MEATH PEACE GROUP TALKS
No. 64 – ‘Peace and Stability: the Way Forward’
Monday 29th January, 2007
Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, Co. Meath
Dominic Bradley, MLA (SDLP, Newry and Armagh)
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (DUP, East Londonderry)
Cllr Killian Forde (Sinn Féin, Dublin)
Cllr James McKerrow (UUP, North Down)
Des Fegan (Head of Funding and Support, Cooperation Ireland)
Introduction: Des Fegan
Questions and comments
Closing words: Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
64 – ‘Peace and Stability: the way forward’
Monday 29th January, 2007
Introduction: Guest chair – Des Fegan (Cooperation Ireland):
“Many thanks to Julitta and the Meath Peace Group for inviting me on behalf of Cooperation Ireland to chair this talk. If ever we’re in doubt again as to the timetabling and choreography of the peace process in Northern Ireland I think in future – rather than going to all these various lobbyists and politicians – we’ll just go to the Meath Peace Group and find out when they have scheduled their next meeting! It’s an incredible opportunity to be here tonight, I’m massively looking forward to listening to the views of our panellists. Cooperation Ireland was founded in 1979. I was born and bred in Belfast. I was born in West Belfast, a place that bore the brunt of a lot of the violence of those years, and I now have teenage children myself and it is just absolutely fantastic, as a parent from Belfast, to be sitting here tonight 24 hours after what was quite an historic day yesterday [Sinn Féin’s special ard fheis on policing]. I personally am very very positive for the future, I’m positive for the future for myself, for my family and for my community and I’m really interested to hear some of the questions and some of the comments from our panellists. However, I suppose – to be a realist about it, and Cooperation Ireland have been in the work of building practical cooperation, trying to tread that a-political divide, trying to encourage cross-border cooperation… the theory being that as people know each other and get to know each other and remove the fear, there wasn’t a dislike to start off with in the first place. Kids will like kids and adults will like adults if we can only get them together. A bit naïve, my friends sometimes tell me, but it works, that’s the answer – it actually works. Just get people in and get them talking, and we have the DUP and Sinn Fein sitting and talking. These were things we wouldn’t have dreamt about ten years ago. But to try and keep it with some sense of reality, there are big threats as well as these massive opportunities. And sometimes, with all due respect to the panellists here, the politicians that we have – are they part of the problem or part of the solution? That is something we all struggle with and what should we be doing? What do we mean by a shared future? Does a shared future mean ‘I’ll do my thing without any responsibility, without any recognition for what someone else does?’ Is it an agreed future? Does it mean shared space? Or does it mean divided space? Does it mean segregation? Does it mean participation? These are all things that we struggle with in our daily lives on the island and I suppose particularly and in particular areas of Northern Ireland. So it’s with that that I’d like to start calling on the panellists to discuss ‘peace and stability the way forward’ – if we could get a brief definition from each of the panellists and then open it to the floor for questions.”
1. Dominic Bradley, MLA (SDLP, Newry and Armagh)
“Go raibh míle maith agat. Agus ba mhaith liom a rá ag an dtús tá an-athas orm beith air ais i gCondae na Mí…. Thank you very much for the invitation to be here this evening. I have been here before and I certainly enjoyed my last visit and I hope that we will have an interesting and productive evening here tonight. The way forward to peace and stability. In the view of the SDLP the way forward to peace and stability in Ireland North and South is quite clear: get the power sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running as quickly as possible without any further delay. I believe that’s what the majority of people north and south voted for and I believe that is what the majority of people north and south still want. The two major impediments to achieving devolution are the attitude of Sinn Féin towards the police and the attitude of the DUP towards power sharing.
Policing: “Yesterday we saw Sinn Féin take an important step in the direction of supporting the policing arrangements and I believe that they should go even further and begin to engage with policing immediately, and not because the DUP ask them to do so but because the nationalist community have the right to protection from crime, so that older people can feel safe in their homes, young women can walk home safely at night, and our local areas are free from ant-social behaviour and joyriding. Policing in Northern Ireland has changed radically over the past five years, even Sinn Féin now admit to that. We now have 86% of the Patten reforms implemented, we have over 20% nationalist membership of the PSNI, and that will rise in the next three years to 30%. And we have achieved that only five years into a 10-year programme of Patten reforms. Above all, we have strong accountability mechanisms which will ensure that the abuses of the past will not occur in the future.
“One of the basic requirements of peace and stability is law and order. You only have law and order where the vast majority of the people can give their support to those charged with upholding law and order. That is why we have worked for a police service that could command the full support of the vast majority of the community here. But that is not to say that we will accept anything but the highest standards from the police service. We won’t. It is in no one’s interests to allow police a free hand or to turn a blind eye to practices which do not meet the highest standards. Such attitudes are wrong and will only return to haunt those who allow them to flourish. Accountability in policing is in everyone’s interests no matter what their background. That is why Sinn Féin should do policing and do it now.
Power sharing: “And I believe that the DUP should do power sharing. We have learned over the years that majority rule will not produce peace and stability here. I do not want to rake over the embers of the past once again. But I will say this. It is now accepted by all parties to the situation that partnership through power sharing is the best way to deliver peace and stability in the future. Peace, prosperity and stability in the future will only come if we all give our support to a system of government which provides for all of the people equally and fairly. It may not always be easy, in fact it may be a difficult road ahead for some years but I believe it is the best way for all of us.
Principle of consent: “We have now reached the stage where all parties are agreed that any future change in the constitutional position will be by consent only, through democratic means. We should all be in a position to accept the right of one another to pursue the political future each thinks is best for the people of this island north and south, so long as that is done entirely through peaceful and democratic means. The Good Friday Agreement offers that way forward to peace and stability; it recognises the totality of relationships in these islands, within Northern Ireland, with the Republic and with Britain. The aspirations of all groups are given full and equal recognition; it threatens no party, no group, or no community. The acceptance of totally peaceful and democratic means by all parties is part of the bedrock of peace and stability.
Police collusion and dealing with the past: “Last week we saw the publication of the Police Ombudsman’s report into the murder of Raymond McCord. The reality of the past hit us square between the eyes. We know that collusion between the RUC Special Branch, the British intelligence services and both loyalist and republican paramilitaries was widespread. It wasn’t just confined to north Belfast. It happened in my constituency. People were murdered as a result of it. Their relatives want to know the truth. The relatives of people murdered by republican paramilitaries want to know the truth. The families of the Disappeared want the remains of their loved ones returned to them for burial. We need a means of dealing with the past which will deal with these problems. Dealing with the past will help create peace and stability in the future. Ignoring it will only allow bitterness to fester into the future.
Economic prosperity: “Economic investment and the jobs which follow it will much more readily come to a country where there is an end to civil strife and ambivalence about the rule of law.
If the underlying issues above can be dealt with, future peace and stability can be underpinned by economic prosperity. Bread and butter issues are important to people. Most people are struggling with the everyday problems of daily life – doing a day’s work, providing for their families, planning for their future through education and training. In Northern Ireland we have over 100,000 children living in poverty. We have huge numeracy and literacy issues to resolve. These are damning statistics. Huge social deprivation is not conducive to future peace and stability; in fact it is a recipe for future unrest. If we are to achieve an anchored peace and stability we must deal also with social deprivation. Go raibh mile maith agaibh. Thank you very much.”
Chair (Des Fegan): “Thanks, Dominic. Unless there are some pressing questions, I’ll now pass the mike to Gregory Campbell, MLA for – as decided by the courts most definitely – for East Londonderry… I would imagine that Gregory would need very little introduction, he comes from the ‘reserved wing’ of the DUP – reserved for what, I’m sure Gregory will tell us tonight. So please welcome Gregory.
2. Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (DUP, East Londonderry)
“Thank you very much, chairman. Could I first of all thank Julitta and the group for inviting me back again. I think I was here two years ago. I don’t know whether I said something wrong so that they didn’t get back to me or said something right which means I wasn’t needed back! I suppose one of the issues that we should all be looking at I suppose is the nature of this event and the timing of it. I was just saying on the way over here, I don’t know how you managed to time it in such an impeccable way but you’re certainly on the money in terms of getting an event like this at a time like this in Northern Ireland’s history! So thanks for inviting me to the meeting.
Cross-border relations: “Dominic [Bradley] and I took part in a debate today on cross-border relations, in the Assembly. I’m all in favour of coming to your country and I hope you’ll all be in favour of coming to ours because I think that’s the way we should make progress.
Opportunity to make progress: “There are a number of very fundamental issues that I think are at last being addressed, they haven’t been resolved but they are being addressed – and I use the present tense, rather than past tense, as they are being addressed. We have, in my view and the view of my party, an opportunity to try and make more significant progress in the next period of – I don’t know whether it will be six months, hopefully not six years, but certainly a period of time that is the immediate future – to make more progress than we have made in the past thirty years. As we stand at the end of January that’s as much as I see it as, the potential for progress. Because Tony Blair keeps on saying to us that there are the twin pillars for progress and Dominic alluded to them: there is Sinn Féin’s requirement to support policing and the rule of law, and the need for us in the DUP to support the concept of power sharing.
DUP is up for power sharing: “Now I’m not going to go back over history, you’ll be glad to hear, but, in our view, 1998 addressed the problem and came up with the wrong solution. It did address the problem but it came up with the wrong solution. Because if you come up with a solution that either ignores the wishes of a considerable number of people or seeks to override their wishes, then I think you arrive at the wrong conclusion. But those problems having been now in the past, there is a potential for not just addressing them, which I believe is happening, but an actual resolution of them. For our part we have made it as clear as we can, without ambiguity, without conditionality, crystal clear: we are up for a power sharing administration with every political party that has a mandate, who are democrats.
Who is a democrat? “Now usually then in the media that begs the question: ‘well what is your interpretation of a democrat?’ And in our view, just as 1998 failed to address this issue, it hopefully is being addressed now. An essential part of being a democrat is that, whatever nation you belong to, you support the legally constituted police service of that country. That if there is a breach of the law, you recommend that, if you’re involved, you give information to that legally constituted authority, and if it is required you go to the court of law and give evidence, and you support the prosecution of those who are suspected of that crime. That is a democrat, quite apart from the political ramifications of a democrat, abiding by the wishes of the democratically held electoral contest in any particular nation.
“So, in our view, we have unambiguously signed up to a power sharing administration. The thing that stops that power sharing administration taking place is that there is one party whose members at the moment, as of the 29th of January, do not subscribe to supporting the police, the courts and the rule of law. Now, as far as I’m aware, every other political philosophy in Northern Ireland and all the advocates of that philosophy, all the members of it, will say ‘if there is a breach of the law we have no ambiguity about going to the police, we have no reservation, no qualification. There is nothing that holds us back from saying someone who breaks the law ought to be punished and we will give every information that we can in order to bring them before the courts.’ Every political party does that – except one. And even today after the ard fheis, I heard a Sinn Féin spokesperson on BBC radio this morning asked four times to say unambiguously: ‘now that you’ve passed the resolution, do you support the police in Northern Ireland?’
Need for unequivocal ‘yes’ to policing and rule of law: “Now in my view we’re at the point where, whatever happens now, if there is a break-in tonight in west Belfast, or a rape or a burglary or any other breach of the law anywhere where there are Sinn Féin representatives, then the first question that should be posed to Sinn Féin in the light of their resolution is: ‘what should people do now as a result of that breach of the law?’ And if their answer is anything other than an unequivocal: ‘go to the police, give whatever information you have, do whatever you can to bring those responsible before the courts of law’ – anything other than an unequivocal ‘yes, that is what we need to do’, is a ‘no’. I don’t care how they dress it up, I don’t care what qualification they use, it equates to a ‘no’, and until we hear an unequivocal ‘yes’, then there is still one party who are holding back from supporting the rule of law. Once that Rubicon has been crossed – and many people hinted yesterday that it was being crossed, but I still don’t see the evidence of that crossing of the Rubicon – until it is crossed I don’t believe we can begin to measure the extent of the crossing.
Inequality: “Many people have said to me: ‘Gregory, you’re building hurdles, you’re putting further qualifications in place’. And I keep pointing back to statements that we have made over weeks and months: that we will sit down on an equal basis with all other democrats. There is a lot of talk about equality and I feel an unequal citizen in my own country, because my culture and my nationality and my citizenship doesn’t get anything like those who say they are Irish does in Northern Ireland, nothing like it. So I am all for equality, I am a fervent and positive advocate of equality, it is something that I aspire to for my community. But I feel like an unequal citizen when it comes to the support for the rule of law, because for 30 years Sinn Féin had an ace that I don’t have and don’t particularly want, and the ace that they were able to play was ‘if we don’t get our way we’ll go back to shooting you, bombing you, to giving another Canary Wharf in the heart of the city of London, if we don’t get our way.’ I didn’t have that as a negotiating ploy, I didn’t have that as a negotiating skill to turn to if my rational argument didn’t win the day, Sinn Féin did. If that is being removed then that means we are all equals; we come to the table purely with our negotiating skills and our ability to argue and reason, we have the force of our argument rather than the force of our guns. And that’s good if that is where we are going.
Putting words into practice: “We need to see over the next days and weeks that that is where we are going. And that’s how we will test if Sinn Féin move beyond the ard fheis and say what I have outlined. I think everyone demands that they need to say: this unequivocal support for the courts, the police and the rule of law. Once we get that verbal commitment to what everyone else has subscribed to – the courts, the police and the rule of law – then we can start to see what it means. Because once Gerry Adams – and I have heard it alluded to that he was coming close to saying that today, and if he was then that’s good, that’s progress – then we need to see what it means. Because there will be breaches of the law and we will have to see what the words of Gerry Adams mean in practice. Will people start to give evidence? Will they give information? Will there be more people prosecuted in the courts? Will there be more people coming forward and saying: ‘I’m prepared to stand up and be counted against the rapists, the muggers, the car thieves, all of those in our areas’? That’s tangible proof that people are responding to leadership in their community. If my community was not responding to me saying ‘these things are wrong and you must report them’, I would question my support within my community. I would go to my community and say ‘why are you sheltering these drug dealers and these thieves and these muggers and these rapists, why are you not getting into court to get them prosecuted?’ But they’re not doing that thankfully and that must be the case in every other part of Northern Ireland.
Testing period: “So then we begin the testing period. I don’t know how long that will be. It’s like the elephant in the room; we will know it when we see it. But we’re making progress and I think we have to continue to make progress. Support for the police was not on the radar screen five years ago, it is now. And it’s not leaving the radar screen until we get it resolved.
Power-sharing based on equality: “When we get it resolved then we can enter into a power-sharing administration with everybody in that administration being there on the basis of equality. I won’t then argue that anyone has an advantage over me. I will then be looking for all the changes that I want to see in Northern Ireland; all the rights that my community are being denied. We had a motion in the Assembly about two weeks ago, about how our community feel discriminated against now in jobs. I want to see that rectified. Our cultural rights, our parading rights, our passport rights – all of the things that we don’t have that nationalists do.
“I will then want to see that Executive and that administration start to address those disadvantages that my community have to endure. And it will be the testing of that for all of us – Sinn Féin, UUP, SDLP and DUP – that will test my community’s consent to approving for those administrative arrangements and institutions that will by then be up and running. And I would then want within four years to be able to go back to my community and say that this is working and we are seeing tangible change because we are all in there as equals and we are all beginning to see positive results. Thank you again for the invite.”
Chair (Des Fegan): “Thank you very much Gregory. I must take comfort in you talking about days and weeks and maybe we can tease that out later on. They will be exceptionally interesting days and weeks lying ahead, and could I ask Dominic Bradley is there an election definite in your eye?
Dominic Bradley: “As far as we can read it, yes that is the case.”
Des Fegan: “… I’d like to hand over now to Killian. I got short notice coming here tonight, I think Killian got even shorter notice so with a great deal of gratitude I welcome Killian Forde, Sinn Féin councillor for Dublin. He works a lot with Mary Lou McDonald [MEP]. I haven’t met Killian before but I have met Mary Lou and Jim Allister [DUP MEP] on EU matters – differences in style and content perhaps but very very enjoyable. So I’d like to hand over to Killian…”
3. Cllr Killian Forde (Sinn Fein, Dublin City Council)
“…After Gregory’s interesting contribution, I’ll just read out something and maybe this will clarify some things. I got this email at a quarter past five, it’s a statement from Gerry Adams: ‘If any citizen is the target of crime whether it be a death threat, drug pushers or rape, or attacks on the elderly, if there is a crime against the people, against the community; Sinn Féin will be urging and encouraging victims and citizens to cooperate with the police. There is no equivocation or qualification on this’. So I hope that clarifies matters for you.
Democrats: “The other thing that I think is quite interesting – and I’m not going to be all negative here, I’ll try to stay positive, but sometimes it’s difficult because you do hear an element of rewriting of history – but Gregory suggested that I wasn’t a democrat, but if I’m not a democrat and I’m a republican does that make me still a democrat? It’s very confusing. I’m going to leave that thought with you.
