How Reg Empey stumbled upon the high ground…

Roy Garland explores the interesting twist the UUP’s co-option of the PUP leader David Ervine has given to Unionist politics. He believes that the move and the DUP’s apparent abandonment of plans to back Tommy Kirkham for Mayor of Newtownabbey are indicative of the emotional limitations of the DUP and an internal unwillingness to take risks.

People throughout the community were shocked at Sir Reg Empey’s courage and honesty about the past deeds of some unionist politicians. Honesty about the past is a scarce commodity but surely has to be central to any genuine move towards peace and stability. In contrast, the DUP’s decision to opt out of a deal to elect Tommy Kirkham of the UDA aligned UPRG in Newtownabbey, illustrates if illustration is needed, the hypocrisy, dishonesty and fear of risk-taking that is endemic in DUP politics.

Although this analysis pays no heed to the larger game being played out between the DUP and Sinn Fein, which makes it unlikely the DUP would abandon it’s long term strategy/tactic of remain aloof from direct negotiations. Still, it does pose questions as to how far the DUP is prepared to provide leadership for the whole of the Unionist community, not least those working class communities in which Loyalist paramilitaries still wield considerable influence:

…instead of helping loyalists build a new shared future and fostering new links with other parts of the UK and the Irish Republic, the DUP and other reactionaries remained a drag on progress and now seem set on condemning us to government by Westminster and Dublin. This undoubtedly discouraged UVF decommissioning and the standing down of their organisation.

Into the midst of this dismal scenario Sir Reg Empey and Mr Ervine have thrown a mighty spanner that has upset the selfish calculations of the DUP. Sir Reg’s frank admission that, along with DUP machinations, Ulster Unionists also played fast and loose with paramilitaries is refreshing. At a stroke this created new possibilities. The disadvantaged and marginalised loyalist communities, whose fears hindered progress, might now enter the fray to frustrate the cosy circles of complacent negativity.

He concludes:

…getting out of the pit of sectarian enmity is a risky business. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared’. Sir Reg may have stumbled inadvertently onto this path but his actions now challenge us to dare to make peace. Many recognise the inherent wisdom in this though Empey’s personal motivation doesn’t really matter. It is actions that count. Rewards may or may not come in terms of UUP electoral gains but the time has come to do what is right rather than what is expedient. Scepticism about DUP hypocrisy and their policy of avoiding all risk-taking while doing nothing, grows.

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  • Nevin

    Well, Hume took a ‘risk for peace’ and the SDLP (and democracy) lost. I suspect the UUP will probably lose too following Reg’s ‘courtship’ of the PUP parapolitician and even more of the centreground folks won’t bother to vote. Reg’s difficulties are likely to be compounded when the ‘Community Safety Officers’ take to the streets, legitimately.

  • Geoff Wilkinson

    I think this hits the nail on the head. As an Englishman and British National living in Dublin I can see how rapidly things have changed. Attitudes here and the entire place have both changed so as to be unrecognisable. For those who hold Northern Ireland back in the past and are afraid of risk taking I say hang your heads in Shame. The DUP are not serving the full interests of their people.

  • Nevin

    Geoff, Dublin may have changed but have you had the opportunity to explore Northern Ireland? The end of bombing and the major reduction in killing has been a great relief; the growth in paramilitary control of communities and the associated mafiaism reflects the downside.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Nevin.

    Won’t you and your pals always find a down side. You do look hard enough for it.

  • Keith M

    Isn’t Roy Garland a member of the UUP, and as such he is hardly someone who can make a balanced judgement on this issue.

    I’m still wait for Empey to provide some example of the UUP (or olther unionist parties) “using the loyalists. Soundbites are cheap, substance is what’s needed.

    Risk taking is all well an good if you can convince the electorate that the risks you are taking are worthwhile. The decline of the SDLP post the Hume/Adams talks and especially the 1998 agreement and the even more dramatic eclipse of the UUP after Trimble entering government with SF/IRA, shows that neither Hume or Trimble were able to convince their respective supporters.

    This is something which the DUP would be stupid to ignore, especially given the reluctance of SF/IRA to take any risk on decommissioning etc.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘People throughout the community were shocked at Sir Reg Empey’s courage and honesty about the past deeds of some unionist politicians.’

    Who are these people who were shocked? How did this shock manifest itself?
    The only shock I felt was that a unionist politician was at last being honest. I didn’t need Empty to tell me that the hands of unionist politicians are dripping with blood. Lying for years about their support for ‘law & order’ only made them look and sound pathetic.

