Sunday 28 February 2010

Fermanagh – UCUNF’s Alamo

The News Letter reports that:

“Private talks between the Ulster Unionists and the DUP in Fermanagh are understood to be continuing, despite the UUP-Conservative alliance moving to finalise 17 of its 18 candidates within days.

It is understood that local engagement between the two parties has continued regardless of Tory insistence that the Conservatives and Unionists will run in every constituency across the Province.”
On Thursday this blog reported on the approaches made to Norman Baxter, and speculated that there was something afoot in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Yesterday’s New Letter proves that speculation to have been correct.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone risks becoming UCUNF’s Alamo – either they stand their ground, or they fall. If the Tories break their pledge – that UCUNF would stand in all 18 constituencies – then they will show themselves to be untrustworthy – and worse, if they allow themselves to be part of an old-fashioned tribal battle, they will show that they are not, as they claim, bringing anything new to Northern Irish politics.

A unionist pact or a ‘unionist unity’ candidate, if endorsed by the Tories simply puts them full-square in the unionist tribal camp. In which case they may as well just pack up and go home again, because Northern Ireland already has enough tribal unionist parties.


Anonymous said...

"A unionist pact or a ‘unionist unity’ candidate, if endorsed by the Tories simply puts them full-square in the unionist tribal camp."

But does it? Might it not be that both The Conservatives and The UUP actually have a political outlook that is very similar to The DUP's? In which case, doing deals with The DUP could make sense. After all, The Conservatives don't have much in common with SF or The SDLP do they, even ignoring the border issue?

picador said...

UCUNF, if they can find a candidate who isn't objectionable to the DUP, could justify such a candidacy on the grounds that Michelle Gildernew is an abstentionist and that the people of F & ST are not represented in Westminister.

BTW Baxter has ruled himself out.

Horseman said...


The abstentionist argument is, of course, an easy sell in unionist circles, but the problem for UCUNF is that they were adamant that there was no deal with the DUP (let alone the TUV!), so if they now enter a pact with them it will be totally hypocritical and opportunist. As I said on Thursday (and have said before) the only realistic option for unionism as a whole is that one party stands aside. But for the DUP to do that in a constituency where they outvote the UUP (and where the Tories don't exist (sorry Seymour!)) would be a real climb-down.

It puts unionists in a difficult place - only with a pact can they beat SF, but a pact shows them to be tribalist, Tories included.

Hence the pressing need to find a compromise candidate, who will conveniently join the UUP or the Tories just in time, but will be sufficiently hardline that the DUP will play long. Baxter was a possibility, but he said 'no' fairly emphatically. Who else can they drag up? A blow-in - maybe the 'white knight' (Tim Collins)? If not him, they really are short of possibilities. The Tories are largely to lame - their macho promises took no account of the fact that they simply have no presence in most of NI, and the candidates would end up having to be UUPers. But poor Tom Elliott appears to lack the full confidence of UCUNF.

Lets hope their inability to find a suitable candidate in FST continues, and Foster and Elliott both stand.

paul said...

never mind writing comments horseman and get on and write another post.


Paddy Canuck said...

"It puts unionists in a difficult place - only with a pact can they beat SF, but a pact shows them to be tribalist, Tories included."

Wait, sorry, in all seriousness here... was this ever in doubt? Are they actually self-deluded enough to imagine this would come as a shock to anyone?

Marc said...

As a slight aside, do you expect any slight demographic shifts to increase the general nationalist vote by a percentage or two since the 2005 general election in Fermanagh South Tyrone? What outcome would you predict in the even that the Unionists cut some sort of a deal to field one candidate?

Horseman said...


That is a good question. The period from 2005 to 2010 is barely a blink of the eye in demographic terms, of course, but some change in FST has been visible for a while:

1992 Unionist total 48.2%
1997 Unionist total 51.5% (!)
2001 Unionist total 47.2%
2005 Unionist total 47.0%

In 'regional' elections (where there are more parties and STV) a decline in the unionist vote is also perhaps visible:

1996 Unionist total 49.1%
1998 Unionist total 46.9%
2003 Unionist total 47.4%
2007 Unionist total 46.0%

What is clear is that the roughly 50/50 split in the constituency is now looking more like 54/46 (or 53/47 to be generous). It means, of course, that a single unionist could still beat two nationalists. Two unionists candidates means an almost certain win for SF, but one means an almost certain win for unionism. Hence their obsession with trying to find a 'unionist unity' candidate. Lets hope they fail.

The population in FST is majority Catholic, and the older people are much more Protestant than the young. Amongst older people in FST (over 60 in 2001), for example, over 50% were Protestant by community background, whereas amongst those aged 20 and under that proportion was under 40%. Over 60% of the children in 2001 were from a Catholic background. The older people are dying, and those children are starting to vote. The trend can only go one way.

hoboroad said...