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Column 922improving and that we were leaving the crisis behind. The crisis is deepening, and the daily crimes are growing more violent. It grieves me and the people of Northern Ireland to see the media's lack of interest whenever Protestants and Unionist people are murdered. For months on end we heard stories every day about Gibraltar, but when three Protestants were murdered in Coagh last night, the media gave the event 30 seconds. The headlines in the daily papers do not mention the event--they gave the story five lines. The victims happen to be Unionists. I assure the House that if the attack had been carried out by anyone else, it would have made the headlines. If it had been carried out on anyone else the same would apply, but for Unionists there are no headlines.
This is the facing down of Unionists, for which a certain political party called when seeking the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The IRA has faced down three innocent men. Their families asked me to ask the House when this is going to end. I should be glad to receive a promise from the Minister of State about that. What can I promise my constituents who are walking broken- hearted behind coffin after coffin? They are not facing threats : this is the real thing. I can tell them that the Government say that they accept recommendations for improving the emergency powers legislation, because we are moving in the right direction. The Government can bring in whatever emergency legislation they want, but unless they are willing to take the initiative and face the terrorists, they will never defeat them. I beg the Secretary of State--he has the power--and the Prime Minister--she has the authority, as she has proved so often--to take resolute action to end the nightmare and the carnage in the Province which I love best and which is a part of this great Kingdom. I am sure that the House understands how I feel. I trust that right hon. and hon. Members will also understand that I must return to my constituency, and to the families of those murdered there. I want to listen to the rest of the debate, but I must leave for the airport. I trust that the next speaker will understand that no disrespect is meant, but will bear in mind that I must return to those families who will be burying their loved ones tomorrow.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : The hon. Member for Mid- Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), who is my parliamentary neighbour, drew attention to media coverage of three recent deaths in Northern Ireland. He contrasted that coverage with that of other incidents. I was surprised that he did not draw attention to the endless stream of coverage of an author who has simply been threatened with death. That is another facet of the circumstances with which right hon. and hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies must live. If a threat is made against an individual or groups of individuals in Britain, it is headline news. But whenever there is death in Ulster it will be lightly passed over as just another killing, unless it is a case of multiple death.
The victims of IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland are being killed because they want to be members and citizens of the nation. At the end of the day, those killings are not about sectarianism but are an attack on British citizenship and the British presence in the Province. I am part of that British presence. When the IRA talk of driving out the British, they are talking not about the fellow in a uniform
Column 923who comes from Kent or Glasgow, but about me, those who vote for me, and those whom I represent. That fact is one that the House steadfastly ignores.
When a similar debate took place at about this time last year, the cry that went up was about the bombing at Enniskillen and about the tragedy and horror of the multiple death there. Had the debate occurred a week later, the cry would have gone up instead--as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster--about the deaths of three would-be murderers in Gibraltar. A fortnight or so later, that crazy madman Stone was seen running through a cemetery murdering people. If our debate had occurred three days after that incident, it could have concerned itself with the butchering of Corporal Wood and Corporal Howes by people who are worse than wild animals, as we saw on our television screens.
The same Ministers are in the House today as one year ago. Five or 10 years ago, their predecessors were wending the same weary path, for the same weary reasons--the lack of proper understanding and of proper measures being taken to resolve the conflict. The incidents of the past year have highlighted the need to control funerals, for example. I interrupted the Secretary of State to ask for an assurance that the power to control funerals is to remain. My belief is that funerals should be very strictly controlled, no matter which murderer is being buried.
Funerals give the IRA and others an opportunity to display their power to intimidate and to do their own thing in their own areas. Those displays are as much a challenge to the security forces and to the governance of Northern Ireland as any IRA attack, such as that which occurred yesterday. They serve as a proclamation that the area in which the display takes place is one in which the IRA can operate. I draw the attention of the House to the almost casual arrogance now being displayed in IRA killings. The soldier murdered in Londonderry city recently was killed not in the heart of a republican area but right in the heart of the loyalist stronghold there. Ten years ago, the IRA would not have dared to do that. It would not have dared when the present Administration came to office. The fact that it does now illustrates the IRA belief that it is making progress, which further illustrates the Government's failure to deal with the situation. I think back to the funeral last year that led to the deaths of two young soldiers who simply took the wrong turning, and I wonder who told the security forces to stay away. I wonder what pressures and subtle nuances were brought to bear to keep the security forces away from that IRA funeral. I wonder who told the security forces not to interfere, even when those two young soldiers were being butchered. A "chopper" fitted with a television camera was hovering overhead, observing it all, yet apparently no effort was made to rescue the two individuals who were being killed. That still angers and niggles Ulster people, who have not yet been given the answers that they want.
