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Speech by Ian Paisley to a Labour Party Conference Breakfast Event, Manchester, (28 September 2006)

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

Speech by Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to a Labour Party Conference Breakfast Event, Manchester, (28 September 2006)


"I would like to thank you, Secretary of State, for hosting this breakfast this morning. You will appreciate that as a Ballymena man a free breakfast is a good way to my heart. Indeed, I hope that the Ulster fry-up will not deteriorate into an occupied Six Counties mix-up. But in politics I learnt a long time ago - longer than you have been alive, Secretary of State - that there is no such thing as a free lunch - or breakfast - and at this point I would like to thank Man Lee House for their kind sponsorship - I feel I have you in the seat that is not free!

This is the first time I have had the privilege to speak at a Labour Party Conference event, and with every new experience there are a number of lessons that we all have to learn. No doubt since you, Secretary of State, took up your role at Hillsborough, you too have been taught a number of lessons. I would like to reiterate some of those first principles that I hope will serve as good guidance for us all, over the coming weeks and months.

I believe we must strive for a democratic settlement in the affairs of Northern Ireland. The pursuit of a democratic settlement is not a search for utopia, but for normality, justice and peace. No other part of this United Kingdom would permit, within the ranks of its administration, those committed to terrorism or criminality. We in Northern Ireland seek nothing more and will settle for nothing less.

I believe that the actions of my Party have brought Sinn Fein/IRA further than they wished to be taken. They did not want to decommission. They led the Ulster Unionist Party along a long and twisted road to a dead end, and delivered nothing. Whilst my requirements on a visible reassurance to decommissioning have not been achieved, I believe that by holding out for more, we achieved more than republicans were ever willing to give.

But my concern with republicans runs much deeper than the vexed question of decommissioning. The Secretary of State tells us that Sinn Fein is ready to do a deal. Indeed he would like them to be in our government. In fact, he will not countenance a government without them. The question on our lips is, are they fit to assume that responsibility? Having a mandate is not the qualification of a democrat. Talking the talk of democracy is not the mark of a democrat. But walking the walk is what unionists will examine. By their example and actions we will know them. Unionists judge Sinn Fein by the cover given by them to the atrocities carried out by the IRA, even in this very city.

In the Preparation for Government Committee, Sinn Fein absentee MP Conor Murphy, when challenged about extortion, smuggling, money-laundering and all manner of criminal activity by the IRA, the stark answer came back, 'any activities by the IRA are not crimes'. Their other spokesman, Mitchell McLaughlin, has stated publicly that the murder of Mrs McConville 'was not a crime'.

When challenged by all the other Parties to accept the rule of law before entering into government, Sinn Fein refused to endorse the Police or the Courts. Yet the Secretary of State insists that we do a deal and take these same godfathers of violence into government! The people of Northern Ireland want devolution, to which they have a right, and for which they have high expectations, but we must face up to the reality that there cannot be two laws or two police forces, or double standards in any democracy. All people must be equal under the law, and similarly, all people must be equally subject to the law.

The Organised Crime Task Force which is chaired by the Minister of State, in its latest report says that the paramilitary infrastructure of the IRA is now the framework of a lucrative £200-million crime empire. That empire must be demolished. Sinn Fein must cross the river of no return. Their day cannot come. They must bow to the dawn of democracy.

Secretary of State, I trust you have learnt by now that Ulster men and women will not be bullied. For too long they have suffered indescribable agonies from the heavy hand of terror unjustly exercised against them, and will not tolerate being bullied by threats from any politician. The Ulster people have demonstrated over and over again that if they are bullied they will become even more obstinate in their determination to see good overcome evil.

Secretary of State, you have attempted to apply pressure to the democratically elected representatives of Northern Ireland. Your claim that all the tough decisions on rates, RPA, education, etc, will be taken by you and your colleagues, and if the unionist politicians donít 'do the deal', as you refer to it, they will be left behind.

Indeed, you have eloquently stated that it is 'moonshine' to believe that if we do not submit by 24th November, we will be denied access to Downing Street, because no future Prime Minister will care for Northern Ireland as much as Mr Blair has done! You should know by now that when you threaten unionists and dismiss our concerns in such a way, rather than rush us into action you only succeed in making us dig in further! It sounds more like a man who has been too long at the distillery drinking too much of his own political Poteen.

Secretary of State, no Ulsterman responds to threats. So donít push it! If you are serious about a deal then get serious about applying pressure to those who stand in the way of a real settlement which is both honourable, achievable and durable. The real impediments to progress are those who will not accept the rule of law or the legitimacy of the police. Put pressure, not on democrats, but on those who are the stumbling-blocks to progress.

Your current strategy of removing resources from elected representatives and handing it to the UDA; your policy of paying Sinn Fein for not attending Westminster does more to discredit you and the policies of this Government than anything I can say.

Putting words into the mouth of any individual is a dangerous occupation. I notice, Secretary of State, that you have indicated what a future Prime Minister will or will not do regarding Northern Ireland. I do not believe you have the authority to tell us what a future Prime Ministerís policies will or will not be. I would have thought that you would have understood the folly of that course of action.

I am not playing games with the future of Northern Ireland. I have no intention of playing one Prime Minister off against a prospective Prime Minister, but neither will I be threatened by the view that Northern Irelandís problems must be resolved before 24th November, irrespective of our needs, after which no Prime Minister will ever care again.

Northern Ireland must work to a solution that will work rather than to a deadline that is both unrealistic and designed only to square with other domestic requirements.

I have been threatened before, without any real effect. In fact, one Prime Minister locked me out of Downing Street for two years. During that time I ate well and slept even better! And I have no doubt that if you continue to threaten and even succeed in locking me out I will continue to eat and sleep well!

Some say - indeed others hope - that a deal will rest upon my desire to find a legacy for 'the Doc'. Others may at this time be thinking about their own legacy, but at eighty years of age, I have learned that oneís legacy is the entirety of oneís lifeís work, and not just the efforts of its closing chapters. You would be mistaken to think that in the weeks ahead I would do something that is inconsistent with my desire and belief that we can find a fair deal rather than a quick fix.

Secretary of State, we are coming to an opportunity to address some crucial issues. I and my Party will not be found wanting in our search to get it right. Policing and law and order stand out as huge obstacles that must be addressed. I do fear that Sinn Fein will not come up to the mark. Rather, they will expect, if not demand, some sickening trade-off that in order to support the legitimate and only Police Service and recognise the rule of law, you will be forced to make some invidious concession to them. Do not embark on that journey, because you will find as others before you have found, that Sinn Fein will promise much but deliver little.

Demand from them what is rightfully expected of any Party that wishes to be in the club of democracy and you will not go far wrong.

To quote the Book of Common Prayer, Sinn Fein is guilty of leaving undone the things that they ought to have done. It is now time for this Government to insist that they do those things that they must do."


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