Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Tuesday 15 December 1998


Presiding Officer’s Business

Belfast Agreement

Science and Technology (Business)

Human Rights (Legislation)

Roads (East Antrim)

Child Abuse


The sitting begun on Monday 14 December 1998 was resumed at 10.30 am.


Presiding Officer’s Business


The Initial Presiding Officer:

Before moving to item 5 on the agenda I wish to draw some matters to the attention of the Assembly.

First, the debate on the motion and the amendments to it will be time-limited to five hours and will be followed by the Adjournment debate.

Secondly, three amendments have been tabled and are published on the Marshalled List. All of these are competent and have different effects. Therefore all three may be moved in the order in which they appear on the list. The motion will be moved and then each amendment in turn, with Mr Neeson’s second amendment moved formally. At the end of the debate the votes on the amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear on the Marshalled List.

I will remind Members then, as I do now, that if amendment 1 is carried, it then becomes the substantive motion, and amendments 2 and 3 fall. If amendment 1 is not carried, but amendment 2 is carried, it similarly becomes the substantive motion, and amendment 3 falls. If amendments 1 and 2 are not carried, and amendment 3 is carried, it is then added to the motion, and the substantive motion, as amended, is voted upon.

The Standing Orders have given rise to a further technical problem. Once amendments are moved, it is not possible under our Standing Orders for a Member to have right of reply and to speak for a second time. Also it is not technically possible for the mover of an amendment, subsequent to the debate — and perhaps influenced by it — to withdraw his amendment.

There being no opportunity under the Standing Orders for the mover of an amendment to speak for a second time, and since it seems only proper that an amendment should be able to be withdrawn if its mover so chooses, I will give an opportunity to the mover of each of the amendments to indicate whether or not, at that point, his amendment is moved.

I remind Members that, with Royal Assent having been given to the Northern Ireland Act, the Assembly now has absolute privilege, rather than the qualified privilege that obtained before. However, this does not remove the obligation on Members to remain within the bounds of civility and reasonable courtesy and, indeed, to observe the proprieties of parliamentary conduct in parlance. I will try to ensure that these are adhered to in whichever language is used.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

On a point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. If a Member wishes to withdraw his amendment does he simply stand and do so formally, or does he have a right to speak?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I will clarify the position again. Unfortunately, the Initial Standing Orders do not provide for the mover of an amendment to speak again or to wind up, as is the case in other places.

A Member who moves an amendment must have an opportunity to withdraw it. Otherwise it would not be possible to have a probing amendment or to have one’s course of action influenced by debate. I will therefore ask the mover of each amendment, at the appropriate point, if he still wants his amendment to be moved. This will not be giving an opportunity for a further speech; it will simply be giving an opportunity for a mover of an amendment to indicate whether he wants to proceed with his amendment or to withdraw it at that stage.

Mr Hussey:

On a further point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. I am concerned about remarks made on the radio this morning regarding the designation of Members of the Assembly. The Leader of the Alliance Party asserted that the terms "Nationalist" and "Unionist" were sectarian labels. I request that you rule on that and, if your ruling is as I believe it should be, that you ask the Leader of the Alliance Party to withdraw his remark.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

In the Assembly, the terms that you mention are proper parliamentary parlance. Their use outside the Chamber, and for political purposes, is another matter, on which it would not be proper for me to rule. For the purposes of the Assembly, the terms "Unionist" and "Nationalist" are an essential part of the rules of procedure.

Mr Neeson:

Further to that point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. Mr Hussey having given me notice that he was going to raise this issue I consulted my dictionary. Against the word "sectarian" one finds "member or adherent of a sect".

The Initial Presiding Officer:

What you are saying may be a proper justification of things that you have said elsewhere, but it is not a point of order at this stage.

Mr McGrady:

Mr Presiding Officer, can you give a technical clarification of the Order Paper as originally set out? A footnote about Mr McCartney’s motion indicates that the 14 days mentioned there would extend to Monday 18 January 1999 because of the Christmas recess. Despite the Christmas recess dates that you announced yesterday, all the amendments indicate a performance date of 21 December. How does the recess impinge on that? What procedures would the Assembly follow if any of these amendments were carried?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It is generally regarded as preferable for motions to refer to performance dates — as you elegantly describe them — rather than numbers of days. Where numbers of days are included in the terms of a motion, they are to be taken as working days, which do not include weekends or recesses. The date of 18 January was chosen because consultations with my Advisory Committee indicated that a two-week recess commencing on 18 December would be appropriate.

However, it would be entirely proper for the Assembly to be recalled during the recess to deal with any urgent matters, should that be its wish. That could be done, and would probably best be done in liaison with myself. The Secretary of State is content to oblige us in that regard. Therefore if a resolution were to require a report by 21 December, and the report could not be available before that date, there would be consultations and perhaps eagerness to have a sitting to enable the report to be received as soon as it was available. But it is not for me to give a ruling when the motion, amended or not, has not been passed.


Belfast Agreement


Mr McCartney:

I beg to move the following motion:

Noting that

a. no proposals under paragraph 16 of strand one of the Belfast Agreement have yet been made,

b. actions set out in paragraph 8 of strand two of the Belfast Agreement have not been achieved,

c. any party inextricably linked with a paramilitary organisation retaining arms cannot give a total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic means of resolving differences on political issues or oppose the use or threat of force by others for such purposes,

this Assembly calls upon the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) to lay a report on these matters before the House within 14 days.

