Debate resumed on ammendment to motion:
This Assembly takes note of the report prepared by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), and approves the proposals in relation to establishing the consultative Civic Forum (as recorded in section 5 of that report). — [the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate)]
Which amendment was:
", having noted the contents of the report prepared by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), requires them to take back the report and reconsider it with a view to ensuring that —
it contains a specific requirement that any North/South body is accountable to the Assembly and does not perform any executive role;
the Civic Forum is properly appointed in order to ensure a balance of community interests and is merely consultative and not publicly deliberative; and
unnatural departmental divisions are corrected."
The following motion stood on the Order Paper in the names of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate):
This Assembly approves the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each such office after the appointed day (as recorded in Annex 2 of their report to the Assembly).
The following amendment to that motion stood on the Marshalled List in the name of Mr P Robinson:
"declines to approve the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each such office after the appointed day (as recorded in Annex 2 of their report to the Assembly) before Sinn Féin Members are excluded from holding office as Ministers or the IRA has decommissioned its illegal weaponry and dismantled its terror machine."
I welcome the report of the First and Deputy First Ministers (Designate), and I support the motions. The sooner we have devolution, with the setting up of the 10 Departments, the better. Targeting Social Need (TSN) must be at the top of our agenda. TSN is, unfortunately, not a separate spending programme; rather it is a theme which runs through other spending programmes. Relevant Departments include Social Development, Education, Health, and so on. The best way to deliver TSN is through health action zones. These will focus on improving services for young people so that health and social needs are clearly identified and adequately addressed.
With regard to the North/South implementation bodies and co-operation bodies, the matter of health is of paramount importance. Already great strides have been made in developing cancer research, and I pay tribute to Patrick Johnston, Professor of Oncology at Queen’s University, and to Mr Roy Spence, senior cancer surgeon. I know that Sam Foster of the Ulster Unionists will agree with me. Age Concern has launched the millennium debate to address issues concerning the ever-increasing number of elderly people.
I listened to most of yesterday’s debate. There is very great support for the Good Friday Agreement across the land, from Aughnacloy to Ahoghill, from Dungannon to Dungiven, and in Portadown too. There is powerful support from both communities. In my own constituency of West Belfast it is supported by the people of the Falls Road and the Shankill Road. West Belfast is a microcosm of the problems of Northern Ireland. Yesterday Mr Campbell of the DUP talked about self-destruction within Unionism. The biggest danger to the Union of Northern Ireland with Great Britain is not from paramilitaries but from the abominable no-men of the DUP. They cry "No surrender"—
His eloquence has affected the time machines, but not mine. I have the accurate time here, and he has approximately seven minutes. The clocks will come to heel soon.
I have referred to the abominable no-men of the DUP. They cry "No" to compromise; "No" to meaningful dialogue with those with whom they differ; "No surrender"; "Ulster says ‘No’ "; and "Ulster says ‘Never’ ". Do they not realise that you make peace with your enemies and not with your friends? The fact that Dr Paisley and his Colleagues are in this Chamber is, indeed, progress. We must keep making progress and building on that. However, it is the Ulster Unionists who are taking the political risks on the other side of the House, while the DUP acquiesce in a state of rolling negativity, suckled in outworn creeds. Politics is the art of the possible. There are many politicians in this Chamber who take great risks.
I know that there are great sensitivities for both Unionism and Republicanism. I agree with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who has repeated what he has been saying for some time. We should remember that the agreement in its entirety is sacrosanct. I emphasise the words "in its entirety". We must also remember that there is a pledge of office for those entering the Executive, and that it includes a commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Of course, decommissioning is an extremely important and integral part of the agreement, but Gen de Chastelain and his colleagues will be the judges of that process.
The Good Friday Agreement and the Assembly must work for the future of our children. It is a fundamental principle that the state must support families. Family life is the foundation on which our communities, our society and our country are built. The interests of children must be paramount. We must ensure that the next generation gets the best possible start in life. Families want to see an end to the nightmare of the past 25 years.
The children in our schools, primary or secondary, want to live in peace and to walk our streets without fear of paramilitaries or confrontation with the security forces. I know that because I have asked them. Above all, they want equality of opportunity in education and jobs. They want a future. Therefore it is beholden on every Member to see that they have that future.
The winning post is in sight. Let us not lose our nerve. Unionism has come a long way from being a traditional majority to being a consensual majority — a point that was made in a recent editorial in the ‘News Letter’. Equally, Nationalism has come a long way in acknowledging the new Ireland, but especially the new Northern Ireland.
Let us set the example. Let us lead from the front. This is an evolving situation. Be Irish, be British or whatever, but respect diversity and difference. Above all, let us put our children first in the pursuit of peace. We now have the opportunity to do that, and another opportunity will not come this way until well into the new millennium.
The people of Northern Ireland have suffered grievously over the past 30 years. Few of us have not had personal tragedies to bear because of people who are intent on forcing their views and aspirations on us through the bomb and the bullet. By negotiation and compromise, the Belfast Agreement has given us a form of peace, which we have appreciated. While it is not perfect, as those who have suffered from brutal punishment beatings will testify, we would not want to go back to the bad old days when terrorists and terrorism were rife. Much has happened since the signing of the agreement, and it has given us hope for the future. That hope must grow, and its potential must be realised if we are to keep faith with our people who voted so overwhelmingly for peace.
There is only one way forward, and that is through trust. There must be trust that we will do what we undertook to do when we signed up to the Mitchell principles and the Belfast Agreement. That involves trust at all levels. There must be trust between the parties in the Assembly that they mean what they say; trust between our divided communities to bring about reconciliation; and trust between the Governments who are involved in the agreement that they are not working to a hidden agenda.
This report builds upon the agreement and is the result of long and arduous discussions, negotiations and compromise. While it is not perfect, it is the sound way forward, and it has the support of the great majority of Assembly Members.
While understanding where the Member is coming from, may I ask whether he is seriously telling Unionists that we are now in a position to trust IRA/Sinn Féin Members in a Northern Ireland Government? Have we reached the point at which people who for years have destroyed this country will suddenly be governing it? We cannot place trust in this sort of thing.
Everyone is entitled to his opinion.
We must support such proposals rather than oppose them. If the report is defeated, I fear for the future of this Province and fear a return to violence. Such fears have existed for far too long.
I have said that the proposals are not perfect, but the Departments, the cross-border bodies, the Civic Forum and the British-Irish Council, with their respective responsibilities as laid out, seem to be the way forward, and we cannot afford to let this opportunity slip. Therefore, I must support the First Minister (Designate) and his deputy on this matter. However, I do not subscribe to peace at all costs. I would not like this report to be as meaningless as Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 "peace for our time" remarks that followed his discussions with Hitler.
Sinn Féin/IRA must keep their part of the bargain and decommission their weapons before taking up ministerial appointments; otherwise the agreement will be as meaningless as Chamberlain’s piece of paper. We cannot progress to a peaceful co-existence if one side retains an armed wing ready to turn to what it knows best. Without the progress that people wish to see, Northern Ireland will be at the crossroads. We can either accept the principle of democracy and seek to make progress together in a democratic manner, or return to a totally divided community, with each persuasion seeking to dominate by force of weapons. Once again, that would make the Royal Ulster Constabulary a piggy in the middle. We cannot allow that to happen.
I support the report, with the rider that there must be decommissioning as proof that Sinn Féin/IRA wish to make progress in a democratic way like all right-minded people in the Province.
Reference was made yesterday to many important matters, including health and agriculture. An opportunity that is now staring us in the face is for people to take on responsibility. We have shouted for far too long to get peace back into the hands of local people. Now we have the opportunity, and I plead with all Members of the Unionist family to my right to think, and think positively. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. The media are watching every move in the Assembly. A generation of young people out there will never ever forgive us if we make a boob this time.
I support the amendment in the name of Dr Paisley and Mr P Robinson. I hope that Ulster Unionist Party Members will take Mr Savage’s words to heart and not make a terrible mistake for future generations by voting for the report. I hope that they will secure the future of Northern Ireland within the Union. I reject the report.
An SDLP Member yesterday spoke about where we are today and where we have come from. This report points us in the direction of where we are going to go to. It has been described as a staging post, as a blueprint, as laying the foundation — all words that were used in the Chamber yesterday about it. It is true that this is a staging post, not just in terms of the implementation of the Belfast Agreement but, I submit, in terms of moving Northern Ireland from its secure position within the Union further down the road to Irish unity. That is the road that this is a staging post on.
We have to look at the report in the context of everything else that is happening in Northern Ireland today: the release of terrorist prisoners on to our streets, the dismantling of our security apparatus, the withdrawal of security personnel, and the ongoing threat to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
This report is paving the way for the entry of IRA/Sinn Féin into Government without a substantial handing over of weapons and without a dismantling of the machinery of terror. It will also lead to the creation of all-Ireland bodies, which will have executive authority among their powers. This is not a good day for Unionism; this will be a black day for Unionism if the report goes through.
I want to deal with several aspects that have already been referred to by others, and make a few comments about departmental structures. The First Minister (Designate) admitted in his opening speech yesterday that these were unnatural Departments. How can someone who is to take on the responsibilities of the First Minister in Northern Ireland credibly put before the House a programme for departmental structures which he himself admits will be unnatural? As Mr S Wilson said yesterday, many of the linkages which were natural between the various Departments have been broken. This has been done for purely political reasons, not in the interests of efficient Government, not in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, but purely for party political reasons. "Snouts in the trough", the worst aspects of old Fianna Fáilism — and these are not my words but the words of a leading member of the Ulster Unionist Party.
This is going to cost us over £90 million, we are told; and why? Mr Mallon, in the ‘Sunday Tribune’ on 13 September gave the game away. He said that they had argued for the creation of a larger rather than a smaller number of Departments not because this would make for better Government in Northern Ireland, not because it would make the administration more efficient, not because it would be in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, but because it would, in his words, "facilitate the inclusion of parties in Government". That is what this is all about: getting as many "jobs for the boys" as possible, in the words of Mr Mallon himself. That is the wrong basis on which to proceed towards setting up a Government for Northern Ireland.
I read in the report that the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) hope to recoup some of the costs by rationalising the remainder of public administration in Northern Ireland. Good for them. Would this not have been a great opportunity to reap some dividend by getting rid of the quangos and the administrative bureaucracy and thus get more money for public services? Instead of that the money is going to be spent on covering the costs of the political carve-up that will result from this report.
One of the most significant aspects is that the departmental structure means that we have a 50:50 carve-up between Unionists and Nationalists. Is this what the Unionist electorate voted for: those who cannot muster 40% of the votes in this House or 40% of the votes of the electorate actually get 50% of the seats in the Government of Northern Ireland? Is that what the Unionist people voted for at the time of the Assembly elections? I do not believe that it is; I think that it is wrong. This is not a reflection of the democratic make-up of the House or of the electorate’s wishes.
I want to deal with the all-Ireland aspect of this, something which, amazingly, the First Minister (Designate) did not deal with in his speech. This is one of the most important aspects, the creation of all-Ireland institutions for the first time with executive powers, and the First Minister did not even deal with it in his opening remarks. For us the crucial issues are the issues of accountability and executive authority, and that is why we have referred to them in the amendments we have tabled.
We have said very clearly that there must be a specific requirement for any North/South body to be accountable to the Assembly and not have any executive role. There should be no difficulty for the Ulster Unionist Members in siding with that because that is precisely what they said in their manifesto. That is precisely what they promised the people before the election. But that is not what is contained in this report or in the Northern Ireland Act. The Northern Ireland Act does not make any provision for accountability, in any true sense, for the Assembly to ratify anything that is done —
The reality is that the North/South bodies will have a range of executive powers. That is very clear through the decision-making authority that is given to them in this report, and that goes beyond the agreement. There will be an implementation body on trade and cross-border development and a cross-border, all-Ireland institution on language — things that were never contained in the Belfast Agreement.
Within six or seven months of the agreement’s being signed some of us were predicting that the thing would develop; but we never imagined that it would develop as quickly as it has. The Ulster Unionist Members are proposing today to set up bodies which go to the heart of the economic welfare of Northern Ireland.
And then there is the British-Irish Council, something which is made much of by the Ulster Unionist Party, but which the First Minister (Designate) failed to mention in his speech. It was left to Mr Esmond Birnie valiantly — and vainly, in my view — to grapple with the issue. He spoke about the great poet Rabbie Burns and reminded the House that Bertie Ahern had gone to Edinburgh and called him Bobbie Burns. That may have them shaking on the Lisburn Road and in Finaghy, but it does not get to the real issue which, of course, is that there is very little detail and substance about the British-Irish Council in comparison with the detail and substance that we have for the North/South all-Ireland body.
We have a draft programme of work and an agenda for the initial meetings of the North/South bodies but nothing similar for the British-Irish Council — yet this was the body that much was being made of by the Ulster Unionist Party.
I will not deal with the Civic Forum because others have already dealt with it. I want to deal with the crucial issue of decommissioning, an issue which Mr Birnie did not take the opportunity to deal with in his speech. I question why he did not deal with that issue when he had the opportunity to. There is no mention in the report of decommissioning either.
Members should remember that this is the last opportunity that they will have to put the brake on IRA/Sinn Féin’s getting into government without their handing over weaponry or dismantling the terror machine. After this motion is passed, the process — and this was described by Mr P Robinson — becomes automatic and will be in the hands of the Secretary of State. Therefore every Unionist who votes today is voting to hand over control of the process which will lead to the eventual seating of the IRA/Sinn Féin in the Government of Northern Ireland.
People have said time and time again — the Deputy First Minister (Designate) and others said it yesterday — that this is the only vehicle by which to achieve decommissioning, that there is no other way to bring it about. But the crucial issue is this: should those who refuse to decommission get into Government? Is there any sanction to prevent those who refuse to decommission from getting into the Government of Northern Ireland.
The crucial point is this: should there be a sanction? The Mitchell Report failed because there was no sanction. Even when some of us tried to raise the issue of breaches of the Mitchell Report, we were swept aside and discounted in the greater interests of the peace process. The reality is that there is no sanction.
Mr Hume who failed to speak in the House said on television last night that there is a sanction, that they can automatically be put out if they breach their pledge of office. This is complete nonsense — there is no automatic sanction. Sinn Féin/IRA can only be voted out through a cross-community vote. That would mean the SDLP’s voting to put Sinn Féin out of office, and that is as likely to happen as John Hume’s getting a new speech writer or Sammy Wilson’s needing one.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh
Sinn Féin gives a qualified welcome to the report, and will support it on that basis. We are not entirely happy with the content, the structures of the Departments or, indeed, with the process by which the report was produced.
Sinn Féin welcomes the proposal to set up the consultative Civic Forum, but it has major concerns about the representation on that body, about how members will be appointed and about the division of the representation under the various headings in section 5.6 of the report. Sinn Féin also questions the range of responsibilities that lie with the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), which will be a Department. We also question their influence on the control of the Civic Forum and the appointments system for it. In particular, I would like to refer to the representation on the Civic Forum in terms of education.
Sinn Féin proposed 10 Departments, but not structured as they are structured in this report. Other Members have said that it is illogical and impractical to have two education Departments. One cannot draw a line to divide education to say that education stops here or begins there. It would make much more sense for education to be a single Department.
Given that there are to be two Departments dealing with education, it is odd that education will have only two representatives on the Civic Forum.
Employment or unemployment figures are used in many countries as a measure of economic prosperity, or the lack of it. Members know that Governments massage statistics on unemployment to indicate their success in promoting economic prosperity. I hope that the Assembly will not use such measures in presenting unemployment figures. The Assembly should take whatever measures are required to deal with unemployment. Given the developments in technology, there are no permanent jobs — no jobs for life, not even for Assembly Members. Young people need the education and training that will enable them to take up employment and be flexible in the changing world of employment.
The Civic Forum is unbalanced as it has merely two nominees to represent education. The office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) will nominate six people to the Civic Forum. That, in addition to the significant list of responsibilities already added to the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) since 18 January, brings into question the whole nature of the power and influence of that office.
