Nationalism is ‘no threat’ to unionists

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has offered to speak with unionists about the future of Ireland and a “changing” United Kingdom.

The Foyle MLA was speaking ahead of attending a panel discussion at Féile an Phobail in Belfast this week on ‘How will a new Ireland accommodate the Protestant, British, Loyalist, Unionist identities?’

Commenting ahead of the event, Mr Eastwood said: “The current pace of political change across both our islands demands that all of us show leadership in engaging with the unprecedented and the uncomfortable.

“I am prepared to discuss with unionism their thinking on a changing United Kingdom – they should be prepared to speak openly with me about the future of this island.

“Unionism must be reassured that our nationalism offers no threat – it offers only a politics of persuasion. I passionately believe that whilst the change ahead of us may prove to be very real - it need not be very raw.

“The Unionist people of Northern Ireland will never be persuaded out of existence and we would never wish it so. For our part, my party will always advance political ecumenism ahead of political extremism.”

Mr Eastwood said the job of persuasion must move on to new ground.

He said: “It is not enough for Irish nationalism to gaze into what we perceive to be the emerging horizon of unity. The only way that horizon will ever be reached is if we first provide it with definition and detail.”