Let’s merge with Tories, says top UUP official
The governing body of the UUP should wind itself up and the party merge with the Conservatives, according to a leading member.
Johnny Andrews has been a member of the Ulster Unionist Council since 1998.
“The UUC was set up as a single-issue movement and its objective is now largely achieved.
“The Ulster Unionist Council should take credit in achieving that, but like any single-issue movement, it doesn’t need to go on forever,” he said.
Mr Andrews also revealed that he is a member of the Way Forward Group, a pro-union discussion group, which recently came out in favour of a merger.
His words carry additional weight because he comes from a long line of unionist grandees.
His family of Comber linen merchants have been a key part of the Ulster Unionist movement since its inception at a convention in Belfast in 1892.
“In the tradition of my ancestors, I believe the union is now secure and we need to move forward freed from the shackles of the past,” he said.
Mr Andrews believes that the Good Friday Agreement, which removed the Republic’s constitutional claim to Northern Ireland
and guaranteed that the border could only be removed by referendum, makes the UUC largely redundant.
Mr Andrews favours a merger with the Conservative Party in keeping with an offer made by Andrew Feldman, the Tory chairman.
Last month Lord Feldman gave UUP leader, Tom Elliott, until Christmas to respond to his offer, which he said was personally endorsed by Prime Minister, David Cameron.
It proposed setting up a new regional party, the Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party, along similar lines to the Scottish Conservatives.
Under the proposals, all members of the UUP and the Northern Ireland Conservatives would be allowed to join NICUP and elect a local leader.
“This is a very good offer from David Cameron,” Mr Andrews said.
“We must look seriously at this offer and enter meaningful discussions based on it. What we are looking for is a signal from the Ulster Unionist Party before the deadline runs out that they will move in this direction,” he said.
He argued: “The UUP has 2000 people and the NI Conservatives have about 400, so the Northern Ireland Conservative and Unionist Party would have a majority of Ulster Unionist members if they wished to join.”
AN ULSTER UNIONIST DYNASTY
- 1905: Thomas Andrews was a founder member of the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC),
- 1940-43: Thomas’s son, John Miller Andrews, succeeds Lord Craigavon to become the second Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
- 1998 to date: Johnny Andrews a member of the UUC.