Examination of Witnesses (40-65)|
WEDNESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2000
40. Where the drugs argument is used, does that
clash with drug related activities that the paramilitaries themselves
are involved in?
(Mr Wrigley) In my judgment, yes, head on.
41. Again, you will have said things about this
but maybe we could get some sort of summary position. What sorts
of problems are faced by those who are expelled within the Province
and outside the Province? Are there major distinctions in the
types of problems they face in handling the situation of being
(Mr Wrigley) I believe there are major distinctions
because whereas they are on their own home territory, the fear
is just as great in Northern Ireland as it would be across the
water because they sometimes go into an area where they can be
buried, as it were, and not known too widely but it soon gets
out. I find from my experienceI do not know about you,
Andrewa tremendous amount of fear and people who are shifted
from one part of Northern Ireland to another, sometimes of their
own volition then quit and come to England.
42. How much of your Community's time and resources
are spent upon these problems of beating and exiles? Has it grown?
(Mr Wrigley) It has grown very substantially. If I
may say so, Andrew, like all of us, has got another jobif
I may be permitted to say this, Chairmanlast week Andrew
was on fire duty at night and in the day for five days was engaged
in this kind of work. The proportion of our time devoted to this
as a Community is very considerable. We are involved in many other
areas of activity but it has grown. For example, we are under
constant pressure for accommodation because if somebody comes
in and needs a roof over their head, if it is a young fellow a
hostel might do but generally speaking they want a home where
they are made to feel welcome. That means the people in that place
have got to be briefed because they can do a lot of damage if
they are not sensitive. The time is very much the time of endeavouring
to find the right kind of accommodation, as we have heard, the
right kind of school, and that is extremely difficult. We have
sometimes been on the telephone for two full days trying to find
one place for one person, it is very, very time consuming.
43. In dealing with accommodation and placing
people in schools, are you going to be dealing with statutory
(Mr Wrigley) Yes.
(Mr Wrigley) Yes.
45. Both in Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
(Mr Wrigley) Yes.
46. Can you just tell us about what those links
are like and how they function and operate and what problems they
(Mr Robinson) In terms of the links with statutory
bodies, there is a strong respect for what we are doing. That
stems from the fact that we, as a Community, are non funded in
what we are doing. It is because those involved are doing so on
a voluntary basis. Now, latterly, and interestingly, some of the
statutory bodies such as social services, as they have become
more aware of what we are doing and what we have been involved
in are now asking if they have a situation where somebody is referred
to them and needs to come out of the country can they turn to
us because the number of bodies in Northern Ireland now which
can render assistance has been greatly diminished. In talking
with, for example, some of those involved with social services,
it is almost like a weight has been lifted off their shoulder
whenever they suddenly discover there is a body who is prepared
to give assistance. In terms of local housing authorities, both
within Northern Ireland and within England, once they are aware
of a situation, generally speaking, particularly here, they will
be sympathetic to the case and to the crisis faced by them. In
all my dealings throughout the country I have only come across
two local housing authorities who have been hostile in terms of
addressing or responding to the situation. By and large I have
found them supportive. Again, one of the areas which has presented
difficulty has been in terms of the Benefits Agency, not because
of the bureaucracy and necessary inquiries which have to go on
but because of the system itself that in some cases has proven
difficult. I have already had discussions with the Agency in Northern
Ireland to look at how we can address those problems. Again in
terms of housing, it can be very problematic. For example, one
local housing authority, after having spent eight hours on the
telephone trying to get temporary accommodation, came back to
me, we had already put the people up for four to five days whilst
we dealt with some of their immediate needs, and said "Andrew,
we cannot get anywhere at the moment, even though it is our responsibility.
Will you please, please, keep them with you for another 24 or
48 hours?" In terms of private accommodation, again that
is a difficult area because one local authority in terms of their
processing of claims for Housing Benefit will take up to 30 weeks
and landlords are very loath to wait 30 weeks before they begin
to get any money. I do not know if that answers your question.
(Mr Wrigley) Could I just add to that, Chairman. I
think it is very important the Committee should be aware of another
aspect of this which is the education of children. The expulsions
give the parents no notice, and if they come over with their children
who need placing into school, almost certainly it is mid term.