At the beginning of the debate, reference was made to the winning of hearts and minds. In a way, I think that that is the wrong policy. It is said that the security forces representing the Government should try to win hearts and minds by staying away from funerals, for example, because their presence will be resented. The House, the Government, the nation and the security forces should instead set about convincing the IRA and Irish
Column 924republicanism in general that they are not going to win. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to note that I am referring to violent IRA republicanism, because that is the well from which all other terrorist organisations ultimately draw their sustaining strength. The activities of the IRA are given as an excuse for Protestant paramilitary attacks and other endless acts of violence. If the IRA problem is solved, the Protestant paramilitary problem will deteriorate, decay and disappear along with it. The conquest and destruction of the IRA is the key to peace in Northern Ireland. Until that fact is faced, and until measures are taken to bring about that conquest, things will go on in the same old way.
For the IRA, winning is the achievement of a united Ireland. It is as simple and as straightforward as that. It does not matter to the average IRA man or republican whether it is an all-Ireland republic dominated by Charles Haughey or by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)--
Mr. Ross : But the hon. Gentleman would no doubt be part of a nationalist party, and it would be a nationalist-dominated Ireland. It would be a nationalist Ireland with a nationalist ethos, which is something that I and the people whom I represent would reject. The IRA does not really give two hoots, any more than its supporters, which is the dominant republican nationalist element, provided that there is an all-Ireland republic. They are not even very worried whether it is Labour, Left-wing, centre or Right-wing, provided that it is an all-Ireland republic. They would be happy with that, but I would not. The failure to comprehend the nature of the Northern Ireland situation is the root cause of the Government's failure to devise policies that would be totally effective in bringing peace and stability. I have left out the bit about reconciliation because reconciliation is the result of many years of peace and stability and of people living together. I do not think that we shall fall into each other's arms if the IRA stops murdering people tomorrow.
Since last year some incidents have broken through the normal crust which leads to people ignoring Northern Ireland. I shall mention a few of them. Last August an Army bus was bombed and a number of young men were butchered on their way back from leave. Then we had the Father Ryan affair, over which there was a great deal of hubbub, froth and hot air. Now there is a sort of embarrassed silence because he has vanished into thin air and the chances of getting him back to stand trial here are a very short way above nil, if they are above it at all.
Yesterday we had the incident in Coagh. There was also a bomb find, apparently where weaponry was being prepared to attack the Prime Minister when she visits Scarborough. Throughout the year there was continuing public and private evidence of a border that is practically afloat in Semtex and weapons. All the evidence available to anyone who takes an interest in Ulster or to those like me who live in it and represent people there shows that Government policy is not defeating the IRA.
Now and again the people who live on this side of the Irish sea see the tip of what I can only describe as the moral cowardice of the Government in dealing with this matter. Facing the terrorists is not a matter of physical courage
Column 925because many people are willing to do that. What we see is moral cowardice, an unwillingness to stand up to the propaganda, the lies and the nonsense with which we are taunted throughout the world by the supporters of the IRA murder gangs. That moral cowardice is illustrated by the story of a young paratrooper who was walking around on guard with an empty weapon. Perhaps that is an advance, because I think that at one stage they walked around with pickaxe shafts. That is not much good against a Colt 45.
When I was in the Ulster Special Constabulary, of which I was glad to be a member and proud to serve for 16 years, I never saw the sort of creatures who are often described by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. We rarely went about with unloaded rifles. We had charged magazines in the rifles. Anyone who knows anything about shooting knows that that means that the bolt has only to be pulled backwards and forwards and the weapon can be fired. That is the way in which every soldier on guard outside any military establishment should be armed and ready.
We are sending these lads out to wander about with unloaded weapons. They are young men in crack regiments of what we are told is the best army in the world. I believe that. We are sending them out with unloaded weapons, as if their expensive training was so ineffective as to render them incapable of handling loaded weapons. That is nonsense and I hope that the people of Britain have seen the end of that nonsense in this incident. I hope that the next time a paratrooper or some other soldier or naval officer or member of the RAF Regiment walks round the corner of a building and sees a terrorist planting a 60 lb Semtex bomb, he will at least be able to fire at him.
Regardless of when the next shooting incident takes place I hope that we shall not hear in the House and everywhere else claims that "these people are out shooting to kill". Who the devil ever shot to miss? People are meant to shoot to kill, to stop, and if a modern weapon is fired at a body it will cause severe damage, and the person will be extremely lucky to survive. That is what the weapons and ammunition presently issued to the Army are for and they do their job very effectively. I regret that the job is not done often enough. If I went to any pub in London tonight--leaving out those that are peopled by the Irish--or if I went anywhere else in Britain and asked the average Englishman, Scotsman or Welshman what he thinks should be done with the IRA or terrorists, he would give exactly the same answer as I give and would probably do it rather more crudely than I would like to do in your presence, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : Has the hon. Member considered what would have happened if the sentry on duty at Shrewsbury, having secured his ammunition, had been able to fire accurately at those who were running away? At that stage they had not blown up the barracks. If he had killed one of them, under our present state of law, he would surely have been charged with murder. Does that not show that our present criminal law simply does not apply to the reality of terrorism in Northern Ireland?
