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Dr. McCrea: The IMC report refers to "some senior members" of the IRA. We are not talking about the ordinary members. If even the chief of staff is involved in the criminality, how can we be expected to believe that the organisation is not involved?
Mr. Hain: I can only take the IMC's word for this. The independent report makes it absolutely clear that the leadership of the IRA is determined to stop any illegal activity by any of its members, however low or high level they may have been in the past
Mr. Hain: I am answering the question put by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea), but after that, of course, I will give way. However, I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks) first.
At some point, all Members of this House, including members of the Democratic Unionist party, will have to recognise that something momentous has happened, in the past year in particular. An organisation that was committed to bombing and shooting, and to the criminal activity that financed that, has now stopped doing those things. Its leadership has decided that the organisation will not get involved in anything like that again. But do not take my word for it; take the IMC's word for it.
Gordon Banks: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the IMC report published today throws down a significant challenge to the loyalist paramilitaries, who appear to have been unsuccessful in reducing their illegal activities, including shootings? Does he accept the IMC's comments that the loyalist organisations were responsible for 95 per cent. of the casualties of shootings and 76 per cent. of the casualties of assaults during the period examined in the report, and that this matter must be addressed before the process can significantly move forward?
Mr. Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend's point. It is important to note from the IMC report that the main problem is that the illegal activity no longer comes from the IRA, as it did for decadesoften of a kind organised from the centre of the organisationbut that it comes from loyalist paramilitaries and from dissident republicans in the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA. That is a sea change and I think that people on all sides of the House ought to be prepared to acknowledge that and move on.
Sir Patrick Cormack:
I accept the point that the Secretary of State has just made. Of course there has been an enormous change, but very real problems
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remain. If an organisation truly repudiates people for what they are doing, would not its logical course of action be to expel them? Would not Sinn Fein and the IRA gain enormous credit and credibility if they expelled those who were disobeying their orders?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point and I am not going to argue with him about that. However, I am sure that he will understand the point that I am making, and the spirit in which I am making it. I would like from him and from others an acknowledgement that there has been a sea change.
Sir Patrick Cormack: I have acknowledged that point. There has been a remarkable change, but there is still comprehensive evidenceincluding in today's reportof the involvement of senior figures in criminality. My point is that those senior figures should be repudiated by expulsion, which would give real credibility to those who are claiming to be democrats.
Mr. Hain: As I have said, I am not going to argue that point with the hon. Gentleman. At Question Time, I referred to the statement by the IRA, which is historic in itself. In the past, the IRA never acknowledged that illegal activities such as bank robberies amounted to criminality, because it never recognised the ability of the rule of law of the British state to restrict it from doing what it liked in Northern Ireland. I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand that; I know that Northern Ireland politicians will. Now, it has made a statement that is, in its own way, historic, and I think that the House should note it. The Easter statement by the IRA states:
Mr. Donaldson: The Secretary of State will understand the concern on this side of the House. Of course we recognise that there has been significant progress, but the chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, whose assets were recently seized by the Assets Recovery Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Garda and the Criminal Assets Bureau, is still in position at the head of the organisation. It is difficult to separate the organisation from the individual in such circumstances. That undermines the credibility of the Secretary of State's statement that the leadership is trying to bring this problem to an end.
Mr. Hain: I say in all humility to the hon. Gentleman that he is taking issue with the IMC, not with me. The IMC is the body that is distinguishing between what the leadership is doing, with a great deal of success, to close down criminal operations and end violent activity, and what individuals associated with the organisationor who even hold positions within itare still doing. The IMC says that the leadership has now clearly set out on a path for which it ought to be given credit, and that it is delivering on that commitment.
Rev. Ian Paisley:
Mr. Adams did not condemn the man who has been mentioned here. He said that he was
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a decent farmer, that he was a most hard-working man, and that all the money that he had gained had come from the proper labour of his own hands. That is the testimony of Mr. Adams. How can we say that a man such as that is now to be held up to the general public as proof positive that the IRA has made all the necessary changes? There have been changes, and it was admitted today that many were made because of the pressure brought to bear by the Unionist population. I welcome that statement, but we must be honest with our people. I know a family who live on the border, and they have suffered terribly at the hands of this man. They have been taken out, had bags put over their heads and kept in the back of a van for six hours. That sort of thing ought not to happen.
Mr. Hain: Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that sort of thing ought not to happen. It is difficult for me to comment in detail on this case because it is the subject of legal action, and of action by the police, the security forces and the Assets Recovery Agency. The agency has shown a determination to recover assets that have been illegally acquired by paramilitary organisations and individuals, and those efforts will continue, whether on farms across the border or anywhere else. However, I note that the president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, has condemned all illegal and criminal activity by all republicans, as has his deputy, Martin McGuinness. That ought to go on to the record as well.
David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): Is it not a well-known fact in Northern Ireland that the Provisional IRA controls all the republicans' activity? In many cases at the moment, the Provisional IRA is contracting a lot of the work out. We have seen what has happened with the Continuity IRA. I have raised the question of this activity with the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward) in the House on several occasions. According to recent press releases, the Continuity IRA now intends to increase its bombing campaign against the Government and the politicians.
Mr. Hain: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman disputes that, because I believe that the facts speak for themselves. Indeed, the IMC has repeatedly distinguished the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA as separate factions operating on their own, against the wishes of the leadership of the Provisional IRA and the leadership of Sinn Fein. Yes, CIRA and RIRA are dangerous outfits, and we will crack down on them. Indeed, we have been very successful in doing so, but there are no guarantees in this regard. Again, I say to him and his colleaguesI am sure that he will take this in good spiritthat there will come a time when DUP Members, having stood firm and having seen results flow from that, will have to acknowledge the massive changes that have occurred[Interruption.] Well, I think that they will have to acknowledge that.
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