Unionism can both have a wide range of views on non constitutional issues while also uniting against the Irish Sea border

News Letter editorial of Friday may 28 2021:

Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 7:52 pm
News Letter editorial

There are now three main leaders of unionism in Northern Ireland.

Edwin Poots leads what is still, despite an apparent poll dip, the larget unionist party, the DUP.

Doug Beatie leads the Ulster Unionist Party which dominated NI politics for its first 80 years, but is now much diminished.

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And Jim Allister QC is at the helm of Traditional Unionist Voice, which is much smaller than the DUP or UUP, but is led by a man who is respected across unionism and who polls far better as an individual than his party does.

This is a crowded field for a unionism that has seen its overall vote shrink since 2000. It is hard to see how a three-way split can be sustained, yet there is a case for two main unionist blocs — a moderate one and a conservative one.

There is an increasing view that a single unionist party would just drive more voters to the neutral political centre.

The biggest issue by far facing unionism is the NI Protocol/Boris Johnson betrayal. Senior DUP politicians have seemed far too willing to accept tough talk from Tories such as Lord Frost. Yet London keeps reiterating its commitment to the protocol, about which Brussels is so uncompromising.

The UK says the Act of Union has been partially repealed and we must assume that is the situation (but, with hope, to be overturned by the courts).

It is an outrage, yet Edwin Poots has to date been pragmatic about this Irish Sea border. Doug Beattie yesterday seemed to say on radio that the protocol was less important than the NHS, but the comparison is misleading because it is an utterly different policy area.

It is possible both to think that health is the single most important non constitutional matter, but that the constitutional question is the single most important political issue.

That is what republicans think, yet they do not allow themselves to be talked into saying the NHS is more important.

A united unionist rejection of the repeal of the Act of Union can, and should, exist alongside a wide range of views among unionists on non constitutional matters.

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