Robinson: we are prepared to invest in the future

Yesterday in New York Peter Robinson spoke at a lunch time seminar at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He remembers his friend 23 year old Harry Beggs, who died on 25 August 1971, in an IRA bomb attack on the Electricity Board’s headquarters. He notes, “the murder made me angry, left me wanting retribution and very bitter. Over the years, as the grey hairs formed, I have observed from life that bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it and I am resolved that the troubled times I have lived through should end in my day and that my children will see peace.”From Peter Robinson

“Mr Chairman, thank you for today’s invitation and for your welcome. I am delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to meet and address you all.

Several years ago, when I was here in New York speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations about the Northern Ireland conflict, the very first question from a member of the audience indicated that he was surprised to hear what I had to say as he thought the Northern Ireland problem had already been sorted out. Unfortunately it was not, and is not.

My immediate reaction was to regard the questioner’s assumption as the understandable view of someone who is not acquainted with daily events in the province which can only be seen and understood by someone close up and personally involved. Later, when I reflected on the matter, I had to acknowledge, at least to myself, that those of us who see it up close also miss an important dimension and often fail to appreciate the scale of progress which has been made.

I not only acknowledge that progress has been made but, you will not be surprised to hear, I am even prepared to let my party take credit for significant elements of it.

However, it would be premature to consider the problem resolved. Much progress has been made but there is still much to do.

With the attention of people in the United States focussed on Iraq, Iran, domestic terrorism and the Middle East it is no surprise that Northern Ireland is off the radar screen in terms of news coverage and analysis. Indeed I would have to confess it has fallen well down the agenda in the UK too.

Yet while world attention has moved on, the critical work of bringing finality to the conflict in Northern Ireland is still being pursued and, I believe, has now reached a decisive moment.

I am however pleased to find that under the radar there is still an abiding US interest in Northern Ireland issues as demonstrated by your presence today.

As far as US Administrations are concerned while the Clinton White House helped and nudged Sinn Fein into the political process, there is a discernibly firmer stance from this Administration. I believe that timely change of emphasis is helping to push the republican movement towards ending its campaign. The notion of the Provisional IRA launching a major terrorist attack today, in light of the current Administration’s attitude to terrorism, is hard to contemplate.

Much of the commentary on Northern Ireland has been superficial in nature and I might say often unbalanced. There are even those who have sought to use it as an example of how such problems can be resolved elsewhere. I think that approach is somewhat rash considering the problem is not yet solved. Only after completion are the real lessons likely to emerge.

It reminds me of the story about when the Chinese leader, Zhou Enlai, was asked what he thought was the significance of the French Revolution, he replied, “It’s too soon to tell.”

If nearly two centuries did not afford sufficient hindsight to pass judgment on the French Revolution, it would be exceedingly impulsive to suggest that lessons can be learned from Northern Ireland before we even exit the tunnel.

While the issue of Northern Ireland as a whole is receding from the international spotlight I think it is fair to say that the unionist position has never really been widely understood in the United States. Today, I would like to give you a unionist perspective on the peace process thus far and the prospects for the future. I want also to touch on a few of the real emerging lessons which can be learned from our experience.

Firstly let me apply some context. Everyone can settle – I will not go back to 940 AD and the birth of Brian Boru. Indeed, I will not even start at 1690 and the glorious victory of King William at the battle of the Boyne. Mind you there will be those who will consider that I have missed a great opportunity by not doing that.

While historically the Northern Ireland issue has been seen as a conflict over territory, religion, culture and identity the core issue today is much simpler – it’s about the rule of law.

It may surprise some but I believe there is no insurmountable problem for politicians in Northern Ireland to forge a working relationship based on respect for each others values – indeed they are standing ready to do so – where the problem lies is that it is vital such an arrangement is earthed in preserving democracy and the rule of law. These precious principles must prevail and must not be sacrificed in a rush for the finish line.

To better understand my party’s position and intent let me give you all a glimpse of the final hours of the failed 2004 negotiations as I witnessed them. If you had suggested ten or twenty years ago that an agreement could be reached that both Ian Paisley’s DUP and Sinn Fein/IRA could endorse it would have been thought ludicrous and absurd. Indeed, the men in white coats would have carried you away – but fifteen months ago it almost happened.

