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Irish Left Archive: Northern Ireland Assembly Election Manifesto, 2003 – Progressive Unionist Party May 17, 2010

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Left and Ulster Unionism, Progressive Unionist Party, The Left, Uncategorized.
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PUP2003

Well, here’s a first for the Archive, and perhaps something that will be seen as a little contentious. But if not explicitly socialist, at least not self-ascribed in the context of this document, the Progressive Unionist Party could, with some legitimacy, be regarded as the most leftwards force in contemporary Unionism and therefore worthy of inclusion in the Archive.

This document is the PUP Manifesto for the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly elections. This was the second election to this body and saw the PUP lose one seat with only David Ervine being returned. It’s an interesting document that is quite short. An introduction from David Ervine that strongly reemphasises the unionist credentials of the party…

Division over Pro and Anti Agreement views has left our community with nothing but low morale. Today those divisions should be behind us. The position of the Progressive Unionist Party is as ever Pro Union. We have a clear vision for the future of Northern Ireland within the Union and a definitive strategy to drive that vision.

That said it also is explicit in recognising distinctions between the communities in terms of identity and identification…

To create a positive and progressive future in Northern Ireland I believe we need to focus on the two core issues of respect for our different national, political and cultural identities and the political legacy we will pass onto future generations.
The issue of respect is especially pertinent to the Unionist population at present. They feel that the Unionist identity is not being given the respect that it deserves. I believe they are right. As a committed Unionist myself I have always been proud of my community. Our national, political and cultural character is the result of centuries of experience and thought and thus, as I respect the identities of others, so I expect it in return. In the Progressive Unionist Party we believe that our future will be brighter when all politicians recognise and respect our differences. And it is my conviction that diverse identities will become a positive feature of a truly multicultural Northern Ireland.

It’s a little disappointing that there is very little explicit expression of left wing thinking or the terms ‘left’ or ‘social democrat’, let alone socialist – although it is notable that the term ‘working class’ is used in the text (and their website is less coy). In policy terms the closest it comes to this is the following:

The Progressive Unionist Party repudiates the values and ethos of the new right who seek to privatise the welfare state. We oppose the handing over of our future to PPP/PFI and unaccountable ‘Trusts’. We do not trust these bodies and thus we call for:
• Properly funded services directly governed by elected local authorities.
• Services that are geared to facilitate community needs and not limited to the needs of
stigmatised individuals.
• Local community social work teams and Family Centres as the main base for social welfare
activity.
• Social policies that are geared towards equipping families and individuals with the resources
and information to enable them to take control of their lives.
• An end to managerial social work and the overthrow of contract culture.
• An increase in the benefits for lone parents.

The list of candidates is particularly notable for the linkages to the voluntary and community sectors.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

Comments»

1. FergusD - May 17, 2010

Was this the party that adopted UK Labour’s Clause 4 when they dropped it? Clause 4 was seen as socialist. Anyway a look at their policy “http://www.pup-ni.org.uk/party/policy.aspx” suggests they are social democratic. Interesting article on Irish republicanism on that site as well.

As a conciously working class-based party with a social democratic policy I would have thought the PUP would be of interest to the Irish left.

I wonder, have “unionist” labour/socialist groupings been dismissed/ignored or worse by the”republican” left? I seem to remember stories of marhers from the Shankill trying to join Wolf Tone commeration events and being attacked by some Repubicans (1934 apparently).

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2. Garibaldy - May 17, 2010

Yeah Fergus, they’re the ones who adopted Clause 4. As for your other question. I think the short answer is yes.

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3. Joe - May 17, 2010

“I wonder, have “unionist” labour/socialist groupings been dismissed/ignored or worse by the”republican” left?”

I got seriously engaged in a good debate on here a while back about whether or not it is possible to be both a unionist and a socialist. IIRC there were a few people who felt is wasn’t possible.
So the long answer is also yes.

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FergusD - May 17, 2010

Joe,
Yes, I remember that. Interesting. I suppose the question now is, if socialists are going to make head in NI, how is this to be done given the “national” divide? Could groups like the PUP play a part in a cross-community socialist movement?

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4. Mark P - May 17, 2010

FergusD:

The PUP are (or were when they had a bit more vitality to them and their political direction more uncertain) of interest to the socialist left. Not so much because of their actual politics but because they represented a splintering of Unionism along class lines. Some on the left did try to engage with them, others decided in advance that they were irredeemable proto-fascists.

