MEATH PEACE GROUP TALKS
No. 46: “Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland – A DUP Perspective”
Monday, 18th November 2002
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (Democratic Unionist Party)
Chaired by Paul Murphy (Former Group Editor, Drogheda Independent)
Official welcome by Cllr Jim Holloway
Welcome and introductions: Cllr James Holloway and Paul Murphy
Questions and comments
Biographical notes and acknowledgements
[Editor’s note: over 100 people attended this talk, the first of our public talks to be addressed by the DUP]
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Cllr. James Holloway (Fine Gael, Navan UDC): “Good evening. I came here tonight on behalf of Deputy Damien English, the new young TD for Meath. He couldn’t be here tonight and he sends his apologies. … Now I’ve been involved in local politics for the last eight years and I want to say one thing: while I have spent all my life teaching, you could say that I was very much involved in the community. Well, like lots of people in their particular careers I didn’t necessarily have to meet the different sections of the community but since I became involved in local politics I have had to go out there and meet the different sectoral interests, the different religious groups, social classes, and for me that has been the most rewarding thing. To know what beats in the heart of a community you have to go into the heart of that community. It has been a most enriching experience for me – to know other people, to speak to them, look into their faces and try and understand where they are coming from. I’m here tonight in Dalgan which is part of a community of religious who never had the choice but to be in the heart of different communities. I’m just saying that by way of introducing Gregory Campbell, MP and Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland, the first time that a member of the DUP has come here and spoken to this group. My introductory remarks had that in mind – we will have a chance here to meet with one another, look eye to eye, hear what we are saying and that is a great opportunity. Without further ado I welcome you, Gregory.”
Chair (Paul Murphy). “Thank you Councillor. I have a warm welcome for Gregory here – coincidentally we just met a year ago at a peace conference in Cork. That conference was organised by the Westgate Foundation, a social services and community group operating in West Cork and doing a wonderful job down there. They have been working quietly for peace for two decades at least. We were delighted to be present and to hear all shades of opinion in Cork from people from Belfast and Derry/Londonderry and from Dublin and Cork itself. It was an interesting event and well-supported I know by the Department of Foreign Affairs and I see Peadar [Carpenter] here tonight, and I’m delighted to see him…
“Just to introduce Gregory: he is an MLA and MP for the DUP – the Democratic Unionist Party. He was first elected to local government in 1981 and has been re-elected every four years since then. He has contested Assembly and Parliamentary elections on behalf of the DUP and was elected Assembly Member in 1998 and MP in June 2001 for the East Londonderry constituency. He was Regional Development Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive from July 2000 to September 2001…. From 1981 to 1994 he was the party spokesman on Fair Employment, from 1994 he was spokesman for security, and from 1996 to1997 he was a delegate to the all-party talks…[see further Biographical notes at end of this report] … “I am sure you will give a very very warm welcome to Gregory.”
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP
“Thank you, Chairman and could I thank the organisers for inviting me along this evening. As I listened to the CV being read out I began to wonder whether it was me or someone else he was talking about! I want to thank the organisers for the invite along tonight. On the way here we were talking about the best way to proceed in the meeting. My view is that at meetings like this I tend to think that the people who are the listeners get more out of a two-way process of questions and answers than simply a monologue, and if you don’t agree with me at the start, if I were to speak for an hour and a half, I venture to suggest that you would all agree with me at the end of that.
“You would say “yes, it was a good idea – he should have spoken for an hour and twenty minutes less and posed more questions”! So I do think it is more beneficial to take the questions. I’m going to try and keep to that, and I am going to speak for a shortish time and hopefully those comments will be sufficiently robust, controversial, whatever, to inspire a number of questions which may then lead to further enlightenment – on either side – and hopefully that will be the case.”
Value of dialogue: “I always like to come to the Irish Republic and explain the unionist position because I think – and I really want to subdivide my talk tonight under two headings – I really do think that part of the problem in understanding Northern Ireland, particularly to those who come from outside of Northern Ireland, is one of caricature, one of perception, and one of misunderstanding, and therefore a meeting like this, with discussions and questions and answers, oftentimes can lead to a breaking down of those perceptions, hopefully setting the record straight in terms of caricatures and hopefully trying to open up lines of communication between us in Northern Ireland and you in the Irish Republic. So I want to dwell on that.”
Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland: “The other thing I wanted to speak on was: as the heading of tonight’s meeting is “Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland”, I wanted to say a few words about any process that is likely to lead to greater peace and greater stability in Northern Ireland. It has got to do something that no process up to now has done. That is a major statement and yet I believe it is fundamentally true.”
Perceptions and caricature: “So first of all I want to turn my mind to this issue of caricature and perceptions in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt, and as I came on previous occasions to the Republic, there are people who when they hear the letters “DUP” have a particular image of what that means, of what someone who is in the DUP will say, and they almost have the pigeon-hole carved out and ready to slot the person into that particular pigeon-hole. And that comes about because of a whole variety of factors which I will not go into, you’ll be glad to hear, down through the years.”
Unionist opposition to Belfast Agreement: “In Northern Ireland we have a very difficult, very elaborate and complicated scenario. It isn’t a simplistic problem to be solved. It isn’t the case that what needs to happen is that, for example, the IRA need to show their bona fides, they need to disarm and they need to go away, and if they did then the unionist community would simply say “well now we are in favour of an Agreement which up to now we have been opposed to”. In other words, the reason for opposition in the unionist community, to the Belfast Agreement, isn’t just because the IRA have been active since the Agreement, it isn’t just because of Colombia and the – I think they were called “eco-tourists” at the time, who knows what the court in Colombia will find them guilty of? – it’s not just because of Castlereagh, it’s not just because of a conviction in Florida, and it’s not just because of a spy-ring in Stormont. Some people, not only in Northern Ireland but also people in the Republic, believe that if those issues regarding the IRA were satisfactorily resolved then the unionist community would be in support of the Agreement. If they believe that then they are guilty of creating another caricature.”
One-sided nature of the Agreement: “Because you see unionists weren’t just opposed to the Agreement because they saw the IRA being in breach of their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. They were opposed to the Agreement because the Agreement itself – the actual structure of the Agreement – is a one-sided structure.”
North-South and East-West strands: “I will give you an example. Before the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly I tabled a question in Stormont – in fact it was two questions, and the first one was: to detail how many meetings, and what the subject matters were, of all the North-South Ministerial Council meetings that there had been. And the second question was very similar: how many meetings, and the subject matters, of the British-Irish Council. Now the reason I did that was because way back four and a half years ago when the Agreement was signed, those pro-Agreement unionists who tried to sell the benefits of the Agreement, when they were under some criticism about the strength and the vibrancy and the growing evolution of the North-South strand in the Agreement, pointed to the East-West or the British-Irish strand in the Agreement and tried to get people to accept that one was a counter-balance to the other. In other words, for the 50% of weight that you would put on the North-South strand of the Agreement, it would be counter-balanced by 50% on the East-West [strand]. And that was what David Trimble and others attempted to say. Now we said at the time – those of us who were opposed to the Agreement – we said: “look, quite frankly this is a nonsense. The Agreement is built on the North-South axis and any East-West liaison is just window-dressing to try and fool gullible Unionists into accepting the North-South business.” Of course we were then told this is scare-mongering.”
