Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Wednesday 1 July 1998 (continued)

Mr McGrady:

Thank you, Sir, for your tolerance. You want to facilitate progress in the Assembly, and you can rule me out of order if you wish. However, it is proper to suggest that one of the three Independents should attend the Standing Orders Committee as an observer until the Standing Orders can be amended in accordance with the will of the Assembly.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have no idea whether the Initial Presiding Officer has the power to indicate that someone may attend in that way until the matter has been resolved. I shall have to take advice. It is not a matter on which I sought a legal opinion in advance. I am certainly not antagonistic towards the proposition, but I will have to do two things in following it up: first, seek legal advice about whether I am in a position to take such action; secondly, consult the Whips of all the parties and, of course, the three Independents to see if what you suggest might be a way of resolving matters.

I certainly do not want to create difficulties, but it is crucial that we stick to the Initial Standing Orders, though we did not design them.

Several Members rose.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I can take only one more point of order.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

The original draft of the Order Paper listed four Ulster Unionist Party members, three Social Democratic and Labour Party members, three people from the Democratic Unionist Party, three from Sinn Fein and one each from the other parties. I do not understand how that can suddenly have changed today. I understand that the meeting was called for 11 o'clock. My Whip was there, but it did not begin until 11.30 am. Even though the Social Democratic and Labour Party's Whip was not at the meeting, we have these changes. I understand that party members had business in Londonderry.

Mr Hume:

They did not.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

That is what we were told at the meeting.

Mr Hume:

This shows how much the Member is told.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

The Initial Presiding Officer told us, and we believe what he says until we have reason to do otherwise.

I want to know why the representation of the Social Democratic and Labour Party was changed. Also, the Democratic Unionist Party, with 20 Members, has the same representation as Sinn Fein, which has 18 Members. That is unfair, and it must be looked into. The way in which this motion has been handled is obstructing the Assembly's business.

I regret the attitude of some people. The three Members in question need representation. They do not know what is going on. I would go along with Mr McGrady's proposal. It is better than nothing, though the Independents should be there by right. I would understand it if this motion were defeated and another one proposed. That would be quite in order. The Secretary of State would be unlikely to quibble if that were the wish of the Assembly, which she says she wants to bolster.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I will take Mr McCartney's point of order and then reply to both.

Mr McCartney:

It is a very short point. I received the Order Paper at 2.05 pm, as did most other Members, and it would have been very difficult to give the notice required for an amendment. I was debating in the Chamber along with everybody else.

You have your Standing Orders, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, but circumstances alter cases. There have been all sorts of alarms and diversions on this the Assembly's first day, and documents have arrived late - in some cases, when Members were already in the Chamber. In those circumstances how could the hour's notice which, apparently, these Standing Orders require have been given?

The Initial Presiding Order:

I am grateful to Members for pointing out the difficulty in which I and some others were put. Several meetings of Whips were called, but there was not a full attendance at all of them.

Several other issues were considered. One which has not been brought to the attention of Members is that there is no provision for the Initial Presiding Officer to be on the Standing Orders Committee. That may present a problem. It is one of the difficulties of moving so rapidly from the election into the Assembly itself. I am somewhat at the mercy of rules that have been set down. Having tried hard to work them over the last 36 hours, I realise that they are not very satisfactory. While the issue was raised in a general way, there was no specific proposal to deal with it.

I am not prepared to continue the debate by way of points of order. Arrangements that were put in place were accepted by the Whips, so I ask that any Member who wishes to speak make that known. If there is a way to resolve the problem, let us try to find it. I would be grateful for any proposals. If there is a suggestion that seems to have more support than Mr McGrady's, the sitting could be suspended so that we might look into it. Otherwise Members will have to vote on the issue at the end of the debate.

Mr Maskey:

Most Members who have spoken think that there are shortcomings in the interim Standing Orders. We raised some of these with you, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, with Paul Murphy and, indeed, with the Secretary of State. We are not satisfied with some aspects of the interim rules, but they are what we have at the moment.

