Excluding loyalists from united Ireland conversation could lead to return to violence, says unionist senator
The first unionist senator in the Irish Republic since the 1930s has warned that pushing too hard for a united Ireland could cause a violent backlash from loyalists.
Independent senator Ian Marshall, a former president of the Ulster Farmers Union, made the comments at the UCD Institute for British-Irish studies.
The Irish Times reported that he said asking unionists what kind of a united Ireland they want is like asking a turkey what sauce they want to be served with on Christmas day.
He also warned that excluding loyalists from a conversation on a united Ireland could lead to violence against the Irish republic.
"There is a possibility of a negative reaction," he said.
"I don't think it is a majority within loyalism. Anybody who lived through the horrors of the past never wants to go back there, but if you poke them within the eye, you run the risk of triggering some kind of reaction.
"My concern is that if you push people into a corner, they will come out barking at you. You can remove that threat by engaging people in dialogue."
Senator Marshall added that the diversity of unionism beyond the DUP was not properly understood in the Republic.
He said he and many other unionists were progressive and liberal on issues like marriage equality and abortion.
"Those advancing a united Ireland have an imprecise understanding of liberal attitudes and commitments to peacemaking within the pro-union community," he said. "We're told unionism is dour and uncompromising when in fact significant sections of unionism are behind marriage equality, pro-choice, social economy, anti-poverty, reconciliation work, restorative justice and the support of workers' rights."
Senator Marshall argued that, unlike nationalism, there was no division in unionism about opposing a united Ireland.