Election of First Minister and Deputy First Minister

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:30 am on 2nd November 2001.

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Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker 11:30 am, 2nd November 2001

Before we commence, I wish to explain how I propose to conduct proceedings. As Members will know, there is no procedure set down in Standing Orders, although a procedure was set down in the Initial Standing Orders. I discussed the matter through the usual channels, and it was agreed that we would follow that same procedure.

I will begin by asking for nominations. Members are reminded that under section 16(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, for a proposal to be valid, it must include nominations for both First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I will then ask for the proposal to be seconded, as required by Standing Order 14. Each nominee will then be asked if he or she is prepared to accept the nomination. I will then proceed to seek further nominations. If further proposals are made, the process will be repeated until there are no further nominations. At that point the House may, if it chooses, debate the proposals. I propose to conduct one debate on any and all proposals that are made, and no Member will be permitted to speak more than once, as the Initial Standing Orders provide.

I shall then put the question that the first pair of nominees be the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Assembly. Under section 16(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the vote will require the support of a majority of the Members voting in the election, a majority of the designated Nationalists voting and a majority of the designated Unionists voting.

Should the proposal be carried, I will ask those Members chosen to be First Minister and Deputy First Minister to affirm to the Assembly the Pledge of Office. As mentioned earlier, the Pledge of Office will be placed on the Table, and I will ask those voted through to come forward. If the motion is carried and both Members affirm the Pledge of Office, I will deem the other proposals to have fallen, irrespective of whether they have been put to the Assembly for decision. If the proposal is not carried, I shall put the question in relation to the next pair of nominees and so on as necessary until all nominations are exhausted.

The following times for the debate will apply. The debate will last no longer than one hour. Each proposer and seconder will be permitted to speak for up to seven minutes and other Members will have a maximum of five minutes.

Do we have any proposals?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

I propose that the Rt Hon David Trimble, MP, MLA be First Minister and that Mr Mark Durkan, MLA be Deputy First Minister of the Assembly.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Mr Trimble, do you accept the nomination for First Minister?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Mr Durkan, do you accept the nomination for Deputy First Minister?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Are there any further proposals?

As there are no further proposals, the time for proposals has passed. Several Members have indicated that they wish to speak, and I remind them that they may speak only once in the debate.

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

Normally, we would have expected this debate to be of a more technical nature. However, the Assembly has become a crucible for the political frustrations of many Members, representing their communities’ frustration at the inability to advance the process at the speed that we would have liked.

Since the beginning of the process, those of us on these Benches have sought the full implementation of all parts of the agreement. That was what we were promised after the agreement was made in 1998. The then Secretary of State, Marjorie Mowlam, indicated that all parts of the agreement should proceed in parallel. Hitherto, that has not been the case. However, as a result of activity on the part of the Republican movement last week, this is the first time since April 1998 that all parts of the agreement have been implemented. It is important to state clearly on the record that this is the first time that all aspects of the agreement have proceeded according to plan.

With the stability that we believe should be afforded to the Assembly and to the political process, we want to proceed towards the elections due in May 2003. In the next 18 months we want the opportunity to show that the Assembly can deliver for the people that it represents. We believe that stability can be spread out into the community, and we want it to be given the opportunity to flourish.

Instability damages Northern Ireland; it damages our economy. After the events in the United States in September, the economy of Northern Ireland needs the stability, direction and leadership that can be provided in the Chamber. I do not believe that our economy and businesses and the jobs of the people that we represent will be better served by a direct rule Minister — no matter how well intentioned that person might be. It requires local knowledge, local effort and attention, and, in the relatively short time that the Administration has existed, we have proved that we are capable of delivering those things.

I return to the frustrations that are felt by some Members and by a large section of the Unionist community. Last week, we had good news from the de Chastelain commission. However, the contrast between the way in which that news was imparted and the way in which other parts of the arrangements that were entered into last week were revealed caused much anger.

