Just how unionist are they?

Something that Andrew McCann said yesterday interested me.

Failure to include the leaders of Provo terror in government will, in essence, mark a return of the AIA with some window-dressing North/Southery. Even I could live with that, so I’m sure the DUP and the pro-Union people will be able to in preference to Martin McGuinness 007 holding sway over children’s education.

Lets look at this ideologically. The very first of the Ulster Unionist Party’s aims and objectives in its constitution is to:

Promote, strengthen and maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Crown, and uphold all democratic institutions in Northern Ireland.

Thus the primary reason for the existence of the UUP is the Union, and it should always act to preserve that Union. Andrew’s comments struck me as interesting as, if we take the Prime Ministers at their word (“Joint Stewardship”), then if the DUP do refuse to go into government with the provos, then they could be said to be an anti-provo party and not a pro union party – isn’t that what the SDLP are for? Is the threat of the dissolution of the Union a reasonable price to pay to avoid dealing with Sinn Fein?

Maybe the DUP are right and it’s all a big game of political bribery that is a bluff anyway – but they’d better be sure!

  • Prince Eoghan

    Promoting an arch bigot like McCann, and a site that bans anyone whose opinion they consistantly disagree with. Hmmmm

  • overhere

    Just has a look at the site “a tangled web” all I can say is at least on Slugger there are decent logical arguments.

    Which leads to the question what did these people do before they were able to spill their bile and general ignorance on the internet !!

    Maybe I should start a web blog after all if someone with a limited IQ such as “a tangled mind opps sorry web” can do it then any one can

  • Prince Eoghan

    I believe it is shock-jock type of tactics. Only the few brave souls who dare to pop their heads above the parapet get all manner of ignorant bile poured over them.

    What does a shock-jock do to those he doesn’t want to be heard? He pulls the plug. I believe banning people is the norm over at a vile web.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Andrew McCann isn’t the issue, what he said is.

  • Mick Fealty

    Andrew’s politics has as much right to be heard here as anyone else, regardless of what people think about him. The point of the ball not man rule is that people discuss his politics, and not him.

    BTW, I’ve found trying to engage people on the Comment is Free site a lot more problematical that it is here on Slugger. I’ve a notion that’s because, by and large, people do try to meet the demands of that rule. It’s something that has been widely (if privately) noted in other parts of the blogosphere.

  • lib2016

    Not only has McCann a right to be heard but his views represent a surprisingly large minority in my experience.

    Britain has survived 200 years of war, including two world wars and the loss of empire within the last 80 years. That didn’t happen without doing a lot of damage to a body politic which has frequently been in the lead in resisting mass democracy during those same 200 years.

    If perhaps he seems confused at times trying to reconcile the irreconcilable does that to people.

  • Gum

    Ok, so here’s a theory for you to rip up and throw out: Surely unionists shouldn’t mind Sinn Fein being in the govt of Northern Ireland (beyond the obvious policy differences). What are unionsits aiming for? What is their goal? As far as I understand it, they want to secure the future of Northern Ireland as a seperate country and a part of the UK. If they achieve this, surely they should not have any major probelms (again, beyond everyday issues) with a govt at Stormont being made up of Sinn Fein ministers? As long as NI remains a seperate country and a part of the UK, they should be happy to let the electorate democratically pick its govt.

    To me,willing to risk all to avoid sharing power with Sinn Fein suggests an aversion to sharing power with Catholics. I am NOT attempting to troll here. I am seriously interested in why they would risk NI’s future to avoid sharing power with this party.

    For those responding, lets keep this hypothetical – lets assume that the guns organised violence issues have been resolved to DUP satisfaction, and that NI’s future in the UK is forever secure.

  • nmc

    I personally, (and probably incorrectly) thinik that the DUP have no problem dealing with SF, the RA or any Loyalist terrorists, (let’s face it, they’ve done it before). I believe that they’re doing their best to milk as much in the way of concessions as they can, from everyone, before signing up.

    First rule of negotiation, give nothing away. Keep griping and complaining until you’ve got everything you can, then sign up.

  • Reader

    Gum: To me,willing to risk all to avoid sharing power with Sinn Fein suggests an aversion to sharing power with Catholics.
    I have never understood that conclusion – since they would much more willingly share power with the SDLP. It surely isn’t that unionists regard the SDLP as less Catholic than SF, is it?

