Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has stated that the Union is secure and will grow stronger – under the right leadership. Mr Swann was speaking at a packed fundraising breakfast organised by the Ulster Unionist Party`s West Tyrone Association held on Saturday morning in Edenderry, Co Tyrone as he set out his thoughts on promoting and strengthening the Union.
Good Morning All!
There has been much talk and propaganda about the prospects of a United Ireland – let me be absolutely clear. I am a confident unionist. I`ll tell you why – the Union is secure and will grow stronger – under the right leadership.
My unionism is not a brand of unionism which stokes fear into unionists to get them to vote or shows disrespect to others with derogatory comments, childish behaviour or seeks to poke others in the eye.
My unionism, the Ulster Unionist Party`s unionism, is an embracing unionism.
We stand for a pro-union position that builds upon the best of the past and the potential of the future. That future is for stability, fairness and accountability. It is about envisioning and delivering a new era of opportunity and inclusion. Being for the Union is to stand for sincerity, fair-mindedness and creativity. And the strength of the Union lies in its capacity to promote values.
That should never be underestimated.
Our Union has a proud history and a great future, which we should go out and promote. We have the Mother of Parliaments in Westminster and a track record of democratic values which shine throughout the world.
We are part of a vibrant nation, a health service which is free at the point of delivery and are part of the fifth largest economy in the world. This is a Union worth having!
We can and will promote political and cultural integrity and a better and fairer understanding of how we make Northern Ireland work for all. We all share this land and we need to work together in respect and tolerance to create a better society for all.
And one of the single biggest changes we could make is to educate all our children together. We should have a single education system in Northern Ireland. Ulster Unionist Lord Londonderry wanted it in the 1920s. It was right thing to want then and it`s the right thing to do now. That will be hard to achieve, but it`s a debate which should start right now across Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately as we look across Northern Ireland today instead of everyone working together to get the best deal possible for all the people of Northern Ireland, some are trying to use the Brexit negotiations as a proxy to pursue a United Ireland, undermining the Belfast Agreement which they claim to defend. They need to be very careful. If there is no sensible deal reached in these Brexit negotiations, the Republic of Ireland`s farmers could be the biggest casualties.
I say to all of you gathered here today, be confident, and don`t be intimidated by republican propaganda. Ignore it. Their attempted undermining of the Union is built on imagined outcomes and conveniently ignores the positives. And they have tried to blame unionism for all of our troubled past. Rather than engaging them on their terms, let`s set out ours for the strengthening of the Union.
Those who are pro-union include a greater share of the electorate from across the community divide, than does the share who want a united Ireland. Being pro-union is the more inclusive form of constitutional preference. It is definitely not sectarian to be a unionist. Unionism is inclusive, unionism is for everyone and together we can build a better society for all.
Remember, the union is secure and will grow stronger – under the right leadership. That requires a unionism that is not insular; a unionism that looks outside Northern Ireland; a unionism that builds relationships across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And a unionism that builds strong and friendly relations with our neighbours in the Republic.
Unionism should not let itself be consumed by fear, stoked by those who do so for selfish party political reasons. Instead we should go out and be confident - but not arrogant.
Let`s promote the Union, and demonstrate again and again that this is a Union worth having - for everyone.
West Tyrone – Northern Ireland – and unionism need Ulster Unionist voices in Westminster. They need confident, progressive unionism in as many chambers as possible. They need a unionism that demonstrates respect and tolerance to all people, but at the same time is firm and steadfast in its promotion of the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This was an election that should have had a non-partisan, cross community candidate. This is an election where there could and should have been someone standing that all the parties could have supported as a victims candidate. I can tell you that it was through no lack of effort from the Ulster Unionist Party that it didn`t happen. I was the first politician to call for it.
We tried to get support for such a candidate, but it was due to a lack of engagement from other parties that it didn`t happen. Only they can give the real reasons for their lukewarm response to my suggestion. And don`t let anyone in the DUP tell you that they weren`t approached or asked about it. I stand over what I said before. I directly approached Timothy Johnston, the Chief Executive of the DUP. Only the DUP can explain how their internal lines of communication work. It is absolutely, categorically untrue for any member of the DUP to claim that their party wasn`t approached.
It was a wasted opportunity.
However we are where we are, and I am delighted that we have such a capable candidate in the shape of Councillor Chris Smyth. Chris has worked tirelessly over the past few weeks, and if he were to be elected, would be a huge asset to the people of West Tyrone. He’d be a strong voice in Westminster for an area which has been neglected by an abstentionist Sinn Fein MP and he`s a young man who will fearlessly stand in opposition to the disrespect shown to victims of terrorism by Sinn Fein.
So today I ask all of you, do what you can to help Chris in the days leading up to the election. We`ve covered a lot of ground, but there`s a lot more still to do. Let`s get on with it!