Irish politics may be about to throw up another curious twist as the pro-Union community indulges in a summer of its favourite past time – splitting and realigning.
The dark horse is the hardline, anti-European Union United Kingdom Independence Party – Ukip – which has been giving Brit Premier Dandy Dave Cameron a series of bloody political noses in recent weeks. It only has a couple of elected reps in the North, including councillor Henry Reilly in Mourne and MLA David McNarry in Strangford.
But Ukip should not be lumped in with all the other English-based parties which have made a Viking-style political foray across the Irish Sea only to be electorally slaughtered before their voters had even got off the beaches!
Luckily for the North, racist movements, such as the National Front and British National Party, in spite of clocking up thousands of votes in Britain, have crashed and burned once they reached the Emerald Isle.
But Ukip has the potential in the coming three years to make inroads where the others have collapsed.
Robbo’s DUP, Nesbitt’s Ulster Unionists, Ex-UUP man McCrea’s new nameless liberal party, Policing Minister Davy Ford’s Alliance as well as Dandy Dave’s politically dripping wet Ulster Tories are all locked in a no-punches-pulled battle for pro-Union Catholic voters.
While this strategy is based on the fact Catholics are voting in greater numbers than Prods, it is also based on the false assumption that all pro-Union Catholics are liberal moderates.
Ukip is well placed to tap into the growing band of Right-wing pro-Union Catholic voters who are totally disillusioned with the European Union.
The Tories have also blasted themselves in both feet by rubbing traditionalist Catholics and evangelical Protestants the wrong way with Dandy Dave’s fanatical desire to ram gay marriage down people’s throats.
If ever there was a PM who was provoking an electoral backlash from the Ulster Bible belt, its Cameron.
Wee Jimmy Allister’s Traditional Unionists have been unable to shake off the perception they are nothing more than a ‘bash the DUP’ movement.
In spite of all the so-called Unionist unity moves between the ‘Big Two’, there is still very much a gap on the pro-Union spectrum for a radical Right-wing movement which is overtly Christian as well as staunchly euro-sceptic.
And Ukip has the perfect chance to get a head-start in mobilising this hardline Right-wing community with the European elections next year, where UKIP traditionally tends to do very well in Britain.
With the loyalist parties linked to Protestant death squads still having great difficulties making an electoral impact, Ukip could pull a flanker on all the Unionist parties by targeting the loyalist working class.
Robbo’s DUP has now rebranded itself as a 21st century version of the party it was formed to crush – the liberal Unionist Party of Terence O’Neill. The DUPcannot perform another dramatic U-turn and race to the radical Right because it is locked into a Stormont partnership with the Shinners.
Such a move could endanger the very peace process. When UUP boss Mike Nesbitt and his remaining MLA team analyse the results of last week’s Mid Ulster poll, he might conclude that his best move to protect the UUP is to swing to the Radical Right and enter a pact with Ukip.
Which would guarantee the survival of the Ulster Unionist Council? Being the lapdog of Robbo’s DUP, or Ukip’s pitbull in the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) community?
Right-wing – not moderate - Catholics are the key to maintaining the Union, not liberal Protestants.