09/02/2014 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


09/02/2014

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

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

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

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

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

:01:53.:01:55.

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

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problems facing the party in Northern Ireland were never far

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away. Martin McGuinness called on those he described

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Orange alert was another theme throughout the conference

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

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delegates heard the Deputy First Minister criticised the Unionist

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parties for their failure to reach an agreement with nationalists on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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discuss their concerns. Delegates were optimistic that there would be

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

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Executive were working in a coordinated fashion in terms of

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

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The DUP need to realise that communities are moving on without

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

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

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catch up. Grassroots unionism understand that there is a situation

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

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

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

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

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

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Disappeared and questions about passing on information about his

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

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relentless campaign of vilification against Gerry Adams in this State is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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surrender and now they have to embrace equality and embrace other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make their

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:09:13.:09:15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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to people from the Unionist tradition who have a sense of

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

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identity, no one can argue that British Government involvement in

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our affairs on partition or the development of sectarianism or all

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

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

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

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

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idiots running around the city centre with union flags around

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

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sectarian pressure upon small communities or can we not just be

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

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

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

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will the next leader to succeed you as party President,

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

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that I thought that the party President should come from the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:12:49.:12:53.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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meet the leadership to discuss the Orange tradition, been an

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

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

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

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

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

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for the meantime, but they underestimate the resilience of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:15:42.:15:50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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me now Reacting to the failure of the Haass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and Irish governments have been heavily engaged, directly meeting

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

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maintain leadership but that lack of engagement we have seen,

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

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failure to reach agreement in relation to Haass. Theresa Villiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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devolution to work, we must encourage Northern Ireland parties

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

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

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

:17:57.:18:00.

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

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

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

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

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Parades Commission. The British and Irish government have direct

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

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

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

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of time intensive discussions. They would have been private and

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

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

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be some resources potentially available to make any agreement on

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

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

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

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absent entirely from the discussions. What is perhaps not

:19:15.:19:21.

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

:19:22.:19:27.

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

:19:28.:19:32.

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

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Ireland and talked about the disengagement of the UK Government,

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

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

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

:19:50.:19:57.

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

:19:58.:19:59.

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

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their demand for an independent panel backed by the Taoiseach in

:20:04.:20:08.

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

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

:20:16.:20:18.

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

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

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

:20:28.:20:34.

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

:20:35.:20:42.

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

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

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

:20:57.:21:05.

straying beyond the remit. Should Protestants learn the Irish

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

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

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are entitled to learn whatever language they wish and to practice

:21:20.:21:24.

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

:21:25.:21:29.

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

:21:30.:21:35.

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

:21:36.:21:39.

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

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

:21:45.:21:51.

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

:21:52.:21:55.

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

:21:56.:22:01.

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

:22:02.:22:08.

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

:22:09.:22:11.

about how much the British Government and Irish government

:22:12.:22:16.

should or should not be involved in the political dialogue regarding

:22:17.:22:20.

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

:22:21.:22:24.

with criticising unionism and since that unionism is clearly responsible

:22:25.:22:27.

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

:22:28.:22:34.

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

:22:35.:22:38.

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

:22:39.:22:43.

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

:22:44.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:53.

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

:22:54.:22:57.

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

:22:58.:23:03.

pleasant. Richard Haass meant his deadline. Tony Blair kept

:23:04.:23:06.

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

:23:07.:23:19.

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

:23:20.:23:22.

you're into the marching season.

:23:23.:24:07.

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