30/04/2017 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


30/04/2017

Mark Carruthers with the latest political news, interviews and debate.


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LineFromTo

Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics.

2:30:342:30:36

European leaders have signed off the terms of the Brexit

2:30:362:30:39

negotiations with the UK, including an agreement with the

2:30:392:30:42

Taoiseach Enda Kenny that Northern Ireland can automatically

2:30:422:30:46

rejoin the EU if there's a poll in favour of a united Ireland.

2:30:462:30:49

So, is that a modest technicality, or the starting pistol being fired

2:30:492:30:53

for a new debate about the reunification of the island?

2:30:532:30:56

Plus, in a move both unprecedented and unexpected,

2:30:562:30:59

the campaign over abortion provision in the Republic took

2:30:592:31:02

a big step forward with a citizens call to the politicians for

2:31:022:31:06

a much more liberal regime.

2:31:062:31:08

So what might that mean for Northern Ireland?

2:31:082:31:10

We'll discuss that with our guests in Belfast and Dublin.

2:31:102:31:13

And my guests of the day, Patricia McBride and Sam McBride.

2:31:132:31:16

Hello. Yesterday, of course, marked yet another important stage in

2:31:232:31:26

Brexit, and the Irish border was front and centre.

2:31:262:31:30

This is all about the Good Friday Agreement.

2:31:302:31:32

Which makes it very clear that the six counties remain part of

2:31:322:31:37

the United Kingdom unless and until the people decide to make

2:31:372:31:42

a different choice by democratic means.

2:31:422:31:44

In other words, by referendum.

2:31:442:31:46

And that can only be triggered by the British government and

2:31:462:31:49

the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

2:31:492:31:51

In my view, the conditions do not exist now for border polls

2:31:512:31:55

to determine the outcome.

2:31:552:31:56

But the value part of today's decision is that if at some time in

2:31:562:32:01

the future that action is taken, a referendum triggered and a decision

2:32:012:32:06

made by the people of Northern Ireland, that not only would both

2:32:062:32:10

governments recognise it, but that the European Council would recognise

2:32:102:32:14

the entire island of Ireland then as being part of the European Union,

2:32:142:32:19

without Northern Ireland, which is currently in the European Union,

2:32:192:32:22

having to reapply under section 49 of the Treaty of Rome.

2:32:222:32:25

I think that's a significant legal statement from the European Council,

2:32:252:32:31

for something that may happen at some time in the future.

2:32:312:32:35

But not in the immediate future, obviously.

2:32:352:32:37

That was the Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking Yesterday.

2:32:372:32:39

Let's hear what my guests of the day make of that.

2:32:392:32:41

With me are the commentator Patricia MacBride, and Sam McBride,

2:32:412:32:44

political editor of the News Letter. Welcome to you both.

2:32:442:32:47

A matter of minutes, Patricia, was all it took for the 27 to

2:32:472:32:50

agree their negotiating approach to Brexit.

2:32:502:32:52

This island was clearly at the centre of that conversation.

2:32:522:32:56

Yeah, I think it's interesting to see the change in mood music

2:32:562:33:00

in Dublin. I think that's very much what this is about.

2:33:002:33:03

And that's the significance of it.

2:33:032:33:05

Enda Kenny is creating a situation now where he's putting the

2:33:052:33:09

ducks in a row, as it were, for any future referendum or border poll.

2:33:092:33:14

And looking at ensuring that there are no obstacles to that.

2:33:142:33:18

If you go back to the independence referendum in Scotland,

2:33:182:33:21

one of the issues there was what would be, what would Scotland's

2:33:212:33:25

status within the EU be in the event of an independence referendum.

2:33:252:33:29

That was an unanswered question.

2:33:292:33:31

And it was something that deeply affected the outcome of that

2:33:312:33:34

independence referendum.

2:33:342:33:35

That's now not going to be the case in a future border poll in the North.

2:33:352:33:38

People will be assured that if there is a vote for reunification,

2:33:382:33:41

that will include a full membership of the EU.

2:33:412:33:44

So it's really about forward planning on behalf of Fine Gael and the Irish government.

