UUP: facing reality at last

Alex Kane is relatively upbeat about his party’s prospects after its first racour free Conference for years, and an admittance from its Chair that it has been punching below its weight. He also thinks that DUP will prefer to do a deal on the return of Stormont in advance of next year’s Assembly elections!

By Alex Kane

The Ulster Unionist conference went much better than many people had predicted. Numbers were up on last year and there was a much more convivial atmosphere. David Burnside’s lonely walkout had the impact of a snowflake landing on a roasting Aga. It’s not so much a case of the party regarding him as a dissident, as that it’s entirely indifferent to him. He has no power base and poses no threat.

The most interesting speech of the day was from Party Chairman, James Cooper. He acknowledged that the party had had “a difficult year,” admitted that the media wing was undermanned and underfunded, accepted that election campaigns had been fought almost on the hoof, that election results had been poor and that the party had “punched below our weight.”

I use the word interesting, for this is the first time that a senior member of the leadership team has, in public, (the press was present for his speech) owned up to the scale of the problems that the party has faced. This column has devoted many, many words, to these same problems over the past year, and been rebuked in Cunningham House for so doing. It is good to know, at long last, that the party is ready to drop the pretence and face reality.

I have never doubted either the willingness or the ability of the UUP to get back on its feet and continue fighting for its core beliefs. There is a huge, untapped pool of pro-Union support, which can be won over to the party if it is reached out to and presented with policies which have a direct impact on everyday life for everyday unionists.

The party has won the constitutional battle and secured the Union. It’s legacy is firm. It made the right decisions and never lacked political courage. It must now stop worrying about the DUP and, instead, get on with the business of making itself a modern and fully effective political and election machine.

And, talking about the DUP, how will they handle their first deal-breaking test? Will they sign up to the British/Irish proposals within the next few days, or hang tough and see if they can squeeze a little more? I have always taken the view that the DUP would do a deal with Sinn Fein, and I also believe that they would rather do it this side of the local and general elections.

There is, of course, the limit-the-risks option, in which the DUP would continue to play hardball, hope to increase their lead at the next elections and then do a deal – knowing that there would then be at least two years before the next election. But there is a danger in that option. We know that the next elections (definitely for local government) will take place next May, eighteen months after an Assembly election in which the DUP had promised a “Fairer Deal.” What, exactly, would the DUP say on the doorsteps? “Look, we haven’t delivered the deal yet, but it’s all Trimble’s fault, so give us another few months of salaries for doing nothing.”

No, I suspect that the DUP would love to enter an election, asking people to endorse the deal and increase their mandate. From what I have seen, and conversations I have had with both sides, I think we are now looking at a deal sooner rather than later.

If that is the case, then the UUP will have to prepare itself for an extraordinarily difficult election. But, as it proved in Wednesday’s by-election in Larne, if it picks the right candidate and campaigns hard, it can still beat a triumphalist DUP.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 20th November 2004

  • Peter Brown

    “a difficult year,”
    the party had “punched below our weight.”

    Alex to say this does not represent “the first time that a senior member of the leadership team has, in public, (the press was present for his speech) owned up to the scale of the problems that the party has faced” – as you know as well as I do and as you told our Divisional AGM last year all JC has done is to admit that the tip of the iceberg exists but not actually set about tackling even it never mind the other more substantial hidden problems. This is, with apologies to Ringland and Co, one small step in the right direction – maybe next may we will move forward in leps and bounds but only after the impact of the election results

  • barnshee

    Whistle in the dark as much as you like the prods have moved to the DUPS and the harder the DUPS play the better the prods like it

  • fair_deal

    Alex may think he is seeing light at the end of the tunnel but I fear as Terry Pratchett would say that light is a flamethrower.

    Something had to be said about the previous year. From what I have seen of the other speeches there does not seem to be serious self-assessment and new visioning going on e.g. Trimble’s twisted argument that Unionist voters won’t return more DUP MP’s because the DUP isnt liked at Westminster seemed liked desperate reasoning to me.

    Lack of planning? The UUP had conducted (in NI terms) extensive polling and focus group work prior to the May/June Assembly elections. This research was the basis of their five policy pledges (although worthy they were just not what the election was about). They should have had enough notice of the upcoming Assembly election as they were in the talks. The lack of planning may have been because of Trimble. He kept insisting that any Assembly election would be in March 05(another great insight).

    Undermanning? The DUP didn’t have a big team. They had a message and a plan and they followed it. The UUP have had a high throughput of usually talented people – the reason they leave is they get fed up being ignored by a lethargic and insular-looking officer team. Their electoral broadcasts in some of the previous elections have been among the best produced (Assembly election excluded). Also Trimble rates Stephen King too highly to downgrade his role in elections (despite his abysmal track record).

    Underfunding the issue? The SDLP and UUP have been amongst the heaviest spenders and it didnt do them much good. You cannot buy your way to electoral victory e.g. Ross Perot.

    Undermanning? No. Underfunding? No Planning? Maybe. How’s about a bad/poor/confused (delete as you find appropriate) or mistrusted message will not be supported by the electorate no matter how many staff, money or planning you have?

    The UUP present behaviour reminds me of the criticism of the Democratic Party. After each defeat they talk to themsleves and rather than come up with genuine answers reinforce their own prejudices that got them chinned in the first place.

    I agree with him on the DUP wanting an early deal. Pretty much everything the DUP has done post Assembly election has been identify the pitfalls the UUP went into or dug for themselves and avoid them. One of those pitfalls was running in an election with a firm position then cutting a dodgy deal right afterwards. Always better to advocate to your electorate than try to hide or deceive.

    I’m not sold on this if the DUPs have nothing by May the electorate will be unhappy. If the DUP are seen to be trying that will be enough this time around (although not in an election after that). They are also ways they can use such a situation to strengthen their mandate.

    I’ve debated previously with Alex about this untapped pool of voters before and will not repeat the arguments again.

  • Stephen Warke

    We are all forgetting about the DUP’s problems with its grassroots.

    We are dealing with those who in principle have a serious problem with those from another persuasion in Government – we are dealing with hardline bigots.

    I accept Peter Robinson is pragmatic, indeed I welcome that but his problem over the next 10days is to bring his party with him.

    Will he do it? will he not?

    We all wait in anticipation!!!

  • Stephen Warke

    Lets also not forget, its not about doing a deal thats on the minds of those in the DUP.

    It’s about power, money, ministerial cars and the trappings of office…

    Thats what really matters to those inside the DUP

  • Sherlock

    Stephen,

    You write; “We are dealing with those who in principle have a serious problem with those from another persuasion in Government…”

    The DUP hopped across that barrier in December 1999 when they accepted their posts on the Executive and on all of the Assembly Committees. Sharing power with SF is not their difficulty, for even the Old Testament wing has accepted that power-sharing is the price of devolution.

    The question for those who oppose Robinson is exactly the same as that of those who opposed Trimble in the UUC showdowns: What is their alternative?

    Robinson has a much tighter grip on the DUP than Trimble had on the UUP. And do the fundamentalists want to destabilise the party, knowing that such a move would play into Trimble’s hands? There are tensions in the DUP, but I wouldn’t overestimate their extent or effect. Yes, there may be rumblings in the grassroots, but, unlike the UUP, there aren’t as many platforms and vehicles for “dissidents” to manipulate and orchestrate opposition.

    The DUP isn’t going to implode on this issue.

    Also, I wouldn’t keep trotting out the power, money, inisterial cars and trappings of office mantra. It was used against us between 1998 and 2002 and it is offensive.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • jonty

    Lets remember in 1998 the agreement was between the UUP and the SDLP, now it is the DUP and Sinn Fein.

    The DUPes will have trouble selling a DUP/IRA coalition to its grassroots.

  • Will

    Stephen
    “We are all forgetting about the DUP’s problems with its grassroots.”

    Why is it we always hear about these mythical problems but no-one can actually produce any evidence to back their claims up? Lets face it, everyone loved painting Ian Paisley as the big roaring monster who always said ‘NO’ – anyone watch the news tonight? Looks to me like he’s ready and willing to do a deal (some might even say enthusiastic), a good deal that is. All the talk of Peter Robinson dragging along the DUP towards this deal seems a little shallow when you hear comments like that.

