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Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : The House is grateful to the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) for the further opportunity to discuss the problems and needs of the people of Northern Ireland. As we all know, their most compelling need is an end to the sickening violence, the manic and serial killings there, and I hope very much that today's debate will make some contribution to hastening the pursuit of peace. That hope is shared by the vast majority of people on this side of the water and overwhelmingly, too. I believe, by the people of Ireland, north and south alike. With Arafat shaking hands with Rabin and Mandela smiling at de Klerk, many people are daring to hope new hopes for the people of Northern Ireland. Let us pray that they can soon be realised.
Column 1202My purpose today is briefly to focus on an issue that unites people of all persuasions in Northern Ireland. It is one that affects, among some 200,000 other disabled people, the innocent victims of violence there. They will spend the rest of their lives trying to cope with severe and long-term disability, yet the law as it stands permits unfair discrimination against them, not only in employment policies but in housing, education, transport and all other public and private services.
Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament, without exception, gave strong and persistent support to the Bill that I drafted--the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill--to make such discrimination unlawful throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed, it was the unanimity of their support that prompted me, when the Bill's progress was blocked for the second time by the Government on 26 February 1992, to draft a more limited version of the Bill applicable solely to Northern Ireland in an effort at least to secure its benefits for disabled people there.
It was totally unreasonable and manifestly unfair for the Government to have delayed the application to Northern Ireland of a Bill supported by all its Members of Parliament and which applied solely to their constituents. To obstruct this more limited measure in the only Parliament that can legislate for the disabled people of Northern Ireland, when all their parliamentary representatives want to see it enacted, is both constitutionally and morally indefensible.
It calls sharply into question the sincerity of the Government's repetitive insistence that the only certain way for Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament to achieve meaningful progress for their communities is to unite. One Secretary of State after another has given the impression that, if only they would act together, there is nothing they cannot achieve for the betterment of the people they were sent here to represent. The Secretary of State has given that impression, but its validity has to be judged by his attitude to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) (Northern Ireland) Bill.
It may help the House for me to recall some of the background to the drafting of this more limited Bill and its First Reading in the House on 16 June 1993. The story is not a happy one for Britain's 6.5 million disabled people. Nor is it a creditable one to the Government ; but it needs to be told for there to be full understanding of the unanimous decision by Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament to back the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) (Northern Ireland) Bill. By last June, my original Bill, for the United Kingdom as a whole, had been subjected, over the previous 18 months, to every procedural device available for obstructing its progress. On Second Reading on 31 January 1992, it was talked out by Robert Hayward, who lost his seat at the ensuing election and, more recently, the Christchurch by-election. He apologised for his behaviour after the debate in a personal statement to the House, but his action ended all hope of my Bill becoming law in that parliamentary Session.
To keep the Bill before Parliament, I arranged for it to be introduced in another place by Baroness Lockwood and by 4 November 1992 it had completed all its stages there. When it came back to the House, a further Second Reading was timed for 26 February 1993 to coincide with the debate on a motion calling for its enactment in the following terms :
Column 1203"This House believes that anti- discrimination legislation is necessary to ensure equality of opportunity for people with disabilities ; and calls for the early enactment of specific provisions relating to public transport and other public and private services, employment and housing."
Notwithstanding the approval of that motion by the House, the Government again used a procedural device to block the Bill. So for a second time, and after seven hours of debate on its provisions, this House was prevented from giving it a Second Reading.
Lord Renton, the Prime Minister's predecessor as Conservative Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, said in the Third Reading debate on the Bill in another place that he found it strange as well as wrong that unfair discrimination against disabled people was not already unlawful. He thought it extraordinary and not very creditable that Parliament had not already legislated and said that, after all the thought that had been given to the Bill in the House of Lords, he did not believe that many hours of discussion would be necessary in the House of Commons.
The Government's tactics in the House made it clear, however, that they had no intention of responding to Lord Renton's plea. The Government's principal reason for blocking the Bill, for the United Kingdom as a whole, was said to be cost. When the Prime Minister and I met to discuss the Bill, he said that any action to end discrimination must proceed "without cost implications". In other words, we could afford civil rights for everyone else, but not for disabled people. They and their organisations found that deeply offensive, just as they resented the criticism that my Bill did not "sit comfortably with the Government's policy on deregulation".
