The YU 10

Whatever exactly is going on in the YU’s and in particular,to control of the website remains somewhat unclear. However, it appears the much of the contributory team of the old site are not taking it lying down and have established a new blog (hat tip to Jim) arguing strongly for the UU’s to go into opposition.

  • YU

    The old blog was a disgrace. Let’s hope the new contributors actually do stuff to represent the UUP party and its policies.

  • A different YU

    Let’s hope the UUP party and policy does something to represent the new contributors.

  • Garibaldy

    So the new site is weird. Praise for the B Specials is hardly the voice of moderate inclusive unionism that the UUP is supposed to represent. Maybe the people behind it should run off to join the DUP dissidents. Such stuff would be at home there. No wonder the UUP is in chaos and crisis when it seems the younger members look back on pre-69 Stormont as a golden age.

    Perhaps though they might start to convince people of their bona fides by explaining why after Carson and Craig threatened the British government with arms it was acceptable for them to be in the government of NI but not when people have done it more recently.

  • jim

    To be fair now, Carson and Craig never actually killed anyone.

  • Garibaldy


    Setting aside the issue of the possible personal responsibility of Carson and Craig for the minute, it seems to me clear looking at what happened in Belfast in 1920-22, and more isolated incidents in other areas, that elements of the Unionist party where involved in violence against people they perceived to be opponents of the new state. And elements within the security apparatus too. So we had a threatened armed insurrection, and violence from within the Unionist party in the decade leading up to the establishment of this state. Now if people want to argue that this use of force or the threat of force was justified, then fair enough. But I think to pretend that the northern state (like its southern counterpart) was not created by the force of arms is delusional, and often hypocrisy.

    The website also praises Vanguard. Perhaps the people behind this site can also explain the legitimacy of politicians allying themselves with those using violence and intimidation to overthrow the government in 1974. But how people who have stopped using violence more recently should not be in government.

  • John Hussey

    Garibaldy, I think that you may have misunderstood the point of my post on the YU blog. I was attempting to show that the idea of Voluntary coalition government with official opposition is not a new idea, that it has been around for over 30 years in Unionism, and of course, to make the point that it is the only way to have democratically accountable government here.

    I was allying myself with a push for democratic accountability in Northern Ireland, not with violence or intimidation.

  • slug

    There is a lot of talk about how you need a government-opposition system to achieve democracy.

    I am not so sure in a small place like NI where the powers of the executive are fairly limited. Much of the opposition will occur around the Executive table as the four parties decide what to do.

    Yes, the whole Westminster style opposition system may be something to aim for but don’t we have to learn to walk before we learn to run?

  • John Hussey

    Slug, if you read my blog piece, you will see that I have outlined a clear 3 step process that will give us all the walking practise we need:

  • Garibaldy


    Thanks for the response. I understand the point you’re making about the voluntary coalition. I commenting more on the whole tenor of the site, including the links and the picture about no unrepentant terrorists in government.

    It seems to me there is a fundamental disjuncture in unionist thinking of the type that this blog seems to represent about the use of the threat of force and democracy, and I was keen to raise that issue, rather than comment on any individual post.

  • John Hussey


    I can understand where you’re coming from, however, I don’t know if it could necessarily be called a “fundamental disjuncture in Unionist thinking”, there has always been a disjuncture, or different attitude if you like, generally about violence (or the threat of it) in defence of something, as opposed to violence (or the threat of it) in pursuit of something – hence the difference in Unionist feeling between defending the constitution and the IRA murdering people in and effort to force an undemocratic change to that constitution.

    I have absolutely no problem in saying that I condemn all murders, be they loyalist or republican, and I wouldn’t want either strand of them to be in charge of my country. However, it is the case that the only party in government that has a membership made-up of such people is Sinn Fein, so it is therefore easy sometimes for people to believe that it is a purely anti-Sinn Fein thing rather than a pro-democracy argument.

  • fair_deal


    On a minor hostorical note Carson was never “in the government of Northern Ireland” nor a Stormont MP.

  • Cabal

    I’m shocked Peter Brown is associating himself with this rabble, and indeed also that Andy Wilson a councillor in Larne and Ross Hussey a councillor in Omagh would want to be associated with them.

    Website is the same poor quality embarassment of a site that the last one was.

  • Jim

    Cabal, I hardly think that’s a fair comment, if you want to see a “poor quality embarrassment of a site” then you need go no further than and that was supposedly done by professionals! From what I’ve read on the YU site, i think that the youth of the UUP are clearly more able to think about real issues than the party’s “leadership” – if the current YUs stay with the party I think it could only gain strength, if however, it is thrust away like all its modern predecessors then the UUP may as well give-up now.

  • Garibaldy


    Fair point. I had included Carson because of the 1912 thing, but I can see that my later language was unclear, and should not have referred to them in government.


    I appreciate what you’re saying. However, I think the pro or anti-constitutional distinction is very revealing. Atitudes like that are responsible for Willie Frazer being quoted as saying loyalist paramilitaries should never have been in gaol in the first place. There seems to me to not be anything approaching enough clear bluewater between Frazer’s reported position and attitudes among large numbers of unionists regarding things like 1974. It has the effect of saying “our terrorists” were better than “their terrorists”, something nationalists do by claiming the Provos et al carried out fewer less blantly sectarian murders than loyalists. This doublethink by people ostensibly opposed to violence created – and has the potential to create again – a climate where violence is more acceptable.

    The reality is that there are very few if any people in NI whose attitude to violence and the threat of violence has been 100% opposed at all times. So by casting this as a principled pro-democracy argument while thinking differently about the violence of the differing sides, unionists leave themselves open to charges of double standards and hypocrisy.

  • Cabal

    Jim, you clearly need to get to know the guys behind this a little better, their contribution in terms of actual work to the YU as an organisation is negliable. They are merely attention seekers.

