Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Rev. Ian Paisley: Of course it does. I have said to the Government, as I am sure the Secretary of State will remember, "You gave the IRA over five years to do what they were supposed to do and now you want to give me five minutes and next you want to give me five weeks." Why is that? When I talk about the majority population, I am talking about the majority of both Protestants and Roman Catholics. Remember that the IRA shot some of what it would call its own people, it buried them and its own people do not even know to this day where it buried them.

Let us look at this as it is. This is a hideous thing that we must face up to. All of us who represent Northern Ireland have a serious responsibility to put forward in the House what the ordinary man in the street is
31 Oct 2005 : Column 661
thinking and feeling. I trust that we will get a feel of that in our own hearts and consciences. At a time when the Government are making arrangements to disband the   home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment and to dismantle the security installations in Northern Ireland, and all done according to a political timetable rather than a security timetable, it is obvious that we need to point out the true level of the threat that is upon our Province at the present time. The very fact that there is a need to introduce the Bill is the clearest possible evidence that Northern Ireland still needs special anti-terrorist measures.

I have voted against some of the things in the Bill in bygone days in this House because I felt that if the Government had used the forces of the Crown in every possible way, they could have nipped the rebellion that was coming in the bud. However, they did not. I voted in this House against the Diplock courts. The hon.   Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) has gone now, but it was her party who advocated and plead for them. Mr. Faulkner and others said that we must have them, but if the forces of law and order had been used properly, we could have stopped the rebellion. But it was not stopped; it was encouraged. Blind eyes were turned by Ministers to what was happening.

I remember being called out by the Army night after night to go to vast crowds of people all over our city to plead with them to go home and not engage in any act of violence, for that would bring them nowhere. I did that night after night until my heart was broken to see people so frustrated, people who had dead bodies at home as a result of IRA and other activity. I knew that my country, my country that I love, was going into darkness. We have been in darkness.

Are we going to bring it out of darkness? We will not except that we are strong; the Government and all of us must be strong and face up to the situation. We are not asking for tough, partisan measures. We are asking that everyone be equal, and be treated equally, under the law. There is no other way to run a country in peace but that.

There needs to be an end to all paramilitary organisations. Their activities must all cease; none can be justified, whether the groups call themselves loyalists or republicans. The law-abiding people of Ulster, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are determined no longer to tolerate terrorists. We can no longer have peace with terrorism. It will have to be dealt with.

Over the coming months, we will be paying attention to the activities of the IRA. But even in circumstances where the IRA is effectively out of the picture, there remains a significant threat from other groups. The police tell me that dissident republicans are trouble and that loyalist paramilitaries have had their troubles; some of those groups seem intent to carry on.

The Bill extends the provisions of part VII to 31 July 2007 and makes provision to extend those powers by order by another year. However, the Government tell me that things are moving well and that I and my people ought to move, too. But why are the Government saying that they will wait until 2008 before finalise things? They are giving themselves plenty of time and they gave the IRA plenty of time. They are not giving the ordinary man in the street who wants peace time to consider what is happening. That is who I am pleading for. If everyone else needs time, we need time also to consider what is happening.
31 Oct 2005 : Column 662

No one wants special powers. We want our country to be free, but if we have to sacrifice some of our liberties in order that all might share liberty, we will have to make that sacrifice whether we like it or not. The anti-terrorist powers that are available to the police and the courts cannot merely fade away to a point where they are not needed or not used before they can be removed from the statute book. It is better that provisions be allowed to   wither on the vine rather than being removed prematurely.

As early as 2002, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission argued for the repeal of part VII of the   2000 Act. That tells us how the Human Rights Commission was constructed—not one representative put forward the view of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Of course it was a rigged body and it brought in a rigged resolution. If the types of offences covered by that legislation are not committed, the relevant provisions are not triggered, so there is no harm done by keeping them on the books. If, in a number of years from now, it is generally accepted that Ulster is at peace, there will be no voices louder than ours calling for all these laws be scrapped and buried for ever. We want to live in the freedom that we deserve.

All that has happened in the past few days points to the fact that, as one of my colleagues said, if ever we needed caution, we need it today. It is because of that that I will be voting to support the Bill and to keep these laws on the statute book, for they promise freedom to all of our people and not just to some.

5.56 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I   congratulate the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) on his forthcoming elevation to the Privy Council. He speaks with power and passion. I remember his maiden speech. He and I came to the House on the same day, and I sat on the Government Benches and listened to him. He will forgive me if I say that he has mellowed in some respects, but in others the power of the oratory is still there, as is his burning love for the Province.

The hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), who has recently joined our ranks in this House, comes from an honourable tradition and from a party that has played a brave part in striving for normality in Northern Ireland. The one thing that all of us in this House want more than anything is normality in Northern Ireland. The thing I   want to see on a forthcoming visit to Belfast is streets that are not divided by barriers, closed by gates and riven on both sides by hatred and bigotry.

All of us in the House today will support the Bill. I   doubt very much that there will be a Division; I hope that there will not be. But the Secretary of State must listen to voices— not to mine, to the voices from Foyle and North Antrim, both of which have urged a degree of caution. In politics, perception is very important and   I know from recent visits to the Province that the   perception is that the Government have not been even-handed.

