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Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that given what he is saying every Northern Ireland Member attending this House should vote against motion 3 and the Government should pay very close attention to that unanimous opposition?

Mark Durkan: In the spirit of its being a free vote, I cannot speak for every Northern Ireland Member who is here, but I hope that the point is not lost on the Government.

Mr. Peter Robinson: The hon. Gentleman should not worry—the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) will vote with him.

Mark Durkan: I am sure that he will.

Mr. Robinson: What about the other one?

Mark Durkan: He will, too, although whether in the same Lobby as me is another matter. He will be with me after the vote, if nothing else.

We have had evidence of all the different fix-ups suiting Sinn Fein and its purposes. Even the Taoiseach indicated that the deal-breaker for Sinn Fein in one of the key deals did not concern institutions, inclusion or equality, but securing the release of certain prisoners in
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a jail in the Irish Republic—those who had killed Garda McCabe. We see time and again that Sinn Fein negotiates for itself and for its own. At some point the Government should tell Sinn Fein where to get off. If this is being done in the name of a wider democratic peaceful process—something that is going to give us all a greater good that we should participate in—it is on those terms and those alone that the party should come forward with its demands and preconditions. The Government are sending a very dangerous signal in continuing this approach.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North tries to defend this on the grounds that we have to do questionable things that people may not like in the name of confidence-building. The Democratic Unionist party came into talks on Monday with six demands, all couched in the name of confidence-building, saying that unless they were granted, the talks could not start. In terms of confidence-building, one has to throw a six to start before one gets anything. I would advise my hon. Friend to be very careful about where the confidence-building ticket may lead. What goes around comes around in this process, unfortunately.

If the Government are telling us that new factors have created this need for new money, they should inform the House that we need to consider them in the context of a review of Short money; I am sure, on the basis of the debate so far, that the House would be able to do that. They should not give the House the bum's rush and say that we have to pay Short money for short arms as a form of Haingeld, as Members will no doubt end up calling it. This is a bad way for the House to conduct itself as regards the key issue of moneys that it votes to its own Members. The House should be more judicious about its own procedures, and is certainly entitled to ask the Government to be more circumspect in their dealings with Sinn Fein in the name of the peace process.

4.39 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): I apologise to the House for not being present for the whole of the debate. I had a medical appointment that I did not want to break. I would not recommend anyone to have their blood pressure checked during one of these debates.

For those Members who have not been in the House as long as others, there is always some sort of curiosity when an English MP weighs into a Northern Ireland debate.

Mr. Hogg: This is not essentially a Northern Ireland debate; it is a debate about the rights and privileges of Members of Parliament. That is a matter of Parliament, not of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Wilshire: I understand entirely my right hon. and learned Friend's point. I am going to talk about Northern Ireland, however, even if the matter is a general one. I speak and always have done so because I am an absolutely unapologetic Unionist, and I see a Unionist argument in this general matter. Members who have been in the House for as long as I have will know that I have had a long, 10-year, detailed involvement in these matters, and that I have been on the receiving end of interest from Sinn Fein-IRA as to my whereabouts. I have been around this course before, and make no apologies for going round it once more.
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My purpose is to do my level best to persuade the House to reject both the motions. I hear the arguments about one, and about the other. My argument, however, is in favour of rejecting both. I am not about to make an attack on the current Government in this matter. I have attacked successive Governments for what I see as the appeasement of Sinn Fein-IRA. Mine is not a party political contribution. Nor is it an attack on those who want a united Ireland. I count among my friends members of the SDLP, and it is totally honourable to want a united Ireland by peaceful and democratic means. I disagree with that end, but I respect it, so I am not about to go down that route either.

My opposition is simply born of the fact that I have witnessed, in my time as a Member of Parliament, successive Governments treating murderous thugs such as Adams and McGuinness as though they are respectable politicians. That is what I cannot stomach. I am opposed generally, on behalf of the whole House, I hope, to the House giving special benefits to terrorists. I am against the House trying to bribe armed people into making more pretty well meaningless gestures. I am against the House paying those terrorists for publicity stunts such as so-called decommissioning.

Whenever I hear a Minister trying to persuade the House to vote for things such as those for which we are being asked to vote tonight, I always hear a case based on special pleading. Recently, I heard that it is ever so sensible to release from prison Irish terrorists. At the same time, I heard the argument that is sensible to hunt down and lock up Muslim terrorists. I am blowed if I can see the difference. As I think about the issues before us tonight, I keep remembering that I have heard the argument advanced that it is a good idea to allow armed terrorists into the Northern Ireland Assembly, because, by some magical process, it will turn them into democrats. At the same time, I hear the argument advanced that it is awful that Hamas armed terrorists have won an election in Palestine, and that they cannot possibly become the Government until such time as they disarm.

Whenever I join in debates about Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein-IRA, I am deeply conscious of the hurt caused to the victims of terrorism, not only by these debates but by the matters that give rise to them. I am at a loss to understand why Governments in this country consider it acceptable to cause hurt to victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland in the name of progress. I imagine that the same Government would not for a moment consider giving money to the masterminds behind the bombings in the tubes in London last year. I simply do not understand why on the one hand we are asked to do things that, on the other, we are told are wrong.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of my constituents will be appalled at the concept of British taxpayers' money—their money, not the Government's—being used to fund terrorists, and to fund criminals. I think that it is an offence to my constituents to be asked to provide allowances and offices in this Parliament for people who have tried to blow up this Parliament—people who have actually killed Members of Parliament within these precincts. My constituents will find that offensive.
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I think that my constituents will also find it offensive that we are now being asked to give even more money to those people so that they can continue their terrorism and their crime. We shall be able to read the opening speech by the Leader of the House in Hansard, but I think I heard it suggested that this constituted something of a reward for decommissioning. If that is the argument, I can only guess that it represents an attempt to give those people money so that they can buy replacements following the stunt in which they became involved; but if that is the justification being offered for what we are being asked to do, it is a disgrace. I hope the whole House understands that.

What we are being asked to do, when we vote tonight, is make yet another one-sided concession to terrorism and to crime masquerading as Sinn Fein-IRA. I think that both motions are deeply offensive. They are deeply offensive to the victims of Sinn Fein-IRA violence. According to my reading of them—although perhaps the SDLP will tell me different—they are deeply offensive to democratic nationalists in Northern Ireland. Most certainly, the motions and the proposals are deeply offensive to the British taxpayer.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an excellent and powerful speech. Does he agree that if the Government advanced a proposal that discriminated in favour of one party in the House other than Sinn Fein, there would be uproar and it would be rejected?

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