2:33:442:33:48

Sam, do you think Unionists will be alarmed at this,

2:33:482:33:50

or will they simply put it down to a technical detail?

2:33:502:33:53

I don't think anybody either will be or should be alarmed at this,

2:33:532:33:56

I think it's a fairly technical detail.

2:33:562:33:58

The difference with Scotland is that Scotland was planning to

2:33:582:34:00

become an independent country.

2:34:002:34:02

If we were to have a united Ireland, we would be planning to join

2:34:022:34:05

what is already an independent country, which is within the EU.

2:34:052:34:07

I think it would be inconceivable that in those circumstances,

2:34:072:34:10

we would then not be part of the EU.

2:34:102:34:11

This is removing that ambiguity, if that ambiguity was there.

2:34:112:34:15

But the idea that you could have a situation where two thirds of

2:34:152:34:17

the island after unity is in the EU and we're not is

2:34:172:34:20

completely unthinkable.

2:34:202:34:22

I think the significance of this is that Enda Kenny here clearly

2:34:222:34:25

has got a degree of clout in the Irish government, and the

2:34:252:34:27

Irish diplomatic corps have a degree of clout at Brussels.

2:34:272:34:30

They're exercising that, that's potentially quite significant

2:34:302:34:33

when it comes to other aspects of the Brexit negotiations.

2:34:332:34:36

But, briefly, does it bring a new dynamic to that wider debate

2:34:362:34:39

about Irish unity?

2:34:392:34:41

I think it potentially, for people who really passionately care

2:34:412:34:44

about remaining in the EU, gives them a route to that.

2:34:442:34:47

Even if they're Unionists.

2:34:472:34:49

If they actually think, what do we care about most,

2:34:492:34:51

the union with the UK or the union with the rest of Europe?

2:34:512:34:54

But I don't think there has been any evidence yet in terms of

2:34:542:34:56

polling that there's any massive shift.

2:34:562:34:58

Certainly the Irish government was bending over backwards to

2:34:582:35:01

stress that they don't even want to have a referendum at this point,

2:35:012:35:04

but they're putting their ducks in the row, as Patricia says.

2:35:042:35:07

If that ever happened, that there is no ambiguity around this aspect.

2:35:072:35:10

Nationalists will presumably, in the North in particular,

2:35:102:35:13

try to use it to move that debate forward, though.

2:35:132:35:17

Well, I think there will be an element of that

2:35:172:35:18

and we have already seen that since the Brexit referendum.

2:35:182:35:21

But any move toward a border poll based on the status of the North

2:35:212:35:25

within or outside of the EU is premature.

2:35:252:35:28

The impact of Brexit will need to be known in real terms.

2:35:282:35:33

And that will be measured. I think, you know, if you see five, ten years

2:35:332:35:37

of hard financial times with the withdrawal of EU funding,

2:35:372:35:41

people will then reassess their attitude towards the EU.

2:35:412:35:44

Well, people in the North already

2:35:442:35:47

overwhelmingly voted to remain within the EU.

2:35:472:35:49

But you will see that attitude changing as to whether or not

2:35:492:35:53

the best place for the people of the North is within the EU,

2:35:532:35:56

-in a united Ireland.

-OK. Thanks, both.

2:35:562:35:58

We'll hear lots more from you between now

2:35:582:36:00

and the end of the programme.

2:36:002:36:01

But while the focus has been on the Westminster election campaigns

2:36:012:36:05

and the Stormont talks going into cold storage,

2:36:052:36:08

a big political story has now emerged

2:36:082:36:10

in the Republic which could see

2:36:102:36:11

a referendum being held on abortion next year.

2:36:112:36:14

With me to talk about that is Grainne Teggart from Amnesty,

2:36:142:36:17

and in our Dublin studio, Michael Kelly,

2:36:172:36:19

the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper.

2:36:192:36:22

Welcome to you both. Michael Kelly, the pro-life lobby

2:36:222:36:24

has dismissed the deliberations of the Citizens' Assembly

2:36:242:36:28

as "one-sided, unscientific and chaotic,"

2:36:282:36:31

but it is putting shape on the debate. Do you accept that?

2:36:312:36:34

Oh, there's no question that it's putting shape on the debate.

