IAIN WATSON: It's a measure of progress
that Belfast is open to satire, and not just strife.
UNNAMED MAN: "Oh I have warned the people
of Ulster about this so called peace process."
WATSON: This 'Tinderbox' theatre
company production is set against a backdrop of a referendum on a United
Ireland in 2005. That may make Unionists in the audience a little nervous,
as there's increasing sense that the Good Friday Agreement has delivered
more for the nationalist community than it has for them.
JEFFREY DONALDSON MP: There is a growing sense of alienation
within the Unionist community, at this time. many Unionists, even those
who voted for the agreement in 1998 now feel that the process has become
so one-sided, so unbalanced, that really something needs to be done.
MARTIN MCGUINNESS: The fact that Sinn Fein is the
largest political party in Belfast, the largest political party west of
the bann, with increasing numbers of people supporting our party, not just
in the north, but in the south as well, that this is a reality that Unionists
have to come to terms with now, they shouldn't fear that.
WATSON: Northern Ireland's first
minister David Trimble faces a potentially divisive debate next week when
the Ulster Unionists gather for their annual general meeting. He has to
report back to a sceptical audience on the progress - or lack of it -on
the decommissioning of terrorist weapons.
Last October, the IRA announced finally that they were beginning to put
arms beyond use. Now you might think that would be enough to rekindle waning
enthusiasm in the peace process amongst Unionists. But it appears to have
done no such thing, and on Saturday, David Trimble will once again come
under pressure from sections of his own party to take a harder line with
Sinn Fein. Now, disagreements within Unionism are almost as old the Union
itself, but some say this constant haranguing of David Trimble is a symptom
of wider discontent with the Good Friday Agreement.
Both communities are content to share a drink and a chat during the interval
of 'Caught Red Handed' - a pun on the emblem of Ulster. Exit polls suggested
between fifty-one and fifty-five per cent of Protestant voters backed the
Good Friday Agreement at the 1998 referendum, but a distinguished observer
of Unionist politics says support has been drifting away since.
DR SYDNEY ELLIOT: Looking at the votes for the
main parties at the general election last June, I would guess that somewhere
between thirty-five and possibly forty per cent of Unionists might now
support the position of the Belfast agreement, if there was a referendum
WATSON: Ulster marketing surveys
has brought together a group of Unionist voters to discuss their thoughts
on the Good Friday Agreement four years on. They are not a representative
sample of the entire Unionist population; all of them voted in favour of
the Agreement back in 1998 and most would still vote for it today - but,
more out of a sense of resignation than enthusiasm.
UNNAMED MAN: I did vote yes, on the back
of the promises made by Tony Blair when he came over on the day of the
actual referendum. and he wrote them down in black and white and just about
every one of them has been broken.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I voted for the Unionists, I also
voted for the assembly referendum and I don't think it's achieved anything
WATSON: This night of Ulster Scots'
music has been organised as part of Belfast's cross-community campaign
to become a future European Capital of Culture. But it's really a city
of two cultures, Nationalist and Unionist. In a reversal of traditional
roles, Unionists now feel that Nationalism is on the march. The Secretary
of State John Reid has warned that Northern Ireland mustn't become 'a cold
place for Protestants.' But underlying discontent could lead to future
disharmony - at the 2003 assembly elections.
ELLIOT: The possibility still exists
of Gerry Adams being Deputy First Minister and Ian Paisley First Minister,
in just over a years' time. and no one in Northern Ireland would regard
such a set of institutions as workable in those circumstances.
WATSON: This so-called 'peace
wall' was constructed in 1969 at the height of the troubles in Northern
Ireland to keep apart Unionist and nationalist communities here in North
Belfast. Four years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement you
might assume I've come here to watch it being dismantled. No such luck.
In fact, a new, higher peace wall is currently in the process of construction;
and there's something of a mini boom in the building of such barriers in
some parts of the city - rather robust reminders of the fragility of the
peace process. And even some Unionists who were enthusiastic supporters
of the Good Friday Agreement now feel a sense of disappointment. Unionist
voters are especially concerned there's been no further decommissioning
of weapons by the IRA.
UNNAMED MAN: You know there has been an
independent body which inspects, has inspected, a couple of IRA dumps,
however, you know that's simply not enough when they have had all their
UNNAMED WOMAN: Any from either side of the community,
any paramilitary weapons that were actually, you know, handed in, it was
just a token gesture, it was nothing worth talking about.