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman continues--I realise that he wants to sketch in the background--I must point out that we are dealing with current developments in Northern Ireland. Although passing reference to previous events is in order, the right hon. Gentleman is going into considerable detail. I ask him to bear that in mind.
Mr. Morris : I am trying to put into context the Bill's importance to the victims of violence in Northern Ireland, but I shall abbreviate my look at the past. What needs emphasising is the sustained blocking of the Bill and what has been said in justification of what has been done. As I said at the outset, my concern is for more than 200,000 disabled people in Northern Ireland today, including many innocent victims of violence.
I was told also by the Prime Minister that the Bill did not "sit comfortably with the Government's policy on deregulation". Nor does the Equal Opportunities Commission, and the Commission for Racial Equality. Nor does the Fair Employment Act for Northern Ireland. The Government's third criticism--and I want to be fair by explaining their attitude to the Bill-- was that discrimination against disabled people is best dealt with by piecemeal change. But that view is rejected by many employers in Northern Ireland, as it is totally rejected by many employers in Great Britain. They argue that the Government are trying to divide the indivisible, that one cannot improve the employment opportunities of disabled people without looking at their transport problems and securing training for them on the same basis as other people. One employer told me recently that piecemeal change would be a total waste of time and money.
Column 1204That is the story--some will think the shabby story--behind the blocking of my Bill for the United Kingdom as a whole and my decision to draft a Bill applicable solely to Northern Ireland. Before giving his approval to the blocking of that more limited Bill on 2 July 1993, did the Secretary of State fight the corner of Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament and the disabled people they represent in discussions about the Bill within the Government? Did he talk about his decision to approve the blocking of the Bill to Disability Action in Northern Ireland? He is aware that I myself met them in Belfast to discuss my Bill, as the guest speaker at their last annual general meeting in June 1993, and that its members were as one in wanting the Bill to succeed.
If he has not so far done so, will the Secretary of State now meet Disability Action--the Northern Ireland Council on Disability--to discuss the Bill? I hope very much that he will discuss the Bill with them soon and then act to give some validity to ministerial statements about the gains to be won when Northern Ireland Members of Parliament work together. He will have a clear opportunity to do so when my good and hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Dr. Berry) reintroduces the original Bill to help disabled people in the United Kingdom as a whole for which, happily, he has won a place in the private Members' ballot.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assist the progress of that Bill so that it secures a Second Reading? If not, will the Government stop telling--
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I tried to warn the right hon. Gentleman gently that he was straying rather far from the terms of the motion. I must now tell him that he is going far beyond what we are discussing, which is issues of violence and peace. I must therefore ask him to return more closely to the motion under consideration.
Mr. Morris : As you said, Madam Deputy Speaker, the motion refers to violence and peace. I was seeking to ensure that the voice of Northern Ireland's victims of violence was heard in this debate and that the legislation they seek will be looked at more sympathetically by the Government.
Britain used to lead the world in legislation for disabled people. Now we lag behind. I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise that the issue that I have raised is a very important one for some of the most needful people in Northern Ireland. He will be praised, I believe, by both communities if he can respond positively to the plea I have made on their behalf.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) : The House could be forgiven for wondering why an Englishman with no personal links with either part of the island of Ireland takes a close interest in these matters. Indeed, some hon. Members might even question the sanity of this particular Englishman in wishing to join the debate when surrounded by so many experts on such a difficult subject.
Column 1205Let me explain why I take an interest. First, because my predecessor as the Member for Spelthorne, then Sir Humphrey Atkins, was a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Working alongside him as the candidate while he was the Member of Parliament taught me a great deal about the tragedy and bravery of the Province and about the opportunities and frustrations facing politicians of all types on both sides of the water. My experience as a candidate aroused my interest and concern. It made me determined to try to do a little to help.
The second reason why I became interested and concerned was because the Province is part of my country. It is not a colony, but an integral part of my country until its people choose otherwise. Together with all Members of the House, I believe that I share some little responsibility for trying to ensure the security and the safety of my fellow countrymen, whichever tradition they come from. That interest in the Province has led, in my six years in the House, to an ever-closer involvement with Northern Ireland issues and with the politicians in Dublin. It has resulted in my now being a member of the British-Irish interparliamentary body and a member of its political and security committee.
