Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Campbell’s New Year’s Message

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has posted his New Year’s message via Facebook.

He has urged caution in Unionism’s approach to Sinn Fein arguing that whilst they may have given up violence their aims remain the same: a United Ireland. He says: “Unionists now need to be clear that republicans are still wedded to the notion of trying to achieve a United Ireland.”

He has said that Sinn Fein are on the charm offensive to Unionists and that we must beware. He argues that a means of ensuring that we build a better Northern Ireland free from Republican bigotry is situated at Stormont with devolution. Without it Republicans would have the freedom to push their ideology and idea of a United Ireland. Having the structures in place Unionism can keep Republicans in check but Unionism must not allow itself to dilute its message.

Andrew Charles


“There is a need to review progress on the political front as we enter another New Year.

There has been considerable speculation regarding the forthcoming Assembly elections. Sinn Fein has begun what I termed some time ago the charm offensive on the wider Unionist community. Having realized the hopelessness of the bombing offensive and seen that Internationally the terror campaign was leading them nowhere they decided as they usually do to try and turn a closed door into an opportunity. Now having divested themselves of their unacceptable past they seek to portray themselves as peacemakers.

It is 13 years since the IRA restored it’s ceasefire. Unionists now need to be clear that republicans are still wedded to the notion of trying to achieve a United Ireland. The difference is that for most of them the means of trying to achieve it are now different as a result of the decision in the mid 1990’s to forego the violence tactic. There are three categories of Unionist approach to this scenario, the first is the one of ‘nothing has changed’ and all future tactics in how to deal with republicans are based on the premise that republicans not only still want a United Ireland but still use the same violent methods to achieve it. This is not just living in the past but allowing republicans to portray Unionists as being unable to deal with post violence republicanism. Another attitude by some Unionists who, having watched republicans move away from violence, now totally accept their bona fides in virtually every aspect of politics, forgetting their past, treating them as they would every other democratic opponent and leaving some of their unionist supporters wondering what the 30 years of terror was about if SF are simply a darker green version of the SDLP. The position that the vast majority of Unionists are in is the sensible and consistent one, we recognise that the Provisional IRA have now finally accepted that their campaign has failed. What republicans will do when the current strategy also fails is anyone’s guess. The key for mainstream Unionism is that as we move forward we must not forget the past. Just as we must never surrender we must also never forget what the terrorists did to this Country for so long.

Sinn Fein have no possibility of achieving their objective, they have for some time been trying to assure Unionists of their benign intentions towards us. Unionists must not fall into the trap of believing that it was the violence, the intolerance, the naked sectarianism of republican demands alone that makes us determined never to concede. Their Irishness, whether bathed in the blood of innocent victims in the past or covered in kindness now, can never encompass us, nor will we allow it to.

The current structures at Stormont are such that we must keep pressing to ensure a better future for all our children. Sinn Fein having sufficient votes to get into Government must not mean that we become blunted in our campaigning style. No Programme for Government or System of Government can be allowed to offer comfort zones for us to operate in, there must be no diluting of our message as we strive to give positive direction to the people of Northern Ireland. 2011 can offer hope for a better future.”


Filed under: devolution, DUP

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

Another UUP MLA faces deselection

The UUP have held another selection meeting. This time in the Upper Bann Constituency.

The late MP’s son, Colin McCusker topped the poll with successful Lurgan by-election candidate, elected in February 2010, Jo-anne Dobson, coming second. Sitting MLA Samuel Gardiner came in third. The other sitting MLA, George Savage, came in fifth. The party is expected to stand three candidates and it is thought that Mr Savage will face deselection.

The fate of Westminster candidate, Harry Hamilton, is unsure as he came in fourth. Should the party over rule the decision of the association it could cause uproar.

The possible deselection of sitting MLA George Savage comes as David McClarty, Deputy Speaker and MLA for East Londonderry, faced a similar fate earlier in the week. He however remained victorious in today’s News letter arguing that there was a miscalculation in the points system.

The UUP have adopted a new system of selection based on scoring candidates as opposed to the more traditional system of one member, one vote. The new system saw Leadership candidate, Basil McCrea, romp home in Lagan Valley the week before last. It was rumoured that he could have faced deselection himself.

Filed under: Assembly elections, elections

Sinn Fein Non-Economics

Fair Deal over on Ultonia translated Sinn Fein’s postion on the budget crisis into a photo of a monkey with his fingers in his (or her) ears.

Responding to the First Minister’s comments on the issue, Sinn Fein’s economic genius Mitchell McLaughlin said: “It’s incredible that Peter Robinson is inviting ministers to anticipate the cuts before we even get the budget statement on 20 October.”

He added that cuts “proposed or imposed by the British government must be challenged and resisted”.