I am heartened by the intensity with which the Democratic Unionist Party is defending the rights of Members. I hope that that augurs well for us all. The DUP is one of the parties that do not have what I would call a very good record. You, Sir, have been witness to some of its antics. But the best way to proceed is to debate the motion that you have moved. It is not perfect, but it is imperative that the work of the Committee be completed as quickly as possible.

We could all raise a host of issues, but this business must be done.

Sinn Fein will try to make sure that the Standing Orders enable the Assembly to function properly and fairly. The rights of all Members must be respected. We are circumscribed by the interim Standing Orders, but we must get the Committee going immediately.

6.30 pm

Mr P Robinson:

In view of the inadequacies of the interim Standing Orders, the Committee's composition must be dealt with promptly and seriously. Without proper Standing Orders, the Assembly's proceedings will become more and more difficult. Confusion will abound, and that will undoubtedly increase acrimony. This is an important Committee, and we must ensure that it is as representative as possible.

I realise, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, that there are Standing Orders by which you have to abide, but their nature allows for the impact that I am suggesting, without contravention if there is a willingness on the part of Members. There may be parties that some want to exclude for political reasons. Anyone who does not want an inclusive Committee should stand up and say so.

It is clear how to get the result that is necessary. When you, Sir, and the Whips were dealing with this matter the Social Democratic and Labour Party had three places on the Committee. According to the Order Paper they now have four. Somewhere along the line the persuasiveness of the SDLP led to an increase in its representation. The additional place could go to one of the three Unionist Members who will otherwise not be represented. That is what was accepted by everyone except the SDLP, whose Members were doing business elsewhere.

The suggestion that we should have put down an amendment is absurd. We could not have done so, for the paper was not circulated before the sitting started. According to the Standing Orders, an amendment must be put down one hour before commencement. It would have been impossible to meet that requirement.

Everyone who was at the previous meeting believed that the Social Democratic and Labour Party was to have three representatives. SDLP Members may have been led to believe something different, but that was the understanding of the rest of us.

Irrespective of the issue of the three Independents, if I had known what was being proposed I would have put forward an amendment limiting the number of SDLP members to three, which is more proportionate to the party's numerical strength in the Assembly. But we were denied that right. Indeed, we were deceived at the earlier meeting into believing that the party would have three representatives.

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you have said that the matter of the three Independents was not raised at the meeting that you conducted. Of course not, for you did not invite them. They are the best people to represent their point of view, but they were not to be in the special club that you called together. You can hardly be surprised that their interests were not represented.

We must have a means of involving every Member in consultation. Regardless of statistics, nobody should be excluded.

Mr Weir:

Is a person technically a Member before taking his seat? If not, there was no Member to put down an amendment one hour before the sitting.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

If we had taken that view we could not have planned anything, and neither your party nor anybody else would have been represented. That is the reality of our imperfect situation. It is always easier to sort out legal matters where there is a corpus of law of long standing.

Mr Dodds:

Mr Presiding Officer, you have indicated that there could not have been meetings before this sitting. That is entirely wrong. The meetings that you held should have been more inclusive. There was nothing to prevent you or officials from consulting.

Mr Weir is entirely correct. How could you stick to the Rules so precisely? As no one could sign the Roll before the first sitting, technically there was no Member to put down amendments. I was going to raise the matter as a point of order, but you were refusing to take any more points of order.

Further, you did not deal with Mr McCartney's point about requiring an amendment to be tabled one hour before the sitting. The Order Paper was distributed just a short time before - in some cases, during, as is being pointed out by a Colleague.

It is very clear from what you have said that changes were made at the last minute. By nodding your head you are indicating that you agree.

We must approach this matter from first principles. Today I have heard a great deal about inclusiveness. If that is the rationale, surely it should be applied to something as fundamental as the rights of Members. The standing orders of any elected body should protect members' rights. It cannot be proper that in this case some Members are excluded.

