Full text of Peter Robinson address to British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body

Then formal presentation by DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson to the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Killarney on Monday went down very well. One member told me it was very statesmanlike. Many agreed that it was very clear and courteous. It repays full study and the entire text is here too.

Gary Kent
Peter Robinson address.

We are unionists – by birth, by desire, by conviction – unapologetically, unflinchingly and unalterably. We are not nationalists who have lost our way. We are not a temporary aberration. We are not the past. We are the present and, like it or not, we are the future.

In case the presence of anyone here in Killarney, can be likened to those who came to see the talking horse – you’ll remember in the story how the people came for the novelty of seeing the horse speak not really to listen to what it had to say – I ask only that you take away this one message from the DUP about the future of Northern Ireland.

Unionists want a stable, peaceful and democratic future. We want to co-exist in Northern Ireland with those who share our homeland even those who hold a different, and conflicting, political ideal. We want to have a co-operative and harmonious interaction with our southern neighbours and we want to develop better relationships North/South and East/West. But let me be clear, none of the arrangements or structures to facilitate these ideals can be imposed or forced upon us. There can be no settlement which does not have our consent.

We accept the legitimacy of those who seek – using solely democratic and peaceful means – to advance their aspiration of a united Ireland. And with no less legitimacy we will – using solely democratic and peaceful means – oppose them.

Where conflicting constitutional positions exist the principle of consent must determine a territory’s constitutional direction and destination. However, in addition, agreement must be reached on how the conflicting parties order the governance of their territory within the constitutional parameters democratically decided.

The DUP is openly and eagerly a devolutionist party. We want to see an Assembly exercising the fullest range of powers and we want to see it happening at the earliest possible suitable moment. We have advocated setting the Assembly up with the highest level of responsibility which circumstances allow, short of executive devolution, until republicans complete the process of democratisation.

We hope when the Assembly meets on and after 15th May its members will seek to tackle the many vital issues which impact on our constituents whether they live in East or West Belfast or any other part of the province. A failure on the part of the Northern Ireland parties to reach agreements on these social and economic issues would not bode well for the future when powers are devolved. Equally a failure on the part of the government to give effect to agreements reached would call its credibility into question.

There has been much speculation and commentary in the press that the DUP’s intention is to delay executive devolution, seemingly for its own sake, and is content to simply be the largest party from Northern Ireland at Westminster.

No party would have more to benefit from a working Assembly. With over thirty MLAs we are the largest political party in Northern Ireland and would have greater influence than any other party over decisions taken in the Province. It is in our interests, and more importantly, it is in the interests of the people we represent, that when the conditions are right we have devolution returned to Northern Ireland at the earliest opportunity. We have nothing to gain by unnecessarily delaying devolution.

Equally we and those for whom we speak have most to lose if powers are devolved while paramilitary and organised crime continues by an organisation attached to a party of government. Collapse would be the inevitable outcome. That is why caution is compulsory and certainty is crucial.

There is much we want to achieve for all the people of Northern Ireland to create a prosperous, thriving and successful society. Of course delaying this opportunity denies people the benefits of local decision making. But you cannot build a prosperous, thriving and successful society upon shaky or unstable foundations. Let me make it clear. There can only be an Executive in Northern Ireland if it is formed among those who engage in exclusively peaceful and democratic politics.

Consistently – in policy documents and manifestoes we have emphasised that an Executive involving Sinn Fein is not possible unless the IRA has ended all its paramilitary and criminal activity and people are satisfied that this is permanent and not tactical.

Threats to by-pass the principle of consent and attempts to bully parties into submission will not advance the process or aid reaching a settlement. Deadlines will not change our position. Threats will not change our position. Government spin will not change our position. Media pressure will not change our position.

Our position has received the overwhelming mandate of the unionist electorate and it will not be abandoned. There can be no side-stepping or circumventing the issue of paramilitary and criminal activity. It cannot be talked away. It must be faced honestly and settled comprehensively.

The ability to bring forward the date of full devolution is in the hands of republicans. They know what they have to do.

