Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Keeping voters onside online…

The article below was published in today’s News Letter ‘Political Review 2010’. Check out the print version – it’s amid an eight-page supplement with contributions from Liam Clarke, Graham Gudgin, Alex Kane and Malachi O’Doherty.

Online has superseded mainstream media as the place where politics happens. The liveliest, most insightful exchanges of views and information on politics are taking place online and within social media platforms. (Yes, I know this is print media but keep reading anyway.)

I’m obsessed with social media. Increasingly, political parties here are becoming obsessed by it too.

May’s UK general election was hyped as the first online election. But it didn’t work out that way. Nothing has emerged which can yet emulate the influence of in the States. Nevertheless, online communications has evolved steadily here. Lots of our reps are getting pretty good at it.

The election in Northern Ireland dragged lots of candidates online. Yes, seasoned bloggers like David Vance and old media veteran Mike Nesbitt really knew how to exploit the medium. But there were some accomplished newbies. For example, this was the election that saw the emergence of and his twitterstream.

William Ross does not fit the identikit of new media communicator. But with a little help, he did a good job. And that is the point. Social media platforms have an aura of complexity when in fact clever techies have built them for amateurs like you and me.

Even so, some people just don’t get it.

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Filed under: political innovation, ,

Reflections on the Anglo Irish Agreement

Last month saw the twenty fifth anniversary of the Anglo Irish Agreement. Brain Walker had a far from unionist friendly analysis (unsurprisingly) of it over on Slugger. The same month in 1985 as the agreement was signed, the UUP and DUP mobilised one of the largest mass protests Belfast has ever seen against the Agreement; memorably including Dr. Paisley’s iconic Never, never, never, never” speech. The News Letter has reflections from a number of different people on that day of protest and Jim Allister has his thoughts on his website.

The long term effect on unionists in general is probably difficult to gauge and no doubt differs between different unionists.

by Turgon
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Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

Some links…

A round up of stories from blogs and MSM over the past day or so…

Parties fight to keep financial backers secret: (Belfast Telegraph) The DUP, UUP and SDLP have made clear they want ongoing confidentiality for donors to parties here. They have voiced security concerns if names of funders …

Elliott wants Tories to shut NI branch: (Irish Times) ULSTER UNIONIST Party leader Tom Elliott has demanded that the Conservative Party close its Northern Ireland branch as the price for an electoral alliance …

Ex UVF prisoner joins DUP: (Slugger O’Toole / Turgon) I believe that the message being set out by the DUP is one which unionists of all shades can unite behind, and indeed it is a message which resonates beyond just the unionist community to everyone who wishes to see a new and better …

UUP fury over NIE takeover: (Belfast Telegraph) A PROPOSED Irish takeover of Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has been described as “outrageous” by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. …

DUP WELCOMES FORMER UVF TERRORIST: (David Vance) Last time I checked Jim was a member of the DUP when they were elevating Hugh Smyth to the position of Lord Mayor of Belfast when the UVF were stilling killing. Where was his indignation then or was it too politically inconvienient for …

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Filed under: some links

Elliott and the UUP Conference: positives and negatives

Having missed the UUP Conference, I posted a reaction to Tom Elliott’s speech and some of the media coverage over at Three Thousand Versts. There hasn’t been a lot of reaction to the event yet at Open Unionism, so I’m taking the liberty of reposting here. Owen Polley.

I spent the weekend in icy Fermanagh, and not at the Ulster Unionist conference.  Ironically, if the cliché rings true, half the County enjoyed subsidised transport in the other direction.

Still, reportedly 400 delegates heard Tom Elliott deliver his speech at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast, whereas just shy of 1,000 crowded into the Waterfront Hall to elect him leader, so perhaps the Enniskillen fleet wasn‘t quite so well-filled this time.

The speech is carried on the UUP website and it reads reasonably well, although the Belfast Telegraph reports that the delivery was stilted.  In contrast, Alan from Belfast thinks that Elliott is getting more assured.  Perhaps both are fair comment.

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Filed under: UUP, UUP conference

Manifesto microsites…

Party manifestos will be published over the next few months. These documents are always difficult to present and to encourage readership beyond the committed politico.

