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Union 2021: ‘Unionist leaders must pick right fights’

Candidate for the UUP leadership election, Basil McCrea, has written a piece for the News Letter as part of the News Letter’s Union 2021 series of articles. This article appeared in the News Letter on August 24

‘Unionist leaders must pick right fights’

Unionist unity would be a strategic mistake, argues BASIL McCREA

GIVEN the determination of the majority of our people to protect the inherent and accruing benefits of maintaining the Union, I am absolutely confident that the relationship will be intact in 2021.

I am equally certain that there will be changes in the structure of that relationship.

It will see the province playing a much more assertive and self confident role in the dynamic of the wider United Kingdom.

The last 40 years of political paralysis has removed the necessity to adapt or to think for ourselves. A culture of dependency and insecurity has developed which is hugely damaging.

As Northern Ireland comes back from the despair of the past we have the opportunity to set in place a more positive approach to tackling our own problems.

The ability of the Ulster worker to confront the complexities of a continually changing working environment once made the Province the powerhouse of the world economy.

The same approach can be replicated as we move towards the celebration of the foundation of Northern Ireland. It will require a different set of skills but the qualities of our school and university population will provide the intellectual capacity to cope with the demands of change.

We now rank as leaders in the development of innovative pharmaceutical and medical diagnostic equipment. We must support that expertise in order to retain our unrivalled reputation in the sphere of bio-medical science research.

The economic regeneration that will come with the development of those skills will be a significant factor in underpinning civic pride and a more inclusive commitment to Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland of 2021 must be one where our core characteristics as a people compliment future challenges.

Those that argue that the future of unionism can only work by a return to the old monolith of a single unionist party fail to understand the contradictions of their argument.

The essential feature of the Ulster personality is a strong streak of independent thought. It has continually adapted to change.

The principles of intellectual courage helped our ancestors make a crucial contribution to the development of the modern United States.

Those same qualities are still relevant in the Northern Ireland I wish to see evolve. The spurious theory of unionist unity is redundant in meeting the needs of modern society.

It is not only counterproductive, but a strategic mistake of stellar proportions. Its sole purpose is to secure political power for those afraid to face the electorate.

The Ulster people will never allow themselves to be placed into a straight jacket of political conformity. The ability to think for ourselves is a trait that annoys at times, but it is our greatest asset and must always be protected.

That same confidence in being able to confront every obstacle also applies to the possibility of having a Sinn Fein first minister. The attempt to frighten voters on that issue is an indictment of those unable to grasp political realities or make an argument for a better future.

Our system of government is ratified by the sovereign Westminster parliament.

I am confident that after the next assembly election the maths will not stack up for Sinn Fein.

Martin McGuinness will not be the next first minister, but even if he was, would the sky fall in?

Mr McGuinness has demonstrated that the title is irrelevant. What unionism requires is a leader with the ability to make the case for unionism, the courage to tell the people the way it is and the ability to rebuild the confidence of the unionist people.

Picking the right fights is a fundamental requirement of good leadership.

If unionism is to be relevant in 2021 it must adapt, it must offer substance over rhetoric and it must become relevant to all the people of Northern Ireland.

The roles of first and deputy first minister are exactly the same. That is enshrined under law. As a democrat I have to accept that.

I am confident that after the next assembly election the maths will not stack up for Sinn Fein.

Martin McGuinness will not be the next first minister, but even if he was, would the sky fall in?

Mr McGuinness has demonstrated that the title is irrelevant. What unionism requires is a leader with the ability to make the case for unionism, the courage to tell the people the way it is and the ability to rebuild the confidence of the unionist people.

Picking the right fights is a fundamental requirement of good leadership.

If unionism is to be relevant in 2021 it must adapt, it must offer substance over rhetoric and it must become relevant to all the people of Northern Ireland.

Basil McCrea’s facebook page with details on his campaign can be found here.

Similarly, Tom Elliott’s Union 2021 article can be found here and his facebook page is here.

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Filed under: Union 2021, unionist unity?, UUP, UUP leadership election, ,

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