Their record of moving quickly in the past has not been good. It took seven years after the Belfast Agreement to bring about substantial decommissioning; it took eleven years after the first IRA ceasefire to make a statement which came close to saying the war is over. Just as pressure has forced republicans to move in the past it is necessary again to ensure that the process is completed and cemented.

Considering that it has taken republicans years to take the steps they have, it is not unreasonable for unionists to exercise caution when assessing if we have completion and permanence. We will take as long as necessary – and no longer, to be sure that the republican campaign is over. After over thirty years of terror, we want to be sure that what we have is a real and enduring peace.

This week will see the latest report on paramilitary activity from the IMC. I am sure we all hope that it can report more progress. The usual leaks and attempts by the two governments to spin the report before it has been published have begun. That is usually a sign that the government want to deflect from some elements and accentuate other selected parts of the report rather than letting it speak for itself.

This approach only serves to diminish the credibility of the government’s judgement on these matters. If the report says it cannot give the IRA a clean bill of health, but that steady progress is being made, then let it say that. People in Northern Ireland will consider that to be welcome progress and will be patient in waiting for completion to come. If however, while the IMC is indicating there is still more road to travel the government is spinning the line that we have reached Utopia, then people will not believe them if and when eventually we reach the finish line.

I would, not unnaturally claim that the progress that has been made vindicates DUP strategy. The UUP policy of accepting Sinn Fein into government guns, paramilitary operations, criminal activity and all produced no incentive to end illegality. Instead it produced a “we’ll have our cake and eat it” approach, the evidence of which is plentiful and does not need to be rehearsed.

Who really believes that the IRA would have taken the steps that they have but for the fact that we were unequivocal in our demands that their activities were ended once and for all?

The DUP approach of holding out for completion and permanence is working – albeit with setbacks from time to time. Yes, their actions have been too slow so far and too often not done in the way that could command community confidence but their movement since November 2003 is far in advance of what had gone before.

Does anyone believe that the Ulster Unionist Party would have demanded the same level of completion that we have? Does anyone believe that the Government in both London and Dublin would have held out even as far as they did for republican acts of completion?

The record of history would suggest that but for the DUP victory republicans would have moved less and moved slower. Now is not the time to dilute the strategy or abandon it. There can be no acceptable level of paramilitarism or criminality. Every week holding out for completion and securing progress helps build a better society and produce an environment in which an assembly can last without suspensions and crises.

While it would be foolish to suggest that considerable progress has not been made, it would be dangerous to suggest or imply that this process has been completed. I cannot say if or when a judgement can be made that completion has been reached but if and when a prima facia case can be made we have committed ourselves as a party, in our election manifesto, to a consultation process within our community to ensure unionism is satisfied completion has been reached and that it is stable and enduring and not tactical and strategic. The Prime Minister pledged that people had to be satisfied that the IRA had completed its transition before an Executive including Sinn Fein could be formed. We valued that pledge and we intend to use the Prime Minister’s yardstick to inform our decision making process.

The requirement for an end to the activities of paramilitary organisations cannot be a one-sided process. The concentration is naturally on the IRA because of its connection with Sinn Fein and the issue of places in Government. But equally it is vital that the illegal activities of loyalist paramilitary organisations are brought to an end once and for all.

The unionist community is intolerant of all such paramilitary and criminal activity. We say it must stop and we accept no moral distinction between IRA criminality and Loyalist criminality.

Some people have suggested we are setting too high a benchmark. They say it will be impossible to stop individuals engaging in criminal activity and I am sure that this is right. That however, is not our litmus test. What we cannot accept is that any party which is in government should be inextricably linked to those who are sanctioning, organising, tolerating or benefiting from such criminality. This should not be exclusively a unionist position but a position that can be supported by everyone who wants to see a stable, decent society in Northern Ireland.

Understandably over the years constitutional issues have overshadowed the role that bodies such as this have played. It has been difficult to separate your role from the background of your formation.

The Anglo Irish Agreement of 1985 left a bitter legacy amongst unionists and that continues to this day, with the refusal of any unionists from Northern Ireland to take up seats on this body. The Anglo Irish Agreement left a political wasteland for many years in Northern Ireland. Proceeding over the heads of the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland was a mistake which I hope no Government will repeat in the future.