I am thinking of the two we dealt with last year who went to the
same school and needed to continue to go to the same school, one
was a year older than the other, so we had to negotiate with the
headmaster. No headmaster wants, in his perception, to bring in
two children who are very emotionally disturbed and could cause
difficulties, so we have to go through the processes of showing
this is the need of these children. We can guarantee a base line
of behaviour. It is extremely difficult then because where the
school is may not be where the house is. There are all kinds of
complex situations. Reference has been made to getting them registered
with general practitioners, a lot of these things are very, very
time consuming, very demoralising for the people who are already
47. Statutory organisations are rule bound organisations
and I can appreciate local authorities are not used to this, to
having to accommodate to your concerns. Presumably there is a
greater understanding of these difficulties in Northern Ireland
than there is in Britain. It might be that you have a number of
specific points that you want to put to us at some stage that
you think could be improvements in the rules which would allow
you to be dealing with social security, housing and schools provisions.
What I would suggest is if you think about that later it might
be useful for that to be sent to us in writing as something we
(Mr Wrigley) Chairman, I feel that is an invitation
which we would respond to. Whether we would have the precise answer
I am not too sure but at least we do believe something is needed
to point the way or steer the way through the labyrinth of statutory
48. Since it is sometimes helpful to know problems
are shared elsewhere, my present understanding is that in terms
of the dispersal of asylum seekers outside London, whereas the
plans were that there had to be a marshalling exercise before
people were dispersed, the plans were that there would be 500
at any one time in accommodation for a week before being moved,
the figures have now risen to being 2,000 and over four weeks.
The problems you have got on an individual basis quite clearly
also occur on a scheme basis as well.
(Mr Wrigley) Yes.
49. Just one point on that question about co-operation
from statutory bodies. The police, of course, do have substantial
experience in helping people acquire new identities. In the particular
cases where you feel that people are under continuing threat,
even after they have come to the mainland, have you any experience
of contacting the police to see if they can advise on procedures
to help them escape further notice?
(Mr Wrigley) The simple answer is yes. We have worked
very closely with the police. The need to change an identity was
very, very real until about, in my experience, seven years ago.
Since then it has diminished. It is not a question of the identity,
it is a question of the knowledge of where they are.
(Mr Wrigley) We found that when people had a new identity,
and in particular a new nameI would rather not go beyond
that at this stage, Chairmanthe emotional impact on the
person concerned was terrible. They lost their self-respect by
virtue of losing their name and identity. I think I would prefer
to leave it at that. Yes, we have had a lot of experience, not
(Mr Robinson) Twelve months ago I dealt with one.
(Mr Wrigley) It is not regular.
Chairman: Let me encourage our witnesses, you
have been giving evidence for an hour and a half, and we are extremely
grateful to you. As will be apparent from those of us who are
in the room we are moving towards a conclusion.
51. Moving from statutory bodies to the human
rights organisations, do you find you get support from human rights
organisations in the Province? Are there other organisations which
are active in condemning the practice of expulsions or help in
any way in dealing with that?
(Mr Wrigley) We have worked very closely with NIACRO
and at least two other bodies there. We have given evidence and
met the newly established Commission. We find that the groupings
which are either funded or in private charities in their own right
have each got a contribution to make but ironically there are
very few of them who are able to look at the whole problem. In
answer to your question, yes, we collaborate with them. There
have been instances when threats have been made in a house at
gunpoint and our route through has been through the local minister
or priest within minutes. We have been able to get some measure
of support on that in that community. Again, the problem is people
in the community feel under pressure not to be seen to be helping
because if they are seen to be helping the threatened families
they feel they too will be threatened. It is a difficult situation.
(Mr Robinson) In terms of having the new Human Rights
Commission and ultimately the proposed Bill of Rights, the sad
reality is that people in this position are not able to avail
themselves of any new legislation. Again, coming back to the fear
element and to the intimidatory element, because although they
may wish to avail themselves of that it involves evidence, it
involves the naming of those who are perpetrating a crime and
that ultimately puts pressure on to, again, the family because
if the individual cannot be got at then there is the risk to the
family. Whilst we have got the facility or the vehicle, we cannot
or they do not feel in a position to be able to use that vehicle.
53. Very shortly, we are expecting to conclude
the passage of legislation for the reform of policing in Northern
Ireland. It is the Government's intention that this should result
in a police force which has much broader community acceptance.
There are different views on the Committee on the likelihood of
this happening. You probably would not wish to side with one view
or another. However, suppose this actually happened and a way
was found to broaden acceptance in one or another community or
communities, would you expect that would lead to a weakening of
the influence of paramilitaries?
(Mr Wrigley) Yes.
