The Ulster Unionist Party are perfectly right to withdraw from the Northern Irish Executive

Irrespective of their motives for doing so, the Ulster Unionist Party are perfectly right to withdraw from the Northern Irish Executive. When the Provisional Republican Movement signed up to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, it agreed that it would no longer use violence as a means of protecting or furthering its interests. The paramilitary operation which killed Kevin McGuigan violated that, because current members of the Provisional IRA took part in it.

Many are criticizing the UUP for acting so decisively on this now because the continued activity of the PIRA has been the worst kept secret in northern politics. But what they are ignoring is that the murder of Kevin McGuigan is the first time in recent memory the PSNI have come out and acknowledged (in no uncertain terms) that current members of the PIRA were indeed involved in actions of a military nature.

Up until this point, the PSNI have been coy about explicitly implicating the PIRA in paramilitary activity – as this 2008, Pete Baker entry on the murder of Paul Quinn illustrates.

The Provisional IRA “Third Wall” as it were, where everyone knew but couldn’t state for certain, is no longer in place.

The PSNI have confirmed that the armed wing of the PRM  have not abandoned violence as a means of reaffirming local political power; and so as architects of the Good Friday Agreement, the UUP have opted to leave a political framework which derives from the principle that violence cannot be accepted in politics.

It is very possible that the UUP have also determined this course of action to be in their political interests (which Ian James Parsley believes); but it is nonetheless a logical and defensible one as far as principle.

In fact, for the UUP to remain part of the Executive would make a mockery of the GFA, as the spirit of the document was that the Provisional Republican Movement commit to purely democratic means of pursuing its agenda.

Sinn Féin of course – while willing to piggyback off the political fervour generated by the PIRA in the 70s and 80s – is trying to retire the concept of the PRM.

Taking yet another leaf out of the strategy book of Tomás Mac Giolla and Sean Garland – read “The Lost Revolution” by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar and you will be shocked by the parallels – Sinn Féin is eager to assert the notion that it is a Party and nothing more.

Are people really so naïve as to believe this?

To begin to understand the ridiculousness of the idea that the PIRA have evolved into a self-determining organization separate to Sinn Féin, simply consider this article by republican paramilitary expert, Suzanne Breen. She reports that Bernard Fox, a participant in the 1981 Hunger Strikes, resigned from the PIRA Army Council in 2006 because Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness exerted undemocratic over it (despite the fact they no longer sat on it).

What that says is that while the PIRA has a different “face” to Sinn Féin in terms of its senor figures, the overall control of the PRM is in SF hands because the vast majority of the Council are Adams-McGuinness aligned. If you glance at the last Council published by the Sunday Times in 2005, any member of the PIRA hierarchy not totally invested in the SF vision – see also here – has since left the Movement.

Consider also this fantastic quote from John Kelly that Ed Moloney included in a recent article on the subject:

“Not a single Sparrow can fall from a tree without him (Gerry Adams) knowing.”

Doesn’t that cut right through the very feeble SF narrative that the SF leadership can only be credibly scrutinized for the party element of the PRM?

The UUP are therefore justified in their analysis that to currently do business with Sinn Féin at the highest level of NI politics is a perversion of the institution’s basic premise.

Holding the PRM to account in the Executive, for something that was a pre-condition to the Executive, would in many ways be a farce – particularly as SF are rebuffing this matter as yet another attempt by the Unionists and West Brits to damage its All-Ireland electoral growth.

This is politics and there is no question that Mike Nesbitt has made a considered calculation (which only time can tell the electoral consequences of) as opposed to simply acting on principled impulse. But it is important to note that while other, apparent advocates of the Good Friday Agreement are lukewarm about its relevance in this context; by virtue of its decision to leave the Executive, the UUP are choosing to uphold its integrity.



  • Catcher in the Rye


    Very well. But how, given the above arguments, can the UUP justify its ongoing participation at committee level on local councils, especially in Belfast ? SF chair several committees upon which UUP members also sit. How can it be OK to work with SF there, but not on the Executive ?