  • inuit_goddess

    Michael’s got a real point here – just how far will the DUP go towards endangering the Union, purely for the sake of keeping Sinn Fein out of government?

    There’s clearly a major element to the DUP who can’t stand a Shinner about the place and who would place even the Union on the line to keep them out.

    Now that Sinn Féin have gotten rid of their weaponry and are rapidly winding down their criminality there is no logical reason, other than sheer bitterness, to exclude the leading representatives of the minority community from govt.

    We unionists may not like that nationalists elect Sinn Fein, but we certainly have to lump it, now that SF are rapidly completing the transition to being a normal political party. For 30 years unionists condemned republican violence on the basis that there was a democratic alternative for republicans to pursue their aims. Now that they’ve chosen that alternative, some unionists still want them excluded and would even sacrifice to Union to that end!

    Glad to see Reg isn’t standing for that kind of nonsense:

    “However, if parties are saying today that they will not participate by the 24th November, irrespective of whether the conditions apply or not, then they will have to explain to the people why they have allowed a series of disastrous direct rule policies to be introduced and put the well being of their party ahead of the wellbeing of the people.” (Reg Empey, 29th June 2006)

    At least some Unionists are still willing to put the future of the Union ahead of their little bigoted exclusionary fantasies.

    By November the choice for us will be clear – we either accept a democratic SF as partners in our devolved British administration or we will be faced with a Joint Authority that will make the 1985 sellout look like a garden tea party.

  • Gum

    Fair point Reader, my thinking here is just that it will be Sinn Fein they will have to share power with now. The SDLP dont have a big enough mandate (SF whether we like it or not represent the majority of the republican/nationalist communtiy). I know they say they are willing to share power with the SDLP but they know they will never have to. I know this doenst mean they are lying, but I think it does remove at least partilly this obsticle to what I said earlier.

    Any thoughts?

  • Rubicon

    Has the DUP’s position on power-sharing with the SDLP been consistent? What was it during Sunningdale?

    Gum’s suggestion appears to hit on THE consistent component of DUP policy.

  • Keith M

    “Is the threat of the dissolution of the Union a reasonable price to pay to avoid dealing with Sinn Fein?”.

    Isn’t it time magic mushrooms were made illegal in Northern Ireland as well. There is absolutly no threat to the union from AIA mk2.

    The question the DUP have to ask themselves is this; is allowing a group of active criminals (who have worked for decades to destroy the union, killing thousands on the way) into positions or power less dangerous than allowing the Irish government a more concrete role in the administration of the province?

    The UUP thought that they could trust or even house train SF/IRA. They were proved wrong and have years in political oblivion in front of them. Are the DUP likely to make the same mistake?

  • Michael Shilliday

    But their threat to the Union hasn’t been mentioned by the DUP, only their criminality which is apparently lessening, which leads me to ask if they allow “joint stewardship” to trundle along with all the risks that poses to the union – are they a Unionist party or just an anti shinner party?

  • Keith M

    Michael, having a bunch of criminals running schools, hospitals etc., is far more of a threat to the union than anything that the Irish government is likely to request.

    “Joint stewardship” may be a blessing in disguise for unionism. Since the original AIA there has been an intrinsic imbalance in the way both communities are treated. The Irish government is unapologetically biased in favour of nationalists. The U.K. government wants to be even handed.

    Under “joint stewardship” both governments would have to be balanced or else be clearly supporting one community’s interests. This wouyld be a significant improvement for unionists, and a damn sight better off than waiting for the morning papers every day to see how many bank robbiers, bar brawls, protection rackets etc were linked to you partners in government.

  • lib2016

    They face serious splits whichever way they go, which will in the medium term allow Sinn Fein in as First Minister.

    Paisley has no interest in modernday Britain nor in the Crown after Elizabeth’s reign. Whether it’s Charles or not it will inevitably be ‘Defender of all the Faiths’ rather than merely head of the Church of England. He’s said publicly time and again that his only loyalty is to the ‘Protestant Crown’.

    Paisley (and the UDA) want a sectarian ghetto along the East coast and have been working towards that for years. Mad and doomed I know, but all the strategy they have. They’ll sacrifice everything for that exclusivity, then find that the next generation of unionists have become ex-unionists.

  • inuit_goddess

    Keith you sound like you’re living in another era. Don’t you at least recognise that the IRA have now fully decommissioned and are clearly abandoning any non-democratic activity.

