THE Alliance Party has attempted to persuade disillusioned liberal Ulster Unionists that they can remain unionists and join Alliance.
Writing in today’s News Letter, Alliance minister Stephen Farry specifically targets disaffected UUP members and attempts to debunk the argument by many UUP members that as Alliance is not a pro-Union party, they would not be comfortable as members.
Dr Farry said: “As the Ulster Unionist Party continues on its slow-motion implosion, some people are asking the question whether Alliance can or should now move to fill their presumed void on the political spectrum and to become a home for disaffected moderate Ulster Unionists.”
Dr Farry stressed that although Alliance does not take a position on the constitutional question, “Alliance can be a home for unionists without being an overtly unionist party. We can be a home for nationalists, without being an overtly nationalist party.
“Instead, people are recognising that there are bigger issues at stake and greater opportunities on offer.”
And, in what appears to be an indication that Alliance is concerned at the possibility of a new pro-Union party emerging as a home for unhappy UUP members, Dr Farry said: “To argue that there is a need for a specific political entity for moderate unionists and a specific vehicle for moderate nationalists misses the fundamental point and indeed opportunity to consolidate a political movement that transcends sectional interests, rises above the politics of ‘them’ versus ‘us’ and seeks to represent everyone.”
Meanwhile, a new unionist group has emerged in West Tyrone.
The ‘New Unionist Forum for West Tyrone’ said in a statement to the News Letter that it had members from both the DUP and UUP. The group stressed that it would be working with political unionism in the area.
A spokesman said: “If we can effectively address some of the causes of dissatisfaction and disengagement from sections of the unionist community around the political process and the cultural issues, and be in a position to meet the main ‘Unionist Forum’ with our input in a professional and informative manner, and generate positive leadership for the West Tyrone area through this engagement, we believe political unionism will be strengthened.”
The group said that it intended to hold its first meeting in the Newtownstewart area next week.
There have been several peaceful demonstrations in the Fermanagh and Tyrone area in support of the Union Flag flying daily from Belfast City Hall, including a recent ‘victims and Union Flag’ event in Castlederg which was addressed by TUV leader Jim Allister, the DUP’s Tom Buchanan and the UUP’s Derek Hussey.