UUP Conference: Mike Nesbitt’s leader speech

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UUP gavelIn his first speech as leader to the UUP Conference, Mike Nesbitt outlined his vision to end sectarianism, claimed to understand social justice, and spoke frequently about ‘lost opportunities’. The UUP was a party for everyone who was pro-Union.

In a very long speech (45 minutes) he called for “a road map for the way ahead for the next generation … that shows where we want to go, and identifies the best route to get there”. He characterised the 10-20 year time period needed as “an inconvenient truth that it will take time to create a truly normal society, where everyone mixes, particularly in housing and in education”.

Economically he called for a shift from strategies in the sky to action plans on the ground.

Mike Nesbitt speech to 2012 UUP conference - via wordle.net

Pictures from the BBC Two coverage of the UUP conference suggest a smaller turnout at conference when compared with last year’s conference in Armagh and the leadership election in Belfast.

On the platform, Mike Nesbitt was visually reinforced with the presence of his deputy (and unsuccessful leadership contender) John McAllister as well as former leader and peer Lord Empey.

Thank yous to party colleagues – including minister Danny Kennedy – and their contributions were absent from the leader’s speech, perhaps picked up at other stages of the conference. References to other political parties and leaders – most notably the DUP and Peter Robinson – were also absent. So too was any mention of homosexuality, peers or departed members.

Nesbitt outlined his approach to opposition. With the battle over Corporation Tax “not going particularly well” Nesbitt wanted a Plan B to cut the Small Profits Rate. He finished with portions of the speech addressing Education (with aspects about dropped due to time) and Dealing with the Past before encouraging delegates to clap not him hit the giants of unionism (Craig and Carson) on whose shoulders the party stands.

The speech should be available shortly to watch again on BBC iPlayer. In the meantime the embargoed speech with most of the main alterations at delivery are included below.

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Folks, you can clap all you like: you’re still going to have to listen to it!

I imagine a good few of you listening to this are expecting me to start with the words: “Looking back 100 years …”

I don’t want to start by looking back; I want to look the other way.
So let me use these words instead: “Looking forward 100 years …… what will our descendants think of us?

Will they think as kindly of us as we think of Edward Carson and of his generation? Will we be honoured, celebrated, and cherished, as he is? Will history say we rose to our challenge the way he did to his challenge?

I truly hope so because it is what I want. For this Party of course. But also for this country. And for everybody who lives here – and I mean everyone! I am appealing today to Protestants and Catholics, to Jews and Muslims, to members of all faiths and none – men, women, urban, rural …. Chinese, Indian, eastern European …. this appeal is to everybody.

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The Ulster Unionist Party is not a religious organisation. We are not just a Party for Protestants. We recognise that more people than ever before in Northern Ireland actively embrace the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom, which of course includes the freedom to practice your religious beliefs. That is us!

I see us as a pluralist party. I see us as a progressive party, but above all as a political party, and one everyone can look to for a positive alternative to what is on offer today. Because that’s what’s needed today – a credible alternative.

Edward Carson didn’t shy away from what was needed. He didn’t shrink from a challenge. He didn’t squander opportunities. But what about us?

We don’t have to speculate if Edward Carson would approve. He told us exactly how to measure our success or failure in a speech to the House of Commons in 1920. Looking forward to a government at Stormont, he said:

They must forget faction and section …… If Ulster does what I ask her to do, and what I hope and believe she will do, in setting up an example and a precedent of good government, fair government, honest government, and a government not for sections or factions, but for all, her example may be followed ….

I like that vision – of a government not for sections or for factions – but for everybody. It takes us right to the heart of one of the things I want to achieve in politics – the end of Sectarianism.

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Sectarianism has lasted longer than the Troubles. Think about that for a second.

Sectarianism still responsible for deaths and for injuries. Sectarianism dictating the pace at which we move to a truly post-Peace Process situation. Sectarianism holding back the economy, health and housing.

I want the Ulster Unionist Party to tackle that enduring legacy of our Troubles.

If you are wondering what I believe in, it is social justice. I would like to have a leadership role in building a future that is peaceful, law-abiding, and above all fair. Where everyone gets a chance, and we show a generosity of spirit when we meet people with a different identity, or set of aspirations.

If you are wondering what I want to target, it’s Sectarianism, multiple deprivation, and poverty.

If you’re wondering why I’m in politics, I’ll tell you simply. My father was 49 years of age when the family linen business was blown up. Looking back, it was the last day he got out of bed with a true sense of purpose in his life. And every day, I meet people, particularly young people, who are looking for a sense of purpose in their lives, but are denied it, through lack of employment, poor education and health, and the lack of a decent home. And that’s the challenge of political leadership I have set myself.

Be in no doubt, there is a crisis in 2012. Not the same as 1912. No. The threat to the Union from Irish nationalism has passed for now. Thanks to us, the Ulster Unionist Party, the true inheritors of the legacy of Carson and Craig. So, do you think we could just relax a bit about that for a minute, and concentrate and discuss some contemporary issues?

Because there is a crisis. Ask the unemployed if there is a jobs crisis. As the parents of the underachieving children if there is a crisis in education. Ask the homeless if there a housing crisis. And ask any nurse if there’s a crisis in the Health Service. And ask the tens of thousands who don’t bother voting anymore if there is a crisis in politics.

The Ulster Unionist Party says yes there is!

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Edward Carson had an answer to the crisis of 1912. He made a pledge and he formed a team. That sounds like a plan to me!

So, let’s do that. Let’s stand up, proudly, boldly, fearlessly, and state what we stand for, and ask every citizen of the country to join our team, and fight for what is best for Northern Ireland and for its people – and I mean all of its people.

We need a road map for the way ahead for the next generation. It’s a map that shows where we want to go, and identifies the best route to get there. And there will be an inconvenient truth along the way, namely that it will take a long time to get there. And that’s a hard message for people. After 35 years of violence, and 18 years on from the Ceasefires, you cannot expect anyone to be happy to hear it could take 10, 15, 20 years to really fix some of our problems. But that’s the inconvenient truth, so we must manage transition, with short-term measures offering steps of delivery and steps of hope.

The road map must show how we will end up with better. Like a single system of education, which allows children to develop as they would in any normal society, but without fear or prejudice to their faith. Achieving that balance is a major challenge, but there are two fundamentals I think everyone already agrees upon.

One, is that sharing is the first step. Two, is that if our children are educated separately, and therefore only meet in a meaningful way in their late teens, long after lasting friendships have formed, we do little to tackle the separateness that is the breeding ground for mistrust and sectarianism.

It is an inconvenient truth that it will take time to create a truly normal society, where everyone mixes, particularly in housing and in education.

I want normal government too! And better government. And I have a very simple request: Give us the opportunity, and we will deliver better.

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Give us the chance, and we’ll lead a government that puts common sense at the heart of everything government does.

Give us the opportunity and you’ll see an administration that won’t tolerate wasting time trying to justify the current system when you would be better served if we made the system better.

I want government that detests waste, be it money, resources, or above all, in people’s life chances. The greatest sin of bad government is that it tolerates Lost Opportunities for its people. I see those Lost Opportunities every day – you do too! The 63,000-plus seeking work. The children yearning for the education they deserve. The victims of terrorism, some of whom have waited so long, many are no longer focused on themselves, or even their children, but wonder if it might just be possible for government to do something meaningful for their grand children!

I want a government focused on producing results.

This mandate, we will focus the administration on a better way of doing government, as we did in the last ten days, by calling for an Economic Plan B in the wake of the FG Wilson disaster.

My first up close view of Stormont came when I joined the Victims Commission. It wasn’t a pretty sight. There was then, and remains today, an obsession with the inputs and the processes of government. The business people in this room will tell you that you do not spend money on unnecessary inputs. You do not build a factory, or buy raw materials, or employ staff, unless you think you have a half decent chance of manufacturing something people are going to buy! And frankly the Stormont Bill of Goods is pretty thin.

If the Ulster Unionist Party was given the chance, we would re-focus government on outputs and the outcomes. We’d give a vision of what success looks like and invite local communities to use the resources of government to make it happen in their area.

It’s a simple shift, from writing strategies, which float somewhere up there, to implementing Action Plans, which deliver on the ground.

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The debate has moved on. It’s not about where we are governed from any more; it is Belfast, get over it. The debate now is what sort of government do you want?

18 years after the Ceasefires, and 14 years after the Belfast Agreement, I am in politics because as a journalist, a businessman and a Victims Commissioner, I see political failure. Nobody talks about the Peace Dividend anymore, because nobody really got one.

