All quiet on the Unionist front?

In his weekly column for the Irish Daily Star, John Coulter notes that the UUP failed to draw much more than half its delegates to the most recent meeting of the UUC. But, he wonders, what’s happening over at the unusually quiet headquarter of the DUP in East Belfast?

By John Coulter

With Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists trying to out-celebrate each other over the weekend, we are left still pondering – why is the DUP so quiet these days?

After all, the Shinners’ big shin-dig in Dublin has more to do with attempting to put the shine back onto their Southern electoral bandwagon as the crisis over the Northern Bank heist and the McCartney killing deepens on a daily basis.

SF founder Arthur Griffith must be lying in his coffin with a king-size migraine when he views the balls-up the present day leaders of Sinn Fein have made of his original separatist movement.

And as for the UUP, plenty of banqueting, praying, singing hymns, and fine speeches to commemorate how the Ulster Unionist Council has saved Ulster from Dublin rule over the last century.

It’s a pity that saving glory will only last until 5 May. Maybe that’s why only half the 900 plus UUC delegates attended Saturday’s centenary AGM. With all this internal strife in the republican family, and an electoral apocalypse looming for the UUC, is it any wonder the Paisley camp has decided to stay silent and bask in the glory of their opponents’ misfortunes.

Rumour has it, the Paisley camp is well and truly in electoral mode for 5 May … but the DUP is still nervous SF might throw a wobbly and orchestrate a huge act of public decommissioning complete with a portfolio of photos before the elections.

That would force the Paisleyites to show their hand at what they had really negotiated with the doves in SF before last year’s supposed ‘collapse’ of the peace deal.

With persistent rumours the DUP modernisers have conceded more to Dublin on cross-border bodies than Trimble did in the Good Friday Agreement, the last thing the DUP wants is SF to deliver on decommissioning before any General and council elections.

With ill health gossip now laid to rest, the Big Man and the fundamentalists are now firmly at the helm of the party, putting the Nigel Dodds campaign to succeed Paisley as DUP boss back on track. Peter Robinson and the modernisers have once more to take a back seat.

The social body language of the UUC celebrations clearly showed South Belfast Assemblyman Michael McGimpsey is the man of the moment amongst Ulster Unionists. Indeed, maybe the DUP will need an even bigger gun than Nigel’s wife, Diane Dodds, to prevent McGimpsey replacing Martin Smyth as South Belfast MP.

This could be a good time for the DUP’s man of the moment – MEP Jim Allister – to enter the fray as its South Belfast standardbearer. If he won, it would place him in prime position to take the DUP leadership itself.

Allister’s impressive vote in the 2004 Euro poll not only established his considerable credibility amongst the DUP rank and file, but also the private respect of many Right-wing Ulster Unionists.

This week, the UUP MLAs are holding an ‘away day’ in Templepatrick to discuss their future. Having met the SDLP last week, the big question is whether the UUP leadership will unveil a British Government document containing four possible proposals to end the impasse.

With the DUP proposal document already with the Secretary of State, the UUP is under pressure to give its council and Westminster candidates some policy direction on the doorsteps.

With disturbing reports of a potentially violent summer ahead – especially in north Belfast – there is pressure to get an interim arrangement as soon as possible after 5 May.

It is then hoped real negotiations can begin again in September, with the new deal in place by Christmas and the Assembly restored by January 2006 – just a year late!

But another question is still bugging many – why won’t the SDLP make the ideological jump and share power with unionists without SF being present, especially as the latter is hell bent on wiping out constitutional nationalism on 5 May?

First published in the Irish Daily Star on Monday 7th March 2005

  • slug9987

    Is that the Irish version of the UK Daily Star with all the page three girls etc., or is it a different publication?

  • fair_deal

    This piece largely reads as “I had a quick chat with me da and this is the latest gossip”

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘With disturbing reports of a potentially violent summer ahead – especially in north Belfast – there is pressure to get an interim arrangement as soon as possible after 5 May.’

    An outrageous spoof that probably feeds off the crap Tom Ekyn of the Alliance Party came off with last week. At that time both loyalist and nationalist interface workers asked Ekyn to supply the info that he had for deliberately raising tensions. He warbled about meeting 20 people in his mayoral parlour who told him of the dastardly plot. When asked who they were he couldn’t name even one. Caught, hook, line and sinker.
    I live in N Belfast and there is no talk of anything of the sort. Scaremongering of that type is totally irresponsible.

  • fair_deal

    Pat

    A predominant analysis in Unionist areas is as follows:
    1. SF/PIRA is under serious political pressure due to issues being discussed on other threads.
    2. SF/PIRA needs to find a means of relieveing that pressure.
    3. SF/PIRA will instigate incidents most likely at parades’ protests that will lead to some degree of sectarian conflict.
    4. Government becomes worried that sectarian conflict will deepen, spread or intensify.
    5. Government will then ignore/de-emphasize about the other issues in return for SF/PIRA co-operation in reducing/ending sectarian conflict.

  • Occasional Commenter

    John Coulter suggested that Allister (the DUP MEP) might go for the South Belfast Westminster seat. But you’re not allowed to be an MP and an MEP simultaneously. Could we be about to see a bye election for the MEP seat? If so, I’d say the UUP would get it with nationalist transfers. Therefore, I don’t think Allister will go for it – unless I’m mistaken about the restriction.

    I wonder can one be an abstentionist MP and keep a MEP seat?

  • George

    Fair_Deal,
    in your points, do you mean Sinn Fein or do you mean the IRA or do you mean both?

    Or are they the same organisation in your view?

    If so you are directly contradicting Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who believes they are distinct.

  • Circles

    Fair Deal – that just underlines the gulf of misunderstanding between unionist and nationalists.
    Republicanism is really about non-sectarianism. SF couldn’t afford to get coaught up in that kind of nonsense – Gerr and Martin they aren’t into dancing down the Shankill hand in hand like that other famous comedy duo did in Garvaghy

  • fair_deal

    George

    The comment was on a common analysis in Unionist communities. A significant section of the Unionist community see SF and PIRA as one and the same.

    Personally, I view them as two parts of the one political movement. They share common aims and objectives and significant cross-over in membership and leadership.

    Circles

    “Republicanism is really about non-sectarianism”

    I’ve seen too much trouble at interfaces to buy into that and the PIRA was never averse to sectarian killings either.

    “SF couldn’t afford to get coaught up in that kind of nonsense”

    Unionists tend to view the parades issue as SF letting the sectarian genie in their community out of the bottle. A genie they have found increasingly difficult to control e.g. Ardoyne last year and the Derry Linfield game.

  • mnob

    fair_deal,

    I think Circles means that Republicanism can’t afford to get *caught* at sectarianism, just as they couldn’t afford to get caught at bank robberies …

    It completely amazes me that Republicans think that their bigotry is somehow better than the Prods’ because its framed as political rather than religous.