11/11/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


11/11/2012

Mark Carruthers looks at the political developments of the week and questions policy makers on the key issues.


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The Taoiseach and his deputy come north to join in services of

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remembrance in Belfast and Enniskillen. We talk live to the

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2145 seconds

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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland.

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On this Remembrance Sunday, leading politicians from the Republic have

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joined services here to honour the war dead. We talked to the Tanaiste

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on why he felt he had to lay a wreath in Belfast.

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And as the SDLP meets for its annual conference, we ask the party

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leader what he has achieved one year into his job.

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And casting an eye, Finnouala O'Connor and Jim Flanagan.

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The Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore laid a wreath at

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Belfast City Hall this morning during Remembrance Day service.

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This is the first time an Irish government has sent a

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representative to the Remembrance Sunday event in the city. There

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Taoiseach was in Enniskillen participating in the service of the

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war memorial there, where an IRA bomb claimed the lives of 11 people

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twenty-five years ago. Eamon Gilmore is with me now. Welcome to

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Sunday Politics, by due for joining us. Why did you want to take part

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in today's act of remembrance in Belfast? To remember all those who

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died and he suffered in the great for us. Why do not think there is a

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family or a community are a parish anywhere in Ireland that was not

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touch by the Great War is that did not have -- by the Great Wars. This

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is part of our shared history and the Irish government wanted to be

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part of sharing that remembrance with the people of Belfast and

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Northern Ireland. That is why I attended in Belfast and a Taoiseach

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has attended in Enniskillen. It is the first time an Irish government

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representative has officially attend the Remembrance event in

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Belfast. We have seen pictures of the Taoiseach lay in the week in

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Enniskillen. We are seen pictures if you blame you weave in Belfast.

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The symbolism of both of you being in Northern Ireland will not be

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lost on anyone. We have a shared history and we are in what we call

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a decade of commemorations, we will commemorate 1912-1922. As part of

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that decade of commemorations, it is important we remember together.

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So much of this was a shared endeavour. Remember at the time of

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the Great War, there were people from different parts of Ireland who

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took part in the war, who suffered and died, and it is important that

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we remember these things together and do so with respect, with

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integrity and with dignity. We want it to be -- we wanted to be part of

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that. If it is our shared history and understanding at the moment,

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obviously that was not always the case. By using there is a palpable

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change in the way the vast majority of people in the Republic view this

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issue? Things are moving on. The constituency I represent in Dublin,

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the first time we did a commemoration for the Leinster,

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which was sunk just a month before Armistice Day 1918, hundreds of

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soldiers were returning to the front in it, postal workers were

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sorting letters, this had not been talked about in our history and it

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was significant that when we did decide to commemorate its, that

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there were families from all over Ireland who came forward and said,

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I had her grandfather on that ship, or someone belonging to me. -- I

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had a grandfather. There is a strong sense of people throughout

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the island who want to remember these events and want to remember

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them with respect. There was real change, per minute change,

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meaningful change in people's attitudes in the south, you would

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in fact be leading a national event at remembering the war dead in

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Dublin rather than coming to Belfast and Enniskillen? There is

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still some way to go. We have a national day of commemoration every

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July. We are talking about Remembrance Sunday. The President

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of Ireland will attend an event in St Patrick's Cathedral, just as his

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predecessors have done over many years. We have been commemorating

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these events. What is different today is that we are commemorating

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these events here in Belfast, in my case, and in Enniskillen in the

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case of the Taoiseach. There have been events of commemoration and

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remembrance in Dublin, a national day of commemoration in July and a

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commemoration by the President on Remembrance Sunday. I understand

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that and know that has taken place. Do you think an event similar to

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the event in Belfast or Enniskillen would be something Dublin would

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welcome in the centre of the city, not associated with a church, that

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featured the President, Prime Minister, polished up and everyone

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who wanted to assemble in that way? -- Tanaiste and everyone. It is

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important to remember everything that took place, this shared

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experience of families, irrespective of whether they were

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from Belfast or court. When news came back that somebody was missing

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or had lost their life, it was the same sadness and sorrow suffered by

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the family, the widow, the people who were left behind. I think that

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is a shared experience, but we remember right across the island,

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and it is appropriate that we do it in different ways, we direct our

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own way, but that we share in that memory and in that experience. Also

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it is important that we share in the conviction that it should not

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happen again. In remembering war, one of the things we should always

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commit ourselves to doing is making sure it is not repeated and that we

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work to maintain peace, whether on this island or internationally.

