When a split is not really a split

Some idiot clearly thinks that telling the BBC about this was clever. The Newsletter are clearly over the top in their headline today, but really, what did these “sources” expect?

We’re not talking about splits in the UUP. Reg Empey and Alan McFarland aren’t plotting each other’s downfall, they had a disagreement over small aspects of strategy. It’s not like there are diametrically opposed and irreconcilable positions, which was the case previously.There is also a lot of nonsense being portrayed about party reform. Nominations for tomorrows AGM closed last Friday, after everything now in the media had occurred and after the reform agenda was outlined. There is only one nomination for Leader and one for President. Seven people are nominated for the three seats on the Party Officers (declaration of interest: I’m one of them). Not one of the seven, as far as I’m aware, is standing in opposition to reform. Everyone in the UUP knows in what direction the reform process will be going, and we all know what sorts of debates we are going to have. But in many ways it is all going to be very similar to the overblown Empey/McFarland disagreement. It won’t be an argument between two or more fatally split factions, it will be a debate with disagreements over specifically what direction reform should be going, not the general direction.

I don’t mind that the structures of the UUP are being debated in open public forums, that’s the way it should be. We’re a party that should be proud of not being secretive. What I do mind is ignorant rambling.

  • Yokel


    I can’t be described as anti-UUP but something is wrong and Reg’s position looks under pressure from where I’m sitting.

    I’m concluding its a case of he does what he’s told to keep his position or there will be a move on to kick him out.

  • Pete Baker


    “I don’t mind that the structures of the UUP are being debated in open public forums, that’s the way it should be. We’re a party that should be proud of not being secretive.”

    You might want to have a word about that with your party leader..

    “How we organise ourselves is our internal business and we’ll be addressing that at the weekend.”

  • Hogan from County Tyrone

    I think Reg shouldn’t have taken the post. McFarland was right, that said tho i wouldn’t like to see the UUP split over what should be a minor disagreement.

    Politico’s should be mature enough to put party first and not hold grudges that they sulk and wait years to pay back on.

  • Philip

    Michael nice way of blanket canvassing;)

  • Rory

    The first sure sign of an impending split in any political organisation is when major supporters and party members start hotly denying the possibility. Michael Shilliday would ask us to believe that this is the exception and I suppose he might be right – on the other hand……

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Mr Empey has NO future as the leader of the UUP, he should have resigned after the results of the last election not made himself a minister – the only leader apart from RIP as FM to do so.

    I don’t know who will be the new leader, but RE has TO GO as he is ineffectual and increasingly irrelevant in the role.

  • BonarLaw

    Frustrated Democrat

    perhaps Reg isn’t the problem- ANY leader of the UUP is condemned by harsh electoral reality to be “ineffectual and increasingly irrelevant”.

  • Dec

    It’s not too difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong with the UUP when the task of rebuilding the party is described as a small aspect of strategy by one of its officers.

  • jeffery

    Empey was never going to be a ‘long-term leader’ of the UUP.

    The decision to put himself & McGimpsey in Ministerial posts is baffling.

    The UUP should be looking to promote the younger members of the party, the likes of McCrea, McFarland, Kennedy, Hermon & Burnside.

  • Dobry den

    I know that many delegates intend to vote against the reform proposals tomorrow, not because they disagree that they are needed, but because they will be instigated by this leader and his Belfast mafia.

    The party’s structure is doubtless a huge issue, but a much more pressing issue is getting sir of SRE so that a bright new start can be contemplated.

  • All very amusing, but the UUP’s time has probably come and gone. All that awaits is the orderly management of decline, with the added spice of bad blood. Sorry, Michael, but I don’t buy your claim of minor disagreement. Politics is full of bruisable egos at the best of times. One expects the Tank Commander will not forget the slight quickly.

    As I said, all fairly irrelevant in the scheme of things, since a liberalising DUP is moving to annex the remaining UUP support. I disagree with them, but I happily concede that the Punt, Jeffrey and Arlene are more than a match for anyone at the UU Top Table. I’m more interested in leakages from the DUP’s right wing.

