In Saturday’s edition of the News Letter Sammy Wilson MP MLA took a swipe at the ‘whingers’ who have dared question the duplicity that led to the withdrawal of TUV, PUP and UKIP from the ‘graduated response’.
Back in July TUV set down a marker for our involvement, so it should come as no surprise that when Jeffrey Donaldson let the cat out of the bag that parading was very much on the table, that our involvement came to an end.
My response to Sammy Wilson, as carried in the News Letter yesterday, is as follows:
Sammy Wilson’s attack on TUV didn’t come as a surprise, though its venom was telling.
Observers will have noted that TUV has become a target of his recently.
A Stormont committee meeting had to be suspended after he branded Jim Allister a thug for daring to question a shifty Special Adviser about the treatment of a principled councillor who is a party colleague of Mr Wilson.
This same Sammy Wilson would now have us believe that he is concerned about Unionist unity behind the “graduated response”.
What exactly is the “graduated response”?
Five months after the statement which announced a united response to the outrageous decision in North Belfast few people know. Unionist parties promised to roll out a programme of action across government. Nothing happened.
The only thing which held the Unionist coalition together was the DUP and UUP promise not to negotiate parading. The agreed position of the Unionist parties was that a refusal to engage on parading was the one telling point of pressure we had on Theresa Villiers.
An assurance was given on 20th November that this pledge was being kept.
However, on 2nd December Jeffrey Donaldson boasted on Nolan: “There has been some very constructive engagement around the talks table. We have focused in on the issues including parades”.
Jim Allister emailed both Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt the same day seeking clarification. They still haven’t replied.
So much for claiming we took unilateral action without attempting to ascertain facts. Rather than respond to private attempts to resolve the issue numerous spokespersons have argued that while they discussed parading they didn’t negotiate about it.
We have joined Alice in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ with Unionists at the talks taking on the guise of Humpty Dumpty and telling us: “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.”
That’s the sort of Jesuitical talk which explains why many voters abandoned the executive Unionist parties in May.
TUV remains true to our pledge to the Ligoneil Lodges.
To resolve the parading issue we invite all Unionists to unite behind the vision we outlined in 2010 – there should be a presumption in law in favour of parading traditional routes and main arterial routes.
Richard is vice chairman of TUV; and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA.