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Speech by Jeffrey Donaldson at the Twelfth of July Celebrations, Broomhedge, (12 July 2006)



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Text: Jeffrey Donaldson ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Jeffrey Donaldson, then Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for Lagan Valley, at the Twelfth of July Celebrations, Broomhedge, (12 July 2006).

 

"As we gather here today to mark yet another anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne we can reflect not just on the events of over three hundred years ago but of more recent times as well.

Because of the history of the last forty years we have often had cause to believe that events were moving in the wrong direction.

Terrorism and all that goes with it have left a terrible legacy not only in pain and suffering but also in social and economic terms.

But we must look forward as well as back. And I believe that we can be hopeful about the future.

Unionism is in a stronger position today than it has been in a generation.

The threat of a united Ireland has receded off the agenda for our political lifetime and the debate has moved on to how we live as part of the United Kingdom.

The days in which republicans are able to dominate this debate are over as well.

Now it is unionismís demands that must be met.

Just as was the situation for past generations much of the progress unionism has made has been down to the resilience of the unionist people.

As a people we have withstood forty years of a campaign devised to take away our birthright and our identity.

Make no mistake; the IRA campaign has not achieved its objectives.

Sometimes as unionists we lose sight of that fundamental political reality.

Just remember how far things have moved.

In the last years Republicans have not made the moves they have in order to bring about a united Ireland, they have done them to get Stormont up and running again. It is of course a different Stormont than in 1972 but it is every bit as much a part of the United Kingdom.

We must strive to ensure that the political environment has changed once and for all. The next months will be critical in determining whether the Troubles are to be replaced by a society corrupted by low level criminal and paramilitary activity or by a totally peaceful and democratic existence.

That is why it is so important that we get things right now.

We must not be fooled into thinking or believing that all is well when it is not but when there is evidence of real; lasting change we should welcome the changed political environment.

I believe that day is coming and coming soon. The IRA has played all its cards. Strategically it has no alternative to the political route.

The events of the last few years from September the 11th and the war on terror to the refusal of unionists to accept anything less than an end to all of the IRA's activities has brought the progress that we have seen in the last 12 months.

Whether or not the IRA has given up every last weapon it is impossible to know but the IRA has been politically decommissioned.

We must not give in to the temptation of taking the pressure off republicans before they have completed the transition.

There is no acceptable level of violence in Northern Ireland and there is no acceptable level of criminality. And that standard applies to loyalists as well as republicans.

If and when the IRA's activity is over let us welcome that. But if it is not, we must not and cannot ignore it.

We have a unique opportunity in the months that are to come to end the IRA's paramilitary and criminal activity for good. Without pressure even those in the republican movement who have chosen the political route would find it all too easy to turn a blind eye to the activities of their colleagues.

They must be forced to confront the issue and resolve it once and for all.

History has taught us that republicans can move but that they only move when the pressure is on them.

To allow Sinn Fein into government while an underlying level of activity continues, is to condemn Northern Ireland to a future where this level of criminal activity is permanent.

Who believes that the IRA would ever have taken the steps that it has on decommissioning unless it had absolutely no alternative. The same is true of criminality.

During the years Sinn Fein was in Government the IRA took no steps to delivering on the fundamental requirements of democracy.

Just remember the gun running from Florida, the terrorist training in Colombia, the bank robberies, the break-ins and the murders. All of this after the Belfast Agreement and while they were in or seeking a place in Government.

The lessons from the last few years are clear. When they have no alternative republicans move.

We must not give in to pressure whether it comes from the media the government or anywhere else to meet an arbitrary, artificial deadline.

Circumstances and not the calendar must dictate when devolution returns.

As a society we endured decades of violence. It is not too much to expect that we take a little time to be sure that we achieve a real and lasting peace.

If it does not already realise it the Government will learn that the unionist people cannot be blackmailed or bribed.

A community which has withstood being bombed for thirty years will not be giving into the threats of any Secretary of State.

We will continue to fight for the kind of peace and society that those who have suffered for the last generation deserve.

We cannot and will not compromise on this fundamental requirement and just as we have managed to bring republicans to where they are now, we are determined to finish the job."

 


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