Common interests

Peter Robinson has called for talks with the UUP about co-operation on issues such as voter turnout.

  • joeCanuck

    Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly….

  • George

    Republicanism is getting stronger because unionist turnout is reducing. Robinson must have been up all night thinking that motivational policy up.

  • David

    The reason the Nationalist/Republican vote is strong is they have choice. A voter can register dis-satisfaction with SF by switching to SDLP (or as we have seen the same in reverse). If the UUP and DUP come together they will remove choice and thus will encourage apathy (or even worse a vote outside Unionism). They best motivation is genuine choice. Unionism needs two parties representing the traditional right and liberal left. That way the fight is for the centre ground and voters can switch without leaving the Unionist ‘family’.
    This call is potentially dangerous.

  • truth and justice

    Roinson is right if Unionism was United there could be up to ten extra Assembly seats and two westminster seats and dozens of council seats that could be won, the reality is that it would motivate people to come out and vote as it is what the people really would love to see happen!

  • aquifer

    Code for:

    Lets not have an outbreak of real politics, with policies and such, for so long as the issue is protestant unity, the DUP trumps all.

    So turn him down flat Reg and invite Lord Trimble to lob one in from the side.

  • Smithsonian

    truth and justice
    What utter nonsense. The DUP have no principles, no vision, and no longer term future. What exactly do they stand for now?

    Not a great track record.

    Dodgy land deals, jobs for the boys and sordid backroom deals with the Shinners.

    Where is the financial package, what happened to academic selection?

    The DUP are despised in the country.

  • Rory

    “The DUP are despised in the country.”

    You may be right, Smithsonian, I wouldn’t know about that. The problem is that they have been despised all the way into becoming the majority party in the Assembly. I bet the UUP wish that they could be just as despicable.

  • fair_deal


    “If the UUP and DUP come together they will remove choice”

    Where does he say anything about the removal of choice?


    “the issue is protestant unity”

    Who mentioned religion? Has nationalsim abandoned trying to get to 50%+1?

  • Porlock

    Alex Kane has written extensively on the matter of the fall off in unionist turnout and has argued in favour of the need for 2 mainstream unionist parties to reach out to and maximise the vote—an issue he claims neither the DUP nor UUP has properly addressed.

    I heard him on TV the other day saying that Robinson would begin with a year zero approach and blame Paisley for the difficulty in past over closer cooperation. He also said that Robinson would immediately reach out to the UUP—but only as a strategy to make up for potential losses to DUP from TUV. In other words, a self-interested strategy rather than one based on long term benefits for unionism generally.

    I’m not sure where Truth and Justice gets the figures for arguing that a united unionism would deliver 10 extra Assembly seats. The only way of pushing up the seats is for the UUP and DUP to begin to attract the large numbers of voters within the unionist community who choose not to vote.


  • Mark McGregor

    Robinson has always been interested in unity. Only his partners vary.

  • truth and justice


    It is clear you are not a DUP fan so what but when it comes to Uniting Unionism then who ever does it gets my vote

    Unfortunetly for you the fact is that an extra 1 Billion for the province came under the St Andrews Agrement the UUP never got a penny under the Belfast Agreement.

    Acedemic Selection is hear to stay it was agreed under the St Andrews Agreement Sinn Fein can do nothing about it and they know it!

  • truth and justice

    There should have been An extra five seats gained by Unionism if they had transferred at the last election between each other

    A)North Down
    B) Lagan Valley
    C) South Antrim
    D) South Belfast
    E)Norht ANTRIM

    THERE IS ALSO THE FACT THAT a 100,000 Unionist Voters do not bother to vote which would create a further five extra seats in

    A) North Down
    B) Strangford
    c) Lagan Valley
    D) East Antrim
    E)West Belfast

  • Buvverboy

    Rich hearing from the DUP about Unionist Unity when their MLA’s are knifing each other in the back for their own parochial advantage as they set their stall out for when big Peter reduces the number of party fodder at the assembly watering hole. Academic selection can’t have been a big issue in the life of Truth and Justice!!

  • FD, Paisley wrecked Unionist unity; perhaps Robinson’s reaching out to Unionists will be as appealing as the Adams’ version.

    “Direct Rule was Anglo-Irish rule and Direct Rule suited nationalism. Why would we want to go back to that? Devolution protects Unionism, it’s that simple. Thankfully the days of the London-Dublin axis giving in to Sinn Fein wish-lists are over. Sinn Fein now find themselves trapped inside a Unionist majority Assembly, with a Unionist majority executive. As a party we have always been to the forefront of standing up for Unionism. That is exactly what we are doing inside the Assembly and we will continue to do it.” .. Nelson McCausland

    Nelson could note that the ‘axis of evil’ still rules over non-devolved matters such as policing and justice.

    Mark McGregor’s Ballykeel image [post #10] of Robinson demonstrates his dark side where he was standing up for something else. According to the North Antrim Grapevine, it was Paisley who returned to put out the ‘real fire‘ that was in danger of engulfing police officers’ homes in 1986.

    We’ve seen what the DUP was doing inside the Assembly and out for a DUP business associate. Perhaps the acronym stands for the developers’ unionist party and their wish lists.

    Should we be surprised if the DUP-SF ‘coalition’ continues to do ‘side-deals’ in advance of meetings of the Executive?

  • DC

    Well here is the proof that the DUP is now tacitly admitting that they have bled Unionism dry in terms of ideas as a result of backing it into a corner over the last 30 years.

    Unionist turnout is down because unionists chartered a very ideology-limited campaign particularly over the last 10 years that resulted in blistering internal bickering within Unionism over arms and decommissioning.

    The fact is that when you hammer a constituency into the ground for so long on very narrow political stances don’t be surprised if there’s no elasticity whenever trying to pull off into a new direction requiring more contemporary substance. Hence the need to tap into the remnants of any liberal unionist, or perhaps more progressive NI, thinkers and voters. They were visibly pulverised by the DUP’s now disproven rhetoric and they remain turned off – rightly so.

