Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Stadium for Belfast

This blog obviously supports one particular european candidate, but it tries to report impartially on all candidates. On the issue of national football stadia, however, I will make no such attempt at impartiality. This blog believes that the Northern Ireland football team should stay in the capital city. As such I welcome todays announcement that a consortium is considering building a 20,000 seater stadium in East Belfast.

The Maze project is now dead and buried, but Windsor Park is in a sorry state. The Northern Ireland football team doesn't need a stadium on the scale proposed for the Maze, but it does need a modern stadium in the 20-25,000 capacity range. This can either be achieved by redevelopment at Windsor or by building a new stadium. I have mixed feelings on which is better, I have fond feelings for Windsor Park and we have a lot of history in the stadium, but the appeal of a new build stadium can't be denied.

The decision may, however, be determined more by solicitors than anything else. Linfield have their IFA contract, a 99 year deal (signed in 1984) which entitles them to 15% of gate receipts at international games. Linfield are of course going to insist on being bought out of this contract if the Northern Ireland team moves. When the Maze project was being discussed it was suggested that the government might pay for this, but in the current financial climate I think the government will be reluctant to produce the cash. The result is that renovating Windsor Park could become the only viable option. At least, though, todays announcement creats an alternative for consideration.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday Night, Again.

It's Friday night again already. More regular blogging to resume forthwith. I will report on Jim Allister's visit to Castlederg last week. In the meantime please enjoy Philip Glass's excellent violin concerto recorded by the Ulster Orchestra and set to the back-drop of some breathtaking time lapse photography in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Sickening Feeling in My Stomach

I haven't blogged in some time; I had a small family calamity at the week-end which now seems, thankfully, to have resolved itself.

It's difficult to know what to write, given what has happened in the last few days. I found out about the shooting of two soldiers at Massereene barracks on Sunday morning, it gave me a sickening feeling in my stomach. The attack was ruthless and calculated as you will all know from the news reports.

Over the next day or so I dreaded news reports until, the next grim installment came with the news that a police officer in Craigavon had been murdered. This news was, if anything, more sickening than the first killings as it suggested that the Massereene attack was not an isolated incident, but the beginning of a campaign.

At 25, I am old enough to remember the troubles buried in my older memories, I can't fully explain the feelings I experienced when I heard about these attacks. We hear of attrocities all over the world on an almost daily basis on the news and they wash over us. This one didn't, it hit with a blow like a tidal wave, instinctively it seemed people old and young knew that this was something terrible and there has been a tremendous movement in recent days from people wanting to show their resistence to sliding back. The breadth of the public show of horror and disgust is heartening, no terror organisation can sustain a campaign in a vacuum of public support. Terrorists rely on people pretending not to see what they have seen and not to hear what they have heard. So long as people are prepared to break the silence then this campaign will be short-lived, I pray and hope that this will be the case.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Friday Night

I went along to hear Jim Allister speak at a public meeting organised by the TUV in Castlederg this evening. I'll have my notes written up by tomorrow, in the mean time it's Friday evening so chill-out with the following pianist I recently discovered via the wonders of Youtube. He's called George Winston and this is "Rain" from "Seasons in Concert" (Note this feature may be shamelessly plagerised from another better known Northern Ireland blog.)

Monday, 2 March 2009

New Blog and UUP - Tory Divisions

A new blog has been set up called Unionists not Conservatives at

The blogger introduces himself as follows:

"I am a UUP supporter but not a Tory. I am rather left leaning in my politics.
But that is not why I am doing this. Over the last few days, since the formal announcement of agreement the Conservatives have acted in a reprehensible manner, trying their best to obiliterate the UUP from existance and treat us as if we are some sort of scum."

Over the weekend it looked like there were a few teething problems between the Tories and the UUP, but rather than going away these seem to be escalating. Ulster Unionists are accusing the Tories of trying to control the relationship and for their part the Tories are accusing the Ulster Unionists of not getting with the program.

As a member of the DUP I have mixed feelings about this, there is a natural Schadenfreude at the self-destruct instinct that has plagued the UUP for over a decade. DUP voters do, however, have a transfer when they vote in June. The natural home for that transfer is with Mr Nicholson. Indeed, in European elections this transfer is vital for ensuring the election of 2 Unionists. The first 2 seats in the Northern Ireland constituency will go to the DUP and Sinn Fein, hopefully in that order. The third seat ought to go to Jim Nicholson, but with a 3-way Unionist split the risk of the SDLP's Alban Maginnis slipping in can't be ruled out. A lot will depend on the campaign within nationalism; if the Sinn Fein vote holds up then the SDLP will be left too far behind to catch Nicholson. On the other hand Sinn Fein's political impotence in recent months may help the SDLP. Sinn Fein have failed to deliver for their constituency on Policing & Justice and the Irish Language, not to mention Caitrina Ruane's performance as Education Minister. If this happens the race for the third seat could tighten up considerably.

