A senior Ulster Unionist set to attend a Sinn Fein event on 'uniting Ireland' has said unionism should not be afraid to put its case.
Basil McCrea is the second member of his party to take part in a series of seminars designed to spark a debate on a united Ireland on a panel which is also to include former senior civil servant Sir George Quigley.
It comes just a few months after UUP deputy leader John McCallister came under fire for attending a Sinn Fein seminar in Newry.
Mr McCrea, however, said he would be building on the speech given by Mr McCallister, but his emphasis would be on economic arguments. "I don't think unionism should be afraid to go and put its case to any audience in any arena," the Lagan Valley MLA said.
"There is a strong economic case to be made for the union and I intend to do that. This is a follow-on from John, whose address was not strictly economic but who did get a lot of plaudits from the audience. It is apparent there needs to be a serious debate about this."
At the event, on January 28, chaired by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Mr McCrea and Mr Quigley will be joined by human rights and women's activist Inez McCormack, Sinn Fein TD for Donegal Pearse Doherty, as well as ex-Donegal County Council chair Michael McLoone.
Business leader and economist Sir George said yesterday: "I don't really see this as anything out of the ordinary. I would not be coming to this from any party political point of view but looking at examining any issues which come up from an independent point of view."
The ex-Ulster Bank chairman said he had taken part in an economic conference organised by Sinn Fein in the late 1990s when he was chairman of the NI Economic Council.
Ulster Unionist deputy leader John McCallister came under fire from unionists after attending a Sinn Fein organised debate. At the event in Newry the South Down Assembly member argued unionism had fallen short on protecting the minority community and had to ask itself hard questions. "That is a part of our heritage we have to confront and recognise," he said.