Speech by Nigel Dodds to the DUP Annual Conference, Belfast (21 November 2009)
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Speech by Nigel Dodds, then Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to the DUP Annual Conference, Belfast (21 November 2009)
"Today we gather to reflect on the events of the last year and to look forward not just to the next elections but where we want to take the Union and Ulster for years to come.
And in looking back we must be ever conscious that while we fight political battles at home, our young men and women are fighting real battles of life and death in far away places – and close at home – in order to defend freedom and protect democracy. Today we remember all in our security forces. We salute them and we honour them.
For example on expenses the DUP fully supports the implementation of the Kelly report, no ifs or buts; no ambiguity or equivocation. Indeed key recommendations were positions we put forward to Kelly’s review. The DUP will fulfil its pledge to phase out multiple mandates, its purpose of providing stability and experience in the fledgling Assembly now largely fulfilled. We are the only party so committed. And the DUP is now leading the way.
And in looking forward there is much work for Unionism to do. Renewing Unionism is no easy burden. It is a generational task. When the DUP was given the mantle to lead Unionism as a result of the votes of the unionist people, we took on that immense task gladly– not for elected office – but to deliver for Unionism.
So what are the tasks for our generation of Unionists?
First and most foremost we must take the political fight to Sinn Fein, to republicans and to nationalists, not run away.
Whilst the DUP has forced Sinn Fein to decommission, to support the police, the courts and British rule of law, Sinn Fein’s key objective is anathema to everything unionists stand for. And so, while there can be common ground amongst politicians at times to help all of our people on economic and social issues, there can be no let up in our political battle with republicans to preserve Ulster as an integral part of the United Kingdom. All true unionists should unite in that common cause.
Our task includes the reform of Stormont. The public are hurting from the recession and angered about the issues such as Ruane’s approach to education. They are frustrated by some of what they see at Stormont. So are we. The DUP realises that Northern Ireland, all of it, is crying out for a devolved system that will provide small, just, effective and efficient government.
Mandatory coalition will deliver none of those. The DUP has always highlighted the fundamental flaws of mandatory coalition, long before the UUP did and before the TUV existed. We got the analysis right and we have the right answer - voluntary coalition with robust minority protections. We have the right answers too on cutting government departments, north-south bodies, quangos and MLAs. Again before others ever voiced the slightest criticism. And we have the right answers on how to get there too. Practical sensible answers that work, not pie in the sky rhetoric that can’t.
But the task of Unionism is not limited to Stormont – there’s vital work to be done at Westminster too. From the Ulster Covenant we get the cherished principle of equal citizenship but Blair’s constitutional reforms undermine that principle and the Conservative idea of downgrading Scottish and Ulster MPs to second class status is a further assault. The coming reform of the House of Lords will be the largest change to parliament in decades if not centuries. No matter who the next government is, the United Kingdom will have a Bill of Rights. Ulster must make its full contribution to these debates and help shape the future of our national democracy.
The DUP will work to strengthen the Union, promote the United Kingdom and defend British interests. And of course Ulster’s representatives at Westminster must always have the interest and the good of the Ulster people as the focus and fulcrum of their mandate.
Both major parties at Westminster have failed Northern Ireland at crucial periods in her history.
The DUP, free from the shackles of subservience to another party’s whip, will fight for the good of Northern Ireland at ALL times and in ALL circumstances.
The next task of Unionism is to make Northern Ireland flourish and prosper in a challenging and intensely competitive world. We need to expand our private sector and reduce our reliance on public spending. We cannot afford so many families and communities to scrape by at poverty levels for another generation. We need to get as many people as possible into work. We do not want another generation scarred by sectarianism and racism. We want all in Northern Ireland to live, work and raise their family free from fear.
This is the agenda that will shape the future. This is the approach that will take Northern Ireland towards its centenary in 2021. This is where the DUP wants to take the pro-Union community.
What of the others?
Can the Ulster Unionist Party, or should I say UCUNF, deliver this future agenda for Unionism and Ulster? No.
After the 2007 Assembly election the UUP had little votes, less money and no ideas. So, having courted just about every party they could think of and failing miserably, they went cap in hand to the Tories. What was the Conservative price for a deal? No agreed unionist candidates in South Belfast and Fermanagh/ South Tyrone. The Tory price was more Unionist division and less Unionists in our national Parliament. Sir Reg agreed. He may do a He-Man act at his party conference but he remains the Mr Puniverse he always was. What is British about putting more Irish nationalists and republicans into Parliament? What is unionist about actively and deliberately sabotaging the only method of getting unionists in and republicans out?