2:36:342:36:38

This process, this Citizens' Assembly

2:36:382:36:40

was, I think, a flawed process

2:36:402:36:42

though from day one.

2:36:422:36:43

It strikes me as odd that in a country, a democracy

2:36:432:36:46

where we have a real Citizens' Assembly,

2:36:462:36:48

that is to say the Oireachtas that's elected by the people,

2:36:482:36:50

something like this, something so complex,

2:36:502:36:53

would be farmed out to a group of people

2:36:532:36:56

who meet together for a few weekends in a hotel.

2:36:562:36:59

I think that the results are not surprising

2:36:592:37:02

when you give some of the background, some of the context,

2:37:022:37:05

the fact that some of the government-appointed advisers

2:37:052:37:08

to this Assembly are themselves very, very...

2:37:082:37:11

People who have expressed very strong opinions

2:37:112:37:13

in favour of legalising abortion in the past.

2:37:132:37:15

When you look, for example,

2:37:152:37:17

that this is supposed to be a representative body,

2:37:172:37:19

and yet there are 11 counties in the Republic

2:37:192:37:21

where there wasn't one representative,

2:37:212:37:23

I mean, that would be like trying to decide something north of the border

2:37:232:37:26

while excluding all the people

2:37:262:37:28

from County Down, County Antrim and County Armagh.

2:37:282:37:31

So it's a deeply flawed process.

2:37:312:37:33

But it was based on demographics, not on geography.

2:37:332:37:35

Well, we actually are not quite sure.

2:37:352:37:37

There's been no great publishing on why the polling agency

2:37:372:37:41

decided to choose particular people.

2:37:412:37:43

But I think the important point is now

2:37:432:37:45

this is an issue that goes back to the Oireachtas now,

2:37:452:37:48

where it really ought to have been dealt with in the first place.

2:37:482:37:52

As I say, the real Citizens' Assembly,

2:37:522:37:54

those who are actually elected by the people

2:37:542:37:56

rather than this body taking so much of its advice from people

2:37:562:38:01

who, let's face it, have a vested interest in abortion.

2:38:012:38:04

One of the experts brought over to discuss the issue with the committee

2:38:042:38:09

was from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS.

2:38:092:38:12

That's an organisation that in their annual report last year,

2:38:122:38:15

because they carried out more abortions than in previous years,

2:38:152:38:18

they described that as having increased their market share.

2:38:182:38:21

So, you know, that's the... That's the mood music, if you like

2:38:212:38:24

that's been going on here in the background.

2:38:242:38:26

All right, Grainne Teggart, how significant a development

2:38:262:38:28

do you see it as? I mean, it is a Citizens' Assembly,

2:38:282:38:32

it's not the elected representatives of the people in the Oireachtas,

2:38:322:38:35

so we do need to put it into perspective.

2:38:352:38:38

We do, absolutely, but it is hugely significant.

2:38:382:38:40

I mean, the Citizens' Assembly result shows us what we know already

2:38:402:38:44

through polls which have been consistently run

2:38:442:38:46

in the south of Ireland

2:38:462:38:47

which shows that people do favour abortion reform

2:38:472:38:50

in a way that respects and promotes the rights of women.

2:38:502:38:52

Now, since 1983, the government in the south has been running away

2:38:522:38:57

from this issue and they have had the security blanket,

2:38:572:38:59

if you like, of the Eighth Amendment.

2:38:592:39:01

This result from the Citizens' Assembly

2:39:012:39:02

and the votes that have been taken very much indicate

2:39:022:39:05

the direction of travel that we in Amnesty have been saying,

2:39:052:39:08

which is that we need to see reform of our laws,

2:39:082:39:10

they need to adhere to international human rights standards,

2:39:102:39:13

and having a constitutional framework that does not respect

2:39:132:39:16

the rights of women is not an excuse or justification for negating

2:39:162:39:20

your responsibilities to bring about much-needed reform.

2:39:202:39:22

So the Justice Minister and Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald,

2:39:222:39:25

says the process now needs to proceed with a Dail committee

2:39:252:39:28

plotting the way forward to, in her view, a referendum next year.

