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Statement by Ian Paisley (DUP) on policing and other matters, (2 January 2007)

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Text: Ian Paisley... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Statement by Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), on policing and other matters, (2 January 2007)


"Bringing down the curtain on an old year and lifting it for the next year ought to bring with it a time of reflection and expectation - reflection on things done, priorities realized, and an acknowledgement of the opportunities missed; expectation of fresh opportunities, goals to be achieved and principles to be maintained.

The DUP has promised to deliver a fair deal. We are mandated with that duty and have demonstrated that we are not going to be pushed into a second-rate deal. Indeed, if others had been in charge of Unionism during the past year they would have been pushed into a premature government and a second-rate arrangement that, like all their other deals, would have crumbled into another political crisis.

We have been steadfast throughout 2006 and will remain so throughout this New Year to win a fair deal which meets our requirements and satisfies the publicís expectations of a durable arrangement based on democratic principles, and which has the ability to take root and not succumb to political crisis. For the first time in the process, this addresses and resolves the critical question that parties who want to be in government must be truly democratic, support the police service, the courts and uphold the rule of law.

The DUP has put the rule of law to the top of the political agenda. Whilst for years others avoided addressing this matter, I ensured that it became a matter central to any resolution of a political settlement. I am certain that the movement by Sinn Fein is the result of the DUPís determination to press home this matter. However words are not enough. It is deeds that count, and the fact that between October and December 2006 there have been no deeds, and that for the next three weeks we must await the outcome of a Sinn Fein party conference on policing, reduces the prospect of any immediate action. Sinn Feinís begrudging movement will only serve to delay opportunities available to us in the incoming months of 2007.

This process is not about deadlines or dates. Indeed at times, against my advice, the Government has set unrealistic deadlines which have had to be broken. Neither is it about the DUP selecting dates for progress which can only be realised if and when there is delivery. Gerry Adams has asked that the Government and the Unionists respond to Sinn Feinís latest Ďinitiativeí positively. Unionists stand ready to respond but have been denied opportunity because we must have something of substance to which we can respond.

My party has quite rightly acknowledged movement in terms of words. Now we wait for the follow-up actions. This process is about delivery of real, meaningful and quality support for the police, the courts, and the rule of law. I have spelt out on many occasions what this means in real terms, and like all sensible unionists I am now awaiting the quality delivery.

This year can be a year of delivery. Quality support for the police, the courts and the rule of law would do much to change the mistrust and suspicion held by the unionist electorate, and the sooner we have delivery, the better for us all.

Unionism has not been found wanting in its desire to see a flourishing and full administration restored to Stormont, which will allow local men and women to run this country effectively. It is only with real, substantive and quality delivery that this process can and will move forward in 2007.

Sinn Fein approaches a moment of truth. They know what needs to done and they are not asked to do it to satisfy the DUP.

For the first time in our history, republicans are contemplating support for the police and the courts in Northern Ireland. Let no words discourage them. Unionists must be sure and certain that any advances by republicans are free from conditions, and that they have not been secured by reckless government actions detrimental to the interests of the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland.

The DUP, with characteristic bluntness, stated the obvious, that we could not envisage a situation in the foreseeable future where community confidence would exist for a Sinn Fein minister of policing and justice. Our candour disturbed some. The Government and the DUP already support the police, and want to see devolution in the proper circumstances. The Government and the DUP are already creating confidence in policing and urging people to support and cooperate with the police. Sinn Fein needs to act to create the corresponding confidence.

As a consequence of our proposals for policing and justice we have changed the context of the debate on when policing and justice powers are devolved by proposing that the minister be appointed by a cross-community vote rather than by the díHondt system. This would ensure that only someone who has widespread support and enjoys community confidence could hold the post. Consequently, only someone whom we support can be chosen for the post.

The DUP proposal, while acknowledging that the Assembly needs some time to bed-in, put no restrictions on when the powers could be devolved. This is achievable with delivery. Sinn Fein must honour their commitments. It is action not words that count. When they do so the DUP will not be found wanting. If the Government believes its timetable is achievable, they would do well to press with us on Sinn Fein to deliver in a real and meaningful way.

The DUP is keen to see real political progress, but it must be sound, condition-satisfied, credibly tested and quality-assured certainty that will prompt any advance. Northern Ireland cannot afford in 2007 an Assembly that stutters and sputters from crisis to suspension. What matters most is that we get it right. People want us to ensure that it is stable and built to last, and when built, that we make it work for the benefit of everyone."


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