Sir Reg takes over at the UUP helm

Interesting result in the UUP leadership race on Friday night. Reg Empey becomes only the thirteenth leader of the party in its centenary year. In the short term it’s probably a good result. Alan McFarland turned in an impressive 47% and took most, though not all, of the liberal vote. The good news for Empey is that they are also less likely to contest his victory, and knuckle under Reg’s leadership, in the short to medium term at least.

According to the Irish Times on Saturday, the key intervention came when David Burnside

Mr Burnside asked each candidate in the event of the DUP entering into a power-sharing Northern Executive with Sinn Fein would he lead the Ulster Unionist Party into opposition. Mr McFarland and Mr McNarry told delegates that they wouldn’t adopt such a stance. Sir Reg however said he would consider such an option, earning muted applause. Sir Reg during his election campaign indicated that he would not share power with Sinn Féin should the IRA effectively disband in the coming months. He said that it could until the next Assembly elections, in such an eventuality, before he would be prepared to accept republican bona fides.

Astute enough. It communicated a hardline to the traditionalists when he needed it, and yet with a strong possibility that the DUP will insist on new Assembly elections before taking their executive seats, hardly binding in any practical sense.

Howwever, taking the loose affliation that is the UUP and turning it into a tight and disciplined is a mountain for anyone to climb. Few doubt the UU house is still divided. He will some time and grace to get it right. The conservatives within the party will feel they have taken back some of the ground they lost under Trimble. Then again, they thought they were buying a conservative when they got Trimble!

Can Empey keep them onside and at the same time create some forward momentum before what is likely to be a very tough Assembly election some time in the next one to two years?

  • Federalist

    Perhaps the most revealing comment of the night was when McFarland told the UUC delegates that they were ‘too well brought up’ to be a party of opposition … and made no mention of the pesky voters who on May 5 decided otherwise.

    Obviously the ‘divine right’ approach to Government is alive and well in what passes for Ulster Unionism in North Down. It’s just a pity that the great unwashed in the rest of Northern Ireland have lost their sense of deference to social betters – ex-Majors, Lady MPs etc …

  • UUC delegate

    Perhaps the most revealing comment of the night was when McFarland told the UUC delegates that they were ‘too well brought up’ to be a party of opposition

    Perhaps not, because Mr ‘Federalist’ clearly was not at the meeting and the remark he has put into quotation marks is completely fictional. I was at the meeting and McFarland said nothing of the sort. He did make comments to the effect that the UUs were not good at oppositional poliics a la the DUP in response to a question from David Burnside. This has been widely reported in the press.

  • Federalist

    ‘UUC Delegate’ clearly was not listening to McFarland – the comment was made: we were, McFarland said, “too well brought up” to indulge in the ‘whining’ of opposition. Perhaps ‘UUC delegate’ has also forgotten the jolly laughter the comment provoked from certain delegates?

    Anyway … he lost 🙂

  • traditional unionist

    are you a council delegate federalist?

  • AugustusGloop

    so the UUC voted for the candidate who wouldn’t have the balls to oppose the DUP? That bodes really well for the future that does, why don’t we all just join the DUP now?