Ian Paisley on self-determination and Unionist resolve (1994)

In November 1994 the firebrand Unionist leader Ian Paisley addressed the annual conference of the Democratic Unionist Party. In this extract from Paisley’s speech he calls for political self determination – but finishes with inflammatory and provocative rhetoric:

“I have been busily engaged during these past months in seeking to take soundings among various sections of the Ulster community…However let me come to the all important matter of the final court of appeal, the final arbiter in this dispute, let me say that the final court of appeal and the final arbiter in this dispute must be the people of Northern Ireland alone.

For the people of Northern Ireland, the principle of consent freely given must prevail over the bullet, in the way in which they are to be governed in future. There can be neither compromise with terrorist minority pressure, nor external interference by a foreign state, in their internal governance. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Party welcomes the [British] prime minister’s promise of a referendum in Northern Ireland to obtain the electorate’s consent for any outcome of political talks. The consent of the people of Northern Ireland was not sought before the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement or the Downing Street Declaration, both of which ironically reiterated the traditional guarantee of “consent” given to the Unionist majority… Our position is that the principle of consent should apply in all sets of circumstances and for all time.

Self determination is a basic human right: it is incorporated as a principle of the Charter of the United Nations, and the people of Northern Ireland must be unflinching in their fight to see that it is upheld in how they are governed in future. Although Northern Ireland is de facto and de jure indisputably part of the United Kingdom, it is a universally established principle that the inhabitants of any territory subject to claim by another country will decide their own future. Remember that at first Mr Major would not even grant this: it was DUP pressure that forced him to do so.

Therefore the ballot box, not the bullet, must prevail in Northern Ireland. The freely expressed democratic will of the people of the province must be respected and implemented. By the same token, a commitment to the principle of democratic consent rules out not only any compromise with the terrorists of IRA [and] Sinn Fein, but also any imposed solution. Neither will work. The former is morally unthinkable; the latter, already tested in principle through direct rule and the Anglo-Irish diktat, has had nothing but disastrous consequences. Both conceptions breach the right of the people of the province to decide their own future, including how they are to be governed, democratically without pressure or interference…

The recognition, the acceptance and most importantly the implementation of Ulster’s right of self-determination, of Ulster’s right to give her consent, is absolutely imperative in the midst of the present political crisis. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Party has therefore launched a major initiative which we believe will help to focus attention on this issue which has been left to one side not only over the past year but over the last 25 years. The details of that initiative will become clearer in the coming days. But as a result of our actions I am certain that no one either here in Northern Ireland or nationally or internationally will be left in any doubt about the seriousness which we in this Party view this vital issue, which must be at the very heart of the political process. Neither will anybody be left in any doubt as to the validity of the case that we have been making and making alone on the need for the Ulster people to give their consent on all the issues which affect their constitutional position and governance.

Let me speak a final word. Are we, the sons and daughters of Ulster become so craven as to allow our ancient foes to triumph over us? Are we the offspring of the defenders of Londonderry and the descendants of the men of the Boyne given to turning back in the day of battle? Are we going to surrender to a State so blatantly priest-ridden and core rotten as to be the butt of all right thing peoples throughout the world? The last few days have demonstrated the stinking rottenness of the corpse of body politic in Dublin. Are we gong to bow our necks and agree to a partnership with the IRA men of blood who have slain our loved ones, destroyed our country, burned our churches, tortured our people and demand now that we should become slaves in a country fit only for nuns’ men and monks’ women to live in?

Are we going to permit those who wear the garments of Unionism to lead us by the nose to the noose which our false friends in London have prepared for us?

Are we going to suffer ourselves to become beggars at the door of the American Whitewashed House presenting our bowls for the mess of American grits?

Are we like abject slaves to Salam the new United States overlord sent to us by the Whitewater crook? Are we going to allow minor Majors or major Minors to take us for a ride to the pedophile priests?

Rouse you, men and women of Ulster. You are free born. Refuse the chains prepared for you by treacherous unionists and their ilk.

Let Dublin know that there still be those who must not, shall not, will not, and cannot bow to these traitors who tread the smoke-filled rooms of Whitehall, nor to those enemies the offspring of the Vatican who walk the corrupted corridors of power in Dublin, in Europe and in Washington… Ulster men and women we mean business, real business. To the task of saving this Province we have put our hand. By God’s help we will win or die in the attempt.

God Save Ulster!”