One unionist party 'not stronger'
A single unionist party may not necessarily increase unionism's political power, Tom Elliott has said.
The Ulster Unionist Party leader was responding to DUP chief Peter Robinson who said that, with relations improving between the rival parties, he would like to see a single voice for unionism.
Mr Elliott said he welcomed closer co-operation and would endorse any proposals to defend the union, but he questioned the merits of establishing one unionist party.
"I have always questioned whether or not a single party would deliver the required electoral success for unionism," he said.
"For example, the choice provided by the existence of the UUP, DUP and TUV may actually encourage more unionist voters to go to the polls.
"Certainly an agreed pro-union Westminster candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2010 did not maximise unionist voter turnout and actually polled fewer votes than the Ulster Unionist and the DUP got between them at both the 2011 local government and Assembly elections."
He said he had held talks with the leaderships of the DUP, the TUV, the Alliance Party and the SDLP.
Mr Elliott said he welcomed improved relations between the two main unionist parties.
But he added: "This is of course about more than whether or not Peter Robinson has a good relationship with me, or whether or not the DUP work well with Danny Kennedy in the Executive.
"It is about how the DUP work with Ulster Unionists on Stormont Committees and in council chambers across Northern Ireland. It is about respect and trust and actions speak louder than words."