2:39:282:39:32

Do you agree with that course of action?

2:39:322:39:34

So the next stage, obviously,

2:39:342:39:35

is Justice Laffoy will issue her report in June,

2:39:352:39:37

that will go to the Oireachtas committee.

2:39:372:39:39

And there are significant issues that they will have to grapple with,

2:39:392:39:42

including a gap on one of the ballots obviously considered by the

2:39:422:39:45

Citizens' Assembly around the decriminalisation of abortion.

2:39:452:39:49

Now, if the Oireachtas and the government adhere and heed

2:39:492:39:52

the progress called by the Citizens' Assembly

2:39:522:39:54

and they also look to what their human rights commitments are

2:39:542:39:57

and what the expectations are there for change,

2:39:572:40:00

then what we should see is not only the reforms so that it allows

2:40:002:40:04

in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormalities etc,

2:40:042:40:07

but also the decriminalisation of abortion.

2:40:072:40:09

So the Oireachtas committee is now going to have to grapple

2:40:092:40:12

with that issue and plug that gap.

2:40:122:40:14

Michael Kelly, are you frightened of a referendum?

2:40:142:40:18

No, not remotely. I think we have to allow the process

2:40:182:40:21

that is in place now to proceed.

2:40:212:40:23

The Oireachtas committee will consider

2:40:232:40:25

Judge Laffoy's report when it comes forward.

2:40:252:40:28

It's important that they do that in a calm fashion.

2:40:282:40:30

It's important that they hear from people

2:40:302:40:32

who are experts in this issue.

2:40:322:40:34

I think it is also important that,

2:40:342:40:36

particularly when we hear loaded terms like fatal foetal abnormality,

2:40:362:40:41

that they actually hear from families

2:40:412:40:42

whose children are alive today even though they were told

2:40:422:40:45

that their child would only live for a few minutes.

2:40:452:40:49

As we know, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists,

2:40:492:40:52

they don't favour that language.

2:40:522:40:53

Professor Jim Dornan has said that's not in any textbook.

2:40:532:40:57

The preferred term, obviously,

2:40:572:40:58

is people with life-limiting conditions.

2:40:582:41:00

So it's important that we have a very inclusive debate here

2:41:002:41:03

because we have to face the reality. I mean, let's not kid ourselves,

2:41:032:41:07

what the Citizens' Assembly discussed is a proposal

2:41:072:41:10

that would permit, for example, children with Down's syndrome

2:41:102:41:13

to be aborted up to 22 weeks.

2:41:132:41:15

90% of children diagnosed in the womb with Down's syndrome in the UK

2:41:152:41:18

are currently aborted. In Iceland, that's 100%.

2:41:182:41:22

We recently had a government minister in Iceland boasting

2:41:222:41:24

that there hasn't been a child born with Down's syndrome

2:41:242:41:27

in Iceland in the last five years.

2:41:272:41:29

That's the vista that we're looking at, that desperately sick children

2:41:292:41:32

in the womb would be denied their right to life

2:41:322:41:36

even before they see the light of day.

2:41:362:41:38

-How do you respond to that?

-I mean, the recommendations are very clear.

2:41:382:41:41

And I have to say, often we hear certain disabilities cited

2:41:412:41:45

as a reason to reject and to refuse any progress.

2:41:452:41:49

You know, it is interesting what Michael is saying because

2:41:492:41:51

I wonder had the Citizens' Assembly come forward with

2:41:512:41:53

anti-choice recommendations if the same criticisms would be made.

2:41:532:41:57

But, look, the bottom line is this -

2:41:572:41:59

the Irish government has signed up to various human rights treaties.

2:41:592:42:02

It is bound by those treaties.

2:42:022:42:03

We have seen since 1983, they have referred...

2:42:032:42:05

Sorry, Mark, I think it's important for me to clarify...

2:42:052:42:08

No such right to abortion exists in international law.

2:42:082:42:11

The European Court of Human Rights has consistently said

2:42:112:42:14

that the convention does not confer a right to abortion.

2:42:142:42:17

So we hear this trotted out again,

2:42:172:42:18

that Ireland has somehow got some international commitment

2:42:182:42:21

to legislate for abortion, but that's absolutely not the case...

