Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Wednesday 1 July 1998 (continued)

Mr M McGuinness:

Dia dhaoibh a chairde.

I want first to wish Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon well in what will obviously be an onerous responsibility for them both over the coming weeks, months and years.

Having listened to the contributions of the United Kingdom Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, people will perhaps have a better understanding of the position that we have adopted for this election. It is a very good day for us to be here together as the elected representatives of all the people of this part of the island. It is particularly important to us to meet people like Mr Cedric Wilson, who for years stood in splendid isolation at the front of Parliament Buildings waving a placard as we moved back and forth attempting to negotiate on behalf of the people who had given us political responsibility. It is also very good to come across someone like Mr Sammy Wilson, whom I have never met, and it is great to see him today with his clothes on.

Mr McCartney laughed and smirked as someone on this side of the House spoke Irish. What he said suggested that he is very concerned about equality and justice. I certainly hope that he is. However, he looked very intently at the Members behind Mr Trimble, as if to intimidate them.

Mr McCartney:

The Member should not talk about intimidation.

Mr M McGuinness:

I hope that he will not manage to intimidate anybody in this Chamber. He certainly will not intimidate the representatives of Sinn Fein, for we are here on the back of a very substantial electoral mandate. We are here on behalf of people who have been discriminated against since the foundation of the Northern state. We are here on behalf of people who want an end to inequality, discrimination, domination and injustice.

When I hear some people interpreting the responsibilities that certain aspects of the Good Friday Agreement lay on Mr Trimble I wonder whether they are referring to the document that I have read in recent weeks. Mr Peter Robinson can quote words spoken by the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons until he is blue in the face. He can quote from 'The Guardian', 'The Daily Telegraph', 'The Sunday Times' or any other paper, but the only piece of paper which counts here is the Good Friday Agreement. Nowhere in that document is there anything which denies representatives of Sinn Fein places on the executive body - nowhere. Nowhere is there a linkage between decommissioning and the issue of prisoners.

The more we listen to these people the more clearly we realise what their agenda is. They refused to participate in the negotiations, but now they come trundling into this Chamber because they are afraid that they will be left behind. I am afraid that they have been left behind, for if the Ulster Unionist Party keeps its nerve all the people of this island will have a bright future. As elected representatives we have a responsibility to give people hope for themselves and their children.

We have been through a difficult process over the last four or five years. Much work has been done, and many people on the ground appreciate the efforts of those who agreed the Good Friday document. People are watching what is happening here. The will of the more than 70% of people who voted for the Good Friday document brought Mr Paisley and Mr McCartney to this Chamber. As seasoned politicians, those Members know that there is a real danger of their being left behind. I welcome them to this forum even though I realise that they will try to prevent or minimise change - indeed, to drag us all back into the Dark Ages. [Interruption]

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Do you wish to take a point of information, Mr McGuinness?

Mr M McGuinness:

No. They have spoken long enough.

They have to face up to the reality that there is going to be change, that the change will be fundamental, that they cannot prevent our involvement in this body, or the Executive, that they cannot prevent the establishment of all-Ireland bodies with executive powers, that they cannot prevent the equality agenda, that they cannot prevent promotion of the Irish language, that they cannot prevent the creation of a new police service and that they cannot prevent the release of political prisoners. That is the reality.

What we are charged with is to begin the process. But this is only the start. People will judge us by what happens over the coming days, weeks and months. As I said to Mr Trimble at Lancaster House in the aftermath of the beginning of this year when Catholics were being killed right, left and centre in the North of Ireland, there is a responsibility on every elected representative to show goodwill and do everything in his power to prevent a return to what has happened in the past. I am acutely aware of my responsibility.

There is also a responsibility on Mr McCartney, who is always telling us that he is an intelligent man.

Mr McCartney:

I do not.

Mr M McGuinness:

Yes, he does all the time.

We want him to be a smart man. We want him to recognise that there is a future for our children. Whatever else he may be, he must be a democrat and accept reality.

[Remarks made at this point may be subject to legal proceedings and have therefore been omitted.]

Sinn Fein has arrived in this building, and Unionists have been compelled by the votes of the people to come. Even in opposition, Unionist Members will be part of the change in this island.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Mr Roche:

Mr McGuinness has done an enormous service to the pro-Union electorate by laying bare what he perceives to be the reality of the agreement which Mr Trimble and other Unionist leaders endorsed.

The agreement has been well described as a mechanism for transition to a united Ireland. There is no doubt that in it Mr Trimble conceded the fundamental principles of Irish Nationalism. The document declares that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, but the concessions to the principles of Nationalism made by Mr Trimble render that state of affairs entirely illegitimate. Then he agreed to two crucial institutions - the North/South Ministerial Council and the Intergovernmental Conference, which are designed to bring about conditions in which Unionist agreement to a united Ireland will be a mere formality.

