Unionist split ensures rocky road ahead

David McKittrick reports on the serious obstacles to the smooth working of the new Northern Ireland assembly

AS WELL as running Northern Ireland, the new Belfast assembly was designed to have an important secondary purpose: that of providing a new model for cooperation and co-existence which would help its divided people see that it was possible to live together.

It will certainly come into being, but yesterday the dismaying realisation was sinking in that in all probability the new institution is going to be a bitter and divisive battleground - in essence a forum for war by another means. The efforts to construct a new and better Northern Ireland will continue. The chances are that they will eventually succeed, for the vast majority of its people have clearly psychologically discarded the idea of armed force.

But the election results show that the transition from war to the hoped- for peace is going to be messy, ill-tempered and fractious. The Rev Ian Paisley and his allies are going to be in there in strength, a constant reminder that a significant section of the population is opposed to the new deal.

John Hume and Gerry Adams will be present as representatives of a nationalist population which is almost unanimously enthusiastic about the new disposition. But David Trimble's Ulster Unionists will daily be slugging it out with Mr Paisley, representatives of a deeply fractured Protestant community.

The population as a whole is overwhelmingly in favour of the Good Friday deal which outlined the new constitutional architecture of the assembly and a new north-south body, together with the release of paramilitary prisoners and a raft of reforms in policing and other areas.

Last month's referendum on the Good Friday agreement produced a figure of 71 per cent in favour of the accord, a momentous majority by any standards. In this election it seems this went up slightly, with three-quarters of voters giving their preferences to pro-agreement candidates.

This aspect of the result will be cause for modest celebration in London and Dublin, for this figure clearly represents sufficient consensus to proceed with the plans for change. To be truly stable, however, the ambitious scheme needs to be firmly rooted in both the nationalist and Unionist communities. The problem is that Unionism is in something close to crisis. In effect civil war has just broken out, with the Trimble and Paisley camps so balanced that working out this particular conflict is bound to be long and difficult.

Mr Trimble looks like being First Minister in the executive which will run the assembly. He already faced the task of establishing working relationships with Mr Hume and, probably, Mr Adams as well. He will now be called on to do so while simultaneously fighting off Paisleyite assaults on his flank.

It is therefore impossible to have complete confidence that the new institution can look forward to a stable existence. Consent has been one of the buzzwords of recent months. Northern Ireland as a whole has clearly given its consent to the new arrangements, but it is debatable whether the Unionist population has done so. And the factions within its political elite are at daggers drawn; some of Mr Trimble's MPs in open, televised conflict.

The battle lines are so sharply drawn, in fact, that there is already talk of new political alignments. Mr Trimble has lost the support of six of his party's 10 MPs, and will not get it back. Two members of his party who ran as anti-agreement candidates were elected to the assembly.

One question is whether this fracturing will become formalised into a new Unionist rejectionist front. Another question is how well his half of Unionism will hold up in the assembly. He will receive support from Tony Blair, John Hume and the other believers in partnership in the new institution, but his supporters will also have to weather constant Paisleyite bombardments.

Political skills will count for much here. Those who dismiss Mr Paisley as a bellowing clown should realise that behind the bluster and the defective volume control lies one of the shrewdest political brains in Ireland.

Mr Trimble will need to be vigilant. Virtually no one in his camp is as enthusiastic about the accord as the nationalists are and Mr Paisley will descend, as a wolf on the fold, to carry away any waverers in the Trimble camp.

Crucial tests will come when, for example, Mr Trimble has to decide whether to serve alongside Sinn Fein on the new executive. The Good Friday agreement appears to require him to do so, but if and when he does so the Paisleyite cries of betrayal will reach record decibel levels.

Constructing a new polity was never going to be easy: this election result has posed a whole new set of questions of whether it can be done - and guaranteed years of continuing uncertainty.

Leading article, Section 2, page 4

Results

ANTRIM EAST

Ken Robinson (UUP) 6,275

Roy Beggs Junior (UUP) 5,764

Sean Neeson (Alliance) 5,247

David Hilditch (DUP) 5,215

Roger Hutchinson (UKU) 4,220

Danny O'Connor (SDLP) 4,191

Electorate 59,313; Turnout 36,103 (60.87%)

ANTRIM NORTH

Rev Ian Paisley (DUP) 10,590

Sean Farren (SDLP) 8,300

Rev Robert Coulter (UUP) 7,832

James Leslie (UUP) 7,580

Ian Paisley Junior (DUP) 7,551

Gardiner Kane (DUP) 5,818

E 73,247; T 50,561 (69.03%)

ANTRIM SOUTH

Wilson Clyde (DUP) 8,522

Duncan Shipley-Dalton (UUP) 6,965

Jim Wilson (UUP) 6,691

Donovan McClelland (SDLP) 6,384

Norman Boyd (UKU) 6,381

David Ford (Alliance) 5,655

E 69,426; T 44,599 (64.24%)

