TUV leader Jim Allister tonight revealed he will contest the European elections in May - and that the party aims to field 50 council candidates.
Over 100 people attended a lively delegates conference in the Park Avenue Hotel in Belfast, where Mr Allister hit out at the prevailing political arrangement at Stormont in his usual style, standing under a banner with a photograph of First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness smiling. Underneath there was bold type urging ‘Wipe that smile off their faces - vote TUV’.
The former DUP MEP 2004-09, who at one time ran then MEP Ian Paisley Europe office, came out with some hard-hitting sound bites, saying he looked forward to taking on “the pan-nationalist front” but this time including the Alliance Party with the SDLP and Sinn Fein, a nod to Alliance candidate Anna Lo’s revelation that she favours Irish unification.
The TUV, he said, is unionism’s “insurance policy” in relation to the controversial proposals from US diplomat Richard Haass on dealing with Northern Ireland’s past.
The party claimed last night that Mr Allister’s high vote in 2009 “took many commentators by surprise” and that since then his high profile as “the voice of opposition” in Stormont has greatly added to his standing.
In his acceptance speech Mr Allister slammed the “craven” UK government for “corrupting” the political and judicial processes through the On-The-Run scandal, accusing DUP leader Peter Robinson of “faux anger” over the matter and asking why he is still in government with Sinn Fein.
The criminal law QC claimed the TUV is “the only party to have taken on Sinn Fein and won” by blocking “Provo killers” from being appointed as £90,000 a year Special Advisers at Stormont.
“TUV is the friend of innocent victims; others, alas, in government are the friends of the victim-makers.”
And he championed the case against “the odious Maze project”, he said, while DUP Diane Dodds and the rest of the DUP “did nothing to stop it till the united unionist petition pulled the rug from under them”.
He also welcomed the opportunity to take on “the pan-nationalist front, be it Sinn Fein themselves, to whom I’ll never bow down, or the Euro fanatical SDLP, or even the latest bit player of nationalism, the outed Alliance Party.”
He also assured the party faithful they would be better off out of the EU which gives us “a staggering net cost of £23m per day!”