As I write, there is a recount going on in my constituency, Fermanagh and South Tyrone. On the second count, Gildernew won by two votes after Connor won the first count.
I voted SDLP, as planned. So also did my wife and daughter. My eldest son, who is at University, was not able to come home to vote. Still, it is incredible to think that my household could have changed the result in this constituency, if indeed it turns out that Gildernew wins by one or two votes.
Would I have voted differently if I had expected this result? Certainly not. In fact, the idea of ensuring that a sectarian unionist candidate fails is very satisfying. If Connor fails to win the seat, then Unionists will know that they will never win the seat again as sectarian unionists because the demographic trends are towards Catholics increasing as a proportion of the overall population. I would hope that unionists would then start using their heads and get behind a proper campaign to defeat the likes of Sinn Fein on the basis of their policy, not their identity or their past association with the IRA.
As for the Conservatives, they need to seriously consider their position vis a vis the Ulster Unionists. It is quite clear that the pact failed and failed badly. Some will point to strategic errors which contributed to this. In a sense, may be a good thing that happened. The Ulster Unionists have demonstrated that they are not capable of moving away from sectarian thinking, let alone sectarian political acts.
There will undoubtedly be a change of leadership in the UUP. Jeffrey Peel believes UCUNF is dead. At the very least, it needs a life-saving act. Whilst I will not, at this stage, turn my thumb to the ground, I would need to be convinced that there had been seismic shift in the core power and control of the UUP. Only after that happened, would I entertain any thought that there should be a new pact.
For all of that, a powerful ray of light shone on the anti-sectarians last night. Naomi Long achieved an incredible result in unseating Peter Robinson. The Alliance Deputy leader’s triumph did not just occur in East Belfast. That party’s share of the vote increased all around Northern Ireland.
It has been a good year so far for the Alliance Party. David Ford’s elevation to Minister for Policing and Justice will raise the profile of the Alliance Party. Who now knows what Long’s success will lead to next? This Alliance advance could be the start of a trend away from sectarian politics.
If it were not for the fact that the Alliance Party is opposed to retaining the grammar school system, I would now be seriously thinking of joining that party. Despite this policy difference, should they ultimately turn out to be the only party capable of breaking the mould of sectarian politics, then I will be right behind them.
Filed under: Alliance Party, Conservative Party, Nationalism, Northern Ireland politics, Peter Robinson, SDLP, sectarianism, Sinn Fein, UCUNF, UK Parliament, ulster unionist party, Unionism, UUP, Westminster Tagged: | Alliance Party, Conservative Party, David Ford, General Election, Naomi Long, Nationalism, Normal Politics, Northern Ireland politics, Peter Robinson, SDLP, sectarianism, Sinn Fein, Tory-UUP linkup, UCUNF, UK Parliament, ulster unionist party, Unionism, UUP, Westminster