    For us unionists to refuse to engage with them now that they are (soon) to be a normal party is just sheer escapist delusion.

    And if the DUP think Middle Ulster will be content with Joint Authority and the end of the Union as the price needed to supplicate the DUP’s b*g*t*d go-nowhere wing they’ll have another think coming.

    Good to see that the UUP looks like they’ll make their own mind up on this.

  • Wee Ulsterman

    I’m a solid Unionist and I supported Sinn Fein being out of government while the IRA still had arms.

    But the guns are clearly gone now and the criminality is nearly gone.

    It’s all right for Dublin Unionists like Keith to come on here and tell us to go for Joint Authority but I’ve got to live here and I don’t want the Dublin Government having a say over my affairs here in Northern Ireland, thank you very much.

    I’d much rather sit around a table with a democratised, gun-free Sinn Fein and thrash out our differences – quite safe for both of us, each of us have a veto and its far better than some jumped up fianna fail bureaucrat down south deciding things for us.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Wee Ulsterman, that’s one of the most sensible posts I’ve yet seen on Slugger. A few more like you and our problems are all over.

    Keith consistently avoids dealing with the links between unionism and criminality. When he talks about a bunch of criminals running the country, you can be sure he doesn’t mean the DUP and UUP. Apparently, you see, it’s OK to have paramilitary mates that you carefully avoid condemning, provided you don’t have a formal link with them.

  • Exuup

    Stalin, you are obviously in pocession of of information that shows the DUP and UUP and involed in criminal acts or with criminals

    please take that to the PSNI at the earliest opportunity

  • Wee Ulsterman

    Well I completely supported Reg Empey’s move to reach out to the pup/uvf – and I really hope it meets with results, especially given the brickbats Reg has taken.

    I’m glad Sir Reg has reached out to the loyalists and I hope it bears fruit – i’m just certain that this DUP approach of rejecting government with sf forever – it’s nuts. Here we have republicans who have ended their campaign and decommissioned 99% of their armoury and yet the DUP still refuse to deal with them realistically.

    It’s sad because republicans are our neighbours. Now that they have recognised our right to remain within the United Kingdom we Unionists must recognise our obligation to share the administration of this wee place with them.

    If the DUP keep going on like this they’ll end up delivering us all into the nightmare of Joint Authority just because of their own pride and egos.

    When will Unionism wake up and see the DUP for what they are?

  • bertie

    “Michael’s got a real point here – just how far will the DUP go towards endangering the Union, purely for the sake of keeping Sinn Fein out of government?

    There’s clearly a major element to the DUP who can’t stand a Shinner about the place and who would place even the Union on the line to keep them out. ”

    Good to see that there are those who put anti-terrorist principles above national identity.

  • bertie

    “I’m glad Sir Reg has reached out to the loyalists and I hope it bears fruit – i’m just certain that this DUP approach of rejecting government with sf forever – it’s nuts. Here we have republicans who have ended their campaign and decommissioned 99% of their armoury and yet the DUP still refuse to deal with them realistically. ”

    I wonder what he had in mind when he tried to reach out to those he targeted before the terrorist oops I mean forward thinking progressive unionist.

  • Keith M

    inuit “Don’t you at least recognise that the IRA have now fully decommissioned..” No I don’t, how can I recognise something that was done in such a reluctant and non-transparent fashion?

    “For us unionists to refuse to engage with them now that they are (soon) to be a normal party is just sheer escapist delusion.”. If you want to see who’s really deluded read on……

    Wee Ulsterman “But the guns are clearly gone now and the criminality is nearly gone.” This takes the biscuit for delusion. The decommissioning body cleared state that IRA members continued to have illegal guns and IMC has linked SF/IRA with criminality in every single report. Just this week a member of SF was convinced of extorsion.

    I see that both of you have mentioned “Joint Authority”. You seen to have swallowed the SF/IRA line, hook, line and sinker. There won’t be “Joint Authority”. There can’t be J.A., even if the Irish constitution allowed it, it’s very unlikely that any Irish government would go for it. J.A. has never worked anywhere and it’s not on the table now or in November.

    The heavy hints from the governments suggest A.I.A mark 2. Would that really be worse than being governed by a bunch of criminals?

    “I’d much rather sit around a table with a democratised, gun-free Sinn Fein and thrash out our differences.” So would I, but I’m a realist. We’re talking about a party that is not gun-free, far from democratic and unsupportive of the police. That’s a long way to go by November.

