Over on his blog, Seymour Major brings up an interesting idea: that Fine Gael could be included in the UCUNF. I am intrigued, but think it a stretch too far.
The main problem is that the UCUNF is an explicitly Unionist project. However much some Conservatives may protest, their party has thrown in its lot with one side of the sectarian divide, and is now just another Unionist party. As I have argued before, Northern Ireland needs a party or parties which can transcend the Unionist-Nationalist divide. The UUP is nowhere near the stage where it could be described as a “post-Unionist” party, nor has it shown any inclination of moving in that direction. Indeed, in recent years they have obviously struggled with the temptation to outflank the DUP on the extreme. Fine Gael would suffer at the hands of its core supporters if it was seen to be taking sides with unreconstructed Unionists.
On the other hand, Fine Gael could easily be sold as a “post-Nationalist” party in the North if it were minded to make a few concessions to Unionist sensitivities. Its revolutionary past is ancient history in political terms, and as Seymour correctly points out it is a progressive-conservative party whose policies would be quite palatable to the moderate Unionist willing to think outside the box. Its potential appeal to moderate Nationalists shouldn’t need stating: it would be the first political party to be in government on both sides of the Border, despite Sinn Féin’s best efforts.
But to sell themselves as non-aligned in the -ism debate, they would have to enter NI politics alone, not through an alliance with an existing (i.e. compromised) political party. So would FG do it?