The UUP’s New Direction???

Ulster Unionist Party leader, Reg Empey, has announced a review into his party’s structures- though, as Fair Deal points out, some within the party believe it is policies that are the problem.
However, it appears the party in Lagan Valley has taken a different direction altogether. Basil McCrea, the solitary UUP MLA in Lagan Valley, has confirmed that Stoneyford loyalist, Mark Harbinson, was amongst the party’s election workers in the run up to the March Assembly election.
The admission comes days ahead of an Ulster Unionist meeting, to be held in the Stoneyford Orange Hall, long associated with Mark Harbinson and his controversial Pride of the Village Flute Band.

Reg Empey is due to speak at the meeting (Monday night), alongside Basil McCrea, who has formed a relationship with the loyalist figure in recent months.

Harbinson has long been a controversial hard-line loyalist figure in the south-west Antrim region, an area home to the Orange Volunteers paramilitary organisation. The DUP’s refusal to permit him to join the party in Autumn 2005 led to him going onto BBC Talkback and angrily denouncing the party at a leadership level, whom he claimed had vetoed efforts by local party representatives to bring him into the party. He also confirmed in the interview that he had worked in successive election campaigns for the DUP in Lagan Valley.

In his recent book about the Orange Order, Rev. Brian Kennaway includes photographs of a parade in the village of Crumlin which included a group of men- led by the same Mark Harbinson- illegally marching with colour party as part of an Orange parade in July 2001 and wearing Orange Volunteers t-shirts. In July 2004, Mark Harbinson was the organiser of a contentious parade through a mixed housing estate in Stoneyford, when the Pride of the Village Flute Band once again donned the Orange Volunteers shirts.

The small village of Stoneyford has been the scene of a sustained campaign of sectarian attacks by loyalists over the years, including more than 50 attacks on a catholic-owned business in the village, which ultimately led to the owners abandoning the premises. The failure of the RUC to act against named loyalists from the village in the aftermath of those- and other attacks- is currently the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation.

  • DC

    Well if the UUP is sinking then as far as I am concerned let Mark Harbinson join in the hope that he can drown when the ship eventually sinks.

  • kokane

    There is no need for 2 left of centre Nationalist parties and 2 right of centre unionist parties. Perhaps the SDLP should rebrand as Ulster Social and Democratic Labour Party and the UU as the Ulster Nationalist Party.

    Failing that I feel a NILP coming on – twice over.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Chris, slow news day was it?

    What exactly are you trying to say? Is this an issue, someone from the loyalist community works along side a unionist party in an election probably to maximise turnout in an area where he may hold some personal influence. Clearly NI would be a lot better of without people like him and Martin and Gerry and the other Gerry, but the fact is for some screwed up reason they still are ‘respected’ in their areas.

    Mr Harbinson told the Andersonstown News yesterday that he had carried out election work for the UUP in the run-up to the last elections and that he has not applied to join the party. He said that this Monday’s meeting to set up a new branch of the UUP had not been organised by him but he hoped to attend.

    So he carried out election work, therefore knocking doors in his area, is that a problem? I am wondering if you read the part where he said he has not applied to join, sort of weakens your argument considerably.

    Or is it a case that only the shinners are allowed to suddenly become reasonable? Surprised a shinner even has the balls to bring this up!

    Still this is obviously a non story, hence the total lack of any real media coverage.

  • Elvis parker

    Oh dear oh dear FYU when you delve to the depths of the ‘Harold Gracey mentality’ you really know the UUP has lost the plot.
    Has Harbinson changed his spots or is Basil just desperate?

  • gareth mccord

    mark harbinson is a well known special branch informer among the loyalist circles!!
    when will the uup learn !!

  • Smithsonian

    Elvis Parker & Chris Donnelly
    I thought we were all supposed to moving forward agreeing to put the past behind us. If Gerry Adams and Martin Maguinness can sit smiling and happy with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson surely other people can bury the hatchet.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Oh dear oh dear FYU when you delve to the depths of the ‘Harold Gracey mentality’ you really know the UUP has lost the plot.
    Has Harbinson changed his spots or is Basil just desperate?

    And could you give me an example of this Harold Gracey mentality?

    I noted that NI would be a lot better off without any of them people, but hey, this is NI, so don’t expect much to change.

    You see, this is a non story, plain and simple. Donnelly looked at this and thought he’d get a cheap story out of it. What next, will he be crawling the BNP site for stories?

  • lest they forget

    I dont get annoyed by anything the Bigotstown News writes any more. I simply say the magic phrase “Daily Ireland” and I’m grinning for the rest of the day.

  • McGrath

    Its just a publicity stunt, Harbinson is way too far to the right (think fascist) of even a right wing party to be seriously considered. But then again the UUPs’ judgement could actually be that bad.

