Basil McCrea: “I have stayed with the party through thick and thin, and I will continue do so …”

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Basil McCrea, UUPA long-standing family committment meant that Basil McCrea was unavailable for today’s scheduled UUP disciplinary hearing. But while his party have been relatively quiet over the past 24-48 hours as flag protests have resurged, the Lagan Valley MLA has issued a statement tonight.

When I joined the UUP in late 2004 some were surprised by my decision. I had no particular ties to the party, no political connections at all in fact and the UUP were a party under pressure. A position confirmed the following year when the party lost all but one of its Westminster seats in the general election.

But it was precisely because the UUP was under such pressure that I joined. I had voted YES for the Agreement in 1998. I believed in it then, and I believe in it now.

Perhaps, there could have been better communication of the detail, perhaps there should have been a greater effort to sell the Agreement, but even with the benefit of hindsight, nobody has yet presented a better alternative.

There is a simple truth to Northern Ireland. We live in a divided society. There is no future for Northern Ireland that is not based on a shared future. There is no future for Northern Ireland that that will not require some accommodation with those with a different perspective and there is no future for Northern Ireland that will not involve ongoing political dialogue.

Some may have hoped that with the Belfast Agreement we could “draw a line in the sand” but we squandered that opportunity. The UUP paid a heavy price for failing to convince the electorate of the benefits of the Agreement, so too has Northern Ireland. The disaster of 2005 was seven years in the making. Internal divisions, disinterested partners and political opponents keen to manipulate the fears of the electorate for their own political advantage conspired to put the Belfast Agreement at risk.

Those same forces remain active today, colluding with each other to ratchet up tensions and create fears in the electorate for short term, selfish, political advantage with reckless disregard for our future. The hugely damaging controversy surrounding the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall was not an accident but a carefully orchestrated political manoeuvre designed with clear electoral objectives in mind.

Such tactics have used been used repeatedly over the years for base political advantage. Those that won the 2007 Assembly elections did so by ruthlessly exploiting the electorate’s fears, they promised a new deal, a better deal, “A Fair Deal” only to deliver more or less the same deal.

The party that once jeered at the Belfast Agreement now uses the language of a shared future from its conference platform attempting to reach out to non-traditional voters. Yet in other forums it argues for greater unionist cooperation to maximise unionist seats. Such cynical electoral manoeuvring should not be lost on the electorate.

Nor is the UUP the party it once was. Losing election after election the party has lost confidence in its ability to win an argument, any argument. It is tempted to retreat to the core and to seek safety in electoral pacts, joined candidates and greater unionist cooperation, oblivious to the fact that this will lead to its destruction as an independent political party.

The Ulster Unionist Party must not go down this route. It would be a betrayal of the Belfast Agreement and the people who stood with the party during the difficult years. The party should stand on its record, build on its vision of a shared future as described in the Belfast Agreement and make the case for a Union that is stronger when it is a Union for everyone. The constitutional position has been secured by the Belfast Agreement and the economic case has never been stronger, but respect for the cultural identity of all our citizens is essential if we persuade them of our good intent.

Unlike some in the party, I was not born an Ulster Unionist, I chose to become one. I have stayed with the party through thick and thin, and I will continue do so for as long as I am convinced that the party is committed to the vision and values set out in the Belfast Agreement. The Agreement was endorsed by the party and the people of Northern Ireland and is, as far as I am aware, still party policy.

Whilst the Belfast Agreement provides a solid foundation it has significant limitations. There is widespread disenchantment with a political process that is unable or unwilling to tackle any serious issue. Mandatory coalition within the executive has reduced the Assembly to little more than a talking shop. Political reform is required.

The public mood is for reform but any reform will require the presence of viable independent alternatives and a fundamental change in voting patterns. Those that want a shared future must realise that they too can cooperate to maximise the number of “shared future” seats and when adopting policy stances on the flying of flags or the naming of parks they are mindful of the views of the whole community. I hope that those that have been entrusted with leadership will provide just that. Sometimes, in the words of President Harry Truman “To be able to lead others, man must be willing to go forward alone.”

(emphasis added)

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

    You missed the end of the heading, Alan

    …for as long as I am convinced that the party is committed to the vision and values set out in the Belfast Agreement.

