Empey: unionism has a lot to answer for too…

On Friday, Fionnuala O’Connor picked up a subtly important theme only now emerging from the botched co-option of David Ervine into the UUP’s group at Stormont. For it’s clearest expression she bring us back to last month’s Let’s Talk (Video link, about 29 minutes in). She notes:

A telling line on the Let’s Talk programme was his “this isn’t simply an opportunistic thing” admission of the element that blighted his chance of taking the high moral ground in Stormont. On the same panel Mark Durkan swatted Gregory Campbell’s brazen profession of the DUP’s purity from paramilitary association, past and present, with a ringing: “For years unionist politicians justified the nonsense that loyalist violence was only a reaction to republicans.”

Empey acknowledged the SDLP leader, remarkable in itself: “All of us – a lot of us – have not had an absolutely pristine record in terms of dealing with paramilitarism. There’s a lot of truth in what Mark said.” He thought unionist politicians had a responsibility now to “clear up the mess”, because in the 1970s and ’80s they had used paramilitary organisations for political purposes: “That’s a fact.” He recalled that the DUP and his own party had been in the same voting group in Belfast City Council for years with David Ervine’s party and the UDA’s representatives, “and that’s when there was no ceasefire”.

And finally:

It was a point that Ulster Unionists, like the DUP, were in the habit of dismissing angrily at the time, with much abuse of the journalists who put it to them.

Yes, he had been in Vanguard, Empey said, the umbrella group including politicians and paramilitaries which backed the 1974 loyalist strike, “and I think my attitude in 1974 was wrong”. Sir Reg broke ranks, and tore up the pretences. The oddity is that he should have flouted such a tribal rule and had the courage to question his own past so soon after meriting universal scorn. But he did it.

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  • Rubicon

    “and that’s when there was no ceasefire”.

    So, what’s changed?

  • Garibaldy

    This is a positive move by Empey, acknowledging the irresponsibility of unionist politicians in their dealings with loyalist paramilitaries. At the same time, I hope others who support the UUP and might move to the DUP on account of the Ervine deal take this into account before making a final decision.

    I wonder if the riots in September scared him into this rethink though

  • tiny

    Empey was being honest in admiting mistakes were made in the past, after all how many unionists wouldn’t treat O’Neill differently if they could turn the clock back, it’s a simple question, with the benifit of hindsight, was Terrence O’Neill wrong in the late sixties, was Paisley right?

  • BooBoo

    Vanguard was responsible for bringing more young men into the arms of Loyalist paramilitarism than anything that Paisley ever did.

    Craig/Trimble/Empey all up to their necks it.

    Reg now has a guilt complex about and tries to solve it by bringing the UVF into the UUP!!! What a complete and utter fool he is. I never had anything to do with paramilitarism of any sort–although I was around at the same time as Reg during that period–. I stayed with the UUP because I regarded it as the pro-Union party of law and order. I don’t want the UVF in my party. If Reg keeps them there then I’m off. Not to the DUP but to the ranks of the gardencentre prod.

    BooBoo

  • tiny

    BooBoo, and therein lies the danger to unionism, majority of the population, minority of the electorate

  • Keith M

    Empey has taken a huge gamble and so far it has backfired badly. He is now linked with a group that are widely held to be responsible for most of the terrorism in Northern Ireland in the last five years. He says that he is open to being judged on his decision and consequently now be considering his position as UUP leader.

    All the nonsense about Unionist politicians using the Loyalists may play well to certain commentators in the media (like O’Connor and her ilk in the increaing green IT) but comments like “marching with berets” ring hollow and without substance. If Empey has evidence that the UUP or other unionist parties (apart from the PUP) were orchestrating Loyalist activity, then he needs to go on the record with examples.

    Fatuous soundbites like this won’t work in the pro-Union community and will simply make another nail for the UUP coffin.

  • Harry

    I imagine a lot of unionists don’t actually have too much of a problem with the UUP and the UVF. In a time of insecurity unionism reaches for the flags and the muscle. I doubt Empey’s move will have terrible effects long term for his party – it allows him to play the hard-man role to counter the DUP’s monopoly on that role in recent times, it has the historical resonance of the UVF – which was originally a paramilitary army of unionism and could be so again – and it allows Reg to conduct his affairs in a way which is associated with, but distinct from, armed unionism.

    This is a policy for the medium term not the short term and it’s difficult to say whether this will bury the UUP or save them.

  • abucs

    Good luck to Empey.

  • Crataegus

    harry

    In the short term ie the next few elections this will cause a drop in the UUP vote, and probably further significant losses. The medium term is therefore irrelevant because the UUP is likely to be irrelevant by then.

  • Exuup

    an important point to remember is not just that empey embraced the UVF, but actually broke his word to the Party.

