09/02/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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

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difficulties. Ivan Lewis will join us live from Dublin. And joining me


to share their thoughts on all of that are the author and commentator


Susan McKay and the BBC's former Ireland correspondent, Denis


Murray... With elections on both sides of the border just months


away, Sinn Fein's annual conference was well-timed to rally the party


faithful. But despite the upbeat mood in the conference hall, the


problems facing the party in Northern Ireland were never far


away. Martin McGuinness called on those he described


away. Martin McGuinness called on Wexford... Welcome to Wexford and


the sunny south-east, but not very often this weekend. The rain was so


persistent at one stage that there was concern that the river might


flood, so pardon the unintended pun, but at the ard fheis, Sinn Fein was


hoping to persuade floating voters in advance of the elections in May I


have is of the elections. There was an orange alert for the weather.


Orange alert was another theme throughout the conference


proceedings. The ard fheis took place in the Wexford Opera house and


delegates heard the Deputy First Minister criticised the Unionist


parties for their failure to reach an agreement with nationalists on


the Haass proposals. He said the Unionist parties were dancing to the


Orange Order's tune. The current difficulties are real and they are


not insurmountable. My commitment and the commitment of Sinn Fein to


the process and to the institutions is absolute. The ard fheis heard


Martin McGuiness say that the issues could not be drawn out until after


the May elections, while Gerry Adams offered to meet the Orange Order to


discuss their concerns. Delegates were optimistic that there would be


an agreement with the DUP. We can all agree it would be better if the


Executive were working in a coordinated fashion in terms of


addressing the issues they are failing to address at the moment.


The DUP need to realise that communities are moving on without


them. They are moving ahead of the Executive in terms of delivering on


cross-border issues, communities working together and the DUP need to


catch up. Grassroots unionism understand that there is a situation


in government and that some point somebody will have to blink and I


think the DUP will have to realise from their own grassroots that the


ordinary people in the six counties want a government to do the


ordinary people in the six counties criticised in the media and by


politicians, mainly in the Republic, following a programme on the


Disappeared and questions about passing on information about his


brother, a convicted child rapist. The ard fheis rallied around him. A


relentless campaign of vilification against Gerry Adams in this State is


a disgrace and it shoots stop immediately. Of those who were not


even born when Gerry Adams became leader, want him to stay on. When


Gerry Adams puts his name forward, they will elect him President. Will


you make him President for life? I am not sure that the rules will


allow for that, but I am certain that each time it Gerry Adams


contests for the position, we will vote him in. The ard fheis ended


without a song from the fat lady, but with lots of applause for the


tall, slim, bearded man. Shane Harrison reporting from Wexford. Our


Political Editor, Mark Devenport, has been speaking to the Sinn Fein


President, Gerry Adams. He began by asking him about Sinn Fein ruling


out re-negotiation of the Haass proposals when surely that's


precisely what's going on at Stormont? We should be doing our


best as political leaders, who ever we represent, to serve all of the


people and the fact is these issues are not going away. We have to deal


with the past, we have to deal with issues of identity and contentious


parades and we will deal with them. There is a process of change


underway and sometimes it strikes me that it is quite difficult to be a


Unionist leader, because they come from a history of no, never, no


surrender and now they have to embrace equality and embrace other


qualities which are almost foreign to the Unionist philosophy. All they


can do is delay, but they to the Unionist philosophy. All they


state has gone, the 2.5 parties state in this state has gone, so


changes happening. If there is not a dealer by the time of the elections,


have you got any other alternative? dealer by the time of the elections,


We will continue to make process and engage with all sectors of society,


I actually think that the Unionist leaders are well behind were popular


opinion, including popular Unionist opinion, while they may reflect the


elitist or committed political core that we all work with, you but you


have to see beyond that and Martin McGuiness said quite wisely to


Michael Nesbit, if you have got 90% of A.D. , then close the deal. We


are uncomfortable with aspects of this, we would argue that it could


be strengthened in certain aspects, but you cannot in this negotiation


get it the way you want. This will not be the Ulster, Don't, it is


going to be a compromised -- covenant. The British Government


needs to make it clear, the Irish government has said it wants to see


this implemented, the British Government needs to do the same. Do


you think it David Cameron was wise to big that speech calling for


people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make their


voices known in relation to Scottish independence? That is his business.


We decided to stay out of the debate on Scotland because that is a matter


for the people of Scotland. The affairs of this island are matter


for the people here. He is the British Prime Minister, he will say


whatever he says. I made a point to one of your colleagues, and I will


make a broader point, the use to be a British Empire, now we are it.


