Unionists ‘could hold balance of power into perpetuity’ in all-Ireland parliament

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt says unionism will not disappear in united Ireland

Mike Nesbitt: ‘To coin a phrase, we aren’t going away, you know.’ File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mike Nesbitt: ‘To coin a phrase, we aren’t going away, you know.’ File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Unionists could hold the balance of power into perpetuity in a united Ireland parliament, former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has claimed.

Mr Nesbitt said he raised this issue with a senior political figure in Dublin last year who was “shocked” that unionists could be the “perpetual kingmakers in Dáil Éireann”.

Mr Nesbitt contributed to Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly’s research paper on unionist attitudes to a united Ireland that has just been published.

Mr Nesbitt, who was Ulster Unionist leader between 2012 and 2017, said the senior political figure he spoke to was “taken aback” that political unionism would continue to exist even in the event of a united Ireland.

“To coin a phrase, we aren’t going away, you know. The objectives of unionism might change, but the need to represent our people would be even more important than ever, and it is indeed possible that we could hold the balance of power in Leinster House on a frequent if not perpetual basis.”

Mr Nesbitt stressed he was not speaking for the whole of unionism because “nobody does” and that even the DUP does not have a majority of unionist support.

“It is increasingly accepted that the unionist warning that ‘home rule is Rome rule’ was accurate at the time, just as it is indisputable that it is no longer the case,” he wrote.

“The Ireland of today is a progressive, pluralist country embracing previously unimaginable social policies like marriage equality and reproductive rights.”