Meath Peace Group Talks
51 – “THE DUP’S VISION FOR THE FUTURE”
Monday, March 29th, 2004
St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
George Dawson, MLA (DUP)
Mervyn Storey, MLA (DUP)
Chaired by Ercus Stewart, S.C.
Introduction: Ercus Stewart
Questions and comments (summary)
Closing words: Julitta Clancy
Appendix: Extracts from DUP paper Devolution Now
[Editor’s note: Prior to the talk, the two new members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, George Dawson and Mervyn Storey, were welcomed by local TDs John Bruton (former Taoiseach), and Damien English, who wished them well in the upcoming talks.]
Ercus Stewart, S.C. “Good evening … Our first speaker, George Dawson, is convinced that the structures established under the Belfast Agreement are “top-heavy, bureaucratic, wasteful and inefficient”. At first I thought he was talking about some of our institutions, but no, he tells me it’s the other side of the border – but maybe he’ll teach us how to improve! Furthermore – and this is important to us here – in his various media statements he consistently highlights the unfairness, undemocratic nature and appeasement of terrorists in the current political process, and again this is one of his important points.
“Just a few points on his background: apart from joining the DUP in 1979 – he hasn’t yet told me at what age, I can tell you Mervyn Storey joined the DUP at age 14 so both of them have a long involvement with the DUP – but his grandfather signed the Ulster Covenant. Now, I’m going to share with you my ignorance and see if anybody here can help me apart from the people sitting up here – how many people do you remember from your history signing the Ulster Covenant in 1912? I did not know, I guarantee you – it was in the order of about 400,000! I’m now going to ask George to address you.
1. George Dawson, MLA: “I would like to thank Damien [English] for the welcome from the political representation in the area and we were delighted to meet Mr Bruton when he joined the group earlier this evening. We were very pleased that he was able to be with us and to welcome us to the event this evening.
“The reference has been made to the Ulster Covenant, and I believe there are people here tonight from Monaghan and Cavan. My grandfather signed the Ulster Covenant in Dartry parish church between Monaghan and Cavan on Ulster Day, 1912. He was from that particular area and so the people here tonight from counties Monaghan and Cavan have a friend and perhaps a relation in me this evening. I proudly own the Covenant which he signed in his own handwriting and I also own his Ulster Volunteer Force armband from that particular time as well, they are very valued heirlooms within the Dawson family. We still have relatives in that particular area, so it’s a home-coming for me to some extent to be here this evening.
NI Political landscape: “Turning to the main meat of the evening, the Northern Ireland political landscape changed on the 26th November last year. On that occasion, the Democratic Unionist Party became the largest political party in Northern Ireland, it became the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland, and it is the only party with a representative in every single constituency across Northern Ireland. For the future of unionism that has been a dramatic shift and of dramatic importance for our people in Northern Ireland. That has given to our people a degree of confidence which they lost with the signing of the Belfast Agreement. The strength and the confidence and the ability of our people to represent themselves was sapped away with the signing of the Belfast Agreement which we opposed at that particular time. And if there is one single event which has given heart to our people, courage to our people and confidence to our people, it is that single election result which occurred on the 26th November last year. Because they realised – unionist people have come to realise – that the appeasement to terrorism, the concessions to terrorists and the one-way traffic in political life has come to an end. Sadly, the leaders of unionism prior to that time were all too willing to do whatever had to be done in order to appease IRA/Sinn Fein. But on the 26th November that ended, it will not recommence again, the appeasement is over, the concessions are over and, on our watch, there will be no more recognition of terrorism in the heart of government. And that is a message which Mervyn will reiterate when he comes to dealing with our attitude to terrorist organisations.
Border not a question: “The result of the election in November also very clearly outlined once again that the question of the Border is not a question. Because, of the representatives who were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, 65 out of the 108 representatives are of a unionist persuasion of various shapes. Over 60% of the poll is unionist, leaving 40% or thereabouts of the poll supporting a united Ireland. So the question of the Border is not a question. The Border is there to stay and will remain in place for quite a significant period to come. And that is again a very clear result of the election which occurred. So there will be no change to the Border.
Failings of the Belfast Agreement: “We have in place in Northern Ireland, currently, under the Belfast Agreement, a structure of government which has been delivering concession after concession to terrorists, a structure of government which is one-sided, a structure of government which was designed to undermine unionism and undermine the unionist position. It is not stable, it is not democratic and it is not accountable. I think the lack of stability is clearly evidenced by the fact that it has collapsed four times. No government, or no system of government, which collapses so easily and so dramatically can ever be a system of government which a democratic country can accept.
Instability: “What we want to achieve is a stable system of government which lasts, a system of government which will survive regardless of what the terrorists do, a system of government which will take all of our people forward into the future, a system of government which has the support of unionists and the support of nationalists. The Belfast Agreement certainly had the support of the nationalist community within Northern Ireland. It is questionable whether it ever had the support of the unionist community – Roy [Garland] might disagree with me on that. It is questionable whether it ever had the support of a majority within the unionist community but certainly today the Belfast Agreement does not have the support of the unionist community across Northern Ireland. It is an agreement which was unstable.
Undemocratic agreement: “It is an agreement which was undemocratic because it brought into the heart of government those who were still wedded to, and using, violent means to achieve political ends. Yes, they may say that the guns were silent, but the guns were being used as a bargaining chip within … negotiations. In effect, the IRA was saying to Government, North and South: ‘Here is a pile of weapons, give us a series of concessions and we will deal with this pile of weapons.’
Decommissioning: “Now much of the decommissioning which was proclaimed as taking place was, I believe, a conjuring trick with guns. Because we don’t know how many guns were ever decommissioned. We don’t know where they were decommissioned, we don’t know how they were decommissioned and we cannot verify the fact that anything was decommissioned, except we have the word of the Decommissioning Commission that some acts happened which were significant, but when questioned on the meaning of significant, the General in charge of the Decommissioning Commission said that a small quantity of Semtex would be a significant act of decommissioning. So of all of the vast shipments of weapons which the IRA had, many of them are still intact within North and Southern Ireland. And indeed we already know that they have been importing further weaponry since the time of the signing of the Belfast Agreement.
Agreement not stable: “So the Agreement was not stable. The Agreement was not democratic in that it introduced terrorism into the heart of government.
Accountability: “And the Agreement was not accountable because Ministers in their fiefdoms could make decisions without reference to the Assembly, without reference at all to the democratically elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland. They could take decisions in their Departments without having to come back to the Assembly for the Assembly to ratify those decisions. As a result of which, the Minister for Education wiped out the 11-plus Examination in Northern Ireland, the transfer of children from primary school to secondary school. As a result of which the Minister for Health, Bairbre de Brun, decided that the maternity hospital for Greater Belfast would be in her constituency, because of the fact that she could make those decisions against the wishes of the Assembly
“So the Agreement was not stable, it was not democratic and it was not accountable. And for all these reasons and others we have consistently opposed the Belfast Agreement.
Devolution Now: “Recently we published a document, which you can get a copy of this evening, called Devolution Now. And the Devolution Now document is consistent with our election pledges, it is consistent with the documents we used during the time of the referendum on the Agreement, and also since that time in critiquing the Agreement, in which we set out seven principles and seven tests. And you’ll be able to read those for yourselves later on if you wish to take a document with you. [Editor’s note: extracts from the Devolution Now document are reproduced below in the Appendix to this report]
Breaking the log-jam: “Having recognised that there are principles and tests which we will apply to any Agreement, having recognised the failings with regard to democracy, stability and accountability within the current Agreement, we have proposed 3 possible methods of breaking the log-jam.
Voluntary Coalition: “Our first and preferred method of breaking the log-jam is to enter into a Voluntary Coalition with other constitutional parties. We will not enter into a coalition with IRA/Sinn Fein while they maintain their terrorist arsenal, while they continue to exile people from Northern Ireland, while they continue to target members of the security forces, while they continue to beat people in the streets who don’t agree with them, while they continue to kidnap people because they take a contrary view to IRA/Sinn Fein. While all of those activities go on we will not regard IRA/Sinn Fein as a normal democratic party, and we will not enter into coalition with them while all of those activities continue. But we are prepared to enter into a voluntary coalition with any constitutional party in Northern Ireland, and that includes the SDLP because they are a constitutional nationalist party. And we would enter into a voluntary coalition with them very similar to the type of arrangement which you would have here where, post-election, parties will get together, have discussions about a programme of government, have discussions – and horse-trading – about the things which would be included in a programme of government and move forward on that agreed basis to implement a governmental arrangement within our jurisdiction. So option number one – our preferred option – is a voluntary coalition existing within Northern Ireland. We have to say that at this moment in time we don’t believe that that preferred option is likely to happen. There are some indications that the SDLP may be moving in that direction but apparently they are not ready for that particular move. Sadly they are afraid to break away from the militant nationalism of IRA/Sinn Fein, it would seem. We wish they would come with the rest of the democrats and the constitutional parties in a voluntary arrangement. We believe there would be benefits for them electorally if they were delivering to their people on the ground many of the things that a government, an Executive, in Northern Ireland could deliver and we would wish for them to make that particular break. We have suggested some ways of them enhancing their position within the body politic in Northern Ireland, perhaps with arrangements on a North-South basis which I don’t want to get into this evening.
Mandatory Coalition: “The Mandatory Coalition which, under the Belfast Agreement, includes IRA/Sinn Fein, is not something which we would be moving towards now. As I say, if Sinn Fein/IRA stopped all of the paramilitary activities and paramilitarism went away, that would transform the situation but again we see no evidence of that happening in the very near future because they seem wedded to their paramilitary past, wedded to their paramilitary present and it would seem to us that they are wedded to their paramilitary future.