“The answers to my question: there was a whole litany of subject-matters on the North-South, a veritable litany of them, but over fifty meetings had taken place of the North-South Ministerial Council, which sounded pretty impressive in four years. The answer to the East-West question, however, wasn’t quite so comprehensive. Five meetings of the East-West relationship! Now, does that say to me that the North-South axis is ten times more important than the East-West? Maybe not ten times, maybe twelve times, maybe eight times, but certainly more important than the East-West – the ratio we will not quibble about. The point about posing those questions was to demonstrate that, if you like, the real game for the Agreement was North-South – we can have the pretend game on the sidelines for Unionists, to try and keep them from getting very annoyed and angry about the development of the North-South basis.”
Two criteria required for unionist support: “So, the whole issue in Northern Ireland today is more fundamental than even the issue of whether the IRA is active or not. It’s much more fundamental than that. Because unionists need to be satisfied on two counts – two counts only. For any agreement to get success, or to be approved, or to get the imprimatur of the unionist community it needs to fulfil two criteria.
1. Parties to agreement must be genuine democrats: “The first one is that we need to be talking about people involved in that agreement, parties to that agreement, signatories to it, who are genuine democrats. And when I say “genuine democrats” I mean that they come to the table without the force of a private army, but with the force of their logic. Because when I come to any table – tonight’s table, or a discussion table or a talks table – I don’t have a private illegal army whom I can call upon if my logic is found wanting. But Gerry Adams does. Now that’s the difference.
“That’s why there is inequality in Northern Ireland – not the kind of inequality that you may have heard about. But that’s the kind of inequality which unionists say has to be taken out of the equation. So when we all come to the table to devise an agreement – which hopefully we can all sign up to – we all come there as equals. The quality and the force of our reasoning and our logic, nothing else. That means the arms have to go – not some of them, but all of them for all time. All of the illegal arms out of the equation. That’s the first prerequisite.”
2. Concerns of all sides to be treated on equal basis: “The second one, and oftentimes overlooked: even if the first one were met, the second one also has to be met. And I don’t think that we are being unreasonable in the first count and I think we are equally reasonable in demanding that the second requirement should be met. The second requirement is that as we reach the table of talks and discussions to work our way through the quagmire that is trying to get an agreement in Northern Ireland, that all of our identities, our communal outlooks, our grievances, our fears and our concerns are treated on an equal basis. Now some people might say – who haven’t followed Northern Ireland too closely – they might say: “Well what on earth is wrong with that? Of course that should be the case.” But you see the Belfast Agreement doesn’t work on that basis. It accepts one set of prejudices, one set of grievances, one set of disadvantages but not another.”
Marginalisation, exclusion and discrimination: “That’s why we need to get a new agreement, and that’s why – and I will move on to the second part of my talk – we need to get agreement that there is more than one community who feel marginalized, excluded and discriminated against.
Cold house for Protestants: “Now, as I say, someone coming from outside with no interest in Northern Ireland might say: “What’s wrong with that? Perfectly acceptable. Any democrat would accept that” But in Northern Ireland, unfortunately, what happens is that most of the previous attempts to get some form of agreement or devolved structure have floundered, and they have floundered because – whether you look back to the 1970s, or the 1980s, or the 1990s – you will always see an acceptance, for example, of the nationalist complaint – that nationalists have been systematically discriminated against in Northern Ireland for fifty years. And many people will say – and I remember some people describing the Belfast Agreement as “Sunningdale for slow learners” – and at the time of Sunningdale we were told that what needs to happen is: “nationalists must be brought in from the cold, nationalists must be shown that there is a place in the sun in Northern Ireland for them”.
“Now the closest any Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has come to conceding the second point was the previous Secretary of State who has just left to take up another post, Dr. John Reid. Because when he spoke in Liverpool University last year he came quite close to being the first Secretary of State to recognise something that some of us have been saying for over 20 years. When he made the statement – and I’ll come to the one thing where he made a mistake in that – where he made a statement that the one thing they had to avoid was creating a Northern Ireland which would become a “cold place for Protestants”. He came very close to being the first Secretary of State to hit the nail on the head. The one mistake that he made in that statement was the tense that he used. He talked about it as if it was a future possibility, or a future probability, when in fact it is a present reality. It’s not just the case that unionists may at some future date become disenfranchised or marginalized: they have been so for years, for years they have been so.”
Fair Employment: Civil Service recruitment: “I remember way back in the 1970s when I and some others started to address the issue of Fair Employment. At first it was the case that we were dismissed as some sort of crankish element on the fringe of the unionist community, and then eventually the debate moved on and I can remember in the 1980s almost recognition of what we were saying, but in some very small pockets of Northern Ireland. The Minister for Finance and Personnel in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Dr. Sean Farren, undertook a review of the Civil Service. The Civil Service in Northern Ireland is the largest employer by far – it employs over 20, 000 people. It is four times the size of the largest private employer in Northern Ireland. That review of employment procedures showed what I and others had been saying was the case for many years – that the unionist community are at a severe disadvantage whenever you look at recruitment into the Civil Service.”
Northern Ireland Housing Executive: “Last year I had a series of correspondences with the head of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive – the largest public housing body in Western Europe. Again, an employer of several thousand people. The recruitment practices of that large public body showed that there is an under-representation of the unionist community.”
“These two factors demonstrate why Dr. John Reid was almost right. Northern Ireland doesn’t have the possibility of being a cold house for the unionist community: tens of thousands of them feel as if they are in an igloo. That’s how cold it is now and has been so over 20 years.”
Criteria for talks: “So what do we do about trying to get the heat turned up? Those two factors are crucial. We’ve got to be operating in an entirely peaceful environment and all the participants coming to any talks table need to be coming with no strength of force of arms but only the strength of their argument, all of us coming to that table. We all need to be at the table to address grievances and wrongs on bothour sides. And if people come and say “no, the object of the exercise is to create a new agreement or a new Sunningdale, and that’s to bring nationalists in because they believe that unionists are already in, then we’re going to fail again. So there has to be an acceptance that those are the parameters that we will come to address”.
Repeating the mantra: “Now I have no doubt that there are those who will come to the table and they will be putting forward viewpoints and arguments, and their assessment of the situation will be radically different to mine and to ours, and I have to accept their right to put those arguments. I have to accept that because we have a divided society in Northern Ireland. But equally they will have to accept that it isn’t of any use to keep repeating the mantra – “that there is no other show in town but the Belfast Agreement, that we’re going to keep on working at implementing the Agreement.”
Lack of unionist consent: “There is a very simple – and I say “simple” not “simplistic” – a very simple way of looking at the problems that we are faced with at the moment in Northern Ireland. People say to me: “the people had their vote and their views at the time of the Referendum, four and a half years ago: 71.9% of the people of Northern Ireland, 95% of the people of the Republic voted in favour of it.” And what I say to them is very straightforward. I say to them: “Yes, do you accept that Northern Ireland is a deeply deeply divided society?” Virtually everybody says “yes”. “Do you accept that in the past the problem was: that whereas unionists gave their assent and their consent to how Northern Ireland was governed, that nationalists didn’t?”
“Virtually everybody says “yes” to that as well. And I then go on to say to them: “Did that lack of consent from the nationalist community lead to changes in the way Northern Ireland was governed?” Of course it did. And usually when I lead people along that route, at this point they realise where we are going. Because then I say to them: “Where we are now is that almost all the nationalist community support the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland, but only a small fraction of the unionist community support it.” Now I ask you, in terms of equity and in terms of logic: if in the past a system of government in Northern Ireland had to be changed, and changed radically and drastically, because the nationalist community wouldn’t buy into it, why does the same logic not apply to the present? We have a system of government now to which the unionists take the same exception, are resentful to the same degree as nationalists were in the old days, but why do governments say “oh but there’s a settlement now, we’re going to implement this Agreement, even if unionists don’t like it”?
