Sir Reg Empey of the UUP got a whiff of something highly unpleasant. It's the rank odor of a united Ireland, all thirty-two counties acting as a unit.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been meeting with members of his Fianna Fail party to discuss the possibility of setting up shop in Northern Ireland. They mean to give Sinn Fein a run for their money, as Sinn Fein currently holds the title of Ireland's only all-island party and Fianna Fail does not intend to get left off the guest list.
Rather than start up from scratch, Fianna Fail would merge with the SDLP, a move that would strengthen the Socialist Democrats and give Fianna Fail the benefit of working with a group that's been in the trenches already.
But for the UUP, the most determined bastion of maintaining the United Kingdom of England and Ireland, the implications are horrendous. One political party making decisions in the Republic and the North sounds very much like one political party leading the North into a new union, the very same union that Sinn Fein has been proclaiming since the treaty was signed in 1922.
Politicians make the laws, and Sir Reg is frothing at the mouth, so upset is he that some Irish person might have any influence whatsoever in his little corner of the kingdom. Why, it's disruptive to the peace process, he's claimed, given that the peace process was supposed to bring peace but not change. Fianna Fail running the show at Stormont? Most unwise and unhelpful, undermines the progress achieved.
Glad to have them, says SDLP's Mark Durkan. He'd say that, of course, because the SDLP has been crying out for a united Ireland all along, albeit with a somewhat quieter voice. Besides, Fianna Fail has taken credit for the prosperity of modern Ireland as the result of their policies, and that has a decided appeal to the voters of Northern Ireland, who would like a taste of the money pie.
Any political party offering more of the same old tired policies has a tough go of it when the flashy suits and big cars come to town. That is what has Sir Reg so furious. He's got nothing pretty to show off after years of UUP influence, and the competition is going to disrupt his hold on power.