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In this political marriage, unionism must rethink its strategy before it forces an untimely divorce

letter of the day: SAVING THE UNION

Too often, those politicians who describe themselves as "unionist" seem to have very peculiar ideas about what being a unionist is.

To some, being unionist clearly means supporting "our community", negotiating the best deal for our side, ensuring our community has the most MLAs, that we have the most MPs.

Ensuring unionist unity and deriding those who would form an alliance with nationalists, or would vote outside their own community, is the norm; those who would disagree are not worthy of the name unionist.

Presumably, any politician who describes themselves as unionist wants to keep Northern Ireland safe, stable and happy within the UK, so what tactics are most likely to achieve this?

Remember that, if Northern Ireland ever leaves the UK and joins a united Ireland, it will not be the MLAs, or MPs, who make this decision for us; this can only happen if the population of Northern Ireland decides they want a divorce from the UK. Unionists and nationalists are living in something of an "arranged marriage".

We didn't choose this relationship, it was arranged before we were born and it isn't perfect. But we, who want to remain as part of the UK, have to work at this relationship.

We need to earn the trust of our partners; we need to learn to persuade, rather than dictate; we need to resist the urge to brag to our mates about how we are the ones in charge.

When we are challenged about our mistakes, we may be tempted to save face by making public jokes at our partner's expense, but remember: this might just encourage them to leave.

This analogy isn't perfect, but if we want to keep this arranged marriage between unionist and nationalist together, then trying to reasserting our dominance over a disgruntled partner is probably the worst of strategies. Unionism needs a serious rethink before we make a mistake that forces an unnecessary divorce.

arnold carton

Belfast

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