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Column 275Although I would have to refer the matter to my hon. Friends, I believe that the attaining of evidence in that manner, subject to proper judicial control, would lead to successful prosecutions, as we have seen against the Mafia in the United States. I would not lose much sleep about it, but I want proper controls over it. It should not be left to political decisions by the Secretary of State. Just cause for curtailing such evidence would have to be given before a judicial officer.
On the right to silence and the possession and assumption of knowledge, the Secretary of State has taken the right decisions. The Government must recognise that we cannot continue to maintain the same policing methods in a divided society which, every year, grows even more geographically segregated. We understand the difficulties in recruiting greater numbers of the minority community to the RUC. However, more than 90 per cent. of the membership of the police force is drawn from one community. That serious imbalance cannot be ignored.
The Government's recent discussion paper, "Policing in the Community", does not tackle the problems of community acceptability and recruitment. Instead of examining alternative structures, it merely proposes the further centralisation of power. The discussion paper seeks to maintain the fiction that community policy and security policing are separate.
Northern Ireland needs the whole community to feel that the police force belongs to all of them. While we understand that this objective is intrinsically linked to the political situation and to the question of a political settlement, it should nevertheless still be the immediate aim of the Government to consider ways in which to improve the general acceptability of the police force.
The Labour party recognises the need for an effective anti-terrorist policy. We ourselves have instituted a major independent research project to re-evaluate current anti-terrorist methods, to develop alternative proposals and to look also at European experience. The failure to develop a comprehensive and successful counter-subversion policy has led to a steady erosion of civil liberties, and meanwhile has left the citizens of this country exposed to terrorist attack.
The terrorist denies the most basic of human rights : the citizen's right to life. But that does not free the Government of their responsibility to maintain certain democratic principles, objectives and rights.
We will vote against the order tonight, because it has failed to be an effective mechanism to defeat the paramilitary ; because the power of internment remains on the statute books ; and because of the Government's constant failure to accept the recommendations of their own advisers to improve the protection of the citizen and remove propaganda material from the mouths of terrorists. Until the Government repeal the power of internment and introduce reforms and safeguards recommended by their own hand-picked advisers, the Labour party is unable to support the renewal of the order.
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Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke) : It is therapeutic to listen to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) because whatever inner doubts one might have about one's own position are instantly dispelled by his tortuous and fallacious reasoning. I shall be brief. The substantive arguments relating to the emergency provisions have been well rehearsed over the years. Many of us who hope to catch your eye in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will speak from well-entrenched and well- defined positions. I am no exception to that rule. I strongly support the renewal of the emergency provisions.
The underlying issue--the key to the debate--is of course the tension which exists between, on the one hand, championing civil liberties and, on the other hand, taking effective measures in the fight against terrorism. I do not deny for one moment that both the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the emergency provisions do curtail civil rights, but I believe that the greatest threat to civil liberties actually comes from terrorism and not from these measures. Those who seek to undermine or change the decision of the ballot box by bullet or bomb are themselves committing a greater offence against civil liberties than are these measures.
It is a paradox that unless we take appropriate measures against terrorism we are ourselves undermining cherished civil liberties. In the context of terrorism, we have to requalify civil liberties. Nor should we overlook the fact that the emergency provisions go hand in hand with the search for a political settlement, and we undermine the chances of achieving a political settlement if we do not take effective measures against terrorism.
I shall discipline myself and select just three points from Mr. Rowe's report. Many others can be made and other hon. Members will no doubt make them. The first takes up a substantial part of the speech by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North. I welcome the retention of the detention orders in part IV, section 34--I refer particularly to page 30, chapter 7 of the report. This is, we know, an emotive and divisive issue. My personal views have not changed, and I do not apologise for holding them. I believe that there are circumstances--select, special circumstances --in which detention is justified and should be used. I therefore welcome Mr. Rowe's conclusion.
