Northern Ireland

DUP founding member Wallace Thompson believes Protestants’ voice would be stronger in a united Ireland

The former adviser to Nigel Dodds would vote to stay in the union but believes Irish unity is ‘inevitable’

Former DUP special adviser, Wallace Thompson speaks to The Irish News.
DUP founding member Wallace Thompson. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

A founding member of the DUP believes the voice of northern Protestants would be stronger in a united Ireland than it is currently within the UK.

Wallace Thompson, a former adviser to former North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and one-time leading member of the Independent Orange Order, said unionism is “ignored completely” by Westminster and that DUP MPs have “no clout” in the legislature.

Co Antrim-born Mr Thompson, an Evangelical Presbyterian who says historically his unionism was “driven by my Protestantism”, is due to speak at Saturday’s Ireland’s Future event in Belfast’s SSE Arena.

He’s scheduled to take part in a panel discussion on ‘Protestant Perspectives’ that will also include contributions from former Alliance Party leader Lord John Alderdice, author Claire Mitchell and one-time UDA member-turned-politician David Adams.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Thompson told The Irish News that in the event of border poll he would vote to remain in the union and believes that a majority of people in the north would support the constitutional status quo.

However, he argues that a “united Ireland in some form is inevitable”.

He urges unionist leaders to engage in the debate about a new Ireland, citing transformations in the political and demographic landscape.

DUP peer Nigel Dodds has called for 'glorifying terrorism' to be made an offence. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
Wallace Thompson is a former adviser to Nigel Dodds. PICTURE: LIAM MCBURNEY/PA

“I would appeal to my fellow unionists to look around at certain realities – the Brexit outcome has damaged confidence in the union, something virtually all recognise, and I can see no evidence of how that’s going to be fixed,” he said.

“They also need to look at the demographic trends, which are so different from what they were. I know we can’t and shouldn’t engage in a simple sectarian headcount but unionism needs to recognise that this landscape is dramatically changing, and they must be prepared at least to talk about possible alternative outcomes while maintaining a unionist position.”

Mr Thompson said unionism needs to “more capable and more adept at promoting the union”.

He suggests the current Westminster election campaign is “wrapped up in fading and petty squabbles”.

“I’ve said before that unionism goes down a cul-de-sac and in trying to get out of it ends up in another one, completely lost,” he said.

“I still feel like we’re in that position and that unionism just has to accept that we’re on the backfoot and address those issues honestly and openly.”

The 71-year-old, who aligned himself with Ian Paisley in the late 1960s to resist Irish unity, now believes northern Protestants like himself would have greater influence in an all-Ireland government than they do within the union.

“Election candidates are currently urging us to send a strong voice back to Westminster and that all sounds great but their voice at Westminster is ignored completely – unionists are speaking to an empty chamber,” he said.

“Brexit was introduced and the protocol implemented by just riding roughshod over unionists, who had no clout at all.

“I mean, it couldn’t be much worse in all-Ireland arrangement, and you might have some form of devolution as well.”