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Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam): Today has been another enormously successful day in Northern Ireland. Families have been out shopping, the streets have been full of bustle and we expect that there will be a
Column 1085bumper build-up to Christmas. This is an enormous tribute to the Prime Minister. I have no doubt that if it had not been for his absolute determination, working closely and harmoniously with Mr. Albert Reynolds, we should never have seen the situation today in Northern Ireland.
The only thing I feel rather sorry about is that this week, the newspapers have been swamped by allegations and they have totally turned aside from the real issues--the lives of people about whom really serious debate is warranted. That is a pity and I hope that we can return to more important matters as time goes by.
I welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), although I felt that she focused a little too much on economic regeneration. I say that because it is tempting, when one sees success in the air, to start to leap ahead and to plan how suddenly to have a much better world. How tempting it is to see jobs being created and to see people being more settled. I totally understand that, but I believe that the trouble is that if we spend too much time planning that economic regeneration, tempting though it is, we shall turn our minds away from the infinitely more painful task of how to get Sinn Fein-IRA to knuckle down and to lay down its weapons. That is the big test.
I totally endorse the view of hon. Members who have recognised that this process will be stumbling. It could take months and our patience will be sorely tried. One thing I know for certain is that this is not the time for us to make any more concessions. We have already gone far enough. I am fearful that if we start to discuss, for instance, amnesties, we shall go down the wrong route and pass out the wrong message. What we should be doing is listening carefully to the Prime Minister who is rightly cautious- -and I endorse that approach.
Today's announcements over the airwaves by the IRA spokesmen are indications that although there is a so-called "ceasefire", it will not necessarily be permanent. The word "ceasefire" means only a cessation of military operations. It does not mean permanence. Although there is a great debate in which people have said that we should not go down the road of semantics, we should listen carefully to the things people are saying. I do not find it very comforting to hear IRA spokesmen say that there will be
"no handing in of weapons until we have seen progress in talks." They have said that this is "a pause" and that there is a "difference between ceasefire and permanent peace."
All of that could indicate blackmail, which is why we must be extremely careful and determined. By all means, when we enter the stage of talks about talks, let them continue and let us keep the IRA talking. But we may reach a point where we find ourselves being dragged up avenues because the IRA-Sinn Fein may hope that, if they spin out talks about disarmament until a general election, they will achieve better favours. On that point, I was grateful that the hon. Member for Redcar said that that organisation should expect no favours from her party. That was important.
None the less, it is essential to establish the vital role of trust. It would be unrealistic to expect parties to sit down together at the same table knowing that they could be blackmailed and that a smoking gun could go off if negotiations went wrong. For a lasting peace, the
Column 1086IRA-Sinn Fein must pass the Semtex test. That also applies to the loyalist paramilitary groups and their weaponry, which is significant and can inflict appalling damage.
I welcome the Dublin Government's whole-hearted support of our endeavours in that particular area. It will be the most difficult stage of the entire peace process. In any case, it will be messy and probably not that satisfactory. The global trade in guns is so free that the IRA could hand over its 650 AK47 rifles, a dozen general purpose machine guns, 20 heavy calibre machine guns, 100 Webley revolvers and 40 RPG rocket grenade launchers and then replace them within weeks. After all, it is wealthy enough to be able to do so. The litmus test will be the Semtex, which is not so easy to replace. It is calculated that the IRA took delivery of some 3 tonnes from Libya during the 1980s--more than enough to keep it in explosives until the end of the century. I understand that the bulk of that stockpile is thought to be in bunkers in the Irish Republic. The omens, therefore, are not that encouraging. Only recently, Martin McGuinness said in an interview that he would be laughed out of the room if he asked the IRA to hand over its weapons. That may be so, but the Prime Minister is absolutely right to insist that he try. After all, if the paramilitaries are serious about peace, what possible use can they have for them? I support the remarks from this side of the House to the effect that it is absolutely fallacious to talk about weapons being "offensive" or "defensive", as though there is a right for one weapon as against another.
The Sinn Fein-IRA has entered the
"unarmed phase of the armed struggle".
I remind the House that there is no evidence that its runners have been stood down. I understand that they are still on active duty both in Ulster and on the mainland. At a moment's call, they could return to the use of fire power, so we need to be alert. If we can get through until the spring without a return to violence, it will be a watershed and we can then look more optimistically to the future. However, matters are not helped when Mr. McGuinness is reported to have said that the whole process will be reviewed by Sinn Fein-IRA in March. If that is not a threat, I do not know what is. It is no use seeking so-called "British demilitarisation" if it cannot match such a move.
