I beg to move
I am conscious of the position in which we find ourselves as I served in the Northern Ireland Parliament, in the first Assembly, in the Constitutional Convention and in the second Assembly. For me what is called the New Assembly it is the third Assembly. This is an opportunity for all traditions — all sections of the community — to co-operate, to bring Northern Ireland out of the morass that it has been in for the past 30 years, so that we may have a future in which the Province can hold its head high, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Europe and the United States of America.
I am proposing two men who have shown vision and leadership in their political parties. First, there is Mr Trimble, with whom I have co-operated both at university and in Parliament. It is he who has shown the leadership and vision needed in the Ulster Unionist Party in the last few years to bring us to the stage we are at today. Secondly, there is Mr Mallon. Whether I like it or not, he is my Member of Parliament. He is the Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party, and I have worked with him for many years. Although we disagree strongly on political objectives, I have always found him to be a good friend — one who, I believe, will work for the good of Northern Ireland.
There are many problems facing us — for instance, the economy, including the need for new industry; infrastructure; and funding of hospitals and schools. We need men who will work for Northern Ireland and will help us to hold our heads high abroad.
I would like very much to second the motion made by Mr Taylor.
The proposal symbolises the fundamental objective of this institution, which is to have the representatives of both sections of the community working together in the best interests of all. I look forward to seeing that transforming our relationships.
First of all, let me say that I am very pleased to be here and to see so many other people with us. I mo theanga féin, caithfidh mé a rá gur lá stairiúil an lá seo, agus le cuidiú Dé beidh muid, agus tá muid, i mo bharúil féin, ag cur ár n-aidhm stairiúil ar aghaidh. As seo amach, is féidir linn — [Interruption]
Agus as seo amach, agus b’fhéidir má éisteann an Dochtúir Paisley liom, beidh a fhios aige faoinár dteanga féin, agus b’fhéidir go gcuirfidh duine éigin "manners" ar an fhear udaí. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
The Sinn Féin Ard-Chomhairle met yesterday. We reiterated our support for the Agreement and, in particular because of today’s business, for the entitlement of the largest party to the position of First Minister and of the second-largest party to the position of Deputy First Minister. Indeed, we think it might be useful — though this would have to be on a voluntary basis — for the posts to rotate because the difference between the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionist party, in terms of numbers of Assembly Members, is so narrow.
I want to say a particular word of commendation to Mr Hume, the Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Everyone who contested the election deserves to be commended, but it was a special election for Nationalism, and people will take much of succour from the fact that a Nationalist is taking up the position of Deputy First Minister. I wish Mr Mallon well. I have no doubt that he will uphold the entitlements of everyone here, just as I am upholding the entitlements of the Ulster Unionist Party even though its members have yet to uphold the entitlements of the people I represent and others throughout this statelet.
I hope that we are entering a new era. Yesterday the Ard-Chomhairle delegated to the Sinn Fein Assembly team the right to work out tactically how to proceed. We have held discussions among ourselves and have taken some soundings. Bearing in mind remarks made in the past and trying to be far-sighted about what is happening within Unionism, we consider that we might not be doing Mr Trimble any favour by voting for him. Other Unionists would be only too pleased to beat him up. We reiterate our firm support for the Ulster Unionist Party’s entitlement in the hope that we will also be upholding our own entitlement. We will abstain when the vote is taken.
Sin é, sin mo mhéid, mar a dúirt mé ar dtús, tá mé go han-sásta a bheith libhse, there is a lot of work to be done.
We must see change. There is a whole agenda of change, to be achieved not just through this institution but also through the cross-border and other bodies. One thinks in particular of the equality agenda and other areas where progress is needed.
We meet here on our own terms — Unionists, from whichever party, and Republicans alike. It is only by meeting like this that we can work out a shared future for all the people of this island. If the adults in the Chamber could stop thinking about themselves and their particular party niches and start thinking about our children and the new millennium and about the five million people on an island as small as this one, surely we could shape a future that we could all be proud of and have ownership of.
I wish everyone well. In particular, I wish the two nominees well in their new posts.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Today we are being asked to approve the appointment of two people. Unionists know where Mr Mallon stands and how he intends to carry out his policies. The other person is not the nominee of Unionists; he is the nominee of the Ulster Unionist Party, as it now calls itself, which does not represent a majority in the Assembly, as is quite clear from the Benches that are not occupied by Ulster Unionist Members. Mr Adams will not vote for Mr Mallon or Mr Trimble, but before the world he congratulated Mr Mallon on his nomination.
On behalf of the Unionist people whom I represent I, along with others in the Chamber of like mind and the Independents, must put a question to the nominee for First Minister. It is about his policy on decommissioning. In this Chamber during the first part of the talks he told us that he would take a very firm stand on decommissioning. In fact, in one issue of the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ he was reported as having said that he would bring the talks down if decommissioning did not take place. That did not happen, and now we have the situation we are in today.
In an answer to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons the Prime Minister stated that no terrorist or anyone fronting a terrorist movement or purporting to speak on behalf of terrorists could enter a new Government of Northern Ireland. The House of Commons Hansard was changed, though we have been told by the Editor of Debates there that the meaning is the same. The answer that the Prime Minister gave was
"Yes, there cannot be those who do not decommission their weapons in any future Government of Northern Ireland."
And he added
"there must be substantial decommissioning."
Mr Mallon, with whom I sit in the House of Commons, made it clear recently that that is not going to happen, so we know exactly where he stands.
I have read carefully the manifesto of the right hon Gentleman’s party. It hints — indeed, many have said that it states — that he will not sit in any Cabinet with those who are in the league picked out by the Prime Minister, that there must first be substantial decommissioning.
What is the right hon Gentleman’s policy on that issue? If he cannot tell us, all those Members who told people on the doorsteps that they would not sit down with Sinn Fein/IRA or anyone else until there had been substantial decommissioning will have to search their consciences as they vote today. We on these Benches would be failing in our duty if we did not make this matter crystal clear. Where does the proposed First Minister stand on this very important issue?