Mr. Ross : Of course, the hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct. He will remember the two corporals butchered in Belfast in March last year and that one of them leaned out of the car window with a pistol. If an Ulsterman had been leaning out of the window with that pistol, I wonder whether everyone facing him would have been alive 10 seconds later? That soldier was acting under the rules of engagement about which we heard from Opposition Front Bench spokesmen. Members of the security forces are out in places where they are likely to be killed and the law should reflect that reality. The Government should not behave as if they are dealing with a peaceful English village on a summer afternoon. Sometimes we read in the newspapers about little riots in such places, so perhaps they are not so peaceful. An IRA man or any terrorist with a gun has one intention. It is to plant a bomb or to kill, and he is already psyched up to do it. He will kill as quickly as a snap of the fingers. A police officer friend of mine stopped a person one day in the street in Dungiven, my own village, to ask a question and it ended in him being buried. The House and the country should recognise the reality of the situation in Ulster. This House does not think that we are at war, but the IRA figures that it is at war with us and its attitude is that anything goes. I do not want to enter that sewer where anything goes but the laws of the realm should reflect the reality of the task that we have asked our security forces to carry out. The laws that we are debating are not doing that. We should also understand that when incidents such as the one in Gibraltar happen there will be massive howls of indignation.
The Secretary of State spoke about the propaganda war. The Government lack the commitment to ensure a better and louder propaganda statement. That propaganda must be founded upon truth to rebut the misrepresentations put out by the terrorist organisations. This debate must end at 7 o'clock. It is somewhat better attended than many on this issue--and I have been sitting through such debates for 15 years. However, it should not end with the discussion in this House ; it should go on within the parties--and principally within the party of government--to ensure that the changes that are absolutely vital are made. This legislation should be part of the whole policy of convincing the IRA--those who, for many years, have been prepared to risk life, limb and liberty--that the game is not worth the candle. That is what it is all about--convincing them that they are going to lose.
But convincing them that they are going to lose is only partly a question of law ; it is also very largely a question of the perception of Government intention as to where Ulster will be five, 10 or 20 years hence. Unless the Government's actions are sustained, it will not be possible to convince the supporters of the IRA that the IRA will fail, that the republicans will fail, that the nationalists will fail, that the SDLP will fail, in their objective of bringing about a united Ireland. So long as that policy continues, the war will continue at the steady drip, drip, drip of murder that we have seen for the last few years. In that respect things have not changed very much.
A new Chief Constable has just been appointed. The politicisation of the police in Northern Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Agreement is far greater and far more evident than that which was alleged under the Stormont regime. I wonder how much discussion there was, within the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, about the appointment of
Column 927the new Chief Constable. Indeed, the Government are duty bound to listen to what the Irish Government say. Should the British Government not introduce the matter into the discussions, the Irish Republic's Ministers certainly would, as they would be duty bound to do.
How much discussion took place as to who the new Chief Constable should be? How much discussion was there about what sort of man would be acceptable to the nationalist community? Of course, we shall not get an answer. That information will remain hidden perhaps for ever--or at least for 30 years. The Minister replying to this debate will deny that any such discussions took place, but in Northern Ireland his denials will have about as much effect as would throwing a bucket of water on a duck. People will not readily believe them. Under article 7 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which is relevant to this debate, the conference considers security policy. This calls into question whether the Secretary of State and his Ministers could easily act in defiance of Dublin's wishes. Given that they are required to work towards agreement with the Government of the Irish Republic, how on earth could they ever arrive at a new effective policy in the short term? Only after the most protracted discussions in the conference could any new policy appear.
Appointments to the police authority also have to be discussed. To say that these matters do not strike at the very root of the problem in Northern Ireland is to ignore the factual evidence. I wonder whether the new Chief Constable has been given a timetable for the defeat of the IRA, and what policy restrictions are to be placed upon him and upon the other security forces. Given the circumstances under which the Chief Constable is appointed and the circumstances in which he operates, how could anyone say that he is independent? He has to sit with his political masters and with his opposite number from Dublin and his political masters--and the Republic has a very political police force. Bearing all these things in mind, one can only conclude that the political influence that was complained of in the past has not only returned but been reintroduced in a form a dozen times stronger.
Unless there is a deep and fundamental change in Government policy, we shall be talking in the same terms next year, and the year after that, and for many years to come. The perspective of the terrorist is what matters. The terrorist believes that he has made progress and is making progress. His whole attitude and all of his actions--no doubt some people in this place do not understand those actions because they do not live with them-- indicate that what he perceives is Government retreat and republican advance.
We shall be back next year, and in five years' time, and in 10 years' time, unless there is a deep, fundamental change in Government policy, and unless the new policy is acted upon. Otherwise, the IRA will go on, quietly, steadily, mercilessly, and with ruthless efficiency, killing in dribs and drabs and sometimes in large numbers, to keep the temperature high and to undermine the will of the people to remain British. But we shall not allow our birthright, our nationhood and the things that we believe in to be taken from us by such people. I can assure this House that we shall be there for a long time--British, and being killed because we want to stay British.