Legitimacy of grievances: “Why was it then that in the old days the system that didn’t have nationalist support didn’t get the same demand that it would have to stay and would have to be put in place and wouldn’t be changed and wouldn’t be altered, but now, we’re told: “well, the unionists had their chance five years ago”. And we’ll not go into what the Prime Minister promised would happen and hasn’t happened. The reality at the moment in 2002 is very straightforward. The nationalist community by and large are very very content with the Agreement as it sits at the moment. And I would have to say to you that if I were a nationalist I would be very content with the Agreement. I would think it is a tremendous achievement because it accepts the legitimacy of my grievances and seeks to address them. But I am not a nationalist. I am a unionist. Until we can get our own Government, and your Government in this country, to accept the legitimacy of our grievances and get them to establish a system that says “yes, you can put forward the legitimacy of your grievances, within the parameters of this system of government”, then we are going to be bound to repeat the failures of the Belfast Agreement and other agreements. Mr Chairman, I hope I’ve said enough to provoke at least some questions and I’ll be happy to respond.”
Chair – Paul Murphy: “Thank you, Gregory, I’m sure there is plenty of food for thought there. What I intend to do is try to take questions in groups of three and allow Gregory then to reply…”
Questions and comments (main points only):
[Names of questioners are not given here except where the questioner is a public representative or politician]
Q.1. [Drogheda resident]: “Who are the people who would argue against equality in housing and employment and how do you anticipate they would conduct those arguments?”
Q. 2. [Navan resident]: “Gregory, thank you for your openness and your honesty. A great deal of your argumentation is that unionist grievances have not been addressed in the past and certainly are not being addressed now. Maybe you could spell out specifically what are the grievances that need to be addressed?”
Q. 3. [Navan resident]: “We’ve had the two referenda and the Belfast Agreement. What, Gregory, would you propose – how do you take it on from here? What do we do now?”
Replies to questions 1-3:
Gregory Campbell: Inequality: “The first question was those who would argue against the equality in the housing issue and how they would conduct their campaign. What I found in relation to this and other equality issues – and I alluded to this in my address – there is almost a denial that the situation exists. That’s normally how they conduct it. They normally say: “This can’t be happening, this is not right.” And then when you present them with the figures, when you show the figures, and you show them not just as I might present them but you show them from the body itself, so for example, the Housing Executive: if you refer people to those figures that that body produces itself, and you then establish the bona fides of your case – that there is a position to be answered and a response to be made – there is usually then a sort of a fall-back by those who bring their side of the argument that “we all must try and create an equal society”. It’s almost as if, you know, it doesn’t exist and then if it does exist, it’s almost like motherhood and apple pie, “we’ve all got to be equal, we all have to put forward our arguments in our new era, our new society”. But I haven’t really found anyone who [tape unclear] … is saying that they agree with the disadvantage. I don’t find that people are saying: “well yes, that is the case, and it is right that it is the case that unionists are disadvantaged”. I don’t find people saying that. As I say, normally it’s denial, and then when the reality of the figures are presented to them, it’s normally then a sort of a motherhood and apple-pie defence – you know “we all must be equal and we all have to be seen to be even-handed in how we get employment opportunities.” But that doesn’t really address the problem.
Unionist grievances: “The second question was the question on the grievances. I hope that I did outline one of them, in terms of employment, the Civil Service which is the largest employer in Northern Ireland, by far, and there is a major problem there. The other issue I alluded to, was the North-South as opposed to the East-West, in other words the greater weight and importance given to the North-South connection, between Northern Ireland and the Republic, as opposed to between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Irish language: “Another example – this is at a very superfluous level, but hopefully it will give you an example of what I am talking about – there is a significant amount of money now deployed in the various Departments of Northern Ireland for the promotion of the Irish language, and I don’t have a difficulty with that, where it’s not being used as a political tool. I don’t have a problem with that. But there isn’t the same degree of importance attached to the cultural background that I come from, in Northern Ireland, as there would be to Irish. Now again I would like to see more equity coming into that particular situation.”
Cultural tourism: “To give you another example: on the tourism – andcultural tourism, which is being developed in Northern Ireland as it has in the Republic and elsewhere over the past eight or ten years – it is very difficult to get Government Departments to promote the entity that is Northern Ireland in cultural tourism. It’s very difficult to get them to do anything about that. Again they pay lip-service to it but it is quite difficult to get examples of how that is promoted. And yet the Irish diaspora – Tourism Ireland, you know other examples of the Irish dimension – there is no difficulty whatsoever in getting that promoted.
Policing recruitment: “So those are some of the examples. Another one is a very controversial one, and it is one which needs answering in the short term. That is in policing. In Northern Ireland at the moment we have what is called a 50:50 rule in recruitment. People who pay close attention to the problems will probably be aware of that. What happened was for a period of 70, 80 years there was a lack of applications from the Catholic community into the old RUC. Now part of the reason for that was that the IRA shot many of those who did apply. But there were quite a few Catholic police officers who served very well and admirably. But there was a very low take-up. Before the 1995 period only about 9% of the old RUC would have been Catholic. In order to address that they introduced what many in my community find offensive, which is almost a system of reverse discrimination, which means that however many people apply, and historically, because of the policing situation that I’ve just outlined, if you’ve got 1, 000 application forms you will get possibly 700 or 800 from my community and possibly only 200 or 300 from the nationalist community, and that’s what has happened. But now what they have done, because of this 50:50 rule, however many from my community apply, and however few from the nationalist community apply, they boil that down, they go through the procedures to find out if they would be suitable police officers and they then simply eliminate from the selection procedure all of the numbers from my community who exceed the 50% rule. Now, out of 1, 000 applications – let’s say there are 800 from my community and 200 from the nationalist community – if there are 200 out of the 1,000 who are suitably qualified I’m sure 150 of them are from my community and 50 are from the nationalist community. 100 of the 150 in my community will get a letter saying “we’re sorry, but under the 50:50 rule you will not be offered employment.”
Discrimination: “That is effectively telling them they are the wrong religion, and then only 50 from my community and 50 from the nationalist community will be recruited. Now that has caused a problem in policing numbers, because of the low numbers coming from the nationalist community. So the actual number of police officers being brought into the police force is reduced because of that 50:50 rule, and the rule itself causes huge resentment, absolutely huge resentment, not just to the people who apply, have gone through the process, been told they are suitably qualified and then rejected on religious grounds, but also to their families and their friends because they see that the system actively discriminates against my community.
“So we have to replace that with a system of merit, pure merit, so that whoever applies, if they’re suitably qualified they are offered a post, irrespective of their religious background.”
