30/09/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


30/09/2012

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


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SPEAKER: WHITE And same-sex marriage, the parties in the

:01:34.:01:39.

assembly are hopelessly divide on it. So is from any point in

:01:39.:01:49.
:01:49.:01:49.

Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2117 seconds

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Welcome to Sunday Politics in Northern Ireland. It is one of the

:37:07.:37:09.

most controversial issues of the moment, whether or not people of

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the same sex should be allowed to get married. Tomorrow a joint

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motion in support of the move will be debated in the assembly, but the

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local parties are hopelessly split on the issue, so there is little

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chance of consensus. With me is the Green Party's Steven Agnew. Plus

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tens of thousands on the streets of Belfast to commemorate the signing

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of the Ulster covenant. Is this a blueprint for future

:37:37.:37:47.
:37:47.:37:53.

Now gay marriage is rarely out of the news these days and there is no

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shortage of controversy surrounding the idea here and the rest of the

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UK. The views of the veteran Ulster unionist on the subject led to his

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departure from the party. It is up for debate in the assembly tomorrow.

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Sinn Fein and the Green Party have brought the motion in support of it.

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Steven Agnew the leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland is

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with me now. Hello. Thank you for joining us on the politics

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programme. Tell me why you think that it is worth the assembly's

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time to be debating an issue, which frankly you are unlikely to get

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through? I think it is important we do have the debate. For example we

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have the Prime Minister of the UK, the leader of the Tory party able

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to say he can support equal marriage but in Northern Ireland we

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haven't had the debate in the assembly chamber, the chamber

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decide that the legislation on this issue. We have several partnerships

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but civil partnerships are not equal to marriage and they are

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separate. We talked about a shared future. We want the shared future

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for everyone and not this idea of separate but equal. Currently, if

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you are in a civil partnership you can't adopt in Northern Ireland,

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although you can in England, Scotland and Wales and if you are a

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religious couple, you can't get, have any form of religious ceremony,

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even if there is a church willing to do so. So the churches are

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barred from performing civil partnerships or same-sex marriage

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by the lausm we any is an issue of religious freedom. A couple who of

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mixed sex can have a religious wed wuing two devout Christians can't

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have a religious ceremony in a same sex relationship. There are those

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within the gay community who feel it has gone far enough and there

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are people from that community who would say gay marriage, we don't

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need. That is up for those to decide, this is an issue of

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religious freedom and freedom of conscience, if we passed this

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legislation, if the motion were to pass and be followed by legislation,

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we would have the situation where people would have choice, people in

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same sex relationship would have the choice to get married. Churches

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would have the choice about whether or not they would allow same sex

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couples to have religious ceremonies. It is some timeed

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perceived the church is against it, there are groups such as Changing

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Attitudes who want to see equal marriage. I spoke to a Reverend who

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would like to perform same-sex marriage. So it, there are various

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views within the religious institution. Do you know how many

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couples would be affected? Can you put a figure on it? We have about

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100 couples perform civil partner - - partnerships. 650 I think since

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the legislation. So tiny? It is not about numbers. It is about civil

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rights and equality. We have homophobia priv lent in society and

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the state should send a message that same sex couples are equal to

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couples of different sex. It is the substance of marriage, the

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commitment and love that is important, not the form, that is

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the gender. The difficulty is when you take this to the floor of the

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assembly tomorrow, you are not going to get agreement, because

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there is a huge amount of division. I will get your thoughts on that in

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a moment. Let us remind ourself of what Jonathan Bell had to say. He

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talked about it on the floor of the assembly just last week. There are

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no plans to change the definition of marriage in Northern Ireland. To

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do so, as members would know, would require the agreement of the

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executive, and parties on the executive are hopelessly divided in

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ters of a position in relation to that. The DUP is clear they see gay

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marriage as an oxy moron, to they see marriage between a man and a

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woman, the Alliance Party and Sinn Fein are united in their position

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of support for gay marriage, and if you want to hear both sides of the

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argument you can ask Mike Nesbitt and Alistair MacDonald. The SDLP

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and the Ulster Unionist do not have united fronts on the. On flid we

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had a petition of concern placed by the DUP which means even if you get

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a majority torges it will be overturned because you need cross

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community support. Two points on that. One from speaking to the

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other parties, this is going to be a close vote. Too close to call at

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this stage, so the assembly is round 50-50 so it is not going to

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be a clear majority against by any means but the petition of concern

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has been abused. The petition legislation which put the petition

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of concern in place was designed to protect minorities, from abuse of

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the majority, and in this case the petition of concern is being used

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to prevent the extension of rights to a minority group. That not what

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it was for. They are entitled to use it. It is an abuse of the

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system. In your view. The whole point of the petition of concern

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was to stop one side of the House imposing its willing on the -- will

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on the other side. We have people on both side support, people on

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both sides against. It is not what the petition of concern was for.

