The sense that unionist parties are illiberal and unprogressive is pushing voters away from the Union

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor
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What is more important for the future of unionism, LGBT rights or Brexit?

An odd question perhaps, with such widespread belief that the Brexit deal on offer would be disastrous for the Union.

Unfortunately backstop issues have probably pushed some voters to Alliance, the Greens, and SDLP. But there is something even more serious that is pushing voters away from the Union.

It’s the identification of unionist parties, by key target voter groups, as illiberal and unprogressive.

LGBT rights are only part of this, but they provide the litmus test.

Specifically the absence of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is both an outrage and an absurdity.

It suggests an old-fashioned state. There is just a hint of the days of Captain Terence O’Neill about it, a good man, but from another age.

Brexit will probably be resolved without disaster, unless Boris Johnson manages to seize control of the state. But how do we build a broader progressive unionism that pulls voters back from the centre parties or worse ? How do we appeal to, for example, a young Catholic voter who may not really be a believer to be truthful, and who fancies going to university in Britain?

How do we persuade them, when the Brexit dust settles, that by supporting the Union and also having their Irish passport they can have the best of both worlds?

Well, we persuade them that Northern Ireland is a modern, progressive part of an exciting multi-national, multi-cultural kingdom of almost 70 million people.

This compared to the Republic of Ireland which, when you scratch the surface, is a small, homogenous place, where some of its modernity is just a trick of the light and where, sooner or later, you would find yourself bored stiff.

John Gemmell, Wem, Shropshire