Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Liberal unionism out of touch with the masses

Trevor Ringland

The decision by Trevor Ringland to resign from the Ulster Unionist Party will appear to some to be the death of liberal Ulster Unionism; to others it will confirm that he and others don't understand the heart of Ulster Unionism.

Over the last few years, there has been a tug of war. The 'liberals' have sought to create a centre-right, moderate, politically-correct party. Laudable, but such ideals have not matched the unionist electorate. Mr/Mrs Mainstream Unionist are not 'liberally-minded tree-huggers', they don't want to go to GAA matches, they broadly ignore Gay Pride, to them nationalism/republicanism has never shown them any respect.

The Agreement in 1998 was a risk they were prepared to take, but believe they got little in return. They want a party of principle, prepared to show respect but demanding it in return.

They want politicians to uphold their values and not give in to nationalism. They want value for money, a decent education system, a properly-funded health service and good relations with the Republic. They simply want a political party to stand up for them and their rights. They don't see this in the DUP and recently they haven't seen it in the UUP.

Tom Elliot has one chance; can he re-find the soul of the Ulster Unionist Party and re-engage with the unionist electorate?

CLIVE KIRKWOOD

Belfast

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