    It feeds into Fair Deal’s analysis about narrative and the old never-never impinging on the ability of the DUP to hold any new ideas forward from within its own camp. I hardly see why the UUP should step aside in the face of a terrible and hurtful campaign against it. Rather it should round up the wagons for radical new thought given the vindication of that party’s stance taken at the right place at the right time.

    Hume, whereas, wrote the Nationalists into Ireland and Europe, DUP-Unionism ground faces into the dirt of decommissioning and anti-SF stances. Look at the case now when both are overcome Unionism is stuck.

    Turnout is down, yes, but the proof is that the hard stances over small issues have been harmful to Unionism itself.

  • steve48

    “Unfortunetly for you the fact is that an extra 1 Billion for the province came under the St Andrews Agrement”

    Truth and Justice please outline where this came from and what it has been spend on

  • Prince Eoghan

    What a great idea to even unite both of these parties of the right, leave the TUV for the loonies and extreme right. Then perhaps a party favouring the union could emerge that caters for the centre or even the slightly pinko liberal unionist. You know one that doesn’t have ‘Keep the Irish/Taigs out’ uber alles as it’s raison d’etre.

    Pigs might fly.

  • DC, it was Hume who proclaimed the death of nationalism ….

    Perhaps it should also be noted that the street politics of Hume and Paisley set the respective tribes at each other’s throats – and the 50%+1 thingy is likely to do it once again IMO.

  • DC

    Hume may well have proclaimed that as such in his own terms but with growing interdependence and a Lisbon Treaty coming up you can hardly refute that there is something in what he was saying.

    Re Paisley-Hume politics, you can hardly attribute the two in the same street setting. Paisley was a sectarian set-piecer, Hume was loathed for his insistence on dragging SF and Adams into democratic politics in order to take them off the street. That had its own confusing consequences as to the SDLP’s stance of constitutionality. Paisley and loyalism on the streets had very direct consequences.

  • PeaceandJustice

    It makes more sense for the UUP to join up with the Conservatives and offer a proper alternative to the DUP. The UUP or the Conservatives will not succeed by themselves. But a Conservative & Unionist UK wide party consisting of people of all religions would be attractive to the electorate. But do the NI Conservatives and the UUP have the courage and leadership to make it happen?

    Mark McGregor – “Robinson has always been interested in unity. Only his partners vary.”

    I assume it is difficult to control who turns up to such protest events. You should know that given your record.

  • IJP


    The UUP or the Conservatives will not succeed by themselves.

    I think the Conservatives are doing quite well in the UK as a whole without the UUP! 🙂

    It’s actually a fair point, but there is the slight problem that both UU Ministers and its MP are known for, well, basically not being Tories…

  • Phrionsa Eoghan

    >>Perhaps it should also be noted that the street politics of Hume and Paisley set the respective tribes at each other’s throats – and the 50%+1 thingy is likely to do it once again IMO.< >Hume was loathed for his insistence on dragging SF and Adams into democratic politics in order to take them off the street<

  • IJP


    I’m not so convinced. It depends on whether TUV provides a genuine contender to “out-flank” the DUP. I could see a new, broad Unionism focused around the Robinson-Donaldson axis appealing to quite a lot of people in such a context – as it would remove the charges of ‘disunity’ or ‘incompetence’ while at the same time offering a (comparatively) progressive alternative to Allister and co.

    Also, look around Queen’s University and youth politics genuinely and you’ll see more and more people who do not view their choice as confined to “Unionism” or “Nationalism”. I would say that, wouldn’t I, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  • IJP


    why would Nationalists consider changing it?

    Stability and prosperity, probably.

    The increasingly wealthy “Nationalist” “middle-class” in NI isn’t going to risk the nice house and the Audi without good reason, frankly.

  • dupmember

    Truth & Justice
    You are 100% right SMITHSONIAN does hate the DUP probably because he was thrown out by the party many years ago. Don’t they say the ones who got nowhere in a party are usually the most bitter. Smithsonian and the likes of Turgon and others who support TUV have nothing to offer the Unionist people of Northern Ireland never mind the population as a whole. I commend the leader designate for his suggestion and like you I know from speaking too many that they want Unionists to unite thus not allowing Republicans to have their way in Northern Ireland

  • Steve

    joecanuck is the one who got it right

  • George

    Stability and prosperity, probably.

    The increasingly wealthy “Nationalist” “middle-class” in NI isn’t going to risk the nice house and the Audi without good reason, frankly.

    But the wealthy unionist middle-class would risk the nice house and Audi by the resultant instability caused by denying the democratic wishes of the majority?

    Don’t assume that the guarantee of stability and prosperity will always be best served by remaining in the union.

  • realist

    You have give us quite an insight into the current situation in our wee country dupmember when you say that unionists should unite thus not allowing Republicans to have their way in Northern Ireland. Does this mean that you are telling us that here and now they are getting their way despite all the claims your party have been making about veto’s etc? Thats what it sounds like!! Also if you rub the red white and blue dust from your eye’s you might begin to see that it was the DUP who provoked every split within Unionism and didn’t give one fig for the old Unionist maxim of United we stand divided we fall!! Funny how the old jokes are always the best!

  • Philip

    Why would the first minister designate want a better relationship with the UUP when they could have done it in 1998 when the UUP and SDLP shared the FMDFM Office? (That is a rhetorical question, as it would insult all of our intelligences for an answer)

    My emotional answer is censured but my rationale answer is twofold:
    [1] A party seeks power for its own ideology; this ideally is not a convoluted BNP type version were we put faith and prejudices before social and economic realities affecting us all as a province.
    [2] The DUP and Sinn Fein may be dominant partners at Stormont; the former may no longer refer to the latter as IRA/Sinn Fein or Sinn Fein/IRA, but sectarianism does still exist in this province; it is regrettably inherent into the machinery of government. The Assembly must not only work it must be seen to be working and having a grand union of UUP and DUP would, I fear, tar the majority of prods with the same sectarian brush.

