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Mr. MacKay: May we assume that, if the people who have been arrested are subsequently charged for the murder of Kearney and are found to be members of the Provisional IRA, their organisation will be added to the list while we are in recess?

Marjorie Mowlam: The right hon. Gentleman is asking me to do exactly what other hon. Members asked me to do. I have said that punishment beatings must stop, and that I will make a judgment as the situation develops. I cannot give him a categorical assurance, because it is my job to consider all four criteria in relation to the Balmoral statement, and to make a judgment on whether the ceasefire is being maintained unequivocally. I cannot make an ad hoc decision now, but I assure the House that I will make it during the summer if it is demanded on the basis of the information with which I am provided.

Mr. MacKay: All the available evidence shows that punishment beatings, murders and knee-capping are continuing. They are being committed by PIRA, the UVF and the UDA. In such circumstances, it is wrong that those organisations are not on the list, and that it is perfectly possible for their prisoners to be released while the House is in recess. We believe that that is wrong, so, in the interests of the ordinary, decent people across the Province who are being petrified, I urge the House to vote against the order.

10.57 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I speak in anger, and I expect that the Secretary of State will doubtless reply in kind. I do not know how many hon. Members have read

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the transcript of the trial of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright. That trial was a travesty. For example, the judge came to the conclusion that those two young guardsmen could not have thought that they were in any danger. Did he not understand that their colleague, Guardsman Shackleton, had been killed on the very same streets of New Lodge only weeks before? That is just one example, but there are others.

I must not take up the time of the House, but I must tell my right hon. Friend that, for months, we have been told by Secretaries of State for Defence from both sides of the House that this is the business of the Northern Ireland Office. The truth of the matter is that the Ministry of Defence has behaved badly these six years, but that is by the by. It has repeatedly told us, "You must go to the Northern Ireland Office. This matter has little to do with us. We may be sympathetic, but it is up to the Northern Ireland Office."

The fact of the matter is that, if my right hon. Friend, for perfectly humane reasons which I understand, sees Mrs. McBride, she is under a moral obligation to see Mrs. Fisher and Mrs. Wright and the Scots Guards Association. I beg her to do so.

10.58 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): This is a very sad night for Northern Ireland. Those on both sides who have committed atrocious acts of murder and atrocious terrorist acts will be let loose on the community. During the Secretary of State's speech, there was an argument about whether organisations such as the IRA should have come into the talks. There is a great difference between talking to people and letting prisoners out. Let us not introduce that red herring across the Floor of the House on this issue. There is no comparison between the two. We know what happened in the talks. Those organisations were to come into the talks on certain conditions, but two of the parties to the talks did not keep to them. It was interesting to notice that, when the Secretary of State was considering the matter, the IRA could switch off the violence. While she was making the assessment, there was no violence, but, afterwards, the violence continued.

I have in my hand tonight the speech made at Balmoral by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He said:

When has the IRA met that condition? Is the murder of Mr. Kearney a verifiable way to tell the world that it has given up its violence? Do the shootings that took place in Londonderry from the other side verify anything? They tell the world that those people are still linked to violence. They are still carrying out violent acts. I heard it argued that, as punishment beatings had been carried out with batons and sticks, and, thank God, no guns were used, the ceasefire still held. Guns now have been used, so there is not a ceasefire--there is no complete ceasefire and no unequivocal ceasefire. Yet the Government go on with their plan to release those prisoners.

What is more, the Prime Minister made it clear that there can be no fudge between democracy and terror; the agreement has to be implemented in all its parts.

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The agreement has not been implemented in all its parts. We find tonight that the Government are prepared to fly in the face of what is happening and let those prisoners out.

The Prime Minister, in clarifying whether the terms and spirit of the agreement were being met and whether violence has genuinely been given up for good, said:

What are they? He went on:

    "first and foremost, a clear and unequivocal commitment that there is an end to violence for good on the part of republicans and loyalists alike".

Have we had that? Have we seen that? Have we heard the IRA leaders yet confirming that? I have heard that the IRA leadership was perfectly happy about its meeting with the Secretary of State, and happy that its prisoners would all get out, but there has been no keeping of the agreement.

What is more, the Prime Minister said that we must be sure

Go and tell the people in sorrow in Belfast tonight about what has happened in these past few weeks, and they will tell you that the sorrow has not gone. Evidence about that has been read from the Front Bench tonight. The Prime Minister expressly said:

    "the ceasefires are indeed complete and unequivocal: an end to bombings, killings and beatings".

The Secretary of State gave us a list of what is happening. On the basis of the list that she mentioned, she should be saying to the House, "We cannot go ahead with releasing anybody until such time as the terms have been kept and have been seen to be kept, and they have not been kept."

In an aside, I might say that I do not think that the Scottish guardsmen should be treated in the way that they have been treated. We should not be talking about a law to release terrorists in the same breath as we talk about men who did not go out to kill. They were only young men doing their duty. They may or may not have failed in certain parts of their duty, but they are in no way on a par with what we are dealing with here tonight. I say that with all the strength that I can.

People in Northern Ireland are worried, because those who are coming out of prison are experts. They know how to make and use mortar bombs, and they know how to carry out desperate deeds of violence. The question for the House tonight is simple: can we afford to release such men into the Northern Ireland community? I say that we cannot afford to release them on to the streets of Belfast, or the streets of any town or village in Ulster. They should be kept behind bars until their organisations meet the criteria set for them by the Prime Minister.

We hear much talk about what was voted for in the referendum. What the people voted for was what the Prime Minister said, and that has not been kept to. The Secretary of State has given us evidence of beatings and killings, and of the association of these people with those beatings and killings. On that basis, she should say, "I am sorry, but I must tell them that they have not met the criteria that we have set and, until those criteria are met, it will be dangerous to let those people out on to the streets."

The Secretary of State was asked whether, if a prisoner who belonged to a certain organisation was released from prison and that organisation returned to violence,

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the prisoner would be recalled. The Secretary of State said that would happen only if the prisoner were no longer associated with the organisation--but he would have been released from prison precisely because of such an association. He would have no credentials for release apart from his membership of the organisation. Does the Secretary of State think that he would cease to be a member of it after his release, or that the IRA would be stupid enough to let him be released in such circumstances? It will have a tight control on every one of its members who is released from prison.

I say that if an organisation reverts to violence, all its freed members should be put back in prison. That is the way in which the system should work if we are to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

From the beginning, those of us who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland have told the House what has been repeated here tonight. We have not been heated, but I say now that we shall see greater acts of violence if this continues. The people will say, "We could get our prisoners out anyway. We do not need to worry." But we have a great deterrent. The greatest deterrent that the Government can offer is to say to the IRA and other groups, "Unless you meet the criteria, your prisoners will not be released." That would show us their attitude, and that is what the Secretary of State should do: she should use that as a deterrent to stop the violence in our country.

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