Berry braced for comeback…

TALKBACK got a lot of text messages today about ‘troubled’ DUP politician Paul Berry’s imminent return to Stormont. Berry is clearly positioning himself carefully, and his constant line about ‘unionist unity’ tells us he’s keen to get back in the fold. But will this late rearguard action really allow him to come from behind to re-enter a body he once tried to shaft?What’s more interesting than crap jokes at Berry’s expense, is the thinking behind his statements.

Could he be playing the numbers game?

Since party appointments to various bodies are based on party strength (ie, number of seats in the Assembly), his resignation from the DUP should have meant that the party only got three seats on the Policing Board.

But it got four – probably as some kind of confidence-building measure/bribe from the Government.

Translated into an Assembly Executive, and the situation is much the same – with Berry, the DUP was entitled to four ministerial positions, without him, it is only entitled to three… but since ministerial numbers of much greater significance than Policing Board presence, will the Government be as willing to be economical with its mathematics come November?

With the Assembly due to be re-called next month, this perhaps explains Mr Berry’s emergence…

  • Pete Baker


    In re: the distribution of seats via d’Hondt

    We’ve had that discussion on Slugger before.. it’s not as clear cut as you seem to think

    As Stephen commented at that time – “By my reckoning there is therefore a dead heat for the 10th place, if Berry is excluded, between the DUP (with three seats already, the score is 32/(3+1)), SF (24/(2+1)) and the UUP (24/(2+1) – i.e. a score of 8 in each case.”

  • Jacko

    “… re-enter a body he tried to shaft.”

    You’re right, Gonzo.
    Those crap jokes just lower the whole tone of the debate.

  • Bilbo

    the crap jokes are still pretty funny though, also funny is the thought of DUPs swallowing their moral juices to let Berry re enter to fray so they get an extra seat.

  • I thought they were excellent jokes and placed the debate precisely where it should be.

  • His profile is still on the DUP website

    and he is still listed as a DUP MLA on the Northern Ireland Assembly website

    So I presume he still hasn’t left the DUP or the DUP are going to make a big public display of forgiveness and have a token ******** in their midst to show they are inclusive and tolerant of others.

  • rubicon

    The nominations to the Policing Board should not be considered as setting a precedent for D’Hondt nominations to the Executive (should such an event happen).

    Belfast Gonzo is correct – the DUP do loose a ministerial nomination – and SF gain it. Pete Baker is also correct to point out that there’s a tie – but in the case of ministerial nominations – there is a procedure to resolve ties that divides first preferences by nominations already made (plus 1).

    IF (and I mean IF) Mr. Berry remains outside the DUP fold on the 15th May then the DUP loose the 10th nomination to SF. However, if Mr. Berry wasn’t to turn up on the 15th and no formal notification had been given as to his expulsion from the DUP – what happens then? Would the Assembly be required to list him under his last official designation – that returned by the Electoral Office following the Assembly election?

    After the 15th all MLA party designations for D’Hondt purposes are locked down.

    Anyone taking bets on whether Mr. Berry turns up to the first meeting of the Assembly on the 15th?

  • Pete Baker


    “IF (and I mean IF) Mr. Berry remains outside the DUP fold on the 15th May then the DUP loose the 10th nomination to SF.”

    I would prefer to see some figures [using first preference votes] to confirm that.

  • BooBoo

    Anyone know what would happen in the d’Hondt stakes if Berry or David Ervine could be convinced to take UUP whip?

    I only ask because I was at a “do” last night and a UUP MLA told me “it was an option under discussion.”


  • mark

    Do you have d’Hondt correct, how do you get an extra seat for SF?.

    Using an online calculator (replace Cons with DUP, Labour with SF, Lib with UUP, UKIP with SDLP,Green with APNI and Nationalist with Independent.

    I get 4 for the DUP with Berry out or in. link to d’Hondt calculation

    If he goes to the UUP they seem to take the DUPs last seat, now wouldn’t that be fun. Link to d’Hondt calculation

    Or am I doing something wrong?

    [edited links to avoid messing up page display – moderator]

  • mark


    I think the UUP take the DUPs 4th Minister if they can get ‘anyone’ to join up. Deeney, Irvine, Berry, McCartney even a single APNI member. Now what price would the MLA or APNI charge and just how easily would the UUP pay it to get one over the DUP?

  • rubicon

    In the event of the 3way tie between DUP, UUP and SF that occurs on the 10th nomination (assuming the DUP starts with 32 and not 33 seats) the calculations are:

    DUP = 178,002 (1st pref’s) / (3 nominations + 1)
    UUP = 156,931 (1st pref’s) / (2 nominations + 1)
    SF = 162,758 (1st pref’s) / (2 nominations + 1)

    DUP = 44,500.5, UUP = 52,310.3, SF = 54,252.7

    Clearly SF have it.

