Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 11:45 UK

Profile: Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV)

Jim Allister
TUV leader, Jim Allister

The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) was born out of a split in the DUP.

Its founder, Jim Allister, a former barrister, broke away from the DUP in March 2007 over its decision to share power with Sinn Fein.

At the time Mr Allister was the DUP's European MEP, having topped the poll in 2005 when he succeeded Ian Paisley.

Announcing his departure, Mr Allister said he was quitting the DUP with immense sadness, but was taking a principled stand. He declared Sinn Fein unfit for government.

Mr Allister didn't give up his European seat however. And from this position, he breathed new life into anti-agreement unionism.

In December 2007, he launched a new unionist anti-agreement force. The TUV's first electoral test soon followed in a by-election in Dromore.

The party's candidate Keith Harbinson polled around 700 votes, and came third behind the DUP and Ulster Unionists. The TUV took an estimated 40% of the DUP's usual vote and deprived it of victory, in a PR election.

Mr Allister declared the February 14 poll result an "unhappy Valentine's day for the Chuckle brothers." This was a reference to the DUP-Sinn Fein First and Deputy First Ministers, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

The TUV continued to recruit from the ranks of disaffected unionists, in a bid to defend the European seat in June 2009.

Alternative

The DUP's Diane Dodds took the seat from Mr Allister. But nevertheless he polled 13.5% - some 66,000 votes. This cost his old party its poll-topping position.

Mr Allister, with supporters cheering, declared the result a success for his party and a foundation on which to build future victories. He accused detractors and the media of under-estimating his vote.

Mr Allister is standing in North Antrim in the General Election. This is the DUP's citadel and will be a key test of his strength. He is taking on Ian Paisley junior, the son of the outgoing MP.

The TUV is standing at least ten candidates in the General Election.

The TUV is promising a better alternative to mandatory coalition government in the Assembly. But the DUP has accused it of peddling unrealistic policies.



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