Shortcut to unionist unity?

The reasons for the generally lower unionist turnout merit far closer examination.  Apart from the TUV factor, in all the brief analyses I’ve read, the contradictory factors of hostility between the two unionist parties camps and the indifference of the so called  garden centre set make it very difficult for unionism to set a united course.

But now that party coalitions are all the rage, might they not spare themselves some of the anguish by exploring whether a new and more benign UUUC (United Ulster Unionist Council ) might be legally allowable as a party under the St Andrews Act, when it comes to appointing a First Minister? Baby barristers, get to work!

  • When translated what Unionist Unity really means is sectarian politics, Surely the election of Naomi Long and the rejection of Rodney Connor is a signal that politics is over with. Sectarian politics also aptly describes entreaties from SF to the SDLP to stand aside in North Belfast and FST and its decision to step Alex Maskey down in South Belfast…..

    Your ‘baby barristers’ should be put to looking at the St Andrews Agreement and what their parties signed up to there, an Irish Language Act for instance, so that unionist politics doesn’t leave the North as a second class element of the UK. [it’s second class because in other parts of the UK, the minority language community has legislative protection for its language, Scots Gaelic in Scotland, Welsh in Wales.

  • UlsterScotty

    Surely the function of all political parties is to submit themselves to the electorate for endorsement or otherwise? Is the real lesson of FST not that a significant number of people in that constituency (although it could be as few as five) were resentful about being commanded, like so many sheep, to vote for someone with no party political background in order to thwart Sinn Fein. I don’t think that worked out too well for any of the unionist parties. The vague and ultimately impotent threats of legal action only compounded the impression of disarray. Let the chips fall where they may and accept the outcome of the ballot box with good grace. Even the property developer managed to sound gracious in defeat and what credit it did him unlike those with an uninterrupted view of the dreary spires.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Do pay attention Brian.

    Peter Robinson objected to the UUP and PUP single Assembly group. The resulting ruling from the chair makes what you suggest impossible. It has been for 4 years.

  • Drumlin Rock

    So voluntary coalitions are banned in Stormont but compulsory ones are essential, sounds democratic to me.

  • Drumlin Rock

    the function of political parties is to win elections and gain power, preferable on you own, but if you have to compromise (like in Westminister) grin and bear it, thats the story in FST.
    The real reason it didnt work, although close, was the difficulty of introducing an unknown independant candidate and getting his message and face know to voters in only 3 weeks.
    With hindsight although getting so close was a massive achievement, alot of things could have been done better.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “The reasons for the generally lower unionist turnout merit far closer examination”

    The gap between the Fenian turnout rate and the Prod turnout rate has actually narowed in this election and EB had a higher turnout that WB- first time in 40 years?

    Regarding son-of-UUUC this has been hinted at a number of times by the UUP and DUP during discussions of Unionist unity. Having just endured a failed marriage and presumably about to endure traumatic divorce proceedings with the Tories perhaps the UUP will try to get to know prospective partners a bit better and for a bit longer before marching up the aisle to another disappointment.

  • alan56

    Seems to me that ‘unionist unity’ could actually damage the pro union vote. If the DUP and UUP are almost indistinguishible then those unionists who do not share that vision will have to look elsewhere. Surely not a brilliant startegy to maximise the pro union vote?

  • alan56

    Apart from the ‘optics’ , do people really care if MMcG were to be First Minister. What difference would it really make?

  • Cynic

    All parties here are sectarian including Alliance. They are a unioinst party after all so they have adopted a sectarian position

  • joeCanuck

    Hardly unknown, DR. Wasn’t he the former Chief Executive of the Council?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “Apart from the ‘optics’ , do people really care if MMcG were to be First Minister. What difference would it really make?”

    It would make very little difference but both the UUP and the TUV see it as a useful electoral stick to beat the DUP with (for having given it away ) and they will therefore talk it up. It does, like Westminster seats,have some symbolic significance to Nationalists as well as it seems to underline a trend of improving Natilonalist demographics which will be added to further by the potential loss of quite a few unionists seats at the Asembly elections after next.

