16/12/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2144 seconds


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


Politics in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of people are taking part


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


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


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


continuing despite calls from the First Minister and the Ulster


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


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


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


tough times lie ahead for the Taoiseach? They made reckless


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


they hope to announce a new initiative that will address many


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


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


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


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


this week because of his stance on the issue.


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


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


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


happening. These are people who feel that their Britishness has


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


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


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


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


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


politicians have gone to the protests and have ostensibly been


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


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


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


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


been 118 protests with no disturbances. This protest came


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Progressive Unionist parties. These are British citizens in Northern


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the traders are Belfast and Northern Ireland. Whatever the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


difficulty at the moment is that we have dissident Republican activity


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


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


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


city Councillor you actually supported the flying of the flag.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Council four weeks before Christmas? That is totally


incorrect. This issue has been discussed at Belfast City Council


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


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


Government institutions which reflect what the people here


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


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


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


Mandelson when he imposed this legislation about designated days.


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


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


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


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


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


Belfast City Council begins to fly an Irish national flag on


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Irish nationalists? Of do you want to develop that conversation


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


them being the only thing that could possibly represent identity,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


past and the future. Billy Hutchinson, does this conversation


not raise the serious possibility that designated days Brenkley looks


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


other people are talking about Brits out and wanted to remove


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


When I was in Belfast city Council actually established a good


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


class areas irrespective of religion. A final point from Basil


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


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


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


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


But politics will solve these issues, not bringing people onto


the streets. Now now look back of the week.


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


there was no overarching state conspiracy, a finding described as


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


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


revealed the narrowing gap between the number of Catholics and


President -- Protestants and an unclear issue about national


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


vegetarian. Basil McCrea criticised the Ulster Unionist position on the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


British Government thought this report would negate the argument


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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