“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.”