    “We are dealing with those who in principle have a serious problem with those from another persuasion in Government – we are dealing with hardline bigots”

    Wake up! Its not the 1970’s any more. I notice you use the phrase “from another persuasion”. If you think that any serious unionist party is in a place where they “wouldnt have a fenian about the place” then you really need to go and have a lie down.

    This is a party which has advocated a Voluntary Coalition with the SDLP. Its not about sharing power with nationalists, its about ensuring that you only share power with democrats. This goes back to a point often made about many in the UUP – if you dont recognise your own problems and cant make any realistic assessment of your opponents then you havent got the slightest chance of working your way out of the problems you are in. People think that the DUP live in the past but it seems that many Ulster Unionists are quite content to belive in an image of the DUP which to most of us vanished many years ago.

    “It’s about power”
    I’m actually someone who thinks that a party shouldnt be ashamed of seeking power. After all, is that not how a party gets is vision and its policies actually implemented? Why should a unionist party not seek power? I have to congratulate Alex for his comments on this – none of the ‘trappings of office’ arguments apply in isolation – all of the ‘big’ parties can be tarred with that stick (some people would be unkind enough to say that you couldnt have got Reg Empey out of office in the old Assembly with a tyre iron).

  • stephen nicholl

    Alex

    “The question for those who oppose Robinson is exactly the same as that of those who opposed Trimble in the UUC showdowns: What is their alternative?”

    The difficulty is that for those who opposed Trimble what is now on offer from the DUP is the alternative they sought and were told by trimble was unachievable and now in the dup they have helped achieve.

    If the Dup do a deal then many aspects of it will satisfy unionist voters not least the garden centre prod that Alex craves for. People like to be associated with success rather than failure and £1bn would be a hell of a sweetener. To many people a party that has to beg opponents to step aside and for fringe parties to join us has a defeatist attitude.

    The question for us as a party is what will our position be. Certainly as a party we could not claim that we would have held out for more.

    While Trimble refused to engage in any discussion on structures re the review and claimed the dup were letting the SF wriggle out of decommissioning we lost the potential to influence the debate. Note as Ulster Unionists we still do not know the details of what is on offer.

    What comes next we must take on the chin and we must begin to win back support by our own efforts and political professionalism. Gone are they days when we can influence politics by the political patronage of Prime Ministers or Presidents.

    While JC may begin to see the writing on the wall it is years to late and he least of all has any answers.

  • AndrewD

    The DUP want Ministerial seats and the luxuries that go along with them as do other Parties. Its funny what power can do to people.!

    If no deal is produced the whole Assembly goes with it, that means no £40,000 per year and no generous expense packages!

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Will, the problem is that he was the big monster who always said “no”, and he has apparently done a huge volte face without any explanation whatsoever. Did someone light a fire under his arse ? Personally I’m glad that he has seen sense, and while I’m not too happy with the way the deal is being done (or it’s long term prospects) I’m looking forward to supporting it as far as possible.

    Now that the £1bn is on the table I’m looking forward to the exchange of recriminations about how many prods versus how many taigs are getting to see the money …

  • ulsterman

    The Billion pound plan came from SF. Ulster will not be sold down the river.

    The DUP could not bring their grassroots with them if the only deal they get is what the UUP had. I certainly would not vote for a bunch of traitors.

    The DUP need to make sure that the lure of office does not blinker their judgement.

    God Save The Queen.

  • Butterknife

    What did Big Ian say: ‘This is the best opportunity … if we lose this then we lose everything’, or words to that effect. It appears to me that Paisley wants history to remember him as the peacemaker of Ulster politics. It is just a pity he caused 30 years of fear by forgetting his beatitudes.

  • Peter Brown

    No-one has as yet tackled Stephen nicholl’s point – any deal achieved by the DUP will satisfy the bottom line that the UUP conceded in 1999 – showing the DUp to be more pragmatic and professional than the DUp to moderates and mre trustworthy than the UUP to hardliners who will see that there was as many predicted no need to jump first. The difficulty is that althouigh in his penultimate paragraph Stephen asks all the right questions about the future of the UUP what are the answers? How can the UUP catch up now that it is decades behind the DUP interms of policy development and media handling? If as is becoming increasingly apparent there is an almost imperceptible difference in policy between the 2 main unionist parties, particularly after any deal why have 2 parties? The only thing preventing a merger post Christmas will be personalities and the fact that for the first time ever the UUP is negotiating as the weaker partner….

  • davidbrew

    I was at adinner recently which was addressed by the oleaginous George Mitchell who proceeded to patronise the audience with stories of how he had brought light to the unenlightened here. At our table was a former senior Unionist politician from the Stormont parliament. When I and my host declined to join in the sycophantic standing ovation for Mitchell this hitherto charming gentleman turned on us and hurled the most awful insult he could imagine at another member of the middle classes-“I suppose you’re…(shudder) a member of the DUP!”

    We had to inform him that he had indeed been happily socialising with those ghastly people,(obviously there under false pretences) and that in fact there were quite a lot of Unionists who now voted DUP-including some with a postgraduate education who knew how to use a knife and fork-which was obviously too much for this poor man who left shortly afterwards in a state of shock.

    The reason for boring you all with my social escapades is to point out the latent snobbery which is still so dominant in Ulster Unionism. It believes itself to be the natural party of Government, when it hasn’t governed for 32 years. It assumes that the DUP will drop the ball, that all DUP members are bigots and oafs, and that the electorate will be quick to turn on them when it realises it has been conned. That mindset can be encapsulated by the simple remark of my companion. It is a classic underestimation of one’s opponent , and it’s still at the heart of UUP policy. Look at the pitiful attempts by posters like jonty and rebecca to deny the bleeding obvious, such as the selection of a dud Strangford candidate.

    Recently there have been some statements from some in the DUP which come dangerously close to presuming the electorate is in the bag, but it is but a shadow of the UUP’s ingrained arrogance, and Peter Robinson is too shrewd to rest on previous performances. Equally James Cooper’s speech , while fine on paper, just doesn’t work, because-as we all know- James doesn’t really do humility. It’s as phony as John Kerry drinking a Bud and watching a game.

    The UUP is spending money hand over fist in every election. It’s doing all the things real political parties do, after years of muddling though on buttons. Yet the electorate has fallen out of love with the Trimble project, and just as in an old romance, it knows that it just makes no sense to try to rekindle the spark. 2005 will show-whatever deal the DUP comes up with- that the UUP has left the big stage. My dinner partner’s nightmare will have arived.The DUP is the broad church of Unionism; the people have passed the baton; and no amount of denial will alter that fact.

  • George

    Paisley certainly seemed up to a deal from what I’ve seen of him in the last few days and as he said himself, there was more on offer than he had honestly ever expected.

    You can look at this two ways:

    1. that SF realises it can’t bluff the DUP like it did the UUP or that the DUP is the better negotiator and has held out for a better deal.

    2. The deal was always there but the UUP was afraid to or incapable of cutting it because they are incapable of change more so than the DUP and/or thought they couldn’t sell it to the unionist electorate and would be overtaken by the DUP. The dithered and lost.

    I personally believe the latter is more likely.

    The DUP are intelligent, united and strong enough to push through the deal, which always was a victory for unionism.

  • willowfield

    barnshee

    Whistle in the dark as much as you like the prods have moved to the DUPS and the harder the DUPS play the better the prods like it

    Does negotiating with terrorists the implementation of an Agreement they previously denounced count as “playing hard”?

  • Peter Brown

    Willowfield wake up and smell the coffee – if the pundits are to be believed the DUP will achieve what the UUP was not so long ago was telling everyone including its own members was impossible – how are we going to explain that one to the electorate next May?

  • willowfield

    When did the UUP say implementing the Agreement was impossible?!

  • Butterknife

    Someone give me a reason to trust in this party?
    UUP

  • Peter Brown

    Different question Willowfield…where is the link between decommissioning and disbandment and the establishment of the Executive in The Agreement except as a figment of the UUP leadership’s imagination

  • davidbrew

    Someone give me a reason to trust in this party?

    well, there might be a peerage in it for you :0)

  • Will

    Butterknife,
    He’s obviously only did that to keep their former Chief Executive from feeling lonely! ;o)

  • willowfield

    Peter Brown

    Different question Willowfield…where is the link between decommissioning and disbandment and the establishment of the Executive in The Agreement except as a figment of the UUP leadership’s imagination

    There isn’t an explicit link, although it is a fundamental principle of the Agreement that participants must be committed to exclusively peaceful means?

