16/12/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


16/12/2012

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


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And on Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland - a peace rally at Belfast

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City Hall in response to the trouble over the past two weeks.

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2144 seconds

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But can a way forward be found on Hello and welcome to Sunday

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Politics in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of people are taking part

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in a peace rally this morning at Belfast City Hall, after almost two

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weeks of loyalist protests about the council's decision to reduce

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the number of days it flies the union flag. Those protests are

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continuing despite calls from the First Minister and the Ulster

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Unionist leader to suspend them. So, is there a way forward on the flags

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issue? The leader of the PUP, Billy Hutchinson, and the Ulster Unionist

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MLA, Basil McCrea, are with me. And from high praise to no praise -

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tough times lie ahead for the Taoiseach? They made reckless

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promises an advance of the election. They have broken almost every

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promise. People feel somewhat betrayed. They thought it was going

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to be the dawn of a New Era. Joining me to discuss all of this

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is the SDLP's Conall MCDevitt and Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey. Up to a

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thousand people staged a protest in Belfast city centre yesterday, over

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the removal of the union flag from City Hall. On Friday, the leaders

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of the DUP and the UUP, Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt, repeated

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their call for the flag protests to stop. The two Unionist leaders say

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they hope to announce a new initiative that will address many

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of the issues raised over the next few days. With me now to discuss

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the continuing flags protests and the problems it has caused for the

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wider unionist family, are the PUP leader, Billy Hutchinson, and the

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Ulster Unionist MLA, Basil McCrea - who lost the party whip, of course,

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this week because of his stance on the issue.

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Billy Hutchinson, of the two main leaders in Unionism have said the

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protests must stop. Will they stop? I think it is up to the leaders.

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Leadership needs to be shown. We need to be very clear about what is

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happening. These are people who feel that their Britishness has

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ebbed away. People are quite entitled to show their fears,

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frustration and anger. What needs to happen is people need to

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redirect those into a political strategy. From my point of view,

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that is a job we need to do. We need to give people alternatives.

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Unfortunately, nobody wants to listen to what they're saying.

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politicians have gone to the protests and have ostensibly been

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there to stop violence. They say they have listened. But they also

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say they want them to stop. The point has been made and we need to

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move on. I do not know any politicians who have gone to the

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protests. Once the violence starts, it is very hard to stop. There have

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been 118 protests with no disturbances. This protest came

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about because a decision was taken on 3rd December. Questions have to

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be asked why people took that decision to remove the flag. Did

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they not think that people would actually protest? Did they not

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think people would complain? We need to ask them what their

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strategy was. This was a democratic decision. Councillors to voted,

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voted to fly the Union flag on designated days. If you are a

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Democrat, you have to accept that? We need to look at that process.

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That is what we're doing. We believe the process was illegal.

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Watch over the next couple of days. We will announce what we're doing.

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You're going to have a Jewish -- you're going to ask for a judicial

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review? Let's wait and see. Something will happen in the next

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few days. We are preparing the case. If it is as solid as I think, it

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will be announced next week. Surely it would have been dealt with and

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the vote would not have gone through? If I had listened to

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everybody else telling me that it was that solid, I would not be

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doing this. We are looking at the process and we are making sure that

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we feel the process was faulty. you telling me this as the leader

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:41:50.:41:56.

of the PE PE, or as part of a wider Unionist family? -- the PUP. What I

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am telling you is I am speaking of the -- as the leader of the

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Progressive Unionist parties. These are British citizens in Northern

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Ireland to feel that something needs to be done. The ordinary

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people in Belfast are asking for this to happen and we will make it

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happen. To be absolutely clear, the developing -- the development you

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promise is going to take place in the next few days. Are you flying

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solo on that, or Au in some kind of alliance with other political

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leaders? The only Alliance ironing is the alliance with the people who

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feel aggrieved. Basil McCrea, what do you make of that? Is their any

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illegality in what decision was made? I do not see it. But

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regardless, if there is a problem with the process, all that will

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happen is the process will be re- run properly. The result is likely

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to remain the same. There is an issue for all politicians to

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consider. We dealt with the issue in Lisburn in 2006. We did not get

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the same sort of backlash. He is also part of the storm and

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arrangements. Everybody voted for it. Designated days appears to be

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the appropriate way to go forward. What is damaging is that people

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have tried to say that this is a loss of Britishness. This is not.

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This is an agreed way forward that protects British interests. Billy

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Hutchinson is clearly of the view that you are frankly out of touch

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with grass roots unionism? Let me say it quite clear it. The last two

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weeks have been a complete and utter disaster for Unionism. Also,

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the traders are Belfast and Northern Ireland. Whatever the

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grievances, the damage has been immense. There has to be a better

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way of dealing with the issue. I do not doubt that people have concerns.