2:42:212:42:24

-OK, Grainne?

-Well, I haven't...

-..untrue.

2:42:242:42:26

For clarity, I haven't explicitly stated the right to abortion.

2:42:262:42:29

What we have are rights to health, to non-discrimination, to equality.

2:42:292:42:34

This is what women in Ireland currently don't have.

2:42:342:42:37

They don't enjoy those rights because of the Eighth Amendment.

2:42:372:42:41

For clarity, that's the point that I was making.

2:42:412:42:43

THEY TALK OVER EACH OTHER

2:42:432:42:44

Hang on a second, hang on a second.

2:42:442:42:46

Just let Grainne finish this point and then I'll come back to you.

2:42:462:42:49

For too long we have seen political parties in the south

2:42:492:42:51

and the government hide from this issue.

2:42:512:42:53

They have relied on the Eighth Amendment to do so.

2:42:532:42:56

They now don't have that security blanket.

2:42:562:42:57

OK, a quick final comment on this,

2:42:572:42:59

and then I want to bring this to Northern Ireland specifically.

2:42:592:43:02

Just your final thought

2:43:022:43:03

on what you were discussing there with Grainne, Michael.

2:43:032:43:05

Well, I think that it is important that we have facts

2:43:052:43:07

around this situation.

2:43:072:43:08

It is important that we have facts just around how important the

2:43:082:43:11

Eighth Amendment has been.

2:43:112:43:12

I mean, there are 100,000 people alive today in the Republic

2:43:122:43:15

because of the Eighth Amendment.

2:43:152:43:17

I've spoken to numerous women who have said, you know,

2:43:172:43:20

because the option of abortion wasn't available to them in

2:43:202:43:23

Ireland, they had their child and they were delighted they did.

2:43:232:43:26

So if they had an abortion clinic down the road, they probably would

2:43:262:43:28

have preceded with that at a time when they were experiencing

2:43:282:43:31

a crisis in their pregnancy and really just needed a bit of support.

2:43:312:43:33

The fact is that the Citizens' Assembly heard from

2:43:332:43:36

a wide range of people, including the Catholic Church,

2:43:362:43:39

and disagreed with their position on this.

2:43:392:43:42

So what we now need to see is the reform brought about,

2:43:422:43:45

not only the referendum next year, but also legal reform to

2:43:452:43:48

ensure that the rights of women are promoted, protected and upheld.

2:43:482:43:51

OK, Michael Kelly, just before we bring this to a conclusion,

2:43:512:43:54

what do you think, potentially, are the implications of this

2:43:542:43:57

latest development for people in Northern Ireland?

2:43:572:44:01

Well, I think it probably will increase the pressure as well.

2:44:012:44:04

People will be looking across the border at bodies like the

2:44:042:44:07

Citizens' Assembly, you know,

2:44:072:44:09

groups that have been pushing abortion.

2:44:092:44:11

We know, for example,

2:44:112:44:12

groups like Amnesty have received vast grants

2:44:122:44:15

from the US-based billionaire George Soros

2:44:152:44:17

to try to push abortion,

2:44:172:44:19

so that campaign is in place in the Republic,

2:44:192:44:22

and it's very advanced and in place in Northern Ireland as well.

2:44:222:44:25

But I've no doubt that Pro Life campaigners will continue

2:44:252:44:28

telling the truth about this issue,

2:44:282:44:30

and crucially speaking for those who can't speak for themselves.

2:44:302:44:33

Grainne Teggart, what do you think the implications are

2:44:332:44:35

-for people in Northern Ireland?

-I think right across the island,

2:44:352:44:38

what we're seeing is a focus on our abortion laws

2:44:382:44:40

in a way that we just haven't,

2:44:402:44:41

nor was it particularly imaginable even a decade ago.

2:44:412:44:44

But there's no doubt that there's a sea change of public opinion,

2:44:442:44:47

that people want to see a reform of our laws.

2:44:472:44:50

Right across the island,

2:44:502:44:51

both governments are going to have to address the issue of

2:44:512:44:53

decriminalisation of abortion, because, of course,

2:44:532:44:56

in Northern Ireland, what we're seeing are women being hauled

2:44:562:44:58

through the courts, through the criminal justice system here.