54. Just to carry this on about the paramilitaries.
In section 6 of the memorandum you comment "There is undoubtedly
enormous public opposition to the activities of the gangs, which
are associated with the various paramilitary groups . . ."
Now what evidence do you have for that assertion in the light
of your later claim that ". . . over the years the public
has, in large measure, been silenced through fear and intimidation"?
(Mr Wrigley) Because they will share with us. We go
into the homes and have many cups of coffee and discussions into
the early hours. When they know they can trust us they tell us
exactly where they stand. House after house after house I have
been in where people have expressed anger within the confines
of their home but feel unable to do so outside. There is real
anger and it is growing. It has grown very rapidly even in the
last 18 months. We find, for example, when we have people from
England going over there, as we have this very day for a series
of meetings, they have to be warned. If a high proportion of our
visitors from England to Ireland are themselves Irish, let me
hasten to say, those who are not need to understand that they
must not go into one house and then quote the anger that has been
expressed in that one house three doors down. There are things
like that which are crucial. When we go to Northern Ireland from
England we go primarily to listen and this is something which
I wish to make very clear to this Committee. We do have meetings
of Catholics and Protestants regularly, there will be one tonight
at Randalstown, but we try to ensure that we take on board the
inner feelings and frustration of these people. They may help
us to respond to their cries for help. If we begin to be quote
what they are saying on any estate we would be intruding and we
would be rightly condemned. It is a very delicate balance we have
55. In effect you are saying there is no channel
for this public view in any of the political structures that exist?
(Mr Wrigley) None. There are efforts being made very
nobly by individual people in the churches and other bodies, but
very often when those initiatives are taken there is quite a considerable
amount of threatening and criticism.
56. Could I move on then. Your Community then,
what view does it take on trying to create a climate that is less
conducive to the existence of paramilitary organisations? It is
a well known fact that these paramilitary organisations have been
in existence for a generation. Mr Wrigley, you quoted young men
with little else to do, how are we going to get over that? In
your opinion, are these young men with little else to do more
politically driven than they are criminally driven because obviously
the view of that helps us in some way to form some way of addressing
this particular problem?
(Mr Wrigley) Initially I think they are politically
driven but they can drift into criminal activities if they do
not have a trade and they see no means of having a livelihood
which would enable them to do the things they want, they see the
option of going along that track. In terms of hope, I believe
the area which needs attention on these troubled estates and other
areas is the people who have got a built in fear and we find that
when we have gone into many, many places we have tried to face
up to that fear individually. In our Maranatha gatherings we have
many people coming who have been injured physically or emotionally
and also some who have inflicted injury. This is the point I would
wish to make, the coming together of not only both sides of the
community but even the hard line people who would collaborate
with the paramilitaries and those who would not under any circumstances.
I can quote one instance publicly which I will. We held a meeting
in Cookstown Town Hall four years ago, I well remember it was
a very mixed gathering and it was made up of people who had been
involved in the troubles hands on, people who had suffered terribly,
people who had lost loved ones, who had been shot dead at their
side. At that event, because there was not judgmentalism, there
was just an expression of sorrow, we were able to penetrate into
the minds of people who would no sooner think of having anything
to do with the other side and suddenly they were asking one another
for forgiveness. We actually had two men, one who had served eight
years, ex IRA, the other seven years, ex UVF, asking for forgiveness
of the communities that they had terrorised, publicly, and then
asking for one another's forgiveness and embracing in public.
That was followed by a whole range of changes which took place
at that meeting. I mention that meeting at Cookstown because it
is engrained in my heart because, going back to Mr Robinson's
question about hope, I did see hope on that occasion but we have
a long way to go. It must come through listening to the legitimate
anger of people on both sides of the divide. This is the point
I would wish to make. We are not saying that their anger is illegitimate,
we are not saying that if we were in their place we would not
be throwing bricks or whatever. It is a terrible thing to have
to say. When I, as an Englishman, say that then the door is open,
and we are human beings considering the pain.
57. You have mentioned intimidation, the process
you have just described there in that meeting at Cookstown would
tend, one would think, to undermine the whole basis of the power
of the paramilitary. Is your organisation itself subject to any
(Mr Wrigley) I have known threats. I would wish to
talk to that perhaps a little more confidentially. In the main
we are not afraid. We do not feel that we are taking undue risks.
Doubtless all parties concerned, when they see us at work, know
completely what we are about but we try to be open with them.
