“But we think we can move on from that.”

During the coverage of the UUP Conference today, BBC NI’s Jim Fitzpatrick did a quick interview with the Conservative Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, MP. Here’s a question and answer transcribed from that interview.

[Jim Fitzpatrick] “Perhaps there is less of a tension on the constitutional issue in those areas, although Scotland excepted perhaps. But we have Reg Empey saying there that, in negotiations, when Gerry Adams is arguing for something he’ll be facing one of his party, perhaps an Ulster Unionist, across the table. That seems to saying that this whole idea of an honest broker is gone.”
[Owen Paterson] “But we just think that the settlement, and the huge majorities of 94% in the south and 71% in the north, settled the constitutional question, subject to majority. There are those who have an ambition for a united Ireland. That is a completely legitimate ambition as long as it’s pursued by democratic legitimate means. But we think we can move on from that. We don’t have to have politics dominated by the decades old constitutional question. I am here, first, pretty much every week and people do not talk to me about the constitution. They talk to me about pensions. They talk to me about tax. They talk about fuel duty. They talk about the social problems, which we’re looking at, which Ian Parsley is doing with his [Breakthrough] Belfast report. That’s what worries people on the ground, not the age old, decade, hammering away about the constitutional question.”

And from the iol report

Mr Hague underlined his commitment to the Union between the North and the UK at today’s conference, while his party leader David Cameron has also declared his support for strengthening UK links.

But nationalist politicians have warned that as the North emerges from decades of violent conflict, is it dangerous for a future Conservative Party government to be so closely aligned with one side of the region’s political divide.

Mr Hague said, however, that a Conservative Government would uphold the political agreements that have been so painstakingly built-up in Northern Ireland.

“This (UUP pact) should not be seen as taking up a sectarian position,” he said. “We will want to deal with all parties and always make sure we come to the correct view, irrespective of party alignments.”

Adds The preceding question in that BBC NI interview is also worth noting.

[Jim Fitzpatrick] “How can you remain an honest broker when you have a say and a voting base here in Northern Ireland?”

[Owen Paterson] “We will be, if elected, the government of the United Kingdom, and we will do what is right, in our opinion, for the United Kingdom. But we believe in devolution, where we have large numbers of confidences which have already been devolved and that will be for local politicians to decide.

“People aren’t asking this question in Wales or Scotland. I don’t see the problem here.”

, , , ,

  • Brian Walker

    Nationalists fears are not unreasonable. They can partly be allayed by the UUs pursuing centrist shared future policies alongside the SDLP, as in the modest joint initiative over academic selection. This sort of move is ten years overdue. We need lots of more of this to try to build up momentum for government. No party need be excluded.

  • Greenflag

    ‘That seems to saying that this whole idea of an honest broker is gone.”’

    The Conservatives as honest brokers in Northern Ireland ? Good lord what next ? The Israelis as protectors of Palestinian civilians ? Wahabi Islamists as guardians of Judaic rituals ?

    Has Jim Fitzpatrick any knowledge of British or Irish history ?

    Mr Paterson will not be the first nor last British imposed Minister to spend a few wasted years tilting at windmills a la Don Quixote before being ‘removed ‘ back to the safety of Surrey following another inglorious failure .

    As to Hague’s

    “This (UUP pact) should not be seen as taking up a sectarian position,”

    Will somebody tell this chap it already has not just as a result of shenanigans in South Belfast but long before he was born , and will still be so seen long after he’s no longer around .

    Nice words though . Much nicer than Mr Heath’s in 1972 eh 😉

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. “I am here, first, pretty much every week and people do not talk to me about the constitution.”

    It is hard to think of more worthless and pointelss line uttered by politicans than this, or its very close relative – thats not what we are hearing on the doorsteps.

    re. Nationalist fears, the Tory policy of no strategic interest in Norn Iron is reflected in the GFA, a policy to be fair, so far they have stuck resolutely to. Any funny Unionist noises they make now are fairly irrelvant as they have already conceded ground to Nationalism in the GFA and Norn Iron is now effectively an internationalised zone – they just need to be as good as their word as Westminster becomes less and relevant, with fewer Norn Iron MPs taking their seats and Stormo having more power.

  • LabourNIman

    what exactly can Adams argue for after P&J is sorted? It’s a long shot but maybe the assembly will get down to some real business with out a party promising to wreck it for not getting their own selfish agenda.

    I’ve yet to hear anyone care about the constitutional question these days – people are out of work. Thats what matters. But hey, I guess thats hard for the executive to see when they couldn’t meet when the world economy crashed thanks to a sulking SF.