With that type of involvement, I have always felt it right and proper for me to think through a clear and consistent approach to those matters, and to think through exactly what I seek to contribute and to achieve. Let me, therefore, put on the record the conclusions that I have reached when I have thought along those lines. Here is my approach to the issues of Northern Ireland. First, I believe that I have to try to understand the reality of Northern Ireland--the reality as distinct from the political rhetoric, not only of the north, but of the south. The second part of my approach is to ensure that I always work within that reality rather than the rhetoric, and to try to avoid being seduced by the siren voices that claim that concessions lead to peace and, at the moment, to try to avoid the siren voices that say that clarification leads to peace--it does not.
The third part of the approach that I have always tried to bring to bear is to try to avoid at all costs any policies, any initiatives and any deals that fall outside the reality, as I see it, because history--history is always mentioned on such occasions--teaches me the awful lesson that any policies, initiatives or deals that fall outside the reality make matters worse in the end and lead to more violence.
Using that approach, let me try to explain what I have been trying to achieve in my own small way. First, I have tried to put something of a brake on any over-enthusiastic searches for undeliverable solutions, because of those awful lessions of history, if we go too fast down an unsustainable route.
Secondly, through the British-Irish interparliamentary body I have tried to help to foster a greater understanding in the south of the island of Ireland of an English persepective as distinct from the Northern Ireland perspective. The more I have got to know Dublin politicians, the more I have realised how important it is that they are told of the English perspective as well as the Northern Irish perspective.
Let me explain the way in which I have tried to apply that approach and those objectives to the issues raised by the joint declaration.
Column 1206Although I--and I am sure everyone else-- welcome the goals of the joint declaration, and although I commend the spirit behind it, and although I am delighted that the world has now been shown that both democratically elected Governments can agree on a peaceful future, which I believe is one of the things that the IRA finds difficult to swallow, I said, when I was with my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) at the meeting of the British-Irish interparliamentary body on the day that the joint declaration was announced, that I feared that it would run into the sand. I said, "I pray that it will not, but I fear that it will." I said that then because I could sense something of a fatal flaw behind the thinking that led to the joint declaration. I sensed that the joint declaration was based on an assumption that the members of the IRA are reasonable people who will agree to allow the people of the Province to choose their own future democratically.
The joint declaration seems to assume that the IRA members are people who will accept continued imprisonment of their demonic members and it seems to be based on the assumption that the IRA would bow to pressure from the Dublin Government, which I believe it abhors almost as much as our Government in London. The sickening truth, as it appears to me, is that the IRA members are not reasonable people. They are psychopathic murderers driven by a blind hatred, not by sweet reason.
As well as that flaw in the assumption of the joint declaration about the state of mind of the IRA, it bothers me that some realities are being overlooked in the general debate. In my short speech, I have time to highlight only four of those realities which concern me. First, it strikes me that there are some who forget that the desire for peace in Northern Ireland is most certainly not the same as the desire for unity. It is blindingly clear to me, as, I am sure it is to all hon. Members, that almost everybody in the Province wants peace. However, it is equally clear that the majority do not want a united Ireland and that that majority, judging from my experience of visits, includes more than a few Roman Catholics.
I maintain that it is essential that Her Majesty's Government remain neutral on the question of a united Ireland. If they do not, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is right, we shall be washing our hands of the future of the Province. The Government must remain neutral if there is to be a decision, if the people of the Province are to make their minds up in a free manner and it is not for us to bring any pressure whatever on them. Secondly, I sense that some people forget the reality that the understandable demands of the nationalists in the north to be Irish implies a similar right for the Unionists in the north to remain British. If we forget that, any deal that we seek to strike will not stick and will be doomed to failure. Any way forward must square that circle.
The third reality is that some people seem to be forgetting that before we can have any sort of agreement, it is necessary to define what we mean by an acceptable majority for change. As I see it in the Province at the moment, we have a majority of 60-40 or 55-45--I do not know exactly ; I bow to expert internal judgments. Clearly, there is a majority at the moment for a union with the remainder of the United Kingdom.
Column 1207he be careful not to use that as the basis for counting those who favour the Union? Earlier in his speech, he got it right, but he is going down the wrong road now.
