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There are many occasions on which I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, but this is not one of them. I could not say it better myself. He has put it very eloquently, and he was one of the architects of the Belfast agreement. It is a flawed agreement, I might add, but it is there. It is not the best structure for good government and it is quite confusing. Even those of us who tried to work within it, and those of us who served as Ministers within it, know how restrictive it is and how complicated it can be. Indeed, when you explain to the general public, they throw their hands up and say, “And that is in the name of democracy”. They bid you well, give you a pat on the back and say, “Carry on in your own wee world”.
Let us be very careful, irrespective of how sincere people might be on any issue. The noble Lord, Lord Hayward, said something that struck me. He said that things are changing in Northern Ireland—and he might be right. I live there and have lived all my life there. In 1973, I went into politics as a local councillor and served for some 40 years—I know I do not look that age, but there you are. I went into the Northern Ireland Assembly, where I served for some 18 years, and I have been in this House for some 12 years. I have some idea of what is happening and of what makes Northern Ireland tick. Today, we say very clearly to this House: give us back the Northern Ireland Assembly and bring every issue that you wish to the table—every issue, even those I might emphatically disagree with.
I finish by saying that I was not one of the signatories to the Belfast agreement, but I had to accept it. When it was put to the people, they voted for it by a very small majority—particularly on the unionist side. As a democrat, I said: the people have spoken and I must listen to them.