    Sir Reg promised us then that he would not join an executive this side of an assembly election.
    His dispicable move not only endorses the UVF but shows him to be incapable of keeping his word.

    Nothing changes, does it?

  • Rubicon

    Harry – I suspect you may be using the type of ‘SF think’ that doesn’t carry across to the UUP so easily. For those who can justify the PIRA campaign as having legitimacy the mirror image argument may have some relevance – if it existed in those terms – but it doesn’t.

    Unionism had state forces to defend their political viewpoint, they refer to respect for law and order and didn’t need to dirty themselves with loyalist thugs. Leading unionists most certainly rubbed shoulders with loyalists and found symbiotic ways of working but it was conditional on there being a moat separating the “decent” from “degenerate”.

    UUP’ers have spent years sneering at the DUP’ers for similar reasons. To find that Reg has now lowered the drawbridge and let the great unwashed in is causing consternation. The blue rinse ladies and Ulster’s Victor Meldrews are screaming, “I can’t believe it!” – and so are a good many others.

    This pact of Reg’s is most certainly a huge electoral risk with likely long-term impacts that wouldn’t exist in the republican constituency – and more than running an election campaign with the slogan “decent people vote …”.

    Is Reg to be congratulated for taking risks? He better hurry up and get the UVF to divvy-up SOON. For the naive UUP voter some may believe this pact has a shred of decent intent to it – but a good few others will never forgive it whether it delivers or not.

    It’s a different electorate mate – and they’re hoping mad! Reg has brought them down to the same level as physical force republicans and they don’t like it.

    From the outside this mindset may seem delusional but it is most certainly a political reality.

  • somewhere in middle ulster

    I read Slugger a lot but don’t post here much – I want to say that I really hope Reg succeeds with this move of his. Seeing him on Lets Talk made me realise his sincerity and that he’s in this for the long haul.

    I’ve always thought that Reg Empey is one of the good guys here, and has been for years – he was certainly a calming voice throughout the Troubles.

    From my personal viewpoint, I must say that I was concerned at first by Reg’s move, but now that I see how serious he takes this, I feel I must give him my backing. We can’t just leave the loyalist communities out there hanging in the cold you know.

    If this initiative by Reg can deliver the loyalist communities into the peace process then I’ve got to say lets give the guy a chance to deliver, he knows what he’s doing here and he’s not the sort of guy to place his good name on the line for nothing.

    Sir Reg’s initiative could clearly now be either the breaking, or the remaking of the UUP.

    As for the DUP’s almost comically hypocritical ‘condemnations’ – “Tommy Kirkham”, “Deputy Mayor”, “Newtownabbey” anybody?

  • Rubicon

    “Somewhere” – I don’t question your heart being in the right place and the importance of getting loyalist paramilitaries out of business. Unfortunately, you will be dissappointed by this pact – it had nothing to do with engaging loyalism on a productive democratic road. The result you hope for won’t even be a ‘fortunate’ consequence.

    It is most likely to have put the day further off.

    But – your evaluation is no more valid than my own. If UUPAG intend to give the “loyalist cause” democratic voice then the one-off deal for restoration will be a crucial component.

    The nominees Reg sends to the Preparation for Government Committee will be interesting. If I’m wrong Reg will need space and will want to challenge Ervine by giving him a position the UVF will not have otherwise got. I’ll back off if Reg nominates Ervine to the PfG Committee.

    We’ll know tomorrow. I hope you’re right – but expect not.

  • Harry

    Rubicon wrote:
    “Unionism had state forces to defend their political viewpoint, they refer to respect for law and order and didn’t need to dirty themselves with loyalist thugs.”

    I am aware that unionism, after having armed a paramilitary army and threatened war to bring about partition against the majority of the electorate of ireland, subsequently salved its conscience vis-a-vis northern catholics by implementing all the props of a state – including laws and an armed militia – so as to freight its political decisions with all the propriety that statehood can bestow.
    I am also aware that this was sufficient self-serving sophistry for the majority of unionists to consider themselves on the side of ‘law and order’ and as ‘decent’ people for now going on 83 years.
    I am also aware that loyalists operating on the margins of legality took it as an occupational hazard that they may be prosecuted under the law when their political overlords saw fit to do so.
    I am aware also that there seems to be a remarkable middle-class snobbery towards working class people in this whole thing and one which exposes something of the underlying structure of unionist communities in a way that sectarianism has frequently sought to obscure.

    However it is no longer the case that northern irish society is dominated by unionism and the political structures of the northern state are about to be changed forever and in a direction that will weaken unionism’s monopoly thus far.
    Therefore unionism’s use of statehood as a means of cloaking their partisan political actions is soon about to be undone. When this previously happened the unionists decided to set up the UVF, drill a paramiliatry army, import weapons and threaten war.
    Nowadays, in a time of unionist insecurity with questions over the future constitutional status of the state and no longer having any certainty that the state’s militia – the PSNI – will act in exclusively unionist interests, it is not surprising that unionism would show some of its paramilitary teeth again – after all, that’s what the state is founded on.

    Reg Empey seems to have cottoned on to this and it is in this light that I think many unionists won’t be too put out by associations with ‘the hard men’.

    In the medium term, when questions over the constitutional state of the north and empowerment of nationalists begin to reach the ‘put up or shut up’ stage (i.e, no more talking, talks about talks and all the rest of it) it will be interesting to see how this flirtation by unionism with paramilitarism will play out. At every crucial stage of unionism’s life it has relied on paramilitarism and militias

  • Keith M

    Harry, everytime the people of Ireland (both north and south) have been asked about partition, they gave it an overwhelming “yes”. That kinda knocks the cornerstone out of the rest of your “arguement”.

  • Crataegus

    Harry

    it is not surprising that unionism would show some of its paramilitary teeth again – after all, that’s what the state is founded on

    The then and the now are two entirely different situations. I haven’t met too many Unionists who think they will be out voted on a border poll just yet. I very much doubt if Reg had the intention you suggest. In any case say 20 years on the UVF of today will be a bunch of has beens. Future trouble will come from today’s children so we all need to take care what we sow.

  • Maura

    Empey has turned out to be an interesting charcter. As an Irish Republican, I am amused at the UVF-UUP alliance( such as it is), considering the Unionist howls regarding ‘terrorists’ in government etc etc, for the past 10 years.
    However, I think it may be hypocritical of us (Republicans) to howl too loud about this, despite the implications it may/maynot have for the formation of the executive. I think we should welcome this move and publically do so. If the UVF can be brought into the fold, toward peace and reconciliation, that is to be welcomed.
    I am encouraged by Empey’s comments about the role Unionists have had in the conflict. This is a beginning and it is what we Repubublicans have been looking for from Unionism- an admittance that their hands are dirty/dirtier than all the antagonists in the conflict. For me, there has been nothing more infuriating than constantly listening to Unionists lay the blame completely on the Nationalist side. Is Empey’s progressive statement a sign of better things to come- that is, sharing the burden of responsibility for what Unionism created?

  • elfinto

    Harry, everytime the people of Ireland (both north and south) have been asked about partition, they gave it an overwhelming “yes”. That kinda knocks the cornerstone out of the rest of your “arguement”.

    When was that Keith? I certainly don’t recall it.

  • As some have pointed out – the usual wishful thinking here by Republican fellow travellers. Reg’s actions are not some retrospective validation of Republican terror because, Unionists were just as bad as them. We weren’t and aren’t. Empey certainly was a fool to involve himself in Vanguard, as were Trimble and Burnside, but the point is – up until now, the constitutionalist rationale of the UUP has been the rejction of paramilitarism and the embrace of statist legitmacy. In one move Empey has trashed that heritage. June is the UUP’s last chance to save itself from complete and final electoral destruction – but not one UUP MLA has risen to the moment.

  • kensei

    “Harry, everytime the people of Ireland (both north and south) have been asked about partition, they gave it an overwhelming “yes””

    You obviously didn’t see th erlast opinion poll in the South on the matter, then.

    “Reg’s actions are not some retrospective validation of Republican terror because, Unionists were just as bad as them. We weren’t and aren’t.”

    No, no. You wre a hell of a lot worse, because you used the full weight of the state yop keep people in their place. Staggering hypocrisy Rove, staggering.

  • Maura

    Karl Rove: ‘Unionists were just as bad as them. We weren’t and aren’t. ‘

    Unionists were and ARE much worse, from my perspective. And their utter hypocrisy about their responsibility in the conflict is simply making the solution much more difficult. Well done Empey, I say, let’s see some more of that. Trust is a two-way street.

  • Karl Rove writes:

    [i]”Reg’s actions are not some retrospective validation of Republican terror because, Unionists were just as bad as them. We weren’t and aren’t.”[/i]

    Common unionist belief but, when you look at the numbers, Karl, cmpletely false.

    When you talk about terrorism, you are talking about deliberate attacks on civilians.

    So, let;s take a look at what the Sutton database shows.

    The British security forces — combined — killed 363 people of which 191 or 52.6% were civilians.

    The loyalist death squads killed 1,020 people of which 873 or 85.6% were civilians.

    Now, given the increasing collection of hard evidence that the security forces provided arms, training, intelligence information, cover and immunity to the death squads, that means that it is hardly unreasonable to combine the figures. If we do, the combined forces killed 1,383 people of which 1,064 or 76.9% were civilians.