“I’ll just introduce myself. I’m here in place of Joe Reilly who is a local Sinn Féin councillor in Meath. Joe sends his apologies, and I send my apologies for my lack of preparation in advance. I was elected for Sinn Féin to Dublin City Council in 2004. I had joined Sinn Féin only in the year 2000 after a second attempt. The first attempt was when I spent a very wet year in Derry – a very beautiful city but very wet – in the early ‘90s. I suppose part of the uniqueness of our conflict – and it goes back to Gregory’s point about jaw jaw and not war war – was that in the University of Ulster political parties were banned, which I found absolutely extraordinary. Although I spent a year in a city that had an amazing conflict resolution faculty, you couldn’t join a political party and political debate was seriously frowned upon – of any nature – so while we used to do campaigns, we were involved in some of the campaigns around Nicaragua for instance, you couldn’t campaign on either side on both communities on any issues whatsoever, it was seriously frowned upon. I think it’s probably one of those things that will take some time to come out in terms of the impact on society both north and south, the equivalent I suppose in a sense in the south would be Section 31. And what was that impact on various different sections of society academia, civic, political, religious? We probably won’t know or we probably won’t have a clear idea for some years to come.
Peace process hugely successful: “Firstly, on a positive note, this peace process is phenomenally successful. I spent yearsin the Balkans, I’ve seen peace processes gone wrong, I’ve seen theeffects of mass slaughter, ethnic cleansing of a complete nature – and I’m talking about areas of Bosnia we had to drive through for two or three hours and every single house would have been destroyed, with no roof, and every single village would be empty of people. This peace process has been coming out of a very long war so people’s attitudes and approaches are different but the fact is it is hugely successful.
“The other two peace processes that started at the same time were the Mideast and Sri Lanka and unfortunately both of them have reverted back to bloodshed and have collapsed and I think it’s very unfortunate. I hope it’s not a coincidence that Gerry Adams was in one just prior to that collapsing and Martin McGuiness was in the other prior to Sri Lanka collapsing!
Way forward: “The way forward, I think there are three parts to this. There is the short the long and the constant stuff that needs to be done, and there are different actors on how we portray the way forward.
Sinn Féin’s responsibility: “In the short term, and I’ll start with ourselves in Sinn Féin, I look forward to critically engaging and supporting the PSNI. And I think most of our members do. Yesterday [special ard fheis] was a very historic day and we had roughly between 90% and 95% compliance with the motion after a very long debate, I wouldn’t say anybody was overly enthusiastic and there was a lot of emotion but the fact was that people felt it was a good option. That, given what had happened particularly with the report of the Ombudsman on Monday, that it was time to get involved in terms of policing for that not to happen again, and to also provide a service to the community who are desperately crying out for it. So that’s in terms of Sinn Féin’s responsibility.
British government: “With the British and the Irish governments, there are two things really. I’d like the British government to actually stick to deadlines because really it’s dragged on in terms of them changing the deadlines an awful lot and I think they lose credibility. If they don’t insist on deadlines it could drift on for another few years. I hear what Gregory Campbell is saying, and, like most republicans and nationalists, the worry is how long is a piece of string? ‘We’ll know when we know’ is not politics. That’s definite lack of leadership being provided there. If he wants to put qualifications or measurements on it, let’s hear exactly what he wants to see, by what time and in what case: there’s ways to measure this stuff and if that’s what he needs to lay it down .
Irish government: “From the Irish government, one of the things that has gone under the radar has been the very low engagement from the Irish government, probably over the last two years, and I think that probably coincides with the local elections and the European elections of 2004 which, as some of you might remember, were the ones that Sinn Féin won – that was how the media portrayed it. I think that part of the Irish government sees us as an electoral threat and therefore they need to tread carefully with that. I think it’s unfortunate, I think Bertie Ahern has done phenomenal work and put huge amount of hours into the peace process and I think the advice he is getting now is poor. You do remember that Bertie Ahern’s mother had passed away just prior to the Good Friday Agreement, and he had actually come up just straight from the funeral, so he’s certainly interested.
DUP: “Just one other thing in relation to the short term, we clearly want to hear from the DUP that they agree to power sharing. I think we heard it here tonight, and then we heard a ‘but’, and we just need to be very very clear. Are they agreeing to power sharing?
Parades issue: “And in terms of the unionists in general, I really do believe that they need to deal with the parades issue in a very mature manner. A parades issue that continues to go on from year to year is going to reverse any sort of community trust that is being built. I think it’s not part of unionist culture. I think it is coat-trailing, triumphalism and an anarchism of the past and it doesn’t need to be done. If people want to parade in their own areas, that’s fine, if that’s their prerogative, but [otherwise] I don’t see any advantage whatsoever politically to continue to do it, it rubs people up the wrong way and it causes huge amounts of conflict.
Truth Commission: “In the longer term I think one of the things that is really needed is a truth commission. I don’t want a truth commission that involves dragging various members from the various parties, political groups and paramilitary groups in front of a court in Belfast. That’s not going to give us the truth. What is needed is legislation from both the Irish and British governments that actually says ‘you are compelled to tell the truth’ and pulls in a wide range of people which includes ex-gardaí, some people in the media and all the politicians who were around at the time. Something very odd happened, we know what happened and we know how many people died, but we don’t know who killed them, how they were killed or why they were killed, and I think it’s fair to say that it should be explored.
Unified island – shared space: “Also I think that one of the difficulties that unionism – and I’m trying transference here – is having with this process is that there are no other options given, and I think that the Irish government needs to draw up – and perhaps in the longer term Sinn Féin will be in the Irish government – it needs to draw up a Green Paper about the issue of a unified island. And I use the word ‘unified island’ on purpose because it’s not about trying to have a 32-county Free State. It’s not about enforcing unionists to live within and under the green, white and orange. All of this can be negotiated, it will be negotiated. It’s about having a shared space and having a civic responsibility to each other and that’s what I would like to see: that the Irish government actually draw up a Green Paper on unification, hopefully we can … actually begin a debate about what Irish unity would mean to both people in the south and in the north, which would include both communities.
Leadership: “In terms of the constant stuff that needs to be done, it’s just providing leadership, so a constant attempt to have political civil and religious leadership to maintain all of the work….
Rule of law – fairness, justice and separation of powers: “I just want to say a couple of things in relation to the rule of law. The rule of law was a concept brought up by a guy called Samuel Rutherford. Like a lot of people with good ideas he was half Scottish. It wasn’t about doing what the police tell you, it wasn’t about recognising the courts, it was about fairness and justice and part of it was the clear separation of powers. Now I think any consistent or critical look at the State of Northern Ireland as it existed [would see that] it didn’t contain any of these things, so to have a rule of law you have to have fair, transparent and clear laws, you have to have fair and impartial police. I don’t think anybody; any republican, has a problem with any rule of law as long as the rule of law fits in with consistent universal values that we all value. So that’s one thing about the rule of law.
Policing – ambiguity from DUP: “And I also heard Gregory talk about ‘no ambiguity’ and ‘unequivocal support in terms of the PSNI’, I think that goes both ways and I don’t want to get into this situation because I hate it, I hate the ‘what-aboutery’ that exists. We must accept that we are all hypocrites, the only party on this table who can clearly stand up and say ‘we had nothing to do whatsoever with any political violence put on anybody over any years’ are the SDLP, and that is the truth. The riots in the Springfield road recently – which were the most serious riots in Belfast for years – the DUP would not condemn them, would not ask people to go to the police, were trying to maintain that these people had the right to riot because they weren’t allowed down a lane onto a nationalist area. The Holy Cross episode – the role of Nigel Dodds in north Belfast was nothing short of disgraceful. He didn’t again ask people to go to the police, he didn’t again ask people to report that their neighbours were attacking young nationalist kids. The most recent one, a DUP councillor – I believe, Gregory, in your own constituency, is it Coleraine? – he was convicted of voter fraud, and again no statement from the DUP, nothing, no condemnation. As I said, I don’t want to get into it because we can all individually get up and say the same thing about each other’s parties. The point is it isn’t black and white and I suppose for the future that the sooner some of us realise that things aren’t black and white, that everybody did right and wrong that then there is a chance for the future. If people continue to pretend that they are holier than thou and hold up the rule of law as being an enforcement of internment, assaults and attacks on people standing up for their civil rights, well then, to be honest, there isn’t much hope, and we’ll always have a separated community and the best that we can hope for is that in that separation we can have some sort of uneasy peace. Thank you very much.”
Chair: “Well I still maintain my optimism. We have four main parties in the north and I suppose it would be true to say, in reflection – I’m apolitical myself with no political allegiances – but the Ulster Unionist Party, when we read our history books, is supposedly the party that has paid the heaviest price in terms of electoral support. I don’t know whether Councillor McKerrow will necessarily agree with this but they were certainly key players and maintain a key presence in unionism, so to round up this part of the evening I’d like to call on James McKerrow to give us the view from the Ulster Unionist Party.
4. Cllr James McKerrow (UUP, north Down):
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for inviting me here. Let me just say that the last time I was at a meeting where Gregory Campbell was, he was a Minister, he was the Minister for Regional Development. I was presenting the Ulster Unionist case for keeping and developing the railways. With me were Peter Weir and Jeffrey Donaldson and unlike Peter Weir and Jeffrey Donaldson, I am still with the Ulster Unionist Party!”
Gregory Campbell: ‘We’ll work on you!”
James McKerrow: “… and I would quite like to see Gregory back in that office. ‘Peace and stability: the way forward’: this evening I want to develop two very important aspects of how I believe we can set out to broaden and develop peace and stability in Northern Ireland in the longer term. I think our politicians have all majored on what happens today and tomorrow, I want to talk about what happens a bit later down the line. And I want to set these in the context of what unionism should mean in the 21st Century. These two aspects are the system of government and how that system influences the development of society, and the development of the economy and how that can improve, or retard, social cohesion.
Role of modern unionism: “But first let me state my belief that modern unionism should be about building a society where everybody can benefit, and can appreciate that they are benefiting. That calls first for mutual respect, not just between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but between all segments of society. For in all parts of Ireland we are increasingly becoming a cosmopolitan, and affluent and educated society. Communities may still be stratified through wealth, but the old hierarchical practices based on wealth and recognised institutions have largely evaporated with the advent of affluence and consumerism, and legislation reinforcing human rights and equality. But those are not enough to build respect for others, and their beliefs and views. That calls for a culture of co-operation and listening, and one where groups, especially opposing political parties, do get down to the task of understanding each other’s origins and situation, and appreciating what other parties are seeking to do for their own people. So I believe that modern unionism, still the majority persuasion in Northern Ireland, needs to focus not only on representing the views of its supporters on the continuance of the Union, but also on representing the interests of everybody in the Union. Making a final and distinct break with ethnic nationalism is the key to promoting peace and stability for both unionists and nationalists. Abraham Lincoln gave voice to this when he stated his belief, “If you do well for all, everybody does well”.
System of government: “First, let us look at the system of government, and how that can alter and shape society. Political philosophers from Thucydides to Frances Fukuyama have elaborated the view that the structure and practice of government is intrinsically linked to the cohesion, dynamism, and character or lack of it, of a society. But there is no set standard; what flies in one age and set of circumstances may not in another. Thucydides lived in 5th Century Athens. His rendition of Pericles’ funeral ovation is a model for the virtues of democracy to this day. He lived in a slave state with limited franchise. Athens in those times was a vibrant and dynamic state and economy. Yet the Deep South that fought the American Civil War, also a slave state with limited franchise, bred indolence instead of dynamism, and fell to the industrialised and more organised North. Quatrocento Florence at its height was an autocracy. There is no set standard of governmental organisation that can guarantee results. Consider that in the 1930s, the western industrial democracies were languishing in the great slump. The countries exhibiting growth and development were Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, both highly authoritarian regimes. But Machiavelli taught us not only how to use power by whatever means necessary to achieve stated aims, but also that institutions, left to themselves and not challenged, are apt to decline and degenerate. Machievelli wrote of monarchy tending to tyranny, autocracy to autarchy, and democracy to anarchy. He could also have added paramilitarism to organised crime. The lesson is that any system of government, no matter how successful, needs to be stimulated and challenged if it is to remain successful.
Models of democracy and government: “Undoubtedly, during modern times, it is the liberal representative capitalist democracy that is proving most successful in both the developed and developing world, in both economic and quality of life terms. This mix requires free, fair and frequent elections (hopefully we will have them North and South later this year), a free press, a strong legal system reinforcing the rights of the individual and over property, and a capitalist waged economy. When we study various countries, we find several models that meet this criteria – some more successfully than others. The United States and the United Kingdom have very different models of democracy, and very different institutions of government and bureaucracy. And the Republic of Ireland, currently a very dynamic and affluent state, but not always so, lies between these two. At partition, the North was industrialised and profitable; the economy revolved around manual labour, there was considerable local ownership of the means of production creating a symbiotic dependency between the propertied and working classes; the public sector was minor and the Chancellor of the Exchequer received considerably more in taxation than he sent back. But demographics would ensure a half century of unbroken unionist rule, leading to its eventual demise at the hands of an impatient British Government. All this time Northern Ireland was a democracy, but lacking the motivation to maintain dynamism and change. And all that time it was a democracy, but not supported by an increasing proportion of its citizens.
Republic of Ireland: “Following partition, the South was relatively impoverished for six decades, relying largely on British markets for agricultural exports at a time of British subsidies and cheap food policies. Advent to the Common Market and the benevolent Common Agricultural Policy transformed Ireland’s economy overnight, funding the development of education that, with other initiatives, has led to the phenomenal growth of Ireland’s post manual labour economy. All this time Ireland was a democracy, but until joining the Common Market, lacking sufficient wealth to create the fundamental building blocks to grow the economy and spread affluence. Since joining the Common Market, the Irish economy has grown almost every year upon year, and the Irish economy has roared past almost every other developed country, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the South East of England. The situation at the end of the troubles is very different, North and South, than at the beginning.
Power sharing – dramatic development: “I do not want to get mired into arguments about the detail of what did or did not occur during 50 years of unbroken unionist rule, nor indeed about the following 35 years of direct rule. Instead I want to concentrate on the fact that today, for the first time, the four main parties in Northern Ireland, representing the great majority of its people, and represented on this panel tonight, are poised to form an inclusive power-sharing legislature and executive, to govern Northern Ireland openly and together, and by so doing to give voice to the great majority of the population. This dramatic development, I believe, is capable of not only giving everybody a sense of voice, but also inculcating ownership and respect.
“It has been a long road from the first ceasefires, through the Good Friday Agreement and to date a largely dysfunctional Assembly. But we have now reached a point where we consolidate all that and move on, or find the divide still too wide for too many to bridge, and really do lapse into colonial status. If we move on I have no doubt partisan arguments will continue to rage, but if devolved government is successful, they will become our partisans, and far preferable to the peripatetic English governors of Direct Rule. For some time to come I would see concotiational mandatory coalition as the form of government in the North, and a major key to increasing social cohesion, peace, and stability. This is because it does give all four major factions a voice. But when social cohesion becomes strong enough to overcome inter-tribal preferences and intra-tribal differences, it is quite feasible that the people of Northern Ireland and their political parties will want to reform the mandatory nature of coalition in favour of voluntary arrangements, much as you have in the Dáil.
Economic growth: “The other component of building peace and stability is the development of a vibrant and competitive economy capable of providing increasingly satisfying job opportunities, and that is grounded firmly on equality of opportunity. Today it is widely recognised that the best form of welfare is a job that gives satisfaction, security of tenure, and a living wage. A source of income that the recipients can take pride in and base their circumstances on.
Comparisons between North and South: “The economic position of the North and the South has been reversed. The various manufacturing industries that made the North a hub of output are much diminished. North East Asia is now the general manufacturing hub of the world. Meanwhile the South has built a competitive economy fitted to its circumstances and the skills of its people, with more limited reliance on manual labour.
“And today’s economy in Northern Ireland differs from the Republic in three further and very significant ways.
- “First, the pattern of emigration and immigration has resulted in the South having half the dependency ratio of the North, that being the ratio of the non working population, including children, retired people, those out of work and those not seeking work, to those in work. This has a major impact on government spending.
- “Second, and in large part as a consequence, the public sector in the South is relatively smaller than the North. As a sovereign state you have had to balance the books. Meanwhile under Direct Rule the North’s public sector has grown to unsustainable proportions.
- “Third, without academic selection but with a growing private education sector, you are turning out young men and women with the skills and capabilities that match and sustain your economy.
“Emulating your success will not be easy, in the short term at least. But it is an area where hard decisions will have to be made if we are to underpin future peace and stability through creating sustainable and satisfying employment that delivers a living wage.
Balance needed to attract investment and employ people: “What modern unionism needs to concentrate on to achieve this economic growth is to pursue those policies, usually labelled as old fashioned supply side policies, that make it easier to attract investment and employ people. This is a matter of balance. I do not want to abrogate rights, but I want to make them more simple, robust, and easier to understand and put into practice. Already this year the Equality Commission has issued a consultation paper of more than 100 pages on how the public sector should roll out the Equality Commission’s aims into the private sector. This underlies the problem that we face with the burgeoning liberal agenda, emphasizing the rights of the individual regardless of the ramifications and knock-on effects, or the interests of wider society and other groups. The balance needs to be redressed a little. We are getting ourselves into tangles that work against creating jobs, working against investment and employment. I believe we have to step back a little from the liberal revolution, and whilst ensuring that we maintain equality of opportunity, work at aspects of education and training, the industrial relations environment, and working practices.
“At the same time we need to bring in measures that attract investment and ideas, particularly from home-grown entrepreneurs and innovators. One part of this programme aims to make the jobs appear. The other part aims to ensure that we have the people with the skills, attributes and capabilities to fill them.