It seems, on the basis of the proposal made to us today by Mr Taylor, that the Ulster Unionist Party is about to make a further concession - one that is even more fundamental than those to Irish Nationalists. Apparently Ulster Unionists are about to concede the principles of democracy and the integrity of the rule of law.

Mr Trimble has been proposed for the position of First Minister, with Mr Mallon as his deputy. As has been said, the position of Mr Mallon is entirely clear: he is committed to a united Ireland, and he does not require Sinn Fein/IRA to hand in any arms - even rusty ones. That suggests that the Ulster Unionist Party too does not require any decommissioning, now or in the future.

Mr Trimble must make the situation absolutely clear to the pro-Union electorate if he is prepared to sit down in an Executive governing Northern Ireland without first requiring decommissioning and to corrupt the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law by doing so. There should be substantial decommissioning of the IRA terrorist arsenal before the Executive begins. That is the fundamental issue that Mr Trimble must address today.

4.45 pm

Mr Dodds:

It was very interesting to hear a representative of IRA/Sinn Fein chastising Mr McCartney and others about the equality agenda and the Irish language. Such people make much of the Irish language, but in other forums, such as Belfast City Council, they never mention it. Typically, they are playing to the cameras and to the Gallery. Of course, as has been pointed out, many Sinn Fein Members do not understand Irish. [Interruption]

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Mr Maskey wishes to make a point of order.

Mr Dodds:

I hope it is a point of order.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I will judge that when I hear it.

Mr Maskey:

I want to make a point for Mr Dodds's information. The Irish language has been used by Sinn Fein members for years - 15 years in Belfast City Council and other councils - and it will continue to be used by them.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I made it clear at the beginning that while I am in the Chair Members may speak in Irish, Ulster-Scots or any other language so long as they translate into English. That request has been met by those speaking in Irish. [Interruption] Dr Paisley may well be able to regale us in Latin or Greek, but he will have to translate, for I am not familiar with such languages.

Mr Dodds:

Are you ruling that that was not a point of order?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have taken a number of false points of order today.

Mr Dodds:

Mr Maskey may be trying to cover his embarrassment in front of his party, but that does not alter the facts that I have outlined. They are on the record, as you, Sir, as a former member of Belfast City Council, will know.

The issues have been laid fairly and squarely before the House. We are being asked to vote on a package. We know where Mr Mallon and the Social Democratic and Labour Party stand, but we have yet to hear where the Ulster Unionist Party's nominee for the post of First Minister stands.

Will this proposal be put to the vote today without an explanation of Mr Trimble's position or, indeed, of Mr Mallon's? It is especially important that we hear from Mr Trimble in view of policies that he has enunciated and then reneged on.

Is he going to treat the Assembly with contempt? Will he refuse to answer questions about the most important issue before the House today? Is he going to remain silent with regard to the crucial question (whether he is prepared as First Minister to sit in government with unrepentant supporters of murder and violence - people, who, in the words of the Prime Minister, are inextricably linked to the IRA)?

I say to Mr Trimble that it is through us, as elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, that those people should have an answer. It is not good enough to fudge this issue or to remain silent. Mr Trimble must present himself and explain his position. That is the purpose of this debate, and it would be amazing if he did not tell us where he stands.

Reference has been made to the Agreement that was signed and to the pledges that were made by the Prime Minister. It was not Mr Trimble or the other pro-Agreement Unionists who won the "Yes" vote; it was Tony Blair. The Prime Minister was never out of Northern Ireland during the last days of the campaign, and he managed to persuade people on the Unionist side.

Of course, he did not need to persuade anybody on the Nationalist or Republican side; they would have had to be certifiably insane not to vote "Yes" given the concessions to IRA/Sinn Fein and Nationalism. But he had a real job persuading the Unionist people. How did he do it? Through hand-written pledges on a series of issues - prisoners, decommissioning and Government positions for IRA/Sinn Fein.

It is time for those who made the pledges (the British Government and Tony Blair) and those who sold them, those who went around saying "Yes, we agree with those pledges" (the Ulster Unionist Party and Mr Trimble) to come clean and say what they will do if this proposal goes through and Mr Trimble becomes the First Minister (Designate). It is pay-up time. Mr Trimble must answer these questions before the vote is taken. He cannot fudge yet again. Having said one thing or remained silent before the election, he cannot take an entirely different course now.

