Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Date for the diary: East Belfast Speaks Out

The East Belfast Speaks Out (EBSO) event is taking place on November 10 at Ashfield Boys’ School. It’s designed to provide the answer for anyone steadily losing heart because of the perceived lack of progressive or meaningful political dialogue in Northern Ireland.

The organisers says it’s a simple ‘town hall’ style event aimed at “bringing Stormont down from the Hill”.

Mark Devenport will MC the event and the panel will include senior figures from the NIO, Sinn Fein and the DUP, plus Sunday Times journalist Liam Clarke.

Panellists will deal with topics like:

  • What kind of Northern Ireland do we really want to see?
  • What about the stateof education, or of healthcare provision here?
  • What of the worrying fall in the numbers turning out to vote?
  • What can be done about the current democratic deficit in the province?

But it’s an open meeting with plenty of contribution is invited from the floor. Admission is free, and doors open 7 pm.

Filed under: events, , ,

Devolution: Learn How to Lead…

Guest blogger St Etienne considers that an end to what he describes as ‘the immature and irresponsible behaviour’ of devolved politicians is the one cut that could command popular public support in the post-CSR period…

Reproduced from HM Treasury flickrstream

Both the SNP and Labour have huge opportunities to tell a story not just about standing up to London and for Scotland, but taking national leadership, and telling a narrative which is about the kind of public services we want. And central to this is challenging trade unions to be constructive, proactive and imaginative in a way they haven’t been about work, jobs and organisation since the heyday of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders nearly forty years ago. Whoever can dare to move out of a bunker mentality could position themselves well for years to come, long after recession and ‘cuts’ have become part of our national folklore like the 1980s and the poll tax.

As Scottish commentator Gerry Hassan broke ranks last month to call on their regional government to display a sense of leadership in the ensuing government cutbacks, on our own Northern Irish politicians should display a similar sense of leadership.

As it stands however the regional fiefdoms are awash with non-revenue raising politicos telling us how the Westminster government is penalising our poor souls with unnecessary cutbacks, pertinently without giving any form of solution to the deep rooted issues themselves.

It’s easy to glibly shout ‘NO CUTS’ to your budget when all you do is sign off on where the money goes without thought for where it is coming from i.e. we the taxpayers. If the dire straits exhibited by Greece earlier this year weren’t reason enough to mobilise the forces of austerity, you’d think the latest in a series of economic beatings our neighbours down south have endured since would have concentrated minds on the threat lurking just under the surface.

Not so.

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Filed under: business, Coalition Government, devolution, economy, guest blogger, , ,

Tributes paid to Captain Bill Henderson…

Captain Bill Henderson passed away this morning. He was an Ulster Unionist MP for Victoria, East Belfast, a well known businessman and a former captain in the Irish Guards.

Paying tribute to him Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliott said:

“Captain Henderson was a Patron of the Ulster Unionist Party and he has made a huge contribution to the Party and to unionism throughout Northern Ireland.  His achievements – his dedication and his vision helped shape the Unionism of today.  Through his work in the media and his military career he promoted the best for the people of Northern Ireland and I am honoured to lead the Party he was so involved in.”

Reg Empey said that Bill was “a gentleman and an honourable man who promoted positive Unionism throughout East Belfast and across Northern Ireland”.


Filed under: UUP, ,

‘The 2010 Group’: does NI really want a mini-UCUNF?

Image reproduced from Scriptshadow

A strange and unfortunate event occurred during the past week. It calls itself ’The 2010 group’, met ‘in secret’, and immediately let Mr Mallie of the press corps in on the ‘secret’.

Let it be said again – the UUP is the only show in town for the liberal core of unionism. Mr Mallie’s likely source is a well-known vendor of poison and piffle, but his politics is somewhat closer to my own than I am altogether comfortable with. As a result the author has a decent idea of who was present, what they discussed, and in what direction they wish to go. They are wrong.

Mr Elliott may not have been their choice of leader, but he is the leader that the party chose by a rather large margin, unswayed by any complaints of geographic bias. The period of drift and inaction since that evening has been notable and unfortunate, but comparatively short for a political leader. To summarise, give the guy a break, let him bed down, and let’s see what he does. Were we to find ourselves in the same position come Christmas, then start plotting, but perhaps allow some grown-ups in on the ‘secret’.

