Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

NIO let DUP pick its own leader?

The Daily Telegraph  has been running the next chapter of WikiLeaks, this one detailing a cable from the US Embassy in London to Washington deals with the NIO’s analysis of Ian Paisley’s resignation in 2008.

 It doesn’t supply us with that much we didn’t know before. The NIO reckoned Paisley’s departure wouldn’t “destabilize Northern Ireland” and that his “final, grand gesture”, his attendance at the Investment Conference, would probably stimulate interest in the event as invitees would be curious to see the old boy deliver his swansong. 

This section did read a bit strange though:

It would be up to the DUP to pick its new leader, said Todd (John Todd, Political Advisor in the Northern Ireland Office). Both Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were names being considered for the leadership, according to Todd, with many suggesting Robinson may become the successor in a “Blair to Brown-type” deal. Todd said the choice was up to the DUP; the NIO was uninvolved and agnostic as to who should lead the party.

So, the NIO would play no part in choosing the leader, they were leaving it entirely up to the DUP.  

Why was it felt necessary to point that (what I would have thought) rather obvious fact out twice?

Were the Americans under the impression that HMG was running the DUP?


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

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?, ,

Robinson versus the segregationists


Reproduced with thanks to 'amboo who?'


By Unionist Lite

Peter Robinson has ruffled more than a few segregationist feathers with this speech to Castlereagh Borough Council on Friday. This is the relevant part where he explains his views on our divided education system:

“In the area of education it has been said that considerable savings could be made with the creation of a Single Education Authority.   I still hope that agreement can be reached in moving away from the five education and library boards to a single authority.  This is not a difference of principle but one of detail and I am hopeful that it can be resolved in the next period of time. However, in the meantime I believe that a simple and speedy solution to achieve savings would be to create a single education and library board under existing legislation and leave the issue of additional powers to another day.

“Moreover, I feel I have to point out that the real savings in terms of education will not be gained by simply creating a single educational administrative body but by creating a single educational system.

“For me this is not just an economic but a moral question. We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.

“Not many of you will believe that my first contribution as a speaker at a DUP conference was on the issue of integrated education – and I spoke in favour.

“If one were to suggest that Protestants and Catholics would be educated at separate Universities it would be manifestly absurd; yet we continue to tolerate the idea that at primary and secondary level our children are educated separately. I believe that future generations will scarcely believe that such division and separation was common for so long. The reality is that our education system is a benign form of apartheid, which is fundamentally damaging to our society.

“Who among us would think it acceptable that a State or Nation would educate its young people by the criteria of race with white schools or black schools?   Yet we are prepared to operate a system which separates our children almost entirely on the basis of their religion.

“As a society and administration we are not mere onlookers of this; we are participants and continue to fund schools on this basis. And then we are surprised that we continue to have a divided society.

“The limited number of Integrated schools in Northern Ireland do offer a choice but more often than not they join in the competition for funds against the other two main education sectors and in truth will never create the critical mass needed to make a real difference.

“I entirely accept that such fundamental change will not happen overnight but that is no excuse for further delay in making a start. I know that we will face difficulties in dislodging the vested interests that are so strong in this sector, but I am absolutely convinced that we must.

“I don’t in any way object to churches providing and funding schools for those who choose to use them.  What I do object to is the State providing and funding church schools.

“The transition must begin and must be carefully planned and programmed.  It may take ten years or longer to address this problem, which dates back many decades, but the real crime would be to accept the status quo for the sake of a quiet life.  The benefits of such a system are not merely financial but could play a transformative role in changing society in Northern Ireland.

“Consideration should be given to tasking a body or commission to bring forward recommendations for a staged process of integration and produce proposals to deal with some of the knotty issues such as religious education, school assembly devotions and the curriculum.  Future generations will not thank us if we fail to address this issue.”

A snapshot of the reactions…

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: academic, DUP, Education, Shared future, , ,

Does the Union still require Unionist parties?

Dermot Nesbitt, the former UUP Environment Minister and present commissioner at the Equality Commission, had a wide-ranging interview with the News Letter yesterday, touching on such diverse subjects as Human Rights, the flying of the Union flag over the City Hall and Sammy Wilson’s performance at Finance.

The most thought-provoking section for me though was this:

But he is clear that unionism needs to radically re-think itself for the 21st century.

He says that unionist parties need to “get rid of the word unionist because the Union is secure”.

“They need to make their parties places where others can come and join but not feel they’re joining a unionist party.