Mr. Hunter : The hon. Gentleman is excessively enthusiastic. Had he borne with me for a moment or so, I would have discussed that point. Before I gave way a little prematurely, I was saying that I therefore welcome the conclusion drawn by Mr. Rowe that the detention powers should remain part of the Act. I acknowledge that internment is an infringement of civil liberties. I acknowledge that when it was practised in the 1970s probably some people were unjustly detained. I acknowledge that in the 1970s it was a boost to terrorism, but I believe that that was yesterday's argument and that the times have significantly changed.
Internment today would be regarded as fairer than was the case in the 1970s, for the simple reason that it would strike across the community divide. That is a substantial
Column 277difference from the practice of internment 20 years or so ago. Both the political climate and public thinking have substantially changed. Whereas then we were dealing with an immediate backlog of an abuse of civil liberties, that is hardly the case today. Public thinking has changed, and so has the quality of intelligence. For those reasons, I am suspicious of the familiar arguments against internment. In answer to the question that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) asked me, I believe that the most justifiable circumstances for the use of internment are when heightened terrorist activity is a reality or is anticipated on strong intelligence grounds. Selective internment at that point, aimed at key people known in the terrorist movements, can totally undermine and destroy terrorist cells' command and communication structures and incapacitate terrorist activity. In those circumstances, used selectively and sensitively, I believe that internment can work.
Mr. Brazier : Does my hon. Friend agree that powers of that type, although they are not called internment powers, already exist in almost every other country in Europe and have been used successfully--holding people for months on end--in dealing with organisations such as the Red Brigade ?
Mr. Hunter : I do not have the intimate knowledge that my hon. Friend has. From my reading about the ways in which other countries have tackled terrorist problems, I know that there has never been a success without the legal powers to detain the leading players in the game of terrorism.
I shall accelerate to the second theme that I want to take up from Mr. Rowe's report. I am prompted to that by a statement on page 19, paragraph 3, under the heading,
"General remarks on Part I of the Act",
where Mr. Rowe writes :
"It was said to me that there should be . . . no further use of hearsay against the defendant on material points or substantial and contentious matters."
Leading questions always need to be asked about our battle against Irish terrorism. Are the resources available ? Are the legal powers that we need there ? Is our intelligence gathering all that it should be ? Is the co- operation with the Republic all that it should be ? The question of legal powers is pertinent to the emergency powers that we are discussing.
I listened with great interest to the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I must confess that I followed closely the arguments that emanated especially from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and which were reflected in the amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill tabled by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). Those amendments and the surrounding debate concentrated on whether hearsay and electronically gathered evidence should be admitted. There was the question whether the right to silence should be redefined. There was the question of providing greater protection for witnesses and the emotive issue of encouraging super -grass evidence. I do not think that the debate is closed. Many more people will give their ideas in the next few months and I know that my hon. Friends share the thought that perhaps those should be considered closely before we come to a conclusion.
There is to be a major review of the emergency provisions next year. I hope that those will be among the many issues to be considered in that review. If the feeling
Column 278of the RUC is that these additional powers should be enshrined in law, we as politicians would have to have very good reasons for failing to go along with the proposal. The RUC is, after all, in the front line of the fight against Irish terrorism.
My last point refers to paragraph 3 on page 35 of Mr. Rowe's report. This concerns the conclusion that interviews should be recorded on audio tape. I remain cynical about that conclusion. I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward by the RUC. Mr. Rowe summarises at great length the case that he encountered. What interests me about his thesis is that his counter-argument singularly fails to convince. Mr. Rowe quarrels with the fact that all that the RUC feared would happen if tape recording were introduced is the current reality. Surely that fact is an argument for looking at existing practices rather than for jumping to the conclusion that what is needed is the recording of interviews.