I hope that the motion will command support from every democrat in the Assembly, regardless of party. The Assembly aspires to create democratic institutions of government for the benefit of every citizen, regardless of creed or political loyalty. No democratic institution worthy of the name, can exist if it contains the political representatives of an unlawfully armed organisation which is committed to bringing about change by the use or the threat of acts of terrorism. Such an organisation which states that if the aims of those who speaks for it politically, and with whom it is inextricably linked, are not met, it reserves the right to achieve those aims by the use of violence and to retain the weapons that it currently possesses to make good that threat.

The Belfast Agreement has the avowed purpose of bringing peace through democratic institutions of government, and is alleged to contain the recognition of the principle that any change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional position can be brought about only with the consent of the majority. Sinn Féin/IRA have never subscribed to those principles.

What is more important is that no agreement can set aside the fundamental principles of democratic procedure. No agreement can override or supersede the central and basic principles of democracy itself, nor can any political party in a democracy claim that it has an electoral mandate to substitute violence for peaceful persuasion and threaten democratic institutions with violence if its demands are not met.

There is no record of a minority grouping ceasing to use violence for political aims before its objectives have been achieved or the forces of democratic government have defeated it. The IRA is no exception.

At the beginning of the peace process the fundamental principles of the democratic process were emphasised. It was made clear that the requirements for participation were not the demands of parties, or the conditions imposed by parties, but were the essential demands of democracy itself. To use or threaten violence is a violation of democracy, and a determination to retain weapons and the means of violence constitutes a threat in itself.

The Downing Street declaration of 15 December 1993 made it clear that a permanent end to the use of paramilitary violence, or support for it, a commitment to exclusively peaceful means, and adherence to the democratic process were the necessary criteria to establish the entitlement to participate in democratic politics and enter into dialogue. After the joint declaration, Dick Spring, at that time the Republic’s Foreign Minister, gave Dáil Eireann his Government’s understanding:

"We are talking about the handing up of arms and are insisting that it would not simply be a temporary cessation to see what the political process had to offer. There can be no equivocation in relation to the determination of both governments in this regard."

10.45 am

From that moment the history of both Governments on this issue has been the opposite of that statement. Far from witnessing unequivocal determination, it has been one of temporising vacillation and weakness. Successive positions have been taken up only to be resiled from in the face of the threat of violence. The IRA, like Hitler in 1938, must have been utterly astonished at the weakness of its adversaries.

On 1 June 1994, in Dáil Eireann, Mr Spring repeated

"There is little point in bringing people into political dialogue if they are doing so on the basis of giving it a try and if it does not work, returning to the bomb and the bullet".

That is what Assemblyman Molloy told a Sinn Féin audience they would do if the political process did not yield the required results: they would go back to doing what they do best. In order to do so, they must necessarily retain their weapons and their Semtex. It is that threat, and capacity to make the threat good, that has produced in successive British Governments a craven policy of appeasement, of surrender to every threat of renewed mainland violence, of concession to every fresh and increasing demand from a criminal conspiracy.

Throughout the talks, the Government’s line was one of a twin-track policy of decommissioning in parallel with political progress towards an agreement. Who did not hear this twin-track policy being repeated with nauseating regularity by the Secretary of State, Dr Mowlam? During the talks not a single bullet, or ounce of Semtex was delivered.

An agreement was reached at the end of those talks on 10 April 1998. The talk’s train left the station and reached its destination, but the decommissioning train never left at all. Since 10 April 1998, not one single bullet has been handed over nor, according to the IRA, will one ever be handed over until their objective of a united Irish Socialist republic is achieved.

At every point Unionists who trusted the Government were deceived by promises and pledges that were never intended to be fulfilled. How has the principle been observed that only those abiding by the democratic process would be free, not just to participate in politics but to participate as Ministers in Government? How could the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State contemplate having as Ministers in Government members of a party, which they both claim is inextricably linked not only with an armed terrorist organisation but publicly declares its intention to remained armed until its political objectives are achieved.

The proposal to place Sinn Féin in government under these circumstances is utterly outrageous and does such violence to the principles of democracy as to make it possible only if the people have been brainwashed into oblivion. Is there anyone with the remotest interest in political life who does not know that the highest offices in both Sinn Féin and the IRA are occupied by the same people? In ‘The Sunday Times’ last week it declared what we already know: Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness are members of the seven-man IRA army council. They are inextricably linked; they are welded together.

While General Pinochet is threatened with extradition, while Saddam Hussein is threatened with extinction, Messrs Adams and McGuinness are welcomed through the front door of Number 10.

Why? Because they, unlike Pinochet and Saddam Hussein, have the capacity, through their inextricable links with the IRA, to threaten destruction on the financial heart of the City of London. For this reason, while declaring Sinn Féin and the IRA to be inextricably linked, Sinn Féin was accepted in the Belfast Agreement as separate and distinct from the IRA. This fiction enabled Sinn Féin to confirm a commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations — the same fiction that enabled it to sign up to the Mitchell principles.

The reality, as opposed to the fiction, is that neither Sinn Féin fronting the IRA nor the PUP fronting Loyalist terrorists has any connection whatever with democracy or its fundamental principles. They are the political masks for organisations who have murdered, mutilated and destroyed; organisations which to the present day are engaged in murder, shootings, beatings, intimidation, forced exile, extortion and every form of crime.