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But you deal with it in a different way. With the greatest respect, you

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are hopelessly out of touch not just with grassroots Unionism, but

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with mainstream Ulster Unionist thinking. You're a member of the

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party but you're outside the party group. You had the whip withdrawn

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because you could not behave yourself. I didn't think I am out

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of step. You are out of step with the Ulster Unionist Party at

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Stormont. My view is the vast majority of people in Northern

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Ireland want an agreed way forward, one that respect everybody's

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traditions, one that does not bring people onto the street. That is

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what I was articulating. Why did 1000 people turn up and fell past

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today? That is not representative of the whole of Northern Ireland.

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The failure of politics in Northern Ireland, and this is really serious,

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is that many politicians say one thing to some people and one thing

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else to other people. It is time for a shared future. A way forward

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means you have to have dialogue, you have to have a way of reaching

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a consensus. You have to work out your differences. It does not get

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sorted by bringing people at onto the streets. What is your response

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to Basil McCrea, Billy Hutchinson? You do not read present the

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majority opinion in the hall of Northern Ireland? -- represent.

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think Basel is out of touch. The difficulty is that it is about

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everything else. Nobody is saying that we should not have compromised.

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What people are saying is that they should not have surrender.

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agreed to the flag position. I have stated my position. I believe what

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we need to do is to have a society in which we all can share. But the

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difficulty at the moment is that we have dissident Republican activity

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and we have Sinn Fein role outside the spirit of the Good Friday

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Agreement. There was no need to do this on 3rd December. It is in the

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third year of a tower of the city Council. When you were a Belfast

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city Councillor you actually supported the flying of the flag.

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My argument is that we support a designated days on the basis that

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we were involved in a process. I have to say to you, the behaviour

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of Republicans on the street has changed my attitude. Also joining

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us in the Sunday Politics studio, the SDLP's Conall McDevitt and Sinn

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Fein's Alex Maskey. If the responsibility for what has

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happened in the past two weeks lies anywhere, many people would argue

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it lies at your feet in Sinn Fein for bringing the issue to the

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Council four weeks before Christmas? That is totally

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incorrect. This issue has been discussed at Belfast City Council

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for several years. Yes, Sinn Fein has continued, as we have always

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said very openly, we want to make sure we have a society here and

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Government institutions which reflect what the people here

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represent. The city Council has never fully represent all of the

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people of Belfast. By a look what you have done now. You have popped

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up a hornet's nest. All the Unionist parties supported Peter

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Mandelson when he imposed this legislation about designated days.

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What I'm saying is that Belfast City Council have been discussing

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this is used -- issue for years. They have never once offered a

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compromise to the rest of the people in the city. As far as I'm

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concerned, Sinn Fein was prepared to accept a compromise to fly the

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flag. There is No Irish National fight on that City Hall. Unless

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Belfast City Council begins to fly an Irish national flag on

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designated days, we still do not have equality. Can you imagine the

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response you are going to have from Billy Hutchinson and others if you

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seriously suggest that? Why not? When I put the Irish flag and the

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the British flag in the Lord Mayor's Parlour, everybody wanted a

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photograph taken at the flag of their choice. There is differences.

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In 1998, we agreed the Good Friday Agreement. It was about Parity and

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esteem. We still have not got that. How do we manifest equality to the

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Irish nationalists? Of do you want to develop that conversation

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further into flying the try colour of a Belfast City Hall? -- the

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tricolour. Has enough damage being done? Actually getting what this

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past week proves is that there are two conversations that need to take

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place at regional level. The first is about reconciliation. That means

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facing up to the past, the British Army, paramilitaries, everybody's

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role. The second is about identity. What do we know about Adem to be

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this week? We did not learn it from the protesters. We know this is the

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region of minorities and it is a city of minorities. What we all

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have to do in the political class is move beyond flags in terms of

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them being the only thing that could possibly represent identity,

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and start having the courage to face up to the fact that yes, and

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many are Irish. Many are Irish and Northern and proud to be. Very many

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are British. Others do not want to be part of either a national

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identity. Our politics and identity should be big enough and strong

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enough to be able to put that at the heart of it. To make that the

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basis for reconciliation. That is the difficulty. As soon as you

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raise the issue of removing the Union flag to designated days, look

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what happens. You have thousands of loyalists Adam the streets. This

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Irish nationalist is not going to surrender to any flag driven agenda.

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I'm not going to surrender to a type of politics that reduces this

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place to some sort of stand-off between two tribes. Your party

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agreed with that. What is your decision? Eyes and saying that as

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politicians we need to move beyond this. -- I am saying. This is not

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the issue. The issue is reconciliation. It is about the

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past and the future. Billy Hutchinson, does this conversation

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not raise the serious possibility that designated days Brenkley looks

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like a pretty good deal for Unionists in Belfast, where they

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:51:32.:51:35.

are a minority? What I would like to make clear to people is that the

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flag they are referring to his IF lack of the Republic of Ireland.

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The Republic of Ireland signed to the Good Friday Agreement. They did

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away with articles 2 and 3. They agreed that Northern Ireland was a

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part of the United Kingdom. Whether you like it or not, people in this

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city of their allegiance to that flag. We are not arguing about this.

