Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

First challenge to unity is building trust, says Robinson

DUP leader Peter Robinson has called for a “unity of added potential, not a unity of necessity”. He went on to list six shared values upon which the UUP and DUP could base close ties and cooperation. However, he cautioned that any process of Unionist Unity will “most likely be one of stages on a journey rather than a giant leap”…

The below is Peter Robinson’s full statement:

“Following the Westminster election there has been some discussion of the potential for Unionist Unity.  However, so far this debate has provided more of an insight into tensions within the Ulster Unionist Party rather than progress on the issue.  For the DUP the concept of closer co-operation and the ideal of unity with fellow unionists is not a new one.  Our willingness to work closely with other unionists, particularly the Ulster Unionist Party, was evident for all to see in past decades.  Throughout the course of our recent election campaign we were to the fore of championing the notion that a unity of policies, principles and ideals was in the best interests of unionism as a whole.

The DUP made its commitment to Unionist Unity crystal clear and acted accordingly by supporting an agreed candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and trying to seek agreement on South Belfast until the close of nominations.  That commitment remains.  The DUP stands ready, willing and able to examine the full range of options for Unionist Unity.

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Filed under: unionist unity?

Voters want to see ‘greater co-operation’

On the subject of Unionist Unity, UUP researcher Stephen Warke says that there is a great degree of commonality between the main parties. He suggests that a closer working relationship could energise the unionist electorate and maximise the potential gains for Unionism…

By Stephen Warke

With the outcome of 2010 General Election decided, it is now apparent that in the broader interests of Unionism reflection and consideration must be given in order to allow major and possibly radical decisions to be made.

Having canvassed extensively in my home patch of East Belfast, the clear message I received on the doorsteps was that voters wanted to see greater co-operation amongst the unionist parties.

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Filed under: unionist unity?

Unionist unity debate moves to a new level…

Writing in today’s News Letter, Terry Wright – the man tasked with heading up the UUP’s post-election review – says that the party recognises its second-party status and “will engage in constructive communication with the DUP, based on our values and principles”. Given the nature of his role in guiding and advising on future UUP strategy, this could be seen as a significant overture within the unity debate. Is this piece a scene-setter for unity talks?

By Terry Wright

Following the General Election, UUP Leader Sir Reg Empey announced a wide-ranging review and analysis.  He expressed the hope that this would spur unionism in general to take an honest and bold look at where we are going.

With regards to the UUP, there are a number of vital issues regarding strategy and presentation of policy which must be urgently addressed.  The review’s findings will shape the UUP’s approach to the 2011 Assembly elections.

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Filed under: unionist unity?

Unionist Unity or Normal Politics?

At the end of last week, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Robert Saulters called for “unionist unity” during a speech at the re-opening of Lavin Orange Hall. As we noted at the time, Mr Saulters believes that there should be one big unionist party “modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together”.

UCUNF Lagan Valley election candidate Daphne Trimble has replied through her blog. I thought it would be useful to reproduce her response to the Saulters speech below. In Mrs Trimble’s opinion, anyone who listens to calls from the DUP on unity “is making a mistake”…

By Daphne Trimble

Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters has called for unionist unity, ‘one big unionist party which represents all the views I hear.’ This theme ran through the recent election campaign. I heard it on the doorstep; it is called for by the DUP; it is mentioned in internal UUP meetings; and it is one of the areas to be discussed in Sir Reg’s review.

It clearly means different things to different people.

For the person on the doorstep, the alternative phrasing is ‘Why can’t yez all get together?’ I have a high regard for the people I met who told me this, but as far as I can tell, they all have one thing in common; they are good people who want to get on with their own lives knowing that the country will be governed properly, and that the only input required of them is to vote every now and then. They prefer not to be involved politically, and some have a folk memory of a peaceful pre troubles past where Unionism was one monolithic party.

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Filed under: general election, unionist unity?, UUP, , , ,

Do unionist parties do the Union more harm than good?