    Let’s look at the republican picture. All told, republican paramilitaries killed 2,055 people of which 737 or 35.9% were civilians.

    So, Karl, whose record is worse?

  • Rubicon

    Bob McG – is the question worth an answer? What would it tell you?

    I’m not interested in whose record is worse. No truth would emerge. Here, body counts are not observable truths. That kind of truth doesn’t exist and it’ll be a very long time before it does.

    My truth is that NOBODY should have been murdered over these 6 damp sods. I simply cannot (or – perhaps it’s more truthful to say, “I will not”) give credence to ANY murdering bastard’s justification. But – hey – that’s just me. When I hear armchair republicans/loyalists wax it’s time for me to go out for a smoke.

    They can no more change my mind than I can theirs.

    I will say this though – republicanism in going with the GFA has found another way. Why the hell they couldn’t have earlier is a question whose answer is only of value if they ask it of themselves.

    For their victims it must be a horror that threatens to hollows them out.

    Loyalism is a long way from engaging in a new environment that could put its actions to question. In part, the reason is simple – they’re tattooed drug pushers, wife beaters, murdering sectarian thugs that have as much interest in “defence” as Al Capone did. They’ve got “business interests”.

    Unionism hasn’t dealt with its dark side. Reg says he’s starting the job – but I do not believe a word of it – if it walks like a duck, has feathers and quacks … it’s a duck! But – we’ll see … such high motives need patience – not gullibility.

    “What’s that Reg? You know how to spell crack? Tell me!”

    “quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!”

  • heck

    What is all this about Empey bringing the “UVF into the peace process” or try to “engage loyalist paramilitaries”? Empey’s move was nothing of the sort. If it had been I’m sure those of use who are republicans would have supported him and tried to give him some political cover.

    This was nothing of the sort. This was a raw attempt to have one less fenian in government.

    This move typifies unionist behavior over the last 30 years. The will mouth off about “law and order” and “supporting the PSNI/UVF” but when the fenians look like they are going to achieve unionists with turn to the old friends in the UVF/UDA/LVF/RUC.

    Nothing has changes in the unionist psyche.

  • Rubicon

    Heck – don’t fret.

    Thanks to the UUP’s Lord Maginnis there’s no need for nationalism to be more than a spectator until the day d’Hondt is run. On that day nationalists can “re-group” in a way that ties unionists to positions they’ll find difficult to back off from.

    Don’t be too suprised if nationaists get the first nomination. That card doesn’t need played right now though. Nationalists can sit on the sidelines, watch unionism pick itself to pieces and perhaps adopt positions they’ll not be able to back off from.

    Unionism has still to credit nationalism with brains. Nationalism is meanwhile doing its best not to underestimate its opposition.

    A difficult task!

  • Maura

    ‘What is all this about Empey bringing the “UVF into the peace process” or try to “engage loyalist paramilitaries”? Empey’s move was nothing of the sort. If it had been I’m sure those of use who are republicans would have supported him and tried to give him some political cover.

    This was nothing of the sort. This was a raw attempt to have one less fenian in government.

    This move typifies unionist behavior over the last 30 years. The will mouth off about “law and order” and “supporting the PSNI/UVF” but when the fenians look like they are going to achieve unionists with turn to the old friends in the UVF/UDA/LVF/RUC.

    Nothing has changes in the unionist psyche. ‘

    Heck I don’t disagree with you totally. You make a good point about Republicans giving him cover. However, I think Empey’s Vanguard comments and the mere mention that Unionism may have some blame in all of this is a step in the right direction. But then Heck, I will admit to be an absolute idealist!
    I think it is very important to bring in Loyalists- we have all seen their desperation, which I feel has been brought on by their political isolation. This has manifested itself in riots, resentment etc. Their communities have ben left to the mercy of sectarian drug-dealing anti-social thugs, etc. No matter what way we move forward, this issue can not go unaddressed. The DUP have capitalised on the political isolation of Loyalists, and our society is becoming more politically stratified as a result. Can the UUP take in Loyalism and moderate that that section of society?
    I take your point about the Unionist mind-set, we see it on display here on Slugger every day. Until Unionism is willing to face up to their role in the mess that has been ( and is) Northern Ireland, then moving forward is difficult. This has been one of the most frustrating part of the process for me. I have challenged many Unionists to speak to this issue, few have offered to do so.

  • lib2016

    Maura,

    The DUP are mere opportunists who have finally risen to the top because the UUP’s stance had become totally detached from reality. Very few loyalists I’ve ever been on speaking terms with had any illusions about the Big Man’s inclination to march them up and down without ever having any intention of using them or risking his own freedom.

