Text of John McCallister’s speech to Sinn Fein

Mick has John McCallister’s speech to the Sinn Fein meeting in Newry on video below. I thought it might be worth reproducing the text as well. Willie Frazer is one of the few unionists to criticise the speech saying “We have nothing to apologise for”

McCallister’s apology was for the failures of the old Stormont regime to live up to Carson’s injunction:

We used to say that we could not trust an Irish parliament in Dublin to do justice to the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that reproach can no longer be made against your parliament, and from the outset let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority.

McCallister’s challenge to republicans was in stark contrast to David Latimer’s “challenge.” From McAllister’s speech:

As an organisation, the Provisional IRA systematically murdered thousands of innocent – men, women, children; both Protestant and Catholic.
The events between 1969 and the mid 1990s are a tragic stain on the history of Northern Ireland.
The tragedies of the past have left a profound and appalling legacy of human suffering to which there has sadly been no remorse shown.

Building a shared future in Northern Ireland and reconciliation across the Island will require Republicans to confront and recognise this …
Confront and recognise that for Unionists the IRA campaign of violence was inherently sectarian.
That it was never legitimate to murder other people on this Island who disagreed with Republican ideology.
And that, whatever the perceived injustices, for Unionists and for many Nationalists, the IRA’s campaign of terror – like the terrorism of all paramilitary organisations – was entirely without moral justification.

Anyhow the whole speech is below:

1. Democratic politics
 
My grasp of the Irish language does not allow me to begin in the same way Her Majesty commenced her speech at the state banquet in the Dublin Castle – but I do want to begin by thanking the organisers for extending the invitation to me as a committed Ulster Unionist to speak at today’s event. 
 
This, after all, is what democratic politics is about … debate between political opponents.
Debate free from coercion, free from the threat of violence, free from the spectre of terrorism.
So I welcome the progress that has brought Sinn Fein to this point.
The point of democratic debate, of course, is that it is between political opponents.
I stand here as a Unionist, committed to maintaining and promoting the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I stand here committed to a centre-right vision of our society and economy.
I stand here as a Northern Irish person who is proud of his identity and allegiance as a British citizen. 
We can all be certain, then, that it will be a real debate this evening.
I want to take a few moments to share with you why I am passionately convinced that Sinn Fein’s goal of unification is not in the economic interests of Northern Ireland … or, indeed, of the Republic of Ireland.
And I want to share with you my vision as a Unionist of an Island at ease with itself …
At ease with its diverse constitutional allegiances and arrangements …
An Island which benefits from the reality of a shared Northern Ireland …
Contributing to a prosperous future for both parts of this Island.

2. Not by bread alone

But first, let’s remind ourselves that societies are not defined solely by economics …
Societies do not live by bread alone.
Identity, CULTURE, allegiance and our past significantly define who we are.
In other words, economics alone neither explain the identity and allegiance of Unionists …
Nor could economics alone ever conceivably persuade Unionists to give their support to unification.
I think there are two profound challenges here for Republicanism.
The first is the fact that Unionists are not labouring under some type of false consciousness when we say we are British …
It is not the case of getting the Brits out and then – miraculously – Unionists will discover themselves to be Irish Republicans.
The Brits are people like me and those who have voted for me and for a majority of representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
We are British.
This is our identity and our allegiance.
I have to say that Republican discourse and thinking does not appear to recognise – this reality.
The second challenge for Republicanism is ‘The Past’ – the decades between 1969 and 1998.
I know that Unionism has hard questions to ask of itself.
One of the founding fathers of my party said this in 1921:
We used to say that we could not trust an Irish parliament in Dublin to do justice to the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that reproach can no longer be made against your parliament, and from the outset let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority.
Unionism fell short of Carson’s words.
That is a part of our heritage that we have to confront and recognise.
It’s not easy and it certainly isn’t without political risk.
But to build reconciliation in Northern Ireland and throughout the Island, it needs to be done.
Republicans too have hard and painful questions to ask themselves.
The 1916 Declaration talked of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” …
Republican actions between 1969 and 1998 told a brutally and bloodily different story.
 As an organisation, the Provisional IRA systematically murdered thousands of innocent – men, women, children; both Protestant and Catholic.
The events between 1969 and the mid 1990s are a tragic stain on the history of Northern Ireland.
The tragedies of the past have left a profound and appalling legacy of human suffering to which there has sadly been no remorse shown.
 
Building a shared future in Northern Ireland and reconciliation across the Island will require Republicans to confront and recognise this …
Confront and recognise that for Unionists the IRA campaign of violence was inherently sectarian.
That it was never  legitimate to murder other people on this Island who disagreed with Republican ideology.
And that, whatever the perceived injustices, for Unionists and for many Nationalists, the IRA’s  campaign of terror – like the terrorism of all paramilitary organisations – was entirely without moral justification.
Yes, like the difficult questions those of who are Unionists have to ask ourselves, I realise that this will be painful and risky work for Republicans.
But reconciliation within Northern Ireland and across the Island requires it.
 
