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ULSTER NATION advocates a secular. truly democratic independent Ulster creating a new focus for the loyalty of all our folk. We believe that oar people, whatever their religion, have more in common with one another than with either the Westminster or Leinster House regimes. This special report looks at the recent 'peace forum election.

The 'Peace Forum' election: a report.

THE REAL WINNERS of the recent Ulster 'Peace Forum' elections have been the non-elected dictators of the Northern Ireland Office. The NIO has redefined 'Democracy' several limes and have been allowed to set a series of dangerous and tyrannical election precedents. The only thing Paddy Mayhew and his gang didn't do was say who could stand where and what their policies should be!

Firstly, the NI0 - with Westminster and Leinster House backing - ditched Ulster's traditional STV election system. In its place came a mix 'n' match hybrid system which tried to keep everyone happy. It failed miserably!  Incredibly the NIO initially announced a list of those 'approved' groups who could contest the election. Even the local Tories weren't sure whether they would he allowed to stand! Threats of legal action later saw the list amended. The NIO then announced who could be political spokesmen for the election. They then retrospectively banned all Civil Servants from standing as candidates - one person had to resign from his job to contest the election. The Civil Service union NIPSA let this go by with just a whimper and the major political parties simply ignored this outrageous attack on personal liberty.

As we noted in Ulster Nation issue 13, the election itself was all part of John Major's desperate highwire act. The Tories can only survive at Westminster with Official Unionist backing - thus Trimble was granted the election he wanted. Although the London bombings had ended the Provos' ceasefire. Westminster and Leinster House wanted the CLMC ceasefire to hold fast. Therefore the UVF's Progressive Unionist Party and the UDA's Ulster Democratic Party had to be brought to the talks at all costs. How long the resulting 'Peace Forum' lasts is anyone's guess. It is already a farce. Ultimately, it will not be able to deliver real peace because its main aim is reconcile republicanism and unionism - an impossible task.

But what of the election itself - and can anything be learnt from the campaign?

Despite the antics of the NIO, it was vital that the message of self-determination be presented to the electorate. There was also an outside chance that Ulster-nationalist candidates could have been elected. In the event, the Rev. Hugh Ross's Ulster Independence Movement ran its most ambitious campaign ever - forty candidates stood in eighteen constituencies and gained 2,125 votes - 0.28% of the poll. The small vote was only to be expected, yet an opinion poll the following evening on BBC tv's Newsnight programme showed that 10% of Ulsterfolk favour independence. Obviously these folk either voted for one of the older parties or they stayed at home on polling day. Many of them know very little if anything. about Ulster-nationalism or the Ulster Independence Movement let alone Ulster Nation. At this very early stage of development, votes are presently only of secondary importance. Many pro-independence supporters are young and relatively inexperienced at fighting elections. More important than the actual vote was the fact that these supporters were able to build organisational experience and learn election techniques. These can be used in future campaigns. Compared to the well-oiled unionist and republican election machines, the UIM campaign was run on a shoestring. Despite a near media blackout, some useful publicity was gained. Paid adverts in the papers meant that thousands of people had the opportunity to hear of independence for the first time. We must remember that winning elections is not the be-all and end-all of politics. Through taking part in election contests the Ulster-nationalist movement is given a ready-made platform through which we can recruit new members, build up our organisation and extend our influence.

So what are the implications for those of its who seek independence? Many groups who contested the election described themselves as neither unionist nor republican They sought votes from across the sectarian divide This is a welcome development and one which will ultimately benefit our cause. A very small start has been made in replacing tribal voting patterns. Although the election was primarily fought on constitutional issues, groups like the Women's Coalition and Labour also successfully fought on bread and butter issues. The independence movement should also do likewise.

Opinion polls such as Newsnight's consistently show a base support of around 10% for an independent Ulster. Our task is to secure these voles and to build a movement capable of turning our dreams into reality. Ulster-nationalists must work to make the pro-independence message known in every household. This will require a constant, steady campaign of agitation and propaganda. We can't just rest and do nothing until the next election conies along and expect people to come out in their droves to vote for us. Success isn't going to be handed to us on a plate. We will have to work harder to let everyone know that we Ulster-nationalists are here and we're not going to go away! The struggle for national freedom and social justice has only just begun.

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