    If Empey is acknowleging the reliance of unionism on it’s own physical force tradition then that is one important step on the road towards recovery. Who knows – they may even opt to take the democratic route and respect the result of the GFA referendum.

  • Crataegus

    Unionism is going through an awkward interregnum which may resolve itself post Paisley. That is when you will see if Unionists can manage to act coherently and with purpose. There is a lot of negative dead weight in that sector and too much reverence for very questionable icons. 10 years on and many of today’s leading lights will be on their way out.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “What’s that Reg? You know how to spell crack? Tell me!”

    “quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!”

    To be fair, Reg is more of a “quack, Hop!” sort of guy

  • slug

    Crataegus

    Yes, it will be interesting to see what a post-Paisley unionism will look like.

    A group of middle-class Unionist voters have shown an ability to swing around, to the Conservatives, the UKUP, Trimble, and (post-2000) the DUP, over the last 20 years. So there is a swing vote to go for.

    It will be interesting to see what happens. The possibility of a realignment, with the hard core DUP breaking off, is often mentioned. Alternatively the UUP could wait for the DUP to get “tired out”. The NI Tories could creep in and pick up a few MLAs (check out their vote % in 1992). There are lots of possibilities.

  • Keith M

    elfinto; in the IFS, the 1922 electon was a de-facto referendum on the Treaty which institutionalised partition. Those against the treaty accounted for less than 30% of the electorate. In 1998 the people of the Republic voted overwhelmingly to drop the claim to Northern Ireland against supporting the idea of partition.

    In Northern Ireland the 1973 referendum also showed that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted to remain within the U.K., obviously supporting partition.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Unionists have never trusted those who tried to destabilise the Northern Ireland State and acted in a way that they should not have against all those they perceived to support that cause. That was sectarianism and racism against the Catholic/Irish people.

    Republicans have tried by whatever means they could find to destabilise the state and are still doing it. That was and is sectarianism and racism against the Protestant/British Scots Irish.

    Does it all matter in 2006, who did what and to what degree and when? If all the sectarianism and racism was removed from Northern Ireland what would happen here? Would we all live happily ever after? The answer I believe is no as nationalism (small n)would take over.

    So what is the answer? Live in the past for ever?

  • Crataegus

    Frustrated

    I agree the best course for all in NI is bury the past and get on with future reality.

    Slug.

    Much will depend on where the DUP glides off to post the Big Man. If it moves to the centre under the pragmatists it may become the Unionist Party and the UUP will dwindle. If however it decides that it is a right wing Bible thumping party bedecked in orange sashes its days in the pole position will be limited.

    With regards the UUP I can’t see much in the near future that will prevent the further decline. They need a new leader and a radical shake up.

    The Unionists are all over the place and seem to lack any coherent strategy that would strengthen their position and broaden their support base. They seem hell bend on repelling support by concentrating on core Unionist voters. I am self employed and am not from a Nationalist background, but there is no way that I would vote for them. If they can’t get my vote what chance with floating SDLP types, not a chance.

    To the UUP I would ask why would I vote for a party so closely associated with the Orange Order? Why would I, a non Christian, vote for a party that seems seeped in the Christian faith? Why would I vote for people who placate criminals? I could ask similar questions of the SDLP & SF in particular. Why would I vote for psychopathic bombers? (not SDLP!) What do I care about past oppression or Irish? OK I realise that these things are important to some and fine, but why on earth would I want to vote for any of you? Your main focus completely misses those things I am interested in and I am far from unique. What you all represent I find repugnant.

    I am reasonably convinced that Unionists view their politicians with more odium than Nationalists and Republicans view theirs. There is a floating vote in Unionism, certainly if the Conservatives got their act in order they could gain, but so also could the Alliance.

    But again Alliance has that cosy, smug image and the Conservatives here really don’t present themselves as part of a party that may be the next government. As for Labour organising here if (and only if) local Labour groupings can solve the N-S E-W problem they could be a real force. There are enough estranged left wing types in NI. The problem is there really isn’t a dynamic, credible, attractive option for the floaters.

    A bit off topic, decades of frustration surfacing.

  • Rubicon

    Crataegus – I couldn’t agree more!

    But – I have to tell you that my track record in voting for candidates that get elected is extremely poor. My vote seems to be a curse on the prospects of non-sectarian budding politicians wanting to engage with the issues that actually effect our lives.

    I’m sure it’s all my fault and nothing at all to do with the wider electorate not wishing to compromise.

  • Crataegus

    Rubicon

    Fellow sufferer, I was beginning to think I was cursed.

