John McAllister sponsored an event to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. The Rising is a hallowed date in Irish history and was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798. It's remembered officially across Ireland by hundreds of thousands every spring. However, the UUP has reduced these events as 'a celebration of rebellion and attacks on British Soldiers', and strongly criticised McAllister for sponsoring it.
Now a group of UUP councillors have accused John McAllister of supporting the 'warped version of history' authored by SF. But here's the kicker, all events up in Stormont require a nationalist and unionist sponsor in order to happen. John McAllister is coming from the angle of 'if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours'. He said of the UUP fury:
“I am proud of the very wide range of groups I personally have hosted at Stormont, including South Down UUP events. On each occasion I have required the sponsorship of a nationalist MLA to facilitate this. The co-operation of these nationalist MLAs have allowed me to host local Royal British Legion, UDR Associations and various award-winning bands at Parliament Buildings.”
This seems to be lost on the UUP, and directly in contradiction to their party's stance on respect and commemorative anniversaries throughout this decade, not least the fact that many of the commemorative anniversaries throughout the decade have international as well as local significance and will inevitably attract higher numbers of visitors to the region. Or does this only extend to unionist commemorations?
This comes at a time when a new 'protestant/unionist' party has been founded by extremists. The logic UUP is following on this small issue is akin to shooting oneself in the foot. Like the Protestant Coalition, diluting the importance of the Rising or naming a party the Protestant Coalition in 2013 disenfranchises all those catholic unionists who, according to the Spotlight poll, are happy and content with the constitutional status quo of NI.
In Stormont it's a FACT that two sponsors are needed to give the green light for events and in the immature politics of NI, why would anyone be surprised when the UUP are looking for a nationalist sponsor for an RUC event down the line can't go ahead because no nationalist was willing to sponsor it? I know for a fact John McAllister would have a better chance of securing such an event than Glenn Barr, Elizabeth Ingram, John Hanna, Harold McKee, David Taylor, Andy Moffett, Robert Burgess, Walter Lyons or Dessie Patterson, the signatures of this UUP statement. It's seems many within the UUP still don't understand the meaning of reasonable. A far cry from Trimble's pledge over a decade ago.
UUP attack John McCallister over Sinn Fein event - Regional - Belfast Newsletter
Executive statement on Decade of Centenaries | Northern Ireland Executive