East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson spoke to Irish News political correspondent John Manley about unionism and the issue of a border poll. For context, readers will remember the former First Minister, Peter Robinson argued that unionists should prepare for the possibility of a poll at a later date.
He spoke to Manley and said:
When asked by the Irish News about his namesake’s comments, Gavin Robinson said the former DUP leader was right to urge unionism to prepare for a referendum on unity. “Peter is absolutely right, not just how we should think about these things. how we should engage in broader discussions within unionism; about how we strategize for ourselves; How we position ourselves and how fundamentally we advance the union cause through thoughts and arguments – so he’s absolutely right, ”said the East Belfast MP. He said it was “the job of unionists not to take the status quo for granted” but to find ways to “strengthen, improve and consolidate” the union.
Other unionists have held similar views, Tim Cairns, former DUP SPAD, told the Irish News
Tim Cairns joins Peter Robinson’s call for union formation to prepare for a referendum and, like the previous DUP leader, compares it to home insurance, even though you don’t expect your home to be destroyed. Mike Nesbitt notes that some unionists will shy away from debating a border poll on the grounds that “the more you talk about it, the more likely it is that this will happen”.
“I’m afraid we’re like the frog in the water that slowly warms up – because the environment around us changes pretty quickly,” he says.
Liverpool University Professor Jon Tonge notes;
Professor Jon Tonge of the University of Liverpool says it wasn’t that long ago that the DUP achieved its “best election result ever” in 2017, which gave the party the balance of power in Westminster. However, this could have been a high water mark. “Demographics are against the union movement and fewer and fewer people are choosing the trade union label these days,” he says.
“At the time of the Good Friday Agreement, around 40 percent of the people in Northern Ireland identified themselves as trade unionists, while the figure is closer to 28 percent today.”
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South Relations from the University of Ulster. You can follow him on Twitter @dmcbfs