  • Thomas Barber

    Darren forgive me for being blunt but your analysis is big on assumption but devoid of any actual proof, it also totally ignores and fails to mention the ongoing activities of loyalist paramilitaries who make no secret of the fact that they are still actively recruiting, still engaged in murder, still engaged in using violence to further unionist political objectives yet the UUP, indeed all unionist parties, seem to be totally oblivious to those facts when they can speak as one voice, defend and stand shoulder to shoulder with those same loyalist paramilitaries on all matters relating to their ongoing opposition to aspects and outworking of the GFA that they dont like. Your article is another unionist one sided slant of the political landscape that simply brushes under the carpet the facts that dont suit your pan unionist/loyalist agenda. Congratulations you’ve managed to prove to the world how hypocritical and dishonest unionist politicians are.

  • Darren Litter

    Hi Thomas, thanks for the feedback.

    You criticize my analysis for being “big on assumption” – which you make no attempt to offer evidence of – yet do exactly that yourself by assuming, quite categorically, that I have pan-unionist agenda because I have defended the action of a unionist party.

    You’re engaging in the common fallacy that characterizes the green/orange mindset; which is that if you defend a particular side in a specific regard – that is what you are.

    I am not a unionist at all. Other things I’ve written make that pretty clear.

  • Redstar2014

    Darren how come your heroes the UUP are only outraged and principled in their abhorrence of Republican paramilitaries but are more than happy to sit with, assist, invite into forums and stand shoulder to shoulder with- the representatives of drug dealing sectarian psychopaths from the Unionist community ?

    Do Unionists seriously not see how hypocritical and indeed offensive this is to the Nat community?

    Whilst I am an ardent opponent of SF I can see how it will certainly galvanise support for them in this community as nauseating hypocrisy and crass one sided blinkered thinking by unionists yet again underlines the fact that unionists parties have nothing whatsoever to offer towards any compromise solutions. Pathetic.

  • Thomas Barber

    Like I said Darren your willingness to ignore the loyalist paramilitaries in the UUP’s living room is best described as being either flippant or supportive.

  • Darren Litter

    So to point out that the UUP are acting justifiably in one specific context makes them “my heroes”. OK.

  • chrisjones2

    So that’s an argument then for SF to see exclusion of the Unionists you allege are linked to these groups. Names please?

  • chrisjones2

    Because Councils do bugger all? And perhaps given the latest evidence they really shouldn’t sit with them?

  • Darren Litter

    So because I haven’t commented on something that you feel I should have, that means I likely support it. Right…

  • gendjinn

    Who killed McGuigan? Where is your evidence that the person(s) responsible are in the PIRA? Where is your evidence that the PIRA is still in existence? Where is your evidence that SF is involved with anything the PIRA does?

    The “PSNI sez” does not meet that standard. We need something better than hearsay from an organisation with zero credibility in these matters.

  • Thomas Barber

    Chris when you can give me all the names of those PIRA members who the PSNI say were all involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan but strangely enough not able to bring any charges against even though they seem to know who was all involved and what roles they played, do you think they have an informer who was actually involved or maybe they had covert surveillance of Kevin McGuigans home and allowed it all to unfold maybe then I’ll give you plenty of proof and names. Either way you dont need any evidence to point the finger at Sinn fein you just need assumption unlike your attitude to the plainly open links between unionist parties and loyalist paramilitaries.

  • Thomas Barber

    No not neccessarily but just brushing it under the carpet leaves you open to interpretation from others like me as being one sided and partial. If you could explain why you felt it not important to a nationalist like myself to even mention the contridiction in attitudes towards republican and loyalist paramilitaries from unionist politicians and parties in a decision that could lead to the fall of power sharing over Sinn Fein’s alledged links to a paramilitary group.

  • Robin Keogh

    Darren, I honestly enjoy reading your pieces on here as I think you write very well and you always go to great lengths to contextualise your assertions within the given dynamic. It is clear we have a problem, as a Shinner myself I am not in the slightest bit happy with the current circus in the wake of the two most recent horrific murders. I believe firmly, on the basis of various security service reports, north and south over the years; that the IRA who downed tools ten years ago are gone and never to return.