    I’m not convinced, personally. The Flag decision was but an example.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    I had to cut the sentence somewhere! It’s not an immediate bailout – puts the ball firmly in Mike Nesbitt’s hands.

  • keano10

    Although Basil states his commitment to the party in the earlier part of his statement, the last paragraph is the most interesting perhaps.

    Does’nt sound like the words of a guy who intends to be chained to a political party for the rest of his life.

    Never mind all the speculation about whether Basil will remain the UUP or join Alliance. My money is on Basil declaring himself as an Independent Unionist at the next election.

  • DC

    Surely a shared future is not one that operates along exclusion/inclusion lines i.e. exclusion of the union flag leads to inclusion.

    I’d be prepared to give ground on a tricolour somewhere around Belfast City Hall if needs be in order to reinstate the union flag and share traditions properly.

  • Obelisk

    “I’d be prepared to give ground on a tricolour somewhere around Belfast City Hall if needs be in order to reinstate the union flag and share traditions properly”

    How about right next to the Union Jack on a flagpole at the front of the building, given equal place of honor? I don’t quite think a dusty corner somewhere in the building would cut it.

    When it comes to symbols, Nationalists must insist on offering two choices whenever we gain the numbers to force change.

    Equality or Neither.

  • DC

    @obelisk

    I’d be content with that if the public money was coming in from Ireland, or Britain scaled back its financial input and Ireland upped its 50:50 style.

    The Union flag deserves primacy simply because the union is the main financial backer of NI PLC.

    I don’t have any cultural superiority complex here, just looking to work something out that moves beyond exclusion/inclusion and that people here can work out a framework that processes bi-nationality, otherwise multiculturalism really will be a handful, if we can’t even deal with two ‘traditions’. Albeit I do appreciate that secessionist republican politics adds different and perhaps more potent, more spicy ingredients, into the cultural mix, than say economic, migrant-based multiculturalism. And the same with unionist culture, bringing its own problematic background to the table for debate.

    But still, something must be done to make headway. I believe side-stepping this and trying to prop up a regional identity by letting britishness wither on the vine is a real kop-out. The two traditions need to come to accommodation so that Northern Irishness if you like can also develop among the two, overtake it in the end if it so happens to work out that way.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Keano10 is right that at this point in time, he is more likely to become an Ind Unionist than an Alliance member (Conservative is hardly a winning ticket).
    But any label is understandably linked to the chance of success at the next Election. That puts the ball in the Alliance court, where Trevor Lunn is well into his sixties. I’d expect Basil McCrea who has supporters in UUP, admirers in Conservative, Alliance and independent circles might want to talk to them….or take soundings as they say.
    Alliance is in a position to throw him a lifeline….which would be a short term boost for them. Even with two runners in Lagan Valley next time, he would have the profile to retain the Alliance seat while his running mate (balanced ticket in gender/religious terms) would be content with getting on the ballot paper.
    How that plays out between Alliance HQ and Alliance in Lagan Valley would be interesting.

  • otto

    Interesting that no nationalist council seems to have chosen your equality option. Seems nationalist councils would rather lose the Tricolour than fly the Butcher’s Apron.

  • otto

    That was for obelisk btw.

  • GEF

    If Basil McCrea does not resign from the UUP it seems obvious to me he will be de selected by Lagan Valley UUP members prior to the next MLA election May 2015. He should take a lead from David McClarty who was de selected last election and stand as a independent this time round.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Sensible stuff from Basil again. It sounds like he is trying to be a little bit conciliatory to his party, which if anything makes it a bit harder for Nesbitt to twist the knife.

    FJH, as I’ve said before, all sorts of tricky things to sort out with persuading someone like Basil to join, but on balance it would be mutually beneficial if he did. But if I were betting I’d say it’s more likely that he’ll be independent, or he’ll set up his own party.

  • carnmoney.guy

    comrade stalin
    ‘ trying to be conciliatory ‘

    Maybe the £43k salary and £40k expenses were a consideration?

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Your-MLAs/Members-Salaries-and-Expenses/Members-Expenses-2012-2013/

  • keano10

    I guess it would be wise not to heap too many eulogies upon Basil.

    At the end of the day Basil is a politician ( just like all the rest of them). Basil will most likely take the route which ensures re-election at the next election.

  • Obelisk

    “Interesting that no nationalist council seems to have chosen your equality option. Seems nationalist councils would rather lose the Tricolour than fly the Butcher’s Apron.”

