Empey walking a political tightrope?

The abiding problem with the UUP/PUP pact (for Reg Empey at least) is in discerning what’s in it for the UUP. This story from today’s Newsletter seems to underline those doubts, when Empey is reported as echoing David Ervine’s misgivings that cross border co-operation with the Assembly might ‘spark a violent reaction’ from Loyalists. Whilst there is a need for mainstream mainstream politicians like Empey to engage with the residual disillusionment of Loyalist communities, there is also a question of which takes the upper hand: engagement, or disillusion?

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  • Pete Baker

    “there is also a question of which takes the upper hand: engagement, or disillusion?”

    Or in the case of Reg Empey’s shifting sands of reasons for that pact.. the delusion that dealing with a paramilitary and criminal group can address that disillusionment..

    As for Ervine’s warnings.. that’s from the UVF.. the ‘good’ UDA are, natch, perfectly content with Bertie’s clarification..

  • bertie

    “Whilst there is a need for mainstream mainstream politicians like Empey to engage with the residual disillusionment of Loyalist communities,”

    There may be a need for more enagement with “loyalist communities”, it is the victims of terrorism within these communites that he should be engaging with – not those that are inflicting the misery on them.

  • Shabaz

    Bertie – How does dealing with the victims within loyalist communities deal with the real and ever present threat that comes from those ‘inflicting the misery’?

    Dont get me wrong of course you should deal with the victims, but does that itself solve the problems in loyalist communities?

  • Rubicon

    Reg is quite clearly using the threat of loyalist violence as a negotiating tool while at the same time seeking to cause unionist alarm. What are the “raft of agreements reached” between the 2 governments announced on July 25th?

    Seems to be the same old tactic used by unionist politicians often in the past. Will we now hear from the loyalists that they won’t be marched by Reg (the UVF armed wing of the UUP excluded of course)?

  • heck

    mick, what’s with the “Whilst there is a need for mainstream mainstream politicians like Empey to engage with the residual disillusionment of Loyalist communities”.

    the deal between empey and ervine has nothing to do with “engagement” and reg is not trying to be a statesman (like Hume) and wean the UVF away from violence.

    This deal was to deny fenians one extra cabinet seat-nothing more. Empey said at the time it was to deny SF a cabinet seat if an executive was formed.

    I am seeing a lot of revisionism about this deal trying to suggest it is an attempt by the UUP to bring paramilitaries in from the cold. If only that were the case. We should not miss what the UUP/UVF deal was really about–sectarian politics.

  • Mick Fealty

    Heck, a few things:

    You have a point about the UUP wanting to keep its two executive seats, although it is matter of some conjecture as to whether that would be at the expense of Unionists or Nationalists. He certainly believed he was preserving it for unionism.

    It is undoubtedly true that the first articulation of the ‘co-option as engagement’ took place on the Tuesday Talkback programme, after the news broke on the Saturday 13th May. It is however perfectly legitimate to point to the only strategy discernable in Empey’s rule so far – engagement with Loyalists.

    It is, however, a dangerous strategy, as several people above have already pointed out. Not least if the uppermost voice is the one coming from the UVF.

  • Bushmills

    When Sinn Fein were the second party in northern nationalism, they punched way above their electoral weight because they had the IRA with them. It seems to me that Reg is now attempting to use the UVF to gain similar leverage with HMG as November 24th approaches. I find this totaly incredulous to say the least – taking your moral yard-stick from the Republican Movement.

    They (the UUP) can attempt whatever revisionism they choose, but the simple fact is that this was about gaining an extra ministry – nothing more, nothing less. There are communities around NI in which these thugs operate – Donegall Pass, Shankill, Newtownards Road etc., can someone from the UUP please explain to me how bringing Ervine into the UUP Assembly Group in any way makes it more likely that the UVF is going to get off the backs of the decent working-class people who live in these areas?

    The truth is that the UUP couldn’t give a toss about working-class communities and care only about gaining access to executive places that they aren’t entitled to. And what has taken the Speaker so long in giving a ruling on whether or not this move is legal?

  • Bushmills

    Oh and another thing – if the UUP peform as “well” as they did in the 2005 Westminster election, they can kiss goodbye to at least one of the three ministries they would hold under the terms of this Faustian pact. If a deal is done in November, there will be an election, and were will the UUP be then? Up sh*t creek without a paddle, that’s where!

  • I’m not quite sure that the UUP deal with David Ervine is the right thing (politically or morally). True, there is some chance that engagement with the political wing (weak as it is) of the hoods might help bring them into the process, and there is the pragmatic argument that it might gain them an extra seat.

    But the “engagement” argument is showing few signs of success, and the pragmatic argument looks a bit like opportunism, and the whole idea of links with paramilitaries rather undermines the argument against having the IRA’s “political wing” in government while the IRA are operating — particularly when the IRA have done more to decommission than Ervine’s bunch.

    I wonder what the honourable wing of the UUP think of all this… 🙂

    Of course, if you’re a unionist who supports engagement with the nationalist community, and wants local government rather than direct rule, the DUP looks like an even worse bet. Who knows – maybe the Alliance could pick up a couple of votes?

    Nah. Probably not.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    “It is undoubtedly true that the first articulation of the ‘co-option as engagement’ took place on the Tuesday Talkback programme, after the news broke on the Saturday 13th May. It is however perfectly legitimate to point to the only strategy discernable in Empey’s rule so far – engagement with Loyalists.”

    You’ve missed the other reference to the reason behind the co-opting of Ervine into the UUPAG.. Ervine’s own comments on his sole reason for doing so – and it wasn’t “engagement with loyalists.”

  • Rubicon

    Mick – the UUP had 2 executive seats prior to their grouping with the PUP. The UUP were seeking to; get an extra seat (3) and deny SF its position as the second nominating party moving it to 3rd nomination.

    There is more than anorak politics in the above difference. The rules of d.Hondt used to lock down party strengths by numbers as counted on the first meeting of the Assembly. Reg’s pact therefore not only returned to unionism 6 seats in the executive but – perhaps more importantly – pushed nationalists to 3rd nomination.

    In the context of criminal justice being devolved during this mandate d’Hondt would have been re-run but on the party strengths as of May 15th.

    It seems likely that Reg was attempting to ensure the criminal justice and finance portfolios did not fall in to nationalists hands (whilst also grabbing an executive seat from the DUP).

    Unfortunately (for Reg) he didn’t keep his eye on developments in Westminster where UUP Lord Maginnis had an amendment to the “Hain Bill” accepted that allows party strengths to be re-calculated 24 hours prior to d’Hondt nominations being made.

    This error reduced Reg to having to re-define his reasons for aligning with the PUP and also explains why Reg’s declared reason differs from Ervine’s.

  • Rubicon

    Correction: The DUP would have had 4 executive seats and the other 3 parties 2 each prior to Berry’s loss of the DUP whip. After that SF gained a nomination but this was then taken from them by the UUP/PUP pact.