In the months which led up to December we worked painstakingly and constantly particularly with the British government but also with the Irish government. By the time the first draft of a deal was committed to paper we had some 120 issues in it which needed addressed. As the weeks passed we worked through draft after draft until by December we were approaching closure.

With only four outstanding issues the DUP team’s judgement, based on what the government was telling us, was that a deal was potentially only days away. It was felt we needed to communicate a sense of where we were to the unionist community in preparation for a possible outcome.

Dr Paisley went to Downing Street for a private meeting with the PM and on leaving he addressed the media. In truth he was addressing his own supporters back home. He uttered words which were as historic as they were sincere. He said he might have to swallow hard and even bite his lip but if republicans were to end their terror and criminal campaign and decommission he was prepared to work with them.

That night I took a team into Downing Street to discuss the four outstanding issues. Within hours, agreement was reached with the government on how they would be handled.

One of the four outstanding subjects related to the government agreeing to proposals to build confidence in the unionist community by taking agreed steps involving fairness and equality. The next morning I received a letter from the Secretary of State committing the government to take the necessary steps. There were now only three remaining issues.

Within the hour a further letter from the Prime Minister to Dr Paisley gave the required assurance on a matter relating to the security forces. There were only two remaining issues.

Thirty minutes later I received a telephone call to confirm that the Secretary of State had made progress with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a financial package for Northern Ireland which we considered essential to give a new executive the ability to make early progress. Written confirmation would be with us immediately after lunch.

One issue remained. It was the problem of decommissioning. We were told that Dublin and General de Chastelain were dealing with this issue directly with Sinn Fein.

I note that since the breakdown Sinn Fein has said they had always insisted to the two governments that they could not deliver the transparency we required. However, in our discussions with the government the two outstanding decommissioning elements were firstly, not whether there would be photographs of decommissioning but whether they would be published in December or March. Secondly we needed to be satisfied that the independent witnesses would be free to report what they had seen without any restrictions.

I had barely reported to Dr Paisley on the progress with the financial package when a call from Downing Street brought disturbing news. The government had learned that Gerry Adams had organised a major press conference later in the afternoon. That was disturbing as none of us knew what it was about. Calling an unexpected press conference at this final stage of delicate negotiations before matters had been concluded could only be bad news. As we waited to listen to the press conference on television we already sensed he was exiting the negotiations and rushing to get his retaliation in first. We were right.

I do not relate that account to score a point in the blame game – there would be no value in that. I do it to show just how close we were fifteen months ago to reaching agreement and to show also that we were ready to do business with Sinn Fein if they delivered on the elements outlined in the proposals for a Comprehensive Agreement, namely complete and transparent decommissioning, a total end to all IRA organised and sanctioned crime and the absolute termination of the terror campaign.

Most commentators expressed disappointment at the collapse but many reasoned that having come so close another push in the New Year would get us over the line. However, two events were to set the process back on its heels and cast doubt on the intention of the republican movement or, at least, cast doubt on their ability to handle the transition.

The murder of Robert McCartney and the IRA’s robbery of �26.5 million from the Northern Bank demonstrated that they were still involved in the worst of both paramilitary and criminal activity and when it became known that the organisation of the bank heist was being carried out at the very same time as Sinn Fein was involved in negotiations for the Comprehensive Agreement you can imagine what view my colleagues took of the republican movement’s integrity and credibility.

The bad faith behaviour of Sinn Fein shattered the fond but fragile hope anyone had that republicans were ready to leave violence and crime behind. To that extent when some months later the IRA made its July statement and then substantially decommissioned it only served to lessen the despair at events, whereas without the murder and robbery the July statement and the act of decommissioning could have been regarded as important confidence builders.

As a result of the IRA’s duplicity, unionists, not unnaturally, are looking for a greater degree of certainty that the IRA has ended its illegal activities completely and permanently. Given our experiences, and indeed the events of yesterday, we will not be rushed into judgement.