    Does that mean ex members of the IRA and a raggle of others are not involved in criminality? Of course not, I don’t believe any of us are that naive. But the political process since 2004, despite its failings, is seperate to the police and judiciary. The agents of law and order have to ge given time to carry out their enquiries and come up with the goods before we can seriously start toying with what are already fragile political structures. Relying on the unfounded accusations of Journalists who have clear selfish interests is dangerous because it allows the possibility for wealthy, powerful and connected media elites to effectively strip power from both the political establishment and the police through sensational mobilised bias. This is a phenomonan that affects almost all political parties at one time or another and seriously compromises the integrity of political culture.

    At this moment North and South there is no intelligence suggesting SF are in any way linked to the murders or murderers. That’s a fact but it is brushed aside during the endless debates because it is an excruciating inconvenient truth for many to op[enly admit. Mike Nesbitt has made a monster mistake. He has now managed to shift the focus onto a power struggle within Unionism between the UUP and the DUP. There was nothing of integrity in his actions, it was pure opportunistic politicing to try outflank the DUP and has nothing to do with Sinn Fein. He has left himself and his party wide open to accusations of hypocrisy because of their links to loyalist terror groups. I think it was a mistake and I think Robbo will have him on the ropes after today by calling the bluff.

    So, I disagree with your analysis in that the behaviour of Nesbitt is nakedly self serving. You present No empirical evidence accept the meanderings of hostile journalists. Finally and unusually, I think your piece lacks any kind of balance; while u are under no obligaion to balance your thoughts on any subject, I would be wary not to fall into the trap of tabloid thinking. Your writing proves you are above that.

  • Zig70

    SF control sparrows? I never trusted the wee buggers.

  • chrisjones2

    Well if its down to choosing between PSNI and you then PSNI win my friend. They seem far more rational and less unbalanced and they have the advantage of knowing what they are talking about

  • chrisjones2

    So another set of specious allegations trotted out in increasing desperation to deflect from PIRAs links to murders. You really are desperate.

  • chrisjones2

    One side and partial ? Ha…Pot? Kettle?

  • mac tire

    With respect Chris, you thrive on “specious allegations”, hearsay and unsubstantiated statements. When someone does likewise you demand proof.
    Anyone who points these things out to you are deemed deflectors and desperate. And yet you cannot see this – or won’t.

  • chrisjones2

    Sparrows are little buggers. Make a terrible mess and block out what little sun we get in the evening. Could Lidl not start to market them as new barbecue line? The Tudors ate them and it would be a change from Chicken

  • chrisjones2

    Lose the argument, play the man. good tactic

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…he assumes you are wrong because you disagree with him

  • Thomas Barber

    The only person desparate here is you Chris with your endless posts begging for attention yet pretending to be stupid.

  • mac tire

    Then why have they not arrested and charged the murderers in both cases? Why have they arrested and released – 15 or more people?

  • Darren Litter

    We have a clear difference of analysis here, Robin; but while I don’t agree with your position, I do find it to be reasonably put, and sincerely held.

    I’ll respond to a few things you’ve said – but there’s no point in us getting too deep into this as we have two entirely opposite takes on the situation that we’ve both made pretty clear.

    You say that the PIRA are “gone and never to return”, but PSNI statements do not verify that, nor do the responses of Bertie Ahern or Michael McDowell. How can you reconcile your assertion that the PIRA are “gone and never to return” with the contrary reports from the former and latter?

    You concede that “ex-members of the PIRA and a raggle of others” could well be the catalyst here, but again, the Chief Constable differentiated in his statement between current members of the PIRA, former members (dissident) of the PIRA and criminals – and that (in their view) members from each of these groups took park in the paramilitary operation to kill Kevin McGuigan.