    I have a suspicion such an act would stir up an almighty hornet’s nest we could all do without. Best to have parity agreed after all than imposed, otherwise there would be endless pickets, protests, legal challenges. But I don’t seriously believe it will happen. Unionists consent to the tricolour? It’ll never happen.

    So neither it is. Which is sad. I don’t think cultural nihilism is a particularly edifying solution but it’s the only one that will fit with a society as divided as ours.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin….indeed. We have been here before since the failure of the Tory-UUP coalition in 2010.
    There are essentially two problems …and satisfying the talent/ambition of ex UUP people and the loyalty/ambition of people who are long standing Alliance people who have worked as political and personal assistants and who might reasonably have expected to be nominated for a winnable seat…..is I think the lesser of the two.
    The party changing direction from constitutional agnosticism to positive unionism…..perhaps pragmatic or status quo rather than emotional or tribal…..that’s a bigger challenge.

  • Comrade Stalin

    carnmoney guy :

    Doubt it’s that kind of consideration, Basil would win back his seat by himself in any case.

    FJH :

    Your theories about Alliance staffers arguing like a bunch of ferrets in a sack over an incoming MLA who, despite any reservations, is an experienced politician with a personal vote and who would effectively gift the party a second seat in LV sound rather like wishful thinking. It is public knowledge that this is how things play in the SDLP in recent years, but I don’t think APNI types are that stupid these days.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Oh hardly ferrets.
    A second seat…certainly possible. And if AP actually handle it right a nice dilemma to have….but a dilemma.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A dilemma it is. Basil is the sort of chap who likes to make his own mark.

  • Gopher

    I think Basil is making a grab for the purple, if it dont come off he loses nothing. Fair play to him he has to test the UUP water before he jumps or is pushed.

  • keano10

    Lads,

    I think Basil may have been elevated to a position of moral custodian of the masses without due justification.

    For all of the hype, Basil is still tugging his forelock towards his party leadership.

    If he truly had the balls and moral compass which many of you have suggested, then he would have walked out of the UUP long before the New Year. He did’nt though. Maybe he is’nt the worthy of some of the credit which has been directed upon him.

    (Just saying like…)

  • Framer

    Cde Stalin – you are wise enough to know, and it seems you do, that McCrea is the last thing the Alliance Party needs – another undisciplined Unionist of whom you have had rather too many of late.
    He has disrespected the UUP too much, the party which enabled him and gave him his salary. That is all now over.

  • Gopher

    @keano10

    Basil needs a party to be effective if he can oust Nesbitt, It seems to me like he is asking the UUP to choose its direction his way or the DUP way. If he loses he has lost nothing and can strike out on his own. What he is doing is the smart play.

  • Comrade Stalin

    keano10, in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, sort of. Basil stands apart from a very bad bunch. It’s all relative.

    Framer, undisciplined unionists do very well in other parties. One is a successful DUP MP, another is a successful DUP Minister in the executive. Another is a high profile DUP MLA in North Down.

  • ThomasMourne

    Cuddly, ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’ Basil doesn’t seem too bothered about remaining in a sectarian party.

  • Ruarai

    Basil’s statement is fascinating and clever.

    He’s making the issue about his future – quite rightly, in my view – not about himself but about the UUP’s commitment to the Belfast Agreement and even to serious politics, i.e. reality.

    He’s saying: I am the pro-Agreement UUP, I’ve remained consistent; ditch me and you’re effectively saying you’ve given up on the Agreement and would rather return to “Ulster Says: Shit, what’s going on around here?!”

    He’s setting himself up as an acid test of:

    1. The UUP’s commitment to the Agreement
    2. The UUP’s commitment to engage in serious politics, starting with distinguishing itself from the DUP.
    3. The UUP’s ability to play a leadership role in society (an implicit criticism of its current leadership, of course)

    Some people argue that Basil is better off in the Alliance Party. I hope not. NI needs serious people – reality-based people- in the main parties. NI needs people who can lead through persuasion and truth-telling – but people who have a community to lead.

    NI needs Basil leading a grown-up UUP.