    Nationalists fear NI becoming a serious entity in UK politics. Whether they like it or not we deserve to have a say in the national agenda. It’s our boys dying in IRAQ and our companies going bust.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is really all academic, as the Conservatives will have no seats in Northern Ireland. I don’t think they will be stupid enough to create a potential constitutional crisis by allowing themselves to be seen to be closely aligned to a party with no Westminster mandate.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    LabourMan,

    re. “It’s a long shot but maybe the assembly will get down to some real business with out a party promising to wreck it for not getting their own selfish agenda.”

    I agree – as soon as the anti-agreement foot dragging by the DUP (and perhaps the UUP) is finished then business should start getting done. Full credit to El Gordo and the SOS for keeping the pressure on the DUP whose irresponsible behaviour resulted in far too little business getting done in Stormo.

    re. “Nationalists fear NI becoming a serious entity in UK politics.”

    Wow…

    And…

    Unionists fear NI becoming a serious entity in the politics of Ireland.

    And more late, breaking news just coming through…

    Tomorrow is Sunday.

  • GavBelfast

    We DO have a settlement, just that some choose not to accept it as such, or at all – flouting the endorsement of the voting population of the island of Ireland in the process.

    Tough.

    On with ‘bread and butter’ issues I say.

  • granni trixie

    Its not rocket science that if there is a dividend to the economic crisis it is in NI where it has concentrated minds beyond traditional concerns.
    Another thing – there is something in the utterances of Owen Patterson, Haigue etc that suggests that they do not really understand ‘here’ at all, for all the talk of being over every week.

    We’ve seen all this kind of talk before and it soon fades – what is really called for is Northern Irish people to sort out their own problems and maybe pressure from below to MLAs to take action which will improve the economic situation is just the push they need.

  • borderline

    So.
    ” That’s what worries people on the ground, not the age old, decade, hammering away about the constitutional question.”

    and the very next line is…

    “Mr Hague underlined his commitment to the Union between the North and the UK at today’s conference, while his party leader David Cameron has also declared his support for strengthening UK links.”

    Perhaps you would like us to forget that you conquered us, oppressed our language and culture, drew a line on a map and declared us a minority in our own Province and country.

    You think the constitutional question is settled and we should just get on with being good old British citizens.

    You can fuck off.

  • DC

    @’I agree – as soon as the anti-agreement foot dragging by the DUP (and perhaps the UUP) is finished then business should start getting done. Full credit to El Gordo and the SOS for keeping the pressure on the DUP whose irresponsible behaviour resulted in far too little business getting done in Stormo.’

    Yes, at least we could know those that mandated SF, as a party, to go in to Stormont with the DUP on delivery of policing and justice, whereas we are all left plucking around in thin air looking for this magic thing called “confidence” – i.e. unionist confidence.

    But still we are almost there now and that is very, very old hat.

  • Greenflag

    “This (UUP pact) should not be seen as taking up a sectarian position,”

    Will somebody tell this chap it already has not just as a result of shenanigans in South Belfast but long before he was born , and will still be so seen long after he’s no longer around .

    The “shenanigans in S Belfast” were an attempt by certain elements to bypass and ultimately weaken the pact between the Conservatives and the UUP. The second part of your observation makes no sense whatsoever when referring to an arrangement which is less than 2 years old.

    This is really all academic, as the Conservatives will have no seats in Northern Ireland. I don’t think they will be stupid enough to create a potential constitutional crisis by allowing themselves to be seen to be closely aligned to a party with no Westminster mandate

    And yet here you all still getting stressed, het up and wasting time over a pact between two parties which will achieve a grand total of no seats between them at the next election. Now really…

  • LabourNIman

    borderline – maybe the people of Northern Ireland should be asking and working with the UK government to help us create an identity that will benefit us all. The Scottish can do it and so can the welsh.

    But thats probably crazy thinking on my part.

  • Quagmire

    It’s our boys dying in IRAQ…
    Posted by LabourNIman on Oct 24, 2009 @ 06:47 PM

    Not my army and not in my name. Moreover, the constitutional question has been parked, not settled chap. There are more nationalists in “our wee country” now than there was 20 years ago and there will be even more in another 20 years.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s funny that people are talking about how nobody talks about the constitutional matter anymore. If that’s the case, why does everyone keep voting for political parties who campaign on that very question ? We’ve got plenty of political parties who are not nationalist or unionist. There’s NI Labour, up until recently there was the Conservatives, and there’s the Greens.