    Do you, like many others who identify as Shinners, see this as an inaccurate claim/political policing? And do you see how some of us have problems with that notion given how many Sinn Féin supporters initially used the CC’s statement as some sort of exoneration of the Movement? What is also problematic about the “typical PSNI” view is that the “current members” bit of the CC’s statement was diluted as much as possible – with constant references to “mainstream Republicanism being committed to peace” etc. being the focal point. The nature of the PSNI’s conduct has been far from “out to get Sinn Féin”, so why view the “current members” detail in such a context?

    Suzanne Breen, Ed Maloney et al. are hardly part of a wealthy, Murdoch-esque media elite to be fair.

    I’m not saying for a second that the very wide demographic of SF activists – of which there are a lot of fantastic people – have been, in the collective sense, linked to the Kevin McGuigan murder. That would be ridiculous. The point is that current members of the PRM have – and that’s a problem.

  • gendjinn

    “Sadam has WMD and is building nukes!”

    The security services say what their political masters instruct them to, regardless of reality. No different with the PSNI.

    Show me evidence, not merely stated conclusions. Until then it’s speculation. Nothing more.

  • Zig70

    Unionists never trusted SF though trust is possibly at the heart of this. Unionists have lost trust in moderate nationalist (self praise and all that) like myself who wouldn’t vote SF if an alternative was there. They believed post GFA that we would be content with the status quo. Well, you were sold a pup in that vague agreement if that’s what you read. Largely as a result of the whole flegs issue, I’ve also lost complete faith in UUP or DUP to work towards a shared future. If Stormont collapses and a new agreement is sought then I fear the future. I mainly fear the amount of crap I’ll have to listen to and read. I’ll give up my interest in NI politics and go back to trying Irish grammar again. Less painful.

  • chrisjones2

    You are entitled to your view. Others with a mandate are entitled to theirs and will doubtless exercise that mandate

  • chrisjones2

    Pesky issue of evdience

  • chrisjones2

    No I don’t. But I love the Republican angst and scream of “evidence” and attacks on unionists who do politics.

  • chrisjones2

    So by not accepting your grossly biased views that makes everyone biased themselves? Specious nonsense

  • chrisjones2

    again very disparaging and sarcastic and verging on man playing and felon setting for daring to have a different view

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Because Councils do bugger all?

    The Executive does bugger all.

    (aren’t you one of the several people who characterise the Executive as a glorified county council ?)

    And perhaps given the latest evidence they really shouldn’t sit with them?

    That’s my point. Why are they still there ? If SF are not trustworthy if follows that the UUP should withdraw from any public body where they exercise any kind of power.

  • Steve Larson

    The French still eat, roasted and in one go.

    Is that encouraging it or otherwise.

  • james

    Quite right. It’s all the fault of unionists. All of it.

  • james

    Don’t think the Sinners likely to eat sparrows. Kill and secretly bury in the back yard, perhaps.

  • Darren Litter

    Apologies for only getting back to you, Catcher. Missed your contribution.

    I would say withdrawing from the Executive – which makes the UUP national partners to Sinn Féin – is as sufficient a statement as the party need to make. It’s proportionate relative to the situation.

    But as I said above, it’s politics. To withdraw from all political chambers involving SF would be electoral insanity. You know that.

  • Zig70

    You’re too harsh. Don’t you know, it’s all the English’s fault. You lot are just pawns like the rest of us.

  • barnshee

    The IRA have never gone away nor have they decommissioned
    The strategy of the “long war” remains
    1 Take any political gains from the naive
    2 Use a political wing to obfuscate, deny and obscure the strategy
    3 Maintain structure and arms in preparation for the next round

    Nothing has changed in 100 (? ) years – and the opposition knows it and behaves in a similar fashion

  • barnshee

    “Where is your evidence that SF is involved with anything the PIRA does?”

    The “Green Book” sort of spells it out —– once in the RA always in the RA where does that leave SF?

  • Steve Larson

    Just Sparrows that deserved it. ;0

  • Sharpie

    There are two political parties missing from Northern Ireland – The No Fixed Abode Party – for all those with no political home, and The Apathy Party – for those who are fed up with what’s available, if only someone could be bothered to start it. I suppose there may be room for a cranky “Cynical Party” if anyone who would join it thought it might work they wouldn’t be allowed to join in case it worked and they couldn’t be a bonafide cynic.

