Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA
“I Will Not Be Silenced”
Speaking today First Minister and DUP Leader Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA said:
“Following my meeting with the Chief Constable on Monday and my subsequent public comments after that meeting there has been the suggestion from some quarters that I should not have made any public commentary about the perceived inequality of policing and judicial actions as they relate to the Unionist community. I want to make it absolutely clear that I re-affirm, and stand by the contention that there are genuine perceptions within Unionism about inequalities that need to be addressed.
“Neither the Chief Constable nor the Lord Chief Justice can be immune from the need for these perceptions to be addressed. They have a responsibility to deal with these matters and to explain the facts and circumstances. Such explanations are necessary and indeed beneficial to strengthen the operation of the criminal justice system. In that context I welcome the letter sent on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice and his acknowledgement that public representatives are entitled to express views on decisions made by the courts or indeed the perception of how the Courts have acted. I hold the same view as the Lord Chief Justice that Judges should therefore be free to act independently without improper influence. I hold the same position with respect to the operational independence of the police but that core principle does not remove the requirement to ensure concerns are addressed and decisions taken by the police and the judiciary are explained, especially when they lead to public disquiet.
“This morning the Northern Ireland Minister Mike Penning MP chose to use a BBC interview to criticise me for remarks which I had never made, (albeit they were thrust upon him by the interviewer). I have never heard this Northern Ireland Office Minister utter as much as a squeak in criticism of Sinn Fein. Mr Penning claimed he needed evidence of how the perception of unequal treatment can arise. He should take the opportunity, as it appears he hasn’t already done so, of looking at the statistics for public enquiries and the work of the HET for which he bears some responsibility. The apparent inequality is staggering and again demands a full public explanation. Hundreds of cases have been completed by the HET yet according to the last available data they have provided it shows that only loyalists have been charged and the overwhelming numbers of cases completed are against loyalists. This in spite of the fact that the overwhelming number of murders were carried out by Republicans.
“I know that there are many who do not share the views articulated by unionists and loyalists but trashing their real fears, concerns and views is no way to stabilise society in Northern Ireland.
“The suggestion that the First Minister who has a responsibility to lead Northern Ireland into stable and peaceful times should ignore, rather than address, such perceptions says more about the politics and mind-set of those who make such remarks. I am elected ‘by the people’ to work ‘on behalf of the people’ and to speak out when I see injustice and to act where I see need. I will not be silenced when I see the need to speak.
“For several months I have sought to tell street protestors that there is a better way. I have told them that their concerns and grievances should be brought within the political process and addressed openly – as one would expect was possible in a democratic society but it is impossible for me to fulfil the task of persuading people to operate within the political arena rather than engage in street protests if those in the media and politics demand that I be silenced and should not be permitted to speak on such matters.
“Politicians need to be able to demonstrate that change comes through the democratic process and that there is no place for the use of threats, force or violence. The notion that a politician should not be seen to use the democratic forum to articulate the genuine concerns of many across the Province is dangerous and ill-conceived. Those who would advance such an argument are in real danger of signalling that street protests are the only vehicle through which grievances can be articulated. Denying people the right to have their real fears and concerns articulated is the surest way of sign posting them back to the streets. Furthermore the deliberate and wilful attempt, by some, to distort my remarks or sensationalise them in order to dismiss their vital content only sends out the message that the concerns held by many will not be taken seriously. That is why I will continue to talk about these issues which are of concern to the people of Northern Ireland.
“I will not be silenced.”