The ceasefire is a macabre fraud. Since the beginning of 1998 nearly 500 acts or threats of violence from murder to enforced exile have been recorded by Families Against Intimidation and authenticated by the RUC. Let me give Members the roll-call. Brutal beatings and shootings are a daily occurrence. From 1 to 25 November (last month) the IRA exiled nine people, intimidated 67, shot two people and beat seven severely — a total of 85, and they are just the ones we know about. By the end of the month the number was actually over 100. Let us look now at the Loyalists’ cricket score — exiles, nine; intimidations, 48; shootings, five; beatings, seven — a total of 69.

The Secretary of State and the security Minister, Adam Ingram, simply ignore these facts as unhelpful to the peace process. It is no excuse to say, as the Secretary of State responded to me in Parliament, that there is no evidence against the individual perpetrators. Of course there is no evidence, because those who are beaten are threatened with murder, and those who are exiled are threatened with death if they remain. But these fully authenticated brutalities are not simply the work of individual perpetrators.

The indictment is not against individuals; the indictment is lodged against the organisations and the political parties who front them and mask them. These fully authenticated acts of brutality are being carried out in areas which the police, indeed the Chief Constable, admit are dominated by paramilitary groups — the IRA and the UVF — that are fronted by parties in this Assembly.

Do Members recall that during the period of President Clinton’s visit not a squib went off and no one was injured? Do Members recall the six-week sanitisation period that was required before the entry to talks? Not only were there no explosions, not only were there no attacks on the military forces, there were no beatings, there were no shootings, there were no exiles and there were no intimidations. Why? Because Sinn Féin/IRA decreed that there would be none. It would not have been politically expedient for them to have been carried out.

Let me finish by saying this: no mandate, no agreement, no government, no parties can supersede or set aside the fundamental and immutable principles of democracy, morality and justice.

I have different political aims and objectives from the SDLP and from others in the Assembly. However, I share with the SDLP and most of the other parties here a belief in democracy. Violence has no part to play in a political party. A party that claims to be democratic cannot be inextricably linked with terror, murder, mutilation and death.

There is a way forward — and I say this without malice or political gain, but as a democrat. It will entail every party, both Nationalist and Unionist, recognising that the common bonds of democracy are infinitely preferable in the long run to the bonds of an Irish Nationalism that yokes people to a party inextricably linked with the forces of Republican terror. I call upon all democrats, all people of goodwill, all people who are revolted by political violence and terror to join with me, regardless of party, to support this motion.

Mr Neeson:

I beg to move amendment 1: Leave out all the words after "Noting" and add

"(a) the overwhelming public support for the Belfast Agreement,

(b) the public concern at continuing violence and threat of violence by paramilitary groups and the refusal of some parties to oppose the use or threat of force by others,

(c) the failure of Unionism and Nationalism to reach an accommodation which would allow the implementation of paragraph 16 of strand one and paragraph 8 of strand two of the Belfast Agreement,

(d) the failure of the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to produce a report on the issues set out in the Assembly resolution of 1 July,

this Assembly calls on the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) to lay a final report on these matters before the Assembly by 21 December."

I reaffirm my strong support for the Belfast Agreement. It was a long process, and the agreement was a compromise but an honourable one. The people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland voted in their thousands to show their support for those who reached this agreement on Good Friday. The strongest opponents of it are those who walked out. There are now threats from individuals to walk out if an Executive is formed. This is a good agreement, and it is my party’s wish to have it implemented without any further delays.

The vast majority of people of Northern Ireland and of the island of Ireland want to see the agreement working. Mr McCartney referred to the document released yesterday by Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT), which underlines the continuing violence in our society. Almost 1,000 children in Northern Ireland this year have suffered from human-rights abuses. This is unacceptable in any civilised society.

The problem of the continuing violence dates back to the talks process when the Mitchell principles were diluted not only by the two Governments but by the participants of the process. The Alliance Party raised several issues of dispute about breaches of the Mitchell principles. Neither Government acted on any of these issues. The problem started there.

11.00 am

The importance of the Alliance Party’s amendment is that it underlines concern in Northern Ireland not only about the continuing violence but about the threat of violence. I am greatly concerned that some Assembly Members still refuse to oppose the use or the threat of use of force by others for political means.

As Mr McCartney rightly said, the violence comes from several sources. I was deeply shocked and disturbed by the IRA’s statement last week. Decommissioning is an essential part of this process. It was an important part of the agreement and the Assembly cannot fudge the issue. My aim and that of my Colleagues is to ensure that decommissioning is carried out as part of this process.

Mr Roche:

Will the Member give way?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

The Member does not have to give way. Only on points of order must a Member give way.

Mr Roche:

I was merely asking the Member if he wished to give way.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

Persistent enquiries as to whether a Member will give way are merely attempts to interrupt.

Mr Neeson:

Thank you, Mr Presiding Officer. I regret that of all the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland, at this stage only the LVF seem to be prepared to start the material decommissioning of weapons. I hope that all sides will soon start the handing over of weapons.