Mr Adams talked of people. I am thinking today of the people who were murdered by his cohorts, the families that were smashed, the people who were rent by sorrow, the people turned into vegetables by IRA violence. They deserve an answer from the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. What is his real policy on this matter?
It has been said that when he becomes First Minister he will talk to everybody because his position will be like that of the Prime Minister. Will those who vote for him today be enabling him to do what he said he would never do? These are the issues that Members must bear in mind as they cast their votes. Unfortunately the system does not allow us to vote for the nominees separately. The system was carefully worked out by those who have devised every aspect of this very peculiar set-up.
A member of the Progressive Unionist Party castigated me, saying that I had broken my word by coming here today. I want to nail that falsehood. I always said that I would not sit down in the talks if Sinn Fein joined them without decommissioning, and I kept my promise to the electorate. The Unionist people want to know what Mr Trimble’s policy is. He has a duty to tell us, for he is going to be the First Minister of this country. Does he agree with the Prime Minister that Sinn Fein people cannot be in any Government of Northern Ireland until there has been substantial decommissioning?
I am sure everyone here welcomes the ecumenical remarks of the Leader of Sinn Fein about the peaceful future that he envisages the two sides of this community sharing as they march forward, perhaps into the sunset rather than the sunrise.
What does Mr Adams offer? His party — Sinn Fein — has been described by several Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and a number of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland as being inextricably linked to the Provisional IRA. "Inextricably linked" means that they cannot be separated. If they cannot be separated, what criteria are to be applied to determine whether, in this Assembly, the real intention is to work the democratic process or whether, if the democratic process fails to deliver the political objectives for which they contend, they will go back — as one of their elected Members said — to what they do best?
I welcome what Mr Adams said, and I would be prepared to work and share the responsibility for the future well-being of Northern Ireland if I could believe it — if I had some evidence that it was soundly based, sincerely meant. But he is a member of a party that insists — through its alter ego, the Provisional IRA — that it will retain all its weapons. At the ardfheis which endorsed that party’s acceptance of this Agreement, delegate after delegate stated that it would move forward on the twin tracks of participating in the democratic process and retaining its military capacity. It is no coincidence that many of those who are represented here today as democrats served their apprenticeship in the military wing of that combination.
Sorry: I thought I was standing up. I am certainly standing up for the rights of the people who sent me here.
Should not each party be referred to by its given title? I undertake to describe the United Kingdom Unionists as the United Kingdom Unionists, the Democratic Unionist Party as the Democratic Unionist Party, and so on, and my party should be referred to as Sinn Fein.
It is clear that a number of issues relating to Standing Orders will have to be addressed. We need a Committee to decide, for instance, how Members should be described and how they should address each other. It would be invidious for me, as Initial Presiding Officer, to rule on issues which go beyond the current Standing Orders.
With regard to the issues put to the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party by the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, what is the policy of the Ulster Unionists on sitting down with Sinn Fein, which, according to the Prime Minister, is inextricably linked with Provisional IRA, while the Provisional IRA declares that it will retain all its weaponry? All the Members of this Assembly want Mr Trimble to answer that key question — particularly members of his own party. If he shares the views of the Prime Minister can he give an unequivocal assurance to all those within the broader Unionist family that he will not sit down in government with members of a party that is inextricably linked with a listed terrorist organisation which intends to retain all its weaponry?
Those who are to vote on this composite motion are entitled to know what they are voting for. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, through its Leader, Mr Hume, and its Deputy Leader, Mr Mallon, has honourably and honestly made its position clear. For them decommissioning is no longer an issue, and they have no qualms whatever about sitting down in government with the representatives of Sinn Fein.
Every Unionist here is entitled to know the proposed First Minister’s views on that issue, for upon them may well depend how Members vote. But I should make it clear that as this is a composite motion they will in any case be voting for someone, either the First Minister or the Deputy First Minister, who is prepared to sit down and work with the representatives of Sinn Fein while the IRA remains fully armed.
I welcome all the parties that have been democratically elected to the Assembly, and I am willing to work with them for the economic benefit, health and environmental advancement of all citizens. My policy has always been that every citizen in Northern Ireland is entitled to equality of esteem. In every aspect of life, including social and educational opportunity and justice, everyone should be treated fairly. I am willing to work for that, but I am not prepared — nor is my party — to work with those who want to enter the democratic process and at the same time remain inextricably linked to people who have been responsible for more than 2,000 deaths since 1969 and who retain the means to continue with that process.
Every Member, particularly in the Ulster Unionist Party, must search his conscience to determine whether he is prepared to have his Leader sit down with members of Sinn Fein while the IRA remains fully armed and whether he is prepared to vote for Mr Mallon, who has already declared that to be his position. Members have a duty not only to their parties but also to those who elected them and to their consciences. I pray that they will exercise the latter.
May I congratulate David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party and Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party on being nominated for the positions of First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate).
For nearly 30 years my party and I have believed that the real solution to the difficulties that we in Northern Ireland face is the establishment of a power-sharing Assembly, and this is the historic first day of such a body. I am also pleased to see Dr Paisley and his party and Mr McCartney and his party in the Chamber for they are a very important part of the political solution to our problems. I hope that they, along with everyone else here, despite differences on some fundamental issues, will attach the greatest importance to making the Assembly work.
I sincerely hope that what is happening here today is a new dawn for Northern Ireland, a time of change. If the politicians give a lead and earn the respect of everyone, we can take a major step forward.
Ar eagla nach bhfuil an tUasal McCartney soiléir faoin mhéid atá an páirtí s’againne a rá ó thaobh an phoist den Chéad-Aire (Ainmnithe) agus LeasChéad-Aire (Ainmnithe), is léir go bhfuilimid anseo le comhoibriú le hionadaithe na bpáirtithe eile sa Tionól seo inniu. Céim chun tosaigh atá sa chruinniú; tá a lán céimeanna eile le glacadh go fóill. Tá Sinn Féin anseo de thairbhe na ndaoine a vótáil ar ár son sa toghchán agus is amhlaidh an cás do na páirtithe eile.
