From Lord Edward to TV Mike

Tommy McKeareny with a piece on the upcoming Mid Ulster by-election which initially featured on his own blog.

The mighty party Edward Carson once led with iron-fisted certitude is now stumbling, drunkenly towards an inglorious end. Surveying turmoil around him, Mike Nesbitt, the current leader of the once all-powerful Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), might now think he would have been better advised to try reality television than attempting to fill the position once occupied by men like James Craig and John Andrews. In his desperation to succeed, Nesbitt is staking everything on a strategy that is ill judged and ill advised. The outcome of his gamble is unlikely to save his leadership or his party and most certainly will not enhance unionism.

Due perhaps to years spent in media circles rather than at the coal face of politics in Northern Ireland, Mike Nesbitt has at best, a press man’s insight into the Unionist Party and its ethos. As a celebrity import into the UUP leadership, he probably felt that he had to make an instant impact by delivering rapid and visible progress. The outcome of his striving is altogether different from what he intended. By treating his party as a product to be marketed rather than the political expression of a section of society, he has blundered disastrously and nowhere more spectacularly than when he consented to an agreed Unionist candidate for the Mid-Ulster by-election.

With its very large nationalist majority, Mid-Ulster is not going to return a unionist of any shade or persuasion regardless of whether there is an agreed pro-union candidate or not. In other words, since there is no question of gifting  the seat to Sinn Fein as the result of splitting the unionist vote, it would have been a perfect opportunity for the UUP to run its own candidate and demonstrate its independence and individuality. Instead, Nesbitt has opted not only to ‘tail-end’ the DUP but because of the background of the candidate selected, he has also contrived to turn the by-election into one of the most toxic campaigns imaginable.

By selecting Nigel Lutton to run as an agreed Unionist candidate, the DUP and UUP believe they can undermine the Sinn Fein candidate Francie Molloy and maximise their vote. The Unionist parties undoubtedly intend playing up the fact that in 2007, the Democratic Unionist MP David Simpson  used Parliamentary privilege to accuse Francie Molloy of involvement in the killing of the agreed candidate’s father, ex-RUC reservist Fredrick Lutton. Notwithstanding Molloy’s outright denial of having any part in the killing, the unproven allegation will be bandied about promiscuously.

In itself, that would be a cynical ploy echoing the nastiest use of the Orange card. However, the damage will not stop at that. Sinn Fein, in order to balance the field, will feel obliged to brief (albeit surreptitiously) against Nigel Lutton. Mr. Lutton’s uncle Joseph has served a life sentence for UVF related killings in the Mid-Ulster area. Consequently, many Catholics in the area believed that the late Fredrick Lutton was asked to (rather than being offered the option) resign from the RUC. While none of this can possibly attach any stain to Nigel Lutton or his character, the nature of electoral politics in Northern Ireland will ensure that the Mid-Ulster by-election will now become, off-stage, an exhumation of the horrors of the killings of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in rural Tyrone and Armagh.

Coming on the back of UUP supported flag protests, the fall-out from this campaign will linger long after the by-election is over and the agreed unionist candidate soundly beaten. Having stirred up the vilest passions and memories, Unionism will have found a common denominator in a poisonous brand of politics that the DUP does best. Mike Nesbitt and the UUP will have then to choose between merging with Paisleyism or watch the party decline into irrelevance due to it being surplus to requirement.

Very few republicans or nationalists will regret the passing of the UUP and even fewer will celebrate its re-emergence as the DUP. Nevertheless, if Mike Nesbitt is due any credit in all of this, it that he has at least cleared away any residual doubts about the incurably sectarian and reactionary nature of Unionism in Northern Ireland. To this extent only, is TV Mike a fitting successor to Carson, Craig and Basil Brooke.


  1. It looks like the Dup/uu have in one stupid decision resurrected Quisling $inn £eins electoral campaign , in a area where most republicans are sick of the grovelling and blatantly pro unionist stance of Mc Guinness,the chances that with Marian Price and Martin Coreys continuing internment,there would have been a fair sized spoilt or no vote from the population there, the selection of Nigel Lutton has ensured that the orange /green dance and fuck the real issues is going to be as alive and well here as it always has been ..

  2. Thought that was a well wrote Article by Tommy Mckearney but i can still remember the days when Willie McCrea walked it to westminister in election after electon in mid ulster-so i still get goose-bumbs when some one says that this is a safe seat now for Sinn Fein-

    Mike Nesbitt is only worried about one thing-and that is his own MLA seat-but the DUP smells weakness from Nesbitt and will try for all the UUP seats-whats left of them anyway-

  3. This as a stimulating piece. I saw MIke Nesbitt on BBC last night and thought he looked very uncomfortable around the question. Intelligent man, articulate and presentable in a way that many leaders of that party have never been but is there any strategic depth there?

