Empey on opposition and the future of party Unionism

Sir Reg Empey in his speech to East Antrim Association has ruled out going into opposition.

On Inside Politics this morning he stated that there will be no “conquest” of the UUP by the DUP Paisley or no Paisley, and revealed that there has been no further correspondence from the DUP on an electoral pact after 6 months, leading him to call it a stunt on their part.

But there is no provision for a formal and funded Opposition in the present structures. No finance available for research purposes. No mechanisms for channelling Opposition legislation or recognising Opposition spokesmen. In other words, there is no such thing as the Official Opposition: and therefore no role for an Opposition party.

There is no-one in the DUP, or Sinn Fein—or indeed any other party—that I would wish to see in the post of Health Minister or even at DEL! There is an important job to be done in both those areas and I think that we are the best party to do that job.

But we will not be suffocated by any Executive line. And we will not be bound by any DUP/SF DUP carve-up of office. Rather we want to see a genuine power-sharing administration.

  • Truth & Justice

    I think Empey has done the right thing and not gone into opposition however this will probably lead the likes of Basil McCrea to try and oust the leader in the near future it also calls into question if your in the executive and there is not much between the DUP and the UUP in terms of poicy then maybe htere should be a mearger of the two in the future.

  • DC

    Reg’s Europe stance contrasts with a few bodies contained within the Belfast Agreement which already do the work that Reg is trying to resist, Michael. So that may turn out to be a restrictive stance, perhaps baulking at lines already previously crossed. This could make it difficult for appropriate party political responses, should advancement into a deeper Europe happen.

    Much of my sympathies rest with the UUP in at least rushing in and delivering change, which without it, Northern Ireland would be reduced to letting others take decisions over its people that in turn would dull democracy and political thought and reduce its people to subordinate levels. The problem was Trimble could never sell it because he wasn’t able to envisage a sense of what was to come after it with a level of believable confidence.

    There is, however, some mileage with what Reg says in his speech and it is fairly coherent stuff, yet it remains to be explained in many ways.

    ‘A party that promotes values based on an inclusive vision rather than values fuelled by fear and sectarian head-counts’

    How do you account for Irishness in that role?

    ‘A party that promotes a Northern Ireland at peace with itself and secure in the United Kingdom.’

    And what about Irish Republic relations?

    But two issues he raises seem a little of the mark.

    One about family members – people don’t mind family members being employed so long as they are paid market-price wages and not seen to be getting more than what is set out via job market competition.

    The problem for unionism is that it has failed to judge the correct levels of democratic demands but has instead focused on misrepresentations of other political parties’ stances.

    For example Policing & Justice, could it not be agreed for devolution next term by having fairly accountable debates about how it ought to look like starting from May this term onwards. Perhaps transparent-ish committee work would assuage a rumble over unionist intransigence and assure many non-unionists that Northern Ireland is a place to deliver its own sense of social justice. And hopefully knock-out political games always usually won by non-unionists.

    Only problem with that is that career politicians may not have a career to take up the reins at that point so its time for selfishness to take over, again!

    Same can be said for Irish in that something should happen to progress it in order to make Stormont identifiable in a wider sense other than Unionism. Possibly a truer sense of Northern Ireland.

    Re: Opposition – that stance will run as being sound, as you can’t get a mandate for something that isn’t there, but instead offer one for change that banks security and trust in delivering a mandate for changing what is currently in place.

  • Ignited

    Sir Reg’s statement comes across as very lacklustre – you would have thought that the UUP had made considerable headway in the past year. Its a given that you would rather have you own minister in office than one from another party – but it is ridiculous to portray status quo as a significant change; or indeed a four-party-coalition as an effevtive democratic body.

    Reg is right – no funded opposition. The point being? Alliance have their ‘united community group’ and the SDLP have played the DUP at their own game with internal opposition. It means taking a pay cut and set out to change the political landscape.

    The most compelling argument I heard on the subject was: ‘the UUP assembly team are not capable of opposition let alone government’.