    The UUP pursued this in the implementation. The DUP is continuing the work started by the UUP.

    Is the DUP going to change the Agreement and get this explicit link inserted? I look forward to the enabling legislation!

  • Peter Brown

    Maybe now that we have established that you can answer my original question – how have the DUp achieved the “impossible” (sic)?

  • Will

    willowfield
    “There isn’t an explicit link, although it is a fundamental principle of the Agreement that participants must be committed to exclusively peaceful means”

    And that allowed Sinn Fein to say that they were committed to peaceful means and were using their influence on the IRA, but had not been successful and then to go on and say that unionists needed to use their influence to… yada yada ad infinitum.

    “Is the DUP going to change the Agreement and get this explicit link inserted? I look forward to the enabling legislation!”

    The DUP arnt going to go into Government until decommissioning is completed. No Executive will be established until decommissioning and criminal/paramilitary activity has been dealt with – therefore there will be the link there. Trimble could have done that also- he said he would – but he went back on it. He failed.

  • willowfield

    Will

    And that allowed Sinn Fein to say that they were committed to peaceful means and were using their influence on the IRA, but had not been successful and then to go on and say that unionists needed to use their influence to… yada yada ad infinitum.

    Which the UUP didn’t accept. Neither did the DUP.

    Is the DUP going to get the Agreement and NI Act amended to make the link explicit?

    The DUP arnt going to go into Government until decommissioning is completed.

    Neither was or is the UUP.

    No Executive will be established until decommissioning and criminal/paramilitary activity has been dealt with – therefore there will be the link there.

    That was the same position the UUP held. The only difference was that the UUP used the Executive as leverage to demonstrate good faith and put pressure on the Provos. The DUP opposed this, yet now they benefit from it.

    from Trimble could have done that also- he said he would – but he went back on it. He failed.

    But the DUP went into government with the Provos too!

    Is the DUP going to get the Agreement and NI Act amended to make the link explicit?

  • Will

    willowfield
    “Which the UUP didn’t accept. Neither did the DUP.”

    That was what the wording of the Agreement allowed. The DUP didnt accept that – the UUP did.

    “The only difference was that the UUP used the Executive as leverage to demonstrate good faith and put pressure on the Provos.”

    That is the revisionist spin that Trimble is now putting on it. The fact remains that they broke manifesto pledges and went into Government before decommissioning was completed. They specifically went back on their word.

    There wouldnt be a need to amend the NI act to have a link between decommissioning and Executive formation in the situation where there wont be an Executive until it has happened.

    However, we will wait and see what the legislation brings forth when it appears.

  • Peter Brown

    Neither was or is the UUP / That was the same position the UUP held. The only difference was that the UUP used the Executive as leverage to demonstrate good faith and put pressure on the Provos. The DUP opposed this, yet now they benefit from it.

    Translation from North Korean Leader adulation language – the UUP caved in, broke its promises (who can forget the speech on the floor of the Assembly from S Foster now reduced to a Newsletter nom de plume) but will now take credit when the DUP achieves what the UUP aimed for but through its own weakness fell short of….

  • George

    The DUP haven’t achieved anything. Everything they are going to “achieve” was already there.

    This great “achievement” looks like being announced pretty soon too.

    War is over – eh duh
    no future for guns – eh double duh
    SF will recognise the PSNI – eh triple duh

    Forget Sunningdale, this is Home Rule for slow learners and unionism seems to be still fighting over which party are the Redmonites.

  • willowfield

    Will

    That was what the wording of the Agreement allowed. The DUP didnt accept that – the UUP did.

    The UUP didn’t accept it. THat’s why they refused to set up the Executive for 18 months and that’s why they brought it down.

    Is the DUP going to change the wording of the Agreement and get legislation changed?

    That is the revisionist spin that Trimble is now putting on it. The fact remains that they broke manifesto pledges and went into Government before decommissioning was completed. They specifically went back on their word.

    Whether or not they “broke manifesto pledges” is irrelevant to the point I made, which was that the only difference between the DUP and UUP position was that the UUP used the Executive as leverage to demonstrate good faith and put pressure on the Provos. The DUP’s policy was to do nothing.

    Now, however, they’re happy to negotiate with the Provos on the basis of all that has gone before (and which they opposed).

    There wouldnt be a need to amend the NI act to have a link between decommissioning and Executive formation in the situation where there wont be an Executive until it has happened.

    Are they going to amend the Agreement, then?

    Peter Brown

    Translation from North Korean Leader adulation language – the UUP caved in, broke its promises (who can forget the speech on the floor of the Assembly from S Foster now reduced to a Newsletter nom de plume) but will now take credit when the DUP achieves what the UUP aimed for but through its own weakness fell short of….

    The UUP didn’t cave in. They jumped first and then brought the Executive down. They succeeded in getting decommissioning started (which the DUP said would never happen). The DUP is merely finishing the job.

    All we’re arguing about here is tactics over the implementation and outworking of the Agreement. The DUP told us they were going to scrap it and get a new one!

  • Will

    Willowfield
    The UUP succeeded in starting decommissioning…

    How much has been decommissioned to date?

  • George

    So does this mean the UUP are the Redmondites here and the DUP are old Sinn Fein?

    UUP – We made them decommission
    DUP – No we did.
    UUP – No it definitely was us.
    DUP – Are you mad!
    UUP – They’d never have started if we didn’t stay firm
    DUP – Stay firm? You capitulated.
    UUP – You said it would never happen and it did
    DUP- How much then
    UUP – Quite a lot and anyway nothing would have happened if we hadn’t made the move first…..
    DUP – They’re going to decommission everything with us
    UUP – We would have held out for everything too and anyway you’re only accepting what we agreed.
    DUP – We haven’t agreed anything
    UUP – Yes you have and you’re talking to them
    DUP – No we haven’nt and no we aren’t

    Did it every occur to any unionists that SF actually want and need the IRA to decommission?

    Talk about fiddling while Rome burns. Sheesh…

  • alex s

    time moves on folks, the arguement about the GFA started 6 1/2 years old, if the DUPes get an agreement yes the bulk of unionist voters will be happy, but these same unionists will want to see the agreement worked and that means working with the Shinners, then the fun will start!

  • alex s

    Another thought to those DUPes expecting a reward from the voters, remember Churchill, he won a war and lost an election in the same year

  • Peter Brown

    The UUP didn’t cave in

    Yes they did – you can spin it however you like but when Sam Foster siaud in the Assembly on 15/2/99 “The Ulster Unionist position is quite clear: we will not be sitting in ministerial positions unless there is decommissioning. That is an absolute, and there is no getting away from it” we did not stick to that promise.

  • jonty

    but there was decommissioning something the DUPEs said would NEVER happen

  • davidbrew

    oh look here’s jonty. Why not join us on the “overtures from uup” thread, where your characteristic brand of immature fingerpointing is sadly missed?

    Willow if you seriously believe that the UUP had a cunning plan, which involved the ratcheting up of pressure on the Provos then you haven’t been reading the script. The courageous serial collapsing of the executive was in fact a cynical ploy called in advance of pending elections or internal challenges and motivated by no greater principle than self preservation. And they only went into the executive in the first place when the internal pressure was becoming intolerable with many MLAs being undermined by a brilliant campaign(if I say it myself:0))within their constituency associations to remove pro-Agreement supporters from key positions.

    If you want objective proof of the inept and power hungry leadership of David Trimble you need look no further than one conclusively damning event-he made Sam Foster a Minister..because… he was scared of Arlene Foster!!!!!!!

  • fair_deal

    “the UUP had a cunning plan”

    Why can I not read that without thinking of Baldrick?

  • Butterknife

    Fair_deal think of it more as Baldrick running into Blackadder’s fist.