  4. I think Nesbitt is a shallow egotistical opinionated bigoted asswipe, without a political position of his own.he is another wee Jeff without the cunning.

  5. Marty,
    Don’t agree at all. There may be a sizeable portion (very difficult to actually put a figure on this) of Republicans in Mid-Ulster sick to the back teeth of SF/MI5’s pro-British stance but at the end of the day these same people despise the Unionists and the SDLP even more than SF/MI5 and will turnout in numbers to vote rather than see the seat go to the aforementioned two……The DUP has a very wily leader in Robinson and this joint candidate that they have put up is not to win the seat but for other reasons which are not yet clear but one of which I would surmise is to further deplete any remaining residual strength of the UUP by causing further disharmony within the party over the result of this decision, especially considering the historical failure of that same policy in Fermanagh / South Tyrone you’d have thought that they would have learned their lesson!!!!! That will eventually lead to its final demise and thus leaving those UUP supporters no alternative but to vote DUP – the DUP becomes the solitary ultimate ruler of Unionism…….the election is unwinnable by them so why a joint candidate? Nesbit has inherited an empty treasure chest and his foolish attempts at filling it with worthless bric a brac just won’t sell it.

  6. AM,
    In answer to your question on strategic depth, the answer is definatley no. I recoll back to the time he left UTV and got his first seat as a UUP candidate. The look on his fact was of sheer relief, that a political funding job had been secured for 4 years. Then he snaked his way to the leadership, based on his presentation and his ability to speak. I really believe after that it was a careful learning curve for him in lie and sly-political ology. He is testing the water with the DUP, not only for maximisiation of the religious unionist vote, but also to see if he will do alright out of it. A careerist. Now, I seen the programme, and everytime I see Arlene Foster, I see the same arrogant, patronizing politican very similar to Ian paisley junior and jim mcallister. She really belives she is above criticism and self righteous. Did anyone pick up on her saying she "wasnt from a priviledges family" and went to grammar school. Her dad was a landowner (farmer) and part time RUC reservist, the original double jobbers, now if she doesnt see that as sponsired priviledge getting the tools required to enter grammar school, what does she think of us? She also dropped the ball when she said, I am a anglian religion, how can I separate that from my political protestant thinking. So the orange card, sponsored priviledge to education,and a superior thinking attitude doesnt direct her role in the minister of the economy. Listen here Arlene, you are certainly not superior to me and mine, mentally or physically. You are a educated self righteous, power hungry bigot. Wannabe DUP leader, problem is bucketmouth Nigel Dobbs,has the narcisstic tools and superior educated bigoted religious privledge to see her off. The alliance man wasnt bad on the panel,he didnt leave a lasting impression, as I forgot his name. I thought bernadette was flat. No real socialist spark.Maybe she was told. When she described herself as a feminist, socialist, republician, I thought she was aiming for world speaking tour on radicalism. My opinion, maybe it was her audience, I beleive she is used to different clientel.

  7. Marty,

    he doesn't strike me as a bigot at all. I think he is trying to keep the leaking ship afloat and its any port in a storm so to speak. But his strategic navigation can only raise eyebrows. The Unionist Party decided many years ago it was going nowhere and elected Reg Empey to take it there. Elliot was woeful and Nesbitt had a dificult job to do. But I think he could have handled things much better. I was amazed at him claiming to be a struggling Christian. Always struck me as much too clever to buy into that. I was disappointed when he said he was opposed to gay marriage. Thought Mitchell and Bernadette won that round

  8. james,

    I thought people of your perspective had a more positive view of unionism. Yours is very critical.

  9. When Mike first got to the head of the UUP I felt here is someone who could maybe take the party back to the top of unionism, but alas he has failed. He is a very affable type of guy who many would have seen as someone who would hold the powers that be in check; he came across as an actual politician who wants to make life better.
    But how what when or were he thinks that allowing an agreed candidate between the UUP and DUP to go forward representing the DUP as helping the cause of the UUP is completely baffling ??? They have no chance of winning the seat. My thoughts are that Mike is a completely devoid of any ideas to bring the UUP with him so the best he can conjure up is to support the DUP.
    Progress I think not

