20/10/2013 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 20/10/2013. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello, and welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. The


Ulster Unionist Party faithful met this weekend for their annual


conference. With the party's first major electoral challenge under the


leadership of Mike Nesbitt now just months away - did he persuade


members he can turn their fortunes around? If the right message is sent


and the hard work is put in, I believe we can make a comeback. We


have a great youth wing. We have a great leader. Mike Nesbitt joins me


live in studio. And as the First Minister, Peter Robinson, praises


the GAA's efforts in peace-building, a leading GAA commentator plays


hardball over clubs and tournaments being named after republican


paramilitaries. I'll be asking Peter Sheridan, the man who organised


Thursday's dinner at which Mr Robinson made his comments, if it's


now a case of one step forward and two steps back? To discuss that and


more I'm joined by today's commentators, Sheila Davidson and


Malachi O'Doherty. The Ulster Unionist leader has unveiled his


alternative to a peace centre at the Maze. Mike Nesbitt used his


conference speech to call for the setting up of a world class trauma


centre for those suffering mental illness. The conference was told the


party is more united than it's been in years. Here's our Political


Correspondent, Gareth Gordon. He is a man the critics claim who is


pedalling as fast as he can, but still getting nowhere. Unfair, say


the vast majority of people here who believe that under Mike Nesbitt,


they are finally moving forward. It is a year and a half since he became


Ulster Unionist leader on this very stage in this very room. As good a


time as any to ask what has changed under his leadership. Those who are


left claim they are better off without the likes of Basil McCrea


and John McCallister. No sign of division, there is united approach.


There is a dedicated attitude and we are moving forward under the sound


and capable leadership of Mike Nesbitt. All the people who


disagreed with him are gone! We are not interested in what has gone


before. The next test will come next year under the election. Their


European candidate was talking about speech-making. We have got to show


improvement and that is obvious. We are up for that and are prepared to


do it. We believe we have the policies and you will hear later


today some ideas going forward. We are trying to bring forward a new


generation of people. You have to have a mix of experience and youth.


