Paisley says North is facing its gravest crisis


The DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, has said Northern Ireland is facing its gravest crisis and no unionist should be holding negotiations with the Government or the SDLP, let alone with Sinn Fein. Dr Paisley, who was addressing his party's annual conference in Portrush, Co Antrim, on Saturday, accused the Ulster Unionist Party of betrayal and said both governments and the nationalist parties had clearly stated that everything was on the table.

"I maintain that no unionist should be at any talks with IRA/Sinn Fein," he said. "I go further and I say that no unionist should be at any talks negotiating the Union with Bertie Ahern, John Hume or anyone else. The Union is not negotiable, it is illegal to seek to negotiate it."

Around 300 delegates attended the conference.

Dr Paisley said the proposed all-Ireland body with executive powers outlined by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, was also being supported by the British government.

It would deal a "mortal blow" to the Union and leave unionists in a permanent minority in matters relating to the North. "Fifty per cent of the membership of such a body would be from the Irish Republic.

"At least a third of the representatives from Northern Ireland would be republican-orientated leaving the unionists always in a minority. That is going to be the body which, if a Northern Ireland assembly fails to operate the way Dublin wants it to operate, can be abolished and that all-Ireland body take over its duties and responsibilities."

The DUP leader said the people of Northern Ireland alone, by way of a referendum, had the right to decide their own future. He condemned the British government for refusing to hold a Border poll and accused it of "duplicity, deceit and treachery".

Alluding to a process whereby a settlement would be put to the electorate on both sides of the Border after the Stormont talks close in May, Dr Paisley said it would be a "sham referendum" and "a further step on the road to the attainment of the full republican agenda".

The British government would attempt to blackmail the people of Northern Ireland beforehand by announcements promising jobs and investments if the settlement was endorsed. "We have heard it all before," he said. "The thousands of jobs never came, the peace dividend never came."

The DUP leader said reports that the people of Britain no longer supported the Union with Northern Ireland were untrue. If that was the case, Mr Tony Blair would hold a UK-wide referendum on the North's future. His failure to do so meant that he would lose the vote.

Dr Paisley said his party was already preparing its campaign to defeat the referendum in the North. The Ulster Unionists had a choice to make, he said. Unionists could not blame the IRA for their predicament. By attending the talks, the UUP was breathing life into the process, he argued.

He accused the party of breaking all its pledges regarding its conditions for entering the talks and condemned the British government for including Sinn Fein in its security protection scheme.

"Mr Trimble said if the IRA did not give in their arms, he would close down the talks. Have they given in one weapon? No, but instead of that they are going to receive new licensed weapons from the British government.

"So the British government, instead of taking away the weapons of the IRA, are going to supply them with legally held weapons. Yet Mr Trimble still maintains his place at the table with them. On every real principle essential to the defence of the Union, the Official Unionists have weakened and are continually weakening."

He drew attention to previous remarks by the UUP leader, Mr David Trimble, that the Union was safe and said that his predecessors, Capt Terence O'Neill, Mr Brian Faulkner and Mr James Molyneaux, had all claimed at various times that the Union was safe and had all been proved incorrect.

He urged UUP critics of Mr Trimble's strategy to make their views known. "If they believe it is wrong, let them stand up and say it. Now is the time they should come to the aid of Ulster and fly the flag."

Dr Paisley asked how Mr Trim ble could enter Stormont and pass monuments to Northern Ireland's dead and then sit down around the table with "gangsters and murderers . . . What does he care about the bloodshed when he can be upbeat and has meetings with Bertie Ahern?"

Accusing the UUP of callousness, he said: "Some of Ulster's maimed have no eyes. Some have no ears. Some have no hands. Some have no arms. Some have no legs. Some are imprisoned in a wheelchair for their life's duration.

"They are the limbless, the eyeless, the earless and the faceless, the ones who took the shock of IRA bombing. But what do these unionists care? They go into talks with Bertie Ahern who took an oath to destroy Ulster."

Dr Paisley said that the DUP alone would not betray the dead, the injured or the bereaved. "I will walk on no grave of Ulster's honoured dead to do a deal with the IRA or the British government. I'm not in that business and this party will never be in that business."

He said it was wrong for the UUP to address the issue of Articles 2 and 3 within the talks framework. The articles should be immediately and unilaterally removed and not be part of any bargaining process.

He compared the Government's behaviour to that of a criminal: "A man robs your wallet and then says `I took your money but until you make a deal with me, I'll not give it back.' That man is not only a thief, he is a rogue as well."

Dr Paisley denounced the Progressive Unionist and Ulster Democratic Parties as being "ventriloquist dummies" for the British government. "My party will have no alliance whatsoever with them," he added.

He said the peace process had brought strange times to Northern Ireland: "A time when fair is foul and foul is fair; a time when men call good `evil' and evil `good'; a time when murderers are honoured and the murdered dishonoured.

"A time when the faithless are eulogised and the faithful are ostracised; a time when the prisoners are consistently released and their victims conveniently forgotten; a time when darkness is called `light' and light `darkness'; a time when hell is called `heaven' and heaven is called `hell'."

Dr Paisley said unionists must be strong when facing such a crisis and "not barter our liberties or sell our Protestant birthright". To loud shouts of "no" from the audience, he ended his speech by asking:

"I have no intention of surrendering. Have you? I have no intention of negotiating with the armed IRA/Sinn Fein. Have you? I have no intention of accepting any bribe. Have you? I have no intention of bowing to any occupant of Washington's White House. Have you?

"I have no intention of insulting the memory of Ulster's honoured dead. Have you? I have no intention of going back on my resolve to keep Ulster from Dublin rule. Have you? I have no intention of lowering the Union flag. Have you? I have no intention of stopping from singing the national anthem. Have you?

"That being so, I use the words of our founding father, Lord Carson, and I say to this government - `You may betray us but you will never deliver us bound into the hands of our enemies. We will defend and retain our liberties and Almighty God will defend the right.' God Save Ulster."

`The Union is not negotiable, it is illegal to seek to negotiate it'

`They [the UUP] should come to the aid of Ulster and fly the flag'