We should take great heart in our improved relations with Dublin. They have been significant in the progress that we have made today, especially with regard to security operations. It is an encouraging sign that the Gardai raided more than 50 homes of members of either the Republican Sinn Fein or the new hard-line military grouping, the Irish National Republican Army, or INRA. INRA is believed to have carried out extensive fund raising both in the Republic and the US over the past couple of months. The fear is that it is planning a series of terror attacks aimed at disrupting the peace process. Undoubtedly, it is the main threat, seeking to attract dissident IRA supporters who do not support the peace initiative.
Previous Gardai raids had sparked off the seizure of seven hand grenades, three pistols and 3,000 rounds of ammunition. A hand gun, ammunition and two walkie-talkie sets were found on another occasion. Also
Column 1087confiscated in the nationwide swoops were videos, policy documents, speeches and copies of the Republican Sinn Fein internal magazine. The Gardai's intelligence has since reported that the raids have recently and seriously disrupted a number of terrorist strikes planned by INRA, a small splinter group of the IRA. All that work by the Gardai is an excellent start. After all, it is just as much in the Republic's interest as ours to have peace. That pincer movement is vital to the success of future peace, to show that the IRA-Sinn Fein will have nowhere to run and hide. I therefore congratulate the Taoiseach on his efforts to support our Prime Minister in his important work.
Ms Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood): I wanted to participate in this debate because we have had so many debates on Northern Ireland in which we have denounced injustice and talked about catastrophe that it is a great moment for the House that we can celebrate an optimistic moment in Irish history.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I begin on a personal note. I am proud to represent a constituency in which I was born and grew up, but I am also proud of the fact that I am one of 8 million people of Irish origin who live in Britain. My father came from Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland, a fact with which I am constantly taunted as though I should be ashamed of it --I am not. My mother's great-grandfather came from Ireland during the famine, married a woman whom he met during that journey, and settled in Birmingham. So both sides of my family come out of the pain and tragedy of Irish history and its entanglement with Britain. That is part of what produces me and my politics and my place in my city.
Although I am typical of 8 million people who live in Britain, when we have tried to speak about our experience of the inter-relationship between Ireland and Britain, we have been denounced as fellow travellers of those who use violence in the nationalist cause. That has caused enormous anger among people of Irish descent. Those who know little of Irish history ignorantly tar everyone who simply seeks justice in Ireland with the same brush, imagining that we support terrorism. That has happened in the tabloid press and too often in this House.
The truth is that people of Irish origin in Britain have felt the pain of the violence more; have felt more angry at the IRA's use of violence because they are people who claim to speak on the side of the argument from which we come. So we feel it personally and hate it more. It is absolutely wrong that people should attempt to tar us with those views.
Many people criticise the Irish people's obsession with history. I agree that it is wrong to be obsessed with history, but it is also important to learn from history. In these days of instant politics, instant communication and too much television, too few people now read books and learn from history. This is an optimistic moment in the history of Ireland in Britain. But there have been other historical opportunities before and we have lost them. The success of this opportunity is not inevitable.
I shall not go through a long list, but we all remember the arguments in this House about home rule and how they divided the great parties. Home rule was never achieved and Ireland never had democracy. The history of the relationship between the two Irelands would have
Column 1088been utterly different had Ireland had democracy. That was a great failure of British history, yet there were moments when home rule was nearly achieved.
One can think back to 1916, the war against Britain and then the civil war. Talks took place between Britain and Ireland. Michael Collins came to London to talk to Lloyd George about a settlement. What a tragedy for Ireland that it came so early in the process of British decolonisation. Had India been decolonised earlier, and had Ireland been seen in the context of democratic settlements of countries that had been colonised, Britain would have been more generous towards Ireland, and the partition and bloodshed that followed might have been avoided.