2:44:582:45:01

The bottom line is that abortion is a health care

2:45:012:45:03

and human rights issue.

2:45:032:45:04

It's a mater for women and their doctors,

2:45:042:45:06

not police and judges, and certainly not for any church.

2:45:062:45:08

OK, stay with me, both of you,

2:45:082:45:10

cos I want to broaden this discussion now

2:45:102:45:13

by bringing in Patricia and Sam. Sam, do you think,

2:45:132:45:16

just picking up on the final point there with my two guests,

2:45:162:45:19

that there are significant consequences of what

2:45:192:45:24

has happened in the Republic for Northern Ireland or not?

2:45:242:45:27

I think there are in a wider sense.

2:45:272:45:30

It's very clear the direction of travel over the last 20 years,

2:45:302:45:33

probably over the last 40 years both south and north of the border

2:45:332:45:36

on these social issues is becoming much more liberal.

2:45:362:45:39

Positions which were niche 20 years ago are now mainstream.

2:45:392:45:42

I think that if you go back right into history,

2:45:422:45:45

Protestantism was not necessarily associated with Unionism.

2:45:452:45:49

There were all sorts of radical protestants who supported the

2:45:492:45:52

idea of breaking the link with the rest of the UK.

2:45:522:45:56

One of the key factors which changed that was the idea

2:45:562:45:58

that Home Rule is Rome Rule.

2:45:582:46:00

It's very clear over the last 20 years,

2:46:002:46:02

it's very clear from what's being said this morning,

2:46:022:46:04

the Catholic Church does not have anything like the influence

2:46:042:46:07

in the south that it had in the past.

2:46:072:46:08

That doesn't necessarily mean that Unionists are necessarily

2:46:082:46:11

going to drop their opposition, but for those Unionists for whom that

2:46:112:46:14

was a concern, I think that plank of their concern is being removed.

2:46:142:46:17

Patricia, how do you view it? Do you see parallels or not?

2:46:172:46:22

Well, I think the interesting issue that this raises for me is the

2:46:222:46:24

fact that we in the north continue to export our human rights issues.

2:46:242:46:28

Look at the issue of marriage equality,

2:46:282:46:30

something that has been subject of a referendum in the south,

2:46:302:46:32

we're now looking into a referendum on reproductive rights next year,

2:46:322:46:36

in all likelihood.

2:46:362:46:38

What's interesting from listening to the debate this morning is

2:46:382:46:41

the way that the Anti Choice lobby is branding the Citizens' Assembly

2:46:412:46:46

as a nonsense, you know, that it's not worth listening to.

2:46:462:46:49

It's undermining the whole notion of participatory democracy

2:46:492:46:53

in doing that.

2:46:532:46:54

The issue now is around the framing of any future referendum and

2:46:542:46:57

how that's going to look,

2:46:572:46:59

and what it is the people are going to be asked to vote on.

2:46:592:47:01

Those are going to be the key battlegrounds in the coming months,

2:47:012:47:04

after Justice Laffoy's report is published.

2:47:042:47:07

So it'll be interesting to see where that goes and the impact

2:47:072:47:10

that it'll have on women on this part of Ireland.

2:47:102:47:13

Sam?

2:47:132:47:15

It's also a very tricky position for Sinn Fein itself in,

2:47:152:47:17

in the sense that on both sides of the border they're saying

2:47:172:47:20

that as a party they're Pro Life, but actually, when you drill

2:47:202:47:22

down into that, they do want to liberalise the law in several areas.

2:47:222:47:25

There's a big debate internally there.

2:47:252:47:27

They haven't quite resolved that yet.

2:47:272:47:29

Michael, I just want to come back to you.

2:47:292:47:31

There is an interesting potential conundrum facing us here

2:47:312:47:34

where we may well have a referendum on this issue next year,

2:47:342:47:39

which is the year, of course,

2:47:392:47:40

that the Pope is rumoured to be visiting the island of Ireland.

2:47:402:47:45

How much more difficult, potentially,

2:47:452:47:47

does that make the situation?