“But by joining they’d actually be joining mainstream unionism and at the same time we’d embracing national politics and making ourselves part of the Union.”

One of the lessons of this year’s General Election (and prior to that the DUP’s performance at the last Euro Elections) is that many of those who may have voted for pro-Union parties before out of fear no longer are prepared to do so. The fear was that a United Ireland was forever lurking round the corner, waiting to pounce the second that Unionism dropped its guard- we trusted Unionist politicians to be forever vigilant for signs of betrayal from Westminster and/or skullduggery from Dublin; our job as footsoldiers (or should that be cannon fodder?) was to perform our duty at the polling station. It was all so very simple really.

The “bad news”, in terms of increasing or even maintaining the total pro-Union vote next year is that the Union is safe at this moment in time and for as far ahead into the future as it is possible to see. Which isn’t really that bad a piece of news for a Unionist,  is it? Being aware of this, a substantial part of the electorate are confident enough in the fact to start moving beyond the communal comfort-zone and either vote outside the Unionist bloc or not to vote at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Union 2021,

It’s Elliott’s party… and his right to impose internal discipline

Part of a letter, purportedly written by Tom Elliott to UUP members, twittered by Stephen Nolan:

“…what should have been a positive party media day on Thursday was spoiled by members contributing to Nolan in an unsavoury manner about issues that should be dealt with through the private mechanisms of the party…..there is no need for this type of public argument and I will not tolerate it.”

I think the potential of a “positive party media day”, post his leadership election, was perhaps exaggerating the reality, but apart from that, nothing really you could argue with there. Part of the success of Sinn Fein and (more importantly for the UUP) the DUP is built on the fact they very rarely wash their dirty laundry in public.

In contrast, UUP politicians and their apparatchiks have been going on solo-runs (either publicly or via whispers to the media) since the days of Trimble and whilst they may have achieved short-term internal victories by those means, it has created externally the perception of a party constantly at war with itself. Why vote for a party which has such publicly expressed conflicting visions of what it stands for?

Which brings us to the main cause of Tom Elliott’s ire, Trevor Ringland’s own solo-run Thursday morning. I’m no fan of Elliott or, to be more exact, his (let’s put it euphemistically) “traditional” attitudes towards such things as “joint” candidates, the GAA and Gay Pride.

The UUP has elected an Orangeman, with all that fact implies to the much wider non-Orange society in Northern Ireland. I suspect his lack of media-savvy will be exploited mercilessly by the UUP’s opponents. To me, he’s a leader who would have fitted in more comfortably to the Unionist Party and the Northern Ireland of the 1960s than to the modern political and media world of 2010.

But move back to two sentences there and you’ll see the whole point that Ringland has missed; ie “The UUP have elected…”.

Elliott has the mandate to lead the party, given to him by the large majority of the party which actually voted. It’s his views on the GAA and Gay Pride which a large majority of the party obviously feel comfortable with, not Ringland’s.

Despite all the reservations about Elliott I mentioned, he has displayed at least one leadership quality in the leaked letter which will be needed if he is to have any success whatsoever guiding the UUP back into any kind of relevance. It’s up now to Ringland to appreciate what Wednesday’s night result is telling him and other liberals and civic Unionists within the party and… basically, shape up — or ship out.


As is so often the case with Nolan, not so much as not telling the truth as bending it in the most sensationalist way possible; this is the full text of the letter sent:

Dear Members

This is just a short note to thank you for the support that I and the Ulster Unionist Party received on Wednesday night at the Waterfront Hall. It was very encouraging to have such a significant number of Party members attend.

Unfortunately what should have been a positive Party media day on Thursday was spoiled by members contributing to the Nolan Show in an unsavoury manner about issues that should be dealt with through the private mechanisms of the Party.

I have no wish to stop members from forming and putting forward their opinion. However I wish to re-iterate that I will make myself available to discuss matters of concern with Party members, therefore there is no need for this type of public argument and I will not tolerate it.

Yours sincerely

Tom Elliott MLA

Filed under: UUP, UUP leadership election, , ,

Unionism’s continuing Orange Connection, the argument against.

The Orange Order’s Belfast County Grand Master, Tom Haire:

We are not a member of any political party, therefore I would say we are not political, but as an organisation we are interested in what happens in our country,” he said. “Orangemen and their families, are all part of the political scene, they all have their political views. I do believe we have a right to express the views that we are hearing from the people on the ground, from the grassroots. And people are fed up with one party sniping at the other and so forth.”