One example. More of our children live in poverty today that when we achieved devolution – an unexpected and deeply unwelcome situation. Many of those children have at least one parent in work, so you cannot point a finger at the families.

If the Ulster Unionist Party was in charge of the Office of the First Minister, we wouldn’t promise to eradicate it all at once – not possible – but we would set the sort of target that is currently missing. We’d agree an absolute income level we didn’t want a family falling below – we would add two specific deprivation measures – and then target the sector. It’s not the whole answer, it does not help everyone, but it tackles those most in need. It’s a clear, common sense Action Plan.

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The whole debate about how to fix Stormont is focused on numbers. How many MLAs, how many government departments, how long should be the term be, how many jobs can one politician hold down. I’ll tell you what I think in a moment, but there’s no point tinkering with the numbers if you don’t change the culture. Those numbers are inputs, and frankly, 18 MLAs could probably achieve as little as 108, if we do not refocus the culture on delivery on the ground. We need two things – less input, more output.

For the record, here is how we would change Stormont, and why.

In 1998 there were groups who supported politics, groups that were wedded to violence, and others who tried to ride both horses. To get everyone to go forward politically, you had to create a large set of institutions, so everyone got a share. It was designed to be inclusive government, not necessarily efficient government.

Those arrangements were always meant to be transitional. How could you possibly justify jobs for the boys in 2012, with 63,000 people looking for work?

So, what would we do?

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We have too many MLAs. We can take the first step. Lose 12 if we go with the reduction of constituencies from 18 to 16. Let me stress, that is not the end game, just the next step. If we are sticking with 18 constituencies, we need to negotiate another way to cut numbers, but in a manner that improves efficiency without corrupting the principle of inclusion that underpins devolved government.

We would reduce the number of government departments to eight, including OFMdFM. That number is based on our analysis of the situation; it’s not plucked out of fresh air. But to be clear about the implications, do not think that means we will be taking a knife to the number of civil servants in the current government departments. Fewer government departments does not mean a night of the long knives for the civil service. It would run totally against my view of good government to put civil servants on the dole because we want to rebalance our economy.

If the public sector is comparatively too big, then grow the private sector, and grow the social economy – create the space where people can swap jobs, not lose employment. There are already too many Lost Opportunities.

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And I have to pause here, to say, the Ulster Unionist Party gets the social economy – the so-called “not for profit” sector. We’re talking about services like childminding. Some people are unemployed, not because they don’t want to work, but because the cost of private sector childcare is prohibitive. There is £12 million set aside for childminding in the Executive budget – let’s use some to create an affordable option, which liberates the individual trapped on benefits, without damaging the private sector. We would maximise the potential of the social economy – because we get it!

We remain resolute in our view that the biggest single change to make Stormont a building that delivers rather than survives, is the introduction of an official opposition. Let me nail the big misconception about our view on Opposition. It’s not about the Ulster Unionist Party looking for a return to Majority Rule. I cannot see a time when Northern Ireland will not require a cross-community government.

So, if we have an Official Opposition, whoever is in it, will work in opposition to a Coalition, a cross-community government made up of the largest parties of the two big blocks.

The other misconception is that the Ulster Unionist Party wants money to go into Opposition. That’s a cheap shot. Whoever goes into Opposition must have the same sort of entitlements, like speaking rights and research facilities, available to oppositions in Dublin, and Cardiff and Edinburg and London.

A normal democracy affords voters the opportunity to change their government every few years. In a normal democracy, the Official Opposition is afforded maximum opportunity to scrutinise the government, and offer up an alternative. I want a normal democracy for Northern Ireland, albeit, I accept our particular circumstances mean a cross-community Coalition Government is here to stay.

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I understand that with two big blocks at the heart of government at the moment, you may think we are close to what I am calling for, but we are not. Because all they do is cancel each other out, without any fear of being replaced.

That is what people voted for, and this Party needs to respect that. But there is a developing opportunity, a mood we all sense on the ground, that people want more than a face off at the heart of government.

The challenge I set this Party is to persuade people it’s time to stop voting because of what you are afraid of …… It’s time to vote for what you hope for.

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The way forward conference must involve more than keeping Sinn Féin happy.

Never never never never was never the way to offer hope and equality to all – but swapping “never” for “what time is throw in Marty” isn’t the answer either.

Last week’s unemployment figures were a disaster. The FG Wilson disaster followed soon after. It’s time for a Plan B.

It’s so bad, I am sure all of us have either experienced that terrible feeling of not having a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or know someone in that position. It’s awful. Tens of thousands of our citizens going to bed at night, denied the sense of satisfaction that comes from a good day’s work. And they crave it.

According to the Labour Force Survey of 2007, when Devolution was restored, the unemployment rate here was 3.7%, the lowest of all UK nations and regions. There were 29,000 people unemployed.

Five years on, the rate is 8.2%, higher than the UK average. That’s tens of thousands of Lost Opportunities. I want the Ulster Unionist Party to fix that.

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On the day the latest unemployment figures came out, the NI Federation of Small Businesses reported that some 90% of unemployed people who found work in our private sector since 2008 did so by starting their own small business, or joining an existing one.

There’s a solution right there. I am not against Foreign Direct Investment. It’s very welcome, when it comes with a long-term commitment, but the fact is our private sector is almost exclusively made up of indigenous Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises.

So, there’s our economic policy. The Ulster Unionist will always put local business first.

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We will be unapologetically, aggressively, and openly pro-local business.

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Let me repeat, I am not against the right type of Foreign Direct Investment, but we need urgent actions, and there is something we could do that would be more impactful than the current policy of attracting £80 million of additional exports over four years.

We have a pot of money worth £3 billion a year used by Stormont and our councils for procurement – to buy goods and services for our schools and hospitals and to resource the public sector.

If we were in charge, we would change the procurement processes to ensure our indigenous businesses got as much of that pot as possible. We would stop our small businesses looking enviously at what the administrations in Scotland and Wales are doing, and have the Scots and Welsh asking us how we do it.

The unemployed in the room and the unemployed watching will note that the current economic strategy commits to creating 25,000 jobs over the next four years. What message does that send? That their government – the devolved, locally-led, locally accountable administration we fought so hard to achieve – cannot help over half of you in the foreseeable future.

Not goo enough,

I offer you just seven words to sum up what is wrong with our economy: seven simple words:

Not enough finance, too much red tape

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We need money flowing again, from our banks to our entrepreneurs. This is not the time for banks to build up their asset bases at the expense of funding private sector growth. This is the time to get cash flowing.

And the Ulster Unionist Party wouldn’t just look to the banks. Our local pension funds have a role, and so do Public-Private Partnerships. Controversial as some of you may think they are. We need to use ever lever available to increase access to finance.

It is also time to cut the red tape and bureaucracy that holds businesses back. If the Ulster Unionist Party had responsibility for the economy, that’s where we would focus.

This Party led the charge on Corporation Tax. It was our idea! We never claimed it would be a silver bullet for the economy, but it was – and remains – a potential game changer, particularly in the face of new European regulations that will force Invest NI to change how it works.

As I speak, the battle for devolving the power to set our own rate of Corporation Tax may not be lost, but no one is arguing it is going particularly well. I note the First and deputy First Ministers were in Downing Street again this week, again emerging with no agreement.

It’s time for a Plan B, and we have one.

What about focusing only on the Small Profits Rate – formerly the Small Business Rate. Give us the power and we will help our indigenous small businesses by cutting the Small Profits Rate and helping local people continue to do what they do best and invest in and grow their businesses.

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Also, we do not need to reduce the tax all at once. It can be phased in, and pre-advertised, to allow Invest NI to get new Foreign Direct Investment on the ground before the new tax rates kick in.

I have listened to the reports on the discussions with Treasury. I’m not hearing any Plan B. Remember, the prize is tackling Lost Opportunities – generating jobs, with more people with money to spend, and fewer needing welfare.

And if the problem is political, not economic, and we need a Plan C, bring down the Small Profits Rate across the whole of UK. NI will take disproportionate advantage from such a move.

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Whatever happens at those Corporation Tax negotiations between the Executive and Treasury, for the sake of the economy, I urge the local team not to walk away without a commitment to large scale infrastructure projects. I urge the team representing NI not to leave the table without a cheque – a commitment to £200 to £300 million a year, as a short term game changer for our Construction Industry. In short, there is more than one way to close the gap.