  • MrPMartin

    I’m an admirer of Basil but I am bitterly disappointed at his decision. It was one I sadly expected however. He dithered and when one looks at the history of political dithering , the status quo and stagnation are the order of the day

    What future does he seriously consider having in the UUP if someone progressive and sensible like McAllister only gets 20% of the party vote against Nesbitt? Would Basil fare any better in a party that’s mostly constituted by political recidivists from culchie land who are waiting for the second coming of Carson and Craig who see a quixotic vision of Carson when in fact it’s only a rickety old windmill such as Empy/Elliot/Nesbitt?

    Basil, challenge your “leadership” and your party otherwise leave and set up your own liberal unionist movement

    An opportunity missed by one of the few unionists who have political and emotional intelligence

  • GEF

    Rather than resign Basil is probably waiting for the UUP to dismiss him. Either way he is toast “Ulster Unionist Party sharks circle Basil McCrea as outspoken MLA faces a motion of no confidence from his own branch”

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ulster-unionist-party-sharks-circle-basil-mccrea-as-outspoken-mla-faces-a-motion-of-no-confidence-from-his-own-branch-16257600.html#ixzz2H5ykKZA7

  • MrPMartin

    As an aside, are these mentions of “flag as offensive” a voting button on the flags issue or just a means of citing a particular comment as offensive?

  • galloglaigh

    Basil’s doing the right thing here. As GEF says, he’s waiting to be dismissed. He’s gone over party policy, and has taken his current stance on that. Just as Alliance did on the flag vote. When Basil goes to the hearing, and when Mike compromises his position within the party, he has a stronger case for support than someone who abandoned his party.

    The time is right for Basil McCrea, as mentioned above, to set up a liberal wing of unionism. The appetite is there, perhaps from within both ‘communities’. Basil has more chance of Catholics voting for him, than Peter or Mike put together.

    Go for it Basil, for N.Ireland and her people.

  • DC

    Personally I think Basil’s a bit of a prat, but he does come across well in that he talks well about what he thinks is right for the future.

    But still, I am not sure he will be much use to the unionist cause in the face of a very conservative nationalist alliance of SDLP and SF.

    He is probably better off in Alliance but think maybe he knows that there are ‘known unknowns’ as to future electability under an Alliance ticket, as the fall out from the flag remains to be seen, how will it work out come next election? Who knows, blowing in the wind me thinks.

    He could stand under an Alliance ticket and lose – and be like IJP and myself, talking shared futures from our bedrooms!!

  • galloglaigh

    DC

    Maybe he could join the PUP? He’d be the only progressive they have mind you, giving them once an for all a progressive voice.

  • DC

    Progressive is an abused word, i don’t find the constitutional flag coming down as a result of a culture war that progressive, which Alliance and Basil seem to support, Lisburn it came down using the spirit of generosity and consensus, done in the spirit of good relations – totally different and good call.

    Now, re the PUP, it would be seen as progressive in my eyes if it can successfully get working class unionists and loyalists into politics, politicised and working for change via democratic, constitutional politics. A different sort of progress but extremely valuable all the same. More progressive than Basil’s nice talk, media performances re shared future, which tickles the middle classes fancy for being ‘level headed’ but ultimately doesn’t deal with those that are against such a move and are prone to violence because such people think that no one listens to them etc.

    In terms of long-term meaningful progress, the two traditions need to sit down and moderate positions, own these new positions together, do confidence building and problem solving – not problem seeking.

    Submitting motions to remove the flag completely is far off the mark from ‘moderating’ – and accepting the Alliance motion is not ‘owning the compromise’ either, as it wasn’t proposed by Nationalists and political Unionists voted against.

  • David Crookes

    Consider a purely hypothetical case for a moment. On Monday afternoon a politician of moderate ability either leaves his party, or is expelled from it.

    On Tuesday morning he will still be a politician of moderate ability. He will not have become overnight a mixture of Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, and Davd Lloyd George.

  • galloglaigh

    DC

    Progressive is indeed an abused word, especially when put in front of a Unionist Party that is linked to armed terrorist drug gang, who are attacking democracy, the PSNI, and elected politicians.

    Until they shake off these armed drug gangs and their criminality, they will never successfully get working class unionists and loyalists into politics; politicised and working for change via democratic constitutional politics.

