The names which are being mooted are predictable - Roy Garland, Chris McGimpsey and others. They are no longer representatives, but retain a certain residual influence. Though make no mistake about it, these are yesterday's men. Aging dinosaurs who have opposed the deal since its inception.
I would argue that these differences have been allowed, for too long, to simmer beneath the surface. It is better that they are brought out into the open, addressed and the Conservatives and Unionists pact can move on with the backing of those who are committed to it.
It's interesting, and instructive, to reproduce Sir Reg Empey's answer to ANOTHER derogatory Garland article, which appeared in the Irish News last week.
Roy Garland’s column is always thought-provoking. There are times, however, when it appears he is more interested in being provocative than in stimulating thinking.
Unfortunately, last week’s column was an instance of this.
Roy’s now slightly obsessive attacks on the Ulster Unionist Party’s restored relationship with the Conservative Party appear to suggest that the relationship is a bad thing because it strengthens the Union . My party makes absolutely no apology for its conviction that the best hope for a shared, pluralist future for all the people of Northern Ireland is within the United Kingdom .
Contrary to what Roy suggests, building the East-West relationship within these islands does not undermine in any way the importance of a positive North-South relationship. Like many other unionists, it would be my view that despite the Agreement equally affirming both relationships, too much political activity in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has focussed exclusively on North-South.
The UUP-Conservative relationship is aimed at bringing Northern Ireland into the mainstream of UK politics. It is my conviction that this will strengthen, not undermine, a positive North-South relationship.
Roy also appears to suggest that the only Catholics who are pro-Union are eccentrics. Successive surveys in Northern Ireland suggest that such an offensive allegation is entirely unfounded, with significant numbers of Catholics in Northern Ireland indicating that they are supportive of Northern Ireland ’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom . The Ulster Unionist Party is keenly aware of its responsibility to reach out to all sections of our community who are pro-Union – irrespective of background.
None of this detracts from our commitment to work in partnership with nationalists, especially our colleagues in the SDLP, to promote the common good. An authentic sharing of power between unionists and nationalists – rather than the cantonisation and carve-up we see in the DUP-Sinn Fein approach to government – is necessary to serve all the people of Northern Ireland. Unlike Roy , the UUP refuses to accept that the DUP and Sinn Fein sharing the spoils of office equates to power-sharing.
Moving politics forward in Northern Ireland , whether in 1998 or in 2009, requires us to confront challenges and think in new ways. Roy is welcome to join us in this venture.