Several Members have said that they will make sure that these rights are protected. Under natural justice, they are entitled to an input into the Standing Orders under which they will have to operate. So it is essential that a mechanism be found to ensure that individuals are represented on this very important Committee. That would certainly be in line with the principles that have been spoken about. The rules as drafted give rights to parties, but they do not prevent individual Members from being represented.

For all these reasons, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I appeal to you and to the House to ensure that the Committee will get off on the right foot.

Mr Durkan:

I want to take issue with those who argue that reducing the number of Social Democratic and Labour Party members to three would solve the problem. Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you referred to the fact that Standing Order 15(2) restricts the membership of any Committee to 18 and gives a commitment that a party with two or more Members shall have at least one seat on each Committee.

The election could have resulted in our having several parties with only one Member each. In that event we would not have been able to include every party and take care of the Independents. If Nationalist as well as Unionist Independents had been elected - Mr Robinson has said that the three individuals in question have broadly similar views - would all the Independents be grouped? We appreciate the difficulties to which you, Sir, have referred.

Standing Order 15(2) also states that, so far as is practicable, the composition of the Committees should reflect party strengths. It was suggested that reducing the Social Democratic and Labour Party's allocation on this Committee to three would meet that requirement. Each party with more than two Assembly Members has one Committee place. The Alliance Party, which has six Assembly Members, has only one representative on the Committee. Under this proposal, every party will get an additional seat for each further six Members. If the Alliance Party gets one member for six, Sinn Fein should get three for 18, the Democratic Unionist Party three for 20, the Social Democratic and Labour Party four for 24, and the Ulster Unionist Party four for 28. It would take 30 to qualify for five. It seems to me that six is an appropriate and fair index.

If the SDLP's representation were reduced to three, the appropriate index would be seven. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Party's number would be reduced from three to two, and Sinn Fein's from three to two. We could not seriously argue that that was a fair reflection. The Democratic Unionist Party, with 20 Members, would get only two seats, and the Independents, who are elected disparately and separately, one. There is a notion that the SDLP's membership should be reduced to make way for three Independents, who, by the way, are not making this case themselves.

We reject the notion that the way to solve this problem is to reduce the SDLP's membership. That would go against the principle of fair reflection. If there were such a reduction the proportionality threshold would have to be changed, and other parties would be affected.

Mr Ford:

We have spent some time demonstrating how much we need a Standing Orders Committee. Clearly, the Initial Standing Orders are totally unsatisfactory, and until something is done about them we shall continue to have debates like this.

I must take issue with Mr Durkan with regard to the extra seat for the Social Democratic and Labour Party. The first proposal was that there would be three seats for the SDLP, but Mr McGrady proposed that the number be four. Mathematically either is a bit low. Also, it is at least as unsatisfactory that the Initial Presiding Officer does not have a place on the Committee as it is that three individual Independents are not represented.

6.45 pm

The Committee's terms of reference require it to consider the matter of Standing Orders and to report to the Assembly. As it will not take final decisions, it is entirely appropriate that it be set up at the earliest opportunity. In a sense, numbers are irrelevant since the Committee's proposals will have to be approved by the Assembly and, as we are in shadow mode, by the Secretary of State.

At the meeting of the Whips, which I attended on behalf of my party's former Chief Whip, the interests of the Independents were argued adequately and almost continuously by two Members. I have no doubt that that would happen in the Standing Orders Committee too. Mr McGrady suggested that a mechanism be devised to give the Independents observer status, with the right to speak, if not to vote.

It is clear that this Committee is necessary and that it should get under way soon.

Mr C Wilson:

Mr McGrady believes that the Social Democratic and Labour Party needs an additional member on this Committee. The party Whips will be in a very difficult position if they are presented with a fait accompli - a situation completely different from that which they relayed to their members.

It is regrettable that we were not informed of this late change. As Mr Ford has said, Mr Morrow and I argued the case of the Independents. I thought that we would be returning to the matter.

Those who attended all the Whips' meetings are being disadvantaged. The SDLP and Sinn Fein Members absented themselves, but they seem to have more clout.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Mr Durkan seems to think that Nationalists and Republicans are badly done by. It is not so. Nationalists as a whole have 42 Assembly Members and will have seven on the Committee, whereas 48 Unionists will have only seven.

