Belfast Telegraph

Ukip treading carefully in political minefield

By Liam Clarke

It is always difficult for UK political parties to establish themselves in Northern Ireland, even with local partners.

Labour has always refused and, although it has some local members and links with the SDLP, it doesn't send politicians over here to canvass. The Tories had an unhappy experience as the UUP's electoral partner and are trying again.

Ukip is new here, but it has had a reasonably good start. It recruited an experienced MLA to lead it in the shape of UUP veteran David McNarry. It has had a few defectors from other parties and the outfit seems enthused, but there are strains.

Nigel Farage was fun as he necked pints in the Europa bar, but he was slow to commit on local disputes or identify with anything that might come back to bite him in Britain.

The message he put up on a Ukip NI video sums it up: "Vote for a national political party, vote for a unionist party, vote for one not tainted by any sectarianism of any kind at all, but proud to be patriotic."

Mr Farage won't sign a controversial 'victims' contract', which could outlaw some republican and loyalist events, though the local party promised that he would do so.

He wants to make a go of Northern Ireland – but with a lot at stake in Britain, he is treading cautiously here.

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