30/09/2012 Sunday Politics Northern Ireland


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

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 30/09/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



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


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


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2117 seconds


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of the Ulster covenant. Is this a blueprint for future


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


but civil partnerships are not equal to marriage and they are


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


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


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


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


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


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


barred from performing civil partnerships or same-sex marriage


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


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


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


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


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


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


religious freedom and freedom of conscience, if we passed this


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


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


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


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


couples to have religious ceremonies. It is some timeed


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


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


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


views within the religious institution. Do you know how many


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


executive, and parties on the executive are hopelessly divided in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


a majority torges it will be overturned because you need cross


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


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


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


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


has been abused. The petition legislation which put the petition


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


thousands of people marched to Stormont yesterday to mark the


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


parades in HIVing memory and involved one of the largest


policing operation in decade. A feeder parade path a Catholic


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


encouraging people, whatever their backgrounds maybe, to give their


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


question the allegiance of the thousands who gathered for the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


shows that Britishness is still alive in Northern Ireland today.


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


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


merchandise before a religious service. Today as Lord and


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


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


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


smiles on their face watching it and participating and people going


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


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


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


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


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


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


sacred music was to be played outside two Catholic Church tons


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


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


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


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


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


investigate any breeches but it welcomed the efforts of those be


signed the scenes to ensure this much anticipated parade passed off


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


coming out of yesterday's demonstration, the restrictions


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


credibility that need to be addressed. How should the loyal


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the covenant and talk about issues about being unionists together.


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


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


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


careful about, the celebration of the covenant an the Northern


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


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


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


think nationalists will be concerned about the notion of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


candidates in forthcoming by- elections, Mid Ulster people are


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


as unionist commemorations are consense there are lots of others


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


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


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


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


Northern Ireland as a vibrant, economically strong collectively


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


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


background will have a greater understanding of what unionism is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


special treatment! And better manners than some others.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


potentially divisive? Hopefully we will have a mature debate and


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


being helpful. We could have difficult moments tomorrow. The


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


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


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


brought to the assembly which are divietive, unionist, nationalist


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


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


have the Labour Conference sh Northern Ireland featuring on the


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


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


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


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


little band from the Northern Ireland Labour Party who have been


Download Subtitles