David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Belfast. On the panel are Theresa Villiers MP, Peter Hain, Nigel Dodds MP, Declan Kearney and Grainne Maguire.
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Tonight we're at Titanic, Belfast, and this is Question Time.
And a big welcome to you at home,
whether you're watching on television or listening to BBC Radio 5 Live,
to our audience here, of course, and to our panel.
Tonight, the Conservative Secretary of State
for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers,
the former Cabinet minister,
now Labour peer in the House of Lords, Peter Hain,
the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
and its leader at Westminster, Nigel Dodds,
Sinn Fein's National Chairman Declan Kearney
and the comedian and writer Grainne Maguire.
Thanks very much.
Now, just as always, if you want to join the debate,
which I'm sure you do from home
because we're bound to irritate you one way or another,
you can join the debate on Facebook -
we're now on Facebook - or Twitter. Our hashtag, #bbcqt.
You can follow us @BBCQuestionTime. And you can like us, if you like.
Text comments to 83981 and press the red button to see
what others are saying.
I don't know what that first bit means, but there we are.
Let's have our first question from Daniel Newton, please. Daniel Newton.
What action should be taken against Russia,
following the conclusion of the Litvinenko Inquiry?
Yes, sir Robert Owen on the Inquiry in the Litvinenko death
said it was probably approved by President Putin.
What action should be taken? Theresa Villiers.
Well, the ambassador from Russia is being summoned into
the Foreign Office so that the government can express
its very grave concern about the tragedy which has occurred.
It is completely unacceptable
for a citizen to be murdered in our country at the behest
of a foreign intelligence service.
And in our Strategic Defence and Security Review
we highlighted the increasing security threat
posed by Russia, and this is a reminder to us all
of the importance of maintaining our security,
maintaining our defences, funding our police services
and ensuring that our intelligence services have all
the capacities that they need to combat espionage
and security threats from places like Russia.
What action should be taken, was the question.
I think we need to maintain the sanctions which we've
already applied to Russia as a result of their aggressive
actions in Ukraine, and no doubt the government will be reflecting
over the following days as to whether
further action needs to be taken.
But we are gravely concerned by what has happened.
Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, Peter Hain, said,
"There can be no sense of the government pulling their punches
"because of wider diplomatic considerations."
He seemed to be slightly critical of the government's response. Are you?
He was. I mean, the point that I think is really important here
is that the agents concerned clearly, it seems from the report,
acting on Putin's orders, and that's really serious.
The president of one of the most powerful nations in the world
ordering an extra-judicial murder on our soil - that's really serious,
and I think those agents who were clearly involved,
according to the report, there should be sanctions on them,
the European common arrest warrant should operate on them,
they should not be allowed to travel within Europe without
being arrested and brought to justice in Britain.
So that's one thing that I think should be done right away.
They have applied for extradition, haven't they, these two?
They have, yes, but there should be a travel ban on them
like has been applied to other dubious characters with
criminal intent around the world.
But what about "probably approved by President Putin"?
Is there anything that can be done about that?
Should there be any sanctions taken against Russia on a bigger scale?
This is a man elected president of his country.
There are, as Theresa said, already sanctions.
The difficulty, frankly, is this -
Russia at the moment is really important if we're going to get
a solution to the Syrian crisis.
So you need to engage with the Russians.
There's no point in playing games over this,
they're important around other crises,
including the whole problem of Isil and Daesh international terrorism.
So I don't think, sort of, we're putting them
into cold storage is the right answer,
but making it absolutely clear, as the government has done
and as Parliament has done, it's not acceptable
and applying those particular punitive sanctions
against those two very dangerous men...
This was radioactive poisoning
-in the middle of London.
Yeah, I just think it's terrifying.
I just think Putin is a nasty piece of work, you know,
him propping up Assad's regime, invading Ukraine to...for a big push
so he can be more popular at home, his human rights records,
the way he's cutting back on free speech in Russia...
I just think it's absolutely terrifying.
Anybody got views here? Yes, you, sir, in the front.
And you, yes, yes, sir.
I think it's interesting for a British government to criticise
Litvinenko considering the amount of incidents of state-sponsored
killing there were in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles.
A lot of collusion went on there through investigations.
It seems a bit hypocritical.
Nigel Dodds, do you agree with him?
Well, I don't agree at all because, I mean, it's entirely...
It's an entirely spurious argument to make
and I think it's one that actually harks back to the past
and doesn't deal with the issue that's actually in front of us,
which is a serious issue and deserves to be treated seriously,
not in the sort of way that's just been raised.
I think that this issue is an extremely difficult one
for the UK Government because of the importance of Russia
in terms of Syria and all the rest of it.
I have to say, I've been immensely impressed with Marina Litvinenko
and her son Anatoly, who have acted with extreme dignity
and persevered the quest for justice
against the Russian state
and against the agents who carried out this appalling crime.
In my view, I think Putin is a terrible despot.
He is someone, remember,
who supplied the means by which the Dutch airliner was
shot down over Ukraine, which murdered innocent men,
women and children, babies included.
Action does need to be taken,
visa restrictions have been applied,
there are moves to withdraw visas.
The Majewski case, which has been the law that has been
applied in America, needs to be looked at.
I know the British Government are saying
we don't need to do that because we already have
restrictions in terms of movement, freezing of assets,
but again, I think more could be done as to how we punish individuals
right at the top of the regime as well as the people who
carried out these actions.
