Rev. Ian Paisley: Yes, but that action is not going to take place. No one on the Government side of the House, or even in the Irish Republic, is pushing for it, as my hon. Friend and I very well know.
I do not know what we have to do, as public representatives, to urge that the pathway of stern justice must now be taken and that these people must be brought to book for their crimes. I do not want innocent people to suffer, but I want those who have done these vile deeds to be called to account by the court of law in a proper, organised way, so that the people can have justice done. There are people in Northern Ireland who do not even know where those whom the IRA murdered are buried; it will not give up the dead bodies of their loved ones. Sometimes I sit and hold a mother's hand and she says to me, "Ian, if only I could get the body and we could carry it and have a Christian burial, I would have sweet relief. I can't get my son back again, but oh if I only had his body." There are people in the IRA who come to the negotiating tablewho come to Downing street and sit down with the Prime Ministerwho know, but will not tell, and then I am asked to share power with them.
We made it clear at every meeting that we attended in our negotiations that anything under discussion could take place only under two conditions: first, complete decommissioning that was verifiable and satisfied everyone; and secondly, a cessation of crime. The only people who can tell us that it has ceased are the people who are living in these areas, and they are on their backs.
I said to the Taoiseach yesterday: "I want to be brutally frank with you. When you, and Members of your Government, can stand up and tell the people of Northern Ireland, 'We could now receive the IRA into our Government and enter into a coalition', then the people of Northern Ireland will perhaps begin to believe that it is possible." That is the test. It is all right for two Members of the southern Governmentthe Taoiseach and his Justice Ministerto argue about disbanding, not being able to use a name, and so on, but these things are inextricably linked. If one cuts two things that are inextricably linked together, they must both fall and be different at the end of the operation.
I, personally, cannot and will not negotiate on that basis, because I am bound by a strict mandate. I got that mandate in spite of fierce odds raised against us by people who said that it could not be done in a party that has ruled Northern Ireland and in which we were all born and bred. I was in the Unionist party for years, the Lord forgive me for my sins. I fought its campaigns and won it seats that it could never have won. I was in it all the way, but then I saw, sadly, betrayals that I personally could not tolerate. Because of that, I had to raise the standard. I did that at a time when no man who rose up in Ulster and challenged official Unionism ever lived. One manan excellent politicianchallenged it, and he was so pressured that he committed suicide. I have survived, and I will tell the House whybecause the people now want the truth.
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I plead with the Government not to make a big show of what Adams says. Let us test it. If the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach say, "This is great, we never saw anything like it in our lives, look what has been accomplished", it will be the same as it was at the time of the last so-called decommissioning, when the man who occupied the seat in this House where I stand now said, "This is the greatest day in Northern Ireland's history." Within 24 hours, he was saying, "I have to take back everything I've said."
Let us go forward on the one path. Let truth and justice prevail and let there be clarity of speech on all sides. Let people be honest, one with the other, and then we will get somewhere. I am glad that some tiny punishment will take place, but it is far too tiny and it comes far too late.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): If anybody thinks that how the Government and others handle the issue of Sinn Fein is a small matter, let them look around the Chamber. For many years, my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and I sat alone as representatives of the Democratic Unionist party. We were encouraged in later years when my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea) joined usat the time, he represented Mid-Ulsterbut look at our ranks today.
It is regrettable that when we are dealing with a key issue affecting the constitutional future of Northern Ireland and the safety of its people, the three members of the Social, Democratic and Labour party have gone home or found somewhere else more enjoyable in the House. The large ranks of the Ulster Unionist party seem to have disappeared as well. However, the Minister will not get off easily, because the DUP is here in strength.
Nobody present today would argue that the Government are wrong to penalise Sinn Fein-IRA, but some will question whether their plans are appropriate and sufficient. Perhaps the Minister, when he winds up, could address another issue. As we understand it, the direction deals with funds from this House for parliamentary parties. However, the original direction suspended funds for both Sinn Fein and the Progressive Unionist party, which the Minister did not mention, at an Assembly levelalthough it was the decision of the Secretary of State. What happens to Assembly funds for parties that have not met the necessary standards according to the Independent Monitoring Commission and are in default? After all, the IMC report's strictures are addressed not only to Sinn Fein, but to the PUP. Indeed, paragraph 9.9 of the IMC's fifth report, recommends that
I am grateful for that clarification, but the anomaly could still arise that the Secretary of State
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decides to cease funding Sinn Fein from Westminster, but permits Sinn Fein to be funded from Stormont. That would be inconsistent, so I am not sure why the Secretary of State dallies on the issue.
