Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

DUP suspends Westminster selections?

[Originally posted on Bobballs…]

I am hearing on good authority that the DUP has suspended all Westminster selections until further notice. This is as a result of ‘pact’ talks.

Consider the implications of what’s going on here. Reg has produced a statement supporting the Tories. The DUP are apparently acting in support of unity negotiations by suspending selections.

Are the DUP preparing to accept a joint selection process? Or will they simply withdraw in a few key constituencies?

For my money though, the Tory pact must be considered finished. The credibility of the pact cannot survive unity talks with the DUP.

And if the DUP are indeed suspending selections, then there are hard questions for Party Leaders. Not all the statements being issued by the Parties right now can be correct. What is going on?


Filed under: DUP

Defence in depth and time to attack

The current nationalist hysteria over the possibility of a CU / DUP pact / understanding / whatever is most interesting; at some level they may have a bit of a point. Owen Paterson may well have been trying to shore up DUP support in order to get them to do a deal on P&J. However, it seems that some sort of electoral pact was discussed and that might be seen as counter to the spirit of the Tories desire to stand in all 18 constituencies. However, if the DUP simply stand aside in FST and South Belfast it would be difficult to blame the CUs if lots of evil, bigot, cave dwelling, uneducated, Neanderthal, culchie Prods (no doubt myself included) vote CU to stop a terrorist cheerleader in chief and sitting non MP taking FST.

Of course we have to remember that the SDLP itself, that bastion of non sectarian politics, stood aside to allow an IRA man, in the middle of committing suicide, a free run in FST (we should give Austin Currie an honourable mention as an SDLP member who opposed this decision). Furthermore the non sectarian SDLP’s name seems absent from the candidate list at the election following Mr. Sands’s untimely demise. Of course more recent history has no lesser a figure than St. John of Foyle; that man utterly opposed to sectarianism, agreeing to joint proposals with the leader of Sinn Fein, whilst the IRA were in the middle of their sectarian murder campaign. If John Hume’s joint approach was righteous and helped peace why is the Tories talking to the DUP wrong?
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

A UUP playbook on P&J…

[From Bobballs]

There’s a lot of back and forward within the UUP on whether they should back the DUP’s deal on devolving Policing and Justice. I’m going to play devil’s advocate and offer a few reasons why the UUP needs to suck it up and support their bitter rivals.

The UUP have got great leverage
This is still a negotiation and the UUP have a strong hand to play. The government are putting enormous pressure on all parties to deliver – the UUP can translate this into genuine leverage. What side deal could the UUP extract from the government for signing up? Could they find a big win (eg on PPWs; pensions for security force personnel; FTR?) and make it part of their election campaign?

Quid pro quo 
Peter Robinson may need some cover from the UUP, but they will need some cover from him. The UUP have not been involved in negotiations to date – they must make their support conditional. The UUP can ask the DUP to sign a memorandum of understanding on P&J negotiations (ie. a simple set of written guarantees). This could be published if necessary to show the conditions under which support was given. This would remove a major obstacle for the UUP and protect their position in the longer term.

It will be more uncomfortable for the DUP to be pushed over the line
Willie McCrea and the rest of the 12 Angry Men would surely go bananas (see Willie’s contribution to the Crisis in the Executive debate last night. Strong stuff). For the DUP to go for P&J is to commit a policy u-turn.* A somersault of this kind would cause more internal turmoil and division in the DUP, which in turns leads to loss of trust among DUP support. This not only assists the UUP but it also helps the TUV eat into DUP core support.

Don’t let the DUP pass the buck
If devolution falls, and the DUP do not sign up to P&J, they can blame the Provos and the UUP for screwing it all up. That sort of rhetoric goes down well with DUP supporters. The better play for the UUP is to let P&J happen and block all the exits.

It’s more awkward for the DUP to stay the course, commit the P&J u-turn, feel the pressure of managing the misfiring Executive, managing deteriorating SF / NIO relationships, managing their internal politics (12 Angry Men – hi guys!), AND manage the numerous, er, personal matters being (or soon to be) discussed in the media.

With devolution still operating, the comparison between the UUP and DUP is stark. Without devolution, everyone looks and sounds the same. The UUP are in a much stronger position for the election with P&J (and devolution) in place than if they do t’other and opt for the ‘never, never, never, never’ routine.

The longer the DUP stay in power, the less and less they look like a party of government. The UUP should give Peter what he wants and just go for it. Wholeheartedly, go for it.

*NB. The DUP are already breaching a policy priority. Their policy priorities doc says that ‘Policing and Justice powers will only be transferred to Stormont on DUP terms, when the DUP decides, and after all our conditions have been met’. Well, no. The DUP leader says the when is now up to the UUP.

Filed under: devolution, DUP, power sharing, Robinson affair, unionist unity?


Yesterday passed without a mention on the BBC, UTV or in the newspapers. There was nothing on any of the unionist party’s websites. Yesterday seems not to have mattered.

One of the longest, if not the longest, stretches of road in Northern Ireland without an organised settlement is that between Omagh and Cookstown. The road winds past an area known as the seven sisters which are a series of small loughs near the road. It then goes almost straight for miles towards Cookstown. Just over half way to Omagh it passes a nondescript crossroads.

18 years ago yesterday mattered: it was a Friday evening and a group of ordinary working men were going home from work along that stretch of road. As the minibus approached Teebane crossroads someone activated a command wire and detonated a bomb which killed eight of the workers. After the murders there were arrests but no convictions. It seems that the detonator and nearby litter yielded fingerprint and DNA evidence but the case has not been reopened.

There has been much talk about justice recently in connection with its devolution. It seems that justice for those murdered 18 years ago is no longer on anyone’s agenda.

