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Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I firmly believe that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain would wish the process in which we are engaged to culminate in success. Only the terrorists resist the process, since they can have no part in it, for the views of those who use violence count for nothing while blood is their argument.
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) : The Secretary of State has properly covered not only the immediate political problems that he faces, but the history of his first year in office and the situation in Northern Ireland. He is right to draw attention to the fact that there is still considerable unemployment in Northern Ireland--14 per cent.--and that in some pockets, such as Ballymurphy, the Shankill and other places, unemployment far exceeds that proportion and is far worse than anywhere else in these islands. It is therefore important that we attend to and address that problem. I do not see the economy of Northern Ireland through the same rose-tinted spectacles as the Secretary of State. However, to be fair, I must place on the record the fact that "Competing in the 1990s" seems to owe more to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) than to the Department of Trade and Industry and the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). In view of that departure, one must ask why the previous 10 years were so disastrous.
I note also the profits of the Northern Ireland Electricity service which have just been announced. Obviously, the turkey is being fattened for Christmas and for privatisation. That, however, will not solve the economic problems of Northern Ireland. Energy costs must concern anybody who is seeking to invest in Northern Ireland. We get the impression that the Government have only just started to turn their attention to the problems of 1992. That problem needs to be faced throughout the whole of the island of Ireland. Indeed, 1992 should be seen in that context. There should be discussions with Ministers on both sides of the water about the important transport and communication lanes that will be necessary if the economy of Northern Ireland--and of the island of Ireland--is to be properly joined with that of Europe.
The Secretary of State will be aware that this is the first year in which the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 has been implemented. The right hon. Gentleman is also aware that the Opposition thought that, despite the improvements that were made in this House
Column 1146and elsewhere, major defects remained in the Act. However, as the Act is now on the statute book, it should be seen to be made to work. It is gratifying to know that employers in both the private and public sectors have registered in great numbers and that the monitoring returns are now coming in. However, the mere completing of those tasks does not take away the real fear of employment discrimination that still exists in Northern Ireland, as recent reports of the Fair Employment Commission have shown.
Direct rule has often been described as everyone's second-best option, but that comment epitomises the complacency with which Northern Ireland is sometimes regarded on this island. There is a clear implication that a second-rate form of government is acceptable. Indeed, direct rule itself bears a large part of the responsibility for that complacency. In this case, not only is second best not good enough; it is, in itself, an appalling state of affairs.
Direct rule is an arrangement for the containment of violence, not for its elimination. Important though it is to limit the level of violence, after all these years, we must be more ambitious and look for arrangements which will stop violence altogether. I say this because there is a high price to be paid for the present arrangements. The price is paid first and foremost by the security forces, on which we rely to hold the ring until such time as a political settlement can be found. On behalf of the Opposition--and, indeed, the House--I express our sympathy for the families of the victims of violence and pay tribute to the efforts of the security forces.
But if our concern for the security forces is genuine and not merely rhetorical, the best assistance that we, the politicians, can give them is to establish widespread and positive agreement on the way in which the Province should be governed.
The present system also exacts a toll from the peoples of Northern Ireland as a whole. People with no connection with the security forces, or the paramilitaries, continue to fall victim to violence. Sadly, young people continue to fall into the clutches of the paramilitaries and tread the path to prison or an early grave. Yet part of the Secretary of State's speech today took away any sort of excuse that the paramilitaries--certainly on the Republican side--could have. The Secretary of State said :
"I believe that most in this House--and I number myself among them--would wish to see the Union continue, but the principles of democracy and self- determination mean that the people of Northern Ireland must themselves be the final arbiters."
Unionism is not the policy of the Labour party, but it is important to note that Her Majesty's Government are stating that, despite what the paramilitaries put out, Great Britain has no strategic, economic or political interest in Northern Ireland which overrides the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. That is an important point. So, for the paramilitaries, there is no excuse--their weapon must be persuasion, argument and co-operation. From what the Secretary of State has said, there is no excuse for any form of violence.
