Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Constructive debate should trump dismissive posturing in relation to Peter Robinson's remarks over a border poll

Former First Minister Peter Robinson
Former First Minister Peter Robinson

Editor's Viewpoint

It would be easy to define the criticism from Sammy Wilson over Peter Robinson's border poll comment as a spat between two former friends.

But that would be to ignore the seriousness of the points made by the ex-DUP leader and the necessity for a debate to take place rather than simple soundbites.

Sir Reg Empey, former leader of the Ulster Unionists, fell into that trap by suggesting Mr Robinson's motivation for his comments was to possibly pave the way for a return to front line politics.

All such remarks do is ignore the important points that were made. There is no suggestion that Mr Robinson is the sole fount of all knowledge, but he is attempting to widen out the public debate on an issue that should be central to everyone who calls themselves a unionist.

There is a battle looming over the future of the Union.

Nationalists obviously hold the upper hand when it comes to deciding when a border poll can take place.

Surely it is self-evident that unionists should be preparing for that day. Mr Wilson may be right in suggesting that many unionists don't agree with the thesis put forward by the former First Minister, but to suggest he is simply wrong is meaningless unless a cogent counter-argument is put forward.

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And it is significant that Mr Robinson's successor Arlene Foster has let it be known that she is supporting him.

It may not have been a ringing endorsement but she recognises the validity of his argument and his right to put it before the public. And she saw his comments before they were submitted to this newspaper.

Mr Wilson speaks for himself in criticising his former party colleague, and his suggestion that unionists can simply say 'no surrender' and everything will be all right is wrong. Mr Robinson is not asking unionists to capitulate, but to think of how the future might unfold and to prepare for any eventuality. How is that wrong?

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