Mr Hume:

Remember the Progressive Unionist Party.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I am talking about the two largest Unionist parties, which have more than one representative on the Committee.

Nationalists are always telling us that they are badly done by. Forty-two Nationalists have the same Committee representation as 48 Unionists, yet they are arguing.

How did this happen? My Whip gave me the interim report last night after the meeting. It indicated four people for the Ulster Unionist Party, three for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, three for Democratic Unionist Party, three for Sinn Fein, and then the rest. But today, without any contact with the Whips, the three has been changed to four. I want to know what secret weapon the Social Democratic and Labour Party has. How can it, without any consultation with the other parties, get an additional Committee member? This Assembly does itself no good by such activities. [Interruption]

Let Mr Maskey know that I believe in fair representation. I was picked by Members to chair the Committee that devised the Standing Orders of the first Assembly because they believed that I would be absolutely fair.

Let me tell Mr Ford that the Initial Presiding Officer does not need to be Chairman of this Committee. The Committee should elect its own Chairman. In any case, we do not yet have a permanent Presiding Officer.

The Secretary of State should realise that we shall not be able to operate properly if you, Sir, interpret the rules in such a way. Mr Weir made a very valid point, as did my Friend Mr Dodds. We should proceed on the basis of a motion. Let us do what the Assembly thinks is right.

Mr Hume:

The answer to Dr Paisley's question about the Social Democratic and Labour Party is that we can count. There are 108 Members in the Assembly, 18 of whom will be on the Committee. That works out at one Committee representative for every six Members - the most democratic arrangement.

Mr P Robinson:

A party with fewer than six Members will have two -

Mr Hume:

Hold on a minute.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

You already subtracted three.

Mr Hume:

The three parties that are represented entirely accurately are the Alliance Party (one representative for six Members), Sinn Fein (three for 18) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (four for 24).

Let us look at the Unionist parties' representation. The United Kingdom Unionist Party is over-represented, as is the Progressive Unionist Party. Together, the Unionist parties are well represented. As their description implies, the three Independents did not stand together. It is right to give representation to the Progressive Unionist Party and the Women's Coalition for they represent votes in constituencies other than their own. The Independents represent only themselves and the people in their constituencies who voted for them.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

We have come to the end of this debate, and all Members had an opportunity to express their views. To be adopted, the proposal requires simple-majority assent. If it is voted down, the Assembly will have to decide what other course to take.

Mr Weir:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, did today's letter from the Secretary of State indicate any alteration to the agenda, apart from the provision for the Adjournment debate? I think you suggested that it did. Are we not bound, apart from the addition, by the initial agenda, as set out in the Rules of Procedure detailed in Annex A, which refers to consideration of any motion? Surely that allows for another motion on this subject.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have dealt with that matter. Another motion would require the leave of the Assembly, and that means unanimity. Perhaps I am not being entirely objective about the matter, but I did not get an impression of unanimity. Therefore I see no option but to proceed with the vote.

All today's votes will be on a roll call. There will be an interval of three minutes. We do not have a Division bell, but perhaps the Standing Orders Committee can look at that matter. This vote does not involve the special formula; the proposal requires 50%-plus assent.

Mr Dodds:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you say that there is no bell. Will the impending vote be announced throughout the building?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Yes, as in the case of the last vote.

Question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 76; Noes 27.


Gerry Adams, Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Eileen Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, John Dallat, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, Michelle Gildernew, John Gorman, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Hume, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Jane Morrice, Sean Neeson, Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O'Connor, Dara O'Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Ken Robinson, Brid Rogers, George Savage, John Taylor, John Tierney, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.


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.

Question accordingly agreed to.


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.

Composition: UUP 
Quorum:  8



The Initial Presiding Officer:

I shall suspend the sitting for about five minutes to give me an opportunity to meet with the Whips or the business managers of the parties and with Mr Denis Watson to discuss briefly when we should break for dinner. We have two more substantive motions and a time-limited Adjournment debate, which will take about one and a half hours.

