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Unionists are entitled to speak up for the Union

Following my remarks in the Belfast Telegraph (Comment, January 16), I notice that Senator Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fail took issue with some of them.

My comments related to the economic performance of the Republic post-partition and how it compared unfavourably to that of the United Kingdom. There is no question that the Republic of Ireland has endured a century of economic struggle, blighted by unemployment and emigration, culminating in last year's £7bn bail-out from the UK.

Economic matters will be a key consideration in the Scottish independence debate. It is legitimate to highlight the experience of the Republic of Ireland in informing that debate, because it's not so long ago Alex Salmond and the SNP were highlighting the 'Celtic Tiger' as an example of what Scotland could become.

That is what I am worried about. I understand some commentators have expressed concern at the redrawing of parallels between the attempts by Ireland and Scotland to secure independence.

Alex Salmond compared his bid for Scottish independence with "Ireland's violent struggle against British rule". If a Scottish nationalist can make the comparison to argue for Scottish independence, then surely an Ulster Unionist can use it in defence of the Union?

TOM ELLIOTT

Leader, Ulster Unionist Party

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