I mean, Marina wants a travel ban on Putin.
Would you impose a travel ban on the president of Russia?
I know he's a head of state and they're special and particular
rules are applied in movement of heads of state, which is difficult,
but I think that, just as was done in relation to Robert Mugabe,
for instance, in terms of moving about,
some differential needs to be applied to the Russian president
compared to other heads of state to make it clear
that his actions in Crimea, in the Ukraine,
blowing up civilian aircraft,
carrying out murders on the streets of London and everything that
he's doing at home, that this will not be tolerated.
Because he is a bully. You can't appease bullies, you need to
take them on and confront them with the consequences of their actions.
All right. You, sir.
To back this up, surely we need global support to show the Russians
that they've gone too far
and that they cannot proceed with some action like this again?
I do think it's very important that we don't
step into the territory of trading off, erm...
..tragedies and crimes like this
against wider geopolitical interests.
There are fundamentally undemocratic practices
which characterise the Russian state,
and clearly there are rogue actions
and rogue actors who have apparently acted at the behest
of the political interests of the Russian state.
And we live in a fractured world, of course,
and we're looking at global political conflict.
But while we should rightly object and criticise
and condemn what appears to be evidenced in this particular case,
neither do I think that we should lose sight
of the equivalence of the actions of other Western
and other Asian states in relation to
their activities in the Middle East.
I think we need to be very careful before we draw out some
type of moral hierarchy in terms of stating that this action,
this crime is bad and that the use of drone strikes
killing and murdering men, women and children
in Syria is in some way acceptable and beyond criticism.
So you draw no distinction...
You draw no distinction between the British Government allowing
people to be murdered on the streets of London
and the government policy agreed by the House of Commons about Syria?
Oh, I think that there is a requirement here
for the strongest diplomatic action to be taken.
There is a need for sanctions.
By the same token,
let's understand that the conflict in the Middle East
is not going to be addressed unless there is demilitarisation,
unless we move to a ceasefire and unless political
and diplomatic solutions are introduced and applied.
OK. I'll take one more point then we'll go onto the next question. Yes.
When we talk about playing games,
do we not realise that Russia is playing games with us?
Because they are still in Ukraine, still in Crimea.
Their economy is only hurting
because of the oil price reductions because of Saudi Arabia,
nothing to do with the Americans or Britain or anybody else.
And what's your view about the murder?
There should be... Putin should be not allowed to travel,
there should be something directly done against him.
-Like against Mugabe, as...?
Without excusing this at all - you heard what I said -
if you don't allow Putin to travel,
say it gets to the point with a summit in Vienna
on solving the Syrian crisis,
which has triggered this massive upflow of refugees desperate
to get away from the war,
if it involves Putin travelling to Vienna to help solve that problem,
which he's key to, I think that should be allowed.
The thing about this kind of sanctions
is you have to be smart about it.
You stop him from doing the things he likes doing, you don't stop
him from things that it's important that he does in terms of that.
But we've also to remember in Syria that Russia is bombing mainly
rebel forces that are trying to bring down Assad.
I mean, we talk about Russian help in terms of Syria
and it is important - they need to be round the table.
But remember, they are busy attacking anti-Assad forces,
not so much Isis and Isil,
-which is what we want to see destroyed in Syria.
-OK, let's go on.
I'm not sure what it is that he likes doing except riding
bare-chested on horses and...
There's plenty of photographs of him...
But he can do all that in Russia.
All right, let me go on to another question.
Just before we do, where are we going to be next week?
Stamford, in Lincolnshire.
And after that, Bradford in West Yorkshire.
So come and join Question Time,
Stamford in Lincolnshire next week,
Bradford in Yorkshire the week after.
There's the address to apply and I'll give it, as ever, at the end.
Let's have a question from Pete Hodson, please. Pete Hodson.
Isn't it about time Northern Ireland moved with the times
and legalised gay marriage?
Isn't it about time Northern Ireland moved with the times?
Well, all right.
Hang on, hang on, hang on!
If you all applaud him, we'll have nothing to discuss,
if you all agree with him!
For our audiences outside Northern Ireland,
Northern Ireland still does not legalise gay marriage,
unlike the rest of the United Kingdom.
And his question is, isn't it about time Northern Ireland
moved with the times? Grainne Maguire.
Erm, I just can't believe we're still having this discussion.
Yesterday in Westminster, Tory MPs
were discussing their use of poppers,
yet in Northern Ireland, we still have state-sanctioned homophobia.
I think it's absolutely crazy.
Now, I am a proud Irish person but I have to think, if you're
being out-liberalled by the Republic of Ireland on a social issue,
you've got something to worry about.
I mean, this is not what you want Northern Ireland to be famous for.
You don't want to say, "Visit Northern Ireland, we've got
"Titanic, we've got amazing, you know, art and culture and we also...
"We're horrible to gay people."
Like, this is ridiculous.
Cos it was your party that stopped this happening, wasn't it?
Well, along with others,
and not just on one side of the community either.
But this is a very serous issue that needs to be treated with respect.
And I would be appalled at homophobia, I think it's wrong
that anyone should describe being against
the redefinition of marriage,
but being for the equal treatment of everybody
and treating everybody with respect
as some kind of homophobia. It isn't.