Republican paramilitary and criminal activity still continues though not at anything like previous levels. That they continue to be involved in illegal activity is not simply a DUP judgement. The two governments set up an independent body to monitor the behaviour of all the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The monitoring body – the IMC – in its latest reports specify that the IRA is still engaged in intelligence gathering and infiltrating public and other institutions. Moreover they particularly note this is an activity sanctioned by the leadership.

On criminality they say the IRA continues to be “heavily involved in serious organised crime, including counterfeiting and the smuggling of fuel and tobacco.”

The IRA must be pushed to divest itself entirely of its remaining illegal activities. I contend this is the crucial obstacle which must be removed.

Standing back one can see appreciable progress has been made but in truth their clean-up has been slower than the circumstances require. It has also been staggered and at times regressive. So however far down the transition road we each may judge their progress, they are still positioned short of completion and they clearly have some way to go to convey permanence. It is as if they are testing us all. As if they want to taper it down incrementally and see at what level of wrongdoing we are all prepared to tolerate.

Mr Chairman, I am a committed devolutionist. I want politicians in Northern Ireland rather than English, Scottish or Welsh Ministers to be taking the decisions which impact on the lives of our people – and I want it to happen as soon as possible. But there is one certainty. If we rush to accept Sinn Fein into government while they remain involved in terror and crime we will for years to come be living with what will then be regarded by them as an acceptable level of illegality. So we want to be sure of completion and permanence. But let me also make it clear that our insistence on completion and permanence does not lessen our desire to see progress. It is just that we are not the party that can control when the conditions are met. It is merely for us to acknowledge when it happens.

Everybody has the same choice – are they prepared to tolerate enduring organised crime or will they hold out until republicans end it.

The present focus of debate is not about whether there should be a single party Government in Northern Ireland or some form of coalition. Virtually everyone in Northern Ireland now accepts that to have sufficient stability, credibility and authority in the divided society which presently exists, government in Northern Ireland needs to enjoy the support of both unionists and nationalists. The real debate is therefore over the nature of these arrangements and the basis upon which parties can participate in Government.

Our position is that only parties which are committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means are eligible for Government. I do not believe that in any normal society this could be considered a radical proposal. I am quite sure that the United States would not entertain in government, at any level, those who are involved in terrorism, yet there were, and perhaps still are, some who believe that in order to make progress; those who remain associated with terrorism should be permitted into Government even though the IRA has not wound up its operations.

The argument they advanced was that terrorists when in Government could be weaned off terrorism. If there were ever any doubts as to the folly of this position the events of the last ten years should have removed them. Rather than conform to democratic norms the IRA took its positions on the Executive and continued with most of its activities unhindered.

That is why even during the period from 1999 the IRA was in Colombia training the FARC narco-terrorists and helping them develop car bombing techniques. They ran in guns from Florida. They raided the Police Special Branch Headquarters in Belfast. Murders, beatings and other criminal activities also continued while their representatives sat in office.

History has proven that it did not work. Instead, they traded some of their guns for concessions. In fact if we were waiting for that process to end, the IRA would probably still be in swapping guns for concessions decades from now.

The view held by my party, which was supported by the unionist community, is one of zero tolerance. The rules are simple – if people want into the club, they have to pay the membership; and the membership requires them to be exclusively committed to peaceful and democratic means. That has to be done up-front, beforehand; it is not something that might be done along the way, nor can it be something that people might eventually come to terms with.

I believe that our approach is working. The fact there has been substantial decommissioning and some progress, albeit with periodic setbacks, is being made on ending the IRA’s other activities signals we are adopting the right approach. It would not have happened otherwise.

Let me comment on a related topic. I must commend those U.S. politicians and also those respected non-elected Irish/American figures who sought not only to highlight the plight of the McCartney family and the IRA’s responsibility for his murder but who also tangibly expressed their displeasure.

Their intervention was most effective. It illustrates that pressure coming from this side of the Atlantic can aid in the effort to democratise Sinn Fein. I am pleased about that. Indeed, over the last few days I have been asking those same people – people who have shown they can sway Sinn Fein and the IRA – to use their influence to push the Republican Movement to complete the transition to democracy.

Their persuasive role over future months could be critical in bringing about the necessary conditions. I am sure most of you are aware that on Thursday Mr Blair and Mr Ahern are travelling to Belfast to announce an initiative to set up an Assembly which will be time-limited.

