Friday, 23 April 2010

McNarry could spell the death of unionism in Northern Ireland.

It doesn’t seem to have made it unto the paper’s website, but the print version of this morning’s News Letter contains an article by Alex Kane, who says ’there will be a vacancy at the top of the UUP’, following the general election. His reasoning is fairly straightforward.

If Sir Reg Empey wins a Westminster seat then the Ulster Unionists’ Assembly group will require new leadership. If he fails to take South Antrim, then he is unlikely to retain the party leader’s post.

Both Basil McCrea and David McNarry have already begun to jostle for position in anticipation of the post-election shake-up, according to Kane. McCrea’s ’big idea’ is to withdraw the UUP from the Northern Ireland Executive and form an unofficial opposition.

Superficially, the notion has its attractions, but the permutations have not been properly evaluated, and there is a lot of work to be done before such a measure becomes a realistic possibility.

McNarry has spent the past few months fulminating about ’unionist unity’. Kane quotes a recent article in which the Strangford MLA wrote, “all unionists should coalesce around shared values, a shared identity and a shared political programme”.

Writing in these terms, McNarry performs a useful service, because he illustrates the philosophical bankruptcy which lies behind the mantra ’unionist unity’. He believes that unionists should not only subscribe to a set of political beliefs, but that they must conform to a particular identity as well. Given his past utterances, it is not difficult to imagine the type of identity to which McNarry refers. It is Orange and it is Protestant.

This reading of unionism is indistinguishable from nationalism. It abandons everything that it good, honourable and rational about pro-Union politics and it leads to a grotty deal with the DUP.

If the UUP ends up with David McNarry as leader it will herald the death of civic unionism in that party. It will also signal the death of the only type of unionism worth the name in Northern Ireland - unionism that is focussed on allegiance to the modern United Kingdom and its institutions. The best way to avoid that fate is a strong performance for the Conservatives and Unionists.

8 comments:

thedissenter said...

Sincerely hope that the stength or future fate of the Union does not depend on the up-coming performance of UCUNF. There must be more than that.

Chekov said...

If there is more than that where is it? Who else is pushing anything to normalise Northern Ireland's place within the UK?

Anonymous said...

Tom Elliott is the man to take over from Reg. A middle man between the McCrea and the McNarry positions

Timothy Belmont said...

D Burnside always impressed me. Shame he's not actively involved any more.

Sir Reg isn't a bad egg himself, though.

On the other hand...

slug said...

Empey may be a bit cautious and consensual, and not willing to attack. But he has led in a good overall political direction and the arrangement with the Conservatives is a good one, that has delivered very good candidates and given people a pathway to more normal politics with participation possibilities in our national government. The UCUNF project is one that deserves to be given further support.

Orangeman said...

Forget the election result, roll on the forthcoming culture war in the UUP after the election. McNarry, Watson etc. as the dinosaur traditionalists versus the shiny happy neo-Cameroon arriviste young liberals. A million times likelier than a Paula victory.

Anonymous said...

Danny Kennedy is deputy leader and plainly a safe pair of hands.

McNarry and McCrea are solo operators.

Seymour Major said...

Speaking as a Conservative, the outcome of this next confrontation is extremely important for us.

Firstly, a coup just after the election, before some judgment is made on whether another election will quickly follow, would be irresponsible. I would like to see UCUNF continue, if that happens.

I totally agree with what you say about McNarry. His presence near the top of the UUP leadership has probably been responsible for the UUP's earlier decision to pay lip service to Unionist unity thereby undermining UCUNF principles and damaging its own prospects following recent DUP misfortune and scandal.

If he becomes the UUP leader, the Conservatives will not want to renew UCUNF. The same goes for Elliot. McCrea might just be able to keep it together.