Belfast Telegraph

DUP's statement over 'self-respecting' unionists not joining talks on Northern Ireland with Irish representatives is a welcome change

By Samuel Morrison

On Wednesday night the DUP issued a statement assuring us that, “No self-respecting unionist will be present in any meeting to discuss internal Northern Ireland business where a seat at the table is given to the Irish representatives”.

This represents a welcome change of heart by the Democratic Unionist Party.

In 2010, Dublin was present at the talks to discuss the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont. There is no record of the DUP making a song and dance about that.

So why the change of heart? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s because the TUV had much more success in raising the issue of Dublin involvement in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland in the media this time than we had in 2010.

While TUV (and the 76,000 Unionists they represent) have been excluded from the talks they unquestionably are an influence on the thinking of those who have been invited.

However, the DUP going the whole hog in adopting TUV policy on constitutional matters seems unlikely. All unionists should be demanding that as part of the United Kingdom, we are not just entitled to tell foreign governments to mind their own business but  to have the same basic democratic rights voters in England, Scotland and Wales take for granted – the right to an opposition and the right to vote a party out of government.

It remains the case that only TUV is committed to brining basic democratic standards to Northern Ireland. Jim Allister was the only unionist leader to call on the Prime Minister to use the constitutional review promised after the Scottish referendum to reform Stormont’s anti-democratic structures.

For all his talk about Stormont being “unfit for propose” there has been little suggestion from Mr Robinson that he intends to address the core of the problem – mandatory coalition. There certainly has not been any indication that he will refuse to continue as co-First Minister unless it is removed.

Unless and until that happens people in Northern Ireland will continue to be second-class citizens within the UK, lumbered with a form of government which is totally alien to England, Wales and Scotland.

That is something no self-respecting unionist should accept.

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