Is iad an Ulster Unionist Party agus an Social Democratic and Labour Party an dá pháirtí is mó sa Tionól, agus is ceart agus is cóir go mbeidh an seans ag ionadaithe ó pháirtithe s’acu bheith sna poist do Chéad-aire (Ainmnithe) agus don LeasChéad-Aire (Ainmnithe). Tá cearta ag an pháirtí s’againne; tá cearta ag na páirtithe eile. Má théimid uilig ar aghaidh ar an bhonn seo, thig linn an institiúid seo, agus institiúidi eile, a thógáil le chéile, chomh maith le hamchlár le hathrú bunúsach a chur i bhfeidhm.
In case Mr McCartney is not sure about Sinn Fein’s position as regards the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, let me make it very clear that we are here to work with representatives of the other parties. Today’s meeting is a step in the right direction, but we have many more steps to take.
Sinn Fein is here because of the mandate it received, as are the other parties. As the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party are the largest and second-largest groups, in terms of numbers of votes, it is right that they should put forward candidates for these two positions. The Leader of my party has clearly explained our voting intentions.
Sinn Féin, like the other parties, has rights. If we proceed on that basis we can build on this and all the other institutions in accordance with the vital timetable for fundamental change which we all signalled in the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms de Brún has said that she considers today’s proceedings a step in the right direction. I do not think that any Unionist is unclear about the direction in which Sinn Fein/IRA want to take this province. Their attitude has been clear. It can be seen in the tombstones around this Province and in the violence that they have presided over as representatives of armed terror. It is a single-minded goal: to take Northern Ireland out of its rightful place within the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland. They are entitled politically to hold that view, but they are not entitled militarily realise it.
The proposal before the Assembly is a joint one. The two people concerned are expected to work in partnership. It is therefore not good enough simply to put two block votes together and push the proposal through. The Assembly is required to use its judgement to determine whether the nominees are capable of working in harness — pulling together, not against each other. The only way we can determine whether they are capable of that is to look at their policies — what they have said they intend to do. One of their chief jobs will be to formulate the programme for a future Government of Northern Ireland.
The complexion of the Executive is already determined. During the referendum and election campaigns the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom made it clear that those who had not substantially decommissioned their illegal weaponry would be barred from the Executive. He said so in Parliament on 6 May and in Northern Ireland on a number of occasions when he was attempting to increase the size of the "Yes" vote. He said "We cannot have a situation in which people who have not given up the path of violence take office in the Northern Ireland Government."
On another occasion he indicated
"People need to know that if they are sitting down in the room of an Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly with other people, they are not sitting there with the guns under the table or outside the door. That cannot happen, and we must make that abundantly clear."
That view was enthusiastically echoed by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr Trimble. He is on record as having said that Ulster Unionists could not tolerate the arrival in office of unreconstructed terrorists. More precisely, the Ulster Unionist Party has indicated that it
"will not serve in the Executive Committee with any party which is not genuinely committed to peace."
"Decommissioning alone, of course, is not enough. Paramilitary organisations must stand down their units, and the IRA must indicate that the war is over."
In an interview with the ‘News Letter’ of 9 May Mr Trimble said
"We have the capacity ourselves to exclude Sinn Fein from office if we so wish because we are going to have a majority in the Assembly. That is clearly going to be the case. Why should people worry what an Assembly will do if they are going to have the majority in it? The Agreement itself is absolutely clear that only people who have a genuine commitment to peaceful means in a democratic process can accept office. Those words were fudged in the past, but they were fudged by Governments. It is not going to be a question for the Government in the future; it is going to be a question for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives."
As he has said that he does not like fudge, we will be looking for the clearest possible statement indicating whether he is prepared to sit down, even in shadow, with the unreconstructed terrorists about whom he spoke — those who have not decommissioned their illegal weaponry.
His partner has made his position clear. In the House of Commons Mr Mallon said that decommissioning could not be a prerequisite to being part of the Government of Northern Ireland. He said that there were to be no such preconditions. So, on the most important and fundamental issue that will first face them, the First Minister and his deputy are at odds publicly. Before the Assembly votes on this matter it is entitled to know if it is Mr Trimble’s version of the Agreement or Mr Mallon’s that those two gentlemen will follow.
I believe that a majority of those assembled here and those viewing the proceedings in their homes dearly want this day to be the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Northern Ireland. They deserve the restoration of democracy — accountable government by elected representatives, the rule of law and a healing of divisions.
Northern Ireland is truly at a crossroads. We face a major decision: we can embark upon the road that leads to parliamentary law, or we can continue with paramilitary law. We can decide to engage in the defeat of terrorism or to continue with the current programme of the United Kingdom’s Parliament and Government, which is appeasement of and final capitulation to terrorism.
In memory of almost 3,000 people — men, women and children — who have lost their lives and of tens of thousands of families who have suffered at the hands of terrorists, I pledge myself to use whatever channels are available to me and my party to ensure the defeat of terrorism and appropriate retribution for those who have committed these crimes.
I was elected to this body as a United Kingdom Unionist on a manifesto and a pledge. I would like briefly to read that pledge because it is important that it be on the record:
We recoil with moral contempt from an Agreement which releases back into our community those who have murdered and maimed the innocent, while the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who have protected the peaceful and law-abiding, are to be demoralised and disarmed.
We repudiate all-Ireland bodies with executive powers and expanding authority designed to develop into a factually United Ireland.
We demand, as British citizens, equality of treatment, the protection of our lives, persons and property, and the return of a democratic and accountable government, free from the domination of violent political terrorism, and in which all citizens have equal rights."
It has been extremely difficult for me to sit with the apologists for the murderers of countless people in Northern Ireland, unrepentant and still fully armed.
I come now to the proposal for the election of Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon. At this stage in its history Ulster needs a leader — someone to lead the people and this Assembly, someone who has strength of character and who says what he means and mean what he says.
