Northern Ireland Assembly
Printable version

Northern Ireland: An Integral Part of Our Union

In an opinion piece, published in the News Letter, The Lord Caine discusses the significant role of Northern Ireland within the Union

As I said in my maiden speech in the House of Lords in 2019, I am an unashamed and unapologetic unionist. I believe fervently that the best future for Northern Ireland will always be as an integral part of a strong and prosperous United Kingdom.  

Those are sentiments that have motivated me throughout my 35 years of involvement in the affairs of Northern Ireland, both as an adviser to six Secretaries of State and now as one of His Majesty’s Ministers.  They are as rock firm today as they have ever been.  My conviction that the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom are stronger and better together remains unshakeable.

The United Kingdom is, of course, the most successful political and economic union in the world. My unionism, however, is not simply about some misty eyed nostalgia for the past.  Rather it is based on the belief that our best days lay ahead and what we can build together, united in common purpose and shared destiny.

Northern Ireland benefits hugely from membership of the United Kingdom.  For example, the strength and security of being part of the world’s sixth largest economy, sharing our great national institutions like the NHS, and, of course, the global reach of our country.  Yet the United Kingdom as a whole is richer for the contribution that Northern Ireland makes to our national life, and without which we would collectively be much the poorer.

I recognise, however, that there are many people in Northern Ireland who do not share these views and who have different political aspirations.  My unionism is one that deeply values and respects constitutional nationalism and the desire for a united Ireland pursued by peaceful and democratic means, while not sharing it.  Moreover, I want nothing less than the strongest possible relationship with Ireland, recognising that there might occasionally be issues on which we differ.

Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom is, of course, based on consent.  The task for those of us who want to see the union prosper is to think of how we can broaden support for Northern Ireland’s constitutional position in a world that is very different to the one in which the Agreement was reached in 1998.

Central to that approach has to be to make Northern Ireland work and flourish and to do so for everyone, regardless of their community background or political aspirations.  That requires fully functioning, devolved, power sharing institutions with locally elected politicians taking decisions over local matters accountable to a local Assembly.  

I warmly welcome, therefore, the decision by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to take his party back into the devolved institutions at Stormont, backed by Westminster legislation that re-affirms and safeguards both now and in the long term Northern Ireland’s place within our Union and the UK internal market, by far the most important for Northern Ireland trade and business.  

This is alongside the financial package of over £3 billion to help face pressing challenges for public services, giving public sector workers the pay rise they deserve, and maximising Northern Ireland’s economic opportunities.  All of this underlines the enduring commitment of this Conservative and Unionist Government to Northern Ireland and governing for the whole community.

With Stormont back, we will have the opportunity, by working together, to raise up that stronger, more prosperous Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom – where politics works, the economy grows and society is more united. Building a Northern Ireland that works, where people from all parts of the community are content to live, work and raise a family, has to be the surest way of strengthening the Union in which I so passionately believe.

Channel website: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/northern-ireland-an-integral-part-of-our-union

Share this article

Latest News from
Northern Ireland Assembly

Facing the Future...find out more