Irish Republican News · June 7, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: ‘21st century’ unionists launch new party
‘21st century’ unionists launch new party

ni21.jpg

A new unionist party has styled itself as the ‘Northern Ireland party for the 21st century’.

Ulster Unionist Party defectors, John McCallister and Basil McCrea, officially launched the ‘NI21’ party this week.

At a press conference they unveiled their party’s new name and logo, and battled to defend themselves from allegations that the new organisation is a vehicle for selfish political ambitions.

The two assembly members left the UUP earlier this year after disagreements with leader Mike Nesbitt over that party’s moves towards a formal alliance with the dominant unionist party, the DUP.

Despite NI21’s openly unionist agenda, the new party has chosen not to include the word ‘unionist’ in its name or use any traditional red, white and blue branding.

According to its literature, the NI21 title is designed to reflect a rejection of the “baggage of the 20th century, legacy and conflict”.

However, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness suggested the new party’s name “sounds like a virus”.

“I like Basil & John but calling their new party NI21,” he tweeted. “Sounds like a virus, or maybe a road, or even a hark back to the past.”

During the launch in Belfast city centre, Mr McCrea argued that the established parties represented the last century.

He spoke of “old grey men” who rarely agreed and reduced politics to “orange and green”. He criticised the Six-County government’s structures and the lack of available sanctions to challenge the executive.

“Without choice there is no alternative to the government, no matter how bad,” he said.

The ‘NI21’ leader said his party would offer a “democratic alternative to the current incumbents”, meaning the multi-party executive.

“More importantly it will provide you with the opportunity to be that alternative,” he said.

Commentators pointed out that ‘NI21’ is the 20th unionist party to emerge since 1970. All but a handful have since disappeared, unable to lay strong foundations or foster any clear difference with the established parties.

Far fewer recruits than might be expected have so far revealed themselves, although it was announced that the former deputy leader of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), David Rose, has joined the organisation.

COALITION FALTERS

Meanwhile, another new loyalist party has struggled to maintain its cohesion, just weeks after its launch.

Leading member Davy Nicholl has already left the hard-line ‘Protestant Coalition’ party due to ill health, while former British Nationalist Party fund raiser Jim Dowson and his daughter Alice are also believed to have stepped back from the group.

Party leader Willie Frazer said the group was still active, but that it had suffered due to bail restrictions placed on a number of leading members who face criminal charges in connection to the loyalist flag disturbances earlier this year.

“We have over 400 members and growing interest from people all over the country including a number of elected councillors,” claimed Mr Frazer.

“The Protestant people have been left without a voice and we are determined to give them an alternative.”

UUP STUNG

Meanwhile, the trials of turned UUP leader Mike Nesbitt continued this week with news that John ‘Baron’ Laird, who represents the party in Westminster’s House of Lords, was apparently caught in a corruption sting.

Undercover Sunday Times reporters filmed Laird and two other peers appearing to offer to help a fake energy company promote their agenda at Westminster, including asking parliamentary questions, in return for cash.

On Monday the UUP announced that Laird had been suspended from the party.

© 2013 Irish Republican News