Unionism in Decline – by Michael Lagan


Are these past council election results enough evidence for the detractors that a border poll is inevitable? Sadly we’ll see in due course (as we always do) that it isn’t but what we do see now is why the DUP have been pushing hard for a less than democratic 70% Unionist vote for a united Ireland rather than the customary 50% +1 in any border poll.

A Nationalist party, a Republican party, but a party willing to work for everyone here is now the largest party in council and in Stormont in NEI.  Realistically and by all accounts, logically this shouldn’t be happening in NEI due to the fact this little part of Ireland, this fourth green field was designed and engineered from top to bottom to hold a Unionist majority at all times even if there was an Irish Nationalist majority.  From Derry to Belfast, Nationalism is overtaking Unionism by a massive margin, and all in a little state where this shouldn’t be possible which makes this all the more poignant, stark, and defining in Irish history.

It took 102 years for Nationalism, through all the adversity, collusion, death, and eventually peace to bring this about…also known as the long game.  One could argue, many people fed up with the DUP and Unionism’s stance on Brexit and the Windsor Framework have sent a strong message that they want them back in their seats in Stormont…but these aren’t Stormont elections, these are local council elections electing people to work at a grassroots local level for communities.  Make no mistake though, pro-Framework voices have been silenced when speaking out against Unionism’s stance on the Windsor Framework and their boycott of Stormont with the loudest but minority voices gaining most if not all of the media attention surrounding this, and of course, those voices were anti-Framework.

So what now? Well, the Alliance Surge seems to have slowed to a crawl when coming up against people, the majority really who want to know should a border poll be called, what side of the fence will Alliance land on? and they seem to be unable to give anyone an answer on that for fear of coming away with a sore arse.  While they did gain seats, it wasn’t exactly what one would expect from a ‘surge’, gaining only 1.8% since 2019 with Sinn Fein gaining 7.7% of the vote since 2019.  The DUP and UUP dropped votes with the TUV gaining only 1.7% since 2019.  The SDLP dropped 3.3% with PBP dropping 0.4%.

The biggest winner in this election was clearly nationalism and Sinn Fein which continues to grow and thrive, so in reality, it’s not if, but when Sinn Fein takes power in Ireland, both North and South what will it do with the newfound power?  So, will Leo Varadkar now call for a border poll on uniting Ireland or at least put his weight behind the call for one?  He claimed in the past that Irish citizens in the North would never be left behind again as they were throughout the conflict here so will he stick to his word? The evidence is there for all to see that the largest nationalist and Republican party continues to grow both North and South of Ireland with Unionism declining and the centrist Alliance slowing down to a crawl.

The Secretary of State for NEI now has all the evidence he needs to call a border poll as enshrined in the GFA with Sinn Fein being the largest party in power both in Stormont and in Council.  More and more people are voting for Sinn Fein both North and South of this green isle of ours and that train has no intention of stopping.  Alternatively, we can sit and wait to see what Unionism does.  Will it begin talking to people outside of Loyalism and Unionism in a bid to do what past leaders have warned it should do? Will it hold out the hand of friendship and at least talk about unity? I think we all know the answer to that, but we can all dream.

4 Responses to Unionism in Decline – by Michael Lagan

  1. Paul woods May 23, 2023 at 10:27 am #

    The silence in the freestate media on the election and the rise of Sinn Féin is deafening I wouldn’t hold my breath on Varadkar doing anything, as usual we’ll have to do it ourselves

  2. John Patton May 23, 2023 at 10:44 am #

    ‘Do it ourselves’ has sinister undertones’: in Scotland, many left leaning people have lent their vote to the SNP in the hope of independence. I suspect that some in the North hold their noses and vote SF with similar motives.

  3. Another Jude May 24, 2023 at 4:22 pm #

    I think it is almost Paisleyesque to talk about people ‘holding their noses’ whilst voting for the biggest party in Ireland, north and south. I have voted for SF since the Prior Assembly sham of 1982 and have been proud to do so. One of the first people I voted for was in Long Kesh. The other was the late Martin McGuinness. I now vote for candidates too young to have taken part in the conflict. I voted back then for an Ireland free from British interference. It has never been a so called protest vote.

  4. Kieran May 25, 2023 at 11:44 am #

    I agree with most of the article and indeed the subsequent comments. However the Unionist/loyalist communities are currently discussing a way forward, a move I welcome. In particular Loyalism has its specific difficulties which they have to come to terms with. How do they address their purpose to a more switched on society? How do they articulate the union to a changing demographic? And then do they possess the foresight to constantly adapt their strategy to accommodate all in the North? Loyalism has many bright people within their ranks and it is a broad church.and they like others are plagued with left wing and right wing thinkers. I welcome the rise of a working class loyalism delivering for its people and subsequently for others.