    I was watching the news last night and to be frank the DUP is acting more and
    more UUP like every second. If the DUP destroys the UUP it will not be because
    they are more right-wing, and they are offering something new, it will be
    because they have drifted to the centre where the UUP voter base is. I wonder
    what the voters who abandoned the smaller Loyalist parties in favour of the DUP
    manifesto promises are now saying to themselves.

  • fair_deal

    Butterknife

    There is a fundamentally different dynamic between the UUP scenario and DUP situation. The UUP never truly asked their electorate to empower them to make a deal. It spent more time saying what they wouldn’t agree too (usually followed by doing the opposite, getting creamed by SF in negotiations and then repeating the process). The DUP asked for a mandate and got it.

    The changes they have asked for are based on the objections to the agreement their community made clear. Therefore, they can turn to the community and say you asked us to negotiate a deal that addressed your concerns about ABC and these are the changes we got to ABC.

    I have not picked up any particularly bad vibes from working class areas so far in fact they seem to like it when the media reports are saying the DUP have gained ground. They also like (with a some notable hard-working UUP exceptions) having active political representation.

    On grassroots the UUP are making the mistake of judging the DUP by their own experiences. The two parties are two different creatures.

  • Peter Brown

    but there was decommissioning something the DUPEs said would NEVER happen

    Before they were in the Executive? Only the victors are allowed to rewrite history jonty…

  • Butterknife

    Without wanting to give you a big head fair_deal I think you have hit
    the nail on the head.

    In my opinion, the DUP sale’s pitch was better: e.g.  the reasons you
    gave above, and to propound the point the OUP concentrated on negatives (which
    given the siege mentality of the aging membership and of their connection with
    the Loyal Orders is understandable) while contrasting it with the DUP’s positive
    message, if not entirely accurate, of the Fair deal/Smash Sinn Fein. The
    DUP also had a focal point for their fear of nightmares campaign and Donaldson
    and Co. not only aided and abetted but possibly procured and counselled in that
    party in the erosion of the UUP.

    The UUP have achieved many things with the amendments of the Irish
    Constitution
    etc. By doing so they have also aided their old foe the
    Loyalist and Protestant theocratic party to realise that power-sharing with Sinn
    Fein will have to be a reality, partly due to their intransigence: e.g. fire &
    thunder speeches etc. in the past to allow partnership with other nationalists
    etc.

  • willowfield

    fair deal

    The changes they [the DUP] have asked for are based on the objections to the agreement their community made clear. Therefore, they can turn to the community and say you asked us to negotiate a deal that addressed your concerns about ABC and these are the changes we got to ABC.

    So the unionist community was OK with prisoner releases and police reform? The DUP was wrong to raise these as issues at the time of the Agreement?

    What you are saying is that – contrary to what the DUP claimed at the time – the unionist community was happy with the GFA. Their concern was only with its implementation (i.e. guns/government).

  • Butterknife

    The DUP opposed the Belfast Agreement in 1998 when they were the official opposition (sic) Unionist Party but as soon as they become more than bit players they adopt the “…fundamental principles…” [Robinson et al.] of the Agreement and therefore fully condone its statutory “…review…” [Paisley].

    If being in power they truly opposed the Belfast Agreement they would not have taken part in a review and they would have made this view known by refusing to re-enter Stormont with Sinn Fein. Even Trimble refused to re-enter Stormont with Sinn Fein until Unionism per se saw stronger evidence of decommissioning.
    As a life long supporter of the DUP has lamented in the letters page of the News Letter The DUP really is the UUP in disguise.

  • Butterknife

    I should have also have added that the DUP will enter under the remit of the Belfast Agreement

  • Will

    Butterknife
    Firstly, I usually take with a very great pinch of salt any letter to any newspaper which begins with

    “as a lifelong member/supporter of (insert party)”

    That line, or any variant of it usually indicates that they have never voted for the party and never will – dont underestimate the amount of fake letters which wing their way to the desk of newspaper editors (particularly the newsletter). Isnt it quite funny how this alleged lifelong DUP supporter is suddenly so in line with the current brand of UUP propaganda.

    “If being in power they truly opposed the Belfast Agreement they would not have taken part in a review and they would have made this view known by refusing to re-enter Stormont with Sinn Fein. Even Trimble refused to re-enter Stormont with Sinn Fein until Unionism per se saw stronger evidence of decommissioning.”

    That is similar to the line which was peddled by the UUP before the DUP won the election. Then they told us that were the DUP really anti-Agreement then they wouldnt have taken their seats or taken the Ministerial seats they were entitled to – in other words they should have abandoned the people who voted for them.

    The fact is that the DUP were able to show themselves as capable politicians as they worked within the Assembly. Without that I believe that many people would not have put their trust in them to be able to negotiate a better deal. Had they done what the UUP and nationalists wanted them to do and not taken Ministerial positions or even their seats in the Assembly then they could have easily portrayed the DUP as the nutcases who stay outside and can achieve nothing. As it was, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were able to prove themselves much more capable than any of the Ministers put forward by the ‘natural party of Government’. Abstentionism would have achieved nothing except the continuation of the Belfast Agreement.

    We’ve seen how far abstentionism has got people in the past (particularly unionists).

    What do you seriously think would have happened if the DUP had said after fighting an election on the ‘time for a fair deal’ slogan if they had subsequently refused to take part in any talks to bring that deal about?

    Of course, the UUP were hoping and praying that the DUP would do exactly that. Lets remember what they were saying before the election. They were telling us that no-one would negotiate with the DUP should they win, that all of the other parties and the Government would ignore them. Well, we’ve seen how that prediction has come true. Then the UUP told us that the DUP would do nothing positive, that they were incapable of bringing forward sensible proposals. Again they were proved wrong on that. All through that we were told that the DUP could never come to an agreement, they were institutionally incapable of agreeing with anyone. Funny to see how that myth is now also fading away.

    The DUP were able to say they can work within the ‘fundamental principles’ of the Belfast Agreement once the Secretary of State told us what these so called fundamentals actually were and showed that they were so wide that they could encompass any number or range of agreements far removed in fact and detail from the Belfast Agreement, but still retaining a few guiding principles of devolution, cross-community government and a relationship between NI and RoI.

    It really shows the desperation of some people that they have resorted to asking why the DUP cant put prisoners back in jail which the UUP allowed to be released or asking for the reinstatement of the name of a police force which the UUP allowed to be changed. No UUP supporter has ever explained to me why the unanimous decision of the UUP’s most senior policy making body (the UUC) has been unilaterally ignored in terms of the UUC motion not to re-enter government with SF until the name and symbols of the RUC were restored.

    Lets hear you now Willowfield. Why didnt David Trimble stick to the policy of his own party? Why did he re-enter government with SF after that motion was passed without the return of the name and symbols of the RUC? Why wasnt it a UUP manfesto committment that they would return these? It wasnt part of the attempted deal between Trimble and Adams last October which would have seen them back in Government together either so what happened to that policy?

  • Christopher Stalford

    Will

    Entirely correct.

  • willowfield

    Will

    The DUP were able to say they can work within the ‘fundamental principles’ of the Belfast Agreement once the Secretary of State told us what these so called fundamentals actually were and showed that they were so wide that they could encompass any number or range of agreements far removed in fact and detail from the Belfast Agreement, but still retaining a few guiding principles of devolution, cross-community government and a relationship between NI and RoI.

    So prisoner releases, police reform, and Gaelic language promotion were not fundamentals. We can expect these to be ripped from the Agreement, then?

    It really shows the desperation of some people that they have resorted to asking why the DUP cant put prisoners back in jail which the UUP allowed to be released or asking for the reinstatement of the name of a police force which the UUP allowed to be changed.

    These were part of the Agreement that the DUP opposed. The DUP said they’d negotiate an alternative to the Agreement. That means negotiating an end to these provisions.

    No UUP supporter has ever explained to me why the unanimous decision of the UUP’s most senior policy making body (the UUC) has been unilaterally ignored in terms of the UUC motion not to re-enter government with SF until the name and symbols of the RUC were restored.

    The motion was overturned by a subsequent motion.

    Lets hear you now Willowfield. Why didnt David Trimble stick to the policy of his own party? Why did he re-enter government with SF after that motion was passed without the return of the name and symbols of the RUC?

