A few comments on the local government elections and the aftermath.
For unionism in general, a point on demographics, unionism only holds a majority in the oldest age group, as a way of factoring this into future trends consider that as those unionist numbers reduce over time each unionist elector is effectively replaced by 2 young people from a nationalist background. That demographic change will occur constantly and will impact every election to a greater or lesser degree, as will population shifts in local elections from changes such as significant housing developments, these should not be a surprise. A political movement that fails to understand the environment it operates in fails to understand the threats and opportunities that exist.
Sinn Fein's results indicate a turnout of their support in some areas well in excess of the average, again something that is out of the influence of unionist parties. What can be influenced is turnout of voters based on past delivery and future intentions, in a democracy everyone has an opportunity to improve that.
The results have allowed some to raise the possibility of unionism coming together into one party, a merger. Strangely only ever in the context of the UUP merging with the DUP, the TUV are never mentioned. Those who suggest such a move have taken little or no time to consider the issue, if they had they would understand how disastrous such a move would be for the future of the Union. For some, self preservation appears to be the main motivation and their voices are loudest.
The challenges facing Ulster Unionism are more structural than political though the undermining of the party through the Lundifying of Doug Beattie by other parties and an agent provocateur who appears to have an access all areas pass for local media was intense. That this was replicated by a small number inside the party, whether for personal gain or a genuine lack of understanding of the world we live in remains regrettable. I suspect the same individuals will promote a merger as their preferred future direction.
Protection of political patronage in the face of declining numbers of voters attracted to the current offer from unionism under the DUP is a double betrayal, of past generations and future generations. A laziness which prefers to learn nothing and build nothing rather than create a society which more people will value and maintain.
The argument against the new Ireland mantra we face is not a red, white and blue citadel founded on archaic notions of society. It is the creation of a new Union which lays the foundations upon which future generations will build their society capable of facing the intense challenges to come. Only by focusing on delivering this can unionism hope to survive, anything else is collectively and individually selfish.
A closing point for unionism to consider, the Irish Government have established a Sovereign wealth fund with €13 billion surplus income this year. They intend to add €12 billion per annum, by 2030 it will have circa €100 billion. Imagine a Sinn Fein government in Dublin with a €100 billion campaign chest to form part of the New Ireland agenda presented as part of a border poll campaign. Can you imagine a UK government, Conservative or Labour, making the same offer for NI citizens to stay in the Union? Will Unionism understand the challenge- not if the DUP control all political thought.
Unionism focuses on the next election, republicanism focuses on the next generation. Unionism must do likewise and meet the needs of the next generation not the wants of the last generation.