Between now and the election, unionists are honour bound to review their party manifesto promises. Gone are the days when voters will turn out to vote against the obvious. Intellectually, socially and collectively the common ground is that parties connect with the broad spectrum of concerns. With the list being ongoing the cause of resentment is easy to identify.
Away from the spats of interparty fractures the issue of stay away voters is important. Attracting the high percentage of British—small ‘u’ unionists is a no brainer priority . Recent academic assessments place this category of lost votes in the region of 30%. In any review of promises there has to be an inquiry into why so many remain non voters are not supporting political unionism.
Not only do unionists suffer from the effect of failing to maximise their vote, we agonise over the stay at home numbers being excluded, not quantified in the grizzly head counts for and against the Union. The actual voting constituency of unionism sits around 52%. Crucially when the non voters numbers are added the estimated total of those in favour of the Union the real figure reaches a comfortable 64% plus.
Inexplicably, none of the unionist parties is investigating the reasons why so many prefer not to exercise their vote in elections. It would be valuable if those staying at home would use Eamonn Mallie or other outlets to explain their disengagement from political unionism. Success by the parties to resonate with allies sitting outside in the cold is a task only to be channeled through a unionism which is comfortable and confident in itself.
Divided, disenchanted unionists are a danger to themselves and to community stability. Nationalists do not require an abacus to do the maths of the impact a 64% unionist block brings to the table. The point being that on the run up to the May election unionists need to know, what price, what ransom republicans expect to extract in emphaising their Irishness in a new Assembly. Are they content inside a bubble of patriotism to play the long waiting game (it will take forever) and do as Gerry Adams calls for ‘sustaining the struggle to de-legitimatise the six county statelet’. It’s fair to ask does this ugly abrasive language match the mood of nationalist Northern Irelanders?
There is hardly a moderate unionist be they a voter or not who does not believe that extreme republicanism has subsumed nationalist moderates in an ‘at all costs intensification of the Adams style Irish unity process. They deserve to know have we Northern Irelanders-all of us gone beyond the point of impasse? Many, most will in the event of no response, presume that if there is no signal of a moral impediment justifying that we Northern Irelanders are willing to live together, then to hell and back we may separate now and live apart.
My hope remains consistent since the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement that we find the correct level of co-operation, that we unearth what is there to deliver a majority of unionism and nationalism willing to accommodate each other as Northern Irelanders firstly. If only someone would break the ice and signal when to restart that which we agreed in 1998. Better still will someone step forward and detail how a new beginning is a new start?