Mr. Wilshire : I hope that I am not. I certainly accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman and, earlier, I tried to say that I did not use the sectarian head count in a simplistic way. The point that I seek to make is that however one makes up the majority and from whatever tradition those people come, it is clear to me at least that there is a majority for the Union. It concerns me that some people seem to forget that, if the current majority for the continuation of the Union does not bring peace, why in heaven's name should anybody assume that a 51-49 per cent. support for a united Ireland from whatever tradition slightly in the other direction, should be any more peaceful than the majority we have at the moment? Until we can define what is meant by an acceptable majority, I fear that any deal will run into the sand.
The final reality which people seem to forget is that geography and history, on their own, do not justify a united Ireland. Everyone who listens to a debate like this is aware of how much history figures in debates about the future of the island of Ireland. If geography and history alone were to justify the definition of sovereignty, Spain would argue that it should take over Portugal, and Norway would be sucked into Sweden because the lessons of history certainly point in that direction. A simplistic view of an atlas would suggest that geography argues the same thing.
Simplistic arguments about the history of Ireland and about how the island looks in an atlas worry me when they are used to justify a united Ireland, irrespective of the social and political realities. That is not the basis for a united sovereign state. The only basis that any of us should recognise is when two different traditions realise that they have a future together because they share more than what separates them, based on the present and the future and not on the atlas and history book.
I realise that what I call realities other people may call contentious and quarrelsome nonsense. I equally recognise that such realities, or whatever we choose to call them, represent formidible obstacles to peace. I would be foolish if I did not also realise that, by raising those points, I open myself to the accusation that I sound negative. However, I do not believe that I am.
I raise those points because, like everyone else, I am desperate for peace. However, I believe that peace at any price is no peace at all. If we ignore the realities, we will make matters worse. I also raise those points because I know from experience that many people inside and outside this place share my worries and feelings. It is up to someone to stand up and spell them out during a debate of this kind.
Having said all that, I applaud the work of both Governments. I am acutely aware of, and amazed by, the bravery of many politicians and Ministers on both sides of the water. As they continue to search for a peace that will stick, I plead with them : please do not do deals that will run into the sand ; please do not do deals that ignore the realities ; please do not negotiate and clarify things with terrorists ; please do not redefine murder as an excusable political tactic and, above all, please do not abandon the wonderful people of Ireland, both north and south of the border.
Several hon. Members rose --
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Before the debate continues, may I point out that several hon. Members still wish to make contributions. We have only about one hour left. If hon. Members would make shorter speeches than they might otherwise wish, hopefully all hon. Members who want to take part will be able to do so.
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) : This is an appropriate time to have this debate and I am grateful for the opportunity, five weeks after the Downing street declaration, to be able to contribute to it.
What is happening in relation to the declaration is now becoming clear. Indeed, the IRA's attitude is becoming exceedingly clear. Its attitude does not fall in line with the prediction by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) who suggested that he could bring peace to the Province in seven days. Nor does it fall into line with the prediction of the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic who predicted that that could happen by Christmas. The peculiar thing was that the Taoiseach said that he would not sign a declaration which did not give him confidence that he could fulfil that promise.
Before I talk about the IRA, its reaction and the dangers, I cannot ignore the speech by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). One becomes not a little tired of the hon. Gentleman's constant harping in relation to my party's performance and its contribution to the constructive interests of Unionism in general and Northern Ireland in particular. Perhaps I should not have been surprised at the long rambling regurgitation of what we have all heard before--bland statements that there was no consultation for the hon. Gentleman's party in terms of what has been happening throughout the past year and a half to two years and particularly in recent times. If there was no consultation, I would be very interested to know exactly what he and his colleagues were doing at 10 Downing street on 24 November.
I get a little tired of the frightening speculation--it is frightening speculation--which appears not to be based on anything that I have read in the Downing street declaration, for example, but appears to have the European election interests of the hon. Member for Antrim, North at heart. The way in which the interests of Northern Ireland are subverted in the interests of the Democratic Unionist party's overwhelming need to top the poll on 9 June is somewhat disgusting. The hon. Gentleman has made no
Column 1209secret that that is what he intends to do, and it involves the usual sleight of hand when one connects two issues which are totally unrelated.