Corporate Governance: “Given that the Mandatory Coalition option is closed at this moment in time, given that the Voluntary Coalition option – it would seem – is closed at this moment in time, we have proposed another method of governing Northern Ireland which we have called the Corporate Governance model. During all of the time of Northern Ireland’s political and paramilitary difficulties the local authorities – the councils in Northern Ireland – operated with all parties in membership and attendance at the local councils, Sinn Fein included. All parties were elected to the local councils, all parties participated in local council structures, all parties participated in local council decisions. That has worked, that has been stable, that has delivered for people on the ground all of the services that you would expect local government to deliver on a day-to-day basis. While we have said that it is not our preferred option, and we have said while it is not something which is the best – because it is obviously not the best – it may be that it is the only option which is available now for Northern Ireland to move from where there is no devolution to a period where devolution is possible, looking at it from the best possible case scenario.
IRA activities: “And we’re fundamentally of the view that the IRA Army Council should not be able to dictate the pace of political progress in Northern Ireland. At the moment the Assembly collapsed four times because the IRA Army Council failed to do what they were supposed to do. And it cannot be right in a democracy that the army council of a terrorist organisation has a veto on political progress in any jurisdiction, whether it be in Northern Ireland or any place else in the world. Under the Corporate Governance model, it would operate and continue to operate regardless of the activities of the terrorists beyond the doors of Stormont, regardless of what activities they got up to because within the Assembly, within the Corporate Governance model, the activities of Sinn Fein/IRA would be irrelevant.
Key Vote system: “Now you would say to me, I’m sure: ‘what protection do those models hold for members of the nationalist community?’ Again we have addressed this matter. Within the old Assembly there was a designation system – when you became a member of the old Assembly you had to designate yourself either nationalist or unionist and on important votes or votes which required a cross-community voting mechanism there had to be a majority of the nationalist community and the unionist community voting together before such a vote would pass. Again we have said that we are happy for that to be maintained within the new system – there would have to be a majority of both unionists and nationalists voting together for a matter to pass which was controversial. But we have also proposed – and this is something which we are in agreement with the Alliance Party on. The Alliance Party as you probably know is a centre-ground party and the Alliance Party have felt that under the designating system that their votes have been somewhat of an irrelevance because the Alliance Party votes are not counted, as it were, as either unionist or nationalist – and so to accommodate that position we have said that alongside the weighted majority system or the majority of both communities a matter could also pass if there were 70% support within the Assembly at large. Now obviously to have 70% support within the Assembly at large you would need the support of at least one part of the nationalist community to support a particular vote in order for that particular vote to pass. So, under the Key Vote system, within both the Corporate Governance model and within the Voluntary Coalition model, the rights and responsibilities of minorities are fully protected and the minority position within that model would have nothing to fear whatsoever.
DUP ready for government: “So we have a way of moving Northern Ireland forward from being held back by terrorism to a position where government can happen immediately. And I can say to you this evening that we are ready for government tomorrow. We are ready for government either in the Corporate Governance model or in the Voluntary Coalition model which we have indicated both to the parties in Northern Ireland and to both governments and to the electorate at large. We would welcome the opportunity of getting into government on that cross-community basis, with the Key Votes which I have clearly outlined to you.
Efficiency Commission: “Now alongside the political issues which I have outlined, we have proposed an Efficiency Commission because, as has been outlined in the introduction, certainly from my business background and from my experience of interfacing with government departments, Northern Ireland is over-administered. For a population of 1.7 million people, we have11 Government Departments, we have 108 Assembly Members, we have 26 local authorities, we have 5 health boards, we have 4 education boards, we have 130 non-Departmental public bodies, we have I think around 400 quangos at the last count, all in Northern Ireland, seeking to administer government within that place. Now I don’t think you need to be a graduate of any of the universities of Ireland to understand that that is an awful lot of administrators for a very small piece of territory and a very small population. So there is need for efficiency and there is need for cutting through many of the layers of government. We have proposed that the Assembly be reduced from 108 to 72. That obviously would mean that some Assembly Members from my party would lose their seats, that would mean that some Assembly Members from other parties would lose their seats as well, but we are ready for that, we are happy that that would be the case. We have proposed that the number of Departments should be reduced to at least 8 Departments, possibly more but at least 8 – down from the current 11 Departments. We are putting proposals to the Review of Public Administration with regard to the number of local authorities we should have and the other non-Departmental public bodies which we have. There is a real opportunity to save money within the political structures of Northern Ireland so that money can be put to front line services such as health and education and housing. It may interest you to know that of the total budget for housing in Northern Ireland, 80% is spent on administration! On the total budget for education in Northern Ireland, a similar proportion is spent on administration. Now that cannot be good for any country, and we must get a way of cutting away that wastefulness out of government so that more and more of the money can be put to meeting front-line services such as health, education and housing and other aspects. If you came to Northern Ireland you would find that the waiting lists for our hospitals are a disgrace. We are the worst in the United Kingdom with regard to the waiting lists in our hospitals, and yet health equates to more than 50% of the total Northern Ireland Government spend… Those things must be dealt with in an efficient and effective manner. And those are the sort of things that we would want the Efficiency Commission to have a look at as well.
North-South arrangements: “Now I’ve concentrated very largely on the arrangements within Northern Ireland because those are the details that we have published to date. You may be interested in the arrangements we will be proposing for a North-South relationship. Now what I cannot do this evening is go into those in any great detail because they have not as yet been published – they were to be published about three or four weeks ago but when the IRA kidnapped Bobby Tohill on one Friday evening in Belfast everything was put on hold. Our Assembly team has been divided into three groups – one dealing with the internal Northern Ireland arrangements, one dealing with the North-South arrangements and one group dealing with a range of other matters pertinent to the Agreement. Group Two had the arrangements for North-South ready for printing when the Tohill affair broke. Everything was put on hold at that particular moment, and we are still on hold, again because of the activities of the Provisional IRA.
“But I think within the Devolution Now document you can see some key principles. Just as the Departments of Government in Northern Ireland have to be accountable to the Assembly, so any arrangements on a North-South basis would have to be accountable to the Assembly. Under the previous arrangement a Minister in his or her own Department could make whatever arrangements they wanted to make on a North-South basis without reference back to the democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland. That could not continue, and so whatever arrangement develops on a North-South basis it would have to be accountable to the Assembly.
“I would also say that whatever arrangements develop on a North-South basis they would have to be driven by need and not politics. Some of the North-South structures which developed previously developed – it would seem to us – because there was a political desire to have certain things done and certain things said. That is no good reason to develop North-South structures. If there is a need, a clearly demonstrated need, to cooperate North-South, then there should be no bar on our part in putting those arrangements in place. And there are a range of activities where North-South arrangements could be put in place very quickly and on a structural basis. But it has to be driven by need and not politics.
Lasting settlement: “And just in conclusion, and I thank you for your patience with me, let me throw out something which may or may not appear in our documents. You will recall that when South Africa – which is much promoted as a model to us in Northern Ireland – came through all of its political difficulties and reached a settlement which was going to last, and let me use that as another point – the settlement in Northern Ireland which is developed as a result of the political discussions which are underway must be a settlement which will last. Part of the reason for the failure of the Belfast Agreement was that it was not in fact a settlement, it was at best a series of Heads of Agreement, because so much was left undone. And again it was not a settlement because the IRA kept coming back for more and for more and for more, and the undoing of David Trimble was the fact that Sinn Fein still kept coming back for more and for more because there was no agreed settlement.
Commonwealth: “So there must be a settlement which is going to last. And part of the settlement which South Africa achieved was that South Africa would rejoin the Commonwealth. Now I throw that out as a challenge this evening, to this audience. If you are serious about North-South relations being on an equable and fair basis, if you are serious about reaching out the hand of friendship to your brethren and sisters across the Border, why would you not rejoin the British Commonwealth of Nations? Thank you very much for your patience.”
Chair (Ercus Stewart): “Thank you. Our next speaker, Mervyn Storey, has had a very very long involvement in politics and is also a member of the Assembly. He is also actively involved in the Loyal Orders. Thank you Mervyn…
2. Mervyn Storey, MLA:
“Can I say how delighted I am to be here this evening and to have this opportunity along with my party colleague and personal friend, George Dawson, to represent our party on this occasion. Can I also give a word of thanks to our hosts in the Meath Peace Group? This is not the first time that George and myself have been in the Republic, and we count it a joy that we again were invited. Circumstances have somewhat changed in our own personal political journeys as has been described. The last occasion we were here we weren’t elected, and some might have even said we weren’t electable! Thankfully, being a good Calvinist, I believe and I trust that the rafters of this building won’t fall around me for having made such a statement as that! I believe in Providence and George and I were elected on the 23rd November 2003 to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Dr Ian Paisley: “I have had the personal joy and privilege for many years in being associated on a personal and on a family and on a political level with the leader of our party, Dr. Paisley. To some that may be looked upon as being an awful burden to bear and as being an awful association to have but I count it an honour to have had such an association, and I can assure you that the public perception that is given of our party leader is far from the reality of the person that he really is. I have found in him a great source of encouragement, and I believe I have the great opportunity in serving probably one of the best political apprenticeships – from the year 2000 through to 2003 I have had the opportunity of working along with him in his constituency, with Dr Paisley and with his family and Ian Junior. Then in 2003 we were elected in the same constituency as Dr Paisley. I was just sharing with our friends when we were having a meal, some people would say that it is not good to be associated with Ian Paisley. I will just give you a practical example of how it benefited me – as you know in Northern Ireland, the same as here in the Republic, we have proportional representation, and for me to be elected on that particular occasion I required somewhere in the region of 6,000 first preference votes. When the votes were counted I had 3, 700 so I was considerably short, but whenever the surplus which Dr Paisley had, and the surplus which Ian Paisley Junior had, I ended up almost having 8,000 votes, with a surplus that had to be divided. So I said to Dr Paisley when the count was over, and he was getting somewhat irritated with me because I was very nervous and I was walking up and down in the count centre and he said: ‘will you sit down, you’re making me nervous, you’re like a father waiting for a child to be born, everything’s going to be fine”, and so we did, and everything was fine.