    Just in case there’s speculation as to whether the 1st pref’s should be moved as party allegiences have changed since the election – the NI Act 1998 18.5 clears this up. It states, “Where the figures given by the formula for two or more political parties are equal, each of these figures shall be recalculated with S being equal to the number of first preference votes for the party as the last general election of members of the Assembly”.

    Hence – even if Berry’s seat isn’t within the DUP count on the 15th for D’Hondt purposes in the event of a tie his first preferences will still remain with the DUP.

    Hope this helps.

  • mark


    Thanks. So the DUP need to keep Berry onside, attract another member or lose the 4th Minister to SF.

    Even if they keep Berry if the UUP can find an extra MLA (Deeney?Irvine?) they take the 10th spot but McCartney could similarly redesignate getting the Minister back.


  • rubicon

    BooBoo – If I understand the question correctly you’re asking what would happen if party seats went from:

    DUP 32, UUP 24, SF 24, SDLP 18 to
    DUP 32, UUP 25, SF 24, SDLP 18

    (ie, allowing Berry or another unionist to join UUP)

    The nominations the would be


    then becomes


    The net outcome is that the UUP gain a nomination at SF’s expense.

  • Bemused

    I assume that this lying, repulsive little prat isn’t going to be allowed to continually play the ‘that’s all in the hands of my solicitors’ card for very much longer. Put simply Berry is a hypocrite, a fake and (arguably most repulsive of all) a spineless bogman who, when the going got tough, outrageously lied that he had been ‘assaulted’ by ‘Gary’. This odious twerp should be put to the sword by every interviewer he encounters. Martina Purdy only managed the proverbial ‘wet lettuce’ job on him today.

  • Am I the only person left awake willing to say that these f*ck*ng fractions have f*ck all to do with anything worthy of the term ‘democratic’?

    [Repeats to self 1000 times in low but serious voice]: I hate PR. It is a COMPLETE fraud on the public.

  • BooBoo

    mark, I’m not sure whats gainable by anyone of your possibilties to switch to UUP

    McCartney–wold want to lead the UUP

    Deeney–would never join unless he was garanteed Health ministry and could keeo open the hospital he used to work in

    Berry–would never win the seat again as UUP an Im sure Danny Kenndy wouldnt be best pleased.

    Close of alliance–hates Empey.

    That leaves Ervine. But I don’t think the UUP members would ware that one.

    But the UUP is so desperate to get another department it will probably be prepared to sell whats left of its soul.


  • Keith M

    Surely this is all irrelevant? My understanding (please feel free to correct me), is that there will be no executive in the shadow assembly.

    Come November if there is sufficient trust for the assembly to stay then there will be a new election.

  • BooBoo

    Keith M–but if shadow committes is set up after May 15 won’t d@Hondt have to kick in then for make-up.


  • mark

    Also, SF picking up an additional MLA (from the SDLP?) would change the mix

  • and he is still listed as a DUP MLA on the Northern Ireland Assembly website

    Maybe it’s because of this thread but he’s now listed as “Independent” with the footnote:

    Elected as DUP candidate, became an Independent member with effect from 21 February 2006.

    I presume the Assembly website cannot cope with the concept of “Independent Unionist”… Can the Assembly?

  • Rubicon

    I have some sympathy with “Karl Rove” – though perhaps not with his literacy or the attack on PR. There is a real issue here. It has nothing to do with fractions but a great deal to do with the law.

    The 1998 NI Act ties party strengths “on the day on which the Assembly first met following its election” (18.5). First prefs are tied to the date of the election.

    No doubt a gap of 2.5 years between the election and the 1st meeting wasn’t considered possible when the legislation was drafted. This anomoly needs cleared up since it allows politicians to play fast and loose for the purposes of self-advancement at the expense of their electorates.

    The issue is crucial – even if (as is expected) the d’Hondt nomination of ministers doesn’t occur for some time. Whenever it occurs (if it occurs) party strengths will be referred to those registered at the Assembly’s first meeting. One expects that will be on May 15th – though I note the 2 gov’s have been careful not to use the word “restoration” and opted for “recall” instead. It’s best leave that point for another day.

    The important issue is that the legislation allows politicians to play silly games and declare a day’s allegiance and then change their mind.

    The SoS says he’ll be laying legislation before Parliament to get the Assembly going. Hopefully he’ll clear up this nonsense and tie d’Hondt counts to the declared positions the electorate voted for; i.e., Donaldson et al – UUP, Berry – DUP.

    As for McCartney joining the UUP – I remember a journalist putting this to him. His response was, “What! Do you think I’ll be joining the arse end of a pantomine horse!”

    I was disappointed the journalist didn’t respond by asking, “but what about the front end?”

