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Speech by Ian Paisley to DUP Annual Conference, 1997

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Text: Ian Paisley ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh

Text of a speech by Ian Paisley, then Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to the DUP's Annual Conference, in 1997.


"The majority of the people of Northern Ireland want the naked truth from the Unionist leaders. History has a habit of repeating itself. During the British Government capitulation to the IRA in the South of Ireland, which led to the bringing into being of what was called the Irish Treaty. Lord Carson of Duncairn, our founding father had this to say:

"The terms of this treaty were passed with a revolver pointed at your head and you know it."

This was a speech in the House of Lords.

"You know you passed them because you were beaten. You know you passed them because Sinn Fein with the army of Ireland has beaten you. Why do you not say so?"

He went on to say that

"Unionist leaders undertook to defend this capitulation policy. The truth of the matter is that if you go on like this, if you have men in high positions stating today that black is white and tomorrow arguing that it is certainly black you will destroy the confidence of the democracy of this country in its rules and institutions. Of all men in my experience that I think are the most loathsome it is those who will sell their friends for the purpose of conciliating their enemies and perhaps, still worse, the men who climb up a ladder into power which even I may have been part of a humble rung and then when they got into power kicked the ladder away without any concern for the pain or injury or mischief or damage that they do to those who have helped them to gain power."

Those words, which Lord Carson spoke of the Irish Treaty, could be spoken concerning the present misnamed peace process.

I personally welcome the fact that at long last these Unionist leaders who have been preaching that the Union is safe have been forced to face the naked truth - the Union is in danger, and in greater danger at this time than at any other time since the founding of Northern Ireland. We heard it from Terence O'Neill, the Union is safe. We heard it from Chichester-Clarke the Union is safe. We heard it from Brian Faulkner the Union is safe. We heard it from James Molyneaux the Union is safe. We heard it from Harry West the Union is safe and we have heard it in more recent times from Mr Trimble the Union is safe. Now, even Mr Trimble admitted in a recent debate in the Forum that what I said about the Union being in greater anger at this time than at any other time since the founding of Northern Ireland, was correct. All Unionists with any sizable electoral base have reached agreement either beforehand by a right reading of the situation or by being forced to do so by the unfolding events which they refuse to face. The representatives of the Ulster Democratic Party and the Progressive Unionist Party, spokesmen and frontmen for the outlawed UDA and UVF respectively, will still act as ventriloquist dummies of the Stormont regime as they did when they were patronised by the previous Conservative Government ministers in Northern Ireland. My Party will have no alliance whatsoever with them. As the Leader of this Party I will not be escorted into sitting down with IRA/Sinn Fein with them at my side.

These parties allow themselves to be used by the Government in power as the excuse for the retaining of weaponry by the IRA and, in the words of their spokesman, are prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to Gerry Adams concerning the Canary Wharf bombing. The Pan- Nationalist Front has convened a misnamed peace process conference at Stormont with the help of the British Conservative and Labour Governments. Then IRA/Sinn Fein, without the surrender of one ounce of explosives or one gun, has been welcomed at the table as democratic and on an equal footing with the Official Unionists. In spite of all professions to the contrary the Official Unionists have sat down with IRA/Sinn Fein at the negotiating table and are now proceeding with the agenda. What is the agenda? The Framework Document. What is the Framework Document? It is a document with only one option - the united Ireland option and on their agenda the British Government has made it clear that that is the best bet. The Official Unionists maintain now that all Unionists should be at the table with IRA/ Sinn Fein. This, of course, is not what they said in the past.

Let me just quote Deputy Leader. In July of this year Ulster Unionist Deputy Leader, John Taylor, said he would refuse to sit down with the Provisionals' political wing under the present circumstances. "I personally could not take part in talks with Sinn Fein with a gun to my head." So he was not going to sit down with them but now he has sat down with them. What is more, he is deeply impressed by them and their behaviour. In the last issue of The Sunday Times Mr Taylor says he has also been impressed by the demeanour of Sinn Fein in the talks. He says "The body language is suggesting to me that Sinn Fein are beginning to slowly, slowly become realistic." Think of that! Here is a man who would not sit down with them but now is impressed with their body language. Is this a man who is going to defend and maintain the Union? A man who is actually impressed with the body language of gunmen and IRA terrorist leaders. So we need not go any further. I could give quotation after quotation from Mr Trimble who said if the IRA did not give in their arms he would close down the talks. Have they given in one weapon? No, but instead of that they are going to receive new licensed weapons from the British Government. So the British Government, instead of taking away the weapons of the IRA are going to supply them with legally held weapons and yet Mr Trimble still maintains his place at the table with them. On every real principle essential to the defence of the Union the Official Unionists have weakened and are continually weakening.

In the Forum on 3rd October we had a debate on a DUP motion in regard to Articles 2 and 3. In that debate I moved the following motion - "This Forum condemns the illegal and immoral territorial claim contained in the Constitution of the Irish Republic and calls for its immediate and unilateral removal." I said during the first talks that there was a meeting at Downing Street which was attended by the Leader of the Official Unionist Party (then Mr Molyneaux) the Leader of the Alliance Party, the SDLP Leader and myself. Mr Hume said to Mr Major that the territorial quarrel between the Republic and the United Kingdom is now settled. I asked the Prime Minister if he thought that was the case, given that Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's constitution remain. After a lot of squirming the Prime Minister admitted that the quarrel had not been settled.