We in the Democratic Unionist Party are in this House not because we are afraid of anything or anybody but because we were elected in substantial numbers by the people of Northern Ireland. We made it clear that we would never negotiate with IRA/Sinn Fein, and we have not gone back on our pledge. But we have always said in councils and elsewhere that we would never run away from any elected body, that we would confront those who want to take us down a united-Ireland route.

Sinn Fein Member Mr Adams said that he was glad to see us. He welcomed everybody. I think of a Member of a previous Assembly - Mr Edgar Graham, who was murdered by the IRA. Although not a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, Mr Graham was a close friend of mine. People who are lecturing us today supported, condoned, defended and gloated over that murder and the murder of other elected representatives.

But we know their pedigree. We remember what they have done, and we note that they have yet to apologise or to undertake any sort of redress, such as decommissioning. They will not say that the war is over, yet they demand all the benefits of the agreement. Let Mr Trimble tell us whether they will reap those benefits.

Mr Durkan:

In seconding the nomination of Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon for the posts of First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate), Mr Hume indicated the strength of the Social Democratic and Labour Party's confidence in Seamus Mallon.

Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble have a track record in relation to the agreement that provided for this body and other institutions to be set up. They have shown that they can work together despite the many difficulties that we all make for each other and the differences that we all brought into this Chamber throughout the negotiations.

Seamus Mallon and David Trimble brought their differences, but they were able to work together and with others from all the parties that wanted to find ways and means of creating the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Exchanges such as those we have witnessed here - both direct and indirect - were written off as impossible by the decriers of the talks process. The people who walked away from the talks are also decrying this nomination. It is because of their track record that we are eager to support it.

The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will shoulder onerous responsibilities. It is clear that some people intend to make life for them and others in this Chamber as difficult as they can. The First and Deputy First Ministers will not be in a position to create difficulties, but they will have to resolve many of those generated by others.

We pledge our support for them as they work to ensure the full implementation of all aspects of the Agreement - in particular, those in which they have a central, direct role. There are some matters - prisoner releases, the review of policing, and decommissioning, for example - in which they do not have such a role. Neither is there a direct role for the Executive. Thus much of the debate so far in relation to the nomination has been about matters that are completely outside of the remit of the posts we are discussing.

Several Members have referred to Seamus Mallon's position on decommissioning. One said that he had made his position clear: he was no longer interested in decommissioning. We are nominating Seamus Mallon for Deputy First Minister because he is totally committed to ensuring that agreement, including accord on the six paragraphs on decommissioning, will be achieved. We want to see decommissioning taking place, and Seamus Mallon wants it to be achieved within the timescale laid down in the agreement.

The agreement refers to a workable basis for achieving the decommissioning of illegally held arms. But no workable basis will be achieved through the politics of "Stand and deliver!". That was tried and it failed, and if it is tried again it will fail again. The agreement offers a different context in which the decommissioning that is so important to people can be realised.

5.00 pm

The posts in question were deliberately created by those of us who took part in the negotiations. They are intended to be at the heart of the new arrangements in the North and to have a pivotal role in the relationship between those arrangements, the arrangements in the South and the East/West arrangements. Much rests on the nomination. It is important that that be recognised, but so far the debate has concentrated on all sorts of extraneous matters.

It will not be easy for Mr Mallon and Mr Trimble. There will be differences between them, as in any similar situation, but they have shown a capacity to overcome differences, not just between themselves but also between a wide range of parties and individuals.

We look forward to approval of their nomination by the necessary majority, to the Assembly's working under their leadership, and to their co-operating with all parties. They have a duty to ensure partnership in the Administration and in dealings with the Assembly. They have particular duties with regard to the North/South and East/West arrangements.

Mr Paisley Jnr:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Durkan:


As Mr Hume said, this joint nomination represents the essence of the Good Friday Agreement. We are talking about making decisions with each other rather than making the demands of each other that have characterised so much of this debate. All of this is not just about reconciliation between Unionist and Nationalist, non-Unionist and non-Nationalist; the SDLP - Seamus Mallon in particular - is committed to achieving reconciliation and co-operation between those who voted "Yes" and those who voted "No".

It is in that spirit that we commend the nomination. We pledge our support, not just today but also in the future, and we ask all parties, whether abstaining, voting for or voting against, to co-operate with the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) as they work to bring to fruition the arrangements for which the agreement provides.

Mr Roche:

Will the Member take a point?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

He has finished.

Mr Campbell:

I would like at the outset to welcome Social Democratic and Labour Party Members back to the place they vacated so ignominiously last year. I refer, of course, to the Forum. They are anxious to welcome us; we can reciprocate by welcoming them back to the place that they abandoned many months ago.

Many people in Northern Ireland, whether filled with foreboding about the outworking of this agreement or in the "Yes" camp, might have looked upon these proceedings as presenting a slight possibility of our overcoming problems and working for the greater good, but it is apparent from the language used by the political wing of the Provisional IRA that they are determined that it should not be so.