  • Bigger Picture

    Flip me I think everybody on this site needs to take a deep breath. This is not about power or political piggy backing. If there is a way for parties to come together to hear suggestions on how to maximise the unionist votes then they should do so. That doesn’t mean parties forming into one uber-unionist party but simply ensuring that in unionist areas, unionists come out and vote for whatever party. To that end any discussions should probably include Allister as well.

    Unionists lost a seat in West Belfast simply because they couldn’t be arsed to come out and vote. In the same vain if three unionists parties set out for the westminster election there will be more nationalst MP’s than Unionists. These are issues that all unionists need to come together in order to address.

  • RSR

    Its not that long from the last stunt from the DUP about unionist unity, talks were called for then, but was proved to be the DUP just using it for PR purposes. It made the news before the letter had reached UUP HQ, not the way to try to achieve unionist unity or cooperation. Will be interesting to see this time if the DUP are actually sincere about uniting unionism or if again, it is just a PR stunt.

    Would agree with those saying that a united DUP/UUP would benefit the unionist population but there is a lot of bad blood from between them. After all it was the DUP who embarked on a personal campaign against David Trimble in 1998 and didn’t let it stop until they got rid of him. They have tried the same with others in the UUP as well, easier to pick on an individual than a group!

    A lot of people are asking what the last 30 or so years of violence and 3000 dead got us. For unionism, the Sunningdale Agreement was better than the Belfast Agreement and both of those better than the St Andrews Agreement. Who knows what situation we would be in now if it wasn’t for the actions of the DUP.

  • yingyangsang

  • Graham

    I think this is just the start of Robinson trying to woe the Ulster Unionists. The simple fact is that the DUP are in decline, government isnt easy and they are finding it hard. What the DUP want to do is secure their flank against the ulster unionists leaving them free to finish of the TUV and to sort out the differnces in their party. The Ulster Unionist would be mad to cooperate with Robinson, this deal will lead to another deal and another deal and eventually robinson will hold up constituancies like south belfast and FST as crumbs to the UUP. If you deal with the devil you go to hell

  • pith

    Did FF turn him down?

  • Bigger Picture


    Go away and jump off a cliff if you don’t like it. Fir goodness sake yeah the DUP is to blame for the troubles etc etc I do remember an IRA being involved at some stage?? And anyway Richard Reid your own current UUP leader was against Sunningdale. Stop trying to blame problems and your inadequacies onto people who are actually standing up to republican demands in the Assembly compared to the failed policies of Trimble and the No guns No government brigade.

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  • RSR

    Bigger picture,

    standing up to republican demands in the Assembly?

    More like giving in to republican demands hand over fist.

    obviously ur a DUP supporter who believes what ever the people at the top say, no questions asked. a bit like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed on shite.

  • Bigger Picture

    I aint going to bicker with you Richard in the same way as I am not going to descend to your level by using foul language. Get your head out of the clouds and when you are ready to engage with unionists who do not want Republicans in the ascendency then come back and talk to me.


    “More like giving in to republican demands hand over fist.”

    No Maxe, No Irish Language Act, No Policing and Justice, No RPA. All demands on the cards for Republicans promised by downing street and stopped by unionists at Stormont. The system aint perfect but where we have worked it we have stopped demands. Am I wrong or are you just bitter??

  • Bigger Picture


  • RSR

    bigger picture,

    Fair enough on the bickering, but you started it by saying go and jump off a cliff, so i think i had a right to reply there, but lets leave it at that.

    No maze? not yet off the cards, could still happen yet,

    Irish language act, might be the only success but shouldn’t have been in there in the first place, shouldn’t have got off the table in St. Andrews. someone must have missed that page when going through it.

    Policing and justice? hasn’t been fully decided upon yet, time will tell i suppose

    RPA? a fudge between what SF wanted and what the DUP wanted, 11 is half way between 7 & 15, hardly a coincidence.

    Think most people in Northern Ireland have some bitterness in them. Certain things just spark me off i suppose.

    back to the topic of the post, all the above is sidelining it. Again i think this is another PR stunt by Robinson and the DUP, just like the way the last number of suggestions like this have been. Again, i suppose time will tell. Clever piece of PR tho if it works.

  • IJP


    That’s irrelevant. My post was specifically in response to PE.

    Those seeking a UI need a majority not just to favour a UI in theory, but to favour changing the status quo in practice – with all the risks that accompany that.

    NI is a deeply conservative place, so those seeking a change to the status quo will have to do more than what they are currently doing.

    Back to the point of the thread, that is why either the UUP or the DUP can pull off a narrative which consists of them having sealed victory for Unionism – perhaps they would be better doing that together? That is the question posed in the thread.

  • Smithsonian

    There is no question of the UUP and DUP doing anything together. There is no shared vision, no common cause, no personal relationships. Basically they hate each other.

    The UUP lean more to Unionism, the DUP to Protestant Nationalism but what does it matter when neither the ROI or HMG have any long term strategic interest in the province. Northern Ireland will have to work out its own future and it will be necessity be a shared future.

    and as for your suggestion of a Robinson\Donaldson axis? Was that a belated April fool joke?

    Not only would it wreck the DUP core vote, but Donaldson adds little of any consequence to the DUP front bench.

  • Phrionsa Eoghan


    Perhaps the threat of Unionist violence may cause some middle class Catholics to vote with the infamous castle Catholics. Common sense tells us that medicine is best swallied quickly though.

    My main theme is something that I have touched on previously on similar threads and has never been taken up by more than a select few Unionists (you know who you are) Why can’t a more moderate centrist pro-Union party emerge to represent moderate non-nationalists? In my view this would steal far more middle class catholic votes the bigoted parties that Unionism have to offer at present.

  • Garibaldy


    Isn;t that what Alliance is for?

