The TUV met in Cookstown for their conference today. As well as speeches by the party chairman, party president and party leader, there were 15 minute contributions from outsiders on the subject of economy & business, economy & agriculture,
parading, culture abortion and health boxing. sport
Jim Allister’s full speech wasn’t available in advance, only some short extracts. Based on past performance, he’s likely to divert from his script and extemporise anyway. I’m sure there’ll be a report on Sunday Politics tomorrow morning as well as UTV Live with Allister’s ‘best bits’.
Like the other party speakers before him, Allister referred to the murder of prison officer David Black who lived in Cookstown early in his speech. It was a reminder of
… [terrorism] which came straight out of the IRA/Sinn Fein manual ‘Murder They Wrote’. This IRA murder was just as odious, just as hate-filled and just as deviant as those of their Provo blood brothers, for whom the reward was terrorists in government.
Sinn Fein condemnations are meaningless so long as they fail to give up those their IRA trained who still practice their trade of murder – because the killers of David Black were no novices. Nor, have we heard anything of the weaponry. Why? Was it more of that which was supposedly decommissioned?
I salute the Black family for having the strength and courage to cut through the hypocrisy and pretence by telling McGuinness and Sinn Fein to stay away from the funeral. There is a message there for those who day and daily clutch Sinn Fein to their bosom in government in Stormont. Tough words don’t cut it when contradicted by actions that live by the mantra ‘what Sinn Fein wants, Sinn Fein gets’ in Stormont.
On opposition in the Assembly, Allister said:
… the fact that even our opponents recognise the worth of the TUV contribution in the Assembly, demonstrates the growing relevance of the TUV message that government without opposition is not just absurd, but anti-democratic.
By demonstrating the effect even a one man opposition can have we have pushed this issue of democratic deficit up the agenda, with others now increasingly conceding that the case for a democratic opposition is unanswerable.
Only the vested interest of the DUP/Sinn Fein cabal stands in its way; the sooner the SDLP and UUP recognise they are but their doormats in government, rediscover their dignity and independence and step out to distinguish themselves in opposition, the sooner will this fundamental of democracy return to Stormont.
Allister had further criticism about the Assembly and in particular the Executive which he characterised as “dismal failure, woeful squander and hopeless disconnect”.
Bloated with 108 MLAs when half would be enough, 12 departments when 6 would do, waste beyond belief on 161 spin doctors, £5m on hospitality, £400,000 on photographers, an undisclosed sum on foreign travel and still £100m to squander on useless north-south bodies and £20m on a shrine at the Maze.
Meanwhile, unemployment spirals upwards and all the DETI minister can assure us is that we’re not as bad as Dublin, to which nonetheless the Executive seeks to tie us ever closer, be in energy, trade or tourism.
Since the DUP came to power there have been 133 official north-south ministerial meetings, while only a handful of face saving east-west get-togethers. And, just this week I unearthed that under this regime you the Northern Ireland taxpayer pay over £13m pa to give free education to students from the Republic of Ireland!
Opening the conference, Party Chairman Ivor McConnell quipped that “while we enjoy nothing better than a spot of Peter and Marty bashing you will see from our line up of speakers and the topics being covered that we do have other interests”.
Unfortunately, our time will not be taken up examining and critiquing the legislation passed by our devolved government. Whatever else you may accuse our legislative assembly of its not producing too much legislation. The reason for this dearth of new laws is not because our MLAs are suffering from exhaustion. Stormont only sits two days a week and even at that attendance figures are disappointing.
Neither are the assembly members fatigued by the scale of their constituency work. They each have approximately just a third of the electors per assembly member compared to their Welsh and Scottish contemporaries. A very strong argument for cutting the number of MLAs.
McConnell also raised the influence of Dublin and Europe in his short speech.
… are we only half British? Well we probably are. Nationally, Westminster is subservient to Europe. Locally, we effectively have joint rule. Between, the Joint Secretariat, the North-South Ministerial Council and Parliamentary Forum and a Stormont Executive where republicans have the power of veto –nothing happens without Dublin’s consent and the approval of those whose raison d’etre is the destruction of Northern Ireland.