The hon. Gentleman says that he will test the joint declaration. How? It will be by making his vote on 9 June a referendum on whether Ulster Unionists want to be sold out to a united Ireland. For far too long, such misleading and such misuse of the Unionist vote and of the Unionist strength in Northern Ireland has been an impediment to progress that would benefit all the people of Northern Ireland. It has been going on for years- -we try to ignore it.
For example, in 1970, the hon. Gentleman frequently attacked the new Ulster Defence Regiment--the "dad's army", he called it--and frequently called for the Ulster special constabulary to be brought back. I served in both organisations and I have tremendous respect for them. But it was a good idea to frighten the old and the bold in 1970 by shouting in favour of the Ulster special constabulary. Twenty years on, when the old and the bold have perhaps learnt how shallow that support is, it becomes the hon. Gentleman's job to shout in support of the UDR and to denigrate the Royal Irish Regiment. I do not know the Latin for it but if I can find out, I suggest that a slogan for the Democratic Unionist party might be "flogging dead horses".
Until 9 June, we will have a tremendous contribution by the DUP to the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. The DUP will embark on yet another poster campaign and, by the look of what happened in Portadown on Monday, we will have one or two Free Presbyterian rallies in order to build the hon. Gentleman's vote on 9 June. The people of Northern Ireland are getting a little sick of rallies and posters. They want hard work, and they want their views represented directly and effectively to Government. They have seen the Third Force ; it has come and gone, and it has done nothing for them. They have seen the leader of the DUP leading people with firearm certificates up a hill in the middle of the night, and it has done nothing for them. They have seen the Carson trail. They have seen the Ulster Resistance, of which the hon. Gentleman was nominally the leader until three poor fellows were caught trying to buy guns in Paris, then it turned out that he had not been a member of the Ulster Resistance for a few weeks. We have seen all those things come and go. They peculiarly coincided with elections in Northern Ireland. It is time that an hon. Member from Northern Ireland stood in the House and told the hon. Gentleman, "Stop using and abusing the Unionist people who have suffered too much without being exploited once again by a Save Ulster' campaign."
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) quoted part of an article from the Sunday Express.
Rev. Ian Paisley : I do not want to answer the rubbish that the hon. Gentleman is speaking. It is interesting that, after all those happenings, the same hon. Gentleman was glad to have a coalition with the Ulster Democratic Unionist party, to take the joint leadership from his leader and me and to stand at City hall. It was his party which expressed great worry about the European elections ; it was not me. Members of his party said, "Paisley will be be grovelling for our transfer votes." I remind the hon. Gentleman that his party member had to get 40,000 of my
Column 1210votes to be elected. I remind him that in every European election in which I have stood, his party member gets in only on my election surplus. Therefore to say that I want that is completely wrong. I have put the alternative. Let us have a border poll. If we have a border poll, we will then have the European election. The hon. Gentleman is afraid that his party, having issued a manifesto which he signed and supported, went back on Maastricht and voted with the Government on that issue. That is what he is worried about.
Let me take up the point of a border poll. As an Ulster Unionist, I know the strength of support in Northern Ireland for the Union within the United Kingdom. I do not want Northern Ireland to be put up for sale every 10 years, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North would want. If the pro-Union vote is 80 per cent. on the first occasion and only 77 per cent. next time, everybody will say, "The desire for Northern Ireland to remain within the Union is not as strong as it was 10 years ago". The clamour will return to make more allowances for the alleged increase in support for a united Ireland.
There is no increasing support for a united Ireland--that support is decreasing. I would not have raised the matter if the hon. Member for Antrim, North had not chosen his ground and attacked my party here today. Everything that the hon. Gentleman does undermines the credibility of Unionism in Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionism is justifiable, and is more justifiable than was demonstrated by the efforts of the hon. Member for Belfast, East. He decided that he would lead "Robinson's raiders", as they were called, down into the Protestant enclave of Clontibret in county Monaghan. As a result, the hon. Gentleman got lost, had to hitch ride in a Garda car and eventually had to pay £15,000 to the Irish Exchequer for the privilege of that ride. The hon. Gentleman was lost on that occasion, and he is still lost.