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What happens tomorrow is that you have potentially a heated debate on

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the floor of the assembly chamber, and you allow people to restate

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trenchant positions which perhaps doesn't move the debate on. We

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might get a lot of heat tomorrow and very little light. How does

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that help your case? We haven't had any signal from the body that can

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legislate what its views are, we have never had a debate on this

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issue. The body that legislates can't make up its mind, that is the

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point. Half the assembly supports this, that means we can see how

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much work is to do. You want to put down a marker, is that what you are

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saying. We want to get it debated by the people who legislate. There

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is all these polls out there, saying, X percent support it but we

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need to know what the people who legislate think. The fact that

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there's been pointed out some of the parties are split, is meaning

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the conversation is taking place within the party, so it is taking

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the issue forward, because people are discussing it. How will you

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judge whether or not tomorrow's debate has been a success from your

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point of view. What is your yard stick? It is a success because

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within parties we are discussing that, that is a step forward. We

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have a Conservative Prime Minister who is in favour of equal marriage,

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we should at least be able to debate it in Northern Ireland. But

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I think when we see the numbers n the assembly, it will give other

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MLAs the strength to come out next time round, when they see the

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amount of support there is for this. We will watch the debate with

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interest. Thank you very much for coming in to join us. Tens of

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thousands of people marched to Stormont yesterday to mark the

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centenary of the signing of Ulster covenant. It was one of the biggest

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parades in HIVing memory and involved one of the largest

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policing operation in decade. A feeder parade path a Catholic

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Church was trouble free. The signing of the covenant laid the

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foundation for the partition of Ireland. 100 years on, unionist

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leaders once again signed the covenant. It was a show of unity at

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the start of a day rich in historical symbolism. But for a

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modern day unionist leader, it was also an opportunity to look forward.

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The context is very different today. We now see there is support from

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the union across the unity. I believe we have to build on that,

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encouraging people, whatever their backgrounds maybe, to give their

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support and allegiance to the union. Outside the City Hall no-one could

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question the allegiance of the thousands who gathered for the

:46:12.:46:22.
:46:22.:46:24.

march to Stormont. Among them many dressed in period costume.

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Including Jackie MacDonald who led ranks of men dressed in the uniform

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of the Ulster Defence Union. Members of the loyal orders from

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England, Scotland and the Irish Republic took part in the six mile

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procession. What is happening today is a celebration of a resistance,

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to somebody taking away the identity you were born with, and

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with which you were educated to be, feel a British citizen, part of the

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United Kingdom, that is very important to the people here today

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P There is a tremendous day to celebrate the centenary of the

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Ulster covenant. Tremendous to see the crowds that are here. Very much

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shows that Britishness is still alive in Northern Ireland today.

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took five hours for everyone to reach Stormont, but once there, in

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the shadow of Sir Edward Carson, a chance to buy some refreshment and

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merchandise before a religious service. Today as Lord and

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saviour... Not even welcomed the parade, a fact made obvious by the

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heavy security presence. It was the biggest policing operation in the

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city for 20 years P -- years. have seen a lot of people with

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smiles on their face watching it and participating and people going

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about their business. What we are seeing is a dignified parade and I

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am grateful for that. I hope today will start something that next year

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will turn into a peaceful July and August. There was relief that the

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large numbers of police on duty did not have to deal with any disorder.

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But questions will be raised in the days ahead about the conduct of

:48:06.:48:11.

some band, which did not follow the parade commission's ruling. Only

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sacred music was to be played outside two Catholic Church tons

:48:16.:48:22.

route. This was largely followed at St Patricks on Donegal Street. The

:48:22.:48:32.
:48:32.:48:39.

same was not true at St Matthews on Outside saith math knews not just a

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handful but it is safe to say most of the band taking part openly

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defied the parade's commission, determination. What need to happen

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is the PSNI need to bring a case to the PPS. The PSNI says it will

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investigate any breeches but it welcomed the efforts of those be

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signed the scenes to ensure this much anticipated parade passed off

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peacefully. Alex Cane and Noel Doran with with me now. You were

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watching the parade Alex, what did you make of it. I was up at

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Stormont for three hour, it was bigger than anyone expected. And a

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very good atmosphere, very relaxed it was like Orange heaven. They

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could play what they want, say what they wanted. Very relaxed

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atmosphere. Maybe that is the solution to the parading issue, to

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go somewhere where there are not restrictions placed. That is true,

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it is how you get them from A to B. One thing has come out of this,

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after the kf orange admitted they changed the rules. They can't get

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the next Easter or July 129 or next celebration and not have this sort

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of thing, they need to be talking now, because I think the protestors

:50:02.:50:05.

yesterday, they should be welcomed for what they did. They didn't

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throw bricks or bottles. It was mostly peaceful. It was a two sided

:50:11.:50:14.

peacefulness. Noel, are you relieved that it passed off as

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peacefully and positively as it seemed to do? I think at Stormont,

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everything but fine as Alex says, and there was a positive atmosphere.

:50:24.:50:27.

There wasn't on the Newtonards Road which is really the big issue

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coming out of yesterday's demonstration, the restrictions

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were clear, it wasn't a small minority, it was a considerable

:50:34.:50:39.

number of the band. This is in Peter Robinson's constituency. He

:50:39.:50:42.

spoke for the need of the union to appeal across the community. There

:50:42.:50:48.

was very much a message from some people to be pro-union was to be

:50:48.:50:53.

anti-Catholic, that will have to be addressed by the Parades Commission

:50:53.:50:57.

and senior politicians. How much further do you think it need to be

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taken? Are we looking at evidence gathering and possible prosecution?

:51:01.:51:06.

The focus as we heard from the report was St Matthew's church on

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the Newtonards Road, that is the one remaining issue of contention.

:51:12.:51:17.

There were some evidence of breaches in Donegal Street. On a

:51:17.:51:23.

different level. At a very different level. We are conscious

:51:23.:51:26.

the Orange Order took a positive step, that needs to be developed

:51:26.:51:31.

and exploited. The rules were flaunted yesterday, people's noses

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were rubbed in it on the lower Newtonards Road and it is not the

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first time it has happened. The Parades Commission is to have

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credibility that need to be addressed. How should the loyal

:51:42.:51:45.

orders address that issue Alex? It is the one element of yesterday

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that may spoil the party in the longer term. It is going to come

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back and aunt them. When the Parades Commission have to review

:51:55.:51:58.

next year's parades that I have to look back at what happened

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yesterday. They will say to the Orange Order, the bands breached

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the conditions we set down, we will have to put down different

:52:06.:52:10.

conditions. It was a mistake, but the other problem is even if it

:52:10.:52:19.

wasn't the parades economies, if any other body did it, I think will

:52:19.:52:23.

will be band who breach any condition. What about the brorer

:52:23.:52:29.

message that might be taken out of yesterday's events, are we seeing a

:52:29.:52:35.

move to greater unionist uni -- unity. We saw them gather to sign

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the covenant and talk about issues about being unionists together.

:52:41.:52:47.

in terms of what Peter Robinson is saying there is a move, he sees the

:52:47.:52:53.

council of the union, he wants them to work together. Yet, yesterday,

:52:53.:52:59.

Mike Nesbitt, Peter Robinson not an Orangeman what unionist need to be

:52:59.:53:01.

careful about, the celebration of the covenant an the Northern

:53:01.:53:05.

Ireland seen tenry in a decade's time, they can't be seen as a

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triumph of one side over the other. It has to be clocktive celebration.

:53:09.:53:14.

If it isn't you are going to keep the us and them for ever. Do you

:53:14.:53:17.

think nationalists will be concerned about the notion of

:53:17.:53:21.

greater unionist unity if that is what comes out? If that happens it

:53:21.:53:25.

happens. You could say that Peter Robinson may no longer sees the

:53:25.:53:29.

Ulster Unionist as any form of threat and is happy to have them at

:53:29.:53:33.

his shoulder rather than taking them on. We have seen unity in

:53:33.:53:38.

different forms in the past. I doesn't tend to last that long T

:53:38.:53:41.

Ulster Unionist has been through so many changes, it is difficult to

:53:41.:53:51.
:53:51.:53:53.

predict where it will be in a year or two's time. You might see joint

:53:53.:53:56.

candidates in forthcoming by- elections, Mid Ulster people are

:53:56.:53:59.

talking about. That is a slightly unusual one. Martin McGuinness has

:53:59.:54:02.

confirmed he will stand down. He has confirmed that Sinn Fein will

:54:02.:54:06.

be in field and I think we would look at the figure, we would expect

:54:06.:54:10.

that Sinn Fein will be retaining that seat. Well, it depend if

:54:10.:54:17.

others stand and split that vote. You don't think that is an issue.

:54:17.:54:21.

don't think Mike Nesbitt can go into his first election as leader

:54:21.:54:25.

of the Ulster Unionist Party party and not field a candidate. It is

:54:25.:54:29.

clear some people have said other senior members of the MLA team have

:54:29.:54:33.

told me and officers have said they want a Ulster Unionist candidate.

:54:33.:54:38.

How does all of this set the tone for the decade to come? Noel has

:54:38.:54:43.

referred ahead a little bit to what happens in a decade's time as far

:54:43.:54:45.

as unionist commemorations are consense there are lots of others

:54:45.:54:51.

that need to take place between now and then. Have we got off on as

:54:51.:54:57.

good a footing as we might have hoped to? Yesterday was a good day,

:54:57.:55:01.

but the unionist need to learn something from this. They need to

:55:01.:55:08.

work out what they are celebrating. Are they celebrating the success of

:55:08.:55:12.

