Fein and the Ulster Unionists share a common historical
landmark this year - the centenary of their foundation.
Sinn Fein, marking 28th November 1905, could see
the party return to its glory days of the 1918 General
Election when it won 73 seats across the island,
making it the most powerful movement in post World
War One Ireland.
the UUP, it will want to ensure the founding of
its ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, on
3rd March 1905, becomes a springboard to combat
the Paisleyite electoral bandwagon, otherwise the
planned summer celebrations could turn into a wake.
has already had the 100 years' war. What the UUP
will want to avoid after the May elections is the
slur of being the 100-year party.
Unionist electorate has not been kind to the UUP
since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
A gentle downward slide in the number of UUP seats
has now become an almost uncontrollable downhill
council elections could again see the Ulster Unionists
falling prey to a seemingly rampant Paisleyite electoral
machine. Not only has the DUP stolen the Ulster
Unionists' clothes and policies, but it is clear
Paisleyism is set to take as many UUP seats in local
government and Westminster as possible.
Constable Hugh Orde's assertion the Provisionals
were responsible for the multi-million pound Northern
Bank heist has given the Paisleyites all the ammunition
they require to 'park' the peace process until after
the May local government elections.
the Westminster General Election expected the same
month, the UUP could find itself celebrating its
founding on the same Commons standing as the late
North Down MP, Sir James Kilfedder, who was leader
- and sole MP - for the now defunct Ulster Popular
UUP faces the very real electoral nightmare that
following the next General Election, it could be
left with only one seat, compared to the DUP's 10.
as the SDLP is also facing the prospect of having
to merge with Fianna Fail after May to survive,
so too, the time has come for the Ulster Unionists
to structurally merge with the DUP to form a single,
clearly Right-of-centre political movement simply
known as The Unionist Party.
a single party should also be capable of swallowing
up the working class loyalist votes presently held
by the Progressive Unionists (the movement closest
to the thinking of the Ulster Volunteer Force and
Red Hand Commando) as well as the Ulster Political
Research Group (the organisation which gives political
advice to the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster
work - and succeed practically and electorally -
The Unionist Party must be more structurally cohesive
than the loose working arrangement in 1974 amongst
the anti-Sunningdale parties known as the United
Ulster Unionist Council, or Unionist Coalition.
Unionist Party is not an electoral pact, or a coalition
or council - it is a single party, just as Sinn
Fein has become the single biggest party for republicans
in the North.
the present worry for Ulster Unionists is far more
serious - are there those within their ranks who
are deliberately planning the party's demise so
it can eventually merge with a post-Paisley DUP
to form this single, radical Right-wing Unionist
present group of plotters - believed to include
disillusioned Trimbleistas as well as committed
dissidents who remained after the departure of the
Jeffrey Donaldson media circus - see the need for
a further electoral hammering before they can effectively
dump Trimble as leader.
Trimble survived numerous coup attempts whilst Jeffrey's
clique was highly active in the party, Donaldson's
departure a year ago left the pro-Agreement leadership
with a significant majority of delegates in the
pro-Agreement Ulster Unionists are worried the party
could go the same way as the late Brian Faulkner's
pro-Assembly unionist grouping, which eventually
became the now defunct Unionist Party of Northern
that the DUP has captured a massive chunk of the
traditional Ulster Unionist middle class vote, life-long
UUP activists see the only chance of long-term survival
as a merger with the Paisley party.
they realise this will never happen under the Trimble
leadership, or with Paisley in charge of the DUP.
There are suggestions this group of UUP plotters
is deliberately ensuring the party selects low-profile
candidates for the forthcoming Westminster final
showdown with the DUP for the handful of remaining
Ulster Unionist seats.
the Trimble leadership is privately worried about
- how many more low-profile candidates will be selected
for Westminster and council battles?
lights Daphne Trimble - wife of the party leader
- and former Junior Minister Assemblyman Dermot
Nesbitt failed to win nominations in Lagan Valley
and Strangford respectively, thereby ensuring both
seats will remain in DUP control.
plotters will also be quietly urging the party to
put all its electoral efforts into East Belfast
to help another former minister Reg Empey's campaign
to beat DUP deputy boss Peter Robinson.
is seen as Trimble's clear successor if the party
crashes and burns in May's expected council and
General elections. They equally believe a post-Paisley
DUP led by Nigel Dodds could naturally merge with
an Empey-led UUP rump of a few dozen councillors
dotted across the North and only two MPs.
merger of the DUP and the Ulster Unionists would
see Dodds as The Unionist Party's leader, with Empey
as its deputy leader. For such a theory to become
a practical reality, the retirement or death of
Dr Ian Paisley would need to be accompanied by the
present religious fundamentalist faction losing
control of the DUP.
Dodds winning a future leadership battle in the
DUP would give a clear signal for a merger with
the UUP, could a merger even take place if Robinson
or the DUP's rising star - MEP Jim Allister - succeeded
keep its mind off the unfolding merger plot, the
UUP has unveiled the events from 4th to 6th March
to mark its centenary.
include a banquet at Belfast City Hall's Great Hall,
a service of thanksgiving in Belfast Cathedral,
as well as the centenary AGM on Saturday 5th March
- the closest date to the actual formation.
party has also commissioned a history to be penned
by former Belfast Lord Mayor and Assembly member,
the historian Dr Ian Adamson. Two major summertime
events are being planned by North Down Assemblyman
Alan McFarland and Lord Maginnis, the former Fermanagh/South
the UUP must avoid at all costs is that the banquet
does not become a Last Supper for a party about
to be electorally crucified, and the thanksgiving
service a Requiem Mass for a movement soon to be
merger with the UUP could enable the Paisley party
to rid itself of the Free Presbyterian fundamentalist
clique, whilst at the same time, it would enable
the Ulster Unionists to dump the Orange Order baggage
which has bedeviled the Ulster Unionist Council
since the Drumcree parades saga grew nasty in the