  • Dec

    Keith

    This is something which the DUP would be stupid to ignore, especially given the reluctance of SF/IRA to take any risk on decommissioning etc

    Please catch up. All IRA weapons are decommissioned. Even the DUP no longer bleat about it. Its no longer a viable excuse. We’re into your beloved ‘decontamination’ phase now.

    The decline of the SDLP post the Hume/Adams talks and especially the 1998 agreement and the even more dramatic eclipse of the UUP after Trimble entering government with SF/IRA, shows that neither Hume or Trimble were able to convince their respective supporters

    To compare the decline of the UUP and SDLP makes no sense whatsoever. Or are you implying voters deserted the SDLP in droves to vote SF because they disapproved of the Hume/Adams talks?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Wishful thinking, verging on dishonesty, from Garland here I’m afraid.
    Reg Empey’s ‘honesty’ only emerged when he was cornered and forced to justify the David Ervine thing. The fact that he asked other MLAs before Ervine makes a farce of the whole thing – not to mention the fact that the UVF clearly hasn’t even noticed that any of this is going on.

  • Keith M

    Dec “All IRA weapons are decommissioned.” Obviously it’s you that need to keep up (with the latest IMC report). All IRA weapons were mosr certainly not decommissioned. Those that were were done so in a non-transparant way.

    Both the SDLP and the UUP leadership took enormous risks. in the case of the SDLP, the Hume/Adams talked waved the way for SF/IRA to enter the democratic process. All well and good, but when the SDLP insisted on the designation of MLAs they signed up to a consociational type process that would always lead to their eclipse by SF/IRA, for in such arrangement people tend to reward the most extreme factions within their own community.

  • Exupp

    Its nonsense to say the DUP must provide leadership for the whole unioniist community. Why?

    Were was the leadership provided for the largest DUP community between 1998 – 2003, they were ignored and demonised .

    Now it seems teh DUP have to speak up for those who support a party aligned with a terrorist group – Nonsense

  • Dec

    Keith

    Dec “All IRA weapons are decommissioned.” Obviously it’s you that need to keep up (with the latest IMC report). All IRA weapons were mosr certainly not decommissioned. Those that were were done so in a non-transparant way.

    Sorry, old bean, but its you who needs to reread the report especially the bit where it states:

    “all the arms under the IRA’s control were decommissioned in September”

    Peter Hain referred to a’witnessed a momentous act of decommissioning’ before confirming at the Labour Party Conference that “The IRA has decommissioned its arms.”

    Even the DUP got the message.

    Both the SDLP and the UUP leadership took enormous risks. in the case of the SDLP, the Hume/Adams talked waved the way for SF/IRA to enter the democratic process. All well and good, but when the SDLP insisted on the designation of MLAs they signed up to a consociational type process that would always lead to their eclipse by SF/IRA, for in such arrangement people tend to reward the most extreme factions within their own community.

    So now you’re saying the SDLP caused their own ‘demise’ and not ‘SF/IRA’?

  • The central lie here is exposed by the relish with which the Provettes leap at Empey’s ‘honesty’ about his [sic] past. Truth to tell – and Vanguard notwithstanding – the likes of me, Reg, Darth, the Turtle, and Uncle Tom Cobleigh et al in the UUP don’t have murky pasts to feel embarrassed about. We haven’t been sectarian hoods, living as gangsters and dreaming of being freedom [sic] fighters.

    Now Roy Garland on the other hand may well have a personal past he’s extremely ashamed of – but that’s no reason to start projecting onto the permanently law-abiding, non-murdering majority, non-[insert especially gruesome early 80s scandal whose details aren’t exactly pre-watershed, now are they Roy?], is it? As the Pot Noddle ads more or less end.

  • Crataegus

    With regards the DUP being risk averse, I am inclined to agree. You can flourish from such a position if you don’t have any real responsibility. When you have responsibility you have to make decisions and with the DUP in pole position I doubt if their current stance can hold for an extended period.

    Their former strength was innate caution and this could increasingly become a disadvantage especially as the government can stack the deck what ever way it wants.

    Paisley in decline and strategic positioning to consider, difficult times ahead for the DUP.

    As for the UUP big mistake, you can’t put spin on a turd.

  • CS Parnell

    It’s funny how so many Unionists here rush to endorse the Sinn Fein analysis – namely that the SDLP are finished and that is the inevitible consequence of the GFA.

    Marx said “men make history but not in circumstances of their choosing” and certainly the SDLP would endorse the founding father of social democracy’s statement on that if nothing much else! But it also applies to Sinn Fein.