The civil liberties situation in the Province continues to blacken Britain's name. None of us can or, I hope, do take comfort from the departures from normal western European standards of law and justice-- derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights. Closely related to the absence of successful political arrangements is the economic deprivation which so affects
Column 1147the Province. As the Northern Ireland Economic Council has pointed out, nothing could do so much for the economic future of the Province as a whole as the establishment of political stability. It is that for which we are looking.
Direct rule is also politically corrupting. There is an absence of accountability which can be filled only by giving power and responsibility to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland. With the best will in the world, Ministers alone cannot exercise the degree of control and scrutiny over Government Departments and public authorities that a democratic system would involve. Direct rule almost inevitably concentrates power in the hands of civil servants and the managers of public authorities because, of their nature, Ministers are transient beings.
In this respect, the behaviour of the Government in undermining the status of bodies where there is some elected representation is unwise. In particular, the decision to overturn the decisions of health boards on contracts even further undermines the role of elected representatives. Furthermore, the increasing tendency to rely on appointees rather than elected representatives seems to me to store up more difficulties for the future. If elected representatives are not given responsibility for these matters, the Government are failing to provide incentives for participation in the political life of the Province. That applies to all parties in the Province. Direct rule also has a pernicious effect on the political parties in Northern Ireland. The health of a democratic political system can be assessed by the vigour of political parties. Without institutions which allow the parties to exercise power and responsibility, the incentives to take part in public life are limited. With such institutions, the position of the elected representative would be enhanced. That would stop the drift towards the consolidation of rule by a small and unelected elite. There is a clear need to reverse the trend towards the concentration of power in the hands of appointed bodies. It would be far preferable that individuals should make their contribution as elected representatives rather than as unaccountable appointees, there at the whim of the Minister.
For all those reasons, a system of government which receives positive support from the people of Northern Ireland is required. The paramilitaries will not be defeated by direct rule. They will be finished when the vast majority of the population in Northern Ireland can wholeheartedly support the system of government under which they live. The present stalemate cannot last for ever. There is a crying need for effective institutions in Northern Ireland with a significant degree of power, if the possibility of genuine political progress is to be kept open and the hope of democracy kept alive. There is, therefore, a duty on all of us, the two Governments, the parties in Northern Ireland and the House to create new arrangements for the way in which the Province is governed.
The initiative of the Secretary of State in launching his series of wide- ranging talks with various participants was and is welcomed. We pay tribute to his brave and determined efforts to find a way out of the political morass. We wish him well in the endeavours which are to come. We understand his difficulties and the fear that protracted negotiations might run the whole process into the sands. We therefore hope that, before the House rises, he will be
Column 1148able to announce an agreed package. But we must still be careful not to allow artificial deadlines and constitutional necessities such as today's debate to prevent progress.
Above all, we hope that the Secretary of State can bring about the comprehensive accord on the three relationships to which he referred and which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has correctly argued, must be dealt with in any overall, workable settlement. It is significant that, even if everything were now to fail--I hope and pray that it will not--the agenda has moved on to the acceptance of tripartite discussions. That in itself is a considerable achievement. It is a tribute to the Secretary of State, but also to the parties in Northern Ireland. But we must remember that the negotiations which we hope will take place will not do so in a vacuum. They will be watched closely by those who do not wish democratic politics to prevail and we can be sure that such people will do their best to undermine the efforts of the two Governments and of the constitutional parties. Furthermore, we must accept that the negotiations do not take as their point of departure a tabula rasa. We must look at what has already been achieved, particularly in the years since 1985, what the continuing failures are and how further progress can be made. We must build on existing achievements. We cannot hope to remedy the defects by sacrificing the achievements.
In November 1985, the House adopted the Anglo-Irish Agreement by an overwhelming majority of 473 to 47. The Labour party formed part of that majority because we believed and continue to believe that the agreement is a valuable instrument for dealing with many of the problems of Northern Ireland and of Anglo-Irish relations. At the same time we have always been clear that the Anglo-Irish Agreement should not be confused with the ten commandments. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If a better way forward can be found, the Opposition will be only too happy to lend their support. But we must make sure that the arrangements which may supersede, transcend, replace, supplant--or whatever word is used-- represent progress and not a reversion to an earlier form of stalemate.