The question is, there are many people in Northern Ireland society
on both sides of the community -
Roman Catholic and Protestant, Unionist and Nationalist
and without any definition at all -
who hold sincerely held beliefs on this issue.
Many people believe marriage should be redefined, others do not.
It is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Assembly will make its decision according to the rules
under which the Assembly was set up
and supported by both the Conservative Party
and the Labour Party and the other parties that signed up
to the Belfast Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement,
and they will make their choice on that matter.
But the fundamental thing is this - that Northern Ireland is moving
forward and it is famous for a lot of things.
It is famous for this area in which we sit tonight, the Titanic area.
Harland & Wolff, great manufactory.
It's famous for its tourist attractions,
the Giant's Causeway, for its golfers...
Sorry, what's this got to do with legalising gay marriage?
-No, no, what I'm saying is...
Stick with the question.
Sometimes the BBC and others can get fixated on this issue.
The last time we were here, we were having this debate.
Most people in Northern Ireland are wanting to get on with the peace
process, building the economy, moving Northern Ireland forward,
it's not the day-to-day subject that people talk about.
-What we need to do...
-If you're straight! If you're gay, it is.
What we need to do is allow the Northern Ireland Assembly under
the rules in which it was set up, hard-fought, hard-won,
hard-negotiated, to make the decision on behalf of the people
of Northern Ireland in a democratic way.
But people need to treat these arguments with respect and everybody
needs to be treated without discrimination
and that's the way in which we should deal with this issue.
Let's deal with it like that then.
The woman with the spectacles on in the third row?
MAN SPEAKS No, the woman. ..Yeah, you.
You talk about your deeply-seated beliefs shaping the
policies that you make.
There are actually courts who've told you time and time again
that this is against human rights law what you are doing
in this country.
No, no, no.
And you continually refuse to bring
it into law to bring us into line with the rest of the UK.
Don't answer yet, I'll give you a chance to come back.
The man in the second row from the back?
Opinion polls in Northern Ireland consistently show that a majority
of the public support gay marriage so why not put the issue
to a referendum like was done in the Republic?
Do you agree with that, the man up there?
APPLAUSE Is that your view?
It's the abuse of the petition of concern that the DUP
use when it's voted on, so the last time it was voted for,
and then they used a petition of concern
so it wouldn't be implemented.
I think that's an abuse of the Good Friday Agreement,
to abuse that process.
I'll bring you back in. Declan Kearney.
One of the most liberating and democratic processes that has
taken place on this island in recent years was last year
in the 26 counties when popular opinion was engaged and mobilised
around the issue of equal marriage and
with a resounding majority, the law was changed
in the south of Ireland and that was a terrific landmark
decision for equality and indeed, as the lady in the audience
suggested, for human rights.
So yes, in answer to the question, it is time that the North of
Ireland moved on.
This is an issue of equality but it's also an issue of love.
Because gay people are our brothers, are our sisters, they're our
relations, members of our family and they live in our communities.
And we owe it to them to ensure that they have the same rights
as other citizens in our society are entitled to enjoy.
I agree that on the last occasion... Sinn Fein's brought forward a motion
on five different occasions to the assembly with a view
to changing the law here in the north.
The difference on the last occasion was that a majority did
indeed vote in favour of change.
Whilst the petition of concern was used by Nigel's party to...
You mustn't lose us in the complicated
politics of the Assembly.
Are you saying a majority voted in favour?
Yes, and the technical veto was used to prohibit the implementation.
The veto which is part of the Northern Ireland agreement,
is that correct?
-So it's part of the constitution.
It's been set in place for particular purposes and not to be
abused in order to hold backs human rights, equality and inclusion.
-All right, Declan, hold on.
That is what our gay brothers and sisters deserve
in Northern Ireland today.
Theresa Villiers, do you agree with that assessment?
I'm a supporter of equal marriage, I voted for it.
I fully respect Nigel's point of view.
I know this is a sensitive issue.
But in my view, marriage is a great institution and it would be great
to expand access to that to the gay community in Northern Ireland.
It's right that this is a decision made in Northern Ireland
by the people elected in Northern Ireland, but I hope that
-one day equal marriage will come to Northern Ireland.
Does anybody here agree with Nigel Dodd's point
of view, because I would like to hear from them?
Nobody? Yes. Thank you. Let's hear your view.
I may be the only one here tonight that does have that opinion,
but I'm aware that marriage was defined by God as one man
and one woman, and we have civil partnerships,
so love in that same-sex arrangement
is in this country already,
we don't need to redefine marriage, in my opinion..
Didn't they used to have polygamy in the Bible as well?
What bit of the Bible are you picking?
Somebody else had their hand up in support
of that view.
Somebody in a green shirt somewhere.
Was it you?
What is your view?
It's very simple - the system in Northern Ireland lets
two parties put a veto on whatever they like whenever they like.
If they change that system and let the parties have free votes,
then the MPs can represent the people.
-If it was a simple majority.
-Yes. Get rid of the veto.
Well, I was proud to be leader of the Commons at the time
when the Labour Government - and I ensured it was on our
legislative agenda and managed it through Parliament -
the Labour Government legislated for civil partnerships.
That was a breakthrough.
I was also proud that the first civil partnerships in the UK
was two women in Belfast, I think Belfast City Hall.
Wasn't that an amazing statement for the new Northern Ireland to make?
