Bell first DUPer to address Fine Gael ArdFheis…

Interessant follow up to Peter Robinson’s Dublin speech… Jonathan Bell addressed the Fine Gael ArdFheis:

“I am delighted to be the first DUP representative to attend a Fine Gael conference. This demonstrates the changed times in which we live and also the confidence there is within unionism. No longer under threat, we are confident in our position.

The fact that Fine Gael is hosting this discussion on closer cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland demonstrates how the relationship within the British Isles is developing and normalising.

Ireland accounts for 5% of United Kingdom’s total exports. We export more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China put together. In Northern Ireland, two fifths of our exports go to the Republic of Ireland. These few facts demonstrate that it is not in the interests of the United Kingdom for the RoI economy to collapse. It was would be devastating for British business.

Whilst over the last century the relationship between the Republic and the United Kingdom has been strained because of the PIRA terrorism, in recent years there has been a healing in that relationship. The removal of the Republic’s territorial claim over Northern Ireland has been integral to the changed relationship.

Although we will not always agree on issues, we should agree that it is mutually beneficial for the countries within the British Isles to work together.

In world terms our individual and even combined economies are small fish in the global pool. Therefore, for us to maximise our punch, working together makes sense. We must remember that the integration of the British and Irish economies is demonstrated by our trade levels, levels which exceed our combined trade with the BRIC countries. This integration was recognised in crisis with the bi-lateral loan to the Republic of Ireland. Co-operation and collaboration is not new.

At a time when jobs are premium, our focus must be on forging relationships, which can help our economy. An example is our salmon market. If every salmon caught within the British Isles was to be sold into China we still wouldn’t be able to satisfy the demand. Whilst fishermen in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are competitors, when the global marketplace is considered, there is room for cooperation.

The scale of the new markets we are seeking to win business from has to be appreciated. The new and emerging markets, especially in the Far East, have literally billions of new consumers within them and are worth hundreds of billions of pounds or euros. There is plenty of opportunity for all.

As we embark on this common project let the wise words of Her Majesty the Queen be in our thoughts:

“Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.”

Let us demonstrate what partnership can deliver.”

  • London_Irish

    A fairly mature speech from Jonathan Bell. The opening section about how secure unionists feel is to be expected by the governing unionist party of the day when in such company, and it probably comes as a relief to your average Blueshirt. I do like talk of ‘cooperation’, because whoever talks about it, only wants it to be one-way!

    I do find the sections about the southern Irish economy a tad patronising however – if the wee province actually paid its own way within the Union it might be slightly more tolerable!

    I await Jim Allister’s press release castigating the DUP for cosying up to the southern parties. I suspect he will have a swipe at FG for their role in the AIA or leaving the Commonwealth.

  • RyanAdams

    Smart move. I sense this will not be lost on the liberals in South & East Belfast, and may also appeal to more conservative Catholics. Not to the extent they might vote DUP, but might not come out purposely to stop the DUP being elected in future.

  • lamhdearg2

    I found parts of the speech patronising (i am no irish nat) i would think some irish nat will have found it as annoying as a tuv type would find a s.f. speech, he seems to have went out of his way to get the digs in while seeming not to be.

  • London_Irish


    perhaps the tone of the speech reflects the DUP’s choice of representative to send in the first place…

  • andnowwhat

    Just watching Homeland.

    Does Bell need to be screened on his return?

  • Republic of Connaught

    Indeed, Lamgdearg.

    Ah but he was there all the same. And actions speak louder than words.

  • JR

    I suppose the content of the speech reflect his view of Irish history and view on Ireland’s future. Views shared by a significant ammount of the people on the Island; one sided and selective though they may be. Those are the views he is there to share.

  • antamadan

    He could have mentioned ‘British Isles’ a few more times, to really insult most of his audience

  • BluesJazz

    It’s the ‘British Isles’ on all geology maps, and most geographic ones.

    just the facts….

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    It’s also a fact that it is the United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland but sensible people aren’t childish and make an issue out of that. Antamadan is right – Bell couldn’t resist a few digs at Ireland in the guise of outreach.

    I like the way relations have been strained purely because of PIRA terrorism – so 50 odd years of Unionist misrule, widespread discrimination and so-called “loyalist” terrorism had nothing to do with it then.

    I also agree with London_Irish – as an Economics graduate. I could write a thesis on the greed and stupidity that has reduced the Irish economy to its knees. However, I’m not too interested in being lectured by someone from the North. The UK economy would be a lot better off if it didn’t have to continually bail out the “wee pravince”.

    I guess that this is a step forward however I don’t think Bell was the best choice for the DUP. Trying to blame the IRA (and by extension Irish nationalists) for everything, making thinly veiled attacks on the Irish economy and trying to act as if the North was some sort of economic success story (instead of relying on British govt subsidies) was childish and painfully transparent.

    I welcome the progression of the DUP in recent months. However, they are a long way off attracting any Catholic votes and I don’t think putting people like Bell up as a spokesperson will advance that cause by one iota.

  • Reader

    MondDeWallyDeHonk: It’s also a fact that it is the United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland but sensible people aren’t childish and make an issue out of that. Antamadan is right – Bell couldn’t resist a few digs at Ireland in the guise of outreach.
    So, we’ll know that real outreach is actually happening when Unionists *don’t* use the term British Isles when addressing Nationalists, and when Nationalists *do* use the term British Isles when addressing Unionists.
    I’m not going to hold my breath. And I think taking offence is more of an issue than giving offence in this case. Although I don’t know for sure that the conference attendees were as upset as you and antamadan.

  • SK

    There may have been a couple of mischeivous moments in the speech that were indeed calculated to be a wee bit..abrasive, but so what?

    The main thing he is he actually showed up.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Not exactly the way to make friends and influence people was it? It’s not as if a FG ard fheis is the most hostile environment for a Unionist. I think we should be past the stage when people get plaudits for showing up There was more than a touch of rubbing peoples noses in it.

    Think someone from the Republic generously sprinkling an address to a Unionist audience with references to the six counties. Add to that some (misplaced) arrogance and a highly selective view of British-Irish relations and you get the picture.

  • SK

    Mr Bell is no statesman, that is for sure.

    But the fact that a unionist hardliner can come to a southern conference and limit his rhetoric to a few subtle little barbs suggests a step in the right direction at least.

  • Eglise en bois

    Mr bell, the man who refused to support an SDLP mayor for craigavon – because?I think it was because she was a nat – and now he’s become the darling of the Michael Collins’ party and Eoin O’Duffy’s! Its been a “Long March” from those heady days to where he is now, but simple proof “the worm has totally turned”!

  • We’ve come a long long way from throwing snowballs. It can only be a good thing.