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Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maginnis: I shall give way when I have completed these quotations. It is important to recognise that the thinking of IRA-Sinn Fein and its leader, Gerry Adams, has not changed down the years. In 1990, he said:

In 1994, he said:

    "The causes of conflict are still on-going".

That was at a time when he was considering calling a ceasefire. Therefore, we must put that ceasefire in context--if we need to do so after Canary Wharf. He continued:

    "Every so often there will be a spectacular to remind the world."

Gerry Adams summed up his attitude to violence by saying:

    "The tactic of armed struggle is of primary importance because it provides a vital cutting edge. Without it the issue of Ireland would not even have become an issue. So, in effect the armed struggle becomes armed propaganda."

We must look carefully at an organisation linked to a paramilitary force that has never repudiated or retracted that philosophy. When the Secretary of State said last week in her speech to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies that the IRA had said that it had accepted a partitionist solution, she was indulging in a flight of fancy. The IRA--and hence its paramilitary linked party, Sinn Fein--has never accepted any such thing.

Mr. Winnick: As the hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Adams, perhaps he would be interested to know that, in September 1983, at a meeting with Mr. Adams, I asked

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him what mandate he had from the Irish people as a whole for the terrorism of the IRA. I also said that no British Government would ever surrender to the IRA against the wishes of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, and I was not proved wrong. The peace process demonstrates that terrorism will not bring about the kind of unitary state that Mr. Adams wants. It can be brought about only when the majority of people in Northern Ireland say that that is what they want.

Mr. Maginnis: The hon. Gentleman's intervention is helpful and bears out much of what I believe. I am trying to impress on the House the fact that we are going through a process in which, whatever we achieve--I supported what was achieved on 10 April--cannot be implemented by only one party to the agreement, while the other party procrastinates.

I illustrate that by pointing out to right hon. and hon. Members that the issue of prisoner releases had to be addressed over a two-year period. No start date was specified for prisoner releases, yet the Government moved ahead at the earliest opportunity, and within five months of beginning, have released more than half the prisoners who may be eligible.

If that is the way in which the Government are prepared to implement the agreement, with all the risks attached, it cannot be improper for those of us who want disarmament and verification of that process to say, "No, there never was a specified starting date for disarmament, but in the agreement it was predicated on the same basis as prisoner releases." It had to be completed within two years of the date of the referendum, and it could not possibly happen in the last week, as Martin McGuinness suggests. It must be an on-going process.

Reassurance and confidence building are a two-way street. Many of us have accepted the advice of people such as Michael von Tangen Page of the department of peace studies at the university of Bradford, who pointed out that, in most civil conflicts, it is usually necessary to release prisoners in order to bring about a clean cut-off from terrorism as one moves towards democracy. That is what I read into what Michael von Tangen Page has written, which is cited in a research paper produced by the Library.

If I accept that, I must look to see whether there has been a clean cut-off between the violence and the new democratic process. That is what I voted for on 22 May and again on 25 June. I believe that it is what most of the 70-plus per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland voted for on those occasions. If Government--perhaps I should say if the parties to the agreement--do not meet their obligations in that respect, confidence will be undermined and it will become virtually impossible to make the political process work as we had hoped that it would.

My party leader asked the Prime Minister on 13 May whether he would

the obligations to disarm and so on--

    "which are clearly set out in the agreement, will be made effective and reflected in forthcoming legislation?"

The Prime Minister replied:

    "Yes--I intend to make it clear that the commitment and the obligations in the agreement must all be fulfilled and that no one can choose to fulfil some parts of the agreement and not others."--[Official Report, 13 May 1998; Vol. 312, c. 365.]

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We must build confidence at each and every opportunity that presents itself. That is why I welcome the decision to test the LVF, but I do not want that organisation tested softly. I want it tested in the most stringent manner.

Since 10 April, there have been two sides to the situation in Northern Ireland--not Protestant and Roman Catholic, and not nationalist and Unionist. The two sides now are the terrorists who have yet to cross the psychological hurdle of abandoning terrorism, with all that that implies, and the law-abiding citizenry of Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. The Minister, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister must begin to reassure us that their enthusiasm for implementation, their attention to detail and their expectation in respect of all parties are as strong as was their desire for an agreement in the first place.

There are various indicators of the progress that has been made. Particularly in respect of Sinn Fein-IRA, which will be in the Executive of a devolved Government if it meets the criteria laid down, there are a number of indicators that must be examined carefully at this stage. We must ask ourselves why the entire energies of Sinn Fein-IRA are now directed exclusively against the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in every respect possible, down to intimidating a football team in West Belfast into refusing to take part in a football competition because the RUC was the team that it drew in the competition.

I have listened to members of the Roman Catholic tradition in Northern Ireland--people for whom I have the highest respect, such as Monsignor Denis Faul. I have heard them tell what it is really like, from the Catholic side of the community, to have to face up to the IRA's intimidation. I also hear exactly the same thing from people within my own tradition in respect of the UVF and the UDA. I always feel obliged to say that all organisations that indulge in terror are equally obnoxious to me.

The Government of the Irish Republic have been found wanting. I am particularly disappointed that Bertie Ahern, who I believed had the courage to move things forward, has been equivocal about those who sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

When it was announced that the LVF was to be brought aboard the scheme for prisoner releases because of its ceasefire and willingness to disarm, Bertie Ahern had no need to say, "But this does not mean anything as far as the IRA is concerned." How does Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, know that, unless that is the message that he has been getting? If that is the message that he has been getting from the IRA, he should be sharing that message with our Secretary of State and with our Prime Minister, and they should act immediately to bring an end to prisoner releases and the process that was intended to allow us all to move into a devolved democratic mode in Northern Ireland.

Those are the questions that I must ask. I do not have an answer to all the questions. When I put my hand up for the agreement on 10 April, I never believed that everything would be easy; that it would not take time; that there would not be fears and suspicions; that there would not be delaying processes--

Dr. Godman: I have listened to the hon. Gentleman closely. He may criticise the lack of enthusiasm shown by

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Ministers here and by the Taoiseach and his Ministers, but he cannot deny that they are all utterly committed to progress in these matters. Surely commitment as well as enthusiasm is important.

Mr. Maginnis: Commitment is a wonderful thing, but in this case the energy to realise one's ambitions is more wonderful still.

The two Governments have the power and authority to insist--it is not within the power of my party to insist--that all meet their obligations as we advance what is now called the peace process.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has done everything in his power. He has been assiduous in putting into place every measure that can encourage even those who have been our enemies for the past 28 years.

I leave the House with this thought, which may help it to understand. Sinn Fein-IRA, through Adams and McGuinness, used to clamour to speak to a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. That happened. Then they clamoured to speak to a member of the Cabinet--the Secretary of State. That happened. Then they clamoured to speak to the Prime Minister, and the day they walked out of No. 10 Downing street for the first time, they did not tell us what progress they were going to make. They did not tell us how they would remove the threat that they pose to society in Northern Ireland, and they did not even tell us what they had said to the Prime Minister. They said that they had to meet my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann. Hon. Members will remember that my right hon. Friend was persuaded, from both sides of the House, that he should concede that particular point, and he has done so. Again, he has seen no reward for his industry.

It is time for stocktaking. This is the first opportunity that we have had to consider the prisoner issue and other issues relevant to progress in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Minister will give us some small suggestion of the time scale within which he hopes to stocktake in public and tell us where the Government are going in relation to the problems that we face.

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