Part of the Alliance Party’s amendment refers to the sitting of the Assembly on 1 July, when the House unanimously commissioned the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to move the process forward. The resolution states

"The Assembly invites the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) to consider and, after consultation, make proposals regarding 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 deadline of 14 September has come and gone. I remind Members what paragraph 8 of the agreement says:

"During the transitional period between the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the transfer of power to it, representatives of the Northern Ireland transitional Administration and the Irish Government operating in the North/South Ministerial Council will undertake a work programme, in consultation with the British Government, covering at least 12 subject areas, with a view to identifying and agreeing by 31 October 1998 areas where co-operation and implementation for mutual benefit will take place."

Sadly, 31 October has come and gone, and it does not reflect well on the First Minister (Designate) and Deputy First Minister (Designate) that that deadline has been missed.

The latest failures — only last week — to reach an agreement on structures of government for Northern Ireland and on the North/South implementation bodies have caused a great deal of despair. Unionism and Nationalism could not agree, and that is the bottom line. It is absurd to hear, particularly from some Unionists, calls for three Nationalist and three Unionist implementation bodies.

What should be foremost in their minds is the setting up of Government Departments and implementation bodies for North/South relations that will be for the good of the people of Northern Ireland and for the good of the people of the island of Ireland. That should be the first priority, not that there are three Unionist and three Nationalist implementation bodies.

Meanwhile, as they fudge around, the extremists on both sides are surfacing. Members will be aware of the violence in Derry on Saturday; I hope that there will not be any violence in Portadown this Saturday. Clearly, the continuing threat from the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA does create problems. Where a vacuum exists, and we have experience of 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, the extremists on all sides take advantage.

The Assembly charged the First and the Deputy First Ministers with responsibilities. Yesterday we had an excellent debate on proposals for a natural gas pipeline for the north-west and another debate on health issues with the Minister. It was clear from both those debates that Members from all parties want to see the transfer of power to the Assembly.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask you to bring your remarks to a close.

Mr Neeson:

Powers will only be transferred to the Assembly when structures are in place, and agreement has not been reached on the Government bodies for Northern Ireland and the implementation bodies.

It is the duty of the First Minister (Designate) to reach an agreement as quickly as possible. For that reason, in our amendment, the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) are asked to report to the Assembly next Monday. I hope that this will be achieved and that this matter will be resolved before Christmas.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I call Mr McLaughlin to move the second amendment on the list.

Mr McLaughlin:

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh.

Mr Haughey:

On a point of order, Mr Presiding Officer. I and some of my party members have only been issued with copies of the Alliance Party’s first amendment and not with copies of amendments 2 and 3.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I apologise that you do not have the papers. At no stage was there a list with only the first amendment. The amendments submitted last evening were those that appear as amendments 1 and 3 on the list. That was published yesterday evening. The third amendment was tabled by 9.30 this morning, and the marshalled list was published. That list was to have been placed in all pigeon-holes, on all notice boards, in the Printed Paper Office and in the Lobby. My apologies if that has not occurred.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Further to that point of order, I understand that this list was given out at one door but not at the other door. Why could it not have been given out at both doors?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

It was not a matter of papers being given out at the doors. They were to have been made available in all pigeon-holes, on all notice boards and in the Whips’ Offices, and a stock was made available at the Lobby desk. We were attempting to take a belt-and-braces approach. It appears we should have had an elasticated waist as well.

Mr McLaughlin:

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh.

I beg to move amendment 2: Leave out all the words after "Noting" and add

"the overwhelming public support for the peace process, this Assembly calls on the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to produce a final report on the implementation of the Belfast Agreement, as mandated on 1 July 1998, to the Assembly no later than 21 December 1998."

It was to be expected, given the fractious nature of earlier discussions between the various brands of Unionism, Nationalism and Republicanism, that today’s debate would continue in that unfortunate vein. This fractiousness flies in the face of the clearly expressed will in our community to find a new way of dealing with issues that have traditionally divided us. All politicians and political parties will have to cross the chasm of mistrust that exists as a consequence of the conflict and division. We must find a new language and learn to hear each other. We must also learn to understand the fears and worries of each other’s community.

It has to be pointed out, and this is a simple statement of fact, that there is no such party as Sinn Féin/IRA. No such party signed up to the Good Friday Agreement.

A Member:

Does the Member believe in Santa Claus too?

Mr McLaughlin:

Well, some people might believe in Santa Claus, and I will leave that with the Member to decide.

Some parties have shown open-mindedness and generosity and have recognised the different contributions that have made the peace process possible. Combined contributions were made in spite of the ungenerous, begrudging and hostile attitude of people who claim to be constitutional politicians. They seem to have a paranoid fear of the silence of guns; they seem to depend on continued conflict to justify their own political analyses and, in some cases, to sustain their political careers.

What do people have to fear from peace? That is the question we have to ask and the reason Sinn Féin is moving its amendment. Why are Members so frightened of the alternative to what we have experienced throughout the history of this sectarian statelet?

I do not use this language to offend. It as a matter of historical fact. When I talk to individual Unionist and Nationalist representatives, they are prepared to accept it, and if they can accept it privately, why can they not accept openly the need to work collectively to create a new political dispensation for us all?

The Sinn Féin mandate, which has been so vociferously challenged from across the Floor, has been validated, renewed, reinvigorated and strengthened in election after election. Sinn Féin is a registered political party — open and transparent. Our books may be examined, and our books have been examined. Sinn Féin’s analysis and policy is decided at our annual party conferences, at our ard-fheis, in open debate. The media are present throughout the party’s policy discussions. All Sinn Féin’s policies are printed and published and available on request. I will supply copies of these to any party that wants to examine them.