Microsites are being adopted by large organisations when it comes to their annual reports. This moves an often turgid document away from being a printed record developed out of legal necessity towards a more dynamic and consumable product which encourages broader understanding.

Putting a document into a PDF reader and sitting on the main site is fine – but how do you extract and highlight the detail effectively?

The majority of microsites I come across are deployed to support short-term consumer campaigns – they shouldn’t live long enough or be so broad as to compete against the main homesite. A microsite by nature has a limited lifespan, and fits the requirements of a manifesto (which times out after polling day and can be archived thereafter).

The feedback I get from people is that the UUP’s website is pretty poor; whereas the DUP’s site is slicker and more coherent. Of the two I would say that the UUP would benefit most from a microsite.

Could this be a model for local parties to consider?


Filed under: Assembly elections,

Best of the web…

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday December 3…

‘Best of the Web’

Raucous standing ovations, Union Jacks waving furiously in the air, exuberant pensioners, BBC cameras everywhere – it’s either The Last Night Of The Proms or a DUP conference.

And so it was. The DUP conference took place last weekend and was widely regarded as very successful. So what did the tweeps and bloggers make of it all?

There’s a new star in the making according to one twitterer. ‘Good day at #dupconf liking the new panel format and reckon @simonhamilton could be the new Parky.’ There can be no higher praise than this.

So we’ve spotted rising stars – but did anyone see a black hole? Yip. According to @alaninbelfast: ’… rising star Jonathan Bell left out of the list of “Your DUP Team” in #dupconf programme – black hole of Strangford!’ Oops!

Over on Slugger, Alan added: “It was the DUP’s best-attended conference. The overflow car park overflowed – a local church that was running a craft fair and wasn’t impressed when their car park filled up with non-shoppers!”

However, I did go into the church after the conference to ask how their craft fair went. I can exclusively reveal that the Church had an excellent afternoon. All’s well that end’s well.

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Filed under: Best of the Web, ,

One blogger’s view on #uupconf…

From today’s Politics Show (view @ 41mins40secs), Alan in Belfast with his view on the UUP conference…

Filed under: UUP conference, ,

Elliott’s speech @ UUP conference…

I’ve grabbed the audio of Tom Elliott’s speech from yesterday. You can access it via the player below.

[h/t Alan in Belfast & Slugger for this.]

The text of the speech can be found here – and I’ve also uploaded it to our widget.


Filed under: UUP, UUP conference, ,

UUP Party Conference Broadcast

UUP have launched their Party Conference Broadcast.

They are obviously focusing on the future but continue to bash Stormont branding the Government as the ‘DUP-Sinn Fein Axis’.

Andrew Charles

Filed under: conferences, UUP, UUP conference, ,

Peace in our time…

In his speech to the party faithful on Saturday last, First Minister Peter Robinson talked about Unionism living in ‘peace time’. This phrase got me thinking for I felt that it was very relevant but needs explained further.

Unionism has the habit of continually placing itself in a war-torn society; which is fair comment after thirty-years of violence during which police men were killed, soldiers murdered and civilians butchered at the hands of the enemies of the state. However this is thankfully no longer the case. We have moved on and live in relative peace. Psychologically and politically this environment created a safe haven for Unionism to hide whilst the bullets flew and bombs went off, which not only created destruction to buildings and infrastructure but to society itself.

At present this attitude is changing and has changed. Unionism has overwhelmingly backed Stormont and devolution as the way forward. Things may not be perfect, but we do not live in a perfect world. During the years of direct rule Unionism had easy choices to make politically, mirroring a protest movement to the naked eye. This offered Unionism a safe foundation to base itself. It did of course come naturally as this was the territory in which it was born in the late 1880s.

In Government now, Unionism, as overwhelmingly represented by the DUP, has tough and real choices to make with regards to domestic policy as seen in education, health, and the economy to name but a few. The generation born during the troubles are emerging looking houses, jobs and a safe and secure environment in which to raise a family. This is the cycle of life; the basis upon which man and woman operate.

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Filed under: civic unionism, devolution, DUP, Shared future, Union 2021

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