Article 2 states:
"The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas".
Article 3 says:
"Pending the re-integration of the national territory and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws of Saorstat Eireann and the like extra-territorial effect."

The history of this is interesting. On 1st July, 1937, the people of the Free State, as it was then called, went to the polls on two issues. The election of a Parliament under the Government of Ireland Act and acceptance or repudiation of the new Constitution which had been drawn up by de Valera with the approval of the Roman Catholic Church. The 1937 Constitution, as far as de Valera was concerned, was an actual progression towards true independence from Britain. The fact that it significantly undermined any prospect of cooperation between the two states in Ireland which share the national territory, their words seemed of little importance to de Valera. The Constitution itself aimed to restore Ireland, its Gaelic civilisation, a civilisation viewed by Ulster and the rest of the United Kingdom as backward and negative. The preamble to the Constitution makes it clear it was based on the moral theology of the Church of Rome, thus alienating the Protestant North. Articles 2 and 3 laid claim to all of the island of Ireland, the islands of Ireland and the territorial waters. That irredentist claim brought anger and contempt from Ulster. It unilaterally altered British/Irish relationships from constitutional devolution based upon conciliation to the converse - confrontation and alienation of those they profess to represent. Dublin's irredentist claim of jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland swept away any hope or prospect of good relations between North and South. In one movement it entirely undermined the internationally binding and legal status of both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland and disrupted democratic evolution in both North and South.

The people of the South of Ireland did not pass this Constitution by acclamation. To hear some folks nowadays you would think that the whole 26 counties to a man rose to hail this as a final deliverance from British rule and from any degree of liberty for Protestantism within this state. The Constitution was passed by only a small majority even though it was drafted supposedly to accommodate the interests of 93% of the people in the Free State. It was approved by 685,105 people and rejected by 526,945. Only 56% in favour. If there had been an input from Northern Ireland adding to the no vote it might not have had a majority in Ireland as a whole. At the same election De Valera's Party failed to win a mandate. He got back into power only by relying on the Labour Party for support. Irish unity, if it were ever to come, would be on the basis of Northern Ireland's submission and subjection to the ethos enshrined in the 1937 Constitution.

On 4th July, 1940, corresponding with Chamberlain, then Prime Minister of this United Kingdom, De Valera stated, I quote: "Our present Constitution represents the limits to which we believe our people are prepared to go to meet the sentiments of Northern Protestants." If ever there was a case of De Valera's taking a "not an inch" attitude to the North, this was it. In other words, the Unionists were to have no say about ethos, a position which still exists, with the Irish Government telling us that they can only alter Articles 2 and 3 if there were a Unionist pay off.

We were told at the last talks that if we would negotiate with the Southern Government we would be staggered by their magnanimity towards the North. The Foreign Minister, who is still Foreign Minister today, said that the best day's work that De Valera ever did was to get this Constitution into place and in no way would they approve any changes to it.

The battle for the Union demands that these Articles 2 and 3 are not to be changed but they are to be immediately and unilaterally removed. That is the traditional Unionist view. In that debate on 3rd October the Official Unionists moved an amendment to our motion. Our motion was "This Forum condemns the illegal and immoral territorial claim contained in the Constitution of the Irish Republic and calls for its immediate and unilateral removal." Professor Alcock, as the official spokesman for the Official Unionists, moved the following: "This Forum condemns the territorial claim to Northern Ireland contained in the Constitution of the Irish Republic and calls upon all Unionists to unite within the framework of the talks in order to bring about its eventual removal."

Notice the dilution of the traditional Unionist principle. The territorial claim is condemned, but it is not condemned as being illegal and immoral. Then the way to have this changed is not to force the Irish Government to unilaterally do away with it. They unilaterally brought it in, they must unilaterally do away with it. Rather, we have to unite within the framework of the talks, that is, in negotiation with the Irish Government and with the SDLP and with IRA/Sinn Fein to bring about its eventual removal. What is more Professor Alcock said, and I quote, "I am not at all sure that they are illegal, these Articles, and I shall explain, immorality lies not with the Irish Republic but elsewhere."

So the Official Unionist spokesman condemned the principle always held by traditional Unionists that this claim was illegal and immoral. He now is not sure whether it is illegal and he is not at all convinced. In fact, he says it is not immoral and that the immorality lies elsewhere.

This is a pointer, as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. As a Party thinketh in its motions so is it. The Unionist Party has weakened and diluted and is now engaged in talks which hope to jettison the principles of traditional Unionism.

Then we have the new development - the breakthrough, as it is hailed - between Bertie Ahern and David Trimble. What is this? That they are prepared to talk, not to do away with, but to talk, about Articles 2 and 3 provided Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, (that is the Section that declares British sovereignty over Northern Ireland) is on the table as well. That, of course, is the Union. Mr Trimble now is prepared to put the Union on a par with Articles 2 and 3 which Professor Alcock has discovered are not illegal or immoral, and to put the Union on the same basis as the illegal claim of the Irish Republic.