Public/private sector: “Prior to Direct Rule the subvention in Northern Ireland, the balance of public expenditure over public income from taxes etc, was minor, manageable and acceptable. Direct Rule Ministers have uniformly increased the scale and costs of our public services. So one of the legacies of our civil war is an enlarged and more expensive public sector that employs 2 in every 5 in work. And if all goes to plan and devolution is implemented, our income from the Treasury will increasingly fall short of necessary expenditure, and our public sector will be squeezed. We need jobs in abundance in the private sector that not only promote growth, but that also enable us to absorb workers from the reducing public sector. And obviously a burgeoning private sector will provide additional taxation and thus reduce the subvention and pressure on the public sector.
“There is nothing to gain in pursuing jobs that have to be subsidised in the long term to compete, these jobs are usually in so called traditional areas that have now lost competitiveness, usually to North East Asia.
“So if we are to sustain peace and stability, jobs have to provide the wherewithal to buy and live in a house, and raise a family. The two areas of primary importance open to us at the moment are jobs based on the knowledge industry, and jobs based on particular advanced skills. To attract good people we have to pay competitive rates, and wage levels will determine the sorts of goods and services that we can produce and that will sustain profitable and competitive jobs.
Achieving peace and stability: “Giving all its citizens a stake in the modern Northern Ireland, through a widely accepted and supported system of government, and through participation in a vibrant and competitive economy on the basis of equality of opportunity, are I submit two of the most effective ways of achieving long term peace and stability. And that is my opinion of the direction unionism has to go in the twenty first century.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Q.1. Chair (Des Fegan): “Thank you James. They were four very thoughtful presentations, and, incredibly, although some differences in the presentation, what I was most comforted about were the similarities in all the presentations, and I suppose, trying to sum up before we invite some questions, all speakers – perhaps with different emphasis or different focuses – have identified a need to acknowledge our past, and I would go further and approximate that that incorporates the whole island. But certainly that is an issue that comes up time and time again in the work of Cooperation Ireland: recognition of hurt, recognition of pain and recognition of difficulty. I think it’s obvious that every speaker has talked about that to some degree, it’s not the domain of one section, there has been massive hurt caused to many many people and many families throughout our troubled history, and we certainly need to look at ways at how we can do that and what’s the best form of doing that and how we can facilitate that as we go forward.
“Equally I think there were issues here about dealing with the present, and maybe that’s our most difficult thing here, and they’re certainly the questions I would like as I’m living in Belfast and with representatives of my political leadership around this table, the four major parties, how we should actually deal with our present to go into a shared future whatever that may be. I found James’s illustrations of the problems here at the structural level, macro-economic level, fascinating stuff but how do you deal with that? And are the DUP and Sinn Féin different on that? …. Every time I’ve had the privilege to meet DUP, UUP, SDLP, and Sinn Féin councillors, when we’re talking about issues about community support, Jim Allister is as supportive on the exact same issues as Mary Lou Mac Donald or Barbara de Brún or Jim Nicholson. They speak to us agreeing on the same issues, agreeing on the way forward, agreeing on where the money needs to be spent, so there’s consensus. There may be the natural left/right tendencies within Gregory’s own party. We can see those obviously.
Programme for Government: “So I would like to start the ball rolling. … Would it be possible if we do agree on forming some form of joint administration, how difficult do you think it would be? And I address this to one and all to come up with a common programme for government that would have the SDLP and the DUP sitting with Sinn Féin and the UUP: do you think there are major differences in how we would see economic development in the North, or do you think these things are a ‘pie in the sky’ and that we have to sort out the definitive dotting ‘i’s’ and crossing‘t’s’ of the policing argument?”
Dominic Bradley: “I think a lot of good work has been done in Stormont during the summer and after the summer, and a Programme for Government has been – maybe not totally agreed – but has been discussed, and there are wide areas of agreement within that which can be worked on in the future. There are some areas of disagreement – and there will always be areas of disagreement – but I think that eventually we can find some sort of compromise on these issues. I myself was working on the Education Committee and I suppose the main bone of contention there is the issue of academic selection. As it happens, on that issue the unionist parties are generally in favour of retention of academic selection, whereas the SDLP and Sinn Féin are opposed to it and are in favour of giving choice to parents. So as I say that is an issue where unionism and nationalism are diametrically opposed. Yet, during the course of our work in that particular committee, we didn’t find absolute agreement but we found a degree of agreement and agreed to explore the concept of transferral from one form of schooling to another at age 14.
“Now some people might say that that is passing the buck. There was general consensus among us on that and I think that where we can find degrees of consensus there is the basis there for moving forward.
“Quite a substantial amount of work has been done on the programme for government and I think that provides the basis for the future when an executive is up and running.
Gregory Campbell: “If we skip over the next couple of months – or whatever time it might be, maybe a year or two years ahead – and look at the economic distinctions that various parties have, I can see the proverbial curate’s egg because we have anything from sort of right of centre approach across to a very centred approach, to a left of centre, to a very left wing approach on economic issues. And I think you will have pluses and minuses in that because the Northern Ireland economy is very heavily public sector dependent. So, in my view, I think it is a self evident fact that if our economy is to get up and running it is going to have to be private sector led. If that is the case you can see how a right of centre economic approach, if it was left t to create wealth and to create a dynamic economy, could probably achieve that although there would be some casualties on the way. I think that is going to be constrained because of the nature of any administration by those who have a more left of centre approach. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing because some of those casualties may well be minimised because of that, but you are going to get this range of economic approaches in an economy that has been 67% dependent on the public sector with a greater degree of private sector interest coming to bear. And how that is going to be reflected across the range of ideologies that exist – and I’m talking now about post resolution of our policing issues and all of those. I think it is going to be a very very dynamic time but it is not going to be without the huge difficulties that all of that brings with it.”
Chair: “… I suppose what I am really trying to tease out here is whether economic issues will lead to alliances formed maybe across the traditional divide? Would it be feasible that members of the DUP, for example, who – I don’t want to be too generalist here – but the DUP would I suppose be more the working man’s party, I’m talking about traditional divisions here in unionism. … Would it be possible for the DUP to find allegiance with the SDLP or indeed Sinn Féin on some of these issues? What would be your view?”
Killian Forde: “I worked on a peace building project within Kosovo and on our wall we had written ‘money knows no ethnicity’, and I was trying to recognise that the key to building peace was not so much setting up groups of people who were already converted – because I think that’s what happens a lot of the time, you end up talking to people who are already liberal minded, open-minded, haven’t suffered in the conflict, relatively wealthy, educated etc. So the combatants never actually end up seeing the benefit of having peace. So what we did was very simple things in terms of, for instance there was a dairy on one side of the border and the cows on the other, and the milk from the cows were being sent north into Serbia and then the dairy was being underused so it was just about sort of linking in the people. It can be done.
“I think – and I speak at a disadvantage here because I’m not in the Assembly and don’t know the ins and outs of what has been happening over the last few months to that detail – but I understand that the St Andrew’s Agreement has put also a different emphasis on the responsibilities of each Minister which I think is probably beneficial as long as people don’t keep applying vetoes. My fear is that – and I’m not naming names, I’m not accusing anybody who might have an ulterior motive to do it. For this to work there has to be a level of being able to work on similar stuff together, and I think one of the things, because in the peace process you sometimes can miss it you can miss interesting and significant things that happen because of the nature of how people need to move their own community on or to compromise. I think a very heartening thing was – was it last week the National Development Plan was announced? – and there was an unambiguous and unequivocal welcome by Jeffrey Donaldson in terms of the cross-border element of the funding, and I think that was really important. Because even two or three year ago it was highly unlikely that a unionist would have said it, and a DUP man would have said it, and I think that was part of the good part.
Tax raising: “In terms of tax raising, because ultimately you know at the moment the northern economy is a poor regional economy of the British economy, I think it would be helpful to have more integration within the southern economy which is booming. How long that will last I don’t know. Also at some point to have some form of tax raising, because really only at that stage does a space become a country if you like.
James McKerrow: “Taking a different tack, I think today the largest lot of society in Northern Ireland – probably in southern Ireland as well – is the aspiring middle classes: people who have their family roots in the working classes who transformed their living conditions over the last 30, 40, 50 years, who are now far more interested in education, clothes, foreign holidays. And also in the North an increasing number of this block of people have stopped voting. I think it’s not because they are not interested in politics but they are being turned off by politicians, and by how long it has taken for politicians to get down to coming to agreements on things. This potentially is the block of people who can influence the politics most, because, at the end of the day, politicians can’t get too far away from their voters or they are out-of-office politicians. And I have optimism that this block will demand the sort of changes and will drive things more to the middle from the edges, and that applies not only to things like policing, nationalism and unionism, it will also apply to the economic situation and the need to build jobs for them and their children. So I would be an optimist that, although there are a wide range of views represented in the Assembly, over time these views will be pushed more and more towards a manageable consensus.”
Killian Forde: “Just one more small point in relation to the economy. One of the hits that unionism took within the peace process was about the loss of the security industry which would have provided thousands of jobs in various different armies and police forces and there would have been spin-off jobs from that as well. The dependency on the State has sort of lessened in one aspect but has now become more and more focused on health and education ……”
Q.2. Fintan (Dublin): “First of all, as someone who is a descendant of the someone who came from Derry, I would like to welcome Mr Campbell because my ancestors were from Northern Ireland and your ancestors, I presume, were from Scotland because that wonderful name Campbell is well known up there. Basically, as far as I can see, the one thing I would love to see at the end of the night when we are going off is for the chairman to get the four of you up there to shake hands with one another! And that would be a gesture. It doesn’t matter whether you love him or hate him, but the shaking of hands would be a little stepping stone. Gregory, my father left Derry in 1933 and came south. And there’s a huge number. You’ll probably find nearly half of us down here have ancestors who are half northern and in that way we have an interest in the north but … I wouldn’t live there at the moment. And that’s the way we feel about it because it has been so anchored between the two bunches. It took the likes of John Hume to come in to replace McAteer – he was the only man out of the twelve who ended up in Westminster. I would love to see Gerry Adams and the other two going over next Monday to Westminster and getting in there and saying ‘we’ve done it’ and shake hands. Because up until now they have been getting their wages for nothing by not going over. And I’d love them to go over and meet all their mates over there. And Gregory could be over there and you could introduce them to all these people, This is the way you change the attitude.
“In the south, when we were in school we weren’t allowed to aspire to go to Trinity College because the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin [John Charles McQuaid] didn’t agree with it for some reason, the way they taught medicine or something…. All of those things have changed. I was at a ‘do’ in Greenhills the other week, where different churches were together, and it was the first time Archbishop Brady said that he sat in the place where Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims all spoke from the top platform, and we had a most wonderful day. And I think the sooner that gentleman from the unionist party looks forward – you were looking back Mr Campbell as if you were over on the other side of the Carlisle Bridge looking over at us over in Williams Street! It’s for your generation, you’re young enough, to see another 20- 30 years ahead and your kids might even start going to dances with the Catholic kids. God bless you!”
Q.3. James McGeever (Kingscourt). “Dominic spoke about the need to deal with the past. I expected something like that so I wrote out something before I came here tonight… I’m going to ask Gregory a question, and I hope Killian will listen to it: would the DUP agree or disagree that, given their commitment to ending partition and achieving a united free Ireland, it would be a noble endeavour if in response to the symbolism of the white strip of our national flag, which calls for a lasting truce between Orange and Green, and also in response to the resolve expressed in the 1916 Proclamation that the Orange and Green children of the nation – of which Gregory is considered one – are to be cherished equally, if in response to those, the entire republican movement was to express sorrow for having in the past caused death and injury and suffering to the unionist/loyalist people, and would now solemnly declare that a united Ireland depends on winning the hearts and minds of the protestant, unionist, and loyalist people for a united Ireland?”
Collusion: “For Killian: He was a bit hard there on the DUP and unionist parties for not condemning collusion and I’d just like to mention that Pádraig Pearse dismissed the Orangeman’s fears as foolish, but he did acknowledge that if he felt his liberty was under threat it was not only common sense but it was his clear duty to arm in defence of this threatened liberty. And if we consider collusion in those terms we shouldn’t be too hard. Now we condemn collusion and all the rest of it but we have to sympathetically understand those RUC and UDR men who did collude with loyalists.”
“I wanted to ask Gregory would he consider that a noble enterprise – if the IRA were to express sorrow for the past and say that a united Ireland now depends on winning your hearts and minds? Is that not a noble enterprise? Would the DUP agree that it is a noble enterprise?”
Gregory Campbell: “Thanks for the question. I will keep it brief. This is an issue quite close to my heart. I think it would be a right thing for Sinn Féin to do what the questioner has asked, but not for the reasons which he mentioned. Perhaps I have misunderstood him but what I understand is a complete misnomer that many in the nationalist and republican community have about the nature of the Irish nation, about the State and about Irishness. So I think that they should do it, not for the reasons that I sometimes detect are prevalent in the nationalist community.
Identity: “There is a widespread view in my opinion that nationalists have, and we in the unionist community are to blame for some reason for this perception …. Nationalists feel that it is unionist’s perception of Irishness which has led them not to feel Irish, and therefore nationalist republicans feel that if they change the concept of Irishness to a more ‘touchy-feely’ friendly Irishness towards the unionist community that we will over a period of time begin to realise that we are Irish after all! Now I cannot reject that strongly enough. I just cannot do it. There was talk earlier on about the Green, the White and the Orange. If the Republic of Ireland was an Orange state, I still wouldn’t feel part of it because I’m British. There isn’t anything that the Irish nation state can do about its flag, its anthem, its background, its ethos, it’s tradition that can make me feel Irish, because I’m not Irish. And we will never be Irish. I fully appreciate that we in the unionist community have sometimes added to that by feeding this ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule’ concept in the early part of the last century, but that day is long over. And I think if people do the thing because it is the right thing to do, then they should do it but not in order to try and say to us as unionists: ‘perhaps now you will come with us into this great new future because our Irishness is now something that you can cherish where you were closed out from it in the past’.”
Chair: “It does highlight the problems that we deal with in Northern Ireland. It’s an identity crisis in Northern Ireland, and it’s how we deal with that crisis. There were phrases used here tonight that were a bit comforting, we’re not talking about majorities any more. We’re talking about substantial numbers, significant communities, and regardless of what way the demographics lie, be it 60:40, the difficulties are how we are going to get through this and how we share it. We feel, obviously, in Cooperation Ireland that cross-border practical cooperation is the key part of that as long as it is done apolitically. And let people find their space and develop a shared future.”
Q.4 Gerry (Belfast): “Gregory, how do you feel about having the redundant former explosive consultant in government with you or has that been an excuse for you? There is also the question of progress from history to perceived transparency within Sinn Féin. They got some part of the way but not all the way yet. Perhaps that’s not the DUP. Will you also acknowledge that ordinary decent loyalist people have been held hostage at times in this situation politically?
“I’ll come back to an historical thing. Maggie Thatcher declared war on the IRA. Who won the war? Collusion! Nothing is new, it’s a new word. … It’s going to have to come down to the big question of policing. This pardon for policing, this plea for policing. Can it be made retrospective and cover the most recent murder of the IRA – the Mc Cartney murder? Policing is not an exact science. We’ve lots of control over policing, lots of legislation there but policing on the ground is a mismatch. ….
Q. 5. Joe (Kells): “Killian, you’ve talked about your vision for the north, and I think that was shared state and civic responsibility to each other in the different communities, and I think you said that you weren’t expecting unionists to live under the Tricolor. Could you just expand on that?”
Killian Forde: “I think it’s part of the question that Gregory has just rejected in relation to not being anything but a British man. I think the debate is sometimes confusing. … Personally, I believe that one of the problems with the north and the fact that there isn’t any significant progress in the constitutional issue is that we have got a very oppositional debate. We’ve got a debate of ‘you are Irish’ and ‘you are British’. And what I think we should explore, and perhaps it won’t be Sinn Féin particularly doing it, is that identity of people. For instance I found out only a couple of years ago that my ancestors were from Liverpool. It doesn’t make any difference to me. Even if I was from Liverpool I don’t think it would affect my personal politics or identity because identity is not real. It’s imagined: ‘I’m Irish because I’m not British; I’m British because I’m not French, and so on’. When we get to a stage of you have a constitutional issue and it comes alive again, for whatever that reason could be, maybe it’s demographics, maybe it’s a burgeoning middle class who want to join the Republic There’s no point asking unionists and saying ‘do you want to live in this place down here?’ Because it becomes a new country, then it becomes a united island. In that way it’s not just about getting unionists and saying ‘see that tricolor, the one you associate with the funerals and the people you think were part of terrorism, the people you think targeted your community in a sectarian war?’ and they say ‘yes’, and you say ‘that’s your new flag’. At the same time it’s not about having a situation in the north which existed, and probably still exists to a certain extent, where Irish people who identified themselves solely as Irish couldn’t fly their flag because they associated the other flag with being the butcher’s apron and to do with beatings and torture, repression etc. So in that space in between there is a huge amount.
Need for imaginative thinking: “One thing I learned from being abroad is that there is no set rule in what makes a country. There’s many ways. There’s huge variety in how you apply courts, identities, human rights, ethnic responsibilities, make-ups of presidencies, who is in charge, what they are in charge of, how many police forces you have. There’s a huge amount. I think we have been very weak on that creativity. For instance, if you go to Barcelona, if you walk down the street, you can pass four sets of policemen who could be reporting to different people. In Bosnia you have three presidents at any one time. In Kosovo you have two, in Macedonia you have two, and you have two separate parliaments. There are millions of different ways to do it. We have become fixated on Stormont, Leinster House, Westminster, end of story. One police force here. ‘You’re British, you’re Irish, and so that’s it’.