2:47:472:47:49

Well, the Vatican will certainly be watching this.

2:47:492:47:51

From their end,

2:47:512:47:52

I expect that Enda Kenny and whoever it is that will replace

2:47:522:47:55

Enda Kenny as Taoiseach when the change of leadership within

2:47:552:47:58

Fine Gael eventually happens, will be looking towards that as well.

2:47:582:48:01

Pope Francis, of course, is someone who is hugely popular.

2:48:012:48:04

I think that politicians certainly wouldn't like

2:48:042:48:06

a situation whereby the Pope was coming very clearly on one side

2:48:062:48:10

of an abortion referendum if they do decide to push

2:48:102:48:14

ahead with a referendum.

2:48:142:48:16

Grainne, does that potentially muddy already difficult waters?

2:48:162:48:21

No, this is always going to be a difficult issue for our

2:48:212:48:25

governments, and indeed for people to consider and grapple with.

2:48:252:48:28

The greatest lesson from the Citizens' Assembly is that

2:48:282:48:31

when people take the time to look in depth at this issue and to

2:48:312:48:34

consider the evidence before them and to hear from

2:48:342:48:36

a range of voices that you arrive at logical Pro Choice conclusions,

2:48:362:48:40

because it's simply not sustainable to continue to export women

2:48:402:48:44

to the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland and obviously

2:48:442:48:47

to Britain and further afield for women from the south of Ireland.

2:48:472:48:51

The time has ended for our politicians to be running and

2:48:512:48:53

hiding from this issue, they need to address it head-on.

2:48:532:48:56

Certainly for our parties, including Sinn Fein,

2:48:562:48:58

they are now in a position where they have to reflect on their

2:48:582:49:00

party policies, because all those party policies need to be

2:49:002:49:03

human rights compliant,

2:49:032:49:04

and that goes beyond sexual crime and fatal abnormalities,

2:49:042:49:08

however you want to term that, and then to decriminalisation.

2:49:082:49:11

OK, we will leave it there. Thank you all very much indeed.

2:49:112:49:14

Let's just pause for a moment to take

2:49:142:49:16

a look back at the week gone past in 60 seconds with Gareth Gordon.

2:49:162:49:19

It was the week the DUP leader spoke Irish

2:49:252:49:28

when she met students in Newry.

2:49:282:49:30

ALL SPEAKING IRISH

2:49:302:49:34

Sinn Fein said the interaction with Irish Language supporters

2:49:342:49:37

could improve political relations.

2:49:372:49:40

Well, I do welcome it as a positive step forward.

2:49:402:49:41

Hopefully it helps inform and develop her position

2:49:412:49:44

and her party's approach to the Irish language.

2:49:442:49:46

But the DUP's move had its critics.

2:49:462:49:49

It looks to me that they're readying to pay Sinn Fein's price

2:49:492:49:52

on the Irish Language Act,

2:49:522:49:53

that's why they've been genuflecting today to the Irish language groups.

2:49:532:49:59

Talks to restore the Stormont institutions were postponed

2:49:592:50:02

until after June's election.

2:50:022:50:04

We have been able to park the process,

2:50:042:50:08

but we cannot stop the juggernaut of chaos and cuts which is

2:50:082:50:12

heading through our public finances.

2:50:122:50:14

No anti-Brexit pact for the election, but what about unionists?

2:50:142:50:19

We want to maximise Unionist representation

2:50:192:50:22

in the House of Commons.

2:50:222:50:23

Why? Because we are unionist.

2:50:232:50:25

Gareth Gordon reporting. Let's have a final word with Sam and Patricia.

2:50:312:50:35

Sam, we've been talking a lot about pacts in the last few weeks.

2:50:352:50:38

Unionists are - we saw it there from Jeffrey Donaldson -

2:50:382:50:41

still very keen on South Belfast.

2:50:412:50:43

We know that there's agreement about Fermanagh, North Tyrone

2:50:432:50:45

and North Belfast.

2:50:452:50:47

Do you think they'll get it together to challenge Alasdair McDonnell?

2:50:472:50:50

I think that's still unclear.

2:50:502:50:52

The Ulster Unionist Party officers met on Friday afternoon

2:50:522:50:56

to discuss candidates.