Members should note that the arithmetic of party representation in the Assembly is not a constant factor. I am not referring to those who were elected while standing for one party and, when in the Assembly, became Members of another party; I am referring to the fact that in the future there will, we hope, be another election to the Assembly, and it is quite possible that the UUP will not be the largest Unionist party in it. It is also possible that the SDLP will not be the largest Nationalist party.
Members should consider the weight of control and responsibility that lies with the office of the First and Deputy First Ministers. They hold those offices because they are members of the two largest parties in the Assembly. They should look to the future when they are carving up Departments and allocating responsibility and control, and they should visualise the possible consequences of their actions.
We are giving our qualified support to the report and accepting it warts and all. In addition, we are supporting the report because we should have been having this debate last October. The public expects the Assembly to provide the new way forward that we hear about so often. So far, the Assembly has provided people with nothing. The public has expectations and is losing patience with the performance of the Assembly.
Since June there has been lethargy and uncertainty in statutory bodies. The Assembly, far from offering a new opportunity, has stagnated the operation and planning of existing Departments. Civil servants and Government Ministers are hesitating and avoiding dealing with issues, waiting until the Assembly is up and running. It is long past time that we got down to business. It is long past time that the Executive was in place and performing its function. The implementation bodies, however limited their responsibilities will be, and the North/South Ministerial Council should be in place.
A friend of mine often says "Long churning makes bad butter." It is time we were getting down to business and doing what the public expects of us. We will be giving our qualified support to this report, warts and all. We want to get down to the business of government and the implementation of all aspects of the agreement to provide a new way forward.
Go raibh maith agat.
It has taken a long time to produce this report, yet it clearly has many faults. More important, perhaps, is that there are many areas on which we still require considerable clarification. My Colleagues Sean Neeson and Eileen Bell have already raised some of our concerns about the allocation of functions to Departments and about the operation and membership of the Civic Forum.
I received the report at the weekend — I was luckier than some Members from the DUP. I studied it in some detail on my own, even though my party did not have an opportunity to discuss it at a meeting on Friday. The first thing I looked at was the allocation of the functions that had not been allocated on 18 December. The number of functions in the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) has increased from 11 to 26. I thought that there was something wrong. However, when I read the list I decided that most of the extra 15 were clearly either part of a central co-ordination function or relatively minor. It is obvious that my concerns in that respect were brought about by paranoia.
Perhaps, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you realised that the issues that arose last Friday would lead to that feeling of paranoia. But the mere fact that I am paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you, me and everyone else who does not fit into the cosy arrangement at the moment.
The real problem with the central Department is not those additional functions. The problem is one which has already been highlighted by some Members, and especially by Members from Sinn Féin — the inclusion of equality and the entire equality function within that Department, rather than having a separate Department for it that could combine equality, community relations and victims’ concerns.
I was interested to hear the comments from Mr John Kelly yesterday. He informed the Assembly that the SDLP wanted equality at the centre because Unionists could not be trusted with it. I found that very interesting, but I also remembered informally hearing from members of the SDLP that it had to be at the centre because the DUP or Sinn Féin could not be trusted with it.
One might well ask that.
The point was amplified in the maiden speech — an excellent speech — of Danny O’Connor of the SDLP yesterday. He said that if people want to do anything about equality, Nationalists and Unionists have to do it together. If it is done together, everything will be right. As a representative of the Alliance Party, I am not interested in a concept of equality and rights which says that a Prod and a Teague is all that is required to stitch it up and then everything will be well.
There are many divisions in this society, and to suggest that if we get an Ulster Unionist member and an SDLP member together everything will be fixed and perfect is completely wrong. It is a fantasy.
I can remember an early fair-employment case, and I suspect that some DUP members may remember it too. It was one of the first cases to reach the courts. It concerned a public body in which an Ulster Unionist Presbyterian majority was discriminating against a Free Presbyterian DUP activist. I am not sure that Mr O’Connor’s concept of equality would cover that kind of thing. I suspect that similar difficulties may arise in Nationalism at some stage in the future. For me, the most important thing is the treatment of those people in Northern Ireland who do not identify themselves primarily as Nationalist or Unionist.
What happens in respect of the various minorities who do not fit into those categories? How do we respect their rights? I would prefer to see the creation of a powerful Department of equality and community relations. This should have been the sole responsibility of a designated Minister, not a minor function coming under the auspices of the two over-busy Ministers or, indeed, delegated to a junior. Also, a proper scrutiny committee, representing all interests in the House, would have ensured that this important work was done properly.
A few months ago, speaking from the platform at the Liberal Democrat conference, I referred to comments made by the First Minister (Designate) in a speech made in the presence of President Clinton about the need for "a pluralist parliament for a pluralist people". The First Minister (Designate) has quoted other parts of that speech to me since, but he has not referred to that section of it. I said then that I feared that we were going to have not a pluralist society but a dualist system which would be appropriate for mainstream Protestants who vote Ulster Unionist or for orthodox Catholics voting for the SDLP but which would exclude the voices of others. I will be watching to see how the structures work before I decide whether that statement was prescient or merely pessimistic.
There is a raft of related issues — transparency, openness, the operation of scrutiny committees and procedures for review — on which we need to hear much more than the rhetoric we have heard so far.
Members will remember the night of the 17-18 December. On that night the announcement of these new structures was made as if they were matters that related exclusively to the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP. I accept that we did ask the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to produce a report and that, in the early stages, consultations took place — there were discussions in two different formats — but there was no attempt to keep other parties informed as the negotiations reached a conclusion.
Alliance Party Members were present in the building on that night, as were Members from the Women’s Coalition and Sinn Féin, but no attempt was made to keep us informed of the progress of negotiations. The two parties kept all this to themselves. Is this what the Deputy First Minister (Designate) meant yesterday when he spoke about being true to the Good Friday Agreement?
This report, for the first time, sets out detailed proposals for the Civic Forum. Members have already referred to the six appointments to be made on the nomination of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). Together, the two Ministers represent 0·00012% of the population of Northern Ireland, yet they will appoint 10% of the Civic Forum’s membership. The agreement states that appointments will be made under arrangements to be established by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). It does not state that they will appoint their cronies to the body without further reference to any section of civic society. We need some clarification on this.
A truly imaginative report would have set out arrangements for groups such as young people and the disabled to be represented. If we are to address youth issues seriously, perhaps we should have 16- and 17-year-old members of the Forum. There is a danger that the proposals, as they stand, will make it too easy for all the usual figures to be represented rather than produce a body that is genuinely open.
I was also disappointed to see that there was no reference to the rotation of membership, to allow for the representation of different interests.
I spoke recently to a farmer about the representation of agricultural interests on the Forum. He was concerned about how the new Minister would relate to the whole spectrum of the industry. He represented a small but significant group of farmers. Under current proposals, farmers and fishermen cannot expect more than three representatives on the Forum, but there ought to be a way of establishing a larger group — a special interest sub-committee — which could offer advice to the Forum and to the relevant Assembly Committee.
I am also concerned about the proposal to reserve five seats for the churches. My party suggested in an initial proposal that there should not be specific representation for churches. There are two issues. I am not sure how five church representatives can be expected to represent the entire faith community in Northern Ireland. If we assume that there will be one representative for each of the four largest groups, does that mean that the other person will represent everybody else? Do the Free Presbyterians want to share a representative with the Muslims and Fr Pat Buckley? It would be well-nigh impossible to represent the range of beliefs, but this is an important issue.
The churches do a great deal of community work in Northern Ireland, and they provide a great deal of formal and informal care. They may well do the majority of youth work in Northern Ireland. I have no objection to church representation in that way — indeed that is desirable — but there should not be special rights for some churches over others. I say that in spite of the likelihood that the denomination to which I belong will be directly represented.
On openness, the First and Deputy First Ministers have drawn attention to the issue of the North/South parliamentary body, which has almost been ignored. However, they have not put any flesh on the bones. I want to see firm proposals, and it would be a good idea if Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators were to meet DUP and Ulster Unionist members face to face. It would be very educational for both sides, and it would be useful to hear the discussions — for example, on agriculture, my particular interest. What Mr Dodds highlighted earlier could be suggested for the British-Irish Council aspect: replace the current interparliamentary body with a body which allowed full representation from both parts of this island and from Scotland and Wales.
It is clear that when the vote is taken Members will be rerunning the Good Friday Agreement and the referendum. Given the format of the debate and the way in which the report has been presented, there is no scope for constructive amendments at this stage. I shall vote, with my Colleagues, in favour of the motions and against the amendments. My party rejects the negative stance of those who are simply coming up with objections and have nothing firm to put in their place. However, I must ask the Ministers to add detail to what they have said to date, to prove that what they have said regarding openness will be realised. Otherwise I can give no assurance that my party will continue to support these proposals when they are discussed in detail in the future.
My party will not be supporting the motion and the report standing in the names of the First and Deputy First Ministers. I seek peace, reconciliation and stability, as I believe the majority of people from both the Unionist and Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland do. I have every reason to do so. I have a family — a wife and children — and a business. My roots are firmly in this community. My future and that of my family lie in Northern Ireland. Therefore I took it ill yesterday when Members from the other side of the Chamber attempted to brand those on this side of the House who are opposed to the seating of Sinn Féin/IRA in Government as "wreckers". Members had the spectacle of Mr Gerry Adams, the leader of IRA/Sinn Féin, and Mr David Ervine, whom I now see in the Chamber, chiding and pointing the finger at Members on this side of the House and describing them as "wreckers".
The wreckers in this Chamber are those who have represented and fronted paramilitary, fully armed organisations which have terrorised this community for 30 years. The wreckers are those who have wrecked the lives of a large number of people in the community. They have wrecked families, entire communities, business, commerce and industry, and they are represented on the other side of this House in the faces of Mr Adams and Mr Ervine.
Last evening Mr Hume — I am pleased to see him in the House, although he makes most of his comments and statements outside the Chamber — again chided Members for living in the past. He said that the Unionists were unfortunately unable to look to the future and that they continued to cast up past misdemeanours and crimes. Mr Hume, may I tell you today that we are not talking about past events; we are talking about current affairs because even as the Assembly has been meeting over the last number of months and weeks —
May I encourage Members to use the normal convention of addressing their comments through the Chair? Yesterday that meant that I was accused of many things, which surprised me a great deal. However, it would be helpful if comments were channelled through the Chair.
Sorry. I will do so.
The things which happened in this community have not come to an end. We are not just talking about crimes that have been committed by the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland in the past. People are still being subjected to punishment shootings and beatings of the most horrendous and horrific description on a daily and nightly basis. They are still terrorising this community, and they will continue to do so.
The reason I am opposed to this agreement is simple. If we look at the history of this process we can see the shape of things to come. At the very foundation of the negotiations — the secret talks initiated by Sir Patrick Mayhew and the last Administration at Westminster — people involved in active terrorism were brought over to London to discuss talks about talks about getting this process initiated. That was given to us courtesy of Sir Patrick Mayhew, who has had some kind of road-to-Damascus experience and who now sheds tears about the very same people being released onto our streets.
In the negotiations which took place in Castle Buildings the armed forces of Republicans and other terrorist groups were brought into the process. That was given to us courtesy of Mr David Trimble. It was the Ulster Unionists who, despite pledges that they had given to fellow Unionists, permitted Sinn Féin/IRA to enter into the negotiations at Castle Buildings and, therefore, to corrupt that process.
We now have a situation where those who front terrorist organisations, fully armed and still involved in acts of terrorism, are sitting in this Chamber. That has been brought to us courtesy of Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam.
The situation that faces the Members of the Assembly now is the prospect of fully armed terrorists and those fronting such organisations being brought into a Northern Ireland Government.
I have listed those who sponsored the admission of these people in the past. This is the challenge which faces those on the Ulster Unionists Benches and, indeed, those in the SDLP. Are they going to admit these people now? In the past we could point the finger of blame at others, but it is now the responsibility of this House. The decision which will be taken today, which will effect the further movement of the process of bringing closer the day when Sinn Féin/IRA is admitted into the Government in Northern Ireland, will be determined by us.
I can state categorically where the Northern Ireland Unionist Party stands on this issue. We will not be supporting that movement, and I appeal to fellow Unionists to deny these people the right to come in. This is not the end of the story. There are those who believe naively that if only we can get past this hurdle — not over it but past it: round the decommissioning issue — and bring these people, fully armed, into government, they will change their colours, and that if they do not we can exclude them. That is not the truth, and they know it in their hearts.
This is not the end of the story for Mr Adams and the Sinn Féin movement. This Assembly and the restoration of democracy in Northern Ireland is not their goal. We know that. They have been very forthright on that. Their goal is a united Ireland. They are not content with coming into the Government of Northern Ireland fully armed and ready to return to war. They will carry on this process — because it is transitional — into a united Ireland, fully armed. That is their stated aim and objective.
It was not Sinn Féin/IRA’s aim to come into this process to enhance it or to establish democracy, justice, law and order for all of the people of Northern Ireland. It has spent 30 years with its cohorts in the IRA trying to destabilise and wreck the state. Now it wants in to destroy it from within. We can deny it that today if we vote solidly.
I appeal not only to the Unionists in the Chamber but also to Mr Mallon. He made it clear recently that he did not believe that decommissioning was a precondition of the Unionists alone. It was a demand by those who believe in the democratic process — Nationalist, Unionist, Irish or British. All believe that people cannot be involved in a democratic process, let alone in government, while remaining fully armed and part of a terrorist organisation.
There have been many references to the fact that 71% of the people of Northern Ireland voted for the agreement, and it is said that we should do the decent thing and accept the will of the people. I do not believe that the majority of people who voted for the Belfast Agreement voted for the wholesale release of unreconstructed terrorists onto our streets to become terrorists in government or to destroy the RUC.
We did not need to be told by a ‘Belfast Telegraph’ opinion poll that large sections of the population — particularly in the Unionist community, though I have no doubt some also in the Nationalist community — who voted for the Belfast Agreement in the belief that it would be the basis for peace, security and reconciliation in Northern Ireland now want their votes back. Those people are saying daily that the agreement does not represent what they believed they were voting for when they placed their X in favour of it.
There has also been meddling by those in G7 who have been used for the second time. They have a notion that they can trade and equate or give up firmly held principles in defence of democracy for the handing in of a few ounces of Semtex or that people, in a barter system proposed by Sir George Quigley, can exchange Semtex for seats: "Hand in some Semtex on Monday, and on Tuesday people can be placed in an executive position over the people of Northern Ireland."
I wish to end by saying that I want to see implemented for the people of Northern Ireland a programme for government that will succeed in delivering efficient, accountable, transparent government that will enable us to achieve economic growth and development, the benefits of which would be shared by the entire community.
I am sorry, but you are now a full half a minute over your allotted time. From the point of view of order in the Chamber, it has been drawn to my attention that in other places when a Member’s time is up, the Speaker rises and simply switches off the microphone. I do not want us to get to that because if a Member is in the process of completing a short sentence it is perfectly in order for him to finish. However, with nine seconds to go, to embark upon an attempt to read into the record a reasonable length of script is going beyond what I can permit.
On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. In this instance, for the information and knowledge of all of us, would you make an exception and allow Mr Wilson to begin again at the reading of the final paragraph so that, once again, we may have the benefit of hearing those words of wisdom from the agreement, have them written into the record, and remind ourselves of the absolute wisdom at their heart? [Interruption].
On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Seamus Mallon obviously wrote the bit to which the Member refers. That is why he wants it to be repeated. People are prepared to respect the Chair in terms of calling time, but you have to be absolutely fair and apply the same limits to everybody. Yesterday, Mr Mallon was allowed one minute and almost 20 seconds to finish his speech. I have no objection to that. In many cases we in this party have tried to increase speaking time for Members. It is a bit irksome to hear people shouting "Time" when some here have been more generous to those on the other side of the House. Members of the SDLP should take that to heart.
