If you can be bought, then you can be sold, and our Unionism is most emphatically not for sale – By Robin Swann


When I was elected Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party I said that I was in the Ulster Unionist Party because I believed in its vision, its policies and its priorities.

At the heart of my Unionism is an unshakeable belief in a positive unionism, a confident unionism and an embracing unionism.

As we approach the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland it is very clear that some within nationalism and republicanism still do not accept the right of Northern Ireland to exist.

The Union has once again been placed at the forefront of political debate with recent suggestions of a post-Brexit border in the middle of the Irish sea, and suggestions by Michelle O’Neill that the rights of unionists could somehow be upheld in a future united Ireland. My role, and the role of the Ulster Unionist Party, is to promote the Union and build the case for it – to show that it is as relevant today as it ever was and to demonstrate the positive benefits that it offers to everybody in Northern Ireland.

For Ulster Unionists the Union is more than just the block grant. It is more than pounds, shillings and pence and what we can get out of Westminster. If you can be bought, then you can be sold, and our Unionism is most emphatically not for sale.

It is about centuries of kinship, tradition, culture and shared history.

As a Nation the United Kingdom and its constituent parts have celebrated success together and shared in some of the darkest of days.

The entire community has benefitted from the National Health Service and a welfare state that protects from the cradle to the grave. The United Kingdom has provided a platform for Northern Ireland people to play a role on a national and international stage in business and the arts. Many of our young people have been able to travel to Universities in Great Britain to pursue third level education.

This is our Union, a living, breathing, deep-rooted 365 days a year entity, which threatens no-one and benefits everyone in Northern Ireland.

Our right to live in peace within the Union for as long as the people of Northern Ireland want to do so, was guaranteed in the Belfast Agreement.

The confirmation of the principle of consent was an absolutely key part of the Agreement for Unionists, and it is rather curious today to see those who have in the past been so quick to lecture us about the need to protect the Belfast Agreement, be prepared to disregard such a fundamental principle when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

Indeed, it is hard to stress just how damaging and de-stabilising such a development would be.

The land border established between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in 1921 survived the Great Depression and the Second World War. It survived the IRA border campaign of 1956-62 and the Troubles. It remained in place when both the UK and Republic were not in the EEC and after we both joined. I can therefore see no reason why Brexit should create the need to eradicate almost a century of history and effectively remove the border.

It would be a strange type of unionist indeed who was prepared to countenance such a move and it would be a strange type of unionist who would endorse the idea of a border in the middle of the Irish Sea.

The futile pursuit of a border in the Irish Sea must be abandoned and minds must be focussed on finding solutions that work for everyone – a commitment that seems to have been forgotten in recent weeks.

8 thoughts on “If you can be bought, then you can be sold, and our Unionism is most emphatically not for sale – By Robin Swann

  1. And what about the centuries before shared with the other 26 counties …

    We’ll just forget all about it …

    “It is about centuries of kinship, tradition, culture and shared history.”

  2. Plus “Culture” is a big word, and I don’t see a great deal of it in the North Of Ireland …
    The most part of it is ignorance mixed with a large quantity of alcholic beverages, or from the drug barons of the various pseudo “Paramilitary” factions.

  3. The Union between Northern Ireland & Great Britain OR indeed the creation of a new constitution & agreed Ireland is settled in the Good Friday Agreement.

    Citizens here, of all poltical aspiration, faith, ethnicity will decide on the Union or otherwise.

    If your Unionism is truly embracing & confident then support the implementation of the GFA in full and become a robust persuader for the State of Union.

    Embrace the GFA, embrace the equality & rights the GFA assured. Afford non religious-moralists (whose preference is the Union) a viable alternative: promote rights valued in England, Scotland & Wales (as well as our land neighbours in the present Irish Republic, here).

    As a REMAIN voter, confident to debate, and within the referendum majority here in Northern Ireland, it is not futile to use everything in my democratic arsenal to make suggestions or propose constructs that protect the economy & trading position of Northern Ireland Business or its workers. It’s disingenuous to associate those efforts as anti-Unionist or somehow inferior Unionism.

    The UK Government & the sovereign nations of the EU will negotiate & agree what / where / how a border (if any) will take shape between the UK & the rest of Europe. It is not futile to lobby (as a REMAINer) for rationale, pragmatic, non tariff arrangements or inconvenient structures in the event of BREXIT. It’s an inflated sense of entitlement & worth that leads the UUP or indeed the DUP to dismiss unionists who voted REMAIN as inferior.

    Finally, as an MLA, enjoying salary & benefits would your time (and that of your fellow MLAs) not be better invested in re-establishing our Government & getting on with the job of delivering for ALL the people here?

  4. While I understand that this is an article about Unionism you can’t hide the fact that there exists almost half of the population who aren’t just going to go away, who have found their feet and will remain standing on them. A population who has lived under unionism since partition and have the scars to prove it. You can be as blinkered and self righteousness as you like but you will no longer have things your own way. Republicanism/Nationalism is as much a part of your history as King Billy is.

    The late Martin Mc Guinness brought down Stormont because unionism reneged on equality agreements. It is my hope that Stormont remains closed until those agreements are honoured, however Unionist history on such matters is not promising it has to be said.

    By all means stand up for your particular type of unionism but I feel the need to remind you, the ‘other half’ will no longer be ignored. As I’m typing this I am reminded of the late 60’s when we where marching the streets if Derry demanding the civil rights to a job, a decent house and the vote. Our thinking then was so similar to what we are saying now in 2017, equality and recognition. Yes there have been improvements which were very, very hard fought for and never, ever given in good grace. What hasn’t changed is the mean, begrudging nature of unionism towards ‘themuns’.

    It could all have been so, so different but I don’t think unionism has ever acknowledged that or really learned much since the late 60’s, IMHO.

  5. I’m proud of my Irishness and i’m a unionist! who do i vote for? i’m glad to see a party making a case for staying part of the union with out name calling or scare tactics, but not sure that:

    (“The United Kingdom has provided a platform for Northern Ireland people to play a role on a national and international stage in business and the arts. Many of our young people have been able to travel to Universities in Great Britain to pursue third level education.”)

    is a strong enough argument, Ireland is doing pretty well internationally in business and arts? and Kids from the Republic can travel to Uk Universities!

    I Hate us and them and religion in politics, it is time to move on from Green/Orange politics and debate policy, the economic benefits of the Union/republic the safe guarding of cultures, Equality, Economy, Security, Jobs, Education, Health those are the things i want to vote for and what will make a difference to me now.

    i live in hope that the UUP will morph into that vehicle to make this case, a secular party that will make the case for the benefits of the union while safeguarding and respecting everyone in N Ireland

    • It’s heartening to know that there is possibility a Unionist community that think the way you do. I’m not too sure the UUP is the party for people like yourself Gary but it may be all that is there for you for just now. With things the way they are here it is prudent for open minded Unionist to see there world as it is and be comfortable with their Irishness. It is also very important the you and those like you have a voice in that volatile state of politics, a voice that is reasonable, secular and all encompassing.

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