  • Philip

    http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.com/pa/cm199798/cmhansrd/vo980610/debtext/80610-42.htm

    10 Jun 1998 : Column 1145
    Taken from Hansard:
    Mr. McCartney: ….Mr. Paul Butler, the Sinn Fein candidate for Lagan Valley, shot a 50-year-old RUC reserve constable in the back of the head.
    So Chris which crime is more vile in your eyes?

  • RSR

    Chris,

    Stoneyford may have had what you term as secterian attacks by loyalists on catholic homes and businesses but it isn’t the only village or town our country that has suffered from that. It would be foolish to forget the number of villages and towns with protestant minoritys which have endured many years of secterian attacks by republicans.

    Lets not forget that the republicans were not and are not the only victims of the troubles.

  • Cato

    I do not often agree with Christopher Donnelly but in this instance I do. It is absolutely shameful for Basil McCrea to have enlisted the help of a known terrorist supporter, someone who I doubt very much has left the past behind.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    It is absolutely shameful for Basil McCrea to have enlisted the help of a known terrorist supporter, someone who I doubt very much has left the past behind.

    I take it your taking the piss by taking some sort of shinner moral high ground?!

  • DK

    “I take it your taking the piss by taking some sort of shinner moral high ground”

    It seems to me that the UUP can no longer take the moral highground over anyone. Happy to be in that place FYU?

  • Carnlough

    When will the UUP/0V’s ever learn?

  • Daily Mail

    Asolutely bizarre. What are the UUP playing at? Seems not only the Belfast UUP Brigade are prepared to engage with paramilitary untermenschen.

  • Sorry, what is the exact problem here?

    Basil’s UUP cabal embrace someone with an “insight” into unsavoury loyalist activities. Poor form, but what else to expect! Empey embraced PUP/UVF for the sake of a non-existant advantage in the Assembly. Paisley embraces IRA/Sinn Fein with its Terror backgrounds.

    This is your brave new world – stop bitching and get used to it. You want power-sharing with terrorists – you swallow it all, not just bits of it.

  • Michael Shilliday

    All I’ll say on this is that the UUP’s new direction being attempting to improve community relations by trying to move loyalists from violence is a damn sight better than SF’s old direction. Wouldn’t you say so Chris?

  • Peter Brown

    Does anyone else remember the UUP tirades about Third Force, William McCrea / Billy Wright & Clontibret? Is that the whiff of hypocrisy – surely not coming from Cunningham House (again)

  • Ginfizz

    Michael

    Well do tell, seeing as your lot tried sucking up to PUP types in Belfast only to have it explode spectacularly in your face (public backlash and bye bye Copeland i East Belfast), how exactly does allowing Mr. Harbinson to canvass for votes equate to bringing “Loyalist”* communities in from the cold.

    * – Loyalist appears in inverted commas here because the types of people being feted by the UUP are loyal to nothing other than their criminal empires and insidious community control, exerted through violence and the threat of violence.

    I shan’t hold my breath waiting for a reply.

  • gareth mccord

    i wonder if mark harbinson will now get a pay rise for his new position in so called loyalism?
    his handlers must be very proud!!
    FACT!!!

  • SAntrimAdamH

    Gareth McCord hits the nail on the head (earlier post). The UUP will never learn. The DUPs wouldn’t let him in and now the UUP are accepting their cast offs. Ironic that the meeting is taking place in the very Orange Hall where the stolen documents from Thiepval Barracks were found. If this is the ‘moderate unionist party’, which Mr Harbinson speaks of in the Andytown news statement, then you can keep it as far as I’m concerned. Disgraceful stuff. Don’t know what Lagan Valley & Reg are up to.

    http://www.nuzhound.com/articles/Sunday_People/arts2004/jan18_rabble_rouser_to_join_DUP.php

    http://www.nuzhound.com/articles/Sunday_People/arts2002/harbison1_Jul-7-02.html

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,341408,00.html

    http://republican-news.org/archive/2002/March07/07sect.html

  • gareth mccord

    i wonder why, in a current court case the state wont release full case files concerning mark harbinson?? Does someone smell a rat?
    The truth will be revealled in court soon enough and i wonder what the uup will spin in the web of murderers and touts they have taken aboard?

  • John East Belfast

    David Vance

    “This is your brave new world – stop bitching and get used to it. You want power-sharing with terrorists – you swallow it all, not just bits of it.”

    That is not how it works.

    You are not responsible for having to deal with the political opponents others throw at you so long as they are on a credible and maintainable ceasefire.

    However that does not mean you bring them into your own midst unless they have decisiveley said that their past violence was wrong.

    ie in a democracy you cannot go against the law to achieve your own political aims.

    If Mr Harbinson says the latter then we have to take him at his word – if he doesnt and believes loyalist paramilitaries were justified then the UUP should have nothing to do with him.

  • gareth mccord

    how did harbinson get away from the cops and courts after a raid on a orange hall that had guns inside with his prints on them. He was attending a meeting with senior dup members including those who like a massage??
    orange volunteers ,more like yellow deserters!!

  • Peter Brown

    JEB

    Like Ervine you mean?