A single unionist party isn’t best route to unity

Changing how first and deputy first minister at Stormont is allocated to the largest designation, not party, would be more effective than unionist unity
Changing how first and deputy first minister at Stormont is allocated to the largest designation, not party, would be more effective than unionist unity

There is a great deal of talk about unionist unity in the wake of what was a poor Assembly Election for unionism.

Loss of its majority and an increasing percentage of the population rejecting the unionist cause and voting for parties that designate themselves as “other”.

There’s no point beating about the bush as to the cause of unionism’s poor result.

Faced with the prospect of a 90-seat Assembly every party had the prospect of losing seats, but Sinn Fein went hammer and tongs to ensure it wouldn’t lose out.

It couldn’t stand on its record in government, so it did what their unionist counterparts did and fought this election on green and orange issues: equality, respect and integrity; subjects that should raise eyebrows when brought up by Sinn Fein.

Of course the actions of their executive partners right up till the day of polling only underlined Sinn Fein’s point and as a result there was a massive turnout with Sinn Fein getting the lion’s share of new votes.

How a single unionist party would counter what happened this election is a question that has not been sufficiently answered.

Yes it might prevent Sinn Fein being the largest party and becoming first minister, but in a long term how a single unionist party can be such a broad house to have both TUV/DUP minded individuals and UUP/Alliance thinking people is an impossible ask; it will split and the Alliance will only grow against it.

Of course presented with a situation like the RHI scandal, how would a single unionist party have reacted? My guess is not much differently.

Unionists would have been over a barrel, vote for us or they get in, don’t look at our record spending your taxes.

The public would have no way of holding their representatives to account at the ballot box, some might not turn out at all. Sound familiar?

There is a simple solution, one that has been tried before. Return the selection of first and deputy first minister to the largest and second largest designations. Unionist unity with one stroke of the pen.

Imagine unionism that like our country is diverse, a British man in London is different than one in Birmingham, different than one in Glasgow and different than one in Cardiff.

So why should the British in Belfast, Newry and Enniskillen be the same? Something for everyone, but not self defeating.

In such a scenario what divides us will make us stronger.

We could then get on with delivering good government to Northern Ireland, for everyone. What true unionist could argue with that?

Joshua Lowry, Bessbrook