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Ulster Unionists would also close the ridiculous gap between asking for advice from experts, and acting on it. Professor Richard Barnett was asked to review economic policy and reported back in September 2009. His group recommended we set up a single Department of the Economy. On the 22nd September 2012 – three years later – it still hasn’t happened, even though no one disagrees with the idea. All that has changed is that the dole queue is considerably longer today than three years ago. Lost Opportunities.

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Earlier this month, Kate Barker, who chairs the Economic Advisory Group set up by the Department of Enterprise, said it was time to hold the Executive’s feet to the fire of delivery. She’s singing our tune. It’s time for Action Plans, not Strategies. It’s time for every Plan A to have a Plan B. If we cannot generate jobs, we can generate Apprenticeships – anything up to 40,000 according to the FSB.

We need a Plan B so Invest NI does not have to hand back tens of millions of pounds. It’s easy: if there’s a Plan A then form a Plan B.

As a townie, let me reassure the farmers and agri-food sector they can stand easy!! I appreciate their contribution to the economy, a constant over the last 100 years. I asked a local food entrepreneur recently if there was a limit to how far he could expand his business. He told me the story of McCain’s chips – you see them all the time, in the frozen food section of every supermarket.

The McCain family were farmers in Canada, forced by necessity to diversify and find a niche market. Today, their turnover annually is measured in the billions of dollars. That’s the potential for our agri-food sector.

Let’s think bigger for Tourism too. I acknowledge we’ve had some successes from Our Time, Our Place, but key strategic fault lines still remain.

Too many tourists arrive on this island by aeroplane into Dublin rather than Belfast. If we were in charge of tourism, we would back a new route development fund, £5m a year over 3 years to pump prime new air routes, including the Middle East. We would also look at clawbacks for failure to deliver.

We would bring a new strand to the tourism offer – what I call human heritage, celebrating and promoting the incredible number of people from Northern Ireland who have had a global impact.

17 US Presidents whose roots can be traced to Northern Ireland and the Ulster Scots tradition. Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon. Francis Hutcheson, philosopher. And after the summer of sport we have just enjoyed – or endured, if you prefer – what about the sportspeople – the George Bests and Danny Blanchflowers, the Willie John McBrides and Mike Gibsons …. Mary Peters and all the Olympians and Paralympians, Rinty Monaghan, Barry McGuigan, Fred Daly, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, the list isn’t quite endless, but the marketing potential is. It’s a Lost Opportunity to market our greatest tourism asset.

So the Ulster Unionist tourism slogan wouldn’t be Our Place, Our Time, it would be Our Place, Out Time, Our People.

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By the way, here’s a thought on joined-up government – and that’s something we need to get much, much better at.

We’re giving some of the major team sports many millions to improve their grounds, including the Irish Football Association. The IFA will move their headquarters to Windsor Park when the stadium is redeveloped.

Why don’t we negotiate to buy their current HQ at 20 Windsor Avenue. It’s the old home of Thomas Andrews, the staircase is the inspiration for … that what we’ve covered up behind us. [The UUP blue set was built in front of the staircase.] So, it can be part of Titanic Belfast. And it could also become the home of the Football Museum we so badly need to celebrate and commemorate what we call Our Wee Country.

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Let me turn to the future of the Union.

The business guru Charles Handy tells the story of a particular type of frog. He says if you put the frog in a pan of cold water and slowly bring it to the boil, it will die, because it doesn’t spot how the environment around it is changing, and not in a good way.

That is a lesson for unionists in 2012.

Having seen off the threat of Irish nationalism in the face of 35 years of the murder of unionism’s bravest and best and the destruction of our private sector – which, by the way is still a core reason explaining why our private is so relatively weak – it would be careless, to say the least, to ignore the new threat emerging from elsewhere.

Let me give you a small example of how the Union is changing. In 1939, Neville Chamberlain took the UK into war with Nazi Germany, a regime that was trying to invade us.

Chamberlain was a Member of Parliament for Birmingham. In 2012, Birmingham Edgbaston is represented by someone of German origin. Gisela Stuart – a German born member of the Labour Party, democratically elected by the people of Birmingham. No one saw that coming in 1939.

Neither did they see a situation where the population of England’s second city would be moving rapidly to a position where the majority are non-white, have their roots in Asian and other ethnicities and are more comfortable defining themselves as British rather than English.

The implications of this new environment will ripple out to every corner of the Union, as the debate on Scottish independence develops. As good citizens of the UK, we need to find meaningful ways of engaging that new generation of British citizen ….. a generation with whom we do not share a long cultural, political and military history – people who will not necessarily bond with us because of our contribution to the Armed Forces in two World Wars, who know little of the 36th Ulster Division at the Somme.

The 36th Ulster Division was formed by men who were willing to lay down their lives to defend Ulster – the men who formed part of the quarter of a million who signed Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant. In 1912, they had little idea the environment would change so drastically they would lay down their lives in another place, for another reason, fighting at the Somme, alongside so many Irishmen in the 16th Irish Division.

So, we need to connect with that new generation of Briton. We need to engage with them, tell them our story, understand how they view the Union, and inform them that the Ulster Unionist Party has over 100 years experience in delivering the sort of government they seek, that is fair, tolerant, and respectful of all traditions.

I was born a Unionist. I was taught values, including something as seemingly trivial – yet fundamental – as waiting for the National Anthem after the late showing at the cinema, rather than bolting for the exit.

I was brought up to believe in the importance of honouring obligations and responsibilities, rather than simply demanding my rights …. of earning money, not just borrowing it … of contributing not just taking.

Republicans have tried to brand unionism as reactionary. It is not. Not Ulster Unionism.

Ulster Unionism is open, liberal, progressive. If we’re looking back in this centenary year, let’s look back even further. Look at the values of Francis Hutcheson, born in Saintfield in 1694, and one of the most influential thinkers in western civilisation.

He promoted the Enlightenment. He supported the individual over any sect or section of society, but encouraged the individual to focus on his or her responsibilities as well as their rights. His thinking informed the French Revolution, American Independence and, yes, the United Irishmen.

Look at the values of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States of America, and one of the most influential. His parents came to the States from Carrickfergus in the 1760s and led the drive that brought America the Democratic Party, and an end to government by the elite.

That is a political philosophy I support.

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I want to cover two more areas before I close: Dealing with the Past, and Education. Both are keys to enabling our society to move forward with all boats rising on the devolution tide.

In education, we have a choice – allow the debate to stay focused on the contested ground of post-primary transfer, or we can move on to a bigger debate. Some will have heard me say we need to start asking a different question of our children. Instead of asking “How intelligent are you?” and measuring it purely in terms of academic ability in English, Mathematics and Science, we should ask “In what ways are you intelligent?” and embrace the full range of a child’s talents, be they academic, vocational, sporting, or artistic. It’s thinking inspired by Professor Ken Robinson from Liverpool.

Since I started talking that way, I have heard others use the same phrase, substituting the word “clever” for “intelligent” and another using “smart.” One is the current Education Minister, the other Bishop Donal McKeown …. That suggests to me there is more room for agreement that you might think.

You have heard Danny on our position paper on education. I add two points.

Firstly, every year, some children – our children – leave school without basic numeracy and literacy skills. Lost Opportunities.

How on earth do we expect them to fulfil their potential? To get the job they are worthy of? The home they seek? The lifestyle of their choice? Without the ability to read and write.

Recently, the London Evening Standard newspaper focused on a failing primary school in the Eastend of London, and after two years supporting volunteers going into the school and offering one-to-one mentoring, children are achieving again.

I know that is happening here, to a degree, thanks to organisations like Business in the Community. But we need it on an Industrial Scale. We need to be ambitious, and say we’ll eradicate illiteracy within five years.

There is a scheme we could import from the United States. It’s called Book Buddies. Primary school children spend time with older people, under controlled conditions, in Folds. The older people read and talk to the youngsters. The outcomes – which are measured – show literacy levels blossom among the youth, and medication intake among the older people drops, as they find a new sense of purpose in their lives. Win-win!

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By the way, I sent the Book Buddies details to the Education Minister months ago. I still await a reply.

If we had responsibility for the Department of Education, we would look to imaginative solutions like Book Buddies to break the cycle of underachievement. And we would argue for funds from outwith the Education budget – including the £80 million Social Investment Fund, and Europe’s PEACE 4.

Secondly, no one takes a university degree, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education because they believe that after ten years in the classroom they’ll be millionaires! They do it because they believe in it. So let’s free them up from this increasingly high accountability, low trust environment.

Let teachers teach. Let children learn, not least about themselves – who they are and what they might become.

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For too many, the Troubles have given rise to nothing but Lost Opportunities.