  • John Hussey

    “The reality is that there are very few if any people in NI whose attitude to violence and the threat of violence has been 100% opposed at all times. So by casting this as a principled pro-democracy argument while thinking differently about the violence of the differing sides, unionists leave themselves open to charges of double standards and hypocrisy.”

    Well, I might just be one of the “few” then, however, I think you will find that most Unionists in the younger age groups would not be the people you are refering to – interestingly unlike their counterparts in Ogra Sinn Fein for example:

  • Jim

    Well, cabal, why not enlighten us as to who the people really holding-up the YUs are? Who is it actually keeping the youth wing alive?

  • Scratch and Sniff

    When we have the APNI lecturing the world that the Executive is directionless and all the UUP can do is play a reasonably insignificant second fiddle to the DUP/SF coalition, the UUP is in a very sorry situation indeed. No leadership, no direction and obviously ‘professional’ advice that, after demonstrable failure upon failure needs to be discarded in favour of reconnecting with ‘middle unionism’.

    Unionism has never been comfortable with enforced power sharing throughout the ‘peace process’ era. Enforced coalition breeds corruption and by it’s own nature is anti-democratic and entrenches sectarian voting blocks. It is time for the UUP to wash it’s hands of the political process, acknowledge the ‘governmental’ era (that it crows about herelding) and more the country into a truely democratic, accountable and pluralist footing by advocating a ‘normalisation’ of democracy in Northern Ireland, while holding DUP/SF ministerial power to account.

  • Bill

    I just went to the official UUP website and when i scrolled down a little (on the left hand side) [edited by moderator – play the ball not the man]

  • fair_deal

    Will the sockpuppet on this thread desist and restrict themselves to one name.

  • Cabal

    Sock puppet being either [edited by moderator – play the ball] presumably….?

  • Dawkins

    Just visited the blog. Some interesting stuff, though most is terribly predictable and one sided. No surprises there.

    Like Garibaldy I was a little gobsmacked by the paean to the notorious B-Specials. Their poetry FFS!

    There again, didn’t wanted war criminal Radovan Karadzic fancy himself as a poet as well?

  • interested

    There are a few things about the YU blog, so far missed by most.

    One, the most recent post is simply a copy of Jim Allister’s statement – from what I can see there doesn’t even seem to be any commentary on what he’s said, just a re-posting of his original statement. Fair enough if they want to be cheerleaders for him, but it does seem a little odd.

    Also, with everything they post it does seem that they’re trying just that little bit too hard. Everything attempts to be a little bit uber-unionist and the YUs just can’t carry that off, well this incarnation of the organisation can’t anyway.

    Mind you – to give them some credit, it was a nice touch to see Reggie with the Vanguard flag. The YUs may well put forward an argument for opposition, but they’re clearly on their own (apart from Burnside and McNasty) on that one. Reg doesn’t want opposition, but its a nice touch to have him with the flag they’re using as an example for that argument. Billy Armstrong probably just wasn’t sure where he was so we can leave him out.

    I really can’t get my head around what the YUs want to be. They don’t really seem to want to be the youth wing of the Ulster Unionist Party, they certainly don’t like the DUP, so I’m not sure where that leaves them. Perhaps that’s why they’re harking back to Vanguard – oddly enough, an organisation which none of them are old enough to actually remember in existance. They’re a bit like the people who watch those nostalgia list shows even though they weren’t there the first time to remember Spangles or even when you actually did eat a Marathon.

    They may well be the visible outworkings of the current state of the Ulster Unionist Party. The older members, particularly elected ones don’t have enough sense to be worried about what they’re meant to exist for, because they’ve never had to. Maybe at least the younger ones have actually realised that the UUP doesn’t really exist for any particular purpose. The purposes it used to exist for are all done better and more efficiently by others, and the more they talk about wanting to become more inclusive the more it actually makes people think that they’re not what they used to be and they’re not what they might want to be, so why bother with them.

    The YUs maybe have decided what views they want to hold – however if they haven’t then they should decide. Once they’ve done that then they need to check if the UUP actually reflects any of those views – and in the unlikely circumstances that the answer to that question is Yes then they should hang around. Otherwise they should think about moving on as many have done in the past.

  • Michael Shilliday


    Don’t confuse this with a UYUC blog – it isn’t.

  • Sillyday

    Don’t be silly shilliday. No could be cruel enough to associate any new venture with that, soon to be repeated, vehicle for liberal unionist tripe

    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Silly


    What office do you hold in the UYUC?

    Are you a student at QUB?

    Are you Chair of QUB YUs?

    Are you chair of lagan valley YUs?

    What sanctions will be taken against those responsible for this new blog?

  • Ignited

    Just cast an eye over the new YU website and for a bunch of young polticians they have a lot of strong cohesive arguments – that probably means they’ll be called ‘careerists’ or ‘unrepresentative’ and forced out. The fact that the UYUC site is down is very suspect and the fact that the core team have moved to pastures new indicates some tension.

    My great Grandfather served in the B-Specials and their sacrifice should never be forgotton when they served their country so valiantly.

    The debates going on are crucial for the UUP and if the YU continue at what they have been doing they may indeed be salvagable and rescue the UUP. Of course Sir Reg and staff of Cunningham House will be distraught over this but hey, its politics.

  • Philip McNeill

    Is there an Assembly watch blog?

  • steve48

    The freedom of speech is something that has been bought at a very high price and the idea that internally UUP voices should be silenced is a non runner.

    However those who seek to progress politically will find that moderating their views will be more successful than simply positioning themselves at the furthest point from the centre.

    Some of the ideas posted on the new blog show a basic lack of understanding of how political systems work e.g. resignation of Councillors will likely lead to by-elections rather than the simple appointment of new candidates, MLA’s already have submitted a replacement list upon election so resignation and new appointment is not an option.

    Finally if your political beliefs are more in keeping with another party rather than the one you are a member of then you have a choice, stay and try to change the party you are a member of or move to the one that reflects your beliefs.

