TUV Conference – from “a thorn in their flesh” to “a great big cactus inside their shirts”

TUV party logoThe TUV held there annual party conference in Cookstown today. I wasn’t there, but offer some snippets from the speeches (or highlights of speeches) emailed through from the TUV press office. There was practically no online activity around the conference – and the non-attendance of former candidate David Vance probably dampened the volume of tweeting.

Party President William Ross opened the conference by addressing the party’s continued existence:

I am sure that some are surprised to see us still alive, active, and exposing their weakness. Those who desire our demise have underestimated our resolve and dedication to the future welfare of Ulster.

He worried that “given the present chaotic state of the National and World finances and the resulting concerns that people have about employment and debt, many people have lost sight of the ongoing erosion of Ulsterʼs place within the United Kingdom.”

He understood that there is an enormous amount of Political Capital involved in the ʻPeace Processʼ and its anticipated end result”.

Many in Stormont, including, I fear, nearly all in the Executive, have a huge ego to protect. Some love their Office and its trappings; some love the limited power that SF/IRA allows them to exercise. Most of course are deeply attached to their salary …

My Friends, the future of this land depends upon sound political judgment about the consequences which will follow from a particular course of action, and this often entails hard practical decisions – not taking the easy option. The events of recent years proves that the judgement of those who lead and support this party were correct in the past and are still correct today.”

Ross finished by “congratulating our Party Leader on his election to the Assembly”.

It is a lonely post, surrounded by people who dislike him, who denigrate what he says and some who hate him because their own conscience condemns them for their own moral disintegration. Why? Because they know he is right in what he says.

Jim, you said you would be a thorn in their flesh. In fact you are a great big cactus inside their shirts and inside minds. It is my prayer, and hope, that the Unionists of Ulster will be heartened by what one man is doing.

The next hour was spent listening to invited outside speakers: Glyn Roberts (Economy & Business), Boyd Douglas (Economy & Agriculture), David Brewster (Culture), Hazel Gibson Beare (Health), Bernie Smyth (Health), Alex Elliott (Justice).

Then it was the turn of party leader and MLA Jim Allister. His full speech isn’t available – perhaps like Alex Attwood he prefers to speak off the cuff! – but the published extracts include the following portions. (Perhaps unpresresentative given that only extracts were available, but a quick Wordle does seem to highlight the contents of the speech.)

Jim Allister 2011 party conference speech extracts - via wordle.net

Stormont – that cocoon of DUP/Sinn Fein misrule – may be a cold house for principle, conviction and truth, but it will take more than that to silence this Traditional Unionist Voice. TUV men and women are made of stern stuff and we need to be. Salute courage of all our councillors who fight lonely but stoic battles.

Whatever our numbers, as a party we’ve made our mark. No one needs explanation as to where TUV stands and will continue to stand. In every generation there have been those determined to hold to and do what is right and no matter how much others may forsake the ground and principles of traditional unionism, this party will stand, because we can do no other.

Allister singled out the DUP willingness to elevate Francie Molloy to the post of Principal Speaker despite their previous demands that he be pursued for war crimes.

Whatever it takes to keep SF happy and the DUP in office, is the creed by which the DUP lives today. The lion is supposed to be the symbol of the DUP, but how IRA/Sinn Fein has tamed it and turned it into a roll-over pussy cat – only towards Sinn Fein, of course. Dare to be a Traditional Unionist and it will still be a battle a day.

Allister said that the Massareene trial showed “how big a con decommissioning was” with “Provo weaponry and Provo bullets, supposedly decommissioned, but very much on active service in the murder of two soldiers’.

Yet, not a squeak from those who once demanded not just decommissioning, but photographic evidence. Well, here – not for the first time – we have indisputable forensic evidence that it was a con and, suddenly, it doesn’t matter. Why, because preserving Provos, and thus themselves, in government is more important than the truth.

He said that the TUV had “brought a wind of change” to Stormont’s “polluted portals”.

This week was a case in point: the mighty DUP armed to the hilt with clever and secret devices consented at Hillsborough to reform of the prison service, but asleep at the wheel, never thought to query if name change and emblem change would form any part of that reform. It was only when this supposedly irrelevant MLA, to whom they say no one listens, unearthed the machinations that were afoot, that the DUP woke up and Peter Robinson was suddenly going to resign over something he should have known all about if he hadn’t taken his eye of the ball. TUV set the agenda this week, exposing the secret plans of the Justice Minister and the slumber of the DUP.

