Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Voters have shown they want change

The aftermath of last week's General Election continues, and the outcome here will have significant repercussions within Unionism.

Both Sir Reg Empey and Peter Robinson had bad elections. Sir Reg cannot carry on as leader, given the unwise decision to tie the Unionists to the Conservatives, and also the party's poor showing at the polls.

The DUP had a better election, and the party retains a significant presence at Westminster which could influence a hung Parliament.

The massive setback for the DUP, however, was the shock defeat of the party leader and First Minister Peter Robinson, and it remains to be seen how long he can continue in office.

Unionism in general is in disarray, and the remedy for some is a rallying cry for unity. This has been an aspiration for years, but unity is still far from a reality.

The advantages are obvious, but there is also the danger that a solid Unionist front would focus on the old question of the border, to the detriment of voters to whom the main issues are jobs, education and the Health Service.

People deserve more than old-style monolithic Unionism, and this newspaper is firmly opposed to any move which drags the population back to the sterile sectarian arguments between Orange and Green.

The voters have shown, here and elsewhere, that they want change. Already Naomi Long and Ian Paisley Jnr have rightly called for a concerted approach to our massive economic challenges, and that is the best way forward.

The tectonic plates in local politics are shifting, and whoever leads Unionism eventually, a return to the unified tribalism of the past is not what this Province needs or wants. This is a time for new thinking.

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