Let me leave that matter, and move to the threat of the IRA. The IRA, along with Sinn Fein, made a decision at the end of December that they would reject the declaration as a basis for the peace process. However, their recognition of the weight of national and international opinion has left them with a dilemma. They want to be able to retain the myth that they have widespread support in a struggle against a colonial power, whereas we know that more than 70 per cent. of the people in Northern Ireland want to remain within the Union. To this end, Sinn Fein and the IRA have tentatively agreed to announce a temporary ceasefire at an appropriate moment during the next couple of months. They are hopeful that such a move will place irresistible public pressure on the Irish Government to begin direct talks with Sinn Fein. However, they assume--I hope that they are right in their assumption--that the British Government will not meet them on the basis of such an interim ceasefire.
After a few weeks, it is intended that the IRA will resume with a particularly intensive campaign, while Sinn Fein sits in Dublin expressing regret, but, at the same time, its complete understanding of the IRA's total frustration at what it will claim is the intransigence and provocation of the British Government and their military machine. We have heard all that garbage before and we will hear it again.
Sinn Fein will have agreed to appear to distance itself from the IRA onslaught at that stage, and continue to
Column 1211protest its desire to pursue the peace process with the Irish Government. That is in expectation that the Republic will not dare to test public opinion at that stage by aborting any of the talks which have begun. After the Irish Cabinet's capitulation over section 31 of the Republic's broadcasting ban to allow Sinn Fein back on the air, one could hardly expect Dublin not to submit again.
Listening to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) today, we get a glimpse of what the so-called Adams-Hume talks were about and what the proposals were. There, I am convinced, is the hidden agenda. It is about the gradual withdrawal of support by our own Government from the people of Northern Ireland over a period moving towards the end of the century. I might tell the right hon. Member for Chesterfield that the end of the century is not 31 December 1999. It is 31 December 2000.
The Government do not have to reassure me today. I have heard their reassurances and I have to accept them. As I implied on 2 January in the Sunday Express, obviously, my party is monitoring and will continue carefully to monitor the extent to which the Government meet the commitment that they have given in the House. That is why we are here as an Opposition party. What I want to hear is that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister are trying to ensure and obtain agreement from the Irish Government that they will not fall into the trap of the IRA's proposed tactics that I have just outlined.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I know that you want me to be brief. I wanted to talk both in hypothetical terms about what would need to be done if we were fortunate enough to move towards peace and about what would need to be done if the negative response that we anticipate were given. I will deal with the matter as briefly as possible. In any peace process pre-planning for not only disengagement but verification will be important. We must assume that there is a tremendous amount of information and military intelligence in the hands of special branch and the Foreign Office on exactly what weapons were brought to Ireland from Libya. As we understand it, Mr. Gaddafi has supplied that information. That has to be balanced against the weaponry that has been discovered, the ammunition that we know has been discharged and the explosives that have been used or captured in order to set our targets for verification. That is essential.
We cannot travel towards some false dawn in which we believe that we shall have peace but find ourselves in the midst of another onslaught five, six or seven years down the road when the IRA has reorganised. Verification must be about not only that weaponry and ammunition which is presently in hides somewhere in the Irish Republic ; it must be about how we ensure that no further shipments from eastern Europe or wherever get into Ireland. That is a matter of grave concern to us.
Other matters of equal concern include what we will do with the 20, 000 or 30,000 people who, if peace breaks out tomorrow, will be redundant--to put it bluntly? We have had violence within the Province for 25 years. Even if it goes away, there will be a vacuum for many years to come. There will be a space to be filled by evil men. Even if they are not involved in political violence, they will be involved in drugs and racketeering. We all know how the Mafia began. Therefore, there must be no reduction whatever in the level of home-based security services. We must carefully monitor the extent to which regular battalions are
Column 1212taken out of Northern Ireland. My party will want to have its say in that area because we want to influence how the Government tackle that problem.
Difficulties will flow from the ultimate loss of 30,000 jobs some years hence, and there will be a knock-on effect on the economy. All those matters must be thought about now if we hope to move towards peace. I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that the IRA has no intention of moving in that direction. That makes it important to maintain the present security force capability in Northern Ireland in every respect. That relates to regular troops, the maintenance of our police services and the use of special forces. All those will be absolutely necessary, but there is more than that.