Some are asking how I knew to raise these issues. Had I inside information? I have ‘special advisers’ in surprising places. But, whether I was acting on information or reading between the lines of the report is for me to know and others to find out.

Allister mentioned the role of opposition.

We are only one voice, but through that voice we’ve demonstrated that Opposition can be effective, something other parties who flirt with opposition should note.

Later in the speech he returned to the subject:

Let me return to UUP & SDLP. They are in the Executive but intend not to be of it. The result is they are but fodder for DUP/SF, who when it suits uses them and when it suits abuses them. How long can they put up with the humiliation to which they are subjected.

So I say to the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP step out and take the first step essential to make Stormont work. You’ve nothing to lose but the shackles that bind you to the failures of the present arrangements. So long as you offer and practice the same failed system as the others you’ll never displace your larger counterparts.

He was scornful about the work of the Assembly.

Stormont as a meaningful, effective place of government is an unmitigated disaster. In 6 months we’ve done no government business, debated no bills, till Thursday hadn’t even a draft Programme for Government, though now we have a daft Programme for Government, and fill our half week by debating such weighty matters as weed control. How right, for once, just once, Ian Paisley Junior was when he belittled it as a county council.

It is a catastrophic waste of money, whose MLA coterie now seek a pay increase. Pay them by results, I say, and they’d owe you all a fortune.

On the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) he said:

Mervyn Storey previously told the Assembly it was “bureaucratic legislation” to satisfy “the control freakery” of the Sinn Fein Department and it “wasn’t coming back”. Now Climbdown Mervyn is chief salesman for the Sinn Fein legislation. As we’ve said, whatever it takes to keep SF happy.

Allister said that the upcoming “year of the centenary of the Ulster Covenant” was an opportunity to “remind ourselves of, and draw strength from, the stoic determination of our forefathers and of their vision”.

As the Covenant says their stand was to defend EQUAL CITIZENSHIP within the United Kingdom. They weren’t Ulster nationalists interested only in power for their own gratification. They were Unionists who knew their enemy. What a contrast with today’s generation of self-servers who will pay any price to cling to office, any office, even that with those who butchered our kith and kin.

After lunch, party members delivered five minute speeches on a variety of subjects: Councillor Sharon McKillop talked about the TUV work in Moyle council to derail the twinning plans with Gaza, Lagan Valley Westminster 2010 candidate Keith Harbinson spoke on the case for voluntary coalition, and Joel Jackson addressed the future.

Sammy Morrison, Jim Allister’s personal assistant and press officer spoke about the work of the TUV in the Assembly.

Well conference much to the relief of those who believe in British democracy for British Ulster and to the great annoyance of those who prop up and sustain Stormont’s scandalously undemocratic system – we’re still here! Not only that but for the first time in a Traditional Unionist conference I am able to report on the work of TUV inside the Northern Ireland Assembly …

Since coming to Stormont TUV has begun the process of bringing accountability. And don’t they know it. Fairly early on in the Assembly term Sammy Wilson evoked what both Jim and I thought to be a rather strange Biblical image to describe our party leader. He called him the Elijah of the Assembly.

Now there used to be a time when members of the DUP would regard being likened to Elijah as quite a compliment. Apart from anything else the thing about Old Testament prophets was that they tended to be right. But you see, friends, the DUP has changed and now when someone comes along championing the very policies which they a short time ago were so vocal in advocating the response is a very angry, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?”

Morrison pointed to “important issues, many of which never make the press”:

  • Did you know that GAA clubs got almost £18 million while clubs affiliated with the Irish Football Association have received under £8.5m in the last five years in government funding? …
  • What about the underrepresentation of Protestants in our universities? Again it was left to the Traditional Unionist Voice in the Assembly to highlight the issue and press for the situation to be addressed. What’s more, our MLA had the guts to vote against discriminating against students from other parts of the UK when it comes to fees.

He asked why “no one can say why a single one of [394 abortions carried out in our Province over the last five years] was performed”. He mentioned that “when Jim asked the [Enterprise] Minister how many of those 24,612 jobs [promoted by Invest NI over the last five years] actually came into existence and how many of them still exist the answer came back that she didn’t know”, quipping that “the only people Arlene Foster can prove she keeps in employment are photographers!”

Morrison finished saying:

We have only made a start and perhaps not as good a start in terms of electoral success as we would have wished but as the American founding father Samuel Adams said, “It does not take a majority to prevail but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

In all, heavy on pun, heavy on anti-DUP sentiment, and heavy on reverting to a previous status quo.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.