The Bodenstown incident you mention was somewhat different though. The Shankill Road workers you mention weren’t part of a left-unionist grouping but were supporters of the Republican Congress and the IRA objected violently to their presence not because Protestants were with them but because of their socialism.

As an aside, I wonder if the RC supporting Belfast Protestants were peope who were in the orbit of the Communist Party? The CP was supportive of (and played a destructive role in) the RC and it has traditionally had its main support in the North amongst Belfast Protestants.

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FergusD - May 17, 2010

Mark,
As regards the Shankill workers, yes you a right. I found an article by Sean Matgamna in “Workers Libery” where he discusses these issues. Apparently the Shankill contingent had a banner with the slogan “break the connection with capitalism” (rather than Tones’ “break the connection with England”. They were set upon by right-wing republicans. The Shankill marchers were Republican Congress (CPI influenced).

I can’t see the PUP as proto-fascists, not yet anyway. It seems they are in decline. Isn’t the story that the PUP campaigned for the Alliance candidate Naomi Long in Belfast East against Peter Robinson?

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Mark P - May 17, 2010

Just to be clear, I am firmly on the side of the section of the left which tried to engage with the PUP rather than on the “irredeemable pro-fascists” side.

I suspect that the PUP are a bit of a spent force at this point, but Purvis is on many issues the most left leaning MLA. She’s certainly a lot better than Sinn Fein on issues like abortion.

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yourcousin - May 17, 2010

Purvis is on many issues the most left leaning MLA. She’s certainly a lot better than Sinn Fein on issues like abortion

Well being a single MLA that draws support based more on who you are, and who you succeeded makes those kind of things a little easier.

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Mark P - May 17, 2010

By contrast, being a Catholic communal party makes it harder, I suppose.

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5. yourcousin - May 17, 2010

Possibly, because any party with 5 MPs,4 TDs, 28 MLAs, 1 Senator, and 200+ councillors will have to take a more centered stance than one person from East Belfast.

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sonofstan - May 17, 2010

Sorry, but why could such a party not support free and legal abortion? The British Labour party with more than 20 times that number of representatives can manage it – and it almost certainly has more Catholic voters than SF.

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Mark P - May 17, 2010

In fairness to SF, and you won’t hear me start many sentences that way, their record is no worse than that of the Irish Labour Party.

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Ramzi Nohra 1 - May 17, 2010

SOS
probably because British catholics are different to Irish catholics in how strongly they view the abortion issue

And you may want to compare proportion of catholic voters for each party.

Although I think they should support legal abortion as you say.

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sonofstan - May 17, 2010

RN 1

Yeah I know – and obviously Britain is a much more secular society and has been for a lot longer, so the whole thing plays out differently. I just don’t think SF or Labour can use ‘offending the church’ as an excuse not to support a policy that would recognise the fact that Irish women have abortions all the time, just conveniently somewhere else.

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Ramzi Nohra 1 - May 17, 2010

Indeedy.
I’m not sure if they scared of offending the church per se. More they’re scared of challenging the innate conservatism of a lot of their voters.

Actually, having written that (as a legal-abortion supporter), I suppose it could be a bit condescending.

One could genuinely be against abortion if you viewed it as something close to murder, (and I wouldnt say putting some value on the life of the unborn at some point is not completely irrational) and not be conservative. I know a few punters like that.

I suppose the issue of it being legal/illegal doesnt make abortions any less likely to happen, its just that if its done legally its safer.

Maybe its fairer to say they are scared of opening up a debate on a hugely divisive issue within their parties? The reason it is devisive is that a large proportion of their membership is Catholic, in a relatively regligious society.

Sorry for the stream of consciousness ramblings….

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yourcousin - May 17, 2010

sos,
I would say that SF has a more difficult time than British Labor because Ireland is not Britain. I was making a general point BTW and so this should not be seen as a great defense of SF’s policy on abortion

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6. Garibaldy - May 17, 2010

It’s not quite as simple as you’re portraying it YC. At the last PUP conference, David Ervine’s brother tried to get their position on abortion overturned, and failed after a debate

http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com/2009/10/pup-vote-to-retain-agitating-pro-choice.html

My memory from TV coverage at the time is that he left because of it, but that may well be wrong. Purvis does have a base she is answerable to, and IIRC they have a few councillors as well. I wouldn’t write off Purvis’ chances of holding her seat, although if she does so she may well be heavily dependent on transfers from Alliance and the UUP. Having said that, some of the Naomi Long personal vote may go to Purvis, depending on how much of it is based on liking a working class female voice representing east Belfast.

