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Mr. Benn : Well, that is what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said that it was for the people in the North to decide whether the Union continued. I listened to his speech and it was important. I therefore think that it would be sensible to jump back from the day-to-day argument for a moment and consider the true position, which I understand is that the British Government would like to get

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out of Northern Ireland. That is my conviction. I may be wrong, but I was a member of the Cabinet for 11 years, and when I used to speak to my colleagues about the matter they always said, "Of course we agree with you, but we can't say it."

Sir Patrick Mayhew indicated dissent.

Mr. Benn : The Secretary of State shakes his head, but I am saying that the cost of the war and the failure of the military enterprise must influence present Cabinet members, as it influenced members of past Cabinets.

Mr. King : I should not like there to be any misunderstanding over what I said about a very important matter. I made it absolutely clear that the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the joint declaration make it clear that it would be wrong to override the wish of the people of Northern Ireland if they wanted a different outcome.

I also made it clear--the right hon. Member may not have heard me--that I have always hoped that Northern Ireland would remain a part of the United Kingdom by virtue of the wishes of its people.

Mr. Benn : I am not disputing what the right hon. Gentleman said. He would like the Union to continue, but the Government whom he supports have said--

Mr. King indicated dissent .

Mr. Benn : That was the meaning of the Downing street declaration. That is why the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is so angry about it. He says that we have subcontracted the future of that part of the United Kingdom to a mere part. The hon. Member also thinks that we have subcontracted it to Dublin, but I shall not go into that.

We are in a new situation. Although it may be embarrassing for the Secretary of State, I am emphasising the importance of the Downing street declaration. Secondly, I do not think that Dublin has any interest in taking over Northern Ireland. The bogey of the greedy Dail waiting to grab those angry Protestants is a complete illusion. The last thing that Dublin wants, with its own problems, is to take on the hon. Member for Antrim, North and others. The bogey created by the loyalists is, therefore, imaginary.

Thirdly, I think that it has penetrated into the minds of Sinn Fein, and certainly those of other nationalists, that they cannot force the north into the south without the consent of the people of the north.

Mr. Mallon : The right hon. Gentleman has always said that.

Mr. Benn : I have always said it, but if one puts the three ingredients together, that the British Government do not care--I shall put it like that--what happens because they are prepared to subcontract the decision, that Dublin does not want to take it over and that the nationalists could not cope, the bits of the jigsaw puzzle are there but someone is obstinately refusing to put them together.

Mr. Molyneaux : Independence.

Mr. Benn : I am determined not to be another British politician with an answer to the problems. I am speaking about the British involvement.

The United States has lost all interest in the policy because, whatever may have been the position in the past,

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President Clinton is not interested in British troops remaining in the north, whereas Bush and Reagan saw them as NATO troops. The other part of the jigsaw puzzle that has to be considered is that not only is Sinn Fein in a difficulty about whether to say yes or no because it has to persuade the IRA--Adams could say, "No fighting !" and the fighting could go on--but the Government are in a difficulty. That difficulty is that, in spite of all the trumpeting about "If it is turned down we shall have all those terrible penal ways of dealing with it", they did not work. We have had those policies since 1969.

I have listened to the right hon. Member for Bridgwater, the Secretary of State as he then was, warning that terrorism would be rooted out. It did not work. The policies did not work. So if there are people in the House who think, "Aha, when Sinn Fein turns this down we will get them ; we will return to internment without trial and put Adams in gaol", they should realise that it will not work. Not only will it not work, but world opinion will be very much more angered by an increase of the measures that have been attempted. What I am saying is simple. I am saying that the elements of a settlement are there. It is no good saying, "You cannot have clarification". The word "clarification" has suddenly jumped out of the dictionary and acquired an importance that I have never attributed to it before.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : They clarified Maastricht.

Mr. Benn : I am speaking about "talks about talks". Every time there is a settlement there are talks about talks. Just before the Vietnam war ended, there was a huge step-up of a military bombardment by the Americans. Anyone who knows anything about trade union negotiations or the military knows that that goes on ; people take positions.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bridgwater when he said that the media do not help by pinning everyone into a corner when acutally they are all more flexible than they make out. The Secretary of State is much more flexible than sometimes he makes out or than others make him out to be.

If one wants to end the fighting, one has to talk. I heard Churchill say from the Dispatch Box, "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war." Those are elementary lessons. Every possible opportunity must be taken to remove misunderstanding.