  • madraj55

    The apparent improvement in nats demographics, seems to also be behind Poots anxiety about the council election boundaries, since it’s councils where the real Orange writ ran since partition, rather than Stormont pre ’68 itself. For Unionists of whatever stripe, NI is falling under the ‘law of diminishing returns’ adage

  • 1IslandNation

    Dia Daoibh/Hi,
    Whether you like it or not unionism is divided and they won’t reach a unity candidate. There are alot of protestants who have a very specific view of unionism and would n’t vote for a sectarian monstrosity like a United Union Front or whatever the hell they’d call it.
    The response would be a hardening of nationalist republican sentiment and even if the unity thing worked out (unlikely) and nationalism was marginalized politically… we’d just go back to war again. i.e. it would give the catholics a persecution complex again just like that which partly caused the last war/troubles.
    Bottom line. Our day is coming…. one way or another

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ah Mr Walker….a few short months ago you opined that the link up with the Tories and non sectarianism would be the platform on which the Unionist Party sailed to victory.
    Now having lost its only seat… suggest a revival of the Coalition.
    Bit early to bring Plan B up.
    Is there a Plan C?

  • UlsterScotty

    Could anyone name another council chief executive, Craigavon excepted?

  • Marcionite

    Where on the great spectrum from Adam Smith economic theory to Marxism does Unionism occupy? It, like any nationalism, is only a narrow constitutional stance/position as opposed to a set of idealogical principles of economic societal vision for the how a society should be structured and governed and guided.

    Back to the old conundrum, who should a Labour supporting and a Conservertive supporting Unionist belong/vote?

    I would like to propose the following advice to Unionism

    1/ Dissolve your parties and reconstitute along UK political lines i.e. Con, Lab, LibDem.

    2/ Petition Westminster to change the Westminster electoral system in NI to PR. Why? Read on…

    3/Any vote for Con/Lab/Lib will be interpreted as pro-union.
    For Westminster, sure there would be now 3 unionist parties but all unionist votes would count. At a stroke, unionists will no longer have to fear about letting in a nationalist through a split vote.

    This is important. For historical and cultural reasons, most Catholics would never vote UUP let alone DUP (not all, but most I hasten to add) but most Catholics do support the union with the UK. RC’s would be happy to vote for normal political parties

    4/Anyone who REALLY does put a higher value on the constituional position can vote for what pro-Irish unity parties that exist.

    So you are a Unionist, be it DUP or UUP. You wake up and lo and behold, the Union is still preserved. Mission accomplished. You have to have more than this to have a proper political vision. Preserving the union is paramount but it needs to be politically organised in a secular, detoxified fashion so that anyone from any religion, colour, gender, sexuality, can feel at home in joining any new Con/Lab/LibDem organisation.

    If you put the Union before party, you will take my advice.

    If you put office holding and narrow political party tribalism first, then do not take my advice and watch the Union grow weaker by the year.

  • Marcionite

    further, at Stormont, were unionism to reorganise along normal political lines where the Con.Lab.Lib parties are mixed and nonsectarian, it would blow out of the water the need for the consociationalism and enforced powersharing.

    I understand the initital need for enforced power sharing but I also understand the need to put legbraces on young children with polio. As both grow older, the limbs grow stronger and time to remove the braces and let normal movement take its course.

  • oldruss

    Strictly as an outsider, why have the Unionists in the Six Counties allowed themselves to be shut out of the dealings at Westminster? With a hung Parliament, what better opportunity than now for Unionist MP’s to be relevant, and yet, David Cameron turned to the Liberal Democrats without so much as a nod to the Unionists from the Six Counties. With the Lib Dems, Cameron didn’t need the DUP MP’s, but not even to be asked to join in seems rather embarrassing. Even the SDLP MP’s could have been useful to Gordon Brown had the vote turned out a shade bit closer. But the Unionists, on the other hand, appear to be utterly uninvited to the party. Is that really by design?

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Where are your figures to support this. It is opinion and not fact.

    Both nationalist parties are against the Union, and they between them command almost half the vote here. Are you suggesting that the Sinn Fein and SDLP vote comes from mostly Protestants?

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “…most Catholics do support the union with the UK”

    Can I have some of what you’ve been smoking?

    (Takes toke.)


    Clears throat.

    I never realised it before, but I see it so clearly now. Most Protestants are in fact convinced republicans, detest the English and pine fot the destruction of the hated border.