    The SDLP has proved it can survive and we are now approaching phase three of the post-GFA world. In phase one the euphoria carried the SDLP forward and won the referendum. Phase two was the very clever republican manipulation of the guns issue and their quite deliberate decisions to shaft the UUP and the SDLP and so build the DUP.

    At the same time they said they were the ones who could do the deal with the DUP. Either they can do that and we enter a phase in which they will be called to account for the deal (the “comprehensive agreement” showed they’d sell most nationalists – the ones not on the run – and all victims down the Lagan) or they cannot and we’ll enter a phase where they’ll have to do some fancy dancing but without guns.

    Both new options offer opportunities to the SDLP and all those of goodwill in the North.

    So, don’t believe the hype. There is nothing inevitible about any of this.

  • unionist

    Spot on article.

    The DUP are condeming us to rule from Westminster. I for one am very upset by that. We are governed pretty badly from afar, by politicians who couldn’t give a hoot.

    The DUP are very risk adverse…they show absolutely no courage whatsoever, they never have done. It has paid off leaps and bounds electorally. But the same tactic’s won’t work now they are in the driving seat. All that will happen is..well, nothing.

    I must ask…where is this fair deal? It’s been three years and nothing. It’s all terribly depressing. I just want to see some progress and if the UUP were still in charge, we’d be years further along the road than we are now. No matter what you think of the UUP, they do provide progress..

  • joeCanuck

    I think the DUP should rename itself the DOP.
    Democratic Ostriches Party.

  • That’s sooooo stupid it has to be a Paisleyite troll surely? Seriously, there just cannot be an Agreementite UUP spod who’s actually against British people being governed by their sovereign parliament at Westminster? Just on the off chance that there really is such a person as ‘unionist’, does being called British upset you too? I suppose it does, as it’s so non-inclusive.

  • lib2016

    The DUP is a party led by opportunists and there simply aren’t many opportunities left for unionism.

    The DUP can opt for devolution and sharing power with Sinn Fein which will mean that the zealots leave, or they opt for direct rule and their support simply erodes away.

    Now that the numbers are growing so close they are at the ‘wrong end of history’ indeed.

  • Nevin

    Eoghan, can you outline the upsides of paramilitary fascism and mafiaism?

  • Crataegus

    Karl

    Some Unionists may want total integration, some may not.

    On the reverse flip what type of Ireland do Nationalists want? Probably as many opinions as there are Nationalists.

    Lib2016

    Keep dreaming. I’m thinking of summer holidays myself, but whatever sooths your passion and brings solace in this troubled world.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I remember talking to someone who was in Castle Buildings on the day the GFA was signed, and the mad Thursday night it was negotiated. He told me how all the UUP MLAs officers and flotsam and jetsam were coming in and out of their party rooms. Papers were being thrown around to people to draft responses. In the middle of this was one Roy Garland, who had got acess to the building as part of the PUP delegation. He had strolled in to the UUP room, and was chatting to various UUPers while others were trying to draft position papers. I’m told Taylor came in- saw him, and had him put out. So it’s hardly surprising Roy likes the PUP- he was batting for them at the time!

    The same source told me that the UUP went to Ervine asking for support for 5 member constituencies in the planned assembly, pointing out that nationalists would gain at least 10 of the additional seats. Ervine point blank refused to back the UUP, saying he had to look out for Gary McMichael ( plus Billy and himself, natch). So the PUP played a big part in the crazy mathematics of the last assembly for paramilitary self-interest. Clearly Reg has conveniently forgotten that track record too

  • Nevin

    Keith, I’m not aware of any significant intelligence amongst the senior ranks of the DUP. As I pointed out in an earlier thread Gregory Campbell, as DRD minister, signed up to Shaping Our Future 2025, a document which places NI as a region of the island of Ireland with East-West infrastructure links under the control of Westminster and the NSMC. Peter Robinson was part of the process before he and Campbell indulged in musical chairs.

    IMO the position of the ‘centre ground’ parties was greatly undermined when Ahern released paramilitary prisoners early without a quid pro quo on the decommissioning of munitions and the disbandment of paramilitary organisations and Blair followed suit. This appeasement was complemented by the directive not to ruffle paramilitary feathers from, at least, 1994.

