Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Lady Hermon: For the hon. Gentleman's assistance, I should like to correct a little detail. The IMC recommended last year that Sinn Fein's allowance be withdrawn for a year. Why in heaven's name is the hon. Gentleman trying to encourage people to vote for the motion to backdate the allowances to Sinn Fein to 1 November, which would actually undo the recommendation of the IMC?

Mr. Anderson: I am doing so because this is the only motion before us today. There is not a motion on the principles behind these issues, although many hon. Members have spoken today as though there were. However, this is the motion before us, and I believe that it represents the best way forward. This is a big ask, and I understand why some hon. Members believe that it is too big. However, we still need to reach the goal of real peace, which we have not yet achieved. So many people have reached out before us to do this, and we should not stop that endeavour.

I said earlier that we cannot pretend to understand the reality of Northern Ireland if we have not been a direct part of it. The closest I have ever been to a community at war with itself was in the aftermath of the miners strike, when communities were divided and respect for law and order had broken down; sometimes, members of the same family still do not speak to each other. However, falling out with each other, blaming each other and fighting with each other did not bring back a single job or prevent a single pit from closing. Nor did it save a single family from breaking up because of the intolerable pressures that ordinary men and women had to face.

I respect the fact that the issues that we faced in the coalfields up and down Britain were a quantum leap away from what happened in Northern Ireland, but the link was the men and women facing enormous challenges, usually way beyond their control. Ultimately, we have to accept that all the hate, pent-up resentment and deep-rooted sorrow in the world will not bring back one lost soul or help one child to make up for the loss of a parent. Neither will it help any community to rebuild its broken heart.

This is a big ask, but we have a big chance. We have a chance to leave behind the gun and the bomb for ever, a chance to give our kids the sort of life that our
8 Feb 2006 : Column 931
generation lost, and a chance to show the world the real, warm face that the people of Ireland genuinely possess. We have to accept that if the restoration of the allowances can help us to do that, we should vote for the motion.

3.33 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Many of the matters before us have already been covered by the various hon. Members who have spoken today, and I shall not make a long speech, because many others want to make a contribution to the debate. It is only right that they should have the opportunity to do so.

The people of Northern Ireland deeply resent any suggestion that those who are motivated to keep this motion from going through are motivated by hatred of the people involved and by a refusal to face facts. All of us have had to face facts, but the suggestion has been made by the Secretary of State and the Leader of the House that if we do not pass the motion and there is retaliation, we should be responsible for what happens. We should not. Every Member of the House has the right to state their view. If people want to impute principles to their opponents, they can do so, but the fact is that the people of Northern Ireland do want peace. The greatest sacrifices for peace have been made by the population whom my colleagues and I represent in this House.

Who gave their sons to be murdered by the terrorists? Who supplied the police officers and the police force? Who supplied the Army volunteers? The vast majority came from the Protestant and Unionist community. I know that some very famous families came from the Roman Catholic community, and that they too suffered. The IRA refused to allow the body of a constituent of mine whom they had blown up to be buried in his own church graveyard. His body had to be carried to a graveyard six miles away, because the IRA said, "If you bury him in his own graveyard, we'll dig him up. We will not allow him to be buried there." These are things that people have suffered.

Let the House get this point in its mind today. There is the inkling—the Secretary of State and the Leader of the House seemed to suggest as much—that if we do not take this step, there will be a dread result. However, the dread result of taking this step will be this: there will be another concession, and the same argument will be used. After that a further concession will be made and the same argument will be used again, until the cause is surrendered and the people of Northern Ireland have lost their way completely—not through their own fault, but because they were misled. The Secretary of State needs to think very carefully about what he is doing.

The suggestion that those who oppose such moves are hindering peace is the suggestion of someone who is not facing facts. We do not oppose peace. Every one of my Members has been attacked. Every one of them has been subjected to an attempted killing, and some of them have been beaten up. My own wife, who was a member of Belfast council, was beaten up and stoned in the street. I know what they have been through. We in this House need to ask ourselves, "What about the people who are the real carriers of the peace banner? What do they think about this?" I certainly know from my constituency experience what the victims feel. They feel that this is a bribe to IRA—pay money, blood money.
8 Feb 2006 : Column 932

In this regard, I think in particular of what happened to my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea). I confronted one of the leaders of the IRA in the Assembly when he was speaking about the support of children—about how we should all love our children—and I said, "What did you do when you were the IRA commander in Londonderry? You sent your gunmen to my friend's home on a Sunday night, after he had finished his service, and when his five children were in bed you ordered that bullets be put through the bedroom." Forty-six bullets were put through that bedroom in my hon. Friend's home, and it is a miracle that no one was killed.

We need to face up to those who think that way. There should be no bribes and no giving in. All of us who want to take part in these talks are told that we have to be democrats. All the parties have said that they will keep to that—except one, which says, "No. We are going to hold on to our weapons. We are going to continue our campaign."

Kate Hoey: The right hon. Gentleman is obviously very experienced in these matters and has lots of meetings with the Prime Minister. I am genuinely interested to know whether he feels that this initiative came about long before the IMC report. Does he think that some kind of agreement was stitched up between the Prime Minister and the leader of IRA-Sinn Fein?

Rev. Ian Paisley: Yes, my conviction is that certain things were done at a certain time, which my party had no connection with at all. In fact, I never had the opportunity even to speak to the Prime Minister, because I was banned from Downing street for almost two years; I do not have the Prime Minister's ear. I draw the conclusion that other things will emerge from the cupboard. Heaven knows what they will be, but this is one of them. Tonight, this House has a duty.

Mr. Peter Robinson: My right hon. Friend may want to respond to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) on the assumption that she has not received the Labour party's briefing note for the debate. It contains a bullet point that states that the lifting of financial sanctions formed part of the negotiations with Sinn Fein that ultimately led to the 28 July statement ending the armed campaign and to the decommissioning of weapons. Clearly, the sanctions formed part of the deal done by the Prime Minister and his colleagues to get a statement from Sinn Fein-IRA.

Rev. Ian Paisley: I accept that. Although my deputy seems to get papers that I do not, I confess that I get papers that he does not.

Even so, it is clear that things remain in the cupboard. I want the cupboard doors to be opened, and the Government to say what they have agreed with the IRA. There can be no future in talks between the parties until everyone knows what has been agreed and what tacit arrangements have been made.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: I am in entire agreement with the leader of the Democratic Unionist party. I admire him immensely for his courage and for the leadership that he has given in Northern Ireland, which has made his party the largest in that part of the UK—
8 Feb 2006 : Column 933
[Interruption.] I admire him immensely, and will continue to do so. However, does he intend to refer to paragraphs 3.23 and 3.27 in the IMC report, which suggest that both PIRA and RIRA retain their weapons and ammunition? Paragraph 3.27 states that the Real IRA

Next Section IndexHome Page