29/01/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


Andrew Neil and Tara Mills with the latest political news, interviews and debate including Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, on the state of the UK economy.

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In Northern Ireland this week: Best seats in the house for Peter


Robinson at his first GAA match. It's the right time, the First


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2018 seconds


Minister says, as he watches the Hello and welcome to the programme,


and it's a tale of two unionist parties: the DUP leader Peter


Robinson wins praise for attending his first GAA match, while Tom


Elliott reveals disunity among the Ulster Unionists over, of all


things, unionist unity. With me is MLA Basil McCrea.


Thank you for joining us. What did you know about these talks


involving Dave Wallwork Nouri? Frankly, not very much, I did not


know they were going on at all. That's not to say it is in the


right thing to be doing. It's a mixed message that is being sent


out. On the one hand on Friday the party leader issued a statement


saying that talks were normal and part of normal political life, and


yet he sacked David from the education committee. Well, there


are a number of different things working in that scenario. First of


all, Tom Elliott has explained his interaction with different


political leaders and has kept us all up to date on that. I think it


is proper of the political leaders should be talking about things. The


issue of discipline and what happened with David, that's an


internal matter. I don't know the details or what exactly what went


on, but the leader does have the right to impose discipline if he


thinks it appropriate. But it's a very public discipline, at losing a


very public position. Well, I can only say the internal discussion


was just that - internal. But what is the message that sends out, both


to party members and also due supporters? Nobody really wants to


take discipline. Everybody should be self-disciplined and working


together as a way of putting forward a good message to the


public. If you get to a situation, and I don't actually know what the


details are and and certainly not prepared to speculate on them, but


if you get to the situation where the leader feels it is necessary to


take certain actions, then other party leaders have done similar


things. Margaret did with the SDLP as well. I support the leader in


taking that action. Are you opposed to the meetings that David held?


I've already said, I don't know what the details were. Well, we


don't know the details but we know they have taken place, both parties


have confirmed that. I don't know what the substance was or why they


were taking place. I've made it clear in my public statements in my


leadership campaign and beyond that I do not think there is merit in


having a single Unionist Party. I am absolutely opposed to any such


link-up, I think it would be a detriment to the people of Northern


Ireland and to politics. But I'm not sure that that is what was


being discussed. There may have been reasonable reasons for having


discussions on specific issues, and the party has said that on specific


issues it is quite happy to engage with any and every party. So the


talks about closer co-operation, do you think they will continue, or


are they over? There is a time and place for people to be informed


about issues, and we are very genuinely a democratic party. Any


genuine democratic decisions that need to be taken will go through


the proper channels, through the Executive, through the party


offices. Those discussions will take place and they will be in


private. But is the fact there is perhaps a lack of party discipline


a problem? People were going on radio programmes and speaking out


of turn. People like me on your show?! The issue is, the party is


keen to solve problems internally, but we do need to debate. I've been


to two meetings last week where we had brilliant discussions, people


really looking at the issues and seeing how we can go forward. Most


people I have spoken to are adamant we should remain independent.


Surely Tom Elliott's leadership is in doubt now? I would say the


leader has to be in support of all ml a East and the party. -- MLAs. I


have been hearing a rumblings in that regard. It is crucial in any


political party that the leader retains the confidence of the party,


and I think he does. But surely this has been a huge mistake, the


way it has panned out in the press. There is no doubt it has been


difficult. Nobody likes things to come out in the press but you do


have to deal with these issues. The mark of good leadership is not that


there are problems, but there you deal with the problems. Tom is


dealing with the issues and we will see what he has to say-was. On that


basis, the party will decide how best to go forward. -- has to say


to us. All the atmosphere be like tomorrow? Well, the good thing


about the party is it is able to talk about issues. What do we have


to clarify, how can we explain to people what is going on? It is part


of the price of democracy that you cannot do everything without some


form of criticism. That positive criticism is a good thing and I'm


quite sure there will be a lot of support for the leader and for the


way forward. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.


It's been hailed as another little piece of history. Last night the


First Minister attended a GAA match for the first time. The DUP leader


was a guest of the Ulster Council for the final of the McKenna Cup


final between Derry and Tyrone. Peter Robinson took his seat just


after the throw in. Four years ago, his colleague Edwin Poots became


the first DUP politician to attend a GAA game in an official capacity


when he also went to a McKenna Cup game.


Speaking after the match, the DUP leader told Mark Sidebottom why


he'd made the move. I think if it's left to some people, there is never


a right time to do anything. I think the GAA are moving forward


and being responsible, and I think it is the right thing to do. We


have to move away from beat them and as attitude and show respect


for each other's way of life. -- the them and us attitude. I believe


people on both sides of the community want to see as reaching


across to each other. There will always be people not happy with


that too well at lag behind. But I think we are moving forward.


match itself, what did you make of it? Go, the first sport I have


watched where I thought I would be safer at Stormont!


With me now is the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Was he right to


go to the much? Of course, he has shown great leadership as leader of


the D P. -- the DUP. I think it's a very positive mood -- move indeed.