As the Irish Republic signed the joint declaration along with Her Majesty's Government, it has an obligation that has not been fulfilled to its full extent in the past. In his speech last night, the Secretary of State alluded to the extent to which border security was deficient. There must now be consultation between the British and Irish Governments about the areas along the frontier where the greatest threat occurs.
South Armagh has seen one sniper attack after another. Although I do not predict where the snipers are domiciled, we know that they mount their attacks from south of the frontier and retreat there after the killings. A great deal more is required in terms of the Irish Republic's obligation in that area. Of course, there are other areas. There is the Dublin bomb team that operates out of the midlands and primes the mortars that are brought across into Northern Ireland. That matter has to be followed up more effectively.
Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West) : The hon. Gentleman speaks about the border separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland. When going to Dublin or crossing the border, one sees many soldiers along different parts of the border. Those soldiers would not be there if there were peace, if the IRA declared a total cessation of violence. Does he agree that the border has become an IRA border?
Mr. Maginnis : Unfortunately, that is so. In terrorist warfare as distinct from conventional warfare, a border such as ours will be dominated by an organisation such as the IRA when there is no effective security with a high degree of co-operation on both sides. The Government must indicate to constitutional politicians how they will prepare for either eventuality. I hope that those in Northern Ireland who call themselves Unionists but who act in a selfish way against the general interest of Unionism will rethink their position and realise that, for purely electoral purposes, they cannot for ever hold to ransom people who have endured so much.
Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton) : In concentrating on the joint declaration relating to Northern Ireland, a debate so ably initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), we must not fail to condemn the evil men of violence on both sides of the sectarian divide, whose murderous campaigns have lead to the death and maiming of so many totally innocent men, women and children. Let us also be clear about placing the blame for the conflict that has so divided the people of Northern Ireland. Some, while claiming to be loyalist, have sunk to the
Column 1213republican terrorists' level. But although the hand of Ulster may be red, the hands of the IRA and their apologists in Sinn Fein are steeped in the blood of so many victims--a blood-red stain that can never be removed by pious platitudes, joint declarations or hypocritical messages of regret. Indeed, it can never be removed until those responsible are identified, apprehended, tried and sentenced for crimes of such grotesque barbarity that they have turned the stomachs of the world.
We have heard too many words and noble statements from the Front Benches of both sides of the House. Noble words are all too often used to mask ignoble deeds, and 10 years' service in this House lead me to suspect that that position might have arisen in connection with Northern Ireland.
Even in agreeing the joint declaration with his counterpart in the Republic of Ireland, the Prime Minister has sent a clear message to the IRA terrorists. Ministers have sought, through weasel words in their statements, to portray themselves as defenders of the Union while endorsing the signing of the declaration--a Trojan horse that heralds the death of the Union and may prove the downfall and break-up of our nation.
The message that the Government's actions have sent clearly and unmistakably is that the IRA has succeeded in one of its most fundamental aims : it has brought about a position in which the Government are now presiding over the dissolution of the Union and are prepared to negotiate with overseas Governments about the future of British citizens. We have only to compare our Government's attitude to, and neutrality on, the Union's future with the attitude of the Irish Government who, in articles 2 and 3, make perfectly clear their territorial claim to Ulster.
I am sorry to introduce a discordant note to the debate, but I believe that the declaration was a fundamental political error in the principles that it espoused and particularly in the clear message that the spaces between its lines sent to the terrorists. Far from feeling that they have failed, they will now feel that they are making good progress and that the wages of their evil are not the political death which they and their aspirations deserve but the realisation of their dreams--a united Ireland.
Ministers have talked about respecting the views of the majority of the people of Ulster and said that they see no prospect of that majority seeking to secede from the Union. Much has been made in this debate of the right to self-determination. That may be the case today, but, for so many years, the people of the Province have borne the brunt of terrorist atrocity after terrorist atrocity. When, in the coming months and years, they inevitably gradually realise that the Government's commitment to the Union is but grudging, that the Government see the Province's problems as a burden which they are forced reluctantly to bear for historical reasons, that, although they are members of the Union, they will never be brought fully within it, and that the cost of their presence within it is resented in some quarters of the United Kingdom, their views will turn. I have no crystal ball and I cannot accurately predict how the break-up of the Union may be brought about. However, the signing of the joint declaration, both in terms of its words and its coded message to the terrorists, has
Column 1214commenced a process that will lead irrevocably to a united Ireland unless the Government change their views, and do so quickly, robustly and publicly.
