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The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. I should just like to point out that, as I said, the Ulster Unionist paramilitaries have declared a ceasefire and maintained it despite the resurrection of the wartime effort by the IRA.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, they have done so for a short while, but, as I said, over the past few years they have killed more Catholics than the Catholics have killed of them. That is a fact. For the moment, I am glad to say the Protestant paramilitaries are controlling
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said it was a question of too many guns brought in by the Protestants before the war. Later the Catholics brought in some guns but not on the same scale. I have no means of assessing the situation but I would guess--unless anyone here can offer a better opinion--that the Protestant paramilitary forces are more heavily armed than the Catholics. Let us not talk as though all terrorism is Catholic terrorism. That is quite lamentable.
What do we make of the situation today? In my opinion there is one easy answer--I put it in three words--"Back to Sunningdale". That ought to appeal to Conservative Members opposite, because Sunningdale was introduced by a distinguished Conservative statesman, Sir Edward Heath, together with the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. It was a fine idea and it worked extremely well. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is better qualified to speak of it than anyone else because he was one of the leaders of the new government which was set up. It worked extremely well because it restored the confidence of the Catholic community. I was in Northern Ireland soon after the time of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. What was the situation among Catholics then? They were terrified of the Protestant paramilitaries, whom they assumed to be in league with the police. That was the situation. The Army was sent there to protect the Catholics. Let us get that quite clear. The British Army was sent in large numbers to protect the Catholics in Northern Ireland. We must never forget that. It was a case of the Protestant menace threatening the minority.
Things have moved on since. As I said, Sunningdale was a wonderful idea and it worked extremely well. Protestants and Catholics were getting on perfectly together. People may ask how all these paramilitaries can exist at all. As regards the Catholic side, it is because they are frightened of the Protestants. Of course most Catholics do not favour violence, but they do not repudiate the IRA. They would not bring to an end--
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, my noble friend tells me that I am only allowed to speak for four minutes. I am glad to have said what I have said. If he wishes to stop me speaking, I must put up with it.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I have been provoked into speaking in this debate for a few moments. I suggest that the members of the Northern Ireland Forum should read the report of this debate. It may give them serious thought as regards the future of Northern Ireland.
This is an order that we cannot possibly refute because without it every other order or enactment falls into disrepute in Northern Ireland. There is now a Forum taking place in Northern Ireland. I desperately hope with all my heart that it will arrive at some conclusion. But
Reference has already been made to the fact that one of the Forum representatives--a Unionist--is a Catholic by religion. I desperately hope that people within that Forum, irrespective of their religion, will give their allegiance either for the Union or against the Union. We hear repeatedly that 25 per cent. of those in Northern Ireland who are Catholic by religion stand in favour of the Union. If that figure is true, those in Northern Ireland who are Catholic by religion but who support the Union should make their presence felt. Some members of the Protestant religion may not be fully in support of the Union and may eventually give their allegiance to some form of an alliance with an Irish Republic. While we have those tribal divisions--Catholics vote for the unity of Ireland; Protestants vote for the continuation of the Union--we shall never reach any settlement in Northern Ireland.
It is true that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to see a reinstatement of the ceasefire. They wish to see an end to the violent campaign with which we have had to live for so long. But many of them want that peace to be brought about on their terms. Now that the Forum has been elected, the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland are gathered there, it is in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland that some political accommodation must be found.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, "Back to Sunningdale". I desperately hope that some realignment of politics would make that possible. I make an appeal; my voice may not be listened to with any seriousness. If the official Unionist Party, the SDLP, and the Democratic Unionist Party--which represent overwhelmingly the people of Northern Ireland--take it into their heads to do so, they can reach a political settlement which will be supported by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland. I only hope and pray that they will listen to my advocation of such a course because then and only then can we envisage peace in Northern Ireland.
Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate. I thank noble Lords for their unqualified support for the order which we all regret but see as necessary. I am extremely grateful for the bipartisan support the Government receive on these matters. It makes it possible to hope at least to start to
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, supported by other noble Lords, rightly drew attention to the great sympathy we feel for the family of Garda McCabe and for the family of the journalist so outrageously murdered in Dublin at traffic lights--and, as was stated in the Dail, for the attack on the state that that represented. We express sympathy to those people of Manchester going about their business. I found it particularly moving that many were buying cards for Father's Day. Without a thought for Ireland in their minds they were subjected to an act of terrorism. I share with your Lordships the pain felt by many people in Northern Ireland, and, I am sure, throughout the island of Ireland, that it was their countrymen who inflicted the injuries and scars that day. There was revulsion against the attack being spread to innocents with no involvement.
However, I still today feel greater optimism than perhaps has been expressed in some quarters. We are working to build for peace and the majority of people in the Province feel that way too. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, recognised that more than 85 per cent. of the Northern Irish nation totally abhor and reject violence.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, asked me two questions. I assure him that the Government remain committed to their policy of repatriating prisoners under the terms of their international agreements. His more difficult question concerned the progress of the talks. Some would suggest that continuation of the talks is progress, and the noble Lord expressed a mood of cautious hope. He is right. I believe that we are making gradual progress. We all wish to move faster to the substance of the negotiations, but there are personal timetables which, like the timetable for forgiveness, are no matter for politicians. They are personal and have to move at their own speed. There are also important points of procedure to consider.
We believe that there is a real wish on the part of those involved to work for success. Probably by hard, protracted slog, success is within our grasp. I say to those who have hesitation about the success of the elections and the consequent talks that participation is more inclusive. There are voices at the table who have never participated in political discussions before. I am pleased that some of the voices are of women who have a contribution to make towards building the future.
I plead that people should recognise that the discussions may take place in Northern Ireland but that they are watched globally. Words flying around rather than paving stones is progress. However, discourtesies flying around between people in Northern Ireland is not the message we wish to see in developing, building and helping the Province to grow. I pay tribute to my colleagues involved in the talks for their patience and that of those who have been prepared to accept chairmanships.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, questioned the involvement of the Irish Government. If the Irish Government are to continue their readiness to remove Articles 2 and 3, they will need to go to their constituents for support. Co-operation on security with the Irish Government remains of vital importance. Like us, the Irish Government are determined that the scourge of terrorism should never again be allowed to set the course. Much co-operation already takes place and there are constant discussions between the relevant officials and security forces. I assure noble Lords that the Government will never walk away from their responsibility to protect their citizens. It is a role of government.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, strayed into the hypothetical situation of whether the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, should have responsibility for such matters at a future stage. I assure the noble Lord that the matter is hypothetical. I am glad that he recognised it as such.
We heard from my noble friend Lord Brookeborough of the need to establish trust, not only between communities but between those in government and those who are affected by government. I have always felt that one of the strongest advantages in Northern Ireland is that its size means that one never has to make a decision without being able to visit those whom it affects. That gives my colleagues much comfort also.
We must build trust and recognise that we are all working for the future of the people of Northern Ireland. Those of us in public service have a duty to serve them. The noble Lord, Lord Cooke, rightly paid tribute to the role that the Prime Minister played in building on the situation. I extend that tribute to the role played by the Taoiseach in being 100 per cent. committed to the rejection of violence. I pay tribute also to the role played by President Clinton. Unfortunately, what we hear from Lyons is that terrorism is not exclusive to Northern Ireland. We have, and the noble Lord has, long and painful experience of it. It is something that we shall all work to dismiss. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cooke, that the Northern Ireland Office writes its own policies. Its policies are to bring forward a situation in which Northern Ireland people make their decisions about the shape of the future by majority consent.
I was pleased that my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam joined in the debate. My noble friend identified how much we have to do, but also how much work is going on. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, drew attention to the fact that many young men left the North West to serve from a sense of duty. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that the issue is not whether killing Catholics is wrong, or killing Protestants is wrong. Killing people is wrong. When we can work towards the situation that was the aim of Martin Luther King, whereby his children were judged by their character, not their colour, we shall have made real progress in Northern Ireland. We have much progress still to make. But I believe we can aim to work towards that progress. I thank noble Lords for their support in helping us continue along that road. I commend the order to the House.
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