The most recent drastic failure--the last time that a historic opportunity was missed--was after the time of the civil rights movement. People in Northern Ireland were determined to follow the example of the American civil rights movement and march peacefully to demand justice and equality in Northern Ireland. Those marches were beaten into ditches by the forces of so-called law and order in Northern Ireland, and the IRA was recreated as a result of the events that flowed from that. The IRA had ceased to exist in the 1960s. It was the call of people in west Belfast, who were being burnt out of their homes, for the young men of their communities to come and protect them that recreated the IRA. I say that only so that we learn the lessons, and do not miss the moment. We must ensure that, whatever happens to the current leaders of the IRA, there is not another period in history when those awful forces are recreated and more bloodshed is generated.
It is obvious to me that, although this is a precious and optimistic time, success is not inevitable. There are forces who would prefer failure. I am sorry to say that the speech that we heard from the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), a member of the Democratic Unionist party, showed that an extremist force prefers to have another extremist enemy to hate and protest against. Forces of extremism live on one another. There was no celebration of the peace, or any wish to nurture the peace, which benefits both sides in Northern Ireland.
There has been an over-obsession with the IRA in the debate. It is, of course, a creation of the disasters of the history of Ireland, but we should not be obsessed with it. It is wrong to say that everything that it demands must be opposed. We should do what is right because it is right. We should not be obsessed with what one of the IRA's extremist spokespeople might have said on one programme. History is bigger than that. Merely reacting to those small people who have used violence in an intolerable way as a trajectory of historic development will create great errors.
Many tributes have been paid to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister did not create the opportunity; history created the opportunity. As the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said, the people of Northern Ireland were tired of violence and determined to demand a better future. I think that then the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) worked hardest and underwent the greatest vilification to try to turn that historic opportunity into a process of peace. More than once, he entered talks with the IRA to try to achieve that end.
The previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), made an enormous contribution when he was Secretary of State. His
Column 1089successor, the present Secretary of State, has continued that good work. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)--as might be thought unusual for an Opposition spokesperson--has helped the process along. The Irish Government have made an important contribution. Then the Prime Minister was big enough to take the historic opportunity and move the process forward.
During the Maastricht debate, when the Tory party needed Unionist votes to pass the European legislation, I believed that we would lose the historic opportunity because of the arithmetic of the House of Commons. Thankfully, we did not, and the Prime Minister was big enough to take the historic opportunity. [Hon. Members:-- "You were wrong."] Obviously I was wrong; that is what I am saying. There is no need to heckle. I am trying, in a very short time, to make a serious speech. The House rarely rises to the seriousness of the moment. It deteriorates as time goes on.
The basis of peace is not only democracy and not only consent. The move that everyone makes to say, "We shall accept there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland," requires an extra dimension. It requires justice for the people of Northern Ireland.
Theoretically, there was the consent of a majority in the past, but grave injustice ensured that there was--to put it crudely--a greater rate of emigration from one community to the other, to entrench a majority that would never allow change. If there is justice, if both communities can live in peace and justice, if both can have jobs and both can prosper, I am content that, whatever decision is made, Ireland will be united or not united because the people who live there wish it.
However, I do not think that many hon. Members from the Government side of the House who have spoken are part of that settlement. They are really saying, "We are on one side; we are the Conservative and Unionist party; we cannot tolerate that the other side has a case. We must react to everything that the IRA ever says because that will lead our agenda."
We must not react in that way. We can, in our generation--in the next 10 or 15 years--secure a historic peace in Ireland that will bring to an end the conflict between these two islands and constant recurrence of violence and bloodshed. It is a precious moment in history; it is the duty of all of us to rise to it. It can be achieved, but it is not inevitable.
Several hon. Members rose --
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next Member to speak, may I point out that we have only a short time left, and I hope that those Members who next catch my eye will exercise considerable self-restraint.
I say that because, in the month of July, while many hon. Members were in safety and in the quietness of their home, on the Sabbath evening, my wife, my family and I were to be slaughtered by the IRA murder machine. Forty bullets from an Armalite sprayed our home. My wife and
Column 1090my daughters escaped death by seconds. The IRA gunmen deliberately riddled my 13-year-old daughter's bedroom, having seen her standing at the window after changing for bed. I was, in the providence of God, delayed at church, and once again survived a republican murder bid on my life.
On behalf of my wife and my family, I want earnestly to thank those people who took the time to express their genuine concern, and those who made it known to me that they genuinely cared about that IRA murder attack.