    That’s why very few people vote for them. It’s as simple as that. No amount of Branston Pickle makes spam sandwiches taste taste like a Ploughman’s…

  • DC

    Well you may be right, but i’d say it being ‘centre-left’ is as big a kiss of death as political advisor to UVF (the centre-left is an admirable thing to me); however, re advisor to terrorists, not that such a link hindered SF in any way…

    I would imagine that new members will be joining as a result of the flag protest, probably putting more pressure on the PUP to ethnicize its policy than socialise, if you know what i mean.

  • galloglaigh
  • DC
  • galloglaigh

    DC

    Sinn Fein were a fringe party before they decommissioned. They are now committed to peace, unlike the PUP/UVF. Or indeed the DUP for that matter. Let’s not forget, a majority of unionists rejected the peace negotiations and the GFA. While the PUP/UVF did at the time, I would guess that that was because of prisoner release, and more drug profits and racketeering. It is clear from recent UVF violence (as recent as last night), the PUP/UVF are as far away from a peace strategy, than we are of knowing when pigs will fly.

  • DC

    Never mind – the union flag is up in Dublin!

  • galloglaigh

    And your link shows the maturity of nationalist and republican Ireland, when Dubliner’s aren’t on the streets attacking democracy, elected representatives, and An Garda Síochána. Unlike the PUP/UVF et al…

  • DC

    I know, 6 months longer in Dublin than it gets in Belfast – world has gone f**king mad!

    Dublin = 6 months, roughly 180 days.
    Belfast = 15 days per year.

    180/15 = 12 years’ worth of union flag flying in Dublin!!!

    The Irish Government, beautiful gesture, beautiful!

  • DC

    Given the Union Flag cannot fly daily on any public building with regional importance in NI that means Dublin is the only place the British flag is flying in Ireland!!!

  • galloglaigh

    DC

    You’re trying to spin this, without taking in the context of why it’s flying. It’s not been flown alongside the Tricolour alone, but with all the other 27 flags of EU member states. That’s a wee bit different to the situation in Belfast, as is indeed the public reaction (or lack of) in Dublin.

    The flag’s not coming back 365 days a year, move on with your life. Or indeed you could move to Dublin for six months, and take your PUP/UVF friends with you?

  • galloglaigh

    that means Dublin is the only place the British flag is flying in Ireland!!!

    Have you not been up the Shankill this week? The PUP/UVF, along with their UPV/BNP comrades, have put up hundreds of ‘British’ flags, including those of the PUP’s drug dealing friends, the UVF?

  • DC

    A large Union flag is now flying out-side Dublin city council’s Wood Quay headquarters

    Now, corrrect me if i am wrong, but there’s no Union Flag in NI’s capital city – Belfast.

    So that means it is now flying daily in Dublin only.

  • galloglaigh

    You’re quite correct DC, and like I said, either get over it, or move to Dublin :)

  • DC

    but with all the other 27 flags of EU member states.

    I took it to mean that the Union Flag is being flown beside EU flag and will be 1 of 27 that will be flown like that?

    Not flown beside all 27?

  • galloglaigh

    Well I’m glad you’re on the ball DC, thanks again. We all make mistakes, just ask your new buddy Billy :)

  • DC

    I will pass this great news on to Billy, but only after i make an internet purchase of an ‘I love Dublin’ t-shirt.

  • galloglaigh

    Knock yourself out, but wouldn’t you be afraid walking past a PUP/UVF protest or riot, given they might take you for a taig?

  • DC

    OK – I heart Dublin – plus image of Union Flag on Dublin council, need to contextualise!

  • galloglaigh
  • DC

    OK, here is my approach re the flags and to community relations – the politics should be: to improve, not remove.

    This means the tricolour and nationalist traditions come onto the table for debate along with the union flag etc and people improve the outlook of both within each community through a positive interaction via democratic politics.

    Tricolour somewhere in BCC and the Union Flag back up for longer than 15 days?

  • galloglaigh

    Tricolour beside the Union flag, or no Union flag at all.

    You can’t have it both ways DC, and it’s too late for compromise: 200 years too late…

  • DC

    I was thinking more along the lines of it being in a Good Friday Agreement garden? (The DUP can add into this garden St Andrews etc.)

  • galloglaigh

    Na, wouldn’t wash I’m afraid. Unionism had it’s chance to share, Jesus they’ve had over 200 years. Now they’ll be forced to share, or they’ll get none.

  • DC

    FU bigot, I’m off to Dublin.

