We're drifting into a united Ireland - Jim Allister

AS the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland approaches, unionists should reflect on why our forefathers fought so hard for the creation of the state.

Northern Ireland was established because the unionist people of Ulster refused to accept the imposition of a Dublin parliament, a reward for those who used violence and terrorism to achieve their objectives.

They valued, as the foundational document of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Covenant, puts it, "our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom".

Equal citizenship is the cornerstone of the Union.

When this is diluted, so is the Union.

This has already begun.

Our contrived form of government at Stormont means the people of Northern Ireland are no longer equal citizens.

Unlike Scotland and Wales, the devolved setup in Northern Ireland denies us two fundamentals of British democracy – the right to vote a party out of government and the right to have an Opposition.

As part of the UK, any form of devolution here should be compatible with British practice instead of the undemocratic and fundamentally unworkable system we have at present.

In the rest of the UK the route to shared government is voluntary coalition such as currently operates at Westminster between the Tories and Lib Dems.

In Northern Ireland we have compulsory coalition with those whose overriding purpose is the destruction of the Union.

The establishment of Northern Ireland in 1921 was to preserve our position within the UK and separate from the emerging Republic of Ireland.

Today, it is clear that government by joint authority with terrorists at Stormont and cross-border executive bodies with Dublin is semi-detaching us from the UK and building a momentum towards ending the Union.

Under the Belfast Agreement, the constitutional architecture by which we are governed, the only referendum proposition which can ever be put to the people of Northern Ireland is Irish unification, which confirms the anti-Union trajectory and intent of the present governmental arrangements.

Without change to these governmental arrangements, continuing erosion of the Union and its eventual subjugation is inevitable.

Some may lull themselves into pretending the Union has never been stronger.

This is nonsense because the Belfast Agreement arrangements are designed and are working towards the very opposite goal.

If unionists do not waken up to that reality, we will drift inexorably out of the Union and into an all-Ireland, built by increasing north-south fusion and cutting the ties which bind us to London.

Fiscal powers for Stormont is just the latest staging post demand by republicanism.

If we continue as we are, by 2021 the Union will be even weaker than it is today and nothing like what it meant in 1921.

It is because I recognise and reject the purpose and destination of the Belfast Agreement that my politics, as an unashamed unionist, are built on deconstructing its governmental arrangements.

This is why TUV insists on the basic and equal citizenship rights of voting a party out of government and being allowed an Opposition.

Jim Allister is the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party. The former DUP member from North Antrim was also an MEP.

Naturally many look for unionist unity.

If there is any sincerity in the words of others in claiming aversion to the mandatory coalition system which they presently operate, then there could be scope for developing practical cooperation and greater unity.

Here is the unifying challenge for all unionist parties.

If we all dislike compulsory coalition and recognise it as undemocratic then let’s do something about it.

Let’s all pledge now that after the 2011 Assembly elections none of us will operate it and, thereby, compel the change to voluntary coalition.

This is not an anti-devolution strategy; this is a pro-democracy strategy.

It is about using our strength to insist on equal citizenship rights within the Union.

It doesn’t exclude nationalists from government; all parties would be free to make whatever governmental alliances they choose and those who can’t, unionist or nationalist, would perform the vital role of opposition.

This would achieve durable and democratic devolution, rather than the acknowledged failure of the present system.

The restoration of basic democratic rights would go a long way to counter the anti-unionist, anti-democratic ethos of the Belfast Agreement.

I fear some unionist politicians are too comfortable in the present destructive arrangements to force change but instead salve their consciences with empty talk about there being ‘no alternative’.

Had our forefathers taken that attitude Northern Ireland would never have come into existence because there was ‘no alternative’ to the 1912 Home Rule Bill!

There is an alternative to terrorist-inclusive compulsory coalition, but only if we want it.

If we don’t then prepare to live in a different Union, the union of an all-Ireland.