Certainly there was a sprinkling of youth among the more mature


membership, so who are they and why did they join? For me it was the


youth wing. The party itself, its policy, the great leader we have,


that is why I joined. Do you see a future in politics? Possibly. In the


past youth was not promoted, is that changing? It is. There are dozens of


young candidates coming through. I have been selected to run and there


are a number of other colleagues doing the same. If the right message


is sent and the hard work is put in, I believe the Ulster Unionist Party


can make a comeback. Mike Nesbitt has been accused of taking the party


to the right and here he was prepared to take a risk, posing for


photographs with an organisation many unionists are trying to get rid


of. It is a good thing with the political leader to engage with


anyone who has a part to play in the future of Northern Ireland. The


Parades Commission has a future to play in Northern Ireland. You know I


would like to see them replaced, that is on the agenda for talks, but


that is no reason not to show ability to people who want to engage


with a political party. His conference idea was a mental health


centre to replace the troubled Peace Centre at the Maze. Who would it be


for? Let me be clear, this centre is for everyone. Even those for whom we


may feel little or no sympathy. The conference closed for the first time


with a performance by a pipe band from County Antrim, a change of


tack, if not of tune. Gareth Gordon reporting - and Mike


Nesbitt is with me now. Several commentators said yesterday's speech


needed to be the best of your political career - do you think you


hit the target? People in the room seemed happy, people on social media


seemed happy. I am not happy because I have never done that and thought I


could do a bit better. In broadcasting and politics, people


are quick to tell you what they do not like, they are not so generous


in terms of saying when you have done something they do like. The


feedback I am getting has been surprisingly positive and there has


been a surprising volume of it. Might that be because there has been


no internal debate because some of the key people opposed to your


leadership or were unhappy have now left the party? Only two people left


the party. We had a lot more people in the room today that we had last


year. We had a Friday afternoon session about party development, it


was in the same room it was in last year, that room was three quarters


full a year ago, people were up yesterday. Two figures left the


party and there was much talk about that, give me an example if they are


not significant, of a hotly contested policy issue in the Ulster


Unionist Party at the moment? All the issues we have been talking


about, like abortion, are matters of conscience. There are some debates


in the party. Welfare Reform Act is something that is coming down the


tracks now. The DUP said the sky would fall in if we did not bring in


the legislation and here we are in October, the sky has not fallen in,


but it might, because this package will take 750 million out of the


Northern Ireland economy. Is that a debate in your party? Yes. We are


arguing about it internally, we are having debates. We are having robust


debates and that is perfectly healthy within a political party. We


are a much healthier political party than we were in 2012. You spoke last


year about being a liberal and progressive Unionist, that is what


you said you wanted to be, but critics would say you have taken to


the party on the right. I do not agree with that. All those issues


are in the talks and that is where they should be and I think we should


give the talks the space they need. Flags is tangible, parades is


tangible, there are only so many ways you can cut and dice them. We


can reach agreement on those. Dealing with the past is different,


it is a major challenge and one of the little tokens of that has been


the so-called Peace Centre at the Maze. They did not tell people what


the function of it was and that is why I have come out with an


alternative that everyone can buy into, because it is for everyone and


offers practical help. Tens of thousands of our citizens suffer


from PTSD and other mental health issues. Let us build a facility that


is world-class, the whole world would look to say we want to come,


we want to share in that, you have expertise that will help us. It


seems that this has come out of the blue. I have studied these things


for some time, I was a victims commissioner. You see on Wednesday,


when they say that these people have been coming forward and these issues


in terms of employment and training, mental health will be up there and


everything else will be down there. Have you costed this? You can save,


you can do it for a fraction of the 18 million euros that was set aside


for the Maze Peace Centre. How can you build this that will be the envy


of other countries for under ?18 million? I have spoken to experts


who say you can do it for under that cost. The cost will depend on the


venue and they do not want us to get hung up on a debate about venue, I


said that there is a suggestion and it was only a suggestion, a venue


that has been lying idle for a lot of years, it is on sale for ?1.6


million. The taxpayer will never see the money back, two or three million


would convert that into a mental health centre. It might, but you are


going to talk about putting in place programmes of work and experts who


will cost a lot of money to recruit. I would have thought you would have


no change out of ?18 million? Are you confusing the capital costs and


the running costs? Talk to the Health Minister. You can set up


centre and the running costs, how long is a piece of string? That is


the point. A report has been largely ignored which says we have huge


mental health issues. I am suggesting this and the first step


is to say here is a concept and the second phase is to buy in and the


third phase is to say what can we afford. You think that idea will


excite people? I think it is a big idea and it is the right idea


because we have tens of thousands of our citizens who do not get out of


bed with a sense of purpose because of mental health problems and that


is universally acknowledged and it is for everyone, even people whose


mental health is a result of bad choices, we have to help them and


their families, because it is also intergenerational. How do you turn


the fortunes of your party around? We are now in a better place and if


we continue, we will be in an even better position next year. Thank


you. Now let's pause for a look at the political week gone past, in


sixty seconds. The row over gay men and blood


donation continues, the Health Minister addressed criticism. In


terms of breaking the ministerial code, I did it unwittingly. The DPP


try to clarify the implications of the abortion guidelines. It is


difficult to envisage a circumstance were anyone could be accused of


aiding or abetting a crime of having abortion in England. A plan to


reallocate school funding was defended by the Minister. I am not


here to take money off schools but I need to tackle social deprivation.


Peter Robinson reached out to the GAA, but another minister got there


first. I opened a newspaper to see a photograph of my colleague Nelson


McCausland playing Gaelic football. That shows that all things are


possible. Gareth Gordon reporting - and we'll


be discussing that speech by Peter Robinson - and the subsequent


reaction to it - a little later in the programme. Let's return to this


weekend's Ulster Unionist Party conference - and here to discuss it


with me are Sheila Davidson and Malachi O'Doherty. You are both


welcome to the programme. Let me ask you what you made of Mike Nesbitt's


speech yesterday and also his defence of it this morning. He is a


polished performer. Part of the problem is it shows the contrast


with those behind him. A. I wonder would those who would mostly be


concerned to have PTSD treatment, say in the British Army, would they


want to come here. Would they really want to come here? Essentially the


idea is a good one, but whether it is an alternative to the Peace


Centre and considering it is a stroke played within the broad


culture war where everything has to be, we win and you lose. Do you see


it as a credible alternative to the Maze Peace Centre? It is an


interesting idea. I have experience of PTSD in my family, I know


first-hand how traumatising that is in any family. The lack of mental


health resources that we have is not something that we should be playing


out in that kind of political field, there is a different role for that.