The emergency provisions have an essential and integral part to play in the battle against terrorism. They therefore supplement the search for political agreement. The annual report unequivocally recommends their renewal, and that is precisely what we should do today.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : I find it very difficult to take part in this debate. In the past seven days, there have been four murders in my constituency. Two of those murdered were neighbours of mine-- young students shot in a taxi station in Armagh--one was a young soldier in the town of Keady, and the fourth was a young soldier in the city of Armagh. Having experienced such a thing so recently, and having known it so often over the past 25 years, one is torn emotionally, intellectually and, indeed, politically when one addresses these issues. It would be very difficult for people like me to adopt the decided views that can be taken by people living in England, Scotland or Wales.
In these circumstances, it is all the more essential that we examine, scrutinise and, indeed, criticise the legislation. The more terrorism strikes at the heart of a community, the more that community's legislators should defend those things in the system of law and in society that we all hold dear. The last thing we should be doing is facilitating terrorists by allowing them to create a legal wasteland, to force us to bend the law as is done in this legislation and to produce in us knee-jerk reactions that often have more to do with personal prejudices than with the defeat of terrorism. That is why it is absolutely essential that the House of Commons should ensure that it does not approach the matter as being, in the words of the Evening Standard of 10 March 1993,
"a litmus test for sound anti-terrorist credentials."
I do not for one moment believe that there is an hon. Member in the House who does not have sound anti-terrorist credentials. Whatever our views, they should be treated on that basis.
Our views should also be treated in a wider way because we are at a crucial time in the life of the north of Ireland. Put simply, is it possible that we can persuade the terrorist groups to stop their violence, become part of the political process and create peace or is it not ? The answer to that question very much determines views on what may or may not be contained in this legislation or any future legislation.
Column 279For that reason, it is essential that we examine, scrutinise, and, with courage, question that which we feel should be questioned. There is no point in our participating in a three-hour debate once a year, to be ritualistic, say safe things and make comments that might please other people. We should put the spotlight on the subject : where there is a deviation and derogation from the normal law, we must always shine the spotlight. For that reason, I would not regard today's debate as ritualistic, although it may sometimes sound ritualistic, but as an essential part of the process.
We should ask broad general questions. We may not be able to answer some of them and we may have divided views on some of them. The first question that I would ask is this : can the implementation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 and the prevention of terrorism Act be fully and properly accommodated within a civilised society without doing irreparable damage ? Secondly, is damage done to the process of law that has been seen in this country to have resulted in unsound and unsatisfactory convictions--of which I think there have been six over this period ?
On the subject of damage to the process of justice itself, are the highest standards and integrity of law and the process of justice being eroded in any way by the implementation of the legislation ? We have only to look at some of the events that have taken place over the years in what are now called holding centres and what used to be called interrogation centres, at some of the incidents that have happened on the streets and at the incidents that involve loss of life. If we consider the issue in those terms, we must say that there is a danger that damage is done to the process of justice. Is damage done to the body politic itself ? Is there an erosion of the proper conviction that the law, the courts, the police and the legislators are there to protect every person's right as well as to punish him or her when he or she transgresses ? Is the legislation there to protect, rather than diminish, those rights ? After all, legislation exists to defend the innocent, not to make him or her subject to detention for the purpose of intelligence gathering, as has happened in the past--a subject to which I shall refer later. Is damage done to society as a whole ? Are the highest standards, which we should all cherish, being damaged in the process of trying to arrive at a political solution through the legal process ? We should ask those questions and we should keep asking them, because what is at stake is not just the future elimination or defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland or what happens to the Provisional IRA or the so-called loyalist paramilitary groups. At stake are the principles and the highest standards that have been built up painstakingly over centuries. Once those are diminished, it is difficult to re-establish and reinstate them. Every time the law is diminished, society is diminished, and every time society is diminished, so is every person within it. Against that background, no matter whom it might hurt, we should examine the legislation and the laws within it very carefully indeed.