“I always find it difficult to move onto issues of substance coming after George Dawson because he always says the things you want to say… I see we have members of the clergy with us tonight and it reminds me of the story of the young man who went to hear a great preacher and he was enthralled by the preacher, he was just riveted by every word he said, and he had preached on the text ‘Peter’s wife’s mother was sick’. And the young man was totally enthralled and he said ‘that was the greatest exposition I’ve ever heard.’ Some months later, he heard that the preacher was back in another town and he went to hear him. And, lo and behold, as he sat waiting to hear the text announced, the preacher got up and announced his text and it was ‘Peter’s wife’s mother was sick of a fever’. And so the young fellow was somewhat disconcerted about that but he thought, ‘well, I suppose, if you’ve a good sermon you will use it again’ – and if you were George and I you would use it again and again! But a few months passed again and he went to hear the same preacher and, lo and behold, he preached the same thing. On the way home, he was getting into the train and the preacher was in the same carriage and they sat in the same carriage and the preacher, looking out the window, said ‘oh look there’s a funeral going past’. The young man said ‘it must be Peter’s wife’s mother’! So there we have it.
“I want to read you something tonight: “We must not decommission democracy to accommodate those who must decommission weapons.” That was a statement, not from a DUP politician, but from your own Justice Minister, Mr McDowell. And I could give quote after quote in many of the things that he has said in relation to the attitude of the current Irish Government as to the activities of Sinn Fein/IRA. George has given us an overview of the issues in relation to the political situation in Northern Ireland. Just let me pass some comments in regard to those issues.
Subversion of democracy: “The people of Northern Ireland were promised a ‘New Beginning’ in the April of 1998. That New Beginning was to be delivered by the Belfast Agreement – that was to be the vehicle to deliver a new dawn for Northern Ireland. At the time, our own party warned that such a deal would bring neither peace nor stability to the Province but would create an environment in which decent law-abiding citizens would find democracy subverted to accommodate unrepentant terrorists. When that was said, we were laughed out of court. We were told that that was not the case, that those who had committed themselves to the Belfast Agreement and to the Mitchell Principles and to all the mechanics that were being presented to them would deliver. Unfortunately, the contrary is the case. Terrorism was whitewashed and legitimised. Its front men were regarded as socially concerned politicians, of genuine principles, who were really about jobs and health and education and peace. And the murder of our friends and families was a distraction, a side issue. There was a wholesale release of terrorists of the worst kind, both loyalist and republican, onto our streets, to peddle the slow lingering murder that drugs bring, and to incite rioting and fear.
Paramilitary crime: “I’ve come today from a meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. A most amazing meeting, one that could only take place in Northern Ireland. That meeting was to discuss a factory in my constituency, Gallagher’s Tobacco Factory. It’s ironic that I should come here tonight on the smoke-free day and the commencement of the new dawn for smokers in this country! But today I was representing Gallagher’s … at a meeting with the Secretary of State. That meeting wasn’t to argue about the issue of the tax/levy on tobacco sales. That meeting wasn’t to discuss more investment for a manufacturing base in my constituency. That meeting was to discuss the safety of the delivery of tobacco from Ballymena to Dublin because the IRA had – in the terms of the Secretary of State – engaged in a ‘heist’ at Christmas time and stole almost a million pounds’ worth of cigarettes. We could get no guarantee that the main route between the two cities in Ireland could be safeguarded! That is an absolute shame and a disgrace. Let me tell you what Gallagher’s are now doing – and they’re going to have to pay the price of the events of today, the Government legislation – but what are they doing to get their product to the Republic of Ireland? They are taking it from Ballymena to Belfast, they are shipping it to Liverpool and then they are shipping it from Liverpool to Dublin.
“And we are told we have peace.
Uncontrollable mafia: “You see what we have done, and it’s so sad, is that we have now taken those who have been engaged in violence for over thirty years, and they were engaged in activities that I know everyone in this room would condemn – the murder of our kith and kin – and they have legitimised them. And now they have become an uncontrollable mafia along the border. I think, ladies and gentlemen, in the light of all that we hear across the world we ought to rise with indignation, not only against the activities in Madrid, and in New York and in the United States on September 11, but also against the activities of rogues on this island, both loyalist and republican.
Loyalist paramilitaries: “Because, let me tell you, I treat with the same indignation and disgust those loyalist paramilitaries – so-called – who have peddled and still do peddle their trade in destruction and death. My wife works in a post office, and just a couple of weeks ago the post office was robbed… it was a horrendous experience. But I have some idea that those who were involved would have been loyalist paramilitaries, given the location, given where the car came from, and so on. A week later, I was in the Assembly and I met David Ervine, the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, linked to the UVF. And of course he shed crocodile tears, he said ‘Mervyn it was terrible what happened to your wife’ and I said ‘yes, and David, probably some of your colleagues were involved.’ Because that’s the reality.
“Those days have to go, and those who have given political cover have to be exposed.
Moral challenge: “And so we find ourselves in the situation in Northern Ireland where there is a challenge, but I think that George has very eloquently and very succinctly given the political context and the political challenge, but I say to you at all times there is a moral challenge that we all face. And the moral challenge is this: it would be easy for me to come here tonight and to sound as though we were high and pious and everything was somebody else’s fault. But the moral challenge is to ensure that we collectively do not allow those who still are wedded to violence to have their agenda continually on the table.
Concessions are over: “And for me the election in November 2003 did give that signal of hope, that the concessions were over. You know there’s a great attack by us as a party politically on David Trimble, for all the right reasons – he has given away everything but the family silver. The mortgage was on the table, everything was up for grabs, unfortunately. But in November, that ended, and those concessions by unionists came to an end and now there are unionists – ourselves – at the table. We are not going to be unreasonable, we’re not going to be unfair, and our requirements are no less than those of your own Government.
Trust and friendship: “I was honoured when John Bruton came tonight to welcome us here. I’m sure you’ll find this strange, that a close colleague – and I count him a personal friend of mine – is Eamon Ó Cuiv, a Minister in your Government. You may think that is the strangest alliance, the grandson of de Valera who has a personal friend in a Protestant Calvinist in the person of Mervyn Storey! You might think that strange, but you know friendship ought to know no bounds. And the one thing that marks out Eamon – and he comes from a republican background, he comes from a history that I would not sit comfortably or content with – but the one thing that is different today is this: I trust him. Because when he says that his aims and objectives will only be pursued by political means, I know he means it. But I sit on a council, a local authority, with a representative of Sinn Fein/IRA, and I have to say I don’t trust him. Why? Because the evidence stacks up against his party. Remember Gerry Adams said – and he didn’t say this ten years ago, he didn’t say this some fifteen years ago, he said this back in 2002 at an IRA commemoration dinner – he said that the campaign of the IRA was ‘noble and honourable’.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in my view there was nothing noble and honourable about the devastation and destruction that was heaped on Northern Ireland – on Roman Catholics and on Protestants, because death knows no religious boundary. And whatever your political ideology is, if it has to be sold at the barrel of a gun, it is not worth it
Sinn Féin in Government: “The DUP has been accused in the past of having some strange alliances. I know that Roy Garland is here tonight – I have to say that I sort of look to Roy with great admiration. He almost destroyed my political career! He writes a column in the Irish News in Northern Ireland, and he said of me on one occasion that Mervyn Storey wasn’t a bigot. Well, I was really disappointed in that! And Dr Paisley pulled me in the next day and he questioned me for four hours to see if this was the case! “There are those who would say that in the past our party had some strange alliances and friendships. But I have to say this: the DUP has as its goal and its aim the same political requirements as your own Government. Remember the Dublin Government and Administration said that Sinn Fein was unfit for government. Well I have to say, respectfully, that if they are unfit for government in Dail Éireann, they are unfit for government in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Why? Because we don’t recognise or respect their mandate? I do respect their mandate, but Hitler had a mandate, and a mandate never justifies mass murder. And we have to face up to that reality.
Challenges that lie ahead: “In the weeks and months that lie ahead there are challenges for us, there are challenges for us within the institutions and beyond the institutions, but I think that we are up for that challenge. I believe that we have conviction.
Honesty and integrity: “You know, there are some people, even within our own party, who look sceptically at George and me because we are always the two that are wheeled out to come across the border and do these things, so we’re sort of looked upon with a wee bit of suspicion. But you know, for too long, I have to say this, almost for too long we allowed unionists to come to groups like this and they sold you a message that wasn’t the case, that wasn’t the reality.
“And they weren’t prepared to say the things that were true. I have no intention of, I trust, offending anyone in this gathering tonight, and if I have, I don’t do it intentionally, but I want you to see that there is something of honesty, there is something of integrity, there is something that palpitates within my breast that wants to ensure that what is good enough for the people in the Republic is good enough for the people in Northern Ireland.
Republican movement: “And I trust that we can, on the basis of our own proposals, see movement politically, but I am not convinced, as is the Irish Government, that the republican movement is up to that challenge. You ask me: how do I make that conclusion? Ask yourself this question: why did the IRA want to take out Bobby Tohall? He was one of their own. He was highly respected within the armed wing of the republican movement. Why did they want to take him out? What is going on within that organisation and why have we had such a cloak of secrecy over the activities of the leading members of Sinn Fein? These are questions that I leave with you.
Conclusion: “It’s been a joy and an honour for us to be here tonight, and I trust that when we come back – someone reminded me that it was three years since we were here before, not at this location but another location – that when we come back, if we are invited, that George will probably be a junior Minister, I know he’s a lot older than I am but he’ll be a junior Minister, and I’ll get the opportunity to drive the car …and I trust that we will have changed things and I look forward on that occasion to being in your company!
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (summaries of main points)
Chair (Ercus Stewart): “Thank you. I will now open the discussion to the floor – does anyone want to start the ball rolling?”
Q.1: “Is it fair to say that others have done the hard work and you are reaping the benefits of their labour? Do you not feel that they have broken the ground and you have benefited in terms of votes?”