The Government attempted to bring the republican movement along by bringing it in to the political fold. They hoped that they could wean republicans off violence and criminality and that republicans would be so grateful that they would become new-born democrats. The reality, of course, has been very different: they have come into the fold, but they have brought their bad habits with them. They have not given up their past. They hold on to their weapons, continue with paramilitary activity, and still have the largest criminal empire in the whole of these islands. Those are the facts and to this date, nothing in connection with that behaviour has changed.
The IMC's fifth report makes it clear that the Provisional IRA is an active paramilitary organisation, that it is still engaged in all types of paramilitary and criminal activity, and that it has a high state of readiness for paramilitary action. It is in the light of that reality that the Government must look not just at this issue, but at a series of issues.
During the House's original debate on this issue, we argued that if the Government were serious in wanting to impose a penalty on Sinn Fein, they would have to consider a meaningful one. I find it difficult to think of any penalty that will have less impact on the republican movement than a fine of £100,000 or so. In just the past six months, this organisation has carried out a bank robbery, driving off with £26.5 million. It engages in ongoing racketeering, fuel smuggling and the sale of all manner of counterfeit goods. It has its operations along the border. It intimidates developers and builders, who have to pay it regularly. All that has gone on consistently. When I was a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, we gauged that some £10 million a year was probably coming in from such activity. These republicans also license drug dealers, whom they permit to sell drugs in their area, and they punish savagely those dealers who do not pay them for the right to sell drugs in their area.
So we are talking about organised crime of a type that we have never seen before in the United Kingdom. It is major business, and the Government's hope and expectation is that the lure of government places in a Northern Ireland Assembly might be sufficient to wean the republican movement away from this major business. Anybody who looked at what happened last December should have learned a lesson. Last December, we were negotiating with Her Majesty's Government, and having talks with the Government of the Irish Republic on matters pertaining to the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Moreover, meetings were taking place principally between Sinn Fein and the Government of the Irish Republic, but also Her Majesty's Government.
While all that was going on and we were discussing in good faith how we might set up an Executive in Northern Ireland, the Sinn Fein leadership, the main participants in which are synonymous in their principles with the leadership of the IRA, were planning a bank heist. While they talked to Ministers about ending criminality, they were considering the details of their next criminal exploit. Does that not indicate something of the mindset of the organisation with which we are
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dealing today? It indicates clearly that these people's hope, expectation and intentionwhatever the wording used on that occasionwas to give up certain elements of their paramilitary activity, but not those which allow them to keep control of their areas. A knee-capping here, an exiling therethey still want to be able to carry out such activities, to keep their rule imposed on the people in the Catholic enclaves. The one thing that they will never give up is their criminality.
The republicans do not consider themselves to be involved in criminality, as we know. According to their theology, they are the legitimate Government. As the Assembly Member for Foyle said, activities carried out in the name of that Government are legitimate, not criminal. To take one specific case, the McConville murder was therefore not considered to be a criminal event. The republican organisation feels that it has the legal authority to rule on the whole of the island of Ireland, and that everything that it does is therefore legitimate.
The republicans' intention to maintain their criminal empire and paramilitary control of their areas will not be changed in any way by the paltry penalty imposed by the order. We need a root-and-branch punishment of the republican movement. If the Minister wants to impose a penalty, he must do so at every level of government.
In local government, councillors take an oath when they are elected that they will not engage in any activity that promotes a paramilitary organisation. I think that the republicans have about 120 councillors: each one promotes an organisation that is inextricably linked to paramilitary activity, and is therefore in breach of that pledge. No action has ever been taken against them under the law. We need effective legislation to ensure that there are financial penalties at all levels of governmentlocal, Assembly, Westminster and European. After all, it is this House that pays the salaries of UK Members of the European Parliament.
If the Government want to be serious, they must act in the way that I have set out. If they do not do so, it will be clear that the order is merely a matter for public consumption, so that people think that the Government are doing something. In reality, however, it will have no impact on events.