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

    DC.
    No need to be unpleasant.
    Meanwhile, in the real world, the ex UUP leader is excited about another manifestation of democratic change that political unionism has not prepared it’s electorate for:
    http://www.impartialreporter.com/news/roundup/articles/2013/01/03/399361-irish-graphics-on-council-vehicles-raise-concerns–/
    Enjoy your day in Dublin btw ;-)

  • DC

    Well I don’t care about what other parties say or do, my modus operandi from now on is to improve, not remove.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, No Surrender Women and I are going to Dublin to study this flag on Dublin Council.

  • carl marks

    For the first time a unionist leader has come out with a strong condemnation of violence (has Mike made any comparable statements?) now will this be Pete’s Masserene moment, it depends will his party follow him.
    What will he do if any MPs, MLAs, councillors, activists join the protests will the party discipline them. The DUP thought they had a way to damage Alliance so out came the leaflets, they hoped for street protests perhaps a bit of rioting maybe invite the organisers to tea and sandwiches at the Stormont Hotel calmed the whole thing down, Damage Alliance and maybe get Pete his seat back.
    But he didn’t factor in Nick Griffin’s desire to gain a foothold in the north I don’t think they expected the UPV/BNP to appear out of nowhere and take the initiative, His signals have been confused members of his party turned up at protests when he seemed to be calling for an end to them at that point we got the old right to protest guff.
    There is every chance that some DUP people will be at future protests what will Pete do, how will the DUPs backwoodsmen react if he enforces discipline, failure to call any member who attends a protest (remember he stated that they are being organised by those trying to remove his party from its position as the Leader of unionism) will be seen as weakness something no leader can afford.
    A trap was set for Alliance they dodged it and Pete walked into one set for him by the BNP.
    This may well be the biggest mistake of his career?

  • Obelisk

    “Tricolour somewhere in BCC and the Union Flag back up for longer than 15 days?”

    Again DC, while you are at least more open minded on this topic than many Unionist politicians, I’m afraid this won’t wash.

    Sticking the tricolour up in some corrner of Belfast City Hall while the Union Flag flies in pride of place where everyone can see is no solution, as one is clearly superior to the other.

    Yes the argument is put forth that the Union Jack SHOULD have pride of place as it is the flag of the country the north is currently a part of and you know what? Without Unionist consent to parity of treatment, their case would simply be too strong. The de facto constitutional position means that without reciprocity, the tricolour isn’t going up next to the Union flag.

    And that is why the flag is down for all but fifteen days of the year. And if Belfast ever becomes majority Nationalist on the Council, that is why the flag will come down permanently.

    We can’t force Unionism to afford our culture parity of esteem. I wish we could convince them. Instead, we participate in this game of cultural nihilism.

    To demonstrate that if our culture and our symbols aren’t going to be accorded, where even the mere display of an Irish word on a letterhead or on the side of a council van offends certain people or the presumed presence of a tricolour is enough to get a school labelled as a terrorist training camp.

    How else can we get you get to see our flag is as important to us as your flag is to you? The same flag burned on bonfires every July in an event we are told to accept as ‘legitimate political protest’.

    How can Unionist politicians demand we respect their symbols, and their institutions and all their paraphenalia when all they want to do is sit and denigrate everything that is Irish. Even the Irish language is derided as a ‘leprechaun language’.

    Tell me DC, for you seem a reasonable man. Tell me how you would feel if you were me. Tell me why I should offer respect to the Orange Order and to the British Flag and to everything that is dear to the PUL community whilst they would happily march over my flag and grind it into the dirt.
    Tell me why I should give credence to people who say ‘we give all and they give nothing’ when on this issue, Unionism has to do all the giving because it has all to give.

    Don’t Unionist politicians realise that when they attack us for ‘eroding their culture’ we feel nothing because they have always treated my culture with less than contempt?

    And why, now that the boot is on the other foot, should we treat what Unionism holds dear with more courtesy than they have ever treated the corresponding symbols of the Irish Nationalism in the North?

    Good community relations? That we should strive to be better than what went before. We should strive to be better, and to behave better than what went before.

    When the PUL community works through their angst at not being a majority anymore, when they recognise they live in a pluralistic state where the other side that at this point is co-eval in size to them, when they’re willing to give up 50% of the public space Unionist symbols currently occupy so that the Nationalists can feel some sense of ownership then maybe we will be ready to discuss flags and symbols and meanings. But until then, may all the Union flags come down where we can manage it because the state that was carved out for Unionism isn’t there personal fiefdom. Not anymore.