So I'm very sad that now Northern Ireland is the only part
of the UK where equal marriage does not apply.
I think this is a matter of equal opportunities and that everybody
who wants to get married should be able to get married, and the partner
of their choice should be their choice,
not the politicians' choice.
The woman there in black? You.
Love's love, regardless of gender.
I'm an atheist myself and I don't believe that anybody's religious
convictions should determine who I marry.
I don't want to get married in a chapel or a church,
I just want to have a ceremony with my partner that is called
marriage so it gives me the same rights as any other married couple.
That's all that we want.
A civil partnership is not enough?
It doesn't give 100% the same rights as marriage does.
There are some slight differences in terms of pensions and things
like that and what can be claimed
if something happens to your partner.
There are some slight restrictions on travel as well.
Some companies - some countries, apologies -
that have equal marriage,
they don't recognise civil partnerships,
so if we are in that country, we are not recognised as a couple.
A point from you, sir?
Eileen Foster recently said gay marriage was not at
the top of the pile.
Eileen Foster being the new leader of the DUP?
-The First Minister as well.
Yes. Exactly. The First Minister for this country.
Have you seen one person in this audience today in
support of your views?
How can you continue to
call yourself the Democratic Unionist Party if...
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
-I would say probably more than one
person in the audience supports Nigel Dodds.
The point is, we have a democracy in Northern Ireland,
we fought hard for assembly, it's for the Assembly
to make that decision.
The lady made the point about the courts.
The courts passed the buck back to the Assembly.
Simple as that.
The Assembly needs to debate the issue and make a decision.
Look, in every vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly
in the last five or four were against it by majority.
It's very on a knife edge.
People raise this issue of petition of concern.
For viewers not familiar with the constitutional set-up here,
it means a majority of unionists, as well as a majority of
nationalists have to agree something. That's a good thing.
Frankly, Sinn Fein have vetoed things like National Crime Agency,
things that would help fight crime, so it's not just one way.
But if people want to remove the petition of concern,
the gentleman here talked about the free vote and MPs
deciding, I'm happy for the Assembly to go to a majority vote system
but I'm not sure everybody else around this table would be.
Majority rule in relation to this issue, it would be a majority vote
on all the other issues that affect Northern Ireland so people need
to think very, very carefully on these issues before
they go down that route.
It's got to be a constitutional settlement which is fair
to all of our citizens and treats everybody with respect.
I am totally opposed and will fight tooth and nail and have all my life
for the rights of people to be treated equally
without discrimination and against...
-..any kind of homophobia or anything.
The fact that some people in this audience may not agree
with that doesn't make any difference.
I think the point's been made.
Another question now.
We have got a lot of questions to get through.
I want to go on to the next one from Duncan Putt, please?
What consequences would the Brexit have for the UK?
What consequences would a British exit from the EU
have for the UK?
I think it would be very negative.
It would be a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.
But my particular concern would be for the implications that a decision
to go for Brexit would have for the North of Ireland.
It would have profound implications for economic growth,
prosperity here in the North.
We'd see an end to the type of European funding that's been
so essential to community economic regeneration here in the North
in relation to infrastructure and development.
Our farming community's highly dependent upon CAP payments
and the fisheries industry is increasingly dependent
upon assistance from Europe.
But in addition to that, I think it would represent a huge
setback for the political process itself because the decision to see
Brexit will inevitably harden partition, it will thwart
cross-border cooperation and, in that sense, it's a huge negative
for all citizens here, for the business and employers'
constituencies within our society, for the farming community
and for workers.
While I view the European Union as an institution with huge
imperfections which requires enormous democratisation
and Sinn Fein's emphasis would be on seeing the increasing primacy
of a social Europe, nevertheless it's an arena essential for ensuring
that regulations and directives are brought forward which entrench
human rights, democratic rights that are essential to economic growth
and prosperity and in the case of our own state here in the North
of Ireland, has played a hugely influential,
important role in the peace process.
Do you agree with all of that, Theresa Villiers?
Well, I agree with what the Prime Minister's said in the past
and I think he reiterated it today that of course the UK
could be a success outside the European Union.
The question is, are we better off outside or inside the European Union
and that will really depend on the outcome of the
very important negotiations that the Prime Minister's conducting
at the moment and we hope will culminate in February.
This is a crucial question and I'm proud of the fact that it's
a Conservative Government giving the people of the United Kingdom
the choice to vote on our relationship with Europe.
Have you decided how you'll vote?
We all need to wait...
..the outcome of the negotiation.
That is going to be crucial.
It depends whether the other member states of the European Union listen
to the reasonable arguments that the Prime Minister is putting
to them about the huge need for change in the European Union.
So staying in on the terms we are at the moment,
as Chris Grayling said, would be a disaster in your view also,
would it? If nothing is brought back, you will be voting get out?
Certainly no-one is happy with the status quo,
the Prime Minister isn't and the Government isn't.
Frankly many people across this country would agree
that the European Union needs to change and become more competitive,
it needs to be fairer to countries out of the eurozone.
We don't know what he is going to come back with,
but if he comes back with nothing, you will be voting to leave?
-The Government will take a view...
-And you... ?
We need to wait and see what the outcome of the negotiation
is and then the reality is that every man and woman in this
country has the choice, it doesn't really matter
what members of the Government think, the...
It quite matters what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
-thinks, doesn't it?
-I think the...