  • Pounder

    I think steve48 has hit the nail on the head, the majority of the problems the YU face stems from a basic ignorance of how the political system works. I blame the senior members of the Unionist parties for this, by harping on about one issue for 30 years their successors have been blinded to what a politician is really supposed to do and how politics works. As I said before on other subjects politics in any other country is the fine art of give and take. Here they bastardised that to mean Give abuse and Take offence.

  • interested

    Fair enough, its not an officially sanctioned UYUC blog, but at the very least its some kind of ‘Continuity UYUC’. That aside it doesn’t negate the points made IMO. It certainly contains a lot of people who were contributors to the previous blog and who obviously felt unhappy at certain things which went on around that site.

    Finally, do you happen to know if the two elected contributors were happy enough to move over to the ‘continuity’ site?

  • Ballygobackwards

    Reg Empey posing with a Vangaurd Flag. WTF???

  • Unimpartial Observer

    The fact that the views of these “Continuity YUs” were rejected by most YUs is a very positive sign for the UUP.

    If the Continuity YU want to set up a blog on the nether regions of blogspot and gulder on about attacking power-sharing and “No Unrepentant Terrorists in our Govt” – well, that’s up to them.

    The true significance is that the UUP young membership as a whole have rejected this path and are redeveloping a new, and more representative, website of their own.

    Shilliday should ignore the personalised slings and arrows being flung his way here, and be proud of the fact that he professionally managed an inter-Unionist discussion blog for over two years, without it ever descending to the depths seen in recent weeks.

    The official YU website will soon be reborn and I’m sure will provide a much more respectful climate for debate than the last few weeks of the ‘post-Shilliday’ era of the old YU website did.

  • Ballygobackwards


    Why was Reg Empey foolish enough to have a picture taken with a Vangaurd Flag? Why was this picture then subsequently removed? You seem to be in the know….

  • interested

    Were these people thrown out of the YUs? What actually is the story here. I’m genuinely interested and if someone like Michael could fill us in then it would be greatly appreciated.

    I assume Reg didn’t like the picture – it couldn’t be that this blog has already falen into the same censorship issues as the old one did.

    Frankly it seemed more than a little ludicrous for Reg to be pictured with the Vanguard flag. Burnside I can understand – he probably see’s its reformation as the future.

  • Scratch and Sniff

    I think interested hit on something earlier in the thread. Some in the YU simply believe that unofficial opposition leading to a ‘democratisation’ of coalition government is the way ahead. Looking at it from their point of view it seems they that the UUP is currently irrelevant. Simply trying to be a more competent governing party than the DUP is a poor strategy considering that the MLA tier and party finance dept are a poor reflection of the DUPs. Admittedly, opposition demands a better performance and better solutions than governing parties, but this could be negated by better choosing the battle ground against coalition Ministers.

    The sad reality for the UUP is that it is the best and brightest YUs that have been members of the party for a considerable period that are reflected in their recent blogged disillusionment. Many among the remainder of the ‘loyal’ YUs are the epitome of ‘supine props’. What is there for a Young Unionist to be loyal to? A better style of governance on real issues than the DUP? Being more left leaning than the APNI? Endorsing a strategy chasing illusive 20K APNI votes and ignoring the 100+K vote that have leeched to the DUP? Individuals including Reg Empey?

    If the supine props carry the day in the YU it will be a sad day for the UUP and the YU. The YU is a fair mirror image of the UUP membership in the sense that members are wondering what exactly the core values and direction of the party are. They are saddened by the futility of this much vaunted internal review process. They are surprise at the reluctance of the UUP to encourage new blood to be co-opted to Belfast City Council among others and the production of some candidate succession to allow people certainty in the internal campaign process. They are curious to learn where the ‘clear blue water’ will be between the UUP and DUP at the next election.

    The YUs that really need to be scrutinised are those notable for their acquiescence. At this dire time for the UUP, who is the better friend to the party? Those who lie back, take the odd Cunningham House job or work for some below par MLA; or those who tear their hair out at a farce of a review process, try tirelessly to start an internal debate about direction, strategy and relevance to the Unionist electorate.

    My view is not much will change in the UUP internally or in terms of policy. The electorate will of course be the arbiters.

  • The ‘new’ YU blog has exciting threads on it like “Why the B Specials were great and fenians are evil for hating them”. And this is their youth wing (hint – the B men disappeared before you were born).

    No wonder their party is collapsing around them.

  • Richard James

    “Some of the ideas posted on the new blog show a basic lack of understanding of how political systems work e.g. resignation of Councillors will likely lead to by-elections rather than the simple appointment of new candidates, MLA’s already have submitted a replacement list upon election so resignation and new appointment is not an option.”

    I don’t think any of us are ignorant as to how MLAs are replaced.

    It is a rather damning inditement of Reg Empey, and he has made many noises about how the UUP suffers from its elected figures being overwhelmingly geriatric males, if he has failed to convince associations to put women or young people on a replacement list let alone get them elected.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Scratch and Sniff, your analysis is just wrong. For reference, see Steve48’s comment, and add to it a reluctance to do what has been called “naval gazing”, in public.

  • Scratch and Sniff

    Thanks for that engaging response Michael.

    I note that you have totally ignored every single point I make. The only generalised argument you can put forward is that… view is ‘just wrong’. You wouldn’t be one of those acquiescent supine props now, would you? I would like to hear your views on the points I made in my previous post.

    I agree with the thrust of Steve48’s comments. I would reject the statement that many disaffected YUs are ignorant of the mechanics of the NI electoral system. Ignorance is a preserve of the supine props I know in the YUs.

    Individual YUs do need to decide sooner rather that later whether they are prepared to remain in the UUP and engage with the continious reform, or just to call it a day.

    It is funny how disaffected YUs talking about policy and direction in public are ‘naval gazing’, but sockpuppet anonymous UUP supporters launching personal attacks on individual YUs in public escape your mention.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Scratch and Sniff, so you wouldn’t describe “UUPREVIEW WATCH” as naval gazing? However, I’m not prepared to get into a debate about this in public. If you actually want to discuss the issues, you know full well how to do it, but I suppose having to put your name to your views might be too much for you. Not that you’re trying very hard to hide your identity to those who know you.

