Beattie’s plan for social liberalism would lead to further UUP failure

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Doug Beattie believes that the UUP should become more socially liberal (‘Top UUP figures – we still believe in liberal unionism,’ June 10).

He also believes that the UUP should reach out to nationalist and republican voters “and tell them it’s OK to stay part of the UK and yet have an identity which defines you as being Irish”.

What Mr Beattie seems not to understand is that many Catholic voters are potentially pro-Union but are also unwilling to vote for unionist candidates who share his liberal views on moral questions. The same is true for many mainstream Protestants.

Last week’s Presbyterian General Assembly made clear the strength of pro-life sentiment in Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant church. Few of the ministers and elders who gathered last week would, one supposes, be willing to vote for the position on abortion taken by Mr Beattie and some of the other unsuccessful UUP candidates in last week’s election.

Those who share Mr Beattie’s position ought perhaps to consider the case of South Belfast, allegedly the most progressive constituency in Northern Ireland.

The two top candidates, who shared over 50% of all votes cast, were both pro-life.

Under the leadership of Mike Nesbitt the UUP seemed often to be chasing Alliance Party votes; and yet the party has lost more voters and more members to the DUP rather than to Alliance.

The UUP lacks much of the DUP’s sectarian baggage; it is a party which has in previous years been well placed to express support for the Union in terms that are firm in substance but moderate in manner.

But in the past the UUP was also a party that appealed to practising members of the mainstream Protestant churches as well as to a small number of Catholics. (the party ought to be worried that it has had no Catholic elected representative since the retirement of the late Sir John Gorman).

As things are, the party has lost the support of many in the former category and continues to fail to attract those in the latter group. Mr Beattie’s proposals are a recipe for continuing failure.

C.D.C. Armstrong, Belfast BT12