Ulster Unionist MPs have played a role in governing the UK
Published 05/03/2009 | 08:32
Speaking about the electoral pact between his Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservatives, Sir Reg Empey stated: “This is an opportunity, for the first time ever, for people in Northern Ireland to vote for pro-Union MPs that will be part of the UK Government” (Belfast Telegraph, February 28).
Sir Reg seems curiously ill-informed concerning the history of his own party.
In the period between the formation of the Ulster Unionist Council in 1905 (when the appearance of the UUP as a distinct entity took place) and the effective collapse of the Unionist-Conservative relationship in the 1970s, a number of Ulster Unionist MPs held ministerial office in London — two of Sir Reg's own predecessors as leader among them.
Sir Edward Carson (later Lord Carson) became Attorney General in 1915 and First Lord of the Admiralty in 1916; Sir James Craig (later Lord Craigavon) served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions from 1918 and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1920 to 1921; Sir Hugh O'Neill (later Lord Rathcavan) was Under Secretary for India and Burma from 1939 to 1940, and Sir Robin Chichester-Clark was Minister of State at the Department of the Environment from 1972 to 1974.
Sir Reg's confidence that Ulster Unionist MPs will form part of the Government after the next General Election is perhaps a little misplaced.
It should not have escaped his attention that his party's one serving MP is not keen on the pact with the Conservatives.
Nor should it have escaped his attention that there is little or no chance of his party regaining any of the seats it has lost since 2001.
C D C Armstrong |Belfast