The sitting was suspended at 7.10 pm.


On resuming -

Assembly Members' Names


8.32 pm

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I am aware that not every Member's name is listed as he or she wishes. In some cases it is spelt wrongly; in some cases I am pronouncing it wrongly; and in some cases I get a title wrong. Members should tell officials how they wish their names to appear on the voting list.

I apologise to anyone whom I have referred to or addressed incorrectly.

First Minister (Designate) and Deputy: 


The Initial Presiding Officer:

In the absence of agreement by the Whips on someone to move the next motion, it will be moved in my name.

Motion made:

That the Assembly invites the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) to consider and, after consultation, make proposals regarding the matters referred to the Assembly under section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 and any other matter connected with the future business of the Assembly and report to the Assembly by 14 September 1998. - [The Initial Presiding Officer]

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Does this mean that the First and Deputy First Ministers are to consider these matters and make proposals to the Assembly, or does it mean that they can take decisions that would bind the Assembly while it is in recess until 14 September?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I hesitate to give the impression that such an explanation is the function of the Initial Presiding Officer, but the question that you raise is perfectly legitimate. My understanding is that this is a mechanism to enable the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to consider the various matters and bring them to the Assembly for decision. The deadline is 14 September, on which day, we have already agreed, another report will be put before the Assembly. I expect that the report of the First and Deputy First Minister will then be transmitted to the Secretary of State.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 allows for the referral of any other matter connected with the future business of the Assembly. That is a very broad sweep, and I would be worried about handing power to these two gentlemen at the first meeting.

I would like to know what the other matters include.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The invitation is to consider and make proposals. The two gentlemen are not empowered to make decisions about anything. They may make proposals about any other matter and bring them to the Assembly. The phrase "any other matter" is fairly wide, but these are only proposals, which will be brought to the Assembly for debate.

There were two reasons for proposing 14 September. First, it is important, for the purposes of leave arrangements, that people should know exactly when they must be here. Secondly, some of the parties were keen to move as quickly as possible. Indeed, the week beginning 7 September was favoured by many. I had to take a decision in the absence of agreement. Also, I thought it important to have the sitting at the beginning of a week lest the debates on these reports take more than one day.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Thank you.

Mr P Robinson:

Does "matters referred" mean matters referred in the past, or are the words used in a continuing sense? If it is the former, may we know what the matters are? And will the Secretary of State continue to refer them?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It means the wide range of matters to be referred to the Assembly under Section 1(2). There are some matters which, under the terms of the Agreement, will not be referred to the Assembly at this time - for example, policing and justice, prisons and taxation - though they could be referred later.

Any other matters connected with the future business of the Assembly are, I believe, those that concern the Assembly's relationships with other institutions. Obviously these will have to be agreed by the Assembly. This is a technical device to enable the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to address such matters and report back to the Assembly.

The important point from the Assembly's perspective is that the instrument makes it clear that authority comes from the Secretary of State through the Assembly to the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate), rather than from the Secretary of State to the First Minister and then to the Assembly. I believe that to be the situation.

Mr Maskey:

This is obviously a very important issue, and we all want to deal with it quickly. The motion refers to consultation. I assume that that means consultation with all the parties throughout the process.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

So do I, though I am willing to hear whether that is a correct interpretation of how the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) would act if this motion were passed.

Mr P Robinson:

Perhaps Mr Trimble would like to answer that question before he goes.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Can Mr Trimble tell us?

The First Minister (Designate) (Mr Trimble):

My apologies, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. I have been busy thinking of something else for the past few minutes. What was the question?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I appreciate that, and I am sorry to bounce this on you.

The motion asks the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to consider and, after consultation, make proposals. Mr Maskey has asked if the consultation will include all parties.