The party which told Unionist voters to trust David Trimble now tells the people to trust David Cameron. Thankfully, pro-Union voters don’t have to rely on the UUP’s advice. Mr Cameron’s convictions were tested by the Lisbon Treaty. He failed. He cast aside his “cast-iron guarantee”. He caved in on a referendum, on principle and on British interests.
Nor do the UUP seem to care about Cameron’s economic policy, not that it is much of a policy. Its one word - cuts. The DUP wants to make our government smaller and more efficient. It wants to use those savings to drive our economy forward. We want to invest it in raising skills. We want to invest it in attracting high value jobs. We want to invest it in new infrastructure. This is how we will underpin growth in our private sector and reduce our reliance on the public sector in the years to come. Instead we are faced with cuts regardless of need or circumstance. Cuts regardless of timing or effect. This would cripple Northern Ireland. This is why the DUP will defend the present block grant not support cuts to it which will drain money out of Northern Ireland.
Ulster’s dole queues have increased sharply in this recession. The DUP plan cares about that. The DUP wants to act. The DUP wants to boost the economic recovery. The Empey-Cameron plan doesn’t care. UCUNF will stand idly by. The Tory-UUP approach will deepen the recession which labour did so much to create.
Could the TUV deliver this future agenda for Unionism and Ulster? No.
The media doesn’t really like the DUP. So they have enjoyed watching Jim Allister as he tries to lay into us. This has meant he has escaped scrutiny. As the media won’t do its job let us take a look.
Jim Allister, like the UUP never learns. He is under the misapprehension that to deliver in politics all you have to do is make a speech and issue a press statement. It can provide some entertainment but it isn’t effective politics. A TUV press release hasn’t stopped a single thing in Northern Ireland. It was a DUP ‘No’ that stopped the Irish Language Act. It is a DUP ‘No’ that blocks the expansion of a politically driven north-south agenda. It is a DUP ‘No’ that stops Ruane abolishing academic selection. It is a DUP ‘No’ that stops Direct Rule plans to force us to pay twice for water. It is a DUP ‘No’ that is ensuring Policing and Justice is not devolved except and only on the right terms.
It is DUP action which has delivered for unionism and thwarted republicanism in these areas.
A negative agenda is not enough and progressive change is needed too. What is the TUV strategy for delivering change? Collapse it all, quit power and hope something better comes of it. Just imagine if such thinking had been around when our generals planned strategy during the great wars or when our forefathers fought to save Ulster from Home Rule. A TUV strategy then would have been to desert the battle field and leave it to others, no matter how unreliable or duplicitous, to fight for you. The fact is - destruction will gain nothing. Progress will be delivered through out-working, out-thinking and out-dealing our opponents today, tomorrow and in the years ahead. To risk all in one grand confrontation with no guarantee of success is sheer folly.
So his strategy is no good but perhaps he has practical ideas beyond slogans. One of his supposed new ideas is administrative devolution. It is nothing new. It was the UUP’s idea 20 years ago. So one of the TUV’s big ideas for unionism is to re-hash an outdated policy from a failed party.
Bad strategy, no new or workable ideas but most crucial is the massive risk of the TUV approach - joint authority. He will not believe me. He may even say I am lying. He claims it would be direct rule which is British rule. If I can’t persuade him perhaps this small publication can. It is called Alienated and Unbowed. It argues that when the Conservatives signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement British rule ended and Anglo-Irish rule commenced. It highlights the idiocy of Unionists relying on London as a strategy. It argues that the best Unionist strategy is for power to be devolved to Northern Ireland. It was written by Jim Allister. Jim may laud himself as consistent but here he is condemned by his own pen. He is Joint Authority Jim. Now, in the world of Joint Authority Jim, it is better to have joint Dublin-London rule with Sinn Fein pulling the strings and unionists out in the cold, without power or influence.
Compare all this with the DUP’s record of advancing Unionism. It was proclaimed that the Belfast Agreement could not be changed. The DUP got it changed. It was said Republicans would never recognise the police. The DUP made sure they did and when a police officer was brutally murdered by republicans Martin McGuiness called them traitors. It was said there would be no safeguards on a Justice ministry and no additional resources for policing. The DUP secured those safeguards and resources.
This record is why the DUP can be trusted to lead Unionism into the future. The UUP would agree to anything. The TUV would agree to nothing. The DUP will agree to the right thing, at the right time for the right reasons.
Later today go home to your family, friends and communities. Tell them of the DUP vision for Unionism. Tell them of the DUP commitment to transform Northern Ireland. Tell them that when the DUP is at the table Unionism advances. Each time you leave your home to go out to do this work, remember one thing. The TUV will scheme its schemes. The UUP will dream its dreams. But we, the DUP, have the work of Unionism to do."
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