    Now, I know their voting patterns might seem to suggest the opposite, but that’s just because they dislike Gerry Adams’ beard.

    They dream of voting Fine Gael in North Down. They speak of little else in Strangford. East Belfast and East Antrim would be more Labour. North Antrim is the purest Fianna Fáil country you’ll find anywhere in Ireland. Offaly wouldn’t have a look-in and Clare is crypto-Blueshirt by comparison.

    Now, I don’t have any actual facts to support what I’ve said, and I know it may, on the face of it, seem preposterous, but before you reject it out-of-hand, I would ask you to first consider that: a) I really want it to be true; and b) I have SAID it, and that must surely count for something.

    Through this looking glass, it is indeed true that “most Catholics do support the union with the UK”.

  • Eire32

    Marcionite says

    “most Catholics do support the union with the UK.”

    looks up toward the sky

  • madraj55

    Marconite. Both Unionist parties know the sense in reaching out to Catholics, to, as Liam Clarke put everybody in NI at ease with being in the Union, the trouble is, too many in both parties have been playing the Orange card for so long they’re unable to get out of the mindset. So, they argue, if the Union is as safe as that, there’s no need to reach out, because they want to keep on marching in Catholic areas, stirring up the bigots in their base, and a more forward looking attitude would ruin the enjoyment of their obnoxious parades.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    In fairness, many are “agnostic” on the Border.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    You will always get a high turnout when the expected result is “close”.
    The result in West Belfast was a certainty hence the low poll (Adams took over 70% of the votes cast). Obviously the dissident apologist here spun this as a “rejection” of Adams.
    East Belfast was expected to be close. Therefore higher turn out.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    A reasonable point.
    Nationalism AND Unionism need two parties. There always has to be an alternative within the Tribe (a point Ive made more than once).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Not sure that I totally agree on this one madraj55.
    Apparently another thread reports the Mourne Observer saying that up to 6,000 unionists voted for Margaret Ritchie to keep out SF. I have not had a chance to actually analyse any results but my initial reaction is it seems high.
    If we take a ball park figure of say 4,000 for sake of argument….it means that a lot of people were prepared to back “nationalism-lite” .
    The demographics in South Antrim are to some extent a mirror image of South Down.
    “Nationalists” could have chosen between McCrea and Empey. There were enough to make a difference, They didnt.
    Very very few nationalists of my acquaintance (and I suspect yours) would tolerate voting for “unionism-lite”.

    Theres an old myth that there are Catholic unionists. Yes there are. And there are White Rhinos too. But very few.
    Its a constant theme from the days of O’Neill, that catholics will become unionists……they havent. and they wont.
    But no doubt Belfast Telegraph editorials will be claiming that they do.

  • Brian Walker

    In this post, I wasn’t recommending anything. I was just wondering abouht the narrow point if a UUUC might be legally acceptable. ie. what is the legal defintion of a party in these circumstances? You could call it the UUUC Party. Would the Speaker, the SoS or a judge have jurisdiction to rule on it?

    More widely I see the election might have moved the parties an inch or two towards shared future thinking but hardly decisively..

  • lamhdearg

    Billy sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, And in this and many other cases quite funny.

  • The Raven

    Several. Where do you want to start?

  • slug

    Certainly the new LORDS elections will involve PR so hopefully this kind of thinking can take place there.

  • The Raven

    “Both nationalist parties are against the Union, and they between them command almost half the vote here.”

    ….of those that turn out.

  • slug

    The fact that of all constituencies unionist unity shrunk the unonist vote in FST shows that in other constituencies it would be a bad idea for unionists.

  • lamhdearg

    Slug. Did not the nats vote also go down in F.S.T?.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Nice strategy — if you can’t beat them at the ballot box, blow them up. Building an Ireland of equals indeed.

  • lover not a fighter

    I find it interesting how far down the pecking order that Unionism came when parties were looking for coalition possibilities. Even with the labour/libdem rainbow outside chance possibility the Dup were aparently behind Sdlp, Alliance, Snp, Plaid Cymru.

    Is this a sympton of the Union drifting away from NI Unionists or NI Unionists drifting away frm the Union.

    I just thought it was interesting how little interest there was in entering coalition possibilities with the Dup. It seemed as if the Dup Unionist Mps were the most distant from the other political parties.

