Rise and Fall

A personal insight into the rise and fall of the UKUP and the man it was built around, Bob McCartney.

  • Read it FD.
    Its impossible for them to see that a man such as Adams, who was involved in Armed Struggle could change, and lead his people out of the desert and into the promised land; as say Mandela did.

    By insisting on chaining up republicans they themselves are all knotted up inside and chained up.

    They cannot see that. Sad !

  • Comrade Stalin

    Blimey. I didn’t know DV was capable of such sensible and informative writing.

  • we have to liberate each other, its the only way, lending a hand for relief….but no smut pls 😉

  • Plum Duff

    It’s quite obvious that these two gentlemen, Messrs Vance and McCartney, seem to consider themselves so much more superior to the electorate of NI. But the electorate has spoken and decisively so. However, while one can accept that the vanity of the political animal can on occasions get its host into difficulties, in Vance’s pocket history of the UKUP, it’s almost impossible to separate the two massive egos involved in this less than epic struggle for control of a minor movement in the history of Ulster Unionism. It is a tale of slights taken, bruised egos and monumental sulks. Nonetheless, it ultimately reads like the Diary of a Nobody where ‘nothing of any consequence has taken place’. Rather pathetic, really.

  • slug

    I thought it was well written and interesting.

  • Nigel

    Plum Duff

    You’ve summed it up very nicely.

    I couldn’t agree more. A story of non-entities who achieved nothing.

    To say it’s rather pathetic is being generous.

  • George

    I agree with slug. I found it informative.

    What I would like to know is who David Vance beat in the election for deputy leader of the UKUP. How many were left at that stage?

  • biff2

    I often wonder would the Unionist parties of all shades regret destroying what they had in the 1974 Assembly . Looking at the situation now it seems that they were very arrogant & stupid . It seems to be true , WHAT YOU SOW YOU REAP , BUT THERE IS LITTLE LEFT TO REAP . BIFF1

  • páid

    What I find amazing is that intelligent people think thay can alter the flow of history by setting up splinter groups in hotel rooms.

    It really does not matter which combination of the words union party ulster kingdom are used, or how bright/principled/charismatic you leader is.

    You live on an island, cheek by jowl with the rest of us, from whom the experts tell us, you are genetically indistinct. You speak the same language and increasingly share the same values.

    Setting up a new, really insightful, dead honest Ulster People’s Unionist party, with a brilliant leader, and a disciplined organisation, with a crack media strategy blah blah bloody blah is not going to make a blind bit of difference.

    The people are going to mix, and the political structures will end up reflecting that mix.

  • I like Marley’s song Crazy Baldheads

    It describes well the downfall of the UKUP and its associates:

    Them crazy, them crazy
    We gonna chase those crazy
    Baldheads out of town
    Chase those crazy baldheads
    Out of town

    I and I build the cabin
    I and I plant the corn
    Didn’t my people before me
    Slave for this country
    Now you look me with a scorn
    Then you eat up all my corn

    We gonna chase those crazy baldheads
    Chase them crazy
    Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

    Build your penitentiary, we build your school
    Brainwash education to make us the fools
    Hate is your reward for our love
    Telling us of your God above

    We gonna chase those crazy
    Chase those crazy bunkheads
    Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

    Here comes the conman
    Coming with his con plan
    We won’t take no bribe, we got to stay alive

    We gonna chase those crazy
    Chase those crazy baldheads
    Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

  • páid

    Actually Bob has a decent thatch.

    Was it not Peter Robinson who ridiculed John White, Billy Hutchinson and Davy Ervine RIP saying “Fringe Loyalists! They haven’t a wisp between them.”

    Good one, that.

  • bertie


    I totally agree Bob is thoroughly decent.

  • Comrade Stalin,

    I know we rarely agree so thanks for the kind words. I will be following up with thoughts on the DUP and UUP. I hope these will earn your interest.

  • wild turkey

    ‘The next year, 1998, saw the Government call a Referendum on the outcome of the talks between the various local Parties – which EXCLUDED the DUP and UKUP. ‘

    Huh? I thought the DUP and UKUP CHOSE not to participate in the talks. Seems exclusion of the self-imposed kind. Poor wee boys left the playground

  • Wild Turkey,

    The UKUP and DUP stood on a platform that was very clear; they would not engage in talks that included an armed and active terrorist group. When the basis of the talks required acceptance of dialogue with terrorists, we stood by our words and did not participate. You allege we were self-excluded. I suggest the terms of engagement ensured we were excluded. Not that it mattered, as after 10 years, the DUP radically changed its view….but that’s a story for another day.

  • Nevin

    “they would not engage in talks that included an armed and active terrorist group.”

    … unless it was a loyalist terrorist group?

  • pith

    The short UKUP story is barely a puddle-shaking let alone an earth-shattering event but it is still mildly interesting to read an insider’s honest account of it.

  • Wild Turkey,
    don’t be fooled, Vance covers his hypocracy by giving you the false impression that then in 1998 he wouldn’t speak to SF; leaving it open that he might now, or at least dangling that possibility.

    Truth is he wouldn’t even speak to them now, or let them in gov’t despite the decommisioning and support for the PSNI.

    The people of norn iron have rejected that view; and rather than accept that with humility, instead Vance believes its the WHOLE of the norn iron electorate that is corrupt, not his views.
    Astonishing you might think. I do.

    Could he be just plain wrong?
    and Can’t accept defeat gracefully.