Sinn Féin is absolutely committed to resolving the conflict and divisions in our society by entirely peaceful means. This is a statement of record. Sinn Féin is opposed to punishment beatings and supports the establishment of a new policing service that would be civilianised, civilised and representative of the entire community. That is also a statement of record.

Sinn Féin has stated on the record, on many occasions, its determination to achieve in Ireland a democratic settlement which will see the removal of the gun for ever from Irish politics. That is our commitment, and we want to work — indeed we need to work — with all shades of political opinion to achieve that objective.

11.15 am

I have stated this morning in interviews that without Unionism and, equally, without Republicanism the peace process is worthless. We have no choice; we must work together if we are to resolve this issue.

Reference has been made to newspapers which regularly give details of membership of the Army Council of the IRA. I never see newspaper reports about the leadership of Loyalist organisations such as Ulster Resistance. I wonder what would be said of those who, by their own admission, gave political cover to an organisation which retained guns that were imported from South Africa with the help of the British Army spy, Brian Nelson?

Members of the United Kingdom Unionist Party have clearly set out their stall. What is the status of their statement, and who makes up the UK Unionist Party? They have clearly stated their intention to destroy the Good Friday Agreement, and the clear purpose of the motion is to undermine, subvert and destroy the Good Friday Agreement, and to prevent any implementation, let alone the speedy implementation, of its provisions.

Our amendment accepts the need for a report from the First and Deputy First Ministers Designate to explain the difficulties that they are experiencing and the undue delay in establishing the shadow Executive, the North/South Ministerial Council and the implementation bodies. The Good Friday Agreement is already in default, and there are constant predictions that we will miss the February deadline for the devolution of political power. There is no valid reason for the failure to implement the spirit and detail of the agreement.

It must be apparent to everyone that the difficulty in the peace process is not caused by the decommissioning issue. Begrudgery and a refusal to accept collective responsibility as parties for a new beginning and for the failures of the past are the causes. There is really no point in continuing to point the finger and say "It was not my fault; it was yours." We all failed. The experiences of people over the past generation have replicated the failure that has bedeviled the North of Ireland since partition. By working together, we have an opportunity to change all that.

On Good Friday we all agreed to a form of coalition Government. We do not talk about that as positively and persistently as we should, but that is what we agreed. That Government would be representative of all shades of political opinion, and would satisfy the criteria on establishing a mandate from the people under the d’Hondt system. Four parties achieved that agreement, and there could be a remarkable coalition. It would certainly be a remarkable demonstration of a new beginning for a political entity that has manifestly failed. There can be no satisfaction in dwelling on that failure, or insisting that we should continue to live with it. Let us change it. Let us abandon all the nonsense of point scoring and recognise what we agreed on Good Friday and go ahead. Let us by doing that achieve the removal of all guns.

There are 130,000 licensed weapons in the Unionist community. Would they be given up willingly? We know why that would not happen. There is considerable fear and distrust and a history that will take time to undo, and attitudes that will take time to unlearn. The genuine concerns that created the conditions of conflict continue to exist.

We politicians have been given a job to do by the electorate.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask you to bring your remarks to a close.

Mr McLaughlin:

The people gave us their opinion. There was an election to this coalition Government. In the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, the electorate defeated those representing the "No" camp. Members should now agree on the number and remit of the implementation bodies and the number of Departments and then take the necessary three steps — I am just finishing, Chathaoirligh — which are in black and white in the agreement: establish the Executive, establish the North/South Ministerial Council and bring into being the all-island implementation bodies. Let us take those three steps and show leadership.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask you to bring your remarks to a close.

Mr McLaughlin:

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh.

Amendment 3 proposed: Leave out from "a" in the penultimate line and add

"final report on these matters before the House by 21 December." — [Mr Neeson]

The First Minister (Designate) (Mr Trimble):

I wish to make some comments on the motion and the amendments which have been moved. In the time available it will not be possible to deal with all of the issues involved, but I will touch on the key aspects. The common feature of all the proposals before us, leaving aside the preambles, is that they call, in one form or another, for a report from the First and the Deputy First Ministers (Designate) to the Assembly on the matters which we have all been engaged in over recent months and which relate to moving the Assembly to the point where it is possible for devolution to take place. Calling for a report on these matters is not unreasonable.

The question arises as to the timing of such a report and the terms of the motion and the amendments that call for it. Reference has been made to the discussions which are taking place in a fairly intensive way. I spent from 11.00 am to 11.00 pm yesterday, with very few breaks, involved in them.

The discussions at present are at a fairly delicate stage, and I can see no advantage to the Assembly or to the public interest in putting the position which I think the discussions have reached into the public domain. The discussions will resume as soon as possible, but I do not begrudge the time given to the Assembly on the matter.

I do not think there is any advantage to be gained from giving my view of where the discussions had reached at 11 o’clock last night, because other people might have a different view. It is not unusual in the midst of discussions for people to form different views of precisely where we are, and we saw the effects of that difference of view over what had or had not been agreed only 10 days ago. I do not see any point in going into detail on those matters.

We are focusing in those discussions primarily on the question of North/South co-operation, but we are also taking into account the other strand-one issue, the future structures for the Northern Ireland Assembly. On these matters Mr Neeson was perfectly correct to say that the agreement set a target date (not a deadline — and there is a difference) of 31 October, and it was with that in mind that, on 14 September, in this Chamber, I called for the parties to engage in active discussions on these matters.