For example, the de Chastelain commission, for reasons that I understand, decided — in the interests of securing the implementation of its mandate — that it was best to confirm that the process of decommissioning had commenced without giving the details that we all crave. That was its judgement. On the other hand, a film set was created in south Armagh. One almost expected Francis Ford Coppola or Steven Spielberg to appear behind the towers shouting "Action" when members of the press were flown into the area to witness the angle-grinding scene. The purpose of that exercise was to reinforce the confidence of a particular part of the community. However, the emphasis on that, against the relative obscurity of the decommissioning process, created a tension — [Interruption].

A Member:

Total obscurity.

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

It was not total. That tension caused frustrations. However, my party and I believe that decommissioning has commenced. That is to be welcomed. It is a breakthrough and something that many Members, not far from where I am standing, never believed would be possible. We want to proceed now and get it completed, and we also want to get other people to start doing what they should have done three and a half years ago.

We should not allow our scepticism to plunge our Province into another political crisis that will have a significant impact. I do not believe that events on the streets are totally unrelated to events in the Assembly. We are supposed to be setting an example. From time to time, that has clearly not been happening.

After three and a half years of very hard work, we have achieved the set objectives of devolution and the commencement of decommissioning. We must bear in mind what our fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom will think if, after reaching those objectives, we suddenly decide to plunge ourselves into a crisis. It does not profit any Unionist to make Northern Ireland appear ungovernable — that only benefits Republicanism, and it has been clear for some time that Republicans have already anticipated that opportunity.

However frustrated one may be about the lack of progress hitherto or the fact that the process is not as open as one would like it to be, that is not sufficient justification for creating a crisis and plunging us into a further period of uncertainty and instability. It is my contention that this motion should be allowed to proceed. The election of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister would provide stability and be the centre of our Administration. It would give the Assembly the opportunity to fulfil its mandate. We will then all answer to the people for the work that we have done. At this stage — at the very point where we are making a breakthrough — it would be very foolhardy to shy away from that. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

It is my very real pleasure to second the nomination of David Trimble as First Minister and Mark Durkan as Deputy First Minister. They each have personal strengths that will serve them well in the joint office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

I particularly welcome the fact that David Trimble is seeking re-election to the post of First Minister at a time when all the institutions provided for in the agreement can work to their full potential. I thank him for his courtesy and diligence during the time we worked together. He has not had an easy time politically. I wish him well, both as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and as First Minister.

I have known Mark Durkan for a number of years — I will not specify how many. He has gained respect from all parts of the Chamber as Minister of Finance and Personnel. The Assembly can have every confidence in his ability, his personal integrity and his capacity to perform with distinction as Deputy First Minister. In many ways, he is the standard-bearer for a new younger generation in the Assembly and the community.

There is an old saying that two into one do not go, but, as ever, there are exceptions. Those elected to serve as First Minister and Deputy First Minister occupy a joint office. They rely on each other to make progress. They work together or not at all. It is a challenge that must be met if the vision of the Good Friday Agreement is to be fulfilled. I have every confidence that David Trimble and Mark Durkan will be able to fulfil that vision.

I thank Reg Empey, with whom I have worked periodically in certain roles. He is a fine young man. He will soon have served his time and — depending on the outcome today — there may be another period of apprenticeship. I thank Reg again for his courtesy and for the way in which we were able to work together.

Recent weeks have seen welcome progress in the putting of arms beyond use and towards further demilitarisation. I particularly welcome the recent report of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning which represented the removal of a major obstacle to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Combined with the progress made across all elements of the agreement, that gives rise to the hope, belief and conviction that the better future offered by the agreement will be realised. I have no doubt that the vast majority of people want the new dispensation to work, and it will work whether the next step is taken today or in the future. Society wants to move forward on the basis of partnership, equality and mutual respect. The agreement provides the means to achieve a peaceful society which offers a future for all. As President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, said:

"It must be a peace without victory. Only a peace between equals can last, a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit."

Those words are as relevant today as they were when they were first spoken, and their relevance will grow as this process progresses. However, to grasp that opportunity we need stable and fully operational political institutions. Those institutions need strong, inclusive leadership, but they also need a respect for politics and an end to the game-playing, the foolishness and the ego-tripping. They need an end to the sham approach of taking part, with all its advantages, while at the same time publicly undermining the institutions. That is not leadership.

