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Former DUP leader Peter Robinson 'just plain wrong' on border poll: Sammy Wilson

By Mark Edwards

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said his former colleague Peter Robinson's analysis on the potential for Irish Unity is "just plain wrong".

Writing exclusively in Friday's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson said the battle for the union is raging and accused critics of his border poll comments of "crass folly".

The former DUP leader said those who refused to prepare for a referendum on Irish unity were burying their heads in the sand and that too many unionists took the longevity of the union for granted.

Mr Wilson, responding to Mr Robinson's comments, said the Peter Robinson he remembered was a "formidable advocate for the Union" but that his current analysis "is just wrong."

He added: "Knowing Peter Robinson as I do I am not in the least surprised that he should hit back at those who questioned his analysis as to how unionists should defend themselves in the face of Sinn Fein’s campaign to break up the union and drag us into a united Ireland.

"In fact I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t because it would have illustrated a surprising loss of the fight he brings to anything he puts his hand too."

Former First Minister Peter Robinson

The East Antrim MP said that he did agree with some of Mr Robinson's points, saying he was right to stress the stability that the union brings to Northern Ireland but argued that his suggestion that a referendum on a united Ireland should be held at regular intervals was "dangerous".

He said: "Such an arrangement would enable and encourage republicans to keep the constitutional issue as a constant and priority issue on the political agenda and every day they would find ways of stimulating and creating grievances which would keep the minds of their electorate poisoned against the union."

Mr Wilson said he also agreed that some of those criticising Mr Robinson actually agreed to holding seven-year referenda.

He said: "Surely the way of stopping the republican enemy from choosing the battleground is to make sure that they would know that it would be folly to throw themselves against the defences which unionists have created.

"That means making sure we outgun them in terms of the support we enlist, the arguments we employ, the allies we make and undermining their own support base. This is a far better strategy than agreeing surrender terms before any referendum battle has even started. It is the strategy employed by the DUP."

Mr Wilson refuted Mr Robinson's claim that unionists "were burying their head in the sand" about the possibility of a united Ireland.

He added: "The Peter Robinson who I remember and admired, even in the dark days leading up to the Anglo Irish agreement when we had a Sectary of State who declared that the Conservative government had no economic strategic or selfish interest in NI , led the fight against what seemed impossible odds.

"He was a formidable advocate for the union still is but his current analysis of what unionists should be doing is just plain wrong."   

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