The House must be aware that there are two possibilities. One is that we proceed as they do in another place and as soon as the times comes, whatever is being said, however grave, however substantial, and even if it is only a few words from the end of the sentence, the microphones go off. We can certainly proceed on that basis. There have been times when the Assembly has taken the view, and I have felt that the Assembly has taken the view, that something was being said which bore completion — so long as it was only the ending of a sentence or so. In this case it was clear to me that, some 10 seconds before the end of time, a script was being embarked upon — I could see the highlighting from here — and I had some idea of how long the speech would be.
We have only two possibilities: either we have that little degree of flexibility to allow something substantial that sneaks over the time to be completed, or we are absolutely rigid, I get to my feet and we stop everything absolutely on the time. I would prefer a little flexibility from Members, but if that is not possible, we will have to regress to the other method.
On a point of order, and further to these points of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Is it in order — I am an apprentice here — for you to ask the Assembly now for the flexibility that is required, that being contrary to my suggestion that the DUP was as bad yesterday as others were to Mr C Wilson today? I agree with Mr Dodds that there should be flexibility in this. We are constraining people to prepared scripts, timed scripts, and potentially to prepared-in-front-of-the-mirror scripts. In some ways we are stultifying debate and stultifying the capacity for Members to give way. In one of the meetings I was at, Mr Wells of the DUP made the excellent point that we are discouraging discourse in the Chamber. I ask you to ask the Assembly for leave to have the flexibility required.
Further to that point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. I do not often find myself concurring with Mr Ervine, and I do not want to miss the opportunity to do so now. Common sense ought to prevail, together with flexibility and discretion from the Chair, when a Member is coming to the end of a speech and it is quite obvious that a few seconds more would allow him to conclude his remarks. That is the obvious and sensible course to take.
It is not possible for me to make any changes by way of the leave of the Assembly as it is quite clear that the Assembly is not prepared unanimously to give such leave in this matter. I am aware that there have been discussions in the Standing Orders Committee and that it has not been possible to reach agreement, and I have received written propositions this morning which are very different from the ones being put down by Members.
I am trying, perhaps presumptuously, to take it upon myself to give a little flexibility. If that proves impossible, either because I misjudged the matter or because Members press me to the point where it becomes unacceptable to others, my only option is to be rather more rigid about it than I would like to be or would think proper. The Standing Orders are crystal clear — 10 minutes for speeches that are not opening or winding-up ones. I do not want to be as rigid as that. I do not think that the majority of Members want me to be as rigid as that, so I ask you to bear with me and I will try to do my best.
Mr Dodds has a point of order, then Mr C Wilson and then the Deputy First Minister (Designate).
There is a consensus that if we can be flexible, then that is all to the good. One possible solution would be to import Mr Cecil Walker’s speaking time from Westminster. Members could then speak all week without any interruptions.
I apologise for having raised this matter, but I agree with Nigel Dodds. There is a good case for creative flexibility which should be at the discretion of the Chair. That would be much appreciated.
Having read yesterday’s Hansard, I recognise that one of the traits in our debates is to have a series of points of order interlocked with the occasional speech. It seems as if we need time-out during the speeches for some relaxation. If we had more flexibility, Members could give way, leaving much more time to debate and less set-piece speeches, and there might then be more communication in the Chamber. I agree with Nigel Dodds that flexibility by the Chair would be of great benefit.
I am grateful to Members for their guidance. There seems to be a general desire that there ought to be some flexibility. However, I remind Members that if they use that flexibility more than a little way one way or another, that will be unacceptable.
The guidance that I have given is that if a Member is in mid-sentence at the end of his 10 minutes he will be allowed to complete his sentence. I plead with Members not — [Laughter]
I am aware of the ingenuity of some Members in respect of the length of their sentences, and if that is what they are doing I will have no option but to cut them off. If Members abuse the flexibility, there will be difficulties. I can see out of the corner of my eye that the First Minister (Designate) is uneasy about the matter.
More than uneasy. That is why I am quite clear that the Assembly is not going to give leave in regard to this matter. I have set the clocks to try to keep speeches to the 10-minutes limit as set out in the Standing Orders. I will try to accommodate the little flexibility that Members have asked for, but it can be only that. Otherwise I will have to rule a Members out of order and move to the next one.
On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. You are gravely mistaken in the ruling that you have made. It is entirely contrary to your function and to the Standing Orders. Your job is to see that the Standing Orders are adhered to. If the Standing Orders impose a 10-minute time limit, then it is your job to enforce that limit — not a 10-minute, 10-second time limit. There is no other way. Otherwise you will be treating Members unequally.
The rules must apply to everybody, without fear or favour. Once flexibility is introduced, inevitably, there will be occasions when a Member feels that he has been treated unfairly by not being given the same flexibility afforded to others. I know we all talk too much, and we would all like to have more time. Perhaps a 10-minute time limit is not the best one to have. It may be that we should have a different one, but that is an entirely separate matter.
Any element of favouritism or flexibility will inevitably result in a loss of respect for the Chair, and that is not in the long-term interest of the Assembly.
I will first give a ruling and then take Mr Robinson’s point of order.
I accept that it is quite legitimate to argue that I have been at fault in respect of flexibility. One example of that is my preparedness to allow the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to share speaking times in proposition of the motions. That is clearly outside Standing Orders. Of that there is no doubt. Standing Orders make it clear that a Member proposing a motion is permitted 20 minutes.
I have taken the view that we have here a special arrangement, possibly not even fully foreseen by those who wrote the Standing Orders. The First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) ought to be able to make joint propositions with regard to, for example, the current report. They are the joint authors of it, and I think — I may have been wrong to make this judgement, but I have made it — that the Assembly would agree that it was a reasonable judgement.
Further to that, it would not be possible, for example, for the First Minister (Designate) to propose the motion and for the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to wind up. That would be out of order. If one is going to participate in one part he must be able to participate in both parts.
While we are working with Initial Standing Orders, which are a little flimsy at times and do not give us all that we need, let us learn from them to enable us to advise the Committee on Standing Orders on the production of something more substantial and better. If I were to find myself having to be rigid in application, it would, I think, disadvantage the Assembly in not having, for example, the First and Deputy First Ministers (Designate) able to propose and, indeed, wind-up on a report together.
On a point of order. I can see once again that the First Minister (Designate) has caught the mood of the House in his intervention. There are some serious issues that flow from his remarks, one of which is hypocrisy. When he and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) were proposing the motion they went over 21 minutes, and I did not see the First Minister (Designate) get to his feet on a point of order to require that they be stopped after exactly 20 minutes.
The more serious point is that he has challenged your ruling. He should know that Standing Order 2(1) indicates that your rulings are final. He will know that, by procedure, he should never challenge the ruling of a Speaker. That is a particularly bad example from the First Minister (Designate), and he should be chided for doing so.
We are all learning in these matters, and the experience of other places, as I know well, is not necessarily sufficient to help us in this new place with these new ways of going. I think that we should proceed with the debate.
We have been asked to approve the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of offices to be held by the Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each office on the appointed day. We have made it quite clear that we cannot support this motion, and I would like to reiterate that point.
When the Deputy First Minister (Designate) spoke yesterday he mentioned normalisation, trust, lasting peace, decommissioning and the problems that the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Fein/IRA have in moving forward. I would like to use those words but to rephrase them. To have normalisation and trust in the Assembly we need decommissioning and IRA/Sinn Féin excluded from ministerial positions. That would allow us to move forward with a process for lasting peace.
There was an interesting poll in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ at the weekend which showed that 84% of people in Northern Ireland want decommissioning now. Many others, such as Bertie Ahern and Seamus Mallon, also want that. We have stated clearly that we could not support this motion without decommissioning, and many others have now joined us.
Sean Farren said yesterday that we needed to compromise. He also said that we needed to have a stable situation in order to get inward investment and that he wanted decommissioning removed from the debate. He went on to attack those of us who, he said, were anti-agreement. I suggest to Mr Farren that they did not compromise in Dunloy and that inward investment will come only when he is prepared to allow others equal rights. Instead of removing decommissioning from the debate, he should help to remove the weapons and the Semtex. That would be better than attacking those of us who have stood on principle, and it might have won more support for the report.
We cannot approve the report because it would allow Sinn Féin/IRA to take up two ministerial positions. Mr McGuinness said yesterday that he had worked tirelessly with many people over the years. I suggest that those who would not work with Sinn Féin were those who were shot or blown to pieces, and they included many from his own Nationalist community. Mr McGuinness said that we need to move forward. The Ulster Unionist Party also said that, and I hope that it realises whom it is moving forward with. This is the person who not long ago spoke about demilitarisation, but I do not see much sign of it from his party. They are not the type of people whom I would like to join with.
We are debating the report because more than 70% of the great and the good — to quote a Member who uses that phrase quite often — voted for the so-called Belfast Agreement. Under that agreement, one can be a thug, a murderer, a gangster or a racketeer and still be able to sit in the Government of Northern Ireland, yet a person who is bankrupt cannot become an elected member of a local council.
Mr McGuinness said that he knew that the report was difficult for some Unionists. I suggest that it is much more difficult for the families and friends of those who have been blown to pieces and for those of us who see Unionist Members supporting this hypocrisy.
A fellow Member from East Londonderry said that we need to be constructive, show leadership and build bridges. Unless I am mistaken, that was the Member who a few weeks ago accused electors of not being prepared to sell property to some of his party. He caused so much offence that he had to send a letter to the local press apologising for the distress caused to his own community. So much for building bridges.
Brid Rodgers praised David Trimble for taking risks. I never thought I would see the day when the only praise that the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party received was from the SDLP. She also talked about mutual trust and about building confidence, but she has not built much confidence in Portadown.
We are told that the Civic Forum should comprise 60 members but that there will only be three representatives from agriculture. That is the largest industry, yet it is to have only 5% representation. Surely every party in the Assembly realises that that is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.
Many Members, including Dara O’Hagan, Mary Nelis and Barry McElduff — if we could understand him — would like to have equality in the Civic Forum. So would I. I live in the highlands ward, which is the most deprived in the Limavady Borough Council area. Indeed, the Limavady Borough Council area is the third most deprived area in Northern Ireland. The sooner we get some of the hundreds of millions of pounds that were pumped into Mary Nelis’s constituency, the better. I am all for equality too. Could the proposed Civic Forum be a replacement quango made up of professional "quangoites"? The Unionist community has no confidence in such bodies.
As for the report, I find it difficult to understand how members of the Ulster Unionist Party can say that they are protecting the Union when by agreeing with this report they are allowing a foreign country a say in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. A senior member of the Ulster Unionist Party recently said that Mr Mallon had described the proposed Executive of Northern Ireland as a "curious coalition" — that is to say, it is a permanent and unchanging coalition of parties who are in total opposition to each other on the very existence of the state they govern.
In the light of our permanent coalition arrangements, I invite the Ulster Unionist Party to consider what they would put into any future election manifesto. How would they set out a distinctive Unionist policy for defending the Union and how would they carry it into effect? Would they need the support of Messrs Adams and Mallon to do so?
I urge all Ulster Unionist Party members to vote against this report. They should vote with their conscience and not with their leader.
I support this report. I support it because it is the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, but I have to say that I have a number of concerns about it. I was going to limit my remarks to the report, but I feel that I have to respond to a number of comments made by Sinn Féin Members yesterday. Cedric Wilson’s outburst this morning also requires a response.
It is all very well for Mr Wilson to talk about people who front paramilitary organisations. We have never denied that we are the political confidants of the UVF and the Red Hand, and I make no apology for it. But I have to say to Mr Wilson that, along with me, he must take responsibility for what has happened in this country over the last 30 years. Mr Wilson protested everywhere on his own. He was known as a serial protestor. Like myself, he has been responsible for wrecking this country, for breeding hatred and for everything else.
No other Member, including Mr Ervine, had the chance to refute what Mr Wilson said. [Interruption]
I know that it is true, Mr Wilson, and I have already said so. If you admit your responsibility for the last 30 years —
This is the problem. Mr Wilson thinks that this is all very easy. He shouts across at these people in Sinn Féin. Where has he been for the last 30 years? I did not see too many dead IRA men or Sinn Féin members from him or anyone else. It is OK to shout at these people, but they shout in the safety of this Chamber.
People had better get real. It is OK to sit in here and talk about this agreement and whether it is working or not working. But the reality is that there are those out there who, because of what people are saying in this Chamber, are prepared to lift up a gun or plant a bomb. Are people prepared to accept that responsibility? Are they prepared to support Loyalists if they have to go back to war with Republicans? I bet they are not.
No matter what happens, my party will stand over this agreement. If people are being killed on the streets, we will be standing up shouting. If Sinn Féin is supporting the IRA or anyone else killing Loyalists, I know where I will be.
It is about time these people on my left got their priorities right. The future of my children and everybody in my constituency rests with the Assembly. We may not all like it, but we had better find a way forward which is an accommodation for the British and Irish citizens in this society.
I am not interested in religion, Protestant or Catholic. What I am interested in is my British identity on this island, and I will not allow Sinn Féin or anybody else to take that away from me. If I have to die for my Britishness, I will. If it is at the hands of the Republicans, so be it. Yesterday Mr Adams began to lecture us about Unionism. I do not agree with the Unionism that he referred to — the old fur-coat brigade. I am not looking for patronage. He attacked some DUP Members. I remind him that it was Mr Paisley, to his credit, who pointed out the need to do something for the working-class people. He was the first person to raise the issue about the "big house" Unionists.
Do Sinn Féin Members not realise that when they attack any part of Unionism they attack us all? It is about time Mr Adams — I am sorry he is not here — realised that by selling this agreement as part of a united Ireland he damages me, David Ervine and others who are trying to find a way forward. We are here to accommodate. I am quite prepared to accommodate Sinn Féin, the DUP or any other party.
There is no united Ireland. There will never be a united Ireland. The accommodation is in the Chamber. It is a halfway house between our Britishness and our Irishness. It is not on my terms; it is on the Good Friday Agreement terms, and nowhere does it say that there will be a united Ireland.
Mr Martin McGuinness proceeded to tell us about all the hurt — the hurt of "bloody Sunday", the discrimination, the gerrymandering. I remind Mr McGuinness that I lived in a two-up, two-down on the Shankill Road, with an outside toilet. And, yes, in the winter, I probably had to do my poolies in the yard. So Mr McGuinness was not the only one. My parents did not own property; they had the same rights as any Catholic. There was relative deprivation in this society, and I want Sinn Féin and others to recognise that. My hurts are from the past.
I remind Mr Hutchinson that we in the civil-rights campaign encouraged the Unionist community to come out on to the streets and protest to ensure that it got the same standard of living that everyone was entitled to.
I recognise what the Member says, but Republicans hijacked the civil-rights campaign. The point that was made by my Colleague from North Belfast was that in 1966 there was a protest on the Upper Falls Road, which was then Protestant. Members of the Republican movement went to prison because they were not allowed to carry a tricolour through a Protestant area. How times have changed. They have short memories.
We are here and are prepared to accommodate, but I will not be lectured by members of Sinn Féin telling me about how bad things are. I ask the DUP Members to understand what Republicanism is about. It is about a blood sacrifice. But Republicians have removed it themselves. So what do Republicians do? They now turn themselves into the victims. We must ensure that we do not allow them to do that. It is about time people started to analyse what Republicans are doing and stopped falling into their traps.
Mr McGuinness spoke yesterday about the British military and Loyalist death squads. It is all right for the IRA to murder a judge coming across the border — a brilliant operation. Who gave it the information that the judge was coming across the border? When Loyalists kill anybody, either it is blatantly sectarian on an innocent Catholic or they have colluded with the RUC. It is about time we got real. We have all got hurts in the past. A friend of mine was murdered by the INLA while I was standing 15 feet from him. He was under surveillance from the RUC, yet no one was caught for it. Is it not amazing that they got away while he was under surveillance? I did not hear Sinn Féin or anybody else complaining about that.
You, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, have dealt with the matter of Mr McGuinness’s bringing in a part of a grenade. What was that all about? Are we about who carries arms and who does not carry arms, and about what is happening in Members’ constituencies?
