Get the UVF monkey off our backs!

Alex Kane in his Newsletter column last Saturday was clearly unhappy about the way his party had gotten itself tied into (if only by association, rather than by any executive connection) “all sorts of conspiracy theories involving spooks and ‘those who have agendas of their own'” that arguably has dragged Republican politics through the mire in the last year and a half.By Alex Kane

I was interviewed on Wednesday’s TalkBack, about the state of the UUP/PUP relationship following the shooting of Mark Haddock. Later that evening I was telephoned by one of my oldest and most trusted friends, who had this comment to make about the interview: “Alex, you didn’t sound comfortable and you didn’t sound convinced. Playing down the centre is not in your nature.” As ever, with those who have known you longest, he was absolutely right. And, as I wrote in last week’s column, the Ervine business does “unsettle” me.

I noted, too, that “the UUP’s electoral fortunes are now in the hands of some very unpleasant and equally brutal terrorists, whose ceasefire isn’t even recognised anymore.” Last week, I equivocated, and gave the UUP/PUP pact the benefit of my very serious doubts. The events of this week have confirmed those doubts and ended my equivocation. The pact is wrong and it should be terminated with immediate effect.

In some senses it doesn’t actually matter if the UVF, sanctioned or otherwise, was involved in the assassination attempt. So long as there is a formal and direct link between the UUP and the PUP, and for so long as there are assaults, shootings and assorted criminality, then for so long will the UUP be placed under the media spotlight every time there is an “incident.” Similarly, how can the UUP take a political, let alone a moral stance, on the paramilitary or criminal activities of any other organisation? The party has been left totally exposed and utterly and thoroughly compromised.

Worst of all is the fact that I have had to endure waterfalls of sanctimonious, dodging-the-issue piffle from an increasingly holier-than-thou David Ervine. It’s bad enough having to put up with this sort of pious guff when its just the PUP he’s involved with; but it has become a heartbreakingly miserable experience to realise that his torturous semantics now have a very direct impact upon the party of which I am a member.

I don’t give a damn if the UVF leadership sanctioned the Haddock attack, or if it is, as Ervine described it, the work of “opportunists.” I don’t want to listen to all sorts of conspiracy theories involving spooks and “those who have agendas of their own.” I don’t want to hang around for four months until the IMC tells me “whodunit.” I want the UVF monkey taken off the UUP’s back.

Now I know I made the point last week that the UUP had taken risks with SF/IRA, but in the case of that relationship David Trimble was able to collapse the government and the Executive when he believed the IRA wasn’t honouring its commitments. But where is the opt-out and the exit strategy in this case? At what stage does the UUP’s Assembly group decide that enough is enough? For all of his faults, when it came to the really “big” decisions (and I regard a UVF-linked frontman being given the UUP’s whip as a very “big” issue) David Trimble secured the support of the party officers, the party executive and the Ulster Unionist Council. Sir Reg doesn’t have that cover; and while it may be true that there are no signs of open rebellion at grassroots level, it is equally true that there are no sounds of joyous whooping.

I also made the point about loyalist paramilitaries that someone had to “remove the deadweight of their malign influence on housing estates and working-class areas.” That remains true, but is David Ervine’s membership of the UUP Assembly group the best way of doing it? The price of that membership, so far, has been unrelenting media pressure, a Trappist response from the grassroots and unsupportive editorials. Is he really worth it?

My conclusion now is no, he isn’t. The UUP/PUP pact is morally, electorally, strategically and politically wrong. Barring hard and immediate evidence that the UVF is announcing a ceasefire and winding down and ending its widespread racketeering, the pact should be ended and preferably before the Assembly next sits.

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  • Alex

    Well said.

    I hope you do not suffer the invective others did in the past for campaigaining within the UUP against the “morally, electorally, strategically and politically wrong” policies of their then party.

    Have a nice weekend.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Alex describing the move as “morally, electorally, strategically and politically wrong” isn’t very helpful – in particular the ‘morally’ bit.

    If unionists and the Ulster Unionists in particular want to discuss this important issue (feeding into a more general discussion on Loyalist violence) they should be a little more restrained in their attacks on this decision. Leave the denouncing to the party political broadcasts.

    Maybe it is electorally, strategically and politically a bad move, but I don’t see any reason to think that Empey is deliberately being immoral.

    Don’t attribute to malice what which can be attributed to stupidity. (I don’t think this is a stupid move myself, but that’s not important)

  • unionist

    The exit strategy is very simple, cut the link if the UVF don’t measure up.

    Naturally people are getting cold feet on this issue after the Mark Haddock issue, however how would the UUP look if it turned its back on the loyalist community at this first hurdle?

    I say stick with it, pile the pressure on the UVF to give up it’s arms and do the entire loyalist community a favour. To dump Ervine now would be a very bad and immoral thing to do.

    People like Alex Kane and Slyvia Hermon should realise that. Airing grievances in the press is not the way forward at any rate. Stupid, stupid…Have they not learnt from the past?

  • fair_deal

    “Have they not learnt from the past?”