A major achievement of the agreement is that it has established mechanisms by which the British and Irish Governments can deal with each other and which have been more successful than anything in the past. Given the importance of co-operation between the Governments, not only in terms of security but with respect to political stability and a feasible set of arrangements for Northern Ireland, the mechanisms are an asset which must be protected. Co-operaton between the Governments, not necessarily the Anglo-Irish Agreement, is an asset.
The major defect of the agreement was, of course, the exclusion of Unionism and the Unionists. Until such time as the Unionist parties play their full and constructive role in acceptable political institutions in the Province, Northern Ireland cannot enjoy political normality of any description.
We do not underestimate the difficulties which the Secretary of State will face during the next few weeks. But considerable progress has been made which could not have been imagined when he embarked upon this enterprise. Nor would it have been possible if the leaders of the major political parties in Northern Ireland had not been prepared to sit down with him and work out, equally painstakingly, a way forward which they felt might be acceptable to the other side of the argument. The leaders of the Unionist parties and of the Social Democratic and
Column 1149Labour party are to be commended for their patience and commitment in advancing the talks so far, as do the minority parties in Northern Ireland which do not have places in the House.
The task of the Secretary of State is not an easy one. We wish him well in his endeavours. We hope that, in association with the leaders of the parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, he will be able to present to the House an agreed package for a durable and practical solution. He has travelled a long way in the past six months. The Opposition trust that he will successfully complete the course.
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley) : This is the 15th renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 which, as you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, is a temporary device for the annual renewal of the authority of the Secretary of State of the day to govern Northern Ireland. Back in the 1970s I well remember a leading London newspaper complaining that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and his colleague who succeeded him, Lord Mason, strutted about Northern Ireland and behaved as if they had the authority to govern Northern Ireland. I made no such complaint about the attitude of the right hon. Gentlemen. I make no similar complaint today about the right hon. Gentleman who now holds that office.
However, my colleagues and I do complain about the mechanisms available to the present Secretary of State and the mechanisms that were available, and only those which were available, to his predecessors, because I am certain that all his predecessors were far from satisfied and that he is far from satisfied with the efficiency of the mechanisms that he is forced to operate under the 1974 Act. Since the Secretary of State received his seals of office, he has endeavoured to improve dramatically those mechanisms. Those of us who have worked closely and, I hope that he will concede, constructively with him over the past 10 months hoped that today, with 10 months of discussions behind us, he would be in a position to chart out the course for what could have been the last renewal of direct rule in its present form. Our optimism prevailed until some 12 hours ago when it became clear that an operation was under way to bring down the shutters. No purpose will be served by castigating the Government of the Irish Republic and the parties in Ireland who share their views, because the seeds of disaster were sown and are to be found in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 which appeared to concede to the Dublin Government--any Dublin Government-- joint sovereignty over part of the United Kingdom. So the Dublin Government can hardly be blamed for refusing to relinquish that apparent--I say "apparent"--role. The pro-Union people of Ulster would in all charity ask the people and Government of the Irish Republic to accept that we have not consented, and never will consent, to interference by any external Government. Repeated opinion polls and a recent election in Upper Bann have proved conclusively that what consent there was is steadily diminishing. So there is obviously need for a fairer, more acceptable and much wider agreement, and I hope that Her Majesty's Opposition will support us in trying to design an agreement which really will deliver that
Column 1150which we all wish to see--peace, stability and reconciliation--but which the present agreement has signally failed to deliver. That should not be taken as any anti-Irish sentiment. I would expect the Dublin Government to react similarly and reject any interference by me on behalf of the large Protestant minority in the Ulster county of Donegal. So they should not take it amiss when I say to them that I am asking for no privileges and no right to interfere in their jurisdiction which I am rejecting for our part, or for the whole, of the United Kingdom.
Those, even in this House, who adhere to the idea of a united Ireland and who insist that, in the meantime, Northern Ireland must be deprived of real democracy, should heed the views of someone who can be called an impartial observer. I refer to the distinguished churchman constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), Father Denis Faul, who has assessed the situation as meaning that only 20 per cent. of Roman Catholics would vote for a united Ireland. That suggests that only 8 per cent. of the entire electorate of Northern Ireland would wish, if given the choice, to vote for a united Ireland.
