Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I almost hesitate to rise to speak, after the passion and eloquence of the contributions that we have heard from hon. Members. I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said this afternoon, particularly the point made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) about paragraph (a) in the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), which relates to criminal offences and sentences of imprisonment debarring anyone from holding office. I have taken the hon. Gentleman's argument about that going against the spirit of the Good Friday agreement.
I have also listened very carefully to the eloquent and persuasive comments made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound). At the same time, however, we very much understand and sympathise with the feelings of many people in Northern Ireland about the fact that they wish for reassurance that those people who will take responsibility for their policing should also be part of the process. It is a great hope that, when that day comes, those people who take such responsibility will automatically take part by taking their seats on the Policing Board and becoming part of the community and structures in which they serve.
I find myself in a little bit of a dilemma. Although we are minded to support the first and second parts of the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North Down, we are also minded to support new clause 3, proposed by the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson). If the amendment is pressed to a vote, I should be extremely grateful if it could be possible to reflect those two elements of support in the voting pattern.
Dr. McCrea: I am sure that the debate has certainly stirred the hearts of quite a number of Northern Ireland Members, especially given the contribution made by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound). He tells us that we must live in the real world. With the greatest respect to him, no one, but no one, is living in the real world more than the people of Northern Ireland. We must tell the Government that, many times, they seem to be sleepwalking. They are not facing the realities of the situation. They are not part of the real world whenever they make demands and requests of members of the Unionist community or the nationalist community who have suffered grievously under all acts of terrorism.
The hon. Gentleman said that we must move away from the sad past to a peaceful situation. Again, I say to him genuinely that there is no one who wants to see Northern Ireland in a peaceful and prosperous state more than the Unionist Members here today, and the Unionist family completely. We genuinely want Northern Ireland to move into a peaceful state, but the reality of the situation is that yesterday, a bomb was being prepared in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson), in Lurgan, by the republican movement. In the constituency of Foyle, a few days before that, once again there was a primed bomb ready and activated to carry out a dastardly deedcertainly, we believe, of destruction and we were told by
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the police that it would have brought forth the reality of murder, had it gone off. That is the reality of the situation, and we close our eyes to it if we do not face that.
Stephen Pound: I read the details of the discovery in Lurgan with great interest. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the point is that those suspected of preparing that lethal device were identified by the headline of "dissident republicans"the very people who are trying to stop other republicans taking part in the democratic process? Does his argument not support my thesis that it is better to have people in Stormont than in a lock-up in Lurgan?
Dr. McCrea: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but people in Northern Ireland know fine well that the title of "dissident republican" has been used to cover a number of sins. In the case of some of the actions in the past, we have known that the dissidents have been working hand in glove with the provisionals. In that situation, we have got to ask ourselves, when does that title mean dissident and when does it mean something else? We know that, in certain parts of the Province, no dissident could do anything if the provisionals did not agree with it being done. They would not survive without that agreement, because the provisionals have a wonderful way of ensuring that people do not undertake action on their territory if they do not want them to do so. That has been proved in the past. We have to look at a situation in which neither the Police Service of Northern Ireland, nor the Garda from the Irish Republic, have stated with certainty what happened in the murder of Denis Donaldson, which could have been the act of the Provisional IRA.
Yes, people can have a past. But the reality is that there has been no remorseor no expression of remorsefrom those persons who have been actively engaged, right up to the present time, in murderous activity. This House is being asked to give credence to someone who in actual fact has planned the murdernot only given credence to, but actually could have planned the murderof police officers or members of the security forces. We are being asked to give credence to making them Minister for policing or justice. That is without any expression of remorse, regret or any other thing.