Where now? “The third question – excuse me Mr Chairman I think I can summarise the question just by saying “Where now? Where do we go from here?” It’s my view that we have now had almost 5 years since the Belfast Agreement, since the referendum. The Assembly’s life span should terminate on the 30th of April next year. Elections are scheduled to be held on the 1st May. Really, I think to devise another system which is going to be acceptable to both communities – and that is what we have to get. I’m not seeking to replace a system of government that is unacceptable to my community with another system that is unacceptable to nationalists. I think we have to get a system that is going to be acceptable to both, because the past has shown us that where you have a sizeable section of one community resentful and antagonised and alienated, it doesn’t work. But I don’t know why people can’t accept that that criterion applies now, in reverse, and they say “but it does have acceptance” when it doesn’t. And the polls in favour of our party show that there isn’t support”
Elections and talks: “So the thing to do now is I think we need to get that election, we need to hold those elections, see what the numerical strengths of the various political parties are, and we then need to get down to the earnest and urgent business of trying to devise that talks table that I alluded to in my opening remarks. So that all the political parties come to that table purely with the force of argument, no force of arms, and we then sit down to try and hammer out a deal to which both our communities can sign up to and give their allegiance to. I think to prolong the agony with the present system, with the present Assembly, will only exacerbate matters and make matters worse. I think we need a fresh mandate so that people can see what the relative strengths of the parties are, and we need to get those negotiations up and running as soon as absolutely possible.”
Q.4: Cllr Brian Fitzgerald (Ind., Meath Co. Council, former Labour Party TD) : “First of all I would like to welcome you Gregory to Co. Meath. About seven or eight years ago I took a delegation to Belfast of Labour Party parliamentarians at the time. We met every political party in Belfast, but unfortunately your party leader declined the invitation to meet with us in Belfast, and that is one of the things I regret – that every other party met with us, and we had hours of debate over a number of days, trying to get behind the difficulties that you had, the fears and perceptions that were there. So I do welcome you here tonight, and I am thankful to the Meath Peace Group for encouraging you to come here.
“I am a little disappointed with some of the remarks, if you don’t mind me picking some points in some of the things that you did say. Those of us who are here, and the vast majority of people on this island, particularly in southern Ireland, would not support the IRA. The vast majority of people do not support Sinn Fein. So we’ve all been very democratic politicians down through the years and we’ve tried to [extend] the hand of friendship. But it would appear to me, though, that your leader, who came into being when the late Terence O’Neill decided to come south to meet with the late Sean Lemass who was then Taoiseach of this country – it was from then on that your party grew, from this. And it was because he handed out the hand of friendship to the South, and we tried to work with our Northern colleagues in the hope of developing the island because they knew what was facing them. They had the vision to know what was facing them in Europe and the rest of the world. So I am a little disappointed that we’re still thinking about those divisions that are still there and still being built upon. I do not see why you allow the IRA and Sinn Fein to continue to set the agenda, because that is effectively what you are doing. You are allowing them to set the agenda. But the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will support the democratic process, let it be the SDLP, the Alliance or anybody else up there, and I don’t see why you should continue to allow that to happen by excluding the rest of us, and the rest of those people, from trying to develop the Good Friday Agreement. Because let’s be honest about it – you say “why is it being reversed now?” It’s being reversed because in 1974 when we tried to do something here, together with our colleagues in Northern Ireland, it was your party that dragged it down. I’m not saying you did, Gregory, but certainly the leaders of the day – they developed the workers’ strike which ensured that it would fall down….. [tape change]…
Sinn Fein on Policing Board: “The question I want to ask you is this ….at the present time Sinn Fein is refusing to sit on the Policing Board. If there’s a possibility that they would come in, would your party remain on the Policing Board?
Q. 5. [Dunsany resident, originally from Northern Ireland]: “Gregory, I’m glad to hear you speak and to get a chance to speak to you. You’re welcome.
I’m somewhat saddened, over the years I’ve been saddened, by the contribution of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. You talk about discrimination and you try to draw a parallel between what happened in Northern Ireland in the late 60s and early 70sand the discrimination that was perpetrated against the nationalist community, to the discrimination that is being perpetrated against the unionist community today. Gladly that is not the case – that there is such discrimination being perpetrated against the unionist community, and I see little evidence of such a scale of discrimination. Now with regard to your own people and the representation: it often saddens me that your party sometimes in the past has urged people on to the streets … and violence ensues. And that causes – to the people of Northern Ireland, the people of your community and the nationalist community – great pain and great sadness, a great pain and great sadness that has been in evidence for far too many years. And I would plead with you, as a relatively young man – that is relative to Ian – that you would take a look at your community and the people who are suffering in the lower socio-economic groupings of Belfast who are nightly angered. And the words that you speak, sadly, cause them to fear even further their future in Northern Ireland living alongside the nationalist community. And their fears are based on the terrible pain that they have suffered at the hands of the IRA, in the same way as members of the IRA and the nationalist community have suffered great pain. The divisions have been there too long, Gregory, we need you tart talking about bringing people together, and not just focusing on one side. I find it quite difficult to appreciate how the republican community will leave down their arms whilst nightly their people are attacked by members of the unionist/loyalist community. And I would love to see you, or some members of your party, standing up and talking about the future that does not fester into the divisions that we have had in the past, so that your words will not be used to nurture the festering sores that are so real in the minds and hearts of the people of both communities. That’s what I wish from you and your party: to liberate your people from their pain, not remind them of the discrimination but lead them to a new land …..I am certain that within the unionist community there are great minds that would see this little piece of land governed by the intellect of the people …… I would wish that the borders of our minds would in some way be decommissioned in the hope that you and I and all the people here, North and South, could find a common goal. Stop the pain.”
Chair: “I’ll allow that as a question even though it was a speech! Thank you.”
Q. 6: [Dublin resident] Policing recruitment: “I had a very interesting lunch today with a young Protestant girl from the Republic of Ireland who applied for a job with the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] as a civilian worker. I think it was a triple interview system. She went through the first two it seems successfully and when she got to the third interview the interview started by somebody explaining to her that she wouldn’t be taken on in a job, if at all, unless first of all there was a Roman Catholic appointed. And she wondered, as a citizen of the European Union, how such discrimination could exist. Thank you, Gregory.”
Q. 7. [Drogheda businessman] Re investment in N.I. “Gregory, I found it quite painful to listen to what you had to say. I think your politics are quite petty, and I think they belong in the past. Last week I spent some time with the managing director of a very large old prestigious English company. He was looking to set up a factory in Ireland, and I was wondering when I spoke to him why he was considering southern Ireland, when his natural territory would be perhaps in the North.
“Over the course of this meeting I began to realise that I had more in common with him than what my unionist cousins in the North have, and that he felt more at home down here than what he would have felt in the North. And I thought that was a pity because you people are obviously more British than we. And the reason this man won’t invest in the Northern section of our country, and he won’t build a factory, and the reason we are going to get it, is because of politics on both sides of your community – just like yours and just like the republicans. If you want your communities to grow as one community and if you want to make money and make a good country or a state of Northern Ireland, you’ve got to leave this politics behind you. The greatest mistake you’ve made is the trashing of your Assembly. Who would invest up there? I could not encourage anyone to invest in your country. As I said, the politics is insular and it belongs in the past. You’ve got to leave this behind you, you’ve got to embrace the other community. Constantly whining and putting each other down. You can make something of it, you should make something of it, but you must embrace them. Now, you talk about Colombia and all these small little things that happened – they may be great things to you, but could they be anything worse than the dissembling of Stormont? If you bring the republicans in from the cold and work with them, show them that your politics works. I think they want to work with you, I think you should work with them, to make something of it. And I think, as a leader, you owe it to yourself and to your community to act like a leader, and the person I saw speaking here tonight – you’re no leader.”
Chair: “I’ll allow that as a question too. Now we’re drifting a little bit, I have to remind you. I know you want to express your feelings but I’d really like you to ask questions.”
Q. 8 [Navan resident]: “In view of the fact that the DUP Ministers in the North of Ireland did a powerful job, by all reports – including Mr Campbell when he was there – is that the reason why the DUP has increased their support since the Belfast Agreement? Or is it because they are constantly saying “no” to things?”