Column 9285.47 pm
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : The agony of the bloody conflict in Northern Ireland has been going on for over 20 years, and in its wake the constitutional government of the Province has been set aside. Normal local government has been virtually abolished. Transitional constitutional experiments, designed to give the minority a share of power, even to the extent of allowing a foreign country the right of consultation, have been tried and have failed. All those developments were designed to placate the minority in Northern Ireland, who would rather be governed by the Irish Republic than by the United Kingdom. British Governments of all persuasions have thought that, if those people could be placated, they would not support the terrorist campaign, which seeks to achieve republican aims by violence. But that is wrong, and it has always been wrong. The violence has not ceased ; indeed, since the conclusion of the last desperate expedient-- the Anglo-Irish Agreement--it has escalated. I shall not repeat the arguments that I have used over the past 10 years against these foolish efforts to appease our enemies in Ulster. I pay tribute to the courage and integrity of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, but I have to say that all their efforts have failed and that the British Government are left with a situation which, in some ways, is worse than it has ever been. Far from being abated by the Government's efforts at conciliation, the hostility and resentment of a significant part of the Irish republican minority in Northern Ireland has been aggravated by a situation in which they see themselves as the political masters, whereas they once thought of themselves as the underdogs. The majority of the population--loyal, but often sullen and anxious, and fearful of being abandoned by a Conservative Government they can no longer look on as a trusted friend--have suspended their judgment, and most of their representatives now sit opposite the Government in the House of Commons.
The scope is small for further political initiatives to end the constitutional impasse and terrorism. The only outstanding initiative, which has not been taken up so far, lies in the Irish Prime Minister summoning Unionist leaders to Dublin as though to hear his terms for a settlement.
Devolution has failed, as it inevitably must when we try to isolate in one cockpit two warring, incompatible elements divided by race and Church. The continuing habit of British Ministers in such circumstances to repeat the cry of devolution as though it were some possible solution makes one wonder at their common sense. A further long period of stalemate and attrition faces us. The agony, torment and suffering of the good British people of Ulster seems destined to go on, reinforcing misery, deepening divisions, and providing new agents and new recruits of bitterness and hostility to carry on the conflict which many people now believe that neither side can win while Northern Ireland remains in its present form. The IRA has made it quite impossible--it is quite out of the question--for any loyal Ulsterman even to contemplate a united Ireland.
One honourable option is still open to us. I know that I am presently much in the minority of Unionists who advocate it. It is to provide for an exercise in self-determination in Northern Ireland by way of a
Column 929referendum designed to identify those who wish to remain in the United Kingdom and those who wish to live in the Irish Republic. Where, in border areas, a majority exists for the Irish Republic, let those areas secede from the United Kingdom. For the rest, let a similar logic apply--generous resettlement grants for those who find themselves on what they may consider to be the wrong side of the new border. That would be a drastic and costly remedy to the situation in Northern Ireland, but only a drastic step will detach the republican population from the IRA. That remedy would not be nearly as costly as the continuation of the present situation.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : One of the tragedies of this type of debate is that we never seem to deal with the subject that we are supposed to be discussing. In this instance, we are discussing the emergency provisions legislation as it applies in the North of Ireland and also references to it by Viscount Colville of Culross. During this debate, there has been remarkable insight into some attutudes not just to this subject but to the context in which that legislation is to operate. I can understand the anger and resentment that was expressed by hon. Members who represent the Unionist community in the North of Ireland, but we should never allow that anger, or the sentimentality that it produces, to cloud our judgment of the challenge that faces us.
The challenge is simple. It is how to get a solution to the awful problem that faces all of us, not just in Northern Ireland but in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Whatever type of thinking we bring to it, the problem does not stop at the border or the coastline. It transcends them. It is a three-part problem that will require everybody's resources, commitment and resolve.
Throughout the debate, I have been reminded of the famous words of Wilfred Owen about war situations :
"The poetry is in the pity."
I like to think that we can get to a stage in Northern Ireland at which the politics are in the pity and that the pity that was clearly expressed today could translate itself into the type of political attitude in which, rather than getting bogged down in the type of emotional binge that we all indulge in so often, we try to think our way out of the problem. I hope that, somewhere along the line, anger, resentment and pity can be translated into the type of practical politics that alone will solve the problem.
This has been a political debate. The only time we get a chance to debate the political problem in Northern Ireland is during a debate on a piece of emergency legislation. Unfortunately, the political context is tied to an emotive matter. Since I have been elected to the House, there has not been a time when the purely political element of a debate could be discussed in a more rational manner. That is one of the tragedies.