  • Scratch and Sniff

    Not trying hard at all. I have chosen a name for this thread and would wish to stick with it for consistancys sake in terms of tracking comments. You aren’t really saying that this debate in public is inappropriate per se, but it somehow it would be appropriate if I put my name to my comments?

    I have issued caution and advice to disaffected YUs along the same lines as Steve48; I trust you have done the same? That would be a responsible leadership position to take, rather than just observing and encouraging prominant members to spin out of orbit. After all, we are dealing with nearly all of the ‘for all of us’ children on the 2007 PEB – hardly ‘renegades’.

    I can understand your reluctance to comment on these matters. Maybe UUP to win 10 seats, only UUP can win South Belfast, for opposition – against opposition, for merger with Torys – against merger with Torys etc etc has eroded some credibility?

  • Michael Shilliday

    Your memory fails you. Again.

    I never said the UUP would win ten seats, I never said that only the UUP can win South Belfast, I said I thought we would win it, thats very different. I am still undecided on opposition, although am inclined to favor it, and the situation with the Conservatives changes often, as the circumstances change.

    I am saying that it is inappropriate to have this debate in public, should you decide to be a coward or not. A debate in private also requires you to be open about what you actually think, and worse, how you think problems can be remedied.

    This way you can continue to whine about how dreadful things are for the likes of you. If only they would listen to you!

  • Scratch and Sniff

    Thank God they don’t listen to you!

    I think you will find in my posting I was merely reflecting the ‘feeling on the ground’; representing the ‘community’s outrage’ (couldn’t resist).

    If you were paying attention you would have noticed that the only opinion I ventured in my posts, was my view that not much will change internally or in term of policy within the UUP, how competing with the DUP in terms of competence and governance was a poor strategy, and that it would be a tragedy for the UUP to lose young members and fail to promote genuine talent in the party.

    Seeing those were the limited opinions I put forward on this thread, is my view still ‘just wrong’?

  • Cabal

    “I have issued caution and advice to disaffected YUs along the same lines as Steve48; I trust you have done the same?”

    There are only about 5 disaffected unionists as you have named yourselves, the vast majority of the UYUC membership backs Peter Munce and Michael Shilliday as you saw as the recent business meeting. You have been shown to be in the vast minority within the organisation and your bleatings just look like sour grapes at the moment.

  • Michael Shilliday

    What you mean S&S, is it would be a tragedy for the UUP to lose you. When we understand that (and ignore your selective reading of your own comments), we understand why you are engaged in this debate.

  • Scratch and Sniff


    Thank for your courteous contribution.

    I have no vested interest in this whole matter save the outcomes of UUP reform, welfare and recovery. I don’t know if your reading of the YU situation is accurate. Perhaps it is and we would agree to disagree on that. Due to recent events, my view is that leading the YU in future will certainly be a difficult job! Best of luck with that!

  • Scratch and Sniff


    Sigh. Yes. It is all about me. I should have just known to shut my mouth and defer to you.

    By the way. Have you married into royalty or what are readers to assume when you refer to ‘we’?

  • Michael Shilliday

    S&S. Now we’re getting somewhere.

  • Unimpartial Observer

    The Continuity YU blog continues to thrill and delight. Why today an *entire* Jim Allister press statement was carried verbatim.

    There’s nowhere else on the web today where you can find such fearless and penetrating cut-and-pasting!

    What puzzles me is that this faction dont seem to just want the UUP to appeal to the DUP vote, they seem to want to skip the DUP entirely and appeal only to the “right-of-the-DUP” dead-enders such as Jim Allister.

    Its very odd in a youth wing that you dont just lean towards one of your opponents, you would actually want to leap-frog them entirely!

    If you feel so strongly about “unrepentant terrorists in government” then, I’ve got to ask, why are you still in the UUP which has supported power-sharing for almost a decade?

    It’s a bit like a wing of the Young Tories supporting George Galloway – or a wing of Young Labour saying the NHS should be dismantled.

    If you feel so strongly about power-sharing with SF then why not find a party more in tune with your views? – isn’t that the point of multi-party British politics?

    Its a bit rich to complain about the UUP going into government, when it stood in the election on an explicit commitment tp the voters to do precisely that, and indeed, in case anybody missed it, hung a huge banner on the Holywood Road saying “Vote for us – Ready for Government on March 26th!”

  • Scratch and Sniff

    Unimpartial Observer:

    Yes. And that manifesto was rejected. What, out of interest, would your view be on David Cameron’s adherence to the Conservative Party’s 2005 manifesto be?

    By the way, what is the UUP’s legislative agenda for 2007-11?

    Surely the manifesto also contained the clause “Normal politics, in time, will allow parties to form genuine political coalitions and move away from the tribal, divisive politics of the past.”

    Why is the UUP so against ‘normal politics’, that from a minority position in the Assembly they refuse to countenance pressing for the establishment of ‘genuine political coalitions’ in order to move Northern Ireland away from the ‘tribal, divisive politics of the past’?

    The obvious way for this to be done would be to explore options for creating a statutory mechanism by which these coalitions can be achieved.

    Slugger has already hosted threads where broad suggestions were put forward addressing cross-community safeguards and parallel consent for passage of a Programme for Government with the accountability of an official opposition.

    Oh, again by the way, surely every democrat, and almost certainly every Ulster unionist would consider d’Hondt at best a short-term necessary evil to build trust and confidence within the regions ‘two communities’ and smash the lie that unionists ‘don’t want a fenian about the place’.

    Also, would you not agree that the concept of community designation during a governmental era merely entrenches sectarianism and sectarian vetos in the Assembly and voting patterns?

  • Michael Shilliday

    Surely the DUP’s manifesto was rejected by those standards? After all a lot less than 50% of the electorate voted for it.