The murdered victims honoured by a simple granite monument which has been defaced but restored:

William Gary Bleeks (35)
Cecil James Caldwell (37)
Robert Dunseith (25)
David Harkness (23)
John Richard McConnell (38)
Nigel McKee (22)
Robert Irons (61)
Oswald Gilchrist (44)

Filed under: Uncategorized

Retrofitting reality onto the ‘All-Island Economy’TM

By St Etienne

This post from the Partial Reporter reminded me of a bit of fact finding dug up towards the end of last year, and provides a welcome distraction from the current media sideshow on matters less important:

– £2.68m: Total amount spent by InvestNI on all-island bodies & events in 2008
– £1.16m: Total amount spent by InvestNI on EU-wide trade missions & marketing in 2008
– $282m: GDP of Republic of Ireland
– $18.39trillion: GDP of the EU
Invest NI spend source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The Republic of Ireland presents us with a market of 4.4 million people. The EU single market means access to 440 million. Who would an economist spend more on attracting?

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: finances, power sharing

Belfast Young Unionists blog up and running again

Richard James gets it up and running with a post on the Robinson scandal.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Peter must survive… for the DUP’s sake

[I just put this up at Bobballs, thought it would be useful to cross-post here too.]

It’s in the DUP’s best interests to keep PR where he is. If the DUP are not careful, they could take a story of personal weakness (which can yet be quarantined around Iris) and turn it into a Party-wide political and policy maelstrom.

Yes, the DUP are facing considerable problems. But they must ensure that their reaction does not make things worse for the Party.

1. If PR is forced out without having had the chance to clear his name the public will assume guilt. The Party should not connive in promoting that impression. PR has denied any wrongdoing – the Party cannot act prior to the conclusion of due process. If they do it will seem injudicious and somewhat insensitive to the position of a man who at present is the primary victim in this scandal.

2. What is the alternative to Peter? If PR resigns from the FM job, his replacement must be agreed upon by both SF and the DUP (due to the joint nature of that office). As Gerry Moriarty correctly points out, it is likely that SF would only accept the DUP nomination for FM if they in turn agree a date for P&J.

This would be intolerable. The test was always community confidence – to agree to P&J under any other circumstance is to be seen to be rolled over by republicans. The TUV would have a field day. So how do you actually replace PR?

3. Consider that PR’s replacement at FM and as leader (could be an individual or a Wilson / Foster combo). Given the likely SF quid pro quo on P&J, who among the DUP’s senior people would really like the first act of their leadership to be signing up to P&J / acquiescence to SF? How would this be ‘leadership that’s working’?

As we stand now, it would seem reasonable to expect the voting public to punish the DUP over Iris Robinson’s personal conduct. If P&J is agreed early, the DUP may also face a backlash over its political conduct.

4. The problem identified by Spotlight must be contained around Iris. Peter seems happy to allow for that to continue. If the DUP take PR out, they lose the best possible guarantee that the crisis around Iris can be controlled.

For example, who’s is the most sellable story in NI at the moment? Erm, Iris Robinson’s. A woman who has shown such an interest in, ahem, entrepreneurialism, will no doubt appreciate the value of her story to newspapers. Right now, it is in PR’s best interest to control his wife. If PR is dumped he will neither control his wife nor defend the interests of the Party with quite the same vigour.

With Peter outside the Party, who’s to say how and in what direction the scandal could develop?

5. If Peter goes, the next tier of DUP people beneath him are not strong devolutionists. The widespread fear is that if PR goes, then Dodds, Campbell, Simpson, McCrea etc will let devolution fizzle out and instead opt for Westminster.

If the DUP allow Direct Rule to emerge they will allow the UUP to play their best card. If Direct Rule emerges after May (and after a Tory win), the UUP will likely be able to claim that they are a coalition partner in the administration of government in NI. If the DUP turns their back on devolution, the UCUNF deal ensures that the leadership of Unionism passes from the DUP back to the Ulster Unionist Party.

Having invested so much in achieving their present position, it would seem implausible to voluntarily hand the UUP (and TUV) electoral pay dirt. Why work to marginalise the UUP and then unilaterally make them relevant again?

6. Yes, there is a cost to keeping PR where he is. This notoriously strong figure has been diminished by all this new information. Being led by someone so diminished damages the DUP’s reputation for strong leadership. This has been a desperate blow to the party. But that blow has been delivered, it cannot be undone by anyone. Peter’s ability, and the abilities of his reputedly excellent press and political advisers, can mitigate this problem. If they are all removed by some precipitous act then the DUP will lose the best crisis management people they have.

7. With PR in place the DUP can begin to clear this mess up. The effect of taking PR out could transform the personal misadventure of Iris Robinson into a broader political conflagration. Sammy Wilson is about the only face I’ve seen out backing Robinson – more of his colleagues need to get out there as it may be in their own best interest to do so.

Peter, like Gordon Brown, needs the maximum amount of time to sort out his leadership and his party before the election. I doubt the situation would be improved if there were a coup / resignation now – the result would be not a clean, new, united party. Without PR tying all the disparate elements together, the Party would become disordered and disunited – policy on fundamentals like devolution would be less clear. The outcome of all that would be a less electable Party than is there at the minute. There isn’t the time to build afresh before May. Peter must survive… for the DUP’s sake.

Filed under: devolution, DUP, Robinson affair

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 24 other followers

Open Unionism On Twitter

Open Unionism bookmarks

Our facebook group page

Party histories

Here's the history of the UUP.

Here's the history of the DUP.

Slideshow app for UUP & DUP flickrstreams

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the UUP flickrstream.

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the DUP flickrstream.

UK Parliament on flickr

%d bloggers like this: