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11.27 pm

Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim): My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said that the debate seemed to be very far from reality. When one considers the opening remarks of the Minister of State and the speeches of other Members, it is clear that they are far from reality. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to clutching at straws and said that we needed solid building material. There is no doubt that we are clutching at straws when we try to get any reality or reason into this debate by considering what is happening in the Province.

The Minister's opening speech was revealing. I noticed that he was busily munching sweets when my colleagues were speaking, but I remind him of what he said. He took us back to the Belfast agreement and to the promise of May 2000 when we were supposed to have the total decommissioning of terrorist weapons. He reminded us that nothing happened in May 2000--just the empty void, being led by the nose and being suckered by the provos laughing all the way to the bank having got concession after concession from gullible Governments and previous

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Secretaries of State, especially the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Redcar (Marjorie Mowlam).

The right hon. Lady prostrated herself even in the prison itself in front of the provos to try to get them on to her train. It was a disgraceful and despicable act. She crawled to some of the greatest and vilest terrorists that have ever lived in our Province, who rained sorrow and tragedy on the people of the Province and the United Kingdom.

At the end of May 2000, nothing happened, but we were told that there had been a breakthrough. That breakthrough led to more concessions by the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, who has just left his seat to carry out some other business. The breakthrough was restoring Martin McGuinness and Barbara Brown--Bairbre de Brun--to their special places holding ministerial office over the people they had murdered and destroyed during the years of terror.

We had the promise of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. I should like to ask the Minister of State this question: what has been the cost of that commission from the time that de Chastelain started his work to now? The people of the United Kingdom have met that cost and it would be interesting to find out exactly how much it is. People in the Province cannot get cancer operations and heart operations when they need them, but there seems to be an endless amount of money going to the commission. It would be interesting the learn the precise cost of that farce of a decommissioning commission.

Anyone who knows the reality knows fine well that the provos never had any intention and still have no intention of giving up their weapons. They are stringing people along in the knowledge that all they have to do is make another little gesture to get another round of concessions. They have every reason to believe that, because time after time they have got concession after concession--a stream of concessions has flowed to the republican movement. It was interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) say that we have to maintain pressure on the republican movement--that will make the provos shudder and tremble in their shoes, given what pressure has been applied until now!

The Royal Ulster Constabulary and its reserve have been trampled in the gutter. The leader of my party, my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), has read a document sent in the name of Sinn Fein-IRA throughout the Province: it calls the gallant RUC, GC "scum". The leopard has not changed its spots. Previous Secretaries of State have thrown their arms around those people and photographs record the kisses they had along the way with the darlings of the movement. Decent people were sick and continue to be sick.

The Secretary of State might find that funny, but I tell him that the decent people will have an opportunity to speak in the forthcoming general election. Whether he likes it or not, he will have to listen to the authentic voice of the Unionist population, because the ballot box will give that authentic voice when, in a few months at most, the Prime Minister decides finally to call it. Roll on that election--let the people speak. The people of Northern

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Ireland are not those who are courted by the Secretary of State, lauded, applauded and given positions. The people are the ordinary, decent voters of Northern Ireland who sent me here, even though the Labour party did not want the hon. Member for South Antrim to be a member of the Democratic Unionist party. They sent me here as their authentic voice. They will return me as that authentic voice whenever the election comes, and I shall be happy to put my record before them at that time.

We are told that the deadline is June 2001, but June 2001 is coming and the Minister of State knows that there are no guns, so what do the Government do? They move the deadline to the furthest date possible under the legislation, to February 2002. None the less, the Minister of State knows the provos and knows full well that they have no intention of giving up their weapons. If they had such an intention, why would they be arming and re-arming?

I think that the Minister of State thinks that he is in a funny house. He should stand on the ground with the people of my constituency and the Province--the people who to this very day suffer under the terror of the provos. There was nothing funny about what happened last night, when the gunmen fired their weapons and houses were petrol-bombed in Glengormley and Cookstown. The provos go on day after day, week after week. They have not given up their old path and have never moved an inch from their original direction and what they espoused in imposing their weaponry of fear on ordinary people. Yet the Minister said that de Chastelain's report was "encouraging". It is interesting that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann said that no progress has been made, and that there has not been any serious engagement. Is that encouraging?

Once the provos were applauded for letting two of their dumps be seen, but which dump were the guns from Florida going to? At the same time, they were taking part in the peace process and Martin McGuinness, who was involved, was making authorisations. The Secretary of State has told my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim that he does not believe in those pieces of paper. However, he knows full well who is the leader of the provos.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. John Reid): I did not say that I did not believe in those pieces of paper. I said that I do not discuss them.

Dr. McCrea: The Secretary of State may not discuss them, but the reason why he cannot is that he is embracing the people mentioned on them as Ministers over the people of Northern Ireland. They have committed murder. Martin McGuinness appears on one piece of paper as a member of the army council of the provos, yet that organisation carries on murdering to this day. It continues with intimidation and threats and holds its community to ransom. The Secretary of State knows that full well, but does not want to discuss it because the Government have embraced those people as the new democrats. If they are new democrats, God help democracy.

The leopard has not changed his spots. I wish with all my heart that it had, because I know exactly what it is like for the IRA gun to be fired, not at someone else, but at my own. I know what it is like for a bomb to come to my own house; I know what it is like to face terrorist

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activity; I know what it is like to sit with those who have constantly experienced that. The IRA are still going on. Why else were they bringing in guns? Was that for a Christmas party? No, it was for murder and destruction. IRA and Sinn Fein know that their arguments will never turn the Unionist majority into republicans, and they know that only one weapon can screw the heart out of the Unionist population--the gun. They have never been able, through the power of their oratory, to change the hearts of Unionists, who believe in the right of democracy and the right to decide their destiny and democratic future through the ballot box alone.

Irrespective of whether terrorists are so-called republicans or so called Unionists, there is no place for arms in their hands. That is why law-abiding people want all terrorist arms to be removed from everyone; no one should be left with arms, except the security forces, who have the right to defend the law-abiding people of the United Kingdom. I am therefore telling the House that the provos have blackmailed the Government and told us that they will go back to what they know best. When the stream of concessions stops, they certainly intend to move back to the path of brutality, murder and destruction. The only way to stop that is to have terrorist weaponry removed from terrorists. I know that the Secretary of State--and the Minister of State, who will reply to the debate--will tell me that they believe that this order is the best way to bring that about. In my opinion, and in the opinion of those who elected me to this House, that is totally naive, because the provos never intended to give up their weapons. That is why they are stockpiling more.

There were those who suggested that there was a seepage of weapons--to the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA. Is that why the provos were bringing weapons in? Is that why they had to renew their stockpile? It is said that they have espoused democracy, but no true democrat can have the Armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other.

I believe that the people of Northern Ireland deserve peace--a real and lasting peace--and that that will come about when terrorism and the terrorists, whoever they are, are defeated, and the democrats can rule.

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