When you have had this case made by Sinn Fein
how vital it is for Northern Ireland to stay in?
The important thing is that the people of this country
will get the right to vote.
You've said that.
Do you accept the interests of the people in Northern Ireland
are better served by staying in Europe or not?
We need to await the outcome of the negotiation.
LAUGHTER AND GROANS
The reality is, you know, the position of Northern Ireland
is something, of course, which people should and will,
I'm sure, reflect on in choosing which way they are going to vote.
The woman with her hand up?
Yes, it's you. The microphone over your head.
As a student, I'm not...
I can't vote.
You said every person will have the right to vote.
I'm only 17 and if the vote happens before my 18th birthday,
I will not have a say in that and I do not think
that is right at all.
What would your say be?
I would vote to stay.
And you, sir, there?
I object strongly to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats sitting
in Brussels telling me what I can do in my own country.
I believe the EU needs us a lot more than we need them.
We have gone on our own before, we can do so again.
Would your vote change depending on what David Cameron
brought back from Europe or not?
David Cameron would need to bring a great deal back for me to become
convinced we are better off in Europe.
What would he have to bring back?
Well, he'd have to come back having changed human rights legislation,
European courts, the amount of contributions we put
into Europe every year. I firmly believe a lot of that money
would be better spent stimulating growth in our own country.
Sounds like Brexit for you.
-Do you want to answer his point?
I will be keen to do so.
First of all there's an elected European Parliament.
Northern Ireland sends European MPs.
It's very powerful.
It's not a question of unelected bureaucrats sitting in Brussels -
they have significant influence.
We have a commissioner in Brussels as well,
British Commissioner, very significant influence.
As a Government, we have a veto in the European Council on a whole
series of issues.
I'm afraid you're factually wrong.
Can I just express astonishment that Theresa,
the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
doesn't have a view on whether or not Northern Ireland
would be better off outside the European Union?
I think Britain leaving Europe would have very serious implications
for the peace process.
Borders would have to go up between the two parts of the island
of Ireland, which are now in a happier state
than we have seen for centuries.
I also think it would be catastrophic for Britain.
You said that they need us more than we need them.
Half our trade is with the European Union.
Only 10% of their trade is with us.
Jobs, investment, prosperity, vital to keep us within Europe.
Do you want to come back on the point? ..No? OK.
You, sir, here, you on the gangway here.
We have already heard Declan and now Peter come up with the standard
scare tactics used to encourage us to stay in Europe.
They've told us we rely on the money and that we rely on it for jobs.
But most of the figures show that is not true.
And frankly, saying, as Declan did, that we need all the money
from Europe to keep Northern Ireland going because we dare not risk
what happens otherwise is like saying, "I should stay
"on the dole rather than risk getting a job."
Here's a question for Theresa.
In the event of a Brexit, and in the event that the European
funding that we have become so dependent upon in order to keep
the Northern regional economy afloat, will this Tory Government
commit to ensuring that that funding will be replaced?
And that there be an additional increment to our block grant
to replace the European funding we would lose in the event
-of a Brexit?
-Do you want to answer?
These are matters which need to be debated during a referendum.
The answer is yes or no.
Clearly, in the event of a Brexit,
there will be a debate about what would be substituted for current
But these are matters for debate
so people will make up their minds one way or another.
You say it's silly to say, like being on the dole or something.
Do you think there will be a problem for Northern Ireland
if the UK voted out?
No, I think it would be a positive thing both for Northern Ireland
and for the rest of the UK.
It would bring us...
It would bring us increased prosperity
and give us a right over our own border.
Peter says we'd have to put up border controls.
There were never border controls before we joined the European Union
with the Irish Republic and it's not going to change if we leave.
Nigel Dodds. Briefly.
We'd have floods of refugees coming in -
we'd have to have border controls.
We have a common travel area between the Irish Republic
and the rest of the UK.
What about the main point - the substance?
A lot of scaremongering will go on.
We've heard David Cameron will run Project Fear - scare people.
This business about the difference between Northern Ireland
and the Republic and border controls, we've heard it all before.
We heard it very recently
when the argument was we should all join the euro.
Do you remember that?
We were told it would be terrible if the UK is not in the euro
and the Republic joins the euro.
There was a currency equivalence between Northern Ireland
and the Republic for decades.
We were told this would be disastrous for trade and business.
What happened? Nothing happened. The reality is that Northern Ireland
and the UK can survive quite well,
and many would argue, better outside the EU.
The crucial fact is this -
in terms of grants and all the rest of it,
the UK has paid to Europe since 1973 £450 billion.
Each year we pay in £19 billion and get back £10 billion.
A deficit of £9 billion.
Northern Ireland, to pick up on Declan's point,
for every pound out of Europe we pay in £1.50.
This idea that all this money comes as largesse, is given to us,
it's our money coming back at a reduced rate!
-That needs to be addressed...
-Will you vote out or to stay in?
As things stand, I would certainly be voting to come out.
I have to see David Cameron coming back from his negotiations
with a very, very clear message that we're going to restore
the sovereignty of the United Kingdom's parliament,
that we will restore control over our borders and we're
going to address the situation where £350 million every week
is transferred from British exchequer which could build
hospitals, help our health waiting lists, create jobs...
In reality, do you expect to get that?
If that is your view, you will be voting out, won't you?
Because none of that seems to be on the agenda.