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This is a flag of this region. This is part of the United Kingdom and

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that is a fact. Let me finish. remain in the UK as long as the

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majority of people wish to be. I respect that. My party invented

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that principle. That does not make us all British. It does not make

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this city British. Let's hear what Billy has to say. What we need to

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do is find a way forward were both British and Irish people can share

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this city. The difficulty with this is, that will not be done while

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other people are talking about Brits out and wanted to remove

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:52:58.:52:59.

flags. What people are insisting on is that we want to see how we move

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forward. People are saying that this cannot be enforced upon them.

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This came three years into a term. It is not a coincidence that it is

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done in the year of 100 years. It is not a coincidence it was done in

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the birthplace of Unionism. It was done to antagonise. It sounds

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Machiavellian. That is the Sinn Fein agenda. Is there a any trick

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in that? There is absolutely not. Every time Sinn Fein's -- Sinn Fein

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puts a position forward, we are accused of being more hardline.

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When I was in Belfast city Council actually established a good

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relations initiative. How do we take initiatives to show that this

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is an issue much more than flags? Thankfully the city Council has

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moved on quite considerably. An investment plan agreed by all the

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parties. The Council has not grasped the nettle yet. Basil's

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party used to run the state. Now they have three councillors in

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Belfast. Things have changed. What Billy's party needs to do and

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Basil's former party needs to do, is sit down with all of the parties

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and work out how we reflected symbols and emblems in this society

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which reflect all of us. The issue of moral culture has gone. The

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issue of domination is over. -- monoculture. What does parity of

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esteem a mean? Would it not have made sense for a Sinn Fein to have

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talked directly to Unionists and to loyalists, to try to prepare the

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way for what is clearly a huge sea change in their perception of their

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city? This debate has been going on in the city Council for at least

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this particular -- at least this particular debate has been going on

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for months. 40,000 leaflets were set out on a flight is used in

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Belfast. There is no surprise in this discussion and debate. This

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has been going on for months and for years? Listen. What I am saying

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is that people need to recognise that this debate is not taking

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place in a post complex society. People think we have dealt with the

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past. We're not dealing with it. Because we have not dealt with the

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past. Until we deal with the past we can appear with the future.

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Would you allow us to enter a position where we can open up the

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Pandora's box that is the past without having a repeat of last

:56:01.:56:11.
:56:11.:56:13.

week's events? That is where we need to get there. Not only do we

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need reconciliation. We need to ensure that people are involved and

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they know what reconciliation means. That has to be done in working-

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class areas irrespective of religion. A final point from Basil

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McCrea. Designated days was the agreed policy of all of the pop --

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parties at Stormont. That is the way forward. It should be in all

:56:40.:56:44.

councils, including the 11 in the west of the problems that do not

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fly the flag. We should extend it. There is an issue about engaging.

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But politics will solve these issues, not bringing people onto

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the streets. Now now look back of the week.

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-- at the week. And your report into Pat Finnegan's murder said

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there was no overarching state conspiracy, a finding described as

:57:14.:57:18.

a sham by his family. Peter has been swept under the carpet without

:57:18.:57:24.

any serious attempt to lift the lid on what has happened. The census

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revealed the narrowing gap between the number of Catholics and

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President -- Protestants and an unclear issue about national

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identity. I am a father, son, brother, uncle. I'm also a

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vegetarian. Basil McCrea criticised the Ulster Unionist position on the

:57:44.:57:47.

flag at Stormont. We have been dragged through the gutter with

:57:47.:57:54.

these protests. We do have to find a better political solution. Back

:57:54.:58:04.
:58:04.:58:20.

We have not got time for the report on Enda Kenny. We will bring it to

:58:20.:58:28.

you in the New Year. A quick response. The other big news of the

:58:28.:58:31.

week was the report into the murder of Pat Finnegan. What should happen

:58:31.:58:36.

now? There should be a public inquiry. Even beyond that what we

:58:36.:58:40.

need is a process to deal with the truth. The fact there was

:58:40.:58:45.

corruption at the heart of the security services. That the UDA was

:58:45.:58:51.

basically the assassination wing of the Special Branch. I think of the

:58:51.:58:55.

British Government thought this report would negate the argument

:58:55.:58:59.

for a public inquiry they were badly mistaken. The scale of the

:58:59.:59:09.
:59:09.:59:11.

level of collusion and activity... That will De Gea question for a

:59:12.:59:19.

public inquiry. There does need to be more of the truth process.

:59:19.:59:26.

you surprised at the sheer level of collusion uncovered? Yes I was. But

:59:26.:59:31.

I will also put it in context. I think the gentle man opposite me to

:59:31.:59:36.

understand. We were in a very bad place in those days. We have to

:59:36.:59:40.

find a better way going forward than making cons like that. We need

:59:40.:59:47.

a solution. The one thing about this is that people keep talking

:59:48.:59:52.

about collusion. What be do not care about is collusion with the

:59:52.:59:56.

Republicans in terms of people who acted as agents and were working on

:59:56.:00:00.

the other side. We need to remember that we cannot afford to have

:00:00.:00:06.

inquiries. Basil McCrea, when you return after the Christmas break

:00:06.:00:10.

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