Ulster Unionist Party: Country before Party?

Thomas Hennessey, Maire Braniff, James McAuley, Jon Tonge, Sophie Whiting

Research output: Book/ReportBook

13 Citations (SciVal)


The Ulster Unionist Party: Country Before Party? uses unprecedented access to the party that dominated Northern Ireland politics for decades to assess the reasons for its decline and to analyse whether it can recover. Having helped produce the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) struggled to deliver the deal amid unease over aspects of what its leadership negotiated. Paramilitary prisoner releases, policing changes, and power-sharing with the republican 'enemy' were all controversial. As the UUP leader won a Nobel Peace Prize, his party began to lost elections. For the UUP leadership, acceptance of change was the right thing to do for Northern Ireland - a case of putting country before party.

The decades since the peace agreement have seen the UUP eclipsed by the rival Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) even though most of what the UUP agreed in 1998 has remained in place. This book examines the travails of the UUP in recent times. It draws upon the first-ever survey of UUP members and a wide range of interviews, including with the five most recent leaders of the party, to analyse the reasons for its reverses and the capacity to revive.

The volume assesses why the UUP's (still sizeable) membership remains loyal and discusses what the UUP and unionism means to those members, in terms of loyalty, policy, national and religious identity, views of other parties and what a shared future in Northern Ireland will constitute. Amid Brexit and talk of a border poll, crises of devolved government, rows with republicans and intra-unionist tensions, how secure and confident does the UUP membership feel about Northern Ireland's future?

Written by the same expert team that produced an award-winning book on the DUP, this book is indispensable to understanding parties and political change in divided societies.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198794387
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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