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we just talk about party politics. The Fianna Fail leader Micheal

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Martin and launched a scathing attack against Sinn Fein in an

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interview I did with him on our political programme of Thursday

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night. He was criticising Sinn Fein for demonstrating against the

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charging of one of its members in connection with the murder of

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Robert McCartney. Are you are uncomfortable with her Sinn Fein

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handled the issue? We have to support the police service of

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Northern Ireland in what they do in investigating crime, irrespective

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of what crime it is. The PSNI, its strength is to do that impartially.

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That is what we have all sought down the years. There cannot be, in

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my view, any partial investigation of crimes. The PSNI have to

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investigate crimes and take whatever action they have to take,

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arrest whoever they have to arrest in connection with crimes. But has

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to be done without fear or favour and should not be subject to

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political influence of any kind. I want to bring in our commentators.

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Jim Flanagan, you were in Enniskillen on the day of the Bomb

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25 years ago. How do you think people there will feel about the

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Taoiseach taking part in the act of remembrance this morning? I am

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delighted he is in Enniskillen today. He will be warmly welcomed

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by the community down there. I was in Enniskillen that date and I

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vividly remember the scenes of devastation and the subsequent

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human heartbreak visited upon the community. That particular incident

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was a violation against humanity. A group of people were gathering to

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honour the dead, of all religions and none. Progress, Finnouala?

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course it is. Up until a couple of years ago, Eamon Gilmore would not

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have been welcome in Belfast. Attitudes have changed at different

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paces in different places. Many Unionists were not have welcomed

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anyone from the Irish government turning up at the City Hall. The

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fact that he and Enda Kenny have been able to come is not just

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movement in Dublin, but Ms mature as well. You will be encouraged to

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hear to perspective political commentators are supporting the

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move you have taken as a government? -- two respective

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political commentators. I was also encouraged by the warm reception I

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got this morning, the great sense of being among people who welcomes

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me here. Yeah were there with the First Minister and the lord mayor

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of Belfast, be DUP's Gavin Robinson. -- the DUP's Gavin Robinson. Did

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you talk to them? Yes, we talk all the time about common interests on

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the island. I met with Peter Robinson and the Deputy First

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Minister jester or four weeks ago. -- just over a week ago. I met with

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Theresa Villiers in Dublin. I was delighted to be in City Hall this

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morning. Last time I was there it was at her local authority events

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several years ago. BG get a sense that Peter Robinson and the leader

:46:48.:46:58.
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of the DUP in Northern Ireland was glad to see you there? We have a

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standing invitation from the City Council and I expect attendance by

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the Irish government will be a normal part of this event from

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hereon. What message will you take home to Dublin after today's

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Defence? The message that I will take home is how important this

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remembrance days to be people who were there, to be -- to those who

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have a strong sense of the suffering that took place in the

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war and how important it is that the Irish government be represented

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at events like this in Northern Ireland. Thank you for coming in.

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More from our commentators later in the programme.

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Should be SDLP going to opposition at Stormont? That was one idea

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raised at the annual conference this weekend. Some activists see it

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as a logical step forward, arguing it will hold the Executive to

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account. Others see it is to bigger risk and should only be considered

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in the long time. In a moment I will be talking to the SDLP leader.

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Let's hear from our political correspondent.

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Around the conference., political metaphors are everywhere. Is there

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a lot about to change and are we witnessing the substance or spend -

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- spin? Dolores Kelly sparked debate. She wants the party to

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consider going into opposition at Stormont. I think opposition can

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work as an accountable mechanism for people to get involved in the

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real politics and real policies and manifestos of political parties.