In the wake of the general election, Open Unionism has hosted a vigorous debate about the future of Ulster unionism.  So far, it has hinged on the ‘unity’ issue.  Should so-called unionist parties in Northern Ireland combine their forces in a single group, or at least coordinate their efforts come election time, in order to consolidate the ‘pro-Union’ vote?

A number of problems with this project have been raised, on Open Unionism and elsewhere.  In a Belfast Telegraph article, I take the argument further, and float the rather provocative notion that unionist parties in Northern Ireland might do unionism, and the Union, more harm than good.

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Filed under: Conservatives, unionist unity?

Thorough, Intense and Constructive

Regardless of the quality of the individual contributions about the idea of a United Unionism, it has been more a spasm than a proper debate and it is a proper debate that is needed.

Opponents of the idea have been keen to portray a United Unionism as some sort of monster.  This is premature considering there had not been anything approaching serious discussion let alone any formal proposals or agreement.  They will argue that they are warning of the possible dangers in such a process.  However, the dirty rush and negativity seems more to kill the debate at birth.

Others have advocated Unity under a model they personally prefer.  However, this approach will hamper the discussion as well.  Any examination needs to be as open to a breadth of ideas not bog-downed in an individual model.  So what is the basis of the United Unionist debate?  What form should the debate take? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: DUP, Uncategorized, unionist unity?, UUP

Our enemies are laughing at us: Saulters

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Robert Saulters has thrown his weight behind calls for unionist unity. At the re-opening of Lavin Orange Hall (which had been gutted by fire in 2006), Mr Saulters said there is too much division within unionism. In his personal opinion, there should be one big unionist party “modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together”.


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Filed under: Uncategorized

Accepting power-sharing is basis for unionist unity…

Writing in today’s Belfast Telegraph, UUP MLA David McNarry puts forward his view of what united unionism could look like. He suggests that there need not be a single, homogenous party but instead two separate parties united by “shared values, shared aspirations and shared policies“. [I thought this piece would add to the debate ongoing here, so have reproduced the article in full below.]

By David McNarry MLA

To construct an argument against unionist unity by suggesting that ‘a UUP-DUP electoral pact would drive moderate pro-union voters into the arms of the Alliance Party’ is a highly dubious contention. To cite Naomi Long’s victory in East Belfast as evidence of this is equally suspect.

If this were the case, why did the Naomi Long factor not materialise anywhere else in the province?

Had Naomi Long stood elsewhere other than against Peter Robinson, in the very particular circumstances in which he found himself, would she have been victorious? Somehow I do not think so.

How was the Naomi Long factor in East Belfast so potent if it failed to materialise anywhere else for the Alliance Party?

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Post Unionist Unity…

Adding his voice to the debate on unionist unity, East Belfast TUV candidate David Vance says people have been turned off by negative politics and are looking for a dynamic form of leadership that focuses on providing better outcomes and more stable government. A united unionist vision has a role to play here and there is an urgency to bring this about before the next set of elections…

By David Vance

In the wake of the General Election results perhaps it is timely to ask the simple question; Is Unionism working? I think any objective commentator will have to conclude that the answer to that is a resounding “Ulster says No!”  We have fewer people than ever now turning out who can be bothered enough to vote Unionist, we have fewer Unionist MPs than ever and we face the grim prospect of the largest Party in the Assembly elections next year being Republican, not Unionist.  Amidst this chaos and discord rises the understandable cry for Unionist unity – but is this a political panacea or a constitutional chimera?

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Best of the Web

[This column first published in the News Letter on Friday May 14.]

So much has happened since this column last appeared. No10 has bid farewell to Gordon Brown, and the Commons has finally bid farewell to both Peter Robinson and the UUP. So much for the newspapers to write about.

But if you’re getting cheesed off with the superfluity of election verbiage and are completely swamped by analysis then I recommend a visit to 1690 an’ all thon. Professor Billy McWilliams is the strongest antidote I can find to the chin-scratching commentariat.

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Filed under: Uncategorized

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