  10. AM
    I thought people of your perspective had a more positive view of unionism. Yours is very critical. That is exactly what I think about unionism. After reading the book "When God Took Sides" Religion and identity in Ireland, unfinished history, by marianne Elliott. Great wee book, looking at how mutual religious sterotypes were developed over the centries, how they were perpetuated and entrenched both for the catholic and protestant here in Ireland. The book sort off unfolded the religious protestant undertone of the UUP as well as the catholic. The unionist politicians on the stage last night were every inch into the perpectuation of sectarian, religious, ethic tensions. I said before I am no fan of any religion charlatons or the linkage here in Ireland to politics weather they be catholic or protestant. Unionism is pro imperialism, I cannot cease not to be critical. I aint ghandi, these people piss me right off. You sholud see me on a bad SF, are simply refecting on what they see, as the percieved enemy, were in a matter of fact there is very little difference between the two blocs. Very little. SF, and the catholic church as a channel, same, same, same.

  11. James,

    do you feel unionism is any more pro imperialism that nationalism? Do you regard the relationship between Britain and Ireland as one of imperialism? Given that imperialism no longer needs territorial acquisition to apply its trade are there non imperialist reasons (no less maignant) that explain Britain's role in Ireland?

  12. Stupid, egotistical, obnoxious and naive.

    Those are the four words I would use to sum Nesbitt up. He's really made a total balls up.

  13. I would agree with Tommy McKearney that Nesbitt would've been better to try reality tv, somewhere on a desert island preferably, even Rocakall would suffice. The UUP will fade as will the SDLP, the question in respect of both parties is how long and maybe this could be considered the not so long war that the dup and sinn fein are now prosecuting together.

    The sectarian tactics of both the 'main' british parties standing, sinn fein and the dup seem to be in play to draw support from those who would distance themselves from these parties as a norm. Feelings do run deep here and we do have long memories, yet for some misguided republicans they still will cast a vote for the shinners as Niall put it 'these same people despise the Unionists and the SDLP even more than SF/MI5 and will turnout in numbers to vote rather than see the seat go to the aforementioned two'. And its evident this has been bolstered on both parties by flag protests and suggestions of border polls.

    Personally it took me a long time to realise that it doesn't matter who holds the seat as long as people play the british constitutional game the brits will have Irish men and women in their ranks, abstentionist or not, all this does is to promote the notion of british democracy at work. With the shinners holding the seat what will they achieve for our cause? More revenue, rented accommodation in london? The participation in any British institution whether here in the six counties or in england will bring no benefit to the Irish people, as with everything they have done in recent years it has done nothing but copper fasten partition.

    Molloy made his position clear ten years ago when he said 'We are really prepared to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future. The very principle of partition is accepted, and if the Unionists had had that in the 1920s they would have been laughing.' If Sinn Fein and the provisional leadership had been any way honest then I would say that many who languished in brit jails or paid with their lives would not have taken the path in life they did.

  14. I'd agree with Tommy, 'Very few republicans or nationalists will regret the passing of the UUP' but we must remember the historical reality that it was these same, Campbell college etc. educated boy's', who gave us the war in the first place.
    They gave Nationalists nothing and the working class Unionist little more, low paid employment, the right to coat-trail a few weeks per year through Keady, the Shambles, the Moy, Dungannon etc. making them feel superior to the croppies.
    Their leadership hated Paisley, founder of the DUP, because he sought Protestant democracy and challenged their hedgemony, now, 40 years later their buffed leader is making deals with the same devil.
    Mid-Ulster is a safe seat but it would be good to see a pro-Republican party stand to draw attention to the issues facing Irish internees.

  15. AM
    With regards your question to James,

    "are there non imperialist reasons (no less maignant) that explain Britain's role in Ireland?"

    Economic reasons, although there is still a lot of trade between the two islands, can be discounted as Ireland has the EU to rely on for funding and has continued to drift away from Britain’s influence for many years now. The recent discovery of natural resources such as gas and oil may yet prove to be a reason but that is a distant future reason as the technology to extract most of these finds doesn’t exist yet… perhaps the military ‘back-yard’ perspective of Ireland could be considered but the current threat and quite possibly for the distant future to Britain is from the East and not it’s Western flank – the armed activities of those opposed to Britain’s rule in Ireland hardly constitutes a national crisis!!!!!!!!!!

    Cameron has refused to directly apologise to India for the Armritsar massacre and even went on to cite the benefits of British imperialism in india!!!!!! And this when he is on a trade mission to India! He has even ruled out returning Koh-i-Noor diamond on the grounds that it belongs to Britain and has compared it to the Elgin Marbles. Cameron’s attitude, which is part and parcel of the Establishment – just look at his family tree – so stereo-typical of the Establishment…..we civilised the world and why can’t the world simply see this and be damned thankful for it.