    Wee Ulsterman “Well I completely supported Reg Empey’s move to reach out to the pup/uvf..” Then you are in a minority within the Unionist community. Such ambivilence to active terrorists does nothing but damage to the unionist cause.

    Comrade Stalin “Keith consistently avoids dealing with the links between unionism and criminality. ” No, Keith keeps asking for examples of these links and all he gets is is some nonsense about beret wearing in the 1970s. If a lack of fashion sense was a criminal act, then Bertie “The Anarak” Ahern would be in locked up in Mountjoy.

  • aquifer

    Be warned. Paisley’s church is Called Martyrs Memorial. Does he trust any one of his soundalike pastors and political apprentices to keep the one true faith? I doubt it. I hope he does not end up in the political and public order version of Waco flames.

    And what better surer route to political martyrdom than to allow a creeping union with ROI via AIA2,3,4,5. The Brits don’t care enough to pay close attention, 50 years of orange political monopoly and balanced books tells us that.

    DUP Unionism was always provisional, conditional on having things their own way, just like the old orange toffs they supplanted. And if things don’t quite turn out, again, is this uniting island there is always the self regarding and almost sinful pleasure of knowing they are better than those -deluded papists.

    Martyrdom how sweet. Why right wrongs when you can feel wronged and right at the same time, without risking anything except a union with people who don’t like you anyway.

  • Wee Ulsterman

    Keith, I just feel you’re completely in denial about the massive progress the IRA have made towards decommissioning (99% of their weaponry permanently destroyed) and towards ending criminality (which is rapidly winding down, and I expect October’s IMC report to outline this)

    The DUP and their supporters strike me as almost wishing for the IRA to keep on their criminal activities, just so their b*g*ot*ed wing don’t have to deal with republicans around the cabinet table.

    And as for playing down this nightmare Joint Authority / AIA Mk2 that’s coming for us this autumn – that really takes the biscuit.

    I do not not not want Dublin having a say over my affairs – I want to deal with my fellow Ulstermen, be they republicans, nationalists or unionists, around the same cabinet table and sort the problems of this wee place out.

    For the DUP to be playing down these very real dangers just to placate their own extremists – It’s pathetic, it’s a complete abdication of leadership and believe you me Middle Ulster signed up for a Fair Deal and if the DUP think they can lead us into Joint Authority they are going to get absolutely whacked at the polls.

    No to Joint Authority – Yes to Power-Sharing within the Union.

  • bertie

    For people to dismiss opposition to SF in governemnt as placating extremism is pathetic. Leadership is not caving in to what is wrong. If the DUP ignores the message it got from voters that they don’t want those with undecommissioned terrorist mindsets in governemnt then it will be absolutely whacked at the polls.

    What do you think that last election was about within unionism?

  • Wee Ulsterman

    So Bertie, from your point of view disarmament and ending criminality is just not enough – now they need to decommission their “mindsets” too?

    Maybe we should just drop the pretence and ask them to stop being republicans before we share power with them?

    Some Unionists, who seem to be in control of the DUP, simply can’t stand a republican about the place – the rest of us in unionism, the majority in unionism, do want power-sharing providing the guns are definitely gone.

    We want a Fair Deal, not No Deal & Joint Authority. The DUP’s right wing had better wise up to this fast.

    The DUP are completely abdicating their responsibility to lead, and if they think they are going to get away with dumping our country into a nightmare Joint Authority / AIA Mk 2 which would end the Union completely, they’d better have another think coming.

    I’m just disgusted, for all their faults I’d always seen the DUP as fellow unionists – now I just think a load of them are basically sect*rian big*ts and not interested in the Union at all.

  • bertie

    Wee Ulsterman

    Of course “disarmament and ending criminality is just not enough” even if it could be believed. If you think that its ok to have people who think that the slaughter of the IRA/UVF is justified in governement, then you are another reason to dispair for the future of this country.
    I’m pretending nothing. If you mean republican as in continues to laud and justify IRA terrorism then I don’t want them in power and have never pretended otheriwse. Nor do I want to see the UUP in power now that they have linked up with the UVF.

    As I unionist I would be horrified if the majority of unionists thought as you did. The UVF are also fellow unionists. I can’t say that that gives me much satisfaction.

    It is possible to advocate both a rejection of terrorist appeasment and the Union – a stance you seem to equate with “sect*rian big*ts ” You seeemed to have made your choice.

