Northern Ireland

United Ireland 'not inevitable' Peter Robinson insists in wake of DUP founding member's claims

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson. Picture by Niall Carson/Press Association
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson. Picture by Niall Carson/Press Association Former DUP leader Peter Robinson. Picture by Niall Carson/Press Association

FORMER DUP leader Peter Robinson has insisted there is "no inevitability" of a united Ireland, and said a border poll would inspire unionists who do not usually vote to turn out and back the union.

Mr Robinson spoke out following comments from a founder of the DUP that the north is facing an "inevitable move...towards some form of new Ireland".

Wallace Thompson, a former special advisor to ex-North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds, made his views known earlier this week in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Thompson said he believed that due to the reality of partition, "unionism as a philosophy probably was always in many ways doomed".

However, in a statement posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday, the former first minister has denied Irish unity was on the horizon, heading his statement "not in my lifetime - or yours".

"Unionists in Northern Ireland do not choose to live in a united Ireland. So, the argument is based solely on ‘majority rule’, the use of which was once disparaged by nationalists yet now wholeheartedly appropriated by them," he said.

Read more:

DUP founding member says ‘New Ireland' is now inevitable

Peter Robinson believed the Union was 'finished' in records released from 1991

"Yet even based on this premise, there is no inevitability of a united Ireland. On the political spectrum, as established by recent election outcomes, there are two large blocks representing unionism and nationalism, but also a sizable 'Third Block' of voters – defined as 'others', who presently inhabit a realm of constitutional neutrality or non-disclosure and whose choice in a referendum will be significant.”

Mr Robinson spoke of a "Fourth Block" of voters who "don’t bother to vote in representative elections but who are much more likely to visit a polling station when their vote could influence the most fundamental issues of nationality".

"If the unionist defeatists who throw their arms in the air and wail 'woe is me, we are undone' were instead to put their weight and effort into convincing the Third and Fourth Blocks that the union is worth maintaining, the prospects for the future would be even more sound," he said.

"Maybe there is a lesson for all unionists to learn – defeat will first originate in your head. Give into the republican narrative (given unwarranted and excessive coverage by the media) that the flow towards a united Ireland is irretrievable, and unstoppable, and you lose the fire and fervour to arrest the trend."

He said he was "not interested in exploring the finer detail" of a "New Ireland", which he described as a "cuddlier label for the same old green United Ireland within which unionist interests will be trampled on".

Peter Robinson pictured with DUP founder and his predecessor as party leader, Ian Paisley, in 1996. Picture by Pacemaker
Peter Robinson pictured with DUP founder and his predecessor as party leader, Ian Paisley, in 1996. Picture by Pacemaker Peter Robinson pictured with DUP founder and his predecessor as party leader, Ian Paisley, in 1996. Picture by Pacemaker

Mr Robinson said: "The clear majority in the Fourth Block are from unionist backgrounds and live in unionist areas. Often unionist housing estates are polling at half the turnout of nationalist housing estates. A poll determining their identity and nationality is likely to power up the jump-leads and send them full throttle to the polling booths."

He added that unionists should not fear "a working relationship with the Republic", and said: "To borrow a colloquialism, if I am still permitted to use it in this alarmingly woke world, 'It ain’t over till the fat lady sings'. In terms of the Union, the end is not nigh."