I shall concentrate on about four issues and intend to speak briefly. The first issue concerns the delays in remand. I quote the Secretary of State in a previous debate on 8 June 1993 :
Column 280"We set demanding targets of 38 weeks from first remand to committal, and 14 weeks from committal to arraignment. The scheme began on 1 July 1992. The agencies involved in the prosecution process have embarked on the operation with great vigour." We should examine that vigour and commitment. Mr. Rowe told us in his report that the average time for remand in 1992 was 57 weeks. Notwithstanding the Secretary of State's statement about the vigour that would operate in relation to remand, the average time of remand went up to 65 weeks in 1993. That is not great evidence of the vigour that I should like to see exercised by those agencies of the law that have responsibility for remand.
Let us remind ourselves that remand involves taking away a person's freedom before that person is found guilty. Let us have more vigour. Let us subject the Secretary of State's statement to scrutiny and ask the Secretary of State to ask the agencies why that vigour has not in effect shown the results that he anticipated in the time limits to which he referred.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I strongly support his view that there have been undue delays in bringing cases to court. Many people wait more than two years before they get their day in court and some never get to court as their cases are dropped before they get that far. Nobody could approve of that. Has the hon. Gentleman considered the two possibilities in the Rowe report--that in one set of circumstances the accused would be allowed bail after a given period or, alternatively, that the case would fall altogether ? Which of those two does the hon. Gentleman support ?
Mr. Mallon : I have to be honest and say neither. If I wanted to make a debating point, I would have chosen one of them, but the Secretary of State committed himself one year ago when he said : "A more satisfactory assessment will be possible in the light of a full year's operation of the scheme. Then we shall able to address Lord Colville's proposal for a new scheme of time limits, statutory or otherwise, to cover all those on remand and custody for the indictable offences. That is an important factor."
I agree. Surely the only satisfactory solution is not to have a statutory time limit--which I believe applies in Scotland--or an arbitrary limit whereby after a given period the person is released irrespective of what evidence may have been accumulated, but an arrangement whereby the agencies adhere to the time limit set down by the Secretary of State, which was 38 weeks plus 14.
My second question relates to recording interviews. Lord Colville recommended video recording. Mr. Rowe recommends audio recording ; he says that he has no view on video recording. I trust that he will develop a view before the substantive report is made for the five-year review. The Chief Constable opposes it. He seems to be fairly lonely on that issue, because I have not met anyone in the system who does not see the merits of it.
In his report, Mr. Rowe refers to the amount of compensation for allegations of ill treatment and so on in interrogation centres. He makes the point that some of it may be finding its way into the coffers of paramilitary groups. But surely one of the sound ways of preventing that is to have the type of video recording about which he has no view. It is there as a protection not just for the individual but for the police themselves against allegations that might be unfounded and is worth serious consideration.
Column 281The Law Reform Commission of Canada, when studying that point in 1985-87, said :
"Aside from providing a new tool for the investigative process, the Police, Crown Counsel and defence lawyers viewed the introduction of this technology as an improvement of the administration of justice. An accurate video tape record of police interviews largely eliminates court room conflicts over what was said and how an accused was treated. The new technology, therefore, helps police in gathering evidence at the same time as it adds protection to the rights of the accused."
I think that that opinion, substantiated by Lord Colville and supported by Mr. Rowe, is one which the Secretary of State should look at again. We must question Sir Hugh Annesley's view on that, because it is not enough to say that he is head of the police and that he is the person ultimately responsible. His views must be challenged as well. If we are to get to the root of much of the apprehension that exists about holding centres, that surely is one of the ways to do it. That is the way in which to protect the police as well as the person in custody.
I refer now to the intimidation of lawyers which is cropping up. Some instances have been referred to me in my work. I cite the case of a law firm in Newry called Fitzsimons, Mallon and--I have forgotten the other name. The Mallon is no relation. I shall supply the rest of the name to the Secretary of State. Some of the most scurrilous allegations are alleged to have been made by interrogating police officers to clients of that firm. It has made its complaint to the police. I ask the Secretary of State to ensure that that does not happen within the legal process, because if such allegations are continually made, there is something in the air, and responsible solicitors will not contact my office or anybody else's unless they are fairly sure of their ground--fairly sure that the allegation is not a concoction, and has, indeed, been made.