Mr Trimble has many questions to answer - questions that have been posed several times since he was first mentioned as a possible First Minister. So far he has declined to answer them. Is he prepared to sit in an Executive, in shadow or substantial form, while the fully armed military wing of an organisation that will be there remains functional and ready to return to killing? Is he prepared to sit in Cabinet with an organisation whose military wing still engages in punishment beatings on the streets of Northern Ireland? Or is he prepared to demand substantial decommissioning before such a step could be contemplated, as the Prime Minister said he would? The Assembly and - even more important - the people of Northern Ireland need answers to those questions.

The people do want change. It is entirely wrong for anybody to say that my party is against change. But what we want is change for the better - change for the good of the community, which for almost three decades has been subjected to the terror and murder of the military colleagues of people who now sit here. Throughout Northern Ireland our community has been systematically discriminated against in jobs, in the arts and in funding for sporting organisations. It goes on even as I speak.

We are for change, but it is change in a direction that many in the House do not wish to contemplate. But we shall no doubt come to that in the future. The fundamental point, which Mr Trimble needs to address, is whether he is prepared to enter government as First Minister with Sinn Fein/IRA and with Mr Mallon as his deputy while a fully armed military wing remains operational in Northern Ireland.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The two candidates themselves have not had an opportunity to address any of these questions, and the circumstances are somewhat unusual. They now have a chance to respond.

Mr Mallon:

May I first thank the Members who proposed and who seconded my election for their very kind and generous words - all true. [Laughter] I thank them sincerely, and I thank all the other Members who have spoken in the debate. I say so especially because, whatever our difficulties, whatever the animosities - and of those there are plenty - there is one immutable fact that we all have to confront: if we are to be serious about every political philosophy, we will have to work out a means of living together here in Northern Ireland on a basis of agreement, of consent, of equality, of justice.

I believe that there is a will to do so. Every political party, whatever its position, can play a full role in the Assembly, in the new North/South bodies, in the Council of the Isles and abroad for the benefit of the people on this island.

I welcome the anticipated appointment of David Trimble as First Minister. I say to Unionism that there always comes a time when a man must take responsibility for his people and for the country in which he lives. In my view Mr Trimble has done that with courage, dignity and integrity and in a way that, as we proceed, will inspire confidence among the Nationalist community.

Today I have a great sense of humility - not a virtue with which I am normally imbued. Anybody setting out on such a task must do so in a spirit of humility. I also have an awesome sense of responsibility, not just as Deputy First Minister to Mr David Trimble as First Minister but also to my own party, which I thank most sincerely for its confidence - especially the party leader, who has done so much, against the odds, to secure the process and bring it to this point. The well-being of all the people on this island is at stake - their happiness and safety and their role in the new society that we want to build.

Let me answer one of the questions that have been asked. I stand by the agreement that we all signed on Good Friday - not just the bits I like but also the bits I do not like. I stand by my commitment to an entirely peaceful process. I stand by the commitment to ensure that the new institutions will work, free of violence and the threat of violence. I stand by my commitment and my party's commitment to work with all the people of Northern Ireland, for the good of all the people of the North of Ireland.

With regard to decommissioning, prisoners, policing, justice, equality and the institutions, I stand by the word given by the SDLP when the agreement was signed. I believe that the operation of this body will ensure the attainment of all these goals, including decommissioning.

There will be difficulties, but we all can help each other. My difficulties are David Trimble's, and David Trimble's are mine. They are also the difficulties of the United Kingdom Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Women's Coalition and the Progressive Unionist Party, for we all share one thing - our vulnerability. There is not a Member, male or female, in this House who is not vulnerable.

We also share the conviction that now, at the end of the century, we are going to change life in the North of Ireland. Together we will tackle the problems. Nobody who believes that for this generation change is not just an option but an imperative will be excluded.

5.15 pm

I look forward to working with Mr David Trimble. I have known him for a long time. We have not always agreed, and there will still be times when we disagree, but the disagreements will be sorted out face to face, for I am sure that his back is sore enough at the moment. I pledge to him, to my own party, to every other party here and to the people of the North of Ireland that we will do everything in our power to help every Member to effect the changes that have been agreed and so open up a new vision and a new imagination for a new century.

Mr C Wilson:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Mallon:

I will always give way to Mr Wilson.

Mr C Wilson:

I am very grateful.

Mr Mallon is about to conclude his speech. It would be helpful to Members were he to answer the question about decommissioning. Will he tell us what exactly is his position so that we can match it against that of Mr Trimble?

