Monday, 29 October 2007

High UUP morale at confidence boosting Conference

Buoyed by realisation that the nature of the DUP / Sinn Fein twin nationalisms axis is becoming ever more transparent to the electorate and that the voters are becoming aware too of the damage that this unholy alliance can visit on Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Conference this weekend saw an upswing in morale and a rejuvenation of ideas.

The Ulster Unionist Council’s endorsement on Friday night of plans to modernise party structures and streamline the convoluted internal party rule book provided a galvanising backdrop to Saturday’s Conference in the Ramada Hotel. An efficient party coalescing around a progressive and coherent unionist programme is the aim of the restructuring process and it is encouraging that the party is edging toward policies which fulfil this criteria.

Margaret Ritchie’s appearance and the enthusiastic reception accorded to her stole the headlines over the weekend, but there was more than cosmetic value in the Social and Development Secretary’s presence. Her comments on the sectarian carve-up promulgated by DUP / SF and her identification of common ground between the UUP and SDLP point to a possible increased understanding between the two moderate parties. In forging a closer relationship between the middle ground there is a real possibility of challenging the two main parties and perhaps even edging towards a cross community coalition in opposition.

There is, not coincidentally, strong evidence that the notion of opposition is gaining momentum. Two leading representatives, David Burnside and Basil McCrea, spoke in favour of distancing the party from the Executive. It is becoming increasingly evident that the only way to provide effective government and allow the centralist, Stalinist SF / DUP carve-up to be challenged is to move towards the concept of cross community opposition.

Further encouragement was provided by vocal articulation of the party’s commitment to the Union as a whole. The contention that the DUP are Ulster nationalists and that the UUP must reiterate ceaselessly that it is they who value and cherish a big United Kingdom rather than a little Ulster, has been a preoccupation of this blog for some time. Councillor Mark Cosgrave proposed a motion supporting a pan-UK unionism. In a time when the Union is being challenged not only in Northern Ireland, but in all its constituent nations, it is of course paramount that the Ulster Unionist Party be central in strengthening relationships with unionists throughout the UK and putting forward the case for Union all over these islands.. Johnny Andrews spoke from the platform on this theme:

“We will continue to press for a Royal Commission into the future of the Union, for above all else we must participate and contribute to the Union and gain and build friendships within and throughout the United Kingdom.”

The new objectives clause of the UUP demands demands that the party must promote and strengthen the Union. That is a signal duty of the party and must forever be central to its ethos. Andrews is right to assert that the Union’s principles and values are under threat in Northern Ireland under the DUP’s leadership.

“ The UUP once again needs to grasp the true principles of Unionism. We need real practical cross-community politics rather than subsidised sectarian politics through DUP and SF’s axis of state interference.”

It is heartening to hear the areas on which the UUP need to concentrate identified from the platform and the true principles of unionism articulated with clarity. Formulating these ideas unequivocally as party policy and expressing them in a coherent and disciplined fashion through centralised party structures, the UUP can offer a clear and vibrant alternative to the DUP’s Ulster nationalist programme.


O'Neill said...

Councillor Mark Cosgrave proposed a motion supporting a pan-UK unionism. In a time when the Union is being challenged not only in Northern Ireland, but in all its constituent nations, it is of course paramount that the Ulster Unionist Party be central in strengthening relationships with unionists throughout the UK and putting forward the case for Union all over these islands..

Hurrah! But I hope they/you carry it through!

United we stand, divided we fall- it would only take one part of the UK to depart, for the whole nation to crumble and strangely enough I think thios is the biggest threat to NI's future, we are not going to lose the vote at the Border Referendum anytime soon

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