  • Scratch and Sniff

    If the biggest electoral performance in the UUP’s history is not a rejection of a manifesto and policies I don’t know what is.

    Don’t be silly Michael.

  • Turgon

    Michael Shilliday,
    The DUP manifesto? Did that not have someting about not sharing power with unrepentant terrorists and army councils and such like?

    Scratch and sniff,
    You and Mr. Shilliday seem to have a personal difference and I do not wish to intrude into a private argument.

    I am, however, interested in what exactly you and like minded people want. Is this about making the UUP an opposition in the assembly with a view in, the long term, to replacing the DUP in government with SF or is this an attempt force further concessions from SF or even to try a copmplete renegotiation of the agreement with voluntary coalitions etc?

    If it is the former the UUP may well be a suitable vehicle for such an endeavour. Its chances may well be poor but I suppose an established political party is a reasonable starting point. The risks in terms of percieved loss of relevance by dropping ministeral positions would need to be balanced against the potential gains coming from capitalising on disillusionment with the outworkings of executive decisions and the possible gains from having UUP politicians advancing alternative radical proposals (I fear some current leading UUP types could have problems with that last bit).

    If, however, the aim is more radical than that and is a more Prodiban type agenda then I would suggest the UUP is going to have difficulty moving all the way across the DUP position to be to the right of it. I cannot think off hand of an example of a political party moving right across its opponents bows (crossing the T if you will permit a naval term). Even if such a thing were possible do you not think that the UUP is still too associated with the GFA, Trimble etc. to be credible? I do not wish to be condescending to those younger than myself but voters in Northern Ireland have long memories. I would have thought trying to start a new party would be more logical and have a better long term chance of sucess. I admit though even that chance is quite low as I have discussed on other threads.

  • Unimpartial Observer

    The manifesto commitment to enter power-sharing government was a fundamental commitment upon which all the UUP MLAs were elected.

    I agree that there are strong and rational arguments for the creation of some form of opposition or alternate government here. The current ‘all-party’ system, whilst necessary to bed down the devolved institutions, should give way in time to a competitive Westminster-style form of devolved governance.

    However, this must *not* mean the dismantling of power-sharing, which is absolutely essential in order that both communities can feel confidence in Northern Ireland’s governance.

    I would prefer a version of power-sharing where the government is formed by the majority party within each of the Nationalist and Unionist traditions – with the minority party in each tradition forming a potential opposition.

    If Unionists made clear that in asking for reform of the current all-party system we were not asking for the dismantling of power-sharing itself, I think that would be a much more compelling argument – especially given the need to win cross-community consent for any changes.

    But this is a thousand miles from the “no terrorists in government” position the Continuity YU espouse, which seems to reject power-sharing completely with SF who, whether we like it or not, are the elected choice of most of the nationalist community here (and we need to respect that).

  • Why have the Continuity YUs blocked me from commenting on their blog? Scared of debate, are youse? A few posts from an enraged liberal and youse all run away.

    Male, 30, (C of I), enjoys Star Trek, morse code and the intricacies of the Single Transferable Vote. ISO callow Young Unionists who like being on the receiving end of a game of cat-and-mouse from an enraged liberal. If you’re nervous and inexperienced, we can just talk dirty on the internet. Dress up in that Vanguard flag and you’ll really turn me on!

  • Scratch and Sniff


    Thanks. I think the former suggestion you make is more on the mark. If we are being told, and telling others, that Northern Ireland is in a governmental era and the political process is over (bar of course legacies of the past/devolution of policing and justice and some other issues) and that the country has moved on, perhaps we should try to figure out how to deliver the best model of efficient government, giving due consideration to the circumstances.

    Unimpartial Observer:

    Re: The no terrorists in Government, your comments would be better directed to the ‘continuity YU’ blog. I am not sure, but could you please reference where on this thread I mentioned terrorists in government?


    Lol. I will pass on your kind invitation to the relevant people. I think on the debate concerning coalition government the APNI are not a million miles away from the thrust of this discussion. Also, no harm in a bit of B Specials poetry!


    Previous post should have read ‘biggest electoral DEFEAT in the UUP’s history’.

    Also, with the Labour Party’s massive 35odd% of the vote at 2005 will you be questioning their legitimacy to govern next?

  • Peter Brown

    It seems to me that the rather public split of UYUC 2.0 epitomises the division in the UUP between those who feel the Party needs to move to the left and take on Alliance to the left of centre and those who want to try to retake the middle ground of unionism from the DUP which involves moving to the right.

    One thing they both appear to agree on is that if the Party stays where it is it will sink rather than swim – my view that it needs to try to win back the support it has lost to the DUP is well known and the arguments I put up for that seem to have silenced UO and others on another thread. Maybe they can tell us here why wiping out the Alliance assuming it can be done and taking its 10,000 votes will allow the UUP to continue a meaningful existence outside Greater Belfast? or is that all that matters ans are they simply trying to repartition the UUP?

  • Peter you are probably right about the division within the party, but I feel that both approaches are wrong. I’ve been lazy and cut and pasted from my own blog to sum up my feelings:

    “Those within the UUP considering the party’s future course tend to fall into two categories and both are wrong-headed. There are those who wish to follow the electorate into DUP territory in attempt to claim back the votes lost to that party, and those who see the priority as mopping up votes from the Alliance Party. Both approaches are inclined to let the party be led by the electorate rather than showing real leadership and a will to explain a political position properly. Both labour under a common misapprehension about unionism.

    Advocating a more liberal stance than the DUP does not mean equivocation on the issue of the Union. The liberal aspect is simply an acceptance of liberal democratic, inclusive British values and a refusal to enter the murky ground of communal politics. What is regarded as liberal unionism is actually far more securely grounded within the political traditions of the United Kingdom, provides far greater assurance of the continuance of those traditions in this part of the British Isles and is in a literal sense, much more identifiably, steadfastly unionist than anything advanced by the DUP. Constitutionally it shares nothing in common with the ambivalent neutrality of Alliance.