“That’s why you need to have this Green Paper on unity so you’re actually talking about all of these issues and saying ‘look it’s not just about you becoming Irish, it’s not about us becoming British, there is a middle ground here, we can bring in neutral symbols shared symbols’ etc. It does work and has been proven to work, I think we have to be more imaginative on it. That’s all sides, all parties, both governments, everybody.
Q.6. Pat (Batterstown): “To James and Gregory: the late Mao Tse Tung had a policy called ‘denouncement’. He used his close associates to denounce them and it had the effect of keeping them in control, but it also weakened their ability to negotiate as a business team. In the southern part of this island when our political leaders talk about their ideologies, it’s usually regarded as a bit of a joke. James set out the scenario of your economy and economic matters, and the ideologies would be there in the background someplace that you keep to yourself and you have in your heart, when you go to do a business deal with your community that they should go down the back of it.
“Would you like to comment on that? The question is essentially that the ‘isms’ of the past are now gone and we’re now in a different ballgame and the economy in Northern Ireland, as James pointed out, needs something done and something done soon, because Gregory’s part of the United Kingdom is the United Kingdom in decline rather than in the ascent, and the economy of the world will overtake events and you need to get working among yourselves at this stage.”
Chair: “Is the question here again one of ‘will the politics of Northern Ireland rise above the constitutional question’? … I’ll just try and clarify this. I was in Cyprus last December for a conference, I made a terrible mistake. It was in Nicosia… and it was organised by the European Centre of Border Conflict Studies. I said how delighted I was to be here on the border. And the hostility in the room, I knew I’d made a terrible gaff, but I didn’t know what. There was no border, they didn’t recognise it. It was all how they defined themselves. There wasn’t a border, there was just an administration in the North which they didn’t talk to terribly much. So I was delighted the next day when they introduced me as ‘Des Fagan from cooperation Ireland and Des works on the contested border in Ireland’. There’s no contested border in Ireland. There may have been ten years ago. That’s what has changed in my lifetime. Sinn Féin to my mind does not contest a border. The DUP certainly don’t. So for the political parties, the border is no longer contested, and yet everything – we had a classic example from Dominic – the school system, the education system in Northern Ireland is still along party political lines. When are the political parties in Northern Ireland going to represent us from what they feel about true economic development, true educational development and leave this identity crisis behind?”
Dominic Bradley: “I said that the unionist parties in general are in favour of academic selection and the nationalist parties are opposed to it, but that doesn’t mean that society in Northern Ireland is split down the middle. There are many unionist people, many headmasters in schools who want to see the end of academic selection. At the same time there are people from the nationalist community who want to maintain academic selection. So I don’t think it’s correct to portray the situation in education especially around that particular issue as a sort of nationalist or unionist, there is quite a grey area interlocking between…. One thing which all the parties agree on is that the 11 plus in its present form has to go. But what we’re not agreed on is what replaces it. Generally speaking, the unionist parties want that replaced by another form of academic selection, whereas my own party and Sinn Féin are in favour of parental choice. Similar to the situation that you have down here.”
Q.7. Linda (Batterstown): “Just to say that the academic standard achieved through the 11 plus system is excellent and you did get the highest result in Great Britain this year, as far as I know, and you should be very proud of it.”
Dominic Bradley: “That depends on what statistics you use. We are very proud of the pupils who achieve very high results, but we have to look at both ends of the scale. Education in Northern Ireland serves the academically gifted very well. But it serves pupils who are not academically gifted very poorly. We have a huge problem with literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland at the other end of the scale. So, whilst we want to retain the high achievement, we also need to deal with the long tail of under-achievement at the other end.”
Gregory Campbell: “I want to respond to the question of ‘isms’ of the past. I don’t think that a huge number of people in Northern Ireland regard some of those ‘isms’, however you describe them, as being redundant. I think, because of the politically correct society that we live in now, there are many people who still hold those ‘isms’ that you described as being in the past but are looking at more professional ways of describing them and they are now being put forward in a much more rational and plausible sense. They have not yet disappeared from the scene, but I think that they are being repackaged if you like, and re-presented in different ways, and I think it’s probably going to be another generation before what you said is an accurate description: that it is a case of those ‘isms’ being now in the past. I think that we are gradually moving to a more casual presentation of many of them and probably in 15 or 20 years time your analysis will be correct, but not just yet.”
James McKerrow: “Just returning to the education question, first of all we know in Northern Ireland the system of education produces results which are good in the UK. Depending upon how you measure them, Wales comes out round about the same as us, but UK education worldwide or in Europe is not particularly good. One of the things that we have to look at is the fact that in Ireland your system of education is coming out on measures rather better than ours without academic selection. But what is growing, I think, is a consensus that trying to determine a child’s future at 11 is not wise. It was ok in my days when 15% went to grammar schools. You had a test which basically those who got into grammar schools were generally suitable for hot house academic selection, but it left a lot outside who could have benefited. Today it is a much wider catchment. It is letting people down. The consensus is moving towards looking at the age of 14 and asking children and their parents to look very seriously what they have done so far, where they want to go, what sort of courses are going to suit them.
Chair: “I think this is turning into an education debate. There’s another question…”
Q.8: John Clancy: “Question for the panel. Are the panel optimistic to see a power sharing assembly up and working by the end of the year, and if not why not, and what steps should be taken?”
Chair: “Could I just ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and we will come back to it.”
Dominic Bradley: “Yes.”
Gregory Campbell: “This year, yes.”
Killian Forde: “Yes.”
James McKerrow: “I’ll say yes because I think there is a majority of unionist MLAs for it and … if Paisley won’t do it, Robinson will!”
Q.9. Marie (Drogheda): “To Gregory and Killian: What significance do you attribute to the fact that in yesterday’s ard fheis Gerry Adams used the words ‘will be urging our people to report crime to the police’ rather than ‘are urging’? I just ask that because I’m still trying to evaluate what happened yesterday. And a small comment to Gregory. I find it sad, Gregory, that you define yourself so negatively, in such a negative way. There are millions of people who are Scottish and British, there are a lesser number of people – and I lived among them – who are Welsh and British. There are English people who are English and British, and I simply can’t understand how somebody in Northern Ireland can’t confidently be Irish and British.”
Killian Forde: “…When I got this, I made a note because I thought I would be asked about it… I hope we’re not going to have an argument over tenses. This is important. I’ve been through 18 months of this, I don’t like many parts of it … From a principled point of view I want the police to be devolved to the Assembly. This huge challenge is very difficult for us. I’m not getting into an argument over tenses. Don’t underestimate what happened yesterday and what Gerry Adams’s statement said today. We’re not going to wait and end up in a situation whereby the press are going forced statements out of us. This statement wasn’t asked by anybody, it was brought out. It’s a tense. It’s very clear as far as I’m concerned.”
Chair: “Gregory do you want to comment?”
Gregory Campbell: “I was listening to a radio programme today. Sinn Féin took their decision in the ard fheis round about 6 o’clock last night. A couple of hours after, and totally unconnected with it, there was a Bloody Sunday demonstration in Londonderry and by about 8 o’clock there were some young people, not connected at all to the ard fheis, who started to throw some petrol bombs at the police as a result of the policing of the parade. Now I just make the point, two hours after the ard fheis decision, would Sinn Féin say to anybody who had any knowledge or information about that petrol bombing that they should go to the police? That is a classic test, within a couple of hours of saying something, what does it mean? What is the tangible expression of ‘support the police’, ‘give evidence’, ‘give some information’? Unfortunately we are still waiting and that’s why the tense is very important. We need to see the practical out-working of thought that that actually means.
Identity: “Could I just answer that other point? I have no difficulty about what you said about being English and British. In fact, I would qualify what I said earlier. I am Irish in the same way a Canadian person is American. But you try telling a Canadian that they are American, because they will say ‘that’s the country that’s to the south of me’. That’s exactly the same for me.”
Dominic Bradley: “I welcome the statement that Killian read out there from Gerry Adams saying that Sinn Féin will be – ‘urging’ people may be too strong – but to report crime to the police. The fact of the matter is that in nationalist areas, people are already doing this. I come from Newry which is a strongly Nationalist town, I also represent South Armagh, and statistics show that even in the Crossmaglen area, there are huge increases in the number of people who are reporting crime directly to the PSNI. I welcome the fact that Gerry Adams made this statement. Really, to some extent, Sinn Féin are playing catch-up on this issue because the nationalist community has already caught on that they need the police to protect them, to deal with crime in their areas. There is an appalling vista ahead for them if they don’t do it. They have caught on to that and they have been doing that. I’ve been out in Newry talking to people on the doorsteps; they talk to me about anti-social behaviour. I ask them ‘have you reported this to the police?’ and they say ‘yes we have’. They do complain sometimes that police response times are not always as they should be, but they don’t tell me that on principle they haven’t contacted the police. They want the problems that are affecting their areas dealt with and they have been using the police for some time regardless of Sinn Féin or Gerry Adams.”
Chair: “Is that tense a problem? There’s someone at the back with a question…”
Q.10. Anne (Slane): “Killian, in reference to your comment to aspiration for – not a united Ireland – but for this ‘unified island’, that is a shared space and a shared community: I’m wondering, if you have a vision of a shared space and a shared community, why have you such difficulty with parading? I refer to your comment where you said you cannot see the point in parading, that ‘it isn’t part of unionist tradition or culture’. That seems to be very dismissive. That seems that, on the one hand you’re saying ‘this space is for everybody and needs to be shared by everybody’, and, on the other hand, you’re saying ‘no, I’ve decided it’s not part of your culture and tradition’. So I was wondering if you could expand on that, maybe I misunderstood?”
Killian Forde: “I find parading … I almost get angry about it because I think it demonstrates an astonishing provocation to nationalist communities. There is no basis for doing it. After everything that we have been through, this insistence year after year. You saw what happened in Garvaghy Road, you saw what happened in the Springfield Road. It is unbelievable. It is almost moronic, the insistence on marching down these streets, it makes no sense. It’s bad political leadership year after year after year. It heightens tensions. It’s unbelievable the tension and the worry and stress it causes people. What I’m asking the unionists to do is to step up to the mark and say ‘ok guys, if you want to go down that street, go talk to your neighbours. Go talk, that’s all you have to do, and stop making excuses.’ There might be a guy in the residents’ community that once was in the IRA. People have to get real with this parading, it need to be dealt with. Because otherwise there is a danger that year after year working class youths, particularly in urban areas, are going to continue to have very violent acts against each other and it has to be dealt with. I don’t accept that it’s a cultural trait that has to be held forever. Cultures shift, move and adapt. They do that for various different ways. Sometimes they are sensitised and sometimes they are desensitised. But I think there is a 100% responsibility on the unionists to get their head around parading and deal with it. It was dealt brilliantly in Derry, and it was done in the right way, and that model should be followed by everybody else. I do welcome the Orange Order actually making an announcement that this year they will speak to the Garvaghy Road residents, but really what we don’t need is DUP politicians egging them on, it really needs to be dealt with.”
Q.11: “I have been trying to get in for some time… The first question I have is for Gregory Campbell. Gregory, the blockage that seems to be at the moment and the new word in the lexicon in the DUP is now ‘blank cheque’, Gerry Adams issued a ‘blank cheque’. Can you put some framework about how you will measure when that cheque can be cashed? In other words, how will you measure when the people from the areas you are talking about will be cooperating with the police? Assuming that the contacts between the police at the moment and the leadership of the DUP are not what they were in RUC days when stuff was leaked.
“Another question, for Killian: is the guarantee that Gerry Adams has given today about cooperating with the police, is that retrospective? Does that only start from the girl who is raped tonight or tomorrow night, or does it start from the one who was raped last week or a year ago? I do know of cases where cooperation has not been given and, as a result of that, serious injustice has been done particularly in cases of rape.”
Chair: “… Gregory, the date?”
Gregory Campbell: “…From our perspective we are being asked to go into government with people whose political mandate we do not dispute. They get the percentage of votes again. There is no dispute about that, no argument or debate. The debate and argument that we have is with their lack of support for the rule of law. Now, that is based on 35 years of terror and violence and murder. …It’s effectively, if you like, like someone who has been the subject of sustained attack over three and half decades and then the attacker turning up at the door and saying that that day is over and ‘I want to be your friend’. I think the person under attack is perfectly legitimate, in fact I would call them naïve if they were to do other than to say: ‘well, thank you very much for coming up and telling me that it’s over but I really would like to see some evidence that it’s over, rather than just you telling me that it’s over, especially if weapons that you used to inflict the pain over the thirty five years were put to one side 13 years ago, 13 years ago, and now you’re coming to me and saying that this is now over’. So I would think that that person would have sufficient time to say that I want to be sure that it is over. That’s what I mean by the post-dated cheque.”
Chair: “Days, weeks, months?”
Gregory: “Certainly not days and weeks, I think we need to have a sustained period of months whereby we see that it does mean something. Could I just respond very quickly on the parading issue? I agree that the parading issue has to be resolved and I think you in the Republic give a perfectly good example. I go to Rossnowlagh every year and there isn’t a problem, there is no residents’ group, there is no attempt to inflict violence on people who just want to express their history and their culture. Just as if you go to Kilkeel – this is not a one-way street you know that we’re marching down – if you go to Kilkeel every year, a unionist town, the AOH march there every year, and they’re not the subject of debate or argument or requests for permission to walk. They simply get on with it and have their day and go home. And everyone says that’s another day over, let’s have another day in the future.”
Chair: “Pre-dates Killian?”
Killian Forde: “The short answer is I don’t know. …I’m very aware of the case, I think it was last summer in relation to the rape of a young girl and then subsequently this psycho ended up taking the girl’s phone and ringing her mother and telling her she was raped, it was absolutely sick. The situation whereby you put a microphone in front of Sinn Fein representatives and ask them ‘are you asking people to go to the police’? At the time the advice was that they should go to a solicitor who can go to the police. That … demonstrated the problem with the stance that we had in relation to the police. So I don’t know. The short answer: I think clear cut cases which don’t involve any sort of political policing are much easier to deal with and they’re the ones that will be dealt with first. In the event of a non-sectarian, non-political violent attack on somebody, I think that’s very clear where the stance is. In other cases it’s going to be more difficult. I also think it must be remembered, and Dominic touches on this, Sinn Féin saying ‘xyz’ it doesn’t mean that we’re all going to bat now, the republicans are going to volunteer or go up and say ‘ I have all this information’. They haven’t got that power, I think it’s one of the things, and as a southerner as well I used to be under this illusion, the illusion that is put out by the press, that the IRA godfathers controlled these vast estates in west Belfast and were able to tell anybody what to do. It doesn’t work that way. People are people. So if people want to volunteer information, if they want to go to the police, our situation at the moment is ‘yes, go ahead, go to the police’ … But we’re a political party. Remember, within a democracy it’s the police who are supposed to swear loyalty to the State and then it’s the political parties that they should be supporting instead of the other way round. We’ve gone a bit topsy turvy in the role of police here.”
Q.12. Ronnie (Slane): “Just an interesting observation: it’s only 20,30 years ago, the two middle of the road parties, the SDLP and UUP, were the dominant parties and I think it’s quite clear that the DUP and Sinn Féin became the dominant parties on foot of the terror and the violence. The two sides polarised into two very intolerant opposites of each other, so as a result of the efforts of the middle of the road parties, the Good Friday Agreement came about where those two polarised parties now have to come back and sit beside each other and sort it out. It’s a pity in a sense that they couldn’t have listened to that very very obvious common sense 20-30 years ago. But it has come full circle one way or the other and we should still celebrate the prodigal son, as it were, and see them around about the table greeting one another rather than teasing one another. I’m inclined to sense tonight that Gregory on the one hand, and Killian on the other, are still engaged in a certain amount of teasing of each other. I would say to Gregory, if he’s wondering about his rights about parades let him answer the question ‘what are the parades about’? I’ve seen them myself in Portadown and they are certainly very intimidating in those areas. Now maybe not in Rossnowlagh, or taken out of a local context, they’re not at all intimidating … But that’s one of the reasons why the parades are an issue. If the parades were about, let’s say, everybody coming together parading, about getting the jobs that you need, maybe that would a better subject matter for parades.”
Chair: “So make the Orange Order a trade union?
Ronnie: “Gregory’s identity crisis…if he comes down to Croke Park in two or three weeks’ time [Ireland/England rugby match] and sees that there is no equivocation…”
Chair: “Sorry, as somebody from Northern Ireland, I find it offensive almost – and I’m trying to chair this impartially – but that’s the second time that Gregory has been criticised for feeling British, and that’s a problem. Gregory is absolutely entitled to feel as British as he wants. If there is a challenge I’m sure Gregory would sit and listen and argue and make a case. …but asking someone to apologise…”
Ronnie: “I’m not asking him to apologise… Chairman, I’m illustrating there are many ways of being Irish and being British without conflict. The rugby team is one instance of that where the whole community of Ireland can come together and enjoy themselves and maybe that’s one of the keys that they should play more rather than tease each other.”
Q.13. Conor (SF councillor): “James had the decency to say about 50 years of mismanagement and 35 years of unionist domination. Gregory is constantly saying about the rule of law. Now was the rule of law in South Africa ok when South Africa existed because they were in power? Was it ok? That was the rule of law. Where has the UDR gone? Where have the B specials gone? Where have all those militias gone? Where have they gone and why have they been changed? What was the reason? Because they were not acceptable. The police were used as a militia against nationalists, that’s who they were used against. The rule of law that was imposed by unionists is not acceptable, it is never acceptable.”