Replies to Questions 4-8:
Gregory Campbell: “In answer to the question from Cllr. [Brian] Fitzgerald with reference to the Lemass visit, and also – quite frankly I couldn’t understand this business – about allowing Sinn Fein to set the agenda, and then the Policing Board
Lemass visit and relationships with Irish Republic: “The whole issue of Lemass and anything like that – it’s not the case that the DUP and the forerunners of the DUP were opposed to everything from the Irish Republic and that that in some way led to the problems we are now faced with and now we are having to address the legacy of that, if you like. The issue for unionists is – not that Ian Paisley or anyone else opposed the visit of Lemass, but it is what is lying behind the people of the Republic wanting to have a closer liaison with those of us in Northern Ireland. If it is purely and simply creating a better environment than we are 100% behind that. But if we believe that there are those who want to use a better liaison, a better relationship, build a stronger North-South axis, in order to lay the foundation for some form of unified state in the future, then it will be resolutely opposed. So it is not what happens more as why is it happening. I mean I hope I’ve explained that.”
“I hear some people say things like – and it really does annoy me, and I heard David Trimble at it the weekend just past – I’ve heard things in the past, and I’m sure you’ve heard them as well, about, for example, the Angelus on RTE and if that was done away with that that would make the Republic a more accommodating place to unionists. Somebody remarked on my honesty. Let me be absolutely honest: it doesn’t matter! I don’t care whether they play the Angelus or not, because I am British. If you want the Angelus, or a secular introduction to your News, or if you want Mahatma Ghandi, it’s entirely a matter for you people, as long as you don’t do things in order to make the Republic more accommodating to people who are not part of the State, aren’t Irish or won’t be whatever you do. Then we can make progress. But if it’s seen to be a design to try and get unionists to say “Well, perhaps if we could all join in an Irish rugby team, and if we could drop the Angelus, and if it wasn’t such a sectarian “mono-ethnic” state as David Trimble talked about, then unionists might want to be part of it.” Now this is utter nonsense! Utter nonsense!
Sinn Fein: “Re Sinn Fein setting the agenda – I just do not accept that. I mean I’ve said what the agenda is tonight: that we want every party as democrats to come to the table to devise a new agreement that we can all sign up to.
Politics of the past: “Dealing with the next question, I just don’t understand the question about the issue of the politics of the past. Is it the politics of the past to get an agreement that everybody in Northern Ireland can support? Is that the politics of the past? The politics of the past is an Agreement that said to unionists: if we con you or get you to sign up to it, then you’re caught for ever and a day. That’s the politics of the past.
Politics of the future: “The politics of the future is some sort of diversity in Northern Ireland that everybody says “we are no longer threatened, we are no longer marginalized, we are no longer excluded, we are all in from the cold.” I can’t for the life of me see how anybody could describe that as the politics of the past.”
Policing Board: “If Sinn Fein under the present circumstances, with the IRA still active – not just “little things” like Colombia, “little things” like shooting people, kidnapping people and planting bombs and bringing in guns, “little things” like that as they are called – if Sinn Fein come in then we will have to take definitive and decisive action to ensure that they aren’t legitimised by so doing, and we certainly will do that.”
Unionists on the streets: “The next question I think was about unionists coming on to the streets. I came into politics – I have no history in my family or in my background of political involvement. I came into politics because nationalists were on the streets, because nationalists were demanding something that I didn’t have. And not only were they demanding something that I didn’t have, but they were blaming me – equal rights, equal rights that I didn’t have. And that’s where I came into politics, because nationalists were on the streets, and I deeply resented that they were blaming me for not getting something which I didn’t have either.”
Telling it as it is: “Then there was the other issue about words that you speak bringing about these vexing sores. Well I would have thought that tonight I’m trying to show – I mean I’ve come to the Republic before. I was in the Republic 20 years ago, 1983, and I’ve been to Glencree, I’ve been to Dublin, Donegal, I come to the Republic as often as I can.
“But because I come to the Republic doesn’t mean that I somehow change the spots that I have. I come to tell you as it is. Now people might not like it, but that’s the way it is.
Support for DUP: “And one of the questions was about support for the DUP – the support for the DUP is because we tell it as it is. Because our community says: “These people are speaking for us. We’ve been marginalized, discriminated and internationally nobody cares about us. Nobody cares about us. They back the nationalists, the Irish-American lobby back Sinn Fein, nobody cares about the unionists.” But people say “the DUP speak up for the unionist community.” That’s why there has been a rising tide for our party.”
Policing recruitment: “There was a question about discrimination against Irish Protestants in the police….”
Chair: “Yes, a clerical position.”
Gregory Campbell: “ If that is the case, and it is the first I’ve heard about it, unfortunately it only goes to prove what I was saying earlier – that there is this huge resentment amongst my community, and if there are Protestants in this State who also suffer as a result of it, then it ought not to be in place. Wherever people come from – Northern Ireland, the Republic, or any other country – they should get into our police force because they are the best qualified person to be a police officer, be they Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Hindu. No religion should be a barrier to that person being a police officer.
Q. 9: Cllr. Sean Collins (Fianna Fail, Drogheda): “First of all, can I welcome Gregory here? I’ve heard him speak a number of times in the past, and we’ve had a few debates in the past. The one thing I will always say about Gregory is – like him or lump him – he is consistent. He stands over his arguments all the way. I welcome him here. … We’re often told that the DUP are not coming south , are not prepared to come south, but they have done that and I would appeal to them to keep doing that, because we’ll not get anywhere unless we keep talking.
Just to make a slight observation. I would just appeal to everyone not to be getting bogged down in history, that may sound funny coming from me, but we have to move on. We’ve had four years of peace and the Good Friday Agreement. I’m one of the people that’s optimistic about that. For God’s sake, here in our own country we had a Civil War in 1922 and the parties are only getting over it in the last five years…. So I think in the four years of peace in Northern Ireland we’ve achieved an awful lot and moved on.”
Fear in unionist community: “The issues discussed by Gregory tonight – while I wouldn’t dismiss them, they’re very logical and important issues – but they’re not the real issues, as far as I’m concerned, in Northern Ireland Two or three weeks ago I was working with a group of active old people from both sides of the divide, brought together under the Peace and Reconciliation format. We had a very productive week, working together and discussing the Troubles and the things that concerned us in our lives. But the one thing that amazed me and shocked me was that the people from the nationalist community of both Derry and Belfast and other towns could say to me “when you’re up there, Sean, why don’t you drop in and have a cup of tea?
“We live in Ballymurphy, but we’re easy to find, we live in the Springfield Road, we’re easy to find.” The people from the unionist community said to me: “Sean, if you’re up we’d love to see you, give us a ring, but for God’s sake don’t come to the house, don’t come to our area, it wouldn’t be safe for you, it wouldn’t be safe for us.” The big bogey as far as Gregory and his colleagues are saying over and over again is the IRA, but surely the IRA are not living in Glenwood or those places? So what’s being done about that fear, what’s your party going to do about that fear? The word on the ground about your party is excellent. In many places – though you won’t admit it – I’m told Sinn Fein behind closed doors feel they can work the best with the DUP of all the parties in Northern Ireland, because the DUP, like Sinn Fein, are hungry. They are hungry for more seats and more control and more power, which is the natural part of the democratic process, that’s how it works, we see it down here all the time with other parties. That’s what I am concerned about. What are you going to do about that fear in your community? And the fear in your community of me knocking on their front door is not because the IRA are going to attack them. Thank you.”
