Aoife Moore: Implosion of the DUP is a symptom of unionism in crisis

Brexit has pushed the Irish unity conversation to centre-stage and unionists are in need of someone to fight their corner, rather than fight among themselves
Aoife Moore: Implosion of the DUP is a symptom of unionism in crisis

Edwin Poots: Learned the hard way that campaigning on 'never, never, never' usually results in little ever getting done. File picture

After just three weeks at the helm, Edwin Poots has bowed out of the leadership of the DUP.

Poots learned the hard way that campaigning on 'never, never, never' usually results in little ever getting done — and now he, who took great joy in embarrassing his predecessor, has gone and embarrassed himself.

There is much joy being taken in Poots's swift exit, the man who ousted Arlene Foster is now standing in a burning house with the matches still in his hand, but the message it sends is stark.

In Northern Ireland's centenary year, the union's biggest cheerleaders cannot muster even a month of stability.

The implosion of the DUP is a symptom of unionism in crisis. 

Young, intelligent, well-educated ceasefire babies who may once have been prime DUP voters are deserting their parents' party in droves. 

The thing about fire and brimstone is that fire eventually burns out.

Young unionists in the North care little about tit-for-tat arguments on the Irish language when the health service is on its knees and a housing crisis looms.

Many of those who take pride in Britishness do not see themselves reflected in the DUP.

Those who wish to see women given equal access to healthcare and to marry who they love, no matter their gender, are adrift with no party to represent their interests.

This is reflected in the polls. The DUP is as popular as the centre-ground Alliance Party and thus unionism's existential dread has driven those who profess to defend it further to the right. 

It is scrambling to shore up what little base it has left, riling up those who already feel left behind, and driving those who have deserted them further out the door.

Arguing that there should be no divergence from Britain in the fallout of the Brexit they championed, while actively working to prevent the same healthcare granted to British women implemented on their turf, is tiresome at best and deadly at worst, and the people of Northern Ireland are exhausted.

Brexit has pushed the Irish unity conversation to centre-stage and unionists are in need of someone to fight their corner, rather than fight among themselves.

The false promises the party sold its voters in the run-up to the referendum to leave the EU mirror those made by Poots himself, that despite all the evidence to the contrary, change was needed.

Campaigning on a no-compromise style of negotiating and reneging on agreements already made is a road to nowhere and DUP voters have been left stranded.

The agreements they have already signed up to will continue to haunt the next leader like a spectre and campaigning on a message that you can fight democracy is a recipe for failure.

Whoever comes next for the DUP will have to make the argument that the union between Britain and Northern Ireland is one worth keeping.

Unionism knows what it's against.

It's time to tell people what it's for.

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