And TUV makes three…?

Below the fold you’ll find the highlights of a speech given by former Culture Minister Edwin Poots to Bannside DUP Branch. It’s clearly in response to Reg and Jim’s statement on the way forward on Unionist Unity. He poses a number questions likely to be politically embarrassing to both men. There’s also a name check for a Northern Irish Tory Party stalwart, who may provide his own response in the comment zone below.From Edwin Poots

“In the forthcoming European Parliamentary election the priority will be to see two Unionists returned and Unionism at the head of the poll. We will be working towards that goal. The recent by-election in Enniskillen showed that there is only one party in Northern Ireland capable of taking the fight to Sinn Fein and prevailing at the polls – that is the DUP.

Those who have watched the sad spectacle of Reg Empey attempting to hatch another political wedding will have done so with more than a little bemusement. In the short term of Sir Reg’s leadership, the Ulster Unionists have tried three separate political match-ups. Firstly they proposed marriage to the PUP only to be told such a marriage would be illegal under Assembly rules, then they launched an attempt to woo the Tories and whilst the wedding arrangements were being put in place for that magical union to save the UUP, Sir Reg’s roving eye seems to have settled on the TUV. What an unfaithful political bed-fellow the UUP really has become!

Many rank and file Ulster Unionist Party members and supporters up and down the country will be mystified at the behaviour of their leader over the last few days. One day Sir Reg is portraying himself as the champion of moderate secular Unionism – a Cunningham House Cameroonie – whilst the next day he is sidling up to the far-right fringe of the political spectrum in the form of the TUV. One wonders also what the Ulster Unionists potential bride in the Tories thinks of that party’s act of infidelity with the TUV. We all know the local Tories are non-too-fussed on the Orange Institution and our Ulster-British culture and heritage, one can imagine the Jeffrey Peel’s of this world choking on their cornflakes this morning as they read about the Empey-Allister pact.

This is a political marriage of truly odd proportions which has as its basis both Parties abandoning their espoused so-called principles.

The Ulster Unionist Party supported the failed Belfast Agreement. The TUV claims that it does not.

The Ulster Unionist Party was the architect of the D’Hondt mechanism which the TUV used to protest so much about.

The TUV is supposedly opposed to mandatory coalition power-sharing while it is a cornerstone of policy for the Ulster Unionist Party.

What we have witnessed over the last few days is an alliance emerging between two diametrically opposed Parties. There is no consistency in such an approach. It would seem that the pact is less about principle and more about position.

Occupying the sensible centre-ground of Unionism is the DUP. We are committed to making devolution work in order to maximise the benefits of local government to everyone in Northern Ireland. Unlike the TUV we don’t want a return to London-Dublin Direct Rule and unlike the Ulster Unionists we do not believe that devolution is an end in of itself.

To us devolution is a means to achieving our end of strengthening Ulster’s place inside the UK. Many people who have thought about supporting the TUV will think again at the sight of their leader rushing to embrace the party of the Patten Report, prisoner releases and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act.

It is sad to witness Sir Reg Empey’s bizarre courtship of no fewer than three potential partners. He clearly does not believe that the Ulster Unionist Party under its own strength can deliver leadership and needs to be hitched to another political outfit in order to do so. What a sad indictment of a once strong party: that its own leader has no faith in its representatives or supporters and is constantly looking for outside help to revive his flagging fortunes.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty