Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Wednesday 1 July 1998


Assembly: Preliminary Matters

Assembly: Roll of Members

Assembly: Presiding Officer and Deputy

First Minister (Designate) and Deputy

Assembly: Committee on Standing Orders

Assembly Members’ Names

First Minister (Designate) and Deputy: Proposals

Assembly: Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer

Orange Institution Parade (Drumcree)

The Assembly met at 2.00 pm (The Initial Presiding Officer (The Lord Alderdice of Knock) in the Chair).

The sitting was called to order at 2.06 pm.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Welcome to the first meeting of the New Northern Ireland Assembly.

Assembly: Preliminary Matters


The Initial Presiding Officer:

I will begin the proceedings by drawing attention to a number of formal statements.

First, in respect of my own position, I received from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a letter of appointment dated 29 June. The relevant paragraph reads as follows:

"In accordance with paragraph 3(1) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998, I hereby appoint you as the Initial Presiding Officer for the New Northern Ireland Assembly."

The letter also contains formal notification of the time and place of the first meeting of the Assembly. The relevant paragraph reads as follows:

"By virtue of paragraph 1 of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 it falls to me to decide where meetings of the Assembly shall be held, and when. I hereby direct that the first meeting of the Assembly shall take place in Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont, commencing at 2.00 pm on Wednesday 1 July."

I will arrange for the full text of that letter to be printed in the Official Report.

Following is the letter:

"In accordance with paragraph 3(1) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998, I hereby appoint you as the Initial Presiding Officer for the New Northern Ireland Assembly. Further details of the terms of your appointment will follow shortly.

An early substantive task for the Assembly will be to consider any proposals there may be to elect an Initial Presiding Officer and a Deputy Initial Presiding Officer, on a cross-community basis. You would of course be eligible to be nominated as a candidate for election to the post of Initial Presiding Officer. If no proposal is made or no election is successful, you would of course remain in post.

Time and place of Assembly meetings

By virtue of paragraph 1 of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 it falls to me to decide where meetings of the Assembly shall be held, and when. I hereby direct that the first meeting of the Assembly shall take place in Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont, commencing at 2.00 pm on Wednesday 1 July.

Should there be business for the Assembly to conduct on Thursday 2 July, I would be content to direct that a meeting be held on that day at the same place. Thereafter, while facilities for Members, Committees and office-holders will continue to be available, initially at Castle Buildings and then at Parliament Buildings throughout the summer, I presume there will be an interval of some weeks before the next meeting of the Assembly. I will need to write to you formally about that in due course but I hope that before then Paul Murphy or I can have a discussion with you about how my duty to direct the times and places of the Assembly’s meetings can be discharged in a way which gives the Assembly reasonable flexibility and an opportunity to influence the pattern and frequency of its own meetings.

Standing Orders

In accordance with paragraph 10(1) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998, I am responsible for determining the Standing Orders for the Assembly and I hereby notify the enclosed Standing Orders to you. They have been drawn up following consultation with the political parties and I trust that they provide a basis for the efficient conduct of the Assembly’s initial business. You will see that Annex A to the Standing Orders sets out the agenda for the Assembly’s first meeting.

Clearly, more developed Standing Orders will need to be drawn up to enable the Assembly to proceed, for example, to the appointment — by the D’Hondt procedure — of a Shadow Executive Committee and the establishment of related Assembly Committees; and I intend to determine such Standing Orders as soon as possible. In drawing these up I would value the views of members of the Assembly and I trust that arrangements can be made to enable the Government to consult a relevant Committee of the Assembly or to secure the views of the Assembly in other appropriate ways.

The work of the new Assembly in both its ‘shadow’ and substantive phases will be challenging and I hope rewarding, not only for all its members but for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. The role of the Initial Presiding Officer will be extremely important in all of this.

I wish you every success as the Initial Presiding Officer for the New Northern Ireland Assembly. Paul Murphy or I would welcome an opportunity to meet you before the Assembly’s first meeting to discuss any issues you would like to raise with us."

I should also at this point draw attention to the statutory remit of this Assembly, which is set out in section 1(1) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998:

"There shall be an Assembly called the New Northern Ireland Assembly, for the purpose of taking part in preparations to give effect to the Agreement reached at the multi-party Talks on Northern Ireland set out in Command Paper 3883."

I have also received from the Secretary of State a letter, dated 29 June, formally referring a range of specific matters to the Assembly for its consideration. Copies of that letter have been distributed to all Members, and I shall arrange for the full text to be printed with the record of these proceedings.

Following is the letter:

"The New Northern Ireland Assembly has been established, in the words of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998, ‘for the purpose of taking part in preparations to give effect to the Agreement reached in the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland set out in Command Paper 3883’. This reflects paragraph 35, page 9 of the Agreement which states that ‘The Assembly will meet first for the purpose of organisation, without legislative or executive powers, to resolve its Standing Orders and working practices and make preparations for the effective functioning of the Assembly, the British/Irish Council and North/South Ministerial Council and associated implementation bodies’.

By virtue of Section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 I may ‘refer’ to the Assembly

  • specific matters arising from the Belfast Agreement, and
  • such other matters as I think fit.

During its ‘shadow’ phase the Assembly and those holding office in the Assembly will have a very important role to play in preparing to implement the various provisions of the Belfast Agreement. In that context there are a number of specific matters arising from the Agreement which I hereby refer to the Assembly.

First, the implementation of the Agreement requires the Assembly to organise itself and put in place the basic structures of the Assembly, as set out in the Agreement, through

  • the election of a First Minister-designate and Deputy First Minister-designate, which I trust the Assembly will achieve at its first meeting
  • reaching agreement on the number of Ministerial posts and the distribution of executive responsibilities between those posts. This may be primarily a matter for the First Minister-designate and Deputy First Minister-designate, in consultation with the other parties in the Assembly; but will ultimately need to be notified to the Assembly
  • securing the nomination of shadow Ministers to those Ministerial posts, through the operation of the D’Hondt procedure
  • establishing related Committees, nominating Chairs and Deputy Chairs to those Committees — again through the operation of the D’Hondt procedure — and appointing members to those Committees on a broadly proportional basis

Second, other preparations to implement the Agreement include those required to establish the British/Irish Council and North/South Council and associated implementation bodies. This will require action from the Assembly or members holding office in the Assembly, including:

  • participation by representatives of the Northern Ireland transitional (or shadow) administration in inaugural meetings of the shadow British-Irish Council and the shadow North/South Ministerial Council and in regular and frequent meetings of those bodies
  • working with the Irish Government in the shadow North/South Ministerial Council, in consultation with HMG, to complete a work programme on the lines set out in paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Agreement, with a view to identifying and agreeing areas for co-operation and agreed implementation arrangements by 31 October 1998.

Third, the Assembly will need to ‘resolve’ its Standing Orders and working practices, to apply after powers have been transferred. Agreement on Standing Orders will of course require cross-community support in the Assembly.

Fourth, there is the question of establishing the ‘consultative Civic Forum’, as set out in paragraph 34 ... of the Agreement. This specifies that ‘the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will by agreement provide administrative support for the Civic Forum and establish guidelines for the selection of representatives to the Civic Forum’. During the Assembly’s shadow phase I am anxious to consult the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (and the Assembly more widely) so that arrangements can be put in hand to secure the earliest appropriate establishment of the Civic Forum.

In referring these four matters to the Assembly under Section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998, I reserve the right to refer these or other related matters to the Assembly in different or more detailed terms; and to refer a range of other matters, whether or not they arise specifically from the Agreement reached in the multi-party talks."

Further, I have received from the Secretary of State today a letter dated 1 July, which reads as follows:

"Further to my letter to you of 29 June, and the initial Standing Orders for the New Northern Ireland Assembly, I am writing to notify you that I have determined that the initial agenda should be extended to enable a time-limited adjournment debate, once all the other business on the initial agenda has been completed."

The purpose of that debate is to enable discussion on matters of current difficulty and importance in Northern Ireland. That will be the time when those matters may be raised. The Secretary of State has indicated that it is a time-limited debate, and I believe that all parties should have an opportunity to speak. I therefore propose to allow each party Leader, or his or her nominee, in order of party size, to speak for up to 10 minutes.

I mentioned to the party Whips yesterday that I, for so long as I am in the Chair, will have no objection to the use of Irish or any other language. However, we have no simultaneous translation facilities at present, so it would be appropriate if, out of courtesy, Members were to offer their own translation. Speeches will be reported in the language spoken. There will be no translation other than that which is offered by the Member. That applies to any alternative language, though Irish is, I expect, the one most likely to be used.

The Standing Orders provide that no mobile phones, tape recorders, brief-cases or large bags may be brought into the Chamber, including the Strangers’ Gallery. At this sitting Members may carry pagers so long as they are on vibration mode.

Finally, I propose to have a suspension of about 15 minutes after the signing of the Roll so that I can ensure that each Member has taken his or her seat in accordance with the Standing Orders.

I now invite Members to formally take their seats — in other words, to sign the Roll.

Mr P Robinson:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. You have indicated that there will be an Adjournment debate on important and significant matters and that the party Leaders or their nominees will be given 10 minutes to speak. Will the three individuals on the Unionist side be entitled to 10 minutes each?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have received no approaches on that matter, but if I am still in a position to do so I shall consider any proposal as constructively as I can.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Further to that point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. I take it that in future the three individuals will be informed. My information is that they have been told about nothing. Independent members of other bodies receive the same information as everyone else. The fact that people here are Independents does not mean that they should not be properly briefed.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

How independent Members choose to conduct themselves is a business matter, and there are various models. However, perhaps it is a little early for us to be dealing with this question.

Assembly: Roll of Members


2.15 pm

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I now invite Members to take their seats by signing the Roll of Membership. This may be a time-consuming procedure, but it is important for practical reasons.

To avoid any confusion I shall ask the party groups, in alphabetical order, to come forward and sign one of the two registers, after which there will be a short suspension so that I may verify the designation — Unionist, Nationalist or Other — of each Member. I expect that it will take about 30 minutes to complete the process. Members may leave the Chamber during that time.

The following Members signed the Roll: Eileen Bell, Seamus Close, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Sean Neeson, Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice, David Ervine, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Adams, Bairbre de Brún, Michelle Gildernew, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Alex Maskey, Barry McElduff, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Pat McNamee, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Mary Nelis, Dara O’Hagan, Alex Attwood, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Hume, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, Brid Rodgers, John Tierney, Paul Berry, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Gardiner Kane, William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Ian R K Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Jim Shannon, Jim Wells, Sammy Wilson, Norman Boyd, Roger Hutchinson, Robert McCartney, Patrick Roche, Cedric Wilson, Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, John Taylor, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson, Boyd Douglas, Denis Watson, Lord Alderdice.

The sitting was suspended at 3.01 pm and resumed at 3.30 pm.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

All the names and designations on the Roll of Membership have been checked, and some changes have been made. I am satisfied that those Members who have signed the Roll may be regarded as having taken their seats, their designations being now clear.

Mr P Robinson:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Those whose designations were not clear included the two representatives of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. They seemed to be in some sort of political drag as "other Unionist/Nationalist". If they have now satisfied you with regard to their designation, can you satisfy us by telling us what that designation is?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

They have changed their designation to "Inclusive other", the words "Unionist" and "Nationalist" having been deleted.

Mr C Wilson:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. It is quite clear from initial Standing Order 3(1) that Members should designate their identity as "Nationalist", "Unionist" or "Other". I understand that the two Women’s Coalition Members have breached that. Indeed, I understand from an interview on television that the Alliance Party Members have described themselves as "Centre". Surely those who claim to have assisted in putting together these Standing Orders and this Agreement should abide by the rules and stop playing games with this Assembly.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I want to put another relevant point of order to you, Sir, so that you can answer both at once. How will you designate such Members for voting purposes? This has to do with consensus voting.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have taken legal advice on a number of issues, including this one because the designations must be very clear and I have to be satisfied about them. The precise wording can be flexible, but the designation must be absolutely clear. The officials and I have checked through this, and with regard to the Women’s Coalition and the Alliance Party I am very clear that the only possible interpretation of their designation is "Other". I can go through the designations of other Members if the Assembly wishes, but they are clear to me.

I remind Members that it is possible, with seven days’ written notice, to change designation. That would be entirely proper; whether it would be politically advantageous is another matter and not for me to say.

Voting sheets for today have been made out, and the designations are clear. No change is possible within the next seven days. This is very relevant in view of the possibility of a number of votes.

 Presiding Officer and Deputy


The Initial Presiding Officer:

The next item on the Order Paper is the election of a Presiding Officer. Are there any proposals?

There being no proposals, and the time for proposals having expired, I shall remain in office in accordance with Standing Order 13(5).

The next item on the Order Paper is the election of a Deputy Initial Presiding Officer.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I mentioned to you, Sir, that I wanted to raise a matter, and you said that I could not do so until that item of business had been disposed of. There is a shadow hanging over the province with regard to the Drumcree parade, and the Assembly should have an opportunity to discuss the matter. May I take it that each party Leader will have 10 minutes on the Adjournment? And will the Independents have an opportunity to take part?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

In the Adjournment debate Members will be free to raise any issue that they choose, though I imagine that many may wish to talk about the matter to which you refer. I have decided that each of the parties will have 10 minutes during which one person may speak. That may be the Leader or the nominee of the Leader.

I have received other requests that one of the three independent Unionist Members be allowed to speak. Since Mr Watson comes from the area where this matter is at its height, it seems to me not unreasonable that he be given a chance to address the Assembly. He, like other Members, would have 10 minutes.

Of course, no pressure will be put on anyone.

Mr Maskey:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Can you explain the basis on which you will allow one of the individual Members to speak? You may have a great interest in what he has to say, but he does not constitute a party, and there are other Members from Upper Bann. How do you propose to cater for them?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

That is a difficult issue. The Standing Orders were intended to deal only with the first meeting and largely with formal business. This obviously goes beyond formal business. If I call only people nominated by parties, three elected representatives here will have no opportunity to speak, no matter how relevant their ideas. Of course, other representatives from the vicinity will have an opportunity to speak as the nominees of their party Leaders.

This is not an entirely satisfactory ruling, but it is the best I can do for the moment. Perhaps a Standing Orders Committee could draw up more detailed rules to cover such an eventuality.

I want to make it clear that my giving a representative of the three independent Members this opportunity to speak does not mean that I am recognising them as a party or as an official group. To do so would confer upon them other privileges and possibly responsibilities or disadvantages. No precedent is being set; I am simply responding to a difficult situation, using the limited guidance in the Initial Standing Orders.

Returning to the matter of the election of a Deputy Initial Presiding Officer, may I ask if there are any proposals?

There are no proposals, and the time has expired.

First Minister (Designate) and Deputy


The Initial Presiding Officer:

With regard to the election of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), are there any proposals?

Mr Taylor:

I beg to move

That The Rt Hon David Trimble MP be First Minister (Designate) and Mr Seamus Mallon MP be Deputy First Minister (Designate).

I am conscious of the position in which we find ourselves as I served in the Northern Ireland Parliament, in the first Assembly, in the Constitutional Convention and in the second Assembly. For me what is called the New Assembly it is the third Assembly. This is an opportunity for all traditions — all sections of the community — to co-operate, to bring Northern Ireland out of the morass that it has been in for the past 30 years, so that we may have a future in which the Province can hold its head high, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Europe and the United States of America.

I am proposing two men who have shown vision and leadership in their political parties. First, there is Mr Trimble, with whom I have co-operated both at university and in Parliament. It is he who has shown the leadership and vision needed in the Ulster Unionist Party in the last few years to bring us to the stage we are at today. Secondly, there is Mr Mallon. Whether I like it or not, he is my Member of Parliament. He is the Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party, and I have worked with him for many years. Although we disagree strongly on political objectives, I have always found him to be a good friend — one who, I believe, will work for the good of Northern Ireland.

There are many problems facing us — for instance, the economy, including the need for new industry; infrastructure; and funding of hospitals and schools. We need men who will work for Northern Ireland and will help us to hold our heads high abroad.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Is there a Member to second the motion?

Mr Hume:

I would like very much to second the motion made by Mr Taylor.

The proposal symbolises the fundamental objective of this institution, which is to have the representatives of both sections of the community working together in the best interests of all. I look forward to seeing that transforming our relationships.

3.45 pm

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I call on the Rt Hon David Trimble, the nominee for First Minister of this Assembly, to make a statement indicating his acceptance of the nomination.

Mr Trimble:

I accept.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I call on Mr Seamus Mallon, the nominee for Deputy First Minister of this Assembly, to make a statement indicating that the nomination is accepted.

Mr Mallon:

I accept.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Are there any further proposals?

Mr Adams:

I wish to speak.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

And I wish to speak.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Are there any further proposals?

The time for proposals has expired, and two Members have indicated that they wish to speak. Anyone else who wants to take part should indicate his or her intention clearly.

The first Member on my list is Mr Adams.

Mr Adams:

First of all, let me say that I am very pleased to be here and to see so many other people with us. I mo theanga féin, caithfidh mé a rá gur lá stairiúil an lá seo, agus le cuidiú Dé beidh muid, agus tá muid, i mo bharúil féin, ag cur ár n-aidhm stairiúil ar aghaidh. As seo amach, is féidir linn — [Interruption]

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Let us have order for the Member speaking.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

If we could understand him we might give him order.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

May I have order and due respect in the Chamber, please.

Mr Adams:

Agus as seo amach, agus b’fhéidir má éisteann an Dochtúir Paisley liom, beidh a fhios aige faoinár dteanga féin, agus b’fhéidir go gcuirfidh duine éigin "manners" ar an fhear udaí. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

The Sinn Féin Ard-Chomhairle met yesterday. We reiterated our support for the Agreement and, in particular because of today’s business, for the entitlement of the largest party to the position of First Minister and of the second-largest party to the position of Deputy First Minister. Indeed, we think it might be useful — though this would have to be on a voluntary basis — for the posts to rotate because the difference between the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionist party, in terms of numbers of Assembly Members, is so narrow.

I want to say a particular word of commendation to Mr Hume, the Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Everyone who contested the election deserves to be commended, but it was a special election for Nationalism, and people will take much of succour from the fact that a Nationalist is taking up the position of Deputy First Minister. I wish Mr Mallon well. I have no doubt that he will uphold the entitlements of everyone here, just as I am upholding the entitlements of the Ulster Unionist Party even though its members have yet to uphold the entitlements of the people I represent and others throughout this statelet.

I hope that we are entering a new era. Yesterday the Ard-Chomhairle delegated to the Sinn Fein Assembly team the right to work out tactically how to proceed. We have held discussions among ourselves and have taken some soundings. Bearing in mind remarks made in the past and trying to be far-sighted about what is happening within Unionism, we consider that we might not be doing Mr Trimble any favour by voting for him. Other Unionists would be only too pleased to beat him up. We reiterate our firm support for the Ulster Unionist Party’s entitlement in the hope that we will also be upholding our own entitlement. We will abstain when the vote is taken.

Sin é, sin mo mhéid, mar a dúirt mé ar dtús, tá mé go han-sásta a bheith libhse, there is a lot of work to be done.

We must see change. There is a whole agenda of change, to be achieved not just through this institution but also through the cross-border and other bodies. One thinks in particular of the equality agenda and other areas where progress is needed.

We meet here on our own terms — Unionists, from whichever party, and Republicans alike. It is only by meeting like this that we can work out a shared future for all the people of this island. If the adults in the Chamber could stop thinking about themselves and their particular party niches and start thinking about our children and the new millennium and about the five million people on an island as small as this one, surely we could shape a future that we could all be proud of and have ownership of.

I wish everyone well. In particular, I wish the two nominees well in their new posts.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Today we are being asked to approve the appointment of two people. Unionists know where Mr Mallon stands and how he intends to carry out his policies. The other person is not the nominee of Unionists; he is the nominee of the Ulster Unionist Party, as it now calls itself, which does not represent a majority in the Assembly, as is quite clear from the Benches that are not occupied by Ulster Unionist Members. Mr Adams will not vote for Mr Mallon or Mr Trimble, but before the world he congratulated Mr Mallon on his nomination.

On behalf of the Unionist people whom I represent I, along with others in the Chamber of like mind and the Independents, must put a question to the nominee for First Minister. It is about his policy on decommissioning. In this Chamber during the first part of the talks he told us that he would take a very firm stand on decommissioning. In fact, in one issue of the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ he was reported as having said that he would bring the talks down if decommissioning did not take place. That did not happen, and now we have the situation we are in today.

In an answer to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons the Prime Minister stated that no terrorist or anyone fronting a terrorist movement or purporting to speak on behalf of terrorists could enter a new Government of Northern Ireland. The House of Commons Hansard was changed, though we have been told by the Editor of Debates there that the meaning is the same. The answer that the Prime Minister gave was

"Yes, there cannot be those who do not decommission their weapons in any future Government of Northern Ireland."

And he added

"there must be substantial decommissioning."

Mr Mallon, with whom I sit in the House of Commons, made it clear recently that that is not going to happen, so we know exactly where he stands.

I have read carefully the manifesto of the right hon Gentleman’s party. It hints — indeed, many have said that it states — that he will not sit in any Cabinet with those who are in the league picked out by the Prime Minister, that there must first be substantial decommissioning.

What is the right hon Gentleman’s policy on that issue? If he cannot tell us, all those Members who told people on the doorsteps that they would not sit down with Sinn Fein/IRA or anyone else until there had been substantial decommissioning will have to search their consciences as they vote today. We on these Benches would be failing in our duty if we did not make this matter crystal clear. Where does the proposed First Minister stand on this very important issue?

Mr Adams talked of people. I am thinking today of the people who were murdered by his cohorts, the families that were smashed, the people who were rent by sorrow, the people turned into vegetables by IRA violence. They deserve an answer from the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. What is his real policy on this matter?

It has been said that when he becomes First Minister he will talk to everybody because his position will be like that of the Prime Minister. Will those who vote for him today be enabling him to do what he said he would never do? These are the issues that Members must bear in mind as they cast their votes. Unfortunately the system does not allow us to vote for the nominees separately. The system was carefully worked out by those who have devised every aspect of this very peculiar set-up.

A member of the Progressive Unionist Party castigated me, saying that I had broken my word by coming here today. I want to nail that falsehood. I always said that I would not sit down in the talks if Sinn Fein joined them without decommissioning, and I kept my promise to the electorate. The Unionist people want to know what Mr Trimble’s policy is. He has a duty to tell us, for he is going to be the First Minister of this country. Does he agree with the Prime Minister that Sinn Fein people cannot be in any Government of Northern Ireland until there has been substantial decommissioning?

Mr McCartney:

I am sure everyone here welcomes the ecumenical remarks of the Leader of Sinn Fein about the peaceful future that he envisages the two sides of this community sharing as they march forward, perhaps into the sunset rather than the sunrise.

4.00 pm

What does Mr Adams offer? His party — Sinn Fein — has been described by several Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and a number of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland as being inextricably linked to the Provisional IRA. "Inextricably linked" means that they cannot be separated. If they cannot be separated, what criteria are to be applied to determine whether, in this Assembly, the real intention is to work the democratic process or whether, if the democratic process fails to deliver the political objectives for which they contend, they will go back — as one of their elected Members said — to what they do best?

I welcome what Mr Adams said, and I would be prepared to work and share the responsibility for the future well-being of Northern Ireland if I could believe it — if I had some evidence that it was soundly based, sincerely meant. But he is a member of a party that insists — through its alter ego, the Provisional IRA — that it will retain all its weapons. At the ardfheis which endorsed that party’s acceptance of this Agreement, delegate after delegate stated that it would move forward on the twin tracks of participating in the democratic process and retaining its military capacity. It is no coincidence that many of those who are represented here today as democrats served their apprenticeship in the military wing of that combination.

Mr Farren:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Is Mr McCartney speaking to the matter before the Assembly?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I hesitate to rule robustly on such issues at this juncture, but let me be clear about the time allocated to each Member — 10 minutes.

Mr Adams:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. In the interests of good manners and good relationships —

Several Members:

Stand up.

Mr Adams:

Sorry: I thought I was standing up. I am certainly standing up for the rights of the people who sent me here.

Should not each party be referred to by its given title? I undertake to describe the United Kingdom Unionists as the United Kingdom Unionists, the Democratic Unionist Party as the Democratic Unionist Party, and so on, and my party should be referred to as Sinn Fein.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It is clear that a number of issues relating to Standing Orders will have to be addressed. We need a Committee to decide, for instance, how Members should be described and how they should address each other. It would be invidious for me, as Initial Presiding Officer, to rule on issues which go beyond the current Standing Orders.

Mr Adams:

Fair enough.

Mr McCartney:

With regard to the issues put to the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party by the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, what is the policy of the Ulster Unionists on sitting down with Sinn Fein, which, according to the Prime Minister, is inextricably linked with Provisional IRA, while the Provisional IRA declares that it will retain all its weaponry? All the Members of this Assembly want Mr Trimble to answer that key question — particularly members of his own party. If he shares the views of the Prime Minister can he give an unequivocal assurance to all those within the broader Unionist family that he will not sit down in government with members of a party that is inextricably linked with a listed terrorist organisation which intends to retain all its weaponry?

Those who are to vote on this composite motion are entitled to know what they are voting for. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, through its Leader, Mr Hume, and its Deputy Leader, Mr Mallon, has honourably and honestly made its position clear. For them decommissioning is no longer an issue, and they have no qualms whatever about sitting down in government with the representatives of Sinn Fein.

Every Unionist here is entitled to know the proposed First Minister’s views on that issue, for upon them may well depend how Members vote. But I should make it clear that as this is a composite motion they will in any case be voting for someone, either the First Minister or the Deputy First Minister, who is prepared to sit down and work with the representatives of Sinn Fein while the IRA remains fully armed.

I welcome all the parties that have been democratically elected to the Assembly, and I am willing to work with them for the economic benefit, health and environmental advancement of all citizens. My policy has always been that every citizen in Northern Ireland is entitled to equality of esteem. In every aspect of life, including social and educational opportunity and justice, everyone should be treated fairly. I am willing to work for that, but I am not prepared — nor is my party — to work with those who want to enter the democratic process and at the same time remain inextricably linked to people who have been responsible for more than 2,000 deaths since 1969 and who retain the means to continue with that process.

Every Member, particularly in the Ulster Unionist Party, must search his conscience to determine whether he is prepared to have his Leader sit down with members of Sinn Fein while the IRA remains fully armed and whether he is prepared to vote for Mr Mallon, who has already declared that to be his position. Members have a duty not only to their parties but also to those who elected them and to their consciences. I pray that they will exercise the latter.

Mr Neeson:

May I congratulate David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party and Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party on being nominated for the positions of First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate).

For nearly 30 years my party and I have believed that the real solution to the difficulties that we in Northern Ireland face is the establishment of a power-sharing Assembly, and this is the historic first day of such a body. I am also pleased to see Dr Paisley and his party and Mr McCartney and his party in the Chamber for they are a very important part of the political solution to our problems. I hope that they, along with everyone else here, despite differences on some fundamental issues, will attach the greatest importance to making the Assembly work.

I sincerely hope that what is happening here today is a new dawn for Northern Ireland, a time of change. If the politicians give a lead and earn the respect of everyone, we can take a major step forward.

Ms de Brún:

Ar eagla nach bhfuil an tUasal McCartney soiléir faoin mhéid atá an páirtí s’againne a rá ó thaobh an phoist den Chéad-Aire (Ainmnithe) agus LeasChéad-Aire (Ainmnithe), is léir go bhfuilimid anseo le comhoibriú le hionadaithe na bpáirtithe eile sa Tionól seo inniu. Céim chun tosaigh atá sa chruinniú; tá a lán céimeanna eile le glacadh go fóill. Tá Sinn Féin anseo de thairbhe na ndaoine a vótáil ar ár son sa toghchán agus is amhlaidh an cás do na páirtithe eile.

Is iad an Ulster Unionist Party agus an Social Democratic and Labour Party an dá pháirtí is mó sa Tionól, agus is ceart agus is cóir go mbeidh an seans ag ionadaithe ó pháirtithe s’acu bheith sna poist do Chéad-aire (Ainmnithe) agus don LeasChéad-Aire (Ainmnithe). Tá cearta ag an pháirtí s’againne; tá cearta ag na páirtithe eile. Má théimid uilig ar aghaidh ar an bhonn seo, thig linn an institiúid seo, agus institiúidi eile, a thógáil le chéile, chomh maith le hamchlár le hathrú bunúsach a chur i bhfeidhm.

In case Mr McCartney is not sure about Sinn Fein’s position as regards the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, let me make it very clear that we are here to work with representatives of the other parties. Today’s meeting is a step in the right direction, but we have many more steps to take.

Sinn Fein is here because of the mandate it received, as are the other parties. As the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party are the largest and second-largest groups, in terms of numbers of votes, it is right that they should put forward candidates for these two positions. The Leader of my party has clearly explained our voting intentions.

Sinn Féin, like the other parties, has rights. If we proceed on that basis we can build on this and all the other institutions in accordance with the vital timetable for fundamental change which we all signalled in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr P Robinson:

Ms de Brún has said that she considers today’s proceedings a step in the right direction. I do not think that any Unionist is unclear about the direction in which Sinn Fein/IRA want to take this province. Their attitude has been clear. It can be seen in the tombstones around this Province and in the violence that they have presided over as representatives of armed terror. It is a single-minded goal: to take Northern Ireland out of its rightful place within the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland. They are entitled politically to hold that view, but they are not entitled militarily realise it.

The proposal before the Assembly is a joint one. The two people concerned are expected to work in partnership. It is therefore not good enough simply to put two block votes together and push the proposal through. The Assembly is required to use its judgement to determine whether the nominees are capable of working in harness — pulling together, not against each other. The only way we can determine whether they are capable of that is to look at their policies — what they have said they intend to do. One of their chief jobs will be to formulate the programme for a future Government of Northern Ireland.

The complexion of the Executive is already determined. During the referendum and election campaigns the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom made it clear that those who had not substantially decommissioned their illegal weaponry would be barred from the Executive. He said so in Parliament on 6 May and in Northern Ireland on a number of occasions when he was attempting to increase the size of the "Yes" vote. He said "We cannot have a situation in which people who have not given up the path of violence take office in the Northern Ireland Government."

4.15 pm

On another occasion he indicated

"People need to know that if they are sitting down in the room of an Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly with other people, they are not sitting there with the guns under the table or outside the door. That cannot happen, and we must make that abundantly clear."

That view was enthusiastically echoed by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr Trimble. He is on record as having said that Ulster Unionists could not tolerate the arrival in office of unreconstructed terrorists. More precisely, the Ulster Unionist Party has indicated that it

"will not serve in the Executive Committee with any party which is not genuinely committed to peace."

It says

"Decommissioning alone, of course, is not enough. Paramilitary organisations must stand down their units, and the IRA must indicate that the war is over."

In an interview with the ‘News Letter’ of 9 May Mr Trimble said

"We have the capacity ourselves to exclude Sinn Fein from office if we so wish because we are going to have a majority in the Assembly. That is clearly going to be the case. Why should people worry what an Assembly will do if they are going to have the majority in it? The Agreement itself is absolutely clear that only people who have a genuine commitment to peaceful means in a democratic process can accept office. Those words were fudged in the past, but they were fudged by Governments. It is not going to be a question for the Government in the future; it is going to be a question for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives."

As he has said that he does not like fudge, we will be looking for the clearest possible statement indicating whether he is prepared to sit down, even in shadow, with the unreconstructed terrorists about whom he spoke — those who have not decommissioned their illegal weaponry.

His partner has made his position clear. In the House of Commons Mr Mallon said that decommissioning could not be a prerequisite to being part of the Government of Northern Ireland. He said that there were to be no such preconditions. So, on the most important and fundamental issue that will first face them, the First Minister and his deputy are at odds publicly. Before the Assembly votes on this matter it is entitled to know if it is Mr Trimble’s version of the Agreement or Mr Mallon’s that those two gentlemen will follow.

Mr Adams:

May I put a question?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

To the Chair?

Mr Adams:

No - to Mr Robinson.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Mr Robinson has now sat down.

Mr Adams:

Perhaps another member of his party would care to take this up.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

If a member of that party speaks, you may ask whether he is prepared to take a question.

Mr Adams:

It concerns their attitude to Ulster Resistance and its weapons.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It is not possible to put a question at this point, but later a Member may be prepared to take one.

Mr C Wilson:

I believe that a majority of those assembled here and those viewing the proceedings in their homes dearly want this day to be the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Northern Ireland. They deserve the restoration of democracy - accountable government by elected representatives, the rule of law and a healing of divisions.

Northern Ireland is truly at a crossroads. We face a major decision: we can embark upon the road that leads to parliamentary law, or we can continue with paramilitary law. We can decide to engage in the defeat of terrorism or to continue with the current programme of the United Kingdom's Parliament and Government, which is appeasement of and final capitulation to terrorism.

In memory of almost 3,000 people - men, women and children - who have lost their lives and of tens of thousands of families who have suffered at the hands of terrorists, I pledge myself to use whatever channels are available to me and my party to ensure the defeat of terrorism and appropriate retribution for those who have committed these crimes.

I was elected to this body as a United Kingdom Unionist on a manifesto and a pledge. I would like briefly to read that pledge because it is important that it be on the record:

"We, the United Pro-Union people of Northern Ireland, declare our resolute and determined opposition to the Belfast Agreement.

We reject the abandonment of the United Kingdom's sovereignty over Northern Ireland in exchange for an amendment of the Irish Constitution that renders Unionists a mere tradition in the Irish nation.

We refuse a Northern Ireland Assembly designed to feed power to All-Ireland institutions and to place in government over our people the delegates of terrorists who remain fully armed.