How significant is it in the wider political sense? It is part of


Northern Ireland moving forward. It does not in any way compromise


Peter Robinson's principles or the principles of the party, but it


says a strong signal to people that we are moving forward in Northern


Ireland, moving forward together as much as possible. Of course there


are political differences, it doesn't change the fact that week


in the DUP want is the United Kingdom with Ireland. But we much -


- we must move forward for the good of the people, jobs, the health


service and all the rest of it. a unity in the DUP about him


attending? Absolutely, no doubt about that. To broaden our appeal


and are based and increase our membership and vote, we have


brought people along with us. -- our. I would say it is one of the


most United parties in the UK as a whole. When I go to Westminster, we


are a very strong it united party. Peter Robinson said there he has


not changed, but things have changed. It is inconceivable that


this would have ever happened even 10 years ago, five years ago.


think a lot of things that people thought were inconceivable have


happened in Northern Ireland, because politicians and civic


society have recognised we need to move forward. And that is for the


good of all people. We have accepted that the constitutional


position is settled, in my view. I believe that Northern Ireland's


position is secure in in -- in the United Kingdom. And that is what


people want. They don't want to go back to the dark days of violence


or the days of destruction. They want to move forward and that is


why you saw the coming together of society very strongly with that


despicable murder of the PC and other events. People said they


wanted the political process to continue to move forward. So whew


wrong in the past to take the never stance? No, I think we were right


to say never to united Ireland. We believe that Northern Ireland's


position is strong in the United Kingdom. But we want to work


together for the good of the country. Many of the people in the


Unionist camp wanted to move towards greater integration. So we


have always believed there is a role for politicians to work


together. I remember Tony Blair telling me in the House of Commons


that we could never achieve things that we have achieved. As a result,


we have a firm base upon which to move forward, which invites


stability and progress. At in the party's are facing up to the


challenges of Northern Ireland and attempting to work with others. --


I think the parties are facing up. Comments like other Unionists


seeing us as not ethically more or the equivalent of them, it goes


back to the days when it people fought there were decent people and


not decent people. I think people have rejected that approach now.


Were you involved in those talks in the Ulster Unionist Party? The


talks about corporation? What I will say is that the party has


always taken an approach of co- operation. I'm not going to go into


the details of discussions. But you were at them? They are not secret,


but they are private and it would be remiss of me to start talking


about the content or who was at them or who wasn't at them without


the full support of others who were there. But we are there to try to


work together. That is what people right across communities want, they


want parties of different perspectives working together. I


think it is strange when you see people coming on, briefing the


press as we have had, saying, we won more opposition opposition's


sake. That is putting party before country, party before people.


you see one meet Unionist Party in the future? First of all we have to


work together. So, electoral pacts in the meantime? I don't think we


can describe what is going to happen but there is a moot in the


Community's at large in Northern Ireland for parties to work


together. -- communities. As Unionist parties we could work very


closely together, we have a lot in common. Is there place for David in


your party should he want it? have had many join our party and


there is always a welcome to those who subscribe to the views and


principles of the Democratic Unionist Party. That is entirely a


matter for everybody themselves, but if people want to join a


progressive party that is looking for the best for Northern Ireland,


bringing people together and working together, then I think we


are a natural choice. For some reaction to all of this


let's speak to SDLP councillor Nicola Mallon and commentator


Newton Emerson. Where does this leave the SDLP if they had to merge


with Sinn Fein? We are clear. We stick to our beliefs and our vision.


We do have concerns, let's be honest, this is about the


politicisation of the DUP and we don't think it is conducive to


building reconciliation, to have monolithic blocks of nationalism


verses unionism. Newton Emerson, what is your take on this? They are


being continually triangulates it. A cynic might say it is when we in


for the DUP. -- win-win. People are seriously starting to wonder what


the UUP is four. What do you think about his leadership and his


chances of remaining in the long- term? Some people still seem to


think that the you p can be a broad church but the congregation is


shrinking. The UUP, if it is going to survive, needs to find a role


and focus on it. We cannot have these two Unionist parties saying


we are the sole Unionist Party, no, we are the salt Unionist Party.


They have to find a niche, separate roles.


Now for our regular look at the week in 60 seconds with our


political correspondent Gareth Gordon.


As the source of the disease outbreak is fan, the questions


begin. Could more have been done before three babies died? I suspect


the answer to that question would be yes. And as the debate over


independence rages, Scotland finally heard what the question


would be. The question is, "de believe that Scotland should be an


independent country?" new memoirs caused a stir. I don't regret a


word. And the Tourist Board got a new slogan from an unlikely source.


If you are not in Northern Ireland Staying with the tourist theme,


Derry didn't when the cup, but they did when the flower. We are


expecting something like 300,000 visitors, it is just another


example of what Northern Ireland can do in tourism and we are


building on that in the next couple of years. Newton, you won so


impressed with the adverts in your column this week. It just looks


like the at any region in the UK produces. Very familiar to the one


in Yorkshire, for example. But the unusual reaction was how popular it


was here, it when viral locally. I think people here seem to want to


believe that we're the sort of place betrayed an advert, but I


fear that tourists arriving here will be very disappointed. Visitors


is the problem, isn't it? The number of pure holidaymakers was


dying past year. 11%, yes. City breaks, I think Northern Ireland,


to visit it solely as a city location, that is going to be the


sort of discretion the spending that gets cut first by people


trying to save money. Coming to places like Northern Ireland


speculatively like people used to go to, I think that market might be


gone completely. Nicola, if we can't do it is here, we will never


do it. Well, we have got the City of Culture, and even this year we


have Titanic, so there are a lot of opportunities, they just have to be


captured. We have a lot to offer, but the most important thing is our


people. We have to put our shoulders to the well and try to


get as many people to experience the country as possible. Is there a


sense, particularly in your constituency of North Belfast, do


people feel part of the celebrations? I think there is an


element of disengagement. The area I represent is working class and


there is a sense that perhaps the peace process has not delivered in


that area as it has elsewhere. But that means there is a


responsibility on us to ensure all communities across Northern Ireland


get to be part of his then get to benefit from it. -- part of this


and get to benefit from it. councils have to do the job the


best they can, but I would be concerned that things like our


licensing laws and Sunday trading laws have not been addressed at all,


so people coming here for a weekend spent half the weekend with


literally nothing to do. So they have to look elsewhere, really, and


perhaps not choose Northern Ireland as a destination? We have to


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