I could have brought in a number of reports from some of my friends who have been told by the police that Republicians are carrying out surveillance on them. Only last night I was warned not to go to a house in my constituency because I was being watched by INLA members. Is that what Members are going to do? Are we to come every day to the Assembly and trail it all out and tell everybody about who is following whom and who is going to shoot whom? That is not what I want.
I am prepared to accept that there are Sinn Féin Members in this Chamber who know that the only way forward is through the political process. I do not necessarily say that I trust Sinn Féin, but I accept that it is trying to find a different way forward. I want to do that too. I do not want to bring bits of grenades into the Assembly and talk about these being thrown in the constituencies. We could all do that. We could all talk about "bloody Sunday", Teebane, "bloody Friday" and the Shankill bomb, but that is not what we are here for. We are here to find a way forward.
Gregory Campbell was very positive yesterday. I honestly believe that what he said about Unionism was very positive. However, it was my Unionism he was talking about. I do not recognise it in the DUP. I am sorry about that, but I do not. He said
"We want a dynamic, determined, confident, assertive Unionism."
The only thing he did not say was that that was the PUP. But whatever the party label, we want to be able to bring about change for our people. I hope that the Nationalists will listen to what I am saying. We want to bring about change for our people and for the Nationalist community so that we can go towards the future and put the past behind us. I thought that was what the agreement was all about. I accept that Mr Campbell has problems with this view. However, I thought that he summed up Unionism very well.
I do not care what shade of Unionism a Member belongs to — and this is for all the Nationalists to listen to. We may be fractured, as Mr Adams said, but the one thing that binds us all together is our love for the Union. However, it has to change. We cannot have the Union of the past. We have to make sure that we have a confident Union, one that can change.
I rise in the warmth of this House.
I do not want simply to commend this report but to welcome it with open arms — warts and all. I want to applaud every person who worked to make it possible — not just the architects from every shade of political colour in the Assembly, but everyone in this Province and outside, in Europe, in America, in Britain and in Ireland. These people worked tirelessly over decades to bring about change, reconciliation and, ultimately, peace.
This report represents that change. This debate is history in the making, but I feel no sense of that in the Chamber. The report represents a unique opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to govern themselves, yet I feel no sense of admiration, of awe or of opportunity in the Chamber. Have Members forgotten how far we have come? Have Members forgotten that we are being watched by people who have lost loved ones and who have suffered terribly over the past 30 years? These people are desperate for change. They are watching us squabbling over speaking times and must be disgusted. We must stop, remember where we were 18 months ago, and realise that not one person in the Chamber or in this Province wants to go back there.
Yes, progress has been slow, but when we walk a tightrope we must take small steps. I listened intently to the debate yesterday and today, and I am deeply disappointed at what I have heard. Only a few have risen above the ritual of bitter, scornful, adversarial politics that have been the trademark of this country — a trademark that has been our downfall.
There is no doubt that the Women’s Coalition has been pushing, sometimes against a brick wall, for proper representation of victims. The answer to the Member’s question is that we do believe that the role of the victims is paramount for the future of this society. They must play a very constructive role in working out the way forward.
The double-barrelled politics of intransigence and political violence — what I call anger and apathy — have been dominating politics in this land for far too long. We must move forward, and the report represents the right way forward. We must also find a way to rise above the mealy-mouthed squabbles of the public arena and show the people that we are capable of dignified, civilised human interaction. We are capable of that. I have seen it, as have all Members in the House, when the cameras are off. The House is not a stage, with each of us playing a part, depending on our political colour. This is not a Greek tragedy or a Shakespearean farce. This is real life, and we have only one chance at it.
As political leaders, we have a duty to point the way forward and to set an example for our youngsters and others to follow. It is our duty to show our people that the politics of bigotry, hatred, violence and sectarianism are the politics of the past, not the future.
It is incredible that yesterday and again this morning, when we were debating the pros and cons of decommissioning as part of this peace process, Members from all parts started discussing whether firearms should be left in or outside the House. What on earth is going on? Can no one see the double standards?
The Women’s Coalition wants what every right-minded person in this Province wants. We want our children to be able to live in a society that is free from guns. We want a society that is free from anger and violence in all its forms. I remind the Assembly that paramilitaries do not have a monopoly on terror. The man accused yesterday of allegedly killing his unborn child in the abdomen of his teenage partner used a brick and a baton, not a gun. We need to change the mindset of the people who carry out these terrible deeds — be it in the name of their country, their culture, their religion, or even their manhood.
What we need to do now is build trust between ourselves and in our communities. We need to show that we can work together for the good of all. We need our own government. It must be good government, accountable to those who elected us.
The agreement and this report, which brings it into operation, have not been cobbled together at the last minute by people far-removed from the realities of life in Northern Ireland. It has taken years to negotiate this. It has taken blood, sweat and toil. It has taken years to reach agreement. It was written by people who care about this country and, above all, about the future of the people who live here and of our children.
We need to start governing this country, to start making laws. We need to do what we are paid to do, and that is work together for the good of this land. We have now an opportunity to move from dead-end politics to the politics that will take us along the road to peace. I commend this report. My Colleagues and I in the Women’s Coalition will support it.
There is one matter which I would like to draw to Members’ attention before the sitting is suspended. Members may not be fully aware of all the implications of everything that they say and do in the Chamber. In particular, once we know that we have absolute privilege, Members may feel that there will be a considerable degree of latitude. However, if Members refer here to a matter that is sub judice, they may not be creating problems for themselves but may be creating problems for the courts.
I advise Members to be careful about what they say about particular matters. Although the House itself does not have a sub judice rule, which means that Members will not be creating difficulties for themselves, they may be causing problems for others.
The sitting was, by leave, suspended from 12.28 pm until 2.00 pm.
Yesterday Mr Alban Maginness referred to my work on the Messines Tower as a journey of reconciliation — a very proper way of describing it as the tower is much more than just another war memorial. It acknowledges, as the Member pointed out, the wonderful work and sacrifice of Irishmen from every province of Ireland, from north, south, east and west and from both main religious denominations.
In his lively speech he mentioned that the object of the Assembly was reconciliation. I agree. It would be very difficult to see any purpose in having an Assembly other than to get people of goodwill and talent to work together in the interests of all the people of this Province.
Mr Ahern made a statement which, as Mr Trimble mentioned, has since been sugared mildly, but Mr Ahern has not changed the view which he so firmly expressed in ‘The Sunday Times’ interview. He went on to talk about some other matters of intense interest to Members — for example, the real possibility of Ireland’s rejoining the Commonwealth, and he talked in positive terms about a visit by Her Majesty The Queen to Ireland next year. What good examples of reconciliation these would be.
The Ulster Unionist Party wants an Assembly. Do not believe any nonsense about our hanging about, deferring or trying to avoid joining it. We want to join it, and we want it to be power-sharing. Anyone who does not realise what an advantage it would be to have such arrangements is very much mistaken. We have given a pledge to have a power-sharing Executive with our whole heart and soul. That means what the words suggest: sharing power with all those who have been elected to this Assembly. However, it does not mean that those who have been elected to this Assembly and still have the advantage of weaponry, and who have not just power but killing power, should be allowed to take seats in the Executive.
That is the pledge which the Ulster Unionist Party has given. This will not happen, but if we were to renege on that pledge and take seats in an Executive with Sinn Féin, I wonder what the DUP’s position would be. Would it also refuse to take its seats? Would it find it expedient to be in there to represent all Unionists?
The Ulster Unionist Party stands by its pledge, and I would like to believe that the other parties to the agreement, and Members of the Assembly, are totally disabused of the view that there is going to be any change in our pledge. This is about the way the country is going to be governed.
I have spent a lot of my life working on housing issues, and I have been rather disappointed that Members have not had much opportunity in the course of these few months to discuss housing. I am not sure if Members are aware that the programme for new homes in Northern Ireland requires the building of 2,600 houses per annum for the next three years — from April 1999 to March 2002. That will require £1 billion of extra money. Do Members know how many houses the Housing Executive is building in the forthcoming year? Forty-five. I know that housing associations are going to take up some of the load, but they are comparably small and it is unlikely that they will be able to produce 2,600 extra in a year.
I would like to believe that the Department of Social Development will be concerned not just with housing but with planning as well. There is the most appalling powerlessness of planning in this country. Those Members who are aware of what occurred in Bangor last weekend will know that a developer took masked men and bulldozers to knock down a substantial 140-year-old building, cutting off electricity to surrounding people, and setting the place on fire. That is the kind of thing that our present planning arrangements permit: there was no law to prevent it. He may get into trouble for cutting off electricity and starting a fire, but what will that cost him? One thousand pounds? Here is someone demonstrating the powerlessness of planning in the Province.
During my last speech, Mr Chairman, or Mr Initial Presiding Officer — I am sorry, but I am used to the word "Chairman" from my two years in the Forum — I mentioned the need to address the question of Semtex. This is a ghastly explosive second only to a nuclear explosive in its killing power. I concentrated my efforts then on persuading Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, in the wake of the Omagh bombing, to see how appalling this killing power is that they say must be retained in their hands. I was trying to demonstrate how impossible it would be to say with any logic that Semtex was required as a defensive weapon. My plea fell on deaf ears then. I repeat it now.
Every party to this agreement, with the exception of Sinn Féin and the Progressive Unionist Party, has carried out everything required of it. Why should we give Sinn Féin the excuse today by showing a Unionist party divided — making petty points about the various arrangements here and taking up time — when we have an opportunity to show a united front in the Unionist camp by saying that the one thing we must have is decommissioning and disarming?
We hear excuses from Sinn Féin. I have heard Mr McGuinness describe how his great friend Gen de Chastelain loves him dearly and believes everything he tells him. Has anybody heard any words from the general about the promises given or statements made by Martin McGuinness? I suggest not. I heard, and appreciated, what Peter Robinson said yesterday. Sinn Féin and the IRA are the same body. They are not even two sides of the same body but the same body.
Let us isolate Sinn Féin. Actually, it is pretty much isolated already. Listen to the television and radio. Who has any time for these little semantic pieces of nonsense about what the words in the agreement actually mean? Those words were not used and those timings were not needed for the numerous other things that every other party has done. But not Sinn Féin.
I will read to Members the last words of the leader in ‘The Irish Times’ today:
"Sinn Féin’s exclusion is not of David Trimble’s making. Securing Sinn Féin’s participation in the executive rests within nobody’s hands but its own — and those of its affiliates in the IRA."
Over the past two days we have listened to many powerful and sincere contributions, some of which I agree with, and some of which I do not. Unfortunately we have also heard many contributions of petty party point-scoring, personal insults, gross discourtesy and idle — and sometimes dangerous — accusations. There has been little contribution to the debate by way of alternative suggestions — what we will do if today or tomorrow the Assembly does not endorse the report and we do not make today or tomorrow the determination day.
I have heard little by way of alternative constructive propositions to address the problems that will ensure if we fail to endorse the report. There will be a political vacuum, rapid deterioration in our social and economic status, and rejection by the world of Northern Ireland as a place to invest in or, indeed, to holiday in. Many Members do not seem even to recognise these appalling prospects. However, the community that we represent recognises them very well indeed.
Leaving aside the prospect of renewed violence of a nature that we thought had gone for ever, people will say that it is not worth investing time and energy in the political process. The international community, to which I have just referred and which has done so much for us — whether we agree with it or not — would see the rejection of the agreement as a total rejection of their commitment and financial assistance.
We should take heed of the measured political comments in the editorials of our local newspapers whose personnel have their ear to the ground about what our community is saying. The ‘News Letter’ of 11 February stated
"The people of Northern Ireland are not only capable of self-government — they have demanded it with a resounding referendum vote which supersedes any and all preceding or subsequent opinion polls."
We have all come too far from the depths of anguish to fail now — and we all know the alternative. The ‘Irish News’, referring to Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon, said
"Both men should take encouragement from the real desire for movement within the community they serve."
Indeed, the much-maligned G7, which seems to be the butt of adverse comments in the Chamber, on behalf of the sector of interest that it represents, speaks about
"the institutions envisaged in the agreement up and running".
It says that they are the only way to provide a future for us, and, of the politicians here,it goes on
"They can provide the leadership to tackle the mass of urgent social and economic issues which are central to the future welfare of the entire community … For everybody to wait for somebody else to move before moving themselves is a sure recipe for a permanent immobility. Northern Ireland has no future of any quality, except as a stable, inclusive, fair, prosperous and outward looking society."
What clearer signals from this cross-pollination of the opinions of the community do we need than those in newspaper editorials or from the representatives of commerce and industry?
Much of the debate has been taken up by the issue of decommissioning, notwithstanding the fact that the report deals only with, and should deal only with, the Executive, the Civic Forum and the British-Irish Council. What civilised, right-minded person would not want decommissioning? Those who use the lack of decommissioning as a reason for not approving the report are bereft of real substantive arguments on the matter. They are using decommissioning as an emotive vehicle by which they hope to defeat the purposes of setting up our own government.
Let there be no doubt about this: I want decommissioning, my party wants decommissioning, and the community wants decommissioning. Also, in the fullness of the terms of the agreement on decommissioning, I want weapon destruction. If weapons and explosives are not destroyed, one of three things will happen. Either they will fall into the hands of criminals — that has happened in other societies — or they will fall into the hands of dissident groups (a distinct possibility), or they will be used again by their present owners. That is what will happen with those weapons and explosives if they are not just decommissioned but destroyed as well.
It is through the implementation of this report that we have the best — some would say the only — means of obtaining total disarmament and weapon destruction. I am not simply speaking to put something on the record in Hansard; I am asking Members from all parties to support the report, to take a chance and to take a gamble with me and with others on the way forward.
Apart from the issue of decommissioning, there have been two major areas of debate in the Chamber. Criticisms of the Civic Forum have come mainly from the DUP but from others as well. It puzzles me that the DUP is opposed not to the principle of the Civic Forum, according to Dr Paisley, but to its composition. Only last Saturday I heard Mr Paisley Jnr deny its validity in principle, never mind its composition. Do we have a contradiction there?
I am glad that Mr Paisley is in the Chamber as I would not want to say anything about him, good or bad, if he were not here. Mr Paisley said that the Civic Forum was against his principles and that elected people only should have a role in what is happening in Northern Ireland. He also said in an aside that he would be delighted if the whole process failed. My interpretation of that is that he would be delighted if what the people willed were to fail.
I am surprised because the very name of his party is the Democratic Unionist Party, and there is nothing democratic about failing to take cognisance of the democratic decision of 71% or 72% of the people of Northern Ireland — end of story.
The other main theme that has come across, mainly from Sinn Féin and certain others, has been to do with the equality agenda and the establishment of the equality unit in the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). I cannot understand the rationale behind this attitude. Where better to locate the drive for equality than under the joint First Office where the elected leaders of both communities are working together in this respect?
There is a feeling that if we had a new Ministry of Equality it would somehow be the prerogative of Sinn Féin. Is it not much better for the leaders of the main cross-community parties to have this mandate than have it fall to an individual Minister from any party, be it the UUP, the DUP, Sinn Féin or the Social Democratic and Labour Party? It would take ages to establish the trust for that, but the equality agenda that we all want can be established quite quickly in this way.
Much could be said that I cannot address in the time allotted. I am asking those people to take a step with me and the members of my party into unknown territory.
Decommissioning is never mentioned in the report from the First Minister (Designate) and his deputy. I wonder why. Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin dismissed the opinion poll in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’. How convenient for him. If the poll was not indicative of public opinion, he can have had his cake and eat it. The poll must have created as much havoc in his search for a response as decommissioning itself. John Hume, the SDLP Leader, wearied us with his contribution, asking us to allow Members to be appointed to the Executive, regardless of decommissioning and punishment beatings. What other Nobel recipient would have such a disregard for peace?
Much as the sentiments and beliefs of the Continuity IRA are foreign to the rest of us, abductions, punishment beatings and killings should not be the means by which members of that organisation are dealt with. These are indicative of the violence at work in the community. There is no place for these things. What about the Mitchell principles?
