Ian Marshall: UUP leader Doug Beattie welcomes first unionist elected to Seanad into his party - expected to stand for assembly seat in 2022
Former Irish Senator Ian Marshall wants to make full use of his extensive southern contacts for the benefit of NI if he is elected to the Assembly elections next year for the UUP.
The former Ulster Farmers Union president has this week joined the UUP at the invitation of party leader Doug Beattie
The 53-year-old still runs a beef farm at Markethill with his son, and since 2017 he has been working with the QUB Institute for Global Food Security, acting as a link between scientific research and farmers.
Although other NI unionists had been appointed to the Seanad before him, he was the first to be elected, after being approached to stand by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
He sat in the upper chamber as an independent unionist from April 2018 until the 2020 general election.
“I have always been critical of those who have been nervous to be open about their unionist convictions,” he told the News Letter. “But Doug and I are both secure in our identity as unionists.”
His time in the Seanad has had a great influence on him, and he firmly believes that across the British Isles, East-West and North-South relationships must be equally developed.
“It is important not to set one against the other.”
He believes it is important to build alliances with non-unionists on economic, business, academia and health matters, in the face of challenges, such as Covid and Brexit, even when they may disagree on constitutional matters.
“We need the two traditions to work together on 99% of the non-controversial issues. I would like to see much better cooperation between the four home nations and Dublin.”
As a former senator he has full access to all the facilities at Leinster House and is keen to leverage his contacts made there over three years for the benefit of NI.
“Unionism as it is perceived in Dublin is not as I see it.”
When Ulster and Ireland winger Andrew Trimble gave an interview recently to RTE broadcaster Claire Byrne, he was inundated with positive feedback from his many southern contacts.
“They said he was completely fantastic, but I assured them that he was totally representative of my circle of friends and colleagues. I don’t believe unionists are fairly represented by the press in Dublin.”
Mr Marshall also said he had “no problem whatsoever” with an Irish Language Act, having had to vote in Irish for two years as a senator.
In 2019 he lobbied the Irish government to demonstrate to the Kingsmills Massacre families that there is “no hierarchy of victims” by finally cooperating with their legacy inquest after five years of requests.
The UUP said it was “delighted” to welcome its latest recruit. “Ian brings a wealth of experience and commitment that leads me to believe he will be a progressive voice for the future,” said party leader Doug Beattie.
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