I do not accuse the Secretary of State, whom I   genuinely wish well. However, there is a perception in the Protestant community, although it is shared by many in the Catholic community, that Sinn Fein has been given a degree of preference that it does not deserve.
31 Oct 2005 : Column 663

I sat down with Sinn Fein four weeks ago. It was an experience that I will not easily forget, although I dare say that I shall have to repeat it. We are dealing with people of single-minded determination who are not prepared fully to take part in the democratic process. I   said to those people that they have five seats in Parliament and that they could come here and argue their cause. They are entitled to a position on the Select Committee that I have the honour to chair. I said that they could come here and question people—the Secretary of State and others—and that if they truly believe in democracy, it is not only their role but their duty to participate. What sort of answer did I get? I got a clinically cold, utterly unflinching answer of absolute refusal. I will continue to make this point in this House and elsewhere, and I shall certainly make it when I meet those people again, but I will remain fundamentally opposed to their having any rights and privileges in this place until they become properly a part of it and play their part in its debates and in my Committee's discussions.

I know that the Secretary of State agrees, because he said so in the House last week, that if those people want to play their part in creating the basis for normality in Northern Ireland, let them express one little bit of regret and remorse for the appalling misery that the IRA has inflicted on the Province in the past 35 years and more. We saw no expression of regret or remorse when the statement was issued on 28 July. We saw no expression of regret or remorse when arms were decommissioned. I   have no doubt that a large number of arms were decommissioned, but I equally have no doubt that the IRA has the scope, facilities and ill-gotten gains to replace them if it chooses to do so. That is why it is so right to pass this Bill tonight. I point out to the Secretary of State that in continuing to be cautious in our legal system, we must also be cautious in the way we regard the protestations of people who have blood on their hands.

If, in future, those people can truly renounce evil and criminality, we will of course have to sit down with them and work with them, but they will have to make a move as well. The situation beggars belief. Is there any other part of the United Kingdom in which a legitimate party funded by the proceeds of crime would be allowed to strut its way on the stage? Yes, it is right to welcome what was said on 28 July and to acknowledge that some decommissioning has taken place, but until those people have fully and absolutely renounced evil in all its forms, they cannot be treated in the same way that the Social Democratic and Labour party, the Democratic Unionist party and the Ulster Unionist party are—or should be—treated by the Government. Those parties may have differences and we may have our differences with them—they may even differ among themselves from time to time—but they all accept the validity of this place and of the democratic process, and they all play a part in it. Those other people do not.

Let us be hard-headed about this. There has indeed been a certain renunciation of the more blatant acts of terrorism and murder. Why? One reason is that 9/11 made terrorism utterly unacceptable in the United States of America. From the moment that those planes   flew into the twin towers, IRA-Sinn Fein—or
31 Oct 2005 : Column 664
Sinn Fein-IRA; put it which way one likes—realised that they would have to change their outward tune to a large degree. We welcome that, but they have not renounced their organisation's command structure or their deep involvement in criminality.

Two weeks ago, my Select Committee was in Belfast and we received a briefing from the police, the Revenue and the Assets Recovery Agency—I do not propose to give the House the details, because that would be wrong—that would, in the immortal words of the famous Dickens character, "make your flesh creep." There is no doubt that criminality is deeply ingrained in Northern Ireland, and on not just the republican side but the so-called loyalist side. I hate calling those people "loyalists"; I am a loyalist. Criminality has to be rooted out—of both sides. If it is not and those people play a part in the democratic process without renouncing it, that process, of which we are all a part, will be devalued. We must face up to that point.

We have a duty, particularly those of us who represent other parts of the United Kingdom, to ensure that we all uphold and sustain the progress to normality in Northern Ireland, but such progress cannot be made at any price. The price that has to be paid by those who are giving up their arms is a full renunciation of evil, wickedness and crime. They have to be willing to sit down and to play a proper part in the democratic process. That is why we have to be very careful about any legislation that we introduce.

The Secretary of State mildly rebuked me when I   intervened on him earlier, to quiz him on the business of the on-the-runs legislation. However, there is a fundamental contradiction in the Government's thinking. Today, they are rightly bringing this Bill before the House and asking for support from all parts of it. They are receiving such support, but in one, two or three weeks' time, the Secretary of State will introduce a Bill—we do not know precisely when, but he said that it will be before Christmas—that will give an amnesty in all but name to some of the wickedest people in the United Kingdom.

I point out to the Secretary of State that if he wants to build normality and to take the House with him—I want to go with him—the House has its instruments. Let him bring that measure to us for pre-legislative scrutiny, so that we can look at what is proposed. Witnesses could be called; indeed, I have offered that my Committee do the job for him, if he wishes. It includes representatives of the three Northern Ireland parties: two from the   DUP; the hon. Member for North Down (Lady   Hermon), from the UUP, and the deputy leader of the SDLP. It also includes seven Government Members, all of whom have knowledge and deep commitment. I am absolutely determined that this Committee will never work on a party political basis, and that it will work together for the good of Northern Ireland.

Let us look at that measure, have witnesses and ask   them questions about it, so that if it is passed, it is truly even-handed. If forgiveness has to be officially sanctioned, let it be sanctioned across the board. If we are to put the past behind us in order to build a proper, secure future, that is the only way to proceed. A nation that neglects its past does not really deserve a future. We would all like to forget much of the past in Northern Ireland, but we must be stimulated by memories of evil
31 Oct 2005 : Column 665
to create a climate of good. We must all be prepared to forgive and forget, but only if, as the soon-to-be right hon. Member for North Antrim said, everyone is treated equally.

I appeal to the Secretary of State to reconsider the forthcoming legislation while accepting the support that he deserves for the Bill. I wish him well. If he earns a reputation as a man who brought the foundation of true peace and normality to Northern Ireland he will deserve a place in the history books, and we can all honour him accordingly. Let caution be his watchword. Do not let him rush, and let him have regard for the deep feelings, the bitter memories, the twisted lives on both sides of the community and the manipulative people who would perpetuate evil. They may have renounced the bullet and the bomb, but they will intimidate with the emotional weapons of terror if we do not give a proper lead.

6.11 pm

Next Section IndexHome Page