  • lib2016

    The referendum on powersharing was passed by a huge majority. If the rejectionists truly thought things had changed or that they could negotiate a new arrangement which would suit them better then they would campaign for a new referendum.

    Instead they bluff and bluster while handing their future over to an eccentric egomaniac. (I’m being kind here!)

    As Finuala O’Connor put it in the Irish Times ‘nobody, including Paisley, knows which way he will jump in the end’.

    There aren’t many alternatives to powersharing, Joint Authority is out, integration with Britain is out, self governing Dominion status has been tried and failed.

    Paisley may well have decided that, especially with a Fine Gael administration, fundamentalist Protestants will do better negotiating a federal Irish solution than they would fare if they continue clinging to a ‘British’ identity which is already out of date.

    The question is how and when he could sell such a solution to his party.

  • Real Unionist

    Bertie your way just leads to Joint Authority and effective Repartition under the RPA – some advocate for the Union that is!

    We need an internal settlement, power-sharing within the Union with a gun-free Sinn Fein. If the DUP want to reject that than I want to see an election before my country gets sold down the drain to Dublin Joint Authority.

    An election fought on those grounds will humble the supposedly all-mighty DUP – let me tell you the Unionist people of this Province do not want Joint Authority and will never accept Joint Authority no matter how much the DUP’s oh-so-clever pinstriped spindoctors try to dupe them into it.

    What kind of future do you think this place will have with your sort of “exclude republicans forever” approach? What kind of future do you think the Unionist minority west of the Bann will have when you consign them to Joint Authority and basically Repartition under SF-dominated councils?

    The DUP need to wise up fast, there’s a lot of people whose votes were won round in 2003 that no way on earth are going to stand for Joint Authority.

  • bertie

    Real (sic) Unionist

    I too want an election so that the votes who voted for the UUP can get a chance to comment on the UVF link.

    The kind of future I want is founded on a prinicple that the terrorism of the IRA/UVF was not justified and not something to be swept under the carpet.

    If “republicans” are goint ot forever justify this terrorism then I hope they are excuded for ever.

  • Real Unionist

    And whilst you sit resplendent upon your moral molehill, the Union gets sold down the drain to Dublin and the Unionist people west of the Bann get repartitioned under Sinn Fein domination!

  • bertie

    Not respendent not just in the mire with you. If may seem so to you but opposition to terrorism isn’t an indcator of lofty moral ideals. However the absence of it speaks volumes.

    I thought that there wasn’t anything wrong with SF rule. Make your mind up.

    Would you have accpted Hitler’s rule if you thought that it would save the Union? That sees to be the only thing that matters to you.

  • Real Unionist

    Power-sharing with a disarmed Sinn Fein would mean a partnership government, with each side having an absolute veto. Seems safe and sensible for me.

    Consigning the Unionists west of the Bann to effective repartition, placing them under SF dominated councils (i.e. SF kept both Mayoral positions in Omagh) and probably eventually into an enlarged republic – just so you can keep SF out of government – its just beyond me.

    I don’t think the majority of Unionists think like that – as Wee Ulsterman said, we voted in 2003 for a “Fair Deal” – not no deal at all.

    We’re not just going to sit back and let the DUP lumber us with Joint Authority for a generation, just to satisfy their never-never-never wing.

    Believe you me, we’re not going to sit back and let the DUP do that. The votes you’ve gained can just as easily be lost. Unionists are never going to accept Joint Authority and Repartition no matter how much you dress it up or try to justify it.

  • bertie


    “The votes you’ve gained can just as easily be lost”

    I haven’t gained or lost any votes. I’m not in the DUP.

    The reasos for keeping SF/IRA out of government are clearly beyond you. If its activities which it is still so proud of do not convince you, then nothing will.

    I am justifying nothing. It is not me that would impose JA. It is you that seeks to dress up and justify accepting terrorists into governemnt. The governemtns are relying on people like you caving into their threats.

  • randompunter


    You are truely worrying, what exactly do you think will happen if unionism refuses to share power yet again? Blair’s patience is far from infinite, we will be ruled jointly by dublin and london if we do not share power. The union will be under the biggest threat it has ever been under, this is serious.

  • bertie

    What is serious is how willing some are to give into blackmail. That is the biggest threat to the Union and always has been. What happens when you give into blackmail, the blackmailer ups the ante.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    I have been holding fire for a long time but after having just suffered through the pain of England v Portugal I feel a strong desire to punch Sven on the nose but if that’s not available then a Slugger comment will have to suffice.