We can be certain of one thing : moves towards a united Ireland will not solve the troubles of the Province. They will not bring an end to the bloodshed. In their resentment at such a move--and what many of us consider to be such a betrayal--it is inevitable that the loyalist terrorists will, in turn, increase their violence. The signatories to the joint declaration will have condemned the people of Northern Ireland to further decades of bloodshed. There is only one way for peaceful change in Northern Ireland-- to defeat the terrorists on their own terms.
We in the House cannot abandon the people of Northern Ireland to the fate of being ruled by terrorism, any more than we can abandon any other part of the United Kingdom. We must take the opposite course and fully incorporate Northern Ireland within the Union as soon as possible. Only then will we in the House be sending to the IRA the clear message that the armed struggle has failed.
The Downing street declaration was certainly given a warmer reception than the so-called Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. I never thought that the 1985 agreement provided the basis for a peaceful settlement because it lacked the necessary grass-roots support and was essentially an agreement between two Governments. A just and lasting peace requires the support of the people as well as the support of Governments.
I was pleasantly surprised at the comparatively warm reception that the Downing street declaration received last month. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and his party for at least giving the declaration serious consideration--I recognise that that probably required a degree of political courage on their part. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) for the courage that he has displayed in his attempts to find a peaceful solution.
Unfortunately, Sinn Fein's attitude is still unclear, but I appeal to it to abandon violence and take the opportunity to become involved in democratic discussions. I also hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will think again. I can well understand that he and his party are far from satisfied with some aspects of the declaration, but it at least provides a basis for discussion. Surely, it is helpful for opponents to sit round a table to discuss their differences in an effort to end the bloodshed. The hon. Member for Antrim, North is not alone in finding some aspects of the declaration unpalatable. I am not happy about the definition of self determination in the declaration. I cannot accept the double standards of the British Government, who grant a degree of determination to the people of the Province of Northern Ireland while denying any degree of self determination to the people of Scotland who constitute an entire nation. The British Government should admit that Britain was wrong to partition Ireland, and that the resultant creation of Northern Ireland inevitably produced a gerrymandered, unstable entity--politically, economically and militarily. Whether we like it or not, the division of Ireland is a fact and sometimes it is not easy for today's politicians to undo the
Column 1215mistakes of 70 years ago. Let us learn from past mistakes, but let us look to the future now instead of merely living in the past. There is nothing wrong--indeed, in my opinion there is much that is laudable--in having an aspiration or a vision of a united Ireland where people of different religions, cultures and traditions live together in peace and harmony with mutual respect for each other's beliefs, but it is a political problem or, dare I say, a political challenge, to turn that vision into reality.
I welcome the reference in the declaration to the right of self determination for the people of the entire island of Ireland, but I have reservations, to say the least, about the declaration's split definition of that right. I can well understand the difficulty of many Irish people in accepting the definition. It could be argued, however, that it is possible to stand by the right of self determination for the people of Ireland as a whole, while saying that it would be politically unwise to assert or exercise that right at this time without the consent of both parts of Ireland.
Politicians and parties can compromise without abadoning their principles, and it is on that basis that I appeal to all parties to enter discussions on the basis of the declaration.
The Government are needlessly getting themselves into an entrenched position on clarification of the declaration. As I said yesterday at Question Time, they cannot on the one hand say, "We believe in open government" but on the other say, "We do not believe in clarification".
There is a big difference between clarification, negotiation or renegotiation, and certain parts of the declaration are ambiguous and require genuine clarification. I appeal to the Secretary of State to think again on that point.
The declaration is not a settlement but a framework for further progress. I therefore endorse the appeal to all parties to take this opportunity of a place at the negotiating table. Time is running out. More than 3,000 people have lost their lives in the bloody conflict over the past quarter of a century and many more lost their lives in the longer conflict that lasted on for many centuries before that. Surely now is the time to try to find a peaceful and just settlement in the interests of all the people of Ireland, north and south. Whatever their differing beliefs and traditions, they are all human beings with human rights, including the right to live together in peace and harmony.