DUP voters are, however going to be alienated by some of the language emminating from the "New Front." The following quote was posted on Slugger O'Toole by a NI Conservative, Seymour Major:

"The OO and the UUP severed official ties in 2005 but with OO politicians still there, this is a problem,I want to make it clear that I dont think of OO members as being sectarian-minded against Catholics just because they are members of that organisation. This may be hard for some Catholics to understand but I speak as a Catholic who has made friendships with Orangemen. I also want to make it clear that there are many Orangemen who genuinely dont have a sectarian bone in their body.

I acknowledge, however, that the presence of so many OO politicians is an obstacle to us making inroads as a cross-community party. My preference would be that they were not allowed to stand as candidates. Those members of the OO who have the party’s interest at heart would understand and appreciate this. "

These types of anti-orange comments have been emanating from the Northern Ireland Conservatives for some time, remember the "history ossessed parish pump society" comments. Traditional Ulster Unionists may not "get the program," but clearly the Tories haven't a clue about the Unionist electorate. Added to this there are the objections they have raised to Ulster-British names and iconography in recent days. Sinn Fein have spent years trying to remove emblems and names that are associated with Ulster's Britishness, are the Conservatives and Unionists now going to join them? Altogether it makes them a pretty unpalatable second preference.

I am an Orangeman and a Unionist, I want 2 Unionists to be returned to Europe, it is important and it crosses party boundaries. Moreover, coming from a farming background I appreciate the work Jim Nicholson does at Brussels, but he has to distance himself from these people. If UUP is to expect to get transfers automatically from other Unionist parties they have to make clear that they do not support these attacks on our culture and our identity.

Anyway I've added the Unionists not Conservatives blog to the blog list so you'll be updated on posts here at Euroblog'09

Saturday, 28 February 2009

What's in a Name

A new website has appeared, on Friday it described itself as the website of the Conservative and UUP joint committee. This had changed by today. Earlier this afternoon when I looked I distinctly remember it having at the top of the page 2 parallel sections one titled "Conservative Headlines" and the other titled "Ulster Unionist Headlines." Returning now to blog on it I find this has changed and it merely has Conservative Headlines. At the bottom of the page where it used to state that the page was the site of the Joint Committee it now says "The Conservative Party is committed to Northern Ireland and has registered this site for campaigning purposes. The site will be live soon."

some Ulster Unionist supporters seem a tad irritated that the website has left "Ulster" out of its title.

Ignited on Redemptions Son says:

"Idiotic behaviour as demonstrated by those in the Conservative Party who are either enabling this counter-productive activity or are turning a blind eye to it must be stopped at once. All this will achieve is a reaction that will be pounced upon by the detractors of the 'New Force' of rifts appearing.

PS. An anonymous source has informed Redemption's Son that a maverick NI Tory is behind a lot of the goings on, and that action will be taken."

So there you have it, mavericks and a lot of fuss about a name, welcome to Northern Ireland politics lads.


First up, I have very little idea what Twitter is or what it's for, but I am widely informed that it is set to be the next big thing. A bit like the Segway was and the Womens Coalition I wonder. Anyway, after joining the blogging party 10 years late I'm hedging my bets, so I've put an RSS feed of some relevant twits in the side bar. To start with we have DUP Online, UUP Online, Clive McFarland and Simon Hamilton. The feed will display the 3 most recent twitterings from each twit, I think thats the correct terminology, if you want to read older twitterings click on one of the comments and go along.

If, anyone is aware of any other relevant Twitterers let me know and I'll consider them for inclusion.


In news just in the European ballots will now be published on wider paper in order to accomodate Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force beside Jim Nicholson's name. Sources from the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland were not prepared to comment on how the ballot paper would fit into the boxes, but following sightings of the Chief Electoral Officer in B&Q this blog can exclusively reveal that plans are afoot to resolve the problem.

Friday, 27 February 2009


Inside Brian Cowan's speech to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis today, he announced the parties intention to join the pan-european European Liberal, Demeocratic and Reform Party, which is part of the wider Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, ALDE.