Mr Mallon:

As always, I am impressed by Mr Wilson's grasp of detail.

Yes, I want to see decommissioning. Yes, I want it to happen quickly. Yes, it has to be done. Yes, I think that those who hold arms, as well as the people who are associated with them, can help the process of which we are all a part. I cannot be any clearer than that.

We all have reason enough for grievances. We can all engage in "whataboutery". We can all point out what has been done to us and to our communities. We can all point out how we have suffered. We can all point out how the other fellow is always wrong. This time let us come together to do the right thing for the people of this island, especially those in Northern Ireland, who elected us.

Mr Trimble:

May I too start by thanking the Members who moved and who seconded the motion. I am grateful to them and, indeed, to others for their remarks about myself. It was not my intention to speak, for I thought that in some respects it would be inappropriate to do so. I am not actively canvassing or seeking appointment.

The Ulster Unionist Party has always recognised and accepted its responsibilities, and as a member of the party I have accepted and discharged responsibilities. However, it would be inappropriate for me to sing my own praises or to induce Members to vote in a particular way. They must vote as they see fit.

Another reason for not commenting in this debate is that, in view of the situation in Northern Ireland - the past, the present and the future we hope to have - there is a host of things that should be considered. However, in the time that is available today one can touch on just a few.

My Colleague Mr Taylor has said that he hopes that we as a community are now coming out of the morass in which we have been stuck for the last 30 years. It is a hope that has not yet been realised. The morass is political violence and terrorism on far too great a scale and from far too many quarters. Many of us have seen it far too close. Reference has been made to a good friend of mine who was murdered. I was just a short distance away, and I had to identify his body. Many other people have had a similar experience, so we know what we are dealing with. We know the reality of the violence from which this community has suffered.

The morass to which I have referred consists not just of political violence but also of political impotence. By virtue of direct rule, people and their elected representatives were rendered unable to deal with certain issues. The community was disconnected from the rest of the body politic. That had a negative effect on attitudes and on the way the community operated. We hope that we are coming out of the morass, but at this stage success is not guaranteed. We all know the problems, and we ought to realise that they could overcome us. The problems will not all be solved overnight by the wave of a magic wand. We will have to work at them.

In the course of this debate a question has been put repeatedly. Of course, those who put it were not making a genuine enquiry. The question was not put by people seeking information or guidance; it was simply another cheap political stunt by people who cannot tell the difference between cheap political stunts and serious attempts to deal with issues. However, I will address it. David Trimble is merely one of 28 Ulster Unionist Members. All 28 have come here on the same manifesto - the same manifesto and the same position.

Those who put the question could have found the answer stated very simply in the manifesto. The relevant section begins

"Before any terrorist organisation and/or its political wing can benefit from the proposals contained in the Agreement on the release of terrorist prisoners and the holding of ministerial office in the Assembly, the commitment to exclusively peaceful and non-violent means must be established. The Ulster Unionist Party will be using various criteria that are objective, meaningful and verifiable to judge whether this is being achieved."

The manifesto sets out at length what those criteria are, and the relevant section concludes

"Ulster Unionists will not sit in Government with unreconstructed terrorists."

The first important thing is to establish commitment to the democratic process. People must state that they will not, now or in the future, use violence to achieve their goals. They must commit themselves irrevocably to the democratic process. There are criteria by which that can be established, but the important thing is to keep sight of the objective and not allow ourselves to focus so much on one thing. We do not want to end up being hoist by our own petard.

The second important thing is to make reference to unreconstructed terrorists. A number of Members who are here today have done terrible things. I do not need to elaborate, though I should say that those concerned are not all in one corner of the Chamber. Many awful things have happened. People must accept responsibility for what they have done, and one hopes that responsibility is also noted by the Government, the state and the legal process. However, those institutions are imperfect, and there are people who have done terrible things for which they have not been made amenable. Some of them are here.

We are not saying, and we have never said, that the fact that someone has a certain past means that he cannot have a future. We have always acknowledged that it is possible for people to change. That is fundamental to one's view of society. Indeed, if I were in the habit of using religious metaphors I could find many that would be appropriate. It is not my habit to mix religion with politics if that can be avoided, but Members will realise what I am referring to. Because of the situation in this society it is desirable that all Members with a terrible past should change and should demonstrate that they have changed.

The Agreement that we have put in place is inclusive. But that is nothing new, for it stems from the proposals given to Tom King in 1987, which referred to partnership administrations based on proportionality.

Mr P Robinson:

But excluding terrorist representatives.

Mr Trimble:

Of course.

Proportionality is inclusive, and it is right that it should apply only to those who are committed to the democratic process. That was the position then, and it is the position now. There is an opportunity for people to take part in the process if they have shown that they are committed to peaceful means and democracy.

