Having attended the count in Belfast City Hall, I heard Unionist politicians blaming their electorate. David McKittrick quotes the complaint of a defeated Belfast councillor: "They've nobody to blame but themselves, because they didn't come out to vote." I feel they have missed the point entirely - don't blame the voters, blame the politicians.
Unionist politicians have failed to show a willingness to negotiate and an ability to provide positive leadership. Surveys and studies over the last year tell us that the vast majority of Protestants and Catholics want talks and the achievement of a settlement based on the sound foundations of mutual respect and accommodation. Protestants who hold this view have no mainstream leader articulating this.
We in the NI Women's Coalition have spent a year telling Unionist leaders this. We have said time and again, "lead your people - offer proper and responsible leadership to your people". This has fallen on deaf ears.
If Unionist politicians continue to blame their electorate and fail to engage in constructive self-criticism, they are merely guaranteeing their political demise. On the other hand, the electoral breakthrough of the loyalist parties, who offer a more positive and realistic approach, proves the popularity of their message.