Why don’t I pre-empt the DUP press office, no doubt beavering away at a press release to attribute to one of its representatives, and react to comments made by David McNarry to the UUP Women’s Council?
His speech will be interpreted as an attack on the inclusive agenda adopted by the UUP / Conservative coalition. In particular it is already being reported as a warning not to sideline the Orange Order as an important ‘stakeholder’ (to adopt that horrible term) in unionist politics.
Mr McNarry urges the UUP, “keep a distance from the wide-boy liberalistos but do not shut out the Orange Order”. Additionally he warned David Cameron that there would be considerable opposition, particularly within the Order, to removing the Act of Settlement.
Whatever a ‘liberalisto’ might be (and I’d imagine I might be bordering on that description), I’m sure most parties contain both members and representatives counselling against their influence. No doubt there are Conservative MPs who would offer similar advice to that party’s leadership. McNarry offers a hard-line perspective, but it would be wrong to attribute it too much weight.
As for ‘shutting out’ the Orange Order, as Assistant Grand Master, the MLA is naturally defensive of the interests of that constituency. The UUP should not ‘shut out’ the OO, in the sense that members of the party who are also members of Loyal Orders are entitled to play a full role within the new force. And as an important cultural institution in Northern Ireland, Orangeism deserves to be supported, as long as it is not to the exclusion of other, similar pursuits.
I am not McNarry’s biggest fan. I’m in disagreement with his remarks on the Act of Settlement. Although it was an important foundational constitutional document, I believe that certain of its provisions are anachronistic. The monarch should no longer be bound to a particular faith.
He is entitled to his position, which is certainly approaching the harder edge of right wing, and his particular cultural interests, which are Orange. No doubt he can be accommodated within a broad, centre right party, but neither should his apprehension be allowed to distract from the main goal which the new electoral force must strive toward.