Lord Empey: The DUP have no-one to blame but themselves for this disastrous election for unionism

I have been listening to the spin been put on the elections.

By Reg Empey
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:28 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 8:09 am
Senior members of the DUP: Peter Robinson, the late Ian Paisley, and Jeffrey Donaldson. Lord Empey writes: "When Ian Paisley and the DUP took over leadership of unionism from David Trimble and the Ulster Unionists in 2003, unionists won 55% of Stormont seats. Ian Paisley inherited a majority of the unionist electorate, 51%. Last week this dropped to 42%". Picture: Diane Magill
Senior members of the DUP: Peter Robinson, the late Ian Paisley, and Jeffrey Donaldson. Lord Empey writes: "When Ian Paisley and the DUP took over leadership of unionism from David Trimble and the Ulster Unionists in 2003, unionists won 55% of Stormont seats. Ian Paisley inherited a majority of the unionist electorate, 51%. Last week this dropped to 42%". Picture: Diane Magill

It is normal for any political party to do this, but for unionism, this election was truly awful.

In the outgoing assembly there were 40 MLAs who designated themselves as unionist: in this assembly there will be 37!

This is equivalent to 41% of the membership of Stormont, a drop from 44% in the previous mandate.

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Lord (Reg) Empey is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party who now sits in the House of Lords

If we go back further, to 2003, the picture gets really shocking.

In that year, Ian Paisley and the DUP took over leadership of unionism from David Trimble and the Ulster Unionists.

In that assembly, 55% of the seats were occupied by unionists.

Ian Paisley inherited a majority of the electorate, 51%, giving 1st preferences to pro Union candidates.

Last week this dropped to 42%.

With nearly 20 years leading unionism, I think Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his party need to reflect on these damming statistics.

They have nobody else to blame.

Recent tactics over the threat of a border poll, for which there is no evidence in the election results, and the disastrous policy they framed at St Andrews over the first minister position, have now come home to roost.

Under the rules negotiated in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the first minister was to come from the largest party in the largest designation (either unionist or nationalist) and the deputy first minister from the largest party in the next largest designation (either unionist or nationalist).

This was changed at St Andrews at the insistence of the DUP and Sinn Fein so that the first minister comes from the largest party regardless of designation.

We see the result of that before our eyes.

If the DUP had left things alone Sir Jeffrey would be first minister this week and not Sinn Fein.

Hoist by their own petard!

• Lord (Reg) Empey is a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party who now sits in the House of Lords

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