While in America we can see the usual cycle as political parties decline, go into opposition and then renew themselves in opposition before regaining power--a cycle that is played out throughout the West and the wider democratic world, in Northern Ireland a different process is at work. This is illustrated by the present crisis that the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) finds itself in as it loses a former contender for the office of party leader, Ken Maginnis, who is also the leader of its largest constituency in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Maginnis represented the UUP at Westminster for 18 years until he retired in 2003 to remain merely a councillor.
I have a particular interest in Maginnis because he represents unionism's sole example of the native-fighter politician i.e. the Indian fighter in America's 19th century, the African fighter in the volksraade of the Boer Republics in the late 19th century in South Africa, and the numerous generals in the Israeli Knesset since 1948. Maginnis was only a major in the Ulster Defence Regiment, the large home defense regiment of citizen soldiers who were on the frontlines of The Troubles and were the most vulnerable of the British security forces because they could targeted while off duty.