I do not make the point lightly about Americans using their proven persuasive powers. You see, most unionists will say – given the length of time it has taken to get republicans to where they are today – that they will not have reached the stage of completion by ended its paramilitary and criminal activity and convincing the community of its permanence by the date of 24th November which the government has set as a deadline for setting up an executive.

I fear they are right. If republicans maintain the present rate of change they will miss that deadline. But, I believe the leadership of the republican movement has the power and capacity, if it chooses to exercise it, to increase the pace of its transition. The question is, “Will they apply their authority?”

Some people say the DUP will be under massive pressure come November. That is not the case. The deadline is for republicans to meet not the DUP.

Back in December 2004, instead of using the time to democratise, they engaged in robbing the Northern Bank and other illegal activity. What will they do with this opportunity? Are they up for it?

What is sure is that Sinn Fein will not meet the government’s deadline if they continue whinging about the two governments following a DUP agenda or attacking the IMC because they report on IRA misbehaviour. Sinn Fein will not do what is necessary if it remains in denial.

What is clear is that if the responsibility for the murder of Denis Donaldson falls on the IRA, it would have serious implications for the Government’s proposals. It need not impact upon the setting up of an Assembly but it would impact upon the setting up of an Executive.

We must ensure government is the preserve of those who cherish peace, liberty and democracy and are exclusively committed to use only those values. These ideals are too important to be risked by being rushed. We have not lived through more than thirty years of violence and terrorism to make the mistake of squandering the opportunity which exists to end it once and for all.

There are people here who can help in urging republicans to quicken and complete the transition. Northern Ireland will owe you a debt of gratitude if you convince Sinn Fein of that need.

I am sometimes told that there is a corresponding requirement for unionists to show they would treat a democratised Sinn Fein in the same way that they treat other parties within the democratic process and that unionists must demonstrate that in those circumstances Sinn Fein would be entitled to all the democratic rights, benefits and advantages that being a democratic party with a democratic mandate allows.

If Sinn Fein operate in an exclusively peaceful and democratic mode unionists will place no impediments in the way of them exercising all the rights every other democratic party enjoys. Both unionist parties have consistently stated that they would do business with Sinn Fein if it were entirely free of its paramilitary and criminal associations. It is for Sinn Fein to shake off the cords that bind it to terror and criminality.

Of course they will still be our political opponents in relation to constitutional and many other matters. As Mr Adams said fifteen months ago “It will be a battle a day.” And as most of you will have heard, Ian Paisley when in battle does not pull his punches, but at least in that battle the scars will be political.

The question is not “Will the DUP work with Sinn Fein if it operates by exclusively democratic and peaceful means?” the question is whether Sinn Fein can ever attain that status.

There were many who believed when the DUP became the largest political party in Northern Ireland that it would spell the end of political progress and the commencement of the journey towards Armageddon. I am happy to report that the heavens have not fallen. I believe the election of the DUP as the largest political party has provided greater stability within unionism, the party has managed to fashion circumstances which provide more balance from governmental measures and we have adopted a course which will substantially increase the likelihood of securing a lasting resolution to our problems.

For too long difficult decisions have been either ignored or fudged. Short term political expediency triumphed over long term solutions. As a result republicans always knew that they had only to make minor moves – or create the illusion of making minor moves – to allow the process to continue.

In order to bring closure to matters, the situation could no longer be allowed to drift. Half measures and temporary fudges had been used to ensure that breakdown was avoided. But rather than bringing about a solution these steps merely put off the day when republicans confronted the issues of decommissioning, paramilitary activity and criminality.

This is an important but difficult lesson to learn in any conflict. Short term fixes are no substitute for long term progress.

If we were to succumb to the view that we should form an Executive now it would once again create a recipe for instability and would be no more sustainable than on previous occasions. People must be convinced the bad old days are over; that the gun has gone; that government can operate without suspensions and crises caused by illegal activities.

It was for this reason we suggested getting the Assembly up and running at a non-executive level. This would give the Sinn Fein leadership time to deal conclusively with paramilitarism and criminality. Parties would be working together within that structure allowing trust and confidence to grow.

