Basil McCrea and John McAllister are two of the nicest men you could meet. On the few occasions I’ve been in Stormont, I’ve had reason to be introduced to both and they were polite, friendly and good company. If ever there were a pair of unionists who were likely to bridge the Protestant-Catholic gap, they’re it.
That’s the good bit. The bad bit happened last night when both men were interviewed, notably by Mark Carruthers on the BBC’s The View. Mark asked regarding the constitutional question (what a lovely way of putting it that is!) and Basil said sure we all know that’s been done and dusted, the constitutional question is no longer an issue.
Dream on, Basil. And John. It may have moved from physical force to the force of argument, it may not emerge naked and red-eyed to dominate every debate, yes people have other things they’re concerned about like a job and a mortgage and the quality of society they live in. But alas Basil, there ain’t no dodging it, which is why you’ll designate your brand new shiny NI21 party ‘unionist’ up at Stormont. And while I’m sure there’ll be a number of Catholics will join, just as there are a number of Catholics who joined the Alliance Party, I wouldn’t hold your breath that you’re about to change the face of politics here.
I do wish NI21 success. If we’re going to have a unionist party here, I’d much prefer to be working alongside Basil and John than I would, say, Peter and Sammy. But I fear for them, I really do. Plus I’m beginning to fear for unionst parties of any hue. Why? With the arrival of NI21, that makes four unionist parties (oh stop making those noises, David Ford and admit it - you’re a unionist). Which means we’re moving back to a point which I thought we’d left behind, when there were something like seven different unionist parties represented at Stormont. The arrival of NI25 means there are now only four unionist parties. In nationalism, there are two.
It’s a bit like the PUP, guys. I like you, I like your leaders, you’re as good as a unionist party can probably get. But t I’m afraid you’re going to go away, you know.