My third point is about compensation for those whose businesses or homes might be affected by the security forces. A year ago, the Secretary of State gave a commitment :
"I shall see whether it is possible to devise and implement a fair and practicable scheme which would help them, but that cannot be done quickly." --[ Official Report , 8 June 1993 ; Vol. 226, c. 155-60.] A year has elapsed since the Secretary of State gave that commitment. It is right and proper that we should ask him whether he has been able to do so, and in a way that will show results. There is a bakery in my constituency which goes back to 1903 and which is now surrounded by a police base. It needs to expand but cannot, for the simple reason that the police have taken the land that it would need to do so for use as a heliport. Its entrance is now guarded by the Army, and its lorries must go through it as though they were going into a police state. That bakery has been offered no compensation for the fact that it cannot run its business properly. In the light of the commitment that he made last year, I ask the Secretary of State to examine that case ; indeed, there are many cases throughout the north of Ireland in which compensation is justified.
My final point relates to detention for up to seven days. I have considerable reservations about that, mainly because of something that was said in the House of Commons in October 1983 by the then Home Secretary. Leon Brittan said that the power of detention had acted
"first, as a deterrent to persons other than the people who have been detained".
A Home Secretary was telling us that it was right that
Column 282people should be detained in order to deter others, through a process which is a derogation from the European convention on human rights. Secondly, the power had
"enabled information to be obtained that was of direct value in the battle against terrorism, even though it did not lead to action against the people concerned."--[ Official Report , 24 October 1983 ; Vol. 47, c. 55- 6.]
That is what a Home Secretary said, on the Floor of the House of Commons, about the use of powers of detention under the PTA and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991.
Surely we have a right to be concerned when such a motivation is put on record on the Floor of the House as a justifiable reason--two justifiable reasons--for the use of seven-day detention powers. In the cases that were specified, the detentions did not result from the activities of the people involved but were intended to act as a deterrent or to trawl for information.
I do not know whether that is still happening, but I am concerned about the figures. In 1993, 1,641 people were detained in Northern Ireland under the PTA ; 379 were charged and 1,262 were released without charge. I know the difficulties faced by the police : I know that those involved in terrorism sometimes cannot be broken down, and may leave the police station after the relevant period with a smirk on their faces, knowing that they have avoided charges. I recognise the problem of a police officer who knows that the person sitting across the table either organised or carried out the most heinous crimes, and also knows that he must release that person after seven days.
Nevertheless, there is something wrong in those figures--something questionable. I do not know what it is, but I ask the Secretary of State-- in the spirit in which I began--to subject them to as much scrutiny as possible. It would be intolerable if the legislation were used for the reasons given by the then Home Secretary.
I welcome this opportunity to deal with some of the points raised by the motion. I think that we should do this, and do it as honestly as we can. There is something that will survive IRA and so-called loyalist terrorism-- the high standard that we have set ourselves in this country and in Ireland, which is worth protecting.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : Once again, we gather for what some consider a ritual debate on the Northern Ireland (Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism Provisions) (Continuance) Order. Since our last debate, violence and murder have not only continued unabated but increased dramatically. Therefore, it is appropriate for elected representatives in the House from both Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom to question why there is such a deplorable and deadly situation.
I read the morning view in a local newspaper, which said : "Evil forces are at work in our community who have got to be confronted head on by the Government and by those tasked with law and order in our Province.
Innocent people must be protected as they go about their normal business. The RUC and the army have got to switch the emphasis to providing proactive rather than reactive security . . . The troubles have plagued the people of Northern Ireland for 25 long years. There can never be an acceptable level of violence and even one more day of terror is a day too much for a people who have endured more than their share of suffering."
I concur with those remarks. When one reads that, after 25 years of terrorism in our Province and in the United Kingdom, one fact is clear. It is beyond dispute that the
Column 283so-called and much-heralded peace policy purported to be the real answer to our ills has failed abysmally. The debate and the renewal of the Act are proof of that stubborn fact.