  • nmc

    they had a disagreement over small aspects of strategy

    From BBC:
    It is understood that the clash happened after Mr McFarland had insisted the party leader should focus on rebuilding the party rather than taking a ministerial job himself.

    Sounds like good sense (from McFarland) to me. I wouldn’t describe that as a small aspect of strategy though, whether or not your party leader should take a ministerial post. Quite a critical aspect maybe, small probably not.

  • simply british


    Who are your six opponents for the three officer seats?

  • Richard James

    It’s hardly a minor disagreement if McFarland feels strongly about the issue he is willing to forgo the opportunity to be a government Minister.

    Unfortunately McFarland is right. Empey’s full time leadership of the party has produced it’s worst election result ever, disasterous strategic mistakes such as the PUP/UVF link (while at the same time claiming he wants to attract Catholic votes) and a manifesto totally lacking in substance. If he takes up a Ministerial post he may not even have enough time to plagurise the next Alliance Party manifesto!

    As you are standing to be a party officer would you be able to give a commitment that you will use your position to ensure the leadership stands by its promise of allowing the UYUC and UWUC to elect their own party officer instead of having one imposed on them by the leader?

  • Ignited

    I would hazard an informed guess that the majority of the UUP actually support McFarland’s position on Reg’s self-appointed ministerial position.

    Michael – I agree to an extent that the media is making more of the so-called ‘split’ than is actually present but your blinding loyalty to Reg stinks of sycophantic motives.

    ‘Everyone in the UUP knows in what direction the reform process will be going, and we all know what sorts of debates we are going to have’

    -The UUP reform is causing a lot of confusion as to what it is set out to achieve and you are dismissive of the fact that many party members don’t actually know what is going on at leadership level. It has not adequately been explained and the groundwork has not been done.

  • Snaz

    The party has wanted to “reform” its antiquated structures for over 10 years but summarirly failed to convince UUC delegates of their merits.

    I agree with several of the comments contained herin regarding the fact that there is no confidence in the “Belfast Mafia” to get them right and Sir Reg must spell out clearly what he views as being the priorities and a realistic time scale for achieving them.

    Democracy being what it is there is an opportunity tommorrow for delegates to decide who will represent THEM on the partys officer team. This is crucial because without the correct vision, skills and BALLS to make change happen and create a modern political party with outward looking structures then the wish list of change will disappear as it has done in the past.Having the wish without the skills, experience and political nous to achieve your goals is a bit like us all “wishing” to be David Healy even though we are crap at football.

    A consensus for change exists, it is up to delegates to hold people to account who claim they have the ability to deliver that change.

    The proof of the pudding (as always) will been in the eating.

  • Jim

    Sir Reg Empty.. the little ging’ger loves himself.. Sad reflection that the health minister was elected on something like the 7th count. He is no political heavyweight and never will be.

  • Truth & Justice

    The UUP is split and its becoming a none identity the reality and only way forward for Unionism as a whole is for one Unionist Party it has to come or the Sinn Fein Band wagon will steam roller over the top of us.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “We’re not talking about splits in the UUP. Reg Empey and Alan McFarland aren’t plotting each other’s downfall, they had a disagreement over small aspects of strategy. It’s not like there are diametrically opposed and irreconcilable positions, which was the case previously.”

    Michael Shilliday @ 11:55 AM

    The lady doth protesteth too much…(at least I think that’s the old adage)

  • Michael Shilliday


    I don’t see a serious movement to force Reg out, the evidence if you look at it in context doesn’t support that. Of course I could be wrong, but we’re looking at several months before we find out!


    I’m not here to be a lackey for anyone, and have never been pressed on to be so. There are differing views and perspectives, I am airing mine, and I don’t see this as an inappropriate forum in the context .

    Dobry den,

    While it could be easy to portray things as the influence of a Belfast mafia, I don’t see things like that. Four UUP MLAs are either a minister or a committee chair, the fact that three of them are from Belfast may be unfortunate, but that’s just the way the cards seem to have fallen in matching jobs with people.