    If Conservatives are so confident that the constitution is no longer an important question for voters, then why could the Conservative Party not run for a Northern Ireland mandate alone – why did they have to link with the UUP ?

  • borderline

    LabourNIman,

    Crazy enough thinking. Your contribution was the first I’ve seen for a long time that had the words Scottish identity without the follow-up word crisis.

    And of course it’s NI, not Ulster. Or Ireland. And the UK govt. Not the Irish govt. isn’t it my ‘constitutional question doesn’t matter’ friend?

  • Comrade Stalin

    oneill, I don’t see how I’m stressed/het up/etc. Just commenting on a prevailing political scenario. I appreciate that it is part of your narrative to suggest that Alliance supporters are somehow worried about the pact. Trust me, this isn’t the case. The last time I remember, it was the UUP who were worried about Alliance. At least, that was the view of whoever it was who circulated the ripoff election leaflets in East Belfast.

  • fin

    It’s our boys dying in IRAQ…

    Really, in Iraq? why didn’t they leave in April when the rest of the British army did.

    And who exactly are you referring to, I’m only aware of two NI soldier deaths in Iraq, one been a suicide (5 days before returning to Portadown)

  • Dave

    “Moreover, the constitutional question has been parked, not settled chap. There are more nationalists in “our wee country” now than there was 20 years ago and there will be even more in another 20 years.” – Quagmire

    There are more Catholics but there are fewer nationalists. The aim of the Tory/UUP alliance is to reduce the number of nationalists further by converting more Catholics into unionists. The Shinners deliberately conflate Catholics with nationalists in order to create the false impression among their supporters that unity is a simple numbers game.

    Likewise, parked is settled. Again, the Shinners deliberately misrepresent a permanent settlement as a transitional arrangement. In fact, the Shinners formally conceded that Northern Ireland is the legitimate property of the United Kingdom and also formally conceded that the nationalists have no right to national self-determination but rather have an aspiration toward it that is legitimately subject to the discretion of another nation. At what point do you think that they can reverse those solemn constitutional declarations and declare that they do have a right to national self-determination and that the United Kingdom has no legitimate claim to the territory of Northern Ireland? Nationalists have formally renounced their former rights and claims to them – not merely “parked” them.

    So, just as the Shinners have delivered the nationalists into a British-designed internal settlement while telling the sheep that they were doing the opposite, they must now improve the status quo while telling the sheep that improving the status quo is the best means of ensuring opposition to that status quo and thereby promoting the desire to change it. In reality, the Shinners are fully aware that improving the status quo ensures growing support for that status quo, thereby making it permanent.

    The only way unity could be achieved by that mechanism is by persuading the citizens of Ireland that they too should renounce their rights to national self-determination and rejoin the UK.

  • Greenflag

    O’Neill,

    ‘The second part of your observation makes no sense whatsoever when referring to an arrangement which is less than 2 years old.’

    Not just that but to Conservative ‘inter vention’ in Irish politics since the ‘destructive ‘role the Tories played in the Home Rule votes at the turn of the 20th century right up the present .

    About the only positive development the Tories ever took in Ireland was the dissolution of Stormont in 1972 .

    Labour NIman ,

    ‘Nationalists fear NI becoming a serious entity in UK politics. ‘

    The only way NI will become a serious entity in NI politics is if the province reverts back to major sectarian conflict or if the election result is so close that a Prime Minister would be dependent on a few seats -in which case I’m sure the DUP will exact whatever they can .

    ‘Whether they like it or not we deserve to have a say in the national agenda.’

    I would’nt doubt it but apart from maybe one or two unionist politicians it has not been the ‘unionist ‘ style to get too involved in British politics . There was always the danger that the ‘British’ would reciprocate and you never know what they might find . Alas HMG did start rooting around in ‘Unionist ‘ politics and what they found did not please them at all at all .

    ‘ It’s our boys dying in IRAQ and our companies going bust.’

    There are a lot of regions in the UK who could make the same claim not just NI .

  • Greenflag

    oops apologies error above :

    should read

    ‘The only way NI will become a serious entity in BRITISH politics is if the province reverts back to major sectarian conflict etc.

  • frustrated democrat

    We locals can sort out the problems of NI but we are so financially bankrupt after 40 years of terrorism we need help. We cannot do it on our own, it is too late.

    So I am glad to see our friends taking an interest in Northern Ireland and trying to switch us from a hand out to a hand up.

    The sooner we have the current crop of Conservatives in power we will have people who do care about NI even when there is no real polictical advantage for them.