    Just like the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Elgin Marbles…..the only way that Ireland will be returned to its people is to steal it back, for the British are never ever going to give it back!!!!!!!!

    So what could it be that keeps them here?

    Is it simply a case of down-right stubbornness to give in! Could the thought of surrendering to Ireland be such an abomination to the English establishment that they just couldn’t contemplate ever agreeing to it?

  16. Niall enjoyed that comment but because you disagreed with me on Lord Mike post I,m going to disagree here with you, the reason Britain wont give up the wee six is dead simple,if they did then wee Willie, Fleg Bryson and all the community workers may decamp back to the mainland,now for fuck sake ask yourself a cara what would you do if you were big chief dummy tit?

  17. AM
    I will keep it sort, there is a whole book in the questions. My thinking is:
    Do you feel unionism is any more pro imperialism that nationalism?
    No but it is close. The only difference is that the unionist population are socialised to accept imperialist british policy, not only in Ireland but throughout colonisation as “rule Brittania”. The glory days. When do you hear that from nationalist catholic angles, I certainly have not. More likely down south, from the blueshirt FG et al. Maybe a better question would be “How close is nationalism to fascism?” I would like your take on that, if I could?
    Do you regard the relationship between Britain and Ireland as one of imperialism? Of course I do, how could I not via colonisation, partition, and system of governmental capitalist rule. Ireland is a country that has been shaped by imperialism. For hundreds of years Irish people struggled against British colonial domination. The shackles of British imperialism and exploitative relations of capitalism exact today. For example, in southern republic that, while achieving independence, embraced parochial conservatism and crony capitalism. It is there to see. What do you think?
    Given that imperialism no longer needs territorial acquisition to apply its trade are there non imperialist reasons (no less maignant) that explain Britain's role in Ireland?
    This Connolly quote gets this topic rolling “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. What is everybodys thinking?

  18. n April 2012, Nesbitt announced that he wanted to make history by being the first leader of his party to attend a Sinn Fein ard fheis. He said: "We should be going to all the conferences of the main parties, not just the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.".

    Nesbitt is the first leader of the UUP not to be a member of the Orange Order.

    I Don't think he is a Bigot, I hope he has read up on the history of those great Presbyterian's who led catholics and Presbytarian's as well to unite our Island and all to be equal citizens. As a presbytarian I would surmise he has done so. The UUP are in great decline, and, It doesn't matter who they put up, with the DUP, in Mid Ulster, they wont win.

  19. I also really do not know is nesbitt is a bigot. I do know that in order to stay where he is he is going to have to use certain terminology,language and methodology as bigots on both sides of the religious divide. Which believe me he will, such the orange card in mid ulster could be regarded as the first step, I suppose. It will continue to develop depending on audience, voting behavious and career ambitions. You have seen it written here first, his strategy. Just because he comes accross as personable,accomadating pleasing and approval doesnt mean he aint a snake in suit.

  20. Marty,
    I responded to your last comment earlier in the day but I don't see it posted as yet and that may be down to technical difficulties at my end and I'm not being sarcastic here, as I usually am! So, Mackers, if you have received my earlier post to Marty's reason for Britain refusing to leave ignore this one.

    Now, Marty, I take my hat of to your analysis - spot on and very true and also witty...much appreciated....we all need a laugh now and then...cheers.

  21. Niall,

    this is all that came thru. Don't know what end the problem is at as I am just getting e mail that was sent to both me and my wife and she got hers yesterday

  22. Does the fact that he was elected head of a biggoted party not sort of condemn him to wear the same clothes?
    I know, I know, just because I wear a Translink uniform doesn't make me a train driver. But it also doesn't bar me from learning!!!!

  23. Niall:

    Learning is the name of the game, But we have to look at Nesbitt as not being a member of The Orange Order, so lets see what his speeches and words are when the election campaign commences, you , I, and Everyone knows the Orange Order is a sectarian Bigoted society, If one of there members marries a catholic, they are automatically Ostracised , that is sheer bigotry, the gentry living in the past to maintain there positions in the future, there is no future for such bigotry, They are the main obstacle of working class Irish People, Catholic,Protestant, and, disenter from Uniting. They must have been foaming at the mouth when there English queen (Of Foreign Origin) entered a Roman Catholic Church. Its about time the Protestant working class people wised up to these Bigots, what have they done for working class protestant communitees, nothing, except rake in the MONEY. Lets us all look to a future of none violence unity. IF POSSIBLE.