Mr Trimble has been proposed for the position of First Minister. On 7 June 1996 Mr Trimble vowed to the Unionist community that he would stop the talks if decommissioning of arms did not start right away. But he reneged on that pledge, as he has done so often. United Kingdom Unionists cannot support someone who makes election pledges that identify him with the Orange Order but as the marching season approaches, reverts to type.
I do not believe that it is possible for two people to walk together unless they agree. How can anyone reasonably propose Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon unless, of course, Mr Trimble is prepared to work to Mr Mallon’s agenda? We are quite clear about Mr Mallon’s agenda — a united Ireland. Mr Mallon has no difficulty in sitting down with the representatives of armed terror. He and his party Leader, Mr Hume, have shown themselves to be extremely hypocritical. Mr Hume and Mr Dick Spring said very clearly that they would not allow the representatives of armed terror to come into the process for whatever benefits they could get. They said that there could be no guns under the table, on the table or outside the door.
In front of us here today, in the persons of Mr Adams and his cohorts, we have apologists for Sinn Fein/IRA armed terror. It is a shame that such people have been admitted to the process. I shall use all my powers of persuasion to ensure that fellow Unionists do not accept a situation in which these people are part and parcel of the Government of Northern Ireland before they have dismantled their machinery of war and destruction, and I look forward to the day when Unionists will stand united on that.
A number of important issues have been raised today — issues from which we must not run away. My party leader issued an important challenge to the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, who is seeking the position of First Minister. It is a challenge to which he must respond.
Mr Trimble has a severe credibility problem in the Unionist community. It predates his sitting down with Sinn Fein in the Stormont talks a year ago, but it gathered momentum when, as has been pointed out, he broke certain promises in the party’s manifesto. During the referendum campaign he made many promises, pledges and statements which called his credibility into question.
I hope that before the vote Mr Trimble will make clear where he stands on the issue of sitting in government with the representatives of IRA/Sinn Fein. He cannot run away from the question, for it is one to which the Democratic Unionists, the United Kingdom Unionists and many members of his own party demand an answer.
Although the Standing Orders do not specify words that we are not allowed to use, I am sure that we may not accuse Members of telling lies. I would not like to be the first person to be thrown out by you, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, but I have to say that over the last six weeks Mr Trimble’s credibility has decreased so much that were he Pinocchio he could poke me with his nose from where he is sitting.
Then there are the weasel words of the leader of IRA/Sinn Fein. But I am well used to such words for I have sat for 10 years in Belfast City Council, where his colleagues claim to be democrats while justifying the economic war which has destroyed the commercial heart of Belfast. They even threatened Ministers who attended the Council and in more recent meetings have defended punishment beatings.
IRA/Sinn Fein Members talk about taking steps into a new future. They tell us to think of the people — the very people they have been shooting and bombing for 30 years. Many who sit on the Benches opposite were involved in such activities not just at a distance but directly, but we have heard not one word of apology. They have given no indication that they are sorry, no indication of acceptance that what they did was wrong. Indeed, they arrogantly portray their position as having been justified. That is why they are here.
And in case they have to switch back into the other mode they hold on to the weapons of terror. Can people who have been the victims for the last 30 years share the reins of government with those who have been involved in such actions? That is the crunch question.
As Mr McCartney said, the fundamental weakness of the whole arrangement is the assumption that somehow the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and the representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour Party — people whose positions, at least on paper, on how to deal with those who are involved in terrorism are diametrically opposed — will be able to work in tandem.
Much has been made of the eloquence demonstrated by Mr Hume when he said that those who had guns on the table, under the table or outside the doors should not be allowed to take part. Of course, as we all expected, Mr Hume and his party, for their own reasons, have completely renounced that position. Whether you have guns in your pockets, on your shoulder, on the table, under the table, outside the door or anywhere else, you are welcome to take part.
I do not believe that this democratic institution can be all-embracing. There is a fundamental question for the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party: is he, despite all the promises he has given, prepared to operate a warped system which rewards those who have killed, maimed and bombed their way into this House and who retain the right to do so if — to use the words of Ms de Brún — the fundamental change that they demand does not take place?
Dia dhaoibh a chairde.
I want first to wish Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon well in what will obviously be an onerous responsibility for them both over the coming weeks, months and years.
Having listened to the contributions of the United Kingdom Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, people will perhaps have a better understanding of the position that we have adopted for this election. It is a very good day for us to be here together as the elected representatives of all the people of this part of the island. It is particularly important to us to meet people like Mr Cedric Wilson, who for years stood in splendid isolation at the front of Parliament Buildings waving a placard as we moved back and forth attempting to negotiate on behalf of the people who had given us political responsibility. It is also very good to come across someone like Mr Sammy Wilson, whom I have never met, and it is great to see him today with his clothes on.
Mr McCartney laughed and smirked as someone on this side of the House spoke Irish. What he said suggested that he is very concerned about equality and justice. I certainly hope that he is. However, he looked very intently at the Members behind Mr Trimble, as if to intimidate them.
I hope that he will not manage to intimidate anybody in this Chamber. He certainly will not intimidate the representatives of Sinn Fein, for we are here on the back of a very substantial electoral mandate. We are here on behalf of people who have been discriminated against since the foundation of the Northern state. We are here on behalf of people who want an end to inequality, discrimination, domination and injustice.
When I hear some people interpreting the responsibilities that certain aspects of the Good Friday Agreement lay on Mr Trimble I wonder whether they are referring to the document that I have read in recent weeks. Mr Peter Robinson can quote words spoken by the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons until he is blue in the face. He can quote from ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Daily Telegraph’, ‘The Sunday Times’ or any other paper, but the only piece of paper which counts here is the Good Friday Agreement. Nowhere in that document is there anything which denies representatives of Sinn Fein places on the executive body — nowhere. Nowhere is there a linkage between decommissioning and the issue of prisoners.
The more we listen to these people the more clearly we realise what their agenda is. They refused to participate in the negotiations, but now they come trundling into this Chamber because they are afraid that they will be left behind. I am afraid that they have been left behind, for if the Ulster Unionist Party keeps its nerve all the people of this island will have a bright future. As elected representatives we have a responsibility to give people hope for themselves and their children.