The First Minister (Designate):

The matters referred to include questions that relate to the future shape of the Administration of Northern Ireland. All Members have views on such things. Without undertaking to consult every individual, one can say that one would want to ensure that all points of view were taken into consideration. The consultation will probably extend beyond this body. Indeed, we have to consult with the existing Administration about how things are done. I imagine that the consultation will be fairly wide. However, as I said earlier, we will merely be bringing back proposals for debate here. I imagine that there will be debate when we return in September.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Would the Deputy First Minister (Designate) like to comment?

The Deputy First Minister (Designate) (Mr Mallon):

It was proposed that there should be consultation with the parties, but several Assembly Members are not party members. In view of the substantial pressure for those people to be involved, the consultation should be all-inclusive. A wide range of elements will be involved. We are in uncharted waters, and before the end of the summer holidays there may be more consultation than many people would want.

8.45 pm

Mr McCartney:

On the face of it the motion is tolerably clear as to what the First Minister (Designate) and his deputy have to consider. The next words are "and after consultation". It seems to me that, although consultation could be as wide as possible within the Assembly, the Ministers are not given carte blanche to consult Tom, Dick and Harry throughout the province. I take it that wide consultation is the widest possible consultation with all parties, including the independent Members of the Assembly. After the consultation, the Ministers will presumably make their proposals regarding the matters that are specifically referred to the Assembly under section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998

"and any other matter connected with the future business of the Assembly."

But it must be consultation within the Assembly about matters that have actually been referred under section 1(2) and such other matters as are within the confines of the Assembly's business.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I want to remind Members of the practice concerning mobile telephones, tape recorders, pagers and the like.

We are beginning to stray a little from proper procedure because I do not have a list of Members for the debate. We have slid from points of order. I am quite happy for us to move into a debate if that is necessary.

Mr Adams:

Bhuel, níl mé ach ag cur ceiste, an bhfuil cead agam an cheist a chur nó rún a chur? I am just asking whether it is in order to propose that the Question be put? I am not formally proposing but asking if it is in order to do so?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It probably is in order, and I get a sense that such a course might be very acceptable. I will therefore now put the Question. I indicated that today, to avoid confusion or uncertainty, I would arrange for all votes to be by roll-call.

Mr Empey:

I have no difficulty with the motion, but I do not think that you can put the Question when, as you yourself said, we have not had a debate.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The problem is that there is not a single name on my list, although I asked the Whips for names. That is why I thought it reasonable to go to the vote.

Mr McCartney:

There seems to be consensus that this can be dealt with.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The vote will be taken in three minutes.

Dr McDonnell:

On a point of order, Mr Initial Presiding Officer. Is it necessary for the vote to be recorded?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

At the beginning I gave an undertaking that today all votes would be recorded. I accept that it is a little tedious, but an undertaking is an undertaking.

Question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 72; Noes 27.


Gerry Adams, Ian Adamson, Pauline Armitage, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, John Dallat, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Reg Empey, David Ervine, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, John Gorman, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Hume, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, David McClarty, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Eugene McMenamin, Pat McNamee, Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Jane Morrice, Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O'Connor, Dara O'Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Ken Robinson, Brid Rodgers, George Savage, John Taylor, John Tierney, David Trimble, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.


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.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the Assembly invites the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) to consider and, after consultation, make proposals regarding the matters referred to the Assembly under section 1(2) of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 and any other matter connected with the future business of the Assembly and report to the Assembly by 14 September 1998.

Committee to Advise the Presiding Officer


Motion made:

That a Committee be established in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Initial Standing Orders. - [The Initial Presiding Officer]

9.00 pm

The Initial Presiding Officer:

This is a House Committee to deal with practical arrangements, including facilities for Members and business arrangements. It is different from the other Committees in that it will be chaired by the Initial Presiding Officer, with the Deputy Initial Presiding Officer also present, and that it will have not fewer than eight and not more than 16 members, appointed by the Initial Presiding Officer. The arrangements are not defined in quite the same way as for the Standing Orders Committee. Arguably this is not entirely satisfactory, but it is what we have been handed.

As it appears that I shall be operating as Initial Presiding Officer until at least the next sitting of the Assembly, I give an undertaking that I will try to construct the Committee as far as possible on the basis that has been established for the other Committee.