Some of you will have heard or read of the attacks from members of the UUP on us for our visit today. I have no time for those unionists who were quite happy to set up and participate in unaccountable all Ireland bodies with Executive power, yet seem to have insurmountable difficulty in my colleagues and I simply addressing a body which has no executive decision making power at all. No intelligent unionist is opposed to a body of this nature providing it is perched on the branch of an acceptable tree. It must be set in the correct context – a context which is free of threat to Northern Ireland’s constitutional position.

In 2004 we published a policy document dealing with Northern Ireland’s relationship with other regions of the British Isles entitled North South East West in which we proposed a British Isles Parliamentary Body.

There is no doubt that the historical, cultural and other interests of people living in the British Isles mean that on many issues all of us have much in common. There are also issues which are particular to two or more regions and it is also important that appropriate arrangements exist in such cases. As recently as December of 2004 we made it clear that in the appropriate circumstances, we were prepared to participate in a Parliamentary forum involving representatives from the UK and Irish Parliaments as well as the other legislatures within the British Isles. That position was reflected in paragraph 10 of the government’s proposals for a Comprehensive Agreement, which states –

“Following appropriate consultation with the British-Irish Inter Parliamentary Body the two Governments would encourage the Oireachtas, the British Parliament and the relevant elected institutions to approve an East West Inter Parliamentary Framework which would embrace all their interests. This framework would operate on an inclusive basis.”

That continues to be our position today and we support the involvement in such a body of representatives from the devolved and other legislatures. Where the DUP has agreed to the framework, within which an Inter Parliamentary Forum is placed, we will play a full and constructive role within such a body.

We have also made it clear that we are prepared to co-operate with the Republic of Ireland where it is in our mutual interest. As our Party said in our North South East West publication in 2004 –

“We are committed to participating fully in any arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which we agree as a result of the Talks process… In some instances co-operation with the Republic of Ireland will be to the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. In other instances, competition will be in our best interest.”

The reality is that in seeking to attract investment there is likely to be competition between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That is why we feel it is so important that the British Government creates a level playing field for Northern Ireland to compete, as the only part of the UK which has a land border with another EU Member state. We have pressed Government regularly on this matter. Our significantly higher level of corporation tax proves a significant disadvantage.

Unionist participation in cross-border initiatives is much more likely to be forthcoming if the initiatives are based demonstrably on what is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, rather than advancing an apparent narrow nationalist political agenda. Nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland would quickly find that if they adopted this approach, they would be much more likely to receive a positive reaction from unionists.

Mr Chairman, we came here today, not to seek approval for our position nor in expectation of winning converts, but rather to increase understanding of our position and our motivation.

While no party will more stubbornly resist settling for a talked-up illusion of peace, no party will more eagerly grasp the real thing when it appears. The DUP is serious and determined to make progress. The DUP is capable of and willing to give leadership. No one, Protestant or Roman Catholic who respects the law and embraces democracy has anything to fear from the DUP. What we gain for those who vote for us we will share with those who do not.

Nobody has more to gain from attaining both peace and robust political structures than a community which has suffered so much from terror and instability. Nobody deserves it more. Nobody desires it more. Nobody will contribute more to making it work.

  • I’ve always admired Peter Robinson, especially as an opponent.
    Like me he’s a capricorn,
    and is therefore of good taste and excellent manners 🙂
    Boldly he strives to put the case for unionism,
    whilst admirably acknowledging the aspirations of nationalists.
    He is a man you can do business with and represents the future as well as the past.

  • Mick Fealty

    I await the litigious email for that pejorative comparison s-l ;-).

  • missfitz

    I’ll tell you what, he is becoming more impressive by the day, is our Peter. Very statesmanly speech, with nuances about accomodation and consent not widely seen before within the DUP or perhaps wider unionism.

    And may God Bless him for that opening paragraph, a true cut and paste happy ending for my essay.

  • Uncle Jim’s Juice Delivery Co here – I’ve got an order of Kool-aid for Cunningham Hse, where do you want it left?

  • lib2016

    The usual nonsensical claims about a unionist veto but at least he’s managed to tone down his previous threats of violence. No growth, no change, no hope.