  • ideal world

    Not really Garibaldi. Alliance really only get in the way. Their true relevence to the Northern Ireland political scene disappeared a number of years ago with the emergence of real middle of the road politics from liberals on both sides of the traditional divide. They would all be better shaking hands and going over to the SDLP and the UUP and try to make a real difference from those positions.

  • Smithsonian

    Yes that is what Alliance is supposed to be for but it fails because it has neither momentum nor purpose.

    If the Assembly is working with a coalition of the other parties doesn’t that destroy the raison d’etre of the Alliance party?

    Conversely, if the Assembly isn’t going to work the Alliance party have been around for too long to make a difference. They don’t have the personalities to fire up the imagination. It would need a huge effort to change the image of the party and frankly I don’t see it happening.

  • Richard James


    The UUP traded in it’s intergrationist policies for devolution at any price a long time ago. You can’t really lecture the DUP about being crypto-nationalists when championing a form of government that is tearing the United Kingdom apart.

    As for Donaldson having nothing to offer the DUP electorally have you forgotten that the UUP’s vote only went into free fall after he left the party? I’d put a good sum of money on the UUP being better off today if Donaldson were leading it rather than Empey.

  • Turgon

    This is not necessarily about the DUP gobbling up the UUP. It is very true that Robinson might want to but it will be very difficult. I remember that only 15 or so years ago people were talking about how when Paisley left the UUP would offer Robinson something to come on board. The times they have a changed but some of the people who thought that are still in the UUP and are I suspect pretty angry that they have been defeated by Robinson. Although “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” (though for fundamentalists that is a really stupid remark); politicians can be pretty angry when defeated.

    If Robinson is playing a PR game, I suspect it is to position himself as both the clear intellectual (almost moral) leader of unionism and lay the ground for broadening his tent. He may not lead unionism the way Paisley did but he might be trying to become the clear leader in another way. Remember that this is a man who whatever else he is; is extremely patient.

    Of course he might also be genuinely worried about the loss of unionist votes and the potential loss of seats. Although Graham may have a point as someone who spent the weekend house hunting in Fermanagh, I would rather have some chance of removing Gildernew.

    Even with Peter Robinson, Machiavellian as he may well be; it is possible that he might be trying (now he is leader of unionism) to improve unionist chances overall. I do accept, however, that he has considerable past form for being divisive (not that the UUP were ever innocent in that).

  • pith

    Turgon, you used the words ‘Robinson’ and ‘intellectual’ in the same. Sentence.

  • DC, Paisley and Hume are very different men who used different sectarian tactics. I noted the consequences of their street politics; perhaps Hume, the historian, was unfamiliar with the tribal confrontations in his own city over the generations.

    I’ve read Moloney’s book on the IRA where he describes the Reid and Redemptorist ‘Brits Out’ stepping stones to a UI strategy. AFAIK Hume joined the process by invitation much as he had been invited by senior Catholic clergy to help establish DCAC as a counter to NICRA forty years ago.

  • Turgon

    Yes, I am unsure. I do not rate him as an intellectual but I am not in a position to judge anyone’s intellectual abilities.

    I do not think he is an intellectual but he is an outstanding tactician. He cannot be stupid. In some ways we do not know exactly what his intellectual vision is (or even if he has one) as he has been in Paisley’s shadow for so long. His one attempt at independent action was the initiative in the 1980s which resulted in him having to temporarily resign from the DUP deputy leadership.

  • pith


    He is certainly not an intellectual (for what it’s worth) but he has been a good tactician but only from a oppositional direction which is invariably easier. His tactical know-how seems to have come unstuck with the DUP’s move to the centre.

    If I may digress from the thread but with reference to your interest in religion & politics I wonder what you think this aspect of the new DUP. It seems to me that the UUP see engagement with the Catholic community as being about trying to appeal (and usually failing) to it for electoral support. The DUP’s method seems to be to maintain its 100% “protestant” support base but to accept that it must engage with the 100r;s on the other side. The UUP might have the more decent approach but the DUP’s may be more realistic. Unless of course the UUP just has a more confused approach to cynicism.

  • Smithsonian

    Richard James
    Surely you aren’t suggesting that the cause of the decline in the UUP vote was the departure of Donaldson?

    There was mounting criticism of the UUP at the time. Donaldson didn’t like having to take the criticism and took the easy way out by jumping ship. There was no great principle at stake.

    Sometime latter when the DUP ship changed course this presented no problems for a career politician who knows what side his bread was buttered on.

    At one time he was a useful stick to beat the UUP with but his value to Robinson is waining and he has little real gravitas.

    If Robinson promotes him to full ministerial office it will be Donaldson’s undoing.

  • pith

    If your argument holds true why would Robinson promote him?

  • PeaceandJustice

    IJP – “It’s actually a fair point , but there is the slight problem that both UU Ministers and its MP are known for, well, basically not being Tories…”

    Those elements of the UUP should be pushing the UK Labour Party to allow candidates to stand for election in NI (I don’t know what happened to the campaign led by Andy McGivern?). Perhaps the Alliance Party could lead the way by becoming the NI LibDems e.g. Lord Alderdice of Knock sits on the LibDem benches in the House of Lords.

  • George

    Those seeking a UI need a majority not just to favour a UI in theory, but to favour changing the status quo in practice – with all the risks that accompany that.

    Once again you are assuming that the status quo and prosperity for the middle class will be best served by voting to retain the union. That may be the position in 2008 but there is no guarantee that this will be the case in the future.

    The greater risk could well involve a continuation of the political and economic morass that currently exists.

    NI is a deeply conservative place, so those seeking a change to the status quo will have to do more than what they are currently doing.

    Northern Ireland is changing by the day and in order for unionism to maintain the “status quo” that it cherishes it needs every man jack on deck and also needs to shanghai a couple of new recruits.

    Robinson is starting his search at the usual drinking hole.