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Filed under: UUP, , , ,

Danny Alexander’s day in the trenches…

This video has just been uploaded to the HM Treasury youtube account. It tracks Danny Alexander across the best part of 12 hours during the CSR announcements. He starts off perky enough but the realisation that a Paxo interview lies in wait starts to dawn on him at about 3mins 50secs. It’s an alternate view to CSR day which I found a little more interesting.

I’ve also uploaded the full CSR doc into the widget.


Filed under: business, Coalition Government, Conservatives, economy, finances, liberals, , ,

We’ve started up a facebook group page…

We’ve started up an Open Unionism group page on facebook. Follow the link and join up!

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

TUV’s turn to publish economic proposals…

By thefreshthinking

The TUV are the latest party to publish proposals on how to cut spending, their effort published by Economics Spokesman David Vance certainly kicks the pants off the UUP’s effort.

The proposals mostly either don’t make sense or look a bit familiar though….

1.  Expensive North-South Bodies costing £100m per annum must go. This will yield Half a Billion Pounds in savings over the next five years, a massive contribution.

Getting rid of them won’t save all their costs, in a lot of cases it would mean that seperate bodies would have to be set up in both juristictions to carry out their functions.  Certainly there are potential savings though, so it’s a fair suggestion on Vance’s part, nothing like £100m though.

2.       Northern Ireland’s Quangos cannot be afforded any longer and it is time that they too were thrown on the financial bonfire. This will save further millions, as will curbing squander on overuse of consultants.

The DUP having been moving to reduce the number of quangos for some time.  Sinn Fein thought of getting rid of quangos last week.

The curbing of the use of consultants is already underway.

3.       TUV would seek to provide a shield to people in low paid jobs by insisting that a pay ceiling of £100,000 must be accepted by Management before any jobs cuts are even considered.

Is this in the private sector?  If so how is the state going to intervene in the activities of private companies?  It’s certainly not within the remit of the Assembly to implement such a policy.  If it is the private sector it’s a bit rich Jim criticising SF for being Marxists earlier this week.

If this is the public sector Sinn Fein proposed something similar last week.  They were in favour of a pay freeze for civil servants paying the top rate of income tax.

4.       All abuse of Welfare, including DLA, needs to be scrutinised as a priority and offenders weeded out.

Re-assessing those on DLA is a coalition government policy

5.       Bloated costs of Government here need to end. Cutting 108 MLA’s down to 60, reducing their expenses and their generous allowances would also make a meaningful contribution.

Robinson says he wants to reduce it to 75 MLA’s, so the TUV thinks of a different number?  60 MLA’s works out at 4 MLA’s per constituency over 15 constituencies, Robinson’s proposing 5 per constituency over 15 constituencies.

Filed under: business, Coalition Government, economy, finances, TUV, ,

Clinton urges NI not to ‘despair’ over government cuts…

Reproduced from US Department for State flickrstream

By bobballs

Below is a quote from the speech Hillary Clinton gave in Washington last night. Here she urges ‘no discouragement or despair” about government announcements relating to NI.

And I know further that Northern Ireland is very dependent on government expenditures from Westminster. And I hope that whatever happens with the announcements that have to come from the government of Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg that there’s no discouragement or no despair about whatever the outcome might be, but instead, a renewal of commitment.

That stuck out to my eye as slight admonition to the government insofar as the US feels that they likely result of their economic initiatives is despair. Is the CSR going to be that bad?

But here’s the big sell from Hillary on Northern Ireland (replete with decent joke):

And through conferences like these and the conversations and collaborations that they lead to, people are understanding the economic potential of Northern Ireland. It has a prime location; two world-class research institutions; an educated, competitive workforce; a superior telecommunications infrastructure; a supportive policy environment – and some might even say that the population speaks English – sort of. (Laughter.) All key ingredients for the rise of new businesses as people are expanding their global reach.

I’ve uploaded the full speech onto the and vodpod widgets as well.