According to its own figures, the Orange Order presently has 35,000 members in Northern Ireland; that’s approximately 3% of the current Northern Irish electorate, 5.2% of the electorate who voted last May, 11% of the total who voted for the pro-Union parties. With those kind of figures, the Order is then merely a medium-sized lobby group in the context of the wider Northern Irish politics? No.

Read more Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Unionists Come Home!

Dilettante has sent the following answer to my question “Whither Northern Irish Unionism?”  I published it on my own blog yesterday and I thought others who haven’t read it there may find it interesting:


Unionists: Come Home

As O’Neill invites me to write this, we stand in the aftermath of a general election that was not a good one for unionism – every model it had going suffered defeat. The dominant party was decapitated in Belfast East; Unionist Unity failed to break through in Fermanagh & South Tyrone; this led to a nationalist counter-move that delivered in South Belfast, and attempts to integrate the province into mainstream British politics floundered in North Down and South Antrim. A string of disappointing results but, if we learn from them, potentially useful lessons.  What unionism does now will be crucial, and it is my view that there is only one route that offers a positive, long-term hope for a unionist triumph.

Read More Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Conservatives and the Union…

From the Conservative manifesto

Change Politics Strengthen The Union

We are a Unionist party and we will not put the Union at risk. But we support devolution and are committed to making it work for all countries. We will take forward the proposals of the Calman Commission, grant a referendum on greater powers for the Welsh Assembly, and support the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. We will rebalance the unfairness in the voting system for devolved issues in Parliament.

In recent years, we have been hearing things that we have not heard for a long time: people in Scotland saying they want to leave the UK, and some people responding with ‘let them go’. Labour’s constitutional vandalism has weakened Parliament, undermined democracy and brought the integrity of the ballot into question. our unbalanced devolution settlement has caused separatism to gather momentum in Scotland, and separatists have propped up a weakened Labour Party in Wales.

The Conservative Party is passionate about the Union and we will never do anything to put it at risk. and, because of the new political force we have created with the Ulster Unionists, we are proud that at the next election we will be the only party fielding candidates in every part of the UK*.

Support devolution

We support the changes proposed by the Calman Commission for clarifying the devolution settlement and creating a relationship of mutual respect between Westminster and Holyrood:

the Prime minister and other ministers will go to Holyrood for questioning on a regular basis.

the Scottish Parliament should have more responsibility for raising the money it spends. We will produce our own White Paper by may 2011 to set out how we will deal with the issues raised by Calman, and we will legislate to implement those proposals within the next Parliament.

We will not stand in the way of the referendum on further legislative powers requested by the Welsh assembly. The people of Wales will decide the outcome and Conservatives will have a free vote. but our priority remains getting people back into work and strengthening the Welsh economy. So we will seek ways to work with the Welsh assembly government to increase economic growth and improve people’s quality of life.

In Northern Ireland, we strongly support the political institutions established over the past decade and we are committed to making devolution work. We will continue to promote peace, stability and economic prosperity and work to bring Northern ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics. We will produce a government paper examining the mechanism for changing the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland, in order to attract significant new investment. And we will stop the practice of ‘double-jobbing’, whereby elected representatives sit in both Westminster and Stormont.

Labour have refused to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation of Scottish MPs voting on matters which are devolved. A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

And what do we believe? Why? Where are we heading?

At the present moment politics and by extension, political blogging in the US, bores me; not so much the issues, more the black/white, no room for debate, partisanship. There are very few indeed standing back, using critical analysis on their “own” side as well as putting the boot into the “other”, very few prepared to stand out and say “Yes, well, I do believe a), b) and c) but…”

One exception is The Daily Dish, which joined my daily essential reading list several months ago. “Exception” is the perfect description for its editor, Andrew Sullivan, for a whole host of reasons you can read here, but what I have found particularly interesting over the last week or so, is his reiteration of his own personal brand of conservatism (here and here) and how far away that description lies from the Palinist “the only good liberal is a dead’un” loons who are presently dominating the discourse on the American Right.

More below the fold

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 24 other followers

Open Unionism On Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Open Unionism bookmarks

Our facebook group page

Party histories

Here's the history of the UUP.

Here's the history of the DUP.

Slideshow app for UUP & DUP flickrstreams

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the UUP flickrstream.

Follow this link for a great slideshow from the DUP flickrstream.

UK Parliament on flickr

%d bloggers like this: