The TUV would surge on a “rising tide of support” in the Assembly elections this May and “wipe the smiles of the faces of the naysayers” who have underestimated his party, he predicted.
In his speech to the TUV’s annual conference in Cookstown on Saturday, Mr Allister described the party he once represented in the European Parliament, the DUP, as a “sinking ship”.
The TUV unveiled 18 candidates standing in each of the Assembly constituencies. Jim Allister is the sole TUV MLA at Stormont.
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Mr Allister pledged that the TUV will never be the “bridesmaid” that delivered the post of first minister to Sinn Fein after the election on May 5. He challenged the DUP and the UUP on their positions regarding the possible scenario of Sinn Fein topping the poll.
“There can only ever be a Sinn Fein first minister – even if they were the biggest party – if they find some stooge of a unionist party to fill the post of deputy,” he said.
“TUV has no difficulty answering that question, I can tell you this party will never be bridesmaid for Sinn Fein.
“My challenge today to other unionist leaders: will they assure the unionist people of the same?”
The TUV leader described the other major challenge facing unionists, the Northern Ireland Protocol as an “instrument to break up this United Kingdom, a device to leave Northern Ireland aligned with the Republic under the foreign sovereignty of the EU”.
He continued: “This protocol can never be acceptable or made acceptable … because it makes us subject to foreign jurisdiction, foreign single market, foreign customs code, foreign VAT regime, all ruled over by foreign laws we don’t make and can’t change by a foreign court.
“Article 16 is but a step, it’s not a solution, it presses the pause button and then embarks on further years of endless negotiation. What we need from the British government is much more than Article 16, what we need is repudiation … it must go, no ifs, not buts.”
To loud applause and cheering from delegates inside the Royal Hotel, Mr Allister said: “We’re in a great position where there is a rising tide of support for this party across this province. I have a simple message for you: go back to your constituencies and work for victory.”
He pointed to rising support for the TUV in recent opinion polls and claimed this has had the effect of “inducing others to harden their stand” on the protocol and “sing off our hymn sheet”.
The conference was opened by veteran unionist politician William Ross, the president of the TUV.
Mr Ross served as an Ulster Unionist MP first between 1974 and 1983 for Londonderry and in the neighbouring East Londonderry constituency between 1983 to 2001.
He resigned from the UUP after a long battle against David Trimble and in protest over his then leader signing the Belfast Agreement.
The former MP told delegates that “I didn’t leave the Ulster Unionist Party, they left their principles instead”.
He then compared his decision to leave the UUP to Jim Allister walking away from the DUP in 2007.
“Jim Allister didn’t leave the DUP, the DUP left their principles too,” Mr Ross said.
TUV candidate for West Tyrone Trevor Clarke spoke from the platform about the issue of legacy and the Troubles.
Mr Clarke criticised the police ombudsman for its focus on Troubles-related killings where police officers were allegedly involved.
He said it was “unfair and unjust” that there have been no inquiries into 15 unsolved murders in his native Castlederg, Co Tyrone, all of them carried out by the Provisional IRA.
The TUV representative added that the relationship between the Irish government at the start of the Troubles and the nascent Provisional IRA in 1969/70 is “persistently overlooked”.
He said any proper legacy process must look into the Irish Republic’s role as a “safe haven” for the IRA especially in border regions during its terror campaign.