In many ways, leadership is a dull thing. It is about having the integrity to move on a position based on respect for the political process and for all of those in it. It is my belief that DavidTrimble and MarkDurkan — different people in many ways — are the right people jointly to lead the institutions and the people of the North of Ireland towards that new peace and stability. I beg to second.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 12:15 pm, 2nd November 2001

I want to read a statement:

"Democracy dictates that before we will sit in an Executive with Sinn Féin we require a declaration that the ‘war’ is over, the standing down of ‘active service units’, the handing over of the remains of the ‘disappeared’, full co-operation with the Decommissioning Commission, an end to targeting and punishment beatings and actual disarmament itself."

All that has not happened, and those are the words of Mr Trimble, spoken on 26 May 1998. Sir Reg Empey, who proposed him, said on 30 August 1998 that

"an IRA arms handover would not be enough to give Sinn Féin seats on the Executive. If punishment beatings are continuing, if training, targeting, if units are still active on the ground, then the purposes of decommissioning would purely be fraudulent."

We are asked to believe the spin doctors and the rigged polls in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’, and to bow to past pressures and not open our eyes. The people — both Protestant and Roman Catholic — have opened their eyes. They have been told to look at what the Official Unionist Party has brought to them. Mr Trimble boasts of what he has brought to us. What has he brought? He has brought IRA/Sinn Féin to the heart of Government. Today, we heard that the leader of IRA/Sinn Féin is raising money for firemen and their families in America. What about the firemen and families that it murdered, blew up and shot? What hypocrisy.

The deputy leader of that party said that, if someone came to him and said that he or she had information that would lead to people being prosecuted for the Omagh tragedy, he would not tell that person to go to the police. In America, the leader of IRA/Sinn Féin said that the IRA has a different morality to that of the people who blew up the towers.

The people of Northern Ireland are not fools; they will not be fooled any longer. We must remember, "you cannot fool all of the people all of the time". Sooner or later, the matter must come to the country. We were told that cross-border bodies that are not answerable to the Assembly would not be formed — that has happened. We were told that terrorists who were put away by the process of the law could not be released, but killers and others have been. The Prime Minister wrote graffiti on the walls and tried to deceive the people of this country. The RUC has been destroyed. Think about those people who, under the shadow of night, took the badge of the RUC from outside its headquarters before the specified time. What more is there to come?

We have seen the British Government spend thousands of pounds to fly in propagandists to take photographs of the dismantling of security towers. No photographs have been taken of the so-called act of decommissioning. Why not? Surely, if it is an honourable, ground-breaking move, IRA/Sinn Féin should be proud of it. They are not. An amnesty is now proposed for those on the run. Such proposals have nothing to do with the agreement; they are additions to it.

Changes to the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 have been suggested. It was unfortunate that, when Mr Mallon spoke about them, he quoted Woodrow Wilson, who, after making that statement, was thrown out of office. That is some comfort for Mr Trimble today. Mr Mandelson told us that the Act would not be changed.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The Member’s time is up.

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Dia daoibh go léir. I was pleased to hear Peter Robinson bring up the subject of the trip to South Africa that I went on several years ago. There was a technical debate on cross-community support and sufficient consensus. However, Peter Robinson conveniently ignored the fact that the South African peace process was successful because it was an inclusive process and because there were people of courage in South Africa who wanted to end the hatred and division of the past. We are on that journey. The Middle East is also on that journey. South Africa is ahead of us, and we are ahead of the Middle East. We intend to continue to move forward.

I am very pleased to give my vote and my party’s vote to David Trimble and Mark Durkan as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. We owe a debt of gratitude to the former Deputy First Minister, Séamus Mallon. He was a highly esteemed and respected Deputy First Minister, who made a wonderful contribution to the peace process. We thank him very much for that.

For the past decade we have been on a journey which has presented genuine difficulties for all sides. However, the process is about building a new future for all of us and for our children. The process ensures that the past does not become the future. That presents a challenge for everyone — Republicans, Nationalists, Unionists and Loyalists. This is an inclusive process, and everyone shares responsibilities, decision-making and accountability. The politics of exclusion belong in the past. We can make this work by building and bedding down the institutions. We must fulfil the mandate given to us by our electorate — the overwhelming majority of the electorate. No one said that this would be easy.