3. Prosperity with a  purpose
 
Economics alone do not define a society …
But nor can any society flourish without a prospering economy.
This is true for all of us in these Islands …
In Belfast and Dublin, Cork and London, Limerick and Edinburgh, Galway and Cardiff.
The common good requires the jobs, opportunities, innovation and investment of dynamic economies.
Now, the present moment – one would think – certainly presents a significant challenge to those advocating the economic benefits of Irish unity.
To state the obvious, those of you advocating the economic benefits of unification will have – how can I put this charitably? – a very difficult time convincing even the most moderate, politically disengaged Unionist.
Nor can the present economic woes of the Republic be blamed on partition.
If we are to have a serious debate on the economics of this Island, we simply have to move on beyond such tired old rhetoric.
Amidst the most challenging global economic conditions since the 1930s …
In a Europe in which the fiscal policies of a range of Member-States have been exposed as dramatically flawed …
Blaming the Republic’s economic woes on partition is not serious politics and it certainly isn’t serious economics.
But a constructive Unionism will want to do more than state the glaringly obvious.
A constructive Unionism will also recognise that it is in all our interests to see the economies of both Northern Ireland and the Republic flourish and prosper.
In the past – and sometimes in the not too distant past – Belfast and Dublin, Unionist and Nationalist, engaged in a form of economic warfare.
We talked-down each other’s economies … we gloated at economic bad news in the other jurisdiction.
We sometimes even used phrases like ‘economic basket-case’.
It was the economics of the playground.
On this Island and – importantly – on these Islands, we sink or swim together in the global economy.
We prosper and flourish together because we provide markets for one another’s goods and services.
That is why the Government of the United Kingdom rightly contributed £7 billion to the bail-out of the Republic’s economy.
As Chancellor George Osborne stated, the Republic of Ireland “is our very closest economic neighbour”.
It is also why it is frankly incredible that Sinn Fein’s recent document “Uniting Ireland – The Only Way Forward” does not mention that Britain is Ireland’s largest export market …
And that Ireland is the UK’s 5th largest export market.
The economic destiny of these Islands points not to an isolationist, ‘ourselves alone’ ideology …
But to partnership and interdependence.
For Unionists, that partnership and interdependence is the foundation of the Union.
And it is as close economic neighbours – whose economic well-being is mutually dependent – that London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin need to be co-operating.
Building economic prosperity across these Islands, then, is in the interests of all of us.
It is prosperity with a purpose …
Prosperity which nurtures the relationships – historic and new – between the regions and countries of these Islands.
 
4. A shared Northern Ireland
 
So what is the role of Sinn Fein in contributing to such an economic future?
Well, to begin with, it cannot be about shouting ‘partition! partition!’ every time the economy is debated.
We all know that economic prosperity requires political stability.
For us in Northern Ireland, political stability is not just about the power-sharing institutions.
Political institutions cannot indefinitely sit alongside a society divided.
A divided society, in which hatreds and myths go unchallenged, will inevitably result in political instability.
And political instability imperils economic prosperity.
Political stability and economic prosperity require a shared Northern Ireland.
And there is the challenge I as a Unionist bring to Sinn Fein.
Talk of uniting this Island is, frankly, a political fiction if there is not a shared Northern Ireland.
A shared Northern Ireland means welcoming Her Majesty the Queen in Dublin … and in Belfast.
A shared Northern Ireland means political parties confronting a divisive past not with old rhetoric but with a new honesty.
A shared Northern Ireland means working in partnership across these Islands to build economic prosperity for all of us – not using economic policy as a clumsy means to pursue a constitutional agenda.


5. Constitutional pluralism in an Island at peace with itself

A prosperous economic future for this Island, then, does not require the one-size-fits-all constitutional arrangement proposed by Republicanism.
It self-evidently does not require Irish unity.
The constitutional pluralism of devolved institutions at Stormont, within a United Kingdom in which devolution is now part of the settled constitutional framework, working in partnership with the Dublin administration …
This offers a more realistic and a more flexible context for fostering economic prosperity across this Island and these Islands.
It reflects the political and economic realities that we must face …
It offers the best means of respecting the rich and diverse relationships this part of the Island of Ireland has had with our neighbours to the South and to the East …
And it holds out the hope of an Island at peace with itself, in which our diverse traditions and allegiances find authentic expression.
It is within such a political framework that we in a shared Northern Ireland can work with our neighbours to the East and the South to build economic prosperity for all of us.

 

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.