Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Time for the Orange Order to Pause and Review

Robert Saulters has decided to step down as Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. I’d like first of all to recognise his role in leading the Order through some of it’s most difficult times, the achievement of the last 14 years is that the Order is still here and intact.

Secondly I’d like to ask the Orange Order to pause for a second and consider; where next?

The governance and structures of the Orange Order are largely the same as they were a century ago.  The modern 24-hour news cycle requires quick and co-herant responses, but the Order’s structures seem better sync’d with the weekly local newspaper than Sky News, Twitter etc.

Moreover, the Order is trapped in a cycle:  we fail to attract young people because the organisation is run by old men set in their ways – because their are few young energetic leaders in the Order we have to fill the leadership positions with old men who are set in their ways.  How do we break this cycle?

The Orange Order could just appoint a new Grand Master and amble on in roughly the same direction or we could stop and review and decide where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.  The time for a strategic review is long overdue.

(Just a quick blog, I’ll think more about this over the next few days.)



Filed under: Orange Order, ,

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, ,

The Nasty Party Wheels Out it’s Next Barrage

Picked this up from Mick Fealty’s Twitterfeed

The Tory’s have launched a new set of attack posters, highlighted here on Conservative Home; in keeping with the internet trend of amending posters as soon as they appear, Conservative Home already have some even more gloves off suggestions.
Tories launch anti-Brown posters

All in all, very reminiscent of a US election campaign, how will the British public react to attack adverts? How will Labour respond? With the election being as tight as it is I predict a nasty couple of weeks. Moreover, with the same team behind these posters being at the call of UCUNF, we can hardly assume Northern Ireland will be exempt as it has been in previous years. Will style or substance win?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

McGimpsey’s Brother Attacks UUP-Tory Pact

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Four Ulster Unionists, including Health Minister Michael McGimpsey’s brother Chris, have written to Reg Empey opposing the UUP’s link up with the Tory Party. The four accuse Reg of a lack of vision in seeking a short-term fix to the party’s problems.

Whilst none of the 4 are in themselves big hitters, it is undeniably embarrassing for the Health Minister that his brother is among the critics of the parties direction.  Especially since anyone who knows anything about Michael McGimpsey’s political background will know that he is no Tory.  Are his brother Chris’s views representative of his own?  Did Michael have foreknowledge of his brother’s party conference day attack on the party leader?

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Controversy Creates Free Publicity for BNP

After what seems like weeks of fuss the BBC are now considering, a last minute change of mind over letting the BNP appear on Thursday’s Question Time.

This would be a very foolish move, and even the rumour of it creates free publicity for the BNP giving them another opportunity to play the injured party. The BNP are a small party with limited support, 6.2% on a 34% turnout at the European Election is nothing to get excited over, especially considering the perfect storm the European election was for the mainstream parties. It would seem, however, that some people are intent on turning the BNP into some kind of martyrs for free speech.

More below the fold.

The BNP; they're not big and they're not that clever

The BNP; they're not big and they're not that clever

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Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

Policing Budget

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I’ve been blogging for a while now and I haven’t really introduced myself, as a result of which I was mistaken for a Tory in a recent post! To ensure this doesn’t happen again I’ll give some background on myself. I am a Christian. I am a grassroots DUP member, but I work outside of politics for a small manufacturing firm. I am a member of the Loyal Orders, I would consider myself to be a pragmatist and as well as being a Unionist my economic politics are supportive of the free market.

Gordon Brown will tomorrow publish a proposed budget for the devolution of Policing and Justice. The anticipated £800 million he will lay out hasn’t happened by accident, but is the result of the DUP’s usual strategy of taking their time to get the right proposals instead of rushing into the wrong ones. A process which isn’t complete where Policing and Justice is concerned!

More below the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

What’s Positive About it?

David Cameron has suggested today that the Tory Party may resort to “positive discrimination,” in the form of all-female shortlists in some constituencies; to help some of the girls get in.

So, from a man who believes so much in making Parliament representative, that he has given us a shadow cabinet with 17 public schoolboys. We now have the idea that the best way to demonstrate that women are just as capable as men is for Davy to give the girls an ‘easy-up’ onto the first level of Westminster politics. Chivalrous this may be, but helpful to women? Hardly.
Any credible female Tory, with serious ambitions, will avoid these all-female shortlists like the plague!

More below the fold.

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    Davy’s going to close the gender gap

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Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

Car Bomb Attack in Belfast

The girlfriend of a policeman has been injured in a car bomb attack in East Belfast. The device went off when she reversed her car out of the drive-way at 07:30 this morning. She has been taken to hospital with relatively minor injuries. Whilst it is a great relief that no-one has been killed or seriously injured this is another worrying development. The BBC’s Mark Simpson comments on the fact that up until now dissident Republicans have been relatively inactive in Belfast.

To my mind it would have been apparent that the car in question was the officers partners car, so was this a deliberate attempt to attack not just the one of our police officers, but to attack their loved ones. The people who do these things have no place in our country.