Last week, the IRA, in a historic and groundbreaking move, liberated the peace process. [Interruption].

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

The move was not made without causing great difficulties for Irish Republicans. Republicans will have great difficulty dealing with this, but political leaders have a collective responsibility to grasp the opportunity that we were given last week and use it to best effect for the collective good of society. These institutions are not the preserve of one party or, indeed, of all the parties. These are the people’s institutions. We have a contract with the electorate to work for the people and deliver what all the people want. We have a mandate to resolve a long-standing conflict. We have accomplished much, and we have much more to accomplish. We have made progress despite the odds. The institutions are working; they are popular and successful. They also allow us to work collectively.

I am pleased that, although the process has been difficult from the beginning, we are seeing the pro-agreement parties come together. The Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the Women’s Coalition, the Alliance Party and the PUP are coming together. The people who are outnumbered are those who live in the past — the tiny number of Assembly Members who live in the past. No matter what happens today, we will continue to make progress. I was disappointed that Peter Weir and Pauline Armitage were not prepared to talk with me so that I could attempt to allay their fears. However, that is a matter for them. [Interruption].

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

They can answer to history and our children. My last words will be a short verse of a poem —

A Member:

Sit down.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. It is for the Speaker to decide when Members stand up and sit down, but the Member has come to the end of his time.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance 12:30 pm, 2nd November 2001

On behalf of my Colleagues, I support the proposal for the nomination of Mr Trimble and Mr Durkan, just as we did three years ago when it was proposed that Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon take the offices of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

First, I thank Séamus Mallon for all that he has done during his time as Deputy First Minister. That is certainly not to say that the Alliance Party agrees with everything that he has done — we have had several exchanges with him in the Chamber. However, he held an important office, which he took on at a difficult time, and he contributed to the best of his ability. It is appropriate that that should be recognised in the Chamber today.

I would also like to thank Reg Empey — whom I trust is nearing the end of his short-term apprenticeship — for what he has done in recent weeks in conjunction with Séamus Mallon.

There was a democratic mandate in the votes that returned all of us to the Assembly on the ticket of an Ulster Unionist and an SDLP member taking on these roles. It is tragic that although over 70% of us will vote for that ticket today, the arcane rules will deny an election. If the vote of 70% of the Chamber is not carried because of one or two votes within Unionism, I have no doubt that some people will put the blame on the Alliance Party. In July 1998 the Alliance Party cast five votes within its "Centre" designation for an Ulster Unionist/ SDLP ticket. We will do exactly the same today. Let us be quite clear about where the blame and the fault lie. It does not lie with those of us who have been consistent, have supported the institutions and have sought to make the Assembly work. The blame will lie with those who were elected as Ulster Unionists but who failed to support their leader. The fault will lie with a voting system that prevents such a majority from carrying the vote.

We do not need a short-term fix. However, we must look urgently at the rules to ensure that the will of the people, as carried out by their mandated, elected representatives, can be effective regardless of the way in which the current difficulties have arisen. If the vote does not pass today, it is not the end of the road, because a great deal has been achieved and much progress has been made, even recently. Regardless of the criticisms of individual decisions, there is a popular will that the Assembly should succeed and that the institutions should function. I might criticise the Executive’s achievements so far — and I trust that I will have the opportunity to continue to criticise them in a constructive way — but there is no doubt that what the Executive have achieved to date is better than achievements under direct rule and previous Administrations. We are not trying to protect David Trimble. Whether he wants our protection is another matter. We want to use our votes and influence to protect the agreement, to secure the institutions and to ensure that progress continues to be made. That is the scenario that all of us will face when the vote is taken. However, a better alternative would be for those who were elected as Ulster Unionists to cast their vote for an Ulster Unionist leader and to ensure that the motion is passed by a majority and that it is also in accordance with the arcane rules that we are forced to abide by.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

The truly momentous decision that will be made today will influence the future of Northern Ireland. That decision will be made against the dark backdrop not only of what happened in America on 11 September but of the events in Northern Ireland throughout 30 years of terrorism. There are two simple reasons that that parallel is not inappropriate. There is no distinction between the evil intent that drove the planes into the twin towers and that behind what has happened in Northern Ireland. The evil intent that firebombed the twin towers is precisely the same evil intent that placed firebombs in the La Mon House Hotel.