    This is the UUP we are talking about here 😉 (sorry too many fractuous UUP meetings down through the years)

  • Ciaran Irvine

    It’s all very well to yell about UVF monkeys and give out a load of pious guff about the damage the Loyalist paramilitaries are doing to tens of thousands of ordinary people, but it doesn’t actually achieve anything, does it? Apart from making the person giving out feel all smug and morally superior.

    It’s long past time that both the UUP and DUP rolled up their sleeves and actually did something to show leadership and take back control of those communities from the paramilitaries. Which might, horrors, involve spending a few days a week in grimy estates working with their constituents rather than playing golf or playing at politics in Stormont.

  • Alex. Kane


    I have no difficulty with the UUP and DUP rolling up their sleeves and helped to take back control from the loyalist paramilitaries. I have been supportive of the efforts of the Loyalist Commission and the various other links and back channels.

    My problem, though, is that instead of some sort of policy which would have had closer political ties with the PUP as its ultimate goal (based on actually getting decommissioning up front etc) Sir Reg has created a link (and perception is everything in these matters) with a terrorist group which isn’t even on ceasefire.

    occasional commentator;

    I’m sorry, but I do see the link with the UVF as a moral issue. I didn’t mean to imply that Reg, personally, was “immoral” (I actually have a reasonably good working relationship with him) though—and if that’s what came across I’m sorry.


    I fully appreciate that you are playing the loyalty card here, as is your right. I’m just not convinced that you really believe it>

    Best wishes,


  • Dread Cthulhu

    Alex: “I’m sorry, but I do see the link with the UVF as a moral issue. I didn’t mean to imply that Reg, personally, was “immoral” (I actually have a reasonably good working relationship with him) though—and if that’s what came across I’m sorry”

    He may not be “immoral,” but he certainly comes off as being amoral, insofar as he seems to care little that he’s climbed into bed with the UVF to get an extra seat in a non-existant executive — the end justified the means.

  • Fenian Bastard

    Give it six months to work. if it doesn’t then UUP should walk away. its a brave risk for Empey to take, I hope it proves worth it.

  • Well argued Alex, an excellent series of points. Should we advertise for a missing “Moral Compass” for Cunningham House?

  • “Should we advertise for a missing “Moral Compass” for Cunningham House?”

    Perhaps there should be a statute of limitation here: 10 years without a moral compass and your party gets wound up.

  • bertie


    Glad to see this and I agree with Pakman.

    David and Watchman LOL!

  • gareth mccord

    talk talk talk that is all you hear from people who rightly are disgusted with the uup/pup/uvf. talk is something about it(action).if you are a uup member resign with dignity or make reg resign.dont sit by and cry into your cornflakes in the morning while reg disgraces your party (do something). those who vote uup yes those few dont vote next time for a party linked to murderers drug dealers and extortionists. have some morals and do something instead of talking .for the rest of us sensible people ask yourself are you doing enough or do you really care. i didnt think so!

  • ExUUP

    what amazes me in all of this is the lack of any mention of the police.

    It is the job of the police and other security forces to bring these boys to an end,not a political party (unless youre sinn fein in which case youre one and the same!)

    we should be asking why, in the 21st century, 8 years on since the belfast agreement was signed are these organisatins still in existence.

    They have no support for loyalist communities, whatever that term means,

    Getting rid of loyalist parmamilitaries should be the highest priority now for the PSNI, now for wee reg

  • Pete Baker

    Exeunt [Jonathon Powell] – Chased by a bear.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    My problem, though, is that instead of some sort of policy which would have had closer political ties with the PUP as its ultimate goal (based on actually getting decommissioning up front etc) Sir Reg has created a link (and perception is everything in these matters) with a terrorist group which isn’t even on ceasefire.

    Yet, Alex, back in the early 90s the Moral Majority poured what was quite frankly outrageous and disgraceful vitriol on the head of John Hume for doing the same thing. And that has resulted in the end of the Provos.

    If Empey cuts the link with Ervine, how do you (or, indeed, any Unionists) propose to end Loyalist paramilitarism? Someone within Unionism has to take the first step. Someone has to step up and tackle the issue seriously – and that doesn’t mean a load of pious waffle. Answers please on this vital issue.

    Time for Unionism to step up to the plate and actually do something. Empey’s idea might not work, but at least he’s seriously trying to achieve something. And after decades of Unionist manipulation and flirtation with Loyalists, to be perfectly frank all this “holier than thou” nonsense simply does not wash.

    As a nationalist, Empey is the first Unionist politician I have heard in my entire life who was actually honest and forthright – the qualities Unionism has always claimed but never possessed. If he shakes Unionism out of its comfortable complacent fantasy world then he might well go down in history as one of the great Irishmen of history.

    Make of that what you will. I care little.

  • bertie


    What do expect us to do?

    Giving these terrorists liegitimacy is not the way to tackle them. As someone says the main responsibility to deal with them belongs to the Police. Having Purvis on the Policing Board sneds mixed messages. The least that the rest of us can do is not to buy into that.

    UVF is part fo the problem. Making out it is in any way legitimate is too.

  • Crataegus


    We both know there is an important difference between Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries; availability of alternative outlets, Loyalists could have joined the Police or similar. Also Hume did not bring them into the SDLP.