  • GWB

    Am I the only one to read Berrys proclimations of not necessarily voting with the DUP and calls for unionist unity as an application for a UUP membership card?

  • rubicon

    GWB – perhaps you’re right – but what right does Berry have to make such an approach? He was elected as a DUP candidate and his electorate are unlikely have become Ulster Unionists. His only negotiating ploy would be based on the legal confusion and the UUP’s ambition to gain as much influence as it can. Taking a ministerial nomination from SF may be clever – but its a still a dishonest misrepresentation of the people’s will.

    I hope unionism has left such manipulations to the past – but – perhaps not.

  • Erm if Berry joined the UUP all he’d be doing is reversing a third of the changes that Donaldson, Foster and Beare made!

    What would be the shape of the Executive on the elected 30-27-24-18 split?

  • rubicon

    Tim – I’d be happy to role out d’Hondt outcomes but I’m begining to think there may be money in this. So many permutations … I need to replace the tyres on the old car …

    If Berry joined the UUP he’ll have cheated his electorate. The law should be firm on this – the electorate know about d’Hondt and party allegiances. Perhaps they don’t know the exact workings of d’Hondt but they show every sign of being very clued in to the PR system and party transfers.

    If Berry, Donaldson etc want to change party post election – fine.

    I can’t think of a more honest mechanism than tying candidates to the party positions they sought election on. I’d be interested to hear suggestions on this …

  • GWB

    What happens if a party disolves completly? A member cant be tied to a party that no longer exists can he? Very nearly an example is the CPCP in the 1993 Canadian Federal election.

  • qubol

    what about stating that if a member leaves the party he or she was elected on then they can no longer be counted for any other party eve if they take their whip.

  • Rubicon

    GWB – you raise a very good point I’d not really given much thought to. God knows, had it taken much longer than 2.5 years to hold the 1st meeting of the Assembly what you suggest may have come to pass.

    I’m not convinced that the legislative draftsmen back in ’98 were considering this posibility and making allowance for it. If they were – good for them. Can they now explain how they intend to prevent the loop-hole they created that could potentially deny/negate the votes cast for candidates?

    Perhaps parties that up sticks and go should just be thought of in the same way as the horse I backed in the Grand National?

  • Pete Baker


    “I’m not convinced that the legislative draftsmen back in ‘98 were considering this posibility and making allowance for it.”

    No. I doubt that they were too. The entire Agreement seems predicated on the belief that all parties would always seek the best interests of the electorate as a whole.. rather than seek to develop their own individual, and often competing, programmes of government.

    It’s a system that may, and only may, have had some merit if a Bill of Rights was in place.. but that’s been cast aside long ago as an aim.. and is barely even mentioned any more.

    Far better to recast the system of government to place proper checks and balances on those with their hands on power – in the interest of the electorate.. not the other parties.

    Hands up for a written constitution and a Bill of [individual] Rights before the next attempt to kick start an Assembly?

  • iluvni

    ‘…Berry or David Ervine could be convinced to take UUP whip?’

    Is that an extra?

  • Intelligence Insider

    Be prepared to see David Ervine accept the UUP whip in Stormont, therfore giving the UUP an extra Minister at the expense of sinn fein. This helps to ensure, and surely correctly might I add, a unionist majority in the Executive. In return David Ervine is made a Minister in the Executive (probably for D.S.D.) as the UUP would not have had the extra Ministry without him. We then see a decommissioning of arms from the UVF as they can say they now have a political representative in government.

    A good result for all surely? The oldest loyalist paramilitary grouping in Northern Ireland decommission arms, the Executive is representative of the population and who would be responsible? Not the “Grand Ole Duke of York” or any of his neanderthal colleagues, but progressive Ulster unionism looking forwards and not back.

  • If I’ve got the formula correct then I reckon the allocation of posts at the election would have been as follows:


    (Well for the 9th place the UUP and SDLP tie but I recall there’s a rule that breaks the tie with the larger party isn’t there? In any case the other party picks up the 10th seat.)

    Where exactly does the fifth nationalist seat on the Executive stem from? On a lot of these calculations it would seem that if they are to get such a seat it would be due to a very favourable split between the two main Unionist parties rather than a natural right from their position in the Assembly. Indeed if all Unionists and Nationalists were to coalesce into two single blocks there would still be a 6:4 divide of posts.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Another possibility from my above posting could see Ervine stand as an “Agreed unionist/pro-agreement candidate” for Westminster in East Belfast and beating Peter the Punt Robinson with UUP/PUP/Alliance support(and maybe even nationalists voting for him as a better alternative than Robinson).

    This would allow Reg to fight North Down if Sylvia decides not to stand in favour of looking after her ill husband.