I maintain that no Unionist should be at any talks with IRA/Sinn Fein. I go further and I say that no Unionist should be at any talks negotiating the Union with Bertie Ahern, John Hume, Gerry Adams or anyone else. The Union is not negotiable. It is illegal to seek to negotiate it. The pledge that the Union would not be on the table has been broken. The Secretary of State has rejected a numerical majority as a lock on any movement towards a united Ireland. According to press reports Mr Trimble is in agreement with Bertie Ahern and has placed the 1920 Act on a par with Dublin's immoral, criminal and illegal claim of Articles 2 and 3. The proposed all-Ireland body with executive powers put to the DUP by the Prime Minister earlier this week and elucidated in the Dail by Bertie Ahern strikes a mortal blow at the Union. It leaves Unionists always in a minority in matters relating to Northern Ireland. 50% of the membership of such a body would be from the Irish Republic. At least a third of the representatives from Northern Ireland would be republican orientated leaving the Unionists always in a permanent minority, and that is going to be the body which, if a Northern Ireland Assembly fails to operate the way Dublin wants it to operate, can be abolished and that all Ireland body can take over its duties and responsibilities.

Union with Dublin cannot be achieved under the present law without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and they alone, voting in a referendum. Both the Conservative Government and the present Labour Government and Mr Blair again this week has stated that no such opportunity will be given to the Ulster people. In view of such duplicity, deceit and treachery on the part of the present Government we can expect a sham referendum on a cobbled together accommodation which, in reality, would be a form of the Framework Document. That is a further step on the road to the attainment of the full republican agenda. Such an attempt to override the Border Poll legislation which is already in place and which is the only referendum which enables the people of Northern Ireland to give their democratic verdict on the Union as of right, is an example of the despicable political immorality to which this Government has sunk.

My Party believes we must prepare ourselves to defeat this referendum. Unionists who take part in helping to produce the referendum could hardly expect to unite Unionists to reject it. The Official Unionists have a choice to make. Much more so when the Prime Minister himself made it clear to us that if the Official Unionists left the present talks a new process would have to be sought. Unionists attending the talks are responsible for keeping them going. There is no use in them blaming the IRA.

There is a life-and-death need for the Unionist community to come together and if there are those who are prepared to dilute or jettison Unionist principles they must be rejected and Unionist unity must be based on a firm foundation.

On September 2nd, 1997, the Official Unionists agreed and issued a joint statement with us on three points:

  1. That the people of Northern Ireland alone, have the right to determine their own future is fundamental, it must apply in all circumstances, and must be accepted by the Government and all parties.
  2. The issue of the decommissioning of all illegal terrorist weaponry must be resolved to their satisfaction as a precondition to any substantive political negotiations. That is to the satisfaction of the Official Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party.
  3. There is an urgent need for greater Unionist unity at this critical time.

Unfortunately the Official Unionists backed away from this agreement so we find ourselves in the most difficult of situations. We have a crisis. A crisis which it was denied even existed by the Official Unionist Party but has now come to a head and, what is more, is coming to a head swiftly, as every day more and more concessions are made to the IRA and Mr Trimble continues on the pathway of weakening the Union by determining to negotiate the Union with the Pan-Nationalist Front majority in the misnamed so-called peace process at Stormont. When an attempt was made to destroy the new Jewish nation a man called Mordecai said to Esther the Queen of the great Persian Empire: "You have come to the kingdom for such a time as this".

For such a time as this - a time when fair is foul and foul is fair. A time when men call good evil and evil good. A time when the murderers are honoured and the murdered dishonoured. A time when the faithless are eulogised and the faithful are ostracised. A time when the prisoners are consistently released and their victims conveniently forgotten. A time when darkness is called light and light darkness. A time when hell is called heaven and heaven is called hell. For such a time as this.

We should make it a repenting time, our sins and our national sins need to be repented of. We need to return to the God of our fathers. These words from the Holy Book are appropriate:

"Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and as for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls but they said we will not walk therein."
(Jeremiah 6:16)

For such a time as this. We should make it a resolving time. We must resolve that we will not barter our liberties or sell our Protestant birthright. It cost too much, it is too valuable to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. I have no intention of surrendering. Have you? I have no intention of negotiating with the armed IRA/Sinn Fein. Have you? I have no intention of accepting any bribe. Have you? I have no intention of bowing to any occupant of Washington's White House. Have you? I have no intention of insulting the memory of Ulster's honoured dead. Have you? I have no intention of going back on my resolve to keep Ulster from Dublin rule. Have you? I have no intention of lowering the Union flag. Have you? I have no intention to stop singing the National Anthem. Have you?

That being so, I use the words of our founding father, Lord Carson of Duncairn, and I say to this Government - "By no law can the right to govern those whom we represent be bartered away without consent. You may betray us but you will not deliver us bound into the hands of our enemies. We will defend and retain our liberties and Almighty God will defend the right."

God Save Ulster!"


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