    However I agree about the hypocrisy of many Unionist politicians and would add lack of ability to apply common standards to the whole community, but I do believe that there are a lot of truly ‘decent’ people who support the UUP who don’t in any way approve of murdering gangs. A large body of Unionists believe that such people should be locked up. Their attitude would be forget about bringing them in from the cold they are criminals.

  • Crataegus


    Sorry with name I’m a crap typist.

  • Alex Kane


    At the time the Hume/Adams dialogue became public knowledge I wrote an article built around three main themes:

    1: The IRA had accepted that it could not “win the war” militarily. Surrender was not an option, so the political route to the end goal was inevitable.

    2: The dialogue would be encouraged by the British and Irish governments, who would both expand on the existing back channels they had with the IRA.

    3: If the IRA (through SF) bought into politics, SF would almost certainly supplant or devour the SDLP.

    Hume’s intention was not to close down republican paramilitarism per se, but rather encourage to achieve the same goal he wanted—a united Ireland. He may have used the “agreed Ireland” phrase, but, in essence, he meant the same thing.

    Empey’s position is entirely different and for reasons which are blindingly obvious.

    The UVF has had 12 years (since it declared its first ceasefire) to decommission. Nothing.

    The UVF has had 12 years to wind down the criminality. But nothing.

    The UVF has had 12 years to create some sort of socio-economic political agenda. But nothing.

    The UUP has tried to influence UVF and otherloyalist paramilitaries; through the Loyalist Commission, the UPRG and long standing back door channels. Again, nothing.

    For the sake of a hypothetical extra seat in a hypothetical executive, Reg created a formal and direct link with an armed an active terrorist organisation. Everything he has offered by way of justification of this act is pure bunkum.

    Best wishes,


  • BVG

    That’s a fairly spot on piece of analysis by Alex at post 19.

    From my own angle I have just driven past the Woodstock Road (east Belfast area) and witnessed a bunch of thugs hanging up UVF flags. Is this really the sort of image Empty wants to present of the party he leads?

    Am also told that the local Tories are hosting an event on Monday night—Waterfront I think—at which there will be members of the shadow cabinet and a promise to present some defections from local parties. Should we open a book on who will be on the list. I’m putting £5 on peter Bowles.


  • gareth mccord

    ex uup post
    what are you on about? where have you been the last two weeks, months years. the police do as they are told by their superiors i.e. chief constable and above. as has been extensively highlighted recently by long serving detectives they have got the info to charge individuals but were not allowed to by ” up above” so what was your point about the police doing their job. REMEMBER ONE THING IF PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY DIDNT GIVE INTO BLACKMAIL AND VOTE TO RELEASE MURDERERS AND REALISED IT IS BETTER TO DIE ON YOUR FEET THAN LIVE ON YOUR KNEES THEN THE GOVERNMENT WOULDNT WALK OVER OUR HUMAN RIGHTS FOR JUSTICE. TONY BLAIR WOULDNT LET IT HAPPEN IN ENGLAND.

  • gareth mccord

    hello bertie
    i would expect people to do the usual things ignore, make excuses, pretend it for a long term stragety to gain peace. but not the proper actions like dont vote any party linked to murderers. without the excuse of ” the other side will get in more”. people hide behind a screen and say their thoughts without having the guts to say it out loud in a pub in the street or anywere someone can hear

  • bertie


    steady there man! A lot of people feel pretty powerless in the face of the terrorism and its appeasement. I would imaging that if we have an election in the morning the UUP would do even worse than they did in the general election.

    BTW I totally agree with your capitals!

  • exuup

    gareth, your remarks show that there is something wrong with the police , not with the fact that they should be dealing with terrorists instead of reg empty

  • bertie

    The police seem to have a pronlem with their range of responsibilities

    maybe it’s my job to go after this guy!

  • gareth mccord

    wake up its not the police i repeat its not the police . the massive majority of officers agree with our views but want to arrest charge and persue the scum of terrorists but they CANT .WHY?

  • bertie


    I think that that is the main reason that the DUP took over from the UUP as the main party.

    It is the police. The vast majority of officers might indeed want to go after the terrorists but The Police means those n power in the police to direct their activities. Hugh Orde is to all intents and purposes in this matter “the police”

  • lib2016

    We’re in the lead up to British withdrawal and the British security services are taking control of all the unionist powerstructures, the paramilitaries, the PSNI, and naturally enough, the political parties.

    There will be no return to British repression, either directly or through collusion. It’s over – grow up and start worrying about how your community is going to function in it’s new situation.

  • bertie

    Oh Lib, you’re so ……funny!

  • lib2016


    You think that British security isn’t liquidating it’s assets in the unionist paramilitaries and hasn’t taken over direction of the PSNI, particularly Special Branch? Or maybe you think that they haven’t bothered about the unionist political parties? Do tell.

  • gareth mccord

    lib2016 are u having a laugh?
    this has been happening since the british took over this land! “british repression, worrying about our community, liquidating”
    were have you been !the british gov does not give a toss about n.ireland.