We have at last established the reason for the recent spate of punishment beatings. It was so obvious that for a while we overlooked it. It is this: the Provisionals and Sinn Féin practise zero tolerance of all who differ from them, whether in the Unionist community or among the Nationalists. What sort of reconstitution has taken place in Sinn Féin? What political business can be conducted with its representatives in the Government? Where has violence been abandoned or any progress made towards that much defiled word "peace"? The answer to these questions is that violence has not been abandoned and no progress has been made towards peace.
Hutchinson and Maskey looked a comfortable double act on the television programme ‘Hearts and Minds’. They were faced with great difficulty over decommissioning and the punishment beatings, "Hutch" referring to them dismissively as "a few punishment beatings".If he had been the recipient of one of these beatings, would he have felt so able to trivialise or dismiss the agony, the excruciating pain and the long-term scars? But what can we expect from these two men with such a violent history?
The upshot of the interview was that neither man could agree with the vast majority of Northern Ireland’s residents that there should be an immediate call for decommissioning, and neither man possessed enough integrity to concede that there was no place for them in constitutional politics or in a future coalition Government. This clearly demonstrates that, in paramilitary circles, rank-and-file spokespersons are the most objectionable and the most obstructive element to peace. We do not need them at Stormont or in the greater community.
Sinn Féin and PUP can play clever word games if they wish, but "Mr General Public" is not fooled by any of it. The onus is on them to deliver on decommissioning and allow progress. It is unlikely that this will occur since the role they have invented for themselves would no longer exist.
Come off it, boys. The solution lies with you. Either you are politically too fragile in the respective Nationalist and Loyalist communities to deliver on decommissioning or you have become comfortable with the benefits terror has brought you. Those who find difficulty with constitutional politics should be firmly warned that they are becoming marginalised in all sections of the community and that the facade of peace is fitting to no one. The ‘Belfast Telegraph’ poll bears this out. The claim by Hutchinson and Maskey on ‘Hearts and Minds’ that terrorists cannot be ignored is fast diminishing.
May I raise an order point with you? You have several times referred to Members by their surname only. It has been the practice — and I think that it is a proper practice — to refer to Members by both their surname and title.
The whole community is sick of the implied threat. Even 58% of Sinn Féin supporters want to see paramilitaries hand their weapons over now, and the SDLP is becoming less at ease with its alliance with Sinn Féin. Decommissioning is easier to sideline than the consequences of guns in the hands of terrorists. The SDLP is risking getting its hands dirty. Sinn Féin is less of a certainty, politically, which leaves the SDLP alone in its chorus of "No" to decommissioning.
If constitutional politics were to overtake this misguided pandering to terrorists, as they seem to be doing, how would the SDLP progress without its comrades in Sinn Féin? After all, a cross-community vote would not be so instantly available, and there would be likely to be a normalising of the SDLP’s role in the Assembly in the absence of Sinn Féin’s military wing. A better suggestion for future policy in both parties would be for them both to decide between the Armalite and the ballot box. Public opinion requires a decision. The ship of politics is now being seen to be seaworthy by the Northern Ireland public, and it cannot sail without those who are reluctant to conduct politics without violence. Constitutional Unionism is poised to progress with politics proper.
The glitch in our history which has allowed terrorism to become involved and then debar itself through its lack of ability to change or make the transition from Mafia-like practices into the open scrutiny of democratic politics seems to be reaching a conclusion. In the conduct of normal, peaceful and democratic matters of state, opinion is growing that there is no place for violent agitators or for those who argue for their existence.
May I first of all welcome the fact that the report was finally presented to us by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). I hope that we can get on now with the important things that we were all elected to do.
My concern about the report is that it contains no reference to the safeguarding of the rights of children.
Parties in the Assembly agree that it is important to take the most effective steps possible to safeguard and promote the chances of all children. At the 1996 World Summit, the British Government stated that the well-being of children requires political action at the highest level. It will be the Assembly’s responsibility to ensure that children’s well-being is at the centre of all decisions and that it is not just empty rhetoric.
We must implement fully the values of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As the Assembly will be aware, Save the Children and the Children’s Law Centre have been campaigning long and hard for the appointment of a Minister for children. My party and others have been campaigning for the most practical ways of securing the rights of children.
Children across this state have been severely disadvantaged by the effect of policies in such diverse areas as health, education, social security and housing. Let me offer a few examples to support this argument. More than 500,000 people here are under the age of 18, and of that number over 35% are children who are directly affected by poverty.
In 1997, 833 children presented themselves to the Housing Executive as homeless. There is the impact of having the highest birth rate in the European Union — 40% above the EU average — along with the highest teenage birth rate. This means that we have to deal with the implications of children looking after children, never mind the effects on family life of long-term unemployment and the impact of New Deal. The recent failure to implement Sure Start has also caused concern.
One early-years organisation said that children have no voice. This is really saying that children do not matter. In 1996, more than 31% of three-year-olds and 12% of four-year-olds were in nursery education.
In the area of health, we are faced with a growth in the drugs culture among young people, along with an increase in mental health problems affecting children and young people. There is also the alarming increase in suicides.
Perhaps one of the greatest concerns is the crisis affecting those services that we have traditionally relied upon to protect children. It is a damning indictment that children in the care of the state can be more at risk than those in the care of the community. So what is being done to address these issues? Who is trying to ensure that the policies and decisions are child-friendly?
At present all British Government Departments are required to assess the impact of their policies on the environment, but not on children. Children and young people are more important than the environment. Both are our future and without either we have no future. Let us protect our future. Our children will do a better job of protecting the environment than we have done.
Current structures have failed, and we need a radical new approach to deal with these failures — failures which were highlighted by the Gilbertion Foundation Enquiry in 1996. For example, there has been the failure to give children political priority; there has been a lack of political commitment to children; and there has been a failure to promote children’s participation.
The report cites evidence that children and young people’s alienation from politics is growing. Children are invisible; they have no annual report; and there is no systematic collection or publication of statistics. There is no requirement to assess and publish information on the impact of legislation and Government policies on children. There is no analysis of overall departmental budgets to assess the amount and proportion of funding spent on children.
The report also found that there is inadequate co-ordination between Government Departments, inefficient use of resources and a tendency towards inflexibility of funding. The Department of Health and Social Services, health and social service boards, trusts, the Department of Education, education and library boards, the Department of the Environment, local councils, the Northern Ireland Office, criminal justice, juvenile justice and probation boards — these are just some of the bodies that affect children.
However, there is very little, if any, departmental co-ordination on policy development. The Assembly will be responsible for implementing the rights of the child under the UN Convention. It is an issue which affects all of us — or perhaps not, as they do not have a vote. All policies should be assessed to ascertain their impact on children and to ensure that the rights of the child are paramount. After careful consideration, I and my party are convinced that the best way to tackle this issue is to seek the appointment of a junior Minister with a cross-departmental remit to promote child- and, therefore, family-friendly politics and policies in all Departments.
This should not become a party political issue. I appeal to all Members to urge their parties to adopt this approach rather than empty promises or statements on the rights of children and to support groups, like Save the Children and the Children’s Law Centre, that have been campaigning long and hard for a Minister.
I was elected by the people in Mid Ulster who supported the Belfast Agreement and also by those in the "No" camp who gave me their second-preference votes. Despite being against the agreement they saw the need for a Government at Stormont. However, such a Government will be doomed to destruction if politicians who have private armies are allowed into the Executive. Decommissioning has to take place or the Assembly will be a complete farce. I am here to represent Unionists in Mid Ulster, and I do not intend my voice to be muffled by fellow Unionists who have no faith or confidence in themselves and have a blurred vision of the way forward.
This vote today is not about decommissioning — it is about setting up structures. I will vote for the report because I see it as a way of achieving better government for the people of Northern Ireland. However, I will not allow the Unionist Party to sit in or support an Executive with unreformed terrorists. In my eyes there must be proof. Without credible and verifiable decommissioning, Sinn Féin/IRA cannot be allowed into ministerial posts. It is not reasonable to have an armed terrorist in government.
Fellow Unionists must have confidence in themselves and in their ability to govern Northern Ireland. The Unionist parties need to unite to take this Assembly forward and to show the people that we intend to govern this Province, leaving Sinn Féin/IRA behind unless they decommission and admit that the war is over.
We cannot allow Republicans to wriggle out of their responsibilities. If Sinn Féin members believe that they are real democrats, they must agree that it is only fair that they should decommission straight away. In fact, it should have been done 10 months ago, if not earlier. If they do not decommission now, this will simply prove that they are just a bunch of terrorists. And terrorist organisations have no credibility in the Assembly or anywhere else. With the support of other Unionist parties the peace process can go on with increased strength and a more determined voice. Our young people deserve this leadership. We cannot be a divided Unionist community.
Sinn Féin/IRA’s objective is a united Ireland. A united Ireland is an Irishman’s dream, but it is only a dream. We are here in the Assembly to govern the people of Northern Ireland. In voting for this report I am pushing the process forward to the very limits. We in the Ulster Unionist Party have fulfilled our obligations and have nothing left to give.
I support the motion.
I welcome the chance to support the report before us today.
I wish to concentrate on one vital issue that underpins the entire basis of how we create our future in Northern Ireland — equality. Many Members addressed the matter at length in the debate on this report last month. I was incensed particularly by the remarks of Sinn Féin Members, who tried to distort the SDLP’s position on this matter. Surprisingly for me, it was Mitchel McLaughlin who missed the point completely in his speech of 18 January when he asserted, quite incorrectly, that equality would be treated with less urgency than other matters if the proposed arrangements went ahead and equality resided under the remit of the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Because of the importance of and priority given to equality it is best dealt with centrally to ensure that it is not put into a cul-de-sac or used in a partisan shoot-out. My Colleague Sean Farren in his speech here on 18 January assured us that a special committee would be set up to scrutinise equality matters, and that is by far the best way to ensure that this matter remains at the forefront of our deliberations and decisions in the future.
The best way to monitor departmental actions on equality is to bring to book, and before this House, any Minister who is not pulling his weight in this matter. If any Member from Sinn Féin does not believe me, then I refer that Member to the report from the Community Relations Council, which recently backed the proposal to place equality centrally in the office of the First and Deputy First Ministers (Designate).
The Human Rights Commission is being given a key role in the new process, and the Equality Commission has just as important a role to play to guarantee that the voices of the under-represented are heard. For this reason it is important that the Equality Unit be based centrally and do the job that it is set.
I welcome Sinn Féin’s conversion to the equality issue. For many years it was not very high on the party’s agenda. When we talk about equality in Northern Ireland we, as a House or, indeed, as individual parties, should not get hung up on the equality of identity or of nationality alone. Equality has many manifestations in society — not least for people of wider ethnic groups, gender and disability. I can assure Members that I will return to these issues time and time again during my term of office here. With equality it does not matter whether you are Catholic or Protestant, Nationalist or Unionist. Discrimination existed long before the troubles and, sadly, persists today.
It is time that people with disabilities received fair treatment. I intend to make sure that the Assembly takes on responsibility for setting up a commission against discrimination, as promised in the Disability Discrimination Act, and as will happen throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. It is insulting to people with disabilities in Northern Ireland that the Government have sufficient cause to act elsewhere in the UK to stamp out inequality where it exists when there is no similar mechanism here, especially considering that 17 out of every 100 people in Northern Ireland have a disability — the highest level in the UK.
There is a lack of initiative with regard to allowing children with disabilities the right to be part of mainstream education, the preference being to segregate them in special schools. That is a matter that the Equality Commission can address.
Ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland have little or no representation in our community. For example, it was well documented in a recent survey that the Chinese community is facing ongoing and increasing levels of racism. This is unacceptable. A new Equality Commission must give all minorities a voice.
There is tremendous ground to be made up in Northern Ireland on the equality of gender. Indeed, judging by the contributions and asides on occasions from some Members in the House, we have a long road to travel. Women face inequality on a daily basis, whether they are mothers in need of training or entrepreneurs who need grant aid to kick-start their businesses, many of which are in the service sector. Even when in business they are ignored in trade delegations and refused funding and support because they are not in industry or in the export trade.
The very fact of these problems discriminates against woman. Last week we saw the targeting of single parents on benefit and the abandonment of a £15 million child-care programme, the money for which is now being redirected to other areas. These are not matters for debate today, but I assure Members and future Ministers that I shall return to them many times in the future.
We have heard many speeches attacking the Democratic Unionist Party and, in particular, the stance that it takes in the Assembly. I should make it abundantly clear to those Members who think that the DUP should not act as it does that while 71% of the people in Northern Ireland voted for the agreement, 29% of them voted against it. I have no doubt that the latter figure would be higher if the referendum were to take place today, for at the time of the agreement promises were made that were not honoured.
The DUP and the other parties that opposed the agreement at the election have a duty to represent the views of those people in Northern Ireland who also opposed the agreement. I resent the SDLP’s telling Members from the DUP that they should not represent the views of the people who voted for them. This is a democracy, and the DUP is entitled to make its case in the Chamber.
Others have made a different case from the one which the SDLP has made. They put explosives underneath its members’ cars. It was not the DUP who did that. The DUP has always fought and argued its case, with the SDLP and others, through democratic means.
Dr Hendron has called the Members from the DUP the abominable "No" men. The abominable people in the Assembly are the people who have committed murders, planted explosives and, on entering the Assembly, claimed some sort of democratic credentials. These are the abominable people — not the people who have operated in accordance with democratic means.
Last night I listened to John Hume on the radio. He said that we should leave the past behind and look to the future. I apologise for criticising the venerable John Hume. The SDLP may not appreciate such criticism, but I am going to give it anyway. John Hume says that people have to leave the past behind. This means that victims are to forget all that has happened in the past — it has all to be brushed under the carpet. Perhaps the SDLP will now join the Police Authority; perhaps it will allow its members to participate in police liaison committees; and perhaps it will support the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Only in the past was the RUC a problem to members in the Nationalist community; it should not be a problem now. Perhaps the SDLP will recognise the Orange culture and Orange traditions; perhaps it will support the right to free procession for Orangemen to their places of worship. These problems were all in the past; we are living in the future now.
Yesterday Mr Mallon told us to trust the terrorists. He said that we would not get decommissioning unless we left it in the hands of the terrorists. That was the basic content of his speech. Let me say that there are more effective ways of taking weapons from terrorists than allowing terrorists to do it themselves. That has been proved in the past.
The so-called expert, Gen de Chastelain, has had 10 months to deliver a beginning of decommissioning, but he has not done so. The only guns that have been handed in were from the Loyalist Volunteer Force — and Members may draw their own conclusions about why these guns were handed in. No guns have been handed in by the mainstream paramilitaries. Gen de Chastelain has failed in his duty. He should be bringing forward a report to the Assembly on the progress of decommissioning. It is all right for him to sit in an office in Belfast with people saying that he is doing his job well. He should tell the public what is happening with decommissioning, what the prospect for decommissioning is, and whether there is going to be any handing over of weapons. This information should be made public now.
I now turn to this concoction of a report that trades the number of Departments required for political expediency and tries to slot different areas of responsibility into each Department. More than 40 articles left out of the first report are included in this one. Mr Trimble said that some of the changes were straightforward and that others were more substantial. These include road safety, the Child Support Agency, education and library boards and industrial and fair-employment tribunals. I am surprised that Mr Mallon left the Armagh Planetarium out — I thought he was a representative for the Newry and Armagh constituency. The Ulster Unionists have doubled Sinn Féin’s strength in the Cabinet by allowing, through this report, 10 Cabinet posts.
I have a document of John Taylor’s in which he and Mr Savage talked about the young people of the Province. I will touch on this document later.
I am opposed to an institutionalised link between Ulster and the Republic. I do not agree that anti-partitionists must be members of any future Stormont Cabinet.
Not only are we having anti-partitionists as members of the Stormont Government, but we are going to have anti-partitionists who engaged in terrorism to achieve their aims in that same Stormont Cabinet. I am sure that Mr Taylor will have the opportunity later to answer that.