This Parliament--and, I hope, the Parliament of the Irish Republic--will come to accept that if the right to self-determination and to have a workable and fair democracy is to mean anything, the wishes of the 92 per cent. of the Northern Ireland electorate cannot be ignored year after year.
I pay tribute to the integrity of the Secretary of State. In all our lengthy discussions, we have been impressed by his honesty and fairness. Although the main avenue appears to have been blocked off, hon. Members-- especially those of us who have discussed issues and negotiated with him during the last 10 months--owe it to him to build on the good will that he, more than anyone, has established. We must assist him--I hope that he will have the assistance of hon. Members in all parts of the House--in achieving success in those avenues not subject to any foreign veto.
We have a duty to salvage what we can and to set about devoting the time that remains in the lifetime of this Parliament to taking every modest step possible to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland--all of them--enjoy standards of government and administration that are in no way inferior to those enjoyed by their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : It is greatly to be regretted that the Secretary of State was not able to make today the statement that he no doubt anticipated being able to make. We must face the fact that the hands of a foreign Government--outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom--were able to keep a Secretary of State, answerable to the Crown for part of the territory of the United Kingdom, from making a statement of importance to the future of Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State is to be commended on his patience, diligence and truthfulness in approaching the members of various parties to whom he has spoken. My contact with him, along with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), was straight and plain. We did not agree about much, but we found the Secretary
Column 1151of State prepared to listen, to take aboard views that were put to him and to measure and weigh them in making decisions. We appreciate what he has done, and I think that I can say that on behalf not only of my hon. Friends but of the leader of the SDLP, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), whom I believe I see nodding assent.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said that what we are discussing is not a happening of a few hours back. The happening took place in this Chamber, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, when the House overwhelmingly committed itself, following an undigested consideration of the matter, to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, without realising what the implications were or what the outworking would be.
Had the House made a correct decision, we would not be having this debate. We would not have heard the official Opposition spokesman say, in effect, "If we can get something to replace it, we shall be happy to consider it and then support it." The Secretary of State would not have used the language he used today.
In no community can we afford to set aside the views of any sizeable part of that community. That is strengthened by the fact that in no community can we afford to set aside the views of the majority of the people in that community.
The Secretary of State says that it is vital to obtain widespread acceptance for what is done. The Anglo-Irish diktat did not have widespread acceptance. The Secretary of State says that neither Government is seeking a new agreement. While I do not go with his reasoning--because he was not arguing, in the language he used today, for a new agreement--the right hon. Gentleman should be looking for a new agreement. The Taoiseach of the Irish Republic should also be looking for a new agreement.
Some of us who live in Northern Ireland, on both sides of the religious and political divide, must reap the sowing of the decision on the agreement that was made in this Chamber. We reap it every day. I reaped it recently when two gallant police officers, Gary Meyer and Harry Beckett, who protected me every Friday as I stood at Belfast city hall conducting religious services, were shot through the head by two vicious assassins. As I sat with the widows and their children, I thought of the sad weeping that we have had because of decisions taken in the House of Commons. No one in the House can wash their hands, Pilate-like, of what flows from those decisions. We need to face up to the reality.
What support is there for the Anglo-Irish Agreement? The Roman Catholic community is divided on the agreement. The SDLP supports it, but a large section of the Roman Catholic community says no to it. Sinn Fein says no to it, and Sinn Fein takes a sizeable slice of the Roman Catholic community's vote. We are told by people in the House that those who vote for Sinn Fein are not really voting for murder or for the IRA but are expressing a viewpoint, and they are opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The vast majority of the Unionists are opposed to it. That has been shown not by opinion polls, but by solid votes. All the Unionists in the House resigned their seats and put it to the test, and we know the result of that test.
We know that the majority of people in Northern Ireland do not back the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If they do not, and if the Government's criterion is that we should
Column 1152have a form of government which they do back, should not the House be applying itself to having the agreement replaced and superseded? I would go further and say that it is our bounden duty to seek to do that. That is why I and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley spent time with the Secretary of State and, as the Secretary of State knows, at times put ourselves to great inconvenience--willingly and gladly, as he acknowledges. Why? Because there is an urge upon us to apply ourselves to the matter.