A Provisional IRA member was caught red-handed a few days ago, but then, of course, the provisionals stated that they did not send him out and that he did not go with their agreement. Now they are trying to say, "Oh well, it wasn't approved by the army council." That is very interesting, because the IRA's last act before it started its supposed ceasefire was to be the murder of my wife, my children and myselfthat was its last hooray. The next morning the ceasefire was declared. Those responsible have never been brought to justicethose who shot at my home, which was riddled by 60 bullets from an AK47, and directly at my daughter of seven years of age. Nobody has been brought to justice. What did the IRA say? The persons were not acting with their approval. Now, that would have been very nice if they had been carrying my wife and my children down the road in coffins. I would have been greatly encouraged if the act had not been approved.
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With the greatest respect, the hon. Member for Ealing, North and the House cannot understand the depths of what the past 35 years have done to the people of Northern Ireland. To sweep it away and put in control of policing or justice in Northern Ireland someone who not only agreed with murderous intent, but was an active participant in it, would be an absolute insult, as well as injury, to the people of Northern Ireland. I am sure that nobody, but nobody, on the Government Benches would ever suggest that a member of al-Qaeda or those responsible for 7/7 in the city of London would be at any time a suitable person to be Home Secretary, put in the Home Office, or put over the police. We must especially bear it in mind that these people will not even be asked to support the police, or give a pledge of their support of the security forces.
I must say something to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) about people disagreeing with certain police decisions about a parade. When he talked about an attack on the police, he gave the impression that the attack came simply from the loyalist community. Talk about a revision of facts. Whenever there have been Unionist and loyalist parades, constant attacks have come directly from the republican community. There is a vast difference between disagreeing with a police decision in a peaceful manner, even if that involves stepping aside from the district policing partnership, and allowing there to be someone over the police who does not support them and has actively participated in campaigning against them and actively supported a campaign of murder against them. Trying to equate those two things pushes matters beyond the realms of what I can accept.
Mark Durkan: I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was not trying to equate those two things in any way. However, I was pointing out that the language used in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) could give rise to questions about other incidents. I further make the point that attacks made on the police by republicansas the hon. Gentleman saysin the context of parades have always been fully, totally and properly condemned by the Social Democratic and Labour party.
Dr. McCrea: With the greatest respect, I would prefer it if we did not necessarily go down that road. I remember sitting in a meeting of Magherafelt district council many years ago on the night of the Warrenpoint bombing, in which 19 soldiers were murdered, when a member of the hon. Gentleman's party, who is no longer with us, statedthis is in the minutes of the council, so the hon. Gentleman can check itthat he would shed no tears over them. I think that that person regretted saying that afterwards, so I will not attribute that opinion to the SDLP in general, or try to paint everyone in the SDLP as black, but the words were said.
Members of the Ulster Unionist party, the Democratic Unionist party and, indeed, members of the SDLPnamely, Mr. Attwoodhave condemned many of the actions of the police in the past and disagreed with them, but that does not mean that they have given credence to terrorism, or that they should be brought into question as if they were somehow to be equated with persons who were actually evil participants in the murder and destruction of members of the police or the security forces.
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The hon. Member for Ealing, North said that Sinn Fein-IRA said that the war was over. The person who said those words denied that he was a member of the IRA army council. After denying for 30 years that he and Martin McGuinness were members of the army council, he told the community that they had resigned from it. With the greatest respect, one cannot resign from something if one was not a member. We are led to believe by those fanciful words that the war is over. Let me make it clear to the House that the IRA did not change its policy because it had a change of heart9/11 changed Sinn Fein-IRA policy. It could not go back to what it knew best, because the international community would not allow that to happen, so it had a good dose of reality.
To this day, the structures of terrorism are in place, and individuals who could be in office accepted those structures. The structures of the grouping that murdered people for 35 years are still in existence. Someone can demand that they remain in place but, at the same time, they could be the Minister of justice or of policing. No one can ride two horses at once, and the reality is that terrorism, whether by the loyalist community or the Unionist community, is terrorism, and must be condemned unreservedly. I do so in the House without equivocation. Any Minister who takes such a role must not only condemn terrorism but give unreserved support to the forces of law and order who go out to sacrifice themselves in the defence of the freedoms of that community.