    The task of the UUP should be to delineate itself properly from the DUP as proponents of non-communal unionism which genuinely values the benefits of remaining in the United Kingdom and our ties to its institutions and to challenge the DUP as to how genuine their commitment to the union, as opposed to their commitment to one community within it, is.”

  • Scratch and Sniff

    Peter and Ziznivy:

    Would a properly thought out and reasonable proposal for establishing genuine political coalitions with the necessary cross community safeguards, whether parallel consent or approval of a Programme for Government, and inclusion of an official opposition not allow the UUP (or Jim Allister for that matter if he tries to shed the fenian haters) to gather a cross section of ‘middle’ unionism right through ‘traditional’ UUP voters to Alliance voters?

    Certainly radical debate is needed in the UUP to decide what they stand for. I am not suggesting that this direction would be a panacea, but surely one direction is better than none?


    You have the same difficulty as I do. Trying to get a counter-argument from certain UUP supporters and apparatchiks as to why they disagree with your views and what the fulfillment of their ‘strategy’ entails is like getting blood from a stone.

  • Unimpartial Observer

    Peter I was not “silenced” on the other thread, I felt I had put forward my case extensively, and you had replied extensively – I dont believe in endlessly and tediously going over the same ground again and again in page after page of slugger threads.

    I made clear on the other thread that in opposing the St Andrews deal and on a range of other issues the UUP has lurched so far to the right that it is now well to the right of the unionist centre-ground.

    Its big mistake is in trying to outflank the DUP to the right – in doing so it is alienating its own core vote who now have a ready alternative in the resurgent Alliance party.

    FYI, Alliance have 36000 votes, not 10000, and if the polls are believed they stand to gain at least another 30,000 votes or so in any election and may well even overtake the UUP and become the main Protestant voice of opposition to the DUP in many constituencies.

    I would agree with Ziznivy that moderate/liberal/progressive Unionism is in no way equivocal about the Union itself – on the contrary, it is rooted in the belief that the UK people have far more in common than what divides us.

    If we seek to build a “shared future” for the different parts of the whole United Kingdom, it surely makes sense to build a shared future in Northern Ireland too?

    That is why, whilst I am open to the idea of creating an “official oposition” at Stormont, it’s so important to maintain the principle of power-sharing and not use it as a way of futilely trying to return to the unionist majority rule of the past (which would never be accepted by nationalists).

  • Peter Brown

    UO & Z

    Are you seriously suggesting that the UUP is to the right of the DUP? That the UUP voters who now vote DUP are taking a more liberal option? That the Alliance will overtake the UUP in “many constituencies”? Name them! The Alliance Party has 6 individual seats all in predominantly unionist constituencies within the Pale I described on the other thread and you appear to be suggesting that the UUP should abandon its core unionist support and indeed anything outside Gretaer Belfast and its commuter dormitory towns and instead appeal to ASPs with the unionist equivalent of Hume Speak about a shared future of equals.

    Not only should the UUP allowed the DUP to steal its clothes but rather than try to get them back from the DUP you want the UUP to bully the smaller Alliance Party and try to take theirs instead! I have a funny feeling that Alliance voters (all 36,000 of them) might not be fooled by this but the 100,000+ former UUP supporters (although presumably we shouldn’t count any who live more than 20 minutes from the centre of Belfast) might feel that their worst fears about the UUP have been confirmed. Not satisfied with letting the UUP sink now you want to scuttle it!

  • Unimpartial Observer

    Hello Peter,

    To answer your questions – yes I would, everytime the UUP are on the news attackign the DUP it is seemingly always from a more hardline position, or criticising St Andrews ‘concessions’ etc.

    I cant remember anything the UUP has said recently that was defining itself as a positive more centre-ground contrast to the DUP.

    There are several constituencies where AP would overtake UUP if the 9%-8% poll is even close to accurate, especially as APs support is concentrated in only about 7 constituencies.

    Certainly South and East Belfast would fall behind even on a moderately bad day – and lets face it, if an election is called next week, a “moderately bad” election result is about the best the UUP can hope for with the polls showing them in freefall.

    On a worse day you could see AP overtake in up to 6 constituencies, everywhere they are strong with the probable exception of North Down if Sylvia Hermon runs again.

    I think you exagerate in your comments about ‘abandoning everywhere outside Greater Belfast’ – all I would like to see is the UUP define itself squarely on the centre-ground between AP and DUP, instead of lurching off and trying to out-hardline the DUP (what Turgon called ‘crossing the T’ in naval parlance)

  • Peter Brown

    But in all of these constituencies, (IMHO East Belfast, South Belfast, East Antrim, Strangford and South Antrim (questionable)), the UUP and Alliance are both behind the DUP – is the UUP now resiging itself to fighting with the Alliance Party for 2nd place at the expense of losing more traditional unionists to the DUP?

    The reason why the UUP cannot take the centre ground is that Alliance are already there and always have been – to take them on for the 10-15% of the middle ground and abandon the 30-40% block of traditional unionism to the DUP is defeatist and geographically east centred. The UUP must rebuild by attacking the soft underbelly of the DUP and wins its own voters back not try to take Alliance’s – that’s how the DUP got where they are now! The UUP cannot afford electorally or financially to abandon its grassroots in the countryside to court townie Alliance types!

    And to target the Alliance is to implicitly abandon everywhere else to the DUP to claim otherwise is at best self delusional and at worst dishonest.