Sadly, that call was not immediately responded to for a variety of reasons. It was not until 26 October that it became possible for the Deputy First Minister and I to initiate a round of consultations, and those consultations are ongoing.

It was not until 30 October that we had any formal communication from the Irish Government — a necessary element in these discussions. At this stage we are not in a position to decide among ourselves what the areas of North/South co-operation should be, and then impose that on the Irish Government. That would fly in the face of the principle of consent. Since we received the views of the Irish Government, we have continued to work on the matter.

Some of the amendments call for a report to be made to the Assembly by 21 December. That is not impossible. We might be in a position to make a detailed report by that date. I should very much like that to be the case, and I am quite hopeful about that. However, I do not want to go into detail at this stage lest I raise too many expectations.

At this stage it is not possible to be more definite, and for that reason the amendments moved by the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin could be extremely damaging to the process, as they call for a final report. Mr Neeson quoted the original resolution of 1 July. If a final report were made, it would discharge that motion, and would leave the Assembly rudderless. We would then have to meet again to consider how to proceed.

It would not be in the interests of the Assembly or in the public interest to discharge the resolution of 1 July, thus leaving the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) without any instruction or authority on the conduct of business. Mr Neeson declared his support for the agreement. I am glad to hear that, but I wonder why he has made a proposal which would damage its implementation.

I shall advise members of my party to vote against the Sinn Féin and Alliance Party amendments, which are substantially the same. I can understand why elements in Sinn Féin might want to throw a spanner in the works, but I wonder why the Alliance Party would want to do that. I therefore caution its members to think again.

I turn now to the substantive motion which has been proposed by Mr McCartney, although I am not sure in what capacity he is acting at the moment. The motion calls upon the First Minister (Designate) and the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to lay a report on these matters. As I have said, I do not consider the request for a report to be unreasonable. I see from the footnote that that would mean that the Assembly would require a report by Monday 18 January 1999, taking into consideration the dates for recess that were referred to earlier by the Initial Presiding Officer.

I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for a report within that timescale, although it may be, as previous reports have been, simply a report on progress to date. My clear hope is that we will be able to make a final report before that date, but, as I said earlier, I do not wish the Assembly to bind itself to a final report on that day simply to discharge the motion of 1 July. Therefore it would not be unreasonable to expect the kind of report that is set out in this motion and, for that reason, I would be prepared to support it.

There is another reason for my being minded to support the motion. So far, I have commented only on the substance of the motion rather than the preamble. Paragraph c of the preamble reads

"any party inextricably linked with a paramilitary organisation retaining arms cannot give a total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic means".

We have been making that point for many months, and we are glad to see that Mr McCartney agrees with us, and is drawing attention to the key provision in the Agreement which requires a total and absolute commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful means.

11.30 am

That requirement is mentioned in four different places in the first few pages of the agreement. It is on the first page, and it appears three times in the strand-one section: in paragraphs 25 and 35 and in paragraph (b) under the heading "Pledge of Office". And in case Mr McLaughlin has forgotten it — least he mistakenly think that to hold office, one has only to qualify under d’Hondt — I remind him of that obligation. Strand one of the agreement, at paragraph 25, clearly provides that persons who are not committed to peaceful means

"should be excluded or removed".

If the Member turns to the section on decommissioning, which ought to be engraved on his heart as it imposes on him an obligation to decommission, he will note that paragraph 1 is expressly cross-referenced to paragraph 25 of strand one. Nothing could be clearer. It is not a precondition; it is a requirement of the agreement.

I am glad that Mr McCartney now supports my party’s position that under the agreement there is a clear obligation to decommissioning, that he has moved away from the position of declaring Sinn Féin to be right.

Mr McCartney rose.

The First Minister (Designate):

I have just one minute left.

There is another reason I am glad that Mr McCartney has made this move. I adverted to it during the debate on the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Bill, which took place in the House of Commons in July. If the issue of forming an Executive should arise without there having been a credible beginning to decommissioning, as required by the agreement, we would have to table a motion for the exclusion from office of those who had not begun the process of decommissioning. I am very pleased that Mr McCartney would now support us in such a situation. We welcome support from any source.

The Deputy First Minister (Designate) (Mr Mallon): In spite of what some Members may think, I quite welcome the proposals in the motion and the amendments. Were I a Back-Bencher in the Assembly, I would have tabled something similar long ago because any political process — but especially one such as ours — must either go forward or go backward. You cannot stand still in politics. There is no statutory point where you can remain stationary without damaging the political process.

I welcome this debate because it provides an opportunity for Members to voice their concern to get movement into the political process. I have no doubt that the process needs movement. It needs to be able to start to fulfil its obligations.

For some time, as I think all Members know, I have been using every opportunity and every means at my disposal to warn of the damage being caused by non-implementation of the agreement. I do not wish to go back over the record, nor will I do so, but anyone involved or observing politics knows that I have tried to ensure that we have the structures and institutions to which we committed ourselves on Good Friday.

There were various reactions. Even parties that have been putting down amendments could not find time just to talk to us during the consultation process, to give us a simple proposal on departmental bodies.