"Given the changing role of the Parliament and the new structures of its groups, Fianna Fáil has no alternative but to reconsider current arrangements. We need to strengthen our work with others who share our basic approach while insisting on the right to vote in accordance with the views of the people we represent. To that end, we will soon advance a proposal to join, for the first time, a pan-European party - the European Liberal, Democratic and Reform Party. Our representatives have been part of that party's group in the Council of Europe for some time and this has worked out well - particularly because it is a group which works hard to respect the views of smaller countries.Following June's election, should everything progress as expected, we will then consider joining the parliamentary group to which the ELDR is affiliated. I am confident that we can negotiate a position that will strengthen our voice and that of all people who believe in a Europe of states working closely together."
Full text here:

This set me thinking about a facet of the European structures we often overlook, the pan-European Parties that most of our MEP's join when they go to Brussels. So who are the "Europarties," and when we tick the box for our prefered candidate which Europarty will they join and what does it stand for?

The largest of the Europarties is currently the European Peoples Party - European Democrats, EPP-ED, with 284 members. Really this is an alliance of the EPP and ED. The EPP a centre right party in the christian democratic / liberal / conservative tradition. Members include the German Christian Democrats, the French Union for a Popular Movement and Fine Gael. The ED is a loose association of conservative parties including both the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists, conveniently enough for Jim Nicholson.

Second is the Party of European Socialists, PES, with 215 MEP's. Members include the German SPD, the French Socialist Party, Irish Labour and the Labour Party along with the SDLP.

Third is the group that Fianna Fail are proposing to join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe this group includes the Union for French Democracy, the German Free Democratic Party and the Liberal Democrats. The Irish PD MEP currently sits with this group.

Next is the Union for Europe of the Nations a national conservative group with 44 MEP's of which Fianna Fail is currently a member.

With 43 MEP's are the Greens

This is followed by the succinctly titled Party of the European Left Nordic Green Left Alliance which is really a pact between the European United Left and the Nordic Green Left Alliance. their combined website is Together they have 41 MEP's including Sinn Fein's 2 MEP's who sit with the European United Left.

Finally there is another double party pact of Alliance of Independent Democrats in Europe (AIDE) EUDemocrats with 24 MEP's. This Eurosceptic Group includes UKIP.

There are also 32 non-aligned MEP's including Jim Allister.

Having spent a little time finding out who these parties are, I'm not sure I'm much the wiser. Like most of the inner workings of the European Union they are largely invisible to ordinary citizens. Their role seems, largely, to be one of divvying up the best jobs at Brussels. When it comes to determining policy or any of the other functions of a normal political party it is unlikely that the national parties will allow them any role, now or at any time in the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Bluff and Heritage - The Sinn Fein Election Strategy

I see Turgon has blogged on Sinn Fein's election strategy over on Slugger.

I like Turgon's analysis even if he is famously wordy. For anyone without the time to read through his post I would summarise it along these lines. Sinn Fein's strategy will essentially comprise of bluff and harking back to the "good old days."

They will bluff that behind the scenes *wink wink* a deal has been done that will give Republicans want they want on Policing & Justice and the Irish Language Act. On top of this Gerry will continue to drop references to the hunger Strikers to remind people of Sinn Fein's "heroic" heritage.

I have, of course, exaggerated, slightly. This is effectively the only strategy open to Sinn Fein. Without any concrete progress on Republican ambitions they will have to point to things like the recent Policing & Justice legislation Shaun Woodward brought to Parliament and say, "It's coming folks, honest." As for the Irish Language Act, that's been dead and buried for ages.

Failing this Sinn Fein will attempt to remind nationalist voters of their Republican heritage. Will it work? It all depends on whether or not this simply reminds the nationalist electorate that Sinn Fein are participating in the British administration of an integral part of the United Kingdom?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Unionist Unity Important - Diane Dodds

We now know who the candidates will be for all the major parties. Following the announcements of candidates there has been a pause, an uneasy calm, as the party machines seem to stop for breath before the struggle ahead.

There are, however, a few rumblings in the ‘Phoney War’. I went along on Monday as Diane Dodds made her first major speech, since selection, to the South Belfast DUP Association’s AGM.
Diane has been involved in politics since joining the Democratic Unionist Association at Queens when she was a student; this was where she met her husband. Her many years experience of grassroots politics at the face to face level, as well as her time as an MLA in West Belfast have stood her in good stead. When speaking she comes across very naturally, quickly connecting with the audience.

She spoke of the coming election in terms of the overall result for Unionism, and of the importance of maximising the Unionist vote; both by working hard to increase the turn-out and in terms of ensuring unionist voters use their transfer.