It might be wise for the Member to review some of the remarks that he has made. He has made some rather precise remarks about which I advise him to think again.
I am not aware of what those might be. However, I will seek to continue.
There are some absolutely ludicrous decisions in this report. Education has been split over three Departments — Education, Higher and Further Education, and Culture, Arts and Leisure, where libraries and museums have been put. Under the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure they have also managed to include Ordnance Survey and visitor amenities. Under the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Department they have included tourism. Surely tourism and visitor amenities go hand in hand and should not be situated in different Departments.
Let us look at the Environment Department. I have sat in council meetings and heard the Ulster Unionists talk about the problems of the Department of the Environment digging up a road, then tarring it, and when it is nicely finished, the Water Service coming along and digging it up and making a complete hash of it again. What have the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists concocted on that? They have put planning control in the Environment Department, and transport planning, roads and water into the Regional Development Department.
This is creating extra Departments to create jobs for the boys or jobs for the girls, as the case may be. Of course, we know about the snouts in the troughs. There may be some female Members who wish to put their snouts in the troughs. Perhaps that is what was pressing some of the parties so badly.
There are more experienced Members in the DUP, and a young man like me would not have the opportunity to do that just yet. Mr Kennedy would have a much better chance of being called to serve in the Ulster Unionist Party, given the depths of talent there.
With regard to the Civic Forum, the victims have been annihilated. They are getting two seats, and the community groups are getting 18 seats. These groups have been infiltrated in many areas by paramilitaries. We will have more paramilitaries represented in the Civic Forum than we will have victims. Those who decided on these numbers should hang their heads in shame today. They have trampled on the victims and their feelings.
Agriculture is not to be adequately represented in the Civic Forum either. I express concern as to how the church nominations will be filled. We have the great and the good church leaders who have always said what the Government have desired. I would like to see the evangelical churches, which are not recognised properly by the BBC and other television and radio companies, also get seats.
I reject this report. In it, there are several concessions made to Nationalism by the Ulster Unionists. The proposal to increase the number of Government Departments from the current six to 10, thereby creating a 50:50 carve-up between Unionists and Nationalists — although the current make-up of the Assembly is 60:40 in favour of Unionists — is clearly a concession by the Ulster Unionist Party. That this is an act of political expediency is confirmed by paragraph 2.6 of the report:
"we recognise that increasing the number of Departments inevitably involves some dislocation and diseconomies."
The report acknowledges the extra expense incurred by the decision of the Ulster Unionists and their bedfellows to capitulate on the issue of the number of Departments in order to ensure that the SDLP and Sinn Féin receive the maximum number of ministerial appointments. The report also states
"the additional costs should be offset by rationalising the remainder of public administration in Northern Ireland."
But it gives no specific details about this rationalisation or about how the additional £90 million required will be found. Clearly, the decision on the number of Departments has nothing to do with efficient government but has been made for reasons of political expediency. The Executive will not be accountable to the Assembly, and it will be virtually impossible to remove any Minister from office.
The Northern Ireland Unionist Party’s position is that by focusing on the issue of departmental structures, we are marginalising the core issue of the decommissioning of terrorist arsenals. The proposals on departmental structures should explicitly exclude parties linked to terrorist organisations which refuse to decommission their arsenals and dismantle their paramilitary structures.
Throughout 30 years of terror the SDLP has consistently condemned violence while not hesitating to profit politically from it. The SDLP tells us that we should forget the past. Will John Hume and his party now state publicly that "bloody Sunday" is a thing of the past and best left there? The SDLP now faces a clear choice between support for democracy and the rule of law and support for Sinn Féin/IRA in its demand to participate in the Executive while retaining its arsenal and its terrorist structures. If the SDLP supports Sinn Féin/IRA in its refusal to decommission, this renders the party indistinguishable from Sinn Féin/IRA. The alternative for the SDLP is to align itself with the democratic demand that Sinn Féin/IRA must decommission its terrorist arsenal and dismantle its terrorist structures.
Yesterday we heard a Member talk about the importance of the equality agenda and demand tolerance for her community. Where is the tolerance towards the Orange Order, which simply wants its civil and religious liberty to return from a church service in a dignified and peaceful manner along a route which it has used for 150 years? The truth is that many Nationalists move freely in Portadown town centre, some wearing Glasgow Celtic and Republic of Ireland soccer tops. These are hardly the actions of a community which feels intimidated. As someone who worked in Portadown town centre for six years, I can confirm that this is true.
I also remind the House that a van bomb containing 1,600 pounds of explosive was placed directly outside my place of employment, wrecking the entire town centre, which it took nearly two years to rebuild. I call such an act directed towards business owners and workers, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, intimidation of the worst kind. Without the prompt actions of a passing RUC patrol, there would have been horrendous consequences too awful to contemplate. It ill behoves any Member to talk about intolerance and intimidation in Portadown.
Decommissioning is a fundamental requirement of democracy. The Leader of the Alliance Party held up a newspaper article yesterday. I would like to quote from an article in last night’s ‘Belfast Telegraph’:
"In the summer of 1996 an 18-day-old baby was thrown from its chair during an horrific attack on a young west Belfast family.
Two other children in the house at the time were doused with paint.
Just one month later a nine-year-old girl from Lisburn was attacked by three masked men as she played with friends.
The thugs, armed with cudgels and sticks, beat the child about the head repeatedly."
Yet we are told by Sinn Féin that it is interested in the rights of children.
"The list of locations for attacks in the past year reads like a twisted tourist guide to the province".
Dr Hendron referred to Aughnacloy and other places. The list of places where paramilitary punishment attacks have taken place in recent times is endless — Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballynahinch, Bangor, Belfast, Markethill, Newry, and so on.
The newspaper article continues
"The instruments of torture in the armoury of the gangs are many and varied — baseball bats, golf clubs, nail studded clubs, pick-axe handles, hammers, sledgehammers, hurley-sticks, axes, hatchets, drills, industrial staplers and American style police batons.
The image that the paramilitaries are reluctantly drawn into the attacks is also undermined by the fact that they have been repeatedly shown to be the result of personal vendettas. An IRA leader in north Belfast ordered the attack that killed Andrew Kearney last summer because Kearney had beaten him in a bar fight. Mr Kearney was shot in the legs and left to bleed to death after his killers ripped out telephone lines, putting an ambulance out of reach. The same IRA man has done it before. In 1995, when his new car was stolen, the man he believed to be the culprit had his legs spiked onto a metal fence. And last year, a senior UDA leader on the Shankill was implicated in a shooting that left the victim crippled."
There is no peace. The pro-Union community rightly will not tolerate government by an Executive which includes the architects of the terrorism that has been directed against it for 30 years and while the IRA retains its terrorist arsenal and structures for use at its discretion. Such a situation is totally unthinkable and unacceptable.
The Alliance Leader, Sean Neeson, stated yesterday that Gen de Chastelain has a key political role to play. Let me categorically state that the general’s role is a technical one — that of the destruction of weapons and explosives.
The obligation on the Government of the United Kingdom to back the demand for decommissioning is reinforced by the clear impression, which was conveyed by the Prime Minister, and was a crucial part of the referendum campaign, that decommissioning would be a condition of Sinn Féin/IRA’s taking seats in the Executive. That impression was conveyed on at least the following occasions: speeches at Balmoral and the University of Ulster, the handwritten pledges, the letter of 10 April 1998 to Mr Trimble, and statements by the Prime Minister to Parliament. The vast majority of the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland want a stable society in which they can go about their lives in peace. It goes without saying that a minority has no interest in a stable society in Northern Ireland — it is interested only in instability.
Sinn Féin/IRA must not be allowed to hold executive positions in the Northern Ireland Assembly. That matter cannot be fudged or compromised on. Sinn Féin should not be recognised as a legitimate political party. Let me quote from a speech by Martin McGuinness:
"I apologise to no one for saying we support and admire the freedom fighters of the IRA. In the whole of Western Europe there is not a revolutionary socialist organisation that enjoys as much popular support as we do. The British know that the IRA is out to win. Republicans will not be satisfied with another glorious failure. Resistance has deepened, and so has our absolute commitment to victory."
That is the Martin McGuinness who could be placed in the Government of Northern Ireland unless this report is rejected. For any Unionist to acquiesce to the enrolment of Sinn Féin/IRA in an Assembly Executive would be a gross betrayal of the loyal people of Northern Ireland, who have had to endure 30 years of murder and mayhem from the Republican movement.
The innocent victims of Republican terrorism deserve — indeed, demand — that their voices be heard. That voice is calling on all Unionists to prevent Sinn Féin/IRA’s being placed in government in Northern Ireland. I am appalled that the Ulster Unionist Party negotiator, Mr Michael McGimpsey, stated in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ last night that decommissioning did not necessarily have to occur before Sinn Féin entered the Executive. I call on the Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Members —
On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. The report to which Mr Boyd refers is incorrect. I have spoken to the publication and pointed that out. It is not what I said. It is a false report, and Mr Boyd can take comfort from the fact that I have said over and over again in public that we require a verifiable and credible start to decommissioning before we form the Executive.
May I make what I hope is a valid point of order? There is no point whatever, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, in permitting what is clearly not a point of order to be made and then ruling that it is not a point of order, because that allows the person who is making the false point of order to make a totally inappropriate interjection. There is no such thing as a point of information in the House of Commons, and there ought not to be one here.
I call on Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Members to join with many of that party’s Members of Parliament and grass-roots members to reject this report. Listen to the young people in the Ulster Unionist Party. I call on each Ulster Unionist to reject the SDLP and Sinn Féin, whose common goal is Irish unity, and join their Unionist Colleagues in rejecting this report.
Let me turn to the Civic Forum. In a society which already has an abundance of unelected quangos, it is wholly unnecessary to create what would, in effect, be a further unelected body whose main political purpose would be to endorse the outworking of the Belfast Agreement. No wonder Sir George Quigley and his G7 cohorts are keen to have the Belfast Agreement implemented without decommissioning. The business sector has been given seven places, as has the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). The voluntary community sector has been allocated 18 places. That will enable those residents’ groups fronted by Sinn Féin/IRA activists such as Gerard Rice, Breandan MacCionnaith and Donncha Mac Niallais to attain another public platform to oppose the Loyal Orders.
I reject this report, and I have to say that this is not the end of the process. It is clear that the all-Ireland institutions and bodies set up under this agreement are capable of further development.
I rise to support the report presented by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). I want to refer to some of the matters in the report before going on to a general issue.
Mr Dodds and Mr Boyd referred to the additional costs arising from the creation of the 10 Departments. Of course, they are correct. It is acknowledged that there will be additional costs, but what they failed to point out is that this is going to be addressed. Paragraph 2.6 of the report says that these additional costs
"should be offset by rationalising the remainder of public administration in Northern Ireland."
What that means is that if we get a devolved system of government in Northern Ireland, and if the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland begin to administer the Province, the quangos will have been given notice. Many of them will be abolished.
Area health boards will come under reconsideration, and I trust that savings can be made very quickly from area health councils, which are costing £0.75 million a year with no positive results whatsoever.
Paragraphs 3.4 and 3.5, which relate to the North/South Council, refer to a decision to have the inaugural meeting of that body in the city of Armagh. As a resident of that city, I commend that decision to the House. Armagh is a very attractive city. It has the misfortune, perhaps, to be misrepresented in Parliament at Westminster at the moment, but it is fairly represented in this House. It is a city of architectural interest and great heritage; it is the former seat of the kings of Ulster; it has the planetarium, the observatory, cathedrals, and museums. I commend that decision, and I am glad that the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) have supported it.
Paragraph 3.10 of the report deals with procedural arrangements. Mr Dodds — and maybe he is listening — again misrepresented the facts. He said that the North/South Council would not be accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly. If he looks at paragraph 3.10 he will see that it specifically refers to its accountability to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It makes reference to the strand-two section of the agreement. [Interruption]
As far as the North/South Council is concerned, let us not forget that all decisions there have to be agreed. There will always be a Unionist in the Northern Ireland delegation, so the Unionists will have a veto on all decisions made by the North/South Council. It is time the Democratic Unionist Party stopped running away from these facts. It has no confidence in its ability to speak up for Ulster. All it can do is say "No" and run away.
The British-Irish Council, as detailed in paragraph 4.1 of this report, will meet in London at much the same time as the inaugural meeting of the North/South Council. I am disappointed that we are not making more progress with the British-Irish Council. The two Governments must move more speedily to bring forward their reports on how they see the British-Irish Council functioning.
The venue for the secretariat of the British-Irish Council is something which is up for discussion. Douglas in the Isle of Man is canvassing to be the location. It is a neutral state — not part of the Republic of Ireland and not part of the United Kingdom. Glasgow also has a strong claim. It has an appeal to many people in this island, both North and South — not only those who support various football teams but also those who support various institutions. And in Glasgow there are people from both traditions who originally lived in the Province of Ulster. So it too has a strong claim.
And indeed we in the Ulster Unionist Party are trying to give further enthusiasm to the whole idea of the British-Irish Council. We believe that it is as important to the solution as is the North/South Council. [Interruption] Do not snigger at the idea of the totality of relationships on these islands being addressed.
On Thursday I will be taking a delegation to Edinburgh, where the Ulster Unionist Party will begin developing relations with politicians in Scotland — with the SNP, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and, of course, the Minister of the Scottish Office, Mr McLeish, who is responsible for devolution.
The Civic Forum has been a matter of concern to many Members, and quite rightly so. We do not want to see it becoming a rival institution to the elected Assembly for Northern Ireland.
There are several paragraphs upon which I would like to pass comment. Paragraph 5.8 states that there will be seven members representing the business community in Northern Ireland. I would like to think that the chambers of trade, which are not mentioned, will also be involved. With regard to tourism, I would like to think that the Ulster Tourist Development Association will have some input on who will represent the industry.
Paragraph 5.9 deals with agriculture and fisheries, which are allocated only three seats. I assume that two will go to agriculture and one to fisheries, which, of course, has a special interest for me in my constituency of Strangford. There are three major ports — Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel — and it would be unfortunate if we got someone from the fishing industry who spoke on behalf of only one of those ports. We need someone who can speak for all three ports so that the entire fishing industry is represented.
Paragraph 5.10 is concerned with trade unions. Of course, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is the representative body, but there are unions and professional bodies in Northern Ireland that are not members of that body. It is important that they also become involved in the Civic Forum and that they are not ignored just simply because they are not members of that Committee.
Paragraph 5.12 deals with churches. I am disappointed to hear that Mr Ford, speaking on behalf of the Alliance Party, is against the churches being represented. The churches have played a valuable role in the last 30 years in holding this community together at a time when more and more people could have become extreme. It may well be that the four main churches will take up four of these places, but I do stress the point made earlier that there are more than 100,000 people who belong to smaller evangelical churches in Northern Ireland. They too should have a voice on this body.
Paragraph 5.20 states that members will serve for three years and should retire on a staggered basis. I do not know what "staggered" means, but presumably it means that a third will go every year. Does that mean that one third will retire after one year, another third will just serve two years, and a lucky third will serve three years? We have to have that more fully explained to us.
I want now to refer to the Belfast Agreement. It is important that it is implemented in its entirety, and that involves the Republic of Ireland as well. The agreement, on page 18, requires the Republic of Ireland to do certain things. It failed to submit its proposals for the North/South Council until 30 October, even though the 31st was the deadline — that did not give us much time to consider them.
I want to see Dublin implementing what the agreement requires: establishing a Human Rights Commission; proceeding with arrangements, as quickly as possible, to ratify the Council of Europe Conventions; implementing enhanced employment-equality legislation; introducing equal-status legislation and continuing to take further steps to demonstrate its respect for the different traditions on the island of Ireland. There has been very little movement in Dublin on those requirements in the agreement, and it is time to start pointing the finger at Dublin.