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yourcousin - May 18, 2010

G,
perhaps not quite as simple, but not much more complicated either. Dawn squeeked in last time on Ervines legacy and the next election will tell whether or not she can make it on her own. Does she have a constituency to answer to? Most certainly. But it is a niche coonstituency which is heavily reliant on transfers from Alliance and the softer UUP vote as you mentioned. I think that if the PUP was going in the other direction and had a growing presence you’d see a hardening up of some attitudes and moderating of others, that’s all.

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7. sonofstan - May 17, 2010

In fairness to SF, and you won’t hear me start many sentences that way, their record is no worse than that of the Irish Labour Party.

True.

On the PUP, Naomi Long etc. – I’d be fascinated to see how the vote in E. Belfast broken down by ward (and have someone to explain the implications). I’m more than a little impressed by the ability of the voters there to reject Robinson, and tempted to make the easy point about how you’d never see a similar development in the West of the city, but I’d love more detail.

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EamonnCork - May 18, 2010

But surely there’s no comparison between East and West Belfast. After all it’s not as if the TD for West Belfast has been implicated in a scandal caused by the sexual misbehaviour of one of his family.

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sonofstan - May 18, 2010

There’s a TD for West Belfast?! Have I woken up in United Ireland?

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EamonnCork - May 18, 2010

You mean you didn’t hear this morning’s news?
Freudian slip perhaps.

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sonofstan - May 18, 2010

You mean you didn’t hear this morning’s news?

There was no news: just the Army No 1 band playing Amhrain Na bhFiann over and over again….

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EamonnCork - May 18, 2010

That was on radio. On telly they ran an endless loop of the Wolfe Tones doing A Nation Once Again at Siamsa Cois Laoi in 1977.

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Garibaldy - May 18, 2010

No wonder the unionists don’t want a united Ireland if this is what we’ll all be subjected to

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8. Ciaran O'Brien - May 17, 2010

http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentReviewEdMoloneyVoicesFromTheGrave.html

The final lines of the above review strike me as pretty stupid, but they do sum up one left-wing view of the Loyalist parties, once held by the likes of Michael Farrell and PD.

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WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2010

They’re certainly glib. What’s odd is that they say that, and yet in the earlier part of the review they note that actions by certain elements within the IRA which they also note Adams, Hughes, etc were outraged at because they were sectarian too. It’s striking how they’re absolutely unable to gift to unionists/loyalists a political position that might be evolutionary within the constraints of unionism away from sectarianism while they will concede that the IRA was able to do so.

I think Joe is correct. One could be a unionist and be a socialist – for example, seeking a Union that was a Republic, or might evolve to a British Republic. But, the point is that the corollary of that is that one can be a Republican (of the Irish variety) and be a socialist too.

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Joe - May 17, 2010

I don’t know are they that stupid, Ciaran. Before your post, I was going to post a comment on the fact that we have had a discussion on the PUP without mentioning the UVF elephant in the room. As I understand it, the PUP was/is to the UVF what SF was/is to the PIRA.
So what kind of socialists could PUP members be if they condoned the disgusting sectarian murders that were the stock-in-trade of the UVF?
I’ve just seen WBS’s comment (below/above?) too and I guess evolutionary is the word. Maybe members of the PUP and SF have the potential to evolve into perfectly formed socialists (like me). PS: Last line an attempt at humour.

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WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2010

Isn’t the point though Joe that SD lambaste the PUP, in fact don’t even bother to engage with that part of the book – btw interesting book, worth a read for many reasons, not all of them the authors intentions, while they don’t SF. Of course the UVF have an historic legacy which is grim, but I’m always more positive to those moving in the right direction rather than the reverse and there’s little doubt in my mind that at various junctures the PUP played a very positive role indeed.

Another thought from my own political perspective, yes, there’s a whole issue about ‘community politics’ and structures in the North, but I think that in some ways the PUP, and this of course is true of other parties, seem to me to be readily identifiable as having a foot in that particular aspect of political activity.

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