Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Positive, progressive and forward driven…

Positive, progressive and forward driven: that’s how I would summarise the message coming from the DUP’s Annual Conference today at La Mon, South Belfast.

Official figures put the attendance at 920 people, plus many other observers and stall holders. Some senior members remarked that it wasn’t so long ago that turnout at a DUP party conference would have been no more than 50.

For what has been a tough year for the party, despite winning 8 out of 10 Unionist seats in the Westminster election, the mood amongst members and supporters was positive.

Peter Robinson’s speech was the icing on the cake and the highlight of the day focusing on the future.

Eamonn Maillie tweeting from the conference had this to say about Peter Robinson’s speech:

“This is the most forward looking speech given by a Unionist leader for a long time.”

His speech can be read in full here.

Peter Robinson demonstrated himself to be in buoyant mood. It was remarked that his UUP equivalent, Tom Elliott, could not put up a similar performance. I appreciate that may be harsh, but that was the feeling coming from many observers.

Andrew Charles


Filed under: conferences, DUP

Haiti elections this Sunday…

Visit to Haiti

The legislative and presidential elections in Haiti will take place on Sunday. MEP Jim Nicholson has been taking a lead on the  issue.

“This coming Sunday voters are due to elect a new president and members of the legislature. There are 19 candidates seeking presidential office and undoubtedly, this is the most important election in decades… Haiti’s recovery will largely be dependent on the speed of the delivery of international aid – this is why a fully functional and active government and President is so desperately needed,” he said.

The Haiti earthquake saw over 220,000 fatalities. Around 1.5 million people were displaced and 2.6 million in need of permanent food aid. The economy has been all but decimated, with overall losses estimated at just over 120% of the country’s GDP in 2009.

Jim led a fact-finding mission to Haiti in September to survey the ongoing reconstruction work. The delegation’s report has been uploaded to our widget.


Filed under: Europe, ,

UUP response to CSR…

I’d be interested in thoughts responding to this document. I’m still flicking through it but a couple of others have said it’s a reasonable attempt to tackle the subject. What the consensus here?

In general, there are few enough tools to generate revenue in Northern Ireland. One of these is charging for water – and my brief reading of the UUP document reveals some creative ambiguity.

“We therefore call upon the Minister for Regional Development to lay out the facts and options open to theNorthern Ireland Executive with regards to water charges – focusing on the potential increase in cost to the average household in Northern Ireland if they were to be introduced.”

Preparing for the inevitable? As far as I can tell only the Alliance Party has come out in favour of water charges. Should Unionist parties here do the responsible thing and take this most unpopular but perhaps most necessary of decisions? Is it feasible for the Executive to introduce water charges?


Filed under: economy,

DUP PPB: a pitch to centrist unionists everywhere…

A very good PPB. This one was all about message – ie. it wasn’t vanity broadcasting to show off the Assembly Group or candidates. It kept away from focusing inwards… this PPB says we’re focused on what’s happened / happening in Northern Ireland.

Also, Robinson faced questions about his leadership on Hearts and Minds: has this past year left you a weakened man? He was thoughtful in his answer to Noel Thompson, but this PPB also supplies a portion of that response too as it’s led solely by Robinson.

I feel that this PPB is showing where Unionism is going generally. The script could have been penned by a UUP guy – and I’m quite sure all the UUP voters who saw this last night will be very contented with what they saw. But it now means that  the DUP and UUP and breaking one of the fundamental laws of physics ie. – that two objects cannot occupy the same. Someone is going to have to yield.

This was a PPB for centrist unionists everywhere, as opposed to the usual DUP flag-waving. There is a maturity and sophistication about the message and the production which means the bar is now set very high for the UUP’s package next week.


Filed under: DUP, PPB / PEB, unionist unity?

Open Unionism presentation from #picamp

Below is the presentation I gave at last weekend’s Political Innovation event. I thought it would be good to post it up here to give a flavour of how that discussion was led.

The basic premise was this – how can you generate, develop and transmit ideas from grassroots Unionism? can this blog become a more active facilitator? if so, how?

Gladys has a great round up of the seminar and asks some pertinent questions, chief among those is: how can Unionism move beyond traditional politics and broaden its vision? I hope commenters / contributors to this blog can help to address this.

