“Unionism remains divided and one of the key tactics of Irish republicanism has been to isolate loyalism from mainstream unionism,” Hutchinson remarked. A more united approach between unionist parties was “the best way to maintain the union” and would also mean “addressing in partnership the complex issues that affect our most disadvantaged communities.”
Irish News editor Noel Doran – the first nationalist to address the party conference – warned loyalists that they had “got it wrong” in their approach to protesting against Belfast City Council’s decision on flags. He encouraged them to learn from how GAA promoted pride in nationalist communities.
The party has been linked to the UVF since its formation in 1979. In its most recent security assessment, the NIO said that the UVF had “endorsed calls for an end to the public disorder” but also remained “involved in organised crime, including smuggling and other criminal activity.”
In policy terms, the PUP supports academic selection at 14 – the Dickson Plan arrangement – and the capping of grammar school pupil intakes. It also wants a financial incentive for head teachers who are willing to work in deprived areas.
The PUP gained 1,493 votes in the May 2011 Assembly election and 3,858 votes in the local government election held on the same day. It has two councillors – John Kyle and Hugh Smyth – both on Belfast City Council.