  • Bigger Picture


    First of all I will apologise for my earlier comments, I do not agree with the statement that the DUP divided in order to rule. There were many players in the game that gave us 30 years of trouble and 3000 victims. The DUP may be in a position of power now but to suggest that it was their aim to cause strife and hardship for political gain is not a sustainable argument and deeply unfair on those in the DUP who they, their families and their supporters have been victims themselves. I suppose it is a bit like a red rag to a bull!

    In terms of what you think about DUP gains:

    Maze still not off the cards- No one is even remotley considering the Maze anymore and by all rumours Poots is on his last hurragh and destined for a return to the back benches. So there endeth the Maze fiasco.

    P+J- Nothing I can add. The DUP and other unionists opposed it. No reason to suspect that that will not continue to be the case until SF can deliver. They are under no pressure to press ahead with this

    RPA – A fudge you may consider it to be. But a fudge alot more in Unionism’s favour than republicans especially if the boundary changes to Belfast bring in the “Belfast” areas of Castlereagh and Newtownabbey Council.

    ILA – I agree it shouldn’t have been in there to start with. However a good piece of business by the DUP to promise something to SF and then get into the Assembly to make sure it doesn’t happen. Machevellian but when it is SF who lose out I don’t really care.

    On the thread. It is important that Unionists realise the position we are in in the 21st Century. The idea that unionist self interest groups can spring up and assert that unionism will remain strong are utterly wrong. It is important therefore that all the parties come together to work on issues that benefit, as my name highlights, THE BIGGER PICTURE. It does not have to be a case of amalgamating all unionist parties into one and instead it can be a case of reaching out into unionist/loyalist areas and re-engaging with them to make sure that a unionist vote remains strong. Then agreements can be made in light of Westminster in order to ensure that unionism has the highest representation possible and that we can maximise and exercise our advantage to the full. Unionists on this site need to be aware that our enemy is not amongst us but sitting on the benches opposite in the guise of SF/IRA and the pan-nationalist movement. We need to re-engage and re-organise and take the fight to Republicans both in the devolved institutions and at the ballot box. The only way forward is to come together and to negotiate over areas of mutual interest.

    Bigger Picture 20/04/08

    ps I took great umbridge at the assertion that I sheepishly follow the DUP line on everything. I actually like to consider myself a bit of a free thinker on DUP policies on this site!

  • IJP

    Excuse me ignoring things that aren’t to do with the thread (you know who you are).

    P&J; and George

    Basically, what you say is rational. But electors are emotional.

    NI has come through generations of communal (sectarian) strife. Its party system reflects this.

    That is why, P&J;, the NI Conservatives have gotten nowhere, “Labour” and “Socialist” candidates have gotten nowhere, and Alliance has only gotten somewhere when it made its Liberalism relevant to NI.

    That is also why, George, few Audi drivers in Upper Ormeau or Carryduff will be queuing up for a big change. There may not be very many rich people in NI, but there are a hell of a lot of comfortable people – hence the deeply conservative nature of the place.

    Much thought I admire your rational and revolutionary vigour, it wouldn’t get far with the NI electorate.


  • DC

    “Alliance has only gotten somewhere when it made its Liberalism relevant to NI”

    Ah come on IJP, events, dear boy, events.

    Is not the Alliance party cross-community-cum-non-constitutional, therefore, is this not a refinement of a very particularised situation. Sometimes you are shameless but that’s a likeable trait IMO.

  • Smithsonian

    I’m not sure that Robinson will promote Donaldson, but there is a premise about promoting people to their level of incompetence, that way you can keep control of them.

  • Dave

    “Once again you are assuming that the status quo and prosperity for the middle class will be best served by voting to retain the union.” – George

    Have you any evidence to support the assertion that those who have prospered with the United Kingdom will vote to terminate the entity wherein they prospered because they will make a calculation that they will attain greater prosperity by the termination? Common sense would dictate that people will support the system that they have prospered under. That is the basis of the social conservatism that IJP alludes to.

    Remember, they are financially well-to-do people because they make careful calculations about what is in their own best interests. They make those calculations on the basis of examination of the available evidence (conspicuously absent in this case). Likewise, what about the financially well-to-do people in the Republic of Ireland: will they make a calculation about what is in their own best interests or what is in the best interests of the citizens of Northern Ireland? Where is the evidence that those who have prospered with the Republic of Ireland will vote to terminate that entity in favour of some new entity that is to be designed at the behest of agenda-laden political hacks from Northern Ireland?

    If your logic is that successful people make careful decisions, then you should not exclude the veto that is held by successful people in the Republic of Ireland who have been presented with not a shred of evidence that a united Ireland would be anything other than a financial black hole for the Republic of Ireland (and those successful people whose taxes will be dramatically raised to pay for it).

    The devil, my romantic friend, undoes the dreamers in the details. Peter Robinson has much less to worry about than he is worrying about.

  • George

    Have you any evidence to support the assertion…

    I wasn’t asserting anything, I was pointing out the flaws in automatically assuming a default position that certain conservative and middle class interests would always be best served by a particular constitutional arrangement or the maintenance of the status quo.

    Regarding your subsequent point, it is also flawed thinking to assume that successful people in the Irish Republic will shy away from a vote on a risk-laden national issue such as a united Ireland merely because they are successful.

    Some of the most successful people in Scotland
    are the strongest advocates of secession from the Union, for example, despite the many naysayers there who, like your good self, have a tendency to use similar “financial black hole” rhetoric.

    By they way, the last survey in the Irish Republic in 2006 had 77% of voters favouring the idea a united Ireland and advocating that, as per the Constitution, it should be one of the priorities of Ireland’s government. 13% had no opinion and 10% said nothing should be done.

    So if the SPB survey is to be believed, and it’s not too wide of the 1998 referendum result, it seems between three quarters and 90% of the Irish electorate are romantic dreamers.

  • Porlock

    Richard James (09.04: April 20);

    “The UUP traded in it’s (sic) intergrationist (sic) policies for devolution at any price a long time ago.”

