The decision to call a by election in Fermanagh following the death of a DUP councillor, revealed that recent talk about ‘unionist unity’ is probably largely just talk. The Council could have agreed to co-opt a replacement but the Ulster Unionists blocked that possibility. Any study of unionist political history and opinion shows the tremendous difficulty in uniting the ‘ethnic mobilisation’ element of unionism – which is often nakedly sectarian - with the broad more cosmopolitan or ‘civic’ unionism that focus on the diversity and tolerance and the wider benefits of the UK.
Indeed many would increasingly question the desirability of promoting ‘unionist unity’ as the sectarian element and ‘baggage’ of the main unionist parties means that turnout amongst pro Union voters continues to decline. While there is undoubtedly a market for one ‘Protestant’ unionist party, the development of a party that promotes a broader agenda might actually attract more voters to the polls .