I think that the interesting thing that you take out of the party


conference was that he needs to be careful he is not turning into a one


trick pony in terms of it is all about this culture war. This is a


party which aspires to take back the leadership of the Unionist community


and unless he is talking about the big issues, the economy, we are not


actually going to get a feeling that he is going to be that leader in the


future and I am not sure... His performance was good, and he perhaps


needs to work harder on that. They need to play on a bigger stage. What


about the way in which Mike Nesbitt has or hasn't pulled the party to


the right? Where does that leave Liberal Unionist members of the


Catholic community? That is the problem. It is part of the


architecture of the agreement that this must happen. That militates


against the possibility of unionism drawing in Catholics or nationalism


drawing in Protestants. I do think that in time we have to look at that


architecture and see how it can be changed. I would not like to be


leading liberal unionism and having to show most of the time that you


are more opposed to Sinn Fein than Peter Robinson is. That is a losing


form. Thank you. The sight of the DUP leader at a high profile event


praising the work of the GAA would, as Peter Robinson acknowledged


himself, have been unimaginable just a few short years ago. But today the


question is: has the move been overshadowed by comments made by the


the high profile GAA commentator Joe Brolly who said it's no-one else's


business if GAA clubs or tournaments are named after republican


paramilitaries? In a moment we'll hear from the Chief Executive of


Co-operation Ireland who organised Thursday night's event, but first


here's a reminder of what Peter Robinson had to say and Joe Brolly's


subsequent reaction. Joining me now from our Foyle studio is the man who


organised the dinner at which the First Minister spoke about the GAA,


the Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan. You are the


man who was responsible for the dinner on Thursday night in which


Peter Robinson made his comments, do what extent has Joe Brolly's


reaction undone the efforts of Mr Robinson? I think it was


disappointing to hear him, who has shown a generosity of spirit in


other ways, to be so exclusive in his comments. What the GAA are


trying to do is reach out to another community where they want to see


young Protestant people playing their sport, they want people from


the Protestant community coming to games and the director-general made


that clear. For Joe Brolly to use that language word he says you can


join it, you will have to abide by us, I think Peter Robinson in his


remarks talked about the need for understanding, reaching beyond our


own communities and unfortunately he was not reaching beyond his own


community and trying to have that understanding of what that might


mean for the other community. Why do you think that is the case? Why did


he say what he said? Given that he has taken a different tack in public


on other matters in the past. He has appeared to be more middle of the


road in the past. You would have to ask him. When we use language like


that, it pushes back the other community and then ignited a


response from people who then were suggesting that Peter Robinson was


wrong to outreach and try to move this into a different place by


reaching out to the other community in some of the remarks he made. His


speech was littered with positive comments. In 18 months, we have had


negativity around flags, parades, Long Kesh and Maze, it was a move


towards a positive speech, but then for Joe Brolly to push it back and


say it is no one else's business, but the GAA are a sporting body and


they want to encourage people of all traditions across this island to


become involved in the sport. You have to understand the barriers


which might prevent people from doing that. Who is more embarrassed?


I think it has enhanced Peter Robinson's position because it


demonstrated someone who was reaching out from his constituency


and a willingness not to acknowledge the role of the GAA, but to praise


it in peace building. He demonstrated that the GAA had out


reached and were making moves. In some ways I think it put Peter


Robinson in a better light. He has been criticised from people like Jim


Allister who said he was foolhardy to make the speech. There were also


people like Gregory Campbell and Sammy Wilson, they have not overly


criticised him, but they have been clear to set out their stall of what


they think of the GAA needs to do to be acceptable on the issue of naming


its clubs and tournament in future. Anyone who was there would have


acknowledged that Peter Robinson's statements were more statesman-like.


We know what nationalist politicians stand for and we know what Unionist


politicians stand for, but what we want to know is what they will do


for the other side? Unfortunately the ethnic nature of politics here


mean we always champion our own side, but Peter Robinson did not


just do that on Thursday night. Unfortunately the remarks from Joe


Brolly did not take into account what needs to be done for the other


side. The people attacking Peter Robinson are doing the same thing.


Were Joe Brolly's comments embarrassing? They were in contrast


to what the director-general and Danny Murphy were saying. Thank you.


Let's have a final thought on this from Sheila Davidson and Malachi


O'Doherty. I think when you get anything like this, you scratch the


surface, you get to a polarised point and that goes for both the GAA


and anyone on the loyalist side. We have to understand the language we


use and that is something we have to be more mature about. We need to


recognise and understand that there are polarised positions, we will not


get away from that, but if we get more statesman-like in the way Peter


Robinson got and the GAA as well, then we have a way to go for the


future. First of all, Peter Robinson going to the GAA dinner, and


secondly, Joe Brolly's response. It is great that Peter Robinson did and


there were times when he looked more statesman-like and yet lapsed back


into it. As for Joe Brolly? If that represents the views of people in


his community, he was right. That is it from us.


Download Subtitles