Chair. “But with Patten being 86% implemented now?”
Conor: “We have no problem with that. The only thing that I would have a problem with is that it is not an Irish police force, but we’ll live with what we have. Because that’s the reality of the situation. It keeps going back to the rule of law. The rule of law that you had is never coming back, it’s never coming back.”
Q.14: “On the education issue, I wonder why on one side the republicans want one form of education and the unionists want another, surely people want a balance? The other thing is will we stop shadow boxing? I’d say to Gregory and the Reverend Ian Paisley ‘just gets the gloves off, get in there, get together and sort the problems out.’
“You got the mandate yesterday from Gerry Adams, what he wants to do about policing. You don’t want him cutting his wrists. He’s gone so far, give him time to get the other part in. He has really gone down a long road and you have to give them credit. Give credit to all the politicians in the North …… The only problem I have with them is they’re not taking on their own communities. They are saying what the communities want them to hear. So you have to be a bit braver to get this thing up and running.”
Chair: “Sometimes I find it’s the other way about, to be quite honest. This is peace and stability, the way forward. One last question, and I’m going to ask the panellists to sum up if that’s ok.
Q.15: Rev John Clarke: “It’s been a little all over the place this evening and I think to see this shared future together we need to know exactly where we’re going two three, five years down the line. So, ever so briefly, we have four strong political parties present here this evening. Could you tell me please what is your vision for the peace process in the medium to long term? Could you tidy it up for me please – what is your vision for the future?”
Chair: “… As an NGO, a representative of Cooperation Ireland, originally Cooperation North, we’ve been working in Northern Ireland and indeed in all of Ireland since 1979 to try and develop practical cooperation. We wouldn’t have dared dream of the day that we’re in today 10 years ago. We wouldn’t have dared dream, when we sat around and still sit around at our staff meetings and our project meetings. I think where we have come to we can all give each other a pat on the back as long as we don’t get complacent about it. The vision for me as a parent and as someone who has been born and bred in Belfast, the vision for me is when I can sit in and discuss the things – my wife is from Newbridge, my uncle was shot dead by the IRA, and my cousin was shot dead by the UFF – when I can sit down and simply talk about sport…. I think the vision is when we can have a shared vision which is not bound by identity. When I can look at Gregory and I know and understand Gregory is British, I can look at Killian and understand he’s an Irish republican and so what? A shrug of the shoulders. It’s as much as that. It’s no more whether they support Liverpool or Dublin. It’s just another part of the personal side.
Questioner: “How is the administration going to work though? What type of administration are we going to have in Northern Ireland?…”
Chair: “There must be a cross-border dimension, I would say, to what degree and how that’s recognised in this structure. Let’s go from right to left, if that’s ok..”
Dominic Bradley: “I said in my initial presentation that our party obviously backs the Good Friday Agreement and I think that all parties have to a greater or lesser extent bought into that at that stage. The type of administration I want to see is a power-sharing administration. Now we’ve had glimpses in the past of that at work. Not all parties at that stage had entirely bought into it, but I think that that type of administration can work, and it’s really the best model of government for Northern Ireland under the circumstances which exist at the moment. I think that people on the ground, they want to see the Executive and the Assembly up and running, exercising the powers under the legislation rather than operating in shadow form. They want to see local politicians taking decisions about the issues which affect their daily lives. I would hope that we get to that situation in the short term rather than the long term. In the longer term, I would like to see that system of government bed down into a stable system. For the SDLP our long term aim is a united Ireland with the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement still in operation.”
Gregory Campbell: “I think, as in most things in 2007, the sharp edges of political outlook are being filed away. The sharp edges are coming off slowly but surely, and I can envisage if we get over the hump over the next whatever it is – six, three months – if we get over that I can envisage the first full term of any Assembly with all parties being there on the basis of what we’ve talked about. Having some considerable difficulties but managing through, muddling through some would say.
“But beyond that I can see it bedding down, and the outlook that I would have, and our party would have, would be a peaceful Northern Ireland that is gradually evolving, moving away from the generations … with power-sharing – that’s the practical reality of 2007 – and gradually becoming at peace with itself over a period of time, and hopefully within two or three generations, everyone would have settled for Northern Ireland within the UK being either British or Irish whatever they choose.”
Killian Forde: “….What I actually think is probably going to happen is I would be fairly confident that by the summer we’ll have something up and running and then I think it’ll probably get interesting. The way the St Andrew’s Agreement is set up is that effectively both sides – and please excuse me if anybody takes exception to be called a side – but both communities have a veto on each other and on any decisions made by the ministers. I imagine you are probably going to see a lot of shadow boxing for a start in people vetoing each other. I think that would probably be good to actually happen because I think what the end result of that is is that you will get a lot more cross-community support and cross-party support on various different proposals because it’ll be the only way it works. So I expect that the Assembly, as Gregory said, will muddle along very badly for a while, people will get frustrated, that frustration will be felt by politicians and effectively they will have to administer the Assembly.
“I’d like to see the strengthening of cross-border institutions, not just in terms of ones that exist now but also an outworking of them and a further integration of the 6 Counties within the Republic. And also then to work alongside in terms of the big vision stuff that the history gets in the way of, so to have that breathing space to go ‘look here we are, what do we want? How do we do it, what does everybody agree with, what does everybody disagree with?’ But with the comfort of not having violence associated with it which obviously raises tensions.”
James McKerrow: “This is the last of a series of elections which started in 1996 and I think it’s the decider; things go one way or the other. I believe it is going to go positively. The big advantage, once you have a devolved Assembly, is that direct rule will diminish considerably. We will stop having the politics of the nursery, we’ll stop having nanny there to separate the sides. Perhaps it has taken the two extreme parties to come to the fore to realise their responsibilities and, I have to say, to step up to them and take them and move things forward, because it has created a major consensus that perhaps we lacked previously. Because, let’s remember, Sinn Féin didn’t sign up to the Good Friday Agreement at the time and I’m not sure when or if they ever did, but they’ve certainly embraced it as the DUP have. I would be positive, I would say once the institutions are set up and running, reality will creep in, possibly a lot quicker than Gregory thinks. Because when you take the nanny out of the nursery, people have to get on together.”
Chair (Des Fegan): “I just want to thank our panelists, Dominic, Gregory, Killian and James, and a round of applause for the Meath Peace group for pulling this together.”
Closing words: Julitta Clancy: “On behalf of the Meath Peace Group I would like to say thanks to all the panel, and a special thanks to Des Fegan for filling in for Tony Kennedy (CEO Cooperation North) at extremely short notice. If anybody remembers the first time we had Sinn Fein and the DUP together – it was almost a year ago (talk no. 59, 27 March 2006) – and a lot of people felt it was quite a depressing night, a lot of things were said, a lot of emotions raised, and Jim Wells of the DUP said that he would have to think again about coming back to the Meath Peace Group … I think massive progress has been made over the last number of years and it’s great credit to the people of Northern Ireland particularly who have moved mountains and moved in the face of terrible adversity and terrible pain. So we just want to wish you well in the coming year particularly. … Issues like ‘identity’ – they come up in our schools all the time and we need to do our work down here – remember, only a year ago we had the February 25th riots in Dublin over the ‘Love Ulster’ parade. We don’t ever want to see that type of thing again. On a final note, somebody, was it Gregory or the Chair, mentioned the timeliness of this talk, coming just a day after the special Sinn Fein ard fheis on policing, I’d like to remind Gregory that when this talk was first mooted a few months ago, this date was actually given us by his office!”
Biographical notes on speakers
Gregory Campbell, MP, MLA, represents the Democratic Unionist Party in the East Londonderry constituency. He was first elected to Londonderry City Council in 1981 and has been the leader of the DUP group in the Council since 1981. He contested Assembly and Parliamentary elections on behalf of the DUP and was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and again in 2003. He served as Regional Development Minister in the NI Executive from July 2000 to September 2001. In the 2001 Westminster elections he was elected Member of Parliament for East Londonderry. Before full-time politics he established a local publishing company which was designed to create greater awareness of Ulster history and tradition, especially the Ulster-Scots contribution to the United States of America. Gregory has also written a number of booklets on the question of discrimination against the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. His leisure interests are soccer, music and reading. Gregory previously addressed a Meath Peace Group talk in Dalgan Park on 18th November 2002 (MPG report no. 46).
Dominic Bradley is the SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, and is Party Spokesperson on Education and the Irish Language. Born in Bessbrook, he is one of twelve children; his late parents, Willie and Sheila, met when they worked in the linen mill in Bessbrook. Dominic’ first taste of politics was as a fifteen year old participant in Civil Rights’ marches in Newry campaigning peacefully for ‘One Man One Vote’, for fair-play in housing allocation, for equal rights for all. Subsequently, after the formation of the SDLP, his first experience of electioneering was on behalf of Paddy O’Hanlon in Stormont elections. Dominic has been a member of the SDLP for almost twenty years. During that time he acted successfully as Director of Elections for Seamus Mallon M.P. and for the Party in the Newry and Mourne Council area. At present he is Chair of the Fews Branch and has represented the Party on Council and Community Committees. Dominic previously addressed a Meath Peace Group talk along with Minister Dermot Ahern and others on 25th February 2005 (MPG report no. 54)
Cllr. Killian Forde is Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson on Dublin City Council. He joined Sinn Fein in 2000 having previously spent five years in the Balkans as an aid worker and later as a consultant with the United Nations. On returning to Ireland he studied first for a master’s degree at Trinity College and left to become a community worker with a local Travellers’ organization. In June 2004, he stood in the local elections and was elected for Donaghmede, having topped the poll with 3, 500 votes. In an interview with the Sunday Business Post shortly after the elections, Cllr Forde explained why he had joined the party: “I had no real republican connections and my family was not involved with Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein reflects my values and I believe in the vision of a united Ireland based on socialist values.”
Cllr. James McKerrow (UUP, North Down) was born and brought up on the edge of London, taking a degree in mechanical engineering and a Masters in Business Administration and Production Engineering. He came to live in North Down in 1973 to join Harland and Wolff and in 1976 he joined the Commercial and Marketing Department of Shorts, taking early retirement in 1998. James became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1970, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing in 1980. Since then he has been involved in social work and has completed a degree at the Open University in economics and politics. He has been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party since 1995 and is the local Constituency Office Manager and Secretary of the North Down Association. He is also a member of the Ulster Unionist Council and serves on the Party’s Trade and Enterprise Committee. He was elected in 2005 to serve on North Down Borough Council for the first time. James is particularly interested in “constitutional settlement, law and order, education, and the interests of the older generation”.
Meath Peace Group report 64, 2007. ©Meath Peace Group
Taped by Judith Hamill, Oliver Ward and Jim Kealy
Transcribed by Catherine Clancy and edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group (report no. 64)
©Meath Peace Group (report no. 64)
MEATH PEACE GROUP TALKS
No. 46: “Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland – A DUP Perspective”
Monday, 18th November 2002
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (Democratic Unionist Party)
Chaired by Paul Murphy (Former Group Editor, Drogheda Independent)
Official welcome by Cllr Jim Holloway
Welcome and introductions: Cllr James Holloway and Paul Murphy
Questions and comments
Biographical notes and acknowledgements
[Editor’s note: over 100 people attended this talk, the first of our public talks to be addressed by the DUP]
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Cllr. James Holloway (Fine Gael, Navan UDC): “Good evening. I came here tonight on behalf of Deputy Damien English, the new young TD for Meath. He couldn’t be here tonight and he sends his apologies. … Now I’ve been involved in local politics for the last eight years and I want to say one thing: while I have spent all my life teaching, you could say that I was very much involved in the community. Well, like lots of people in their particular careers I didn’t necessarily have to meet the different sections of the community but since I became involved in local politics I have had to go out there and meet the different sectoral interests, the different religious groups, social classes, and for me that has been the most rewarding thing. To know what beats in the heart of a community you have to go into the heart of that community. It has been a most enriching experience for me – to know other people, to speak to them, look into their faces and try and understand where they are coming from. I’m here tonight in Dalgan which is part of a community of religious who never had the choice but to be in the heart of different communities. I’m just saying that by way of introducing Gregory Campbell, MP and Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland, the first time that a member of the DUP has come here and spoken to this group. My introductory remarks had that in mind – we will have a chance here to meet with one another, look eye to eye, hear what we are saying and that is a great opportunity. Without further ado I welcome you, Gregory.”
Chair (Paul Murphy). “Thank you Councillor. I have a warm welcome for Gregory here – coincidentally we just met a year ago at a peace conference in Cork. That conference was organised by the Westgate Foundation, a social services and community group operating in West Cork and doing a wonderful job down there. They have been working quietly for peace for two decades at least. We were delighted to be present and to hear all shades of opinion in Cork from people from Belfast and Derry/Londonderry and from Dublin and Cork itself. It was an interesting event and well-supported I know by the Department of Foreign Affairs and I see Peadar [Carpenter] here tonight, and I’m delighted to see him…
“Just to introduce Gregory: he is an MLA and MP for the DUP – the Democratic Unionist Party. He was first elected to local government in 1981 and has been re-elected every four years since then. He has contested Assembly and Parliamentary elections on behalf of the DUP and was elected Assembly Member in 1998 and MP in June 2001 for the East Londonderry constituency. He was Regional Development Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive from July 2000 to September 2001…. From 1981 to 1994 he was the party spokesman on Fair Employment, from 1994 he was spokesman for security, and from 1996 to1997 he was a delegate to the all-party talks…[see further Biographical notes at end of this report] … “I am sure you will give a very very warm welcome to Gregory.”
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP
“Thank you, Chairman and could I thank the organisers for inviting me along this evening. As I listened to the CV being read out I began to wonder whether it was me or someone else he was talking about! I want to thank the organisers for the invite along tonight. On the way here we were talking about the best way to proceed in the meeting. My view is that at meetings like this I tend to think that the people who are the listeners get more out of a two-way process of questions and answers than simply a monologue, and if you don’t agree with me at the start, if I were to speak for an hour and a half, I venture to suggest that you would all agree with me at the end of that.
“You would say “yes, it was a good idea – he should have spoken for an hour and twenty minutes less and posed more questions”! So I do think it is more beneficial to take the questions. I’m going to try and keep to that, and I am going to speak for a shortish time and hopefully those comments will be sufficiently robust, controversial, whatever, to inspire a number of questions which may then lead to further enlightenment – on either side – and hopefully that will be the case.”
Value of dialogue: “I always like to come to the Irish Republic and explain the unionist position because I think – and I really want to subdivide my talk tonight under two headings – I really do think that part of the problem in understanding Northern Ireland, particularly to those who come from outside of Northern Ireland, is one of caricature, one of perception, and one of misunderstanding, and therefore a meeting like this, with discussions and questions and answers, oftentimes can lead to a breaking down of those perceptions, hopefully setting the record straight in terms of caricatures and hopefully trying to open up lines of communication between us in Northern Ireland and you in the Irish Republic. So I want to dwell on that.”
Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland: “The other thing I wanted to speak on was: as the heading of tonight’s meeting is “Peace and Stability in Northern Ireland”, I wanted to say a few words about any process that is likely to lead to greater peace and greater stability in Northern Ireland. It has got to do something that no process up to now has done. That is a major statement and yet I believe it is fundamentally true.”
Perceptions and caricature: “So first of all I want to turn my mind to this issue of caricature and perceptions in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt, and as I came on previous occasions to the Republic, there are people who when they hear the letters “DUP” have a particular image of what that means, of what someone who is in the DUP will say, and they almost have the pigeon-hole carved out and ready to slot the person into that particular pigeon-hole. And that comes about because of a whole variety of factors which I will not go into, you’ll be glad to hear, down through the years.”
Unionist opposition to Belfast Agreement: “In Northern Ireland we have a very difficult, very elaborate and complicated scenario. It isn’t a simplistic problem to be solved. It isn’t the case that what needs to happen is that, for example, the IRA need to show their bona fides, they need to disarm and they need to go away, and if they did then the unionist community would simply say “well now we are in favour of an Agreement which up to now we have been opposed to”. In other words, the reason for opposition in the unionist community, to the Belfast Agreement, isn’t just because the IRA have been active since the Agreement, it isn’t just because of Colombia and the – I think they were called “eco-tourists” at the time, who knows what the court in Colombia will find them guilty of? – it’s not just because of Castlereagh, it’s not just because of a conviction in Florida, and it’s not just because of a spy-ring in Stormont. Some people, not only in Northern Ireland but also people in the Republic, believe that if those issues regarding the IRA were satisfactorily resolved then the unionist community would be in support of the Agreement. If they believe that then they are guilty of creating another caricature.”
One-sided nature of the Agreement: “Because you see unionists weren’t just opposed to the Agreement because they saw the IRA being in breach of their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. They were opposed to the Agreement because the Agreement itself – the actual structure of the Agreement – is a one-sided structure.”