I should like to dispel some of the problems enunciated by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). He talked about nationalists' wish to dominate people on the island of Ireland. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the nationalists whom my party represents firmly believe in nationalism and are absolutely opposed to the use of violence to obtain their political objectives. They do not wish to dominate anyone. They have no desire to indulge in domination, not only because of the human elements concerned but because, if history has taught us anything, it has clearly shown that domination will never solve any
Column 930problem. I take this opportunity of informing the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues--I have said it before in such debates, and I shall say it again--that the problem will not be solved on the Floor of the House of Commons.
It has been interesting to note almost schizophrenia on the part of some hon. Members--their irrational fear of nationalism and disillusionment with membership of the House, while proclaiming their Britishness. Political Unionism is expressing its disillusionment with its British context, its British presence and membership of the House. That schizophrenia affects all people and not just unionism in the North of Ireland. We must patiently try to work it out. The immediate image that sprang to mind during the debate was of the magnificent play, written not so long ago, called "Observe the sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme". It was almost as if we could hear those footsteps again, blaming the British connection for their own failure to work out a means of living peacefully on a small piece of land called Ireland. That is the basis of the political approach that my party would offer those people who live with us.
I am not one who likes to get up here or anywhere else wearing my heart on my sleeve. I am a villager as well. I live in a small village. I lifted a policeman up one night, shot dead by people who call themselves Irish patriots. I lifted up my own election agent one night from his doorstep, riddled with bullets, dead. I do not want to go into that. It is not the way forward. All we are doing is clouding our own judgment. All we are doing is losing sight of the objective, which is to solve this problem.
But I understand the emotions that exist about Coagh. It is a small village. Everyone knows it. I could pick out three people in my own village who would be mirror images of those who were killed. We could do it for every village in the North of Ireland. So it is not just an isolated feeling of pity. One of the strengths of our situation is that the pity is there, the abhorrence of that terrible sectarian deed is there, throughout the North of Ireland. Rather than let it become an end in itself, I would ask that it become a springboard for consideration of our problems.
The problem is nothing new. Nationalism has been used in a very throwaway sense here this evening. People in the North of Ireland, however, were killing each other in the same way long before nationalism became a force. The famous massacre on the river Bann in Portadown took place in the 17th century, long before nationalism became the vogue, as it did as a result of the French revolution, and long before it became a potent force in Irish life before and after partition. We have on record sectarian assassination after sectarian assassination in the county that I live in, long before nationalism became either a political or a physical force. So the problem is more profound.
Yet it may be much simpler than we often make it. How do we, a small group of people living on a small island, decide together how we will live there for the benefit of everyone, how we will live in peace, with nobody winning, with no domination, with no surrender on anyone's part? I suggest that we start looking at that question. It struck me tonight, as it has often struck me, that if we spent more time in the House discussing how we might solve the problem, or even the same amount of time as we have spent on this piece of legislation and the prevention of terrorism legislation and the public order legislation, and on and on, perhaps somewhere we would get some light and some insight into the way that we must move.
Column 931I want to reassure those who represent Unionists in the North of Ireland that domination has no part in our political philosophy. Victory has no part in our political philosophy. We believe that, it they look at this problem simply as an extension of the House, it will not be solved, because we are all optional extras in the Palace of Westminster. Nobody from the North of Ireland needs to be told that. One of the roots of Unionism's anger and frustration is that Unionists are only now realising what perhaps others of us have seen from the outside for so long. Nor will it be solved on the floor of Dail Eireann. I have been there and I realised that in many ways I was again an optional extra from a different place. But we will solve this problem, when we solve it, with the help of the House, the active help and involvement of the House and of Dail Eireann in getting to grips with it. Then we shall be in a position to begin to talk rationally about this and other pieces of legislation and see where they fit into the overall jigsaw.
I do not want to make light of the problem of not talking about the emergency provisions, because they are very serious indeed. There is the problem of policing. Viscount Colville has said that there is a problem, and we all know that there is a problem. If there is a problem, let us, for heaven's sake, face it. Let us start talking about it. I am frustrated when, time and time again, we get platitudes from Ministers. They stand up, pat us on the head and take almost a different position every month to see what the reaction may be.
We must face the reality that, in almost half the land mass of the North of Ireland, there is not a single policeman. That is a fundamental problem. So we must ask two questions : why is it that way, and how can we deal with it? It is correct to say that one of the reasons is that they would be killed, but the problem is much more fundamental than that as well. So do we ever get an opportunity from the Government to begin to discuss the problems, or do we spend the rest of our political lives feeding on the type of platitude that we often hear?
We must also look at the very factor that Lord Colville identifies--the relationship between the community, the police and the security forces. He identifies that as one of the problems, and it is a big one. How do we deal with that type of relationship? Bad policing is having a terrible and corrosive effect. It is counter-productive. Viscount Colville clearly identifies that, and I am glad that he does so. He puts it right at the forefront of his report, in the hope that something will be done about it. I take this opportunity of asking the Secretary of State and the Minister of State what they will do to ensure that it is driven home to those charged with looking after law and order that policing must be done on a fair and equitable basis and within their own rules. They must tell me. And, no thanks, I want no more platitudes--I have had enough of them. I want to know what steps will be taken. I agree with Viscount Colville when he makes it clear that senior police officers realise that this is a very important issue which must be dealt with.