The terrorism that took place in Northern Ireland had no legitimacy, and I say that regardless of the attempts that are being made to distinguish the so-called freedom fighters of the Republican movement from those who killed so many people in the United States on 11 September. That is another reason that there is nothing inappropriate in running those two things together as the dark backdrop against which we make this decision. What happened in Northern Ireland was devoid of legitimacy, for the simple reason that no citizens in Northern Ireland were ever denied their freedom. A child could demolish the logic of the arguments that have been put forward in an attempt to legitimise their pursuit of terrorism.

If the Assembly decides in favour of the appointment of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, we will do more than blur the distinction between terrorism and democracy: we will legitimise and elevate terrorism and debase and corrupt democracy. We will lay the foundation for a criminalisation of our society, already a major problem. That will be detrimental to the future of our society. First, the representatives of terrorism have been placed in Government. Secondly, terrorist prisoners were released because they were affiliated to an organisation on ceasefire — a ceasefire that could not be broken even by multiple murder or any other form of criminality. Now there is to be an amnesty for those who have so far escaped the courts. Furthermore, we have had the destruction of the police force that stood between the law-abiding citizen and the terrorist. That is the elevation and legitimisation of terrorism, the crowning act of which took place recently, involving Mr de Chastelain. What happened was not the decommissioning of a murderous arsenal in such a way as to represent a renunciation of violence, it was a recognition by two sovereign Governments — [Interruption].

Photo of Mr John Kelly Mr John Kelly Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are we discussing the re-election of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, or are we denigrating Gen de Chastelain? What is the purpose of the debate?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Please continue, Mr Roche.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

There was no authentic renunciation of violence or anything that could remotely be construed as such. It was a recognition by two sovereign Governments of the right of an illegal and criminal organisation to hold onto its arms and, if needs be, to dispose of them at its will. In other words, it was a legitimisation of the holding of a terrorist arsenal.

If the motion is successful, we will have the elevation of terrorism and the debasement of democracy. It is not only those who are committed to Unionism who must resist that; anyone who represents the decency that still exists in Northern Ireland must vote to prevent it.

Photo of Prof Monica McWilliams Prof Monica McWilliams NIWC

I express my support for Mr Mallon, who has been through difficult times in the Assembly. He once said that at times we turned the colour of his face to almost the colour of his hair with our patching up and breaking down. Through it all, he remained calm and encouraging.

I am delighted to support the nomination of Mr Trimble and Mr Durkan. We should remind ourselves of how far we have come, not just in the past few weeks, but in the past few years. In the Chamber, we often forget that. On 10 April 1998, we declared our intention to do something different for Northern Ireland.

On 22 May those best intentions were endorsed by the majority of the people, despite misgivings on policing, power sharing, a partitionist Assembly and prisoners.

Photo of Mr Billy Hutchinson Mr Billy Hutchinson PUP

Does the Member agree that it has been implied that every prisoner who has been released from jail has become involved in activities that could bring down the whole process? The Member agreed that the Tory Government released 254 Republican and Loyalist life-sentence prisoners without any deals on 15 December 1994 — the day on which exploratory talks started.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

No murderers were released then.

Photo of Mr Billy Hutchinson Mr Billy Hutchinson PUP

Mr McCartney has just made a statement. Every one of those 254, including myself, had served indeterminate sentences, which means that they were life sentences.

Photo of Prof Monica McWilliams Prof Monica McWilliams NIWC

There were many milestones during the process that led up to the talks, including the release and return of prisoners between Christmas and the new year. It was difficult, but we should remember that it was difficult for the victims too. If we do return the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, we should remember the sacrifice and hurt that they have experienced. In the acrimony of parliamentary debates their suffering is sometimes forgotten.