In the light of that, and in the light of other murders of members of my family circle and some of my best friends, peace is something that I desire with all my heart for my beloved Province. Having, in my constituency, walked behind so many coffins, along blood-soaked and stained streets and highways of Ulster and, as a pastor, having sought to show genuine Christian love and comfort to the broken-hearted widows and children of innocent victims of violence, I know that peace--real, lasting and genuine peace--is something wonderful. I have earnestly prayed on bended knees for such a day to dawn.
I have represented the constituency of Mid-Ulster for the past 12 years. Without apology, I say that, during those years, I have wept with numerous families whose lives have been shattered by murder and disability, unparalleled in any part of the United Kingdom. Every conceivable weapon of evil and destruction has been used in an endeavour to force people of Ulster to surrender to terrorism. In the House tonight I salute the fortitude of the people of Ulster in the face of such merciless republican slaughter. The British Ulster majority has proved beyond doubt that no one can defeat a people firmly rooted on the solid rock of truth, justice and democracy. My mind turns to the many households tonight who have suffered the pain and anguish of a father, mother, son or daughter who has been mercilessly slaughtered by terrorists. Many others sit in wheelchairs or lie totally unconscious, not knowing what the House is debating. Tonight's debate is important as it permits those with a democratic mandate to express their genuinely held views and place them on the record of the House. I appreciate that there is a desire in some circles to frown on those who dare to challenge what is thought to be the common approach adopted by the Government and several Opposition parties. But my mandate did not come from any such people; it came from the people of Mid-Ulster. As an elected representative for the Province, and my constituency in particular, I shall endeavour to give my honest assessment of our present position, whether or not it is applauded. Much play has been made of the present ceasefire and the peace process. I wonder what evidence hon. Members are examining. Can I examine the evidence and confirm that a lasting, permanent peace is under way?
Eight weeks ago the IRA declared a ceasefire. The Prime Minister stated that he had to be sure that the ceasefire was permanent before civil servants could enter into exploratory talks with Sinn Fein. Our Prime Minister rightly requested those engaged in terrorist activity to express openly the permanency of the end of such violence. Due to the unwillingness of Provisional Sinn Fein to make such a commitment, the Prime Minister weakened the demand to any group of words that would mean that violence was over for all time under all circumstances. The Provisional Sinn Fein did not necessarily have to say the word "permanent". Again,
Column 1091silence was the order of the day. Dublin and America continued to pressurise London and, finally, that demand was dropped. Last week the Prime Minister came to Ulster to announce that he has a working assumption that violence has ended.
I have listened carefully to what right hon. and hon. Members, especially Conservative Members, have said. I have yet to hear many of them suggesting that they believe that there is an end to violence or that the IRA has repudiated violence. I should like to be directed to any statement from Provisional Sinn Fein which has made it abundantly clear that that so- called political party has renounced and repudiated violence. I have yet to hear that from Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness or any other Sinn Fein spokesperson. When the ceasefire was announced, rather than repudiating violence, the organisation applauded the heroes of the IRA who carried out the murderous activities and the slaughter of innocent policemen, soldiers and people throughout the Province.
Now we are told that actions will speak louder than words. What actions have there been since the ceasefire? It has become evident since the ceasefire that the IRA has not repudiated violence. Five hours after the ceasefire, gunfire was heard in my constituency outside Pomeroy, but it was not reported by the press. Some days later into the ceasefire, shots were fired at a Protestant home outside Keady--again, that was not reported in the press. Six masked men from the Provisionals entered a home in the Ballygawley road estate in Dungannon looking for a particular person. They knocked his wife to the ground. The incident was never reported in the press. Numerous brutal attacks against the Roman Catholic community have been continued by the IRA. Can one suggest that that is a repudiation of or an end to violence? For example, a grandmother in Armagh was beaten by the IRA as she shielded her grandchild. Is that an act of violence or not? In recent weeks two ordinary loyalist constituents of mine were interviewed by the security forces and were told that the IRA was targeting them for murder--the same grouping as is supposed to be holding a ceasefire. I wish to make a categorical statement that cannot be denied: no IRA unit in Mid- Ulster has been stood down by the IRA. These active service units continue to identify and openly target members of the security forces and of the loyalist community for future attack.