We recoil with moral contempt from an Agreement which releases back into our community those who have murdered and maimed the innocent, while the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who have protected the peaceful and law-abiding, are to be demoralised and disarmed.

We repudiate all-Ireland bodies with executive powers and expanding authority designed to develop into a factually United Ireland.

We demand, as British citizens, equality of treatment, the protection of our lives, persons and property, and the return of a democratic and accountable government, free from the domination of violent political terrorism, and in which all citizens have equal rights."

It has been extremely difficult for me to sit with the apologists for the murderers of countless people in Northern Ireland, unrepentant and still fully armed.

I come now to the proposal for the election of Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon. At this stage in its history Ulster needs a leader - someone to lead the people and this Assembly, someone who has strength of character and who says what he means and mean what he says.

Mr Trimble has been proposed for the position of First Minister. On 7 June 1996 Mr Trimble vowed to the Unionist community that he would stop the talks if decommissioning of arms did not start right away. But he reneged on that pledge, as he has done so often. United Kingdom Unionists cannot support someone who makes election pledges that identify him with the Orange Order but as the marching season approaches, reverts to type.

I do not believe that it is possible for two people to walk together unless they agree. How can anyone reasonably propose Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon unless, of course, Mr Trimble is prepared to work to Mr Mallon's agenda? We are quite clear about Mr Mallon's agenda - a united Ireland. Mr Mallon has no difficulty in sitting down with the representatives of armed terror. He and his party Leader, Mr Hume, have shown themselves to be extremely hypocritical. Mr Hume and Mr Dick Spring said very clearly that they would not allow the representatives of armed terror to come into the process for whatever benefits they could get. They said that there could be no guns under the table, on the table or outside the door.

In front of us here today, in the persons of Mr Adams and his cohorts, we have apologists for Sinn Fein/IRA armed terror. It is a shame that such people have been admitted to the process. I shall use all my powers of persuasion to ensure that fellow Unionists do not accept a situation in which these people are part and parcel of the Government of Northern Ireland before they have dismantled their machinery of war and destruction, and I look forward to the day when Unionists will stand united on that.

Mr S Wilson:

A number of important issues have been raised today - issues from which we must not run away. My party leader issued an important challenge to the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, who is seeking the position of First Minister. It is a challenge to which he must respond.

Mr Trimble has a severe credibility problem in the Unionist community. It predates his sitting down with Sinn Fein in the Stormont talks a year ago, but it gathered momentum when, as has been pointed out, he broke certain promises in the party's manifesto. During the referendum campaign he made many promises, pledges and statements which called his credibility into question.

I hope that before the vote Mr Trimble will make clear where he stands on the issue of sitting in government with the representatives of IRA/Sinn Fein. He cannot run away from the question, for it is one to which the Democratic Unionists, the United Kingdom Unionists and many members of his own party demand an answer.

Although the Standing Orders do not specify words that we are not allowed to use, I am sure that we may not accuse Members of telling lies. I would not like to be the first person to be thrown out by you, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, but I have to say that over the last six weeks Mr Trimble's credibility has decreased so much that were he Pinocchio he could poke me with his nose from where he is sitting.

4.30 pm

Then there are the weasel words of the leader of IRA/Sinn Fein. But I am well used to such words for I have sat for 10 years in Belfast City Council, where his colleagues claim to be democrats while justifying the economic war which has destroyed the commercial heart of Belfast. They even threatened Ministers who attended the Council and in more recent meetings have defended punishment beatings.

IRA/Sinn Fein Members talk about taking steps into a new future. They tell us to think of the people - the very people they have been shooting and bombing for 30 years. Many who sit on the Benches opposite were involved in such activities not just at a distance but directly, but we have heard not one word of apology. They have given no indication that they are sorry, no indication of acceptance that what they did was wrong. Indeed, they arrogantly portray their position as having been justified. That is why they are here.

And in case they have to switch back into the other mode they hold on to the weapons of terror. Can people who have been the victims for the last 30 years share the reins of government with those who have been involved in such actions? That is the crunch question.

As Mr McCartney said, the fundamental weakness of the whole arrangement is the assumption that somehow the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and the representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour Party - people whose positions, at least on paper, on how to deal with those who are involved in terrorism are diametrically opposed - will be able to work in tandem.

Much has been made of the eloquence demonstrated by Mr Hume when he said that those who had guns on the table, under the table or outside the doors should not be allowed to take part. Of course, as we all expected, Mr Hume and his party, for their own reasons, have completely renounced that position. Whether you have guns in your pockets, on your shoulder, on the table, under the table, outside the door or anywhere else, you are welcome to take part.

I do not believe that this democratic institution can be all-embracing. There is a fundamental question for the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party: is he, despite all the promises he has given, prepared to operate a warped system which rewards those who have killed, maimed and bombed their way into this House and who retain the right to do so if - to use the words of Ms de Brún - the fundamental change that they demand does not take place?


Next >>