Lord Kilclooney says nationalists 'are not equal' to unionists
A former senior Ulster Unionist who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement has claimed northern nationalists are not equal to unionists.
John Taylor, now cross-bench peer Lord Kilclooney, told The Irish News that a unionist majority meant nationalists could not claim equality – though they were entitled to equality of opportunity.
On a day when five Stormont parties voiced their support for an Irish language act, he defended his controversial remarks – originally made on Twitter – and said Sinn Féin was "dictating terms" with calls for standalone language legislation.
The former UUP deputy leader, MP, MEP and Stormont minister has previously called for Scotland to be re-partitioned in the event of a vote for independence.
His comments on equality are likely to fuel debate about a perceived lack of respect from unionists for Irish nationalist culture.
Speaking from his home in Armagh, Lord Kilclooney said he found Twitter's 140-character limit "restrictive", which meant tweets were "sometimes misconstrued".
However, he said he was standing by his assertion that nationalists and unionists "are not equals".
"What I'm saying is that all people, nationalists in particular, must have equal opportunity with everyone else," he said.
"But when it comes to equality, which is the word used by Sinn Féin, they are a political minority in Northern Ireland."
Asked whether it was merely an issue of meaning or one that had real political implications, Lord Kilclooney responded: "I get worried when Gerry Adams talks about equality – and I make the distinction between equality of opportunity and equality of political support.
"The distinction is to ensure that each individual in Northern Ireland is equal in life's opportunities, whereas politically it means nationalism is a minority political force."
He claimed unionism had increased its majority in June's general election because "Michelle O'Neill went to Loughgall and praised the IRA murder gangs".
"That really roused the unionists and they came in greater force and they voted DUP," he said.
The former minister in the old unionist government at Stormont said under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, nationalists were entitled to be involved in the administration of Northern Ireland but they had to "recognise they are a minority and can't dictate terms".
Lord Kilclooney also said it was "increasingly evident in my opinion" that support for the union among the Catholic population was growing.