We have been through a difficult process over the last four or five years. Much work has been done, and many people on the ground appreciate the efforts of those who agreed the Good Friday document. People are watching what is happening here. The will of the more than 70% of people who voted for the Good Friday document brought Mr Paisley and Mr McCartney to this Chamber. As seasoned politicians, those Members know that there is a real danger of their being left behind. I welcome them to this forum even though I realise that they will try to prevent or minimise change — indeed, to drag us all back into the Dark Ages. [Interruption]
No. They have spoken long enough.
They have to face up to the reality that there is going to be change, that the change will be fundamental, that they cannot prevent our involvement in this body, or the Executive, that they cannot prevent the establishment of all-Ireland bodies with executive powers, that they cannot prevent the equality agenda, that they cannot prevent promotion of the Irish language, that they cannot prevent the creation of a new police service and that they cannot prevent the release of political prisoners. That is the reality.
What we are charged with is to begin the process. But this is only the start. People will judge us by what happens over the coming days, weeks and months. As I said to Mr Trimble at Lancaster House in the aftermath of the beginning of this year when Catholics were being killed right, left and centre in the North of Ireland, there is a responsibility on every elected representative to show goodwill and do everything in his power to prevent a return to what has happened in the past. I am acutely aware of my responsibility.
There is also a responsibility on Mr McCartney, who is always telling us that he is an intelligent man.
Yes, he does all the time.
We want him to be a smart man. We want him to recognise that there is a future for our children. Whatever else he may be, he must be a democrat and accept reality.
[Remarks made at this point may be subject to legal proceedings and have therefore been omitted.]
Sinn Fein has arrived in this building, and Unionists have been compelled by the votes of the people to come. Even in opposition, Unionist Members will be part of the change in this island.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Mr McGuinness has done an enormous service to the pro-Union electorate by laying bare what he perceives to be the reality of the agreement which Mr Trimble and other Unionist leaders endorsed.
The agreement has been well described as a mechanism for transition to a united Ireland. There is no doubt that in it Mr Trimble conceded the fundamental principles of Irish Nationalism. The document declares that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, but the concessions to the principles of Nationalism made by Mr Trimble render that state of affairs entirely illegitimate. Then he agreed to two crucial institutions — the North/South Ministerial Council and the Intergovernmental Conference, which are designed to bring about conditions in which Unionist agreement to a united Ireland will be a mere formality.
It seems, on the basis of the proposal made to us today by Mr Taylor, that the Ulster Unionist Party is about to make a further concession — one that is even more fundamental than those to Irish Nationalists. Apparently Ulster Unionists are about to concede the principles of democracy and the integrity of the rule of law.
Mr Trimble has been proposed for the position of First Minister, with Mr Mallon as his deputy. As has been said, the position of Mr Mallon is entirely clear: he is committed to a united Ireland, and he does not require Sinn Fein/IRA to hand in any arms — even rusty ones. That suggests that the Ulster Unionist Party too does not require any decommissioning, now or in the future.
Mr Trimble must make the situation absolutely clear to the pro-Union electorate if he is prepared to sit down in an Executive governing Northern Ireland without first requiring decommissioning and to corrupt the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law by doing so. There should be substantial decommissioning of the IRA terrorist arsenal before the Executive begins. That is the fundamental issue that Mr Trimble must address today.
It was very interesting to hear a representative of IRA/Sinn Fein chastising Mr McCartney and others about the equality agenda and the Irish language. Such people make much of the Irish language, but in other forums, such as Belfast City Council, they never mention it. Typically, they are playing to the cameras and to the Gallery. Of course, as has been pointed out, many Sinn Fein Members do not understand Irish. [Interruption]
I made it clear at the beginning that while I am in the Chair Members may speak in Irish, Ulster-Scots or any other language so long as they translate into English. That request has been met by those speaking in Irish. [Interruption] Dr Paisley may well be able to regale us in Latin or Greek, but he will have to translate, for I am not familiar with such languages.
Mr Maskey may be trying to cover his embarrassment in front of his party, but that does not alter the facts that I have outlined. They are on the record, as you, Sir, as a former member of Belfast City Council, will know.
The issues have been laid fairly and squarely before the House. We are being asked to vote on a package. We know where Mr Mallon and the Social Democratic and Labour Party stand, but we have yet to hear where the Ulster Unionist Party’s nominee for the post of First Minister stands.
Will this proposal be put to the vote today without an explanation of Mr Trimble’s position or, indeed, of Mr Mallon’s? It is especially important that we hear from Mr Trimble in view of policies that he has enunciated and then reneged on.
Is he going to treat the Assembly with contempt? Will he refuse to answer questions about the most important issue before the House today? Is he going to remain silent with regard to the crucial question (whether he is prepared as First Minister to sit in government with unrepentant supporters of murder and violence — people, who, in the words of the Prime Minister, are inextricably linked to the IRA)?
I say to Mr Trimble that it is through us, as elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, that those people should have an answer. It is not good enough to fudge this issue or to remain silent. Mr Trimble must present himself and explain his position. That is the purpose of this debate, and it would be amazing if he did not tell us where he stands.
Reference has been made to the Agreement that was signed and to the pledges that were made by the Prime Minister. It was not Mr Trimble or the other pro-Agreement Unionists who won the "Yes" vote; it was Tony Blair. The Prime Minister was never out of Northern Ireland during the last days of the campaign, and he managed to persuade people on the Unionist side.
Of course, he did not need to persuade anybody on the Nationalist or Republican side; they would have had to be certifiably insane not to vote "Yes" given the concessions to IRA/Sinn Fein and Nationalism. But he had a real job persuading the Unionist people. How did he do it? Through hand-written pledges on a series of issues — prisoners, decommissioning and Government positions for IRA/Sinn Fein.
It is time for those who made the pledges (the British Government and Tony Blair) and those who sold them, those who went around saying "Yes, we agree with those pledges" (the Ulster Unionist Party and Mr Trimble) to come clean and say what they will do if this proposal goes through and Mr Trimble becomes the First Minister (Designate). It is pay-up time. Mr Trimble must answer these questions before the vote is taken. He cannot fudge yet again. Having said one thing or remained silent before the election, he cannot take an entirely different course now.
