Chris Heaton-Harris told the DUP that “real leaders know when to say yes”.
Agreement 25, Queen’s University’s major conference, included the Secretary of State.
He said the Union’s biggest challenge is the party’s absence from the Assembly.
His remarks before a party leaders’ discussion that DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson skipped.
Mary Lou McDonald, Naomi Long, Doug Beattie, and Colum Eastwood attended, while MLA Emma-Little-Pengelly represented the DUP.
Mr. Heaton-Harris praised David Trimble’s “foresight and leadership,” Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, and John Hume for ending decades of conflict.
He also noted Mo Mowlam, Monica McWilliams, and Baroness May Blood’s “critical role” and the Clintons’ and Senator George Mitchell’s personal involvement.
“The efforts of those people to get peace mean that there are men and women alive today, possibly here today, who otherwise may not be,” he remarked.
He said, “I make no apologies for wanting Northern Ireland to work within the Union.”
“Others who share that view should put the Union first, restore the devolved institutions and get on with the job of delivering for the people of Northern Ireland,” he says to cheers.
Leaders know when to say yes and have the fortitude to do so.
Mr. Heaton-Harris cautioned against the “tiny minority who seek to drag Northern Ireland back to its darkest days” after the New IRA shot senior police officer John Caldwell.
“For each who wants to drag it down, there are thousands determined to lift it up,” he remarked.
His statements were directed at the DUP, who refuse to join the NI Executive.
Emma Little-Pengelly defended DUP policy.
“I often think back. She responded, “We must learn.” “We need to learn what hasn’t worked, that was the politics of exclusion, of dismissing the genuinely held views of a substantial group in Northern Ireland. That fails.
Nationalists, unionists, and others should cooperate. We won’t ignore this problem.
People believe strongly that the protocol harmed the agreed stance that Northern Ireland would remain a member of the union until the people of Northern Ireland chose otherwise through a referendum.
However, UUP leader Doug Beattie called the reluctance to join Stormont “trampling all over democracy”.
“The Good Friday Agreement balanced unbalance. “Not everyone got what they wanted,” he remarked.
It was meant to alter. Already changed. Sinn Fein leads. We’re trampling democracy in Northern Ireland if we don’t let them in.
I speak as a UK unionist. Damaged parts weaken the whole. No group is excluded. First, stabilize, then see how we can work together.
Alliance leader Naomi Long said it a “tragedy” if the recent political declaration made people “jaded and cynical” about the Good Friday Agreement.
Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein added: “None of us have any right to disregard the views or rights of the other. Drift is the scariest. We’ll always live here. Institutions must now function.”