On 9 November, my hon. Friends presented proposals to the Prime Minister. During that meeting, the Prime Minister said that he was not rejecting those proposals, as many of them were in accordance with his own views. However, he said that he had a quicker and a more certain way in which to produce peace and a quicker way in which to bring an end to terrorism. That process was the one on which he had embarked with the Dublin Government. It was promised that the London-Dublin discussions would produce the peace prize for which every sane person yearned--and yearns. We were all assured by the Dublin Government that we would have peace by Christmas. The SDLP said that we would have peace within a week, then by Christmas, then by Easter, then after Easter. Now it is a prize well worth waiting for.
Of course, we must not forget that, in our constituencies--certainly in mine, for yesterday I again stood at the graveside of a young, gallant member of the security forces--the murder, the slaughter, the carnage and the torture of innocent people continues. In reality, the so-called peace process, in which many are engaged, is in my opinion and in the opinion of many in the Province nothing more or less than bogus and a deceit. The overtures to the IRA-Sinn Fein murderers have continued, while Northern Ireland has been savaged by terrorism. Yesterday's murder of a young Shankill road man in the centre of the city of Belfast brings the total of murders this year to 32--three more than last year. Yet we are supposed to be in the midst of the peace process. We are supposed to be in a time of expressions of peace from the IRA-Sinn Fein. The galling fact is that, while innocent victims lie on the street, the media parade animals on our television screens talking about their efforts for peace. Yesterday, I stood once again in my constituency at the open grave of a young soldier, one who was 19 years of age. My eldest is 21. That soldier was only a boy, who was walking the streets of Armagh. That boy was taken and was not only done to death--not quickly because, even for them, that would have been too little--but was tortured in the most despicable way.
Can anyone here understand the pain of a mother or father whose son is murdered ? Can anyone really understand the anguish in the heart of a mother when she realises that her son was taken and, while she was lying in her bed, was tortured and parts of his body rent asunder while the very people who parade on our television screens are, we are told, involved in a peace process ? The Secretary of State tells us that, in a short while, if they lay down their weapons, we shall draw a line in the sand. Can anyone imagine what that does to a mother ?
Let us bear in mind that, a year ago, the young boy of 19 walked down the same road that we walked along yesterday, carrying his brother in a coffin. His brother had been murdered by the same scum that murdered him. That is not all. Thirteen years ago, that boy's granny--an old woman--was blown to bits by the IRA so that family, who are my constituents, have lost a granny, a grandson of 22 and a boy of 19.
What was that young boy's crime ? His crime was to put on the Queen's uniform. He wanted to protect the
Column 284law-abiding citizens of our community, Protestant and Roman Catholic. He wanted to provide a better life for them and believed that he had a duty to do something to ensure the safety of the people of the Province. It is a duty that some people criticise from their armchairs, but they themselves would never do anything to provide that protection for the community.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that the security forces were in fact representative of only one community in Northern Ireland. In all the years that he has been shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he would have done well to have called, at the Dispatch Box, on members of the other community to join the security forces and protect the people, instead of using every opportunity to gut and cut asunder the efforts of brave and courageous young men and women who have joined the security forces and defended the right to life. I salute all members of our security forces for their bravery and courage.
It is all very well for hon. Members to sit here in these beautiful surroundings, on the green Benches of Westminster, but let me tell them where some of the boys whom I represent are. They are lying behind a ditch or walking the roads while the snow is on the ground, the hail beats down on them or the rain soaks them. They are certainly not doing it for the money because no one could say that ordinary soldier boys are overpaid. Those young lads operate not in the comfort of the House but along the border. They are in areas where to put on the uniform means danger, but not to put on the uniform means the surrender of law and order to the terrorists.
Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West) : The hon. Gentleman used the word "scum". I totally agree with that description of the people who tortured the young soldier from Cookstown and brutally murdered him, and with the other strong language that the hon. Gentleman used. But would he also use the word "scum", as I certainly would, to described the so-called loyalist paramilitaries, who have also taken young people out and brutally tortured and murdered them ?