We have been flexible on the nature of the entry level of devolution and open to consider proposals for its final form as well. Moreover, we have insisted the transitional Assembly should not last a moment beyond the point when the standards have been met for full executive devolution to be launched.

However, I stress, we are resolved that the political institutions be paramilitary-proofed and free of contamination from crime.

I have concentrated today on republican rather than loyalist activity not because there is any moral distinction to be made between the two, but because only Sinn Fein has the electoral strength to be in Government. But just in case there is thought to be any ambiguity let me make it crystal clear that all illegal activity from whatever quarter must come to an end. That is my unqualified message to loyalist paramilitary groups.

Finally, on a personal note, so that you might better understand what motivates me, my call into politics came as a result of the murder of a school friend. His name was Harry Beggs; he was the innocent victim of an IRA bombing. They placed a bomb at the exit from the offices in which he worked in the Electricity Service. The bomb detonated as he left the building. The blast ushered Harry into eternity. I determined that I would do all in my power to resist the terrorists who had murdered him. Democracy must be the victor.

Harry was just one of thousands of victims of the troubles. Many more people I have known have also been victims. I have seen men draw their last breath. I have followed their funerals and tried to comfort their families. They have come from every tradition, from every location, from every age profile, class and gender and they have come from every political and faith background. At its height over 470 people were killed in one year – that’s the equivalent to 100,000 people in the US being killed in just twelve months. Can you imagine how that experience would have shaped people’s thinking and behaviour? In Ulster there have been few homes – Catholic or Protestant – not touched by death or mutilation.

I acknowledge the murder of Harry Beggs made me angry, left me wanting retribution and very bitter. Over the years, as the grey hairs formed, I have observed from life that bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it and I am resolved that the troubled times I have lived through should end in my day and that my children will see peace.

I cannot see into the future, still less can I control it, but I can invest in it. In the months ahead I hope there will emerge a clear message from Northern Ireland that all those who have stood fast and suffered long have been rewarded by the dawn of a better and brighter day; that the eternal values of liberty and democracy have prevailed and that the sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael have found a way to share the land of their birth and live together in peace”.

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  • Yokel

    Bloody hell

  • I suspect this will prove more interesting a read than any pre-packaged statements from Armagh to-day.

  • nmc

    He comes across a whole lot more reasonable and positive than he does when he’s over here.

  • briso

    Excellent speech. Will he be the next leader? I can’t see Dodds or Allister(sp) coming up with a speech like that.

    The problem for nationalists is, who decides when Sinn Fein has fulfilled its obligations? He does! He asks:

    “The question is not “Will the DUP work with Sinn Fein if it operates by exclusively democratic and peaceful means?” the question is whether Sinn Fein can ever attain that status. ”

    Some might think not, if the DUP is the judge…

  • J Kelly

    In all of this the thing that strikes me is that he acknowledges that negotiations were taking place in Dec 2004. Robinson if he is telling the truth was up for it, but we are informed Junior scripted the Kells “sackcloth and ashes” rant that scuppered the lot. How does Robinson deal with the fundementalist wing while the big man is still about.

    Robinson, Dodds, Campbell and Donaldson all in the states the new DUP. Is this Robinson getting the grassroots ready for a deal, most of the issue in the shopping list sorted and even paisley has reluctantly accepted that the arms issue has been sorted.

    Interesting the next step “its good to talk”. The gang of four want power.

  • wild turkey

    i’ll believe it when the speech is the basis for next DUP party political broadcast…now that would be interesting.

  • Bemused

    Jesus! I assume that someone gave him a toke on a big ‘blifter’ or something before he made this speech.

    Seriously though – why can’t he behave himself like that when he’s over here?

    Answer of course is that most of the backwoodsmen are highly unlikely to ever read or hear of this speech. Still though, you do get the impression that if Paisley died we might make some progress with Robinson at the tiller….

  • DK

    Yes, excellent speech. This seems a key point to be considered:

    “If we rush to accept Sinn Fein into government while they remain involved in terror and crime we will for years to come be living with what will then be regarded by them as an acceptable level of illegality”

    Ultimately there will be an accepted level – it’s just a quetstion of what level the DUP and Sinn Fein can agree on.

