Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

You know it makes sense Reg…

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?


Filed under: unionist unity?

21 Responses

  1. bob wilson says:

    The point is that pacts reeks not of unionism but sectarianism – it suggest that having any unionist MP -even one from a crazied religious sect – is better than trying to build support for the real politics of the Union

  2. Andrew says:

    How does a pact reek of sectarianism?

    As a Unionist I do not think Unionism is sectarian (there may be unrepresentative elements yes) but overall it is not.

    I think that is truely guilty of you for you to think that Unionism is generally sectarian.

  3. loki says:

    Agree with Bob. The union is not safe with DUP. they just want to build an apartheid state with them and SF carving up everything in sight.
    Ignorance is usually a DUP state of mind. BTW just to be pedantic- “ignorance will get you NOWHERE” not “know where”
    Andrew, your idea of a pact is toatlly sectarian- it stinks of “niot a fenian about hte place”. If by some strange chance a pact does happen, will you in the DUP be willing to accept Peter McCann, a West Belfast Catholic as the candidate?

  4. Andrew says:

    ‘Union is not safe with the DUP.’

    Well it certainly wasn’t safe with the UUP and I doubt it is safe with the Tories (AIA 1985, getting rid of Stormont 1972 (but maybe you agree with that now) etc etc).

    A pact stinks of common sense and that’s what most people want out there!

  5. thefreshthinking says:

    Bob and loki the purpose of this site as I understand it is that Unionists can have constructive discussions with one another. Implying that my party is a “crazied religious sect” or that “ignorance is usually a DUP state of mind” doesn’t really move us forward.

    I believe the theme of Andrews article is that gaining seats is good for unionism and losing them is bad, and that we should work together to win seats. Do you disagree?

  6. thefreshthinking says:

    To take my own advise and put some constructive points into the pot.

    I understand the logic behind Project UCUNF, if it is possible to get tens of thousands of previously nationalist voters and non-voters to put their x in the box for a unionist party then that will strengthen the Union and could with time isolate Sinn Fein. I am laregely a pragmatist, I support what works; if this works then the UUP are right to push ahead with it and ignore their detractors.

    My problem is that I don’t believe it will work. Nothing in my experience tells me it will work, but lots of things tell me it won’t. In the meantime whilst the UUP push ahead with this strategy Unionism becomes more and more fractured. Rather than clinging to imagined support from outside we need to stand together, the cavalry led by David Cameroon isn’t going to come and save us, we have to look after ourselves.

  7. Andrew says:

    The thing is that Unionists have historically had to look after themselves as the parties on the mainland didn’t give a toss – there was nothing in it for them and I am unsure what is in this pact for Cameron never mind Unionism.

    The Tories of the early 20th Century after round one and two of the Home Rule Bill began to dismantle their stance and offer concessions to Republicans. The Tories in 1972 dismantled Unionism and in 1985 ignored us.

    In the 1990s they entered secret talks with the IRA whilst stating that they ‘had no selfish or strategic interest in Northern Ireland.’

    Now are you telling me that the Tories have changed their spots? The Tories are an English party, not Unionist.

  8. peteram79 says:

    “The Tories are an English party, not Unionist.”

    Just sums up the depressingly familiar small-minded Ulster Nationalism propagated by the DUP and by this poster.

    Does Andrew truly believe that real power has switched from Westminster to Stormont? If so, and I really fear he does believe this, why does it matter if a nationalist or unionist wins an NI seat in this meaningless body?

    Given this pre-eminence of Stormont, why should anyone be worried that the union isn’t “safe” with the Tories? Is it because it offers a convenient excuse to dredge up history and and continue to live in the past rather than deal with the incredibly uncomfortable present position the DUP has got itself into? Same old, same old… zzzzzzzzzzz

    Open Unionism, more like Old-Style Unionism with posts like this

  9. Andrew says:

    So Peter, are the Tories an integrationist party then?

    Will we see them dissolve Stormont if they get into power?

    History has a habit of repeating itself. History demonstrates the character of the politics of the Conservative Party.

  10. peteram79 says:

    Stormont in its current form is doomed. Two extremist parties cancelling each other out and nothing getting done, e.g. the education shambles.

    The Conservative Party will most likely win the next general election. For the first time in generations, Northern Irish voters will have the chance to vote for a party with a genuine chance of national government.

    The DUP’s major concern, however, is the possibility of an electoral pact that might “keep a couple of themmuns out” and increase its power base in Westminster from not very much to not very much+1. And when the New Force refuses to play ball, it’s the tired old rhetoric of betraying the union, letting a Cafflick in, enemy of Ulster etc etc ad nauseam. Great!!

  11. Andrew says:

    Good luck to you then Peter.

    The Tories have been running here for ages and have not picked up anything to shout about.

    Will the Conservatives really act in the interests of the Unionist people when in government?

