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The Road Ahead for the UUP

Radical Unionist commentator Dr John Coulter charts the way forward for the Ulster Unionist Party.



Dr John Coulter • 23 April 2007

The election-battered Ulster Unionists have got four years to reclaim the Right of Centre ground in Protestant politics, otherwise they will be permanently squashed in the 2011 Stormont poll by the liberal DUP on one hand and the planned new Hard Right movement on the other.

At the weekend, the UUP's 102-year-old ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, decided to emerge from the middle ages and take its first shaky steps on the road to becoming what delegates describe as “a modern political party”.

UUP boss Reg Empey's choice for ministerial positions puts the brakes on a threatened leadership coup from party liberals until at least the 2008 UUC AGM.

With just over a fortnight until the power-sharing Executive formally starts running the North on 8 May, First Minister designate and DUP supremo Ian Paisley senior – even aged 81 – says he wants to hold the top post for the full four-year term.

This stance is more about preserving unity in the DUP than providing stable, legislative government for the Northern community.

Just because Big Ian trounced the anti-agreement movement he once championed in last month's poll doesn't mean Unionism will be hoisting black flags to mark the death of Protestantism's Hard Right.

Historically, there has always been a party on the Far Right of Unionism. But for the first time since the formation of the UUC in 1905, and with both the DUP and UUP squeezed into the Centre Right platform, there's a vacancy on Unionism's Extreme Right-wing.

In spite of the Paisley camp instigating a tough disciplinary policy to maintain unity, the party will clearly implement the liberal strategy of Constructive Unionism first mooted by the North's famous wartime Unionist Prime Minister John Miller Andrews.

JM ruled the North from 1940-43 before his liberalising policies became too much to bear for Unionism's Hard Right and he was deposed by Sir Basil Brooke.

Using the new cross-border powers negotiated by the St Andrews Agreement, Paisley will firmly forge over the next four years the sort of closer North-South ties that JM could only ever dream about.

This gives Empey, or whoever deposes him, four years to concentrate on local issues to lay new foundations for the UUP in the Unionist family. The March poll proved the party has lost the confidence of the people.

The UUP cannot afford to make the same mistake as a former leader and Prime Minister Brian Faulkner who believed his voter base would remain loyal to him. In March 2007, just over 103,000 people gave the UUP their first preference votes.

For as long as Paisley Senior rules the DUP, that party will remain united. And if the Big Man uses his four years as First Minister wisely to convert the North into one of the most prosperous wee states in Europe, the DUP will be on course to collect 40 plus seats – and many of those UUP votes – in 2011.

Remember what happened Faulkner in '74. In the February election, his pro-Assembly Unionists amassed over 94,000 votes, but by the October poll this had slumped to 20,000.

However, the 21st century UUP needs to rediscover itself before it can once again find its lost voters. But in spite of all the optimism for 8 May, the potential for civil war within the DUP remains a strong possibility after that Super Tuesday.

Unionism's Hard Right is currently adopting a 'wait and see' approach. The latest gossip on Stormont Hill is that the staunchly anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party – once fronted by TV personality Robert Kilroy-Silk – is reportedly trying to recruit ex-Paisleyite dissidents.

The other major worry for the anti-Paisley lobby within Hard Right Unionism is that Protestantism's big boogie men, the Shinners, are rapidly transforming themselves into a new millennium version of the now defunct constitutional republican Irish Independence Party.

This would be an ideal strategy for Sinn Fein to adopt given that 2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the IIP's formation. The IIP was once headed by Protestant John Turnley, a Larne councillor until his murder in 1980 by the UDA.

A significant turning point will also begin in UUP fortunes if Unionism's Hard Right can form a new party in opposition to Paisley's Reforming Unionism – especially if this new movement could persuade ex-DUP MEP Jim Allister to lead it.
























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Index: Current Articles

24 April 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Tús Nua - Céim chun tosaigh
A new beginning - a step forward

W. Harbinson

Which Way We Are Facing
Mick Hall

Whither Traditional Republicanism?
Michael Gillespie

The Drumcree Conspiracy
John Kennedy

We Must Deal Openly With The Past
David Adams

What Was It All For?
Antaine Uas O'Labhradha

The New Wolfe Tone?
Dr John Coulter

Felon Setting
Martin Galvin

UVF Threats Further Proof of Political Policing
Press Release: 32 County Sovereignty Movement

Widgery II
John Kennedy

Easter Statement
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

Commemoration Report
Cathleen O'Brien

The Road Ahead for the UUP
Dr John Coulter

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

David Ervine
Anthony McIntyre

9 April 2007

Alternative Ulster
Gerard Gallagher

Back to the Old RUC Ways
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Cross Border Co-Operation
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Statement from the Morley Family
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Time for Truth is Now
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Revising the Uprising?
Paul Maguire

Easter 2007 Oration
Francis Mackey

Stormont an Obstacle to Realising Ideals of 1916
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Destined for the Dustbin of History
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A Beginning Must Be Made
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Vision for Northern Ireland
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House Trained At Last
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Bullies Top the List
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Niall Griffiths' antidote to the 'Vomit Novel'
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Two Looks Back in Time
Dr John Coulter

Blame It On The Shinners, Bono & That Freak Sir Bob
Brian Mór

Levi's Law
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Facing Up to Reality of Holocaust
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The Big Bribe
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Everywhere The Past
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