Filed under: economy, , , ,

You heard it here first… sadly

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=economy&iid=292357″ src=”″ width=”500″ height=”303″ /]

By bobballs

The UUP has produced its response to the economic crisis.

I’m afraid its appalling. Nevertheless, it may have achieved what it was designed to do – gain a headline in The News Letter.

Its four key demands on the economy are:

  1. The coalition Government must produce its economic paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy immediately. This must include specific proposals on Corporation Tax and Enterprise Zones.
  2. The Executive must review its economic development spending to ensure that areas which give the highest economic return are developed. For example the creative industries and tourism.
  3. The Executive must continue to prioritise upskilling, research and development and strategic capital investment to ensure mid and long-term economic growth.
  4. The Executive should introduce an Emerging Markets Strategy to ensure that Northern Ireland companies have the correct links to and networks in emerging economies such as India, China, Brazil and Russia.

Demand 1 reprises the UCUNF manifesto. Demand 2 urges the Executive to invest in wealth creating industries. Well, they’ve spotted that. And has the UUP heard about the Matrix Panel? Demand 3 demands something that’s happening already. Demand 4 is a call for the creation of Invest NI.

This is a poor document. The Sinn Fein paper was a poor document. This is the economic wisdom that’s supposedly driving forward our economic recovery.

McNarry has a history of going on ill-advised solo runs over the economy. As in August last year, this should never have seen the light of day. Why did Tom Elliott allow his name to be associated with this?

Filed under: economy, finances, UUP, ,

Robinson versus the segregationists


Reproduced with thanks to 'amboo who?'


By Unionist Lite

Peter Robinson has ruffled more than a few segregationist feathers with this speech to Castlereagh Borough Council on Friday. This is the relevant part where he explains his views on our divided education system:

“In the area of education it has been said that considerable savings could be made with the creation of a Single Education Authority.   I still hope that agreement can be reached in moving away from the five education and library boards to a single authority.  This is not a difference of principle but one of detail and I am hopeful that it can be resolved in the next period of time. However, in the meantime I believe that a simple and speedy solution to achieve savings would be to create a single education and library board under existing legislation and leave the issue of additional powers to another day.

“Moreover, I feel I have to point out that the real savings in terms of education will not be gained by simply creating a single educational administrative body but by creating a single educational system.

“For me this is not just an economic but a moral question. We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.

“Not many of you will believe that my first contribution as a speaker at a DUP conference was on the issue of integrated education – and I spoke in favour.

“If one were to suggest that Protestants and Catholics would be educated at separate Universities it would be manifestly absurd; yet we continue to tolerate the idea that at primary and secondary level our children are educated separately. I believe that future generations will scarcely believe that such division and separation was common for so long. The reality is that our education system is a benign form of apartheid, which is fundamentally damaging to our society.

“Who among us would think it acceptable that a State or Nation would educate its young people by the criteria of race with white schools or black schools?   Yet we are prepared to operate a system which separates our children almost entirely on the basis of their religion.

“As a society and administration we are not mere onlookers of this; we are participants and continue to fund schools on this basis. And then we are surprised that we continue to have a divided society.

“The limited number of Integrated schools in Northern Ireland do offer a choice but more often than not they join in the competition for funds against the other two main education sectors and in truth will never create the critical mass needed to make a real difference.

“I entirely accept that such fundamental change will not happen overnight but that is no excuse for further delay in making a start. I know that we will face difficulties in dislodging the vested interests that are so strong in this sector, but I am absolutely convinced that we must.

“I don’t in any way object to churches providing and funding schools for those who choose to use them.  What I do object to is the State providing and funding church schools.

“The transition must begin and must be carefully planned and programmed.  It may take ten years or longer to address this problem, which dates back many decades, but the real crime would be to accept the status quo for the sake of a quiet life.  The benefits of such a system are not merely financial but could play a transformative role in changing society in Northern Ireland.

“Consideration should be given to tasking a body or commission to bring forward recommendations for a staged process of integration and produce proposals to deal with some of the knotty issues such as religious education, school assembly devotions and the curriculum.  Future generations will not thank us if we fail to address this issue.”

A snapshot of the reactions…

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Filed under: academic, DUP, Education, Shared future, , ,

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