2:50:562:50:57

I'm sure that this was one of the key issues -

2:50:572:50:59

there are several Ulster Unionists in for that seat.

2:50:592:51:01

There are also DUP people who are vying for it.

2:51:012:51:03

Whether they would even go for somebody who was outside of either

2:51:032:51:06

of those parties potentially as a unifying force,

2:51:062:51:08

they've got a pretty limited time to do that,

2:51:082:51:10

but the fact that they're doing it internally without having it

2:51:102:51:13

on the airwaves I think is probably quite a good sign from their

2:51:132:51:16

point of view, if that's what they're trying to do.

2:51:162:51:18

But huge tensions still between those parties as to who will run.

2:51:182:51:22

Patricia, meantime, the anti-Brexit alliance very quickly lost its fizz,

2:51:222:51:25

with quite a bit of rancour between some of the key players.

2:51:252:51:29

Yeah, I think that that was an opportunity

2:51:292:51:32

that perhaps was squandered in the sense that there may have been

2:51:322:51:36

a chance there to agree candidates in some key constituencies.

2:51:362:51:39

The Alliance Party was always outside of those negotiations,

2:51:392:51:42

but what was interesting was the way that they stuck the boot into

2:51:422:51:45

the Green Party and to others when those negotiations came to nothing.

2:51:452:51:49

What's also interesting is the mood music in Sinn Fein.

2:51:492:51:53

If you look that Chris Hazzard is being run as the candidate in

2:51:532:51:56

South Down, with a very realistic possibility of taking that seat.

2:51:562:52:00

You have Mairtin O Muilleoir in South Belfast,

2:52:002:52:03

depending on how things fall there, in a perfect storm,

2:52:032:52:06

he could take that seat.

2:52:062:52:07

Two Sinn Fein ministers being put into key seats with the

2:52:072:52:10

possibility of being elected shows that that party is looking at

2:52:102:52:13

a long period of cold storage for Stormont.

2:52:132:52:15

OK, the other issue that we need to touch on, of course, Sam,

2:52:152:52:18

is Arlene Foster's move on the Irish language this week.

2:52:182:52:20

Do you regard it as the gesture politics she famously said

2:52:202:52:23

she doesn't do, or was it more than that?

2:52:232:52:25

I think the truth is that all politicians engage

2:52:252:52:28

in gesture politics. It's not necessarily a bad thing.

2:52:282:52:30

I mean, we saw Martin McGuinness shake the hand of the Queen,

2:52:302:52:33

that was gesture,

2:52:332:52:34

it was also a very significant move by an Irish Republican.

2:52:342:52:37

So we can be dismissive of these things.

2:52:372:52:39

It suits politicians sometimes to be dismissive.

2:52:392:52:42

It suits them at other points to play it up.

2:52:422:52:43

I think it also has to be said,

2:52:432:52:45

yesterday she was publicising the fact, Arlene Foster,

2:52:452:52:48

that she had met the chief executive of Celtic Football Club,

2:52:482:52:50

so I think she, it's very clear, has learned the lesson of the

2:52:502:52:54

last election, in which she became a hate figure for nationalists.

2:52:542:52:57

She wants to remove that plank from Sinn Fein in this election campaign.

2:52:572:53:00

Patricia, briefly, a change of tone from Arlene Foster?

2:53:002:53:02

And a very welcome one

2:53:022:53:04

for those in the Irish language community.

2:53:042:53:06

I think this has been a huge step for the DUP and for

2:53:062:53:09

Arlene Foster on her personal journey.

2:53:092:53:11

It's exactly as Sam has said in terms of the big gestures

2:53:112:53:14

that we were used to from Martin McGuinness.

2:53:142:53:16

Nobody should underestimate how big this has been for Arlene Foster.

2:53:162:53:20

OK. Interesting point on which to end our discussion today.

2:53:202:53:23

Thanks very much indeed. That's it from Sunday Politics from this week.

2:53:232:53:26

Do join me for The View on Thursday evening.

2:53:262:53:29

But, for now, from everyone in the team, thanks for watching. Bye-bye.

2:53:292:53:32

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