What will be done at the political level by the Government to ensure that that realisation filters down from the senior officers to the ranks? If the problem continues, it is due to one of two things : either the senior officers and the Ministers do not make their writ run, or
Column 932the junior officers involved in these incidents are cocking a snook at those who are giving the orders. It is one or the other, and it is so serious that I ask again, as I have asked so often, what steps will be taken to deal with it.
Viscount Colville focuses on the problems of both the Police Complaints Commission and the complaints procedure for the Army. To date, the new Police Complaints Commission has been a fairly abysmal failure. It has a flaccid, passive approach to dealing with the legislation that it is given. While that legislation is inadequate in many ways, it is at least there to be used, but it has not been used by an inactive commission, with the result that the commission in its own way is counter-productive when it comes to the problems that will be faced by a new Chief Constable.
I welcome that appointment. I do not know the man from Adam. I do not know his religion. It makes no difference to me where he is from--Dublin or Belfast--or what his religion is. All I want to know is whether he is a good cop. Does he know what he is doing? Has he the strength to go in there and look at the problems and not pretend that they do not exist? Has he the strength to go through with his decisions and to ensure that those decisons will help to bring about a solution to a policing problem which has always been there? Has he the vision to look at policing structures and to see whether there is a way within those structures in which we can get to grips with the problem? We talk about policing as an amorphous thing. There are 48 police services in England and Wales and eight in Scotland. Northern Ireland has a structural problem. Perhaps at some time we will have the vision to consider how we can deal with that element of the problem.
Reluctantly, I turn to something which affected the debate earlier, which was the reference by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to the position of solicitors in the North of Ireland. My views on that are on record, and I do not want to enter into that controversy again. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that, in a letter, the Under-Secretary talked about "remarks attributed to me". He repeated that allegation 11 times. I am wondering whether he is saying that that was attributed to him 11 times.
Much more importantly, the Under-Secretary began by saying, "I have been advised". Who advised the Under-Secretary to put those remarks on record? He must have been advised, because he displayed an absymal ignorance about everything else about the North of Ireland. Who told him that that was the position? Only three agencies could have told him--first, his Government colleagues ; secondly, the police and Army authorities in the North of Ireland ; thirdly, lay people. The Under-Secretary owes it to the House and to the people in the North of Ireland to tell us who advised him to put his foot in it to the extent to which he did.
I believe that we must draw together all these pieces of legislation. Their re-enactment will again come before the House in 1992. We have the prevention of terrorism Act, the emergency provisions Acts, the public order legislation and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as it applies to the North of Ireland. When one starts to deal with those, especially in Committee, it is a nightmare, because one is jumping from one piece of legislation to another. It is almost impossible to follow the strands, because there are contradictions, elements which overlap and elements
Column 933which simply do not make any sense. There is an opportunity to discard some of the elements that Lord Colville and others have recommended we should discard.
I have argued the case for normality so often that I shall not detain the House with it again. If the emergency legislation must be repeated, at least let it be repeated in a way which makes logistical sense, because as it stands there is provision for some elements of the emergency provisions Acts in the public order legislation that is applied under the prevention of terrorism Act. It is a nightmare not just for people in the House who must deal with it, but for police officers, solicitors and, above all, for the person who is arrested under that legislation.
I have seen at first hand the financial sacrifices, inconvenience and hardship caused to people who come to this country to visit their relatives in prison. It does not make any humanitarian sense to stick strictly by the letter of the law and to say that people from Ireland--especially Northern Ireland--must serve out their sentences here if they were committed here. The hardship caused to relatives is a hidden factor, something that we are ignoring. I ask that the process of transferring prisoners from gaols in Britain to serve out their sentence in Northern Ireland be speeded up. We can then bring a little humanitarianism, consideration and pity into an otherwise harsh landscape of emergency legislation.
Recently I saw a poster issued, I believe, by one of the Northern Irish political parties in which superimposed on the word "Terrorism" was the slogan :
"Defeat it, don't debate it."
After 20 years of violence and yet one more debate, one might feel that the poster's author had a point. However, with all their imperfections and inadequacies, debates on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts enable us both to debate and to maintain the legal structure within which our security forces must operate at all times.