David Cameron has set the bar very, very low in my opinion.
One of his own MPs stood up in Parliament and described it
as thin gruel. He needs to step up the game.
He has a lot of leverage.
The European Union does need the United Kingdom.
The trade deficit is in the European Union's benefit.
There is a £60 billion trade deficit.
They need the United Kingdom's business far more than
we need their business.
-That's the reality of it.
I think following up on what Nigel and Declan have both said,
it doesn't make much difference financially or economically
whether we are in or out.
What I would like to see is a change of Brussels interfering
with our legal systems and our human rights, as Nigel has talked about.
If we don't get some change in that area,
I would like to see us bailing out.
I just think, considering what the first topic that we talked
about today, how dangerous Putin is, I think that's more evidence
of anything that we need to work together.
To me, that's an example of why Europe is so important.
We're stronger when Europe works together.
Now, I think I'm on the minority on the panel here.
I really like Europe.
I like the idea of Europe. I think...
I think it's because...
Growing up in Ireland in the '90s, it seemed like really
big and glamorous.
I think I associate it with the Eurovision,
but I see, personally, I view Europe as like a left-wing
House of Lords.
So whenever the Tory Government brings in some crazy new plan -
"We are scrapping pedestrian crossings,
"it's slowing business down",
we can look to Angela Merkel and she'll go, "It's fine."
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
No, but I think, to use an analogy, right, Britain is better off
being the bad boy of Europe than leaving.
We are better off being Zayn Malik in One Direction
than being Zayn Malik solo.
Once we get close to the referendum, I won't be allowed to do this.
As a matter of interest, hands up those of you who
at the moment would vote out?
Who would vote in?
Yeah. About double the numbers staying in.
Shall we go on to another question? I think we'd better.
David Airey, please. David Airey.
Will Northern Irish politics ever get to the stage
where we have a ruling party and an opposition rather than this
forced marriage that continues indefinitely.
This is... We touched on this briefly, over gay marriage.
The idea that the Assembly doesn't have a simple majority,
it has a majority that is then checked by keeping DUP,
Sinn Fein, left, right, Catholic, Protestant,
however you like to put it, in the business.
Peter Hain, you were Northern Ireland Secretary.
Do you think there will ever be a state when you can have a simple
opposition and government as we have at Westminster?
Yes, I think there will.
I don't think it's going to be soon.
A lot more trust needs to be built, a lot of generational change needs
to settle in before that happens.
It will be a decision for the people of Northern Ireland,
not for secretaries of state.
In time, Northern Ireland, as politics normalises,
and moves away from historic divisions, I think it will move
towards like it does in other societies - left and right,
class-based perhaps, other issues coming in.
And that will be healthy.
I think it would be premature and actually quite destabilising
to rush into that at the present time or,
frankly, for the foreseeable future.
Foreseeable future being what? 20, 30 years?
That is not for me to decide. That is my instinct at the moment.
People raise, occasionally, the idea that you could have a truth
and reconciliation commission like in South Africa,
for instance, here in Northern Ireland where people talk
about what happened in the past and then put it to one side.
Lord Eames, a former archbishop of Ireland,
he was author of a report with Dennis Bradley,
who is a nationalist, who came out with a very good set
of proposals for addressing exactly these sort of issues.
The problem is - everybody said, great report, except for one
recommendation which was ill-judged on compensation.
A great report, an American diplomat came out with a similar report.
It's log-jammed and gridlocked in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
That is wrong. The past haunts Northern Ireland.
It has to be addressed, particularly victims' grievances
and sense of injustice addressed through that process.
Declan Kearney, do you agree with Peter Hain it will be decades
before you can have a simple majority government
here in Northern Ireland?
We concluded a negotiation just eight to ten weeks ago,
the Stormont House Agreement Fresh Start, and within the provisions
of the agreement is a contingency for the emergence of an opposition
here in the Assembly.
So the facility is now in place to be enacted at an appropriate time
in the future when there are sufficient numbers who wish
to go into opposition.
The reality is that we have our unique political framework
as a direct result of the context that we have all lived through.
So we're now looking at a fresh start.
I hope it will be a new start.
I hope that we're going to see a period opening up
when we can embed power-sharing,
where we can in fact see partnership government.
The fact is, for the last five years, the political instability
that we saw develop, which gave rise to the crisis
of the last 12 months, was largely unleashed as a result
of the failure of Theresa's party in Government
with the Lib Dems and the Irish Government in Dublin to stay
properly focused on their responsibilities as co-guarantors
for the peace and political process.
Could it happen now? Right now?
What we need to do is open up a space where we can embed politics,
where we can make politics work.
Politics has had a bad name in the course of the last few years
within wider society.
We haven't seen enough delivery.
It's time that the institutions began to deliver for unionist
and republican working-class people across the North and work
for the business community and for the labour movement.
It's time we saw us move to a stage where our peace process can in fact
develop into a new phase where we can indeed begin
to look at reconciliation,
where we can look at the healing process and ensure that
all of our children in the future enjoy an entirely different
political and economic context than many in the audience
here will have experienced in recent decades.
Nigel Dodds, do you agree with that?
Can it be achieved sooner than decades away?
I would like to think it would be sooner than decades away.
I would like to see it happen as quickly as possible.
We have advocated moving away from these sort of rigid structures.
I think the Fresh Start Agreement that Declan Kearney referred to
provides an opportunity now for us to move forward.
