After a lifetime of staunch unionism, a leading unionist and a founder of the DUP alongside Ian Paisley has said he is seriously considering supporting Irish unity.
Wallace Thompson, a prominent evangelical Protestant, now aged 70, said in an an interview with the Belfast Telegraph that unionism was ‘probably always doomed’, and that a new Ireland is now inevitable due to demographic change.
“Unionism as a philosophy probably was always in many ways doomed because of Ireland’s nature, the fact that the north was carved off from the south,” he said.
“Now you’ve got a position where, do you partition again? Do you accept that demographic change is such that we have to run to the walls and again shut the gates? Or do we recognise that we can’t keep doing this?
“We need to recognise that there are fundamental issues that have always been there really from centuries ago, that we need to now recognise and try to address.”
Thompson backed Brexit, but in 2019, after British PM Boris Johnson betrayed the DUP, Thompson said it was “almost enough to make me question the value of the Union”.
He said his view since then has been strengthened.
“I do wonder at the future of the Union and I think we need to waken up and recognise that. The emperor has no clothes,” he said.
He hears unionists privately thinking radically about the future, “but there are so few people willing to say that publicly”.
He is prepared to sit down with those planning Irish unity to try to make it a more appealing idea to unionists.
“I think we are in an inevitable move towards that — when it comes, I don’t know, but there’s an inevitability in my mind that we are moving towards some form of new Ireland. Hopefully, new and not absorption… but we need to ask the questions and we need to ask for answers and we need to talk to people.
“That shouldn’t mean then you’re thinking that we’re suddenly going down that road. We might not. We might decide [based on] all the evidence that we don’t want to go down that road.
“But we’re closing our eyes and pretending there’s no problem. This is the problem with unionism — we’re in denial; constant denial. To talk to these groups that are calling for a new Ireland to me is not an indication of weakness; it’s an indication of strength.”
He believes talking is crucial because “the history of Ireland is just a patchwork quilt of misunderstandings and misconceptions where it’s all just black and white — or orange and green — but it’s not”.
He says that some unionists will view him as a “Lundy” (traitor) but that “when you talk to people privately… they’ll say we need to recognise that these are realities that we have to face”.
When he makes comments like these, there are people in unionist parties, the loyal orders and churches who say to him: “You’re right — but we can’t say it.”