On this occasion, there is another dimension to the debate. It is taking place while the review period for the Anglo-Irish Agreement is proceeding. Three years ago when the agreement was announced to the House, we were told that its objectives were to secure peace, stability and reconciliation : that by the agreement security on both sides of the border would be improved with much greater co-operation between the Garda and the RUC and, therefore, peace might become a reality in the Province. We were told that, through the ministerial meetings that were enshrined in the agreement, matters of mutual interest would be discussed and that the concerns of the minority community in the North would have a powerful new advocate in the shape of the Dublin Government. Sadly, what the agreement lacked--and one of the reasons why I voted against it--was any place in its machinery for the voice to be heard of the majority community in the Province. For that reason it was, and remains, seriously flawed. I hope that during the review process that flaw will be put right. Although I may be told that the Unionists will not accept the agreement anyway, nevertheless, if that agreement is ever to obtain acceptability among the majority in the Province, it can do so only if they have a
Column 934voice in its counsels. To this day it has amazed me that we felt that we could sign such a treaty without incorporating that obvious need.
Of course, in some quarters there is the hope that the continuing hostility to the agreement from the Unionist parties and the events in the South over extradition will, in fact, result in the agreement being shelved altogether --somehow or other it will wither on the branch and will die a natural death. I wonder if that is a realistic scenario. Apart from the fact that, as far as I know, no British Government has ever unilaterally broken a treaty, what would be the effect on Irish politics and international opinion if under pressure from one part of the community the Government gave up the agreement? I believe that it would be catastrophic. Those who want to believe that the Catholic minority is always under threat from the Protestant majority would have their worst fears confirmed.
Irish America would be incensed and would no doubt multiply many times over its contributions to Noraid. The IRA would have a field day. It would have scored such a major propaganda victory as to give it new hope and zest to continue its fearful and bloody campaign of violence, another terrible example of which were the killings in county Tyrone yesterday.
Would the Province suddenly become more peaceful? Would the minority community be more willing to co-operate with the Government? Would the security forces or the RUC get co-operation from the minority community if the agreement was torn up? Would we be any nearer to seeing the Acts that we are debating tonight lapse if that happened? I believe that the only answer to all those questions is a resounding no.
For all practical purposes I consider that the agreement must stand and that the Unionist parties must modify their refusal to co-operate with the Secretary of State and his Ministers as they seek a way in which to implement the words in the Queen's Speech about allowing local politicians greater involvement in the affairs of the Province.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : Would the hon. Gentleman change his view were it possible to negotiate a better agreement which would command wider support than the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Why would the hon. Gentleman want to hold on to an agreement that has so lamentably failed and that does not have the consent of the community if it were possible to get an agreement which the Unionist leaders would consider as an alternative to and replacement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement or the Social Democratic and Labour party leader would consider as transcending in importance that agreement?
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman as I was just about to say exactly what he said. If the agreement has failed to deliver peace, stability and reconciliation, what useful purpose does it serve? Standing on its own and after three years perhaps not much, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman would agree that cross-border co-operation has greatly improved, even if we cite as evidence only the huge arms finds north and south of the border. Those finds have done much to negative the threat posed by the shipment of explosives and weapons from Libya to the IRA. We all recognise that those arms finds are extremely important to the lives of a great many people, particularly in the North.
Column 935The acceptance in writing of the status of the Province set out in the treaty could be, if we chose it to be, the beginning of a new stability for Northern Ireland. It could be seen as a way to achieving peace and reconciliation. As so many speakers have already said we all know that terrorism thrives on--indeed, seeks to create-- instability, the feeling that nothing is permanent and that everything is up for grabs. That is why each failed political initiative in Northern Ireland has ultimately played into the hands of the IRA and those who believe that the instability of the Province serves their political ends.
While Ulster is without an assembly or a regional administration and the political parties that represent the majority of her people boycott the Secretary of State and his efforts to create a local forum--while there is a political vacuum in the Province--those politicians are working against their own best interests. I also question whether they are completely in step with certain bodies of opinion in the Province if the recent poll in Sunday Life --a local Sunday newspaper in Northern Ireland--of 26 February is anything to go by. That survey showed that of those polled, 78 per cent. of Protestants and 57 per cent. of Catholics preferred power sharing to other options such as integration or a federal Ireland. In fact, more Catholics even preferred that option to a united Ireland. No one suggests that one poll is conclusive evidence, but it is a rough guide to local feeling--nobody can gainsay that.
If, as the poll suggested, it is also true that a majority of Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance members and a sizeable proportion of the Democratic Unionist party were in favour of the Duisburg inter-party talks, is it not possible that the desire for a new political structure in the Province--one which would give Ulstermen a proper share in the administration of the six counties, their counties--could, if taken up seriously, lead to a political institution from which the entire community could benefit and reconciliation become a reality?
According to the agreement, the involvement of the southern Government in the affairs of the Province are or would be limited by the extent of the responsibilities given to a devolved
administration. Surely that is a prize to make the most anti-agreement politican ask whether non-co-operation with the Northern Ireland Office is now not self-defeating.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : A democracy of devolved institutions is more than just majority rule--majority rule has caused some of the problems in Northern Ireland. Even if the political parties share a desire to come together, how the politics work out might mean that majority rule leads to a situation in which the minority feel oppressed. In those circumstances, would it not be a good idea for a bill of rights to accompany any move towards devolved government? In that way the minority, as well as the majority, would feel that their civil liberties were protected. In that way the conditions in which democracy could work would be improved as democracy is not just about votes, but about the spirit in which it operates.
