Former Ulster Unionist MLA for Strongford David McNarry announced yesterday that he was "bringing national politics to Northern Ireland" by joining the fringe United Kingdom Independence Party. The UKIP is known for opposition to Britain's membership in the European Union and is opposed to Britain's open immigration policy. It has seats mostly at the local council level on the British mainland. UKIP claims to be the only British party to openly contest seats in Northern Ireland. Most parties in Northern Ireland are unique to that province and are not organized in either Britain or the Republic of Ireland, the notable exception being Sinn Fein. Although many have links to British parties and attend their party conferences and vise versa.
A decade ago the Conservative Party made the decision to contest elections in Northern Ireland, but was only really organized in North Down along the gold coast. In 2009 the Ulster Unionists merged with the Conservatives and ran a single slate of candidates for the general election under the title Ulster Conservatives and Unionists--New Force. The net result was that the UUP lost its only remaining MP when Sylvia Hermon left the party over the move. She is now an independent in North Down, ironically the only constituency that the Tories ever had a dream (but only a dream) of winning. They should have run under the title of Ulster Force--Unionists and Conservatives for Democracy (work out the acronym for that). As a result of this UUP leader Reg Empey resigned and was replaced by Mike Nesbitt.
In the past members of the UUP from its conservative wing have defected to the DUP when they thought it would advance their careers or they ran into a problem with party policy, as often occurred under the leadership of David Trimble. Since 2010 a similar trend has occurred on the liberal wing with liberal members, such as failed East Belfast election candidate Trevor Ringland, defecting either to the Tories or to Alliance. David McNarry is the first to defect to the UKIP--possibly starting a new trend. Alliance and the Tories are no longer fringe enough for UUP defectors and they have to look farther down. McNarry is the unionist equivalent of a Sinn Fein politician defecting to Republican Sinn Fein, the political wing of Continuity IRA. Here is reaction from former UUP leader Reg Empey to the defection.