George Dawson: “From my perspective they have given us a harder job. They haven’t done the hard work, they have taken an easy route. Because it is always easy to give things away. The job we have now is to draw back and to get some of the concessions which were given away brought back again to our community, and to stop some of the one-way traffic. Certainly the unionist community have walked away from the Ulster Unionist Party in great numbers and will continue to do so, but they have suffered that because they have not had the confidence to stand by the unionist convictions. If they’d had the confidence to stand by the unionist convictions, they’d have been saying what we were saying, they’d have been doing what we were doing, and they would not have given us the very very difficult job that we have today.
Mervyn Storey: “I think it’s more difficult to keep terrorists in jail than to open the door and let them out. It’s easier to open the door and let terrorists out than to keep them in. It’s easier to give in and cave in on key issues, rather than fight your corner in a normal democracy and say ‘there are certain things that we will not do’. We haven’t reaped the benefit, we have reaped the harvest, and it’s been an awful harvest. Violence has increased. You only have to look at the statistics in relation to the activities that have taken place recently, and we published this document on the Joint Declaration and it makes it abundantly clear on the figures that were given in the House of Commons as a result of a question by one of our MPs. During the period before and after the signing of the Belfast Agreement until 2001, shootings were up 16.7%, bombing incidents were up 61%, and devices found were up 217%. That is not reaping the benefit of the hard work of others. I think that’s reaping the harvest.
Q. 2: “Listening to you speak, it strikes me that you seem to have omitted to talk about the SDLP. It’s quite extraordinary that you all the time emphasise Sinn Féin. After all, the SDLP is a nationalist party, it was at one stage the largest nationalist party. Also, I feel you’re making an incorrect assumption that drugs and cigarettes etc are part of political activity. It may be implemented by people who were IRA or whatever, but it is a police job to monitor and to stop those activities. It’s nothing to do with politics. It’s nothing to do with the Good Friday Agreement. And it seems to me that it is quite true that the bombs have actually stopped, the explosions have stopped. What’s happening up there at the moment, as far as I can gather, is that various paramilitaries are kneecapping each other. But the bombs have stopped, they are silent. And it would seem to me better if you emphasised the actual relative peacefulness that is there as a result of the Good Friday Agreement”
Mervyn Storey: “Could I just say in relation to the issue of the cigarettes and the contraband – yes, that is the case that we unfortunately would have that in what might be deemed a normal society. There are criminals in every jurisdiction. But I think that what you have to remember is that the Belfast Agreement initiated the Patten proposals with regard to policing, and we now have in the PSNI one of the most demoralised police forces in western Europe. Because the high expectation in paper of how that force is expected to deliver has been raised but the resources to accomplish that expectation have not been given. In fact, the contrary is the case. We have somewhere in the region of 2, 500 officers who have left the police force since the imposition of Patten. And those officers are at the highest level and rank with some of the greatest expertise in their field. And no one will convince me either in economic terms or in manufacturing, business or any other industry, that you can take out key personnel from any organisation and you can replace them with new recruits just out of a training depot and that you will have the same service delivery. It just won’t work.
Border: “And the issue of along the border: the police are not welcomed by republicans along the border, and there is a clear political agenda that is followed to ensure that ‘sensitive’ policing is carried out. And of course republicans and the IRA have taken full advantage of that, and in the absence of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and in the absence of the backup from the British Army, they will have a field day, and that is what they are having. And we have to set it in the context: we are not talking about Ballymoney in my constituency where windows are broken on a Saturday night and so on. We don’t analyse those figures in terms of terrorist activity and non-terrorist activity. That’s criminality. But along the border it is a completely different issue. One third of all fuel in Northern Ireland is smuggled, and it’s smuggled by the Provisional IRA. Now that is a statistic which is undeniable, and we cannot allow their political representatives to reap the benefits of that and also the political process. They have to make a choice.
George Dawson: “With regard to the SDLP, as I said in my speech, we would be more than happy tomorrow to enter into a voluntary coalition arrangement with the SDLP. That is our preferred option of government, and we would be delighted if the SDLP would join with us in a voluntary coalition for the governance of Northern Ireland. That’s clearly our preferred option, and the option which I outlined during the talk. So the SDLP are, as we see it, part and parcel of the governance of Northern Ireland for the future and we would be very happy if that were the case.
IRA activities: “In relation to the other part of your question. I trust you’re not suggesting to us that because somebody stops bombing us that we should automatically reward them by giving them a place in government. I trust that was not what your suggestion would be this evening. Because I don’t accept that. If somebody’s shooting me and they stop shooting me, well they shouldn’t have been shooting at me in the first place and they don’t deserve a reward for stopping. Our Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on the 1st of May last year, admitted that the IRA at that stage were still involved in paramilitary activity, they were still involved in military attacks, they were still involved in training, they were still involved in targeting of members of the security forces and politicians. They were still involved in intelligence gathering, they were still involved in the acquisition and development of arms and weapons and they were still involved in the preparation of other terrorist campaigns. As well as that they were involved in punishment beatings … and involvement in riots. And also sectarian attacks and intimidation against vulnerable communities. Those are the things that the IRA are still involved in today in Northern Ireland in order to get their political will within the political process.
“And alongside that they are seeking to trade guns for concessions: ‘we will give you this amount of weaponry if you take away the watchtowers along the border, we will give you this amount of weaponry if you take some further steps with regard to imposing a united Ireland on the people of Northern Ireland.’ That cannot be right in a democracy. So, the bombs may be silent, to take your point, in relation to being exploded, but they are certainly not silent in relation to politics because they are speaking more loudly today in achieving concessions than they ever spoke when they were being exploded in the streets of Northern Ireland.
Mervyn Storey: “I think too, on the issue of the SDLP, it is very sad that a nationalist party that I would have no difficulty having a working relationship with, took a decision to clutch the viper of militant republicanism to its breast, and ultimately that viper has spread a poison through the body politic of Irish nationalism, from which the SDLP will not recover. The political reality is that the SDLP are now facing political annihilation at the European elections. But remember John Hume, who has contributed, from a nationalist perspective, much to the ‘peace process’, was more keen to take on board and to sanitise Sinn Féin/IRA than he was to have a deal with unionists. But he has paid the ultimate price. And his party, very sadly – and I take no comfort in the demise of the SDLP, but there are political realities that we have to face in Northern Ireland. People have to question why that has taken place…”
Chair (Ercus Stewart): “And if they take up your invitation, what would the effect be on them at the next election?”
George Dawson: “I believe that if they were seen to be delivering good government on the ground, and delivering better housing and delivering better education, and better health results, to the nationalist people of Northern Ireland, I think their vote would recover.”
Mervyn Storey: “And I think that people would see – even people here would see – that when it comes to the real politics, Sinn Féin are not at the races. They are good at the propaganda. Look at their European allies – who they are going to align themselves with if they are successful in the European election. The most extreme elements, the most Marxist elements, within the European establishment. So if we lift the lid of their politics – that’s where the SDLP, if they were to take up our offer, people would begin to see the SDLP within an administration, and a unionist administration, working in conjunction with ourselves, we would be able to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. I think that would be a challenge, and it is a challenge.
Q. 3: “I was amazed to hear these two gentlemen speak about integrity… integrity is the ability to listen and to talk to everybody else. Any party who sits up there and says ‘I will not talk to somebody else who is elected’, I don’t think that they should be there themselves. Now Nelson Mandela in South Africa was willing to talk to everybody else, he was willing to look at what the other people stood for, and if you cannot look at the beliefs of other people, well then you’re stuck in your own beliefs, and you’re assuming that your own beliefs are absolutely true. None of our beliefs are absolutely true. We have to look around, we have to see what people fought for, what people stood for, where people are now and where people want to go to. I’m not saying you’re wrong … But I can’t see where there’s any health in not talking to, and listening to, and deciding among yourselves what’s good for the whole lot of you together.”
Mervyn Storey: “Well I think on that issue, we haven’t excluded Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin have excluded themselves. And our bottom line is no different from your own Taoiseach, from your own Justice Minister, and from your own Cabinet. And that is, that’s what not good enough for Dail Éireann is not good enough for Northern Ireland. And remember, Sinn Féin/IRA have, by their associations, excluded themselves from what everyone of us in this room deems to be normal democratic principles. And you can’t have both. It’s not that I want to be obnoxious, and overbearing and so self-righteous that I have all the answers and nobody else is right. That’s not the case. But I only come to the table with no other mandate than the mandate that I’ve been given via the ballot box. And remember, one of the Assembly Members of Sinn Féin/IRA, Francie Molloy, said during the last process that, if republicans didn’t get what they were looking for – his words – they would go back to what ‘they do best’. And what was that? Enniskillen  – 11 Protestants blown to pieces. La Mon  – Roman Catholics and Protestants burned to death. Murder after murder after murder. I hope you’re seriously not suggesting that, by talking to people like that, until they have given up and renounced their violence, that that is a logical and a sensible way forward.
George Dawson: “I have no difficulty talking to anybody … the difficulty I have with IRA/Sinn Féin is that while I come to the table on the basis of my argument and the strength of my argument, on the basis of the strength of my mandate, they would come to the table with those things, granted, but they also come to the table with arms, with semtex, with bombs, with murder in their heart. Now, there is no equality within that.
Questioner: “But you’re assuming, and you’re generalising – as was Ian Paisley, who is your master, he is an extremely great one for generalising and for rabble-rousing. All of us here must accept the reality that other people have beliefs. Unless we sit down and we talk to them we have nothing. ….
George Dawson: “We have engaged with many people from the nationalist community, and the SDLP, over a long period of time. We have engaged with your government in dialogue across the table, and we will continue to do so. We will continue to engage in dialogue with the SDLP, but we will not engage in dialogue with those who hold weaponry across the table from us. When someone is prepared to shoot me if I don’t agree with him, or her, I will not discuss the future of my country with that group of people. If they put the guns to the one side, if they renounce violence, and the guns are silent and completely silent, they can come to the table on the basis of democracy, the same as everybody else. And I will listen to their argument. But while their argument is found in the barrel of a gun, I’m sorry, my ears are closed and will continue to be closed.
