Empey, as UUP leader, to wait and see

The Observer’s Ireland editor, Henry McDonald, was able to grab a few minutes with newly elected leader of the UUP Reg Empey on Friday night… and it would appear that the UUP will not make any definitive judgment on the IRA’s expected statement this summer until March 2006.

Reg Empey doesn’t seem to be in any rush to declare a return to any restored executive..

‘We went into government with republicans on three occasions just to give them time to change their ways and each time they soiled the nest. So we will only be interested in what the IRA does and not what it says.’

Sir Reg said the body established to monitor the IRA and loyalist paramilitary ceasefires, the International Monitoring Commission, will be in a position by March 2006 to report on almost eight months of terrorist activity, or lack of it.

Neither was he optimistic of the prospects of a complete end to paramilitary and criminal activity –

‘I suspect they[PIRA] will do as they have done in Dublin and privatise their criminality, allowing ordinary criminals to carry out robberies and so on and then tax them,’ Sir Reg said.

There is also a longer article in the print edition of The Observer I have in front of me.. but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be online.

But in it Reg takes a couple of extra swings at the DUP, and Ian Paisley in particular –

“He said he would smash Sinn Féin wielding a sledgehammer in the Eighties and he hasn’t. He has never in his entire career successfully negotiated anything.

“The only thing he and the DUP can achieve is a bantustan society where there is separate development between the two communities, one which is ruled by Sinn Féin, the other controlled by the DUP”

Of course, Empey was likely to open his leadership term with a bullish statement of intent..

By contrast, Alan McFarland speaking after the result of the leadership contest was known is quoted in this report

After the contest, Alan McFarland said the UUP, “now needed to rally round its new leader and move forward”.

“We cannot out-DUP the DUP, we should not be trying, but there needs to be clear water between ourselves and the DUP to give the electorate a choice as to whether they vote Ulster Unionist or the DUP.

“Our first problem is, we have to try to produce a party, as soon as we can, that is electable, that actually looks as if it is together, organised, speaking with one voice with clear policies,” he said.

Since then Reg Empey, speaking on the Politics Show on BBC1 today, has said they have met and discussed the situation – seemingly everything’s sorted between the two of them and McFarland understands the position [a slight paraphrasing may be inferred].

I’d suggest that there’s more discussions ahead between these two and Empey could do worse than to keep Alan McFarland as close as possible to his leadership.. no confirmation of who will be Deputy Leader yet?.. just a thought..

Update the BBC’s Mark Devenport does the profiling here

  • Visioner

    Unionist Party’s need to sell the Union more and not defend it.

    Tell the voters why be Unionist and set out the values and positives of remaining in the Union.

  • heck

    I can’t see how he will be any different than any other unionist leader. He is still of the “it was a good wee Ulster ’till them uns acted up” mentality.

    His support for coat trailing parades through nationalist areas shows that he has not accepted that there are two equally valid traditions in northern ireland.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4622091.stm

    If he make progress in northern ireland conditional on the right of “kick the pope” bands to annoy catholics then there is no hope in the short term.

    Perhaps he need to look at the company he keeps on this issue.

    http://www.sundaylife.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=649785

  • Roger

    The UUP is struggling to find a theme it should be simple promoting the Union and the protestant/orange culture and ensuring equal rights for all thats what the UUP is all about. This wishy washy nonsense will not work and will simply result in the UUP being a glorified Alliance party.

  • Heemo

    What is the point of the Alliance party please ?

  • Roger

    To be the conscience of politics in NI to conform to what they think the people of NI want but the fact is they are irrelevant and that is how the UUP will end up if they don’t watch out.

  • Heemo

    I have to say that for those of us in Britain it’s two bald men fighting over a comb – why should we care whether the UUP or DUP win ?

  • John

    Sir Reg is a good bloke who will undoubtedly steady the UUP ship. He is a good choice for leader at this stage, but he knows himself that it will take years to regain the top unionist spot.

    He knows this himself and has taken the job to sort the party out, put it in a unified electable state before passing the buck onto someone younger. That is his aim, and he will be sucessful in doing that.

  • Occasional commenter

    I dread to think who that younger person is if you look at the Newsletter today.

    The party will be lead into further desent.

    There are groupings all over the party looking out for their own interests.

    Empey owes alot of people favours now and this will hit the party badly.

  • slug

    Haeemo

    “I have to say that for those of us in Britain”

    Sock alert.