|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I do not believe that the House could have been treated to a more authoritative or respected voice on this occasion and we are indeed fortunate to have the noble Lord adding to our deliberations today. I must be brief because many noble Lords wish to speak. I wholly take on board what
I too pay tribute to the cross-sectarian achievements which the noble Lord mentioned. That has been one of the most dramatic developments not only during the past 17 months but, in certain areas of the Province, well before the peace arrived. As we are all well aware the noble Lord, Lord Eames, has made his own contribution to that.
I accept, as did my right honourable friend, that it is absolutely essential that the two Governments should proceed in tandem. As I have made clear in previous Answers, we will do our utmost to make sure that we keep the Dublin Government as fully informed as we are able about what we intend to do and that there should be no surprises as far as they are concerned. I also associate myself with the noble Lord's comments about paramilitaries from the other side of the divide. I hope only that the restraint and wisdom that they have shown so far will continue.
Lord McConnell: My Lords, I too welcome the Statement and join in the condemnation of this most callous and brutal bombing which has taken place in the City of London. I join in paying tribute to the emergency services and extend condolences to the relatives of those who were killed and to those who were injured.
The one thing that we must be quite determined about is that the Government do not give way to violence. The proposal that there should be elections may be right or it may be wrong. Personally, I am convinced that they are right. However, no matter which, it would be a great weakness on the part of the Government to give way and to say, "We are not going to have elections as a result of this bomb". That would point out a way for the future; that if you really want something you plant a bomb or indeed several.
I was disappointed to hear the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic say that to proceed along the course of elections would be adding petrol to the flames. I hope that he will reconsider that comment because it means that one should give way to terrorism. One can give way to argument and to democratic voting but I hope that we shall never give way to terrorism. Therefore, I hope and trust that the Government will stand firm against any menaces of this kind which are meant to produce political ends. I was glad to hear the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal say that the Government would not negotiate with Sinn Fein until it is clear that it has given up violence for good.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, while the Prime Minister's personal and passionate commitment to peace has been further underlined in the Statement read to this House, will my noble friend take this opportunity roundly to condemn the calumny which was given widespread currency over the weekend: that the Prime Minister had somehow devised a series of obstacles designed to hinder progress towards peace which in its turn justified the fiendish and cowardly action by the IRA?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, of course. We must be well aware in this House that there is only one organisation responsible for last Friday's outrage, and that is the IRA itself. No matter how many arguments others may have against the approach of this Government to the peace process, such arguments could never justify the use of bombs and bullets.
I must emphasise that if Sinn Fein were as truly committed as it claims to be to exclusively peaceful methods it would, after all, accept that and condemn the IRA for its actions on Friday and for calling an end to its ceasefire. I have yet to hear such a condemnation.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, the massive wave of revulsion which has swept these islands since last Friday must surely indicate to the IRA that however many bombs it lets off here or in Ireland, or however many people it kills, at the end of the day it cannot succeed in bludgeoning a democratic people to accept its demands.
However, I believe that that should be made clear, and as yet it has not been made clear. In his original comments on the Mitchell Report, the Prime Minister laid stress on the elective process. He should have laid even greater stress on the six principles enunciated by Senator Mitchell. Those principles make it very clear that anyone who does not accept a rejection of violence has no part in the democratic process.
I have fought many elections in Northern Ireland. While in this present atmosphere I have slight reservations, I am of the opinion that if an election were held, and every candidate had either to reject or accept those six democratic principles enunciated by Senator Mitchell, it would give a clear indication that the people of Northern Ireland either accepted or rejected violence. That is what the six principles are about.
It has been most importantly stated this afternoon that day in and day out it should be made clear to the Nationalist population in Northern Ireland that there is to be no return to Stormont. Those who are opposed to these elections--Sinn Fein and others--are stressing that that is the real purpose behind the process.
As regards the noble Viscount's remarks, Sinn Fein has said that it cannot condemn this atrocity because it would lose credibility with the IRA. If it does not condemn this atrocity, it will lose credibility with all free democratic people in these islands.
I freely support all those who say that the peace process is not ended. It will take a Herculean effort by all concerned to bring it back from the death throes in which it has been placed. But I believe that we can succeed in replacing it again.
He is right about the six principles. They are six principles which the Government immediately accepted on publication of the Mitchell Report. I am happy to reiterate our commitment, and to draw the House's attention to Senator Mitchell's suggestion not only that all parties should sign up to those six principles but (and I quote the word he used) that they should also honour them. I believe that the noble Lord made his point far better than I could have done.
As the noble Lord will have noted, my right honourable friend emphasised--he said that we should all emphasise it and I am happy to repeat it now--that what is proposed in the possible elected body which is for discussion (which we do not insist on but it seems to be the only realistic possibility open to us at the moment in the absence of any other suggestion) does not mean a return to Stormont. It is a body whose purpose is clear: to form a basis for teams to negotiate on an all-party process. I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity of repeating that.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House rightly referred to public opinion in Northern Ireland. It is absolutely crucial in the coming hours, days and week or so, that the revulsion expressed in this House is expressed in every quarter in Northern Ireland, and that it finds a focus. The focus must be, "Give us back our peace". The focus must be a message to the IRA that the people of Northern Ireland will not tolerate a reversion to the dark ages through which they have lived.
In that context, will the noble Viscount refer to the constructive role that the President of the United States could play in that respect? Many fears have been expressed in this House and elsewhere that the role of the American Administration might not be constructive in Northern Ireland. I believe that it has been very constructive. The visit by President Clinton to Northern Ireland showed the most extraordinary outpouring of popular sentiment for the peace process. Are Her Majesty's Government working with the American Administration to make sure that in the days to come the White House will not return to any semi-flirtatious relationship with Sinn Fein but will focus all its efforts on trying to mobilise opinion in Northern Ireland behind a resumption of peace, let alone the peace process?
The main message that we need to get across is exactly the one that President Clinton expressed so eloquently to the men of violence when he was in Belfast. I believe that I quote him exactly in saying: "You are of the past. Your time is gone".
As the former most reverend Primate of all Ireland said a moment ago, the people of Northern Ireland, above all, can make it plain that this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable to them.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page