Why Gerry And Al Have To Copy SNP: Scots Show Way Forward

John Coulter with his regular weekly newspaper slot. Dr John Coulter is a radical right wing unionist writer and an evangelical Christian. He is a former columnist with The Blanket and now pens a column for the Irish Daily Star.
Irish republicans must follow their Scottish counterparts and form a single nationalist party if they want to snatch the coveted Stormont First Minister's post from DUP boss Peter Robinson.

At the very least, republicans need to copy their Unionist counterparts and form a Pan Nationalist Front between the Shinners and Stoops.

Unionists have already proven in the recent Westminster election that a poll pact worked in Fermanagh South Tyrone and East Belfast.

And Tartan Nicola's Scottish National Party romped to London with 56 of the country's 59 MPs because nationalists fought under the banner of a single nationalist movement.

With the electoral rebirth of Mikey Nesbitt's UUP in the Commons showdown, there's already talk in Unionist branches of the need to reform the 1970s Unionist Coalition which represented at least four different Unionist parties.

But nationalists make take some comfort that while overall, its Westminster tally fell by one to seven MPs, Unionists are still split over the idea of electoral pacts.

Liberal Unionist Danny Kinahan's victory in South Antrim was the result of a direct head to head between the DUP and UUP, while the UUP's Tom Elliott and the DUP's Gavin Robinson have the Unionist pact to thank for their seats.

Northern nationalism has to follow the SNP route – and that means Sinn Féin and the SDLP burying their rivalries and creating a single movement to represent all shades of mainstream nationalist thinking – The Nationalist Party.

Okay, for decades a party by that name was the lapdog to the Unionist majority government at Stormont.

But a merged SF/SDLP movement could mark the centenary of the Northern state in a few years' time by becoming the largest party at Stormont, thereby laying claim to the First Minister's post.

Maybe nationalists are a wee bit timid about suggesting a single nationalist party after what happened former SDLP MLA Declan O'Loan of North Antrim when he put forward that constructive idea in 2010.

The time has come for Shinners' president Gerry Adams and the Stoops' Big Al to initiate a Nationalist Forum with the long-term aim of a single party.

It's only a matter of time before the Southern parties, especially Irish Labour and Fianna Fáil, begin contesting Northern elections.

With rumblings that the number of Westminster MPs and Stormont MLAs will be cut in elections to come, there is an urgent need for republicans to unite under the banner of a single party.

Such a single nationalist party could also have enough influence in the Catholic community to prevent radical republicans drifting to the political apologists for dissident republican terror groups.

The UUP's Jim Molyneaux used to boast about it being a broad church. The new single nationalist party needs to be a broad chapel for all shades of republican thinking.

And it could spread into the Republic, swallowing up Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to provide a majority Nationalist Party government in Leinster House.

But the real secret to making a single Nationalist Party project work is compulsory voting.

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