Unionist politicians must represent the views of their electorate

Click to follow
Sir: Having been in Northern Ireland during last week's local elections, and seen local coverage and comment, I find David McKittrick's analysis curiously unbalanced.

The share of the vote was: all Unionists (including independents), 49.7 per cent; all nationalists (including independents), 38.7 per cent; Alliance Party, 6.6 per cent; others, 5 per cent. Excluding others would give the share of vote as follows: all Unionists, 52.3 per cent; all nationalists, 40.7 per cent; Alliance, 7 per cent.

All produce a roughly 60/40 split in favour of the Union. Given the widely recorded low turn-out in some Unionist areas, and allegations of electoral fraud from both Unionists and the constitutional-nationalist SDLP, this is scarcely so different from what Mr McKittrick describes as the traditional two-thirds/one-third division as to justify his dramatic language. Alliance, too, attracts Catholic voters, so diluting traditional loyalties.

This is not the first time that Belfast has had no overall control, and Mr McKittrick fails to give the whole story. Seats won were: all Unionists, 235; all nationalists, 20; Alliance, 6. As in 1979, the Alliance holds the balance and has warned that the council should not be described as "nationalist-controlled". Not quite so headline-grabbing, perhaps?

Finally, one does not have to share the views of the Rev Ian Paisley to feel that it may be a bit premature to write off his Democratic Unionists, when they have succeeded in electing both the youngest councillor in the province (21-year-old David Gilmore in Ards West) and a thalidomide victim (Kim Morton in Castlereagh East).


Bromley, Kent