    My instinct here is that the DUP are bluffing. They have never really wanted to crash the Assembly all they ever wanted was to supplant the UUP which they have ultimately achieved. If they had wanted to crash it all they would have walked out in 1998 with Bob McCartney. Bob was right that the UUP could never have internally sustained a policy of supporting an Assembly that was boycotted by all other unionists. I asked Gregory Campbell about this in 1998 and pointed out how easily they could crash the Agreement at that point, so why weren’t they doing it? His only response was a mantra of ‘we are not a party of boycotts’ (ok tell it to the Grand Committee). The rational conclusion I reached was that they never envisaged actually collapsing the Agreement. For that reason I think it a not unreasonable gut call that their stance is a bluff.

    It’s not a daft strategy, HMG has demonstrated time and again its inability to be firm with any deadlines it sets and its tendency to back down under pressure. It may do so again if pushed. As a piece of free advice to HMG and the UUP, if I were HMG my option would be to push the talks to an agreement that can be published if not accepted. The DUP back down last minute, or they don’t. My gut instinct is that they will but the problem is that Paisley is not a rational thinker and lets his emotions get ahead of him. They are erratic and unpredictable and so is he. It depends how tight Robinson can hold that leash and if he can squash Jnr quick enough to stop his endless spanner pitching. However if the DUP don’t sign up then HMG publishes and calls an election with a clear indication of the result if Agreement II is rejected (joint authority). The UUP should campaign on the basis of supporting it and the DUP against. Let the people decide. If the broad unionist community wants to go down that path with the DUP then fine it’s their democratic right to choose. The problem of course is that even with such a great boost I have serious doubts about the UUP’s capacity to capitalize on it. The UUP is organizationally inept and remains so 18 months after Reg’s major reform promises (can I say told you so?). So in some sense I think Michael is right that the union is under threat both because of Paisley obstinacy, jnr’s over inflated ego and the UUP’s crippling ineptitude. (By the way I am not anti UUP and still vote via my overseas vote for the UUP.)

    It will be an interesting few months and its no accident that the demands of the DUP are still so ambiguous. It’s all about getting a few concessions and a clean IMC report for them. They will face internal dissension of course because a significant section of the DUP is seriously bigoted but not all of it (message to moderators you can’t libel an undefined group so no need to remove!) so I think Robinson can steer it through with some rigorous internal disciplining. All in all I believe it will come out in the wash but the DUP are playing a high stakes gamble.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    On an aside I happen to agree with Keith that partnering up with the PUP/UVF was a wrong. It was a stupid short term and ill-conceived decision. The UUP can not think medium to long term without Trimble its so frustrating. For any Regalistas out there it was daft for the following reasons. Firstly the only benefit was the potential 3rd ministerial seat and I am not sure how Ervine negotiated himself out of having it so what was the point? Besides which you don’t need a third seat because the UUP should not go into government. The policy should be one of shifting the all inclusive executive to a more balanced government and opposition model i.e. the UUP set themselves up as the major opposition (by the way the longer game should be an SDLP and UUP joint strategy based on an opposition alternative government.) It is the best medium to long term strategy to claw back the UUP’s electoral support. A small UUP overshadowed by the DUP first minister will be a side note and will have no selling point. You can’t say vote UUP because we are more efficient can you! An electoral strategy built on managerialism is crazy as the UUP remain seriously under talented in the managerial stakes. Secondly no electoral advantage comes out of it. The PUP is losing votes so it wont bring enough extra votes in any key constituencies to make any difference, in fact I think all things being equal it will damage the UUP by turning off many of the older more middle class and higher educated people who make up the UUP base vote. So no short, medium or long term electoral advantage either. Thirdly they gave up the small leverage that might have been available in the negotiations. They have to get it in their heads that they are not important in this game they are firmly on the bench for this one. They have no serious leverage now. The best leverage I think could have existed is the possibility of squeezing the DUP by refusing to back a deal they wanted to sign up to (yes party first this time). The DUP would not want to back a deal the UUP rejected they need the UUP cover to protect their electoral advantage. The UUP strategy should have been one of achieving the necessary structural reforms to the Assembly to give an opposition party a full role, funded opposition leaders office, clear role in debates, questions etc. This dovetails with the electoral strategy I suggested above. But now they have signaled their hunger for a third ministerial seat over everything and walked the UVF in the front door of Cunningham house (Josias will be spinning in his grave!) they have pissed away any potential leverage and relegated themselves to a weak electoral strategy and being sidelined in the talks. It’s a blinder of a miss by Sir Reg (call me Lampard) Empey (Although he has bugger all decent strategic advice to lean back on I suppose.)