I greatly regret the road block. I would not be so pessimistic as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. I hope that the road block will be cleared. I hope that the Dublin Government will see that they are standing in the way of what could be a profitable move forward in Northern Ireland for a constitutional settlement which would help every part of Northern Ireland and all its people. I trust that there will be serious thoughts in Dublin tonight about the attitude and actions that they have taken. What they have done will be deeply resented by the people of Northern Ireland. It will strike into their hearts once again what the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley has said--that they perceived that the Anglo-Irish Agreement gave sovereignty to the southern Irish Government over the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. That perception has been demonstrated today.
The Secretary of State told us :
"Although the constitutional question has often seemed central to matters in Northern Ireland, I turn to it now in the hope of putting it to one side."
It cannot really be put to one side, because the Anglo-Irish Agreement did not, as he would suggest, for all time put out of the realm of controversy the status of Northern Ireland. Article 1 says :
"The two Governments affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland."
It does not say what the status of Northern Ireland is. What is the status of Northern Ireland? By a constitutional imperative, as viewed by the highest court in Dublin and approved by Mr. Haughey, it is that Northern Ireland is part of the Republic and the laws that it passes have validity if applied to the whole island of Ireland. There was a reason why that was not spelt out. If it had been spelt out, its validity would have been tested before the courts and the Government knew that they could not win on that issue. That is why there were two Sunningdale agreements. One was signed by the south and one by the north.
Mr. Trimble : The hon. Gentleman is expounding, carefully and accurately, article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Does he agree that the crucial part of it is the reference to the fact that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland? It says, "would", not "could". The Secretary of State misquoted that. Could is normative, whereas would is merely descriptive. Therefore, there is no undertaking on the status of Northern Ireland and what should happen in the future.
Rev. Ian Paisley : I accept that, but I come back to the Sunningdale agreement, which had a section, signed by the United Kingdom, spelling out the status of Northern Ireland. But that was omitted from the document signed by the Republic. Why? Because the Prime Minister knew that, constitutionally, he could not sign that because it would have been challenged.
There were also two Anglo-Irish Agreements each describing the Taoiseach in different terms and each describing the British Prime Minister in different terms.
Column 1153That was done for the same reason. The people of Great Britain may be hoodwinked, but the people of Ulster will not be. We know what is written into the constitution of the Irish Republic. We imbibed it with our mothers' milk. We know it exactly. It came as no surprise to anybody in Ulster what the High Court intended to do. Everybody knew the situation.
I am glad that in the south of Ireland there is now a strong lobby in favour of the removal of articles 2 and 3. I am glad that Mr. Jack Lynch, a former Fianna Fail Taoiseach, now says that the time has come to get rid of articles 2 and 3. It will be a happy day for the whole of Ireland when that obnoxious claim is removed from the constitution of the Irish Republic. Then, for the first time, we shall have a normal constitutional relationship, and from that we will be able to achieve a neighbourliness which is not possible at present.
We cannot accept the Secretary of State's interpretation, and that will come as no surprise to him. But I plead with him to think carefully about the criterion. If the criterion is widespread acceptance, he does not have that for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Therefore, he should think about setting himself to achieve a new agreement, no matter how difficult that may be. I emphasise that. I worry about a paragraph on page 5 about enlarging the constituency, where the Secretary of State says :
"It should enjoy widespread support from Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic."
If he intends to submit that to the people of Great Britain, he should remember that I was the first person in this place to say that we should ask the people of Great Britain what they wanted to do with Northern Ireland, and I was severely castigated for it. I have heard many people saying that they want to cast out Northern Ireland. They might get a rude surprise. Perhaps that is why the Government are delaying asking the people of Great Britain.
The internal affairs of Northern Ireland are no concern of the Republic, but neither are the internal affairs of the Irish Republic any concern of mine. I do not campaign against the Irish Republic. When the press pushes me to make statements, I refrain from doing so. It is no concern of mine, and the Republic is entitled to do whatever it wishes.
