There is no telling what will get someone’s back up

This straight out of the UUP Press Office:

Sir Reg Empey MLA Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has responded to an ‘extraordinary’ letter in Irish Times today by a senior member of staff for the Alliance Party.

Sir Reg said:

“There is an extraordinary letter in today’s Irish Times, written by Stephen Douglas, a very senior member of their staff. (The text of the letter is at the end of this release)

” Mr. Douglas, who describes himself as a ‘nationalist and a republican,’ praises David Ford for ‘his consistent agnosticism on the question of either the union or a united Ireland’!

“So are we to assume that the Alliance Party in general and David Ford in particular don’t really care one way or the other about the Union? Because if that is the case then it explains why they have never really been noted for their enthusiastic promotion of the Union.

“And this does matter, because (and contrary to what Mr. Douglas says in the opening paragraph of his letter) David Ford has given a very clear indication that the Alliance Party is prepared to take the Justice Ministry. Many unionists—those who are not agnostic on the issue—would be very concerned that our first Justice Minister could therefore be someone who is not pro-Union.

“I’m also very concerned by the fact that Mr. Douglas (and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he is a ‘nationalist and a republican’) makes no distinction between unionism and loyalist paramilitaries when he says that he has to ‘work in a bomb-proof building because of threats from the unionist side…’

“Anyway, I would be interested to know if the views of Mr. Douglas are truly representative of both the Alliance Party and David Ford?

(Letter below)

“So are we to assume that the Alliance Party in general and David Ford in particular don’t really care one way or the other about the Union? Because if that is the case then it explains why they have never really been noted for their enthusiastic promotion of the Union.

“And this does matter, because (and contrary to what Mr. Douglas says in the opening paragraph of his letter) David Ford has given a very clear indication that the Alliance Party is prepared to take the Justice Ministry. Many unionists—those who are not agnostic on the issue—would be very concerned that our first Justice Minister could therefore be someone who is not pro-Union.

“I’m also very concerned by the fact that Mr. Douglas (and perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he is a ‘nationalist and a republican’) makes no distinction between unionism and loyalist paramilitaries when he says that he has to ‘work in a bomb-proof building because of threats from the unionist side…’

“Anyway, I would be interested to know if the views of Mr. Douglas are truly representative of both the Alliance Party and David Ford?

(Letter below)

As an Alliance insider, I can assure Fionnuala O’Connor (Opinion, August 20) there is a very long way to go before Alliance would even consider accepting and justice and policing ministry which may or may not be devolved before 2011. And as for Alliance nominating itself for any such position, that is fantastic speculation masquerading as purported fact.

I don’t love David Ford as our party leader only because he, for instance, has just led us to our best performance in a European election since 1979. I respect ad admire him as our party leader for many other reasons: his organizational competence, his lack of ego, his affability even when under pressure. And for me, as a nationalist and a republican, most importantly, for his consistent agnosticism on the question of either the union or a united Ireland.

Such genuine agnosticism is extremely rare in Northern Ireland. And one reason why Mr. Ford is perfectly suited to lead a party whose membership includes unionists, nationalists and ‘others’ working together to overcome sectarianism wherever we come across it.

Alliance and its members have been at the forefront of confrontations with unionists over issues such as flags in towns like Carrickfergus and Bangor for most of the past 40 years.

The threats and intimidation we have undergone as a result of taking such stands usually go unreported and unnoticed by those outside of our families. I work in a bomb-proof building because of threats from the unionist side for stands Alliance has taken in the past.

Stephen Douglas

Assistant Director

(Development & Campaigns)

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

University Street

Belfast