It is a well known fact from when the Coalition Government was formed that cuts, cuts and more cuts were going to be the focus of Government. Sinn Fein’s non-economics is a typical response from a party that believes that our own Government should be paying for what thirty years of violence and murder orchastrated by the IRA cost this region in economic terms. Sinn Fein should be working to develop Northern Ireland and repair the damage that they created.

The first thing that they should be doing is sitting down with all parties on the Executive and working to resolve the situation in order to manage it as effectively as possible. However instead they are behaving like monkeys out to blame the ‘British’ Government for the situation we have found ourselves in. How responsible, eh? Nevertheless how is this new given the fact that they have blamed the same Government for oppression dating back centuries.

Filed under: devolution, finances, power sharing, Sinn Fein, This week, Uncategorized

New Sinn Fein oath

The Secretary of State has revealed that he has asked Sinn Fein to write their own oath acceptable enough for them to enter Parliament.

He has told them to write an acceptable oath or give up their expenses.

Filed under: political reform, Uncategorized

Cameron gaffe will hurt marriage

A marriage is about partnership however the UUP – Tory marriage seems to have been anything but it. In fact one could say that it has entered a rocky course less than two weeks before an election.

David Cameron’s comments with Jeremy Paxman on Friday night have caused quite a storm but are not exactly surprising.

In December of 2005 I, working for a small student newspaper, was invited to go and meet the new Tory leader on his first visit to Northern Ireland. At this show of strength at Lagan College, Belfast I overheard Mr Cameron ask his advisor: “We want devolution here, yes?”

His latest gaffe does not surprise me to be honest. He is a man with a lot on his mind but when it comes to Northern Ireland he has really put his foot in it this time which the local UCUNF will find hard to defend.

Some blame the media, others say his interpretation was an accurate one. Eamon Maillie has described it as similar to Harold Wilson’s infamous ‘Sponger’ speech – directed at the people of N.I. protesting against the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement. The day after these comments people ran round protesting with sponge lapel badges. It was a classic two finger salute to the late Prime Minister. We should remember of course that Reg Empey, David Trimble and Co. were part of this protest against Sunningdale under the banner of Vanguard led by Bill Craig.

Cameron’s comments therefore represent a major gaffe on his part. His comparison of N.I. to a former communist state was damaging. His point was of course about the large public sector we have here in N.I. but why single out N.I.? Why not other parts of the UK?

Much of the population around London funds the entire UK given the concentration of private enterprise there. After Thatcher dismantled the machine of what was left of British Industry back in the 1980’s Britain was left with high unemployment. Thatcher created a vacuum in parts of Britain as people hit the dole queue  and the easiest thing for Government was to give them public sector jobs as the service industry couldn’t sustain those who were left unemployed. Many young professionals left for London to find work, including many from N.I.

Cameron’s comments therefore highlight the unbalance of private investment across the UK. Much of this is down to the individual companies who having the choice want to be where the epicenter of business is.

His comments highlight the problems we face in the UK and something other N.I. parties have argued. However it is unsure what he meant by this: is he suggesting cutting the public sector in N.I. and slashing the budget? Or is he simply stating a well known fact? But then why single out N.I?

These comments will only go to dispel the feeling: can we trust the Tories?

Filed under: Uncategorized

“Unionists Unite”

The Times have an excellent resource for this election. They have based statistics on the new Parliamentary boundaries. Under the new boundaries using the 2005 election data they give Alasdair McDonnell a majority of just 188.

McDonnell would be right to worry in this election as the statistics show (using the 2005 result), given the fact that the DUP is only 189 votes away from victory.

Michael McGimpsey standing for the UUP back in 2005 polled just under 8,000 votes. According to the Times calculation with the new boundary changes the UUP would poll just over 8,000 votes (remember based on 2005 election figures). However this time round the now Conservatives and Unionists are running a little known candidate Paula Bradshaw whereas the DUP are running Jimmy Spratt again. The choice is therefore clear in South Belfast. If two Unionist candidates remain in the contest the DUP are the party most likely to win. Let that be clear.

However should South Belfast follow the news tonight (brief and unclear as yet) that a single Unionist will run in Fermanagh South Tyrone the chances of a Unionist coming through this election victorious would increase significantly!

A few comments on the Conservatives and Unionist campaign – does it appear very ‘Alliance’!? – Woman, shared future etc? Furthermore does it appear too Tory? Given the fact that the Tories have stood in NI elections for some years and not done very well will this marketing strategy backfire on them?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Maginnis slams idea of Unity?

Reported in the Sunday Life yesterday and Newsletter today (not on web yet) Ken Maginnis (or Lord Maginnis) has appeared cold towards any idea of Unionist Unity in Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Despite having a free run since 1983, on the Unionist side, he appears to oppose any deal with fellow Unionists in an attempt to secure the seat for Unionism once more. Surely this stinks of hypocrisy?

The UUP and DUP local associations appear to have been having productive discussions over an agreed candidate however will Ken’s comments be counter productive?

Filed under: Uncategorized

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