The ban on the President of Sinn Fein is a great mistake from the Government's point of view. The ban on broadcasting is not only an outrage for my civil liberties but also an absurdity as one can sit in Belfast and listen to Gerry Adams broadcasting from Dublin now.

Mr. Skinner : They all listen to him.

Mr. Benn : Of course, and he is quite happy.

My solution, which I put to Sinn Fein the other day, would be that if Gerry Adams joined Equity he could broadcast and they could say "actor's voice" on the television screen. What nonsense it is to deny us the right to hear from one of the participants who are being pleaded to come to the table.

We should reconsider what contribution we could make. Yesterday I introduced a Bill into the House. It will not be debated because presentation Bills earn no time. I do

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not apologise for the fact that it is the fourth time that I have put before the House the idea that one element of a settlement should be a statement by the British Government that they will terminate their jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Molyneaux : When?

Mr. Benn : The date in the Bill is 31 December 1999, the end of the century, which is about as long a time as the Chinese had to discuss the future of Hong Kong.

The Bill would have a number of important consequences. It would remove the one continuing element of conflict in Ireland, which is that it has been controlled by the British for hundreds of years. It would recognise that there is a growing demand for peace. It would build on the Hume-Adams talks. It would recognise what is implicit--I have tried to make it explicit--in the Downing street declaration, that there is no British interest or British commitment to the future of the Union, that British sovereignty and military presence have been totally unsuccessful over hundreds of years in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and there is no reason for believing that it would be any better now. It points out that our civil liabilities have been lost by our presence there and that the peace dividend in Northern Ireland and in the whole island of Ireland is probably--pro rata--the greatest in the world and greater than the cold war, because both the Republic and the north are highly militarised states. I welcomed the Taoiseach's reference to demilitarisation because I saw it as the peace dividend.

People in Britain have for a long time favoured withdrawal from Northern Ireland. I was on a train a while back and three young lads came up to me so I asked them what they did. They said that they were soldiers so we had a chat. I asked them where they had been and they replied Northern Ireland. I asked them what it was like and they said awful, but that if they were Irish we would be in the IRA. I was absolutely staggered. I did not approach them. They approached me and they clearly saw the troubles as a military conflict. They could understand. It cannot be pleasant for the soldiers there to be shot at. The young corpse in Crossmaglen, mentioned by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, was a tragedy and a waste. People have asked why was he there and why was he shot?

A certain anxiety has been expressed about articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution. If we want to increase the prospect of the Dail considering again its claim on the north, we should make it clear that we have no claim ourselves, because there would have to be a new constitution. If Irish unity came, by no stretch of the imagination could it mean the reabsorption of the north into a constitution which was devised for the Republic.

I say all this with sincerity and I hope that the House will accept that such an indication of British intention on a fixed date would create the most favourable atmosphere for peaceful talks, because a British withdrawal is not the same as coercing the north into the south. It is a separate and parallel issue. I believe therefore that it would be right for the British Government to do what they have done on many occasions and indicate, not just that they have no commitment of their own to our interest, but that they are prepared and indeed determined to extricate themselves from the Irish sovereignty question. If that were done even

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in six years' time--the date does not matter, but the determination does--it would contribute immensely to the prospect of a peace which could be durable rather than merely a renewal, under a new name, of a conflict that cannot be won under the present constitutional provisions.

12.23 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I am sure that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) would not expect me to go down the road that he has been following. [Hon. Members :-- "Why not?"] I welcome the fact that he takes the view of the Downing street agreement that I and many other people have taken. It was unfortunate of him to quote 1641, because if he had any knowledge of 1641 he would have known that the basic targets for genocide were the Protestant colonisers in the north. That is what sparked off the rebellion of 1641 and that has continued to this day. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) mentioned the fact that the genocide of Protestant people is continuing along the border of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Mallon : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley : No, I want to make a little progress. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield referred to the people who were drawn out of Ireland into a partitioned state. The people of Northern Ireland were never drawn out of other parts of Ireland. They were there already. I find it very disconcerting and alarming that some people inside and outside the House seem to think that the presence of British troops keeps Northern Ireland within the Union. The people of Northern Ireland have made that decision. If every member of our Army were taken out of Northern Ireland, that would not change the views of the people one iota.

However, announcing a date for the withdrawal of the British Army would be a signal to the IRA to step up its campaign with even more intensive vigour. Who would then protect the right-thinking citizens of both religious communities in Northern Ireland?

