Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Unionist Unity or Normal Politics?

At the end of last week, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Robert Saulters called for “unionist unity” during a speech at the re-opening of Lavin Orange Hall. As we noted at the time, Mr Saulters believes that there should be one big unionist party “modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together”.

UCUNF Lagan Valley election candidate Daphne Trimble has replied through her blog. I thought it would be useful to reproduce her response to the Saulters speech below. In Mrs Trimble’s opinion, anyone who listens to calls from the DUP on unity “is making a mistake”…

By Daphne Trimble

Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters has called for unionist unity, ‘one big unionist party which represents all the views I hear.’ This theme ran through the recent election campaign. I heard it on the doorstep; it is called for by the DUP; it is mentioned in internal UUP meetings; and it is one of the areas to be discussed in Sir Reg’s review.

It clearly means different things to different people.

For the person on the doorstep, the alternative phrasing is ‘Why can’t yez all get together?’ I have a high regard for the people I met who told me this, but as far as I can tell, they all have one thing in common; they are good people who want to get on with their own lives knowing that the country will be governed properly, and that the only input required of them is to vote every now and then. They prefer not to be involved politically, and some have a folk memory of a peaceful pre troubles past where Unionism was one monolithic party.

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Filed under: general election, unionist unity?, UUP, , , ,

The delicate art of coalition-building – an insider’s view from Canada

I imagine that many readers of this blog will, like myself, have spent much of the past few days gripped by coverage of the election results, and the ongoing coalition negotiations.

This is just a brief post to point blog readers in the direction of an absolutely fascinating Canadian article on the whole topic of coalition-building, which was written a few months ago by blogger and NDP strategist Brian Topp for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.

Brian Topp was a senior negotiator for the New Democratic Party (NDP) (Canada’s left-of-centre party) during their late-2008 coalition talks with the Liberal Party (Canada’s large, centrist ‘natural governing party’).

The article, entitled “Coalition Redux”, weighs in at a hefty 10,000 words or so – it’s absolutely gripping stuff and once I started reading it I found I couldn’t stop until I had finished the whole thing. It’s very well-written and offers a fascinating insider account of the kind of challenges and intricacies involved in coalition-building, and of the potential pitfalls along the way (for example, the Lib-NDP coalition failed in large part because negotiators didn’t adequately consider the impact of the role of the Bloc Quebecois).

The article was posted on Brian Topp’s Globe & Mail blog as a series of six chapters – here are all the links:

  • Part 1 – Coalition Redux: The Prime Minister makes a big mistake
  • Part 2 – Coalition Redux: The shape of the deal
  • Part 3 – Coalition Redux: The shape of the new government
  • Part 4 – Coalition Redux: Things come together
  • Part 5 – Coalition Redux: Things fall apart
  • Part 6 – Coalition Redux: Lessons Learned
  • Enjoy!

    Filed under: general election, power sharing, Voluntary Coalition

    Fermanagh and South Tyrone: why we lost

    I have mentioned my thoughts on the TUV and CUs over on slugger and will come to the DUP (and hopefully the others) in time. However, although I quoted Harold McCusker regarding the TUV (“I felt desolate because as I stood in the cold …..everything that I held dear turned to ashes in my mouth.”); yesterday afternoon when Fermanagh South Tyrone was announced I was even more heartbroken. It may be difficult for outsiders to understand at times but it is an issue of huge importance down here who wins this seat. As ever this being Fermanagh everyone at work was utterly polite to one another: however, as soon as there were members of one side everyone wondered how the recount was going. I may be a South Londonderry blow in but the way the local unionist population demanded a unity candidate and forced the DUP and then UUP to agree to one was fascinating and also personally energising (I openly acknowledge I am extremely tribal in my political analysis: I much prefer fighting unionism’s enemies than other unionists). The fact is that this unionist community suffered more than almost any other at the hands of the IRA. It is also a fact that almost never was there any loyalist retaliation in Fermanagh and loyalist terrorists are held by all local unionists in the same quiet, calm but icy contempt as republican ones. Call these people bigots all you want from the safety of the greater Belfast Pale: these people know what republican violence is, that informs their views and they wanted the cheerleader that is Gildernew out.

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    Filed under: general election

    Why Unionism should hand McGuinness the position of First Minister…

    By St Etienne

    “Unionism’s great challenge” has now apparently been reduced to keeping a Shinner out of the perceived top job in local politics. In truth, not a great strategy. We need to get over it.

    Contrary to the most popularly understood of peace-processing narratives (the one that’s painted with the broadest brush), the majority of NI is not transitioning from some kind of guerrilla warfighting capability and into politics. That’s only the people some of us choose to elect. How people like McGuinness can be a role model/leader for NI is any sane person’s guess. But at present neither do we have a sane solution.

    From the initial kite flying of voluntary coalition/opposition/normal politics, it is clear there is a deepset paranoia among Irish nationalists that unionists fundamentally do not want to share power.  And crucially, not from a “we don’t like murderers” principled standpoint but from a “they don’t want a Catholic about the place” perspective.  Ultimately this is wrong, but like it or not that is the perception (perhaps driven largely for reasons of political capital as much as community mistrust). Action is required to change it.

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    Filed under: general election, power sharing, UUP

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