Success at the polls leaves unionism with influence in London

Morning View
Morning View

The election results across Northern Ireland yesterday were a triumph for unionism.

The unionist family has become used to a steady stream of losses to nationalism.

In 1983, unionists held 15 out of 17 seats. By 2010, they held only nine out of 18.

That unionist tally increased yesterday to 11.

The DUP-UUP pacts worked by securing victory in East Belfast, North Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

In the fourth of the seats to have a pact, Newry and Armagh, Danny Kennedy polled a respectable second place in a constituency that he could only have won in the event of an evenly split nationalist vote.

But the success of unionism in yesterday’s results was not merely a question of pacts. There was vibrant debate within unionism in those many constituencies that are not considered unionist-nationalist marginals.

Unionist voters in South Antrim had a choice between two distinct flavours of unionism, the UUP moderate Danny Kinahan or the DUP traditionalist Rev William McCrea. They split almost evenly between them, but leaned more to Mr Kinahan. In a similar contest in Upper Bann, David Simpson prevailed.

The success of Tom Elliott in Fermanagh and South Tyrone against Sinn Fein was always known to be a possible outcome, given the closeness of elections there, but nonetheless his victory proved an unexpected joy for unionists.

The constituency is, as Mr Elliott pointed out, the most westerly in the UK and the most westerly parts of Northern Ireland are now overwhelmingly green.

The unionist MPs will have much work to do. The future of the UK is uncertain, given the nationalist gains in Scotland. It is also unclear how Britain will vote in the 2017 EU In-Out referendum, a result that will have major ramifications on whether Scotland remains in the Union.

The MPs will have influence, given David Cameron’s slim majority. It is to be hoped they use it wisely.