    I just told you. The UUC voted on a new motion that overturned the other one.

  • Will

    Willowfield
    “So prisoner releases, police reform, and Gaelic language promotion were not fundamentals.”

    Not according to the Secretary of State – those were all things which were obviously included thanks to their acceptance by the Ulster Unionist Party.

    “We can expect these to be ripped from the Agreement, then?”

    How can the DUP reverse time? How can prisoners possibly be rounded up and herded back into the Maze? Dont damage your own integrity by arguing such a ludicrous position. This relates to your next part.

    “The UUC voted on a new motion that overturned the other one.”

    Why did the UUP overturn that motion? (i didnt remember it happening btw). There can be only 2 possible reasons for overturning that motion. Either:
    1) The UUP dont care about the name & symbols of the RUC and they never really did
    OR
    2) They realise that it is impossible, having already conceded their removal (no matter who did it) for a party to negotiate their return.

    Which is it willowfield?

  • Will

    Just to add: in relation to Gaelic language promotion which might be an area where there could actually be movement.

    1)The DUP seek a position where decisions taken would be accountable so it wouldnt be possible for someone to take decisions which were wholly unacceptable to one section of the community. Therefore, it means that no matter who was in charge of these decisions, they could be held accountable.

    2)The UUP held the position of Minister for DCAL in the last Assembly. What great achievements can the Minister point to? The only policy we seem to have is that we keep spending more and more money on a £ for £ basis that whatever is spent on Irish must be mirrored in Ulster Scots.

  • Will

    any thoughts yet willowfield?

  • davidbrew

    Willow could also address what the UUP did to implement the policy before they apparently superceded it. The motion was passed in March, and the next UUC was, I believe, September. So what happened in 6 months?

    I remember Byrnside organising a rally at the Ulster Hall, which, legend has it, was not attended by Trimble when he heard the crowd was full of rough middle class retired police inspector and their wives. Some people even believe that he turned up in the foyer and left when he was advised that he mightn’t get the standing ovation statesmen expect-but I couldn’t believe that.

    Oh he proposed 200 amendments to the Policing Bill, as the UUP always tell us. How many were adopted by government? None. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Now anyone who thinks he was the best negotiator Unionism had explain that uncomfiortable fact.

    Though to be fair, he didn’t get the Chief Con to pull down the S Armagh watchtowers, so he’s not just useless where Blair’s concerned :0)

  • Moderate Unionist

    Will
    Most people (non political activists) believe that the future of Northern Ireland lies in some form of powersharing. The GFA agreement was the only viable option put to the electorate. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it or something like it seemed to offer some from of progress for Northern Ireland.

    Many people voted against it (and for a variety of reasons) but neither the DUP nor the No camp came up with any viable alternative at any time.

    It is true, that many of those who voted for it became dissillusioned by the failure to decommission arms which was seen as litmus test for the bone fides of SF, and for this reason and this reason only the tide of public opinion turned. The DUP did not move (IMHO), it happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    When and if a deal is done, the public will look to who is the most able party to tackle the future. You can assert that this will not be the UUP, but you cannot say with confidence that this will be the DUP. People are aware of the contradicion in the DUP’s position. Clever arguments may be intellectually satisfying but the people know that the DUP were fundamentally opposed to the agreement and now they aren’t.

    They will take some convincing that a poltical environment dominated by two parties one of which is fundamentally opposed to the existance of the state and the other of which was fundamentally opposed to the agreement can form an effective working partnership.

    Those of you, who continually harp on about the detail of what happened in the past miss the point. The electorate are not stupid, the know what happened and they know that there are few arguments where one side is completely right and the other completely wrong.

    Those parties that do not adapt to the new political environment will become irrelevant. I for one am looking for parties that can work positively in a post agreement environment, and constant bickering and going over old ground is not postive.

    Of course I might be a minority of one.

  • Will

    M_U
    I agree with a lot of what you say about parties having to adapt. I think that the DUP has adapted and modernised its position (without altering the fundamentals of what it believes).

    There is an argument to be made that the 2 parties who are least willing to change at present are the SDLP and UUP. It may be those 2 parties who find it hardest to cope in any new Assembly. But I do agree that time will tell.

  • Peter Brown

    It is true, that many of those who voted for it became dissillusioned by the failure to decommission arms which was seen as litmus test for the bone fides of SF, and for this reason and this reason only the tide of public opinion turned.

    IMHO lack of verifiable decommissioing was only one of a number of factors, and not even the most significant in turning the tide against the Agreement in the unionisy community. Tony Blair’s broken pledges and the demise of the RUC were more important and the most significant in my experience was the fact that the war wasn’t over (the paramilitaries on both sides simply tuned down the intensity but did not disappear) and no-one was even prepared to say that it was.

  • willowfield

    Will

    “So prisoner releases, police reform, and Gaelic language promotion were not fundamentals.”

    Not according to the Secretary of State – those were all things which were obviously included thanks to their acceptance by the Ulster Unionist Party.

    So we can expect the DUP to get them ripped from the Agreement? They promised a new Agreement, and they’re not fundamentals, so they’ll be negotiating their removal.

    How can the DUP reverse time?

    No-one’s expecting them to “reverse time”!

    How can prisoners possibly be rounded up and herded back into the Maze?

    They don’t have to go to the Maze. They could go to other prisons.

    Dont damage your own integrity by arguing such a ludicrous position.

    It’s not my position: it’s the DUP’s. They promised to negotiate a new agreement and get a “fair deal”! That means changing those provisions of the GFA that they opposed, including prisoner releases.

    Why did the UUP overturn that motion? (i didnt remember it happening btw).

    Presumably because it was stupid and impossible to achieve.

    There can be only 2 possible reasons for overturning that motion. Either:
    1) The UUP dont care about the name & symbols of the RUC and they never really did OR 2) They realise that it is impossible, having already conceded their removal (no matter who did it) for a party to negotiate their return.

    I’ve just said the latter.

    What’s this got to do with the DUP? Are you admitting the DUP can’t negotiate changing the name back? Their promises were all hot air? They’ve accepted it?

    Just to add: in relation to Gaelic language promotion which might be an area where there could actually be movement. 1)The DUP seek a position where decisions taken would be accountable so it wouldnt be possible for someone to take decisions which were wholly unacceptable to one section of the community. Therefore, it means that no matter who was in charge of these decisions, they could be held accountable.

    That’s an admission that they’re not going to renegotiate the language provisions in the GFA, then? Another failure to deliver.

    I agree with a lot of what you say about parties having to adapt. I think that the DUP has adapted and modernised its position (without altering the fundamentals of what it believes).

    For “adapted and modernised”, read “U-turned”.

    DB

    Willow could also address what the UUP did to implement the policy before they apparently superceded it. The motion was passed in March, and the next UUC was, I believe, September. So what happened in 6 months?

    No idea. You were a member: you should know!

    What is the point of your question – that Trimble didn’t abide by the decision of the UUC? If so, and if you are saying he didn’t try to get the name changed, then I agree with you. It doesn’t alter the fact that the DUP has deceitfully U-turned in respect of its opposition to the GFA!

    Peter Brown

    IMHO lack of verifiable decommissioing was only one of a number of factors, and not even the most significant in turning the tide against the Agreement in the unionisy community. Tony Blair’s broken pledges and the demise of the RUC were more important and the most significant in my experience was the fact that the war wasn’t over (the paramilitaries on both sides simply tuned down the intensity but did not disappear) and no-one was even prepared to say that it was.

    So the key factor in the shift from the UUP to the DUP was not the Agreement itself, but its implementation. That explains why the DUP has ended its opposition to the Agreement and is negotiating its implementation with the Provos.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Will
    Acknowledge the generosity of spirit in your response. I agree time will tell.

    Peter Brown
    I can agree that the issues that you raised were also important, but the talisman was the failure of SF to decommission. They were the people that did the deal.

    Although, extremely painful the change of the RUC could have been accomodated if it delivered a genuine committment to policing supported by both sides of the community enabling them to tackle paramilitary activity on both sides….. and the restructuring of the RUC was probably going to happen anyway.

    We must realise that whilst there are significant economic benefits to our position in the Union (IMHO George) and culturaly many of us are British, the only people that really care about the people of Northern Ireland are the people who live in Northern Ireland.

