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Rev. Ian Paisley: Did not the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) tell a Unionist meeting recently that he had not seen all of the joint declaration? How, then, can the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) say "You should do this because your leader supports it"?
David Burnside: The Government should be clear about this. The Ulster Unionist party leadership and corporate body do not move from one council resolution to the next. We are linked to the Ramada hotel Ulster Unionist Council meeting that took place before Christmas. Before the party and its leadership can do anything, the Ulster Unionist Council will have to be called and to endorse the new policy position.
Mr. Donaldson: That is true. The policy of the Ulster Unionist party remains that adopted unanimously at the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council on 21 September 2002. It would therefore not be possible for the party to endorse the joint declaration in any sense, as aspects of it contradict the policy adopted then. It is why I reiterate that it will be for the Ulster Unionist Council to make that determination and that decision.
Mr. Mallon: When I spoke earlier, I asked a question. I asked the same question last week. If the IRA had said that it would stop all the activities specified in paragraph 13, would the Ulster Unionist party have gone ahead with the election on that basis? I still do not have an answer to that. Would the hon. Member like to give an answer on behalf of himself, or perhaps on behalf of his party, the ruling council of his party or whoever it may be in the Stalinist way that it does business?
Mr. Donaldson: The Ulster Unionist party is most certainly not Stalinist. It is the most democratic party when it comes to our decision-making processes. We are open. Everyone can see how we do our business and the decisions that are taken, but let me answer the hon. Member's question. The answer is very simple. I believe that the elections should have gone ahead in any event. I was not waiting for the IRA to come up with some form of words. I was not waiting for the IRA to cease doing anything. The elections should have gone ahead in any event. They should go ahead at the earliest opportunity, regardless of what the IRA says or does, because it is fundamentally my view that the IRA should not be given a veto over the democratic process in Northern Ireland, which is precisely what the Government have given it.
The Secretary of State tells us that he cannot give the date for the next election precisely for the reason that he does not know when the IRA will come up with a form of words that will satisfy the Government. In other words, the IRA army council has a veto over the election in Northern Ireland. I cannot believe that that represents progress. However, I suspect that the Secretary of State will have some time to wait. I am not sure how relevant the answer is to the question from the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley)
When I read the statement that was drafted by the IRA on 13 April, I do not see a reasonable prospect of the IRA coming up even with a form of words, if that were enough in itself, to satisfy Ulster Unionists that it is committed to exclusively peaceful means. The IRA statement is couched in hypothetical terms. It talks about a situation that may evolve in the future, that sets a context for a decision by an organisation known as its general army convention, and that is contingent upon many things happening. Therefore, the Secretary of State should review the Government's position. He should consider the amendments that have been tabled to set a date for the election.
We probably cannot now proceed with the election on 29 May, because of the interruption in the electoral process. I regret that but I think that the Government should proceed, even at the earliest opportunity; 26 June has been one of the dates suggested. That would send a clear signal to the IRA that it is not going to impede political progress in Northern Ireland.
Some people say, "An election to what?" We had elections in 1998 to a shadow Assembly. We had elections in 1996 to a forum. Nothing in the rulebook says that elections can take place only if they are to the kind of Assembly that operated post-devolution in Northern Ireland.
A review of the agreement is due. I would like it to go way beyond a review because I believe, as I did in 1998 when I voted against the agreement, that it is fundamentally flawed. Until those flaws are addressed, we will not see the kind of political progress, political stability and real and lasting peace in Northern Ireland that we all want to see.
Sometimes, those of us on this side of the House are accused by other hon. Members of not wanting to see political progress, of wanting to wreck everything, of not believing in peace. That could not be further from the truth. I have two young children and I grew up in what was known as the "troubles". My family were very much involved with the security forces and I have seen personally and in my community the grief that violence brings. Other right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have seen that. I do not want my children to grow up in such a society. I want them to enjoy life just like children throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. I want the people whom I represent in the constituency of Lagan Valley to have the same future in the same kind of society and community as those in the constituency of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson).
To achieve that, we have to make the progress that we are not seeing at the moment. I do not believe that the Government's tactics and approach will bring that about. Unfortunately, the IRA responds to pressure; it does not respond to concessions in terms of bringing about the real changes that we want in Northern Ireland. We have had the concessions process and it has not worked. The Secretary of State needs to send out the clearest message that we will move on.
Mr. Mallon: The position that the hon. Gentleman has presented to the House on behalf of himself and some of his party will not demand of the IRA that it meet the requirements of paragraph 13 of the joint declaration. In effect, he is saying that, even if those requirements are met, he and many of his colleagues will still oppose the agreement and its inclusive nature. Surely that will strangle the approach that he is talking about and do so in a way that is detrimental to the political process for everybody.
Mr. Donaldson: Let me make it absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman that I am not against the principle of inclusivity. However, inclusivity must be based on something. When his party, my party and the Democratic Unionist party were involved in political negotiations, we signed up to the principles of democracy and non-violence. That was to be the basis for inclusivity. The republican partySinn Fein-IRAhas not lived up to those principles, and the hon. Gentleman accepts that. If it fails to live up to those principles, inclusivity and the involvement of Sinn Fein-IRA is not possible.
That then gives rise to the question that I posed earlier and to which the hon. Gentleman, once again, failed to respond. Is his party prepared to consider circumstances in which it will sit in government with Unionists and democratic parties and exclude those who have failed to make the commitment until such time as they do? Otherwise we simply suspend the democratic process in Northern Ireland, cancel the elections and we will not have an Assembly. We will then have what the hon. Gentleman mentioned earlieran apolitical vacuum. My suggestion is not a recipe for a vacuum, but his way forward is. If he believes that imposing the joint declaration is the way towards political stability, he is sadly mistaken. In the same way that the imposition of the Anglo-Irish agreement did not achieve political stability in Northern Ireland, nor will the imposition of the joint declaration.
Mr. Mallon: The hon. Gentleman asks whether my party would effectively tear up the Good Friday agreement in certain circumstances. I suggest to him that the part of his party to which he belongs at any given moment in time should put it to the IRA in such a way that if there were an election somewhere down the line, the electorate could see clearly who reneged and who did not. That is why his position effectively lets the IRA off the hook in many ways.