  • DC

    There are those without pay who oppose too.

    There can be no Opposition until Stormont has squared off its identity problems that in turn require an agreement possibly based using a hybrid approach.

    This is the thing that must be addressed in order to pull away into more complex policy matters. There are too many outstanding takes on what is what and what means what to whom.

    But one thing is for certain resorting to IRA-symbols is a misrepresentation of culture, belonging and identity. North and South. Idiots.

  • Drumcairn

    When Reg can’t even deal with Billy Armstrong who in their right mind would vote for a party who’s leader has no backbone.

  • 0b101010

    Sounds like a speech full of back-covering excuses from a party and leader with nothing left to offer their traditional moderate unionist base, let alone the electorate at large.

    Nothing highlights policy weakness more than spending most of your time talking about other parties, and to round it off with the familiar drone of old-world politics just nails the coffin shut.

  • Snouts in the trough always prevails. Pathetic stuff from the noble Knight but what we have come to expect. I’m sure Peter Robinson is relieved, the last thing he needs is opposition.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is all a bit daft. If the UUP have problems with the setup here – and they certainly should do, since they and the SDLP are both discriminated against in terms of allocation of executive seats – then why should they feel that they need to help with working it ?

    If Basil McCrea is some kind of great white hope for the party, I really would despair if I were a member. A memorable Hansard quote from the Monday just past :

    Mr B McCrea: Will the Member tell the House what industrial experience any member of the Alliance Party has? [..] The key challenge facing Northern Ireland is productivity. The only area that enhances productivity is manufacturing.

    Dr Farry: [..] Although I have stated that the manufacturing industry makes a considerable contribution to GVA, the Member is ignorant in making the comment that only manufacturing contributes to productivity. [..]

    Mr B McCrea: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think that there is a misunderstanding, and I ask that the Member withdraws his remarks. I actually talked about productivity increases. I did not say that manufacturing was the only contributor to productivity. Perhaps the Member should listen more carefully.

    The guy can’t even get his own opinions straight.

  • Sir Alec Douglas Hume

    Mmm Danny Kennedy didn’t dismiss links with the DUP on Thursday night at a certain meeting in Armagh. Meanwhile little Reggie is authoratively stamping the issue out. Perhaps Danny should be disciplined?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    There is no future for THE UUP with Empey as leader he has been totally ineffective.

    Instead of taking about ‘the conquest of the UUP’ he should have been talking about ‘the UUP not bailing the DUP out of their present predicament’ he just doesn’t have a clue….but does anyone in the UUP?

    The sooner they sort themselves out or fold up the better.

  • James W. Sutton

    Good to see that Reg has made his mind up…but what does opposition Basil think?

  • Richard James

    It’s a pity that rather than articulating a positive case for enforced coalition, Empey chooses to hide behind circular logic. Provision will only be made for an official opposition when there is a demand for one. The demand for one will only emerge when Empey sums up the courage to leave the the executive and hold the DUP/SF coalition to account, and campaigns for such a role to be recognised.

    Nor do I think the public will take Empey’s criticisms of the executive seriously while he and Michael McGimpsey enjoy the perks of office. By choosing to serve as Ministers they are complicit in the way the DUP/SF coalition run things, no matter how much they bleat otherwise. As for not wanting to see another party in charge of health, one wonders whether Roy Beggs or Ken Robinson would prefer it if it wasn’t a UUP Minister closing a hospital in their constituency?

  • E eye E eye yo

    Reg doesn’t want to go in to opposition.How could he survive without the trapping of office? Reg has shown his weakness by not dealing with Billy Armstrong perhaps he thinks people will forget.I spotted Reg last week going to a UUP meeting and getting out of his ministerial car.Why oh why would he give all this up.Cash before party eh Reg

  • Husker Du

    It is hard to disagree with Richard James’ analysis on this one. Reggie has now put himself in the position of protraying Madatory coalition as a long-term solution, something which it was never intended to be, and I doubt how he can have a great deal of support for it within his party.