    No one I have ever voted for has been elected, and I vote bright and early in every election, for any stray dog or cat in the hope that it may just be different this time. Unless something unexpected happens I cannot see this pattern changing, and they wonder why people stay at home!

  • Garibaldy

    Crat and Rubicon,

    I share your frustration. You want to try canvassing for someone who has no chance. More depressing than just voting for them. The more sensible people stay at home, the less chance there is of things ever being better. A vicious circle.

  • Crataegus

    Garibaldy

    Done the canvassing bit many years ago, yes really depressing.

    The problem is perceived credibility, even if voters think the candidate is great, most think he has no chance therefore won’t vote for him, therefore he has no chance. So to get elected you generally need to be a recognised brand with a track record. Therefore built in inertia, sad really. In a NI context just how dreadful does a party have to be before support disappears?

    I would rejoice if some credible alternative grouping started to form. Women’s coalition gone, Labour groupings all over the place, Who else is there a few independents, rates payers, some Workers Party types, Greens here and there. None of them have any real chance, but if 3 or 4 groups pulled together they would have better finance and perhaps enough activists in constituencies to grind their way round the streets over and over until their candidates are household names.

    As for Alliance it is in slow decline and really does not exist over most of NI. Alliance types like IJP will extol us all to join but perhaps should consider why we don’t. That they don’t sums up the problem.

  • Bob Wilson

    Crat
    ‘the Conservatives here really don’t present themselves as part of a party that may be the next government’
    I hope this will change Very soon but it might happen sooner if you joined:
    http://www.conservativesni.com

  • Garibaldy

    Crat,

    I think you’re right on the credibility issue, adn the inbuilt inertia.

    I think the last European Election worked quite well with the joint candidate (whose name I disgracefully forget), but I’m not sure about the efficacy of this on a permanent basis. Perhaps the new council boundaries will encourage this type of arrangement, given that it will be nigh on impossible for independents to win or hold seats. I think agreed candidates rather than a formal alliance is the way forward.

    I agree Alliance is a shambles, and has been in decline for several years, and this may prove nigh on terminal. Somebody posted figures somewhere here earlier for the Westminster elections stating they got 2.4%, and other independenets 1.7%. If correct, this is a disaster for Alliance, and not much better for everyone else. 4% not for the big four. Those who stand outside the 96% (granted it’s much bigger in local elections) need to involve themselves more than they do.

  • elfinto

    elfinto; in the IFS, the 1922 electon was a de-facto referendum on the Treaty which institutionalised partition. Those against the treaty accounted for less than 30% of the electorate. In 1998 the people of the Republic voted overwhelmingly to drop the claim to Northern Ireland against supporting the idea of partition.

    In Northern Ireland the 1973 referendum also showed that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted to remain within the U.K., obviously supporting partition.

    1922:

    The Treaty election took place in the context that Britain had threatened Ireland with total war if the Treaty was not accepted.

    1973:

    NI referendum – meanlingless census of a gerrymnadered state

    1998:

    GFA referendum. Article 2 of the constitution still defines the national territoy as the island of Ireland, its islands and seas. The aspiration to unity is still there but unity with consent of the majority in NI.

    In other words, there may be a temporary acceptance of the reality of partition, but the aspiration to national unity remains.

    To say that the people of Ireland support partition is misleading.

  • elfinto

    Crat, Rubicon et al.

    Bite the bullet, be radical and support reunification. It will liberate us all from the colonialist, sectarian shambles which we have been enduring for far too long. Protestant, Catholic, dissenter – what does it matter? We are all Irishmen at the end of the day.

  • Crataegus

    Bob

    As one ages views become less radical. I could well live with a paternal, inclusive Conservatism, but Thatcherism isn’t for me and extreme views on Privatisation I think don’t stand close examination. I believe we should look after the elderly and those who are ill and good to see Cameron appears to be moving in that direction. If a Conservative stood where I vote they could get a vote, but so could Labour. SF, DUP, etc no chance. Hell will freeze over first.

    Garibaldi

    I voted for Farmer John (Gilliland) 6.5% (I think) I thought he did well though needed to be over15% to have any chance.

    4% is a low starting point and agreed candidates would be great if it could be made to work. The problem is that the Parties tend to act like warring tribes and equate a loss by a party close to them as victory as they are their greatest competition.

    Most of the people likely to be involved will be strongest in similar constituencies.. Alliance will probably want everyone to stand aside for them as they are the largest party, and have sitting MLA’s or councillors. Others will want to stand in every election for if they don’t their candidates and Party will be even more unknown.

    I think there are seats that could be gained and the support could be well over 4%. I hope something happens.