I underline these points not out of a desire to exclude but simply to emphasise the things that need to be done. The sooner there is a realisation of that need, the better. Beginning the task will enable us all to move together. I am determined that we shall all move forward. I do not want society to throw away the opportunity to rise out of the morass in which it has been stuck.

5.30 pm

To people who ask if the process will succeed I cannot give an answer at this stage, just as I could not give an answer during the talks. What I can say now, as then, is that the process will not fail for want of effort on the part of the Ulster Unionist Party. If people end up being excluded it will be because of their own failure to meet requirements - not because of any deliberate action on our part.

I hope we are coming out of the forest. We certainly deserve to, and we have the opportunity. There is something great to be gained by all sections of the community, and, like Mr Mallon I am conscious of the responsibilities that will come to us, perhaps very soon. I am conscious of our obligation to all of society to discharge those responsibilities, and I know that it will not be easy.

There will be difficulties, but we have started on the long march towards a better future, and we are determined to continue. We are determined to succeed for the benefit of all society. This opportunity must not be discarded.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Everybody will be glad to know that the Prime Minister is to be here tomorrow and that there will be OBEs galore for those who do his handiwork.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The Rt Hon David Trimble and Mr Seamus Mallon are the only candidates proposed for the positions of First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) respectively.

Question put.

Mr P Robinson:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Unless an announcement is made, Members who are outside the Chamber will not know that a vote is about to be taken.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The arrangement under the Standing Orders is for an announcement that a vote will begin in three minutes. I understand the point you are making. It is one that should be addressed by a Committee on Standing Orders. There is no bell. In this respect the Initial Standing Orders are unsatisfactory, but they are the only ones we have.

Mr McCartney:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. This is probably one of the most important votes. If there has been a breakdown in the equipment to alert Members that a vote is to be taken, that is regrettable. There is absolutely no reason not to give some leeway in the circumstances.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Mr McCartney, either I was unclear or you misunderstand. There has been no breakdown in the equipment. There is an inadequacy in the Standing Orders. There is no bell because none is required by the Standing Orders. All that is required is that an announcement be made that a vote will be taken in three minutes. The filibuster has gone on long enough. All those who were on errands should now be present.

The Ayes and Noes will be counted under the designations that were given earlier.

Mr Adams:

On a point of order, A Chathaoirligh. I have explained in some detail why we are deploying this tactic. The reason is clear from the antics on the other side of the House. I have given notice that my party, while supporting absolutely the right of both the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party to take up their positions, will be abstaining.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Will you stand, please.

Mr Adams:

Sorry. That too should be dealt with under Standing Orders.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

That is why they are called Standing Orders!

Mr Adams:

Yes - that is why I said it.

My point of order is that my party will be abstaining in this vote for the reasons I have given. You did not refer to that; you referred simply to recording assent or dissent.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Yes, perhaps I should have clarified that. Anything other than an Aye or a No will not be counted.

Mr P Robinson:

Do what is done in Castlereagh.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I do not think I will follow that. Ayes and Noes are the only responses that will be noted. There is currently no provision for noting abstentions.

Mr Shannon:

Is the Ulster-Scots word "nah" acceptable?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

As I said earlier, where any language other than English is used, it would be courteous to provide a translation.

Mr Shannon:

For those who do not understand, let me explain that "nah" is the Ulster-Scots for "no".

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I entirely understand what you are saying, and I repeat that when any language other than English is used, a translation should be given for the sake of other Members who may not understand it. Otherwise it will not be noted.

Mr Adams:

Is there an Ulster-Scots word for "yes"?

The Assembly divided: Ayes 61 (Nationalist 24; Unionist 30; Other 7); Noes 27.



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.


Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs Jnr, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, John Taylor, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.


Eileen Bell, Seamus Close, David Ford, Kieran McCarthy, Monica McWilliams, Jane Morrice, Sean Neeson.



Paul Berry, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, Boyd Douglas, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Robert McCartney, William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Ian R K Paisley, Ian Paisley Jnr, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The total number of votes cast validly was 88. The number of Nationalist votes in favour was 24. As the total number of Nationalist votes was 24, the Nationalist vote in favour was 100%. The total number of Unionist votes was 57; the number of Unionist Ayes was 30, giving 52.63%. The total number of Ayes, at 61, is 69.3% of 88.

Question accordingly agreed to.


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

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I now ask The Rt Hon David Trimble and Mr Seamus Mallon, having been chosen by the Assembly as First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate), to come forward and make an affirmation to the Assembly.

I first ask Mr Trimble, elected as First Minister, to make the affirmation in the form prescribed.

