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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Sir Reg's Party Games

Empty Dempty
Sat on the Wall
Empty Dempty
Had a Great Fall
All the Queen's forces
And the Queen's loyal Ervine
Couldn't part Empty
From the withering vine

Anthony McIntyre • Fourthwrite, Summer 2006

The English cricketer Cliff Gladwin's famous 1948 utterance, 'Cometh the hour cometh the man' still holds good in many circumstances. In the context of Northern Irish politics the relevant question is what hour is it and for what has Reg Empey come? He has singularly failed to inspire since his decision to accept the poisoned chalice of becoming UUP leader. He could not realistically have expected anything else. He has long taken himself much more seriously than anyone else ever did. In the early 1980s when he suggested he was the man to bring together the Molyneaux and Paisley strands of Unionism, the Belfast Telegraph ran a cartoon showing Paisley and Molyneaux as immovable elephants, on either side of a mouse depicting Empey vainly trying to pull the big beasts together. The Tele had the measure of the man.

While it is true that Empey inherited a sinking ship, it is not as if he was left without a choice in the matter. He knew what condition it was in before he bought it. Even a time wasting tyre kicker would not have bothered taking the customary walk around that piece of scrap. History will most likely be unkind to Empey, recording that David Trimble was the last 'great' leader of the party that can trace its roots back to luminaries such as Carson and Craig. A public confession that unionism had links with loyalist militias will win Empty few accolades outside of some nationalist circles who will see it to their own advantage to pat him on the back for his 'bravery.' Others will see it as stating the obvious, a crude attempt to take some sting out of the decision to allow the PUP's David Ervine to align with the UUP Assembly group, or they will agree with Laurence McKeown's hardly implausible take that 'it's about denying Sinn Féin an additional ministerial seat in any revamped assembly.'

Alex Kane of Empey's own party has termed the new arrangement the 'UUP/UVF pact' and is unremittingly hostile to it. Kane went on to describe Ervine as an 'apologist, mouthpiece and cover' for 'armed, active and unrepentant terrorists.' He is hardly wrong. Last September, Peter Hain, made it clear - in so far as any politician can ever do that - that the UVF had broken its ceasefire along with the UDA. Nor has the PUP linked outfit shown the remotest inclination to behave any differently. Only recently the UVF murder machine was busy pumping bullets into one of its former commanders, Special Branch tout Mark Haddock.

Five years ago, while Trimble was still UUP leader the Ervine move would have been viewed as something other than the act of UUP desperation it so patently is. It would have been acknowledgement of the PUP having guided the UVF from violent seas to a more peaceful mooring. Ervine and his party would have stepped from a paramilitary Purgatory into a unionist Nirvana, even if only allowed to stand on the fringes of it. It is a sign of how little the PUP has progressed and how much the UUP has declined that today the Ervine move does nothing to haul him out of the mire and everything to drag Empey into it. Brian Feeney has argued that Empey could not make his mind up whether he was going for a goal or a point. Why he never considered an own goal is puzzling. Feeney, at the risk of upsetting the RSPCA, captured it beautifully with his comment that 'the PUP/UUP link-up looks more and more like a rare example of a rat jumping onto a sinking ship.'

The theme tune for the next UUP annual gathering should be the Talking Heads lyric, 'We're on the Road to Nowhere.' Empey has given the DUP more room than it ever imagined possible. The unionist electorate are not the crowd of bigots some nationalists take them to be. They would like a deal and are not in the slightest opposed to 'Catholics about the place.' Yet, where does that electorate turn if Paisley and co refuse to deal even under the most auspicious of circumstances? The only chance the UUP has is if it can claim back the centre ground in the event of Paisley vacating it. There is as much chance of that happening under the leadership of Reg Empey, as there is of the UVF attending the Clonard Monastery Novena for something other than to shoot Catholics.





























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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

3 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Sinn Fein: Or the Party of Symbolic Republicanism
David Kruidenier

Public Commitment or Public Relations
Martin Galvin

Suits You, Sir
John Kennedy

False Memory Syndrome
Ray McAreavey

True Faith
Eamon Sweeney

Not the Cathal Goulding I Knew
Liam O Comain

Dark Days Ahead
John Kennedy

Return to Conflict No Alternative
David Adams

Sir Reg's Party Games
Anthony McIntyre

A Secret History of Irish Music
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Unionism's Favourite Nationalist
Dr John Coulter

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 7
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 8
Michael Gillespie

Trotsky and the Ghetto of the Sects
Mick Hall

Global Conscience Not US Capital: The Case for Liberal Intervention
Gabriel Glickman

Letter to Bertie
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

27 August 2006

The Price of Our Memory
Anthony McIntyre

In the Balance
John Kennedy

The Time for Revolutionary Marxism is NOW
Darren Cogavin

No! To A Holy War
Liam O Comain

Rendition Collusion
Eoin McGrath

Rendition Flights
John Kennedy

An Open Letter to Martina Anderson
Dr John Coulter

An Honest Writer: Cristóir Ó Floinn
Seaghán Ó Murchú

A Dual Presidency: An Improbable Solution to the Irish Problem
Michael Gillespie

Michéal Mhá Dúnnáin

Petition Calling for a Referendum on Irish Unification
Patrick Lismore

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 5
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 6
Michael Gillespie

Number Crunching
Dr John Coulter

PFI Ventures Show the Con in all its Sordid Splendour
Anthony McIntyre



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