North-South and East-West strands: “I will give you an example. Before the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly I tabled a question in Stormont – in fact it was two questions, and the first one was: to detail how many meetings, and what the subject matters were, of all the North-South Ministerial Council meetings that there had been. And the second question was very similar: how many meetings, and the subject matters, of the British-Irish Council. Now the reason I did that was because way back four and a half years ago when the Agreement was signed, those pro-Agreement unionists who tried to sell the benefits of the Agreement, when they were under some criticism about the strength and the vibrancy and the growing evolution of the North-South strand in the Agreement, pointed to the East-West or the British-Irish strand in the Agreement and tried to get people to accept that one was a counter-balance to the other. In other words, for the 50% of weight that you would put on the North-South strand of the Agreement, it would be counter-balanced by 50% on the East-West [strand]. And that was what David Trimble and others attempted to say. Now we said at the time – those of us who were opposed to the Agreement – we said: “look, quite frankly this is a nonsense. The Agreement is built on the North-South axis and any East-West liaison is just window-dressing to try and fool gullible Unionists into accepting the North-South business.” Of course we were then told this is scare-mongering.”
“The answers to my question: there was a whole litany of subject-matters on the North-South, a veritable litany of them, but over fifty meetings had taken place of the North-South Ministerial Council, which sounded pretty impressive in four years. The answer to the East-West question, however, wasn’t quite so comprehensive. Five meetings of the East-West relationship! Now, does that say to me that the North-South axis is ten times more important than the East-West? Maybe not ten times, maybe twelve times, maybe eight times, but certainly more important than the East-West – the ratio we will not quibble about. The point about posing those questions was to demonstrate that, if you like, the real game for the Agreement was North-South – we can have the pretend game on the sidelines for Unionists, to try and keep them from getting very annoyed and angry about the development of the North-South basis.”
Two criteria required for unionist support: “So, the whole issue in Northern Ireland today is more fundamental than even the issue of whether the IRA is active or not. It’s much more fundamental than that. Because unionists need to be satisfied on two counts – two counts only. For any agreement to get success, or to be approved, or to get the imprimatur of the unionist community it needs to fulfil two criteria.
1. Parties to agreement must be genuine democrats: “The first one is that we need to be talking about people involved in that agreement, parties to that agreement, signatories to it, who are genuine democrats. And when I say “genuine democrats” I mean that they come to the table without the force of a private army, but with the force of their logic. Because when I come to any table – tonight’s table, or a discussion table or a talks table – I don’t have a private illegal army whom I can call upon if my logic is found wanting. But Gerry Adams does. Now that’s the difference.
“That’s why there is inequality in Northern Ireland – not the kind of inequality that you may have heard about. But that’s the kind of inequality which unionists say has to be taken out of the equation. So when we all come to the table to devise an agreement – which hopefully we can all sign up to – we all come there as equals. The quality and the force of our reasoning and our logic, nothing else. That means the arms have to go – not some of them, but all of them for all time. All of the illegal arms out of the equation. That’s the first prerequisite.”
2. Concerns of all sides to be treated on equal basis: “The second one, and oftentimes overlooked: even if the first one were met, the second one also has to be met. And I don’t think that we are being unreasonable in the first count and I think we are equally reasonable in demanding that the second requirement should be met. The second requirement is that as we reach the table of talks and discussions to work our way through the quagmire that is trying to get an agreement in Northern Ireland, that all of our identities, our communal outlooks, our grievances, our fears and our concerns are treated on an equal basis. Now some people might say – who haven’t followed Northern Ireland too closely – they might say: “Well what on earth is wrong with that? Of course that should be the case.” But you see the Belfast Agreement doesn’t work on that basis. It accepts one set of prejudices, one set of grievances, one set of disadvantages but not another.”
Marginalisation, exclusion and discrimination: “That’s why we need to get a new agreement, and that’s why – and I will move on to the second part of my talk – we need to get agreement that there is more than one community who feel marginalized, excluded and discriminated against.
Cold house for Protestants: “Now, as I say, someone coming from outside with no interest in Northern Ireland might say: “What’s wrong with that? Perfectly acceptable. Any democrat would accept that” But in Northern Ireland, unfortunately, what happens is that most of the previous attempts to get some form of agreement or devolved structure have floundered, and they have floundered because – whether you look back to the 1970s, or the 1980s, or the 1990s – you will always see an acceptance, for example, of the nationalist complaint – that nationalists have been systematically discriminated against in Northern Ireland for fifty years. And many people will say – and I remember some people describing the Belfast Agreement as “Sunningdale for slow learners” – and at the time of Sunningdale we were told that what needs to happen is: “nationalists must be brought in from the cold, nationalists must be shown that there is a place in the sun in Northern Ireland for them”.
“Now the closest any Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has come to conceding the second point was the previous Secretary of State who has just left to take up another post, Dr. John Reid. Because when he spoke in Liverpool University last year he came quite close to being the first Secretary of State to recognise something that some of us have been saying for over 20 years. When he made the statement – and I’ll come to the one thing where he made a mistake in that – where he made a statement that the one thing they had to avoid was creating a Northern Ireland which would become a “cold place for Protestants”. He came very close to being the first Secretary of State to hit the nail on the head. The one mistake that he made in that statement was the tense that he used. He talked about it as if it was a future possibility, or a future probability, when in fact it is a present reality. It’s not just the case that unionists may at some future date become disenfranchised or marginalized: they have been so for years, for years they have been so.”
Fair Employment: Civil Service recruitment: “I remember way back in the 1970s when I and some others started to address the issue of Fair Employment. At first it was the case that we were dismissed as some sort of crankish element on the fringe of the unionist community, and then eventually the debate moved on and I can remember in the 1980s almost recognition of what we were saying, but in some very small pockets of Northern Ireland. The Minister for Finance and Personnel in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Dr. Sean Farren, undertook a review of the Civil Service. The Civil Service in Northern Ireland is the largest employer by far – it employs over 20, 000 people. It is four times the size of the largest private employer in Northern Ireland. That review of employment procedures showed what I and others had been saying was the case for many years – that the unionist community are at a severe disadvantage whenever you look at recruitment into the Civil Service.”
Northern Ireland Housing Executive: “Last year I had a series of correspondences with the head of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive – the largest public housing body in Western Europe. Again, an employer of several thousand people. The recruitment practices of that large public body showed that there is an under-representation of the unionist community.”
“These two factors demonstrate why Dr. John Reid was almost right. Northern Ireland doesn’t have the possibility of being a cold house for the unionist community: tens of thousands of them feel as if they are in an igloo. That’s how cold it is now and has been so over 20 years.”
Criteria for talks: “So what do we do about trying to get the heat turned up? Those two factors are crucial. We’ve got to be operating in an entirely peaceful environment and all the participants coming to any talks table need to be coming with no strength of force of arms but only the strength of their argument, all of us coming to that table. We all need to be at the table to address grievances and wrongs on bothour sides. And if people come and say “no, the object of the exercise is to create a new agreement or a new Sunningdale, and that’s to bring nationalists in because they believe that unionists are already in, then we’re going to fail again. So there has to be an acceptance that those are the parameters that we will come to address”.
Repeating the mantra: “Now I have no doubt that there are those who will come to the table and they will be putting forward viewpoints and arguments, and their assessment of the situation will be radically different to mine and to ours, and I have to accept their right to put those arguments. I have to accept that because we have a divided society in Northern Ireland. But equally they will have to accept that it isn’t of any use to keep repeating the mantra – “that there is no other show in town but the Belfast Agreement, that we’re going to keep on working at implementing the Agreement.”
Lack of unionist consent: “There is a very simple – and I say “simple” not “simplistic” – a very simple way of looking at the problems that we are faced with at the moment in Northern Ireland. People say to me: “the people had their vote and their views at the time of the Referendum, four and a half years ago: 71.9% of the people of Northern Ireland, 95% of the people of the Republic voted in favour of it.” And what I say to them is very straightforward. I say to them: “Yes, do you accept that Northern Ireland is a deeply deeply divided society?” Virtually everybody says “yes”. “Do you accept that in the past the problem was: that whereas unionists gave their assent and their consent to how Northern Ireland was governed, that nationalists didn’t?”
“Virtually everybody says “yes” to that as well. And I then go on to say to them: “Did that lack of consent from the nationalist community lead to changes in the way Northern Ireland was governed?” Of course it did. And usually when I lead people along that route, at this point they realise where we are going. Because then I say to them: “Where we are now is that almost all the nationalist community support the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland, but only a small fraction of the unionist community support it.” Now I ask you, in terms of equity and in terms of logic: if in the past a system of government in Northern Ireland had to be changed, and changed radically and drastically, because the nationalist community wouldn’t buy into it, why does the same logic not apply to the present? We have a system of government now to which the unionists take the same exception, are resentful to the same degree as nationalists were in the old days, but why do governments say “oh but there’s a settlement now, we’re going to implement this Agreement, even if unionists don’t like it”?
Legitimacy of grievances: “Why was it then that in the old days the system that didn’t have nationalist support didn’t get the same demand that it would have to stay and would have to be put in place and wouldn’t be changed and wouldn’t be altered, but now, we’re told: “well, the unionists had their chance five years ago”. And we’ll not go into what the Prime Minister promised would happen and hasn’t happened. The reality at the moment in 2002 is very straightforward. The nationalist community by and large are very very content with the Agreement as it sits at the moment. And I would have to say to you that if I were a nationalist I would be very content with the Agreement. I would think it is a tremendous achievement because it accepts the legitimacy of my grievances and seeks to address them. But I am not a nationalist. I am a unionist. Until we can get our own Government, and your Government in this country, to accept the legitimacy of our grievances and get them to establish a system that says “yes, you can put forward the legitimacy of your grievances, within the parameters of this system of government”, then we are going to be bound to repeat the failures of the Belfast Agreement and other agreements. Mr Chairman, I hope I’ve said enough to provoke at least some questions and I’ll be happy to respond.”
Chair – Paul Murphy: “Thank you, Gregory, I’m sure there is plenty of food for thought there. What I intend to do is try to take questions in groups of three and allow Gregory then to reply…”
Questions and comments (main points only):
[Names of questioners are not given here except where the questioner is a public representative or politician]
Q.1. [Drogheda resident]: “Who are the people who would argue against equality in housing and employment and how do you anticipate they would conduct those arguments?”
Q. 2. [Navan resident]: “Gregory, thank you for your openness and your honesty. A great deal of your argumentation is that unionist grievances have not been addressed in the past and certainly are not being addressed now. Maybe you could spell out specifically what are the grievances that need to be addressed?”
Q. 3. [Navan resident]: “We’ve had the two referenda and the Belfast Agreement. What, Gregory, would you propose – how do you take it on from here? What do we do now?”
Replies to questions 1-3:
Gregory Campbell: Inequality: “The first question was those who would argue against the equality in the housing issue and how they would conduct their campaign. What I found in relation to this and other equality issues – and I alluded to this in my address – there is almost a denial that the situation exists. That’s normally how they conduct it. They normally say: “This can’t be happening, this is not right.” And then when you present them with the figures, when you show the figures, and you show them not just as I might present them but you show them from the body itself, so for example, the Housing Executive: if you refer people to those figures that that body produces itself, and you then establish the bona fides of your case – that there is a position to be answered and a response to be made – there is usually then a sort of a fall-back by those who bring their side of the argument that “we all must try and create an equal society”. It’s almost as if, you know, it doesn’t exist and then if it does exist, it’s almost like motherhood and apple pie, “we’ve all got to be equal, we all have to put forward our arguments in our new era, our new society”. But I haven’t really found anyone who [tape unclear] … is saying that they agree with the disadvantage. I don’t find that people are saying: “well yes, that is the case, and it is right that it is the case that unionists are disadvantaged”. I don’t find people saying that. As I say, normally it’s denial, and then when the reality of the figures are presented to them, it’s normally then a sort of a motherhood and apple-pie defence – you know “we all must be equal and we all have to be seen to be even-handed in how we get employment opportunities.” But that doesn’t really address the problem.
Unionist grievances: “The second question was the question on the grievances. I hope that I did outline one of them, in terms of employment, the Civil Service which is the largest employer in Northern Ireland, by far, and there is a major problem there. The other issue I alluded to, was the North-South as opposed to the East-West, in other words the greater weight and importance given to the North-South connection, between Northern Ireland and the Republic, as opposed to between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Irish language: “Another example – this is at a very superfluous level, but hopefully it will give you an example of what I am talking about – there is a significant amount of money now deployed in the various Departments of Northern Ireland for the promotion of the Irish language, and I don’t have a difficulty with that, where it’s not being used as a political tool. I don’t have a problem with that. But there isn’t the same degree of importance attached to the cultural background that I come from, in Northern Ireland, as there would be to Irish. Now again I would like to see more equity coming into that particular situation.”
Cultural tourism: “To give you another example: on the tourism – andcultural tourism, which is being developed in Northern Ireland as it has in the Republic and elsewhere over the past eight or ten years – it is very difficult to get Government Departments to promote the entity that is Northern Ireland in cultural tourism. It’s very difficult to get them to do anything about that. Again they pay lip-service to it but it is quite difficult to get examples of how that is promoted. And yet the Irish diaspora – Tourism Ireland, you know other examples of the Irish dimension – there is no difficulty whatsoever in getting that promoted.
Policing recruitment: “So those are some of the examples. Another one is a very controversial one, and it is one which needs answering in the short term. That is in policing. In Northern Ireland at the moment we have what is called a 50:50 rule in recruitment. People who pay close attention to the problems will probably be aware of that. What happened was for a period of 70, 80 years there was a lack of applications from the Catholic community into the old RUC. Now part of the reason for that was that the IRA shot many of those who did apply. But there were quite a few Catholic police officers who served very well and admirably. But there was a very low take-up. Before the 1995 period only about 9% of the old RUC would have been Catholic. In order to address that they introduced what many in my community find offensive, which is almost a system of reverse discrimination, which means that however many people apply, and historically, because of the policing situation that I’ve just outlined, if you’ve got 1, 000 application forms you will get possibly 700 or 800 from my community and possibly only 200 or 300 from the nationalist community, and that’s what has happened. But now what they have done, because of this 50:50 rule, however many from my community apply, and however few from the nationalist community apply, they boil that down, they go through the procedures to find out if they would be suitable police officers and they then simply eliminate from the selection procedure all of the numbers from my community who exceed the 50% rule. Now, out of 1, 000 applications – let’s say there are 800 from my community and 200 from the nationalist community – if there are 200 out of the 1,000 who are suitably qualified I’m sure 150 of them are from my community and 50 are from the nationalist community. 100 of the 150 in my community will get a letter saying “we’re sorry, but under the 50:50 rule you will not be offered employment.”
Discrimination: “That is effectively telling them they are the wrong religion, and then only 50 from my community and 50 from the nationalist community will be recruited. Now that has caused a problem in policing numbers, because of the low numbers coming from the nationalist community. So the actual number of police officers being brought into the police force is reduced because of that 50:50 rule, and the rule itself causes huge resentment, absolutely huge resentment, not just to the people who apply, have gone through the process, been told they are suitably qualified and then rejected on religious grounds, but also to their families and their friends because they see that the system actively discriminates against my community.
“So we have to replace that with a system of merit, pure merit, so that whoever applies, if they’re suitably qualified they are offered a post, irrespective of their religious background.”
Where now? “The third question – excuse me Mr Chairman I think I can summarise the question just by saying “Where now? Where do we go from here?” It’s my view that we have now had almost 5 years since the Belfast Agreement, since the referendum. The Assembly’s life span should terminate on the 30th of April next year. Elections are scheduled to be held on the 1st May. Really, I think to devise another system which is going to be acceptable to both communities – and that is what we have to get. I’m not seeking to replace a system of government that is unacceptable to my community with another system that is unacceptable to nationalists. I think we have to get a system that is going to be acceptable to both, because the past has shown us that where you have a sizeable section of one community resentful and antagonised and alienated, it doesn’t work. But I don’t know why people can’t accept that that criterion applies now, in reverse, and they say “but it does have acceptance” when it doesn’t. And the polls in favour of our party show that there isn’t support”
Elections and talks: “So the thing to do now is I think we need to get that election, we need to hold those elections, see what the numerical strengths of the various political parties are, and we then need to get down to the earnest and urgent business of trying to devise that talks table that I alluded to in my opening remarks. So that all the political parties come to that table purely with the force of argument, no force of arms, and we then sit down to try and hammer out a deal to which both our communities can sign up to and give their allegiance to. I think to prolong the agony with the present system, with the present Assembly, will only exacerbate matters and make matters worse. I think we need a fresh mandate so that people can see what the relative strengths of the parties are, and we need to get those negotiations up and running as soon as absolutely possible.”
Q.4: Cllr Brian Fitzgerald (Ind., Meath Co. Council, former Labour Party TD) : “First of all I would like to welcome you Gregory to Co. Meath. About seven or eight years ago I took a delegation to Belfast of Labour Party parliamentarians at the time. We met every political party in Belfast, but unfortunately your party leader declined the invitation to meet with us in Belfast, and that is one of the things I regret – that every other party met with us, and we had hours of debate over a number of days, trying to get behind the difficulties that you had, the fears and perceptions that were there. So I do welcome you here tonight, and I am thankful to the Meath Peace Group for encouraging you to come here.
