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A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Migrating Open Unionism…

I’ve nearly finished the new blog site (more explanation here too). This wasn’t a ‘plug in and play’ type of theme by any means so it’s taken me a while longer than I thought it would. Admittedly there are still a few odds and ends to get right but I think we’re nearly there.

I’m going to map the domains together so anyone typing in this wordpress.com address should get sent the new site. However, my main concern is that the RSS feeds won’t transfer so I’ve registered the new blog on feedburner. Paste this url into your reader http://feeds.feedburner.com/OpenUnionism to get all the new updates.

I’ll aim to make the switch on Wednesday afternoon. And as before, please do let me know if any feedback on the new site. All comments welcomed…

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

NIO let DUP pick its own leader?

The Daily Telegraph  has been running the next chapter of WikiLeaks, this one detailing a cable from the US Embassy in London to Washington deals with the NIO’s analysis of Ian Paisley’s resignation in 2008.

 It doesn’t supply us with that much we didn’t know before. The NIO reckoned Paisley’s departure wouldn’t “destabilize Northern Ireland” and that his “final, grand gesture”, his attendance at the Investment Conference, would probably stimulate interest in the event as invitees would be curious to see the old boy deliver his swansong. 

This section did read a bit strange though:

It would be up to the DUP to pick its new leader, said Todd (John Todd, Political Advisor in the Northern Ireland Office). Both Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were names being considered for the leadership, according to Todd, with many suggesting Robinson may become the successor in a “Blair to Brown-type” deal. Todd said the choice was up to the DUP; the NIO was uninvolved and agnostic as to who should lead the party.

So, the NIO would play no part in choosing the leader, they were leaving it entirely up to the DUP.  

Why was it felt necessary to point that (what I would have thought) rather obvious fact out twice?

Were the Americans under the impression that HMG was running the DUP?

Filed under: Uncategorized

A word of advice to Israel…

Nigel Dodds has produced a speech of real substance in relation to Israel.

The speech was made recently at the House of Commons to members of the Zionist Federation and the Christian Friends of Israel (amongst others). It has been reproduced in The Jerusalem Post.

The speech is direct, succinct and powerfully argued. I wrote a column in the News Letter today where I reflected the low esteem in which many politicians are held by bloggers and media. In my view, this is a speech that counters this view.

The intro and contextualising is very sharp – the link is worth reading in full. But on the substance, Dodds draws upon Northern Ireland’s peace agreement and warns against ‘constructive ambiguities’.

His conclusion – and words of advice to Israel – is that a deal which lionises individuals ahead of the best interests of the people of that country is a failed product. Strength in the face of external pressure lies at the core of Dodds’ message.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: DUP, ,

That concludes the Tory-UUP link…

On Hearts & Minds this evening, Noel Thompson asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland:

“The election of Martin McGuinness as First Minister should mean no difference [to unionists] and is in no way a setback?”

The Secretary of State’s response:

“I think the election of Martin McGuinness would be an extraordinary endorsement of the progress that has been made here.”

This concludes the relationship between the Tories and the Ulster Unionist Party.

The hesitation he showed during the answer makes me feel that he immediately regretted his choice of words. This will no doubt damage his relationship with unionist politicians.

*UPDATE: Here’s the H&M programme from last night at the point from which I’ve quoted.

One UUP response is a demand for the SoS to step down. Here’s a BBC report which includes the TUV position.

Here’s O’Neill’s take on things, and here’s a local Tory response to the interview.

Filed under: Conservatives, UUP, ,

Migrating Open Unionism…

I’m going to migrate Open Unionism to a self-hosted wordpress site over the next day or two. I also felt it was right to step away from the wordpress url and establish this blog as a standalone .com

So here’s the link to the new site. It’s a work in progress – I’m still adding to it and do the polishing job (eg. on the post excerpts on the frontpage need work), but I’d really appreciate feedback on it. Being free to edit the CSS means I can incorporate comment and change the site to make it work better for users.

I really felt this blog needed a facelift and a refocus on the content. I recently revamped bobballs and have been impressed by the capacity of the self-hosted version to better organise and deliver dynamic content.

For example, wordpress.com is driven through widgets. As you can see this blog is now getting very widget-heavy and my feeling is that this is crowding out the posted content. The new theme I’m adapting should really showcase the insight that bloggers here are producing whilst also making it more presentable / accessible for the user.

The range of plugins I can use on a self-hosted site means I can tailor and discretely arrange additional functionality. Take the bobballs blog – I can more easily embed podcasts / pics / audio than is presently the case with wordpress.com.

I’ll aim to put a redirection in place by Wednesday of this week, so you’ll automatically be sent to the new blog site.  If you subscribe to this blog via a reader you may need to update the RSS.

Appreciate your patience while this occurs, and of course all feedback is welcome.

