An example of the negative and contradictory approaches recently adopted by the Bride and Groom has recently arisen with regards to the recent vote at the NI Assembly on whether to devolve Policing and Justice powers back to Northern Ireland. The majority of Assembly members voted in favour of devolution. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, welcomed the move after previously encouraging Assembly members to vote in favour of devolution with Conservative Party MPs subsequently ratifying the move in the House of Commons a few weeks later.
The Ulster Unionist Party unfortunately took a different approach and instead decided to vote against the devolution of Policing and Justice powers. The UUP have citied the inability of the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree on controversial issues such as Post Primary Transfer as the main justification for their decision to vote ‘No’. This justification lacks credibility since during the negotiations at Hillsborough significant time was devoted to devising a means to address difficult and controversial issues. The Alliance Party, along with other parties, engaged in these negotiations; but instead of positively engaging, the Ulster Unionist Party stayed away for most of time, preferring to moan and whinge on the sidelines. It is deeply regrettable that the Ulster Unionist Party has decided to put narrow party political interests first. The Ulster Unionists clearly have not learnt anything from the recent expenses scandals at Westminster and Stormont. The people of Northern Ireland want politicians who put the people first, the party second and themselves last; rather than themselves first, the party second and the people last.
The Ulster Unionist and Conservative Parties recently announced that the people of North Down will be given an opportunity to decide whether they support the negative approach recently adopted by the Ulster Unionist Party and vote for a combined Candidate representing the Ulster Unionist and Conservative Parties. Ian Parsley has been announced as the candidate and I wish him well.
When Ian defected from the Alliance Party to the Conservative Party I expected he would show complete loyalty to his new Party and it’s leader, David Cameron. Anyone who changes party allegiance, as I can attest, really should be aware of how important it is to reassure their new party and the electorate that they have fully thought through their move and are 100% committed to their new party, its policies and its leadership.
I was therefore rather shocked to discover that Ian has adopted and continues to defend a position which clearly contradicts the opinion expressed by his Party Leader and the political party he now belongs to.
Ian is currently defending the Ulster Unionist Party position against the devolution of Policing and Justice despite the fact that his Party Leader supports devolution and Conservative Party MPs recently voted en masse in favour of the move.
After the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Northern Ireland affairs, Alistair Carmichael, exposed the contradictory nature of Ian’s position, Mr Parsley has responded with an outlandish and ridiculous allegation that the Liberal Democrats are ‘not Liberal, and scarcely Democratic’. This bizarre response is difficult to understand but probably shows that Ian is rattled because yet more inconsistencies have been exposed in relation to the UUP / Tory link-up. As Vice-Chairperson of the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland I can confidently state that the Liberal Democrats are extremely democratic and firmly committed to Liberal values. Unlike the Conservative Party, The Liberal Democrats have consistently argued for Proportional Representation. As Liberals we support freedom and equality, unlike the Conservative Party who want to actively discriminate against unmarried couples and have a long track record of castigating minorities.
Ian’s recent statements highlight yet again that the Ulster Unionist Party/Tory link-up is a shambolic marriage full of inconsistencies.
Ian says he wants a Shared Future but yet is allied to a party which includes people such as Adrian Watson who wants to stand for the Conservative and Ulster Unionist Parties in South Antrim despite previous calling Travellers “scumbags” and “scum of the earth” and stating that he would not allow a gay couple stay in his Guest House. Ian is also allied with a Party which includes Strangford MLA David McNarry who previously objected to the screening of GAA matches by the BBC.
Only the Alliance Party is totally committed to delivering a Shared Future. The Alliance Party is not about the sectarian and discriminatory politics of the past but rather about rebuilding the economy, protecting the environment, tackling division, rejecting bigotry and ensuring Northern Ireland is a place which welcomes everyone, regardless of whether they are Catholic or Protestant, Unionist or Nationalist, Black or White, Straight or Gay, a settled resident or a traveller.
Whilst the Ulster Unionist and Conservative Party link-up may look new, it is, in reality, all about the politics of the past. Whilst the Ulster Unionist and Conservative Parties provide lip-service to ideas of change and inclusivity; the Alliance Party continues to work hard for real change that benefits everyone, built upon a Shared Future with strong, positive and consistent leadership.
31 March 2010