It is extremely difficult to put this in a political context in
this country but we take people as we find them and if we meet
people who have been, and are being, involved in really serious
criminal activity and violent activity we will still communicate
with them and try to listen to what it is that has made them so
bitter and, by the way, they welcome that. Without exception I
have met people in the paramilitary on both sides and very often
they are very unhappy people.
Chairman: Before I conclude with what are some
slightly unrelated questions, can I just verify that none of my
colleagues has any supplementaries they want to ask arising out
of what we have heard?
58. Just one question following the last question.
It is in respect of perceptions and threats. In your paper, on
perceptions and trends, paragraph 6.2, you state "There is
considerable evidence that during both cease fires the recruiting
of young people by the paramilitaries continued to take place,
and in some areas today it is accelerating." Does that not
tell usI assume the evidence is verifiedthat the
problem is going to increase rather than decrease unless we have
a comparative force in place?
(Mr Wrigley) I believe that is the case. We have come
across efforts to recruit youngsters in half a dozen places very
recently and there is no doubt at all that this has accelerated.
(Mr Robinson) It is a matter of fact that we are aware
of young people who have indicated that, following approaches,
they were considering going into organisations but subsequently,
for very practical reasons and once they have been shown what
will happen or what involvement can entail, have sought to step
back from that. Yes, it is a reality that recruitment does continue
in whatever form.
(Mr Wrigley) I think the most effective blockage to
that is the testimony of men who have been in the paramilitaries
and come out. The two men I referred to earlier are meeting young
people and the impact of those two men's work is incalculable.
59. It is sometimes said that paramilitary groups
have been able to turn off violence, such as punishment beatings,
like turning off a tap, on particular occasions, such as the visit
by President Clinton, after which that type of IRA violence ended.
What is your experience of that?
(Mr Wrigley) It is exactly that. If I could just give
a slightly political view, which is a personal one. I believe
that over the past years, and our submissions to the Secretary
of State over the last six years support this, the inflicting
of punishment beatings and the carrying out of expulsion orders
could have been used as a negotiating card in the peace process,
that in exchange for these things stopping other things would
happen. I do not want to go beyond that, Chairman, that is entering
into the realm of politics. We did actually make the point that
this was a negotiating card that the paramilitaries would readily
recognise. It seems to me that it is still a key issue in terms
of moving forward to real peace.
60. My unrelated questions are borne of human
curiosity but are intended to be constructive. I am not seeking
in any way to know how you are funded, but how large a budget
do you have to have approximately to carry out the remarkable
work that you do?
(Mr Wrigley) We are entirely self-funded. In other
words, it is members of Maranatha who pay in. We operate a little
office over a teashop and bookshop which covers our rent. The
teams of people who go over to Ireland pay for themselves. The
postage and the telephone is paid by the Community. If you were
to ask me, I should know but I am afraid I do not, it is tens
of thousands of pounds that come in and go out. At any given moment
our resources are laughably small. We find the resources come.
I am not trying to dodge the question because we would gladly
show you our annual accounts but it is very limited.
61. My question was asked out of admiration.
Do you happen to know your registered charity number?
(Mr Wrigley) Yes, indeed. It is on our letter heading.
Can I record it to you? I have not got my own letter heading with
me but I think we can provide it. Yes, indeed. Registered number
62. Thank you very much.
(Mr Wrigley) In terms of costs, we have been amazed
at the number of people who have borne the cost of accommodation.
I think this Committee should know that it has been quite surprising
that very, very committed Protestants very often have been provided
hospitality by very committed Catholics in England and vice versa,
and that in itself has been a great healer. Over and over again
we have seen the recognition by the people we have helped that
we are not doing anything other than trying to help them and that
recognition is itself a building block to peace in Northern Ireland.
We find that especially in Northern Ireland. We make many mistakes,
Chairman. I would hate this Committee to imagine that we are very
smug and self-righteous, we have made many mistakes in Northern
Ireland. I do believe that in the last analysis mutual respect
for motives is what will part the waves.
63. I am sure I speak on behalf of the whole
Committee in the real appreciation not only for the time and trouble
you have taken today but also for the quality and the quantity
of evidence you have given us. We are extremely grateful.
(Mr Wrigley) Thank you so much for letting us come
here. We do appreciate your interest and your concern. If I can
say at the end, again, a very large number of people have been
praying for this meeting in the last two hours all over Britain
and all over Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
64. * * *
(Mr Wrigley) * * *
the witnesses be further examined in private.(The Chairman.)