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Lord Laird: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Can he explain why the views of the Catholic community that he reflects are not also reflected in public opinion polls run by any reputable newspaper in Northern Ireland or any other body?
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords understand that I do not seek to reflect the views of the Catholic community. I give my own views based on conversations last week in Northern Ireland. It was the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, who, from the same Benches, told Her Majesty's Government that since the peace process began the key issue was intimidation. If the noble Lord reads what I have said previously in your Lordships' House and in another place, he will see that I have regularly criticised the knee-capping and intimidation campaigns of organisations like the IRA to try to impose lynch-mob rule. That is wholly unacceptable. I passionately believe in upholding the law and a police force which does that by consent. I believe that that unites everybody in the Chamber today.
Last week I asked a Catholic bishop why the hierarchy had not urged members of its community to play a greater role in the police force. He said that the hierarchy had never asked people to join the Garda. I said that that was not in itself an adequate response, given the circumstances in Northern Ireland. I support the observations made last week that the hierarchy in Northern Ireland must do more to encourage members of the nationalist community to accept the police service and join it. They should be convinced that the service is there for all members of the Northern Ireland community and participate in it. Therefore, in these unique circumstances the Church
The Secretary of State made clear in his remarks on 15th June that those were issues upon which he would act. He said that he remained absolutely determined to implement the Patten recommendations and achieve an effective and representative policing service which was accepted by every part of Northern Ireland. He is right. I believe that the Government deserve our full support for the proposals that they have placed before your Lordships' House. In turn, they deserve the wholehearted support of the Catholic community and its hierarchy in the creation of a police force which can serve both traditions in Northern Ireland in a fair, impartial and scrupulous manner.
Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may put a question to him since he complained about the ethos of the RUC being unattractive to Roman Catholics. He advances that proposition as one of the reasons why proportionately there are too few Catholics on the force. Can the noble Lord tell the House what proportion of the Garda is made up of Protestants? Is it not less than 1 per cent, and should there not be some symmetry in these matters?
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, there is certainly symmetry in the arguments which I have placed before your Lordships' House. I hope that, although there is a much smaller percentage of Protestants living in the Republic of Ireland than there are Catholics living in Northern Ireland, nevertheless they would join Garda Siochana in the same way as I argue that nationalists in Northern Ireland should join the police force there. I refer the noble Lord to paragraph 17.4 on page 98 of the Patten report where it is said:
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I rise to support these amendments. I say to both the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Desai, and the Government that their arguments sound plausible but are based on one major assumption. They are wrong to assume that, having changed the name, there will be increased participation in, and enthusiasm for, the service by the Catholic Church, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Many noble Lords and Members of another place have said that the price for future recognition of the police force by those communities is the change of name. I beg to differ. That is an incredibly naive attitude. People hide behind the Patten report and say that it says this or that. Many things have been written down on paper which do not take place. Patten assumed that that might be right before the proposals
Like the Patten report, the Bill is divided into two parts. One is concerned with operational reforms. We are entirely behind operational reforms which bring us up to date with other police forces in the United Kingdom and enable us to learn lessons from other nations. There are also cosmetic reforms. The alteration of the name, badge and so on are straightforward cosmetic changes as the price for the involvement of that community. One does not buy something like that if one receives nothing in return. There is no reason why these groups in our society should fail to come forward, except that the new beginning about which the Government and some noble Lords speak is not the same as the new beginning in the mind of some groups, especially Sinn Fein, which control through the intimidation that people agree exists.
Their new beginning, which is not ours, means the continuation of racketeering, beatings and other criminal activities. Such activity does not simply occur on the streets of Belfast on a day-to-day basis; it is deep-seated fraud which will require an extremely experienced unit of any police force to tackle. What they want is the police service as it is now out of the way. If they achieve that they will continue what they are doing now.
That is what is happening, and until we realise it we shall get nowhere. Even the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, envisages a change of name. But surely there should be a return from the other side for these cosmetic changes. We cannot see anything in the near future, and we are nowhere nearer to it than when we started. I shall not return to the release of prisoners. They have demanded this and that and have decided not to play a part in the law and order of their own society because, through their corrupt ways, they want to maintain a hold on it. I support the amendments.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I was unable to take part in the earlier stages of the Bill but, as far as I could, I followed the written word. Sadly, the written word does not always give one quite the flavour of the occasion. I rise this evening to support this group of amendments. It seems to me that there are two or three points which may be worth making. I hate to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Desai, because I often find myself in a good deal of sympathy with what he says on other subjects. But I think the point which he neglects is that the function of a police service in the United Kingdom is to uphold the Queen's peace. That is what it is there for: the upholding of the Queen's peace. Unless and until Northern Ireland is transferred
I hate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but he spoke of the nationalists' expectations which had been aroused by the Patten report. Quite so, but unionist expectations were aroused by the Good Friday agreement; not least the expectation that violence would cease and that private armies would be dismantled and their weapons decommissioned. Those expectations were aroused; they have in no way been satisfied. To move on and say that because Patten has aroused expectations, we must give in, we must give something else, is a one-way traffic situation. Of course, in a rational world perhaps the unionist community and the police force in Northern Ireland could be generous and relaxed about losing some of these symbols had they received anything in exchange for what they have already given up under the Good Friday agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, like other noble Lords, spoke of the desirability of a police force which could police by consent. But he knows, as we all know, that there is a minority in Northern Ireland which will not consent to any police force which is under the jurisdiction of the British Crown and of this Parliament. It would not matter what one called the police force. It would not matter if we re-christened it the Garda. It would still not accept its jurisdiction and its authority while that authority came from Her Majesty and the constitutional monarchy and the Parliament of this Kingdom. Therefore, I fail to see any evidence from our experience of the past years since the Good Friday agreement that making this concession to the republicans will make any difference whatever to their conduct--none at all. What it will do will be once again to disappoint and to anger the majority community which feels that the Good Friday agreement has not been implemented by the republican and nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
When we talk of the desirability of sustaining Mr Trimble and his pivotal place in the peace process, surely we do not want to do something else which will put him into greater difficulty with the unionist community which rightly says, "Why have we been betrayed in this manner?".
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