Unionist voters will welcome news of the UUP-DUP pact

Morning View
Morning View

Most unionists will be delighted to hear that a pact has been agreed between the DUP and the Ulster Unionists in some Westminster seats.

The overall unionist vote has been shrinking slowly but relentlessly for decades. The day when unionists no longer outpoll nationalists is not far off.

Yet despite this backdrop, unionists are split multiple ways.

They are split left and right, integrationist and devolutionist (although not many of the former are left) and they are split between three main parties – UUP, DUP and TUV.

If NI21 had taken off, they would be split four ways. Ukip would consider themselves to be a fifth party. Then there are other unionists groupings such as the PUP.

Many people who vote Alliance consider themselves to be pro-Union, as indeed do many people who vote Green or for other small parties.

In one sense, this is a reflection of a healthy democracy. Look at the number of Israeli parties in yesterday’s elections, most of which are devoted to Israel but have quite different views.

The problem in Northern Ireland is that those for whom protection of the Union is their primary end goal are divided too many ways to be effective.

This is all the more so given the ever upwards growth of Sinn Fein, who are waging a successful post-conflict campaign to retrospectively legitimise republican terror.

Whether or not yesterday’s deal was good for the DUP or the UUP is an assessment that supporters of those two parties will make. Unionists who are unaligned to either will regret the fact that there was no agreement over other winnable seats, most notably South Belfast.

But there is very little between the DUP and the UUP today aside from an at times bitter history.

That is not enough reason for them to be opposing each other in seats that are likely to be won by those whose key objective is ending Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Ben Lowry: UUP fail to drive hard bargain