Tory/UU marriage is dead.

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The marriage between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative
Party is finally over. A very wide chasm developed in recent weeks
when Tom Elliott and his tiny tots walked out on Secretary of State
Owen Paterson. Even a secret appearance by Mr Paterson at an Ulster
Unionist Assembly Party group meeting has done little to assuage the
Ulster Unionist Party leader’s sense of ‘ frustration’ at the refusal
of the Conservatives to take steps to change the rules on the
appointment of a First Minister. It is now ‘stop Sinn Fein holding the
post of First Minister at all costs’ as far as the two main unionist
blocks are concerned. The result of the Southern elections has put the
wind up Unionism fearful of ‘a bounce’ electorally for Sinn Fein in
Northern Ireland. The Executive Review Committee has failed to reach a
consensus on how the First Minister should assume powers. The first
model proposed won only the backing of the SDLP and Ulster Unionists.
Another recommendation deleted a ‘cross-community’ element. Having
listened to the various recommendations put forward by the Executive
Review Committee Owen Paterson bluntly told Tom Elliott and his
colleagues the rules will not be changed without all party backing. Mr
Elliott and his colleagues including Fred Cobain felt so ‘frustrated’
that they withdrew from the meeting in what insiders interpreted as a
‘sulk.’ My sense is that Tom Elliott and his party deem the Secretary
of State ‘spineless.’ We are on the cusp of an Assembly election. The
DUP has already set out it’s stall. A month ago Unionists of various
cues were sneering at Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams labelling him ‘the
redundant baron of the Manor of Northstead.’ Adams’s personal success
in Louth and the jump in Sinn Fein representation in the Dail are
suddenly a ‘game changer.’ Peter Robinson has moved to garner Unionist
electoral support ‘to stop Gerry Adams’s all Ireland strategy in it’s
tracks.’ Even though Mr Robinson spoke of “getting away from the
politics of fear in Northern Ireland” his message wasn’t a thousand
miles away from an old chestnut which everyone thought had had it’s
day “smash Sinn Fein.” 

www.EamonnMallie.com
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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.

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