I was extremely disappointed at the comments made at Westminster by the DUP’s MP for North Belfast, Nigel Dodds, on Wednesday in which he said that “Many in Northern Ireland now view (North Down MP Lady Hermon) as being on the side of the Dublin government on these issues.”
Lady Hermon’s response was typically forthright.
“I am a unionist. I am not in the pocket of, am not propping up, and have not spoken to, the Dublin government, and I strongly resent the implication, in his question, that I am doing that….
“Of course, I do not want Northern Ireland to be treated any differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Dodds may not agree with what Lady Hermon had said, but the fact remains she has a mandate and is entitled to speak.
The Brexit process presents major challenges, but what we must not lose sight of is the need to be respectful of the opinions of all sides.
Unfortunately Mr Dodds’ comments were reminiscent of the type of politics which has done unionism no favours in the past.
Now more than ever, Northern Ireland and Unionism needs friends at Westminster and elsewhere.
As Peter Robinson himself once said – “Unionism should stop looking for Lundys and start looking for converts.”
It has not gone un-noticed that less than two weeks ago at the DUP party conference, their director of elections Simon Hamilton, declared North Down to be their number one target seat.
Perhaps Mr Dodds’ comments should be seen in the light of this.
If you didn’t know better you would almost think the DUP does not want any other pro-Union voice from Northern Ireland to be heard.
• Alan Chambers is an Ulster Unionist Party MLA for North Down