Northern Ireland as a vibrant, economically strong collectively

:55:12.:55:15.

co-operating society, because if they are not, I this they brings

:55:15.:55:20.

its own problems. Do you think anyone from a non-unionist

:55:20.:55:24.

background will have a greater understanding of what unionism is

:55:24.:55:32.

about, what the marching culture is about? Seeing people in historical

:55:32.:55:36.

garments, carrying paraphernalia, trying to touch the mood of what

:55:36.:55:41.

happened 100 years ago, does that help the explanation? Or will that

:55:41.:55:46.

wash over people? The pageantry was positive and fascinating, in other

:55:46.:55:54.

respects it was open to par di. How far it moves the debate I am not

:55:54.:55:58.

sure how far that will take us, looking at the spirit of the

:55:58.:56:00.

covenant, that is fine, it's a crucial period in history and it

:56:00.:56:05.

need to be explored. People will look at Carson's role and the way

:56:05.:56:10.

he changed his views further down the line. Let us pause and look at

:56:10.:56:20.
:56:20.:56:21.

the political week in 60 seconds. Transport come naited the week with

:56:21.:56:29.

claim nas the new bus lanes created chaos. This is not thought up

:56:29.:56:32.

overnight. For many people stuck in traffic it seems like that. From

:56:33.:56:37.

the bike to the car, like another Tory the new Secretary of State

:56:37.:56:42.

revealed the day she got her job she cycled out of Downing Street.

:56:42.:56:46.

The sath sad thing is that is the last time I was allowed to ride my

:56:46.:56:53.

bike and I have been stuck in a bullet-proof car since. Special

:56:53.:56:57.

advisers were in Jim McAllister's site. We face up to it or ignore it.

:56:57.:57:01.

From the committee room to the ringside. MLAs came to blow tons

:57:02.:57:08.

politics of boxing. And as he marked the seen renry of the

:57:08.:57:15.

covenant Lord Band dvingsl side told us he is fighting fit. I don't

:57:15.:57:24.

look like a sick man. -- Lord Bannside. Alex and Noel are still

:57:24.:57:29.

with me. Noel, we got our first proper look at the new Secretary of

:57:29.:57:33.

State on Thursday, what did you make of what she had to say? It is

:57:33.:57:38.

early day, we are impressed with her bike riding ability. She got

:57:38.:57:42.

special treatment! And better manners than some others.

:57:42.:57:47.

Fascinating to look at her ancestry with the Earl of Clarendon and

:57:47.:57:55.

others who had a pivotal road in -- role in Irish history. Clear rien

:57:55.:58:01.

on corporation tax, she say she is will fly the flag. I am not sure it

:58:01.:58:05.

was that clear. She said it was the Prime Minister's decision. It will

:58:05.:58:10.

be the decision of the assembly. I think she gave a classic political

:58:10.:58:14.

answer which all side will be happy with. The fact she got to ride her

:58:14.:58:18.

bike out of the main gates of Downing Street, did that produce a

:58:18.:58:24.

wry smile. No, I hate cyclist. If she is here to champion them I

:58:24.:58:27.

won't be happy. Let us reflect Noel, for a moment or two on the debate

:58:27.:58:30.

we had with Steven Agnew about gay marriage, that makes an appearance

:58:31.:58:36.

on the floor of the assembly tomorrow. Helpful, useful or

:58:36.:58:40.

potentially divisive? Hopefully we will have a mature debate and

:58:40.:58:46.

people will have look ed at the contribution of Mary McAleese as

:58:46.:58:49.

being helpful. We could have difficult moments tomorrow. The

:58:49.:58:53.

measure won't go through. If the tone is right, I think that would

:58:54.:58:58.

help. Alex? I don't think it will be a mature debate. The DUP have

:58:58.:59:02.

vetoed it. This is the third week in a row we have had motions

:59:02.:59:06.

brought to the assembly which are divietive, unionist, nationalist

:59:06.:59:11.

debates which won't pass and I think there are more pressing

:59:11.:59:16.

issues they can deal with with. Looking ahead to the week ahead, we

:59:16.:59:20.

have the Labour Conference sh Northern Ireland featuring on the

:59:20.:59:24.

agenda. No, faded into the background. That is not necessarily

:59:24.:59:29.

a bad thing. I think the executive is going through a bad period.

:59:29.:59:34.

There are some areas it is lacking in credibility. With shouldn't be

:59:34.:59:37.

surprised. No, but it is worth remembering there will be a plucky

:59:37.:59:42.

little band from the Northern Ireland Labour Party who have been

:59:42.:59:45.

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