BELFAST EAST

Peter Robinson (DUP) 11,219

Lord Alderdice (Alliance) 6,144

Reg Empey (UUP) 6,109

David Ervine (PUP) 5,693

Sammy Wilson (DUP) 5,711

Ian Adamson (UUP) 5,415

E 60,562; T 40,356; (66.64%)

BELFAST NORTH

Gerry Kelly (SF) 8,793

Nigel Dodds (DUP) 7,476

Alban Maginness (SDLP) 6,196

Billy Hutchinson (PUP) 5,517

Fred Cobain (UUP) 5,114

William Agnew (UU) 4,971

E 62,541; T 42,066 (67.26%)

BELFAST SOUTH

Mark Robinson (DUP) 6,524

Michael McGimpsey (UUP) 5,898

Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP) 5,963

Esmond Birnie (UUP) 5,881

Prof Monica McWilliams (NI Women) 5,277

Mrs Carmel Hanna (SDLP) 4,983

E 61,209; T 41,266 (67.42%)

BELFAST WEST

Gerry Adams (SF) 9,078

Miss Sue Ramsey (SF) 7,371

Miss Bairbre De Brun (SF) 6,994

Alex Maskey (SF) 6,328

Dr Joe Hendron (SDLP) 6,140

Alex Attwood (SDLP) 5,350

E 60,669; T 42,754 (70.47%)

DOWN NORTH

Robert McCartney (UKU) 8,188

Alan McFarland (UUP) 5,466

Mrs Eileen Bell (Alliance) 5,985

John Gorman (UUP) 5,346

Ms Jane Morrice (NI Women) 4,898

Peter Weir (UUP) 4,751

E 62,942; T 37,874 (60.17%)

DOWN SOUTH

Eddie McGrady (SDLP) 10,373

Jim Wells (DUP) 8,170

Dermot Nesbitt (UUP) 7,770

Mick Murphy (SF) 7,761

Patrick Bradley (SDLP) 7,390

Eamon O'Neill (SDLP) 6,163

E 71,027; T 52,342 (73.69%)

FERMANAGH AND TYRONE

Gerry McHugh (SF) 9,096

Ms Michelle Gildernew (SF) 8,501

Tommy Gallagher (SDLP) 8,135

Sam Foster (UUP) 7,494

Maurice Morrow (DUP) 6,595

Joan Carson (UUP) 6,141

E 65,383; T 51,923 (79.41%)

FOYLE

John Hume (SDLP) 12,581

Mitchel McLaughlin (SF) 7,243

Mark Durkan (SDLP) 6,980

John Tierney (SDLP) 7,813

Mrs Mary Nelis (SF) 7,172

William Hay (DUP) 6,322

E 68,888; T 49,604 (72.01%)

LAGAN VALLEY

Edwin Poots (DUP) 7,642

Ivan Davis (UUP) 7,322

Patrick Roche (UKU) 6,859

Seamus Close (Alliance) 6,788

Billy Bell (UUP) 6,679

Ms Patricia Lewsley (SDLP) 6,282

E 71,661; T 47,074 (65.69%)

LONDONDERRY EAST

Arthur Doherty (SDLP) 7,754

David McClarty (UUP) 6,268

Gregory Campbell (DUP) 6,099

John Dallat (SDLP) 5,708

Mrs Pauline Armitage (UUP) 5,379

Boyd Douglas (Unionist) 4,259

E 59,370; T 39,492 (66.52%)

NEWRY AND ARMAGH

Seamus Mallon (SDLP) 13,582

Danny Kennedy (UUP) 10,184

Paul Berry (DUP) 7,900

Conor Murphy (SF) 7,741

Pat McNamee (SF) 7,177

John Fee (SDLP) 7,169

E 71,553; T 55,293 (77.28%

STRANGFORD

Mrs Iris Robinson (DUP) 9,479

John Taylor (UUP) 9,203

Thomas Benson (UUP) 6,327

Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) 6,202

Jim Shannon (DUP) 5,933

Cedric Wilson (UKU) 4,804

E 70,868; T 43,651 (61.59%)

TYRONE WEST

Derek Hussey (UUP) 8,446

Oliver Gibson (DUP) 8,015

Pat Doherty (SF) 7,027

Joe Byrne (SDLP) 6,705

Barry McElduff (SF) 5,993

Eugene McMenamin (SDLP) 5,791

E 59,081; T 46,913 (79.40%)

ULSTER MID

Rev William McCrea (DUP) 10,339

Martin McGuinness (SF) 8,703

Billy Armstrong (UUP) 7,467

Francie Molloy (SF) 7,076

Denis Haughey (SDLP) 6,769

John Kelly (SF) 5,901

E 59,991; T 51,223 (85.38%)

UPPER BANN

David Trimble (UUP) 12,338

Ms Brid Rodgers (SDLP) 9,260

Mervyn Carrick (DUP) 8,035

Denis Watson (UUU) 7,792

Ms Dara O'Hagan (SF) 7,413

George Savage (UUP) 6,527

E 70,852; T 50,399 (71.13%)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game