Child abuse comes in many forms. Nearly all child abuse falls into one of three categories: neglect, physical harm and emotional abuse. All forms of abuse by a parent or carer involve some form of emotional abuse.
Not all child abuse by Parents is driven by wickedness or selfishness. Sometimes, the root cause of child abuse is illness by the parents or parents simply not being able to cope.
If the abuse is severe enough, it falls into the category of ‘significant harm.’ If a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the child protection authorities are obliged to intervene. In the worst of these cases, if the parents show no sign of wanting or being capable of providing a suitable upbringing for the child, the child will go into care. In exceptional cases, more likely with infants, the authorities will place the child for adoption. Metaphorically speaking, “child abuse” has occurred in the Conservative and Unionist family.
The Conservative Party is more than 300 years old. The Orange Order is more than 200 years old. In the earlier years of Orangism, these two organisations did not like each other. Relations were at their lowest ebb when, in 1829, legislation for Catholic Emancipation was passed under a Tory Government. However, they had one thing in common. They were unionists. The rise of the Parnellites brought them into a relationship.
In 1905, the Ulster Unionist Party (the UUP) was born. The UUP was a bastard child of the Conservative Party. The Other parent was the Orange Order. From the time of that birth, the Conservative Party were content to leave the care and upbringing of the UUP to the Orange Order whilst continuing to acknowledge it as its child.
The Orange Order was a bad parent. It engendered an attitude of antipathy and mistrust towards Catholics. The UUP became papaphobic, just like its Orange mother. Its Conservative father neglected it by not being involved in its upbringing. The UUP became a bully but its Conservative father, proud to acknowledge it when they met in the UK Parliament, could not see that it was doing anything wrong.
The UUP then got into trouble. When the civil rights riots broke out, the Conservatives were obliged to take some responsibility. When the Conservative father asked the UUP to accept some Sunningdale treatment, its mother objected. For a short period, the UUP was torn between the wishes of its mother and its father. Papaphobia was still a dominating influence. Inevitably, the UUP rejected Sunningdale. Like a sulking teenager, the UUP stopped talking to its father. The father attempted to talk sense with its son but to no avail. The combined effect of the political power vacuum and the deteriorating security situation led the father to signing the Anglo Irish Agreement. This caused so much anger that the UUP cut off all remaining ties with its father.
Shortly afterwards, the Conservative Party fathered another child. This child was a legitimate non-sectarian daughter. The Northern Ireland Conservatives had been born. For a short time in its early life, this child was encouraged to survive and thrive but soon suffered from neglect. It was hungry and undernourished. Because it achieved nothing, it was ignored by its father. Nonetheless, the daughter was dutiful and did what it was told by its father.
The UUP’s mother started to become frail and weak, suffering from a debilitating long-term illness which will eventually lead to its death – secularism. With the mother’s influence declining, the UUP drifted slowly towards moderation and signed the Belfast Agreement. When the Northern Ireland Conservatives saw that its father approved this development, it became jealous. In a desperate attempt to get its father’s attention, it opposed it. Still the Conservative Party ignored its daughter.
The UUP, having been badly beaten by an ever strengthening DUP, sought to get back on terms with its father. Reconciliation then occurred. However, the father wanted the UUP to be locked permanently into the family. The UUP was asked to enter into a marriage with the Northern Ireland Conservatives. The marriage proposal was rejected. Instead, an agreement was made that they live together. The result of this relationship was the birth of UCUNF.
The relationship between the UUP and the Northern Ireland Conservatives did not work out and the UCUNF child was abused by the UUP when it decided to equivocate over possible candidate deals with the DUP and internal wrangles over candidate selection resulting in crucial delay. Going into the 2010 General election, a sole unionist candidate was selected for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Northern Ireland Conservatives were traumatised. The UCUNF child, already unhealthy going into the 2010 General Election, had been severely abused by its father and grandfather.
The UCUNF infant later died. The UUP walked away from its relationship with the NI Conservatives and told its father that it wanted the NI Conservatives out of the house. The Northern Ireland Conservatives did not want the relationship to continue either. The UUP’s rejection of a continuation of the link, or any future election pact, gave rise to confidence of Northern Ireland Conservatives that it would, at last, receive the support it deserved from its father. The father had to choose between one of its children to decide who would represent National policy in Northern Ireland. In the end, a parent’s selfishness played a crucial part in the decision.
This brings me to the end of this sorry mythical tale. I apologise for the very few historical distortions which have appeared. It is sometimes appropriate to use a little bit of artistic licence to illustrate an important point.
The Northern Ireland Conservatives have been rejected, in my opinion, to a point where it is not possible for them to continue as a regional branch of the main Conservative Party. The position of trust and confidence is not something that is capable of being restored.
Alex Kane likens this position to something akin to inevitable political infanticide. I completely agree. That being the case, there is only one way for the Northern Ireland Conservatives to go. It should become an independent party. An independent party needs a political niche. That niche is a centre-right party which would take no position if there was a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland. Admittedly, there may still be a battle of persuasion ahead in relation to that last point.
As a lifelong Conservative supporter, I deeply regret what has happened. However, every cloud has a silver lining. The civilised campaign that I was conducting was always likely to be difficult, so long as there was such a strong attachment between local conservatives and the main party. With the severe weakening of that attachment, there is no doubt that the Northern Ireland Centre-Right campaign has been strengthened.
In time, as Northern Ireland Conservatives lick their wounds, they may well conclude that the events of the last few days were all for the best.