I can see that they might have ideological reasons for not making proposals on implementation bodies, or even co-operation bodies, but they could not even find time to give us a piece of paper on matters such as Departmental structures. That was their fault. It is interesting that one of the parties — or should I say one of the half-parties — that put down these amendments, could not find the time to give us one scrap of paper outlining their ideas on Northern Ireland Departments.

As I said, there have been various reactions to my approach. I was apparently trying to bounce people into things; I was accused of that recently. If trying to do what I have been obligated to by the electorate and by an election in this Assembly is bouncing, so be it: let me bounce.

I have also been accused of grandstanding. I have been trying to come to some arrangement that all the political parties can agree to, that the Prime Minister, who is a signatory to this agreement, and the Irish Government, who is also a signatory, can agree to. If that is grandstanding, let me continue to grandstand.

I was also accused of creating an atmosphere of crisis. I never used that term; I do not believe in that term. What I have consistently said — and I say it again — is that inertia in the political process leads to potential damage to the political process.

Heaven knows that this process is a tender enough plant without our damaging it ourselves. In the eyes of the electorate, it is being damaged in terms of its credibility on the ground and the confidence — or lack of it — that the political parties here have in it. I see that every day. I have contact with most of the parties. Some are difficult to find — and I am not talking about the Ulster Unionist Party with whom I seem to spend my time closeted. One might have to try to locate others in Boston, South Africa or various other parts of the globe, but when they do return, my door is always open, and suggestions will always be willingly received, with all the sincerity I can give them.

I have a problem with the amendments, not because I oppose them, but because there is a difference between a report and a proposal. I do not want to come back to the Assembly with a report — a piece of paper listing all the consultations we have had, all the things we have done and all the people we have spoken to. No, I want to come back, along with the First Minister (Designate), with a proposal that the number of Departments be X, that the Departments be A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K — or whatever — that the functions of each Department be clearly defined and that those in the Assembly who are against what is being proposed (and there will be opposition from Members) have an opportunity to table amendments, to challenge the proposals and subject them to debate. In that way, whatever is decided will have come out of the crucible of debate and will be all the stronger for that.

I do not want a tidy little report, sneaked in before Christmas. That would not give us the opportunity to do all that.

I also want the opportunity to come back, with the First Minister, and present proposals for implementation bodies. I will start this today, but I am not going to relate that to the alphabet.

I want to justify those proposals. I want to give Members the opportunity to challenge them, to put down amendments, to vote against, vote for and speak their mind about them.

I want to do likewise in respect of areas for enhanced co-operation as per the agreement and areas of co-operation, so that when we have finished, no Member will be able to say that the proposals have not been put through the democratic process in accordance with our Standing Orders.

Some will agree, some will disagree, but everybody will be given the opportunity to table amendments. I would like to see this being done this week, but I make no predictions. Over the past two weeks, my confidence in making what I believe to be accurate predictions has been somewhat dented.

I believe it should be done this week, and that is why I find fault with the amendments — they lack imagination.

Why wait until Christmas week? What is wrong with this week? What is wrong with before Friday? What is wrong with the people who are putting down amendments instead of going at it with an almighty bash?

Mr Ford:

Does the Minister accept that "by 21 December" does not preclude this week?

Mr Mallon:

I do. The Member’s profundity and perspicacity never cease to amaze me.

I want to see this business done. Members have charged the First Minister (Designate) and myself with doing it. They are right to tell us that it has not been done quickly enough, and I agree with them, but instead of churning out all the routine speeches about issues which are nothing to do with structures, they should speak their mind today.

Members who could not consult with us or submit their views in writing should tell us today what they think about the proposals for Departments and the implementation bodies. Perhaps the First Minister (Designate) and I will be able, as a result of your inspiration, Mr Initial Presiding Officer, to come back by 21 December — though preferably this week — and say "Here are proposals. Pass them or reject them."

I make no excuses for anybody — even the Chair. The time since 1 July has been one of the most difficult periods in politics on this island. We have gone through a crucible in political life — from a Drumcree situation to an Omagh situation to a Ballymoney situation. For these reasons we should be inspired to move and create the structures and the institutions which are required. We owe it to ourselves, to those who elected us, and, indeed, in a strange way, to those who went to the trouble of putting down these amendments today.

11.45 am

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask all Members, no matter how distinguished, to heed my requests. Important matters are being dealt with, and people have been impatient to hear about them. That is understandable. It is also understandable that when making a speech, one tries to save the most important part to the last. However, I appeal to Members to show courtesy.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I do not see why you immediately discriminate when it comes to my party. You tell us to keep to our time. I do not intend to do that today. I have as much right to rise, wave to you and continue. I am a parliamentarian who is used to the order of the House, but not in this House. Everyone who has spoken so far has got away with running over time, yet when I stand up you immediately call on me to keep to my time.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I was referring not to the Member who was to follow but to Members who had gone before.

Mr P Robinson:

It was too late, he having been given 14 minutes.

A Member:

He is well worth 14 minutes.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Of course, in this House we do not have democracy. We heard the Deputy First Minister (Designate) talking about the crucible of debate. There is no real debate. We have a system of voting under which nothing can be passed except with a majority of Members on each side of the divide. It is easy for the Deputy First Minister (Designate) to say "Put it to the vote." The vote is meaningless. It does not represent the ballot box or the number of people who voted to send representatives to this House, so that can easily be dismissed.