  • The more I think about Provette glee at Reg ‘confessing all’ [sic] about his [sic] sinful [sic] past (you can positively feel the shudder of pleasure as they then proceed to type out, ‘see? youse’uns are just as bad as us’uns …’), the more I think there is only one thing now to do. Not least (see ‘useful idiots’ like Garland above) because those sorry, sad fellows who cheered the Turtle on have so embraced this curious line of defence, and frankly, ever since the 2005 general election results, we just don’t see enough of them about this place. Soooo, all ‘Unionists’ who feel liberated by Reg’s decision to fess up all about his monstrous, dirty, innocent Irish-blood stained hands (I’m recalling various Provette posts on this subject from memory, you understand), and are inspired by his evident, painful, personal commitment to furthering peace and reconciliation thereby, it’s you turn now. Would all other ‘Unionists’ with something to ‘confess to’, please do so now?

  • darth rumsfeld

    Karl
    I confess I voted for Trimble in the leadership vote in 1995. Oh the shame

  • J Kelly

    CSP your assumption that the SDLP lost votes after the agreement euphoria was because of the arms issus IMO is wrong and missing the point in relation to SDLP thinking. The SDLP viewed the GFA as the end and their celebrations at 3am on Good Friday 1998 twelve hours before negotiations ended is evidence of this. SF on the other hand have viewed the GFA as a staging post towards a united Ireland. This is why the SDLP have slumped so much in the years since the GFA. The republican/nationalist community in the north are a confident vibrant community and are not ready to settle for an internal six county settlement. The SDLP has been slow to learn this lesson but is starting to realise this with its abandonment of post nationalism for united ireland policies.

  • Garibaldy

    Karl,

    I don’t think you can separate the personal histories of people within the UUP from the party’s overall actions. The fact is, that both it and the DUP allied with and used loyalist paramilitaries both directly and through their political representatives when it suited them throughout the Troubles and after. On both sides, people allied with paramilitaries when it suited them. It’s nonsense to pretend otherwise.

    I’d go further than that. As I’ve said before, anyone who accepts or promotes a political programme based on the division of the citizens of NI is sectarian, and shares the blame for creating the climate within which violence flourished. In that sense, I say all the main parties have blood on their hands.

    Roy Garland is clearly ashamed of aspects of his past, and attempting to atone for them.

    Darth,

    The PUP put its electoral interests first. That doesn’t make it unique among political parties.

  • Nevin

    Parnell, I’ve had another look at the 2005 Westminster election results. The UUP dropped about 89,000 votes, the SDLP 44,000, SF 1,000 and the DUP increased by 69,000. This loss of votes from the UUP and the SDLP would appear to indicate that many centre-ground voters stayed at home, some will have voted tactically to keep the DUP and SF out.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘This loss of votes from the UUP and the SDLP would appear to indicate that many centre-ground voters stayed at home, some will have voted tactically to keep the DUP and SF out.’

    Or maybe, following the tightening up of the electoral register, these ‘voters’ no longer officially exist.

  • Nevin

    Perhaps, Pat. I suppose it’s also possible that both the UUP and SDLP could fall below 100,000 votes in the next Westminster election.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Nevin,

    … it’s also possible that both the UUP and SDLP could fall below 100,000 votes in the next Westminster election.

    It is hard to see the UUP avoiding such a fate. Even in the absence of agreed unionist candidates (rarer now than in the past) there is a strong tendency amongst voters to vote for the incumbent, and in most unionist-held seats that incumbent is no longer a UUP person. Many of the UUP’s votes in the past were based upon their incumbency rather than the finer points of policy – now those votes are the DUP’s. Added to that, of course, is the distaste of a few for the UUP/UVF inextricable linkages.

    The SDLP have not lost so many of their incumbencies, and any distaste of inextricable linkages is likely to give them votes, rather than the opposite. So I wouldn’t be too sure about them falling under the 100K mark.

  • Nevin

    Stephen, the UUP refused to fight the DUP so it’s hardly surprising they fared so badly.

    The SDLP have dropped about 65,000 votes in two elections and it’s quite conceivable they could drop the other 25,000, especially if McGrady steps down.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Nevin,

    The UUP may indeed have put up a half-hearted fight in 2005, but they did at least contest all of the constituencies, even where there was a sitting DUP MP. It did them little good, of course, because their fight was feeble, and the DUP was a strong incumbent. They fared badly bacause they were not what the voters wanted any more. Next time out they will still not be what the voters want, and will face the tougher battle of being (in 17 out of 18 constituences, if not all 18!) not the incumbent party.

    Yes, the SDLP could (and probably will) drop further, especially in the urban constituencies. But South Down is a difficult one to predict (as Catriona can confirm). Who’d have thought that Durkan would have kept Foyle in 2005? We all read the predictions to the contrary. Maybe the SDLP’s replacement of Eddie McGrady will pull off something similar?