That is what it has been reduced to, almost from ruling the


That is what it has been reduced to, support the union that it would be


there for ever, the North was described as being as British as


Finchley, but that has gone. People need to wake up, it has gone. The


union is now conditional, one of the big achievements of the Good Friday


Agreement is that it is a matter for the people to decide and we want to


urge that debate here, whatever the people of Scotland do, that is a


matter for them, but the debate here, we want to encourage that. You


said that the UK is hanging by a thread, if Irish republicans were


two to -- to take some encouragement from Scotland, is the reverse true,


if there is a no vote, it may have a negative impact on your campaign for


border poll. No, there is an integrity to the awful negative


impact of British Government rule on our island. I say that with respect


to people from the Unionist tradition who have a sense of


Britishness, or whatever, about their right to that and their


identity, no one can argue that British Government involvement in


our affairs on partition or the development of sectarianism or all


of the divisions, we talk about the last 30 years of conflict, which


thankfully is behind us, but think back over the centuries. It has


never been good for us. Those people within unionism who are sitting back


now and saying, will we have another summer like last year? Will we have


idiots running around the city centre with union flags around


them, besmirching their own flag and breaking the law and inflicting


sectarian pressure upon small communities or can we not just be


like people everywhere, that we welcome this summer, or we can all


relax and have a good time? Martin McGuiness made clear that he has no


intention of putting himself forward to succeed you as party President,


will the next leader to succeed you as party President,


party President, I did so reluctantly. At that time, I did say


that I thought that the party President should come from the


south. We have such a range of talented people. Do you still think


the party President should come from the South? Yes, but I am mindful


that there is no contest for the party leadership at the moment. It


is entirely hypothetical. When it comes to the time when the party has


to choose another party President, they will do so and what they will


have, it which they did not have in my day, is a range of people, both


men and women from Donegal to Wexford, across the country, of


bright intelligent, smart and very energetic people and what we all


share, all the different ages that we have, we still share and idealism


and have an energy and commitment. Thank you. Gerry Adams talking to


Mark Devenport in Wexford. Joining me now are the BBC's former Ireland


Correspondent, Denis Murray, and the commentator Susan McKay... You're


both welcome. Sinn Fein made the point repeatedly over the weekend


that it is an all island party, but this was a speech for two quite


different electorates. It was almost like two speeches and the vast bulk


of it was for the audience in the Irish Republic. I covered in ard


fheis for years and the bulk of the speech was always about the


struggle, about the North, about that question. Now, it is almost


despite Gerry Adams's insistence on an all island party, it is almost


like you do not have to talk about Northern Ireland, it is resolved.


The Republic is where Sinn Fein can increase the vote. There was that


line in the speech, offering to reach out to the Orange Order and


meet the leadership to discuss identity, but over and above that,


meet the leadership to discuss the Orange tradition, been an


important part of our history. He is making the right noises, but when he


says about idiots in his speech. The people who are doing that, you may


see them as that, but that passion goes very deep with them. Is it


about setting out his stall for further growth in the Republic? Sinn


Fein is on the rise in the Republic and they will do better and better


for the meantime, but they underestimate the resilience of


Fianna Fail. They have the biggest appeal of those least likely to


vote. They are popular with young men, working-class young men, they


are unpopular with women and middle-class voters. They are going


to have to work on that constituency and obviously Mary Lou McDonald


would make a huge difference if she was leader. Is that looking more


likely? Gerry Adams is terribly damaged. He has looked damaged.


Because he is there among the faithful, but certainly he is


damaged. If he talks about a toxic culture in relation to issues like


child abuse, it will not wash because the party has been shown to


have a toxic culture itself in that regard. He does need to go for the


party to have a wider appeal. He is hopeless on economic issues in the


Republic. Mary Lou McDonald has performed strongly on that. It must


be said that the party did back the disastrous Fianna Fail bank


guarantee which underlies so much of the economic crisis in the Republic.