Such activity is known to the security forces, and in certain parts of Mid- Ulster the threat is viewed--I use yesterday's security term--as "very high" by those in intelligence circles. In the light of this evidence, how can the Prime Minister, who has all the intelligence reports that he needs, state his "working assumption" that the IRA has drawn its campaign to a close? Does the Secretary of State know that training camps for republican terrorists are still operating in Donegal? That fact is known to the security forces in Northern Ireland and in the south--yet we are told that there is a permanent ceasefire. Does the Minister possess those security reports? Before the IRA ceasefire IRA weapons were permitted to be moved to the Irish Republic. Since the ceasefire began, the whereabouts of these arms dumps has become known--to the security forces in Northern Ireland, to the Prime Minister and the British Government--and the information has been passed to Mr. Reynolds. Although the actual position of the dumps is known and can be exactly described, they have not been raided. Why not? The dumps contain more than 200 AK47 rifles, sniper
Column 1092rifles and M60s. They have not been raided because, when it comes to talk about handing in weapons, it will be the dumps that are already compromised and hence lost to the IRA which will be regarded as having been found by the Irish establishment and then taken away from the IRA.
Given the will to do it, those arms could be lifted tomorrow. They are compromised weapons, lost to the terrorists, and they should form no part of any equation. It is known, however, that Reynolds wants to use them as a bargaining counter instead of lifting them now. Last weekend certain republican Sinn Fein representatives were rounded up for questioning. My constituents and I wonder why so many well-known murderous terrorists were permitted to roam the Irish Republic for the past 25 years and have only now been lifted. Is that being done in response to the unease in the community?
As has been said, the cessation of violence is a cessation of military operations. It is to be reviewed by the IRA on 27 December, and if concessions have been made the IRA will put back a final decision until Easter. I warn the House that the IRA is currently targeting not only people in Ulster but people in London, and that is known to the security services and the security forces.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary has stood against slaughter and against much that has been thrown at it by the IRA. Will the Government give a categorical assurance that the RUC will not lose its revered title because of republican pressure but will be completely backed by the Government? For 25 long years that police force has stood between the people of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom and the terrorist onslaught.
The Minister spoke about the safety of the Union. Will the Government of Ireland Act 1920 be placed upon the table? If, as is acknowledged by so many, it poses no threat, it should not be up for negotiation. Is it correct that Gerry Adams's bodyguards are to be given the right to carry guns? He will have bodyguards because he would not accept the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The names of those people and a history of their terrorist activity, especially those who killed the British Army corporals in west Belfast, could be given.
These matters worry the people of Northern Ireland. There is a great deal of double talk and tongue in cheek, but these are serious matters. Martin McGuinness was and still is a known terrorist. He has been engaged in IRA activity and has not only been part of the gangs but has led gangs and has pulled the trigger. Why cannot Martin McGuinness be touched by the law? He has never been brought in to be interviewed, although two important television programmes were transmitted for everyone in the United Kingdom to see. Brave people from the Roman Catholic community risked their necks to give vital information. I have been told that a file on Martin McGuinness was recently sent to the DPP and that it is so detailed that if he were made amenable to the law, there is no doubt that he would have to be imprisoned.
In the name of justice, which my constituents and the people of the United Kingdom have a right to expect, why is Martin McGuinness the untouchable member of this society? Instead of going to prison he parades in the streets of England and elsewhere in the world as some kind of hero of peace. But no matter what jacket, coat or
Column 1093tie he puts on instead of the jumper, he is still the murderer that he always was. Justice must be done for everyone, and no one has a right to stand beyond the law.
I desire with all my heart to see a genuine, lasting peace. I do not want the people of Ulster deluded or deceived. I do not want the people of the United Kingdom deluded or deceived. There is a real longing for peace. I have that in my heart and I know that other hon. Members who may disagree with me also have it in their hearts, but I have to say that peace, freedom and justice must walk side by side. 9.15 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): I want immediately to welcome the appointment of the new shadow Front-Bench spokesman for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), and her assistant spokesman, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). I wish them well in their positions and hope that their appointment will lead to the normalisation of relations between two of the main Opposition parties in the House.
On entering my 30th year as a elected Member of Parliament for Northern Ireland--10 years in Strasbourg, almost 10 years in the House of Commons in Stormont and the balance here in our national Parliament of the United Kingdom--I have never felt so optimistic about the future of Northern Ireland as I do tonight.
