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DUP MLA adamant ‘unionism will get behind’ party, despite fallen support in new poll


DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley. Photo Credit: Liam McBurney

DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley. Photo Credit: Liam McBurney

DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley. Photo Credit: Liam McBurney

Unionism will get behind the DUP in May’s Assembly election, one of the party’s MLAs has predicted, despite its poor performance in a new opinion poll.

The Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley made the comments on BBC NI’s Sunday Politics show, after the LucidTalk poll commissioned by the Belfast Telegraph suggested that DUP support has fallen again, with Sinn Féin opening up an 8% lead over its rival.

Mr Buckley said “it’s no secret that I have been a sceptic” about poll results.

“If you do take it at face value and for what it is, I have no doubt that the people of Northern Ireland – particularly the 60% that support the Union – would know of the great threat that there is from a Sinn Féin lead party in NI,” he said.

"We could see a decade of instability with regards to a border.”

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He accused Sinn Fein of "belligerence" towards unionism on issues such as commemorating the recent centenary of Northern Ireland, the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and the treatment of Troubles victims.

"So unionism knows what's at stake, they are an intelligent electorate and despite what many within the media or indeed political opponents try to portray, unionism will come out strong at this election," Mr Buckley said.

"They will get in behind the DUP and they will ensure that we have a party in place that can protect the interests of Northern Ireland, not a party that doesn't even wish to see its existence." 

The gap between the two largest parties here has widened since the last LucidTalk poll in November, with Sinn Féin up one point and the DUP down one.

Of the other main Stormont parties, the poll put Alliance and the Ulster Unionists in joint third place on 14% – Alliance down one point from November and no change for the UUP.

The TUV was on 12% (up one) and the SDLP on 11% (down one). The NI Green Party was up one point to 3%. People Before Profit was on 1% support.

The DUP and UUP have both continually refused to confirm whether they would participate in a coalition with a Sinn Féin first minister.

In those circumstances, a functioning Executive could not be formed without the largest unionist party taking up the position of deputy first minister.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald told RTÉ Radio One this response from unionism is “very worrying”.

She listed the various DUP first ministers her party had governed alongside when there was a Sinn Fein deputy first minister.

"That parity of esteem and willingness to serve and respect each other has to be echoed by unionism," she said.

The two roles at the head of the power-sharing structures are co-equal, with both having the same authority.

The debate around what party holds the position of first minister has been portrayed by some as a largely symbolic one, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood even considering tabling a motion at Westminster to remove the title of deputy first minister at Stormont.

An SDLP spokesperson said: "Jonathan Buckley and the DUP have been in government with Sinn Féin for well over a decade. They have led the Executive with his party for 15 years.

"The 'vote us to stop them' act isn't just worn out, it's a lie when he knows that Paul Givan can't send a letter as First Minister without letting Michelle O'Neill sign it.

"People see through this act. It is a sectarian dog whistle designed to distract from 15 years of failure. In May people will have the chance to vote for more of the same – parties who always put themselves before anyone else – or they can vote for change and parties like the SDLP who always put people first."

TUV party chairman Jordan Armstrong said: “The reality – as this poll shows – is that two thirds of unionists back collapsing the Assembly over the Sea Border.

"Unionism is finished with empty threats and demands action and delivery – small wonder that Sir Jeffery Donaldson is the worst polling leader with, sadly, Colum Eastwood receiving a better rating from unionist voters.

“Unionism sees through empty threats. Just a few month’s out from an Assembly election will other parties finally get that message?

“Anything said or done by any political party in the next few months that is not consistent with what they’ve said or done in the last 12 months will to be met with the cynicism it deserves.”

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