Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Migrating Open Unionism…

I’m going to migrate Open Unionism to a self-hosted wordpress site over the next day or two. I also felt it was right to step away from the wordpress url and establish this blog as a standalone .com

So here’s the link to the new site. It’s a work in progress – I’m still adding to it and do the polishing job (eg. on the post excerpts on the frontpage need work), but I’d really appreciate feedback on it. Being free to edit the CSS means I can incorporate comment and change the site to make it work better for users.

I really felt this blog needed a facelift and a refocus on the content. I recently revamped bobballs and have been impressed by the capacity of the self-hosted version to better organise and deliver dynamic content.

For example, is driven through widgets. As you can see this blog is now getting very widget-heavy and my feeling is that this is crowding out the posted content. The new theme I’m adapting should really showcase the insight that bloggers here are producing whilst also making it more presentable / accessible for the user.

The range of plugins I can use on a self-hosted site means I can tailor and discretely arrange additional functionality. Take the bobballs blog – I can more easily embed podcasts / pics / audio than is presently the case with

I’ll aim to put a redirection in place by Wednesday of this week, so you’ll automatically be sent to the new blog site.  If you subscribe to this blog via a reader you may need to update the RSS.

Appreciate your patience while this occurs, and of course all feedback is welcome.


Filed under: Uncategorized,

Lord Empey, should he be finding the time to also be a MLA?

 While I’m sure most of the readers here have been enjoying the recent constitutional trials and tribulations of West Belfast’s very own Green Baron, there have been interesting developments on the other side of the city regarding the status of (a real) Lord.

Lord Empey a Conservative, Cross-Bencher or UUP peer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

The Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead…

Whether Gerry Adams likes it or not, he is now ‘Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead‘.

Here’s why Gerry is now a servant of the Crown.

Here’s how the news emerged.

Here’s the official confirmation which came later.

Here’s a piece by Nicholas Wintour and Cranmer which rounds everything up very neatly.

On Tuesday, Gerry Adams said this on his somewhat idiosyncratic blog:

“Your man reckons these are exciting – ‘dramatic times’ – in the politics of our small island. Especially in the south. Flann O Brien couldn’t have written the script. The political and economic crisis has been variously described as a ‘circus’, a ‘comedy of errors’, ‘a farce’ and some other things that this blog could not post.”

Gerry was enjoying the misfortune of others a little too much. Less than 24 hours later he would be the centre of a drama, a circus, a comedy of errors, a farce of his own.

The next blog post by the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead will be an interesting read.

Filed under: Sinn Fein, ,

Corporation tax – what will they do?

Tax by definition

Owen Paterson is saying again today that the Assembly should take up tax varying powers and settle discussion over Corporation Tax themselves.

Mr Paterson said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.”

We are now a long way from the days of Varney (I & II) – the government is clearly saying that it wants to take this further.

The pay off for the government is that they claw back £300million from the block grant, so this is understandably attractive for them. And in addition, Ireland’s next Taioseach told the Alliance Party conference on Saturday that he is in favour of all-island tax harmonisation.

As with all things of substance in Northern Ireland, little can happen without approval from external powers – so the signs are good. Northern Ireland’s political parties could get what they wished for. (And if the UCUNF project produced nothing else then it did secure a corporation tax commitment from the Tories which Paterson is now progressing.)

Paterson has now put it up to local parties to demonstrate their enthusiasm. In fact, they did so earlier this month. As the squabbling continues over the draft Budget, could this policy have the potential to bring the parties together?

(Sammy Wilson will need to be placated though. He hasn’t been convinced of low corporation tax argument for quite some time.)

In the corporation tax issue we now have a signal policy that can demonstrate to the public at large that local reps have the capacity to agree and to deliver. What will they do?

A next step could be for Jim Nicholson, Diane Dodds and Bairbre de Brun to publicly declare their willingness to push the case in Brussels. What will they do?

Filed under: Conservatives, economy,

An open letter to Owen Paterson: Where now for the *UK* Conservative Party?

Three weeks ago, myself and another pro-Union blogger contacted Owen Paterson’s office. To date, we have had no reply from Mr. Paterson or his staff to our email and we are sending it this morning in the form of an open letter in hope of some kind of response:

Dear Mr. Paterson,

We are writing to you concerning the position of the Conservative Party vis-à-vis its activity in Northern Ireland. As Conservative and Unionist bloggers we have been firm supporters of Mr. Cameron’s policy of political engagement in the province, and we hope to be able to continue to facilitate in our small way the efforts of the party there. In recent weeks there has been some confusion about the future of the party in Northern Ireland, and if you were able to clarify that position for us, we would then be able to pass it to our readership.

Kind Regards,

Dilettante, oneill

In interests of transparency: Dilettante is a full member of the Conservative party; whilst I have been a member of both the Friends of the Conservatives and the UUP previously, I no longer have any official connection with either party.

Our real, “off-line names” have been used in the communication to Owen Paterson.

Why did we write it?

As enthusiastic supporters of the original premise behind the Conservative and UUP link-up three years ago, we had been bemused at the turn of events pre-Christmas when the backroom deal between officials of the two parties effectively isolated Northern Ireland once again from the mainstream of United Kingdom politics.

At the time the Conservative leadership gave no public explanation for this retreat; it was also unclear as to whether they saw any future for the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland or indeed for the concept of a genuinely UK-wide pro-Union party.

They shouldn’t be that difficult questions to address but they are ones Owen Paterson and others remain reluctant, well over a month later, to publicly answer.

And with the news of an *arrangement* being reached between the DUP and UUP in North and West Belfast, can we now also assume that the UK Conservative party is an integral part of what is obviously an ongoing “Unionist Unity” project?

Cross-posted at:  Dilettante, Slugger OToole, Unionist Lite

Filed under: Conservatives, unionist unity?, ,

Photos from Alliance Party Conference…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s some of the pics I took at Saturday’s conference in the Dunadry. Ford’s speech can be downloaded via the widget here.

Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences,

A quick response…

Speeches done. The conference hall empties...

That’s the main part of the conference completed. I’m leaving now and will post up later. I’ve been tweeting and twitpic-ing away. Check out the timeline of the @openunionism twitterstream – you can click through from the widget on the right.

My initial impression was that this conference provided surprisingly little content. The celebratory mood is to be expected but I felt it was excessive. While not quite in the same bracket as the Labour Party conference of 1992, there is a danger in being too exultant and self-congratulatory only two months out from an election.

The retrospective elements to the speeches – ‘I predicted everything and I was right’ – did nothing to cement the vision of the Party. I felt this may look more like conceit and self-absorption.

In terms of look and feel of the event, the Alliance Party are still behind the other parties. I was told there were around 500 people at the Dunadry today (including exhibitors), and it did feel very compact here.  I hear they will move to another venue for next year’s conference. If the Party’s upward trajectory continues they will certainly need extra space next year.

But if the Alliance Party are to grow, then the content of this conference will not provide the momentum. In addition, the Party will not be as attractive to voters of Unionist parties if they continue to peddle the line that their electors are propping up prejudice / are prejudiced (as Stephen Farry did).

I’ll do into this in more detail, but this is my initial reaction.

Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences

Naomi Long’s speech at Alliance conference…

The panel prior to Naomi Long's speech

Some elected pars from Naomi’s speech.

Not many would have predicted that a year later I would be standing here at the MP for East Belfast and that David Ford would have taken up the reins at the Department of Justice. I say not many because, if you read David Ford’s speech from last year, you’ll see that he did. In fact he was remarkably accurate in his predictions for the year ahead. Any of you who play the lottery may well be regretting not asking him to give some advice on the numbers, while he was on  roll.

The people know that voting Alliance works. In May it delivered a change in who represents them in Westminster, but I think it has also driven a change in those who don’t. Does anyone really think the DUP would be making positive noises about integrated education if they had held the seat in East Belfast? The people of East Belfast led the way in May, and now others are following them.

Alliance played a critical role in the negotiations which led to the devolution of policing and justice powers. Our focus was to ensure that the Minister, whomever that would eventually be, would be able to fulfil the demands of what is a challenging and sensitive post in a way that would command the confidence of the whole community. I think we got the structures right. But most of all I think that we go the Minister right.

But being a Minister is not a fair-weather job. Creating an impression at this stage that cuts can be avoided is not just delusional, but dangerous. Refusing to face reality or causing delay by avoiding hard choices is doing the public a disservice, denying them the chance to properly examine the proposals which have been made and challenging any weaknesses. Uncertainty is always the worst option.

2010 was a remarkable year for alliance – a year of real achievement – but 2011 is a new year, full of fresh opportunities not just for this party but for the people we represent. However, between opportunity and reality lies a lot of hard work.

Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences,

Alliance Party conference…

Conference hall at Dunadry @9.30am

Open Unionism is at the Alliance Party conference. I’ll be tweeting this via the #allconf hashtag.

Will post up more material later. Enda Kenny is about to take the stage.

Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences, ,

Unity by inches…

The above is Sammy Wilson on The Sunday Politics programme.

This is the UUP’s interim response to the budget.

The parties are bitterly at war, right? But no. The UUP and DUP have come to an understanding in North Belfast. (Sam McBride’s round up is extremely insightful.)

There can be no unity centrally, but disparate constituency deals will occur independently. It’s messy, it’s unity by inches.

Is the North Belfast deal a positive development? Will there be others to follow?

Filed under: unionist unity?, ,

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