I agree with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield that there is much hypocrisy in Dublin. Members of Dail Eireann do not want people from the north of Ireland to come to an all-Ireland Parliament. That would spoil their little game. However, that is not an argument for Unionists to sell their heritage and to enter such a position. It is a pity that Members of Dail Eireann are not honest about that matter and do not state publicly that they have no interest in getting Northern Ireland into their grasp.

The old controversies are resurrected today in Northern Ireland. It is noticeable that there was no mention in the Downing street declaration of articles 2 and 3. There is a question of consent, but, as I said when I questioned the Prime Minister in the House after the declaration was signed, the question of consent does not relate to articles 2 and 3. Those articles deal with a territorial claim which has not been faced up to and is not being faced up to by Her Majesty's Government.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) was right to refer to the catalogue of IRA crimes that have been committed since the Downing street declaration. The list of those crimes, which was published recently in the press, is staggering. IRA violence occurred on 15 December, 16 December, 19 December, 20 December, 27 December, 29 December, 30 December, 31 December, 1 January, 3 January, 6 January, 7 January, 10 January, 11 January, 12

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January, 13 January, 19 January and 20 January. However, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield would have Gerry Adams on the box telling us that that was all in the process of peace. That is not peace.

I received a very sad letter from the widow of one of the latest victims, a prominent business man, of IRA violence. She wrote to me, saying :

"As the wife of one of the last victims of the IRA killings I, through the press, have appreciated what you have said. I do not want peace on the IRA's terms. I think history has proved that the IRA keep increasing their demands. Deep down, we all want peace, but not on the enemy's terms. While they were talking peace, at the same time they planned my husband's murder and carried it out."

There is a heartfelt cry from a person who has experienced what violence is doing and will continue to do.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) talked about the constitutional parties taking a long time to get to the conference table, and a long time at the conference table before the axe was brought down on it by the Dublin Government insisting on having an Anglo-Irish conference. But as the time was spent by constitutional politicans trying to get the talks going, their people outside were not engaged in killing. They were not advocating continuing violence to kill people. That is the difference. This time, the IRA is talking peace while its soldiers--so-called--are committing murders. How long must the long-suffering people of Northern Ireland tolerate that? The Prime Minister says that he has a little more patience. I read today in the press that Mr. Adams says that it will be April before they get their consultations going. After those consultations, they have to consider, and then Gerry Adams has to consider whether he can go to the IRA, whether he can get up in the morning and take off his political hat and say, "Now, Gerry, I am talking to you as an IRA man." That is the folly. The Government are pursuing a course and saying--I have heard it repeatedly--"It is over to the IRA." If we are going to put the IRA into the driving seat and give them the initiative, what is going to happen to the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland?

It is all very well for the Secretary of State to make speeches such as he made last night, but the interesting thing is that he quoted two people: a cardinal and the leader of the SDLP. Those two men advocate that their constituents or religious membership could not join the security forces. We loyalist people are told by the Secretary of State that we should heed them, but the cardinal is on record in an article in the Belfast Telegraph as saying, "I will not call on Roman Catholics to join the security forces." The SDLP's policy on that matter is the same ; it will not call on its constituents to join the security forces.

When I was at Downing street, I faced the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) on that matter before the Prime Minister, and he had to admit that that was his policy. Yet the Secretary of State thinks that the loyalist people of Northern Ireland will somehow be convinced because he quotes sources that have made no contribution to trying to defend all sections of the community against violence from whatever source. But, for the vast majority of the security forces, who come from the loyalist community--not all of them, because I have Roman Catholic constituents who are in the security forces-- it is a big sacrifice. They cannot go home, their parents have to visit them 50 miles from where they live, and they cannot visit their grandmothers or grandfathers when they take ill. I salute them. Of course, they are prime targets for IRA violence. The Secretary of

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State should be careful when he calls to his aid those who have not made any contribution to defending the rights of all individuals in Northern Ireland by becoming members of security forces.

Let us look at the Downing street declaration. What was its purpose? Why do we have the Downing street declaration? We have a Downing street declaration because the Hume-Adams talks took place, and those talks were the womb from which the declaration came. In fact, it has been suggested that the first draft of what the southern Government should put to Her Majesty's Government was made out of a draft from the Hume-Adams talks. It is interesting that today hon. Members asked why could we not see the Hume- Adams document. Why can we not see it? Why is it hidden? Why is it concealed? The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said that there was no difference between documents on the subject of the right of self determination. I am glad about what the hon. Gentleman said--it will make my business in Northern Ireland a lot easier--when he confirmed vigorously the view that the document advocates self determination for all the people of Ireland.

