Paisley makes farewell speech in House of Commons

 

FORMER DUP first minister and DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley made his farewell House of Commons speech yesterday as Westminster pressed ahead with devolving policing and justice powers to Stormont.

As the Assembly and House of Commons approved orders to facilitate the creation of a Department of Justice within the Northern Executive on April 12th Dr Paisley spoke of his hopes for a time when the troubles could be “forgotten”.

Dr Paisley in his 11-minute valedictory described the people of Northern Ireland as “loving and caring” and said the North was “moving in the right direction”.

Dr Paisley reflected on his 40 years as an MP while expressing confidence in the future.

“There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious convictions and diverse political convictions, but they can live together as neighbours,” he told MPs.

“I am confident that with the good friendship that is in this House towards Northern Ireland that we will go forward and come to a day – I may not live to see it – when these Troubles will be forgotten,” he added.

In acknowledging the “deep wounds” that still existed Dr Paisley said, “We won’t forget the price that was paid.” He said various Northern secretaries had done “good work” while typically adding, “some of them we would liked to have punched”.

First Minister Peter Robinson said Dr Paisley was a “colossus” of Northern Ireland politics. “His name will be remembered in the history of Northern Ireland as one of the most influential figures in unionism,” he added. The House of Commons, with the support of the Labour and Conservative parties, last night approved three parliamentary orders that would enable favourite for the post, Alliance leader David Ford, to be appointed the North’s minister of justice.

Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward said the transfer of the powers showed that politics would be the “only way forward to reconcile disagreements”.

“The completion of devolution will see the arrangements for sharing power fully realised on April 12th,” he added. “It will ensure that local politicians in Northern Ireland can take responsibility for these decisions which should and can be taken in Northern Ireland. Today we complete our responsibilities for the peace process and we complete the political process over which we have responsibility and we enable the Assembly at Stormont to be able to complete its arrangements for full devolution,” said Mr Woodward.

During the House of Commons debate the Ulster Unionist Party’s sole MP Lady (Sylvia) Hermon intervened to ask Tory spokesman on the North Owen Paterson what efforts Conservative leader David Cameron made to persuade UUP leader Sir Reg Empey to support justice devolution.

Lady Hermon has been severely critical of her leader and the UUP Assembly team for voting earlier this month against the transfer of policing powers.

Mr Paterson suggested Lady Hermon should have sought clarification from Sir Reg, her leader, rather than from him – notwithstanding the electoral alliance between the UUP and the Tories.