On page 20 of the agreement — decommissioning has a chapter to itself — there is a cross-reference in the first paragraph to paragraph 25 in Strand 1, where it says that people who are not totally committed to peaceful and democratic means can be not just thrown out of the Executive but actually excluded from it. And the important word is "excluded". That is where the Ulster Unionists stand. Sinn Féin/IRA is one and the same. Unionists throughout Northern Ireland see Sinn Féin as being the IRA. Even the Irish Prime Minister says that they are inextricably linked. Because of that there is a requirement for decommissioning, and we will not serve on any Executive until there is decommissioning by the terrorists.
I want to concentrate on the report which is what we are meant to be debating. In speaking in favour of it and against the amendments I want to deal with some of the criticisms that have been expressed so far about the proposals set out.
In relation to the Departments, an allegation has been made about unnatural divisions. People have been highlighting different units or different policy sectors that are being distributed among different Departments and saying that they are unnatural. When we were putting these proposals together we were not just talking about creating Departments on the old model of the Ministries that we have had for the past generation. We were creating Departments which will not just come under their Ministers but will relate directly to the departmental Committees of the Assembly.
Many parties were adamant in the talks that they wanted these Committees to have a real, active and meaningful life and a very real input. These Committees will have a legislative role as well as the Select Committee scrutiny role and a policy-development role. They will be different in style from committees that exist in other places.
That being the case, we must be realistic about the burden of work and the range of issues that can usefully be given to individual Departments and, in turn, be meaningfully dealt with or processed through the departmental Committees. People talk of unnatural divisions with regard to education. One can see the range of education issues when one looks at the comprehensive spending review, and various issues need to be addressed: the provision of pre-school education; what needs to take place in primary school; and the funding and structure of secondary education.
These are huge issues that have already been identified and reflected on by several Members in relation to special needs, and there are huge issues of reform, challenge and change to be undertaken there alone. If we are to deal with those matters in a meaningful way, it makes sense to have a Department and a Committee dedicated to taking them forward along with youth services.
Another question was raised in relation to children. When the SDLP advocated a Department of Education it consistently made the point that such a Department should be more child-focused. This clearly became the lead Department on child strategy, and in some of our proposals we had actually styled it as the Department of Education and Child Strategy. Some people are criticising this report and saying that there is no department for children, yet they opposed us on that in the working groups that looked into the matter of education and training. The party that is criticising the report for having no provision for a children’s Department put no proposal to my party or, I believe, to anyone at any other level in any of the round-table discussions for such a Department. I will return to that matter.
I turn to the proposed new Department for higher and further education, training and employment in terms of the agenda for life-long learning and the serious undertakings that need to be made in relation to the university for industry. The matters that need to be resolved relating to training and further education have already been the subject of a review. There are huge issues, and programmes in that area will grow. It is important to take those issues along with the other issues of adult opportunity for employment, employment regulations and so on, and put them together in one Department, which will have a human resources role.
In the economic area, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment will concentrate on business support and enterprise development. A department, essentially for human resources, will take in all the issues relating to employment and applied learning right through the different sectors of tertiary education and training. Also in the economic area, the key strategic Department of Regional Development will look after infrastructure and strategic planning.
In terms of the distribution of departmental responsibilities and, in particular, of the setting up of suitable departmental committees that can attract and involve the interests of different Members, these structures make sense. Many of the Members who are criticising and questioning these Departments will prove to be very good Ministers in some of them and will serve effectively with everybody else on effective committees.
It would be bizarre to do what the critics seem to be saying we should do, which is take the hand-me-down Departments as they are. That would be to go through the process of serving notice about what we intend to do with devolved powers and the changes that the Assembly proposes to make yet not making those changes.
I shall deal with the allocation of costs. First, the figure of £90 million was plucked out of the air for the convenience some time ago of a UUP press release. No one has costed that, and I do not accept that figure. Secondly, as the First and Deputy First Ministers (Designate) point out in their report, the understanding that was shared in the round-table discussion, which some people opted out of, was that over the life of the first Assembly, we would recover from elsewhere the additional costs that can be identified for the new arrangements. The Assembly costs money too, so it is not just the new Departments. We do not hear many people expressing worries about the cost of the Assembly.
As I understand it in relation to the new Departments, it has been decided not to set up separate, independent central service units within each Department. However, where central services are currently provided for a range of functions and services, they should stay together. For example, the central services function in the Department of the Environment will continue there, and will serve the IT and other central services needs of other Departments, such as regional and social development. This will again minimise the cost.
In putting together these proposals, people were conscious of the need to try to constrain the potential cost factors for the new Departments. That should be remembered and acknowledged. We will probably find in the operation of some of the Departments that some of those who have criticised us for putting in constraints and locating central services in a way that will enable them to be reviewed and more properly costed by the various Departments and committees will probably want to remove the constraints in the future.
An allegation has been made against the Social Democratic and Labour Party in relation to the equality issue. People say equality is buried at the centre. The Community Relations Council does not regard the fact that community relations is at its centre as an act of burial. It clearly sees that as an element of promotion and an underlining of the centrality with which community relations is viewed. The same should apply to equality. It should be remembered as well that the argument about whether —
I have already given way once. I did not intervene during the Member’s speech even though I was tempted to a couple of times.
It should be remembered that the big issue with equality is not about whether it should be at the centre of an independent Department. People should not forget the role and the very important statutory scope given to the Equality Commission, and it is the Equality Commission that is going to be at the cutting edge. If the Equality Commission is going to work, it has to know that when it relates directly to the Government and, in particular, to its parent Department, it is going to be taken seriously and have some effect.
I do not believe that people in the Equality Commission would have confidence in a free-standing Department of Equality, which would be bumping into it. A Department for equality would be the parent Department of the Equality Commission. That would be just about it, and that would be the only thing that it would be the parent Department of.
We do not want to have people playing ducks and drakes, recognising the Equality Commission but not the equality Department. The Equality Commission derives its statutory basis from the Northern Ireland Act. We want it to work and enjoy proper funding and due priority. We do not want it to be compared unfavourably with the Human Rights Commission, and that was a genuine concern, but we have taken care of it.
I return to the issue that was raised by Sinn Féin about children. No proposal about a children’s Department came from Sinn Féin to the SDLP. It opposed our proposals and further opposed our education ideas. It wanted a Department for training —
We have been listening to the debate for the past two days, and some interesting remarks have been made to us. We have been told that the winning post is in sight; that this is a staging post; and that the blueprint is about to be signed up to. Famous words of Shakespeare come to mind:
"To be, or not to be: that is the question".
I would like to turn that around a little:
"To ‘D’, or not to ‘D’: that is the question".
I would like to expound on that a little further for Mr Mallon’s help and consideration. First of all, the ‘D’ would stand for decadence or self-indulgence. The report that is before us leads me to that consideration. Under the agreement the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have concocted 10 Departments rather than the seven which would be quite sufficient for good government in Northern Ireland. "Decadence" is the word to cover that.
Yesterday’s ‘Guardian’ contained a photograph which I thought was pertinent to the situation. This photograph — and I shall let my Friends see it as well — reminds me of the words of Ken Maginnis, that famous member of the Ulster Unionist Party, who in speaking about the 10 Departments referred to "pigs with their snouts in the trough". I know that his purpose was different, but I thought that he was making reference to the 10 Departments which Mr Nicholson, another member of the Ulster Unionist Party, who, I must confess, is not a mathematics genius —
Mr Nicholson, who is not a genius in mathematics, has referred to the 10 Departments as a waste of about £90 million or as "jobs for the boys". And that is the truth of the situation. There is no justification for 10 Departments other than to give certain "jobs to the boys". I am sure Brigid would like a post so it is "jobs for the girls" as well.
I turn now to the Civic Forum and think of those Members who are from rural constituencies. In view of the plight of Ulster farmers, how can they agree to only three farming representatives on the Civic Forum? There are to be 18 representatives for voluntary organisations, some of which are in the most active and politically ambitious sector in society. Many who have failed to get elected are trying to get in some other way. As the Bible says "he that climbeth up some other way" is a thief and a robber.
Ulster Unionist Members, many of whom come from farming constituencies and are aware of the plight that farmers are facing, say that they need only three representatives. [Interruption] The Member should sit down. He gave an exhibition yesterday when he talked a load of drivel. It ill becomes him to try to intervene in the middle of my speech. Even on ‘Good Morning Ulster’ this morning, the CBI and the unions called into question the balance of the Forum with its 18 representatives for voluntary organisations and three for farming.
What about the victims who have suffered during 30 years of terror? Mr Hume’s famous saying is that we should forget the past and draw a line in the sand. As one Member rightly said, of course he wants to forget the past and draw a line in the sand, but do not forget "bloody Sunday" so-called in Londonderry. At all costs we must not forget that, but we are told to forget the victims of 30 years of violence and the two representatives of those who have suffered.
I found an interesting article in ‘the Irish News’ this morning. I am led to believe that it was not in the ‘News Letter’, though I could not understand why. In the article the families acting for innocent relatives stated that they were "completely dejected". Their spokesman said
"the Ulster Unionist Party, which purported to understanding our suffering, are allowing Sinn Féin/IRA and other terrorists into government. This is a very hard pill to swallow. We can’t understand how these people can do this given the overwhelming support of people against it."
They said that if this is accepted today, it will cause the victims more pain and grief. It is a case of "jobs for the boys". Get your snout in the trough and everybody will be happy, especially those who get the jobs.
Secondly, D stands for deception. Many Ulster Unionists know in their heart that the whole process was built upon deception. During the referendum we had the famous act from the actor himself, Prime Minister Tony Blair, who went to the big board and put his signature to the promises. Prisoner releases go on while the terror campaign of beatings and intimidation continues. Not one weapon has been handed over, but today Unionists are asked to vote in favour of a process which continues to permit the release of terrorists on to the street and jets those who represent them into high office.
It seems that election pledges are empty rhetoric trotted out during the election campaign to deceive the electorate and not for acting upon. Members may mock and scoff at the DUP. The Member for West Belfast said that we were the abominable "No" men. I am proud to be able to say here that I honoured the election manifesto and promises that I made to the people.
I am proud that my hon Friends can go back to that electorate and say that they stood up for what they pledged themselves to do. Can other Unionists in the Chamber say, with their hands on their hearts before God and man, that they have honoured the election manifesto pledges that they made to the people? Can they say that they honoured their election pledge when terrorists walk the streets and the enemies of Ulster are to get into government? The agreement is built upon the sinking sand of deception, and will finally and inevitably crumble into the pit of corruption from which it has emanated.
Another ‘D’ word is decommissioning. It is a famous word and a fancy term because, in my book, we are talking about the surrender of weapons. We live in an age when people are touchy about terminology. I had to laugh yesterday when the so-called Member of the Army Council, Chief Martin McGuinness, seemed to be rather nervous and touchy about the term IRA/Sinn Fein. I was reading a book today about Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and I did not find that same touchiness or reserve about terrorism. I saw no desire to disown the boys behind the wire, or even the boys behind the machine-guns.
Let us make no mistake about it, when we talk about IRA decommissioning we are not talking about a gimmick or a token. We are talking about the surrender of the weaponry of war that has reaped a bloody harvest of innocent victims for the Provos. I heard rich statements from Sinn Féin today about a Ministry for children. What about the woman who gave birth to her child in Magherafelt’s Mid-Ulster Hospital? What about her husband who drove from Upperlands to visit his wife in that hospital when she gave birth to her child? He walked out of that hospital and was shot dead in the car park. A Ministry for children!
What about the Fergusons? In that case the father of the home was shot down in front of the children and a child tried to stop the blood coming out of the body with a finger. Sheer hypocrisy. No party has contributed more to the robbing of children of their fathers and wives of their husbands than IRA/Sinn Féin. [Interruption] I was always told that when a stone is thrown among a pack of dogs, the one that yaps the most is the one that is hurt the most. IRA/Sinn Féin does not deserve to sit in a democratic chamber.
Some people say that there can be no winners, but there must be winners, and they are those that have withstood 30 years of terror and violence, those who have withstood the campaign of terror. They must be the winners. Let us get back to democracy.
Mark Durkan totally misrepresented our party’s position. We made very considered and legitimate objections to the proposal to fragment the education Department. It is a matter of record that we put forward sensible alternatives. At the same time, we presented our proposals for a Department of equality. I want to correct the record. We never asked for a children’s Department, and for Mark Durkan to make such an issue of that is to quite flagrantly and deliberately muddy the waters. We sought and put in a written proposition for a junior Ministry to deal with the children’s portfolio. That is on record.
No. You had your say.
Our position is quite clearly as I have stated it, and it is a matter of record. There is no point in Members attempting to misrepresent the positions of other parties. We can criticise, but let us do it on the record and in a factual manner.
The economic policy unit, the equality unit, women’s issues and EU issues are all allocated within a very powerful office — the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). The SDLP and the Unionists must be very wary and careful, and they should listen to the concerns of the other parties and their suspicions, which I agree with. We need to know if there are any secret trade-offs on junior Ministries or if there is a linkage with the speculation about the Presiding Officer’s job. Location at the centre does not and must not detract from the potential inherent in democratic structures.
I heard what Patricia Lewsley and Mark Durkan had to say, but the report gives no indication that there is to be a scrutiny committee on equality. I wonder why not. Sean Farren flagged this up on January 18, and there has been no progress on it since. We have two men in charge of the important matter of women’s issues. It would be useful if they were to give us their thoughts on how they —
No, I will not give way. It would be useful if they were to give us their thoughts on how they are going to address that matter.
It is critical that the provisions are spelt out — and I regret that they have not been spelt out in this report — that will enable the parties to have an input into and to scrutinise the office of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate). They must not be an unaccountable kitchen cabinet. Members should say no to back-door arrangements; to crude power plays; and to new forms of majority rule.
We have heard many contributions from the range of Unionist parties in the Chamber, some very considered, some very intemperate. Since the late 1960s the rising expectations of the Nationalist community have forced the British State into renegotiating its relationship with Nationalism and Unionism. This has brought into sharp focus the role of the British State in Ireland which, in turn — and Sinn Féin recognises this — has had the effect of destabilising large sections of the Unionist community.
This restructuring of the power relationship between Unionism, Nationalism and the British State revolves around a dynamic which seeks to create a political equilibrium between the Nationalist and Unionist communities. But this process is by its very nature unstable, because it has not yet reached that required political equilibrium. We have made a good beginning. The peace process and its product, the Good Friday Agreement, mark a solid beginning of which we all can be proud.
Beginning in the 1980s an analysis of the political mechanisms needed to resolve the conflict has been the basis for a narrow strategic consensus between the SDLP and Sinn Féin. As is obvious from the debates in this Chamber, there are many issues that divide us. But other issues have also formed the basis of this consensus, which was the first building block of the Irish peace process. The appeal of the Hume-Adams initiative was sufficient to bring other major political forces into the frame. Since the cessations of 1994 it has become clear that many within political Unionism cannot handle the absence of conflict or the negotiation process itself.
Today Unionism fights a rearguard action as a way of slowing down its loss of power. Its political stance on decommissioning, the release of prisoners and the segregation even of victims, allied to attacks on Catholics, all represent a strategy to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and to minimise Nationalist political advances.
But Unionism cannot turn back the clock. It can delay the process of change, but it cannot stop the momentum pushing all of us towards a new political dispensation.
These delaying tactics are symptomatic of Unionism’s inability to negotiate change. At their core, many Unionists are deeply uncertain about their future. The past is the only reference point around which they measure present political realities, and, unable to shape the change, they retreat into a form of political and moral limbo, while insisting that "Norn Ireland was a great wee place" and that political crisis and instability only began with the formation of the Civil Rights Movement.
They remain blind to their role during the long Stormont years and their part in creating the conflict. They refuse to recognise their role, and therefore they display no sense of responsibility for finding a resolution to the conflict. And this form of political denial, to quote the First Minister (Designate) is "the anchor thought process that forms the basis of the Unionist rearguard strategy."
Where Unionist intransigence meets Nationalists’ expectations, Nationalists have had to drag Unionists into the process for change. For many Unionists this creates the perception of a continuous political humiliation, and their only response is to retreat further into the comfort of their own limbo. Unable to shape the future, they paralyse themselves inside a loop of constant political humiliation and defeat.