  • Garibaldy

    I enjoyed reading this a lot and found it very interesting, and am very grateful to David for publishing it. I will say though that perhaps there is a blindspot in it that I’d be interested in hearing David address. That is the presence of some terrorists at many of the anti-agreement rallies he refers to in 1998, including addressing them. Perhaps there were none at the ones he attended but I doubt it. It seems that the argument that parties make that they refuse to talk to terrorists can be undermined by such incidents.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I agree, it was a nice bit of writing, and wasn’t a rant. It’s always interesting to get an insight into a political party.

    I also agree about the blindspot, but I find that to be a general problem with unionism itself. Anti-agreement rallies were openly attended by known paramilitary figures who stood cheek by jowl alongside DUP and UKUP-linked individuals. DV does mention Roger Hutchinson, and obviously he’s a character who became slightly more notorious later on; anyone from the Newtownabbey area will be familiar with that.

    It is straightforward to see how quickly certain people jettisoned their principles – as soon as they had the seats and the MLA salary coming in, suddenly the policy to resign following the entry of SF became unpopular. I think that was more likely to have been the problem rather than any notion of Bob not communicating the policy effectively.


    The people of norn iron have rejected that view; and rather than accept that with humility, instead Vance believes its the WHOLE of the norn iron electorate that is corrupt, not his views.
    Astonishing you might think. I do.

    DV is hardly the first to take this point of view. For a long time the IRA held this view, to the point where they resisted the will of the Irish people, north and south, with military aggression. The IRA’s problem was that they viewed the solution through an ideological prism rather than a pragmatic one, and that is the same error that Vance is committing. We could all do with a bit less of the glass house stone throwing stuff.

  • I agree with that Comrade Stalin, proving DV has built himself and locked himself into an ideological prison from which there is no escape, and no light can enter.
    When pressed he can’t even define “terrorism”, so can hardly speak with any degree of authority on what constitutes “inactive groups”.

    He fires from the hip, and thinks from the gut.
    Its been exposed. He won’t accept though.
    Sad, I had a soft spot for him till he banned me.

  • Garibaldy,

    The thing about the UKUP was we criticised the PUP/UVF and UDP/UDA every bit as much as the IRA/Sinn Fein. I received a death threat from the UDA for my bother, and I think Bob and I have been relentlessly consistent in this regard. The DUP is another matter, as is the case with certain Orange Order people.

    I never sat beside or knowingly addressed any terrorist-supporter, and I know Bob and I regularly got abused by the PUP/UVF who hated us. We made all the best kind of enemies!!!

  • The problem with Integrationism was that it still left Northern Ireland out on a limb to the rest of the United Kingdom, as its political representatives would still fall under “unionist”, “nationalist” or “other”, rather than Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative.

    NI would revert to being Ireland pre 1921, where its local parties would remain peripheral to political life in the UK, except where parliamentary majorities were thin, and where there would never be a realistic chance of a Northern Ireland MP becoming part of the Cabinet, because of the real cleavage between politics in NI and politics in Britain.

    David Vance is to be admired for the consistency of his position and in fairness is honourable, but the realpolitik of his position that huge chunks of the nationalist electorate would never have a say in their governance. There is also a casual relationship between the rejectionist unionism of the mid 1990s and the Sunningdale rejectionists of 1974. The shadow of Vanguard and Craig’s intransigence as Home Affairs Minister, which was part of the root of the Troubles in the first place, hangs over those who at heart would prefer permanent right wing Unionism to be in charge in the North, whatever way it is dressed up.

  • Garibaldy


    Thanks for the answer. Appreciate it. As you yourself point out not everyone as been consistent in this regard, though I’m happy to accept that you have been so.

  • As a politician, McCartney could easily have risen to the top of unionism – no one writes better op-ed articles – if only he had the unenviable talent of alienating allies. He is the rudest man I have ever encountered in politics. I wonder if history would have changed if he had managed to keep the UKUP together in 1998. For there’s no doubt that the UKUP split effectively ended any realistic challenge to the right of the DUP. The UKUP, not the DUP, might have been the genesis of a new brand of a post-Trimble but also post-Paisley brand of unionism. It might have been the beneficiary of the UUP’s decay, not the DUP. It was a missed opportunity and ultimately it left Bob as an increasingly irrelevant gadfly.

  • Oop, for “had” in second line, read “hadn’t”.

  • bertie


    “if only he had the unenviable talent of alienating allies”

    but what a talent!! 😉

    I agree with with your assessment of him except that I don’t think that UKUP had to be right of anything. It could have united unionists from both red and blue.
    Ah! What might have been!

  • Reader

    UKUP did more than just achieve nothing – it did a lot of harm. Bob got votes by promising to be an articulate and intelligent champion of the union – then boycotted talks! Did he ever pull the same stunt as a lawyer?
    The point is that when the British Government is discussing your future with SF, it’s crazy not to be tracking their every move – you can’t trust either lot alone, let alone both together
    Then there was UKUP’s impact on the forum arithmetic – pulling out of talks left Trimble needing one other unionist party to make 50% of the Unionist designation. It could have been UKUP – instead, it was the PUP, and we had the prisoner releases as the price
    Finally, there is the energy wasted and votes lost over integrationism. I’m instinctively integrationist myself, but it’s a lost cause for this generation. Instead, the challenge for unionists in this generation is to use power sharing and equality to make the status-quo appealing to cultural nationalists. In this respect, the reluctance of the UKUP and the DUP to play the only game in town is staggering.

  • When “the only game in town” has a predetermined outcome, only a fool plays it. As the wretched UUP discovered, having had it explained to them by the DUP and UKUP.