  • Alias

    It’s not quite pariah status – more a reflection of mind-set that sees unionism in NI as an unstable ally, prone to temperamental outbursts and ‘principled’ walk-outs. It’s more of a PR legacy than anything else.

    If the DUP stopped electing howlers and growlers as party leaders and elected a charmer then things might improve PR-wise.

  • Alias

    Charm has become more important than it ever was before. We probably have Clinton to thank for this and his cheap UK knock-off, Tony Blair – Clegg and Cameron are also two handsome charmers. At any rate, this visual appeal and courteous manner dovetails with the new politics of consensus and not confrontation. Howlers and growlers are throwbacks, and should be throw-outs.

    NI unionism will need all the charm it can muster if it isn’t to find itself on the losing side of spat with emergent English nationalism. It can no longer take the union for granted, and take the generosity of the English for granted along with it.

    I was surprised by how crassly NI unionism insisted that any cuts that the UK requires to restore its economic fortunes must be confined to the English nation. This is a pristine example of a dog biting the hand that feeds it. Nothing could have done more to undermine the union than the inclusion of regional parties in the supporters groups of a coalition government than the terms on which they had sought to be included. It was lucky for them that they were not needed.

    On one hand, support for the union is maintained by the generous subvention so unionists need to seek to increase that subvention in order to increase support for the union. On the other hand, support for the union in England is undermined by the generous subvention, so unionists risk undermining the union when the try to consolidate it! It’s a balance they need to manage more cleverly than the recent example.

  • lover not a fighter

    Interesting musing there Alias.

    Unionism certainly has some tough challenges ahead.

    Are unionist politicians and NI politicians in general used to dealing with problems or are they better “hurlers on the Ditch”

    The politicians that can actually deal with problems should surely reap the rewards but this is NI so ? ? ?

  • Marcionite

    Billi Pilgrim et al unless we all work as statiticians in YouGov, it is valid for any if us to make comments based on personal observation, and anecdotal evidence. I have had conversaryions with many RC friends of mine. Off the 24 of them all voted SDLP or SF except for 3 who didn’t vote. Off the 24, 14 were happy with the union and prefer to see normal UK politics here. Why did they vote SDLP/SF then? Because off tribalism. They didn’t vote unionist as they have a history of sectarianism, denegrating RCism and being illiberal. It’s the unionist political parties we dislike, not unionism per se

    I know republicans find this risible but political subtlety and sophistication and not seeing the world in black and white is not their strong suit.

  • Marcionite

    I too found the Celtic fringe parties narrowminded in their insistence that Wales/Ni/Scotland should be immune from political realities.why should England shoulder the sole burden of impending cuts?

    If they do, this will stoke up English nationalism and endanger the union. Also it shows how plitically and philosophically bankrupt the DUP are when the say they don’t care who occupies No10

    the DUP are not pro British, their illiberality and lack of tolerance shows this. They are just a narrow little Ulsterists who behave like separated wife who demands the same alimony from hubby even though his income dropped as opposed to am understanding partner, willing to share the tribulations to come

    can any unionist comment on my suggestions above? Am I a lone voice here?

  • slug

    Yes I was actually surprised how strongly some of my Catholic friends expressed their preference for the UK.

  • SammyMehaffey

    There is only one place to go – Real politics with Labour Conservative Lib Dem FF and FG all organising. Otherwise we are in he stranglehold of meaningless sectarian politics for generations.

  • SammyMehaffey

    You are still living in the sentimental dreamland of a United Ireland. Grow up and smell the flowers. Too many lives have been lost believing in this twaddle.

  • SammyMehaffey

    DUP and especially Robbo vote 90% with he Tories.

  • SammyMehaffey

    Certainly. Throughout the entire election process the DUP had the begging bowl out, just like the other nationalist parties in scotland and Wales. It is amazing that we in NI have got away with it for so long. The day of the English nationalist will surely come and where will we be then Chucky R what.

  • Mr Brightside

    Like extra-marital affairs, unionist Catholics are probably more common than you’d think. However the vast majority of Catholics here would be on the left of the political spectrum. The unionist parties, even with a softer image will still have difficulty in reaching to this electorate.