“I am a little disappointed with some of the remarks, if you don’t mind me picking some points in some of the things that you did say. Those of us who are here, and the vast majority of people on this island, particularly in southern Ireland, would not support the IRA. The vast majority of people do not support Sinn Fein. So we’ve all been very democratic politicians down through the years and we’ve tried to [extend] the hand of friendship. But it would appear to me, though, that your leader, who came into being when the late Terence O’Neill decided to come south to meet with the late Sean Lemass who was then Taoiseach of this country – it was from then on that your party grew, from this. And it was because he handed out the hand of friendship to the South, and we tried to work with our Northern colleagues in the hope of developing the island because they knew what was facing them. They had the vision to know what was facing them in Europe and the rest of the world. So I am a little disappointed that we’re still thinking about those divisions that are still there and still being built upon. I do not see why you allow the IRA and Sinn Fein to continue to set the agenda, because that is effectively what you are doing. You are allowing them to set the agenda. But the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will support the democratic process, let it be the SDLP, the Alliance or anybody else up there, and I don’t see why you should continue to allow that to happen by excluding the rest of us, and the rest of those people, from trying to develop the Good Friday Agreement. Because let’s be honest about it – you say “why is it being reversed now?” It’s being reversed because in 1974 when we tried to do something here, together with our colleagues in Northern Ireland, it was your party that dragged it down. I’m not saying you did, Gregory, but certainly the leaders of the day – they developed the workers’ strike which ensured that it would fall down….. [tape change]…
Sinn Fein on Policing Board: “The question I want to ask you is this ….at the present time Sinn Fein is refusing to sit on the Policing Board. If there’s a possibility that they would come in, would your party remain on the Policing Board?
Q. 5. [Dunsany resident, originally from Northern Ireland]: “Gregory, I’m glad to hear you speak and to get a chance to speak to you. You’re welcome.
I’m somewhat saddened, over the years I’ve been saddened, by the contribution of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. You talk about discrimination and you try to draw a parallel between what happened in Northern Ireland in the late 60s and early 70sand the discrimination that was perpetrated against the nationalist community, to the discrimination that is being perpetrated against the unionist community today. Gladly that is not the case – that there is such discrimination being perpetrated against the unionist community, and I see little evidence of such a scale of discrimination. Now with regard to your own people and the representation: it often saddens me that your party sometimes in the past has urged people on to the streets … and violence ensues. And that causes – to the people of Northern Ireland, the people of your community and the nationalist community – great pain and great sadness, a great pain and great sadness that has been in evidence for far too many years. And I would plead with you, as a relatively young man – that is relative to Ian – that you would take a look at your community and the people who are suffering in the lower socio-economic groupings of Belfast who are nightly angered. And the words that you speak, sadly, cause them to fear even further their future in Northern Ireland living alongside the nationalist community. And their fears are based on the terrible pain that they have suffered at the hands of the IRA, in the same way as members of the IRA and the nationalist community have suffered great pain. The divisions have been there too long, Gregory, we need you tart talking about bringing people together, and not just focusing on one side. I find it quite difficult to appreciate how the republican community will leave down their arms whilst nightly their people are attacked by members of the unionist/loyalist community. And I would love to see you, or some members of your party, standing up and talking about the future that does not fester into the divisions that we have had in the past, so that your words will not be used to nurture the festering sores that are so real in the minds and hearts of the people of both communities. That’s what I wish from you and your party: to liberate your people from their pain, not remind them of the discrimination but lead them to a new land …..I am certain that within the unionist community there are great minds that would see this little piece of land governed by the intellect of the people …… I would wish that the borders of our minds would in some way be decommissioned in the hope that you and I and all the people here, North and South, could find a common goal. Stop the pain.”
Chair: “I’ll allow that as a question even though it was a speech! Thank you.”
Q. 6: [Dublin resident] Policing recruitment: “I had a very interesting lunch today with a young Protestant girl from the Republic of Ireland who applied for a job with the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] as a civilian worker. I think it was a triple interview system. She went through the first two it seems successfully and when she got to the third interview the interview started by somebody explaining to her that she wouldn’t be taken on in a job, if at all, unless first of all there was a Roman Catholic appointed. And she wondered, as a citizen of the European Union, how such discrimination could exist. Thank you, Gregory.”
Q. 7. [Drogheda businessman] Re investment in N.I. “Gregory, I found it quite painful to listen to what you had to say. I think your politics are quite petty, and I think they belong in the past. Last week I spent some time with the managing director of a very large old prestigious English company. He was looking to set up a factory in Ireland, and I was wondering when I spoke to him why he was considering southern Ireland, when his natural territory would be perhaps in the North.
“Over the course of this meeting I began to realise that I had more in common with him than what my unionist cousins in the North have, and that he felt more at home down here than what he would have felt in the North. And I thought that was a pity because you people are obviously more British than we. And the reason this man won’t invest in the Northern section of our country, and he won’t build a factory, and the reason we are going to get it, is because of politics on both sides of your community – just like yours and just like the republicans. If you want your communities to grow as one community and if you want to make money and make a good country or a state of Northern Ireland, you’ve got to leave this politics behind you. The greatest mistake you’ve made is the trashing of your Assembly. Who would invest up there? I could not encourage anyone to invest in your country. As I said, the politics is insular and it belongs in the past. You’ve got to leave this behind you, you’ve got to embrace the other community. Constantly whining and putting each other down. You can make something of it, you should make something of it, but you must embrace them. Now, you talk about Colombia and all these small little things that happened – they may be great things to you, but could they be anything worse than the dissembling of Stormont? If you bring the republicans in from the cold and work with them, show them that your politics works. I think they want to work with you, I think you should work with them, to make something of it. And I think, as a leader, you owe it to yourself and to your community to act like a leader, and the person I saw speaking here tonight – you’re no leader.”
Chair: “I’ll allow that as a question too. Now we’re drifting a little bit, I have to remind you. I know you want to express your feelings but I’d really like you to ask questions.”
Q. 8 [Navan resident]: “In view of the fact that the DUP Ministers in the North of Ireland did a powerful job, by all reports – including Mr Campbell when he was there – is that the reason why the DUP has increased their support since the Belfast Agreement? Or is it because they are constantly saying “no” to things?”
Replies to Questions 4-8:
Gregory Campbell: “In answer to the question from Cllr. [Brian] Fitzgerald with reference to the Lemass visit, and also – quite frankly I couldn’t understand this business – about allowing Sinn Fein to set the agenda, and then the Policing Board
Lemass visit and relationships with Irish Republic: “The whole issue of Lemass and anything like that – it’s not the case that the DUP and the forerunners of the DUP were opposed to everything from the Irish Republic and that that in some way led to the problems we are now faced with and now we are having to address the legacy of that, if you like. The issue for unionists is – not that Ian Paisley or anyone else opposed the visit of Lemass, but it is what is lying behind the people of the Republic wanting to have a closer liaison with those of us in Northern Ireland. If it is purely and simply creating a better environment than we are 100% behind that. But if we believe that there are those who want to use a better liaison, a better relationship, build a stronger North-South axis, in order to lay the foundation for some form of unified state in the future, then it will be resolutely opposed. So it is not what happens more as why is it happening. I mean I hope I’ve explained that.”
“I hear some people say things like – and it really does annoy me, and I heard David Trimble at it the weekend just past – I’ve heard things in the past, and I’m sure you’ve heard them as well, about, for example, the Angelus on RTE and if that was done away with that that would make the Republic a more accommodating place to unionists. Somebody remarked on my honesty. Let me be absolutely honest: it doesn’t matter! I don’t care whether they play the Angelus or not, because I am British. If you want the Angelus, or a secular introduction to your News, or if you want Mahatma Ghandi, it’s entirely a matter for you people, as long as you don’t do things in order to make the Republic more accommodating to people who are not part of the State, aren’t Irish or won’t be whatever you do. Then we can make progress. But if it’s seen to be a design to try and get unionists to say “Well, perhaps if we could all join in an Irish rugby team, and if we could drop the Angelus, and if it wasn’t such a sectarian “mono-ethnic” state as David Trimble talked about, then unionists might want to be part of it.” Now this is utter nonsense! Utter nonsense!
Sinn Fein: “Re Sinn Fein setting the agenda – I just do not accept that. I mean I’ve said what the agenda is tonight: that we want every party as democrats to come to the table to devise a new agreement that we can all sign up to.
Politics of the past: “Dealing with the next question, I just don’t understand the question about the issue of the politics of the past. Is it the politics of the past to get an agreement that everybody in Northern Ireland can support? Is that the politics of the past? The politics of the past is an Agreement that said to unionists: if we con you or get you to sign up to it, then you’re caught for ever and a day. That’s the politics of the past.
Politics of the future: “The politics of the future is some sort of diversity in Northern Ireland that everybody says “we are no longer threatened, we are no longer marginalized, we are no longer excluded, we are all in from the cold.” I can’t for the life of me see how anybody could describe that as the politics of the past.”
Policing Board: “If Sinn Fein under the present circumstances, with the IRA still active – not just “little things” like Colombia, “little things” like shooting people, kidnapping people and planting bombs and bringing in guns, “little things” like that as they are called – if Sinn Fein come in then we will have to take definitive and decisive action to ensure that they aren’t legitimised by so doing, and we certainly will do that.”
Unionists on the streets: “The next question I think was about unionists coming on to the streets. I came into politics – I have no history in my family or in my background of political involvement. I came into politics because nationalists were on the streets, because nationalists were demanding something that I didn’t have. And not only were they demanding something that I didn’t have, but they were blaming me – equal rights, equal rights that I didn’t have. And that’s where I came into politics, because nationalists were on the streets, and I deeply resented that they were blaming me for not getting something which I didn’t have either.”
Telling it as it is: “Then there was the other issue about words that you speak bringing about these vexing sores. Well I would have thought that tonight I’m trying to show – I mean I’ve come to the Republic before. I was in the Republic 20 years ago, 1983, and I’ve been to Glencree, I’ve been to Dublin, Donegal, I come to the Republic as often as I can.
“But because I come to the Republic doesn’t mean that I somehow change the spots that I have. I come to tell you as it is. Now people might not like it, but that’s the way it is.
Support for DUP: “And one of the questions was about support for the DUP – the support for the DUP is because we tell it as it is. Because our community says: “These people are speaking for us. We’ve been marginalized, discriminated and internationally nobody cares about us. Nobody cares about us. They back the nationalists, the Irish-American lobby back Sinn Fein, nobody cares about the unionists.” But people say “the DUP speak up for the unionist community.” That’s why there has been a rising tide for our party.”
Policing recruitment: “There was a question about discrimination against Irish Protestants in the police….”
Chair: “Yes, a clerical position.”
Gregory Campbell: “ If that is the case, and it is the first I’ve heard about it, unfortunately it only goes to prove what I was saying earlier – that there is this huge resentment amongst my community, and if there are Protestants in this State who also suffer as a result of it, then it ought not to be in place. Wherever people come from – Northern Ireland, the Republic, or any other country – they should get into our police force because they are the best qualified person to be a police officer, be they Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Hindu. No religion should be a barrier to that person being a police officer.
Q. 9: Cllr. Sean Collins (Fianna Fail, Drogheda): “First of all, can I welcome Gregory here? I’ve heard him speak a number of times in the past, and we’ve had a few debates in the past. The one thing I will always say about Gregory is – like him or lump him – he is consistent. He stands over his arguments all the way. I welcome him here. … We’re often told that the DUP are not coming south , are not prepared to come south, but they have done that and I would appeal to them to keep doing that, because we’ll not get anywhere unless we keep talking.
Just to make a slight observation. I would just appeal to everyone not to be getting bogged down in history, that may sound funny coming from me, but we have to move on. We’ve had four years of peace and the Good Friday Agreement. I’m one of the people that’s optimistic about that. For God’s sake, here in our own country we had a Civil War in 1922 and the parties are only getting over it in the last five years…. So I think in the four years of peace in Northern Ireland we’ve achieved an awful lot and moved on.”
Fear in unionist community: “The issues discussed by Gregory tonight – while I wouldn’t dismiss them, they’re very logical and important issues – but they’re not the real issues, as far as I’m concerned, in Northern Ireland Two or three weeks ago I was working with a group of active old people from both sides of the divide, brought together under the Peace and Reconciliation format. We had a very productive week, working together and discussing the Troubles and the things that concerned us in our lives. But the one thing that amazed me and shocked me was that the people from the nationalist community of both Derry and Belfast and other towns could say to me “when you’re up there, Sean, why don’t you drop in and have a cup of tea?
“We live in Ballymurphy, but we’re easy to find, we live in the Springfield Road, we’re easy to find.” The people from the unionist community said to me: “Sean, if you’re up we’d love to see you, give us a ring, but for God’s sake don’t come to the house, don’t come to our area, it wouldn’t be safe for you, it wouldn’t be safe for us.” The big bogey as far as Gregory and his colleagues are saying over and over again is the IRA, but surely the IRA are not living in Glenwood or those places? So what’s being done about that fear, what’s your party going to do about that fear? The word on the ground about your party is excellent. In many places – though you won’t admit it – I’m told Sinn Fein behind closed doors feel they can work the best with the DUP of all the parties in Northern Ireland, because the DUP, like Sinn Fein, are hungry. They are hungry for more seats and more control and more power, which is the natural part of the democratic process, that’s how it works, we see it down here all the time with other parties. That’s what I am concerned about. What are you going to do about that fear in your community? And the fear in your community of me knocking on their front door is not because the IRA are going to attack them. Thank you.”
Q. 10. Chair (Paul Murphy): “I’m going to throw in two questions of my own, if I may. The first relates to an article in the Observer a year ago when Henry McDonald reported that there were 87 paramilitary gangs operating in Northern Ireland, and I would like to know what can be done about that problem? And the second question I would like to ask is about the possibility of having a Truth Commission. That was one of the questions exercised at a conference in Cork at the weekend and we had a very interesting talk there from the Executive Director of the Truth Commission. That’s one thing I’ve always felt myself we should have – not in a punitive way but to give at least the truth and the facts to the relatives of the victims of the Troubles.”
Q. 11. Derek Mooney (Fianna Fail, Dublin): “Just two points – in your opening remarks you asserted that the Good Friday Agreement was one-sided and geared towards one community. If you could just expand on that because I don’t see the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement being like that. And secondly, you were talking about the differences between the North-South relationship and the East-West relationship, can I take it from that that the DUP – now with their increased strength at Westminster – will be taking their seats in the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body which is an East-West body?”
Q. 12. Cllr. James Holloway (Fine Gael, Navan): “You made reference, Gregory, earlier on, in relation to the Civil Service – the profile there is almost in favour of the nationalist community. I didn’t know that, but it might not appear to be as bad as it seems from your point of view. It may be because there is a propensity among the nationalist community to go into public service, whereas in Northern Ireland the professional community certainly – and they are famous for this – go more into business, so you have more people in business rather than in the public service.
“The other question is – and it is not intended to be frivolous – but I was listening to an Assembly Member from Northern Ireland saying recently – he gave an insight into what goes on in the dining room of the Assembly, and he said that never since the operation started there have the DUP, on the extreme of one side, or the nationalists, that never had they sat down together and eaten at the one table…. You could make a good start there. A famous philosopher once said that when we have been shown hospitality and eat a little we are disposed to be benevolent…”
Replies to questions 9-12:
Gregory Campbell: Moving on: “It’s good to see Sean [Collins] here – I met with him last year in Cork. I agree with him about the issue of moving on. …Sometimes I would attempt to bring some humour to the situation because it can defuse otherwise difficult circumstances. Sometimes I would hear people accusing me, for example, and those who think like me, of wanting to live in the past – that’s an accusation, one of those caricatures I was referring to at the start – and yet it seems to me that there are some people who want Northern Ireland to stop around Easter time in 1998, and they constantly go back to the vote on the Referendum. And you say “but look, it’s 2002”, but they say “oh no no, we go back to 1998.” And then I go: “but I thought it was we that lived in the past!”… It’s almost as if the world stopped at Easter 1998, and we got a vote and that’s it. Forever and a day we are going to live, die and be resurrected on Easter 1998! I’m sorry it just ain’t gonna happen! Just as the world didn’t stop in 1690, whether I wanted it to or not, just as it didn’t stop in 1916 or 1922, it didn’t stop in 1998 either. Life’s going to go on. We do have to move on. And that’s what I hope I was alluding to earlier on.
Fear in unionist community: “There is a fear – you are exactly right, Sean – and it’s not a fear of the IRA. It’s a combination of things, and really until you would be there, living the scenario 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it would be difficult to try and explain. But if you have the situation of some of those people that Sean wanted to go and knock on their door – and I think you should, and I think we should work until we get those doors opened, so that you can go in, and people can see that the man they thought had horns actually doesn’t have horns – but they have got to appreciate and understand that there isn’t a hidden agenda from you going up and knocking at their door. And you can do things and I can do things to help with that. For example, if I had steadfastly refused always to come to the Republic of Ireland to explain my case, I think I would be doing a disservice to Sean and the like of him who want to come to Northern Ireland, because my people would be saying: “Well, you never go to the Republic so why should we welcome him here?” I think by coming here – even though I am saying things that people don’t like or might not agree with or whatever – then I think it is more likely that people will say, provided there is no hidden agenda: “Yes, let’s hear what these people have to say” in Northern Ireland. I don’t pretend that it’s going to be an overnight – it’s going to be a long long process to get rid of that fear.”
Paramilitary gangs: “I think, Chairman, you mentioned the 87 paramilitary gangs. I get the impression – I mean there is appalling violence in Northern Ireland perpetrated by loyalists and perpetrated by republicans. There’s nail bombs, attacks on Catholics, attacks on Protestants. There is appalling violence – violence has gone up in the past five years rather than gone down. We had a meeting with Tony Blair about ten weeks ago and we presented him with figures of violence since the Agreement. He shook his head in disbelief until Reid butted in and said “no, I’m afraid they’re right, Prime Minister.” Attacks up, intimidation up, bombings up, shootings up – all of those instances, the statistics show increases rather than decreases. Now you asked me for an explanation: I don’t think there is a single explanation for that. I honestly believe that the more we create a sort of a vacuum where the type of government that we have allows people to believe that violence is in some way legitimised, then you increase the propensity for people engaging in that violence.