Filed under: Uncategorized, ,

City Bonuses are Back

The Times today
leads on the return to fortune of those dastardly bankers. As the Dow Jones yesterday surged back through the 10,000 point barrier and the FTSE posted a strong 100 point growth, bankers were once again considering the possibility of hefty bonus this year. But whereas in previous years the pension fund holding masses would have welcomed growth in the City and largely tolerated bonuses, any City largesse towards its most successful offspring this year is likely to be greeted with howls of outrage.

One of the consequences of the recent crash has been the development of a “them and us” attitude among the general public towards the bogeymen in the City. This knee-jerk reaction might be understandable, but it shouldn’t be stoked up by news editors smelling a public desire for blood.  The success of the wider economy is dependant upon a strong and healthy City. We need the banks and the banks need talented individuals; as a result the banks will continue to pay top whack to attract the best, the brightest and the most ambitious. This is a reality the public should accept, rather than pressurising the government to introduce strangling caps and limits on bonuses that will drive institutions and hence our economic recovery elsewhere. We also need to relearn that the 3rd quality I listed of those receiving bonuses, ambition, can be more of a virtue than a vice.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

Of Mutual Vetoes and the Division of Power

The DUP has been criticised for handing Sinn Fein a veto in the governance of Northern Ireland.  And it’s  true we have, Stormont is indeed effectively controlled by the mutual veto’s of the two largest parties.  I intend to examine to what extent this system is desirable to Unionism; how it ought to function and what is preventing it from functioning.  (Peter Robinson has opened a debate on alternatives to the present system based on weighted majorities, but that is subject enough for a separate article.)

The previous alternative to mutual vetoes was the system of the division of power tried in the years following the Belfast Agreement.  This system gave near absolute power to individual ministers who were pretty much free to do as they wished within their own departments.  This was effectively repartition by department, allowing Sinn Fein the opportunity to implement their Marxist and republican ideology within whichever departments their ministers controlled, as we saw when Martin McGuiness ended the old 11+ transfer system at the stroke of a pen.  This system was generally accepted as being unsatisfactory by Unionists and led in no small part to the peoples rejection of the Ulster Unionist Party.

At St. Andrews the DUP removed this level of power from individual ministers making it harder for them to take action in their departments without cross-party support on the Executive.  This gained for Unionism a veto over the republican agenda at the price of allowing them also to have a veto over our own policies.  Given the aggressive ever growing nature of republican demands I contend that this system has made good sense for Unionism and has been effective in ‘stopping the rot’ of never-ending concessions to Sinn Fein.

The Unionist position is essentially one of maintaining the status quo, this makes us essentially conservatives, (note the small c folks.)  We already have what we want, Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, we’re happy with our constitutional position; what we have we hold.  A system of mutual vetoes works well at preventing the erosion of our current position.

Republicans on the other hand need a system with in-built scope for change, by definition they aren’t satisfied, their goal of a United Socialist Ireland remains an unfulfilled dream.  What they had before St. Andrews was a process with no effective brake other than a collapse of the institutions, and even then upon restart they normally elicited further concessions.  Mutual vetoes has been a major step forward for Unionists, for the first time in over a decade the republican juggernaut has been halted, at least for the present.

Unionists have vetoed progress for Sinn Fein on the Irish language; this is desirable not because we should be opposed to the language, but because we should oppose the manner in which Sinn Fein use it to mark political territory.  (Anyone who actually cares about the language from a cultural point of view should oppose what Sinn Fein tries to use it for as well.)

Unionists have vetoed settlements for on-the-runs and despite lots of smoke and noise Unionists have vetoed the devolution of Policing and Justice in a form desirable to republicans.  As time goes on the form that any eventual devolution of Policing and Justice may take becomes increasingly different from what republicans must have first envisaged for themselves.  Indeed, as Sinn Fein are now prevented from ever holding the Policing and Justice Minister post, by the same system of mutual vetoes, one is forced to conclude that their only reason for persisting to demand devolution is to save face!

Mutual vetoes have been effective on the long-term constitutional issues, however, it is clear that the current system is not delivering in day-to-day matters for the people of Northern Ireland.  Why is this?

What ought to happen is that, recognising the bind the system puts them in, the parties should sit down at the start of the year and hammer out an agreed program along the lines of, “You want this, well you can have it if we can have that.”   Not pretty, but it’s how coalition governments work everywhere else. German voters yesterday had the choice between an Angela Merkel government that would introduce a €7.50 minimum wage and an Angela Merkel government that would cuts taxes, depending upon which party ended up in a position to be her coalition partner.

Why hasn’t it worked here?  Because, Sinn Fein, frustrated at failing to progress their Republican agenda, have let down all the people of Northern Ireland,including their own voters, by failing to engage in proper bread and butter governance!

If the current system isn’t working the goal must be to find a system that allows more effective decision making whilst maintaining protection against concessions to republicanism.  Proposals for such alternatives are something I intend to consider in a future article.

Filed under: DUP, power sharing

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