  • Marcionite

    anecdote time again but are you sure most RCs are leftwing? I worked for a man who was subsequently convicted for weapons possession (PIRA). He was an admirer of Thatchers economic policies. The RoI must be alone (excepting USA) to never have been ruled by a leftist party.

    if any members of UUP/DUP are on this forum, I do wish to engage u with reasoned debate on the above

  • kevin moran

    unionists, uup or dup don’t generally do slugger. it’s too green (and that’s green but not in the nice environmental way).

    slugger’s ‘unionist outreach’ has been as successful as sinn féin’s effort. so just chat along with yourselves (alone).

  • Drumlin Rock

    your average man on the street couldn’t name them, anyways being well know and well know as a politician are different things, it help a bit but isnt enough, that is probably the biggest lesson from this election.

  • John Joe

    The only precedent is the UUP-PUP re-designation which was ruled out from the chair. You can be sure there would be some lateral avenue to allow an interventionist SoS to sign off on this (and let’s face it, Lord Hatfield, is hardly going to be non-interventionist pro-consul).
    Regardless of the legality, a last resort would be for members of one party to re-designate to the larger party (e.g. UUP to DUP) in the event that a federalist identity is not possible. Ethics and morals aside, there are ways and means if two parties wished to form a voting bloc.
    Maybe I missed it, but did anyone discuss other, more practical, implications of this? What would be the impact of a UUP-DUP bloc be on a d’Hondt mechanism for electing ministers? Would there be either added value (perhaps the bonus of scooping an extra ministry) or, possibly, diminishing returns? If some voters find nothing for them in a semi-lithic unionist bloc (since the days of UU monolithism in NI are actually a thing of the past whether that is admissable or not), the possible loss of a couple of seats in exchange for the symbolic retention of the FM chair would cost a ministry (more so if Alliance pick up those couple of seats and get their nose above the d’Hondt spring tide). For instance, I’m basing that on a possible low turnout with 2 seats lost from UUP-DUP to Alliance and a gain of 2 for SF or SDLP (on relatively low unionist turnout etc). Which is not exactly a perfect storm scenario, though.

  • Cake

    Most Catholics I know (inc family members) would rather have sterling than the euro, which in a way is support for the union.

  • Mike

    The Speaker has the jurisdiction to rule on whether a pact counts as a political party. The previous Speaker ruled that the “Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group” was not a party:

    The legislation seems to require that a party has a leader, headquarters, and scheme for financial support.

  • oldruss

    My point, above, exactly. It seems that the Unionist parties do not have a meaningful role to play at Westminster; and that the North of Ireland is now dependent upon the beneficience of the Conservative Party, which is largely an English party. Previously, while dependent upon Westminster, at least Labour was not so regionally focuses as are the Tories.

  • bill manwaring


    All I can comment is that I was able to engage with a good number of ‘not traditional unionist’ voters during my campaign. Quite a few identified areas such as education, health service and sterling as issues why they, if asked to vote at a border referendum they would not vote for a UI.

    Voting for a ‘Unionist’ was still a step to far for many of them, something I can fully appreciate.

    However, the odd X did pop up in unexpected ballot boxes.

    Trying to broaden the word ‘unionist’ to mean the pluralist UK definition is the challenge facing those of us who have that interest.

    Maybe not in my lifetime, but I hope to be able to move the ‘line in the sand’ just a little.

  • Eire32

    The Union is safe! Cafflicks will vote against Independence!
    They vote for nationalists, but they really want unionists.

    If that’s unionism’s last line of defense, then roll on the green post boxes.

    Wish, Father, Thought.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    I just think it’s so sweet that know you have 24 Catholic friends. Not 23, not 25, but 24.

    Did they realise, when they were coming out to you, that you were all-the-while collating the data?

    Incidentally, all of my 19 Protestant friends are pro UI. I had a twentieth Protestant friend but I had to fall out with him as he supported the union, and that just messed up my statistics.

    Now, I have heard the rumours of several Protestants who support the union, but it’s a well-known fact that unionists have cloven hoofs and eat Catholic babies yet anecdotally, most of the Protestants I know are very nice people. So I suppose the rumours can’t be true.

    Although I recall a day in my childhood when my bicycle was stolen by two out-and-out scoundrels who, as it happened, did not take their spiritual guidance from Rome. Maybe they’re the ones…