Toxic issues a real threat to hard-earned unionist unity
The developments in the Upper Bann constituency have reached a low ebb, even by Northern Ireland standards.
In what has become an “Upper Banngate”, the focus is on the allegations that Ulster Unionist supporters made distasteful remarks about the ethnicity and adoption of the children of David Simpson, the DUP candidate.
Mr Simpson has replied with a robust open letter to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt outlining further claims that a UUP supporter made a cutthroat gesture to one of his team.
Politics is a tough business, despite the strange claim of some people that politicians’ children should learn to resist personal attacks.
These toxic issues are creating holes beneath the waterline of the claimed new co-operation between the two main unionist parties. There is a tradition that politicians’ children are not made targets, but this has been flaunted by the alleged comments of some UUP supporters about Mr Simpson’s family.
There is also something distinctly unparliamentary about making cutthroat signs to political opponents. These are unacceptable in any workplace and in any society.
The joint electoral strategy did pay dividends in significant unionist successes in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in East and North Belfast.
This augured well for the future of unionism, and even though the surprise Tory victory robbed them of their anticipated leverage at Westminster, the lesson of great gains from such a pact seemed to have been learned.
It is clear, however, that the “co-operation” trumpeted by unionist parties last week has hit a sour note.
This spectacular and bare-knuckle political battle in Upper Bann will depress unionists, who just days ago were offered a picture of a more confident and emboldened unionism, which had been missing.
Most families have rows, but it is better to nip these in the bud before the neighbours find out what is going on. Why can’t the unionists learn to do that?