Truth Commission: “The business of a Truth Commission – I would personally be opposed to the establishment of a Truth Commission. I’ve been to South Africa several times, I remain to be convinced of the merits of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as outlined there.
One-sidedness: “The next question I have is the one-sidedness of the Belfast Agreement. Well I thought I’d outlined the business of the North-South so I’ll not go over that again. When you look at the Agreement – I’ll give you a couple of examples. Unionists would say that what should happen in any future agreement there ought to be Ministers who are responsible to the Assembly, not Ministers who can act in isolation. Now we think that that’s a pragmatic way of having good government in any case, but the experience of what some Sinn Fein Ministers did in the past – some of you might be aware of an issue regarding a maternity hospital in Belfast. The Health Minister who was Sinn Fein – Bairbre de Brun – she was having a discussion about where a maternity hospital should be based, and there were a number of options. Her Health Committee – an all-party committee, all of the main parties were represented on that committee – many of the representations to her were that she could locate it in another hospital in another part of Belfast. She represents West Belfast where the Royal Victoria Hospital is located. She decided to go against her committee, against the views of the Assembly and locate it in her own constituency. Now I know there is a belief in the Republic that that goes on all the time, that people simply locate in their own back yard for electoral purposes, but it hasn’t happened in Northern Ireland until that occurred. That caused outrage, particularly in the unionist community. It was purely a self-serving decision, and a sectarian one. When I was Minister, I had the opportunity to take decisions based on sectarian grounds. Not only did I decline to take them, I refused to take them, precisely because I think we have to move away from that. It’s things like that we have to change. We have to try and get a balance in an agreement rather than have what appears to be an agenda for republicans who pursue their agenda within the agreement.”
British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body: “The British-Irish Body. You probably are aware that that was established as a result of the forerunner of the Belfast Agreement – the Anglo-Irish Agreement – and again it had the same rationale which was to accommodate nationalist disenfranchisement but not unionist. So why would we want to join a body like that? If a body emerges that treats us as equals then I would be the first at the door to join.”
“I have a note here about the Civil Service – but I can’t remember what that [question] was for…
Chair: “There was one that said – “why not dine together?”
Gregory Campbell: “Oh yes. I take it that the person who asked that question thought that it would be quite natural for us to dine together. You’d need to be in Northern Ireland for a few weeks and a few months to understand the absolute intensity of distrust. It isn’t just a political disagreement. I have political disagreements with the SDLP, with the Alliance Party, with the PUP, with Sinn Fein, with all the political parties. If it was just political disagreements then I would happily dine with any of them. But where one of them is in the Government, not just because they get votes to get them in Government but because they have a private illegal army that got them there, then I have to draw the line, I have to say: “No, I’m not going to give you the legitimacy which I would talking to any political opponent” –
to sit down and have a debate, a discussion and an argument, with an ordinary political opponent who disagrees fundamentally. If you disagreed fundamentally with me to the point that you shot me before I reached that door, I think I would be legitimate in saying “well, I’m going to treat you differently from everyone else until I am sure that the guns are gone”. So the short answer is no, we haven’t dined with them because they still have the guns.”
Q. 13. Pat Hynes [Fianna Fail, Dublin]: “There’s an old political phrase that some people never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. While I’m not actually convinced of that fact as of yet, your preoccupation, if you like, with the need for perfection in what is essentially an imperfect agreement and an imperfect process – simply by the fact that it is the result of human design and creation – it does leave me somewhat foreboding. However there were some remarks that you did make that I found quite positive. One in particular was that you wanted to see an agreement which represented the wishes of the nationalist community – you didn’t want to force on them some sort of arrangement that would not be acceptable. Given the fact that the Belfast Agreement received such overwhelming support from the nationalist people, would I be right in assuming that, in advance of the forthcoming election in May, that you would go to your people and to your constituency seeking a review of the institutions and an examination of where perhaps there were failures, rather than, if you like, a return and a disassembling of what we would regard as fundamental tenets or principles of the Agreement?”
Q. 14. [Co. Louth resident] “ You told us your party was consistent, and that you want to look to the future and that you represent the majority of unionist people. I find the DUP are inconsistent – on an almost weekly basis, on your county councils in the Six Counties you regularly sit down with Sinn Fein representatives, yet your Ministers refuse to attend Ministerial meetings with the same Sinn Fein representatives. When the elections do come up on the 1st of May there’s a strong possibility of an even bigger polarisation of votes. The scenario will be that Sinn Fein and the DUP will hold the majority of votes on either side, and today you refuse to speak to these people. So what’s the future for Northern Ireland if that’s the scenario?”
Q. 15: Identity: “It’s a bit of a personal question…. The Scotch-Irish that Gregory would be very proud of have been with us now for 400 years. You mentioned the contribution they made to America. The greatest contribution that the Scotch-Irish made in America – and the most lasting one politically – was the fact that they formed the vast majority of Washington’s army in rejecting their Britishness. I’m glad they came, however, because a tiny percentage of my blood came with them. I think, to get on to the more personal side of the question, I recognise the legitimacy of Ulster Unionism as a democratic ideal, provided it is democratic. I share your suspicion of private armies. We’ve had private armies in Northern Ireland, and I’m talking specifically here of your suspicion of Sinn Fein and the IRA, but there’s a folk memory here of another private army, it’s called the “B” Specials. Finally what I have to say to you is this: I recognise your Britishness, I accept that you’re British, but your people have been here for 400 years. Can you not accept in your heart that you’re also Irish? I heard you tonight, you’re not Irish you’re British – can you not be both?”
Replies to Questions 13-15:
Chair: “It’s now just past ten and I would hope to finish by half-past ten, so if there are any future questions I would ask you to keep them very brief, with as little preamble as possible.”
Gregory Campbell: Missing the opportunity: “The first questioner in this round talked about the missing of the opportunity … At the meeting last year in Cork, I spent a full weekend what I thought was explaining what I said about the Angelus, and changes in the Republic, that if the Republic wanted to do that it was fine, but that would not change the Britishness of Northern Ireland – those of us who want to stay British. And at the end of the weekend one of the people who were involved in the trip – after I had gone out of my way to explain all this, what I thought was time without number – said to me on the way back: “What is it that you are afraid of in the Republic?” I said, “have I wasted the whole weekend? Do you not get the point? It’s nothing to do with what we are afraid of. Are the Canadians afraid of the United States?” Of course they’re not. If the United States wanted to take them over, they may oppose them, but it wouldn’t be a case of “what have you got to fear? It would be a case of “we’re not part of that State. We’re different. We’re from a different State”. That’s not apartheid. That’s just a reality, just as the Portuguese aren’t Spanish, just as the Canadians aren’t Americans. “
Imperfections of the Agreement: “The questioner talked about the imperfections of the Agreement. It’s our view that the imperfections of the Agreement are such that they require fundamental reassessing. One of your, I think it was an adviser to a previous Taoiseach, said about seven or eight years ago that any agreement in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein “wasn’t worth a penny candle”. Fergus Finlay said that. Does anybody here believe that any agreement without the DUP isn’t worth a penny candle? Because if there’s a different answer to that question, if no agreement can survive without Sinn Fein, but an agreement can survive without the DUP, then I have to ask myself: what’s the difference? Do we have to go out and get a private army, to get the same merit, the same consideration, as Sinn Fein? Is that the difference? We have a larger mandate than they have, but if some people say “we can’t live without Sinn Fein, but we can live without the DUP” – and that’s what appears to come across since 1998, numerous attempts to exclude us. I just don’t think it will work. There needs to be a fundamental change.”
Sitting down with Sinn Fein: “The second question was about the inconsistency. There’s absolutely no inconsistency. I’ve been on local government for 20 years, 21, but I’ve been on for 17 years since Sinn Fein have come on – Sinn Fein came on in 1985. Now, it’s a very straightforward, pragmatic approach: I’m not going to leave an elected body that people vote me on to because Sinn Fein come on. In other words, I have a decision to make, which is that I represent people. If Sinn Fein come, then I have a choice to make. The way I usually describe it when people ask me about this – “you sit with Sinn Fein on the Councils but you won’t do it in the Executive”. A very straightforward analogy: I go into a restaurant, I have my meal. If Martin McGuinness comes into the restaurant and sits at a table across the way from me, does anybody think I am going to say “I’m not staying here, I’m leaving”? I’m going to eat my meal and go. He’s there and I’m there, we’re there in the same room. Now, the difference – and I would put that in the Council context – the difference between that and the Executive is when the manager of the restaurant comes down to me and says: “Gregory, we’d like you to reorganise this restaurant and rewrite the menu, and would you do it with Martin and Gerry there?” He’d get a very short answer.
“Because one is I am doing what I am supposed to do – I’m not going to leave my people unrepresented – but when it comes down to saying to gunmen that we will get into bed with them and run the country with them, then that’s a completely different story. If there is a future with Sinn Fein and the DUP as the largest parties then we are not going to run away from our responsibilities, but we are not going to legitimise terror. Now there will be two ends of the spectrum there that will have to be reconciled, and I don’t know how they will be reconciled. But we won’t legitimise terror, neither will we run away from our responsibilities.”
Scotch-Irish: “The question about the Scotch-Irish. I’m glad you raised it because that’s one that I omitted. Even though I didn’t mention it, I’m very proud of my Scotch-Irish heritage, and I think I’ve every right to be. For good or ill, the largest single super-power in this world today is the United States of America, for good or ill. Its origins came about because of my predecessors. The first Presidents of the United States of America came from what is now Northern Ireland. In my schools, in my country, my children aren’t taught that. If I go to maintained schools. The nationalist community’s children are taught everything, or at least a substantial part, of their Irish history, and it is quite right and proper that they should be. But my children aren’t. They aren’t taught about Andrew Jackson, they aren’t taught about Sam Houston, they aren’t taught about the American Declaration of Independence, they aren’t taught about a whole range and plethora of things which any country would give their eye teeth for – to say “we are the people who created that super-power”. It isn’t done, it’s been neglected and it’s fallen into disrepair. I want to see that imbalance redressed. And I omitted to say it earlier on, but thanks for the opportunity to say it in the question.”
Identity: “And the thing about being Irish and British. I’ve no difficulty with that. I think I alluded to the Canadian analogy. The Canadians don’t like it if you call them Americans. And the reason they don’t like it – any of the Canadians I have met – is because the word “American” for them means United States of America. They live on the land mass that is America, but they don’t like being called “Americans” because that usually means United States of America, and they’re very proud of the fact that they are part of the land mass, but a different part of the same land mass. That’s the way I feel. When people say I’m Irish, I resist it, not because I’m not on the island of Ireland – of course I am, and in that sense I am Irish – but because Irishness is generally presented as being of your nation-state and I am not part of it. So, if you could take that away, I’m Irish in that sense, in that I’m from this island, but I’m British in terms of my birthright and my citizenship. I hope that explains that question.”
Q. 16. [Dublin resident] Re attitudes towards Sinn Fein in Government:
“… Gregory, you explained why the Good Friday Agreement is flawed. I’d be inclined to agree with you. There are very serious flaws in it. One of the difficulties has been, I think, without a doubt, the Sinn Fein/IRA situation, and I do think it is hypocritical for our own Government in the South to say: “You will share power with Sinn Fein and the IRA, but we won’t, we won’t share government with them.” And I think actually Blair said recently, when he visited Belfast, that this argument was a bit sophisticated…. Do you think a change has taken place since the suspension of Stormont, both with Tony Blair’s attitude towards that situation, and indeed Bertie Ahern’s attitude, and that perhaps if we are to go forward that will have to be resolved once and for all, or you’re going to have direct rule for a very long time?”
Gregory Campbell: “I was wondering if someone in the audience would raise this issue … Tony Blair quite rightly said there are convoluted defences of the position but they are not as straightforward as the accusation which is, from the South’s point of view: “we won’t have them in our government, but you must have them in yours”. And that’s the way many unionists see it, you know you can dress it up about the status of this state and its sovereign authority, but to unionists … it’s a case of “they’re not good enough for us, but they’re good enough for you”….. [break in tape]
“This is a personal view but I suspect they still haven’t – I don’t detect that there’s any movement on the fundamental issue which is: are we going to all be there as equals, without any guns on the table, or under it, as somebody once said, or outside the door? Are we all going to be there on the basis of equality? And are we going to be trying to devise an agreement that tries to reconcile inadequacies all round the table, not just one set of inadequacies which is what we believe that the old agreement had, and the view that it promulgated. I don’t know if there has been a change. I suspect that it will require an election. That’s why we are so keen to have an election, because we believe that our views will hold the greater number of the unionist community and then the attempt by my Government and, I think, by your Government, to sideline our view will then be shown to be a futile attempt. And I think the sooner we face up to grasping that nettle the better it will be in the long run. It may be uncomfortable in the short term, but the better it will be in the long run.”
Q. 17. “What percentage of unionists voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement in the Referendum?”
Gregory Campbell: “It’s quite difficult because at the time of the Referendum, it was a province-wide referendum, there wasn’t constituency break-downs, but the general consensus is that was somewhere between 48% and 55%. Those people who are generally very much in favour of the Agreement would say that 55% of unionists voted for the Agreement. Those of us that are against the Agreement would say that it was slightly less than 50%. The truth, as in all these things, is probably somewhere in between, but, wherever it lies, again what I normally say to people is: “let’s just take it at 50%, we’ll not split hairs …
Questioner: “Do you not agree that there was a majority in favour and that it was your duty then to work towards implementing the Agreement?”
Gregory Campbell: “What I would say to you is this. It’s a very simple question: if 50% of nationalists voted against the system of government would it be implemented in Northern Ireland? No, it would not, and history shows us – it’s not just conjecture on my part – history shows us that when nationalists, as they repeatedly did, said “no” to a deal it wasn’t implemented. When we put our views to the people, and we get 65% or 70% of the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, the British Government, Tory and Labour, said to us: “you must have cross-community support”. Well then we must have it in this instance as well. If 50% of the unionists are against it we’ve got to get a deal that 80% or 90% of both communities can endorse. Is that so horrible a prospect: that we might actually get a deal that people on both sides of the divide can take ownership of? I would have thought that’s preferable to a deal that only gets a minority – and remember that was five years ago, 50%; the truth now is probably something like 30% of unionists …. But the numbers don’t matter, what matters is getting a deal that both communities can endorse.”
Chair (Paul Murphy): “I am not going to try to sum up the debate for you. I only hope that you’ve managed to get some of the answers from Gregory. I thank him very much for coming down here, it’s not his first visit and I hope it won’t be his last. I remember when we were in Roscarberry last year – you might remember this – at a very late hour of night we were having a drink, I was having a gin and tonic and Gregory was having an orange juice, if I remember rightly, and I was asked to contribute musically to the event, which is really a disaster, because I sang that most “PC” and non-political of tunes, “Jingle Bells”. The only thing I got wrong was my timing – I sang it in early November! But we had a good night that night, and I believe strongly that if we are able to meet on a one-to-one basis, as human beings, we can achieve a great deal more. …. Where you get 30 people in a room, from all persuasions and none, and you get them talking, and they talk about the ordinary things that human beings want to talk about, at that level we can meet and hopefully we can continue to do that. And of course I hope again, Gregory, that you will come and visit us and that you will deliver straight from the shoulder as you did tonight. Thank you very much indeed.”
Meath Peace Group report, November 2002. (c)Meath Peace Group
Transcribed and edited by Julitta Clancy
Taped by Oliver Ward, Catriona Fitzgerald, Anne Nolan and John Mark Clancy
Gregory Campbell, MLA, MP (DUP): Alderman Gregory Campbell was first elected to local government in 1981 and has been re-elected every four years since then. He has contested Assembly and Parliamentary elections on behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party and was elected Assembly Member in 1998 and Member of Parliament in June 2001 for the East Londonderry constituency. He was Regional Development Minister in the NI Executive from July 2000 to September 2001. Gregory has been the leader of the DUP group on Londonderry Council since 1981. From 1981-1994 he was the party spokesman on Fair Employment, from 1994 he was spokesman for security and from 1996-97 was a delegate in the All Party Talks. Born in 1953, educated at Ebrington Primary School and the former Londonderry Technical College, he is married to Frances and has three daughters, one son and a grand-daughter. In 1982 he became the first politician in Northern Ireland to gain an extra-mural certificate in political studies at Magee College. Before full-time politics he established a local publishing company which was designed to create greater awareness of Ulster history and tradition, especially the Ulster-Scots contribution to the origins of the United States of America. Gregory has also written a number of booklets on the question of discrimination against the Protestant community in Northern Ireland: “Discrimination – the Truth” 91987); “Discrimination – Where Now?” (1993); “Ulster’s Verdict on the Joint Declaration” (1994) and “Working Toward 2000” (1998). His leisure interests are soccer, music and reading.
Paul Murphy was formerly Group Editor with the Drogheda Independent, a post he held for 16 years. Prior to his appointment as Group Editor, Paul worked as a journalist with the Irish Independent, covering Northern Ireland issues from 1968 to 1976. Paul is associated with the Drogheda-Shankill Partnership and Drogheda Homeless Aid and is Secretary of the Old Drogheda Society.
©Meath Peace Group