Thank you both for now. The Shadow Secretary of State, Ivan Lewis, is


meeting the Tanaiste, Eamonn Gilmore, in Dublin today. On a


recent trip to Belfast, Mr Lewis warned that three years of


consecutive elections could lead to a period of 'timidity or political


paralysis' in Northern Ireland. Reacting to the failure of the Haass


talks to break the deadlock Reacting to the failure of the Haass


me now Reacting to the failure of the Haass


joining us. You are due to meet Eamon Gilmore later today, you were


at the ard fheis over the weekend. You have been critical of the


Tories's handling of politics here, what would you do differently if you


were in charge? Flags parades and the past are issues which are


outstanding issues connected with the peace process. If you looked at


the evolution of the peace process, every stage of that process, the UK


and Irish governments have been heavily engaged, directly meeting


the parties, trying to help find common ground. The parties must


maintain leadership but that lack of engagement we have seen,


particularly from the UK Government has come home to roost with the


failure to reach agreement in relation to Haass. Theresa Villiers


disputes that, she says she is engaged and waiting to step in if


requested to do so. Eamon Gilmore made a similar point. I have been in


this job for five months and every Northern Irish politician I have met


has talked about, clearly, the sense of the Secretary of State who is


disengaged. When have we seen David Cameron make any comments about the


Haass talks? In the end, of course it is right that we must allow


devolution to work, we must encourage Northern Ireland parties


to take responsibility, but the issues we are focused on our


directly, issues connected with the peace process and if you look at the


past, the UK Government is massively central to dealing with the past in


Northern Ireland, as is the Irish government. If you look at any


outcome from Haass, there will be financial implications, in terms of


any new infrastructure required to deal with the past, there will be


legislative issues, in terms of devolving -- getting rid of the


Parades Commission. The British and Irish government have direct


involvement. Are you saying that you would have called all of


involvement. Are you saying that you paternalistic that we would be


calling in the parties, we would have been having over a long period


of time intensive discussions. They would have been private and


discreet. We would be trying to identify the common ground. Last


week, the Secretary of State did an interview where she said there would


be some resources potentially available to make any agreement on


the past work. Prior to that, she said there would be no resources.


Subsequently she said she had been misquoted and would still be no


resources. There is even a lack of clarity. The Prime Minister has been


absent entirely from the discussions. What is perhaps not


helpful to moving forward is to have an end to the bipartisan approach,


to have a shadow Secretary of State sniping at the Secretary of State


who says she is doing her best? It is not me who arrived in Northern


Ireland and talked about the disengagement of the UK Government,


it is all the political parties who feel the same. If they all feel the


same, they are either involved in a conspiracy or telling the truth. Of


course on questions of security and many other issues, not welfare and


jobs and growth, but on security, we will maintain our bipartisan


approach. Can I ask you about the Ballymurphy families who have had


their demand for an independent panel backed by the Taoiseach in


Dublin? The families are waiting for a meeting with David Cameron, where


do you stand on that demand? I shall certainly be meeting them for the


first time next week in Belfast. There are questions to answer, I


will certainly meet with them and engage with them and clarifying our


position on the nature of any enquiry, but of course, David


Cameron should meet with the families. Ivan Lewis, thank you.


Now, let's pause for a look back at the week in politics in sixty


seconds, with Gareth Gordon... the week in politics in sixty


not get your way, is this a resignation matter? I think you are


straying beyond the remit. Should Protestants learn the Irish


language? I believe it is part of a republican agenda. Eventually they


will try and make it the same as English. In a free country, people


are entitled to learn whatever language they wish and to practice


whatever language they wish. Has the GAA done enough to calm fears over


the new Casement Park? There are things we could have done better. I


take responsible a day for that. Does the Education Minister O one of


his critics an apology? Because I would not write to him, because I


wrote to the permanent Secretary, that he should punish me. There are


many injustices throughout the world and meeting him on the latter is not


one of them. Gareth Gordon reporting. Denis Murray and Susan


McKay are still with me... Picking up there, what is the perspective


from Dublin on this spat between the Secretary of State and Ivan Lewis


about how much the British Government and Irish government


should or should not be involved in the political dialogue regarding


Haass at the moment? The Irish government is nervous about dealing


with criticising unionism and since that unionism is clearly responsible


for the failure of the Haass talks to be agreed at this point, that is


difficult for them. Eamon Gilmore has indicated that he will support


trying to get the proposals implemented, but in a timid way. I


think it will be seen as welcome that the shadow Secretary of State


is saying things, pointing out the dithering that Theresa Villiers has


done. She has been a week Secretary of State. Your thoughts, Dennis? The


way the talks ended was of State. Your thoughts, Dennis? The


pleasant. Richard Haass meant his deadline. Tony Blair kept


pleasant. Richard Haass meant his problems. I do not see how you


revive those in any meaningful way until after the elections and then


you're into the marching season.


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