  • Garibaldy

    Crat,

    You’re right about the problems. I too think Alliance would look to dominate, but that would be unacceptable to others. The group that stands the most candidates after them is The WP, which I doubt would want to stand down from any of the Westminster consituencies where it stands. As you say, it’s important for smaller groups to stand as a message that they are still alive and kicking. Such considerations are why I don’t think any permanent political realignment of the non-sectarian bloc is feasible. A small scale, seat-by-seat basis seems to be the way forward at least initially. Alliance’s prblems in terms of manpower and finance may well acclerate the emeergence of such deals.

  • abucs

    Crat,

    for the DUP (or UUP) to broaden their appeal they would have to start making positive noises about Irishness and would have to start to ‘cross over the line’ in order to pinch current Nationalists.

    In order to do this they’d have to be not only very competant but very confident in their own politics and move their parties away from sectarian politics.

    Do they want to do this ?

    Are they capable of doing this ?

    Would the bulk of their electorate move with them ?

    If they won’t then there has to be a lack of confidence in politics in general.

    If they will, then there’s a lack of competance in the present politicians in particular.

    Of course you could ask the question in the other direction as well.

    One of the problems is that any main party that starts to try to be inclusive is in danger of being criticised that they are either wishy washy (from their own side) or that their ideology has been wrong all along and they are now backtracking (from the other).

    Confidence, competance and humilty is needed.
    Any suggestions ?

  • Crataegus

    Abucs

    I think it is easy to be very positive and inclusive for within the agreement the future of NI will be decided by the electorate in a pole. It is therefore a matter of personal preference. In the mean time let us get on with making this place work. It requires both sides in this equation to have self confidence.

    There is no reason why any Unionist should fear better relation and cooperation with the south. If it works and is to everyone’s benefit why not? In the same way Nationalists need to seize whatever opportunities there are within Britain. Because the SDLP attend Westminster doesn’t make them any less Nationalist.

    I am not pretending it would be easy, but if there were a few big beasts in there pounding away on issues like Education, Health, Childcare etc they could start to draw blood. Make the other parties contest on your ground. There is an open goal as some of the policies of the main parties don’t stand scrutiny. It has all got to do with credibility, have a credible line up and you will get publicity and votes. Done well and some of the existing parties will look decidedly Neanderthal.

    Why does politics have to split on views of the border? Why can’t politics be based on your attitude to real issues because the border issues has already been decided. Why can’t a party include Nationalists and Unionists who have similar views on most issues?

    Garibaldy

    I think the problems with negotiations are so profound that it probably won’t happen. The European election is somewhat special and easier for Alliance and the Workers Party knew that they had no chance of winning but even in that context the SEA and Greens did not support the common candidate.

    In an Assembly election if there was a deal you will have disgruntled members of Parties standing as independents against the mutually agreed candidate. Local activists won’t help the candidate from another party and a clear overall image will be difficult to achieve. That said it could be done if there was a will.

    I actually think that a lot of the small groupings need to take a deep breath and look in a hard nosed way at their position and real opportunities.

    Given the lack of recognition, the credibility gap and the inertia problem to take a council seat would require a group of about 6- 10 in a constituency backing up the candidate between now and the next election. So how many seats can the Workers Party, Greens, Conservatives and various Labour types and even Alliance effectively contest? Requires serious resources and hard work to make a real breakthrough. There are a lot of disillusion types who have tried before and if you could fire them up and give them hope you may turn this around. It’s all about credibility.

  • slug

    Crat et al:

    Interesting discussion and I belong to your disillusioned group of people.

    I think the UUP-Ervine deal was a very bad idea in terms of unionism reaching out to a broader group of voters. If UUP members and their MP is uncomfortable with it then that shows how it turns people off. And the UUP can ill afford that.

    As for the Labour party standing, it was a big breakthrough that you can become a member in NI now. Does anyone know how Andy McGivern’s talks are going with the Labour party? He was taking them to court over their failure to set up constituency associations when, last October, the Labour party offered to enter negotations on the question. I’ve heard nothing since.

    When you have Labour and Conservative standing then you begin to see an alternative debate emerging, and the national coverage of these parties means there is good brand recognition. That should help them to attract votes, as people often vote on party lines.

  • Crataegus

    Slug

    Sorry don’t know try Boyd Black

    Interestingly on another thread someone mentioned about Labour both in Dublin an UK supporting the Labour Party here. Now that really would liven things up.

    Interestingly the original motion to be able to join Labour here was opposed by the SDLP

    Occasion: Debate on the motion ‘That the Labour Party should organise in Northern Ireland. Proposer: Andrew Mackinlay MP. Seconded: Boyd Black. Opposer: Brid Rogers SDLP. Seconder: Cllr. Gerard Driver SDLP.

    So much for the SDLP’s commitment to democratic rights.

    elfinto

    Bite the bullet, be radical and support reunification.