  • Crataegus

    About the time of the European election, it looked like the SDLP were expiring, but they have held and in some areas seem to be consolidating. I don’t see a revival yet, but SF are looking less all consuming as the years pass. Much will depend on their level of success in next years elections in the South and the general negative publicity that clings to them.

    The point you raise about voting for the incumbent may work within Unionism but quite a few floaters who would have voted UUP won’t vote DUP. Perhaps they will waste their vote and or Alliance or join the increasing stay at home band. The next election could well be an utter disaster for the UUP.

    Unless the various Unionist parties realise that they live in the 21th century and present themselves in a manner that will widen their support base they will never achieve security. Their whole stance and negotiating position seems to lack an overview or sense of direction. This worries me because they are failing to give the communities they represent proper leadership and hope. It is like a counsel of despair and could have dire consequences at some future date.

  • Nevin

    Stephen, it seems as if all of the parties are keen to contest all of the seats because of the significance of the overall percentage votes.

    Presumably McGrady was helped in South Down by the ‘parachuting’ in of Ruane as well as by possible transfers from Unionist voters.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Nevin,

    Since the boundary revision in the 1990s (between 1992 and 1997 sometime) it has become clear to unionists that there will never again be a unionist MP in South Down, so I guess some of them have taken to voting strategically for the SDLP. Certainly the 2005 Unionist total was a bit short of the potential. The McGrady majority was so big though that it was not a result only of the unionist votes, but they will certainly help his successor to out-vote Catriona, if she stands again. Of all the SDLP’s seats, this one is the most secure.

    It is unfair, though, to blame Ruane. The SF vote was always small in South Down – she has actually improved it since being parachuted in. But she still has a long way to go.

    Who, I wonder, is McGrady’s SDLP heir? Bradley?

  • Keith M

    Regarding the relative collapse of the SDLP and the UUP, while the UUP make have lost more in terms of seat share (esp. Westminster), the SDLP has lost more in terms of vote share.

    I have a little tracker spreasheet with all the election results since 1996 and on average (comparing like with like elections) the UUP loses .86% evey year, while the SDLP loses 1.05% per year.

    If you assume that this trend continues and that the next General Election is in 2009, then the vote shares will be as fools;

    DUP : 39.5%
    SF : 28.9%
    UUP : 14.2%
    SDLP : 13.3%
    APNI : 2.4%
    Others : 1.7%

    If the turnout is the same as last year, the UUP will just about hanf onto 100k voters, but the SDLP will be be on 95.4k.

    The one thing that benefits the SDLP is that they benefit from being the “least worst” option in some constituencies, so in Foyle, South Down etc, they get support from unionist voters and in places like South Belfast the get a boost from SF and esp. APNI.

  • aquifer

    SF are political cowards too, as witnessed in their response to the necessary legislation to give security force offenders something comparable to their own get out of jail free cards.

    Of course the biggest political cowards are the British, who refuse to recognise the necessity of taking risks to reward risktakers in the middle ground, or even to promote an inclusive assembly. This could disadvantage and thus offend the ‘intra-ethnic outbidders’ of SF/DUP.

    Witness Hain’s rapid retreat after he suggested it would not just be direct rule, but an anglo-irish affair, if negotiations fail.

    Great that Sir Reg seems to be acknowledging Unionism’s debt to loyalist paramilitarism in maintaining their never never stance.

    He should do it again, for Paisley’s debt is greater.

  • BooBoo

    Poor old Roy Garland is kept at the Irish News because, a)It makes the paper look “inclusive” and b) he is the “acceptable” face of unionism. Always willing to tell us how bad unionism was in the past and how we should all cosy up to nationalism.

    In his younger days he was a very hard line unionist.

    His biography of Gusty Spence was a veneration piece.

    I suspect it was Roy who has been pushing all this “‘fess up” stuff Empty’s way in the last couple of weeks. Its a classic piece of guilt trip handbagging, which consists of laying your personal sense of guilt at the door of a bigger body, in this case the UUP. Roy and Reg may feel bad about their political baggage, but it is wrong to include the rest of us in this “outing.”

    Reg’s problem, as Karl Rove has hinted at, is that the only people backing him are republican commentators and the Sunday Life’s Linda Gilby, who stood as the Rainbow Coalition candidate in the last election! Not to forget the CunningPlan House Typing Pool.