Given that that is not entirely without problems, there will have to be some negotiating. Perhaps it would be sensible to set up a skeleton Committee and build on it rather than have something that is grossly unsatisfactory from the start. We might begin with one member from each party, plus at least one each for the larger parties, and increase the representation later. Otherwise we could not use the figures that were agreed for the Standing Orders Committee.

I appreciate that this will require a degree of trust, but I can see no other satisfactory course under the interim Standing Orders that we have been given. It is clear from the numbers that we cannot operate this Committee in the same way as the Standing Orders Committee - and we were not very happy even about the latter. However, we shall do the best we can. I give an undertaking that the Committee will not operate on the basis of votes. It seems to me that we must struggle to agree on working arrangements.

As I moved the motion, I shall try to respond to any questions.

Mr Molloy:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, I have pleasure in agreeing with what you advocate. Having one member from each party, as on previous occasions, would result in a working Committee that could enable the Assembly to get on with its day-to-day business. The Committee will have to be set up fairly quickly as there is much to be done. We will co-operate with you when you make your proposals.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Mr Initial Presiding Officer, you said that you would have one member from every party. Do you intend to have one of the Independents also?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Yes, there will have to be some such arrangement. To find the best course, I shall discuss the matter with all three Independents. I shall also have consultations with the Chief Whips.

Mr P Robinson:

When will the Committee meet? I take it that, given the very cramped conditions here, you are eager that we take our rightful place in Parliament Buildings.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Decisions about location are entirely for the Secretary of State. She has indicated that some practical arrangements are proceeding apace, but I cannot give more concrete information. I hope I am correct in assuming that any instructions from the Secretary of State will be communicated rapidly to this Committee. Perhaps within the next few days there will be some indication about the Assembly's home.

If no other Members wish to speak, I shall put the Question.

Mr P Robinson:

Is there any disagreement?

A Member:

There is a look of shock on your face, Mr Initial Presiding Officer.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Not least because this unanimity is your doing. I am sorry: that was unkind and uncalled for.

Question put and agreed to.


That a Committee be established in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Initial Standing Orders.

Motion made:

That this Assembly do now adjourn. - [The Initial Presiding Officer]


Orange Institution Parade (Drumcree)


The First Minister (Designate) (Mr Trimble):

I am very glad that it has been possible to arrange this Adjournment debate, which gives us an opportunity to deal with matters that are important to the people of Northern Ireland.

I want to focus on what I think most people regard as a major problem that we need to resolve urgently: the sense of crisis that surrounds the annual Drumcree Parish Church service attended by the Portadown District of the Orange Order, which is scheduled for Sunday and which has been - wrongly, in my view - made subject to restrictions by the Parades Commission.

The Agreement that we are here to try to implement contains many references to questions of culture and identity - the ethos of the communities - and of rights. It is a serious mistake for the Parades Commission to be engaged in what I regard as a massive assault on the civil rights of an important section of the community. This runs counter to their ethos, heritage and culture.

It is a well-known fact that the Orange service at Drumcree was first held in 1807. Indeed, it may have started a year or two earlier. Within a decade or so of the creation of the order the then rector of Drumcree parish invited Portadown Orangemen to his church.

At that time this was the parish church for Portadown. St Mark's in the middle of the town, was established later. The two parish churches in the area at that time were Drumcree and Seagoe. Since then the Orangemen of Drumcree district have gone each July to both.

Over the years there has been some variation in the route from the town centre to Drumcree, but either the outward or the return march - indeed, sometimes both - has been along the Garvaghy Road, and until comparatively recently the route has been entirely uncontroversial. These are well-known facts that should not need to be restated.

In proceeding along the Garvaghy Road the Orangemen are not invading someone else's territory. They are not going through housing estates but are walking on a main road. It is a very broad carriageway which is the most direct route from the church to the town centre. The habit of the Orangemen has been to take the long way out and the short way home - entirely reasonable.