  • Jack Black

    And you think North Down would vote for Reg? Look at the NDBC results for ’05 – its about as likely as Billy Armstrong being the next MP for Mid Ulster.

    Burnside is the only one with a sniff of the green benches for a while to come, which must make him, arrogence and all, the next leader. That said, Tyrone Howe must be front runner for the Upper Bann nomination (whatever Danny Kennedy’s over estimations of himself), although I really can’t see my x being cast for him in a leadership election.

  • Is an agreed candidate really going to be able to consolidate enough of the UUP/PUP/Alliance vote to defeat Robinson? Each of the three parties has baggage that makes it difficult for voters for the other two to prefer it over and above options such as the DUP, the SDLP, other parties and abstaining. Even in 2001 it’s doubtful an agreed candidate could have pulled it off.

    Also didn’t Empey get his hands burned seeking the North Down nomination a decade ago? What guarentee is there that he’d be easily handed the seat by either the local UUP or the electorate?

  • Intelligence Insider


    That’s not something thats up to me, I’m just saying I could see it occurring.


    Faced with a choice between Peter Robinson and David Ervine (if UUP and Alliance pulled out) I can see Ervine winning by a small but comfortable margin. Might be helped by a tactical vote by nationalists given the certainty that a vote for anyone other than Ervine would elect Peter Robinson.

  • Rubicon

    Isn’t a general election years away? A LOT will have changed by that time – only a crystal ball gazer could predict what may happen. A few observations though …

    David Ervine isn’t the candidate he once was. The UVF has not disarmed. Ervine taking the UUP ticket and the UVF then disarming would raise questions in many people’s minds. Are you convinced Davey could do it anyway? With a UUP ticket? Is the UVF going to be content with the UUP representing their concerns?

    Perhaps 80 years ago – I doubt it now.

    A joint-candidate standing against Peter Robinson is assuming a lot. If the DUP make the leap by November 24th it will have a lot to do with him. He may not attract the ire of the “middle-ground” voters that he once did.

    I can’t see Alliance standing aside in East Belfast. That strategy has done them no favours in the past and Ms. Long appears to be taking a very active role in the constituency.

    North Down is an opportunity for the UUP – particularly with Eileen Bell not standing again.

    As for Reg – is his popularity on the wane? Hasn’t he been responsible for economic development in Belfast Council. Have you had a look at the east of the city? It’s hardly a credit to him. This is also the man who made a sectarian call to the polls at the last election. Can’t see him attracting much cross-community support in the East or North Down.

    I’m not too sure how to read the Sylvia standing down comment – it strikes me as sexist and unfair to the woman. Why should she put aside a successful political career for reasons that would be very unlikely to be given her if she was a man? At the very least it suggests that Sylvia is not caring for her sick husband. Do we know that to be true? Perhaps she has Jack’s full support?

  • Bilbo

    “The nominations the would be


    then becomes


    The net outcome is that the UUP gain a nomination at SF’s expense. ”

    Interesting, it is definitely in the best interests of unionism, reckon unionists will have the sense to put something like that together?

  • Bilbo

    “As for Reg – is his popularity on the wane?”

    I shouldn’t have thought so given that his vote has steadily increased in east belfast over the last ten years.

    I don’t think hermon should stand aside to let reg stand and possibly become an MP and to be honest I don’t think many others do either. North Down is very much Sylvia’s, as for her husband, I don’t think she would have stood for election again if he was not happy with it.

  • Loyalist


    Rubbish. Empey’s vote declined significantly in Pottinger at the last election, and the only reason his Westminster vote held its own was because in the previous election Robbo’s opponent was Tim Lemon – hardly a credible alternative.

    He’s a busted flush and the knives are out for him inside the UUP – I will be very surprised if Reg Empey leads the Ulster Unionists this time next year.

    As for Ervine – why would the Ulster Unionists be so mad as to give a clear run to a man who scrpaed in in the last council elections?

  • williamtheobaldpaisley

    I heard that he was going to call his new party combined unionists newry town until he found out what it stood for

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Couple of points.

    The UUP have been trying to woo Ervine for an awful long time. It never seemed to amount to much, though circumstances have changed.

    And I’m not convinced anyone would stand aside for him, least of all Naomi Long. Anyone who was stupid enough to stand in Mrs Long’s way would need a private army behind them. I shit you not.

    Of all the options, something in a new Assembly might seem to most likely option. If the UVF was clearly shifting the right direction, he could maybe even drag that ministerial position out of Reg.

    All highly speculative though.

  • On another point of D’Hont, what happens vis a vis the Assembly speakers and deputies? Do they get deducted from the party numbers, thus confusing things furhter?

  • Rubicon

    Tim – for the purposes of D’Hondt party strengths are not affected by taking the Speaker or Deputy Speaker roles.