I have had personal experience in meeting IRA terrorists and I know the trauma and the hurt that thousands of families have suffered in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. My family experienced it, and I know how so many others have felt in similar circumstances. We now have a ceasefire. A ceasefire is only a halt to atrocities; it is not a permanent peace. However, one's gut reaction is that it is for real. The IRA commenced its campaign in order to bring about a united Ireland by force. It has failed because both the Conservative Government and the Labour Government, when required, provided the necessary security forces to ensure that terrorism did not triumph in Northern Ireland.
Likewise, the IRA thought that it would browbeat the Ulster people into accepting a united Ireland; yet today, 25 years later, the spirit of the Ulster people is more opposed to a united Ireland than at any time in the past 25 years.
In all that, we have to thank the security forces. Certainly the IRA has not been defeated, but as a former member of the Northern Ireland Security Council and a Minister of State at Stormont, on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland I thank all the regiments of the Army that have served in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. We thank the Royal Ulster Constabulary, many of whom we know personally, and many who lost their lives. We thank them and their families for their service to Northern Ireland and, of course, we thank the Ulster Defence Regiment and its successor the Royal Irish Regiment because, having served in Northern Ireland, those men had to return to their isolated homes where they were in greater danger than anyone else. As a former Minister I have also to mention the Ulster Special Constabulary, which took the brunt of the campaign at the beginning of the 1970s.
Column 1094We have also to thank the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said two years ago that it was time that the Prime Minister recognised that one of the most serious issues facing the United Kingdom was the present campaign of terrorism in Northern Ireland and that it should be the No. 1 issue for 10 Downing street. It certainly is today. We thank the Prime Minister for taking on board the problem of Northern Ireland and give him every encouragement in the way in which he is trying to resolve this terrible problem within the United Kingdom, which affects relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic and between the Republic and the United Kingdom.
We also should say, in passing, that we recognise the role that Mr. Reynolds has played in this matter, although as Unionists we obviously feel that he is too anxious to speed up the momentum. These things must be taken slowly and cautiously and at times he shows too much enthusiasm and could go overboard and damage the whole process. There are two other people we must thank. One is, of course, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party, who has made such a positive contribution. We cannot ignore that. He encouraged the process forward and we must recognise the role that he played. The other person we must thank is a silent little man who avoids publicity, who certainly does not have a loud mouth and who does not even like to be praised. I refer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Ulster Unionist party.
Two main issues are before us today. One is, of course, the question of the arms retained by the terrorist organisations. There must obviously be preliminary talks with those who now say that they want to enter the political process, but in no way can there be meaningful talks with Sinn Fein while it retains Semtex and firearms under the table. That must be understood by everyone, including Conservative Back Benchers. We cannot negotiate under blackmail or under threat from any political party representing terrorism. Those firearms and Semtex must be decommissioned in some way or other before meaningful all-party talks can proceed in Northern Ireland. Of course we look forward to a form of limited devolution in Northern Ireland, of responsibility sharing, in which those who are elected to the body share in the administration and good government of the state. If members of Sinn Fein eventually get elected, they must of course play their part in that system of administration. But Mr. Gerry Adams is not an elected person at the moment. He was rejected by the electorate, who elected the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) in his place. Until Mr. Adams is elected, he cannot be treated as a normal constitutional political party representative.
I should like to conclude on the issue of north-south co-operation, which will be a major issue as we look to the future. Reference has been made to it during the debate. As Ulster Unionists, we want to see meaningful co- operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Of that there is no doubt. In fairness, it was the Ulster Unionist party, when it formed the Government of Stormont, which created one of the first joint operations in the island of Ireland--the Foyle Fisheries Commission, which survives to this day and is successful. That is a good example of co- operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Column 1095The whole issue of co-operation, however, can be exaggerated. We have heard a certain claim by Dr. George Quigley that 75,000 jobs might be created if a new Belfast-Dublin economic corridor were created. Those of us involved in business in Northern Ireland look upon that suggestion as pie in the sky and consider it to be totally unrealistic. When the new Ireland forum discussed the subject, the then chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council, Sir Charles Carter, said:
"their effects [of greater North-South economic links] on unemployment would be equivalent to the products of nine bean rows on the Isle of Innisfree, when set against a requirement for new jobs in the North".
Queen's university's economics department produced an economic report this year entitled "The Road to Prosperity or a Road to Nowhere?" On page 65 the report says:
"gains from greater co-operation . . . are likely to be much smaller than those which could be expected from a higher level of competitiveness in the two economies . . . Scott and O'Reilly"-- two economists--
"projected total gains to manufacturing employment throughout the island of only 5,700 jobs."--
and not 75,000.