If we are to tackle the issue of Dealing with the Past, we have to accept there is much more to the challenge than truth and justice, important as that is. There are all those Lost Opportunities in education and employment, in health – physical and mental – in savings and pensions and – in short – quality of life.

The legacy of the past is everywhere, and emerges most poisonously in Sectarianism. If we’re going to deal with Sectarianism, we must build a Shared Future. That doesn’t mean everyone has to lose their identity. It does not mean you cannot wear your sportsteam’s top to the pub. It means changing the signs that read “No football jerseys” to “All team shirts are welcome.”

It’s about generating the sort of spirit of generosity shown by the Royal Black Institution in their recent statement. It’s the spirit of generosity Cardinal Sean Brady demonstrated when he spoke to some of us at Ulster Unionist Headquarters earlier this month, along with the leaders of the other main churches. The Cardinal chose the Queen and her visit to Dublin as an example of generous, open Leadership.

That leaves the narrower but important ground of Dealing with the Past in terms of truth and justice. What we have yet to agree is what we are trying to achieve, and for whose benefit.

Currently, we examine specific incidents in forensic detail. We have Public Inquiries, a Police Ombudsman, the Historical Enquiries Team and Coroners Court. It adds up to an incomplete and imperfect set of processes. Worse, as the files that get opened are state files, and the witnesses that are called tend to be the state’s representatives, it’s deeply imbalanced and serves to re-write history, painting the state and its agents and officers as the villains.

I say NO to that.

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That’s a red line for us. I say the Ulster Unionist Party has no problem saying thank you to the RUC and the UDR.

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Whatever needed fixed in this country in 1968 or 1969, no one needed to die.

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The legacy also leaves republican ex-prisoners at the heart of government, while their loyalist counterparts feel politics, and politicians like us, have left them behind.

I will help any ex-prisoner, and anyone associated with ex-prisoner groups, if they are genuine about using their commitment and energy positively for their community. I want the paramilitary groups to go away. And I want ex-Prisoner groups to go away too – to become groups, and I acknowledge this journey has begun.

But I question how healthy it is for someone to define themselves primarily as an ex-prisoner 18 years after the Ceasefires. I want them to tell me what they want to be, not what they were then. But I also hear what the ex-prisoners say about not being able to go away.

We the politicians made commitments in the Belfast Agreement that linger unfulfilled in 2012. I promise I will work to close that gap. And again, there’s a role for PEACE 4 funding. We must grow the capacity of our community to move on.

APPLAUSE

In conclusion, I am drawn to the words of Issac Newton – he of the fallen apple. He once said “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Next weekend we all have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of the giants of unionism. Do not waste that chance to revisit the thinking of 100 years ago that resonates today.

So, as I finish, do not applaud me, applaud the giants who offer us their shoulders. Craig, a 6 foot 7 inch colossus of efficient and effective government; and Carson, the leader.

Let me repeat his vision – the vision of a government at Stormont.

And this time, let me pitch it, as an invitation to the tens of thousands of pro-Union citizens who currently see no one or no Party to vote for. Because if this Vision is your vision, then together, we can change this government, change it for Carson’s vision of a Stormont that provides a GOOD government, a FAIR, government, an HONEST government … a government not for sections or factions, but a government for ALL.

That was his vision then. That is my vision today. And that is the Ulster Unionist vision, always.

APPLAUSE

, , , ,

  • galloglaigh

    Whatever needed fixed in this country in 1968 or 1969, no one needed to die

    It’s good to see that connection between the UUP (the DUP), the Orange Order, and armed terrorist groups has lasted longer than an Orange March down the Garvaghy Road. And of course We’re a party for all!

    Dead on Mike!

  • iluvni

    He lost me completely when he bottled out of challenging the cost and numbers employed in the bloated civil service.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I scanned through this briefly, will read it a bit more later. My overall sense is of a series of platitudes and of no overall plan. A lot of “isn’t this terrible, let’s fix it” but very few concrete ideas.

    One concrete idea was to reform local government procurement to favour local suppliers. Not a bad idea but isn’t it illegal under UK law ? And isn’t unionism supposed to be about having the benefits of being part of the UK (including the economic benefits of having access to lower costs through larger suppliers) ?

  • OneNI

    Come back Alastair Mcdonall all is forgiven! What a terrible speech.
    There was lots of policy nonsense – like the lack of guts with regard to the Civil Service numbers but it was much, much worse than that.
    One second he was holding out the hand it Catholics and the next he was praised Craig, Carson, the RUC and the UDR -oh and the NI football team
    He contradicted himself over corporation tax – he wanted low rates for small indigenious companies not FDI but apparently this would attract FDI.
    He was attacking the Executive the UUP are in but wanted an Oppostion – he wants his cake and wants to eat it – twice.
    Perhaps most bizarre of all was the appeal for the UUP to explain to Asians etc in GB what they were about – this from the main that turned his back on UK politics.
    The truth is if the people of NI have no idea what you stand for how would politicians in GB let alone ordinary Asians stand a chance. Here’s a secret Mike – no one in GB wants to know about why people in NI who claim to be unionists need their own wee parties
    For a moment I thought Mike was going to run candidates in GB!
    And to top of this cocktail of soundbites and confused thinking Mr Nesbitt claiming Carson as an arch proponent of devolution. In reality Carson was extremely worried that devolution would succumb to sectarianism

    In his speech Mike Nesbitt asked:
    ‘If you’re wondering why I’m in politics’
    To be honest I wasnt but after that speech I definitely am

  • OneNI

    And oh how could I miss this:
    “Whatever happens at those Corporation Tax negotiations between the Executive and Treasury, for the sake of the economy, I urge the local team not to walk away without a commitment to large scale infrastructure projects. I urge the team representing NI not to leave the table without a cheque – a commitment to £200 to £300 million a year, as a short term game changer for our Construction Industry. In short, there is more than one way to close the gap.”

    Is that – if your arguments dont succeed hold out a begging bowl?

    BTW who is ‘the team representing NI’ at the table?
    Is the Party who:
    Gave NI a more generous public expenditure settlement than any other part of the UK
    Bailed out PMS althou politically, legally and morally they werent obliged to as it was regulated by the Exec.
    Who allowed Stormont to abolish trans atlantic APD
    Who cut Corporation tax significantly for all businesses in NI
    Who keep everyones mortgage payments down by biting the bullet on the deficit
    ie the Conservative led Coalition or is it the DUP led coalition at Stormont Council who robbed Peter to pay Paul through a ludicrous business rates levy and has ended up leaving our biggest employers paying more

    The Conservatives are looking after NI interests much better than the Divided For Ever politicos of SF and DUP (or SDLP or UUP)

  • OneNI

    Can anyone explain this:
    “One example. More of our children live in poverty today that when we achieved devolution – an unexpected and deeply unwelcome situation. Many of those children have at least one parent in work, so you cannot point a finger at the families.

    If the Ulster Unionist Party was in charge of the Office of the First Minister, we wouldn’t promise to eradicate it all at once – not possible – but we would set the sort of target that is currently missing. We’d agree an absolute income level we didn’t want a family falling below – we would add two specific deprivation measures – and then target the sector. It’s not the whole answer, it does not help everyone, but it tackles those most in need. It’s a clear, common sense Action Plan.”
    This is a commitment to take the UK benefits system and to pay anyone who falls below a certain level more benefits?
    How many people? How much would it cost?

  • Comrade Stalin

    OneNI,

    Good points. I agree, a lot of that is bizarre. Apparently our negotiating team are supposed to say “either give us corporation tax, or give us another £300m”. To which Osborne will simply say “go away and come back when you’re ready to talk sense”.

    I also noted the contrast between the non-sectarian attitudes and bigging up Carson, the RUC, the UDR and so on. I thought the most interesting comment was when he said “Edward Carson had an answer to the crisis of 1912. He made a pledge and he formed a team“. I’m sure Mike wasn’t referring to the UVF but it sounded that way.

  • Neil

    They must forget faction and section …… If Ulster does what I ask her to do, and what I hope and believe she will do, in setting up an example and a precedent of good government, fair government, honest government, and a government not for sections or factions, but for all, her example may be followed ….

    Yeah the Ulster Unionists did a good job of that. Well, bar all that business where the Brits pulled the plug on Stormont in 72,

    As for Andrew Jackson (who resisted the Brits attempts to colonise the new world) the only other thing I can recall of him was that he set in motion the process of ethnically cleansing the US of Native Americans. Nice role model.

    Education: Instead of asking “How intelligent are you?” … we should ask “In what ways are you intelligent?”

