The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

UUP Possibilities

Revolutionary Unionist journalist Dr John Coulter examines a potential new role for the Ulster Unionists in the wake of their latest election defeat


Dr John Coulter • 12 March 2007

Reg Empey's election-battered Ulster Unionists are poised to assume the role of intermediaries between Ian Paisley's DUP and Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein, it emerged last night.

And a further clue was uncovered recently that Northern Secretary Peter Hain is prepared to fudge the so-called final deadline of 26 March for either the formation of a power-sharing Executive, or the complete axing of the Stormont Assembly.

In a letter to MLAs, Hain stated he had asked outgoing Assembly Speaker Eileen Bell of Alliance to continue as the “Presiding Officer in the early days of the restoration” of the Assembly.

Although Mrs Bell announced her retirement as both Speaker of the so-called Hain transitional Assembly and North Down MLA, it is understood she has agreed to the Northern Secretary's request.

UUP sources ahead of their election post mortem at Stormont have widely interpreted this move as Hain's willingness to extend the opportunities to form the Executive beyond 26 March.

Both Hain and British Premier Tony Blair had warned the Northern parties that failure to agree an Executive by that date would see London and Dublin move to Plan B.

This is the implementation of joint authority of the North by Westminster and the Dail, radically increasing the say which the Republic has in politically running the North.

Although many of the DUP's 36-strong Assembly team would be considered either Christian fundamentalist or very cool on the St Andrews Agreement, a well-placed DUP source said last night that talk of the party formally splitting over the deal was “utter nonsense”.

Dismissing those who had resigned already from the party as “the Lame Duck Society”, he said that while devolution was definitely on the cards, it may not happen by the end of this month deadline.

“During the campaign on the doorsteps, it was clear this election was driven by the people. They want devolution, but contact between ourselves and Sinn Fein will be through intermediaries at this stage.”

Last night, too, an leading Ulster Unionist source said it was clear there were individuals within the UUP Assembly team who could be viewed as fulfilling this role as 'go-betweens'.

This looks certain to be one of the points for discussion when the UUP holds its initial meetings of the new Assembly team.

The election outcome will dominate the agendas, especially the question – what went wrong? The UUP's MLAs tally has collapsed from 28 seats in 1998 to 18 in less than a decade. The DUP tally has increased from 20 in 1998 to 36 in 2007.

With the election of leading liberal Unionist MLAs Alan McFarland in North Down and Basil McCrea in Lagan Valley, a leadership coup against Empey is likely to be in the pipeline – but not until the March 2008 annual meeting of the ruling Ulster Unionist Council.

The UUP's traditional Right-wing would either look to South Antrim's David Burnside or Strangford's David McNarry as its standardbearer to replace Empey.

It is understood there have already been informal discussions between DUP and UUP members within the past few days about the process of formally merging both parties into a single Unionist Party. These discussions also centred on the role of seat management as well as voter management tactics.



























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Index: Current Articles

14 March 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Legal Aid Wrangle Continues
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Statements on the Arrest of Gerry McGeough

Campaign for Noel Maguire
TJ O Conchúir

Paisleyites & Peelers
Anthony McIntyre

Equating Spectacle at Stormont with United Irishmen is Perverse
Tommy Gorman

Seacht mbuicéad caca go dtite ar a gcinn
Michael Gillespie

Nothing But the Truth
John Kennedy

Snapshot, 1993: Voters' Rights, MI5 Wrongs
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Broad Church for Unionism
Dr John Coulter

The Man Without the Mask
Anthony McIntyre

The New Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

UUP Possibilities
Dr John Coulter

Blinkered Vision
Anthony McIntyre

Damned by Debt Relief
Pauline Hadaway

6 March 2007

Irish Republican Ex-POWs Against the RUC/PSNI & MI5

Whispering Past the Graveyard
John Kennedy

RSF Campaign Reports
Tony McPhillips – Election Agent

Save Derry
Brian Mór

Support Peggy O Hara
Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5

Only the Beginning
Mick Hall

St Bore's Day
Anthony McIntyre

SS Sinn Fein
John Kennedy

Election Guarantees Nothing
David Adams

Coulter's Pre-Election Report
Dr John Coulter

Others Promise...
Brian Mór

The Curse of the Caudillo Complex
Mick Hall

Rest, Do Not Surrender
Dolours Price

...We Deliver
Brian Mór

Super Six Dictator
Dr John Coulter

Anyone Up for a Serious Alternative?
Philip Ferguson

The View from Outside
Jerry Pepin

Boom to Bust?
Dr John Coulter

Tyre Trees
Anthony McIntyre

Cleanliness Not Next to Godliness in the Shankill
Marty Egan

Leadership Needed
Stephen Hughes

Where Does the State of the Union Leave the Rest of Us?
Richard O'Rawe



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