    If we want peace, economic prosperity and a future for the next generations we have to find away to accomodate each other and focus together on the external challenges that confront us (The global economy, the enlargement of the EU and a post industrial world where skills and knowledge are vital).

  • Will

    Willowfield
    “They don’t have to go to the Maze. They could go to other prisons”

    If that’s the level of your arguments then it just about sums it all up.

    “It’s not my position: it’s the DUP’s. They promised to negotiate a new agreement and get a “fair deal”! That means changing those provisions of the GFA that they opposed, including prisoner releases.”

    You cant change the unchangeable. The DUP have accepted that – but they cant take the blame for having changed it in the first place. Your arguments are heading rapidly towards the category of ‘childish’.

    You admit that the UUP couldnt bring back the name and symbols of the RUC – neither can the DUP, but the UUP cannot run away from their role in their removal in the first place.

    By the way, if the initial UUC motion was “stupid and impossible to achieve”, then why after the intial majority vote in favour did David Trimble ask that it be moved to a unanimous decision?

    The DUP have said they will work to bring a fair deal – they never promised to deliver the earth moon and stars. Prisoners cannot be rounded up and put back in prison (any prison before you resort to pedantry) any more than the name of the RUC can be returned. Had the DUP promised the undeliverable then people could rightly criticise them, but if you can show me anywhere where any DUP spokesperson or any DUP statement has said that they would bring about either the return of prisoners or the return of the name & symbols of the RUC then I will happy and very humbly apologise to you.

  • willowfield

    Will

    If that’s the level of your arguments then it just about sums it all up.

    Er, it was you who brought up the issue of the Maze, not me!! So you’re commenting on the level of your argument!

    Face up to the fact that the DUP will fail to get a new Agreement and will have to accept early release prisoners, police reforms, cross-border bodies, Gaelic language provisions, Provos-in-government and all the other stuff they opposed (with the exception of “accountability”, which was never an issue at the time the GFA was signed).

    You cant change the unchangeable.

    It’s not unchangeable. But if the DUP thinks it was unchangeable, why did the they say they’d change it!

    The DUP have accepted that – but they cant take the blame for having changed it in the first place. Your arguments are heading rapidly towards the category of ‘childish’.

    It’s “childish” of the DUP to oppose something so vehemently and then decide to support it while still pretending to oppose it.

    You admit that the UUP couldnt bring back the name and symbols of the RUC – neither can the DUP

    So why did the DUP claim it could get a new Agreement? Why did they say they’d get a “fair deal” if they knew they couldn’t?

    … but the UUP cannot run away from their role in their removal in the first place.

    Nobody’s saying they can.

    By the way, if the initial UUC motion was “stupid and impossible to achieve”, then why after the intial majority vote in favour did David Trimble ask that it be moved to a unanimous decision?

    Absolutely no idea. You’d need to ask David Trimble. Are you now saying it wasn’t impossible to achieve? In which case why isn’t the DUP achieving it?

    The DUP have said they will work to bring a fair deal – they never promised to deliver the earth moon and stars.

    Unless the DUP thought prisoner releases, police reform, Provos-in-government, Gaelic language promotion, etc., were fair, a “fair deal”, by definition means removing these. Did the DUP think these were fair?

    Prisoners cannot be rounded up and put back in prison (any prison before you resort to pedantry) any more than the name of the RUC can be returned.

    On the contrary, both can happen.

    Had the DUP promised the undeliverable then people could rightly criticise them, but if you can show me anywhere where any DUP spokesperson or any DUP statement has said that they would bring about either the return of prisoners or the return of the name & symbols of the RUC then I will happy and very humbly apologise to you.

    They said they’d get a “fair deal” (a “new agreement”). They complained loudly about the prisoner and police provisions in the “old”, “unfair” agreement. It’s not difficult to work out the logic …

    You’ve already admitted that these provisions were not “fundamentals”. If not, it should be easy to negotiate their removal. Right?

  • willowfield

    Bottom line: there’s no alternative to the Agreement. The DUP are proving that right now. They couldn’t bring it down – they’ve had to settle for a few tweaks to the workings of the Assembly, something that was never even an issue at the time the GFA was passed.

  • Moderate Unionist

    People
    I not sure that point by point, line by line gets us anywhere. The posts get so long that it becomes an effort to read (Just my opinion and I know that I have been known to post the odd long brain dump myself but…) 🙂

  • willowfield

    It’s all summed up for you in my 1.05.

  • davidbrew

    Willow-if you are right that the DUP childishly wanted to hop into the TARDIS and restore the pre-Agreement position then demonstrably you are correct in your charge. But they haven’t. They went into the 1996 negotiations as part of a pan Unionist front fully aware of the structures and the government’s preferred option. It’s an undeniable fact that the UUP leader broke the consensus within Unionism and within his party.

    If you contend that what is leaked at present as the possible replacement Agreement is less than many Unionist voters want, you also have a debatable point. Many will agree with you, but from the Bob McCartney analysis of the problem rather than the UUP, which has long since ceased to make any serious effort to improve the Agreement. Instead Trimble clings to his unique interpretation of the Agreement despite what all the other parties, the Government, the Courts and -yes-even the dogs in the street know it to mean.

    BUT

    Where you do your own case a fatal disservice is your failure to acknowledge these basic truths inherent in your position:
    1 Whether the DUP achieve 5% or 95% of their aims this is still an improvement for all the people of NI, and demonstrably more than Trimbleism has been able to achieve.A slight improvement is still better than no improvement. You blithely dismiss the DUP shopping list but what has the UUP obtained since 1998. I have asked you before, but still wait for one example of UUP negotiating triumphs (apart from the very obvious one of not retaining me!). And of course just as the Shinners don’t see the outcome of these negotiations as the final settlement neither do the DUP. The great UUP mistake was to presume that Good friday 1998 was the high water mark for Republicanism, instead of a mile stone on their journey.

    2 All of your criticism of the DUP is predicated on the assumption that the DUP is also selling out-ergo the UUP sold out ergo it was a bad deal for Unionism. It’s notable how not even you are defending the Agreement; you’re tacitly admitting that it should never have been negotiated.Come out and say what all your posts confirm-The Agreement was a dud

    You will now have reached level 2 on your journey of political development.

  • willowfield

    DB

    Willow-if you are right that the DUP childishly wanted to hop into the TARDIS and restore the pre-Agreement position then demonstrably you are correct in your charge.

    So you accept that the DUP has accepted virtually all the provisions of the Agreement.

    1 Whether the DUP achieve 5% or 95% of their aims this is still an improvement for all the people of NI, and demonstrably more than Trimbleism has been able to achieve.

    I have always acknowledged that. Including on this very thread, I believe! So I can hardly be doing myself a disservice.

    The 5% improvement doesn’t alter the fact that the DUP have swallowed 95% of something they denounced. Their opposition to the GFA wasn’t based on accountability within the Assembly!

    A slight improvement is still better than no improvement.

    Of course. The Agreement itself contained provision for a review to tidy up issues like this and make improvements!

    The DUP didn’t promise a “slight improvement”: they promised a “new, different Agreement”! They also never accepted the fact that there was no alternative to the Agreement and promised to come up with one: they failed.

    You blithely dismiss the DUP shopping list but what has the UUP obtained since 1998.

    Again, you shift the ground on to the implementation of the Agreement, not the Agreement itself. The DUP opposed the Agreement itself.

    2 All of your criticism of the DUP is predicated on the assumption that the DUP is also selling out-ergo the UUP sold out ergo it was a bad deal for Unionism.

    Nonsense. I do not assume the DUP is selling out unionism. If I think they are “selling out” (which I have never said), they are merely selling out their own supporters, to whom they promised a new agreement. The fact that they’ve bought the UUP’s agreement is a vindication of the UUP! And a vindication that the GFA was not a bad deal for unionism!

    It’s notable how not even you are defending the Agreement; you’re tacitly admitting that it should never have been negotiated.Come out and say what all your posts confirm-The Agreement was a dud

    I’ve never argued anything of the sort! Of course the Agreement should have been negotiated! Even the DUP realise that now!

  • davidbrew

    so what’s wrong with it then Willow?