The other point that needs to be dismissed, is the constant harping by some Members about how the people have spoken. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 contains over 400 amendments that Members of the House of Commons were not given time to consider. Those were not in the agreement. It is not true to say that they were what the people voted for; they never saw those amendments.

The Sinn Féin/IRA spokesman spoke in this debate today. The people of Northern Ireland were no doubt listening to hear whether there was going to be some change in the attitude of the people that he speaks for. It is quite evident that there will be no change. I am reminded of a quotation in a book published after the Pope visited Drogheda. Sinn Féin answered the Pope as follows:

"Force is by far the only means of removing the evil of the British presence in Ireland ... we know also that upon victory the Church would have no difficulty in recognising us."

The IRA has not changed.

We did not say that the IRA and Sinn Féin were inextricably linked. Those were the words of the then Prime Minister, Mr Major, and of the present Prime Minister, who repeated them. The Secretary of State, with whom all these people have a perpetual love-in, also repeated this in the House. When they go to Stormont House, let them argue with her. Do not let them come here and say "We have no connection whatsoever with the IRA". What an abominable and atrocious lie.

Mr Adams, who is not with us today, said that it would be intellectually and morally irresponsible to distance himself from the IRA, yet his spokesman in the House says, "Oh, we are not associated with it at all, would not touch it with a barge pole," to quote the Deputy Leader of the UUP.

I understand that FAIT is a Government-sponsored body and that one of its leaders was an Alliance Party candidate who was not elected to the Assembly. It cannot be said that FAIT has any sympathy with the party that I lead, yet it has issued a report saying that those who have been released from prison are now engaged in this beating-up campaign. I asked the Prime Minister when he was here - he did not want to see me, and then decided that he had to see me for some reason best known to himself - "How many released prisoners have been rearrested and put back in prison?" He said "I will find out." He wrote to me and told me that none had been.

His answer is wrong. There are people who have been released and rearrested - back at the old game of violence and intimidation. A thousand children have been put through the crucible of intimidation.

Mr B Hutchinson:

On a point of order. A former IRA man works for FAIT, which made allegations against Loyalist prisoners. [Interruption] Allegations are being made here, and people could be taken back to prison. People from the Loyalist side - and I can only speak for the Loyalist side - were not involved, as has been claimed by a former IRA man, and Dr Paisley is taking a former IRA man's word for it.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I have listened with some care, and I do not see that that is a point of order.

Mr B Hutchinson:

I got it in anyway.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley rose.

Mr McCartney:

Did the Initial Presiding Officer hear the remark that was made after the Member sat down: "I got it in anyway"? Are spurious points of order going to be used to make interjections of that kind?

The Initial Presiding Officer:

This is not the first time that this has happened. If Members choose to breach the rules by which we try to live, everyone will do it and our proceedings will become a shambles. I appeal to Members to hold to the rules as best they can. Since it is my view that the point raised was not a point of order, the time taken to hear and to deal with it will not come out of Dr Paisley's time.

Please continue, Dr Paisley.

Mr B Hutchinson:

I did think that it was a point of order. [Interruption]

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I never mentioned this man's party or anything to do with his party. If the cap fits, let him wear it. Evidently the cap did fit, and it hurt him. That is why he is screaming.

The House today should take note of the cry of the 1,000 children and not listen to those who are not prepared to face up to their responsibility with regard to that. Go and tell the Hegarty family in County Londonderry what the relationship was with them and with Mr McGuinness of IRA/Sinn Féin. Try to sell them the story of peace and love and goodwill and harmony.

The IRA has not and will not change. How could it? It is tied by its own constitution, which states

"The Army Authority shall retain, maintain and ensure the safety of all armaments, equipment and other resources ... until such time as the sovereignty and unity of the Republic of Ireland has been attained."

It will not attain that. The IRA may pussyfoot with the British Government, and it may think that it will destroy the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It may think that it will put the Protestant and Unionist people under its jackboot, but it has another think coming. Members of the IRA can do what they like, say what they like, kill as many as they like, destroy the children of this country and wreck homes, hearts, mothers and fathers, but they will not win the battle because truth is not on their side. The lie will be dethroned and truth shall reign.

The IRA says that only when there is a settlement leading to a united Ireland will decisions be taken to decommission. Let us nail the lie that within two years these men of blood will hand in their weapons. They will not be handed in unless they achieve their objective, and they will not achieve that.

The British Government have released 214 terrorist prisoners, and IRA punishment attacks have continued, with 36 shootings and 49 beatings this year. On one side of the balance troop levels have been reduced by 1,500 to 15,500 and team military patrolling has ended. On the other side, the IRA has repeated that it will not give up its arsenal, describing calls for disarmament as a red herring. Military bases in Londonderry and Strabane -

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask you to bring your remarks to a close.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

- observation posts at Crumlin Road in Belfast, checkpoints at Newry, Aughnacloy and Belfast Airport have been closed. Estimated IRA stocks are 10 tonnes of Semtex, 900 assault rifles, six ground-to-air missiles, 100 pistols and 250 machine guns. Arrests under anti-terrorist legislation are down by 80%. That is the Government's balance sheet. New commissions on policing, justice and equality have been established, and there is regular and better access to Ministers and officials for Sinn Féin/IRA. There have been three murders this year by the IRA, and probably £1 million has been raised in the USA.

The Initial Presiding Officer:

I must ask you to bring your remarks to a close.


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