    That’s educations sorted. Throw in an old style Paisleyite ‘No!’ and a few references to how we won the second world war for the Brits, Americans and the rest of Europe and you’re onto a winner Mickey. Saying nothing, going nowhere. Decent people vote with their feet.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    I have to start by saying this: I remain unconvinced, for a host of political and actually cultural reasons, that the Alliance Party alone can provide the challenge (I prefer that term to “opposition”) to the DUP/SF carve-up that I would like to see.

    In other words, people assume what I say against the UUP and Nesbitt is out of partisan opposition (and, frankly, past experience); but, on the contrary, I would like to see a strong UUP (and SDLP); yes, that would provide a greater challenge for the Alliance Party, but it would be better for NI.

    So, that said: Nesbitt never fails to disappoint. He is utterly, utterly, abysmal.

    What the UUP actually needs to do is not “come up with policies” or “communicate better” or any of that: it actually needs to tell the electorate why it would be more competent in government with Nationalists (probably SF) than the DUP. It hasn’t even recognized what it needs to do – that is the problem!

    Nesbitt is:
    – utterly incompetent – for example, his argument that if the DUP/SF can’t come away from negotiations with the UK Government with lower corporation tax they should at least come away with another handout of 200m-300m for the construction sector demonstrates a complete failure to grasp how devolved finances operate, what the purpose of lower corporation tax is (i.e. to get away from the hand-out culture), or what the real political situation across the UK is (there can be no special treatment for NI because of what Salmond is up to in Scotland);
    – utterly ludicrous – what on earth was all this stuff about “telling British Asians why we are Unionist” about? When will this be happening? Should they not be speaking to people in Northern Ireland?!
    – (that is to leave aside, on both the above counts, that these things would best be delivered with a link to the Conservative Party as OneNI points out);
    – utterly detached – with the banks collapsing, health funding spiralling, education in gridlock, Mike’s big idea is, er, “getting old people to read to young people” – I mean, seriously?!
    – utterly contradictory – you cannot talk about ending sectarianism on one hand and laud Craig (“Protestant Parliament for a Protestant State”) on the other;
    – utterly unreal – … and you cannot talk about ending sectarianism while not a single one of your party’s representatives could manage unreservedly to condemn provocative songs being played outside a Catholic church;
    – utterly self-defeating – essentially his appeal was for the UUP to appeal to all Unionists, but the last poll I looked at (!) showed more than 3 out of 4 “capital-U Unionists” support the DUP.

    In other words, if I vote UUP:
    – I get people who don’t understand the basics of how the UK is governed;
    – I get people who want to tackle sectarianism but won’t actually do so (so for the real thing, I vote Alliance); and
    – I get people who want Unionist Unity but are not actually best placed to deliver it (so for the real thing, I vote DUP).

    Worst of all, there are people – good people – in the UUP who think he did well!

    When the Alliance Party hit the buffers in 2003, it at least had a coherent core (even if it only commanded 3.6% of the vote at the time!); the UUP doesn’t even have that. It’s finished – and I’m not happy about that, even as a political rival.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    The main opportunity for an opposition party is failure by the party in power. Since the DUP/SF alliance seems bound and determined to do as little as possible, and since they no longer bad mouth each other, there is simply no way for the UUP and SDLP to dislodge them.

  • Better Together

    IJP

    The UUP are at least saying that a realistic approach to using economic levers in NI needs to be pursued- including looking at the small profits rate and the importance of reform to procurement and planning.

    As for your remarks about Craig, it is disappointing that you swallow the nationalist narrative on his legacy so completely. Craig’s remarks were made in response to De Valera declaring Ireland a “Catholic nation” and were making reference to the economic performance of nations informed by the social principles of the reformed tradition versus Roman Catholicism.

    He was categorically not saying that the state should perform well for Protestants only, but that a liberal, reformed ethos was linked to the economy in the sense Weber spoke of. Some unionists prefer to fight for the meaning of our tradition rather than meekly accept tired stereotypes.

  • Neil

    Yeah he seems like a good guy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Craig_(politician)

    I’m glad he isn’t around to ‘liquidate’ me though.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BT,

    The UUP are at least saying that a realistic approach to using economic levers in NI needs to be pursued- including looking at the small profits rate and the importance of reform to procurement and planning.

    I feel there is very little meat to chew on here – the DUP could easily announce a plan to implement either of those two things in the morning.

    For the UUP to differentiate themselves they have to kick off a debate about the principles upon which they differ with the DUP, and explain how those differences will lead to them providing better government. Instead, I get the feeling that Mike seems would rather simply tick different boxes on the list of proposals being brought forward by civil servants – and tick those different boxes purely because the DUP didn’t tick them.

    As for your remarks about Craig, it is disappointing that you swallow the nationalist narrative on his legacy so completely. Craig’s remarks were made in response to De Valera declaring Ireland a “Catholic nation” and were making reference to the economic performance of nations informed by the social
    principles of the reformed tradition versus Roman Catholicism.

    While I don’t expect unionists to dump on Craig’s legacy I do think it is quite reasonable to for them to distance themselves from the obviously divisive parts of his rhetoric and his worldview, rather than batten down the hatches and defend ideas and statements which cannot be defended in the modern world.

    You truly are lost if it needs to be explained to you that it’s not really on to defend a guy who thought that Catholicism was bad for business and government, then again given that so many unionist leaders apparently did not think that playing a sectarian drinking song outside a church could be considered offensive maybe I should not be surprised.

    He was categorically not saying that the state should perform well for Protestants only, but that a liberal, reformed ethos was linked to the economy in the sense Weber spoke of. Some unionists prefer to fight for the meaning of our tradition rather than meekly accept tired stereotypes.

    Unionists don’t meekly accept tired stereotypes – they embrace them. But by all means – fight away. But please stop insulting the rest of us by trying to pretend you are reaching out to Catholics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Neil,

    That’s Bill Craig. These lads are referring to James Craig.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Better Together

    You couldn’t have made my point about the sectarian nature of the UUP more effectively.

    Essentially, you’re saying: “We’re allowed to be sectarian because ‘they’ are.”

    Meeting sectarianism with more sectarianism just makes you all sectarian. So don’t come lecturing us about how you’re not.

  • Better Together

    IJP

    No Ian, I was refuting your selective use of a quotation from Craigavon, ripped out of context and misrepresented. The argument I was making was that Craig talked of a more secular, less clerically dominated society being more economically prosperous. In fairness, he was not wrong in that regard, although there were other factors in play.

    We all know the APNI delight in lecturing others about their ‘non-sectarian’ credentials by counting how many Catholics and Protestants come through the door in pursuit of an artificial ‘balance’.

    Addressing people’s cultural identity by throwing around the word ‘sectarianism’ like confetti alienates them and actually makes a deeper analysis of our problems more elusive. Alternatively, smug liberal superiority might work!

  • http://ardoynerepublican.blogspot.com/ ArdEoin Republican

    It was a long-winded speech to re-iterate that Nesbitt and the UUP want the failure of British/Stormont rule and Partition in Ireland to continue…

    He also wants the capitalist economic system to also remain, given its massive failure in recent years and the hardship and sufffering it causes to the majority of people in the North!

    Nesbitt empty claims that UUP are a Party for everyone are pretty much an insult, particularly since the vast majority of members are also members of the Anti-Catholic/Nationalist and Republican Loyal Orders. Especially its ruling Council…

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    ArdEoin Republican
    I’d call that the Unionist Outreach Party speech.
    Robbo has beaten him to the mark on that nonsense.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    UUP? Useless Unionist party? The will to live is so strong that even hopeless cases just won’t lie down and die.They don’t seem to realise that the DUP has slowly drifted towards the centre and the UUP have nowhere to go. They could try going rightwards but Jim Allister has beaten them to that. And he isn’t doing so good. People are tired. CPR, Conservative Party Recuscitation, won’t work.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Joe,
    If I was a Unionist, I’d tell you what would work. What would bring out the non voters, the disillusioned and the bereft of hope. But I’m not a Unionist, so I won’t.
    Sorry ;-)

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    BT

    You see, everything you’ve written there is utter fiction.

    Craig oversaw a state in which Catholics were grossly discrimated against – in housing, in elections, in state appointments and so on. As usual, he occasionally talked a good game, but as his statement gave away he believed – in line with the founding statement of the Orange Order – in the Protestant Ascendancy. In 2012, that is an outrageous anachronism which requires no reference whatsoever for someone seeking to represent everyone fairly.