Q. 10. Chair (Paul Murphy): “I’m going to throw in two questions of my own, if I may. The first relates to an article in the Observer a year ago when Henry McDonald reported that there were 87 paramilitary gangs operating in Northern Ireland, and I would like to know what can be done about that problem? And the second question I would like to ask is about the possibility of having a Truth Commission. That was one of the questions exercised at a conference in Cork at the weekend and we had a very interesting talk there from the Executive Director of the Truth Commission. That’s one thing I’ve always felt myself we should have – not in a punitive way but to give at least the truth and the facts to the relatives of the victims of the Troubles.”
Q. 11. Derek Mooney (Fianna Fail, Dublin): “Just two points – in your opening remarks you asserted that the Good Friday Agreement was one-sided and geared towards one community. If you could just expand on that because I don’t see the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement being like that. And secondly, you were talking about the differences between the North-South relationship and the East-West relationship, can I take it from that that the DUP – now with their increased strength at Westminster – will be taking their seats in the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body which is an East-West body?”
Q. 12. Cllr. James Holloway (Fine Gael, Navan): “You made reference, Gregory, earlier on, in relation to the Civil Service – the profile there is almost in favour of the nationalist community. I didn’t know that, but it might not appear to be as bad as it seems from your point of view. It may be because there is a propensity among the nationalist community to go into public service, whereas in Northern Ireland the professional community certainly – and they are famous for this – go more into business, so you have more people in business rather than in the public service.
“The other question is – and it is not intended to be frivolous – but I was listening to an Assembly Member from Northern Ireland saying recently – he gave an insight into what goes on in the dining room of the Assembly, and he said that never since the operation started there have the DUP, on the extreme of one side, or the nationalists, that never had they sat down together and eaten at the one table…. You could make a good start there. A famous philosopher once said that when we have been shown hospitality and eat a little we are disposed to be benevolent…”
Replies to questions 9-12:
Gregory Campbell: Moving on: “It’s good to see Sean [Collins] here – I met with him last year in Cork. I agree with him about the issue of moving on. …Sometimes I would attempt to bring some humour to the situation because it can defuse otherwise difficult circumstances. Sometimes I would hear people accusing me, for example, and those who think like me, of wanting to live in the past – that’s an accusation, one of those caricatures I was referring to at the start – and yet it seems to me that there are some people who want Northern Ireland to stop around Easter time in 1998, and they constantly go back to the vote on the Referendum. And you say “but look, it’s 2002”, but they say “oh no no, we go back to 1998.” And then I go: “but I thought it was we that lived in the past!”… It’s almost as if the world stopped at Easter 1998, and we got a vote and that’s it. Forever and a day we are going to live, die and be resurrected on Easter 1998! I’m sorry it just ain’t gonna happen! Just as the world didn’t stop in 1690, whether I wanted it to or not, just as it didn’t stop in 1916 or 1922, it didn’t stop in 1998 either. Life’s going to go on. We do have to move on. And that’s what I hope I was alluding to earlier on.
Fear in unionist community: “There is a fear – you are exactly right, Sean – and it’s not a fear of the IRA. It’s a combination of things, and really until you would be there, living the scenario 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it would be difficult to try and explain. But if you have the situation of some of those people that Sean wanted to go and knock on their door – and I think you should, and I think we should work until we get those doors opened, so that you can go in, and people can see that the man they thought had horns actually doesn’t have horns – but they have got to appreciate and understand that there isn’t a hidden agenda from you going up and knocking at their door. And you can do things and I can do things to help with that. For example, if I had steadfastly refused always to come to the Republic of Ireland to explain my case, I think I would be doing a disservice to Sean and the like of him who want to come to Northern Ireland, because my people would be saying: “Well, you never go to the Republic so why should we welcome him here?” I think by coming here – even though I am saying things that people don’t like or might not agree with or whatever – then I think it is more likely that people will say, provided there is no hidden agenda: “Yes, let’s hear what these people have to say” in Northern Ireland. I don’t pretend that it’s going to be an overnight – it’s going to be a long long process to get rid of that fear.”
Paramilitary gangs: “I think, Chairman, you mentioned the 87 paramilitary gangs. I get the impression – I mean there is appalling violence in Northern Ireland perpetrated by loyalists and perpetrated by republicans. There’s nail bombs, attacks on Catholics, attacks on Protestants. There is appalling violence – violence has gone up in the past five years rather than gone down. We had a meeting with Tony Blair about ten weeks ago and we presented him with figures of violence since the Agreement. He shook his head in disbelief until Reid butted in and said “no, I’m afraid they’re right, Prime Minister.” Attacks up, intimidation up, bombings up, shootings up – all of those instances, the statistics show increases rather than decreases. Now you asked me for an explanation: I don’t think there is a single explanation for that. I honestly believe that the more we create a sort of a vacuum where the type of government that we have allows people to believe that violence is in some way legitimised, then you increase the propensity for people engaging in that violence.
Truth Commission: “The business of a Truth Commission – I would personally be opposed to the establishment of a Truth Commission. I’ve been to South Africa several times, I remain to be convinced of the merits of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as outlined there.
One-sidedness: “The next question I have is the one-sidedness of the Belfast Agreement. Well I thought I’d outlined the business of the North-South so I’ll not go over that again. When you look at the Agreement – I’ll give you a couple of examples. Unionists would say that what should happen in any future agreement there ought to be Ministers who are responsible to the Assembly, not Ministers who can act in isolation. Now we think that that’s a pragmatic way of having good government in any case, but the experience of what some Sinn Fein Ministers did in the past – some of you might be aware of an issue regarding a maternity hospital in Belfast. The Health Minister who was Sinn Fein – Bairbre de Brun – she was having a discussion about where a maternity hospital should be based, and there were a number of options. Her Health Committee – an all-party committee, all of the main parties were represented on that committee – many of the representations to her were that she could locate it in another hospital in another part of Belfast. She represents West Belfast where the Royal Victoria Hospital is located. She decided to go against her committee, against the views of the Assembly and locate it in her own constituency. Now I know there is a belief in the Republic that that goes on all the time, that people simply locate in their own back yard for electoral purposes, but it hasn’t happened in Northern Ireland until that occurred. That caused outrage, particularly in the unionist community. It was purely a self-serving decision, and a sectarian one. When I was Minister, I had the opportunity to take decisions based on sectarian grounds. Not only did I decline to take them, I refused to take them, precisely because I think we have to move away from that. It’s things like that we have to change. We have to try and get a balance in an agreement rather than have what appears to be an agenda for republicans who pursue their agenda within the agreement.”
British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body: “The British-Irish Body. You probably are aware that that was established as a result of the forerunner of the Belfast Agreement – the Anglo-Irish Agreement – and again it had the same rationale which was to accommodate nationalist disenfranchisement but not unionist. So why would we want to join a body like that? If a body emerges that treats us as equals then I would be the first at the door to join.”
“I have a note here about the Civil Service – but I can’t remember what that [question] was for…
Chair: “There was one that said – “why not dine together?”
