Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ian Paisley Junior responds to my eighteen candidate article.

The piece which I wrote for the Belfast Telegraph arguing that UUP coyness about eighteen UCUNF candidates should come to an end has precipitated a more or less instant response from Ian Paisley Junior. It comprises a concoction of little Ulsterism and innuendo which provides a neat summation of the DUP’s version of unionism. The party, in truth, has little aspiration to play a full role in the United Kingdom’s politics, or strengthen Northern Ireland’s role within the Union, it is much more preoccupied with fighting parochial cultural battles against Irish nationalists.

The Conservatives and Unionists arrangement offers the chance for Northern Ireland to participate in a pro-Union bloc comprising more than 320 MPs. Far more critical to the UK’s preservation, Junior contends, are two seats which may or may not be taken from Irish nationalist parties, should the UUP and DUP agree single candidates for South Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone. He is mired in precisely the short-termist, ourselves alone mindset which placed Northern Ireland on the ‘window ledge of the Union’ in the first place.

Does the DUP ever envisage a normal, participative role for the people of Northern Ireland, within the UK? If so, what is its strategy for achieving such a result? And if not, in what respect is it a unionist party in the first place?

I doubt we’ll ever get satisfactory answers. After all the DUP has shown no sign that it cares how Northern Ireland’s economy fits into a broader UK picture. So long as our block grant is preserved the rest of the country can hang.

However, it is important to clear up a few of the misrepresentations which colour Paisley’s interpretation of my article.

1) No threat is implied, financial or otherwise, by the insistence that UCUNF is predicated on eighteen candidates in eighteen constituencies. Nor is the subtext that the Conservatives should browbeat an unwilling UUP into acquiescence. But when a political deal is reached between partners, clearly it must rest upon principles. Providing EVERYONE in Northern Ireland access to national politics is critical to the New Force project. If that precept flounders then it undermines everything else which underpins the electoral pact.

2) The ‘stream of consciousness’ (what an odd phrase to use) which results in my conclusion that eighteen Conservative and Unionist candidates would ‘strengthen the Union’ is relatively straightforward. Providing the electorate in Northern Ireland with the means to elect the next government of the UK will strengthen the Union. Playing a full role in day to day Westminster politics, rather than preserving a status which is exceptional, and semi detached, will strengthen the Union. Attempting to heal division, rather than exacerbate it, will strengthen the Union.

3) Unionism and the Tory party might not be concepts one and indivisible (Tory, Tory, Tory - the Dupes refusal to say ‘Conservative’ manages to make them sound both childish and vaguely autistic), but the Conservative party is a national, UK party which champions the Union. What is Junior’s definition of unionism? Does it have anything to do with the United Kingdom as a whole or is its solitary stronghold Ulster? We know, after all, that his father flirted with Ulster independence and indeed a federal Ireland. I much prefer Sir Reg Empey’s contention that unionism, without the United Kingdom, does not exist.

There is no attempt in Paisley’s article to argue that agreed candidates would not contribute to the ‘overall sum of sectarian bitterness’. It is a point which he ignores entirely. Likewise, he does not address the restriction of voter choice which a deal would entail.

Ian Paisley jnr is attempting to prevent political entitlements, associated with British citizenship, from being offered to people in Northern Ireland. He is intent on preventing the electorate from playing a full role in national politics. And he has the audacity to present his attempts as a prospectus to strengthen the Union! Anyone whose unionism is informed by a genuine desire to participate in the United Kingdom, rather than sectional Ulster Protestant interests, will surely see through his diatribe.

David Gordon's excellent book, 'The Fall of the House of Paisley', is available at the bookshop.


MisterDavid said...

The more articles like yours are published, and require detailed responses, the more obvious it is that a Northern Irish Free State is the DUP's goal. Will you get a chance to reply to the reply?

UCUNF must field 18 candidates if they are to avoid becoming just another sectarian party and making the whole thing a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... so you accuse Ian Jnr of being a petty little Ulsterman.

of course you rise above all that with the picture you choose for your blog piece.

Very mature.

Anonymous said...

"just another sectarian party"

I know, those pesky Orangemen and the such like. Get them out, out, out!!

What a shame they form the back bone of the organisation the Tories have just hitched themselves to.

Vote UCUNF, as endorsed by Big Al McD and even bigger Michelle Gildernew!

O'Neill said...

That picture's a bit scarey, I'd have put IPJ down as a bit more toothless and ultimately harmless mangey old mutt tbh;)

The fact that he was wheeled in by the DUPes almost instantly for a rebuttal (although I guess it was the Press Office that wrote it actually) you should take as a compliment.

The fact that he was used also helps to illustrate the two versions of pro-Union politics that are hopefully diverging and going on the amount of activity the DUPes are putting in online and in the msm on this I guess they can see the challenge that a true UK Unionism could pose to their position here. I think it's going to be a very rocky ride for the pre-election period and firmer leadership is going to be needed on this.

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, the DUP are going after this issue because they know they have the majority of Unionists on their side of the argument...

O'Neill said...

Alternatively, the DUP are going after this issue because they know they have the majority of Unionists on their side of the argument...

The majority of Unionists that presently vote? Perhaps.

But true political leadership needs a long-term vision, walking ahead of your core vote, looking beyond today and tomorrow.

Can short-term Unionist pacts deliver a increased total number of the electorate voting for a pro-Union parties?

If not, then what is the DUP (and pro-pact UUPers) strategy for delivering that increase?
Or do they think it's not necessary?

Anonymous said...

Real political leadership does not equal taking your orders from the Tory Whips Office. I appreciate that on this blog "thous shalt no insult Dave", is the number one commandment, but please wise up!

O'Neill said...

You must have missed the questions anonymous, here they are again:

Can short-term Unionist pacts deliver a increased total number of the electorate voting for a pro-Union parties?

If not, then what is the DUP (and pro-pact UUPers) strategy for delivering that increase?
Or do they think it's not necessary?

If the DUPes have an answer to either one which moves beyond playground insults, then let's hear it.

Lord Lucan said...


I do think pacts can deliver a greater number of unionist votes on election day. The unionist people of South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone know there is something important to go out and vote for. In absence of a pact, especially in the case of the latter, there is not chance of a unionist winning and consequentially some unionists will stay at home, safe in the knowledge that their votes wouldn't have made any difference.

The concept that increased number of unionist parties standing increases the number of unionist votes cast is something of a misconception at any rate. Again look at FST. In 1997 there were 24,862 votes for sole unionist Ken McGinnis (51%), in 1996 and 1998 when there were both DUP and UKUP candidates too (and the UDP if you include them) the total unionist vote was lower.

The second two of your questions are based on the assumption that the answer to the first is no, and I don't believe that is the case.

So there

O'Neill said...

Lord Lucan returns!

Thanks for your reply.

If you look at the original question, it wasn't tied to the next election, or even the one beyond that. Unionists winning SB or FST this time will not guarantee the Union in ten, twenty or fifty years time and neither the DUP, nor it would appear a large % of the UUP ,are prepared to even admit the existance of that long term strategical question.

The hard fact is that the Union needs to be sold as a long-term viable option to people who have no interest whatsoever in being a part of the mythical "Unionist People" and pacts of short-term convenience will not deliver one extra vote for the Union from in the long-term, quite the opposite in fact.