    He can’t even count on the support of pluralist liberals like Alex Kane (who has now come out very strongly against the UUP-UVF link) or Lady Hermon (who, as I understnd it, will call for the immediate breaking of the link over the weekend)

    Empty’s problem in a nutshell:

    His right wing have been silent

    His MLAs (excluding the increasingly barking Major)have been silent

    His liberals are unsupportive, but likely to become restless.

    He has no influential support in the media (he can’t even get his MLAs to get stooges to flood the News Letter, Bel Tel and TalkBack with support)

    There is no indication that the UVF will cut him any slack.

    He now cuts a very lonely figure. The only support he has is from the CunningPlan Typing Pool and they are all on the payroll.

    BooBoo

  • Garibaldy

    BooBoo,

    I think if he was as isolated as you suggest moves would have been made to censure/get rid of him. None of which has happened. His enemies might be strong in the blogosphere, but not it seems in the wider world.

  • BooBoo

    Garibaldy–The saddest aspect to all of this is that there isn’t a credible challenger waiting in the wings. Emptey got all of his MLAs to sign up to this deal, and successfully contaminated all of them. (You may be better informed than I am, but my understanding is that the MLA Group did not, in fact, make a collective decision on Ervine. The Party Officers were not informed. The Executive was not informed. The UUC was not consulted.) On top of that, he has offered four, yes four, reasons for cutting the deal, none of which stands up to hard questioning. I have yet to note one benefit of the UUP-UVF pact.

    Lady Hermon has made it clear she doesn’t want to lead the party.

    The UUC is now a mere parody of its former self, with most of the genuine political talent having departed.

    The President is 85.

    The Officer team are numpties who spend their whole time fighting each other (and I’m told Bowles is leaving)

    Quite apart from that, who would want the job? The party is almost bankrupt. Membership numbers have gone into freefall. The damage done by the UVF link will only become fully apparent at the next election.

    If Empty, as you suggest, has support in the “wider world”, (which is what we were told Trimble had last June, before the results confirmed otherwise) I would ask you to provide some evidence of it.

    I work in the consultation/lobbying business, which brings me into contact with a fairly wide array from that “wider world.” I also have a number of friends and contacts involved in the media and politics. I am not detecting any signs of a silent groundswell of support for Empty. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    On a personal level I would veer towards the UUP, but the Ervine business has made me veer away.

    BooBoo

  • Garibaldy

    BooBoo,

    I have no inside track so will bow to your superior knowledge. What I meant by the wider world was that as far as I can see, most of the complaints are being made by a smallish number of people, many of whom already had axes to grind.

    I agree the UUP is a shadow of its former self. Partly I suspect as a consequence of the withdrawal of many middle class unionists from politics, which meant that no successors were in place. Partly the absence of successors was the UUP’s own fault (as with the SDLP in fact).

    I agree we won’t really know until the next election. But that’s a while away, and given the UUP’s decline already, it’ll be hard to say what exact impact the Ervine thing has had.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I hear the North Antrim Unionist Association is on its uppers, and has been told that Cunningplan House will write off the debt to sustain one of the few pro-Empty associations, even though it’s membership is plummeting. Perhaps Reg’s thinking was coloured by the knowledge that there would be a better repsonse to the door to door collections if some of the collecters borrowed some balaclavas from his new friends.

    “The PUP put its electoral interests first. That doesn’t make it unique among political parties.”

    -true, and the real indictment is of the UUP talks team is that they only raised this rather basic point in the last week of talks. But the present pact is justified by Davy Dictionary as a cunning plan to get one extra ministerial seat, when the 1998 Ervine strategy added at least one extra nationalist seat in the executive then and in future.

  • Nevin

    Darth, the UUP isn’t the only unionist party ‘stumbling’ in North Antrim. Davy McAllister, DUP councillor in Moyle, has been prosecuted for fraud but there’s no sign of disciplinary action being taken against him by the party. I wonder why …

  • Garibaldy

    Ervine talking about Mc Michael might have been a smokescreen. Equally, it might have been from a genuine awareness of how unstable the UDA ceasefire was, and an attempt to bolster it. Or some combination of the two.

    On plummeting membership, clearly the demoralisation of the UUP rank and file is having a huge impact on a party not used to losing. Equally, lots of parties are losing members. The SDLP is in a similar position even after a good Westminster result, and the Labour Party has seen a huge decline in its membership despite walking several elections.

    When even the Provos, in that document Jim Cusack talked into some sort of Marxist conspiracy, were admitting concerns about membership, then I think we can safely conclude that political activism is plumetting in general.