Gregory Campbell: “Oh yes. I take it that the person who asked that question thought that it would be quite natural for us to dine together. You’d need to be in Northern Ireland for a few weeks and a few months to understand the absolute intensity of distrust. It isn’t just a political disagreement. I have political disagreements with the SDLP, with the Alliance Party, with the PUP, with Sinn Fein, with all the political parties. If it was just political disagreements then I would happily dine with any of them. But where one of them is in the Government, not just because they get votes to get them in Government but because they have a private illegal army that got them there, then I have to draw the line, I have to say: “No, I’m not going to give you the legitimacy which I would talking to any political opponent” –
to sit down and have a debate, a discussion and an argument, with an ordinary political opponent who disagrees fundamentally. If you disagreed fundamentally with me to the point that you shot me before I reached that door, I think I would be legitimate in saying “well, I’m going to treat you differently from everyone else until I am sure that the guns are gone”. So the short answer is no, we haven’t dined with them because they still have the guns.”
Q. 13. Pat Hynes [Fianna Fail, Dublin]: “There’s an old political phrase that some people never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. While I’m not actually convinced of that fact as of yet, your preoccupation, if you like, with the need for perfection in what is essentially an imperfect agreement and an imperfect process – simply by the fact that it is the result of human design and creation – it does leave me somewhat foreboding. However there were some remarks that you did make that I found quite positive. One in particular was that you wanted to see an agreement which represented the wishes of the nationalist community – you didn’t want to force on them some sort of arrangement that would not be acceptable. Given the fact that the Belfast Agreement received such overwhelming support from the nationalist people, would I be right in assuming that, in advance of the forthcoming election in May, that you would go to your people and to your constituency seeking a review of the institutions and an examination of where perhaps there were failures, rather than, if you like, a return and a disassembling of what we would regard as fundamental tenets or principles of the Agreement?”
Q. 14. [Co. Louth resident] “ You told us your party was consistent, and that you want to look to the future and that you represent the majority of unionist people. I find the DUP are inconsistent – on an almost weekly basis, on your county councils in the Six Counties you regularly sit down with Sinn Fein representatives, yet your Ministers refuse to attend Ministerial meetings with the same Sinn Fein representatives. When the elections do come up on the 1st of May there’s a strong possibility of an even bigger polarisation of votes. The scenario will be that Sinn Fein and the DUP will hold the majority of votes on either side, and today you refuse to speak to these people. So what’s the future for Northern Ireland if that’s the scenario?”
Q. 15: Identity: “It’s a bit of a personal question…. The Scotch-Irish that Gregory would be very proud of have been with us now for 400 years. You mentioned the contribution they made to America. The greatest contribution that the Scotch-Irish made in America – and the most lasting one politically – was the fact that they formed the vast majority of Washington’s army in rejecting their Britishness. I’m glad they came, however, because a tiny percentage of my blood came with them. I think, to get on to the more personal side of the question, I recognise the legitimacy of Ulster Unionism as a democratic ideal, provided it is democratic. I share your suspicion of private armies. We’ve had private armies in Northern Ireland, and I’m talking specifically here of your suspicion of Sinn Fein and the IRA, but there’s a folk memory here of another private army, it’s called the “B” Specials. Finally what I have to say to you is this: I recognise your Britishness, I accept that you’re British, but your people have been here for 400 years. Can you not accept in your heart that you’re also Irish? I heard you tonight, you’re not Irish you’re British – can you not be both?”
Replies to Questions 13-15:
Chair: “It’s now just past ten and I would hope to finish by half-past ten, so if there are any future questions I would ask you to keep them very brief, with as little preamble as possible.”
Gregory Campbell: Missing the opportunity: “The first questioner in this round talked about the missing of the opportunity … At the meeting last year in Cork, I spent a full weekend what I thought was explaining what I said about the Angelus, and changes in the Republic, that if the Republic wanted to do that it was fine, but that would not change the Britishness of Northern Ireland – those of us who want to stay British. And at the end of the weekend one of the people who were involved in the trip – after I had gone out of my way to explain all this, what I thought was time without number – said to me on the way back: “What is it that you are afraid of in the Republic?” I said, “have I wasted the whole weekend? Do you not get the point? It’s nothing to do with what we are afraid of. Are the Canadians afraid of the United States?” Of course they’re not. If the United States wanted to take them over, they may oppose them, but it wouldn’t be a case of “what have you got to fear? It would be a case of “we’re not part of that State. We’re different. We’re from a different State”. That’s not apartheid. That’s just a reality, just as the Portuguese aren’t Spanish, just as the Canadians aren’t Americans. “
Imperfections of the Agreement: “The questioner talked about the imperfections of the Agreement. It’s our view that the imperfections of the Agreement are such that they require fundamental reassessing. One of your, I think it was an adviser to a previous Taoiseach, said about seven or eight years ago that any agreement in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein “wasn’t worth a penny candle”. Fergus Finlay said that. Does anybody here believe that any agreement without the DUP isn’t worth a penny candle? Because if there’s a different answer to that question, if no agreement can survive without Sinn Fein, but an agreement can survive without the DUP, then I have to ask myself: what’s the difference? Do we have to go out and get a private army, to get the same merit, the same consideration, as Sinn Fein? Is that the difference? We have a larger mandate than they have, but if some people say “we can’t live without Sinn Fein, but we can live without the DUP” – and that’s what appears to come across since 1998, numerous attempts to exclude us. I just don’t think it will work. There needs to be a fundamental change.”
Sitting down with Sinn Fein: “The second question was about the inconsistency. There’s absolutely no inconsistency. I’ve been on local government for 20 years, 21, but I’ve been on for 17 years since Sinn Fein have come on – Sinn Fein came on in 1985. Now, it’s a very straightforward, pragmatic approach: I’m not going to leave an elected body that people vote me on to because Sinn Fein come on. In other words, I have a decision to make, which is that I represent people. If Sinn Fein come, then I have a choice to make. The way I usually describe it when people ask me about this – “you sit with Sinn Fein on the Councils but you won’t do it in the Executive”. A very straightforward analogy: I go into a restaurant, I have my meal. If Martin McGuinness comes into the restaurant and sits at a table across the way from me, does anybody think I am going to say “I’m not staying here, I’m leaving”? I’m going to eat my meal and go. He’s there and I’m there, we’re there in the same room. Now, the difference – and I would put that in the Council context – the difference between that and the Executive is when the manager of the restaurant comes down to me and says: “Gregory, we’d like you to reorganise this restaurant and rewrite the menu, and would you do it with Martin and Gerry there?” He’d get a very short answer.
“Because one is I am doing what I am supposed to do – I’m not going to leave my people unrepresented – but when it comes down to saying to gunmen that we will get into bed with them and run the country with them, then that’s a completely different story. If there is a future with Sinn Fein and the DUP as the largest parties then we are not going to run away from our responsibilities, but we are not going to legitimise terror. Now there will be two ends of the spectrum there that will have to be reconciled, and I don’t know how they will be reconciled. But we won’t legitimise terror, neither will we run away from our responsibilities.”
Scotch-Irish: “The question about the Scotch-Irish. I’m glad you raised it because that’s one that I omitted. Even though I didn’t mention it, I’m very proud of my Scotch-Irish heritage, and I think I’ve every right to be. For good or ill, the largest single super-power in this world today is the United States of America, for good or ill. Its origins came about because of my predecessors. The first Presidents of the United States of America came from what is now Northern Ireland. In my schools, in my country, my children aren’t taught that. If I go to maintained schools. The nationalist community’s children are taught everything, or at least a substantial part, of their Irish history, and it is quite right and proper that they should be. But my children aren’t. They aren’t taught about Andrew Jackson, they aren’t taught about Sam Houston, they aren’t taught about the American Declaration of Independence, they aren’t taught about a whole range and plethora of things which any country would give their eye teeth for – to say “we are the people who created that super-power”. It isn’t done, it’s been neglected and it’s fallen into disrepair. I want to see that imbalance redressed. And I omitted to say it earlier on, but thanks for the opportunity to say it in the question.”