WATSON: Martin McGuinness, Sinn
Fein's chief negotiator, and Northern Ireland's education minister, isn't
holding out the prospect of further progress in the foreseeable future.
MCGUINNESS: Let's recognise that the
only group to have moved in a meaningful way to deal with this issue in
the course of the recent while, has been the Irish Republican Army. The
people who are squealing loudest about the need for the IRA to do that
again, really should contemplate whether or not it's sensible to deal only
with IRA guns, should they not face up to the reality that they have a
huge responsibility to bring some delivery from loyalist death squads.
WATSON: The anti-Agreement MP,
Jeffrey Donaldson, won't challenge David Trimble for the leadership of
the Ulster Unionists at next week's AGM, but he does want that meeting
to force his leader into taking a tougher stance with Sinn Fein - which
could culminate in the suspension of Northern Ireland' s power sharing
DONALDSON: I think we have got to make
it clear as a party, that this is either a process of decommissioning leading
to total disarmament or it isn't. And if it isn't, then we need to take
steps to apply sanctions to Sinn Fein IRA and I don't believe they should
continue to be part of an administration when, firstly they are refusing
the support the police, and secondly they are holding on to illegal weapons
and linked to a fully armed terrorist organisation. It's not on.
WATSON: Symbols of British identity
remain important to Unionists, as can be seen on some of the streets in
Belfast. The government made a concession last week over the retention
of British symbols in some of Northern Irelands' courtrooms, but Unionists
suspect this is a 'softening up' exercise before yielding to a key Sinn
Fein demand later this month - to grant IRA men on the run an amnesty.
MCGUINNESS: Given that prisoners have been
released in the north, in such large numbers, that the logical extension
then has to be to deal with a situation where there are some people who
may believe they are on the run, and some of them may not even be on the
run, who've been on the run for the last thirty years in the south, I mean,
surely it makes sense that those people can come home to their families.
WATSON: But even moderate Unionists
- close political colleagues of David Trimble's - are incensed at the prospect
of an amnesty for people they see as unconvicted terrorists; something
which is outside of the Good Friday Agreement.
LADY SYLVIA HERMON MP: They didn't vote for an amnesty
for on-the-run terrorists. It is hugely damaging actually to the agreement
to have these add-on extras and I have certain sympathy, I must say, for
the present Secretary of State, who was, I'm quite sure, not a party to
this at all - this was one of those unpleasant and nasty little side agreements
between the Prime Minister and Sinn Fein; it brings no credit on either
Sinn Fein, quite frankly, or the Prime Minister that they've come to this
sort of arrangement.
WATSON: But granting an amnesty
to terrorists isn't the only 'law and order' concern amongst Unionists.
Even those who support Chris Patten's reform of policing - transforming
the predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary into the cross-community
Policing Service of Northern Ireland - are worried about police numbers.
HERMON: The idea was that, when
the Patten report came out on the ninth of September nineteen-ninety-nine,
that in ten years we would see the Force reduced to seven-thousand, five-hundred;
now two-and-a-half years after the Patten Report the number has fallen
to below seven-thousand, two-hundred, so numbers are dangerously low, I
mean there's no escaping that fact quite frankly.
WATSON: The feeling that the goalposts
are shifting since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement is testing
the resolve of those Unionist voters who back the peace process.
UNNAMED WOMAN: But it just seems to be that, for
the Unionist people seem to be getting isolated and separated, no backing
from Britain, no backing from their own government, no backing from America,
no backing from anybody. Just like nomads.
ACTUALITY "Hello and welcome to
WATSON: Some say it will take more
than kind words from the Secretary of State to stop disappointment descending
into political disaster.
ELLIOT: One of the criticisms of
him since his time, particularly during last year, was that he was the
Secretary of State for northern Catholics, northern Nationalists, and that
was giving vent to a Protestant feeling about how things were going. The
next year of his term in office here - if he's not moved away - could be
that he actually saves the institutions from destruction in a year's time,
or if he just doesn't do anything, in fact he could preside over a failure
of another attempt at devolution in Northern Ireland.
WATSON: The Good Friday Agreement,
much against the pessimists predictions, has survived for four years.
UNNAMED MAN: "There is another way for
us, there has to be, I don't know exactly what it is yet"
WATSON: But the government will
have to do more to address underlying Unionist doubts if they're to prevent
the anti-agreement politicians from picking up support.