Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Given the disparate nature of political opinion in the House, it is pleasing to hear the degree of consensus that has emerged in debating the renewal of the provisions in the Bill. However, as I told the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan)this has been repeated innumerable timeswe should proceed with caution. I want to consider that caution.
At various times in the past 36 years, paramilitary groups have made announcements. Some of them have gone further by engaging in acts of decommissioning. Other statements have been made since the first act of decommissioning by the Loyalist Volunteer Force. But all those announcements and acts have had a uniform response from the Government. Almost
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without exception, the Government have been very anxious immediately to rush to the fences and say, "This is a wonderful step"whether it was an early announcement of semi-permanent ceasefires, the LVF's initial decommissioning incident, subsequent acts of decommissioning by republican paramilitaries or statements by loyalist paramilitaries. Almost without exception, there has been an immediate, positive response from the Government. For that reason, we should all proceed with caution.
The LVF carried out an act of decommissioning some years ago and subsequently carried out many further acts of terrorism and intimidation. All those who greeted the LVF's initial act of decommissioning with tremendous hope and expectation should have been more cautious when the IRA indicated its intention to decommission, and whatever acts transpire subsequentlywe know not as yet the entirety of themone would have thought that caution would be the watchword and that people should not rush to acclaim yet another such action.
I want to refer to the physical manifestations of a readiness to accept the words of paramilitary groups. That is where I take exception and differ with the Government about how they should deal with the words of the terrorist groups. For example, in relation to the Bill, if the Government are saying, "Yes, we should be cautious; yes, we should renew the legislation", why did they not equally say, when the IRA made its statement on 28 July, "We will wait and see before we remove the watchtowers on the border. We will proceed cautiously. We will go gently. We will go slowly." But, no, they hastened to remove the watchtowers. They hastened to announce the effective disbandment of the Royal Irish Regiment home service battalions. They hastened on a whole host of other issues in response to an IRA statement, but caution should have been the order of the day for physical manifestations, as it should be with legislation.
There could be thoseI hope that there are not who say that, because of the statements and decommissioning, we should effectively do away with the legislation in place because the Government could reintroduce measures in future. My response would be that the Government could more easily do that than they could re-erect the border checkpoints, which would take many weeks and months of physical work. However, things that would require more time to put back in place were removed more quickly than the legislation that we are discussing.
There was much talk over the weekend about the president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, who made a declaration on television on Friday evening in which he said that he believed that the war was over. He said that he had not said that before. Many Unionists over the past 11 years erroneously called for Gerry Adams to say that the war was over. I am interested not in what Gerry Adams says, but in what the IRA does. What it says is of almost no consequence. When it has disappeared and left the stage, with all its armsboth ancient and moderngone, dismantled and never to return, that will be the point at which the Unionist and the nationalist communities will know that the war is indeed over, not when we hear honeyed words from Gerry Adams.
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The Secretary of State and several other hon. Members mentioned the IMC report that will be published in January. It is 11 years since the first IRA ceasefire, but are we expected in the next 11 weeks to declare whether we believe that the IRA has disappeared from the stage? If the Government are expecting that to happen, I am afraid that they are in for yet more disillusionment and disappointment. Do they think that in 11 weeks the Unionist community will pass judgment despite what it has seen during the failure of the past 11 years? It will take much more time than that. The Government have talked about a working assumption that the IRA has indeed left the stage. It will take more than a working assumption in the next 11 weeks to show that the IRA has indeed vanished.
Hon. Members have mentioned the Secretary of State's decision to announce the restoration of Assembly allowances on the back of the 28 July statement by the Provisional IRA and the subsequent action. We understand that there will be a move to restore House of Commons allowances to Sinn Fein Members. However, it should not go without comment that, when last year's allowances were disclosed last week, we saw that Sinn Fein Members claimed £80,000 for their additional costs allowance. They claimed more for not attending this Parliament than some Members who come here. If that is not a ludicrous commentary on the allowances situation, I do not know what is.