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The SDLP's sole Minister is Alex Attwood. Does he feel it is time to

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leave the Executive? I can see a system of government in the future

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that has an opposition. The issue is, is this the time and place to

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prepare for that? How did the rank and file of view the prospect of

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opposition? In the long term it must be a viable option, but is

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what democracy involved. involves. It is something we should

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be thinking about. Be it is getting to the stage where it is inevitable,

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we cannot keep going the way we are doing. It is a power-sharing

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Executive, power-sharing legislator and at the minute, I do not think

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it is time for an opera Sassoon -- opposition. We need to stay there

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at the men it. -- at the minute. much attention was on Alasdair

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McDonnell's keynote address. He claimed that the DUP and Sinn Fein

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were engaged in phoney disputes. Let me tell them, the time for

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plain schoolboy politics has long gone. This was a speech that

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touched on many key SDLP themes such as peace, prosperity and

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reconciliation. What Alasdair McDonnell did not talk about in

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detail with the issue of opposition, a subject close to his deputy

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leader's card. Some comfort -- some observers say opposition could be

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the way forward. Do the people of Northern Ireland need an

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opposition? The SDLP have been rewarded by the public one may have

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been at their boldest and bravest. Just because it doesn't exist

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doesn't mean we should not vote for it. Alasdair McDonnell says his

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party's fight back is under way. On the horizon, they made Ulster by-

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election and a European election. Very soon, the party can decide if

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the leader is going in the right direction.

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Alasdair McDonnell joins me now. Your first speech as leader last

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year was not widely judged as a great success. Did you feel you

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made up for lost ground yesterday? Yesterday I said what I had to say.

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I had a lot of ground to cover. I was very happy with the conference.

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You must have been annoyed about the debate about opposition. You

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signed off yesterday and recovered the speech. I saw every minute of

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it. You signed off with a rallying call for delegates to work to get

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SDLP back to the heart of government again. The night before,

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you deputy was calling delegates to move into position. I think she

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said simply that we should considerate and we will. She said,

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should not we be thinking about whether this is going? We could

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lose our soul If we stay in the Executive. I think the SDLP's grown

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-- role is to build a future and to create a prosperity process for a

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Northern Ireland. That sounds like a mixed message. She used a stay at

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the heart of government, she says get out of it. Fine, people want to

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mix it. We are now at the beginning of a process, we will discuss that.

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From my perspective, the objective is not to put the SDLP into

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opposition. My objective is to win back seats and put us right back at

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the heart. The problem is, we have stagnation in Stormont. Without the

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SDLP driving and coming up with ideas it will not move on. The way

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you run the people to your standard is by having at Clear clarion call,

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a clear message. It looks like the leader saying one thing and the

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deputy leader saying something else. We do not have an army council. We

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are a democratic party. That is different from an agreed policy,

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you do not seem to have that. have agreed policies offer a range

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of things. We have agreed policies over efforts to create prosperity

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and holding the present Executive to account. If you want people to

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join new to get the SDLP back above heart of government, why would you

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tell me you want to start a discussion about going into

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opposition, which is what you have just said? We will discuss

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opposition in context because it may be an option. You have to

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discuss all of the options. There is no place at the moment, no place

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on the schedule of things at the moment, called opposition. There is

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no role for an opposition. From my perspective, and others are free to

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disagree with me or to think of it as a good idea, and ensure it will

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be discussed, -- I am sure it will be discussed, there is no place

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called opposition, there is no role at for opposition and we will be to

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some extent limiting our capacity to influence. We have been working

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for months with the Irish government around a whole array of

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things as to how we ensure the next decade is a decade of respect and

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reconciliation rather than further conflict. That is where we are at

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our best, with ideas and ambition and bringing people together.