We in the Democratic Unionist Party are in this House not because we are afraid of anything or anybody but because we were elected in substantial numbers by the people of Northern Ireland. We made it clear that we would never negotiate with IRA/Sinn Fein, and we have not gone back on our pledge. But we have always said in councils and elsewhere that we would never run away from any elected body, that we would confront those who want to take us down a united-Ireland route.
Sinn Fein Member Mr Adams said that he was glad to see us. He welcomed everybody. I think of a Member of a previous Assembly — Mr Edgar Graham, who was murdered by the IRA. Although not a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, Mr Graham was a close friend of mine. People who are lecturing us today supported, condoned, defended and gloated over that murder and the murder of other elected representatives.
But we know their pedigree. We remember what they have done, and we note that they have yet to apologise or to undertake any sort of redress, such as decommissioning. They will not say that the war is over, yet they demand all the benefits of the agreement. Let Mr Trimble tell us whether they will reap those benefits.
In seconding the nomination of Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon for the posts of First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate), Mr Hume indicated the strength of the Social Democratic and Labour Party’s confidence in Seamus Mallon.
Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble have a track record in relation to the agreement that provided for this body and other institutions to be set up. They have shown that they can work together despite the many difficulties that we all make for each other and the differences that we all brought into this Chamber throughout the negotiations.
Seamus Mallon and David Trimble brought their differences, but they were able to work together and with others from all the parties that wanted to find ways and means of creating the situation in which we find ourselves today.
Exchanges such as those we have witnessed here — both direct and indirect — were written off as impossible by the decriers of the talks process. The people who walked away from the talks are also decrying this nomination. It is because of their track record that we are eager to support it.
The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will shoulder onerous responsibilities. It is clear that some people intend to make life for them and others in this Chamber as difficult as they can. The First and Deputy First Ministers will not be in a position to create difficulties, but they will have to resolve many of those generated by others.
We pledge our support for them as they work to ensure the full implementation of all aspects of the Agreement — in particular, those in which they have a central, direct role. There are some matters — prisoner releases, the review of policing, and decommissioning, for example — in which they do not have such a role. Neither is there a direct role for the Executive. Thus much of the debate so far in relation to the nomination has been about matters that are completely outside of the remit of the posts we are discussing.
Several Members have referred to Seamus Mallon’s position on decommissioning. One said that he had made his position clear: he was no longer interested in decommissioning. We are nominating Seamus Mallon for Deputy First Minister because he is totally committed to ensuring that agreement, including accord on the six paragraphs on decommissioning, will be achieved. We want to see decommissioning taking place, and Seamus Mallon wants it to be achieved within the timescale laid down in the agreement.
The agreement refers to a workable basis for achieving the decommissioning of illegally held arms. But no workable basis will be achieved through the politics of "Stand and deliver!". That was tried and it failed, and if it is tried again it will fail again. The agreement offers a different context in which the decommissioning that is so important to people can be realised.
The posts in question were deliberately created by those of us who took part in the negotiations. They are intended to be at the heart of the new arrangements in the North and to have a pivotal role in the relationship between those arrangements, the arrangements in the South and the East/West arrangements. Much rests on the nomination. It is important that that be recognised, but so far the debate has concentrated on all sorts of extraneous matters.
It will not be easy for Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble. There will be differences between them, as in any similar situation, but they have shown a capacity to overcome differences, not just between themselves but also between a wide range of parties and individuals.
We look forward to approval of their nomination by the necessary majority, to the Assembly’s working under their leadership, and to their co-operating with all parties. They have a duty to ensure partnership in the Administration and in dealings with the Assembly. They have particular duties with regard to the North/South and East/West arrangements.
As Mr Hume said, this joint nomination represents the essence of the Good Friday Agreement. We are talking about making decisions with each other rather than making the demands of each other that have characterised so much of this debate. All of this is not just about reconciliation between Unionist and Nationalist, non-Unionist and non-Nationalist; the SDLP — Seamus Mallon in particular — is committed to achieving reconciliation and co-operation between those who voted "Yes" and those who voted "No".
It is in that spirit that we commend the nomination. We pledge our support, not just today but also in the future, and we ask all parties, whether abstaining, voting for or voting against, to co-operate with the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) as they work to bring to fruition the arrangements for which the agreement provides.
I would like at the outset to welcome Social Democratic and Labour Party Members back to the place they vacated so ignominiously last year. I refer, of course, to the Forum. They are anxious to welcome us; we can reciprocate by welcoming them back to the place that they abandoned many months ago.
Many people in Northern Ireland, whether filled with foreboding about the outworking of this agreement or in the "Yes" camp, might have looked upon these proceedings as presenting a slight possibility of our overcoming problems and working for the greater good, but it is apparent from the language used by the political wing of the Provisional IRA that they are determined that it should not be so.
Mr Trimble has many questions to answer — questions that have been posed several times since he was first mentioned as a possible First Minister. So far he has declined to answer them. Is he prepared to sit in an Executive, in shadow or substantial form, while the fully armed military wing of an organisation that will be there remains functional and ready to return to killing? Is he prepared to sit in Cabinet with an organisation whose military wing still engages in punishment beatings on the streets of Northern Ireland? Or is he prepared to demand substantial decommissioning before such a step could be contemplated, as the Prime Minister said he would? The Assembly and — even more important — the people of Northern Ireland need answers to those questions.
The people do want change. It is entirely wrong for anybody to say that my party is against change. But what we want is change for the better — change for the good of the community, which for almost three decades has been subjected to the terror and murder of the military colleagues of people who now sit here. Throughout Northern Ireland our community has been systematically discriminated against in jobs, in the arts and in funding for sporting organisations. It goes on even as I speak.