The First Minister (Designate) (Mr Trimble): I, David Trimble, affirm to the Assembly my commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, my opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, my commitment to work in good faith to bring into being the arrangements set out in the agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations on 10 April 1998 and my commitment to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I now ask Mr Mallon, having been duly elected as Deputy First Minister, to make the affirmation.

6.00 pm

The Deputy First Minister (Designate) (Mr Mallon): I, Seamus Mallon, affirm to the Assembly my commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, my opposition to any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose, my commitment to work in good faith to bring about the arrangements set out in the agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations on 10 April 1998 and my commitment to observe the spirit of the Pledge of Office set out in Annex B to the Initial Standing Orders.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

May I, on this momentous occasion, on my own behalf, on behalf of the Assembly and on behalf, I have no doubt, of the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland, congratulate you on being elected the first First Minister and the first Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I want to point out that you do not have the right to speak for the Assembly. You can only speak for those in the Assembly who voted for these gentlemen. Let us get that straight. The Speaker of the House of Commons would not dare to say that she speaks on behalf of the House. She speaks as the Speaker of the House, not on behalf of the House. Some people vote according to their convictions, and you cannot take to yourself the right to speak on behalf of the Assembly.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Thank you very much.

Committee on Standing Orders


Motion made:

That in accordance with paragraph 15 of Initial Standing Orders the Assembly shall establish a Committee whose terms of reference, quorum and composition are set out below.

Terms of Reference:

To assist the Assembly in its consideration of Standing Orders and report to the Assembly by 14 September 1998.







Quorum: 8

- [The Initial Presiding Officer]

Mr P Robinson:

Can you, Sir, indicate how we could appropriately deal with the three people who might be described as Independents? It is somewhat unfair that both the Women's Coalition and the Progressive Unionist Party, each of which has two Members, have a representative on this Committee while the three Independents, who have broadly similar views, have none. Is the Assembly willing to consider the matter and give some representation to this group?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Mr Robinson, we have interim Standing Orders, and, as you know, they are the only rules under which we can work. The suggestion you make can be considered by the Assembly. We can only make this decision for the present. There were meetings conducted by the Chief Whips, including the Chief Whip of your party. These matters cannot be considered further at this juncture, but they may be developed at a later stage.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. The Assembly has a right to honour everyone in it, and there is nothing in the Standing Orders against our putting anyone on this Committee - nothing whatsoever. As the then solitary member of my party in the House of Commons I was given my place. And I reminded Mr McGrady today of how some of his members in the same position were not passed over.

It would be scurrilous of this Assembly not to recognise three Members who need a voice on all Committees. I protest vigorously that they were not told about any of the arrangements. The reason they were so treated is that they were against the Agreement. It was a political decision. A nominee of their choice should be added to this Committee.

Some other Members would be up in arms if they were excluded in this way. Let us remember what happened in the Forum. Fair is fair. These three Members deserve to be represented.

Mr Morrow:

As you, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, said, the Democratic Unionist Party was at that meeting. But the composition of the Committees was not agreed. The Social Democratic and Labour Party was getting three Members but was not represented at the second meeting. So what we have in front of us was not agreed by the Whips' today.

Mr C Wilson:

I endorse what Mr Morrow has said. In fact, I raised this matter with you, Sir, in the belief that it should be put to the Assembly today. I am sure that many Members, including Prof McWilliams and Mr Ervine, are keen to defend the rights of the smaller groups and parties, as they did in the Forum and in the negotiations.

Mr Ervine:

Mr Wilson will remember that at a meeting yesterday I addressed this issue on behalf of those Members in a position similar to ours.

Mr C Wilson:

I am glad. I was trying to provoke the Member into saying publicly what he had said privately. It would be easy to determine the view of the House by asking whether any Member has any objection to the three Independents' having a representative. If not, is there any difficulty?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Yes, there is a difficulty. With regard to Committees of the kind that we are discussing, Standing Order 15(2) states

"each party with at least two members shall have at least one seat on each Committee."

If the three Independents wish to be represented, there is no reason why the matter cannot be dealt with at a subsequent meeting. The problem about dealing with it now is that, as Mr Morrow said, the Whips did not agree entirely on all the matters. Indeed, right up to three minutes before the start of this meeting they could not even resolve who should propose the motion.

If the motion were to be proposed as prescribed, the Initial Presiding Officer would have to take responsibility for moving it. Furthermore, if an amendment were to be proposed to any item, it would, under the Standing Orders, have to be notified in writing to the office of the Initial Presiding Officer at least one hour prior to the commencement of the day's business. All the Whips were aware that the list did not contain a recommendation for the representation of these three Members, but I received nothing in writing one hour, or even half an hour, before. The matter has only now been raised.