    That is enough from me I have to go work on my straw and paper Sven effigy!

  • lib2016


    The problem is that the older unionist middleclass is finished. It’s already been replaced among the under-forties by upwardly mobile Catholics who will replace the older agegroup in most senior positions during this decade.

    This fact has already been noted by the Equality Commission which is worried about the lack of a future Protestant middleclass.

    Reg can’t appeal to a non-existent electorate – that was the mistake Trimble made by refusing to implement the Agreement. There’s no future in refusing powersharing and the only hope left for the UUP is the emergence of an anticlerical loyalism based on the UVF hardliners and the remnants of Vanguard. It will never be the largest party in NI again.

    Personally I would expect enough of those anticlerical voters to become post-unionist SDLP supporters to swing NI into an internal nationalist majority, though it may be another decade before we have grown close enough to the South to have a realistic chance of winning the referendum on unification.

  • Rubicon

    Duncan – nice to eee you haven’t completely retired from NI politics 😉

    I agree with most of your post and think Reg may well have absolved the DUP from the risks RU & WU have identified. Signing up with the UVF is a serious error most generously interpreted by nationalists who are unlikely to start voting unionist.

    Andrew McCann revealed the core of his opposition to devolved government when speaking on Radio Ulster this week. He stated that is was untenable to have nationalists in government since they’d dismantle the state. His view is that of unreconstructed unionism that wants a return to majority rule. Many in the DUP also remain with their heads stuck in this sand.

    The impasse has nothing to do with criminality or terrorism – past, present, threatened or imagined. McCann doesn’t want power-sharing and the longer NI politics is held back by the camp followers of majority rule the faster new approaches will be found. Denying nationalists a role in the civil affairs of NI is a recipe for disaster.

    McCann and other historical relics of the past have nothing positive to contribute to NI. Can denial of democratic freedoms to more than 40% of the population be seriously thought of as anything other than a 5th column deliberately attempting to destabilise a peaceful settlement between the two communities?

    (Commiserations to England – they simply weren’t good enough on the day and Rooney let them down badly).

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Rubicon, the idea of a Northern Ireland dominated by majority rule is utterly unrealistic and ignores the central problem which is the political instability of the state under that model. NI is in danger of being a failed state unless the significant minority is part of and buys into the structures of the constitution. Nationalist must be involved no other option exists.

    Lib, I don’t suggest that that demographic is the target of future UUP efforts more that the research I have seen confirms my own natural suspicions that that demographic is the base vote currently, but things could and I hope would change.

    Personally I see the best long term future of the UUP and SDLP as being the creation of inter-communal structures and politics. The idea in these talks for the UUP and SDLP should be to maneuver the DUP and SF into agreeing to institutional changes that remove the current strong incentives to polarizing political behaviour e.g. remove d’hondt and go to a weighted majority vote of say 65% to choose the executive. Elect FM/DFM separately then the cabinet as a whole group. This would promote compromise and consideration of others views as coalition partners and the selections of personalities the other side could support. Keep the protective base of the cross community voting rules thus locking the lower end at not less than 40% of each community in government for any legislation to be possible or at least forcing negotiation to build a majority ala the US congressional approach (by the way this means only DUP/SF could form a government right now).

    This structure would promote coalition behaviour and possibly pre-election pacts to try to increase the amount of cross community votes in the elections. This can further be encouraged by a switch away from STV to ATV or an ATV+ system. Combined with the necessary exclusion of parties from power this creates a joint structure opposition who would need to coordinate and cooperate to maximize their effectiveness and would presumably look to electoral pacts (don’t really need it under ATV), or coalitions to offer not just a different ethnic community brand but a true alternative government. All of this would increase future options for the SDLP and UUP and would structurally promote different political behaviour from the DUP and SF to prevent potential decline. Combined with the plastic nature of community identity this mitigates the damage done by polarizing political figures to the process of wider community conciliation.

    Both the UUP and SDLP need some really deep thought about what they are after based on a longer term strategy. Fingers crossed hard!