We are for change, but it is change in a direction that many in the House do not wish to contemplate. But we shall no doubt come to that in the future. The fundamental point, which Mr Trimble needs to address, is whether he is prepared to enter government as First Minister with Sinn Fein/IRA and with Mr Mallon as his deputy while a fully armed military wing remains operational in Northern Ireland.
The two candidates themselves have not had an opportunity to address any of these questions, and the circumstances are somewhat unusual. They now have a chance to respond.
May I first thank the Members who proposed and who seconded my election for their very kind and generous words — all true. [Laughter] I thank them sincerely, and I thank all the other Members who have spoken in the debate. I say so especially because, whatever our difficulties, whatever the animosities — and of those there are plenty — there is one immutable fact that we all have to confront: if we are to be serious about every political philosophy, we will have to work out a means of living together here in Northern Ireland on a basis of agreement, of consent, of equality, of justice.
I believe that there is a will to do so. Every political party, whatever its position, can play a full role in the Assembly, in the new North/South bodies, in the Council of the Isles and abroad for the benefit of the people on this island.
I welcome the anticipated appointment of David Trimble as First Minister. I say to Unionism that there always comes a time when a man must take responsibility for his people and for the country in which he lives. In my view Mr Trimble has done that with courage, dignity and integrity and in a way that, as we proceed, will inspire confidence among the Nationalist community.
Today I have a great sense of humility — not a virtue with which I am normally imbued. Anybody setting out on such a task must do so in a spirit of humility. I also have an awesome sense of responsibility, not just as Deputy First Minister to Mr David Trimble as First Minister but also to my own party, which I thank most sincerely for its confidence — especially the party leader, who has done so much, against the odds, to secure the process and bring it to this point. The well-being of all the people on this island is at stake — their happiness and safety and their role in the new society that we want to build.
Let me answer one of the questions that have been asked. I stand by the agreement that we all signed on Good Friday — not just the bits I like but also the bits I do not like. I stand by my commitment to an entirely peaceful process. I stand by the commitment to ensure that the new institutions will work, free of violence and the threat of violence. I stand by my commitment and my party’s commitment to work with all the people of Northern Ireland, for the good of all the people of the North of Ireland.
With regard to decommissioning, prisoners, policing, justice, equality and the institutions, I stand by the word given by the SDLP when the agreement was signed. I believe that the operation of this body will ensure the attainment of all these goals, including decommissioning.
There will be difficulties, but we all can help each other. My difficulties are David Trimble’s, and David Trimble’s are mine. They are also the difficulties of the United Kingdom Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Women’s Coalition and the Progressive Unionist Party, for we all share one thing — our vulnerability. There is not a Member, male or female, in this House who is not vulnerable.
We also share the conviction that now, at the end of the century, we are going to change life in the North of Ireland. Together we will tackle the problems. Nobody who believes that for this generation change is not just an option but an imperative will be excluded.
I look forward to working with Mr David Trimble. I have known him for a long time. We have not always agreed, and there will still be times when we disagree, but the disagreements will be sorted out face to face, for I am sure that his back is sore enough at the moment. I pledge to him, to my own party, to every other party here and to the people of the North of Ireland that we will do everything in our power to help every Member to effect the changes that have been agreed and so open up a new vision and a new imagination for a new century.
I am very grateful.
Mr Mallon is about to conclude his speech. It would be helpful to Members were he to answer the question about decommissioning. Will he tell us what exactly is his position so that we can match it against that of Mr Trimble?
As always, I am impressed by Mr Wilson’s grasp of detail.
Yes, I want to see decommissioning. Yes, I want it to happen quickly. Yes, it has to be done. Yes, I think that those who hold arms, as well as the people who are associated with them, can help the process of which we are all a part. I cannot be any clearer than that.
We all have reason enough for grievances. We can all engage in "whataboutery". We can all point out what has been done to us and to our communities. We can all point out how we have suffered. We can all point out how the other fellow is always wrong. This time let us come together to do the right thing for the people of this island, especially those in Northern Ireland, who elected us.
May I too start by thanking the Members who moved and who seconded the motion. I am grateful to them and, indeed, to others for their remarks about myself. It was not my intention to speak, for I thought that in some respects it would be inappropriate to do so. I am not actively canvassing or seeking appointment.
The Ulster Unionist Party has always recognised and accepted its responsibilities, and as a member of the party I have accepted and discharged responsibilities. However, it would be inappropriate for me to sing my own praises or to induce Members to vote in a particular way. They must vote as they see fit.
Another reason for not commenting in this debate is that, in view of the situation in Northern Ireland — the past, the present and the future we hope to have — there is a host of things that should be considered. However, in the time that is available today one can touch on just a few.
My Colleague Mr Taylor has said that he hopes that we as a community are now coming out of the morass in which we have been stuck for the last 30 years. It is a hope that has not yet been realised. The morass is political violence and terrorism on far too great a scale and from far too many quarters. Many of us have seen it far too close. Reference has been made to a good friend of mine who was murdered. I was just a short distance away, and I had to identify his body. Many other people have had a similar experience, so we know what we are dealing with. We know the reality of the violence from which this community has suffered.
The morass to which I have referred consists not just of political violence but also of political impotence. By virtue of direct rule, people and their elected representatives were rendered unable to deal with certain issues. The community was disconnected from the rest of the body politic. That had a negative effect on attitudes and on the way the community operated. We hope that we are coming out of the morass, but at this stage success is not guaranteed. We all know the problems, and we ought to realise that they could overcome us. The problems will not all be solved overnight by the wave of a magic wand. We will have to work at them.
In the course of this debate a question has been put repeatedly. Of course, those who put it were not making a genuine enquiry. The question was not put by people seeking information or guidance; it was simply another cheap political stunt by people who cannot tell the difference between cheap political stunts and serious attempts to deal with issues. However, I will address it. David Trimble is merely one of 28 Ulster Unionist Members. All 28 have come here on the same manifesto — the same manifesto and the same position.