    As for Alliance, no one is “counted”, the party fundamentally does not believe in such things. Nevertheless we do not dispute the reality of the entrenched sectarian division we are seeking to overcome.

    Nevertheless, I do point out the obvious: the UUP’s elected representation is entirely of Protestant background; the SDLP’s entirely Catholic. Even if we take their claims to want to be less sectarian at face value, they plainly haven’t a clue how to go about it.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    IJP,
    Ian, sorry to nitpik but in reply, What does your first sentence mean? I honestly don’t understand it.
    Next paragraph I agree with in entirety.
    Does the paragraph after that mean you are back in Alliance again?
    If so, are you saying that Alliance admits the existence of, but is attempting to move beyond the sectarian divide and if so how?
    Your last point is entirely valid and I have posed the same question many times

  • Better Together

    Ian

    We had a sectarian society in Northern Ireland during 1920-1971 and those attitudes cut across the population in both directions. We hear consistent condemnation of the so-called ‘statelet’ and how awful it was, yet little attempt to take a broad, measured view based on the totality of the evidence.

    For example, your remarks imply that there was a consistent, deliberately enforced policy of discrimination based on an Ascendancy mentality. Clichéd nonsense. Much of the credible academic work does find evidence of discrimination, but views this as the effects of a segregated, mutually suspicious society. The allocation of public housing in certain local councils and of course the Londonderry Corporation boundaries are often cited as an examples.

    However, what tends not to be mentioned are the many Unionist-controlled councils which had a very good record of fair treatment of Catholics and the appalling record of discrimination against Protestants in terms of housing on nationalist-controlled Newry council. Similarly, the consistent failure of nationalist politicians to engage constructively with the state.

    Likewise, the real progress made in Londonderry under Brooke’s government with many houses and jobs for working class Catholics are conveniently airbrushed from history. Professor Brian Walker notes they did a much better job proportionately at delivering jobs for Catholics there than Direct Rule and Devolution.

    Similarly, the real efforts of Maginness, O’Neill and Faulkner in their attempts at outeach are overlooked- this in the context of Articles 2/3 and the absence of nationalist acceptance of the consent principle. Much of the hard-line rhetoric only came about when battling against internal critics.

    One may argue there was a collective failure to move things on and missed opportunities on both sides and unionists must be willing to examine the past critically, but spare us the ahistorical afrikaaner line. The truth is much more complex than that and our founding principles were sound.

  • Alias

    Nesbitt omits to mention that Carson was pro-unity, seeing the Government of Ireland Act as the means by which the island was to be re-unified, specifically the Council of Ireland. While he proposed partition, he proposed it as short term expedient and not as the desired state. He can’t claim to represent Carson while ignoring a fundamental component of Carson’s political objective – while seeking to maintain an entity that Carson never intended to be permanent.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Better Together,

    I don’t know what colour your glasses are. They are certainly much darker than rose-tinted. In fact, maybe you’re blind. Many libraries now have audio books. perhaps when someone reads this post to you, you might check it out.

  • Alias

    Joe, I think his post is spot-on. Where exactly do you think he is in error?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Alias,

    Too many to analyse. But, Derry? A sterling example of unionist generosity?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Try this, slightly modified cut and paste.

    “there was NOT a consistent, deliberately enforced policy of discrimination based on an Ascendancy mentality.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Finally, if there was nothing to be gained, why did the unionists gerrymander the electoral wards in Derry? You do remember that one of the first actions of the direct rule administration was to get rid of the Derry Council and appoint an administrator to clean up the electoral “discrimination”?

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    You couldn’t make it up. The David Ford unionist party outstrips TUV’s Nesbit, and where does he go from here?
    Siting his party’s onference in the Titanic sham is beyond satire. And Nesbitt’s career is in jouralism? A joke to end them all. Satire in norn iron is now dead and buried.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    daniel’

    You’re wrong. People have 300 year old memories. Satire will always be with us.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Come back, Charlie Witherspoon, all is forgiven. UTV’s Mike Nesbitt thinks the Up Pompeii Party is for all. That would be with RUC batalions to sabotage civil rights marches, I suppose. Unionist catholics on board. Nesbitt is on drugs

  • Mc Slaggart

    IJP

    “I do point out the obvious: the UUP’s elected representation is entirely of Protestant background; the SDLP’s entirely Catholic.”

    I did not know that? How do you? Does Alliance keep tabs on the religious background of people?

  • John Anderson

    “I was born a unionist”. There’s me thinking everyone was born a mere infant.

  • NOT NOW JOHN

    “I imagine a good few of you listening to this are expecting me to start with the words: “Looking back 100 years …” I don’t want to start by looking back; I want to look the other way. So let me use these words instead: “Looking forward 100 years …… …..

    [GO ON THEN]

    Edward Carson and of his generation? …..…… Edward Carson didn’t shy away from what was needed. …….. We don’t have to speculate if Edward Carson would approve. …… the House of Commons in 1920. .. ……… Sectarianism has lasted longer than the Troubles. ….. that enduring legacy of our Troubles….. My father was 49 years of age when the family linen business was blown up….. . Looking back ……… 1912…… The threat to the Union from Irish nationalism has passed …… the true inheritors of the legacy of Carson and Craig……….. Edward Carson had an answer to the crisis of 1912…” [AND ON AND ON IT GOES]

  • NOT NOW JOHN

    “If the Ulster Unionist Party was in charge of the Office of the First Minister, we wouldn’t promise to eradicate it all at once – not possible – but we would set the sort of target that is currently missing. We’d agree an absolute income level we didn’t want a family falling below – we would add two specific deprivation measures – and then target the sector. It’s not the whole answer, it does not help everyone, but it tackles those most in need. It’s a clear, common sense Action Plan.”

    1. What specific [sort of] target would you set that is currently missing?

    2. What is your best estimate of an absolute income level which you would you be seeking to agree?

    3. What are the implications of your policy for the Benefits System and the system of parity with the UK?

    4. How much do you estimates that the implementation of this policy would cost and how would you fund such a policy?

    5. Which specific two deprivation measures would you add?

    6.In what way would you target the sector?

  • alex gray

    The UUP is finished. This guy has NO vision just a load of second hand ideas which don’t hang together logically. Ulster Unionists in the Assembly, those standing for Councils and ordinary members will have to consider their position now. This leadership is a bad brand. It will do them all serious electoral damage. This guy is going nowhere slowly.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Better Together,

    The inescapable logic of the position you are describing was that the conflict here had no basis and that the protests about discrimination, jobs and all the rest were essentially imaginary. To be polite, this is a characterization of things that would not be recognized by many people, and in particular by Catholics/nationalists.

    It’s interesting that you cite O’Neill and Faulkner. I’d be happy to call them people who answered the call and became fine statesmen and leaders – but sadly a little too late. But the problem for you here is that their speeches about reform, and the actions they took, suggest that there was indeed a serious problem which needed to be fixed, contrary to your idea that things were basically fine.

    O’Neill was someone equipped with unusual foresight (for the time) – his speech about how Catholics would become like Protestants if they had jobs and decent housing etc is dated in its language, but he knew how to speak to his audience and the sentiment was absolutely correct. He certainly seemed to perceive that there was a problem which needed to be fixed. And that matches every conversation I’ve had with my parents, uncles and others of that generation who maintain that no serious conflict would have broken out had the unionists recognized the need to negotiate and reform. The fact that O’Neill received such a vicious response from within his own party (and other unionist elements) confirms that he was onto something.

    To take your argument further towards its logical conclusion you seem to be suggesting that the conflict was substantially engineered and sustained by nationalists based on a specious pretext. It’s worth looking at the history a little bit. The conflict lost a lot of its steam significantly when Stormont was prorogued and ultimately, a couple of decades later, the IRA threw in the towel and essentially admitted defeat. This is evidence that a lot of nationalists, whether they admit it to themselves or not, trust the British government (with token input from the Irish government) to keep things on an even keel and prevent serious discrimination from breaking out.

    Therefore, the experience has been that as long as unionists are kept away from the controls, things will continue to be fine and nationalists will find it difficult to motivate themselves to get into serious agitation for constitutional change. Unionism needs to have a good, long, hard look at itself and ask itself why nationalists are content with the union but not with the 1920-1972 setup. And in so doing, you might discover why making speeches about how people like James Craig and Carson, and the RUC and the UDR etc were all so great creates problems in the context of seeking to attract Catholic votes.