    If unionists can’t pay their way then they have to learn to linedance to whatever tune their government demands.

  • missfitz

    Oh lib, but isnt it time we stop dancing to historys tune?

    Make our own music and drink some of that lovely kool-aid?

  • lib2016

    Now there’s an idea – there are times I’m tempted by dreams of stakes through the heart or silver bullets but one should keep up with the times.

  • missfitz

    Now you wouldnt be having thoughts of spiking the kool aid, would you?

    Naw, didnt think so……

  • boshank

    well done Peter, spoken like a true Ulster Unionist.

  • To be precise, Boshankly, ‘spoken like a true Anti-Agreement* Ulster Unionist’.

    And that was kinda my point, re the Kool-aid, about what the DUP are currently up to, and the effect it’s having on UUP morale. The wrecthed Paisleyites are doing, even down to the level of tactics and tone, what some of unsuccessfully urged on Trimble lo these many years ago. And whaddya know? It seems to be working . . .

    *Or, ‘Agreement-sceptical’; ‘Donaldsonite’; ‘Turtlephobic’, etc, etc.

  • boshank

    It seems to be working? Please elaborate Mr Rove.

  • Under Trimble, we (the UUP) set out our goals. We were rolled over. We set out our new, lesser, goals, we were rolled over. We . . . well I trust you get the picture.

    And sad to say, here we have Balaclava Boy acting the statesmen, his crowd of yahoos having set out their goals, and, as yet, they haven’t turtled, whereas . . . and here I cite an opinion of the sainted Hume, so all of those inclined to, please be ready to perform your oblations in a suitable manner, “decommissioning is a red herring”. Except it wasn’t. And when Hume et al said it was used by Unionists as an excuse, what with it not ever going to happen, simply to avoid his sacerdotal power-sharing, yet again, they were wrong.

    I believe, had Trimble four ounces more backbone, all this could have happened under his reign, and that instead of him tossing his crown to the DUP. And that’s why I, as an Ulster Unionist, shake my head in disbelief every time one his apologists pops up on Slugger. He was so bloody useless, he’s still make the DUP look good.

  • boshank

    I agree entirely with your synopsis. As a UU myself i have long maintained that had DT held out back in early Hillsborough talks we would as you say be where Robbo and the reasonable massive are now. No guns, no government was our undoing. Once DT rolled over on that one it was more downhill than the winter olympics. If anyone needed reminding of that his recent programme on the beeb spoelt it out in glorious technicolour.

    A friend and i were chatting the other night and we likened him to a serial gambler, he had a reasonable hand but his poker face was shit. And every time he went back to the table he lost. But like an idiot he kept going back and hoping for a different result. The rest as they say is history.

    Personally speaking i’m not depressed or in low spirits. Politics is cyclical. And we will be back.

  • missfitz

    And Boshank, the other thing I would say is that if the DUP had remained on the outside, always looking in, nothing could have been brought forward, no change would have occured.

    I dont have a political affiliation, but I predict that the next elections will see a return to the ‘centre’, although perhaps not in an extreme way. I dont think that either the UUP or the SDLP should fold up their tents, but I also think that both of those parties need to seriously brighten up their stalls to attract new and old customers.

  • German-American

    I agree, a smart speech by Robinson, showing the contrast between “No! No! No!” and “Not *quite* yet…” A couple of other points:

    “We will take as long as necessary – and no longer, to be sure that the republican campaign is over.” This of course is the standard DUP line: We reserve the right to decide when things are arranged to our satisification. However the “and no longer” implies that once the DUP sees it in their political interest to jump, they will jump quickly and move to isolate those in unionism who might disagree.

    “Some people have suggested … it will be impossible to stop individuals engaging in criminal activity and I am sure that this is right. That however, is not our litmus test. What we cannot accept is that any party which is in government should be inextricably linked to those who are sanctioning, organising, tolerating or benefiting from such criminality.” In other words, if SF and the IRA leadership can put enough distance between themselves and criminal activities by IRA members to minimize any possible political embarrassment, the DUP will find it politically expedient to not nitpick over each and every newspaper story concerning current or former IRA members.