    Did you vote for it, knowing there were things wrong with it-or were you suckered by Blair and Bono?

    How have you tried to change those mistakes ,if you are a UUP member?

    How has the UUP tried to change those mistakes?

    Are you still pro-Agreement, given the entirely predictable (and predicted)manner in which it developed?

    Until you can answer these questions , you’re stuck at level two (Roy Beggs Jr level , I’m sorry to say)

  • willowfield

    You have to look at it in the round, DB. It’s easy to pick off things that are “wrong” with it, but you need to balance these with what is “right” and come to an overall conclusion. It wasn’t possible to get a perfect agreement.

    Did you vote for it, knowing there were things wrong with it-or were you suckered by Blair and Bono?

    I voted for it with the full knowledge that it involved concessions that I didn’t like, but with the judgement that overall these were worth making for the benefits in return.

    How have you tried to change those mistakes ,if you are a UUP member?

    I am not a UUP member.

    How has the UUP tried to change those mistakes?

    I’ve no idea. I’d imagine, since the DUP overtook the UUP, that the DUP has been doing most of the running in the Review. There’s not much the UUP can really do now – power to change the Agreement now lies with the DUP and the Provos.

    Are you still pro-Agreement, given the entirely predictable (and predicted)manner in which it developed?

    Everyone’s pro-Agreement now (except McCartney and Rory O’Brady).

  • Moderate Unionist

    davidbrew
    I voted for it, because neither you nor anybody else gave me any alternative. You keep going on about the ins and outs of the past. Nobody thought it was perfect, it didn’t work out the way we hoped but that’s life. Strategically it was the right thing to do.

    Some people in Northern Ireland make a career out giving reasons why things can’t be done, pointing out where people have gone wrong in the past.

    If we are to build a future we must encourage people to risks, because in a highly competitive world the status quo doesn’t work. Risk introduces the chance of failure, No risk introduces the certainty of failure.

    What risks have you taken for the future of Northern Ireland?

  • Peter Brown

    MU – Winner of 2004 award for most cliches in one post

    The alternative for the electorate was not to vote for it, the alternative for the politicians was not to endorse it until it was acceptable to their parties, their electorate and all the fudge / constructuiive ambiguity was sorted out and the reason it didn’t work out was that it was fundamentally flawed from the outset – it tried to be all things to all men and failed.

    “Risk introduces the chance of failure, No risk introduces the certainty of failure” – easy to say harder to justify

  • willowfield

    Peter Brown

    The alternative for the electorate was not to vote for it

    That is correct. But the majority of the electorate chose to vote for it.

    the alternative for the politicians was not to endorse it until it was acceptable to their parties, their electorate and all the fudge / constructuiive ambiguity was sorted out and the reason it didn’t work out was that it was fundamentally flawed from the outset – it tried to be all things to all men and failed.

    In the case of the UUP politicians, it was endorsed by their party. They couldn’t have known whether it was endorsed by “their” electorate until the referendum. As for “constructive ambiguity”, presumably the politicians, and their parties, signed up to it in the belief that it would be sorted out later. Which, seemingly, it is.

    As for it failing – quite the contrary. It seems it’s about to be resuscitated by the DUP.

  • Will

    Willowfield
    You’ve ‘no idea’ what the UUP have been doing to change the mistakes of the Agreemnent, but youd imagine “since the DUP overtook the UUP, that the DUP has been doing most of the running in the Review. There’s not much the UUP can really do now – power to change the Agreement now lies with the DUP and the Provos.”

    The fact is that up until the DUP won the election the UUP were doing nothing to change the Agreement – they were working for the full implementation and no changes or flaws were ever mentioned.

    The fact is that they were quite happy with the Belfast Agreement up until the day and hour that the DUP overtook then with a renegotiation mandate. It is true that most of the power now lies with the DUP on the unionist side to make the changes, however the UUP were the largest party from 1998 until 2003 and they didnt do one single solitary thing to make changes, indeed they didnt even admit there were any problems until they were defeated.

    Of course, none of us really know what the UUP want given that they as yet have singularly failed to put forward any proposals.

  • willowfield

    Will

    The fact is that up until the DUP won the election the UUP were doing nothing to change the Agreement – they were working for the full implementation and no changes or flaws were ever mentioned.

    But the Review only began since the election.

    The fact is that they were quite happy with the Belfast Agreement up until the day and hour that the DUP overtook then with a renegotiation mandate.

    They still are happy with it. The DUP are now happy with it, save for wanting a few fig-leaf changes.

    It is true that most of the power now lies with the DUP on the unionist side to make the changes, however the UUP were the largest party from 1998 until 2003 and they didnt do one single solitary thing to make changes, indeed they didnt even admit there were any problems until they were defeated.

    How could they make changes? The review only began after the election.

    I note your failure to respond to my 1.03. The DUP volte-face must be too awkward for you to deal with. I assume this means you accept that the DUP will fail to get a new Agreement and will have to accept early release prisoners, police reforms, cross-border bodies, Gaelic language provisions, Provos-in-government and all the other stuff they opposed (with the exception of “accountability”, which was never an issue at the time the GFA was signed).

    You never explained why the DUP claimed it could get a “fair deal” and a “new agreement” if – as you also claim – it is impossible to do so.

    Alternatively, you never advised whether the DUP thought prisoner releases, police reform, Provos-in-government, Gaelic language promotion, etc., were fair.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Peter Brown
    Do you have any experience in the real world with which to back up your glib statements. Justify your assertion “Easy to say, hard to justify”.

    Will
    Actually, I’m not sure you can say

    “they were working for the full implementation and no changes or flaws were ever mentioned.”

    There was a considerable amount of very public debate within the UUP. Whatever strategy there was for putting pressure on SF was run of the rails by trips to the Waterfront hall and whatever the rights or wrongs of the various positions they had the effect of undermining the UUP position just as much as the failure to secure decommissioning.

    This does not mean that strategy was wrong, just hard… and my point remains that strategically it was better to find an accomodation.

    Overtime, the flaws in any agreement will be indentified and addressed (because the ultimate sanction is people power). I don’t think any one party can claim to be 100% right and insist that everybody else was 100% wrong.

    Eventually a satisfactory agreement will be reached, and we will able be able to channel our energy into more constructive activities.

  • davidbrew

    “If we are to build a future we must encourage people to risks, because in a highly competitive world the status quo doesn’t work. Risk introduces the chance of failure, No risk introduces the certainty of failure.

    What risks have you taken for the future of Northern Ireland?”

    Well, at the “risk” of sounding sanctimonious, I risked my business, and lost a substantial amount of money by trying to negotiate an acceptable agreement for a poxy £50 a day during the talks process.(pass the hat please)

    And here’s the strange thing: you’re right about taking risks being necessary for progress.

    The safe thing to do was and is to agree to everything the NIO civil servants produced and continue to produce. There would have been peerages and quangos all round if Unionists had done that in 1972, 1985, 1992, and 1998. Molyneaux would have been PM in 1992; Paisley could have been in 1982.

    The risky thing is to say no to a poison chalice when the world is excpecting you to sup from it. Nell McCafferty’s apercu- blogged elsewhere- is revealing in that she recognises this stubborn refusal to commit suicide is both Unionism’s destiny and its only strategy at present. When the UUP was mindful of this, it restricted their room to negotiate, and meant they were out in the cold, but it also restricted the government’s movements. When the UUP sold out to the NIO it became part of that consensus of creeping unification, no matter what it believed. It doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate, can’t compromise, can’t work together; but when you forget core principles, like trimble did in 1998, you become nothing more than a new Irelander

    Why? Because, unfortunately MU, moderation is often confused with weakness. The unspoken swcret shared by all other parties in the negotiations since 1998 is to know that pro-Agreement Ulster Unionists are genuinely weak, wanting peace at any price.

    They took no risks for progress; they took the broad road to destruction, which will be their deserved fate in the general election. A true convinced moderate would have defended to the death the Agreement sold to him in 1998, not acquiesced in the concession conveyer belt which has again been demonstrated by Bertie Ahern over Garda McCabe’s killers no later than yesterday. But what do the UUP do? They blame the DUP! Pathetic

  • willowfield

    Again, DB’s case against the GFA is its implementation, not the Agreement itself.