We are told that the northern people must give consent. I put this to the House today. What if we went to Gibraltar and said to the people of the rock, "We will have a referendum on your future, but it will have to run concurrently with a referendum throughout the whole of Spain. The votes cast in Spain will have nothing to do with what we will abide by, but we will still have a concurrent referendum"? I wonder what the people of the rock would think about such an outrageous proposal.

What if we went to the Falklands and said, "We will give you a referendum on your future, but at the same time we must have a referendum in Argentina. Of course, the votes of the Argentinean people do not really count but we must still run in tandem with them"? What would the people think? Yet the loyalist people of Northern Ireland are supposed to be happy. They are supposed to accept that this gives them what they want.

I said to the Prime Minister in Hillsborough house, "Perhaps the Government are determined that the final situation will be decided by the people of Northern Ireland, but they were not consulted about the Anglo-Irish agreement." As for my party, I was not consulted about the Downing street declaration. I want to make it perfectly clear--because I hear all sorts of rumours that all the constitutional parties were brought in and consulted about the Downing street declaration--that I was not consulted. I told the Prime Minister that we have legislation which can come in with a stroke of a pen. It is called Northern Ireland border poll legislation and has two questions : "Do you want Northern Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom? Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom"? I told the Prime Minister, "Actions speak louder than words. You can allay the fears of the people of Northern Ireland by having an immediate border poll."

The Prime Minister said that that was not the right question. I said that I had got the message. That was supposed to be the question which the people of Northern Ireland were to be allowed to answer. I asked when, because I do not believe that, when it comes to those issues, they will have the opportunity of giving the answer to the right question. They could give that answer today and the Prime Minister can prove that he will allow the people of Northern Ireland to decide their own destiny.

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What has taken place is a tragedy, but it is better seen from a statement made by the Taoiseach on 10 January. He made a very interesting speech which dealt with the matter of consent. He said that the people of the south of Ireland--or the people of Ireland, for whom he took himself to be the spokesman--have agreed in Parliament that such and such a thing should happen. He went on that it was important to note that the requirement for the consent of a majority is related by the declaration to the constitutional issue. It does not mean that all forms of political progress or other decisions by the two Governments are subject to a similar block. That was mentioned today by the chairman of the Tory Back- Bench Northern Ireland committee, the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh tried to argue that that related to matters of legislation which dealt with administration. However, the Taoiseach made it clear. He said that home rule had been blocked in any form, that all-Ireland institutions had been blocked, that the deal on equality and advancement of nationalists within Northern Ireland had been blocked and that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was, to a considerable extent, frustrated.

The Taoiseach was talking about all-Ireland institutions, the type of institutions which the Opposition spokesman talked about today. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's forthright and clear statement from the Opposition Front Bench that any institutions in Northern Ireland which deal with the internal affairs of Northern Ireland must have an Irish dimension. He spelled that out clearly and that is exactly what the declaration is about.

The Secretary of State has made that clear and has sent all hon. Members a letter on the subject. That letter makes it clear that the declaration complements and underpins the talks process ; the declaration reinforces the firm foundation for future political development ; the joint declaration represents a sound platform for the talks process. So the present talks process is on the basis of the Downing street declaration. There is talk about a prerequisite, but we have one now : the precondition of the talks process is that one must accept the Downing street declaration because that is the platform, the foundation and what will underpin the talks process. My party rejects the Downing street declaration.

It may interest the House to know that The Lurgan Mail announced on Saturday last :

"The Ulster Unionist Party does not support the Downing Street Declaration, party workers in Craigavon have been told. They were given this clarification at a party meeting in Brownlow House, Lurgan, attended by leader James Molyneaux. A statement released after the meeting said :

Those who accuse us of supporting the Declaration have a duty to explain why they are uttering deliberate falsehoods.' "

A lot of people have made claims. The Government have claimed loudly that the Unionist party is on board. Members of the Unionist party made it clear that they were on board and that there was no sell-out whatever. One member said that the declaration was green, but that when one looked at the map, no principle of Unionism had been conceded.

The Democratic Unionist party was attacked for not being in favour of the declaration. So it would be wise for the House to know who is for the declaration and who is against it.

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Mr. Molyneaux : I have consistently made my position clear. We sit on this side of the House because our party does not support the Government. It is for the hon. Gentleman to decide why he sits on the Government side and whether he supports the Government. All Opposition parties sit on Madam Speaker's left. That is the constitutional position. I have made it abundantly clear at all times that I reserve the right to dissent from any action or policy of the Government.