Nonetheless, we did bring a dynamic of creativity to the process, and during the past few weeks that dynamic has been restored. There have been some important events, and they have been as good as Good Friday. Peace building all over the world depends on the introduction of dynamics at the least expected moment, and given those events, we should be ashamed of ourselves if we do not bring Northern Ireland out of the limbo that it has been in since 1 July 2001.

I express my gratitude to Sir Reg Empey for filling the position since 1 July, but Northern Ireland needs a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister. There will be acrimony if we do not elect them today, and we have seen enough of that in the past. It is time to return consensus government to Northern Ireland. It has worked; it will work; and it must work.

It is time also to pledge our intention to work with the coalition Government. It is unique and unprecedented, but so is Northern Ireland. People concentrate on bad behaviour, on poor and disastrous events of the past, on the wrong behaviour that we witness too often in our streets, villages and communities. Only the leadership of the Assembly can create the necessary framework to change that. We have done our best today, and we expect other parties to play their parts as well.

I am glad that we have this opportunity to support the nomination of Mr Trimble, and I welcome the nomination of Mark Durkan as Deputy First Minister. I am sure that he too will bring a wonderful voice of leadership to the community, because he is known to speak with the voice of consensus. I support the nominations.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

No one in the Assembly doubts that I oppose the re-election of David Trimble. I have listened to the usual cant and hypocrisy about the good works that have been done. I have listened to Reg Empey talk about the difference between the publicity given to the events in south Armagh and the secrecy that surrounds the alleged act of decommissioning last week. We should also remember the speech that the Republic’s Foreign Minister, Mr Cowen, gave in New York on Tuesday.

He said that the British Government must move speedily to remove the hardware of war from south Armagh and from west Tyrone to show people that politics worked. As far as I am aware, no listening device or observation post has ever brought about the death of anyone, but Kalashnikovs, surface-to-air missiles and Semtex have.

That shows the hypocrisy not only of those comparisons but of Reg Empey’s attempt to persuade the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland that what happened last week amounted to an act of decommissioning that they could accept. That party would accept anything — literally anything — to stay in office, to have their cars and emoluments, to posture that they are doing something under devolved government that has not been done before. What is the state of the Health Service? What is the state of the economy of Northern Ireland? What is the state of transport? All of them are worse now than they were before.

Séamus Mallon — that avowed democrat — should know all about the procedures of democracy that were distorted and disfigured by his mock resignation and that have been further defiled by what has happened here today concerning re-designation. Mr Martin McGuinness prattled on about decommissioning. Mr McGuinness, Mr Adams and Mr Pat Doherty undoubtedly consulted their fellow members of the IRA Army Council, Mr Keenan, Mr Ferris, "Slab" Murphy and others, to decide what they should do. They represented to the world that they were distant from the people to whom they were talking.

Monica McWilliams prattled on about consensus. She said that we must have consensus — as she and her Colleague Jane Morrice were attempting to undermine, as Peter Robinson so graphically pointed out, the very fundamentals of consensus and cross-community approval that were the alleged linchpins of the agreement. Martin McGuinness said that there was no pressure to exclude parties. I have never exerted pressure to exclude democratic parties from the Assembly. But I am opposed to members of the IRA Army Council being in charge of the education of our children. I am opposed to including terrorists in Government. [Interruption].

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

As for this mock suggestion that some act of decommissioning has taken place, no one believes that. The arch-appeaser, Mr Trimble, has entered the Chamber. Mr Trimble told us that 22 May 2000 was the magical date for decommissioning; it never happened. Mr Trimble offered to resign if decommissioning did not happen by January 2000; it did not happen. Mr Trimble was conned in May 2000 by a target date for decommissioning of June 2001; it never happened. Mr Trimble, Sir Reg Empey and their party have been conned into believing that decommissioning will occur as a result of the events of last week. Even Gen de Chastelain confirmed that this was a one-off event; there was no suggestion of any continuum. We have reached the stage where the gombeens of Ulster Unionism will literally accept anything as long as they can stay in their jobs, get their money and get on with it.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to make a ruling on remarks made by Mr John Kelly during Mr McCartney’s speech, when he said, "What about the terrorists beside you?" I am not aware that either Cedric Wilson or Mr Dodds has ever been convicted of a terrorist offence, and I ask you to rule on that matter.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