    Interested in this: “Molyneaux would have been PM in 1992; Paisley could have been in 1982.”

    Can you explain?

  • Moderate Unionist

    davidbrew
    You may be surprised but I agree with much of what you say too. Interesting isn’t it.

    However, my complaint would not be that the UUP were weak but that the Unionist position as a whole was unsophisticated. I believe it was right to confront SF in negoitations because I believed that our case was strong… but our presentation of the issues (particularly on a world stage) was poor.

    Of course, I wasn’t there so I can do no more than state that I hope we get an agreement that is satisfactory to all soon, because there are a host of issues facing Northern Ireland that require our urgent attention and if we continue to let the civil service run the country the outcome is inevitable.

    … and finally I may have the nom de plume of “moderate” but I can assure you that I am not weak.

    Reasoned argument overcomes prejudice (or to make Peter Brown happy with another cliche “the pen is mighter than the sword”) 🙂

  • Will

    Willowfield
    The UUP never highlighted anything they wanted to do in any review/renegotiation – it was never mentioned until the DUP raised the issue and won the election.

    “I note your failure to respond to my 1.03. The DUP volte-face must be too awkward for you to deal with. I assume this means you accept that the DUP will fail to get a new Agreement and will have to accept early release prisoners, police reforms, cross-border bodies, Gaelic language provisions, Provos-in-government and all the other stuff they opposed (with the exception of “accountability”, which was never an issue at the time the GFA was signed).”

    The DUP published clearly the manifesto they were standing on. They printed countless documents – i’ve downloaded and read them from their website – they cover all the areas and highlight exactly what they wanted.

    A fair deal cannot change some things. Others such as cross-border co-operation and any bodies i’ve explained before, the DUP wouldnt have went into talks in 1996 if they didnt accept cross-border co-operation. It was the free standing nature of these bodies and the fact they had unaccountable executive powers which I opposed. Those problems were highlighted by the DUP (when the UUP actually denied they existed!) and will be corrected by the DUP. Lets remember that Esmond Birnie got quite excited when it was suggested that the Cross-Border bodies could stay if the Assembly collapsed; he told us that this would be impossible, the UUP had ensured that it couldnt happen. We seen that it could happen and it did happen, because the UUP didnt know what they had agreed to never mind what the problems that there was with it.

    Prisoners arnt going back to jail and the RUC isnt coming back – childishly repeating the same points wont solve that. The DUP never claimed they could bring those back!!! Those were accepted and agreed by David Trimble and unfortunately the unionist community have had to swallow those pills. You can oppose something yet recognise that you wont be able to solve the matter later.

    Provos in Goverment; – we oppose terrorists in Government. The UUP were happy to let SF into Government with their guns in tact. The DUP will ensure there is full decommissioning and a complete end to terrorism and criminality before SF get a place in Government. What part of that dont you understand? Lets face it, David Trimble was prepared to let SF back into Government last October without full decommissioning or any reduction in terrorist and criminal activity. The UUP have completely reversed their position since then – like to comment on that? Why did the UUP position on terrorism change after 1998 and then change back after 2003? Just because you may now have a similar position to an earlier one, you cant ignore the 2 u-turns in between; you’re still facing in the direction you were earlier, but must be dizzy from the movmement!

    Accountability was an issue in 1998. It was an issue for me. I know that, and it was raised, but it did get drowned out because of other more ‘visual’ issues. Just because you didnt bother finding out that it could be a problem doesnt mean that everyone else was so blinded to the flaws as you were.

    I never said that the DUP couldnt get a fair deal or new Agreement – those can be achieved. However, there are aspects of the Belfast Agreement which cannot be reversed. Its not so hard to understand. I would even write it up here in big letters to help you if it could get it through to you a little better.

  • Will

    davidbrew
    “the concession conveyer belt which has again been demonstrated by Bertie Ahern over Garda McCabe’s killers no later than yesterday.”

    Unfortunately, this concession wasnt just made yesterday. It was to be part of last October’s failed package. Just a shame Mr Trimble didnt tell us about it. I wonder why.

  • willowfield

    Will

    The UUP never highlighted anything they wanted to do in any review/renegotiation – it was never mentioned until the DUP raised the issue and won the election.

    Maybe so. Still doesn’t alter the fact of the DUP’s volte-face.

    The DUP published clearly the manifesto they were standing on. They printed countless documents – i’ve downloaded and read them from their website – they cover all the areas and highlight exactly what they wanted.

    And the what they wanted was massively downgraded from their original opposition. They were already becoming pro-Agreement even before the election. Still, though, they gave the impression of being anti-Agreement and complained about Provos-in-government, policing, etc.

    A fair deal cannot change some things.

    A fair deal, by definition, is fair. If the DUP fails to renegotiate prisoner releases, police reform, Gaelic language promotion, Provos-in-government while the PIRA remains intact, then that means the DUP must think these are fair. That is a volte-face.

    Those problems were highlighted by the DUP (when the UUP actually denied they existed!) and will be corrected by the DUP. Lets remember that Esmond Birnie got quite excited when it was suggested that the Cross-Border bodies could stay if the Assembly collapsed; he told us that this would be impossible, the UUP had ensured that it couldnt happen. We seen that it could happen and it did happen, because the UUP didnt know what they had agreed to never mind what the problems that there was with it.

    You’re missing the bigger picture. Of course the GFA wasn’t perfect. It was never going to be. The DUP’s opposition to it was not based on the allegedly “free-standing” or unaccountable nature of cross-border bodies. If you look at the bigger picture you’ll see that cross-border co-operation was a fantastic negotiating victory for unionism, which succeeded in watering it down to a few unimportant bodies dealing with innocuous policy areas like inland waterways and lighthouses. The DUP can take no credit for that.

    Prisoners arnt going back to jail and the RUC isnt coming back

    Why not? The DUP said they would negotiate a new agreement. They opposed those provisions of the Agreement. So why are they not negotiating their removal?

    The DUP never claimed they could bring those back!!!

    So why did they claim they could get a new agreement, if they couldn’t? Why did they say they could get a fair deal, if they couldn’t? Since when were these provisions fair?

    Those were accepted and agreed by David Trimble and unfortunately the unionist community have had to swallow those pills. You can oppose something yet recognise that you wont be able to solve the matter later.

    Any changes the DUP gets will be on the basis of accepting what was agreed in 1998 – and that includes prisoner releases and police reform!

    And if – as you claim – the DUP is unable to solve the matters of prisoner releases and policing, why did they promise a fair deal? Either they thought these provisions were fair, or their promise of a fair deal was deceitful, since they knew they couldn’t achieve it.

    Provos in Goverment; – we oppose terrorists in Government. The UUP were happy to let SF into Government with their guns in tact. The DUP will ensure there is full decommissioning and a complete end to terrorism and criminality before SF get a place in Government.

    No disbandment, then?

    Will “a complete end to terrorism and criminality” be tied into the Agreement? Will the NI Act be amended accordingly?

    Accountability was an issue in 1998. It was an issue for me. I know that, and it was raised, but it did get drowned out because of other more ‘visual’ issues.

    So you accept is was a minor issue. Yet now it has become the be-all and end-all of the “fair deal”!

    I never said that the DUP couldnt get a fair deal or new Agreement – those can be achieved.

    I look forward to the prisoners going back and the RUC being restored, then! Gaelic language provisions ripped from the Agreement, too!

    However, there are aspects of the Belfast Agreement which cannot be reversed.

    Why did the DUP pretend that they could? They complanied about prisoner releases and police reform, and promised a new Agreement. Do the math.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Will
    I don’t think you will be able to sell the concept that everything that went wrong was the UUP’s fault and everything that is achieved belongs to the DUP.

    People know that it is a process that we have been on (whether reluctantly or not). Not everything about the agreement was bad, and I suspect though I don’t know, that the change of name for the RUC (and other changes)no matter how distasteful would have been forced through regardless.

    The police are a reserved matter and even if we do restore the assembly and take responsibility for policing, we are still dependant upon Westminster for finance, and “Who pays the piper, calls the tune!”

    (another one for Peter Brown, I’m quite getting the hang of this cliche business).