More will follow on this… but in the first instance I’d be interested in any initial reactions to the presentation content? (I kept it blank and refused the temptation to clip art the whole thing and slap in some 3-D Venn diagrams. Eye candy it ain’t.) Leave comments below or email me directly about through the blog.

PS. Many thanks to Mick Fealty and Paul Evans for organising a great event and for giving me the opportunity to pitch! Incidentally, do submit any follow-up thoughts you may have on Saturday’s Picamp via this link.

PPS. Thanks to NICVA for being such great hosts… and for introducing me to the work of Dirty Stevie.

Filed under: political innovation, ,

Mixed bag for the UUP as the party hopes to avoid lost seats.

Cross posted on Three Thousand Versts. By Owen Polley.

As promised, some reaction to the UUP Assembly candidates list, revealed yesterday. Like O’Neill, the first name which took my eye was Reg Empey, whose impending elevation to the Conservative benches at the House of Lords has not prevented his selection for East Belfast.

On ‘Unionist Lite’ Michael Shilliday notes that the Lords is neither an elected nor a salaried position and therefore the party treats it as exempt from strictures on double-jobbing. That will be considered, by most people, to be too convenient a get out.

Simply, if you can’t be a Lord and remain in the House of Commons, neither should you become a Lord and remain at the Assembly. If the UUP wants to wriggle out on a technicality then there will be criticism and, in my opinion, it will be justified.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Assembly elections, UUP

Political Innovation event…

Open Unionism is going to be at the Political Innovation meet up tomorrow at NICVA. Ticket booking & event details are here.

Here’s our idea pitch:

Open Unionism was created to be a forum to get unionists talking and to promote their ideas. But how can the blog stop being a publisher (of comment) and start to become an active player? There is a gap for unionist think tank that can agenda set via grassroots engagement. Can a blog fill that gap, and if so how?

But we need votes to bump us up the agenda. Please click here and vote for us. If you can, come along on Saturday and contribute!

Filed under: political innovation

‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday November 12…

Screenshot from Burke's Corner

By Geoff McGimpsey

This week came the declaration from George Bush that water-boarding was a good thing. As ever, George put his policy forward in the style of cowboy anti-hero Alan Ladd. So when asked at his book launch if water-boarding was okay, he drawled: “Damn right.”

In George’s world view, the sheriff gets the girl and the bad guys have it coming to ‘em. I think there’s something deeply romantic about that (if you’re prepared to set aside simulated drowning and other advanced torture techniques). But naturally, those soppy romantics at A Tangled Web were coo-ing over George’s gritty honesty.

According to David Vance: “We don’t live in utopia and until we all do then I believe George W is right.” Damn right!

BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ has invited David on to debate the content of Dubya’s Alan Ladd impression. But ahead of that appearance (on Remembrance Sunday), I would urge David to consider this blogpost from Ultonia:

“This August Belfast saw its last Victory over Japan Day parade by 14 veterans, some who paraded with the help of family members. Allied troops who fought in that Far East campaign were subjected to the waterboarding torture by Japanese soldiers…. Perhaps those who wear a poppy but advocate torture should reflect on that contradiction.”

I’ll wager William Crawley will make precisely this point on Sunday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Best of the Web, , , , , , , ,

The Dissenter considers Basil’s defeat…

The Dissenter

Great analysis over at The Dissenter… the blog takes a look at the reasons why Basil McCrea lost the UUP leadership election and also considers the challenges ahead for Tom Elliott. Although focused on the UUP, there are many points relevant to all unionist Parties.

Filed under: UUP, UUP leadership election, , ,

‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday November 05…

Screenshot from Ultonia

Some things are guaranteed when you get close to Christmas. Firstly, a shopping centre in Ballymena will put up a Christmas tree before anyone else; and secondly, Good Morning Ulster will respond by asking whether Christmas trees are just going up too early. Cue collective humbug and emoting about the true meaning of Christmas.

Lee at Ultonia knows where he stands in the Christmas tree debate. He blogged: “The electric light bulb is a technology that we managed to crack many many decades ago, does seeing them in different colours and predictable designs really manage to differentiate one shopping town from another?” Bah humbug Lee!

One local blog has gone further still by releasing its ‘end-of-year review’ in early November. Already 1690 an’ all thon has selected its ‘Ulster Scot o’ the Year, 2000 an 10’.

So who wins this much sought-after gong? Step forward DUP Culture Minister Nelson McCausland!

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Best of the Web, , ,

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