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Harbinson spells out facts of Hillsborough

22 February 2010

TUV Vice-Chairman and Lagan Valley Parliamentary candidate Keith Harbinson replies to Arlene Fosterís platform piece in last Saturdayís News Letter.

Arlene Fosterís comments on the Hillsborough Agreement were disingenuous in the extreme.  Upon reading them, I was left wondering whether the Enterprise Minister had even read never mind brokered the deal.  If Mrs Foster seeks to deal in fact then I am more than happy to oblige.

Fact - The issue of the Single Equality Bill is a devolved matter.  There have been several questions raised in the Assembly and Martin McGuiness claims that it is still a work in progress.  It will be dealt with under Section 5 (p21) of the Agreement, where the DUP gives a commitment to deal with the outstanding issues from St Andrews.

Fact - The North South Civic Forum, the North South Parliamentary Forum and expansion of the North South bodies are all encompassed within the Agreement again through Section 5 where the DUP has given a commitment to advance progress on all such issues.

Fact - The Irish Language is also included through Section 5.  It is preposterous for Mrs Foster to claim that Hillsborough had nothing to do with Irish in the same week that we saw a side deal delivering £20 million for the Irish language together with DUP Culture Minister committing to an Irish Language strategy, again because of Section 5.

Fact - The Sinn Fein veto is confirmed at p9 of the Agreement where it plainly states that every legislative proposal from and financial allocation to the new Justice Department requires Executive consideration.

Fact - The firm commitment to an early date for devolution is not just a major Sinn Fein victory but makes a nonsense of the DUP promise of widespread consultation and genuine assessment of Ďcommunity confidenceí.

Mrs Foster then goes on to proclaim great victories within the Agreement such as the independence of the judiciary.  This is nothing new.  It is a constitutional imperative and one that I am glad to say has always existed in Northern Ireland.  A financial Package worth £800 million is also claimed as a benefit gained.  The fact however remains that Policing and Justice would have to be financed regardless of whether it was under the remit of NIO or Stormont.  When one further consults the letter disclosed with the Agreement from the Prime Minister, it would appear in order for us to obtain some of the funds that will be necessary to run the Justice Department we must sell off Executive assets to HM Treasury.  Selling the family silver to pay for devolution does not spell out success to me. 

Further, proclaiming a review of a review as a new start for parading is a mere promise of jam tomorrow. The reality is that we are faced with the same old Republican intransigence as outlined since Hillsborough by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Giving the Parades Commission a new name and letting McGuinness as Joint First Minister handpick his placemen as adjudicators does not strike me as a Unionist victory!

The smouldering commitments given within Section 5 that supplement the overt concessions contained within section 1 are what ensures the future staging posts that Gerry Adams has already boasted about.  Just as policing and justice was embedded in the St Andrews Agreement, so, too, have the promises of progress on the Irish language and north/southery been embedded here.  As and when delivery is not to Sinn Feinís satisfaction and timescale they will again put the gun to the DUPís head and once more bring the process to the brink.

So, far from being the completion of devolution, Hillsborough is but another staging post in delivery of Sinn Feinís insatiable agenda.

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NI politics