It does include reforms to the number of government
departments from 2020, a reduction in the number of MLAs at Stormont.
It does include provision for opposition for parties that
are elected and wish to take that role going forward.
So I think that we need to move forward on these issues.
I would like to see it happen as quickly as possible, obviously.
Let's not forget how far we have come in a relatively short time.
-It is not that long ago...
where it would have been impossible to contemplate us having
arguments about the issues we have been talking
about and discussing tonight.
It would have been dominated by the latest terrorist atrocity
or the latest massive political standoff and all the rest of it
on very fundamental constitutional issues.
We have come an enormously long way.
We need to always remember that.
We have our challenges and difficulties, I think
the Fresh Start Agreement, which has now been set in place,
has already made some transformation in the political landscape.
People are talking positively about the future
of Northern Ireland.
We need to build on that and see what can be achieved incrementally.
I think it's wrong to simply say - to forget and not remind ourselves
how far we have come in recent years.
Peter Hain is correct.
It's going to take time.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Weir is reviewing 250 legacy inquests,
which he says will take 40 years to hear.
We won't deal with our past until there's an influx of funding.
The politicians need to set up a system whereby we can deal
with our past and move on to our future, simple as that.
-Just quickly, I was three when the Good Friday Agreement
was passed and having grown up my whole life with my parents
and all the rest of it and a lot of people around me
who were proponents of the Good Friday Agreement
and so would I have been, but studying politics at university,
we're looking at the fact that the Good Friday Agreement has
actually only entrenched divisions.
I understand it's been a success in the 18 years
since the Good Friday Agreement that we have had relative peace,
but we are not a normal kind of political society
and Rick Wilford, a professor at Queens, has actually said that
the electoral system that we have actually only entrenches divisions.
We de facto have two elections take place here - a unionist election
and a nationalist election.
Yes, people will say, what about the middle parties,
the parties who are non-aligned?
And that's a fair point but they only make up
about 8.5% share of the vote.
So if we want to move from conflict management to conflict resolution,
we need to start looking at a new process, an innovative
process to engage the new generation coming up who didn't grow up
with those kind of legacy issues of the past.
Thank you very much.
You hear what he says, that the present constitution
entrenches opposing groups and doesn't allow them
to come together?
Well, I'm a strong supporter of the institution set up under
the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
I think it's rightly held up around the world as a model of how to bring
peace after many years of division.
Yes, it's not perfect and I agree with what's been said around
the panel, I would like to see it move towards a more normal system
of government with a more regular government in opposition.
The reality is, as Declan says, it's already changing.
The Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreement already deliver
official provision for an opposition.
These things take time.
It will be years before we can move away from a mandatory coalition.
But whilst these institutions are not perfect, as they are,
they have brought peace and they have delivered a huge
amount for Northern Ireland, not least in the sphere
of the economy where the Northern Ireland economy
is recovering strongly.
I think the executive have done an excellent job in terms
of bringing in inward investment and jobs,
partly caused by the Government's long-term economic plan but also
caused by the responsibility of a responsible executive
which demonstrates that people from very different political
perspectives can work together for the good of all people
in Northern Ireland.
Declan and Nigel wouldn't have been on this programme as recently
as nine years ago, now they are arguing about gay marriage,
-I mean that's massive progress and you should welcome it.
I remember when we used to have to interview the different parties
in different studios because they wouldn't come
into the same studio and we spent the whole time walking from one
studio to another to catch up with the argument.
The same negotiating.
-Thank you. I love the idea of the opposition.
It will be great for Stormont, it will.
I totally agree with the Fresh Start and with the Secretary of State's
quote, it will be successful.
OK. And you? And, then, I'll come to you, Grainne.
Sorry, the man behind you. He had his hand up longer!
Just going back to the question about will there ever be a one-party
government that actually represents the North of Ireland.
Obviously, with Peter Hain saying about the past,
you know, it's important that we do move forward and we forget
about the past but that also dictates our future.
There was one-party government for a long time to the detriment
of one people so obviously I hope in the future we can come to that,
but that it will be for the benefit of everyone
in the whole of Northern Ireland.
And you, sir, on the gangway.
I think we have come a long way, as Nigel says, and that's to be
praised, but also political posturing from the new First
Minister over, for example, the 1916 commemorations
and our unwillingness to participate in contrast to even
the Queen's visit to Dublin several years ago and the steps
that she showed that bring goodwill towards the relations both
here and between the two islands, I think maybe small sort
of political posturing like that doesn't help inclusivity.
All right. Grainne?
Regarding... From an outsider's point of view,
obviously what happened, the Northern Ireland peace process
is incredible, it's studied around the world,
what it's achieved is incredible.
I can understand people's frustration with it because,
just from reading about it, it's like, "Stormont, it's all going
"fine, no, it's about to collapse, no, it's fine again!
"No, we hate each other again,"
and it does sometimes sound like an episode of Dawson's Creek
rather than a political process.
Maybe you guys need a book club or reiki circle, I don't know.
The 1916 centenary, I can speak with authority because my grandad
fought in the Irish uprising, he found love late in life,
and I can understand the First Minister if she didn't
want to attend, if she was worried Bono might pop up...
because that is something Irish people have to live with every day!
He could just pop up at any moment,
so if that's her reason for avoiding it,
I totally respect that.
