Sir Reg Empey leader of the Ulster Unionist Party recently gace a speech to the UUP AGM back at the end of last month. Now I did not see this being reported in the mainstream media, which is shocking as it is an excellent speech on the future for the UUP and unionism in general in Northern Ireland. I found it via the UUP page on facebook.
The speech was excellent and will make me listen very carefully to the UUP in future. It is a pity that I did not see it in the main stream media and I hope they will remina invigorated until the next council elections and assembly elections in 2011. Some excerpts from the speech below.
We had to unite and reinvigorate the Party. That means attracting younger candidates; more women; and better communicators. We have to have the ability to land punches without looking like brawlers. We have to be seen to be offering choice, change and vision.
The electorate does not vote for a party seen to be in decline. But those days are over. So we must now be seen as a party of ideas, of policies and of “normal” politics. And we must have a view of and agenda for Northern Ireland which appeals to the widest possible base.
We need to turn the page on the old politics of Unionist against Nationalist; and close the book on the even older politics of Protestant versus Roman Catholic.
Here Empey is back to what the UUP should be pushing New Politics! Getting young people and women involved this is something faced by every political party
I am often asked if it annoys me that the DUP, in March 2007—having hounded us every step of the way—immediately repudiated almost every policy and mantra they ever espoused and somersaulted their way into an Executive structure that contains five Sinn Fein ministers, rather than the two we had in 1998?
Ladies and Gentlemen, “Annoy” doesn’t begin to sum it up!
I am sick of the DUP now claiming the credit for everything good that has happened in Northern Ireland since 1998. Particularly when they did everything they could to undermine the efforts we were making.
They told us that the Irish Government would never accept an internal settlement. They told us that Sinn Fein would never buy into partition. They told us that the IRA would never move on the issues of decommissioning or recognition of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland.
Do you remember the days when an IMC Report would never have satisfied the DUP? Or when the word of a couple of clergy on decommissioning would have been regarded by them as laughable? Or when a motion from a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis would have been dismissed as utterly worthless?
And I am sick of the fact that the DUP took a political formula aimed at providing power-sharing and genuine cooperation and turned it into a carve-up based on mutual loathing and balanced by mutual veto.
Ladies and Gentlemen, when I look at Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson today, snuggling under the duvet with Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness, I have only one question to ask them: was it really worth it?
When you look at the DUP’s U-turns and at their backtracking from every pledge they ever made, can you honestly say that it justified your efforts to destroy your old party and undermine your former colleagues?
Yes, the Ulster Unionist Party may have had made mistakes on the journey to what we truly believed was an honourable settlement in Northern Ireland; but at least no-one can accuse us of hypocrisy and sheer naked opportunism.
So he doesn’t like the DUP it seams. I have to agree with him though. He makes extremely valid points!
The DUP still boasts of their successes at St Andrews and the better, fairer deal they returned with. Oh really!
Try telling the electorate of Dromore about that better deal—where a majority of the unionist electorate voted against the DUP candidate.
Try boasting of the better deal to those once core followers who have defected to the TUV—claiming that they have been sold-out
Try convincing the Paisleys—Snr and Jnr—who have been toppled in a brutal coup: And toppled because their MLA group panicked when they became aware of the groundswell of discontent that accompanied the “better” deal.
And try selling the better deal to the tens of thousands of parents who have still no idea what is happening to those children who will be transferring from primary to secondary school in the next few years.
The next elections will be critical for the DUP, not so much Sinn Fein. SDLP have not reinvigorated has much as the UUP have.
Peter [Robinson] will try and cosy up to us with soft words about cooperation and the need to maximise the overall unionist vote. But let no-one forget that his fingerprints are on every aspect of the DUP’s tactics and strategies over the past decades. He, personally, ran the propaganda machine that spat out most of the venom at this party.
So let me put it bluntly: the Ulster Unionist Party didn’t endure the orchestrated abuse against us since 1997; or the tidal wave of attacks upon our integrity; or the vilification of our leading figures; simply to strike up a marriage of convenience with a DUP which is worried about the impact of Jim Allister.
And we haven’t overhauled our structures, transforming ourselves into a more effective political and electoral machine, just to help Peter Robinson out of a possible electoral hole.
Yes, there are areas in which the DUP and UUP can cooperate. I have no objection to that. But cooperation is a two-way process. It may have taken some people almost forty years to uncover the true nature of the DUP—which can be summed up as a sustained campaign to destroy the UUP—but too many of us in this room know too much about the DUP to be easily swayed by romantic overtures at this stage of the game.
Theres a warning to the DUP. I think he means business! Go on Sir Reg!
People sometimes wonder what we mean when we talk of “normal politics” and dealing with the so-called bread and butter issues. I’ll tell you what I mean.
In recent weeks, families of all income groups have been reeling from a sustained series of price hikes on those goods and services which are essential to modern living. Fuel, Gas, electricity, transport, mortgages and food are going up literally every day. On the 5th May I bought diesel at 117.9p. Yesterday I saw it at 131.9p!
That is only one example. Every vital item is affected; bread, milk, butter etc. This will feed through into inflation and people will naturally be seeking more wages to pay for it.
It will present the Assembly with an enormous challenge. People will want answers. They won’t be bought off with rhetoric about a United Ireland or a United Kingdom. They won’t be bought off with laying the blame at the door of the Chancellor in 11 Downing Street. And they certainly won’t be impressed by the various political parties in that Assembly indulging in a tit-for-tat propaganda battle.
Child poverty and fuel poverty are already everyday facts of life for too many families in Northern Ireland. Recent price rises are making the achievement of child poverty reduction targets almost impossible. Even supposedly well-to-do families are surviving on loans and credit cards.
Is this really the right time to burden our most vulnerable people with new water charges? We have already seen what the 10p tax revolt has done to Gordon Brown.
In our manifesto for the last Assembly election we spoke of the need for “normal politics”—the need to produce and deliver policies which address the socio/economic concerns of everyone in Northern Ireland. A recession makes no distinction between a UUP voter and a SF voter. A mortgage hike can be as devastating to someone in Cultra as it is to someone in Taughmonagh.
We have argued for years that devolution would make a difference to Northern Ireland. It has to make a difference—and it has to be a difference for the better. A recent poll in the Belfast Telegraph had 72% saying that it had made no difference to their lives so far. The Assembly cannot be seen to be impotent in the face of the huge challenges we face. The electorate would be unforgiving.
If ever there was a time for the people and parties of Northern Ireland to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of oncoming difficulties, then this is that moment. How the Assembly and the Executive Committee deal with the array of problems we face will, ultimately, determine the fate of devolution here.
Excellent! Sir Reg heads the nail on the head to what the UUP need to do! Actually what all Northern Parties need to do!