    Much like the faux outrage of the OTR issue – when it emerged that everyone knew all along what was going on, this one smells of the same odour.

    Reiterate: – there are millions of issues that could bring down any local partnership, its an active choice to not let that happen – therefore sooner or later we will all be back at the table trying to nudge towards a new form of agreed words, because its the only thing that can happen.

    The only potential game changer is the influence of an outside party – like an asteroid or the UK and Irish Governments, or lots of money.

    All other debate is quite pointless –

    I’m depressed.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    which makes the UUP national partners to Sinn Féin – is as sufficient a statement as the party need to make. It’s proportionate relative to the situation.

    can you please define “sufficient” and “proportionate” ?

    Mike Nesbitt says that Sinn Féin cannot be trusted and he believes that the IRA has returned to violence. What is the formula by which it is determined that Executive withdrawal is appropriate but local council withdrawal is not ?

    I am trying to get to the nub of this. If it’s all about trust, and trust no longer exists, how can the UUP continue to support SF committee chairs ? Does that mean the UUP trust them a little bit even though they think the IRA murdered someone ?

    But as I said above, it’s politics. To withdraw from all political chambers involving SF would be electoral insanity. You know that.

    I don’t actually understand how one can calculate that withdrawing from the executive is not insanity, but withdrawing from council committees is.

    And in any case, are you sure that the UUP would confirm that these decisions are being informed by electoral considerations ?!?

  • mac tire

    Indeed, Chris. But still you don’t see the point I made above? You have already admitted that, at the moment, the evidence is just not there. Your views on the issue comes down to a level of trust.
    It’s always healthy to base facts on evidence because until you do then it is merely an opinion/best guess.
    It’s always unhealthy to throw opinions and best guesses around as fact.

  • mac tire

    Oh God! Is this another piece of nonsense like The Sinn Féin Oath?

    So, barnshee, all those people the IRA threw out etc weren’t really thrown out because they couldn’t be thrown out, despite the fact they were thrown out?

    My head hurts.

  • Steve Larson

    “Once in the Ra, always in the Ra.”

    What are you? 12!

    It doesn’t even make sense but it is a line that lives on in some Unionist fantasies.

    Many in Unionism have a problem with reality, especially with idea that politics, like life is in constant flux and change.

    Once in the Ra, always in the Ra.

    Has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read on this site.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Although it might be a tad simplistic off the top of my head i’m inclined to think that SF have had no better allies than unionist politicians.

    They just don’t seem to get that their ‘strategy’ constantly invokes sympathy for SF and serves to galvanize their support.

    How many times can people fall for the same trick? ‘Bart simpson vs the hamster’ springs to mind…

  • barnshee

    What does the “Green Book” say on the subject?

    Try answering the question– invective is normally a sign of argument lost

  • barnshee

    The book says you can`t leave – you can of course be “murdered out”

    You may of course have details of the appropriate “courts -martial” which appear to have escaped press reporting.

  • mac tire

    Let it go, Barnshee. You seem to be treating ‘the book’ like a Bible. I’m sure it even has a chapter and verse number.

  • james

    No doubt we’d have Martin or Gerry on the UTV twittering about how sparrows that flew to near robins, and failed to hang out with other sparrows exclusively doing only sparrowy things could only blame themselves for the grisly fate meted out by the Birdlican movement.

  • William Carr

    have you taken all your meds today?

  • submariner

    You should try reading the rest of his posts.

  • William Carr

    and i believed they also said that there was no evidence that the IRA as a organization was not involved but it was carried out by some members, during the flag protest they said the same thing about the UVF and the UDA and the three unionist parties seemed happy enough with that!
    but as we listen to the various unionist spokesmen we realize that it is not terrorism (after all they defend the links to loyalist groups) they object to but republican terror, loyalist terror seems to be acceptable.
    I enjoyed listening to both Jim and mike squirming when they are asked about this particular piece of hypocrisy.

  • William Carr

    “Graduated Response ” ring any bells! hell they even signed a bit of paper on the telly with them.

