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Lord Alderdice, a key politician of the Northern Ireland Peace Process publically endorses Liberal Democrat candidates in Barnet

May 26, 2017 7:17 PM

alderdice 2Lord John Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance Party, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a signatory of the Good Friday Agreement visited Chipping Barnet on Monday evening to publically endorse the Liberal Democrat Candidates in Barnet.

Discussing the difficulties in securing peace in Northern Ireland, Lord Alderdice spoke of the importance of rationality in the advancements of science, medicine, and politics, but said that mere rationality was not enough if people could persuade themselves to treat others as not entirely human beings because they were different in religion, colour, attitude or politics. There also had to be respect for human rights. However even the combination of rationality and rights has not prevented us from sliding into a bad and dangerous place today.

Lord Alderdice stressed the importance of "human relationships" as being the key idea that contributes to Peace.

"In Ireland we learnt that the key to resolving our problems was paying attention to disturbed historic relationships between our communities - Catholics and Protestants, North and South, and in Britain and Ireland. We also discovered that there were three key factors. Where either side feels disrespected and humiliated, unfairly treated, and where there is no peaceful democratic way to resolve difficult relationships, there is the seedbed for trouble, and this is not just true of Ireland but I have found it to be the case all across the world.

alderdice speaking 1With reference to his role in the EU Referendum in Northern Ireland, Lord Alderdice reflected on the importance of maintaining this sense of 'resolving difficult relationships'.

Lord Alderdice remarked, "When asked to lead a 'Stronger In' campaign in Northern Ireland I said 'No'. Why? Because if I did so, the Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Fein parties would be on the Remain side and the Unionist parties would have voted for Brexit and we would just have recreated a split that we have spent years trying to heal." Instead Lord Alderdice and his colleagues in the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building conducted a series of "public conversations" aimed to explore the issues and forge positive engagements across Northern Ireland.

This contrasted with the actions of Theresa Villiers, the Chipping Barnet incumbent and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time of the EU referendum, about whom Lord Alderdice was very critical;

"Unfortunately we had the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not waiting to see what the people of Northern Ireland thought, not supporting her Party's position, but instead actively campaigning against her Party Leader and supporting Brexit.

"Now as a Liberal I support her right to campaign for something she believes in, but to do so as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is a different question. She was the person that was supposed to work with the Irish Government to contain all the difficulties. The British and Irish Governments had come together to solve the problems in Northern Ireland and without that cooperation there would have been no Good Friday Agreement.

"Now we had a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, supporting Brexit against her own Prime Minister, against the Irish Government and against the vast majority of Irish people, who thought it a disaster. There was deep concern in Ireland, North and South, not just for the Peace Process but for economy of Ireland. Did she not understand? Did she not care? Did she not appreciate the potential consequences of what she was doing? If she didn't then she shouldn't have been in the job of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. If she understood and cared for the people of Northern Ireland, then she should have stood down as from her position."

The roles of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Shadow Chancellor, John MacDonnell in supporting during the Troubles have recently been in the spotlight, and Lord Alderdice commented -

"Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell keep telling us what they did for the Peace Process. I can tell you that they never ever showed the slightest interest in people in the unionist parties or those of us in the centre ground or even constitutional nationalists. The only people they were interested in or supported during the bombing campaign were Sinn Fein and the IRA. That's the reality. They made excuses for the campaign of violence and made no attempt to reach across to those who were only committed to the democratic process. It will be too late now to wriggle out of that position when it is no longer politically convenient for them."

alderdice 3Speaking of their endorsements from Lord Alderdice, Marisha Ray, Lib Dem candidate for Chipping Barnet said,

"Voters in Chipping Barnet raised with me their substantial concerns not only about the future of Great Britain, but also in particular of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Their very reasonable fears arose as a consequence of the Conservative backed extreme Brexit. Driven by UKIP, this distorted Brexit only emerged after last year's referendum. Chipping Barnet never voted on this. We met with Lord Alderdice and raised these matters to conduct a public conversation here in Chipping Barnet on an open and tolerant future.

"I am delighted to have the support of Lord Alderdice, an accomplished peacemaker from Northern Ireland. His insights into progressing beyond conflict are widely applicable. We should all pay heed to his words."

Alasdair Hill, Lib Dem candidate for Hendon added -

"It is such an honour to be sharing a platform with such a sincere and wise politician. Lord Alderdice's message of hope and of fostering conversations in order to heal troubled relationships has never been more important. As we head into a tough few years where our constitutional relationship with the EU, and especially Ireland, changes, we need to ensure that consensus and unity prevails."

According to Lord Alderdice politics is "not in a good place because we take peace for granted and we are not focussing on relationships. We are not going to do that by electing people who do not understand the importance of human relationships."

"For Northern Ireland we are not going to do this if we re-elect a candidate in Chipping Barnet who fails to understand that campaigning for Brexit as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland against her own Government and against the interests of the Irish Government in a way that was widely seen as divisive in Northern Ireland."