    Paterson, Hague and Cameron deserve our support.

  • Dec

    Dave
    You really do talk some balls.

    Gav

    We DO have a settlement, just that some choose not to accept it as such, or at all – flouting the endorsement of the voting population of the island of Ireland in the process.

    Do you believe that the Irish people, North and South voted to partition their island for ever or do you believe they voted for an immediate, equitable arrangement to stop 30 years of violence?

    I am here, first, pretty much every week and people do not talk to me about the constitution.

    You would hve thought Reg would have mentioned the union at least once to Owen. But seriously, who’s this guy fucking kidding?

  • Pete whitcroft

    Can we not all celebrate the fact that Peter Robinson is having to use his imagination for a change.
    30 years of easy talk is over.

  • dub

    dave,

    The nationalists of the six counties never had a right to self determination on their own. the Irish people are the people who had and have that right. The northern nationalists and northern unionists are both merely parts of that people. The actor who signed away the right to self determination of the Irish people was the Dublin government. They have form in this matter viz the sordid deal they did with the British in 1925 after the collapse of the Boundary Commission. It is tiresome the way that you keep projecting the shame of these actions of the Irish state onto people who had no hand act or part in these actions. It is also tiresome the way that you keep on trying to split up the Irish people into bits and pieces. That is and always has been the British agenda. You are right that the British are using the GFA to extend their control over the whole island. You just seem to be lamentably unable to identify the principal colluders with this policy in Ireland: successive Irish governments.

  • interested

    5.‘Ulster Unionist conference riven by row over link with Tories’

    The Ulster Unionists’ sole MP failed to turn up to her party’s conference yesterday, increasing speculation that Lady Sylvia Hermon will stand as an independent in the forthcoming general election.

    Lady Hermon is understood to be considering standing against a joint UUP-Conservative candidate in her North Down constituency. She has refused to disclose her intentions over the seat.

    The North Down Tories have already selected Ian Parsley, a defector from the Alliance Party, as its candidate, and he attended the UUP conference. His former colleagues in Alliance have indicated the party would stand down and back Lady Hermon if she chose to run as an independent in the constituency.

    There was further discord at the conference in Belfast’s Europa Hotel yesterday, when some labour and trade union-minded Ulster Unionists, led by former Belfast councillor Chris McGimpsey, urged delegates to oppose the party’s fusion with the Conservatives. McGimpsey, Fermanagh UUP councillor Raymond Ferguson and unionist historian Roy Garland said the Tory alliance would destroy the party’s support in unionist working class communities.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/25/uup-tories-conference

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: Nationalists fears are not unreasonable. They can partly be allayed by the UUs pursuing centrist shared future policies alongside the SDLP, as in the modest joint initiative over academic selection.
    There are two nationalist fears.
    The first fear is that a Conservative Government will move the goalposts for a constitutional settlement, or will act in a partisan manner. That’s not likely to come about.
    The second fear is more realistic, typically unstated, but bubbling away as an undercurrent in the posts above. That fear is that the Conservatives will try to make the union more appealing across the whole community. There’s no real way to complain about that one…

  • Garza

    Reader,

    The second fear you have nailed down to the T.

  • fin

    That fear is that the Conservatives will try to make the union more appealing across the whole community.

    100% correct Reader.

    The next thing to consider is how to make it appealing across the whole community.

    Will it be a huge financial investment in NI?

    Can’t afford that.

    What else is there. Well one community is 100% happy with the union, and have nowhere else to go. So what can we do thats cheap and will make the other community happier with the union.

    Hold on a second, if we take stuff away from the people who are happy with the union, they’re going to be unhappy but what can they do? vote Labour? impossible.

    Then we can give those bits to the side who aren’t very happy with the union.

    Right, whats cheap and easy to give. How about we ban a few of those marches they don’t like. Thats good. Oh, we could implement the ILA, thats a good idea.

    Ah Turkeys voting for Christmas.

    The thing is HMG doesn’t need to make the union more appealing to Unionists, they’re already on-board. To strengthen the union they need to make it more appealing to nationalists.

  • Greenflag

    frustrated democrat .

    ‘We locals can sort out the problems of NI’

    Any proof ?

    While past performance is not a guarantee of future results it’s more than a good enough guide when dealing with individual human or organisational performance .

    The track record for ‘unionism ‘ as seen from a career perspective is not encouraging qite the opposite .

    1920-1969

    How to make a bad situation worse than it need ever have been by imposing a unilateral partition on the island by counting religious preferences
    🙁 drawing an artificial border and calling for a local Assembly because Unionists couldn’t trust not only the majority of Irish on the island but not even their own ‘British ‘ government not to sell them out .

