There was some surprise last week when Taoiseach Micheal Martin didn't appoint a unionist to Seanad Eireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas. Former senator Ian Marshall, who had hoped to be nominated, claimed the "entire unionist community feels let down and left behind. The message this sends out is that you don't really matter here."
Sinn Fein Senator Niall O Donnghaile tweeted: "I expressed my own personal and, indeed, much of our shared frustration at the failure to nominate an appointee from the north to the 26th Seanad, not least a unionist voice, given the sterling work of Ian Marshall in the last term."
Shortly after he became Taoiseach in June 2017, Leo Varadkar addressed the Seanad and argued that both nationalist and unionist representatives would "provide different voices on issues which concern us all".
But why does the Seanad even need "someone from a unionist background"? More importantly, what is the specific role of a "unionist" senator? Who do they represent? With what authority do they speak? From where does their mandate come? And can they even claim to "speak" for unionism?
Interestingly, Ian Marshall also noted that the failure to nominate a unionist called into question his previous presence in the Seanad: "It looks like tokenism. It looks like there was no substance to it."
On a personal level, I have huge regard for Ian Marshall and agree with much of his worldview on the challenges facing unionism, including the importance of building bridges and opening very broad channels of communication across the south. But that doesn't mean that either of us "speaks for" unionism.
Unionism is like a circus without a big tent, let alone a ringmaster. It comes in a host of manifestations: political parties (I think there are six at the moment), the loyal orders, fringe groups, loyalist paramilitary groups and a raft of Protestant Churches and off-shoots.
Within those manifestations there is another host of differing, nuanced positions and opinions on what is best for Northern Ireland unionism and the Union.
Three other things are worth noting in this context. Since the mid-1990s - as the peace process gathered legs - there has been a growth in what is now recognised as "civic unionism".
This tends to be made up of people who view themselves as pro-Union, rather than party-political unionists; they are mostly broadly content to remain within the UK, but are often unhappy with the Protestant, Orange, traditional conservatism associated with unionism. They may not have voted very much, but when they did it was usually for the UUP.
In the past few years, there has been a tendency for unionists, particularly those younger than 40, to describe themselves as "pro-Union", rather than simply "unionist".
It may seem a trivial point, yet it's a hugely significant one. And its significance lies in the fact that, while it can probably be taken for granted that a unionist will always vote for the Union, it cannot be taken for granted (particularly post-Brexit) that someone describing themselves as pro-Union wouldn't be prepared, depending on circumstances, to listen to constitutional alternatives. Even the fact that there has been significant spillage from the UUP to Alliance over the last five years tells you something about the state of unionism.
Why would anyone who used to be a consistent voter for the UUP find themselves able to vote for a party which is widely acknowledged to be neutral, or agnostic, on the Union?
Some unionists dismiss it as a protest vote ("They'll come back when they realise what Alliance is really like"), but it strikes me as much more than that.
All of this is just a very brief overview of the nature and state of unionism and even within party-political unionism/civic unionism/pro-unionism/and Alliance unionism, there are numerous shades.
But what it suggests is that it would be impossible to appoint one person to the Seanad who could credibly claim to speak for, or represent, unionism.
To be honest, I'm pretty sure the Seanad wouldn't want to risk appointing a handful of people from a unionist/pro-Union background, knowing full-well that they'd probably spend more time arguing with each other than making a thoughtful contribution to Seanad debates.
Which brings me back to my original point about the role of a unionist in the Seanad.
Ian Marshall is a decent, thoughtful, articulate man, who also happens to be what would be known in Northern Ireland as a "liberal" unionist. The south likes "liberal" unionists.
But here's the uncomfortable truth: liberal unionists come nowhere close to representing the majority opinion within unionism.
So, a liberal unionist in the Seanad (or anywhere else, for that matter) can only speak for other liberal unionists. That said, it is essential that Northern Ireland unionism, in all its manifestations, is heard and understood south of the border.
There is always a tendency, though - and always has been - for southern invitations to be directed at elements of unionism already perceived to be progressive, tolerant, out-reaching, liberal, or (in the words of one TD) "pleasant and understated". The sort of people you could imagine yourself having a pint with.
The problem is that the "political" invitees tend to have short political careers, while the "civic" ones tend to have no political careers at all.
In my experience, you need to get beyond the safe and pleasant voices if you really want to get the feel of a situation.
It's easy enough to open doors in the south and unionism needs to be the one doing the opening.
Unionists should be setting up meetings and briefings with as wide an array of individuals and organisations as possible.
Unionists need to let them know what they think and what makes them tick.
I accept that trying to present a united front and message is going to be impossible - given the nature of unionism - but I still think unionists should let the south see them in all their guises. If nothing else, it might finally understand exactly what it is dealing with.
I have made the point before, but I think this is the moment to make it again.
In the run-up to Northern Ireland's centenary next year, unionism needs to begin to understand itself.
Why is it prone to division? What are its aims and ambitions? How does it best arrange and promote its message? How does it engage with the south? And, crucially, why does it seem so misunderstood?
If politicians in the south really do want to understand unionism and hear voices from a unionist background, then maybe they need to broaden their search and begin touching base with opinions they've never heard before.