    Reading between the lines of your core argument, ie nationalists start fights over specious pretexts, I have no doubt that you’re speaking for quite a few unionists and I can still see it today. For example a lot of the contributions here from unionists concerning events at St Patricks suggest that the residents down there are trying to stir up trouble and attack Orange culture, and ignore – wilfully ignore – the core issue which is about the behaviour of a band outside a church. Unionists seem to almost want to believe that they are under attack, are unwilling to consider their own role in engendering conflict, and are unwilling to test the idea that nationalists might be less of a problem if they were treated with a bit more respect.

    That might work a lot better for unionism than this current attitude of reaching for a pike every time someone complains.

  • Better Together

    CS

    Actually, I would suggest that is a misreading of what I said. I don’t deny that there was evidence of discrimination in local government and in the private sector, but that this was not sanctioned or directed by Stormont and also that it does not represent the complete picture. It assumes that only unionists had agency to change the conditions of conflict and segregation.

    My post sought to re-balance that picture and to indicate that to gain a comprehensive idea of the period one has to look at the degree of self-exclusion political nationalism caused and also, how some of the actions of nationalist local authorities were flagrantly discriminatory, strengthening the ‘what we have’ we hold’ mentality of Unionism.

    In particular, the attitudes of some in the RC hierarchy and Eamon De Valera did little to help relations between the two traditions in NI; I cited Brian Maginness, Terence O’Neill and Brian Faulker, how many nationalists took risks for detente with unionists? How many took a sober approach, telling their electorate that recognition of NI would improve their position within the same?

    Your post assumes that the only issue was the need for concessions from nationalists- what about what unionism required in terms of recognition of their own right to self-determination? I think a little more movement from both sides could have brought improved relations at a much earlier stage.

    What I do resent is ahistorical cliché about the unionist afrikaaners and the ‘Stormont Junta’, which grossly distort the reality pertaining at the time. All too easily trotted out.

    Oh, I condemned the playing of that tune.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Excellent summary Comrade[11.34] The attitude of both unionist parties with regard to the OO and the other orders can be summed up as ‘We want all right exclusively for our side and no responsibilty for anything. They are going to have an uncomfortable time in eight or nine years with the plethora of books tv and radio histories of the state’s last 100 years of which only the last 40 years they will want to hear about.

  • Greenflag

    Lovely words and lots of them -some evidence of actual thinking but quite a few booboos also .Would have been a wonderful speech back in 1965 assuming Mr Nesbitt would have been allowed to finish it and not dragged forcibly from the rostrum and ejected onto the pavement outside by Harry West and his merry men !

    While it was somewhat startling to see the name of Frances Hutcheson mentioned I can assure Mr Nesbitt that Hutcheson was not an Ulster Unionist . As for Andrew Jackson’s values ? Jackson was probably the most anti British of all USA Presidents . Given that the British all but wiped out his entire family leaving Jackson himself as a 16 year old orphan . Even Jackson himself got his jaw cracked for refusing to shine a British officer’s boots and was lucky not to have been shot out of hand for such ‘disrespect’ to his betters !

    As to Jackson’s efforts to remove government by the ‘elite ‘ ? Perhaps Mr Nesbitt has forgotten that the UUP in it’s heyday was the elite !

    Now that I’ve read the whole thing it seems to me like a cross between a wish list and a whitewash list with some bone offerings thrown to those outside the unionist tent and the obligatory dutiful homage paid to the heroes of old .

    Not a winds of change speech more a windmill tilt – a blast from the past with some thrusts at the confusing present and some wild swings at an uncertain future .

    Don Quixote and /or
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjI7VeIA7ZI&feature=related

    Time will tell .

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    McSlaggart

    Don’t be a fool. This is Northern Ireland, and particularly Northern Ireland politics. You know as well as I do that Unionists are Protestants and Nationalists are Catholics and where that is not the case it is cause for an exceptional note. This is also the case generally – witness the furore over Rory McIlroy.

    It was noted that Sir John Gorman was the only Catholic Unionist MLA in the first Assembly; and that SF’s Billy Leonard is of a Protestant background. That’s it.

    In the Alliance Party, it is not noteworthy. That is because, uniquely among the Executive parties, it is genuinely cross-community and non-sectarian.

    Parties which cannot see how claiming the legacy of James Craig might just turn off Catholics in the real NI in which we live will continue to fail to reach that standard – and actually deliberately so, whatever they may claim to the contrary.

  • Barry the Blender

    Not particularly wanting to kick a man when he’s down, I have to wonder does the UUP even deserve to exist?

    When it’s chosen the wrong position, made the wrong decision and behaved incompetently in regards to all issues of late, can is really justify its right to carry on?

  • Reader

    IJP: Parties which cannot see how claiming the legacy of James Craig might just turn off Catholics in the real NI in which we live will continue to fail to reach that standard – and actually deliberately so, whatever they may claim to the contrary.
    He has a couple more leader’s speeches before the next election. He has ticked the required boxes now, let’s hope he can move on.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “You know as well as I do that Unionists are Protestants and Nationalists are Catholics ”

    Nope. You said “the SDLP’s entirely Catholic” which at a guess it is not. I know Protestants who vote for that party and they have at least one MP who was a Protestant.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “In the Alliance Party, it is not noteworthy. That is because, uniquely among the Executive parties, it is genuinely cross-community and non-sectarian.”

    So you argument is that the Alliance party is not sectarian as it makes an issue out of having Protestants and Catholics in its ranks. Think about it.

  • Greenflag

    ‘It takes us right to the heart of one of the things I want to achieve in politics – the end of Sectarianism.’

    A laudable objective and Mr Nesbitt should be commended for it . Alas the State itself was established on a sectarian basis and thus the ending of sectarianism may mean the ending of the three legged State .

    The three legs supporting the NI state have been since 1920

    1) Sectarianism
    2) Britain’s financial subventions and military support
    3) The Northern Unionists rejection of an independent United Ireland .

    If one leg (sectarianism ) is removed the State may be able to support itself on it’s remaining two .

    On the other such a State may like a handicapped tricyclist who has become so used to riding a bike with three wheels be unable to mount much less ride a two wheeler . ?

    Still kudos to Nesbitt for the words – but those in the trenches will wait to see the deeds !

  • Granni Trixie

    2 points of information with comments:
    1. Bob Cooper left the Young Unionists in the 60s because his Catholic friends were not made welcome in the UUP and he found it impossible to bring about change from within. No change there then.

    2. This long many”s a day Alliance has a policy of
    ANTI sectarianism mainly I think because denial of this canker in our culture inhibits attempts to address it. Only because manifestations of sectarian ism bring it into view now and then (so long since the ceasefires and GFA) are most parties tending to acknowledge its existence.

  • Greenflag

    @ reader ,

    ‘ let’s hope he can move on.’

    He’s barely in the job and you already want him to move on :(
    I guess some folks are just never happy ;)

    BTW To be successful in politics I believe more than just ticking the boxes is required . Rich /Poor ? Mitt Romney may have finally discovered that by now when it’s too late .

  • qwerty12345

    “the Ulster Unionist Party has over 100 years experience in delivering the sort of government they seek, that is fair, tolerant, and respectful of all traditions”

    LAUGH OUT LOUD, literally.

  • Neil

    Yeah qwerty, one wonders how he can claim to tackle sectarianism when he can’t even acknowledge his party’s prior wrongdoing from a time when he wasn’t even in the party. Maybe he’s suggesting delivering the fair, tolerant government pre ’72 stylee.

  • Better Together

    IJP

    “Parties which cannot see how claiming the legacy of James Craig might just turn off Catholics in the real NI in which we live will continue to fail to reach that standard – and actually deliberately so, whatever they may claim to the contrary.”

    Yes, Ian, I deliberately set to be sectarian, it so consumes me as a priority. Thanks for the abject failure to respond to any of the substantive points made.

  • mjh

    Sorry no link available to the following report:

    Ulster Unionists are describing their weekend conference as one of the most successful held in years. There were no defections, no resignations, no rows and no new policy.

    “It was brilliant,” one party insider told me, “things went so well that no one outside the room even realised it was taking place.”

    Commentators are hailing it as a triumph for Mike Nesbitt’s leadership.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    BT

    No, what’s happened is you have no case. The substantive point is that it is utterly contradictory to claim to want to be the “party for all” while also claiming the legacy of “Craig”, a completely and justifiably divisive figure and perfectly understandably hated by a large bulk of the population.

    As so often, Unionists (and indeed Nationalists) do not understand that the default in NI is “sectarian”; to be “anti-sectarian” takes work. To claim to want to attract Catholics while throwing the legacy of Craig in their face is the same kind of nonsense as SF wanting to “cherish the Unionist identity in a United Ireland” while continuing to endorse the IRA campaign and refusing even to use the word “British”.