    Why not say just accept we live in Britain? Both are non starters.

    I think we first have to sort the mess out here and improve relations before we go anywhere. The border will be decided in a pole. It really isn’t an important issue with me, but I won’t support a party that dogmatically tries to impose its will on this matter on others who disagree.

  • Rubicon

    Elfinto – thanks for the invitation – but I’m not at all sure Crat and my support will do you any good at all. We both seem doomed to support lost causes!

    But – for what it’s worth, if matters continue in the way they’re going here then when the border poll is called I’ll be opting out of the union. I’d simply rather have politicians that gave a damn and don’t much care if they’re Irish or British – both are in the EU.

    There’d be one blessing – SF, the SDLP, the UUP/PUP and DUP would become completely irrelevant. What would we get instead? FF, FG, the PD’s, Labour ^ the Greens talking about hospitals, schools, taxation, employment …

    Not sure if the electorate here is quite ready for that!

  • Harry

    The political landscape of the south of ireland would also be transformed by unification. The potential energy of this country would finally be released. We could create something excellent in Ireland.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    I am reasonably convinced that Unionists view their politicians with more odium than Nationalists and Republicans view theirs. There is a floating vote in Unionism, certainly if the Conservatives got their act in order they could gain, but so also could the Alliance.

    I’m pretty sure you aren’t right on that one. Northern nationalists are stuck with a choice between SDLP and SF, and neither are exactly brilliant. If all the southern parties moved north and started arguing on socio-economic grounds with proper manifestoes, the SDLP would vanish overnight and SF would be down to about 20% of the northern nationalist vote again.

    I think the differnce may be somewhat cultural in nature. Northern nationalists, as an historically embattled community, are reluctant to break ranks, show weakness, and admit that most of their politicians are rubbish – and not at all what they actually want. What nearly all nationalist voters want is normal politics concentrating on socio-economic and foreign policy issues within an all-Ireland state. Until that state comes about we’re just marking time and putting up with SF and the SDLP, in the absence of anything better.

    It’s a temporary and abnormal situation to the average nationalist.

  • Rubicon

    Harry – I think on this one we agree, the political landscape would be completely changed.

    At a guess; SF would become a small backbench party with ever-declining support in some constituencies.

    Unionists / Northern Protestants would stand to hold the balance of power for a considerable period of time – probably acting as a conservative / centre-right influence on government (a “Grand Orange PD Party!”??). Who knows, the unsung entrepreneurial side of Protestant influence in Ireland could return and make the country a better place for all.

    As Ciaran says, Northern nationalists would most likely be split between the traditional Irish parties.

    It won’t be this easy though. Though Carson considered himself an Irishman, partition has changed the mindset of unionism so that unionists struggle to find any other word than “Irish” to describe themselves; Ulster, Ulster-Scots, Nor’n-Irish (when abroad) or just British (as most 1st generation immigrants describe themselves once granted citizenship).

    Meanwhile, Southerners (most of whom don’t want NI spoiling their party) will float the idea of re-partition before taking on the masses of the politically psychologically damaged and deranged.

    ‘Tis a long way off Harry!

  • Crataegus

    Ciaran Irvine

    Northern nationalists, as a historically embattled community, are reluctant to break ranks, show weakness, and admit that most of their politicians are rubbish – and not at all what they actually want.

    It’s exactly the same for Unionists, boy do they feel embattled, some to the point of being psychotic.

    In my opinion not enough thought is given to how to achieve an agreed and peaceful reunification one that has an overwhelming support. Unionists have very different backgrounds and those that believe that they will just find their real roots once they take the plunge are either hopeless optimists or delusional.

    There is a serious amount of work to be done to build trust and understanding and bring the communities here closer together. It applies both ways United Ireland or staying in Britain

    Just imagine how a narrow poll for a united Ireland would go down in Cregagh or Rathcoole? Conversely one to stay in Britain would really go down a treat in South Armagh. It is the receipt mayhem.

    My position is I don’t particularly care one way or the other as I don’t feel affection for any state, frankly don’t care who governs me provided they are not totalitarian. The cultural identity arguments are often overplayed and in my case just don’t apply. If anything I would prefer a European state with strong regions and I see Europe as including Turkey and a lot more besides. I am of very mixed background and if anything I am European. So the Irish question doesn’t fit into any vision of mine. It is not important to me.

    Rubicon

    I’d simply rather have politicians that gave a damn and don’t much care if they’re Irish or British – both are in the EU.

    I’m with you on that the EU is one of the best things to happen in the 20th century. We are no longer constrained by our imposed national identities and can travel as we like across much of Europe and live and work in places once forbidden. It liberates free spirits from the limitations of Nationalism dictate, dogma and control.