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : I do not dissent from that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman heard me refer to power sharing as the favoured option of the majority in both the Catholic and Protestant communities. The hon.
Column 936Gentleman must be aware that the Duisburg talks involved the SDLP, the Unionists and the DUP. I am not suggesting, nor would anyone else suggest, that we should go back to old style majority rule. I am talking about a local administration and I would like the Government to spell out the framework in which such an administration could be created.
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : On the suggestion of a devolved assembly in Northern Ireland with power sharing between those who want a united Ireland and those who are British--in other words, the nationalists and the Unionists--does the hon. Gentleman extend the sample principle to Scotland? Is he in favour of power sharing between the Scottish Nationalists and the Scottish Conservatives in Edinburgh?
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not pursue that particular argument. I believe that he was a member of a Government in Northern Ireland who were certainly prepared to offer some of the chairmanship of their committees to the other political parties that were not in the majority in the old Stormont. I may be wrong, but I believe that that was the case. I do not believe that my suggestions would differ widely from that because the right hon. Gentleman will note that I have stressed the word administration. I believe that there would be committees covering various aspects of that administration and I understand that there is wide agreement that the chairmanship of those committees could be spread among the parties.
Mr. John D. Taylor : I agree with the sharing of chairmanships among the parties, but with regard to the former Stormont Parliament I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the nationalist Member for Mourne was the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons.
In a sense my peroration is rather ruined ; perhaps that is no bad thing. I believe secure borders and a stable local administration to be the most effective answers to the terrorist who seeks to manipulate the region's politics out of the barrel of his gun. Are they not the way to stability and peace for the future?
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : My hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) mentioned a point about which I have felt deeply for rather more years than he has--that we never discuss the politics of Northern Ireland or Ireland without there being some kind of emergency or emergency legislation. In Committee, we have discussed emergency provisions to the point of exhaustion, but one point that has stood out in today's debate has been the avoidance, by almost all hon. Members, of discussing what we came here to discuss--the renewal of the Acts. There is a good political reason for that and it is linked precisely with the fact that politics breaks through, whether we like it or not. All hon. Members have discussed the politics of Northern Ireland today and have only occasionally mentioned the emergency provisions legislation.
Column 937To make matters worse this time, we have just heard of the dreadful and melancholy killings, although all our debates on Northern Ireland are melancholy. It is a sad business, but a harsh reality, that people who have such a sense of humour should never use it in debate. The emergency provisions legislation has hardly been mentioned because it is almost irrelevant to the problems. That is one reason, among others, why I shall be voting against the renewal of the provisions for the umpteenth time tonight.
The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Northern Ireland--the extremely overwhelming majority, if one can say that--on both sides of the sectarian divide are honest and law-abiding people who want to live in peace and democracy. For as long as I can remember, they have not been given the chance to do that. The problem burst through, for the umpteenth time, about 20 years ago. When I became a Member of Parliament--15 years ago this week--I never dreamed that we would go on discussing the problem, as it had been raised in 1973 and the civil rights march had taken place in 1969. We must, therefore, while struggling against the paramilitaries of both sides, protect all innocent people from arbitrary arrest and harassment. The harassment is often not directly physical, but springs from the terrible situation in Northern Ireland which makes all the population of Northern Ireland--innocent and law-abiding as they are--feel that they are part of the struggle across the sectarian divide and causes them to see no hope of getting anywhere. If we do not realise that when we are discussing the emergency provisions and if we do not realise that people who have never harmed anyone feel that everything is hopeless and that they are getting nowhere, we are not seeing the situation properly. It is wrong that we do not discuss the politics of Northern Ireland in straightforward debate without it always being tied to emergency legislation.
This morning, the publicity Member of Parliament for the Official Unionist party--the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis)--was on the radio and, once again, he called for internment. It is extremely sad that, after all we have learned, he should be calling, once again, for internment. I believe that, in fact, internment can still be used, although it is not being used at present. To call for internment once again is to pour petrol on the terrible fire that is once again raging in Northern Ireland. I cannot understand why anybody who has been immersed in the struggle for so many years would call for that, although my heart goes out to the people who live there and I say that in every debate. I do not live there and when I listen to the people, from both sides, who do, I am staggered at their courage.
For such a person to call for one of the causes of the deepening struggle in Northern Ireland was shocking. The gaoling of people whom we do not know to be guilty is a real crime. It immediately intensifies the problem. It brings the detainees' families into the struggle when the detainees have never even been tried. It is shocking to have an important Member of Parliament calling for internment when he knows that in flinging what he called the godfathers into gaol without trial we would bring a whole new section of people in Northern Ireland into physical action and strengthen the hand of the paramilitaries on both sides. It would strengthen the IRA when, on present showing, it can go on indefinitely killing and maiming and