Both are essential in my view, otherwise we risk a ruinous result for the unionist community as a whole. Whatever our personal differences, who can argue that the loss of Jim Nicholson’s seat to the SDLP would not be a body-blow? Whatever our personal differences, who can argue that Bairbre de Brun topping the poll would not be an injection of life into Sinn Fein, just at a time when they were looking vulnerable?

Sunday, 8 February 2009


Weather permitting I'm flying out tomorrow to see the San Marino vrs Northern Ireland game. I don't expect anything dramtic to happen over the next week, but if it does I'll blog it next Friday when I return. Until then all the best and lets hope for a good result.

Commenting Policy

Just as a matter of House Keeping, I have set commenting as open on this blog, so there needs to be some guidance for commentators on what is deemed acceptable. Much of the following is based upon Slugger O'Toole's commenting policy, which I found here

Commenting policy:

1. I ask that anyone commenting does not posting material which is abusive, threatening or potentially libellous.

2. I reserve the right to edit or even delete comments for reasons of legal compliance, taste, decency, good management or any other reason that I see fit.

3. I do not have the time or resources to constantly monitor or moderate the comments sections, and so I may be unaware of illegal or potentially libellous material posted here. If you believe a libellous statement or statements have been made in the comments section, please notify me by sending an e-mail containing details of offending material to

4. I will review the material and if, in my opinion, there are grounds for believing the material to be libellous or potentially libellous then that material will be deleted at the first possible opportunity.

5. I may impose an IP ban on any person or persons who persistently or wantonly flout these policies.

6. My judgement in these matters is final and will be exercised without apology, explanation or compensation.

7. I am particularly intolerant of sockpuppetry, commentators should restrict themselves to one pseudoname per thread and preferably one consistent pseudoname for the entire blog. Where I feel abuse is happening I will respond by deleting/editing comments and blocking IP addresses at my discretition, without apology, explanation or compensation.

Happy commenting.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to my blog on the upcoming European elections. I plan this to be a collection of all the news and my analysis relating to the elections, primarily here in Northern Ireland, but also in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

About me

For those who don’t know me, my name is David Cather, I joined the DUP when I went to Queens in 2002, going on to become chairman of the University Association in my final year. I graduated in Chemical Engineering in 2007 and I now work for a local plastics company.

Regarding my views; I am a Christian, what would be termed an evangelical Christian, I am a free market capitalist; a unionist and somewhere in between a conservative and a classical liberal.

Clearly, my views and comments will be shaped by my party which is why I highlight it now. I hope, however, to avoid the worst excesses of sycophantism and that as a result the blog will be of general use to everyone following the election.

Northern Ireland Elections

The primary focus of this blog will be the European elections here in the Northern Ireland. These will see Jim Allister trying to retain his seat under the TUV banner; we now know that he will be facing the DUP’s former West Belfast MLA, Diane Dodds. Also joining the fray will be the veteran Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson, although just to make things interesting he will be fighting under the banner of the new Conservative / UUP alliance. (Exact wording of banner subject to agreement, reference to Ulster – yet to be determined.)
Sitting Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brun will be defending her seat, the SDLP have selected North Belfast MLA, Alban Maginness to run. We also know that the Green Party are running former East Belfast assembly candidate Steven Agnew. I plan to blog on each of these candidates individually over the coming weeks; I will also feature candidates for other parties as I become aware of them. I regret that we have, as of yet, received no reassurances that Eamon McCann will not be throwing his hat into the ring. Until he says something official on the subject I will continue to fear the worst.

Briefly, I expect there to be 2 main areas of interest in this election. Firstly, how will the new Conservative / UUP pact perform? Will Jim Nicholson be able to reach out to significant numbers of the supposed “Garden Centre Unionists,” who support the Union, but have been turned off by the traditional parties? Or are Garden Centre Unionists mythical creatures, like pixies, and merely figments of Alex Kane’s imagination? More than this, will Nicholson be able to reach out to significant numbers of catholic voters or will attempts to reach beyond the parties core end up costing votes?

Secondly, there is the battle between Jim Allister and the DUP. The Dromore by-election showed the DUP that many voters were angry with the decision to share power with Sinn Fein. Has the DUP performance, since Dromore persuaded voters that the party can best resist Sinn Fein’s agenda by being in power with them, or will voters use the European election as an opportunity to register their protest?

On the nationalist side of the house I foresee less interest, sorry guys, the main questions are will Sinn Fein top the poll and can Alban Maginnis hold up the SDLP vote. It is possible that the 11 Plus debacle might push middle class nationalists back into the SDLP camp, but how likely is this? I do suspect that Caitriona Ruane will be kept out of sight as much as is possible in coming months, to general relief.