Northern Ireland

Danny Kennedy calls for unionist talks after election

Danny Kennedy
Image caption Danny Kennedy called on unionist parties to hold talks on the way forward

A former Ulster Unionist deputy leader has said it is time for unionists to "unlock the doors" between them.

Danny Kennedy, who lost his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, said there needed to be a conversation about how to go forward.

He was speaking to the BBC TV programme The View in the wake of a poll which saw unionism losing its overall Stormont majority for the first time.

Mr Kennedy, a former MLA for Newry and Armagh, said the union was not at risk.

"Everyone in the house of unionism - I think there's now a duty to open the connecting doors which have been locked between the various factions, the various interests within unionism," he said.

"It's time to unlock those doors and to allow a deep conversation and a genuine assessment as to where we are."

Mr Kennedy added: "I don't think the union is in danger.

"I think in any referendum, a majority of the population will still vote to remain part of the United Kingdom, but I think we do need a conversation within unionism as to how best we now move forward."

The programme also hears a plea for unionist unity from the brother of a man who was murdered by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre.

Colin Worton's brother, Kenneth, was one of 10 workmen shot dead by the side of the road in the 1976 attack.

"I honestly believe there only should have been one unionist party," he said.

"At the end of the day there can't be that much between them. It's maybe personalities at the end of the day.

Image caption Colin Worton said he believed many unionists had not bothered to vote in last week's election

"They should get together and get the majority back again for Stormont. I still believe there were thousands of people here who didn't bother voting.

"Like the DUP has been saying this last 10 years 'you either vote for us or else Sinn Féin will be the biggest party'."

But in his first television interview on the election result, a DUP founder member who called for compromise on Facebook this week said he does not believe unionist unity is necessarily the answer.

Wallace Thompson, a former special adviser to Nigel Dodds in the Department of Finance, said: "In many ways I felt that in the state of shock unionists sort of rallied to unionist unity as a comfort blanket to make themselves feel better but there's a large elephant in the room and that elephant really is the massive mandate that Sinn Féin have received.

"So I think unionist unity might have its merits but it's not a panacea and while I would like to see unionists coming together it might be better done through a form of unionist council as it was done in the 70s.

"If you're going to have one party, there's only one party people can unite behind and that is the DUP."

Image caption Former DUP SPAD Wallace Thompson said the party needed to compromise

He added: "What we as unionists need to do is recognise we are faced with a significant proportion of the people of Northern Ireland now voting, sadly from our point of view, for Sinn Féin .

"We need to reach out as best we can in a spirit of - and I don't like the word compromise because its a dirty word - but compromise in life is part of life but it has to work both ways.

"I'm a Protestant , an Ulsterman, a British citizen but also I'm an Irishman and I think that breadth of perspective is what's needed."

The View will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:40 GMT on Thursday.

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