Belfast Telegraph

Robinson wants 'inclusive' unionism

Unionism must look to its founding principles and once again reach out to peoples of all religions and traditions, Peter Robinson has urged.

Stormont's First Minister said he wished to broaden the appeal of the unionist brand to incorporate a "patchwork quilt" of identities and faiths who all share a common belief that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom.

This umbrella would cover those who revere the monarchy to those that just think they would be better-off in socio-economic terms if they stayed in the UK, he explained.

The DUP leader set out his vision for the future of unionism - one that Catholics could feel affinity with - as he delivered the Edward Carson lecture in Dublin.

The event hosted by the Irish government in Iveagh House, near Carson's birth place, reflected on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant against Home Rule in Ireland.

Mr Robinson said a broad-based unionism was the vision of its founding father Carson.

"I believe that unionism will be strongest if all are accepted as part of a patchwork quilt of identity," he said. "Unionism is not a single homogeneous entity. It must be about opening up to new communities and building a broad and solid coalition.

"In saying unionism must now reach out to others I am not, in any way, being critical of those who have led unionism before me.

"I believe what has changed is not so much the aspirations of unionist leaders but the existence today of a much more benign environment. We now live in an era of peacetime unionism."

Mr Robinson said the stability brought by the peace process gave people more confidence to explore political philosophies. He highlighted a recent survey which indicated only 16% of people in Northern Ireland - and 33% of Catholics - were in favour of Irish reunification.

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