Identity: “And the thing about being Irish and British. I’ve no difficulty with that. I think I alluded to the Canadian analogy. The Canadians don’t like it if you call them Americans. And the reason they don’t like it – any of the Canadians I have met – is because the word “American” for them means United States of America. They live on the land mass that is America, but they don’t like being called “Americans” because that usually means United States of America, and they’re very proud of the fact that they are part of the land mass, but a different part of the same land mass. That’s the way I feel. When people say I’m Irish, I resist it, not because I’m not on the island of Ireland – of course I am, and in that sense I am Irish – but because Irishness is generally presented as being of your nation-state and I am not part of it. So, if you could take that away, I’m Irish in that sense, in that I’m from this island, but I’m British in terms of my birthright and my citizenship. I hope that explains that question.”
Q. 16. [Dublin resident] Re attitudes towards Sinn Fein in Government:
“… Gregory, you explained why the Good Friday Agreement is flawed. I’d be inclined to agree with you. There are very serious flaws in it. One of the difficulties has been, I think, without a doubt, the Sinn Fein/IRA situation, and I do think it is hypocritical for our own Government in the South to say: “You will share power with Sinn Fein and the IRA, but we won’t, we won’t share government with them.” And I think actually Blair said recently, when he visited Belfast, that this argument was a bit sophisticated…. Do you think a change has taken place since the suspension of Stormont, both with Tony Blair’s attitude towards that situation, and indeed Bertie Ahern’s attitude, and that perhaps if we are to go forward that will have to be resolved once and for all, or you’re going to have direct rule for a very long time?”
Gregory Campbell: “I was wondering if someone in the audience would raise this issue … Tony Blair quite rightly said there are convoluted defences of the position but they are not as straightforward as the accusation which is, from the South’s point of view: “we won’t have them in our government, but you must have them in yours”. And that’s the way many unionists see it, you know you can dress it up about the status of this state and its sovereign authority, but to unionists … it’s a case of “they’re not good enough for us, but they’re good enough for you”….. [break in tape]
“This is a personal view but I suspect they still haven’t – I don’t detect that there’s any movement on the fundamental issue which is: are we going to all be there as equals, without any guns on the table, or under it, as somebody once said, or outside the door? Are we all going to be there on the basis of equality? And are we going to be trying to devise an agreement that tries to reconcile inadequacies all round the table, not just one set of inadequacies which is what we believe that the old agreement had, and the view that it promulgated. I don’t know if there has been a change. I suspect that it will require an election. That’s why we are so keen to have an election, because we believe that our views will hold the greater number of the unionist community and then the attempt by my Government and, I think, by your Government, to sideline our view will then be shown to be a futile attempt. And I think the sooner we face up to grasping that nettle the better it will be in the long run. It may be uncomfortable in the short term, but the better it will be in the long run.”
Q. 17. “What percentage of unionists voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement in the Referendum?”
Gregory Campbell: “It’s quite difficult because at the time of the Referendum, it was a province-wide referendum, there wasn’t constituency break-downs, but the general consensus is that was somewhere between 48% and 55%. Those people who are generally very much in favour of the Agreement would say that 55% of unionists voted for the Agreement. Those of us that are against the Agreement would say that it was slightly less than 50%. The truth, as in all these things, is probably somewhere in between, but, wherever it lies, again what I normally say to people is: “let’s just take it at 50%, we’ll not split hairs …
Questioner: “Do you not agree that there was a majority in favour and that it was your duty then to work towards implementing the Agreement?”
Gregory Campbell: “What I would say to you is this. It’s a very simple question: if 50% of nationalists voted against the system of government would it be implemented in Northern Ireland? No, it would not, and history shows us – it’s not just conjecture on my part – history shows us that when nationalists, as they repeatedly did, said “no” to a deal it wasn’t implemented. When we put our views to the people, and we get 65% or 70% of the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, the British Government, Tory and Labour, said to us: “you must have cross-community support”. Well then we must have it in this instance as well. If 50% of the unionists are against it we’ve got to get a deal that 80% or 90% of both communities can endorse. Is that so horrible a prospect: that we might actually get a deal that people on both sides of the divide can take ownership of? I would have thought that’s preferable to a deal that only gets a minority – and remember that was five years ago, 50%; the truth now is probably something like 30% of unionists …. But the numbers don’t matter, what matters is getting a deal that both communities can endorse.”
Chair (Paul Murphy): “I am not going to try to sum up the debate for you. I only hope that you’ve managed to get some of the answers from Gregory. I thank him very much for coming down here, it’s not his first visit and I hope it won’t be his last. I remember when we were in Roscarberry last year – you might remember this – at a very late hour of night we were having a drink, I was having a gin and tonic and Gregory was having an orange juice, if I remember rightly, and I was asked to contribute musically to the event, which is really a disaster, because I sang that most “PC” and non-political of tunes, “Jingle Bells”. The only thing I got wrong was my timing – I sang it in early November! But we had a good night that night, and I believe strongly that if we are able to meet on a one-to-one basis, as human beings, we can achieve a great deal more. …. Where you get 30 people in a room, from all persuasions and none, and you get them talking, and they talk about the ordinary things that human beings want to talk about, at that level we can meet and hopefully we can continue to do that. And of course I hope again, Gregory, that you will come and visit us and that you will deliver straight from the shoulder as you did tonight. Thank you very much indeed.”
Meath Peace Group report, November 2002. (c)Meath Peace Group
Transcribed and edited by Julitta Clancy
Taped by Oliver Ward, Catriona Fitzgerald, Anne Nolan and John Mark Clancy
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (DUP): Alderman Gregory Campbell was first elected to local government in 1981 and has been re-elected every four years since then. He has contested Assembly and Parliamentary elections on behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party and was elected Assembly Member in 1998 and Member of Parliament in June 2001 for the East Londonderry constituency. He was Regional Development Minister in the NI Executive from July 2000 to September 2001. Gregory has been the leader of the DUP group on Londonderry Council since 1981. From 1981-1994 he was the party spokesman on Fair Employment, from 1994 he was spokesman for security and from 1996-97 was a delegate in the All Party Talks. Born in 1953, educated at Ebrington Primary School and the former Londonderry Technical College, he is married to Frances and has three daughters, one son and a grand-daughter. In 1982 he became the first politician in Northern Ireland to gain an extra-mural certificate in political studies at Magee College. Before full-time politics he established a local publishing company which was designed to create greater awareness of Ulster history and tradition, especially the Ulster-Scots contribution to the origins of the United States of America. Gregory has also written a number of booklets on the question of discrimination against the Protestant community in Northern Ireland: “Discrimination – the Truth” 91987); “Discrimination – Where Now?” (1993); “Ulster’s Verdict on the Joint Declaration” (1994) and “Working Toward 2000” (1998). His leisure interests are soccer, music and reading.
Paul Murphy was formerly Group Editor with the Drogheda Independent, a post he held for 16 years. Prior to his appointment as Group Editor, Paul worked as a journalist with the Irish Independent, covering Northern Ireland issues from 1968 to 1976. Paul is associated with the Drogheda-Shankill Partnership and Drogheda Homeless Aid and is Secretary of the Old Drogheda Society.
©Meath Peace Group