    I think you perhaps misunderstand me. My point is that this is not a disagreement over major policy directions. We have one clear direction, with two differing opinions on the precise direction.


    Firstly I am interested in how you think the manifesto lacked substance. Secondly whether I win or not, I think you know well enough that I support the principle you outline. The detail may be a little more complex, for a couple of reasons, but the principle is certainly one that I would not like to see forgotten.


    I think you are mistaking something else entirely for “sycophantic” loyalty, and I suspect that you actually know better. If there are delegates who are unaware of the motives at hand, then there is blame for that which can be easily attributed.


    This has been going on for much longer than that. I also very much doubt that any “Belfast mafia” will be imposing anything on anyone! As you say yourself, the opportunity to effect reform wont be limited.

  • Pete Baker


    “I’m not here to be a lackey for anyone..”

    I didn’t suggest you were.

    What I did point out was that your embracing of transparency is not shared by your party leader.

  • Michael Shilliday

    And I have responded.

  • fair_deal

    “We’re not talking about splits in the UUP”

    Others are:

    Empey supporters were furious about the claims, which surfaced just before the Ulster Unionist Council`s annual general meeting.

    A supporter of the UUP leader said: “It appears there are some people who are on a deathwish for our party.

    “The Ulster Unionist Party is still suffering from the infighting that occurred during the David Trimble-Jeffrey Donaldson era and some of our members seem to be intent on opening up new wounds.

    “It`s ridiculous.”


  • ..and the band played on! Denial makes a good breakfast but a poor supper.

  • Truth & Justice

    Comment deleted – play the ball – moderator

  • Unionist observer

    Comment deleted- play the ball – moderator

    Michael – do you really think the UUP has a future?

    The Ministerial choices are pathetic.

  • elsie

    I heard on the grapevine that Billy Armstong MLA has put his name forward as a party officer of the UUP. How will he fit this in, when he not only runs his local branch and constituency association and he is now proposing a new branch called the Armstong Clan of the (Armstong)UUP with family members holding all positions ie. Husband, Wife and daughter RULE OK!
    I believe clarification is urgently needed as Armstong is not fit to win an election without the help of other unionist parties to bring him the necessary votes, this being the case how can he possibly think he could help lead the UUP.

  • Truth & Justice

    I thought my comments were fair, Comment edited – for the second time play the ball.

  • Alex S

    I would have thought that Poots getting a Ministery while wee Jeff gets to head up the DUP group on the Policing Board was more of a story!

  • Ginfizz

    Err, no it’s not Mr. Swann, but nice attempt at deflection.

  • Ginfizz

    BTW, who got the 3 officers posts?

  • Truth & Justice

    Please explain how saying David Vance does not agree with all the other Unionist partys and falls out with them all is not playing the ball it is a conclusion and a fact please explain why im being edited? I have seen alot worse put on Slugger!

  • Factnotfiction

    “I heard on the grapevine that Billy Armstong MLA has put his name forward as a party officer of the UUP”

    No, definitely not true he did not run for officer and I haven’t heard he is evern interested in it. Seven people put their names forward for election and three were elected to join the other three who topped the poll last time. The new officers are Joan Carson, Mark Cosgrove and Richard Holmes.

  • Alex S

    Err, no it’s not Mr. Swann, but nice attempt at deflection.

    Posted by Ginfizz on Apr 22, 2007 @ 09:39 AM

    please forgive me, but even the most diehard Jeffite must admit that his being leapfroged by Poots must have been for a reason other than Poots legendary ability, then to make matters worse wee Jeffs arch enemy looks to be heading of to the Tory front bench!

  • Ulster Onionist


    The three posts were won by Richard Holmes, Joan Carson and Mark cosgrove, (who wore a very snazzy tie, by the way!)

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    1. The site has a rule play the ball not the man i.e. discuss the issues not the people. David Vance is not the topic of this thread also your comments were directed at the person.
    2. There is not enough time to deal with every breach of the rules.
    3. The moderator’s decision is final.