    To the best of my knowledge the UUP never formally endorsed an integrationist platform at any stage. Mr. Molyneaux came up with a variant of it in 1979-81 and there was an integration vs devolution debate within the ranks before and after the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. But in the so-called “great” debate at the 1981 annual conference, the integrations were soundly beaten—helped, as it happens, by Enoch Powell’s support for the devolutionist wing on the day.

    It was the failure of the UUP to adopt an integrationist policy which led to the kickstarting of the Campaign for Equal Citizenship pressure group which, in turn, led to the organisation of the Tories here.

    I stand to be corrected on this, but I suspect that Jeffrey Donaldson was also an integrationist when he worked for Powell; converting only when he got the opportunity of a seat in the 1982-86 Assembly!

    You seem, Mr. James, to be in awe of Donaldson. The decline in the UUP’s vote had been ongoing for many years—predating the Belfast Agreement— and Donaldson’s presence in the UUP until January 2004 did little to stop that decline. He, personally, would like to believe that his departure reduced the UUP, but there were very many other factors at play.

    As has been noted by others, Donaldson, having jumped ship, settled for a deal which was barely different from the one the harried David Trimble over for five years. He sold his soul and satisfied his ego for a few minor cosmetic changes; changes he didn’t argue for when he was a member of the original Talks team until April 1998 and when he returned to that team a couple of years later.

    Evidence also suggests that Donaldson was willing to “run” with the Comprehensive Agreement even before the Paisleys scuppered it with the “sackcloth and ashes” speech!

    And how, exactly, would the UUP have been better under Donaldson than Empey? Or is it simply the case that Donaldson would have cut the same deal as the DUP—but beaten them to the post?

    The DUP (assisted by Donaldson, Foster and Weir) traded in every single previous pledge in exchange for office at any price. It really is that simple, Mr. James.

    Which may explain the existence of the TUV. Which may explain why the UUP held their Dromore seat, albeit only just (and it’s worth noting that a majority of unionists in Donaldson’s own backyard didn’t back his candidate of choice). Which may explain why Robinson is now so keen to do a deal with the UUP and provide himself with some cover in the years to come.

    I’m told, Mr. James, that you are a member of the UUP. Judging from your post above and from other posts I have read from you you are clearly in the wrong party. Why don’t you follow Donaldson? I’m sure the UUP will get on very well without you.


  • Delta Omega

    Bottom line is that Robinson has realised following Dromore that they have seriously screwed up. The obtained a sinificant mandate at the last election, promising that the wouldn’t go into government until they achieved:
    SF signing up to the police & policing board
    Disbandment of teh IRA and IRA army council
    Verifiable decommissioning
    A significant peace dividend
    Removal of the water tax
    Retention of academic selection
    etc etc (and for Ian Junior a few backhand deals with developers).
    They have delivered on only one – SF signing up to the police (to put some manners on them). As such they have alienated their own electorate, and got screwed over by the government changing the legislation so that the largest party will get the FM position (rather than the largest party from the largest community). Peter sees his tenure as FM being relatively short and won’t abide being DFM to Marty. That’s why he is now trying to backpeddle and scrounge for votes by forming alliances with the UUP. Reg should give him the birdie and so should the rest of unionism. He has done more harm to the union than anyone else, and I for one will never vote for them again. I’m one of those unionists who, following being disenfranchised after the last election by a party promising one thing and doing another, will be difficult to turn out at all, let alone vote for any alliance which involves the liars of the DUP.

  • Peter Robinson said the parties need to reverse the trend of low voter turnout in unionist areas.

    He said: “We need to be mindful of the electoral strength of republicanism. They are getting stronger because unionist turnout is reducing.

    “There is a responsibility on unionists to encourage people to come to the polling station.”

    Be careful what you wish for, Peter!

    There is a world of difference between ‘people in unionist areas’ and ‘unionists’. If these absent voters were unionists, then they’d prove it by voting unionist. By not voting, they may be sending another message. Maybe they are actually turned off by the DUP and the UUP; maybe they dislike the whole political game-playing; maybe they are not really very strong unionists at all – even if they are Protestants.

    Peter may well find that his attempts to increase his vote might either decrease it (by alienating even more people through his inevitable scare-tactics), or increase the votes of the Alliance Party or the SDLP. In the latter caase, in some areas he may end up losing a seat!

  • Peter Brown

    Donaldson didn’t like having to take the criticism and took the easy way out by jumping ship. There was no great principle at stake.

    Brilliant Smithsonian – think that is the basis of a PhD thesis for sure!

    Donaldson was one of the critics not the target and if you take the telescope away from the blind eye you’ll be able to see clearly that he left the UUP by jumping before he was forced to walk the plank (and lets face it the court case the UUP is still paying for found that the UUP’s disciplinary procedure to comapre favourably to this process!)

    His alleged crime – sticking to his election manifesto, but no great principle involved there?

  • “… screwed over by the government changing the legislation so that the largest party will get the FM position (rather than the largest party from the largest community).”

    It’s worse than that. Moloney in his book on Paisley claims that this change was agreed by Messrs Robinson, Donaldson, Bullick and Johnston so that the DUP could bully voters to support it at any future Assembly elections to “stop McGuinness becoming First Minister”. It’s a cynical ploy but not an unexpected one, given the source.

  • joeCanuck

    The DUP may be in a position of power now but to suggest that it was their aim to cause strife and hardship for political gain is not a sustainable argument and deeply unfair on those in the DUP who they, their families and their supporters have been victims themselves.

    I accept that this is true for the majority of “ordinary” DUP supporters but a strong case can be made that the same was not true of their leader.

  • Steve

    For those that argue that the middle classes will vote status quo, they ignore the one great truism in western politics……….

    Most revolutionairies come from the middle classes

  • Richard James

    “Surely you aren’t suggesting that the cause of the decline in the UUP vote was the departure of Donaldson?”

