Ben Lowry’s piece on the future of unionism has provoked a number of responses (‘After a grim 2019, unionism faces big challenges in 2020s’, Dec 28).
I agree that Northern Ireland becoming a more secular place is a problem — the loss of a sense of identity in a community which was once united by the Ulster Covenant, a document which drew on a shared history linking us back to Scotland and untimely back to a common appreciation of the Bible, is a problem.
However, it’s also worth considering the nature of the political process over the past 20 years.
Consider the decade of what is considered as stable devolution even before the current crisis.
After a short honeymoon period of Chuckle Brothers Dr Paisley and McGuinness we had a crisis over the devolution of policing and justice with Sinn Fein preventing the executive meeting for months.
No sooner was this crisis over than we had the Haass talks and a crisis about legacy issues and flags.
Followed by crisis talks on welfare reform.
Followed by a crisis around the RHI scandal.
Followed by a crisis around Irish language legislation.
There have been numerous occasions when unionists could have said republican conduct made power sharing with them morally indefensible.
One thinks of Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn, Kevin McGuigan and the Florida gunrunning. Or even the fact that just weeks ago the PSNI confirmed that the PIRA Army Council continues to oversee the entire republican movement and that they remain weapons and departments — something most unionist parties were tellingly quiet about.
Yet in spite of all that there isn’t a suggestion from either the DUP or UUP that they would ever give up on Stormont.
Why? Because as far as they are concerned a system which requires power sharing with the PIRA’s political proxies — whose goal is to show that Northern Ireland is a failed political entity — is as good as it gets.
That being the case unionism will continue to be seen as the ‘problem’ when it comes to any political crisis republicans choose to engineer.
A younger generation which has grown up in a Northern Ireland where flying the flag of the United Kingdom is seen as at best as impolite and at worse a deliberate act of provocation rather than something they identify with will continue, in greater numbers, to vote for parties which are agnostic on the Union.
As unionism reflects on where we will be at the end of the next decade it would do well to reflect on the mistakes made in the last two.
Certainly no one now would claim, as both the UUP and DUP have in the relatively recent past, that the Union is ‘stronger than ever’.
Samuel Morrison, Traditional Unionist, Dromore Co Down