  • Stephen Copeland

    …. that the eternal values of liberty and democracy have prevailed and that the sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael have found a way to share the land of their birth and live together in peace”.

    Peter is a closet (Wolfe Tone) Republican!

  • uuper

    If I closed my eyes I could believe that David Trimble was giving this speech.

    In fact, I think I’ll check back to see if it IS a DT speech.

    What was the last eight years about Peter?

    And, more importantly can you get this past Alistar in particular?

    The hyprocrisy of this speech disgusts but if he is serious about pushing forward in this direction then I and others in the UUP will hold our noses and support him.

    Let’s have another realignment! Go on, we havn’t had one in ages.

  • Mick Fealty

    Bemused,

    I’ve just trimmed your post of the gross man playing down to the substance of your point. I would just point out that I am not paid to act as a sub to careless contributors here.

    I’m happy to carry all points of view. But if you have spleen to vent in the writing proces – please take it out yourself before you hit the ‘submit’ button!

  • Yokel

    UUPer, poor. One or two of the responses on here from those coming at it from nationalist perspective suggest that they see something worth grasping as useful.

    Your response, oh we’ll hold our noses. This is democratic politics and democratic politics is a deal making business. If you have to hold your nose maybe you should look at a less smelly business like sewer maintenance. Secondly and more importanly you’ll deal because you have to.

  • willis

    It’s a long way from Clontibret!

  • páid

    you see, when you stop killing people….

  • uuper

    This is Trimblism and I can support it. But can the backwoodsmen in the DUP?

    We are seeing the assembly being recalled in a few weeks to implement the Belfast Agreement.Robinson is signaling he will support it. Will the Doc? Alistar? What way will Dodds fall? Is this speech the product of the former Young Unionists who opposed Trimble only to be employed by Robinson in the DUP’s policy and press unit? (Incidentally, is there ONE member of the DUP policy and press unit that wasn’t a member of the UYUC?).

    I’m intrigued by pakman’s coded support for Robinson’s speech. Is this a realignment of the pro-Trimble faction in the UUP which split after the signing of the Agreement?

    After all the brightest and best of the UUP supported the UUP being in the negotiations that led to the Agreement. It does make sense that they now back Robinson but will they hold fast when the difficult decisions need to be made? e.g. putting SF back into government.

    Or will they and the DUP be the leaders of unionism that lead Ulster into joint authority with a Southern government that has Sinn fein as a junior partner?

  • uuper

    the intrigue is mutual!

    I would suggest that the attitude and strategy adopted by Robinson is more important to the future of devolution here than the constructive ambiguity we heard from the PM earlier.

  • uuper

    pakman, you’re on the money about Robinson.

    His actions in the next few months and who he can bring with him is crucial. I suspect if he can bring the DUP Assembly team, or most of it, he can rely on the UUP, although they’ll be cheering through gritted teeth.

    But can he? Is he prepared to take risks with his party a la Trimble. Does his personal support run deeper than his paid employees in Dundela? Will the majority of the DUP assemblymen support or embrace martyrdom when the assembly implodes?

    I take seriously the threats of ‘joint management’ or to give that it’s proper title, joint authority. It real, it’s happening already and it’s frightening when one considers the Shinners could soon be in a Dublin government.

    Which brings us back to ’98 when some of us realised that the only way to overturn the Anglo-Irish Agreement joint authority was to go into talks and reach agreement about devolution……

  • BogExile

    Cynics might say that he has tempered his speech -but this is a fundamental and very welcome break away from the traditional DUP mindset. And probably an early move on the leadership chess board.

    This is probably someone around which could coalesce a broad based post-paisley unionist party. If that’s the case he owes more than a few pints to David Trimble whos shade drifts over this speech .

  • BogExile

    tsk – teeth back in: ‘around whom’

  • fair_deal

    uuper

    “This is Trimblism”

    Making a deal isn’t trimbilism. Trimblism is making bad deals repeatedly. The DUP will deal they just have a lot clearer view of what they want and expect more in return for movement.

    Trimble made the mistake, and you are verging on it as well, that he thought all who opposed him where utterly opposed to any deal this was often true of the older section of the “No” camp in the UUP but not of the younger elements, it was a bad deal they objected to.