We have no option but to proceed with the Standing Orders as they are. The Assembly would be entirely within its rights if it were to reject the motion as unsatisfactory, but at this juncture the only propositions are those that are before us. However much I might like to do so, I cannot receive amendments, for the time for acceptance has expired.

Mr P Robinson:

There will often be differences in the Assembly, but let us not try to create difficulties when there is no need. The rule to which you refer does not exclude the possibility of the Assembly's nominating one of these three individuals to the Committee. It sets out a right for those parties that have two members or more to be represented, but it does not prevent the Assembly from exercising its powers for the purposes of its own business. We have had a lot of talk about how inclusive this process should be; now let us have some evidence.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

What you say is absolutely correct, and if an amendment to that effect had been received in time, it could have been put to the Assembly. But none was received, and that is the dilemma in which I find myself. Indeed, the other matters too were not proceeded with. It would be desirable to achieve agreement on these questions, but under Standing Orders I have had to proceed with the agenda items as set out in the appendix.

Mr McCartney:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I understood your first comment in response to Dr Paisley to be that the three Members do not have a right. You did not say that they have a right which they failed to exercise. In fact, you stated quite clearly, and quoted Standing Order 15(2) as saying, that each party with at least two Members shall have at least one seat on each Committee. A party with two Members is not limited to one place on a Committee. It could have two, but it must have at least one. So there is nothing whatever to prevent an individual from being represented on a Committee.

Initially you said that the individuals were not entitled at all, but you have moved to the subsidiary ground that the motion was not tabled in time. I submit that the Assembly can agree at this stage to make an amendment that is in accordance with all the rules of natural justice and does not contravene any of the preliminary Standing Orders.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I said not that they could not be represented but that they did not have a right to be represented. That is what the provision says. In other words, as Mr Peter Robinson points out, if it were decided that one or two or all of them should be on a Committee, that would be entirely possible, but other representations would have to be reduced as the size of the Committee is also laid down. But the matter would have to be discussed. Parties of two or more have certain entitlements, which must be respected. This group of three could turn themselves into a party or make some other arrangement. The Committee on Standing Orders may have to pay particular attention to individuals who are not members of parties.

I know a place where there are Cross-Benchers who do not take any party Whip but have a convenor. They do not have all the privileges that parties enjoy, but neither do they have all the responsibilities. There are some things that the three individuals here do not have, but I understand that they have reasonably commodious accommodation - much more than individual party members.

We must try to ensure that all these matters are dealt with properly, but that could not be done without a Committee on Standing Orders, whose appointment will require a resolution, either today or at the next sitting - perhaps on 14 September - which will necessitate changes in the other membership.

It is not possible to move to an amendment now, because it was not put forward one hour ago. Members who are getting to their feet were aware of the situation.

6.15 pm

Mr McGrady:

In order to assist the work of the Assembly and allow it to proceed with its business, we could take cognisance of the representations made for the three Members. On behalf of my party's Chief Whip, I will be very conscious of that factor.

Irrespective of the arguments that have been put forward in this debate, we are circumscribed by the Standing Orders before us, which state that the maximum number shall be 18. I understand that the allocation of positions to parties is also prescribed by the Standing Orders. Nevertheless, 18 is the maximum number. We will be sympathetic to representations, but some of the other parties - particularly those that are advocating the rights of the three individuals - may have to cede one of their seats in the meantime. This could, however, be addressed at the first meeting of the Standing Orders Committee.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have taken a number of interventions as points of order although they have been more like substantive contributions. Mr Maskey is the only Member to have put his name forward to speak in the debate.

Mr P Robinson:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. I would like to draw your attention to Standing Order 9(1), which is the one that, as you indicated, appears to be blocking any change to the proposal as it appears on the Order Paper. If there were a will on the part of the Assembly to have a Committee including one of the three representatives, could we not vote down the proposal that is on the Order Paper? A new proposal could then be put that was within the current Standing Orders.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I shall respond to that point of order and then call Mr Maskey.

Such a matter could perhaps be dealt with - I would have to take advice - by leave of the Assembly, which is usually taken as requiring unanimity. That will be the case when the Assembly has full power to decide its own business. At present, agenda items are prescribed by the Secretary of State.

At this juncture we are not entirely free in that respect. For example, even an Adjournment debate requires the approval of the Secretary of State. Indeed, such a letter was received just before this sitting. What you say would be correct if there were unanimity in the Assembly, but there would probably need to be a suspension to seek the Secretary of State's approval.

Mr McGrady:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

We should seriously consider whether the best way to conduct a debate is by raising sporadic points of order. However, I will allow one or two more.


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