David McNarry and Jim Wilson gave the wrong answer to the wrong question when they were reported as saying that Unionist Parties have to join forces or be steamrollered (Belfast Telegraph 06 March). Both the UUP and DUP have consistently misread the situation since 1998 and this has led them to the low point they are facing now.
The infamous Good Friday Agreement, which a war weary electorate consented to, institutionalised the idea of two communities in Northern Ireland. Since then political development in Northern Ireland has developed along two community lines. The two main Unionist parties, in particular, succumbed to this. The Nationalist/Republican parties also succumbed but to a lesser extent. The Alliance Party has not been guiltless in this process by seeking to give “respect” and hence validity to both communities.
In the most recent election, and in all preceding elections, Unionist parties have for the most part sought to protect the interests of their supposed community in a two community situation. These parties have accepted the false premise that they are limited to their own side of the fence. They seem quite content for elections to be a record of historical birth rates in different areas. Drive through a predominantly nationalist/republican area during any election campaign and only Sinn Fein and SDLP posters, with the occasional Alliance contribution, are on display.
Recently, then First Minister, Arlene Foster, described herself with astonishing hubris as “The Leader of Unionism.” Leaving aside the arrogance of that claim, she was displaying obviously her impression that her supposed role as “Leader of Unionism” was more important than her role as First Minister of Northern Ireland, That latter role was real and Foster should have realised that she held that position for all the people of Northern Ireland not just an artificial section.
Unionists must aggressively promote the cause of the Union in all parts of Northern Ireland. Far from respecting the Nationalist position they should seek to point out its failings to everybody regardless of class, creed or artificial designation. That remains the only way forward for Unionism.
Hopefully, the present efforts to reinstall divisive power sharing at Stormont will fail and Unionists of all hues can move forward to build their parties to represent the whole single community of Northern Ireland in a fully integrated United Kingdom. That is the only way for Unionism and, indeed, Northern Ireland to survive. However, it is unlikely that the bulk of DUP or UUP members will grasp that necessity. Therefore a radical libertarian pan-United Kingdom party must step in to take the cause of Unionism forward.