The Secretary of State needs to define the issue. I do not want to think that he is now suggesting that if there is to be a final package, the part relating to the internal government of Northern Ireland must be submitted to the people of the Irish Republic before it can be implemented in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will clarify that.
Much has been said about the majorities. The people of Northern Ireland can stay within the United Kingdom provided that there is a majority in favour of that. That does not mean widespread support ; it could be a majority of one. Similarly, if they want to join the Irish Republic, they can do so, provided that they have a majority in favour of that. What if the people of Northern Ireland want to go somewhere else? Why is there no provision for that majority? All majorities should have equal status. If power is given to one, it must be given to all. Perhaps the majority of people in Yorkshire would like to go somewhere else. It is ridiculous that, every time we debate Northern Ireland, we are told that it is up to the majority to say, "Goodbye".
Column 1154When I was a boy of seven, I was told that the Protestants would be bred out. Protestants also breed ; they have families. It would be foolish of the House to think that a majority will come about through some form of birth control or birth explosion. There will always be a majority in Northern Ireland wishing to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and if the United Kingdom treats them in the same way that it treats those in other parts of the United Kingdom and if they give them the same benefits, that will not change.
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : It used to be the standard procedure of the Northern Ireland Office to tell English Members that the Catholic population was projected to exceed the Protestant population at some future time--I note that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) nods--and it was suggested that all wise politicians should prepare themselves for that.
Rev. Ian Paisley : That might be true. I was never briefed by the Northern Ireland Office. I had the great privilege of escaping from its falsehoods and blatant lies. I was in a happy position. The House should remember that not all Roman Catholics are republicans. We need to wake up to that fact. Many Roman Catholics vote for Unionist candidates. Indeed, I am sure that all Unionist Members receive post from Catholics. I cannot tell how people vote in a Westminster election, but I can tell how they vote in a European election. I have stood by the election box and noted the percentages. I was amazed at how many first preference votes for "John Hume" had "Ian Paisley" as second preference, although I did not notice many first preferences for me giving John Hume as second preference. That just happens to be a fact of life. I know that a box in an entirely Roman Catholic community contained many, many votes for me. I am sure that the SDLP would also claim that Protestants vote for its candidates, and that is probably true.
When I referred to a great birth explosion, I noted that the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland--the righ hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South--laughed. Perhaps he wants to be a party to that, or perhaps he wants to distance himself from it. He should disabuse himself of his folly, because the majority is there, and it will remain.
I am concerned at the inference in speeches in the House--it appeared in the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North today--that a constitutional settlement will somehow take the IRA off the streets of Northern Ireland. That is a fallacy. A few days ago at Bowdenstown, Gerry Adams and his friends made it clear that it mattered not what initiatives were being taken, the IRA would continue to turn on the heat in Northern Ireland. If we move towards a constitutional settlement, there will be many vicious murders, and soft targets will be attacked. There can be no doubt about that. Even when such a settlement exists, the IRA will continue its campaign. No one should be so naive as to think that a constitutional settlement would end the IRA menace.
People should read the history of the Irish Republic. At its birth, it faced a similar problem with the Irregulars, headed by De Valera, who murdered their kith and kin in the Irish civil war. That has been almost forgotten. Kevin O'Higgins was the man who settled that by saying that the only way to deal with republican murderers was to take
Column 1155them out of society. He brought peace to the troubled south, but he paid the price for doing so. He was murdered by those who realised that he had won. However, because he had won, the Irregulars became respectable and De Valera went into the Dail. He became Prime Minister and his successor is Charlie Haughey. When people read that history, they will understand what Irish republicanism is all about and the way to deal with it.
Terrorism and evil murder are stalking the land in Northern Ireland. I appeal to the Government not to handcuff the security forces. They must give the police the money that they need. More money than ever before is needed by the police in Northern Ireland. They approach leading figures and say that they are under severe threat--they want to provide security, but can provide only a certain amount because of monetary considerations. The Government will have to put the sinews of war and finance into their campaign against terrorism.