    In 2003 the DUP had barely outpolled the UUP and they were basically neck and neck. Come 2005 the DUP outpolled the UUP by two to one. Or to look at Lagan Valley, the UUP won three seats in 2003 and only one in 2007. Now unless you believe Jeffrey Donaldson got in on the coat tails of Billy Bell I think it’s safe to say Donaldson was able to pull a large vote there and throughout Northern Ireland.

    As David Burnside noted, Donaldson’s departure made it respectable to vote DUP.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Don’t assume that the guarantee of stability and prosperity will always be best served by remaining in the union.”

    But we CAN assume that- and do so with total certainty.

    The Union is constantly evolving, and has changed beyond recognition since 1972, largely to keep the comfy catholics compliant. Howls from ultra-Unionists have been ignored, and from the London perspective it has probably been a success looked at from today’s perspective.

    In “50% plus 1” land, there would have to be major and rapid charm offensive to comfy prods, and an injection of the threat of force for the managing of the lumpen prods and the other rejectionists like me.

    These people might never be a majority of Unionists, but they would be a hell of a sight more numerous than the element of your community that lost the bap in 1969, and they would provke the traditional communal response. Nationalism would have to have invested a decade in engaging in a conversation with Unionism about the shibboleths to be slaughtered in Eire Nua to keep the bolshies sweet. It hasn’t even recognised the need to evolve, nevermind start to talk the talk. The fact that the Republic has changed considerably since 1969 isn’t the point; symbolism is the key, just like it was with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. So tell your friends to pull on the hair shirt or get with the programme.

  • Richard James


    I thank you for the history lesson. None the less under Molyneaux the UUP was seeking something akin to Strathclyde regional council, not a bloated assembly with more members than the US senate. Nor does it detract from the fact prior to the restoration of devolved government we had Reg Empey complaining about “British Ministers”, hardly a strong position from which to beat others with the stick of being Ulster nationalists is it?

    It is elementary my dear Porlock as to why the UUP would be better off under Donaldson than Empey. Empey has lead the UUP to the worst election result in it’s history. I very much doubt Donaldson would have managed to get less votes than David Trimble did in 2005. No wonder Empey isn’t too keen on the idea of opposition, after all the defeat inflicted on the UUP due to his incompetence was far greater than that the Tories suffered under Major. Only with our tin pot Assembly could he be a Minister!

    After having gotten rid of Weir, Donaldson, Foster, and tens of thousands of voters could it be true that only I stand between the UUP and the great garden centre? I have no doubt the UUP would get on fine without me, none the less I don’t think you would hear the sound of a hundred thousand lawn mowers getting any closer to Cunningham House.

    However I’m perplexed as to why I have attracted your ire while you remain a one man Alex Kane appreciation society. After all your mentor has called for Trimble’s head, argued Empey was totally unsuited to lead the UUP and slammed the PUP/UVF link all to a greater audience in the Newsletter than I could ever hope to achieve here on slugger. In fact the UUP press officer has been so exasperated by his actions he has publically asked him “Do you not have a problem slagging the living shit out the Party that you profess to be a member of?”.

    Is it somehow worse for me to express my criticisms of the UUP on a discussion board than it is to get paid to do so in a national newspaper?

  • darth rumsfeld,

    … The fact that the Republic has changed considerably since 1969 isn’t the point; symbolism is the key

    You overlook two connected issues:

    (1) By the time any reunification becomes likely, the area of strong unionist majority will be restricted pretty much to north Down, Antrim, and parts of north Armagh. So any ‘resistance’ is likely to be limited to these areas.

    (2) There is no need for the republic to change much to accomodate the desires of such a very localised group. Just as the UK did not change to acccomodate the ‘comfy Catholics’ – only Northern ireland did – then so, in a newly reunified 32 County Ireland, the changes could be limited to the areas directly concerned. Symbolism (in those areas) can be adapted to whatever is politically expedient – just because the south is currently a fairly centralised state does not mean that it must always remain so.

    Sometimes unionists give the impression that they would rather cause a Troubles Mark 2 (and thereby soil their own nests) rather than seek a genuine win-win situation for everyone.

  • elvis parker

    ‘As David Burnside noted, Donaldson’s departure made it respectable to vote DUP.’
    Cant be long until Burnside joins the DUP can it?

  • Dave

    “By they way, the last survey in the Irish Republic in 2006 had 77% of voters favouring the idea a united Ireland and advocating that, as per the Constitution, it should be one of the priorities of Ireland’s government.” -George

    This is meaningless, since they would not be voting for unity but, rather, a raft of other changes along with it. They may well support the idea of unity in the abstract, but wait until the details of it are transcribed and properly understood. Will they still support it when it means a substantial increase in taxation to finance it and a dramatic decline in the standard of living; an increase in violence from fundamentalist protestant paramilitary groups; a forced suppression of Irish nationalist symbols and identity; a role of the British monarchy in Irish constitutional affairs, and a government that is bound by clauses within the Good Friday Agreement that will simply serve to paralyse it as a entity that promotes the aims and interests of Ireland, rendering it impotent and subservient to British nationalism, with every decision it tries to make that is not deemed impartial between the two competing nationalisms ending up in the courts? Why will the majority forsake democracy and self-determination for no advantage to them whatsoever, granting a tiny minority the same rights as the overwhelming majority? Do you really think that a man is Kerry, for example, is going to tolerate the forced removal of statues to Irish republicans from his town square because a minority of people from the north of the island will bring a case to the courts under the GFA claiming that the state is not impartial? How long will the citizens put up with that violation of democracy and self-determination before they decide that unity was the worst idea they ever voted for, and violent attacks on Protestants become the norm throughout the island?

    If you ask a man “Would you like one million Euros?” he will answer in the affirmative. But attach conditions such as “You must give your kidney, your right hand, and your left lung in return for the million” and he will not be so hurried with his affirmation. This is the case with the Irish: once they understand what unity means, they’ll drop the sentiment like hot potato. And really, who in his right mind would want to make appeasement of one million disenfranchised British people a way of life?

