14 October 2005

DUP warns against devolution 'incentives'


14/10/2005 - 11:08:13

The Democratic Unionists will not be bought off into going into a devolved government simply on the back of gaining peerages and extra seats on the North’s Policing Board, a senior member warned today.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said the DUP would still require the underlying problems in the province for the unionist community to be addressed.

The former Stormont Regional Development Minister said: “It may be the case that important issues like numerical changes to the DUP’s under-representation on the Policing Board and the House of Lords are easiest to address for the Government.

“It could also be the case that they naively believe a number of DUP elected representatives offered positions to which we are entitled might be an incentive towards hastening a return to devolved government. The latter is a fallacy that has to be dealt a fatal blow.

“If we were to be offered five times the number we are likely to get of members of the House of Lords, the underlying issues remain to be addressed.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain yesterday announced plans to reconstitute the Policing Board next April, which will mean the DUP will increase its representation from three to four.

The British government is also expected to announce soon the first DUP peers, with Eileen Paisley, wife of the Rev Ian Paisley, among those being tipped.

These moves are being interpreted as British recognition of the change in political climate in the North since the 2003 Stormont Election, which has seen the DUP become the largest party.

However, Mr Paisley’s party has also presented Downing Street with a 64-page document of issues it feels will need to be addressed before they can contemplate reviving devolved government.

Among the issues the DUP has demanded is a generous severance and training package for Royal Irish Regiment soldiers affected by demilitarisation plans which will axe its three Northern Ireland based battalions, changes to the Parades Commission, and a financial package to revitalise working-class Protestant neighbourhoods.

Mr Campbell said today: “Our society in Northern Ireland has reached a level of almost inherent bias against unionism.

“It is this bias that needs tackling, culture, employment, education, minority Protestant recruitment to the police, EU funding are just a few of the areas that need resolving, not just agreeing to have them addressed.

“Important and justifiable as any additional appointments might be to the Policing Board, and to the House of Lords if they come, they do not even begin to address the disadvantage and marginalisation felt by our community.

“It is when measures are implemented which make a difference that political progress becomes a realistic and lasting proposition, rather than belatedly making up numbers for the largest political party in Northern Ireland.”

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