As I have said, we look forward to co-operation. But co-operation must not be a political means of bringing about a united Ireland. When Dublin talks about co-operation, it must not see it as a mechanism to create a republic of united Ireland. We want meaningful co-operation. There is co-operation right throughout the European Community now. We see co-operation among the regions--regions in various states such as in Germany, in Italy and in Switzerland--but the co-operation since 1972 right up to 1994 is limited to regions within sovereign states. It is never the case that there is co- operation between a sovereign nation and a region of another nation.
We must follow the European example and we can do it. If we agree to do it, it will mean certain things--such as Northern Ireland Electricity, which is a private company now, taking over part of the electricity system in the northern region of the Republic of Ireland. It will mean, perhaps, BT taking over a major part of the Irish telecom system, which is failing economically at the moment. More importantly, in matters of tourism and of transport, it should not be simply co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic; it should be the regions north of Dublin and Northern Ireland co-operating with the regions in the west of Scotland. That is the main economic route for Northern Ireland and parts of the Republic of Ireland. There can be regional co-operation, but not on the basis of a united Ireland, to which people with other political motives restrict their vision. Instead, co-operation must be between regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Time has cut my speech short, but I want to conclude as I commenced. This is a time of great opportunity in Northern Ireland. It is the responsibility of politicians of all parties to build on it, but if Dublin pushes too hard, the whole thing will collapse in tears. Let us ensure that the IRA does not gain in peace negotiations what it has failed to win through terrorism.
Column 1096urge the Government to use their imagination to try actively to include representatives of the Progressive Unionist party and of the Ulster Democratic party in the peace process as it develops--with, of course, all the caveats which have been already added in the debate about the involvement of, for example, Sinn Fein.
Of course, those two small parties do not have the electoral mandate enjoyed by the two larger Unionist parties, but there is no doubt that they give a voice to an important sector of the Northern Ireland people, and one that has to be included and consulted if a settlement is to succeed in the longer term. Moreover, those two parties have shown themselves to be committed to making democratic, peaceful politics work. I do not think that anybody could fail to be struck by the expression of abject and true remorse in the loyalist statement read out by Mr. Gusty Spence of the Progressive Unionists. The history of Mr. Spence was also referred to by the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott).
The Progressive Unionists and the Ulster Democrats articulate a new mood in part of the loyalist community. They have made it clear that they envisage no return to the old days of Stormont and they look positively at power sharing in Northern Ireland and at cross-border arrangements. They represent a unionism which now appears in some respects to be more flexible than that of the major parties, and certainly than what we have heard from the other side of the Chamber today. The two parties also enjoy a good deal of what one might call street credibility in parts of Northern Ireland. I urge the Government to take advantage of the new mood by involving those smaller parties actively in the peace process.
My second point is probably much less controversial. It relates to the content of the talks once they begin and it takes up where the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) left off. Of course north-south co- operation and arrangements are important, but what about east-west arrangements to link and build on the common interests of the British mainland and the island of Ireland? The arguments for east-west co- operation are the same as those for north-south co-operation. There are obvious areas which cry out for that kind of enhanced co-operation. An example would be the management of the Irish sea, which could include pollution, fisheries management, shipping traffic, submarine activity and the threat that such activity sometimes poses to local fishermen, and creating new marine nature reserves. Such issues could be tackled jointly by the Governments of the United Kingdom and of Ireland in exactly the same way as it is envisaged that tourism could be handled jointly between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
There are many other examples of such co-operation. The virtue of east-west co-operation in parallel with north-south co-operation is not just that it makes practical sense, but that it sends a useful message that cross-border co-operation of that kind is not a slippery slope to a different constitutional relationship between north and south any more than east-west co-operation is a slippery slope towards a reunion between Britain and Ireland. Co-operation is simply a matter of mature voluntary engagement between different Governments and different Parliaments of a kind that we are going to need if we are to develop and build on the existing peace process.
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Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) referred in his impressive speech to the paramilitary disloyalists who apologise for what they have done in the past. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said in Coleraine, I believe that we should have intervened more than 25 years ago in respect of employment, housing and political discrimination.
I hope that Sinn Fein-IRA can apologise for what they have been doing over the past 25 years because that would, in effect, sweep the board.
