Belfast Telegraph

TUV may be more than its leader, but all speak with master's voice

By Noel McAdam

"You may be a thug," the TUV chairman told Jim Allister, "but you're our thug."

It wasn't the best, or even the most telling, line of the day, but fed into its main theme.

The TUV conference was trying very hard to say: "We're not just Jim any longer."

The less-than-hidden message came in the focus on both its newly elected councillors and retiring veterans, but there is no doubt that Mr Allister remains the star turn. Though the TUV now has more elected representatives, they all speak with one voice - Jim's. No "puffed-up lemmings" or "pygmies" here, to quote Peter Robinson.

Numbers are slightly up, with more than 250 attending, but it's an audience which is overwhelmingly male, with an average age of 50-plus.

In his "thug" quip, chairman Ivor McConnell was referring to DUP veteran Sammy Wilson's vicious attack on Mr Allister on the social development committee at Stormont.

Allister also referred to it, and said if his cross-examination of special adviser Stephen Brimstone had riled the DUP into the attack "then so be it", but he thought Mr Brimstone's treatment of Lisburn councillor Jenny Palmer - who said he told her "the party comes first" - came much closer to thuggish behaviour.

Ex-DUP Larne councillor Jack McKee, who along with his Ballymena counterpart Roy Gillespie, received special awards for more than 40 years' service, lamented: "What happened to the saying: 'If you lie down with republican dogs, you get up with fleas.' Yet it's all done now with the greatest of ease."

It was up to Jim's Stormont sidekick Samuel Morrison to look towards the future - and he quoted the Ulster Covenant.

"It may seem strange to quote from a 100-year-old document in a speech about the future, but if only subsequent generations of unionist leaders had remained true to the vision of defending equal citizenship within the UK we wouldn't be in the mess we are today."

Belfast Telegraph


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