Grassroots Unionists are crying out for closer co-operation within Unionism. Jim Allister represents the divisions of the past. Grassroots Unionists want to see Northern Ireland moving forward. TUV wants to take us back to being sidelined and ignored in our own country. TUV supporters handed Fermanagh and South Tyrone to Gildernew: that was the TUV contribution to Unionism in the recent election.Given that the TUV did not stand in FST – and explicitly called on unionists to unite where seats were closely contested with nationalism – this is a strange claim.
How precisely could ‘TUV supporters have handed Fermanagh and South Tyrone to Gildernew’? It can be fairly safely assumed that none voted for her, so Foster must be alluding to the question of turnout. The only possible explanation of her remark is that she believes that TUV supporters stayed at home, rather than vote for the ‘unionist unity’ candidate – who was not even a member of Foster’s own party.
But turnout was quite low by FST standards across the board. If TUV supporters stayed at home, then so did DUP and UUP supporters – so how can Foster accuse the TUV of particular complicity?
Foster may, of course, simply be trying to distract attention from her own party’s responsibility for the lower turnout. But pushing for a ‘unionist unity’ candidate Foster, Elliott, and both of their parties, ensured that some unionists felt uncomfortable voting for the chosen ‘unionist champion’. For some, he came too close to being seen as a sectarian ‘Protestant’ champion. Of course, it is very likely that Michelle Gildernew would have won in any event, had there been competition on the unionist side. But having conspired to pull a ‘stroke’ – and failed – Foster may be looking for a weak scapegoat.
The TUV have been quick to respond to Foster, saying that:
The facts are clear. We were the first party to call for non-party candidate.It looks as if the intra-unionist bitterness and rivalry will continue for the time being – and probably as far as next year’s two major elections. This is, as has frequently been noted, a gift to nationalism – so this blog is pleased to note the resumption of normal relations between the DUP and the TUV.
Indeed, at that point Mrs Foster was still strutting around promoting herself as the DUP candidate. TUV kept out of the contest in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and called repeatedly for our supporters to vote for the unity candidate. Mrs Foster’s dishonest attempt to smear TUV, therefore, does not stand up to scrutiny.