    People always support the system that they prosper under. As more people prosper under it, more people will support it. This is the way in Northern Ireland. People are prospering in the new order and their desire to alter the improving status quo is waning in proportion to the improvement. This is the process of accepting the status quo. My guess is that there has been a marked drop in support for unity, and I think it is revealing that on one who promotes the sentiment that there has been an increase in support for unity commissions an opinion poll to support the claim. Why not? If support for unity is increasing as the status quo improves, then why not commission the poll to prove it? Probably because they know it is bullshit.

  • Damian O’Loan


    I’m repeating myself from another post, but what I feel marks the distinction between Paisley’s era and the one Robinson will face is that previously, the constitutional question has been primordial. As of this point, it is the commitment to peace and to liberal capitalism, in accordance with the close relationships between the US and the British and Irish governments – particularly the latter.

    What I would expect to change then, is not that:

    “People always support the system that they prosper under.”

    but rather their conception of the system – less through the prism of nationality than that of a relatively dominant position in a globalised context. Hence the need to recruit for the military in schools. And to ensure statistics confirm the growth of the middle class.

    The next five years could be interesting in this regard because (and I’m open to correction) it is Ireland that is more dependent on US strategy and prosperity, whereas Britain has more control over its fate. And so the risk to the economy is shared more in the South than in the City. This could be a challenge for SF and the SDLP – were the Republic to decline significantly, I can imagine middle-class Nationalism and Republicanism feeling quite patient in regards to unity.

    For Unionism, this will require an updated raison d’être, and so I imagine that what Robinson is trying to balance is Unionist domination in Stormont with DUP domination over the UUP – the spider and the fly scenario mentioned. I would have thought that positioning himself as a stable Finance Minister, then, without precendent, as capable DUP First Minister with a close relationship to Brown (or Cameron) and money in Dublin is a good start. I’m not sure an equal UU motivation is at all obvious though.

  • Richard James

    “Cant be long until Burnside joins the DUP can it?”

    Don’t envision it. I suspect he would have jumped by now, plus he wasn’t too keen on St Andrews. Then of course you had his and Donaldson’s spat in the Assembly. Although he probably would still like to see a united Unionist party.

  • A good post from Dave. Irish nationalists really do seem to think that if they rant on about the “inevitability” of a united Ireland it is somehow going to happen. Unionists can sleep easily in their beds, drifting off at yet another repartition post from GreenFlag.

  • Dave

    Damian O’Loan, you raise some interesting points but I’m uncertain about how relevant the dynamics of the global marketplace are in determining the importance or otherwise of the parked constitutional issue in the medium to long term. I simply can’t predict that far ahead with too many subjective variables in the mix.

    I think it is possible that ‘post-nationalism’ may find its raison d’être in the free market and that economic interests become paramount and acquire priority to issues of nationalism in the short to medium term but I don’t think that anything that is post-nationalist is capable of lasting. John Hume promoted the vision of competing nationalisms (Irish and British) becoming irrelevant within a European context, but that vision is still as fanciful as it ever was. On the other hand, people are willing to surrender a measure of sovereignty and self-determination to the European project (see the Lisbon Treaty) but only because they are not informed about the surrender, being informed only of the benefits of being a member of the EU (which is irrelevant since the Treaty is not a vote on our EU membership). This trickery will be undone in time when the importance of a nation being in control of its own internal affairs is revisited, and the people are reminded that it is they and not a ‘community’ of other nations who should rightly determine their own affairs. The model of the nation state is the only viable model for how people live together as a distinct group.

    It’s also possible that a long term campaign of propaganda could be successful in its attempt to persuade the Irish people that they should be subservient to another nation (rejoining the United Kingdom) because the subservience could be sold to them as something that they would consider as being progressive (such as ‘parity of esteem’ between those who are British and those who are Irish). People are that shallow – just observe them self-righteously sorting coloured glass into separate bottle banks! They could be persuaded, perhaps, but I tend to think that just enough people exist who understand the actual importance of the things they are encouraged to forsake. And if they were tricked in the process, them the pendulum swings back and forth, so there will always be a counter-movement to restore independence, sovereignty, self-determination and the nation state. These are models that will always remain relevant because they are of fundamental importance.

    Incidentally, Ireland was the country in Europe that was least affected by the global economic slowdown that followed 9/11, so don’t overrate the importance of the vagaries of the US economy to Ireland. Likewise, Irish bank’s have zero exposure to the US subprime mortgage fiasco whereas the UK does – not including the 10% of UK mortgage borrowers that have subprime loans. Approximately 18% of all Irish exports go to the US, thanks to technology, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers who are here because of Ireland’s low corporate tax rate and indigenous exports such as alcohol, food, chemicals, textiles, ect. On the other hand, we import 32% of all of our imports from the UK and Northern Ireland, so we are a very important market for the UK.

    I think you have to make a working assumption that the choice remains between Irish and British nationalisms, and exclude Hume’s third way of European (post)nationalism as being the pipedream of a fence-sitting fool. In this applicable context, as long as Robinson can continue to increase the prosperity of the citizens of Northern Ireland (and the subvention is renewed), then more and more people will be satisfied with the status quo and the parked constitutional issue will stay parked. The best way for unionists to maintain the union is to link unity to a list of conditions that are not acceptable to the citizens of the Republic of Ireland.

  • Dave

    By the way, George, the constitution does not state that unity “as per the Constitution, it should be one of the priorities of Ireland’s government.” How could it? To do so would be to pre-empt the outcome of the democratic poll that the constitution stipulates will decide the issue. In short, it is nonsense to claim that the constitution says “Unity is a matter to be decided by the people, but the government should assume that the people have decided in favour of unity without the poll and push that agenda anyway.”

  • Richard James

    Where’s Porlock? Where’s Porlock?