Gregory Campbell: Those who caused our bloody past will not be allowed to erase their part in it

Gregory Campbell's last Stormont speech, delivered on Tuesday, is below. Campbell, seen above at the Assembly chamber on Tuesday morning, is standing down as MLA but will stay an MP:

“I begin my contribution by thanking all the staff in this Assembly and in previous Assemblies, whom I found to be extremely courteous, diligent and helpful at all times.

“I spent yesterday morning in the Senate Chamber at an event for victims, and I sat beside one of our youngest councillors in Northern Ireland. I asked him his age, and he told me that he was 24. I then pointed out to him that I was first elected to this Chamber in 1982, 10 years before he was even born. In the first 20 years of that time, violence was prolific. Politics was mired in quicksand. An agreement was always essential, but the right basis for getting it eluded parties here.

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“When the right basis was eventually established, it still meant that hard and difficult choices had to be made. The DUP made the right choice and choices. We took the right decisions when it would have been easier to take the wrong ones, and, for that, we make no apology. For our stance, our statements and our comments since then, we make no apology whatsoever — none.

“Over the last five years, people yearned for delivery, which has begun under the guidance of the DUP. Planning for the future cannot and must not mean forgetting the past.

“Those who caused our bloody and deceitful past will not be allowed to erase their part in it. However much they try, they will not be allowed to do that. Battles must still be fought. For me, the arena will change and the venue will be different, but that campaign must and will be waged until it is won. I am not standing for election with my colleagues, but I am standing on the same ground, with them and beside them, and, together, we will take this country forward to be a much better place.

“People used to ask me what I did. I said that I was a fireman — a political fireman who put out political fires. That is what we did for the first five years or so: we put out political fires. I have become redundant, or semi-redundant, in relation to putting out political fires. I do that only on a part-time basis now because the political fires are much fewer than they were in the past. I feel as though I have changed and become an alchemist, in that my party and I have attempted to transform the lead of sectarianism and division into the pure gold of reconciliation, cooperation and community harmony.

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“I hope that we can change that. I hope that, as I leave this place and a new mandate starts, I can relinquish the function of alchemist and that we will have a new dispensation in which we can, in fact, create that reconciliation, because the Assembly was created as a forum for reconciliation. What we have now is good, and we have achieved significant progress, but we need to do much, much better. We need to create a situation in which we can transform power-sharing into partnership — a dynamic, active partnership based on goodwill and harmony in which we can work together for the good of all of our people: Catholic and Protestant; nationalist and unionist. That is what the Assembly is all about.

“I believe that we have made small progress towards that, but we can do much, much better. I look at the Justice Committee, which was mentioned yesterday during the Justice Bill debate, and see it as an exemplar of how people can work together, despite their political differences, and create a political consensus in order to make worthwhile changes in the justice system.

“That, I believe, is worthwhile and an exemplar of what we can do together on a non-partisan basis. You do not have to give up being SDLP, Sinn Féin or DUP; you can continue to hold on to that but work for the common good.”

Gregory Campbell, DUP East Londonderry

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