Thursday 29 September 2016

Unionism did well but the North is still facing years of austerity

Liam Clarke

Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30

UUP candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliott celebrates after his General Election victory in the Omagh Leisure centre. Photo: PA
UUP candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliott celebrates after his General Election victory in the Omagh Leisure centre. Photo: PA

This is a day for holding hands up. We commentators didn't forecast how well the unionist pact would work, especially for the UUP.

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In the past, pact candidates have generally not gained as many votes as a variety of unionist candidates would. Voters tend to like choice, but that wasn't much in evidence in the four pact seats. The other side of this is that the UUP will have a hard time extricating itself from Westminster pacts after this.

The discipline was particularly obvious, because it gained the UUP's Tom Elliott in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (FST). But Mr Elliott is unlikely to get in again without a pact. His majority of 530 votes shows that.

The dynamics were in complete contrast in South Antrim, the other seat which the UUP gained. There was no pact here. Instead, Danny Kinahan - a noted liberal - took on the Rev Willie McCrea. Here the majority was 949 votes, still close, but voters seem to have been motivated by the clear choice.

The UUP therefore has a dilemma. If it sticks close to the DUP it helps Mr Elliott, but risks getting sucked into the bigger party's orbit.

A hung parliament hasn't materialised but it may still have increased influence given the Tories' slender parliamentary majority.

David Cameron doesn't have to rely on the DUP, though, so the money won't be a bottomless pit. But the fact is that we are facing into three or more years of austerity.

Unionism has done well in this election but not well enough to stop that happening.

Irish Independent

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