least having “a stab” at it. And there is no apparent appetite for the creation of a third unionist party, as hinted by Basil McCrea, John McCallister and David McClarty.
Retired retailer Ernie Thornton felt it should be unionist candidates only in the marginals.
“Unionism is acting very foolishly by splitting the votes in these marginals,” he said.
“A unity candidate almost succeeded Fermanagh-South Tyrone last time, and while it’s unlikely to work in Mid Ulster, at least unionists are showing common sense.
“It’s worth the experiment, and the main parties should show maturity and do it in all constituencies. As for this third party, they all support the union, and there’s no need for it. And DUP don’t seem to realise that there’s a lot of discontent among grassroots that they’re hand-in-glove with Sinn Fein.”
Geoffrey Toal agrees, and believes that the parties should bury their differences and unite totally.
“Peter Robinson’s unionism isn’t far removed from the UUP,” he said. “Paisley and Trimble were poles apart, but when DUP agreed to power-share with Sinn Fein, the differences were hard to spot. If DUP can work closely with Sinn Fein in Stormont then they should be able to work closer with the UUP.”
Health worker April Hamilton believes that all parties at Stormont have distanced themselves from the electorate, “and would need to repair the damage”.
“Maybe that’s why so many unionist-minded voters are staying away from the polls,” she said. “The old saying is that you only see them at election time, and there’s a lot of substance in that.
“UUP have been in a state of chaos for some time, and it’s a pity to see it implode. But all sides in unionism should be mature enough to see how much they have in common and start moving in the same direction. A third party is the last thing they need.”
Darryl Hewitt, lecturer, farmer and District Master of Portadown Orange District, said: “Perhaps there’s room for various shades of unionism, but they should have the common sense to cooperate over issues like Westminster elections, and when it comes to matters like the union and the Union Flag.
“Disunity helps nobody and that’s being proven by the present antics. The orange-green ratios are getting closer, and it’s a time for unity and cooperation, not splintering the unionist vote or forming new parties that never succeed anyway.
“It’s unlikely that the unionists will take the Mid Ulster seat, but let them create a template for maximising the vote, get closer to the people and give them an incentive to come out and vote. Their actions have alienated far too many people from the polls and that will have to be put right.”