Rev. William McCrea : I know exactly what it is not to sit away from terrorism, but to feel terrorism. No terrorism has any glory in it. There is nothing delightful about any terrorist and nothing courageous about terrorism. I know, because in our family we have experienced the reality of terrorism not once, not twice, not three times, but more often. I know what the reality and the curse of terrorism is.
Because I know what terrorism does, and I know about the blight of terrorism in the community, I believe that we need to take the actions that will destroy terrorists. We should not parade them on our television screens, as if in a matter of three months of decontamination they could be looked upon as something other than the terrorists that they are. I do not buy that argument when I think about Reggie and Nigel McCollum and the lady in Dungannon. I do not buy it when I think about young Fred Anthony, or about little Emma, who is fighting for her life at this moment.
After standing at the graveside yesterday I went to the home of Emma Anthony and sat with the family there. Does the House really know what that is like ? She is a little girl of three. If the look or the picture of a wee three-year-old child does not touch the heart of the terrorists, does anybody think that, because of a few
Column 285appeals to them, a few pats on the back, the idea that they will become gentlemen if they just lay down their weapons, they will turn from their vile and evil deeds ?
I believe that if the people in IRA-Sinn Fein are thinking anything at the present moment it is how they can advance their position politically. It is not that they are sick of terrorism, or of the vile deeds that they have done. It is not that they are ready to repent for what they have done within the community. No, they are behaving in a certain way because they believe that they have a better chance than ever before, and that they will get rewards for their deeds--because they have been able to bomb their way to a place at the table.
Like every other Member of the House from Northern Ireland, I entered the House not through the bomb or the bullet but through the ballot box, and through honouring the ballot box. Yet what have we seen ? We have seen the sickening appearance of the Government dealing through the back door, in my opinion contemptibly and disgracefully, in betrayal of the gallant men and women who down through the years have made the ultimate sacrifice in the battle against terrorism.
What do we find ? We find that Government agencies and Government people are negotiating with, talking to, and in cahoots with, the terrorists behind the scenes. On 29 November, after many months and years, our Government were found to be involved in that process, through certain contacts with the IRA. The revelations came shortly after our Prime Minister said at the Dispatch Box that his stomach would turn at the thought of negotiating with the IRA-Sinn Fein. To find out that those contacts were already taking place on the very day on which that statement was made, proved to the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland the utter duplicity of British Government policy towards the Province. The declaration is a declaration addressed to the IRA-Sinn Fein. No consideration was given to the long-suffering, heartbroken majority of our Province. The other day, I heard some folks say that the same offer is on the table for the loyalist terrorists. I must challenge that because I remember a meeting that I held with the Prime Minister and my colleagues, the leader and the deputy leader of my party. At that meeting, I asked the Prime Minister why the Secretary of State, in the speeches that he was making throughout the Province, said that if the IRA-Sinn Fein turned its back or put down its weapons, there would be a place at the table for it. Why did he not mention the UVF, the UFF, the UDA and the Red Hand commandos ? I found the answer interesting. The Prime Minister said that in discussions he had had with others, it was evident that the UVF, the UFF, the UDA and the Red Hand commandos would not have a mandate from the electorate but that Sinn Fein did, so it could not be treated in the same way. The Prime Minister also said that loyalist violence was only reactive, not proactive, and therefore it was believed and perceived that the Government had only to address the IRA terrorism and all other terrorism would cease. In other words, the Government had only to buy off the IRA-- there was no need to buy off anyone else because the violence would automatically stop.
No credence is given to the concerns and alienation of the loyalist people until the statistics change. That is what is so sickening about it all. The only time that one is recognised and one is told that one can get the same treatment is if one starts to murder--if one starts to put up
Column 286one's statistics and beats the other boys at the same game. In other words, the only thing that one needs is proof--the only time that people will listen is when one murders. That is the law of the jungle, but it is not the law of the United Kingdom and it is not the law of democracy. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) should not be laughing.