    “Some of you will have heard or read of the attacks from members of the UUP on us for our visit today. I have no time for those unionists …” In other words, the UUP is just making itself look stupid by imitating the DUP of the past (as opposed to the hinted-at DUP of the future). I agree with Karl Rove, the UUP has been and continues to be badly out-played.

  • I’d just like to say what a wonderful blog this is. I keep up to date with it each and every day, it is so informative and well written. I think that the speech did much to ignore what would seem to me are already widely held conclussions: That the Republican paramilitary movement is being reigned in as much as possible by the political leadership, and that it seems the Loyalist paramilitaries are more or just as active. The PIRA has recieved nothing but praise from the latest report by the IMC, and I think his posturing and making of excuses and conditions based on what the PIRA does is just stupid.

  • boshank

    missfitz,

    I agree to a degree (and i’m a poet but didn’t knwo it), i don’t foresee a massive move back to the centre but i can see the scales becoming a bit more balanced. It depends on whether the DUPs split between the pragmatists and the old guard. Robinson and co are desperate to move towards a more centrist position but it rewmains to be seen whether the others (allister, doc and baby doc etc) have the minerals to do the necessary.

    This is in nobody’s hands but theirs and unlike us in the UUP they are a far more disciplined lot.

  • But still an overall good and passionate speech 😉

  • yerman

    boshank
    “Politics is cyclical. And we will be back.”

    Well it did take 100 years for the first cycle to turn…. so maybe.

  • missfitz

    And Bo, it depends on who succeeds Papa Doc as well.

    I was at a motorbike rally several years ago (my biker phase), and IPJ was there. He went for a spin on the back of some famous persons bike, but before he got on, he admonished the biker: Be careful, you’ve got the future of Ulster on the back of your bike

    Seems like wee Ian has no problems with figuring out whose next!

  • boshank

    no question, it was a good speech. I think they are playing a good game at the moment and like a good football manager watches his opposition, Robbo has taken a leaf out the shinners book: Say something positive without moving too far and it’s seen as progress. It’s very much like an Ulster Unionist speech but the fundamental then and now difference is that he can say it without any real fear of one of his own contradicting him…

  • boshank

    great story about the motorbike missfitz, sums up the supreme vanity of the man!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Missfitz: “I agree to a degree (and i’m a poet but didn’t knwo it), i don’t foresee a massive move back to the centre but i can see the scales becoming a bit more balanced. It depends on whether the DUPs split between the pragmatists and the old guard. Robinson and co are desperate to move towards a more centrist position but it rewmains to be seen whether the others (allister, doc and baby doc etc) have the minerals to do the necessary.”

    Oh, Papa Doc has his moments… I’ll see if I can dig out a reference later — he *has* made the odd concilliary comment over the decades — usually hastily retracted once his congregation and constituents remind him which tiger’s tail his demagougery has tied him to.

    And of any and all of my criticisms of the Rt. Rev., a lack of minerals has never been on the list. In one sense, the Rt. Rev. is a dangerous man — he has lived his life professing his beliefs, largely on his own terms. As aman, he has little let to prove… as a politician… we’ll see.

  • boshank

    dread,

    point taken, but he has proved he has minerals but only on his own terms. He rarely ventures oustide his comfort zone. Witness the failed december deal, all we are the world then like the camp leader in schindlers list who went through a spell of saying i forgive you, he soon reverted to type with scakcloth and ashes…as you say we will see

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Boshank: “point taken, but he has proved he has minerals but only on his own terms. He rarely ventures oustide his comfort zone. Witness the failed december deal, all we are the world then like the camp leader in schindlers list who went through a spell of saying i forgive you, he soon reverted to type with scakcloth and ashes…as you say we will see ”

    He’s a politician… he knows his base and knows he must, on occasion, throw them some “red meat” to keep the faithful happy.

    I do wish he had has his father’s good sense to direct his wrath at institutions and not the people — makes for a shorter climb-down, but he has personal charm and isn’t afraid to use it. He’s got a fiery speaking persona and he’s not afraid to use that.