    “But can the backwoodsmen in the DUP? ”

    This is were Paisley is the key. Robinson can say what he wishes but he will be the decision maker. There was no particular revolt after the Comprehensive Agreement fell apart when the Provos ran away to rob a bank.

  • uuper

    1998 was about a deal, any deal regardless of its’ merits.

    Now we are in a situation of finding the right deal. By that I don’t necessarily mean a less nationalist version of the GFA but rather an institutional settlement that will actually work.

    This was a good speech. Trimble made good speeches (I especially liked his Noble Prize acceptance); it was just a shame this did not translate into understanding what was required to settle the NI question. Or man management.

  • uuper

    Man management……the stories I could tell…

    There’s a lot of bad blood spilt but I will always try (!) to remember the good bits of Trimble’s reign and I don’t think any deal will be much different than his.

    HOWEVER, this is an important time and if a deal that’s good for unionism can be got then it’s incumbent on those of us who went on differnet paths since ’98 to examine any deal and support it if it stops the onward march to ‘joint management’.

    I cannot believe the DUP backwoodsmen will back the deal that can be achieved. I’m doubtful about Paisley. and I know Alistar won’t.

    We’ve faced crucial times before and Blair in particular has let deadlines come and go. can’t help thinking this one is our chance.

  • slug

    I would agree with uuper that there is an opportunity here. Any number of events could happen between now and November, and the November deadline need not be absolute, but there is the possibility of getting some kind of reasonable settlement.

  • uuper

    Jim Allister knows the score and is a long way from being a backwoodsman.

  • slug

    Jim Allister is someone who, I think, is a team player. In the past he has not put himself first, but was willing to abide by party decisions. I do not know him well but that is the sense I get.

  • páid

    I listened to the doc on radio ulster this evening as he denounced any Plan B. No way would one section of the community allow ‘joint sovereignty’, he said. Fair enough. But the debate was about joint authority, no-one else was talking about sovereignty. I got the impression Ian was not up to speed with the nuances of what is going on. Now, he’s no fool, and Ian Jr., if no one else, will straighten out the arguments in any position papers etc. I think, perhaps, that the Doc is compos mentis but not completely and utterly at the races. Those closer to him will know this better than I; sooner or later they will move on his throne.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “I will always try (!) to remember the good bits of Trimble’s reign”

    That would be the look on Bargepole’s face when he lost to him in the Ulster Hall then :0)

  • joinedupthinking

    “Jim Allister is someone who, I think, is a team player. In the past he has not put himself first, but was willing to abide by party decisions.”

    This is the same guy who stormed out of the party and sulked for years because he didn’t get hiw way. Some team player!

  • T.Ruth

    Peter Robinson, as this speech confirms, is a statesman and should not be compared to David Trimble who was arrogant,full of self importance ,a poor negotiator,and a disaster for Unionism.Trimble had no ability to strike a deal.
    Peter Robinson is clearly articulating the position which is accepted by all within the DUP, as clearly set out in election manifestos and policy documents.
    He is the acknowledged political strategist and negotiator in the party and it is certain that he will succeed to the leadership in due course.
    His uncompromising stance and that of the DUP has created the conditions in which Republicanism will be forced to wean itself of terror and criminality and accept that there is no democratic acceptable level of either.
    The DUP is up for devolution. The question is can Sinn Fein stand on its own feet as a political party and leave the IRA,terrorism and criminality behind.Only Sinn Fein will be responsible if it fails to meet the requirements for involvement in the Executive level of government.

  • frontwoodsman

    joinedupthinking
    I would hardly describe Jim Allister as having ‘storemd out’ on the DUP. I personally think that he had quite a good grievance after the pact was agreed. After all, he was a fairly good racing cert to have won that seat.

    He could have very publicly aired those grievances but he decided to bow quite quietly out of the limelight and never once publicly discussed any of the issues there quite obviously must have been at that time when he felt the wrong path had been taken.

    For one unionist party to self-implode with internal divisions over a devolution deal could be described as unfortunate, for it to happen twice would be nothing more than carelessness. No doubt the DUP, Jim Allister included have looked at the UUP and what they went through and have resolved not to fall into the same trap.