I made it clear during all stages of the consultations that I would not put my name to any document. I reserve that position and will continue to do so. My formula has always been--it goes back even to 22 July--that so long as Her Majesty's Government of the day are governing in the best interests of the United Kingdom in general and Northern Ireland in particular, we will not terminate the life of the Parliament prematurely. We have never varied from that.

Rev. Ian Paisley : That is an interesting statement from the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the declaration was a comparatively safe document and that it could not possibly be a sell-out. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) said :

"It is not necessary to oppose it. It is a pleasant contrast with the Anglo -Irish Agreement."

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) gave the declaration a guarded welcome. He said :

"There is no threat to Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom."

The right hon. Member for Strangford said :

"For us as Unionists there are disappointments but also some things which we welcome."

Chris McGimpsey said :

"There are certain aspects of the document which are valuable. It is a positive document."

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said :

"We have given tentative approval to the agreement."

If that is not in some way supporting the agreement, I do not know what is.

I make a simple point to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. I sit on the Unionist side of the House and I have always done so. When the Unionists changed over, I sat on that side of the House. I wonder whether we should have Cross Benches in the House. If we did, I could take up a different position. I came to the House as an independent Unionist. In similar circumstances, other Independent Unionists, including Johnston of Ballykilbeg, did likewise--I am in good company--

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley : No, I will not give way because time is short.

Mr. Canavan : The hon. Gentleman sat on this side of the House when Labour was in Government.

Rev. Ian Paisley : I crossed over with the Unionists, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, because there was an incident to which I shall not refer now.

Mr. Peter Robinson : I shall put another quotation on the record. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) told the Sunday Express on 2 January that if the Government did not "move to stop the continuing IRA campaign they will be seen to have gone back on what they have agreed with the largest political party in Northern Ireland, the Unionist Party, and they will no longer have them on board."

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How on earth, if the Unionist party does not support the agreement, could it be "on board"? Hon. Members should go and look up the quotation.

Rev. Ian Paisley : The people of Northern Ireland know exactly what is happening. An officer of one of the branches of the Unionist party wrote a long communication in the Official Unionist newspaper the other morning. It stated clearly that he had news for the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. He had not found one member of the Official Unionist party who accepted the party line of the leadership and of Unionist Members of Parliament. That is what he said in the letter. If they want an argument they should have it with their own people.

I am glad that two national British newspapers took the view that I take about this declaration. On the day after the declaration, The Daily Telegraph said :

"The Declaration treats the British only as custodians of Northern Ireland, licensed by democratic mandate. The view that Northern Irishmen and women are British as the people of Surrey or South Yorkshire are British becomes no longer sustainable. This is unlikely to worry political opinion in mainland Britain but it would be naive to deny that it will trouble many Ulster Unionists, even beyond the ranks of the fanatics and paramilitaries"

That newspaper, which supports the Tory party, says that the United Kingdom Government are only the custodians of Northern Ireland, licensed by democratic mandate. Is that full United Kingdom citizenship ?

In an editorial on 21 December, The Times stated that when the Prime Minister was challenged to reconcile the "strong Unionist rhetoric" used during his election campaign

"with the neutral language of last week's declaration, he has described his Unionist conviction with great precision as a personal right'. Though he himself believes in the Union, he does not appear to regard it as a cornerstone of British national identity or of the Conservative tradition. Should the majority in Northern Ireland wish to leave the United Kingdom, he will happily facilitate reunification. Thus the prime minsiter has distanced himself still further from the waning Tory Unionism of Bonar Law, Randolph Churchill and Enoch Powell. An article of party faith has become a clear matter of private conscience But no nation should tamper carelessly with its deepest roots. In its challenge to old ideas of Britishness, Mr. Major's initiative has implications far beyond the steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone."

Those are not the words of some Democratic Unionist politician : they are the words of The Times. These are the serious issues which the House must address when examining the declaration.

We were told that this is what we have to build upon. That is very strange. What was negotiated between the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and me and the Government in the talks about talks all seems to have changed. First, those talks were for a specific purpose--to find a replacement for the Anglo-Irish Agreement, an alternative to it. That has been completely forgotten and no Minister says that today. It has completely vanished.