Questioner: “But what’s democracy so? These people were also elected…”
Mervyn Storey: “Can I just say that I have proved, I think, in my short political life, that even those who I would deem as being at the other extreme politically from me – Eamon Ó Cuiv is a prime example, I have already cited that, I am not saying this now to try and scurry under the table with an excuse. It is a clear record of fact that Eamon O Cuiv comes from a political background that is totally adverse to everything I believe, both religiously and politically. His [grand] father was the founding father of this State and I have grave difficulties with all that history, but the difference with Eamon Ó Cuiv and Martin McGuinness is that I can trust him, I know that he only has in his heart moral political arguments. We live in Northern Ireland. We know what Sinn Féin/IRA have done and are doing, and there is no indication that they are prepared as a body in totality to move from their stated position of violence being morally justifiable. It was morally justifiable, Gerry Adams said, to murder 3,000 people. Well I’m sorry, I concur with George – until they leave their past behind and their ideology does not justify murder, the same as September 11th or what we’ve seen in Madrid. Remember, President Clinton said that the Oklahoma bombers ‘had no place in a democratic society’. If that is the benchmark for democracy, then Martin McGuinness – and he has publicly stated – self-confessed commander of the IRA in Londonderry at a time when 27 members of the security forces were murdered and he has never once been interviewed, he has never once been questioned about those murders. He was the commander in chief at the time when those men were put to death. Now, if they’re prepared to shift and change. I’m not asking republicans to come down on their hands and knees and kiss my feet. I’m not asking for them to be humiliated. I’m not asking for them to go into acts of contrition that please my political persuasion, but I am asking them – the same as Bertie Ahern… the same as any other democrat across the world – you can’t have violence and politics. They have to make the choice. If they make the choice, then I believe the DUP has clearly committed itself to ensuring that there is a future and that future they can participate in.
George Dawson: “With all of that no one is excluded from the democratic process. Democracy, in this jurisdiction, across the world, allows people to be elected to the Dail, or to the House, or to the Assembly. But democracy does not afford to any party automatic rights to government. And that’s the difference. Rights to government are for democrats alone. They are fully entitled to their privileges of the democratic process, to be elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, just as they are fully entitled to be elected to Dail Éireann. But they will not be in government in Dail Éireann because your government and your ministers have said that they will not be in government in Dail Éireann. What’s good for you is good for us.
Q. 4: “Tony Blair had the guts to go and meet Colonel Gadaffi. Would it not be appropriate for Dr. Paisley to meet Gerry Adams? ….”
Mervyn Storey: “Probably if there was oil or gas or some other very worthwhile commodity found in West Belfast, anything is possible, but I think that it is clear, unfortunately our Prime Minister I believe made a very miscalculated judgment in relation to Colonel Gadaffi. I believe that it was done not for the real reasons of normalising politics but for personal vanities, or for financial gain and benefit. I think there is more to the issue of meeting Gadaffi. And there is no evidence, there’s no evidence that Gadaffi or his regime has changed. And I do not agree that he should have met him. I think it was a calculated mistake, and I think he will ultimately pay a big price for that misdemeanour.”
Questioner: “But after all he is your Prime Minister!”
Mervyn Storey: “Yes, and I am entitled to disagree with him!
George Dawson: “In the past of course, our government and the American government have supported Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden. They were wrong then and they are wrong today.
Q. 5: “I’ve been at most of the meetings here over the years, most of the people here would know my background, I’m a moderate person. I’ve spent 14 years in the six counties, worked there and enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a constant visitor. In the last two weeks I’ve been all over your area – Ballymena, Portglenone, Castle Dawson… I know it intimately and I have to say I’m utterly saddened at what I hear today. I really am. In the last 2 weeks I’ve met a huge cross-section of people who I would consider as being from the unionist population. But I haven’t heard those attitudes. I thought they were consigned to the bin, and that we were getting into constructive politics… Not about the people of 1912 who signed the Covenant. Some of them did it in blood… you’ve got to get away from that. Someone mentioned earlier about the SDLP. You didn’t mention them at all…
George Dawson: “That’s not true. I’m sorry, you must have been at a different meeting than I was at. Because I referred to the SDLP.
Chair: “He actually did refer to the SDLP in his presentation…”
Questioner: “Maybe once. There’s another man here, he is a unionist. I said to him at a meeting here: ‘I came here to listen to something constructive and all I heard all night was IRA/Sinn Fein.’ … That sort of talk should be gone to the bin long ago. People should be more constructive and looking to the future. Now I know you don’t like the Good Friday Agreement – and I notice tonight you called it the ‘Belfast Agreement’ …. I remember years ago someone used the term “PTAs” and I said ‘what’s that?’ And he said ‘protestants’. And I said ‘do you mean Protestants?’ And he said ‘No’, I mean protestants – those people are professional protestants.’ You are always protesting. Why not come with a little bit of joy about what you are going to do, not what you are going to block?
Commonwealth: “You said about the Commonwealth. If you look around the world today and you look at Cyprus – the Brits were there. Look at Palestine – the Brits were there. Look at Iran – the Brits were there. Look at Iraq – the Brits were there. Look at Afghanistan… They were everywhere. They were down in Africa. Why would anyone want to get involved with that sort of thing? I mean if you thought about it, you would put it out of your mind. You might be better employed getting involved with the people in the South…
George Dawson: “From your long list of the places where the Brits were involved, I take it that I have to forget the history of Northern Ireland but you’re not prepared to forget the history of Britain in the world!
Deal that will stick: “Leaving that to one side, we put three positive proposals with regard to devolution in Northern Ireland. The unionist community are happy with the result of the last election. The unionist community are vibrant as a result of the last election. The unionist community are ready to engage as a result of the last election. And more than that, we are ready to engage to such an extent that whatever deal is struck it’s a deal which is going to stick. The deal which we do with your Government, the deal which we do with the SDLP, the deal which we do with the British Government, is a deal which is going to stick. So from your point of view you should welcome the fact that we are prepared to engage at that level. The deal which David Trimble did was a deal which fell 4 times. The deal which David Trimble did was a deal which he could not sell to his own community. When we do a deal, I can guarantee to you that that deal will last because we will make it last. We will sell the deal to our community. We will go to the length and breadth of our community to make sure that that deal sticks. And the three basic elements which we put to you are very simple. Tomorrow we can go into government with the SDLP. Not a problem. I stated that during the course of my speech. I stated it again to our friend across here…
Questioner: “You are repeating yourself – we all know that.”
George Dawson: “But you said I didn’t mention the SDLP…”
Questioner: “You mentioned them once…. And I don’t know if you know the pub where that poor fellow [Bobby Tohill] was taken from. Do you know the pub?”
George Dawson: “I know where it is. I don’t know the pub.”
Questioner: “Well it’s known as ‘Kelly’s Tavern’ …I know the pub. And that started off as a pub brawl…”
George Dawson: “This is Gerry Adams’ propaganda!… There are three concrete proposals on the table from our party which potentially can take Northern Ireland forward in a deal which is going to stick. Either a voluntary coalition with the SDLP, a corporate governance model which includes Sinn Fein if they wish to be there, and indeed we are prepared for a mandatory coalition – we don’t like it – but we are prepared for a mandatory coalition when Sinn Fein/IRA meet all the requirements which our Prime Minister – and your Taoiseach – has put upon them. Now when they meet those requirements we are happy to do business with them as well, but at this moment in time we are sticking with the Prime Minister on this matter and we are sticking with your Taoiseach on this matter.”
Questioner: “I am not into propaganda… For 14 years I exhibited at the Royal Show in Belfast and on one year in my category I won 1st prize, and guess who gave me the rosette? Rev. Ian Paisley! He’s a man with a great sense of humour.”
George Dawson: “He is indeed!
Questioner: “And he came down and we had a good time together. He’s not a drinking man as you know… but he stayed and he treated us in the nicest way possible. I’ve got nice memories too, but honestly I think you should change.”
Mervyn Storey: “Can I just answer in relation to the issue of negativity of our presentation? I quote from an article in a newspaper which has never normally been a friend to the DUP – the Belfast Telegraph of February 6th, 2004: ‘when a party that is notorious for saying ‘No’ comes up with constructive proposals it behoves everyone to sit up and take notice. Today the DUP unveiled its blueprint for political progress in Northern Ireland and nobody should dismiss it.’ And then they concluded by this statement: ‘the pragmatism of the DUP’s proposals may surprise some in both sections of the community, but they have been carefully drafted and are worthy of serious debate and consideration. It could well be a case of devolution now or never.’ And I have to say: it is not disingenuous – we have a history, and I am not wanting to forget my history, I am not wanting to in any way dishonour those who were needlessly put to death and then, at a whim and a fancy, bring those who supported their deaths into government when their mandate gives them no other rights than any other democrat. I think we have to be real, we have to face up to those realities….”
Questions 6 – 12
Chair: “I’m going to take 2 or 3 questions on this side and 2 or 3 on this side together because we are getting obviously short in time.”
Q. 6: Roy Garland (UUP member and co-chair, Guild of Uriel): “My name is Roy Garland, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party.. I’m a supporter of David Trimble…. I am very pleased to see Mervyn and George here today. I’ve known them a long time. I come from the same place – I used to attend Dr Paisley’s church, for a number of years, I’ve been at his home, I’ve broadcast from his home, I’ve gone on parades, I paraded around Westminster with banners. But there came a point when I began to wonder – I was also involved in paramilitary organisations which Dr Paisley knew about. I also began to reflect on where we came from – the Northern Ireland State and how it was set up was mentioned earlier, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Ulster Covenant. It was reactivated in the 1920s, unofficially reactivated in the 1930s, and, I believe, was reactivated in the 1960s. You also had the UVF, Tara, LVF, UDA, all these organisations. Now I am not suggesting that the DUP support those but I think it’s a bit hypocritical for unionists … and I am not trying to make a snide political point. I feel, having engaged in conversations with republicans of all kinds – and I make no exception, whether they are involved in violence or not – and I am not doing it as a politician, it’s me, and I think that as long as we don’t talk, and we don’t reach out we don’t understand…
Reaching out: “I once shared a platform – and I was nearly thrown out of the Ulster Unionist Party for it – with Martin McGuinness in 1995, in Conway’s Mill on the Falls Road, and the place was absolutely packed with working class republicans from the Falls Road, plus one or two Orangemen, believe it or not and one or two unionists. And the atmosphere was absolutely electric… My feeling after being in that meeting and seeing the hope in those people, the one thing that came into my head – and it is still there – was ‘why did you never do this before? Why did you never reach out to nationalists on the Falls Road, never mind the republicans?’ We never did it. I am reading a book at the moment by Mark O’Halloran on O’Neill’s era, and what comes across is that the nationalist community at that stage was quiescent, quiet, they weren’t doing anything. I was in a wee business which sold to all around the Falls Road, the Shankill Road and other parts of Belfast. There was no militancy. In 1962 I wore my Ulster Covenant badge down the Falls Road. I paraded as an Orangeman on the Falls Road, and nobody ever lifted a finger. Eventually in 1969 I was told not to come back, but that’s another story.
Civil rights movement: “It seems to me that nationalists tried to get a place in society and we didn’t give it to them. With the start of the civil rights movement – and ok I know there were IRA in the civil rights movement because I am actually friendly with some of their relatives and I know there were – but they were demanding ‘One Man One Vote’ and a fair allocation of housing. Simple demands which should have been met. Some of my friends went and protested and tried to block Armagh city and other places against them. I had the wit then to know – even though I thought it was a republican conspiracy – that to deny people their civil rights in that sense was wrong. And it seemed to me that there was as much violence coming from one side as the other and when people were denied, the anger came about and there was bitterness and there was violence on both sides. And some of my friends were defending their area – loyalist Shankill where I grew up – and the republicans were defending the republican areas… What I am trying to say is that it is such a bitter horrible and awful history that until we begin to talk together…. I know there are hard decisions to be made … and I don’t see things that are done as necessarily concessions, but I do believe we have to understand. Until the talking starts and continues we will never make peace. And I welcome the progress that the DUP has made, but I believe that until they break that we will never have peace, because it’s like a slap in the face. I was with Gregory Campbell, one of your MLAs, when he met some republicans actually face to face, and they tried to welcome him to the Falls Road. I knew Gregory didn’t want to do this but he felt it was something he had to do… And I know some republicans and I know they genuinely welcomed him there, and I feel it’s just rubbing their noses in the ground, and I feel we could open this place up. And I believe that as soon as possible the IRA should seriously decommission and get rid of the IRA. I believe that’s a real possibility …”
Q. 7: “I’d like to say a few words to George Dawson. Early on in your speech, you mentioned the Belfast Agreement and I take exception to some of what you said. You said on a few occasions that the Belfast Agreement was undemocratic. Now 95% of this State voted for the Good Friday Agreement and in Northern Ireland there was a huge majority as well. For all its faults, and the United States Government, and the British Government, your Prime Minister and our Taoiseach, worked hard for it. It has been accepted that it was the best that was available at the time, despite its faults. … Politics is the art of the possible. I think it is a bit disingenuous of you and your colleague to be ridiculing it and not to be offering hope to people. This is what people want, they want hope for the future, to see that politics works. And the fact that you didn’t take part in the discussions that led to the Belfast Agreement, I think it is disingenuous of you to be saying it was not democratic, because it was voted for by the people.
Q. 8: “I’d like to compliment and thank our guests for their honesty, their integrity and their directness in coming down here into what they might believe is the lion’s den. …It’s been a very stimulating discussion. … I just want to bring a bit of perspective. History is a long haul. Patrick was a slave boy, he was brought up to the hills of Antrim, he was starved and beaten, he went away and came back and everyone wanted to poison him and knife him… yet 100 years after his death we were an island of saints and scholars…Now this is a Columban house, a house of missionary activity. There have been many great missionaries in the British expansionist tradition, even though, let’s be straight about it, British expansion also involved the gun. One hundred and fifty years ago, Daniel O’Connell held huge popular democratic meetings at Clontarf and Tara and the British brought in the gun. That wasn’t democratic.
“Sin, evil and crime are a continual battle. I am delighted to hear the moral tone, particularly coming through from Mervyn… and he’s a law and order man. ….. Civilisation calls for leadership. It’s a huge ebb and flow. It’s a battle. For reformative success we need a divinely inspired discussion that will lead to effective and functioning democracy. That, and only that, with the power and the hand of God will combat evil in all its forms. Now I just want to go back on another perspective, a global situation…. Where we have resource problems, environmental degradation and so on. We have so many problems, and there will be many more situations like Madrid [bombing]. There will be many more problems. It behoves us all to sit down in a spirit of honesty and decency and decent Christian fellowship and pull things together and get our house in order We are a small population, about 5 million on the island. I’m not shouting about a united Ireland. You only unite things through the heart and communal activity. We all claim to follow Christ in one form or another and I often think it is time we took Christ off the cross in terms of the Good Friday Agreement and had a bit of Easter Sunday, a genuine resurrection.
“That being said I want to say that you are very very welcome here and we are delighted to have this discussion. Long may there be discussion as, without it, the alternatives are frightening.”
Q. 9: “…George talked about corporate social responsibility work. It has been documented that a lot of new investment in Northern Ireland, since the beginning of the peace process, has been in relation to the arms industry……I am wondering do the DUP have a policy on investment in Northern Ireland given that Britain in general has relied heavily on the arms industry as part of its economy? Do the DUP have a policy on ethical investment in Northern Ireland, and specifically on the arms trade?”
Chair: “That’s a straight question. I’ll just take a question from this man here. How many more want to ask questions?…”
Q. 10: “I would like to ask George one simple question: he talked about overgovernance, and structures being over elaborate in Northern Ireland. Does he think that the structures that existed before that were adequate, democratic, pluralist and inclusive? To Mervyn, I am not speaking for any political party, I am asking personally: Mervyn puts his faith on the table and says he is a Calvinist on conviction. Does he believe in forgiveness and redemption?”
Chair: “Another two straight questions. Thank you.”
Q. 11: “…..Would the DUP be prepared to admit publicly that for a nationalist it is a noble aspiration to look for a united Ireland, to be won of course by peaceful means through mutual respect, mutual trust, and the gun to be taken completely out of Irish politics?”
Chair: “That’s a straight question, thank you. Are there any more because I am going to ask our speakers to conclude? …”
Q. 12: “I would just like to make a comment. Mr Storey was talking about the way in which John Hume clasped the poisonous snake to his bosom and he was troubled by it. The trouble is unfortunately, and I think it was admitted by another gentleman, that if there were a coalition between the SDLP and the DUP, it would destroy the SDLP. In other words, what I am saying is at the moment that one of the facts of life is that the biggest representatives of the nationalist community in the North are people who are called Sinn Fein. Others call them ‘Sinn Fein/IRA’, and unless there can be a central accommodation between all these people you’re back to the position that you were in in the old Northern Ireland that didn’t work – where you had a minority, a substantial minority, excluded from the processes of government, and if they are perpetually excluded the result unfortunately is being sour and they want to destroy, as it were, the State. And I don’t see any alternative except something like the Belfast Agreement where the republicans are involved in the processes of government. ….
“I will just finish by saying: you talked about Bertie Ahern not letting Sinn Fein in government. But in the North, for better or for worse, they seem to represent a growing number of the nationalist community. And in fact if perhaps the SDLP are going in the way they seem to be going they will be the representatives of the nationalist community. They can’t be left out in the cold. Thank you.”
Replies to questions 6-12
George Dawson: Re discrimimation: “Just coming to Roy’s point first of all. You’ll not find any support from me for any of the allegations of discrimination which can be levied against Northern Ireland in the past. I’m a unionist. My family was unionist. The pedigree of my family is in the notes which were given out this evening. But my father had to pay for the key of his council house in Northern Ireland, just the same as nationalists had to pay for the key of their council houses. We had no privileges as a working-class Protestant family in Northern Ireland because, at that stage, Northern Ireland was ruled by a fur-coat elite. Big House unionism ruled the day at that time in Northern Ireland and you will find no support from me for any emergence of Big House unionism. I take the point which Roy made. A previous MP for County Armagh, the late Harold McCusker, wondered on one occasion in the House of Commons how being a unionist benefited him in his terraced two-up two-down house with a dry toilet out the back, just the same as his nationalist colleagues who lived on the street around the corner. So there were many unionists – ordinary working-class unionists – in Northern Ireland who suffered the same discrimination that some working-class nationalists suffered in Northern Ireland in the past. I will not issue any support for the actions which the party to which Roy belongs is responsible for.
Engagements and discussions: “Coming to the comment with regard to the ‘lion’s den’. We are happy to be here, delighted to be here. I don’t regard it in the slightest as being the lion’s den. It’s part of an engagement with those who traditionally we would perhaps not have engaged with. And I’ve been engaged in this type of activity for quite some time and will continue to be engaged in this type of activity. I was engaged in this type of activity before I was a member of the Assembly and, as I’ve said to some people, I haven’t changed because I’ve become a member of the Assembly. I’m happy to come south, I’m happy to engage with all democrats of whatever persuasion, listen to what you have to say, reflect on what you have to say, factor in what you have to say to my thinking, and yes, I have to say that over the years my thinking has developed and a lot of the thinking of our party has developed over the years as a result of engagements and discussions such as this.”
Environmental issues and CSR: “One comment was made with regard to environmental degradation and that type of activity. Yes, I would agree that there are issues of environmental degradation and CSR [corporate social responsibility] issues which come to the heart of the areas of cooperation which I mentioned could be possible between North and South. Because those are issues which are to do with substance and not simply political optics, because the environment knows no boundaries political or otherwise. And emissions from factories etc., know no boundaries, our waste problem doesn’t recognise the border and indeed you are exporting some of your waste to us at the moment and dumping it illegally. I’ve already raised with our Department of Environment in Northern Ireland, based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, that the area of origin of that particular waste should be the area that pays for the clean-up of that particular waste. Those issues are areas of cooperation which are very real and practical and can develop.