I acknowledge readily that Unionism is no longer monolithic and that there are Unionists who embrace change. But today Unionism is a volatile entity: on the surface its delaying tactics may appear to be working, yet there is no sense of a confident or victorious Unionism emerging. Indeed, closer inspection of Unionist opinions reveals highly volatile undercurrents.
The hopeless rant from the anti-agreement lobby; the attitude of the Orange Order in Portadown; the developing mixture of evangelical Protestantism and Loyalism, with the formation of new Loyalist groupings, gives us some indication of the working-out of such undercurrents.
Unionism is now giving the clear impression of being on the retreat. It is in a state of internal turmoil. Its constituency is split between those who support the Good Friday Agreement and those who are opposed to it. There are substantial numbers of Unionists without a political voice in this Assembly who accept the inevitability and the necessity of change. But, instead, we hear from those who seek to minimise the extent of that change.
The peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and today’s report have all been necessary because the Unionist relationship with the British Government and the British state has been fractured. It now competes with a strong Nationalist community for the political and economic leadership of the Six Counties, and it is mesmerised by the prospect of changing demographics. The ability of its social organisations, such as the Orange Order, to intimidate Nationalists has been diminished and is being constantly challenged. Its armed wing, the RUC, is a major issue of contention in the wider community and will have to be replaced. The links with its church base and business community continue to be weakened, and it exists on an island where the thrust of the economics is that there should be an island infrastructure. Members should remember that politics and economics are two sides of the one coin, and they tend to follow one another.
Last but not least, Unionism has signed up to a political agreement, and, by doing so, it has conceded equality of political power with Northern Nationalists which strengthens — [Interruption].
No thank you, I am running out of time.
That strengthens the role of Dublin in the Northern political state. What can we do about this situation? Sinn Féin — I want to be heard when I say this — [Interruption]
A Chathaoirligh. Sinn Féin is completely and unequivocally committed to contributing in an entirely peaceful and democratic process of discourse with all shades of political opinion towards building the essential and necessary levels of trust referred to by Seamus Mallon yesterday.
We state clearly — and Nationalists have stated clearly — that we see no advantage whatsoever in consigning the Unionist community to the dismal space from which our community is seeking to escape. We seek equality between our communities and within our community. We seek the new political dispensation that was promised in the Good Friday Agreement, and that involves partnership between Unionism, Nationalism and Republicanism.
May I raise as a point of order the fact that Mr Edwin Poots’s remarks were very serious and very dangerous? He has, by his comments, clearly endangered many community workers who could now face the same fate that was suffered by Terry Enright and other community workers. The Initial Presiding Officer should address these irresponsible remarks.
I recall that I cautioned Mr Poots about one particular section of his remarks. I will be scrutinising these remarks more closely. Mr Poots’s remarks were fairly expansive, and I am not sure that what I was referring to is precisely what the Member is referring to. Mr McLaughlin may wish to acquaint me afterwards with the precise area of Mr Poots’s speech to which he refers, and I will take a look at it.
I note that three minutes have gone on that point of order. I make that point because of the remarks made by Dr Paisley earlier. He stated that "in no other Assembly would the party leaders be given only 10 minutes to speak on a motion of this kind". I agree with him. I also agree that seven and a half minutes each for summing up is not adequate, but then I know the extent of this, for at the last meeting of the Assembly a guillotine motion was imposed on me by the very same party that is now making this point. [Interruption]. I accept it in the spirit that it was given.
I have time to make just four points. First, in relation to the Civic Forum, it is very difficult — those of us who were in the round- table discussions know this — to get the right type of approach and, indeed, to get consensus. But there was a consensus that the Civic Forum was something worth doing, that it was worthwhile.
I want to mention three things that were said about it — and they are on record — which, I think, reflect attitudes which are, to put it mildly, unbecoming.
"If we are to put up with this necessary nonsense" said Mr Peter Weir — the "necessary nonsense", of course, being the Civic Forum —
"the proposals are quite reasonable, though not ideal."
Then Mr Paisley Jnr treated us to this:
"The Forum will be a waste of space and a waste of resources. The voluntary/community sector — that sector of failed or aspiring politicians".
That is about groups of people who have given their time, their efforts and their lives to care for people in the community who would not otherwise have been cared for. I leave it to other Members to make a judgement about that.
The third comment came from Mrs Mary Nelis. She described it as a sort of Mallon and Trimble fan club. My mind boggles at that; I can imagine the type of body that might be. [Interruption]
That ignores the fact that during discussions we were at pains to make sure that we would not have to make a choice from the nominations that would be put forward by the various groupings. Each of us said that we did not want to do that. We ended up with six, and those six will probably be necessary to redress imbalances. To call that a fan club or describe it as something in which we would have a personal interest is, I think, offensive to the notion of a Civic Forum. It is also offensive to me.
I refer to paragraph 5.19 of the report:
"All nominations to the Civic Forum should adhere to the principles of public appointments being based on equality of opportunity, merit, openness and transparency of process."
That is what is on paper, and that is what we will turn into a reality. There can be no set of circumstances when procedures will not reflect those principles.
Other Members were critical of the numbers, and I can accept that. Some would like more representation for agriculture, others more for education or trade unions. But having heard it said that there should be a reduction in the number representing the voluntary organisations, I have to ask which group of people that those organisations are representing should be dropped? Older people, youth, people with disabilities, women’s groups, ethnic groups, carers, families and children? Not one person who made that criticism gave any indication as to what grouping should be dropped. To drop any of them would be to drop the interests of sections of the community who need to have their views represented.
There has also been criticism about the number of representatives for victims. I wish to make the point that every single person in the Civic Forum, like every single person in the Assembly, has had the experiences of the last 30 years and will be able to represent that trauma within the Forum. Is it not fair to say that one of the first things the Civic Forum might do, and one of the things that the Assembly might ask it to do, is consider the whole question of victims and their position? Carmel Hanna, in her very fine speech, said
"The Civic Forum can broaden and deepen the political and public process by bringing a rich diversity of viewpoints to discussions about matters of public policy."
That is what it should and must do.
The question of equality was raised and has been dealt with. Equality does not belong to any one party in the Assembly. It does not belong to any one section of the community represented here. It belongs to the entire Assembly and to the entire political process. That is one of the reasons it makes more sense to have it in the centre. In that way the views of the two communities can be brought to bear on its application, rather than just one, which would be the case if it were working as an isolated unit among the other Departments. There would not be the same opportunity for the cross-fertilisation between Departments which is required.
"Jobs for the boys" is a terrible phrase. "Snouts in the trough" is even worse. But I make no apology on behalf of those whom I represent for trying to ensure maximum representation in the Executive. "Jobs for the boys" would have been very easy in the circumstances in which we found ourselves. It would have been very easy to try to cut our losses and work with the existing structures for the first five years. Then you might have been justified in saying "Jobs for the boys". But where are these "boys"? Some of them are on the Benches opposite. Surely that represents inclusivity, and we should not be quibbling about that.
My next point relates to the £90 million cost. I asked for expert advice from the Civil Service on this, and I was told that a ballpark figure for each new Department would be around £2 million plus set-up costs. That means £8 million for four Government Departments. I was given those figures today. According to Civil Service figures, the Assembly costs £14 million a year. The real benefit of the additional Departments, irrespective of cost or numbers, will be that areas of work formerly subsumed into existing Departments will be able to be dealt with separately. Is that not a worthwhile achievement? Is that not something that the Assembly should be calling for rather than quibbling about?
My final point relates to all the statements I have heard about the weakening of the Union and how this day could be an end to the Union. I leave Members with one last thought about that — and I am no great fan of the Union, as Members may know. The very essence of this agreement is that, for the first time since partition, the representatives of Unionism and Nationalism have agreed on how they will settle constitutional, political, social and economic issues — the first time in 80 years. If we jeopardise that, it will be difficult to see when such a consensus would ever be reached again.
May I just pick up some of the points made by my Colleague towards the conclusion of his remarks. There are costs involved in setting up additional Departments, although some of the figures suggested have been exaggerated. I draw attention to paragraph 2.6 of this report, in which we say
"We share the firm view expressed during our consultations with Parties that the additional costs should be offset by rationalising the remainder of public administration in Northern Ireland."
We shall endeavour to ensure that those additional costs are recovered.
Also, it is important that we focus our minds on the positive aspects. We have heard a lot about the negative aspects, the problems and the difficulties. Let us recall some of the positive aspects of what we are doing. Let us recall that all shades of elected opinion in Northern Ireland are gathered here in this Assembly for the first time ever. That never happened until this institution came into existence. That is the first time that we have had all shades of opinion present in a Northern Ireland body. While there have been disagreements, which may have been expressed sharply, we have seen debate conducted in a civilised manner — and that is what representative institutions of this nature are for.
We are now nearing the end of the transition period after a lot of hard work. This is a staging post towards that, with a crucial point to come in March. I recall that at the first session of this body on 1 July Mr McCrea made the point that there were people present in the Assembly who, in the past, had done terrible things. But they were not all in one corner of the room, and I think that we should acknowledge that.
I said on 1 July that we had never said that those with a past could not have a future. It is because of that future that Members are here, and it is that future that we are constructing. However, when we say that those with a past can have a future, that implies change, not just in terms of this institution’s bringing together all shades of opinion, but on the parts of those who have had a past of a particular character. It is that change that we want to see. We want to see people progressing. The whole point behind this agreement and this process is to give people who have been involved in paramilitary activity and violence the opportunity to leave that behind and come into the political process.
It specifically gives to those who have talked about the joint strategy of the Armalite and the ballot-paper the opportunity to leave the Armalite behind, with Gen de Chastelain, and rely purely on the ballot-paper. That is how we want to see things progressing, and it is because we want to see things progressing that we have carried this process so far and look forward to the remaining stages that we shall all have to go through. We want to see the process develop and power transferred to this institution.
I look forward, as I am sure all Assembly Members do, to the point where decision making on Northern Ireland issues comes to this Chamber, when Members will play a part through the Executive and all the Committees. But let there be no doubt that the transfer of power to this Chamber must be on a basis which maintains integrity. As the Deputy First Minister said in the House of Commons, this agreement must be implemented in its entirety and in its integrity. That integrity must be maintained.
I hope to see serious progress on the decommissioning issue by 10 March with a credible beginning to that process. I also want to see progress in other ways. I recognise that there has been some progress in the last fortnight, that there appears to have been an end to paramilitary beatings and shootings by Republicans. I hope that that is not just a temporary response to our call, but something more substantial. I recognise that there appears to have been some reduction in UVF beatings and shootings — I hope that that becomes total and that it follows the example set by the Republicans. I welcome the call by John White to the UDA to do likewise. I want to see all organisations of that nature ending those attacks, just as I want to see decommissioning in order to bring power to this body.
Members will recall that I asked for, and gained, the leave of the House to have one debate to deal with item 4 on the Order Paper, the amendment to item 4, item 5 and the amendment to item 5. We will now take the four votes in serial fashion. We come therefore to the amendment to item 4 — the amendment standing in the name of the Rev Dr Ian Paisley. I remind the Assembly that if amendment 1 is carried, it will supersede the substantive motion, and no further vote will be necessary. The vote on this, and the next two votes, will require a simple majority, but the final vote will require cross-community support.
The amendment to the first motion: moved or not moved?
Fraser Agnew, 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, Rev William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Mrs Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
Dr Ian Adamson, Ms Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Mrs Eileen Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Mrs Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Fred Cobain, Rev Robert Coulter, John Dallat, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Ms Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sir Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, Ms Michelle Gildernew, Sir John Gorman, Ms Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Dr Joe Hendron, John Hume, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Mrs Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Donovan McClelland, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Ms Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Ms Jane Morrice, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Sean Neeson, Mrs Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O’Connor, Ms Dara O’Hagan, Eamon ONeill, Mrs Sue Ramsey, Ken Robinson, Ms Brid Rodgers, George Savage, Rt Hon John Taylor, John Tierney, Rt Hon David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.
Question accordingly negatived.
Main Question put.
The Assembly divided: Ayes 78; Noes 28.
Dr Ian Adamson, Ms Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Mrs Eileen Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Mrs Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Fred Cobain, Rev Robert Coulter, John Dallat, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Ms Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sir Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, Ms Michelle Gildernew, Sir John Gorman, Ms Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Dr Joe Hendron, John Hume, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Mrs Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Donovan McClelland, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Ms Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Ms Jane Morrice, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, , Sean Neeson, Mrs Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O’Connor, Ms Dara O’Hagan, Eamon ONeill, Mrs Sue Ramsey, Ken Robinson, Ms Brid Rodgers, George Savage, Rt Hon John Taylor, John Tierney, Rt Hon David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.
Fraser Agnew, 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, Rev William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Mrs Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
Main Question accordingly agreed to.
This Assembly takes note of the report prepared by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), and approves the proposals in relation to establishing the consultative Civic Forum (as recorded in Section 5 of that report).
Had the Member been a little more patient he would have found me coming precisely to that matter. As he says, the business motion requires cross-community support as defined in the Standing Order. But I remind the Assembly that if the amendment is carried, it will supersede the substantive motion, and no further vote will be necessary. Also, since the amendment is not a determination — on the contrary, it is to negative the determination — according to Standing Orders it requires only a simple majority.
This Assembly approves the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each office after the appointed day (as recorded in Annex 2 of the report to the Assembly). — [The First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate)]
"declines to approve the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each such office after the appointed day (as recorded in Annex 2 of their report to the Assembly) before Sinn Féin Members are excluded from holding office as Ministers or the IRA has decommissioned its illegal weaponry and dismantled its terror machine." — [ Mr P Robinson]
Fraser Agnew, 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, Rev William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Mrs Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
Dr Ian Adamson, Ms Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Mrs Eileen Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Mrs Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Fred Cobain, Rev Robert Coulter, John Dallat, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Ms Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sir Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, Ms Michelle Gildernew, Sir John Gorman, Ms Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Dr Joe Hendron, John Hume, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Mrs Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Donovan McClelland, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Ms Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Ms Jane Morrice, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Sean Neeson, Mrs Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O’Connor, Ms Dara O’Hagan, Eamon ONeill, Mrs Sue Ramsey, Ken Robinson, Ms Brid Rodgers, George Savage, Rt Hon John Taylor, John Tierney, Rt Hon David Trimble, Jim Wilson.
Question accordingly negatived.
We come now to the vote on the business motion for the determination. I ask the House to recall the correction to Annex 2, to which the motion refers. The correction, which was brought to Members’ attention by the First Minister (Designate), is that "Enterprise, Trade and Development" in respect of a Minister and Department should read "Enterprise, Trade and Investment".
Main Question put.
Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Ms Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Ms Michelle Gildernew, Ms Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Dr Joe Hendron, John Hume, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Mrs Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Donovan McClelland, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Mrs Mary Nelis, Danny O’Connor, Ms Dara O’Hagan, Eamon ONeill, Mrs Sue Ramsey, Ms Brid Rodgers, John Tierney.
Dr Ian Adamson, Ms Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Mrs Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Rev Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Sir Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sam Foster, Sir John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, Rt Hon John Taylor, Rt Hon David Trimble, Jim Wilson.
Mrs Eileen Bell, Seamus Close, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Ms Monica McWilliams, Ms Jane Morrice, Sean Neeson.
Fraser Agnew, 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, Rev William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Mrs Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
The percentages are as follows:
For the motion: Nationalists 100%; Unionists 50%; overall 72.64%. Therefore under Initial Standing Order 12(4)(b) — the 40:40:60 rule — the motion is agreed.
Main Question accordingly agreed to.
This Assembly approves the determination by the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) of the number of Ministerial offices to be held by Northern Ireland Ministers and the functions which would be exercisable by the holder of each such office after the appointed day (as recorded in Annex 2 of their report to the Assembly).
Under the revised arrangements for the handling of Adjournment debates, it is my responsibility to select a subject for debate from the topics submitted by Members. I have selected "Problems with the Domestic Supply of Water and Electricity". I stress that Members who have been selected to speak in the debate must address only the selected topic.
That the Assembly do now adjourn. —