  • gendjinn

    Single transferrable bitterness.

  • Steve Larson

    I do.

    My therapist thinks its a form of self harm. I think he is right.

  • Steve Larson

    I don’t remember at this stage.

    Normal practice was that after jail time a Volunteer had so long to report back to his local command if he wanted to return to duty. If he didn’t it was presumed that he/she had had enough action.

    Some came back after a year or more, some never did.

    I can think of people were full in for 6 months but whose partners and family asked them to stop because of the personal risks and that was fine.

    This childish nonsense about being in for life is just very sad. Who would sit on a ditch waiting for an RUC patrol and trust some lad to perform who didn’t want to be there.

    I’ve never heard of this in for life nonsense, nor have anyone I know who were active for a long term.

    it just doesn’t even make sense, that is why there was invective. If you thought about it yourself for 5 minutes you could think of 5 reasons why it makes no sense for any organization or army from the IRA to the Balmoral show to do so, especially a volunteer army.

  • james

    Bracing showers and sport is my onliest therapy.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    There is as much evidence linking the DUP to Ulster Resistance as there is linking SF to “Action Against Drugs” and the residual IRA elements associated with it. ie – very little, and all of it circumstantial.

    The DUP have never been asked to prove that they have broken all links with the Ulster Resistance, or indeed the UDA. Frank McCoubrey, now a DUP councillor in Belfast, was a former member of the UDP and a former UPRG spokesperson (both UDA’s direct political wings) – do the DUP interrogate him about his associations, such as this occasion when he took to a podium with masked men firing guns into the air ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    whereas the DUP blackbirds would stand next to the Sparrows and then later deny they had anything to do with them, and say that even if they did, it didn’t matter as they didn’t fire any guns

  • eireanne

    It’s like being a catholic . if an individual is a “cradle catholic” s/he is a catholic forever in the eyes of some people in NI. Doesn’t matter if s/he becomes an atheist, jew,pagan, buddhist or whatever.S/he is always a catholic

  • Steve Larson

    Does that cancerous group the Orange Order still prevent Protestants who are married to a Catholic or were born one from joining.

    I can’t understand how people can be so damaged and hateful that they’d join a group like that.

  • barnshee

    Isn’t like the Roman Catholic thing Don t join if you Don t like the rules.
    P.S. a religion that refuses to recognise marriages performed by other religions as valid a religion which refuses to allow ” mixed. marriages “without an undertaking to raise offspring as Roman Catholic or indeed a religion which informs the children of mixed marriages that the non Catholic parent “can not take the bread of life” and is doomed to hell I cannot understand how people can be so damaged etc etc

  • barnshee

    Issue dodged as usual

  • Steve Larson

    How clear can I make it. People who were active Volunteers in the IRA have rubbished the idea of in it for life.

    The idea of “in for life” is a complete fabrication, it is not in the Green book, it is not mentioned in Republican history. It is not something I’ve ever heard of from active Republicans. It is not something that I have ever seen happen. It is not something that I have ever heard from anti Republicans.

    I’ve seen the opposite happy many times.

    My belief is that you are a fantasist and you need to believe crazy things like this to square your own illogical thoughts.

  • Steve Larson

    Couldn’t care less about the Roman Catholic Church, it is no different to the Protestant Church as far as I can see.

    The Church will not last the century in Ireland but neither will the Orange Order who are fading quickly in membership and same with the reformed faith. Gone in to history in a few more decades.

  • William Carr

    perhaps you should consider meds.

  • Bolshevik Brainwashing Corpora

    There is no hypocrisy. They were not in a governmental coalition with any loyalist groups, and also speak frequently with SF/IRA members at Stormont.

  • William Carr

    Hair splitting! the loyalists are involved in drug dealing, protection rackets etc and have used guns on the streets, but unionists see no moral issues there but see moral issues when it is republicans misbehaving.
    that is not morality that is politics at it most hypocritical!
    Of course if you happy enough with your politicians working with the people who are preying on your own community and using the excuse that it doesn’t count because they are not supported by your community then you go for it.