There has been much debate about running agreed Unionist candidates in Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast. I watched Sir Reg Empey speak to Noel Thompson last week on Hearts and Minds. He said that these were two seats that were Ulster Unionist.
Sir Reg’s argument however does not really wash. Yes Ulster Unionists once held both seats but no they do not command the majority of support there now.
Let us look at the facts.
More below the fold…
Since 2005 the DUP have held the majority of Unionist votes in both Fermanagh South Tyrone and South Belfast. This was confirmed by the Assembly election held in March 2007.
In 2005 the DUP candidate Jimmy Spratt came within 1,235 votes of the winner SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell in South Belfast. The UUP trailed the DUP by 1,841 votes (over 3,000 votes of the winner). In 2005 the DUP took 5,184 votes more than the UUP candidate Tom Elliott in Fermanagh South Tyrone and was 4,500 odd votes short of beating Gildernew. Tom Elliot got 8,869 votes.
The truth of the matter is that these seats cannot be regarded as ‘Ulster Unionist’ anymore despite what history might say. We live in different times now. The DUP are the lead Unionist party in Northern Ireland and if the UUP were interested in maintaining the Union they would let common sense prevail.
This issue should not be about party politics. It should be about what we are about, and that is maintaining the Union; I thought so anyway. How does giving seats to nationalism benefit the Union?
Ignorance will get you know where. Some in the UUP just hate the DUP so much that they would prefer to cost Unionism seats rather than give it to a ‘DUPer’. Get with reality folks!
The ignorance should not be surprising though. The reason for the introduction of first-past the post into local elections in Northern Ireland in the late 1920s was because independents were threatening the Ulster Unionist Party. This was at a time when demographically Unionist turnout was greater than it is now.
Unionism needs to focus on the next election. Unionism has a chance to regain two Unionist seats in South Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone.
The UUP’s Conservative appeal has had no major success. The European election result shows this. Jim Allister has already stated that he will not stand in any constituency where it could risk losing the seat to nationalism, namely South Belfast, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Upper Bann, and possibly North Belfast (?).
In this up-and-coming Westminster election parties should put their differences aside. The NI Assembly is taking precedence now over Westminster.
The South Belfast UUP Association spoke sense when they wrote to their Party leader asking him to seriously explore the aspect of an agreed candidate. This offered a commonsense approach and not nonsense as some Ulster Unionists and Conservatives seem to be talking. The other issue is who runs the UUP now: David Cameron, the local Tories or Sir Reg Empey?
Time to get down to business Sir Reg and see this mess sorted. The DUP have said yes to a pact, so what’s the issue?