Filed under: Uncategorized,

Lord Empey, should he be finding the time to also be a MLA?

 While I’m sure most of the readers here have been enjoying the recent constitutional trials and tribulations of West Belfast’s very own Green Baron, there have been interesting developments on the other side of the city regarding the status of (a real) Lord.

Lord Empey a Conservative, Cross-Bencher or UUP peer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead…

Whether Gerry Adams likes it or not, he is now ‘Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead‘.

Here’s why Gerry is now a servant of the Crown.

Here’s how the news emerged.

Here’s the official confirmation which came later.

Here’s a piece by Nicholas Wintour and Cranmer which rounds everything up very neatly.

On Tuesday, Gerry Adams said this on his somewhat idiosyncratic blog:

“Your man reckons these are exciting – ‘dramatic times’ – in the politics of our small island. Especially in the south. Flann O Brien couldn’t have written the script. The political and economic crisis has been variously described as a ‘circus’, a ‘comedy of errors’, ‘a farce’ and some other things that this blog could not post.”

Gerry was enjoying the misfortune of others a little too much. Less than 24 hours later he would be the centre of a drama, a circus, a comedy of errors, a farce of his own.

The next blog post by the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead will be an interesting read.

Filed under: Sinn Fein, ,

Corporation tax – what will they do?

Tax by definition

Owen Paterson is saying again today that the Assembly should take up tax varying powers and settle discussion over Corporation Tax themselves.

Mr Paterson said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.”

We are now a long way from the days of Varney (I & II) – the government is clearly saying that it wants to take this further.

The pay off for the government is that they claw back £300million from the block grant, so this is understandably attractive for them. And in addition, Ireland’s next Taioseach told the Alliance Party conference on Saturday that he is in favour of all-island tax harmonisation.

As with all things of substance in Northern Ireland, little can happen without approval from external powers – so the signs are good. Northern Ireland’s political parties could get what they wished for. (And if the UCUNF project produced nothing else then it did secure a corporation tax commitment from the Tories which Paterson is now progressing.)

Paterson has now put it up to local parties to demonstrate their enthusiasm. In fact, they did so earlier this month. As the squabbling continues over the draft Budget, could this policy have the potential to bring the parties together?

(Sammy Wilson will need to be placated though. He hasn’t been convinced of low corporation tax argument for quite some time.)

In the corporation tax issue we now have a signal policy that can demonstrate to the public at large that local reps have the capacity to agree and to deliver. What will they do?

A next step could be for Jim Nicholson, Diane Dodds and Bairbre de Brun to publicly declare their willingness to push the case in Brussels. What will they do?

Filed under: Conservatives, economy,

An open letter to Owen Paterson: Where now for the *UK* Conservative Party?

Three weeks ago, myself and another pro-Union blogger contacted Owen Paterson’s office. To date, we have had no reply from Mr. Paterson or his staff to our email and we are sending it this morning in the form of an open letter in hope of some kind of response:

Dear Mr. Paterson,

We are writing to you concerning the position of the Conservative Party vis-à-vis its activity in Northern Ireland. As Conservative and Unionist bloggers we have been firm supporters of Mr. Cameron’s policy of political engagement in the province, and we hope to be able to continue to facilitate in our small way the efforts of the party there. In recent weeks there has been some confusion about the future of the party in Northern Ireland, and if you were able to clarify that position for us, we would then be able to pass it to our readership.

Kind Regards,

Dilettante, oneill

In interests of transparency: Dilettante is a full member of the Conservative party; whilst I have been a member of both the Friends of the Conservatives and the UUP previously, I no longer have any official connection with either party.

Our real, “off-line names” have been used in the communication to Owen Paterson.

Why did we write it?

As enthusiastic supporters of the original premise behind the Conservative and UUP link-up three years ago, we had been bemused at the turn of events pre-Christmas when the backroom deal between officials of the two parties effectively isolated Northern Ireland once again from the mainstream of United Kingdom politics.

At the time the Conservative leadership gave no public explanation for this retreat; it was also unclear as to whether they saw any future for the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland or indeed for the concept of a genuinely UK-wide pro-Union party.

They shouldn’t be that difficult questions to address but they are ones Owen Paterson and others remain reluctant, well over a month later, to publicly answer.

And with the news of an *arrangement* being reached between the DUP and UUP in North and West Belfast, can we now also assume that the UK Conservative party is an integral part of what is obviously an ongoing “Unionist Unity” project?

Cross-posted at:  Dilettante, Slugger OToole, Unionist Lite

Filed under: Conservatives, unionist unity?, ,

Photos from Alliance Party Conference…

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Here’s some of the pics I took at Saturday’s conference in the Dunadry. Ford’s speech can be downloaded via the box.net widget here.

Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences,

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