Where do we go from here? The Secretary of State must dedicate himself to progress. All hon. Members should make sure that people know our intent that the talks should take place. Finally, the press should quit speculating. I read in today's newspapers what was said at the talks and what concessions were made as if they had been real negotiations. But they were talks about talks ; we have not yet reached the negotiating table where all those matters will be discussed. I trust that when there is a settlement, the Secretary of State will be man enough to put it to the people of Northern Ireland, not at an election but at a referendum so that they can accept or reject it.
Mr. John Hume (Foyle) : I join the Secretary of State in saying that everyone in Ireland and in Britain wants his initiative to succeed. Contrary to the impression given by others who have spoken in the debate, the good will of the Irish Government in the matter is totally unquestionable.
I should place on record my own appreciation for the immense efforts that the Secretary of State has put into a difficult task, the sensitivity that he has shown to different points of view and to the integrity and dedication with which he has pursued the objective of bringing us all round the table. We all acknowledge that he has made considerable progress, and I look forward to the talks. I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the leader of the Alliance party, who is in the Strangers' Gallery, for the integrity and good will with which they have approached the talks. We must develop that spirit in the full knowledge that we face a difficult task because there are deep differences and divisions. The talks will be a serious beginning in dealing with the problems. We are helped by the wider atmosphere in which we work today. The Unionists are celebrating the 300th anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. Some feared that the celebration might turn out to be divisive, but we should remember who was there in 1690. In addition to the Irish, the Danes, the Dutch, the Germans and the French fought on both sides.
Since 1690, all those countries have settled the differences between them, but Ireland has not. They have settled many deeper differences and have moved on to a
Column 1156wider European scene. There are lessons for us in that, as the origins of our problems are European. From a nationalist Republican point of view, the English presence in Ireland was due to Ireland being considered the back door for her European enemies. The plantation of Ulster was England's response to O'Neill's and O'Donnell's links with Spain. The Act of Union was England's response to the French invasion of Ireland in 1798.
Today we have a new Europe, and Ireland is rebuilding her links with Europe, as is Britain. That has profound implications for the traditional reasons that are given for using violence in Ireland. We rightly condemn them for that and we must continue to condemn unequivocally. One has only to look at the statistics of death in Northern Ireland to see that 55 per cent. of the people killed in the past 20 years were ordinary people going about their daily work who were blown to bits or shot in so-called mistakes or accidents or in tit-for-tat killings. That will continue in future if the terrorists continue their campaign, and they know that. What is their justification? They say that Britain is an island defending her own economic and strategic interests by force.
Can anyone seriously say today that Britain has an economic interest in Ireland, when the British taxpayer is paying £1.5 billion a year to keep our economy going? Does anyone believe that Britain has a strategic interest in Ireland in a nuclear world, and that a military presence is necessary for strategic reasons? Does anyone believe that, when everyone knows that, if the violence stopped, the troops would be off the streets in a matter of weeks?
We have the legacy of our past, but the meaning of sovereignty and independence has changed. Today we have shared sovereignty and interdependence. The issues about which we quarrelled in the past are gone, but our legacy is a deeply divided people. What does the IRA say about that? It says that we are being prevented by force from exercising the right to self-determination. Is that true? The people who live in Ireland are deeply divided about precisely how to exercise their right to self- determination. Agreement on how to exercise that right cannot be achieved by force or physical violence, but only through dialogue and peaceful means.
We might follow the example of the European peoples who contributed to the origins of our problems. Fifty years ago, when millions of people were being slaughtered across the continent and cities were being devastated, had someone stood up in the House and said that in 50 years' time the British Prime Minister would be sitting in a Council of Ministers which had planned a single Europe and was moving towards European political union, yet the Germans were still German and the French were still French, everyone would have said that that person was a dreamer or a fool.
But that has happened. We who are trying to resolve a conflict might ask why. It has happened because people have set aside the past. We are very good at dragging up the past ; our respect for the past paralyses our approach to the future. It is easy to drag up the past to justify our attitudes to the present, but everyone does that and it keeps the conflict going.