There are two game-changing dynamics that need to be introduced
to allow us to move things on.
The first is, the British Government, Theresa's Government,
need to lift the veto on information disclosure to ensure we can move
forward with the mechanisms for dealing with our past.
The second thing is, they need to lift the cuts
they are imposing on public services and the cuts they are making
to the block grant here in the North.
Austerity has to stop in Northern Ireland.
A few minutes left. And John Docherty has a question...
Are Donald Trump and Sarah Palin the dream team for the US elections?
Are Donald Trump and Sarah Palin the dream team? Nigel Dodds.
I think it more like a nightmare team for some, isn't it?
I was really surprised that Sarah Palin came out in support
of Donald Trump because she portrays herself as a conservative
and Donald Trump being this urban New Yorker
is not in the tradition of normal conservatives in America.
And Jeb Bush has been saying this, very clearly.
It is a phenomenal situation
that Donald Trump's now being seriously talked about by people
in America as a probable Republican nominee for President which I think
is, if nothing else, gives Grainne tonnes of material
to work with for many years to come!
-Do you think it's likely?
-I think it's increasingly likely.
His poll ratings do not seem to be diminishing and they seem
to be increasing.
His nearest challenger is one Ted Cruise, a very staunch
populist tea-party right-winger.
There's something fundamental going on in America
which is that people are fed up with the traditional
politics of America which they believe has let down
the ordinary middle class, as they put it,
and is not standing up for America in the world
and clearly this is a matter for the citizens of the US.
They are going to go to the polls very soon.
There was a debate on Monday in Westminster on Donald Trump
and I think the consensus was that it would be wrong
to ban him from the UK, it's totally wrong, you know,
we should have an engagement debate, certainly somebody who may
be the leader of the free world but we should challenge him about some
of his views which are repugnant.
However, he's tapping into a chord of disconnect between politicians in
Washington and the ordinary people.
It's a lesson also for the countries and governments of Europe as well.
We should listen to the people.
An angry electorate to whom Trump and Palin would appeal?
Yes, but the thought of Donald Trump being President of the United States
and Vladimir Putin being President of Russia and the two being the most
powerful nations in the world is appalling and I was disgusted
by Donald Trump's statement about banning Muslims from entering
the United States of America.
That Islamophobia is absolutely disgusting.
I noticed, by the way, that he did that in response
to a Jihadi couple massacring a group of people in California.
When it came to white psychopaths killing students or children,
he says, give them more guns.
This guy is absurd.
APPLAUSE All right. You, sir, you on the end. Brief point.
The ultimate nightmare will be Donald Trump, President,
and Miss Palin, Secretary of State.
-She would start with a great advantage,
she would be able to keep an eye on Mr Putin
from her home in Alaska.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Yes. That was her famous claim last time.
"I know about Russia because I can see it."
The only people for whom a Donald Trump Sarah Palin team would be
the dream team are Mrs Clinton and the Democrats.
It's a worrying thought, the idea of Donald Trump as President
of the United States and I think his comments on barring
Muslims from entering the United States are really
unacceptable and really offensive to many people so I think it's
a worrying situation in the US, it's entirely a matter for them,
but I find some of the comments that Donald Trump has come out with to be
completely unacceptable and I think it would be very worrying
if he ended up as one of the most powerful people in the world.
I feel really sorry for Sarah Palin because when she sobered up
the next day and found out what she'd done, she must
have been mortified.
Realistically, Trump's pollings are relatively high
because there are so many candidates still in the Republican race.
When it narrows down, it's going to dissipate,
and he's got more people polling saying they will never vote for him.
So, it's unlikely. However, I've come up with a solution
to if he comes to Britain - we dub him the way
we used to dub Gerry Adams in the '90s and get somebody
like Bruce Forsyth to read out everything he says.
Declan, you have to be brief because we're coming to the end.
I think it's characteristic of what we are seeing
across the globe, the emergence of extremist right-wing views.
My only hope is that the, uh...
growth in support for Trump as it appears to be
and people like Palin as cheerleaders
will have an energising effect on those voices
from within the progressive on the left
and the democratic wing of American society
so they don't become the definitive voice
and they don't win the election.
OK. One more point from the man sitting there in the blue shirt?
I would agree with the panel.
I do find it very concerning Donald Trump being President
of America but I don't think that we should ban him from the UK.
I only feel that that feeds into his PR machine and I already
know that he's used this in debates for his favour.
OK. I think we have to stop.
Our hour is up. Sorry about that.
Put another shilling in the meter!
-Put another shilling in the meter! HAIN:
All right. No, our time is up.
We're in Stamford, having another go in Lincolnshire next week.
And then in Bradford the week after that.
If you can come to either Stamford or Bradford,
the website address is there.
We'll ask you all sorts of questions about what you want to talk about.
We'll have an audience like this one, beautifully divided representing
the whole community. If you're listening on Radio 5 Live,
the debate goes on on Question Time Extra Time.
It stops here, at least in the studio.
My thanks to the panel, to all of you who came to take part.
From the Titanic in Belfast, until next Thursday
from Question Time, good night.
David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Belfast.
On the panel are Conservative Northern Ireland secretary of state Theresa Villiers MP, Labour's former cabinet minister Peter Hain, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Nigel Dodds MP, Sinn Fein national chairman Declan Kearney and the comedian and writer Grainne Maguire.