Empey in pact with extremist
Empey in pact with extremist

The Ulster Unionist Party has agreed a joint “strategy” with unionist hardliner Jim Allister to try to ensure that two unionist politicians are returned as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in next June’s European elections in the North of Ireland.

The surprise move appears to have put an end to proposals that the UUP might merge with the British Conservative party.

UUP leader Reg Empey and Mr Allister issued a statement this week saying they had agreed their strategy to maximise the unionist vote in coming elections.

The three sitting Northern MEPs are the UUP’s Jim Nicholson, Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brun and Jim Allister, originally elected as a DUP MEP but who resigned from the party when the DUP agreed to share power with Sinn Féin.

The vote-sharing strategy caused surprise given that Mr Allister and his Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) are dedicated to destroying the power-sharing administration, and are considerably to the right of the DUP.

Alliance Assembly member Stephen Farry accused the UUP of acting in a “cynical and unprincipled” fashion and said the move called into question its “commitment to stability and progress”.

The UUP said that the “electoral strategy” did not amount to an “electoral pact”, but the move has angered the DUP and alienated British Conservatives who were in discussions to merge with the Ulster Unionists.

Some previous Conservative backers confirmed their opposition to the move.

“The whole point was to move away from sectarian and tribal politics,” one well-placed Conservative was reported as saying.

“He certainly won’t want to be seen working with anti-agreement unionists.”

He described the pact as “ineptitude along the lines of the earlier attempt to include [UVF representatives] the PUP within the Ulster Unionist Assembly Party”.


Meanwhile, councillor and former mayor of Kerry Toireasa Ferris is set to be selected this weekend as the Sinn Féin candidate for the Munster area in the next European elections.

A convention takes place this weekend in Tralee and 28-year-old Ms Ferris is the only name going forward

Ms Ferris, a law graduate who holds a master’s degree from Queen’s University, Belfast, and the daughter of Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, holds seats on Kerry County Council and on Tralee Town Council.

“I was approached by the party to run in the European elections during the summer. Having given it serious consideration I decided to accept the nominations from Kerry and two other counties to put my name forward for consideration by the delegates,” Cllr Ferris said.

“We have a great chance of a seat in 2009 and I will be hoping to be the person spearheading this challenge.”

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