    Maybe its true — it takes two shifty sticks to carve out a fair accord. I just wish I wasn’t always treated to the image of the goal-posts disappearing into the distance.

  • boshank

    sorry dread you misunderstood me, was talking about the rt rev…

  • boshank

    dread, you misunderstood me, was talking about the Rt Rev…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    No, I didn’t.

    I was also talking about the Rt. Rev. Paisley.

    *HIS* father kept his arguements with the RCC as an institution, not necessarily with the congregation. Ian, Sr. may have his father’s charm, but not his good sense.

  • Our significantly higher level of corporation tax proves a significant disadvantage.

    If you accept that the British Government is unlikely to ever accept a lower rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland, isn’t that effectively an admission that there are significant economic disadvantages attached to the union.

  • Joe

    boshank and Dread
    Be careful; you might be sued for libel

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search

    The Right Reverend (Rt. Rev.) is a style applied to certain religious figures.

    * In The Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church in Great Britain, the style is given to bishops.

    * In the United Church of Canada, the style is given to a current Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

    * Previously in the Roman Catholic Church, Monsigneurs of the ranks of Domestic Prelate and Apostolic Protonotary were styled Right Reverend. Now they are simply Reverend Monsignor.

  • Tax

    Tom
    “If you accept that the British Government is unlikely to ever accept a lower rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland, isn’t that effectively an admission that there are significant economic disadvantages attached to the union.”

    Nope – just that different regions face different issues.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    JOE: “Dread, Be careful; you might be sued for libel”

    Only dealing w/ N.I. could the using the wrong honorific be grounds for libel…

    *rolls eyes*

  • Keith M

    A superb address, and very hard for anyone to argue against. The DUP look likely to lead unionism for the forseeable future.

  • willis

    The DUP have one great advantage over the UUP. Yhey can tell the Orange Order to get stuffed!

    Glorious innit.

    The particular nature of the DUP, whereby each candidate had to have charisma and take votes from the UUP has given Robinson in particular a solid personal following.

    The problem with the UUP wasn’t just the Turtle, it was the whole dererential, hide-bound, 19th century feel of Big House Unionism which still hangs around it.

    As for their pathetic attempts to out DUP the DUP, the most appropriate observation is that

    “History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce”

  • English

    You may be interested to know that two of his colleagues Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson sat next to one another on the Cork-Belfast plane and did not say a single word to one another. My eyewitness also informed that they got off the plane and went their seperate ways without saying a single word. I wonder why?

  • Rapunsel

    Ok it was a good speech and not only in the technical sense but to my mind it was also a very arrogant speech. The failure to accept the contribution of unionism including the DUP to the conflict is dishonest and problematic , at least however there seems to be some commitment to share power and from studying Peter Robinson , it’s clear that he likes power. Sometimes though I’m not sure to actually believe either the DUP or the Shinners when they say they want devolution, I’m a supporter of neither party but get the feeling that we have a long way to go before the grass roots will support it. Even for moderate nationalism and others the thought of Paisley Sr as First Minister is repulsive. The same is true no doubt for many unionists and others in respect of big Gerry and Martin. The fact of the matter is that direct rule for the minute confirms the Britishness of NI for unionists and protects nationalists from the feared and proven misrule of unionism. There’s many who’d go for the reformed super councils before devolution.

  • willis

    English

    Would you want to talk to “Apprentice Boy”

  • Keith M

    “My eyewitness also informed that they got off the plane and went their seperate ways without saying a single word. I wonder why?”

    Perhaps they knew your friend was stalking them?

  • David Michael

    A very fine speech indeed.

    Anybody know who wrote it?

  • missfitz

    Gerry Adams?

  • David Michael

    LOL

    His speechwriter is no slouch either,

  • Harry

    If that speech is what unionists call positive then I fear for the future.

    David Trimble evidently saw one thing that the DUP haven’t yet understood; nationalists are equal. Many of you on this thread seem to be so far away from this understanding that it hasn’t even appeared on the furthest reaches of your consciousness.

  • Nostradamus

    My prediction:
    Once Big Ian shuffles off this mortal coil,
    Ian lite and jeffrey the backstabber are toast,.
    Squeaky willie too.