  • Certainly South and East Belfast would fall behind even on a moderately bad day

    South Belfast would be a stretch (I can dream, but I’m a realist). East Belfast is entirely possible, especially if Dawn Purvis runs, which I think she needs to do to cement an Assembly seat which is not safe. There’s too much risk of her voters staying with Reg Empey in 2011 if she tells them to vote for him now, and then its bye-bye Stormont for the PUP.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I’ve watched so many threads on the angst of the UUP and occasionally contributed to them. Sadly my pearls have been cast before-if not exactly swine then people who are certainly pig headed. So for the last time here it is…

    the sole purpose of the UUP was to provide a coalition of disparate Unionist opinions. Even when it faced serious competition from the DUP it was always able to survive as it had a substantial hardline element within. Even when it came under the leadership of liberals the loose structures meant constituencies could operate in a means responsive to local concerns.
    Twice it flirted with liberalism- under O’Neill and Faulkner, and both times the UUC readjusted when it became clear the structure could not hold

    Uniquely Trimble forced the issue through a series of narrow victories, each time losing traditionalist support, to the extent that there is a miniscule faction of hardliners left. To pretend that the UUP has suddenly become hardline -as Mcnasty’s recent chestbeatings would seem to be attempting- fools noone. Traditional Unionism can never again be accommodated within the UUP. And hence the chances of superceding the DUP is gone forever.

    So yes, go for the Alliance votes if you think it’ll help, but the problem is that no alliance voter will be too impressed by the credentials of your Vanguard flag waving leader, or his self-marketted “prominently orange” chief whip.

    The nearest you have to genuine civic unionist is Alex Kane, but in casting around for a public representative to fly that banner you’re stuck with Tank Commander and Basil the Bouncing BogBrush. Blimey, even Eddie O’Sullivan would look like a tactical genius in that company

  • Peter Brown

    Ironically UO even the Alliance don’t agree with your hypothesis – or is SM simply engaged in a cunning double bluff to lull you into a false sense of security when the Alliance masses are in reality on the march?????? ;-P

  • Peter,

    I think you’re missing the point of my post by lumping me in with UO in your answer. I actually reject the notion of adopting the ground of any other party. I believe votes are there to be won from both Alliance and the DUP if the party’s message is delivered cogently and persuasively.

    I do not believe that the way to win votes from the DUP is to adopt more hardline positions and attempt to muscle in on the communal carve-up. To envisage the Union as a benefit to everyone isn’t “unionist Hume speak”, it should be the very basis whereby we are unionists. I believe what the UUP should be doing to win back votes from the DUP, is challenging the very conception of that party as unionist. Isolated voices have tried to do this, but I want a concerted and coherent campaign.

    Delivering an inclusive message, which is nevertheless steadfastly unionist and grounded surely in the concept of a big UK, rather than a little Ulster, may also deliver votes from the more Union orientated wing of Alliance. However I never want us to approach their ambivalent stance toward the Union.

    By the way, does Darth Rumsfeld enjoy some manner of immunity from the man not ball rule when he delivers his oh so hilarious and sardonic posts replete with snide nicknames?

  • Pounder

    Indeed there are votes to be won from Alliance if the UUP can get their act in gear, fortunately they can’t. The UUP leadership remains inneffective and unable to adapt to change. in short the party seems to be suffering from schitzophrenia. As such we in the Alliance, especially in East Belfast (Reg Empty Heads own area that he required a 3rd count and our spare votes to get in on), will continue to pick up first preferences from votes who used to vote UUP but hate to see their vote wasted.

  • I’m getting increasingly irritated by these stupid nicknames that get wheeled out in every thread regarding the UUP. They add nothing to the argument and they are not funny. I refer to Emptyhead, the Tank Commander, to go back further – The Turtle etc. How about a ban on such terminology Mick?

  • PP

    FFS Ziznivy lighten up a bit!

  • Peter Brown

    The UUP doesn’t not suffer from schizophrenia it has mutilple personalities and cannot decide which it wants to be. Those who argue it should be more like Alliance are a vociferous minority but the silent majority are more presbyterian in the old light bulb joke sense of the word – How may presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!!!???

    Ziznivy the UUP is apparently incapable of deciding on any single message never mind delivering it cogently and persuasively and therein lies it most serious problem…

  • I’m getting increasingly irritated by these stupid nicknames that get wheeled out in every thread regarding the UUP.

    Is your real name Ziznivy?

  • No. It’s a pseudonym a choose to go under on Slugger O’Toole. What it is not, is a snide way to have a go at a particular individual without having any relevance to the debate at hand. It seems that these jibes are almost exclusively aimed at the UUP.

  • Turgon

    I think this argument is becoming circular. In this case it is not because of the lack of honesty and good faith on the part of the participtants it is because the circle is inherently unsquareable.

    The DUP are vunerable to attack from at least three fronts but I suggest each front is too small for one party to occupy and one party cannot occupy all three.

    Firstly there is the Zinnivy strategy which is to accuse the DUP of being Ulster nationalist. There is a certain logic here especially when enhanced by Paisley’s comments such as calling the British government the enemy and flirting with Alec Salmon. This strategy has some pretty serious flaws. The DUP can stop saying stupid things and is usually pretty disciplined. Secondly the DUP will just point to previous sell outs by the UUP, shout “lundy” and say the union is more secure with them than with Trimble. Afterall they got at least some decommissioning (despite not all they wanted) SF support for the police etc. Furthermore this strategy is a bit theoretical (place within liberal democracy etc.) and is a pretty hard concept to sell to the unionist electorate some of whom are not that politically minded.

    The next vunerability of the DUP is attack from the liberal side. Calling them hard line, bigots and stuff. It can be combined quite well with number one above. Its flaws are that the DUP has moved a long way left and is now very similar in position to the old UUP. Hence, the space between the DUP and Alliance is quite small and although it exists is probably too small to allow a long term reassurgance for the UUP. Although I oppose such a position it is likely to be the most possible, it does not offer becoming the largest party in unionism. For the old UUP to accept forever its subservient role to the DUP in unionism would be very difficult.

    The third option is the crossing the T option. As Darth has pointed out there are probably not enough hard liners to convincingly carry this off, most of the party are not hard liners so they will have problems pretending. Next after the GFA and Trimble an attempt by the UUP to out flank the DUP is very likely to just look silly.