Strand one had to do with Northern Ireland politicians alone and the British Government finding an agreeable system for the administration and government of Northern Ireland. The Dublin Government wanted to be included in strand one. The first proposal put to us was that they should be included, but we said on no account should they be there because the internal affairs of Northern Ireland are matters for Her Majesty's Government, this United Kingdom Parliament and the people of Northern Ireland alone. So Dublin was rightly excluded from strand one. Strand two was about the relationship that the new administration which was agreed to by the constitutional parties in

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Northern Ireland would adopt with the Dublin Government. Now, that, too, has been forgotten. Strand three was about the relationships between the two Governments. The goalposts have been moved. The Secretary of State said that he did not know whether the principle that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed still stood. The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), said that it must stand. May I give the Secretary of State the news that the talks and everything that was agreed in them are finished? Nobody told the Government more vehemently than I did that if they pulled down the shutters on the talks, the talks would be over and the Government would have to start again. When the Government resumed the second talks, the then Secretary of State was careful to say that they were new talks. So all the background is wiped out. Given that foundation of sand, my party is not prepared to sit down and talk under those auspices. The response has been that there is now a difference between the Irish and British Governments. There was supposed to be a document to bring unity, but the Irish Government believe that the declaration should be clarified and have proceeded to give that clarification. Every speech that the Taoiseach makes is an attempt to clarify. Brian Lenihan, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Dail, has been having face-to-face encounters with IRA-Sinn Fein and says that he is clarifying the situation. The hon. Member for Foyle went to Downing street and, when he left, said that he was going back to have further meetings with the IRA.

It is very well for the Government to say that there is no clarification. We heard statements from them before that they had no links, channels or talks with the IRA and we found out that those affirmations were unfounded. The people of Northern Ireland are asking what is really happening.

We are told that there will be a "get tough" attitude to the IRA if it does not agree to the declaration. Why did not Governments get tough long ago? Why did not they save us the orphans and widows? The ordinary people of Northern Ireland say that the Government will make more concessions and continue down the slippery slope.

If the House really believes that the people of Northern Ireland have a right to a final say, the legislation exists and the House can give them the opportunity to have that say. They did it in the days of the Sunningdale agreement and the nationalists boycotted it. They never attended the Stormont Assembly. I am amused when the leader of the SDLP tells the House that his party will go along with what the sovereign Parliament does. This sovereign Parliament set up an assembly to produce a plan for the government of Northern Ireland and they boycotted that assembly and did their best to bring it down. In the end, it was brought down by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The people of Northern Ireland need a tangible assurance. If they do not receive it, the words of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley will be true ; it is a two-edged sword. We have to face that reality. Those of us who live in Northern Ireland know exactly what is happening there. Therefore, the best thing for the Government to do is to say that, as the declaration states that the people of Northern Ireland must give consent, let us have a border poll to see what the people feel. That could be the starting point for a series of talks to deal with a form of government of Northern Ireland in which the Dublin Government can have no say.

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Why should the Dublin Government dictate to the people of Northern Ireland about what sort of Government they should have? If there is agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland, should not the Dublin Government be happy with that agreement? Why must they interfere and why should they demand their sort of Irish dimension? The document is about a united Ireland and is in the context of a united Ireland. The question before the people is : do you want to go into a united Ireland? How can that be facilitated? The Taoiseach has made it clear by saying, "You will have absolutely no say on the institutions that straddle the border--we will decide, the British Government will decide and the institutions will be set up. You will have no say." That will lead to more trouble and more problems. I trust that the House will learn from the experiences of history. I was amused when I was told by the Secretary of State that I should trust the word of the Taoiseach. It is not much consolation for a Unionist to be told to put his faith in the Taoiseach's word. The Secretary of State should remember that every treaty that Dublin has made with this Parliament and its Governments has been torn up. What about the treaty of 1920, the ports and the arrangement that was taken away in 1937 by the new constitution? What about the claim over Northern Ireland that the Dail Eireann refused? The treaty making Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom and would remain so was ratified. The international border was agreed and the legislation was signed. The Dail Eireann agreed it, this Parliament agreed it and the Stormont Parliament agreed it ; they all signed it and it was taken to the League of Nations where it was lodged. But De Valera tore it up and introduced his new 1937 constitution.

I reminded Irish Ministers of those events at the talks and asked them how they could expect a Unionist to trust them. We are then told that we should trust the Taoiseach's word. I do not want my United Kingdom citizenship to rest on the word of the Prime Minister of a Government who claim jurisdiction over the part of the United Kingdom in which I live, which is what we are being told to do.

I trust that we in Northern Ireland will have an opportunity of dealing with the subject at the polls. I trust that the other parties will see the wisdom of that. Once that is settled, we can begin to build, not on the sinking sands of the Downing street declaration, but on the firm rock of a democratic vote in which everyone has a say in what they want to do in future and in where their citizenship lies.

1.4 pm

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