Those who put the question could have found the answer stated very simply in the manifesto. The relevant section begins
"Before any terrorist organisation and/or its political wing can benefit from the proposals contained in the Agreement on the release of terrorist prisoners and the holding of ministerial office in the Assembly, the commitment to exclusively peaceful and non-violent means must be established. The Ulster Unionist Party will be using various criteria that are objective, meaningful and verifiable to judge whether this is being achieved."
The manifesto sets out at length what those criteria are, and the relevant section concludes
"Ulster Unionists will not sit in Government with unreconstructed terrorists."
The first important thing is to establish commitment to the democratic process. People must state that they will not, now or in the future, use violence to achieve their goals. They must commit themselves irrevocably to the democratic process. There are criteria by which that can be established, but the important thing is to keep sight of the objective and not allow ourselves to focus so much on one thing. We do not want to end up being hoist by our own petard.
The second important thing is to make reference to unreconstructed terrorists. A number of Members who are here today have done terrible things. I do not need to elaborate, though I should say that those concerned are not all in one corner of the Chamber. Many awful things have happened. People must accept responsibility for what they have done, and one hopes that responsibility is also noted by the Government, the state and the legal process. However, those institutions are imperfect, and there are people who have done terrible things for which they have not been made amenable. Some of them are here.
We are not saying, and we have never said, that the fact that someone has a certain past means that he cannot have a future. We have always acknowledged that it is possible for people to change. That is fundamental to one’s view of society. Indeed, if I were in the habit of using religious metaphors I could find many that would be appropriate. It is not my habit to mix religion with politics if that can be avoided, but Members will realise what I am referring to. Because of the situation in this society it is desirable that all Members with a terrible past should change and should demonstrate that they have changed.
The Agreement that we have put in place is inclusive. But that is nothing new, for it stems from the proposals given to Tom King in 1987, which referred to partnership administrations based on proportionality.
Proportionality is inclusive, and it is right that it should apply only to those who are committed to the democratic process. That was the position then, and it is the position now. There is an opportunity for people to take part in the process if they have shown that they are committed to peaceful means and democracy.
I underline these points not out of a desire to exclude but simply to emphasise the things that need to be done. The sooner there is a realisation of that need, the better. Beginning the task will enable us all to move together. I am determined that we shall all move forward. I do not want society to throw away the opportunity to rise out of the morass in which it has been stuck.
To people who ask if the process will succeed I cannot give an answer at this stage, just as I could not give an answer during the talks. What I can say now, as then, is that the process will not fail for want of effort on the part of the Ulster Unionist Party. If people end up being excluded it will be because of their own failure to meet requirements — not because of any deliberate action on our part.
I hope we are coming out of the forest. We certainly deserve to, and we have the opportunity. There is something great to be gained by all sections of the community, and, like Mr Mallon I am conscious of the responsibilities that will come to us, perhaps very soon. I am conscious of our obligation to all of society to discharge those responsibilities, and I know that it will not be easy.
There will be difficulties, but we have started on the long march towards a better future, and we are determined to continue. We are determined to succeed for the benefit of all society. This opportunity must not be discarded.
Everybody will be glad to know that the Prime Minister is to be here tomorrow and that there will be OBEs galore for those who do his handiwork.
The arrangement under the Standing Orders is for an announcement that a vote will begin in three minutes. I understand the point you are making. It is one that should be addressed by a Committee on Standing Orders. There is no bell. In this respect the Initial Standing Orders are unsatisfactory, but they are the only ones we have.
On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. This is probably one of the most important votes. If there has been a breakdown in the equipment to alert Members that a vote is to be taken, that is regrettable. There is absolutely no reason not to give some leeway in the circumstances.
Mr McCartney, either I was unclear or you misunderstand. There has been no breakdown in the equipment. There is an inadequacy in the Standing Orders. There is no bell because none is required by the Standing Orders. All that is required is that an announcement be made that a vote will be taken in three minutes. The filibuster has gone on long enough. All those who were on errands should now be present.
The Ayes and Noes will be counted under the designations that were given earlier.
On a point of order, A Chathaoirligh. I have explained in some detail why we are deploying this tactic. The reason is clear from the antics on the other side of the House. I have given notice that my party, while supporting absolutely the right of both the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party to take up their positions, will be abstaining.
Yes — that is why I said it.
My point of order is that my party will be abstaining in this vote for the reasons I have given. You did not refer to that; you referred simply to recording assent or dissent.
I entirely understand what you are saying, and I repeat that when any language other than English is used, a translation should be given for the sake of other Members who may not understand it. Otherwise it will not be noted.
Is there an Ulster-Scots word for "yes"?
Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Hume, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.
Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs Jnr, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, John Taylor, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.
Eileen Bell, Seamus Close, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice, Sean Neeson.
Paul Berry, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, Boyd Douglas, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Robert McCartney, William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Ian R K Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
The total number of votes cast validly was 88. The number of Nationalist votes in favour was 24. As the total number of Nationalist votes was 24, the Nationalist vote in favour was 100%. The total number of Unionist votes was 57; the number of Unionist Ayes was 30, giving 52.63%. The total number of Ayes, at 61, is 69.3% of 88.
Question accordingly agreed to.
I now ask The Rt Hon David Trimble and Mr Seamus Mallon, having been chosen by the Assembly as First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate), to come forward and make an affirmation to the Assembly.
I first ask Mr Trimble, elected as First Minister, to make the affirmation in the form prescribed.
I, David Trimble, affirm to the Assembly my commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, my opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, my commitment to work in good faith to bring into being the arrangements set out in the agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations on 10 April 1998 and my commitment to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office.
I, Seamus Mallon, affirm to the Assembly my commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, my opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, my commitment to work in good faith to bring about the arrangements set out in the agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations on 10 April 1998 and my commitment to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office set out in Annex B to the Initial Standing Orders.
Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I want to point out that you do not have the right to speak for the Assembly. You can only speak for those in the Assembly who voted for these gentlemen. Let us get that straight. The Speaker of the House of Commons would not dare to say that she speaks on behalf of the House. She speaks as the Speaker of the House, not on behalf of the House. Some people vote according to their convictions, and you cannot take to yourself the right to speak on behalf of the Assembly.