It is impossible for the Speaker to rule on remarks that have been made from a sedentary position. I cannot hear them, therefore I cannot rule on them. The Member has made some remarks about what he heard. He may well have heard them, but it is not possible to hear them from the Chair because, as Members know, remarks made from a sedentary position are not picked up by the microphones.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was put out of the House for making a remark from a sedentary position — a remark that you admitted then that you had not heard. Why, therefore, can you not make a ruling on this point?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The Member will resume his seat. He knows well that if he questions the Chair he is in defiance of it and that he may end up leaving again. I suggest that it may not be in his best interests to press the matter at this juncture.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you study Hansard and rule further on the matter?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Mr Poots does not appear to have been listening to what I said. A remark made from a sedentary position is generally made too far from the microphones to be picked up by Hansard. I shall be reading Hansard with considerable interest tomorrow with regard to several matters — the next five minutes will, I suspect, determine how much interest.

Question put.

The Assembly proceeded to a Division.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair)

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

On a point of order. No Speaker is entitled to leave the Chair nor should the Chair be unmanned at any proceedings of the Assembly.

(Mr Speaker in the Chair)

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The Member will resume his seat.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

The Member will resume his seat. I seek to be a proper servant of the Assembly, and many Members, including the Member who was on his feet, frequently ask to have my ear in order to ask a question of procedure.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 72; Noes 30.

Ayes

Nationalist:

Mr Attwood, Mr Bradley, Mr Byrne, Mrs Courtney, Ms de Brún, Mr A Doherty, Mr Durkan, Dr Farren, Mr Fee, Mr Gallagher, Ms Hanna, Dr Hendron, Mr G Kelly, Mr J Kelly, Ms Lewsley, Mr A Maginness, Mr Mallon, Mr Maskey, Mr McClelland, Dr McDonnell, Mr McElduff, Mr McGrady, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McHugh, Mr McLaughlin, Mr McMenamin, Mr McNamee, Ms McWilliams, Mr Molloy, Mr C Murphy, Mr M Murphy, Mrs Nelis, Mr O’Connor, Dr O’Hagan, Mr ONeill, Ms Ramsey, Ms Rodgers, Mr Tierney.

Unionist:

Dr Adamson, Mr Armstrong, Mr Beggs, Mr B Bell, Dr Birnie, Mrs Carson, Mr Cobain, Rev Robert Coulter, Mr Dalton, Mr Davis, Sir Reg Empey, Mr Ervine, Mr Foster, Sir John Gorman, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hussey, Mr B Hutchinson, Mr Kennedy, Lord Kilclooney, Mr Leslie, Mr McClarty, Mr McFarland, Mr McGimpsey, Ms Morrice, Mr Nesbitt, Mr K Robinson, Mr Savage, Mr Trimble, Mr J Wilson.

Other:

Mrs E Bell, Mr Close, Mr Ford, Mr McCarthy, Mr Neeson.

Noes

Unionist:

Mr Agnew, Ms Armitage, Mr Berry, Mr Boyd, Mr Campbell, Mr Carrick, Mr Clyde, Mr Dodds, Mr Douglas, Mr Gibson, Mr Hay, Mr Hilditch, Mr R Hutchinson, Mr Kane, Mr McCartney, Rev Dr William McCrea, Mr Morrow, Mr Paisley Jnr, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, Mr Poots, Mrs I Robinson, Mr M Robinson, Mr P Robinson, Mr Roche, Mr Shannon, Mr Watson, Mr Weir, Mr Wells, Mr C Wilson, Mr S Wilson.

Total Votes 102 Total Ayes 72 ( 70.6%)

Nationalist Votes 38 Nationalist Ayes 38 ( 100.0%)

Unionist Votes 59 Unionist Ayes 29 ( 49.2%)

Question accordingly negatived (cross-community vote).

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

No Members having been elected, the procedure may be repeated after a period specified by the Speaker. I may wish to consult with Members in that regard. Of course, there are other matters regarding the standing of the Assembly that will be decided outside the Chamber without the involvement of those who sit in the Chamber.

Adjourned at 1.04 pm.