I should like to see various developments. I should like to see the currencies of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom realigned so that they are not different across the border. I should like to see the Republic of Ireland apply to join the Commonwealth. Many people would welcome that.
More controversially, I look forward to a day when every police service in the United Kingdom has the same kind of title. It is noticeable that the only one of the 50-odd police forces which has the word "royal" in its title is in Northern Ireland, which is where that makes a difference. It is better that that sort of remark should come from me than from someone in Dublin. The point about Dublin pushing too hard is a serious one to which Dublin should pay attention.
I hope that people will accept that the border will not change very quickly, if at all in my lifetime, and that it becomes unimportant for most practical purposes. That is one of the aims of the New Consensus group in respect of which hon. Members in all parts of the House and I have shared an approach.
I hope that we shall recognise that we are going to allow people who are Irish to be within the United Kingdom but also to feel Irish. In that regard, I agree with Enoch Powell who, at a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference, said that people are of the nation of which they believe themselves to be part.
We cannot pretend that all 1.5 million people in the north of Ireland believe themselves to be British. One of the effects of the Sinn Fein-IRA campaign has been to persuade 1 million people in the north that they are not Irish at all. That is not something that is in my family's tradition.
I make this plea to those who care about Northern Ireland: let them visit it. If 45 million Americans could obtain passports and visit Northern Ireland in the same way as those of the Jewish faith or of Jewish origin go to Israel, or as those who follow Islam go to Mecca; if 45 million Americans went to Ireland--north and south--once in their lives to visit the border country, Rathlin island and the rest, it would transform the economy. It would also transform some of the ignorance that the American President has helped to overcome. We do not want ignorance or apathy--we want involvement. If all those people cannot visit, they should sleep in Irish linen sheets and drink Irish whiskey.
I look forward to two things. The first is to find political activists in Northern Ireland who are officers in constituency associations whose political parties do not indicate their denominations. That applies to my political association in Eltham, and I look forward to the day when it applies to the 17 Northern Ireland constituencies. I also look forward to the day when, after a gap of 22 years, a
Column 1098Northern Ireland Member is again a Minister in a United Kingdom Government. For too long, Northern Ireland Members have been excluded and, one way or another, I should like that to be changed. 9.34 pm
Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen): The debate over the past six or seven hours causes me to think that, if we are to reform the way in which the House of Commons works, we should have more such Adjournment debates. It has been informed, extremely interesting, and, for someone such as myself who has had just 48 hours in a new job, it has been useful and educative. We have heard contributions from many former Northern Ireland Office Ministers, such as the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) and the hon. Members for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw), for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) and for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson). All made excellent contributions.
I pay special tribute to my hon. Friends who have served as Opposition spokesmen on Northern Irish matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has had deserved tributes from both sides-- indeed, from all parties represented in Northern Ireland--for the assiduous way in which he has fought his case over the years. It is important to record the House's appreciation for his deputies, my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott), who has spent many years dealing with Northern Ireland matters, and my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), who brought his considerable experience of local government to the Opposition Front Bench.
My own Front-Bench experience has been limited to Wales, not Northern Ireland, but there are similarities. The economy of Wales--certainly that of south Wales--has suffered because of the decline of basic and staple industries. The same applies to Northern Ireland. South Wales and Northern Ireland have similar youth unemployment problems. Of course, there is also a strong cultural identity.
My name would suggest that my background is not Welsh but Irish. My great- grandfather emigrated from Ballincollig in County Cork in 1865 to work in the iron industry. Interestingly, he came across not just to find work but to flee what was happening in Ireland. In the 1860s, there were people who believed that they were oppressed by the British Government, and there were those who knew that they were outraged by Fenian bombs. My great- grandparents came across because they wanted to live ordinary lives. I rather suspect that the world has not changed and that the people who now live in the south and in Northern Ireland want to live ordinary lives, free from the disasters and the miseries that meant that my great-grandparents had to go to Wales.
My adult and political life over the past quarter of a century has been overshadowed by the misery, killings and constitutional and political failures in Northern Ireland, and people are wearied of it all. That explains the astonishing events of the past few months. Who would have thought a few years ago that both groups of paramilitaries would have initiated ceasefires, as the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) pointed out? Who would have thought that proper and real reconciliation, north and south, would start?