Let us leave aside the past and agree to build institutions in Ireland that respect our differences, but we must do that in agreement, as agreement is at the heart of the matter. There is no way in which we can solve our problems by one section of our people countering another. It is no longer about pushing difference to the point of
Column 1157division ; it is about accommodation and respect for difference. Having set up in agreement those institutions which respect our differences, we can then work the common ground, which all hon. Members representing Northern Ireland would agree is substantial. Our economic interests in particular will increase as we move into the single market. By spilling our sweat rather than our blood, we can break down the differences between us and grow together at our own speed. That is the strategy that I believe we should follow. After a terrible 20 years, there is a spirit abroad that demands political leadership and talks between the Governments involved as soon as possible. I wish the Secretary of State well, and I am confident that it will not be too long until the remaining loose ends are tied up, so that we can begin the difficult, but I hope successful, process of bringing lasting peace to our people. 5.49 pm
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : I hope that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) will not misunderstand me when I say that I greatly admired the speech that he has just made. This is a special debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland opened it with a characteristically thoughtful speech. Each of the three Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland who have spoken so far in the debate, each of whom has been involved in the preliminary discussions with my right hon. Friend, has paid tribute to his personal qualities and patience. I took no part whatsoever in the talks about talks, but those who have not seen the Secretary of State in action at first hand know enough about him to realise that he has precisely those qualities that are required to bring about agreement in the Province.
My right hon. Friend referred frequently to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. May I correct what I think may have been a
misunderstanding on his part? He said :
"the Republic of Ireland has accepted, through the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that the status of Northern Ireland could be changed only with the consent of a majority of its people".
The implication of my right hon. Friend's words was that, before 15 November 1985, the Irish Government believed that the status of Northern Ireland could be changed otherwise than by consent. The Government have frequently claimed that one of the prizes of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that the Irish Government acknowledged for the first time that there could be a change of status only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. I have with me, however, the text of the communique that was issued after the Sunningdale agreement was signed 17 years ago--12 years before the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The text of the Sunningdale agreement reads :
"The Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status."
The House will note that the words of the Anglo-Irish Agreement reproduced verbatim the words that appeared in the Sunningdale communique in 1973.
Mr. Trimble : Will the hon. Gentleman compare article 1 of the Anglo -Irish Agreement with the Sunningdale agreement? He is right to say that, to a large extent, the Irish Government's statement in the Sunningdale agreement was on similar lines to their statement in the
Column 1158Hillsborough agreement of 1985. Will he, however, please check that the word "could" that was used in 1974 became "would" in 1985, which changes the meaning?
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a substantial difference between that which is contained in the communique , which leads to no commitment by either Government in legal terms, and that which is written in a solemnly binding international agreement? Does he not agree with the suggestion that that which is contained in the solemnly binding international agreement is binding on both Governments and that anything which is stated in the communique does not bind either Government?
Mr. Gow : The next passage in my right hon. Friend's speech was very startling. It seemed to me that my right hon. Friend was calling for a new Anglo-Irish Agreement. The words that led me to that conclusion were these :
"There is no reason why the present agreement should be the last word. While neither Government are seeking a new agreement, if a better agreement --which commanded widespread support within both sides of the community in Northern Ireland--were to be arrived at, that would prove to be an important step forward."
What is so striking about my right hon. Friend's choice of words is that he asserts that a precondition for a successful agreement is that it should command widespread support within both sides of the community.
Before the Cabinet gave its final approval to the agreement, the question that was asked in the Cabinet, and that one would expect to be asked, was, "What about the Unionists?" The architects of the 1985 agreement--the Foreign Office, the present Foreign Secretary and to a very small extent indeed my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence-- were obviously asked by the Cabinet what the reaction of the Unionists would be. The Foreign Office and the Northern Ireland Office said that, if signed, the agreement would be welcomed in Dublin, the Vatican, Roman Catholic Europe and, above all, the United States.
The question that was then put was, "You've told us how pleased all these people will be, but what will be the reaction of the Unionists?" It was not a bad question. The answer that was given to the Cabinet was, "Paisley will huff and puff, but most Unionists will be well satisfied with the agreement." With that assurance, the Cabinet gave its approval to the Anglo -Irish Agreement.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is in his place. He answered a debate in April when I reminded him of this truth. However, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not in the House that day. I do not rebuke him, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of State knows that the Prime Minister was misled. Five weeks after the agreement was signed, the Prime Minister gave an