    Other critical issues for a revival are to have on the ground workers doing all the boring stuff. Getting drains sorted, having speed bumps etc. I doubt there are enough workers to do that and in fairness the UUP never had that good a record of doing this sort of stuff.

    Peter Brown also raises an excellent point that the UUP do not like change so any of these shifts are very likely to meet inertia and down right resistance.

    So I would suggest all the options are there just they are not accessible by one party. There are cogent reasons for each option as indeed there was for an initial strategy of wait and see by Empey. That time is now past yet there is no cohesive strategy for movement and no adequate sized home for the UUP for the forseeable future.

  • Nah Ziz I am an equal opportunities slabber I have special nicknames for others. Maybe UUP leadership wouldn’t get called names wheren’t so fecking stupid and incompetant?

  • Unimpartial Observer

    Far be it from me to accuse Sammy M of downplaying expectations ahead of an election. 😉

    That said, South Belfast is a tricky one if one of the Unionist parties stands aside for the other (though its difficult to see how either could win to be honest)

    I picked South Belfast and East Belfast as places where Alliance are already breathing down UUP necks. But if the poll putting Alliance up to 8% from 5% is anyway near accurate, there would be other constituencies like East Antrim that would also come into play.

    I’m not a statstician, but I would think that a 5 to 8 point swing is pretty big percentage wise, especially as Alliance really only have seven (or 8 if you count East Londonderry) constituencies where they are competitive)

    – and especially as those gains are at the expense of the UUP, who seem to be going down as fast as Alliance are going up (no coincidence there)

    PS – Never any harm in calling politicians names, I guess the Burmese would have many names they would like to call their leaders if only they were allowed to!

  • Unimpartial Observer

    As regards sneering references to “ASPs” and “court townie types” – do you not realise that when a consent referendum it is called, it will be precisely the ‘ASPs’ and ‘court townie’ pro-Union voters who we will need to mobilise to win any referendum.

    The DUP can’t appeal to them and with the UUP lurching off to the right the danger is that this substantial moderate, centre-ground vote will be lost to unionism.

    You seem content to cede whole swathes of the centre-ground of NI politics to non-Unionists in the shape of the alliance party.

  • Richard James


    The UUP campaigned under its most liberal slogan and manifesto ever and polled the worst result in its history. Although granted, if calling the police scum for defending life and property from a murderous UVF rampage etc is enough to disgust a rejectionist Unionist such as myself is it surprising you don’t hear the sound of lawmowers making their way to Cunningham House?

    You claim there is a ‘substantial’ centre ground vote yet there is no evidence of this. Furthermore if the Alliance party cannot mobilise it then what chance does the UUP have? How do you expect Empey or tank commander to do so if, as Darth Rumsfeld has pointed out before, a nobel laurette couldn’t do so when the ‘peace process’ was seen to be in peril?

  • Porlock

    The problem, I suspect, is that there isn’t a genuine “centre ground” party to attract the support of the genuine “centre ground” voter.

    The Alliance Party may be many things, but it isn’t genuine “centre ground.” Babbling on about Prods and RCs and Unionists and Nationalists working together does not, in itself, constitute a “centre ground” position.

    The UUP may have “campaigned under its most liberal slogan and manifesto ever,” but again, it doesn’t mean it was on the “centre ground.” Indeed, how can it ever be credible about the “centre ground” when it has people like Burnside and McNarry issuing intemperate statements at every opportunity? Basil McCrea and Alan McFarland may lay claims to being “moderates” within the UUP context, but both are ideologically rootless and neither has a power-base of support.”

    As Darth has noted Alex Kane is the only “genuine civic unionist” and, to his credit, he has pushed the case for the UUP and has urged his party to “reach out” if it wants to attract votes. But his failure to persuade the UUP to head to the real “centre ground” is probably indicative of the party’s unwillingness to go there.

    The DUP may be on the same ground as the UUP (indeed, swamped that ground) but it still doesn’t mean it is the real “centre ground.” There is a voter base on that ground so maybe one of the pro-Union parties could head there and do some serious politiking!

    There is no point in the UUP swinging to the so-called “right.” Anyway, in the context of a NI which is massively subsidised, has most of its jobs in the public sector and doesn’t have parties which reflect socio-economic fault lines, what the hell is the “right” supposed to be?


  • Richard James


    I would accept the UUP faces serious issues portraying itself as a party ‘for all of us’ (leaving aside the fact the slogan is tosh, a party represents interest groups and opposes others) when you have flirtations with the PUP/UVF and public representatives like McGimpsey defending intimidation of Catholics in Sandy Row and Fred Crowe seeking to deny Muslims a place of worship.

    None the less I don’t believe the UUP is unwilling to head to the centre ground, just that there are two factions with distinct visions of what it is. On the one hand you have Roy Garland school of thought which believes it is about accepting Republican terrorists are ‘victims’, getting into bed with the PUP/UVF and an eternal commitment to power-sharing. Then there is Alex Kane’s which robustly opposes Loyalist violence, repudiates Republican attempts to portray their terrorism as being about ‘civil rights’ rather than a united Ireland and recognises d’Hondt can’t bring good governance to NI and that an effective opposition is needed.

    Unfortunately the UUP has plumped for a milder version of Roy Garland’s vision. It had no distinctive message during the election campaign (everyone was doing ‘bread and butter’ issues) and instead relied on a bland, meaningless slogan. The Alliance party is gearing up to present itself as the opposition and will benefit electorally from the introduction of water charges (Empey’s strategy is to bleat pathetically from within the executive) and indeed the difficult decisions that McGimpsey will have to make in health. And considering the Alliance party runs better campaigns and is more hard hitting in its attacks than Cunningham House, I wouldn’t like to be in poor McGimpsey’s shoes.

    The only person in the UUP who has had a successful track record on attracting the garden-centre Prod and the pro-union Catholic has been Sylvia Hermon. And it is a damning inditement of Empey’s leadership (considering these are the people the party is targeting) when she has distanced herself from him at every given opportunity.