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said you would lead the regeneration of your party in your

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first year as leader. You said yesterday in your speech, and I

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underline bid, the party is stronger than a year ago. Where is

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the evidence? 12 months on, you are down in the polls and a personal

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approval rating has slumped to the bottom of the five main party

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leaders. That is fine. Those were not the same polls from the

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conference. We had a buoyant confidence -- conference yesterday.

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That is your delegates. This is from the population generally.

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have a party that is moving. We had at conference with more active

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young people. I have brought in 40 new local representatives. There is

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a buoyancy and urgency and an ambition in the SDLP that has not

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been there for a while. At the Assembly election you had 14.2%.

:55:28.:55:38.
:55:38.:55:39.

The latest poll in Northern Ireland you can't -- had 13%. The European

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elections in 18 months' time, that is my objective. It will count in

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June, 2014, when we have elections to Europe. I can promise you, our

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vote will be well up. You think you are moving in the right direction?

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I am confident. If you had spoken to anyone at a conference he would

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have known that. Remembering the past has been a

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dominant theme in a political story as we'd be back at the week in 60

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seconds. -- in a political story as we look

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back at the week. In Cookstown, hundreds attended the

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funeral of David Platt, murdered by dissident republicans. Every sane

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person in Milan believes that those who carried out the killing are

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odious, pain filled deviance and psychopaths who should be locked up

:56:33.:56:38.

for life. 25 years on, the people of

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Enniskillen remembered those who died when the IRA exploded a bomb

:56:43.:56:47.

at the town's war memorial in 1987. At car parking charges are to be

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frozen for three years as part of a �2 habits 1,000 economic package

:56:53.:56:59.

announced by the Executive. -- �200,000.

:56:59.:57:03.

One of Northern Ireland's biggest building firms went into

:57:03.:57:12.

administration putting jobs at risk. Give some leadership and tell them

:57:12.:57:22.
:57:22.:57:24.

were used stand today. -- bird you stand.

:57:24.:57:29.

Finnouala and Jim Flanagan are still with me. Let's talk about the

:57:29.:57:32.

SDLP conference and Alasdair McDonnell. First, the idea of

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opposition. Is it a red herring? is a red herring. It seems a

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distraction. It is not what politics are now been Ireland is

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going to be about for a considerable time. -- in Northern

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Ireland. These are abnormal arrangements. It is the best we

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could do, it is an arrangement that brings everybody in. What is more

:57:54.:58:04.
:58:04.:58:05.

significant is for Alasdair McDonnell is losing motions about

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internal reorganisation. His biggest strength has always been

:58:10.:58:14.

energy. His ability to energise the party that really struggles to find

:58:15.:58:22.

a role, that is true. Without it, both them and the Ulster Unionist

:58:22.:58:28.

are hoists in Stormont. The best he can do is appeared to voters. 18

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months from now will not be about their position in opposition but

:58:33.:58:43.
:58:43.:58:45.

how loudly they met. The the issue of opposition was introduced by

:58:45.:58:52.

Dolores Kelly. They were not prepared to take his advice?

:58:52.:59:00.

says they are a party in trouble. The SDLP is struggling, having been

:59:00.:59:05.

for a very long time the leader of the nationalist political opinion.

:59:05.:59:10.

It is normal that there are difficult and different opinions.

:59:10.:59:16.

Is the party in trouble? Possibly. I do not know whether to Loris

:59:16.:59:18.

Kelly cleared what she said with him or whether he knew it was

:59:18.:59:24.

coming up. -- Dolores Kelly. Four now, he would rather be inside the

:59:24.:59:29.

tent looking out. He gave a clue that he did not want to lead the

:59:29.:59:37.

SDLP in to opposition. Forever and a date was the phrase he used. That

:59:37.:59:40.

would be his concern, given the rise of Sinn Fein that he could be

:59:40.:59:45.

locking the door for good. What precisely does the need to do? He

:59:45.:59:49.

says he is confident that despite what the polls suggest he is moving

:59:49.:59:55.

in the right direction. This that ring true? It is from a very low

:59:55.:00:00.

position. It is a question of making the best of a bad job. After

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a rocky start that is what he is doing. It does not matter if there

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