  • Comrade Stalin

    T Ruth rambles :

    Peter Robinson, as this speech confirms, is a statesman …

    Can you explain the Clontibret incident ?

    I won’t believe Robinson’s speech is sincere until he repeats the same things to an audience in Belfast. What he does or says 3000 miles away hardly matters.

  • truthseeker

    …. that the eternal values of liberty and democracy have prevailed and that the sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael have found a way to share the land of their birth and live together in peace”.

    Peter is a closet (Wolfe Tone) Republican!

    Can the same not be said about the “Unionist Group” who compiled “Drawing a line under the past ” ?

    “While we have never formally defined our aims and objectives we are committed to healing and growth in this society and to better understanding within and between all parts of these islands.  We want to see societies at peace with themselves and with their neighbours and would like to see the many constructive activities that took place across the Northern Ireland border before 1969, resumed and increased.”

    Did Wolfe Tone not come from a Protestant planter background?

  • missfitz

    Tell you what it all remimds me of:

    There was a man on the other morning on Thought for the Day.

    He told a story about a parishoner of his, who had had a row with the wife.

    He arrived to the house, and the wee woman opened the door. She jerked her head toward the living room and said tersely, “He’s above in there, but you needn’t think thon is staying here the night”

    The minister gingerly made his way into the living room. He noted a crunching noise as he walked and discovered he was trampling over the remains of a Peggy Lee collection of 78’s, the source of the current conflict.

    The wee man was hunched in the corner and understood his fate. The minister found that there was a sister living down the town and secured a bed for the night.

    The wee man took a carrier bag and went upstairs and got his toothbrush and a pair of pyjamas.

    The Minsister went to the door with the wee man at this side.

    Much to his surprise, the wife wsa stood at the door with her coat and hat on, with her arms crossed round her ample bosom.

    “And where are you going” the Minister queried?

    Well, youse neednt think you’re leaving me in this house on me own, she replied. If he’s put out, I’m going with him.

    We cannot live with each other, but can we live without?

  • truthseeker

    ….” that the eternal values of liberty and democracy have prevailed and that the sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael have found a way to share the land of their birth and live together in peace”.

    Does any knowledgeable subscriber know if Peter Robinson got this statement from “Wolf Tone” of was it “John Hewitt”?

  • Dessertspoon

    Don’t know anything about the internal workings of the DUP but it does appear to be split into two camps (at least). The Robinson camp – who would really quite like to get on with devolution because they want the power, status and well money it brings and the Doc’s camp who are just hardline Naysayers happy to clong any little excuse not to move. This speech of Robinsons ,while it might not ever have been made in NI, is a lot closer to the truth of his feelings and beliefs than the partyline drivel he comes out with on Hearts and Minds. Perhaps Noel and the lads should get him on and ask him about this speech.

  • fair_deal

    Dessertspoon

    “The Robinson camp – who would really quite like to get on with devolution because they want the power, status and well money it brings and the Doc’s camp who are just hardline Naysayers happy to clong any little excuse not to move”

    The DUP is not the UUP and don’t fall for the media stereotypes of the DUP.

  • slug

    This speech is on the DUP website so its not some kind of secret document.

  • Harry

    This speech is what unionists call progress? It’s nothing more than meaningless waffle wrapped up in a patronising tone. Unionists think that with a majority of only 150,000 – and after 50 years of coercion aimed at reducing the nationalist population to a minority from its otherwise majority status – that they themselves will continue to be armed to the teeth, control the police, the civil service and liaise with the secret services while demanding that nationalists must bow and scrape to get a sniff at some power? That such power will be deigned to be given or witheld at the convenience of the likes of the patronising and self-serving Peter Robinson?

    After 80 years of suiting yourselves utterly and with all the intelliectual dishonesty that has gone with that, you fellas really have no idea who or what you’re up against. We are Irish, we don’t need your permission. Robinson’s concentration on ‘Law’ as against the constituional issue is just another example of the 2nd rate intelligence and evasion (on the basis of force majeure) that is typical of the unionist mindset.

    Either come to a deal or trouble is coming. You live here surrounded by us – the Irish – deal with it.