  • JR

    The UUP cannot say are a party for all one day then then back Nelson McCalsland when he won’t condem the Loyalist violence which injured dozens of poliece officers the next.

  • andnowwhat

    JR

    All but two. One of which was Basil Mc Crea, the very same man who warned against a unionist pact in the upcoming by election.

    Wonder if he’s going to go for a third go or back someone to make a challenge?

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Nesbitt’s turn on Sunday politics was entertaining for all the wrong reasons as he’s clearly in an advanced state of denial. He look totally baffed at Carruthers suggestion that the Union Jack might be counerter-productive in turing catholics into unionists as he claim he wants to see.

  • Better Together

    IJP

    As another poster aptly demonstrated above, the Alliance Party is obsessed with identity politics. It bends over backwards every five minutes to remind us of its “non-sectarian” credentials. The problem is that it equates even the profession of a Pro-Union position to be sectarian. If the sectarian divide disappeared, the APNI would have no reason to exist, it is parasitic upon division. You say I have no case, yet you display no compelling answer to my points that there nothing in Unionist principles that is sectarian.

    The politics of the enlightened vanguard only insults the wider population. One might recall the “Me or Meehan” moment of David Ford in 2003 to remind you the APNI are no stranger to playing tribal cards when the situation warrants it.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Also true, JR. (I would say “ceart go leor“, but I’m on for a hat-trick of corrections…!)

    Nor can he hesitate over a pact with the DUP in an unwinnable by-election…

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    BT

    You talk a lot about the “APNI” (whoever they are).

    The substantive point was about the UUP, and specifically about its fundamental inability to be cross-community. You seem to have stopped even bothering to address that.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BT,
    As another poster aptly demonstrated above, the Alliance Party is obsessed with identity politics. It bends over backwards every five minutes to remind us of its “non-sectarian” credentials.

    I love the way people find Alliance’s non-sectarianism so maddeningly annoying.

    Yes, the existence of sectarianism defines Alliance. Any other observations you’d like to add ?

    The problem is that it equates even the profession of a Pro-Union position to be sectarian.

    Alliance emphatically does not regard being pro-union, or pro-reunification, as sectarian. You made that up.

    If the sectarian divide disappeared, the APNI would have no reason to exist

    If illness and disease were eradicated, the medical profession would have no reason to exist. Yet we do not describe doctors as people who profit from medical misery.

    If crime were eradicated, we would no longer need police or courts. Yet we do not describe these bodies as people who profit from crime.

    Closer to the subject at hand, history is replete with examples of politicians and political parties who reformed themselves out of a role (not often completel intentionally). At the same time, history also shows that political parties founded with one particular purpose often evolve and find themselves trusted with matters other than their founding principles.

    , it is parasitic upon division. You say I have no case, yet you display no compelling answer to my points that there nothing in Unionist principles that is sectarian.

    Didn’t you just defend James Craig ? The guy who was pointing out that Catholic countries are bad at economics ?

    The politics of the enlightened vanguard only insults the wider population. One might recall the “Me or Meehan” moment of David Ford in 2003 to remind you the APNI are no stranger to playing tribal cards when the situation warrants it.

    How exactly is that tribal ?

  • JR

    IJP,

    no corrections this time. Though the last time i was pointing out your miscorrection of someone else.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Corrected again. If this is what you’re like when we’re on the same side…! :)

  • andnowwhat

    How strange that Mikenesbitt has sacked John Mc Callister from his deputy job for basically saying the same thing as himself?

  • andnowwhat
  • Red Lion

    Bring on ‘unionist unity’ as its widely understood – the DUP and UUP united as one party is where they largely ideologically sit anyway – but the liberal end of unionism will spilt off and find its voice through Basil McRea/John McCallister types* and be much more recognisable, coherent and attractive – a genuine choice within unionism

    Such a liberal unionist party will be a natural home for some UUP, will win back some Alliance people, genuinely entice non-voters back out, and be a place for a small but increasing Catholic vote. They also should give a voice to the alienated working class unionist vote

    Unionist unity will bring about unionist realignment, there will still be 2 unionist parties**,but the differences in them will be more stark between ‘old shool big house’ and ‘new liberalism/left of centre unionist party/secular.’Such a prospect is quite exciting and could shake up NI politics – up to a few braves souls to strike out for this worthy goal. McCallister and McCrea should forget trying to liberalise the UUP, it aint going to happen – strike out!

    *and hopefully Dawn Purvis, and others McClarty, Harry Hamilton – the foundations for a liberal union party already exist and a strong vote is there!!

    **unless the Alliance party are able to hoover up such people and thinking

  • Pickled_Peppers

    Was going to comment on this but red lion you have literally said everything I was going to write.good post. Unionism doesn’t realise it but is crying out for a truly non sectarian party but still firmly pro union, and respectful of Irish nationalism in the north. I had hours that Nesbitt was going to bring the change but he was caught up in covenant bluster and decided to let the sectarian trail wag the dog.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    If a party is firmly pro-union it will inevitably be sectarian, even if unintentionally.

    It is a fact of our history.

    Much though we like to think they do, people do not decide whether they are “British” or “Irish” rationally. They are born into it, one way or the other (and it then continues through education).

    Once you decide you are exclusively British, you can’t be truly non-sectarian. You will simply see everything through a prism exclusive to only one “side”.

    You could of course be truly civic Unionist. But last time I looked Trevor Ringland, Dawn Purvis and Alan McFarland didn’t actually get very many votes.

  • Pickled_Peppers

    But consider their backgrounds…nesbitt was sqeaky clean and comes from a lrofessional background of impartiality…but he chose to alienate any catholic unicorns with his covenant capers. I disagree on being british and non sectarian….most british people doent even know what sectarianism is…they just associate it with NI. Ironic for unionists who so dedire to be british that mainlanders couldnt give a fig about their neighbours sect of christianity.

  • Cruthin

    How a supposeldy unbiased and impartial newsreader took a leap from reading the UTV six o’ clock news to becoming leader of the UUP is one of the most extraordinary and perplexing career moves I’ve ever witnessed. The sad truth is, he had bags more charisma as a news presenter than he does as a politician, and has anyone noticed how his voice has gone up several octaves since he entered politics? The UUP is the party of the conservative Protestant middle class, so he’s well suited, but I can’t see him lasting too long as leader.

  • Red Lion

    IJP on 2 October

    “If a party is firmly pro-union it will inevitably be sectarian, even if unintentionally.
    It is a fact of our history.”

    In discussing a liberal union party im not focusing on our history, I’m discussing what I want to be the present and future of unionism to be. You use the word ‘firmly pro-union’, a bit vague really, so the alliance are prounion as you have put forward, just not ‘firmly pro-union’??? Its not whether one is firmly pro-union – its the type of union you want that counts, to be firm that our union should be a reformed liberal union would be a wonderful step forward for NI politics.

    “Much though we like to think they do, people do not decide whether they are “British” or “Irish” rationally. They are born into it, one way or the other (and it then continues through education).”

    Are you stating the obvious? Most people the world over are born into what they consider their nationality to be, as dictated by the closest influences to them – family,friends community, etc.

    “Once you decide you are exclusively British, you can’t be truly non-sectarian. You will simply see everything through a prism exclusive to only one “side”.”

    So even though you firstly say we are born into our nationality, you now say ‘once you decide you are exclusively British…’ so are we born into it or make a decision at some point?? Or a bit of both perhaps??. Plenty of people in NI have an amalgam of British-Irish-Northern Irish identity and to whom a liberal union party might appeal. You can be exclusively British…and liberal at the same time, including promoting anti-sectarainism.Especially if one is championing a reformed liberal secular union and/or country/region/province to live. One’s national identity doesn’t automatically turn you into a sectarian bigot.

    “You could of course be truly civic Unionist. But last time I looked Trevor Ringland, Dawn Purvis and Alan McFarland didn’t actually get very many votes.”

    Again you contradict yourself, first youre saying you cant be from a firm pro union party and be anti-sectarian, then you go and list off unionist personalities who would nicely fall into that category. I think Trevor Ringland got 7000 votes in East Belfast not to be sneezed at. Basil McCrea, david mcclarty and John mCcallister do alright, Harry Hamilton got 10000 votes in upper bann i think, and Lady Sylvia Hermon got about 20000 votes and a westminster seat in north down. This is hard evidence of a solid foundation for liberal unionism if only it could galvanise.