Unionists should be wary of cries for them to ‘reform,’ which is often just code for compromise on the Union

News Letter editorial of Tuesday June 8 2021:

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 12:59 pm
News Letter editorial

The DUP is clearly in a period of turmoil.

For now, defections from the party are few in number, including two councillors who have left the DUP, one from South Down association and one from Strangford. But unhappiness could rise.

With accusations of sexism, bullying and undue pressure having been applied in the recent leadership race, the party is badly hobbled less than a year before a Stormont election.

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However, there are very few political parties that avoid spells of significant turmoil, including — within the last 25 years — all the big three Westminster parties: Labour, the Tories, and the Liberal Democrats. Internal tensions are not only survivable, they are in the case of the DUP a minor matter compared to the profound challenges facing unionism.

Unionists who talk about unionism needing to reform are not so much wrong — there have been big changes in social attitudes in wider society, which have caused many of the younger generations to feel alienated from unionist politics — as at risk of falling into a trap.

There is no shortage of people from a pro EU or a pro ‘New Ireland’ or just an anti unionist perspective who are willing unionism into the sort of ‘reform’ that includes compromising on core tenets of unionism.

That is the one sphere in which there must be no reform. In fact there has been too much compromise already.

Above all, there is a large coalition of influential people across these islands, Europe and in America who are urging unionists to accept the Northern Ireland Protocol betrayal.

It is the best of both worlds they say. It will secure the Union. It is the route to nationalist support for the UK. It is harmless they say. But many such people quietly know that from a unionist perspective it does irreparable harm.

The EU is clearly not changing the Irish Sea border.

Any lack of unionist resolution on a matter of fundamental constitutional importance to Northern Ireland will just confirm to enemies of the Union that there is barely anything unionists will fully reject.

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Alistair Bushe