Liam Clarke: It's make your mind up time for UUP
So long as the UUP stays third or fourth largest party at Stormont, presently under the D'Hondt system, it would be unwise for the UUP and DUP to merge together into a single party.
Unionists overall would lose out to both Sinn Fein and the SDLP in the allocating of ministerial posts and other important positions in the Assembly. However, if Alliance became the fourth largest party, pushing the UUP into fifth place in the 2015 election, then it would be sensible for the UUP to disband and their remaining MLAs to join the DUP before the election of ministers takes place.
For a merger of the DUP and UUP, there is a winner and there is a loser. The DUP obviously wins, because the UUP are no more. I do not think there is any UUP leader who wants to be forever remembered as the one who conceded to the DUP.
There's nearly half the electorate who don't bother to vote. If the Ulster Unionists become absorbed into the DUP, there will be even more non-voters. If the DUP had spent as much energy on smashing Sinn Fein as they did smashing the Ulster Unionists they might have more credibility. There's a general disengagement of the people from local politicians. The system is bloated and self-serving. The only purpose of it seems to be as a sop to prevent the return to violence. What did Stormont ever do for us? Oh, I forgot. The bus pass. I think I'll go to Brazil.
A lot of Catholics are disgusted at the events outside St Patrick's and St Matthew's last summer, as well as the flag protests. Some of these people would vote to keep the Union, if a vote was taken in the morning. But they want unionists to pay a price for their sectarianism. The price to be paid is a Sinn Fein first minister. If people have to constantly watch this hate every summer, then unionists will have to deal with a Sinn Fein first minister. No matter if there is one or two unionist parties, this eventual outcome is inevitable, so you had just better start getting used to it.
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