The TUV and Unionism’s options and opportunities (Part 3)

These threads try to engage TUV thinking around Unionism’s options and its future opportunities. In particular, it focuses upon the ‘Direct Rule’ alternative to the present devolutionary system. It aims to examine its morality and suitability for the interests of the Union and Unionist community. Part 3 outlines the arguments for devolution and other relevant issues.Previous thread

The option of devolution

The publication is strongly pro-devolution. It criticises those who campaigned for the option of integration, dismissing it as:

“…it can hardly be described as a feasible and realistic option…” (Page 68)

While stressing the need to defeat the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a pre-requisite, devolution is stressed as the best means to advance Unionist interests:

“…it is the perfect antidote to Dublin’s unwanted meddling in our affairs.” (Page 54)

It identifies value in a devolutionary package, particularly a strong one, to thwart interference has merit:

“…devolution would reduce the field of activity of the Conference it would certainly not abort it. Non-transferred matters which by statute include the critical areas of security, the administration of justice and human rights would remain unaffected within the domain of the Joint Council” (Page 52)

The pamphlet clearly rejects the notion of power-sharing, instead promoting a substantial check and balance of a Council of the Assembly with equal representation from the Government and Opposition. The devolved government would have a similar duty to that placed on the British government under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It describes this arrangement as:

To Unionists internal “Joint Authority” by democratic government and opposition within Northern Ireland would surely be preferable to the external Joint authority with a foreign power to the present Agreement.” (Publication’s emphasis Page 57)

The need for some sense of generosity towards northern nationalism is articulated:

“…they [Unionists] are in a position to offer the SDLP a role within Northern Ireland as good as, and I believe better than they have under the Anglo-Irish Agreement.” (Page 56)

It does contain recognition of the nationalist electoral mandate including Sinn Fein:

“Nationalists in Northern Ireland, just like Unionists, have their own elected representatives, be they SDLP or Sinn Fein. Indeed at this time those elected representatives were boycotting the elected Assembly which was available to them as a forum as it was to Unionists.” (Page 21)

There is no caveat on this. However, the context of an ongoing IRA campaign and the Sinn Fein boycott of any Assembly means the possibility of SF’s active participation would have been simply discounted at that time.

Other Issues

The publication also makes clear the need for, in particular circumstances, participation and its worth. It characterises the then OUP’s failure to act as:

“…critical blunders..” (Page 8)

However, it argues that participation provided dividends:

“…the DUP had much to show for its efforts [Atkins talks]…a major departure from hitherto defined Government policy in support of as-of-right power-sharing.” (Page 8)

It accepts how risks do need to be taken to achieve progress. The Unionist parties proposed talks to replace the AIA requiring the suspension of the talks:

“Despite the evident dangers of such a policy, particularly the element of duress…the Unionist leaders, in their anxiety to find a way ahead were prepared to take this risk.” (Page 56)

It argues against Unionist inertia and complacency:

“…the conviction that since the Unionist case is just, then in time it will prevail. Alas, and to our cost, things in the political world of today are neither so simple or equitable.” (Page 14)

Next thread