Policing is central to the future of Northern Ireland. Few Unionists want Sinn Fein to become a central part of policingI do not know of anybut many people in Northern Ireland want every political party to be in a position in which it can endorse policing with no ambiguity or skeletons in the cupboard, and with no twin-track strategy of politics by day, but community restorative justice by night, which the hon. Member for Foyle mentioned.
In response to questions from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee last week, the Secretary of State mentioned community support officers. Will the Minister take the opportunity in his winding-up speech to again drive home the message that there is no place, and can be no place, for paramilitaries, or those associated with them, either in the police in Northern Ireland, or as community support officers in Northern Ireland? It would be simply intolerable if a victim could have coming to his or her door someone who was involved with the paramilitary group that caused the problem that made her go to the police in the first instance. I hope that the Minister will yet again rule that out entirely and say that it will not be possible, under any circumstances, for the IRA or any paramilitary grouployalist or republicanto be involved in policing.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell). As has already been indicated, we will support the Bill in the event of a Division.
The Bill's title is "Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Bill", and terrorism has been a sad realityconstantly and continuouslyin the lives of the people of Northern Ireland, in particular, for more than 30 years. We have
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witnessed the ravages of terrorism. We have seen what it has done to families, communities and society in general. However, let us never forget that behind each statistic on terrorism is a personal tragedy. Let us not forget the homes and families that have been destroyed because of terrorism in our Province. In not only the United Kingdom as a whole, but across the world, the reality of terrorism is gripping society. We see how it threatens civilised society throughout the world.
The tragedy of Northern Ireland politics is that terrorists have been capitulated to and appeased for the past 30 years. The sad reality is that that capitulation and appeasement policy has not ended. The appeasement policy is continuing.
I must confess that I am absolutely amazed by how gullible successive Governments can be. Whenever the IRA suggests that it will make a statement, it seems that democratic society is supposed to wait with bated breath and then hang on every word of a terrorist thug who makes a statement in the political arena. It is somehow seen that that changes the whole scene and that we must be thankful for it. Government Ministers have even praised the IRA, but for what? Do we thank the terrorists for stopping their terrorism? Are we supposed to thank them for no longerat this present momentshowing the evidence that they are murdering and causing mayhem and destruction in our society?
I say this without equivocation: terrorist organisations deserve no praise and no thanks from Members of this House. There was no justification whatsoever for their acts of terrorism over the past 35 years. There was no justification for leaving little children without a father. There was no justification for their terrorism, which robbed mothers of their children. Nor do they deserve any thanks because they say, "We are not going to continue our terrorist campaign at this moment. We are no longer going to destroy the lives and scatter the bodies of little children across society, the hills, the streets or the roads of Ulster." That is the sickening position that we are inthat somehow we are to praise them, to crawl to them and to make them acceptable in our society. That is what has been happening over the past weeks and months. I believe with all my heart that that is the sickening reality.
The IRA seems to have got very sensitive. We had the decommissioning of its weapons, or at least those that were known about, and none of those were from 1996. It did not want photographs of that. It was not so sensitive when it allowed the cameras in for other reasons. The Government were happy that the cameras were present when they demolished the watchtowers. They were not as sensitive whenever the troops were taken out and were photographed getting on to the plane. The IRA was not as sensitive about the cameras outside the gates of the prison whenever the IRA terrorists got out as part of the Belfast agreement. It was, however, sensitive when it came to having independent witnesses endorsed by the community and having photographic evidence of the destruction of terrorist weaponry. That is why society in general in Northern Ireland is not jumping up and down but is cynical about what has happened with the IRA.
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Unionists are supposed to believe the IRA because it has made a statement. We are to believe Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, but for the past 35 years Adams and McGuinness denied being in the IRA's so-called army council. They were lying through their teeth. Now, whenever they say, "Ah, well now the war is over", we are supposed to believe that somehow this dishonest grouping has turned honest and that those who have shown no integrity are now people of integrity, decency and honesty within our society, and we supposed to bow in submission to them. That is something that the Unionist population will not be doing to the IRA or Gerry Adams. He was part of the IRA machine that committed murder and destroyed the lives of innocent people, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, in Northern Ireland.