  12. oneill says:

    “The Tories are an English party, not Unionist.”

    Last time I looked, England, despite the efforts of small-minded nationalists, remained part of the United Kingdom.

    The Conservatives organise in each part of the UK, they are a United Kingdom party, eg they polled the highest number of votes in the EU election in Wales and to refer to them specifically as “English” is separatist terminology worth of Salmond and the SNP.

    Regarding the proposed pact, the Union does not depend on a short-term sectarian stitch-up in S Belfast and F & ST preventing themmuns getting in. If it did, I would and many others would walk away from it.

    It depends in the long-term in persuading the maximum number of people irrespective of “community background” that the Union is, for whatever reason, in their best long-term interest and a “Keep S.Belfast Prod” pact will not go any way towards achieving that target

  13. Grouch says:

    Charles totally misses the point. This fixation on Unionism, strengthening the links, ensuring its continuation is all a bit of a red herring. The Good Friday / Belfast agreement has settled the matter once and for all and only a major democratic shift would ever change it. I believe the D in DUP stands for Democratic!

    The real issues are in getting people the right people to represent us in relation to education, to health, to getting jobs, to improving the economy, to manage the environment better. People who are fixated on a Unionist at all costs are totally missing the plot. This stance, but its very nature leads one into thinking that the proponents of it are nothing but bigots as they believe that only a Unionist can represent people. Even the Shinners have accepted the legitamacy of Northern Ireland and a good Shinner would be better than an narrow-minded unionist. Although, between SF and the DUP I am not sure if there is anybody who can truly represent all their constituents properly and fairly in a pluralist society.

  14. thedissenter says:

    Everyone needs to take a breath. Grouch, just read what you wrote here. Andrew, you are right to question. But it’s a lost cause. Common sense is not in the interest of the political classes.

  15. Ignorance is bliss says:

    “Ignorance will get you know where.”

    That has to be one of the funniest things I have ever read.

    “How does giving seats to nationalism benefit the Union?”

    Are you familiar with the concept of democracy and secret ballot?

    The above quotes are up there with Charles’ similarly ludicrous and unintenionally hilarious claim – as explicated on Slugger O’Toole in August – that Catholics are involved in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in north Antrim.

  16. Ignorance is bliss says:

    “I think that is truely guilty of you for you to think that Unionism is generally sectarian.”

    Can you repeat that, please, but in English this time?

    “The Tories are an English party, not Unionist.”

    This just gets better and better. As an Irish republican I think that I will begin to pray that this cretin follows in the illustrious steps of his mentor, Mr. Finlay, to the dizzying heights of the DUP’s upper echelons.

  17. Jumper says:

    The above quotes are up there with Charles’ similarly ludicrous and unintenionally hilarious claim – as explicated on Slugger O’Toole in August – that Catholics are involved in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in north Antrim.

    Yeh it’s so studid isnt it! See here

    I didn’t think republicans spoke english!

  18. cublue says:

    The same old same old, the Conservatives in GB don’t stand down in a seat to ensure the LD’s win even though it would often suit their cause to see Labour defeated.

    If a party believes in something it should present it to the voters and try to perusade as many people as possible to vote for it, it must however offer it to all voters. The Conservatives will run in every available seat in GB and, in partnership with the UU, will run in all 18 NI seats as the CU’s.

    For the DUP who have spent their lives vote splitting to start bleating about it now they are on the wane is risible.

    Cameron is clear and concise he believes in the UK as a whole and will fight for it, he will not be a disinterested bystander or semi detached unionist like so many here.

  19. On his 7th PR company says:

    This smacks of desperation on the part of Fatboy Charles. The DUP ate looking very worried indeed.

  20. fair_deal says:


    “For the DUP who have spent their lives vote splitting”

    I see party blinkers have blinded you to basic facts. How many seats did the DUP stand aside in after the anglo-irish agreement in the name of unity? Where a single unionist could win they stood aside in Fermanagh and South tyrone, in Newry and Armagh and similarly in South Down on numerous occassions.

  21. Framer says:

    Unionism is about the union and every election is essentially a referendum on its continuance.

    Nationalism certainly thinks so. When Eddie McGrady won South Down he did not say I will fight for more benefits or investment. He said the border has reached Belfast.

    Stormont government and personal ambition should be secondary for unionists. Therefore winning South Belfast back and possibly FST has to be paramount.

    As to the English, they have expended huge amounts of blood and treasure on our behalf. The English working classes have given us hundreds of their sons and their hard earned taxes for 40 years.

    Show a little gratitude.

    The English Conservatives were certainly a lot less fulsome in their support for Ulster after 1919 than they were in 1912. But they were by then in government, in coalition with the Liberals, and the southern situation had changed militarily and dramatically.

    Practical politics takes its toll on principles. Even the DUP would agree.

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