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The Gamblers

Political journalist and Unionist Revisionist Dr John Coulter warns the Ulster Unionists look set to become embroiled in another 'Dump Dave' campaign over the decision to allow the leader of the Progressive Unionists to join the Assembly party

Dr John Coulter • 12 June 2006

The Ulster Unionists look poised to explode into another 'Dump Dave' campaign as the party's increasingly vocal liberal wing becomes really furious with UVF apologist David Ervine joining the Assembly team.

Already prominent Down councillor and former Young Unionists boss Peter Bowles has jumped ship to the fringe Ulster Tories.

And North Down MP Sylvia Hermon – wife of the former RUC Chief Constable Sir Jack – has been venting her spleen about the decision to allow the PUP leader into its Assembly party ranks.

Party bosses are now praying Bowles' departure does not spark another Jeffrey Donaldson-style walkout – only this time by the party's liberals.

First, the UUP spent six years imploding with its 'Dump Dave' rave against former party boss David Trimble. Now it seems, there's going to be more internal blood letting over the PUP supremo climbing into bed (politically) with the UUP's so-called 'decent' Fur Coat Brigade.

Given the recent Mark Haddock and Loughinisland fiascos, the hairs are really standing on end as the Ervine Must Go bandwagon gains momentum.

The party rumour mongers have suggested if the UUP needs a 25th man in the Stormont squad to keep the Shinners out of a ministerial post, then the hand of friendship should be extended to Independent Unionist Paul Berry from Newry and Armagh.

They believe the alleged baggage surrounding young Berry's private life can be borne more easily than the UVF and Red Hand Commando's four decades of sectarian slaughter.

However, rumour also has it the Paisley camp may be prepared to view Berry as the Biblical Prodigal Son, forgive him of any alleged indiscretions, and kill the fatted calf to welcome him back into the DUP ranks.

If Berry doesn't bite, there are even more rumours former Alliance deputy leader and ex-Lisburn mayor Seamus Close could be wooed into defecting to the UUP.

This would also be seen as a clever move by some party officials to develop the Catholic unionist tradition as clearly the majority of Northern Prods don't vote UUP.

The Suck Up To Seamus squad would be particularly enthusiastic in the now liberal unionist strongholds of North Down and Lagan Valley.

Then again, if Empey can ride out the Ervine hurricane and survive the mooted leadership challenge next year, what's next for the UUP's new Pick Up the Paramilitary Prod Vote Campaign?

Maybe now the ruling Ulster Unionist Council has neutered the troublesome dissident Orange Order vote, it could assign delegate seats to members of the Combined Loyalist Military Command – the umbrella body representing the UVF and UDA which called the October '94 loyalist ceasefire.

How about the UUP ensuring top UDA adviser Sammy Duddy is given a safe Assembly seat? Surely Empey has not dismissed his own alleged paramilitary baggage? Isn't the UUP boss the same Reg Empey who was a former chairman of the ultra Right wing Vanguard Unionist movement?

Vanguard once had its own neo-fascist paramilitary group, the Vanguard Service Corps. But the UUC shouldn't also forget its paramilitary history. No sooner was the UUC established in 1905 than the father of modern unionism, Edward Carson, went a step further in 1912 and set up the original UVF, which he armed with German guns a year later.

And where would the unionist politicians have been in 1974 without the UDA muscle to help bring down the power-sharing Sunningdale Executive?

Maybe this new bonding between the UUP and PUP will help the UVF remember where it stashed its shipment of South African weapons brought into the North by the Brit agent, the late Brian Nelson of the UDA?

And before the DUP goes off on a Bible-thumping rant about the UUP and Ervine, the Paisleyites should come clean on where the batch of South African weapons bound for Ulster Resistance caches are hidden. You do remember Big Ian and Peter 'Punt' Robinson donning their famous Resistance red berets?

In fact, let's not forget the role of loyalist paramilitaries over the years in helping the Paisley camp become unionism's top dog. As well as Ulster Resistance, there was also the Third Force and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.

And we should mention the notorious roles of two leading Paisley supporters and paramilitary figures – the late John McKeague who founded the Red Hand Commando, and the late William McGrath, the sex beast of Kincora who founded the vehemently anti-Catholic group, Tara.

As well as political Prods and praying Prods, we now have the paramilitary Prods seeking a slice of the Stormont action. The quagmire of unionist politics just gets even more dirty.

Then again, maybe in the mindset of Northern politics, that's the reason the Women's Coalition collapsed and Alliance is near electoral extinction – neither have a paramilitary wing.

Monica McWilliams should have launched Monica's Marauders and Alliance's Davy Ford should have had his Freedom Fighters.

Still, just keep an eye on the Press conference following the now usual Monday meeting of the UUP/PUP Assembly team for the official launch of the latest paramilitary wing of unionism – the RRR, that's Reg's Renegade Rednecks.

The Stormont Roadshow really has become even more amusing than the Muppet Show. The trouble is, the families and friends of the thousands of people killed or maimed by paramilitary violence certainly won't see the funny side.

Trimble took a massive gamble on the Belfast Agreement and lost. Empey has taken an even bigger gamble with the PUP. For the UUP's sake, let's hope we don't read the headline – Reg Ruined.




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Index: Current Articles

14 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Mark of Cain
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Debris of the Dirty War
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More Claims
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Case Unproven
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Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
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Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
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Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
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Freedom of Speech index

6 June 2006

We Believe Freddie McGuinness
Anthony McIntyre

Under Scrutiny
John Kennedy

Unionism's New Puppetmasters
Robert Matthews

Dr John Coulter

Two Peace Processes
Mick Hall

'The Beginning of the End has Past …'
Davy Carlin

How Many Grannies?
Dr John Coulter

Even the Dogs Bark in Irish?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bards for St Brigid's
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USA v Iran
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Threat to Iran Based on Duplicity
David Adams

Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism

Profile: Bernard Henry-Levy
Anthony McIntyre

BHL: Bernard Henri-Levy
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index



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