  • Obelisk

    “For the first time a unionist leader has come out with a strong condemnation of violence now will this be Pete’s Masserene moment”

    I don’t believe Martin McGuinness indulged in homophobia in his Masserene moment. Might have distracted from the importance of the moment if he called the perpetrators “traitors to Ireland, hell-bent on implementing the gay agenda”.

  • Zig70

    I don’t really understand what Basil expected from the UUP. Did he never read Irish history? The SDLP suffered from getting into bed with the UUP’s toxic brand after the GFA and It seems fairly apparent there are good souls in the UUP but they have never really put any distance between themselves and the discrimination that was a large factor to the troubles.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Obelisk, I thought it was very revealing “you better stop this or they’ll let the fags get married”. It’s an insight into what kind of message Peter Robinson thinks will invigorate his base.

  • carl marks

    Obelisk
    read the rest of my post,
    “it depends will his party follow him.
    What will he do if any MPs, MLAs, councillors, activists join the protests will the party discipline them. The DUP thought they had a way to damage Alliance so out came the leaflets, they hoped for street protests perhaps a bit of rioting maybe invite the organisers to tea and sandwiches at the Stormont Hotel calmed the whole thing down, Damage Alliance and maybe get Pete his seat back.”

    And please I don’t understand the Homophobia thing (I’m not the quickest) would you be so good as to explain it please?

  • carl marks

    Sorry got it now.

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

    Obelisk,
    Well said. CS. You’re an annoying fella for an Alliance head. I’ts hard to disagree with you as usual. Spot on.

  • southernrhodesia

    Basil McCrea impresses me.

  • Jack2

    CS :
    “Obelisk, I thought it was very revealing “you better stop this or they’ll let the fags get married”. It’s an insight into what kind of message Peter Robinson thinks will invigorate his base.”

    The gay community is being openly victimised and vilified by the establishment. They have a lot more reason to protest than the knuckle draggers who don’t like the results of a democratic vote.

    Imagine if some gay people started blocking the roads with rainbow banners. A far more reasonable protest than the flag idiots.
    #fegs

  • Barry the Blender

    Imagine if some gay people started blocking the roads with rainbow banners. A far more reasonable protest than the flag idiots.

    Quite a good analogy there. Two groups of people so narrowly focused on issues which clearly affect the day to day life of no-one whatsoever

  • Obelisk

    “Quite a good analogy there. Two groups of people so narrowly focused on issues which clearly affect the day to day life of no-one whatsoever”

    If only Peter were as determined to thwart the flag protesters as he is to stop two gay people from enjoying equal rights.

  • Red Lion

    Bangordub at 5.49

    Perhaps yo can you tell what the pointis of equality impact assessments?? They seem to be taken very seriously in Belfast by republican/nationalists like yourself, but not at all in Newry or Fermanagh, again by republicans/nationalists like yourself. Can you not see the annoyance there (though by God it does not justify any violence whatsoever).

    Thank God for the PSNI here in innner east Belfast. They are the one ‘movement’ above all that have stood up and been counted yet again, talk about sticking your head above the parapet, whilst simultaneously being shot at.

    Unionism needs Basil and John to step forward more now than ever before. The need for such an influence grows daily.

  • Obelisk

    “Can you not see the annoyance there (though by God it does not justify any violence whatsoever).”

    I’m not Bangordub but I’d like to respond. What happened in Newry with the Play Park, and in Dungannon with the call for release of the man who attempted to murder Sammy Brush are indefensible acts by both Nationalist parties. I’m ashamed they did them. And I’m sorry for the hurt these actions caused the victims.

  • galloglaigh

    I can second Obelisk’s comment above. Not in my name!

  • Red Lion

    Good comment at 12.17 above, obelisk

  • Framer

    “Unlike some in the party, I was not born an Ulster Unionist, I chose to become one. I have stayed with the party through thick and thin.”
    This is the statement of someone who only joined the UUP eight years ago and has been in receipt of pudding in large quantities on election to the Assembly.
    When were the thin days?
    I pity the foot soldiers fighting hopeless elections decade after decade.