    1969-1972

    Chaotic perfomance finally resulting in the province being taken off the political field by a British Conservative Government too embarassed by Unionist performance to do anything else .

    1972 -1974

    The age of Unionist confusion -To share or not to share power with the ‘nice ‘ catholics in the SDLP is the question . The answer when it finally comes is a NO . Result goodbye Sunningdale hello Direct Rule

    1974- 1989

    The age of the unionist ‘cul de sac ‘ ,political and economic stagnation and no talks about anything between the politcal representatives on either side of the divide

    Under Jim Molyneaux as leader the UUP try to ‘integrate ‘ into the UK as in the Finchley role model, but Westminster even under Thatcher is having none of it. Keep NI a long spoon away is the Tory motto and even more so the Labour motto

    1989-1997 approx

    The era of talking about talking for the very slow learners of Unionism . Very slow progress if any -Outside intervention by the USA , ROI are ineffective due to John Major’s dependence on unionist MP’s maintaining the party of family values in power. Grey John was much too busy giving Edwina Currie a good time to be much bothered about NI and it’s eternal travails ..

    1998-200?

    The Trimble and Mallon show epoch . First agreeing to the GFA and power sharing and then making a hash of it on several occasions . Would never have happened had it been left to the ‘locals ‘ Only USA and UK applied pressure forced Trimble to reluctantly sign up . Unionists show their reluctance by barely giving the GFA a 51% to 49% vote in favour of the Agreement .

    2007- present

    Unionists become more hardline with the ultra religious DUP now supplanting the UUP as the main Unionist party . Meanwhile SF supplant the timid SDLP on the other side of the constitutional divide .More walkouts threats of walkouts etc etc .

    2009

    The omens for longer term political stability are still uncertain and Stormont more and more resembles an entity with a virulent form of political AIDS . Unionists now being wooed to the local extreme right by the TUV as the latter endeavour to lundyise the DUP . Meanwhile the still extant UUP have now joined an alliance with the British Conservatives who are now deemed so far to the right by German, French and other mainstream European Christian Democrats that they can only find soul mates among extremist Polish and Czech neo fascists 🙁

    So if frustrated democrat still thinks that NI locals can sort this situation out by themselves perhaps the UK and the USA and the EU and ROI should let them get on with it and remove themselves and their financial and political support from the province .

    The above sovereign stats (not of course in the Davidian sense ) can always return in a few years to bulldoze whatevers left standing in the province , and bury any remaining corpses left on the surface of a wasteland 🙁

  • igor

    Oh you poor things.

    Now your Labour client is about to be hoiked out of office and some balance restored to negotiations between the two sides in NI, suddenly we hear the screams of ‘The Conservative Government will be agin us’

    I can only assume that you believe that your political representatives are so weak and incompetent not to be able to hold their own in negotiations without a helpful hand from Nu Labour. Well, they will just have to learn.

  • jone

    Igor,

    Surely spasmaloids on the internet write ZaNu Liebour this days?

  • kensei

    I am here, first, pretty much every week and people do not talk to me about the constitution. They talk to me about pensions. They talk to me about tax. They talk about fuel duty. They talk about the social problems, which we’re looking at, which Ian Parsley is doing with his [Breakthrough] Belfast report. That’s what worries people on the ground, not the age old, decade, hammering away about the constitutional question.”

    Then they go and vote on the constitutional issue.

  • Greenflag

    kensei ,

    ‘Then they go and vote on the constitutional issue. ‘

    Again 😉 and again and again etc etc . At least they are consistent whereas the Tories well that’s for another thread .

    Could’nt some ‘Unionist ‘ UUP adviser or minder not tell the member for North Shropshire Mr Paterson that the reason people don’t talk to him about the ‘constitutional issue’ is because Irish people (North and South )do not talk to visitors about the constitutional issue even more so if they’re English . It’s considered ‘rude’.

    Methinks Owen Paterson MP is already showing all the signs of Conservative ‘ignorance ‘ about Ireland that has long been a hall mark of the species . Another Reginald Maudling or any one of a 40 year long parade of poor sods sent to make a silks purse out of a sow’s ear .

    No wonder Lady Sylvia was not in favour of the UCUNF deal . Perhaps at this stage of ‘unionist ‘ senility only a woman’s intuition is all that people can rely on !

    I’m already imagining the post election headlines as the UUP are forced to face up to another poor strategic decision.