Rev. William McCrea : I would wipe the sneer off the hon. Gentleman's face. I can assure the House that while the murder was in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he was not standing with me yesterday in Sandholes ; nor did he visit the family of the young boy who was brutally done to death.
It is evident from the fact that, after all these years, we are still talking about emergency and prevention of terrorism provisions that we are in an unholy mess and tragedy. The price that the IRA demands may be offered by the Government, but that will not decide the matter because they are not in a position to make the offer. The people of Northern Ireland will have the final say. The feeling of frustration and alienation within the majority community has been dismissed by many as rabble rousing, yet I wonder what it will take before the truth of the situation is faced.
The other day, Mr. Adair was lifted in the Shankill road. I shall not enter into his case because it is sub judice. We were told that that was the first time that such legislation had been used and the essence of the charge is that he is supposed to have been directing terrorism. What about Mr. Martin McGuinness from Londonderry ? What about the mountain of evidence produced on two television programmes against him for directing terrorism ? He has not been lifted under the legislation--oh no, that will do for the Protestants and the loyalists--but we know why. I asked in the House why Mr. McGuinness was not lifted immediately after Roger Cook's two television programmes. Let us remember that Mr. Cook was very courageous even to put them together. The Government could not let Mr. McGuinness be lifted because he was fronting their IRA-Sinn Fein connection and doing deals in back rooms, so they could not touch him. Is that fair execution of justice ? It seems rather strange.
The Government introduced legislation on incitement to hatred. It is interesting that it was used only against another loyalist. Would anyone suggest that many speeches by IRA members--whether wearing hoods in Carrickmore or standing on a stage to be photographed--were an incitement to hatred although the legislation was not used ? There is a feeling of alienation within the community. The position of democratically elected politicians, especially in the Unionist community, is being undermined and demeaned and murderers are being elevated.
I trust that the House will pass this legislation. It is a sad reality that we need it after all these years because we ought to have defeated the enemy. Unfortunately, if one talks to such people in back rooms, behind doors, one cannot be expected to defeat them. I and my colleagues will join hon. Members who support the legislation in the Lobby, but I must say that I long for peace with all my heart. My constituency, like others, has been ravaged by terrorism, but there is still a belief that one can buy off terrorists.
Sir Patrick Mayhew : I have been reflecting on what the hon. Gentleman said about prosecution and the lack of it. Will he tell the House openly whether he is asserting that the Chief Constable of the RUC and the Director of Public Prosecutions are politically motivated in the exercise of their functions and are other than independent ?
As far as prosecutions are concerned, the question is still unanswered. Who is guilty ? I do not have the information. Will the Secretary of State tell the House why Martin McGuinness is not behind bars tonight ? Will the Secretary of State tell the House why Martin McGuinness could not be arrested after two damning--I use the word properly--programmes with a wealth of evidence ? Why was he not before a court ? I had a constituent from Mid-Ulster--a loyalist--and Roger Cook did one programme in which he was involved. My constituent was lifted the morning after the programme, interviewed and sentenced to imprisonment in Magilligan prison.
If it was right--the Secretary of State will be able to answer the question far better than I--that there has been hokery-pokery, no one in the Province will believe the Secretary of State. No one believes that Martin McGuinness should not at least have been arrested after such evidence was gathered. After talking to members of his own Northern Ireland Office, I can tell the Secretary of State that that is believed there as well.
I suppose that it is difficult to say that because there might be a rampage to find out who speaks to me from either the Secretary of State's private office or the Northern Ireland Office. The Government would more concerned about that than they would be about finding out whether McGuinness was responsible for murders and for directing terrorism in the Province.
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) : Is not the point which the hon. Gentleman is making not so much whether we should question the competence of the Chief Constable or of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but whether McGuinness should not at least have been arrested and questioned after the two programmes ? Should not questions have come from the Northern Ireland Office as to why McGuinness, with a wealth of evidence against him, was not arrested and questioned ?