  • Progressive Unionist

    What I like most about Basil is the way he’s sticking to his principles, despite everything the hardliners in the UUP are throwing at him. It’s disgraceful the way he’s basically being forced out of a party, just because he’s standing up to the way Mike Nesbitt is trying to stealth-merge the party into the DUP.

    If McCrea and McCallister do end up being forced out of the UUP, they should form a new progressive-minded unionist party – one committed to a shared future.

    Such a grouping would attract many who’ve been alienated by the UUP’s lurch to the hardline right since 2005, not least the thousands upon thousands of unionist non-voters out there.

    They could easily end up eclipsing the rump of the traditionalist UUP in the next Assembly election, especially east of the Bann. Between them they are much more attractive to ‘reality-based’ unionists than the rest of the UUP put together!

  • galloglaigh

    PU

    Wouldn’t it be great if Basil did form a new group, or better still joined the Alliance Party, and took Robinson’s Stormont seat in East Belfast?

    Now that would be one memorable election victory for future history students to ponder over.

    I’d like to congratulate RedLion by the way for the comment last night. You’re one of a few unionists on Slugger who has spoken for the true decent unionist people. I salute you for that. Unionism needs people like you to stand up and be counted!

  • Comrade Stalin

    redlion

    It depends on what the EQIA says. Unionists are quoting rather selectively from the one that was done in Belfast. That EQIA shows that public opinion was very divided on the whole flags policy and that there was significant public support for flying a tricolour either by itself or alongside the union flag. I’d say the policy now adopted at Belfast pays rather more close attention to the EQIA than the policy it replaced.

    Ignoring an EQIA outright carries the risk of legal action. Councillors are held liable for any legal decision which goes south if it was taken in contravention of legal advice. It was very convenient in Belfast that the DUP were a minority and were therefore not put in that position.

    PU,

    Agreed. I don’t think Mike Nesbitt is aware that he is putting his party on a footing to merge with the DUP. I think Peter is pretending to be his helpful pal.

    Starting up a political party is damn hard, and being a small party is similarly damn hard. You need finance and very committed people. I’d wish Basil and John all the best in that endeavour but there’s a lot more to it than registering with the electoral office.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Wouldn’t it be great if Basil did form a new group, or better still joined the Alliance Party, and took Robinson’s Stormont seat in East Belfast?

    That’s some crazy talk right there. The DUP are not going to disappear overnight. It’s still very hard to say whether or not this flags business has been a net victory for them. We won’t know that for a while yet.

  • BluesJazz

    There will not be an election in East Belfast for another 2 years. A lot can happen in that time. The UUP could be swallowed up. More importantly there will be a cut in the block grant, even if the Tories don’t get a majority. East Belfast will be an irrelevance to the rest of the country anyway.
    Whatever happened to the DUP’s ‘working class east belfast MLA’ Sammy Douglas?
    Is he in Tenerife with the rest of our born again politicians?

  • Gopher

    @CS
    As far as Westminster goes I fear it East Belfast is gone.

    The problem for Alliance is the SDLP is clinging onto seats for grim life so it even if their voters transfer there is no guarantee a/ the Alliance guy is not already out and b/ The SDLP guy just scrapes home and has not much to transfer.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BJ – you’ve been sniffing the diesel again I see.

    Gopher, it is very hard to call East Belfast for anyone, certainly from this far out.

  • BluesJazz

    At least Alliance can say they were against gay marriage .

    And there’s how Naomi has dramatically reduced unemployment in her constiuency. And Alliance, in the executive, will be voting to block Osborne’s cuts in benefits to 1%, just like they did with the public sector pay freeze.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BJ, are you still advocating the “let’s have more dead pensioners” policy ?

  • BluesJazz

    Lost me there CS, unless it’s an anti-Tory jibe.

    Naomi has made no more difference to EB than if David Vance had been elected. That’s true of most non Coalition Govt constituencies I know., but I guess the people of EB know her constituency work. I’m not a DUP voter but I know what Jim Shannon has done locally.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BJ, a month or so back you said that the winter fuel payment should be stopped and pensioners should be just allowed to die.

  • BluesJazz

    Means tested.
    And there was context. Welfare is way out of control.

    My views would be similar to IDS.

    Off thread, Is Naomi going to vote against the Government on 1% benefit increase for next 3 years or not?