Arms trade: “With regard to the arms trade, and the CSR issues, Northern Ireland currently has less than 93,000 manufacturing jobs in the entire economy. We welcome inward investment from wherever that inward investment will come. We need more manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland to build the economy of Northern Ireland from where it currently is. And, yes, there have been companies come to Northern Ireland based on the arms trade, but I take a view which was taught to me many years ago in negotiations with the trade union movement as I was at one side of the table and they were at the other. Felix McCrossan was the full-time trade union official in the business that I was involved in, and we had many difficult discussions and many difficult negotiations but often at night we would sit back in the office and reflect upon the difficulties of the day’s work. And I remember saying to him on one occasion, ‘you’ve given me a hard time today with regard to the deal that we are trying to do’ (with regard to the wages going forward and all those types of things), ‘and if you were giving inward investment the same type of hard deal as you’re giving to me, I doubt if some of the inward investment would actually land in Northern Ireland’. And he had welcomed another clothing company to Northern Ireland at that particular time, and to be frank, the terms and conditions of that company were far worse than we were providing to Felix’s members at that particular time. Felix’s answer was very clear and straight to me.
He said: ‘yes, George, but when I get them in I can then work on them to improve the situation. I’ll take the jobs, I’ll get them in and then I’ll work to improve the situation.’ My attitude to those arms companies is exactly the same. I’ll take the jobs and while they’re there in our jurisdiction we can work on those companies to improve their corporate social responsibility within our jurisdiction. The arms trade is a fact of life, it’s run by governments. Sadly, it’s run by governments. The world-wide impact of that can’t be affected by a small factory based in Derry or whatever…. But while they’re within my jurisdiction we can do all that we can to improve their responsibility to the community and to the environment in the area in which they are. …
Structures prior to Belfast Agreement: “”With regard to the structures of Northern Ireland prior to the Belfast Agreement. No I don’t think they were the best. They could have been improved upon as well. And that’s part of the task that we have, is to not accept the past, but to try and move into a future which is better for everybody and has the agreement of both sides of our community, and clear up some of the legacy of bad government in the past as well as the additional bad government which has been added to us by the Belfast Agreement.
SDLP: “With regard to the SDLP, I don’t believe that if the SDLP broke free from Sinn Féin that it would lead to their destruction ……… …. Coupled with that, if they were delivering good effective measures for people on the ground in Northern Ireland, I think that their fortunes could be significantly enhanced. That’s a personal view, that is not a party view.
United Ireland: “With regard to the question on a united Ireland, it is absolutely legitimate and honourable for a member of the nationalist community – and nationalist parties – to pursue their goal of a united Ireland by democratic and peaceful means. I have absolutely no difficulty with that whatsoever. That is a legitimate right and I would defend to the death a nationalist’s right to express those views and to campaign for those views. “
Questioner: “Could the DUP admit publicly that it is a noble aspiration for a nationalist to aspire to a united Ireland to be won by mutual reconciliation?
George Dawson: “Of course”
Questioner: “Would Dr Paisley stand up and say that? It would make the IRA say ‘at least Rev. Paisley admits that those who work for a united Ireland are aspiring to a noble idea.”
George Dawson: “I think he actually has said that, in the past. I think he has put on record – I think it was in the House of Commons – I think he put on record that it was a legitimate, I’m not sure if he used the term ‘noble’…..
Questioner: “Would he admit that it is a noble aspiration?”
George Dawson: “I’ll put it to him, but I think he has come very close to using those words in the past and he has no philosophical objection whatsoever to a nationalist or a republican aspiring to a united Ireland…”
Belfast Agreement: “Just one further comment, I used the term ‘undemocratic’ with regard to the Belfast Agreement. That was based on one underlying principle: that was the fact that it included within it at its heart the undemocratic use of violence for political ends. And that is why I have consistently said that the Belfast Agreement was undemocratic in its structure, and will continue to say that the Belfast Agreement is undemocratic in its structure, regardless – and it’s my democratic right to oppose that, and I will continue to oppose that.
But, moving beyond that, what we need then is an agreement which has the support of nationalists, and unionists, within Northern Ireland. It’s not good enough to have an agreement which has the support of one side of the community. It must have the support of nationalists and unionists. That’s what we want to try to get to…..”
Questioner: “It’s very interesting to hear you say that, but your party, the DUP … did not take any part in the negotiations so it’s a bit rich for you to be saying that….”
George Dawson: “They were part of the negotiations until IRA/Sinn Féin were introduced …”
Mervyn Storey: “Some of the ground rules were completely changed … everybody changed the goal posts to ensure that Sinn Féin/IRA had an unfair advantage in relation to what they were bringing to the table. The Mitchell Principles were completely and absolutely thrown out the window, and I think that 6 years on from the Belfast Agreement we have seen the lip-service that Sinn Féin/IRA have paid to the Mitchell Principles. And I have to disagree – Bobby Tohill being taken out of the bar in Belfast. It was not a brawl, it was a highly sophisticated IRA operation to take out completely Bobby Tohill. … all the paraphernalia and all the equipment necessary to end life. Bobby Tohill owes his life to the PSNI.
Segregated education: “Now can I just conclude by saying that, first of all, the issue has been raised about permanently excluding nationalists. I think it is somewhat ironic that now nationalists in Northern Ireland continually ask to be included, when from the inception and creation of Northern Ireland in 1921, they purposefully excluded themselves. And remember – and George knows this is a personal hobby horse of mine – but if we want to see real change in Northern Ireland where should we begin? I don’t believe that we should begin with the politicians. I don’t believe we should begin with the voters. I believe we should begin with our children. Now if we want to get to the heart of sectarian division, it begins in primary schools in Northern Ireland because in 1943 there was an insistence by the Roman Catholic Church to educate its own children in its own schools, separate from Protestant children.
“Now we have lived with the legacy. I believe that segregation until this present day has been extremely detrimental to the whole concept of equality, inclusion and partnership, the very aspirations of the Belfast Agreement. There was a campaign not to join the civil service, in the 1920s and 30s. There was a campaign not to join the police force. There was a campaign to denigrate anything that was deemed to be part and parcel of the new Northern Ireland.
Civil rights and discrimimation: “And when we come to 1969 – and I was only a young boy in short trousers at that time – but George is absolutely right: Big House unionism discriminated against my parents, my grandfather. … George and I now sit in the Assembly at Stormont, and you can see why unionists behaved the way they did. It was the best gentleman’s club in Europe, and it was to their shame, to the colleagues of Roy’s party, that they allowed the situation to deteriorate the way they did. But the difficulty that they had was that there were those who were prepared to exclude themselves and they eventually gave rise to militant republicanism. And so I don’t come tonight with some form of guilt. Sometimes there is this impression that unionists should run around with their heads down and wear sackcloth and ash, and that we should somehow be remorseful and have a guilt complex about how nationalists were treated. My family, my father and my grandfather, were treated with the absolute same disdain, and that is why since I have had a vote I never ever voted for the Ulster Unionist Party in my life. Because of Big House unionism. For the DUP has come from a completely different perspective and I think that if there is going to be inclusion we are not in the business of permanently excluding anybody other than those who by their own credentials exclude themselves.
Forgiveness and redemption: “Now a gentleman asked about forgiveness and redemption. Yes I believe in forgiveness and redemption but I believe also in repentance. I don’t want to go down the road tonight of a theological exposition or else I think this might be Peter’s wife’s mother wake instead of her funeral! I have to say that there is no forgiveness without repentance. And I have to say that those elements of Christian faith are very dear to me but it’s not – and I have to clarify this – it’s not that I want to humiliate anybody. But is there anybody in this room who really believes that the campaign that the IRA conducted for over 30 years in Northern Ireland was morally justifiable? Is there anybody?
Questioner: “I believe that it started out of a justifiable cause because you would say in your own right you were only a boy… You don’t understand how the people felt, how the people were down-trodden….
Another member of the audience: “Does that give people the right to take up violence and kill people? … Violence is not the answer. You weren’t up there at the time were you?
Questioner: “When violence erupted I was there. I felt it. …I am not saying that killing people is the answer, but that is the way it developed and it was the only way that it could develop at the time because at the time the people were downtrodden and nobody gave a damn. It was similar to the case in South Africa, it was similar to most other countries where British imperialism ruled”
Mervyn Storey: “All I can say is if that is the basis of the explanation for the campaign then why did unionists from my community not take up arms against the British state? Because remember we were discriminated against. And this is a facet that people conveniently forget. But behind it there was an opportunity seized by those who had lain dormant within republican circles to take their moral high ground and use the circumstances as the justifiable reason for their deeds. And I have to say, in the light of all that has happened in Madrid, and September 11th, and all the other atrocities around the world, surely we haven’t still people who believe that if you can’t get at the table politically your argument across, that you still have to resort to bombs and bullets. I thought that Ireland had moved on substantially from that ideology. And we have to move away from it, and republicans, whether they like it or whether they don’t, if they want to have the fruits of normal democratic politics they have to be prepared to be at the table on the same basis as I am. The only mandate I have is the mandate that people gave me in November 2003. …. “I sit on Ballymoney Borough Council with a representative of Sinn Féin/IRA and one night he was giving us all the issues that were so bad about Northern Ireland, a police force that was unrepresentative and all of these things. And I asked through the mayor could the representative of Sinn Féin/IRA give me on social issues, housing issues, job issues – I went through a whole range of issues – could he tell me how he was more disadvantaged than I was. There wasn’t one. He has access to social security the same as I have, he has access to housing the same as I have, he has access to jobs the same as I have, he has access to all the machinery of government the same as I have.
Republicans have to deliver: “The IRA have no more – they never had – moral or economic or political justifiable reasons for their existence, and they should do the honourable thing and disappear for good. And then, that will put the onus on us to fulfil our obligations under the terms of Devolution Now. And if republicans were cute that’s what they would do, and they would turn the tables on us and say ‘right, we have now done that, put it over to you.’ And I can assure you that we will not be found wanting in the sense that if the DUP says it – the one thing about us even though it might not be the most palatable of messages – the one thing that we have always sought to be is to be honest in what we say and honest in what we believe. And I think it is now up to republicans to deliver, and if they do, well, they will see what the benefits of that will be.”
