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Statement by Peter Robinson on the decision of the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly not to recognise the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group with Mr David Ervine (PUP) in it, (12 September 2006)

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Text: Peter Robinson ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Statement by Peter Robinson, then Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), on the decision by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly not to recognise the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Group association with David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), (12 September 2006)


"The Speaker’s ruling on the link between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Progressive Unionist Party has left the credibility of the UUP and Reg Empey in tatters. It is an embarrassment of massive proportions and leaves a huge question over the judgement of Reg Empey.

This is the nightmare scenario for the UUP and while the farce may be over no one will forget that it was not the Ulster Unionist Party that put an end to the link with the PUP but the Speaker. This speaks volumes for the political strategy and direction of the UUP.

In passing further comment on the subject the UUP merely digs itself into an even deeper hole. Seeking to defend the indefensible is yet another strategic mistake.

The UUP’s only justification for the link up with the PUP was that it gave them an advantage should d’Hondt ever be run to form an Executive. That reason has now gone. At the time, we told Reg Empey that there were other, better ways to deprive Sinn Fein of a seat in an Executive should such circumstances ever occur. Indeed as we have previously outlined there are at least five other ways of securing unionisms rightful position in an executive. Unlike the UUP/PUP deal all of these alternatives are capable of delivering for unionism.

With a huge section of the unionist community the credibility of the UUP has been holed beneath the water line. Reg Empey has endured nothing but pain for no gain. He has seriously split his Party on the issue, causing the UUP’s only MP to adopt a diametrically opposed position.

I raised the issue with the Speaker in May because it was clear that it was a breach of the rules. In our submissions to the Speaker we made it clear that this was an obvious breach of the rules which the UUP did not even seek to disguise. The Speaker has taken these into account in her ruling today.

If the UUP had stopped for a second to consider the implications of their move they would have realised that not only did it offer political cover for Sinn Fein and the IRA at a time when it was important to put pressure on republicans.

The Ulster Unionist Assembly Group is not a political party. It does not have any of the characteristics of a political party. It neither fights elections nor has any existence outside arrangements pertaining to the Assembly. It is a coalition of two parties for a single particular purpose.

By way of analogy the Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Act 2000 is instructive about what is required for a political party to be registered. At Section 28 the key condition is that the party intends to contest "one or more relevant election". While the Standing Orders make provision for parties which are both 'registered' and 'unregistered' according to the Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Act 2000, this does not change the fact that the central purpose and role of political parties is to contest elections.

It is obvious that the Ulster Unionist Assembly Group has not contested any elections and has no intention of contesting any elections in the future.

The marriage of convenience between the political wing of the UVF and the UUP may be over but the legacy of this decision for the Ulster Unionist Party will go on."


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