Is this democracy? No. It’s a long term, gradual process- with the pretence of democracy but in reality it’s a one way street -of continual harmonisation which will eventually leave us in a united Ireland which is part of a united federal Europe.
The twin bogeymen of a united Ireland and a federal Europe!
Introduced as “like Moses, the years haven’t dimmed his strength” TUV president William Ross used a News Letter column by unionist commentator Alex Kane to explain that unionists had been “conned”.
I have some quotes here, which illustrate this journey for one political journalist commentator:
(a) It’s not just the Executive which is dysfunctional, it’s the whole political and governmental process,
(b) The Provisionals are now co-equal governors of Northern Ireland. It seems not unreasonable to conclude that violence did result in victory for them.
(c) SF embedded in Assembly and Executive is the Ballot papers phase of the overall struggle.
(d) On Hillsborough – it is a bad deal, full stop.
(e) The biggest mistake I have made in my political career was my support for the Belfast Agreement. I should have gone with my gut instinct in 1998.
There is a lot of the same in Alex Kane’s Newsletter columns and it all comes down to his admission in the last quote. What he has written has been repeated in tens of thousands of Unionist homes across this Province. They know that they were conned.
Ross finished his speech with commendation for the TUV’s party leader.
That is where TUV comes in. We were not conned, we knew from the first what the consequences would be, and that is why we opposed those agreements then and oppose them still
I say to the thousands who want change, you can make the change but you won’t make it by watching Jim Allister on TV and cheering him on from your armchair, as so many do. Change doesn’t happen that way. Change happens when you make it happen. I didn’t say someone will make it happen, I said when you, the stay at homes, make it happen. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Others promised and did not deliver, Jim Allister promised and is delivering.
Jim, former friends attack you because they know you are right; you are attacked because you remind them of what they once said they were – you are the constant reminder of the moral, political and constitutional standards they claimed to defend. They know they broke under pressure and succumbed to flattery and your presence is a constant reminder of how far they have deserted the ideals they once proclaimed.
We in this Party salute you and thank you. We ask the Unionist people to consider where they have been brought to and then to support the principles the man and Party that seeks to restore integrity to Unionist politics.
This afternoon, the party members will hear from UKIP’s deputy leader and MEP Paul Nuttall. (I doubt that UKIP’s MLA David McNarry will be in the audience! Update – he was.) Conference closes with a ‘covenant commemoration’ by historian Jonathan Mattison. There didn’t seem to be any women speaking.
It seems likely that the TUV and UKIP will not compete against each other at the 2014 European Elections. However, whether the combination of two shades of unionism will appeal to NI voters is less than guaranteed.
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In the extracts and speeches the TUV supplied, it is a conference about criticism rather than solutions. Shrinking the number of Assembly MLAs or Executive departments won’t on their own fix government. Nor are there any clues as to the TUV’s approach to the economy (other than reducing government waste) and job creation.
The inclusion of outside voices in the morning – and UKIP in the afternoon – shows the TUV adopting a model that other parties picked up on over the last few years of conferences. While some of the voices are clearly independent – Roger Pollen/FSB – others like David Brewster (a local historian) and Liam Gibson (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) will be less challenging for delegates with their message. But will the voices heard at today’s conference widen the TUV’s remit, or will the party remain the traditional unionist watchdog, barking at the larger parties?
The media love Jim Allister. He’s against the kind of things everyone expects him to be against. And he’s an ever ready source of sound bites.
Over the course of his legal career as well as his five years in Europe and representing North Antrim constituents, Jim Allister must have come up against all kinds of injustices. One day I hope he surprises me by running with an issue that isn’t predictable.
But there are so few surprises. Has Allister ever found an issue that he could work alongside the SDLP with to sponsor a debate in the Assembly? Is he fully using his talents and influence – and his seat in the Assembly – for the good of Northern Ireland? Or is he focussing his fight against the machine, conservative evangelical values and the flag because that is easier?