Chair (Ercus Stewart): “… I think it has been a very open debate, it was getting more open in the last ten minutes! It was an open debate not only from the floor but also from here, and I think straight talking on both sides. It would be great if we could keep going but I have to bear in mind that both speakers have to travel back. I think we will welcome them back, we welcome them here tonight despite the questions [applause]… “
Julitta Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “…. I think we are ending on a positive note in what Mervyn just said. Over the years, in the Guild of Uriel and the Meath Peace Group we’ve come to realise that dialogue does help us all move on and towards understanding. When we met George a few years ago, I had never before met someone from the Independent Orange Order. It was an incredible discussion that night. It made me think. ….And he invited us last year to a number of Independent Orange Order centenary conferences. We were very privileged to be there. It was quite a unique experience, and I learned a lot. Over the years I have been very critical of militant republicans because I come from a republican background in part, and I am very ashamed of the things done in our name. But we have talked and dialogued and I have never found it a useless exercise. It has always been a learning experience. And I have been privileged in those republicans I have met who have also moved on, and have sincerely moved on. I have no truck with violence as you know – I have spoken out and our group has spoken out – because not only is it immoral it is also useless and has done nothing for anyone. It has divided the peoples on this island more than anything else. But I would encourage you to enter into dialogue…”
Acknowledgments: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group Julitta Clancy thanked the speakers for their honesty and frankness, she thanked the audience for their attendance and their valuable contributions to the debate, the guest chair Ercus Stewart and all who had helped with the organisation, planning, catering and taping of the talk. Thanks were also due to the Columban Fathers for their hospitality and to the Department of Foreign Affairs for sending a representative and for their generous grant of financial assistance towards the costs of the talks. She also thanked the British Embassy for again sending a representative and for their generous hospitality on the occasion of the award of an Honorary MBE in February. The group was honoured by the award which “was accepted on behalf of all of the people who over the 11 years of the group’s existence, in private and public meetings have come together and challenged and listened….” She mentioned some of the other work of the group, the private meetings, the work done in conjunction with the Guild of Uriel in Louth and the annual transition year schools programme. She also welcomed Eugene Markey from the Cavan Museum, who had put together an impressive and inclusive exhibition of banners and regalia of the various rural fraternal societies of 100 years ago, currently on display in the Museum and attracting large numbers of visitors.
©Meath Peace Group. Meath Peace Group report 2004
Taped by Oliver Ward and Jim Kealy.
Transcribed by Judith Hamill and Julitta Clancy. Edited by Julitta Clancy.
George Dawson, MLA: After graduating from QUB, George Dawson entered the business world. For a number of years he was Manufacturing Director with an international company with responsibilities in NI, England, Scotland and N. Africa. Latterly he has been involved in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility within the business community in NI. With extensive experience of Strategic Development, Business Process Re-engineering, Human Resource Initiatives and International Quality Initiatives George brings a professional business mind to local politics. In addition, for much of his career in business he has been involved in regular negotiations with employee’s representatives, customers, suppliers and government departments. His various contacts with government departments in the Stormont regime have added to his conviction that the structures established under the Belfast Agreement are “top heavy”, bureaucratic, wasteful and inefficient. He is determined to continue to expose and tackle this waste of money. As a regular contributor to the BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence programme he has consistently highlighted the unfairness, undemocratic nature and appeasement of terrorists in the current political process. George’s special interests include Economic Development, Environment and Social development. He has been instrumental in establishing a number of Credit Unions in recent years. George has been a member of the DUP since 1979 and has held various positions within the structures of the party. Additionally his family has a long association with Unionist politics. His Grandfather signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912 and was active in resistance of Home Rule at that time. His father was a foundation member of the DUP. George is married to Vi and has two children Emma and Sara. He is currently Grand Master of the Independent Orange Order.
Mervyn Storey, MLA: Mervyn Storey was born in Armoy, in the heart of North Antrim, where he attended the local primary school. His secondary education was completed at Ballymoney Intermediate. Mervyn is married to Christine and has three children Lydia, Philip and Jonathan. He was elected to Ballymoney Borough Council in 2001 where he is Vice-Chairman of the Economic Development Committee; he also serves on the Glebeside and Castle Street Community Associations and the Somme Association. As a Board member of Ballymoney Local Strategy Partnership Mervyn has a keen interest in delivering meaningful resources to the local community through the distribution of European money. He is also a Board member of the recently formed Regional Partnership for Northern Ireland. Mervyn serves on the Fire Authority for NI, he is actively involved in the work of the Audit, Appeals and Joint Negotiating Committees. A member of the Loyal Orders and Vice-Chairman of the Caleb Foundation, he is also a committee member of Ballymoney Free Presbyterian Church.
Ercus Stewart, S.C. Ercus Stewart is a Senior Counsel practising at the Bar since 1970.
He is also a member of the Bars of Northern Ireland, England and Wales and Australia (N.S.W.). He also acts as arbitrator in commercial arbitration, international and domestic and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a former chairman of the Irish Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He lectures to various institutions, including King’s Inns, and UCD and is a Panel Member/Registered Chartered Arbitrator with: Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London, and AAA., I.C.D.R. and I.C.C. He is former Chairman of the Irish Society for Labour Law, the Irish Association of Industrial Relations and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. Ercus is also a member of Amnesty International and Co-Operation Ireland (formerly Co-operation North) and is Chairman of the Law Library Credit Union. He is married to Ria and they have 4 children: Cillian, Alida, Elsa and John.
APPENDIX : Devolution Now – The DUP’s Concept of Devolution (2003)
SECTION ONE: OUTLINES OF DUP POLICY AND PRINCIPLES
Seven Principles of the DUP:
The DUP is a devolutionist party. We believe in democratic, fair and accountable government.
No negotiating with the representatives of terrorism but we will talk to other democratic parties
Those who are not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means should not be able to exercise unaccountable executive power.
Terrorist structures and weaponry must be removed before the bar to the Stormont Executive can be opened.
Any relationship with the Republic of Ireland should be fully accountable to the Assembly
The DUP will work to restore the morale and effectiveness of the police force
We will strive to ensure genuine equality for all including equality in funding.
Any Agreement must command the support of both Nationalists and Unionists
Any Assembly must be democratic, fair and accountable. Any executive power must be fully accountable to the Assembly
Only those committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means should exercise any Cabinet-style Ministerial responsibility
Within any new Agreement any relationship with the Republic of Ireland must be fully accountable to the Assembly
A new settlement must be able to deliver equality of opportunity to unionists as well as nationalists
Agreed arrangements must be capable of delivering an efficient and effective administration
The outcome must provide a settlement within the UK, not a process to a united Ireland. It must provide stable government for the people of Northern Ireland and not be susceptible to recurring suspension
A New Agreement Must Be:
Stable: The Belfast Agreement was not stable and was incapable of delivering stable government. An alternative needs to be established which takes cognisance of parties behaviour but is sufficiently robust to withstand pressure
Accountable: Ministers were not accountable to the Assembly for their decisions. A mechanism for holding individual Ministers to account must be established
Effective: The Agreement failed to provide clear direction or effective decision making thus rendering the process cumbersome. The alternative is a system which is responsive, removing unnecessary levels of bureaucracy
Efficient: Political bureaucracy spiralled out of control under the Agreement. The alternative must provide value for money and cut back the costs of government.
SECTION TWO: PROPOSALS
72 Member Assembly
Cross-community support required in the Assembly – by means of Key Vote majorities
Assembly to have executive and legislative responsibility for areas which were the responsibility of the 6 NI departments before 1999 [but responsibility for Social Security would rest at Westminster and responsibility for the Human Rights and Equality Commissions would be devolved. Other issues only transferrable with the consent of Parliament and a Key Vote of a NI Assembly]
Maximum of 8 Government Departments in Northern Ireland
Abolition of the Civic Forum
Assembly, by Key Vote, would determine how executive power was exercised.
Administration could either be in some form of an Executive or an arrangement where the Assembly would be a Corporate Body responsible for decision making in an agreed manner.
Executive could either be a
Voluntary Coalition, or
with arrangements for accountability and effective decision making
Executive to be subject to a vote of confidence at any time and would require a Key Vote majority to survive
If an Executive could not be formed or if an Executive collapsed, powers would be transferred from the Executive/Ministers to the Assembly
Fixed 4-year term for the Assembly
Efficiency Commission to make recommendations about the efficiency of every aspect of the devolved institutions
Voting in Assembly to consist of Normal Votes and Key Votes
Normal Votes require a majority of Members present and voting to pass
Key Votes would be important votes – e.g. formation of an administration – or votes triggered by a petition of concern.
Key Votes could be passed either by
– more than 70% present and voting or
majority of Assembly Members which also included a majority of designated unionists and a majority of designated nationalists
Meath Peace Group Report 2004 ©Meath Peace Group
The Meath Peace Group is a voluntary group founded in April 1993 with the following aims
·To promote peace, and the fostering of understanding, mutual respect, reconciliation and trustthrough dialogue between people North and South
· To encourage and facilitate ordinary people, particularly in Co. Meath, to recognise their role and responsibility in helping to promote peace, reconciliation and understanding, and to assist in the empowerment of people in the long-term work of building the foundations for a lasting peace on the island.
· To raise awareness and improve information, and to encourage and contribute to debate and meaningful dialogue on issues of conflict.
Meath Peace Group Committee: Julitta and John Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Rev. Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan, Navan (046-9078973); Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane; Canon John Clarke, Boyne Road, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Olive Kelly, Garlow Cross, Lismullen; Leonie Rennicks, Church Road, Ardbraccan, Navan; Catriona Fitzgerald, Warrenstown, Kilcock, Co. Meath; Judith Hamill, Ross, Dunsany, Co. Meath.