14/04/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


The latest political news, interviews and debate in Northern Ireland.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 14/04/2013. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Coming up on Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland - Alex Maskey on


issues raised at Sinn Fein's weekend ard fheis in Castlebar. And


is it time for the Civic Forum to make a comeback? Join me in half an


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2180 seconds


Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. It


was into the west for Sinn Fein this weekend as the party held its


annual Ard Fheis in County Mayo. Staged at the Royal Theatre in


Castlebar, some 2000 delegates last night heard the party president,


Gerry Adams, mark his thirtieth year in charge with a promise to


continue to build alliances with unionists and loyalists. We'll be


picking up on that theme along with some of the others raised in the


course of the conference with Alex Maskey who is with me in the studio.


And remember this? The Civic Forum - costly talking shop or vital link


with the society? Whatever you think, is now the right time to


bring it back? Joining me to discuss that and more


are Liam Clarke, the Political Editor of the Belfast Telegraph,


and the journalist and commentator Fionnuala O Connor.


The weather didn't quite manage to top the soaring temperatures in


Killarney for last year's Ard Fheis - but the agenda for this year's


conference touched on a number of familiar themes including


continuing dialogue with loyalists and unionists. Here's our


correspondent, Shane Harrison. Castlebar in the heart of County


Mayo. The political base where this party holds four of the five seats.


A Sinn Fein is to continue growing, it will have to do so in places


like this in the West. That is why this year ard fehis attracted the


party faithful and some new. would like to take this opportunity


to welcome a representative of all three British... The shadow British


Secretary of State, a member of the Labour Party. I am very pleased to


have been asked. It was a significant moment for me. I


understand it to be the first British shake-up -- Shadow


Secretary of state to be invited to the conference. Anti-abortion


campaigners picketed the conference. They say they are not pro-life. It


allows for abortion. But the party believes the option to terminate


should be available in cases of rape, incest and sexual abuse or


where a woman's life is in danger. As for free will as far elected


representatives, they said, no way. Sinn Fein is a party that is not


afraid to take on challenges. It is not a collection of independence.


We consistently criticise our opponents. Although beaten in the


vote by the leadership, some suggested abortion was the main


issue the party has faced since it started on the peace process.


can sit here all weekend, but it is a sad state of affairs that the


Tory party and Cameron will allow a free vote on the marriage. They in


his leadership speech, Gerry Adams said it was essential an imperative


that Republicans try to build alliances with working-class


loyalists and Unionists about social and economic issues. He said


Republicans should not shirk away from their obligations to those who


died as a result because -- he says cause the conflict. I am prepared


to meet the victim's families in the state debt they think this will


be helpful. Before leaving County Mayo, delegates voted to call on


Alex Attwood to find a more up suitable name for the Royal


shopping Exchange development in north Belfast. The vote took place


in Castlebar's Royal Theatre. Joining me now is Sinn Fein's Alex


Maskey. Gerry Adams talked in his speech last night about the


importance of continuing dialogue with unionists and loyalists.


They're not going to go away, he said & Sinn Fein doesn't want them


to. But Martin McGuinness talked about unionists being inward-


looking and intransigent. So which is it? You got the impression that


abortion was a divisive issue. There was a farm mood of optimism


about the future. The North was being held up as a shining example.


The several speakers boasted of we have stopped water charges in the


north. Northern Ministers talked about the achievements there, it is


being held up as an example of what Sinn Fein can do, which was a bit


of a change of what we think of Stormont. What about the mixed


message in that people pointed out? Gerry Adams talking about


continuing dialogue with Unionists and loyalists. Martin McGuinness


told to bet -- talked about stepping up to the plate. I do not


think anybody would see that as a message at all. The supporters was


that this is what the party should be doing. Gerry and Martin have to


keep reaching out and say we want a further reconciliation. But


Unionists are not doing their bit and Unionists are putting us back.


They are always saying there is no reason to reconcile. I do not think


that sense a mixed message at all. There is a two audience there.


There is the wider audience who are also paying attention to what is


happening. They might see that as a mixed message. Her they might see


that as that. Sinn Fein is working very hard to reach out. There is a


limited sector of them that will talk to them. I don't think they


are at all worried about saying this. It is the other way round, if


there is a mixed message to the, Martin McGuinness wants to say


Peter Robinson has not been sharing. There are unionists, we have heard


them saying it, do not stock about reaching out. Sinn Fein would say


the Unionists are the ones who are refusing to move forward. You did


sense frustration from Martin McGuinness. The message was that he


believes Unionists lacked confidence. They are not coming for


words. I do not get a sense it was any threat of pulling out of


Government. He just said, we need to do business more quickly and


more efficiently. What about some of the other issues that were in


the background? Like for example, Economics north and south, welfare


and changes that are happening in Northern Ireland. And of course the


abortion debate. We saw that in the report there. These are big things


for Sinn Fein. I do not think they are giving them that much trouble.


There was a debate, there is division regarding abortion. It is


not something that will tear them apart. I think there is an attitude


of we must be compassionate. It fits very well with the general


feeling in the south. I think Sinn Fein have this luxury of being in


opposition, they can move back and forward on various issues. There is


very little opposition in the south, I think, for bashing them for what


they say. They can do that will the cows come home and not be


criticised by the people they want to reach. High what about those


issues, Economics? On economics, the main focus was on the economy


of the South. They held up the north as an example of what Sinn


Fein can do in Government to stabilise the economy. They send


out a signal that they would do some reform on the Bedroom Tax.