This is a parade to a church service - not an ordinary Orange walk. There are no banners - simply one Union flag and the bannerettes of the district and of the Portadown ex-servicemen's lodge. The music is provided only by accordion bands, whose members are predominantly female. It is a sober and restrained exercise which is very much a part of the culture and tradition of the order. Those who have a direct connection with it are the religious elements of the organisation and other people attending divine service.

The Garvaghy Road parade ought not to be a matter of controversy. In any other society such an event would be regarded as something perfectly normal to which no reasonable person could take exception.

Unfortunately in recent years the opposition has been not just organised but accompanied by the threat of violence and, indeed, actual force. The highway has been blocked. We are dealing here with people trying to deny others their legitimate rights. The only way to maintain the rule of law is to remove the lawbreakers who are blocking the highway. Citizens must be enabled to exercise their rights in a reasonable manner.

Unfortunately, owing to the perversion of thought that has affected the Parades Commission and too many other people, the authorities, instead of responding to the breach of the rule of law in the only sensible and reasonable way, decided to punish the innocent. Such a decision was first taken in 1995, and the same thing happened on two other occasions. Responding in this way leads to the conclusion that the threat of force pays, and threat becomes a numbers game. Thus we have the danger of riots or disturbances.

What is happening with regard to the Garvaghy Road and other places leads members of the Orange Order and many other reasonable people to believe that they are faced with a concerted campaign to deny them reasonable expression of their rights. But recently Orangemen and others have said "This is enough. Here we must draw the line."

When people become entrenched, there is a danger that things will get out of hand, as was shown in 1995 and 1996. In 1997 there was a better, though not trouble-free, outcome. I hoped that even the Parades Commission was capable of coming to the simple conclusion that what happened in 1997 was preferable to the events of 1996. Instead, we have been pitched into a dangerous situation where confrontation looms.

9.15 pm

I sincerely hope that confrontation can be avoided. If that is to be the case, those who are threatening, and who have in the recent past threatened, to block the Garvaghy Road must allow a responsible, reasonable, peaceful procession. Let them protest, but peacefully. Actually it would be better for them to do whatever people usually do between 12.30 pm and 1.00 pm on a Sunday. There is no reason for anyone to feel offended or to resort to violence.

In the hope of such an outcome, I addressed an open communication to those elements on the Garvaghy Road who, in my view, are causing the problem. I said that they should do their bit to deliver the peace that society wants, rather than bring about confrontation.

They should realise that in the summer of 1997 many dangers to the community were averted because the Orange Order voluntarily re-routed some parades to defuse tension. The Institution believes that, having behaved in a very reasonable, generous and responsible way, it has been let down by the Government. The failure of other elements in society to respond has also caused bitterness.

It would be entirely appropriate for Nationalists and anyone else who has influence on the Garvaghy Road to urge the residents to make a generous response to the Institution's behaviour last year. A similar spirit of generosity could prevent conflict.

I hope that we will manage to resolve these matters. I hope that, whatever happens, people will behave peacefully at all times. But, above all, I hope that we can put an end to this entire issue. It seems to me that the events of recent years are a symptom of the conflict in society as a whole.

Those who have waged what they call a war against the rest of society over the last 25 to 30 years need to make it clear the war is over and that the fomenting of trouble as a means of prosecuting the conflict will be abandoned. I hope that the conflict between elements of the community in Portadown, the war that some people - some people - on the Garvaghy Road are waging against the rest of the town, will also end.

It is symbolic that those elements on the Garvaghy Road elected as their spokesman a person who has a terrorist conviction in connection with the bombing of the British Legion hall in Portadown. That is an indication of the way in which they were waging a war against the rest of the community there. I hope they will realise that it is appropriate to stop. Then we can tackle the problems in the town, particularly with regard to community relations, which have deteriorated seriously as a result of the conflict in recent years. That is what the focus should be on. If there is to be an improvement those who have prosecuted this conflict must call it off.

We must have a peaceful resolution which recognises the rights of Portadown Orangemen to walk home from church by the most direct route. I hope that the threatened conflict will be averted, for I have the gravest forebodings about what will happen in Northern Ireland otherwise.


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