Abortion I think is a serious issue because it is the sort of issue


that people will vote on. You might not agree with them on education,


but you could agree with them on abortion. We are joined now by Alex


Maskey. There you were down in the conference, you picked up on some


of the issues dealt with there. Gerry Adams talked about the


continuing need for discussion. We heard Martin McGuinness talking


about Unionists being inward- looking and intransigent. Which is


it? It is both, actually. There are a lot of people within Unionism


across society who know that there has to be dialogue and want to have


dialogue. NI recent attempts over last year to have dialogue around


reconciliation, we do not believe... Sinn Fein talks the top, but


doesn't walk the walk. You say you want to work with Unionists, you


want engagement. Then you adopt what they regard a belligerent


attitude. We think our position on the flanks is consistent. -- flaks.


-- flags. That is the purpose of having a dialogue. The T U P was


meant to argue it around the Good Friday Agreement. -- DUP. It


compels the parties in both governments to deal with the issue


of flax. -- flags. Equality is at the cornerstone of the Good Friday


Agreement. That was a tricky issue for you or party to navigate over


the weekend, given it is such up divisive issue both north and south.


You are not a pro-abortion party, but nobody said you are pro-choice.


I think the debate on that question on the weekend was appropriate. I


think the recent arguments, and scandalous debate in the north


around the Assembly debate, it was to exploit the issue. The party


rejected that motion. The party has a very settled view. There are


people in it who are very pro-life and there. They have spoken


publicly. There are people in our party who have views on abortion in


the same way that people in every other walk of life in Ireland. When


I hear people talking, it is an issue of conscience for every


person. People have a pinions and every party, but the clear debate


at the weekend shows that we have a settled view on it. Her let's talk


about the welfare issues that we have discussed on his programme


before. Her you are in Government in Northern Ireland, you are


commenting on austerity measures. We will argue, we are a Government


in the north that doesn't have tax raising powers which we want to


have transferred here. We are operating a Government were we have


had �4 billion taken away from our Government. We have the ministerial


influence and that cuts across the programme for Government. On only


on one issue, that is the Spare Room Subsidy, has your party


threatened to use, promised to use, a petition of concern. We might do


that. I have had a number of bilateral with a number of people


from other parties, we made it clear that there are issues of


welfare reform that we are not going to support and we are not


going to except. Give me an example of another issue of where you might


use the Petition of concern? There are issues around disability


entitlements which the British Government want to take away 20%.


That is a real conversation you are having within the party? Absolutely.


This kind of austerity has been imposed on us by London. This


battle is not over yet. We will leave it there. Thank you very much


for joining us. Tributes to Baroness Thatcher,


tough talking from the Secretary of State and the troubled A5 dual


carriageway project. It's all in the week in 60 seconds, with Gareth


Gordon. Baroness Thatcher's debt -- death


is marked by the divisions in her life. I am in the despatch box


making positive remarks. Others held street parties to the


displeasure of Martin McGuinness. It is not something I would do.


Government warned that the economic package could be withdrawn if


progress was not being made. If we cannot agree, it is a fact that we


may not be able to deliver some of the things we have been talking


about. Which could also apply to the troubled a five dual-


carriageway project between two towns.


Fifteen years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the


Assembly has supported a motion by the SDLP calling on the First and


Deputy First Ministers to reconvene the Civic Forum. The body was set


up to allow people from outside the political world to influence


decision-making over social, economic and cultural issues. It


was suspended along with the devolved institutions in 2002.


Unionists are not happy the motion squeaked through by one vote - many


of them say it was a costly talking shop. Community worker Alan McBride


was a member of the Forum between 2000 and 2002 - and he joins me now.


Thank you for joining us. Do you think it is an organisation they


should be brought back and does have an contribution to make?


not think it ever achieved its potential because when it was put


in place in 2002, I think that the idea of bringing other voices from


civic society to be a rotten, is a good idea. It should be something


that should be thought more about. Does it need to be established as a


Civic Forum when individuals are Brotton, when there is a


significant cost to the public purse? There is a cost to their


public purse. It does cost money to set the thing up. Depending on how


you set it up, we could save money. We might not need to go to big


fancy hotels for meetings. We could go to community centres, there are


ways to save money. In terms of working out whether it will because


they are not, it should be about what it achieves and delivers.


you aware of other individuals like you come into contact with as you


work -- through your work as a community worker, who feel that


this would be of value? Absolutely. If you had people around a table


from the business community, from the church is talking about issues,


something could come from that which could make a difference.


have a public debate, you have it on the air ways and newspapers. To


have those public debates, their argument seems to be, we'll listen


to people who vote to us, we'll listen to these organisations, we


do not need to set up a separate forum to do that because it was not


successful the last time. It did not go far enough to let it run its


course. It was not just a talking shop. Those things had to run their


course and could have achieved positive things in Northern Ireland.


There was a view on the Civic Forum was -- and there was no desire to


see a reconstituted. Do you think there was a change in view? I think


there is a potential for it to achieve something. The idea, the


concept, I think is still a good concept. Her thank you very much


were coming in. Picking up on what Alan had to say,


do you think it is something that would contribute? An irate bomb


killed Alan's relatives. -- IRA. It is two big parties that run the


show. It is not something they would want. That was a bad time to


give it a try in the first place. To talk about practical things is


one of the few ways we are going to have any kind of reconciliation


here. It will give more victims and bereaved people a voice, what could


be wrong? Asking you about looking ahead, there is the funeral of


Margaret Thatcher. Is that likely to continue to dominate the


political discussions? Her I think it will dominate the agenda with


Download Subtitles