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Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I fully support this group of amendments. We have to consider this rather peculiar provision, in particular Clause 70, in the context of what we have been doing in your Lordships' House over past months, and during the past two weeks. The provisions to permit the IRA in various forms to import unlimited funds from abroad were included in this Bill for reasons which were entirely unconnected with the Neill report. Like several other unique Bills in this category, they come into the "most favoured son" group. The obsession so prevalent in both Houses is that of extra-special treatment of terrorist parties: they have to be placated at all costs, even at the costs of integrity and of honesty. The second obsession is that we in your Lordships' House must avoid sending the wrong signal to terrorists just in case they get annoyed. So we grovel and lick boots in the expectation that our taskmasters in the various terrorist groups, from both sides of the community, will observe obligations and keep their part of any bargain. As many noble Lords have said on other occasions, it is a vain hope. But we now have proof positive of their inability and unwillingness to observe any contract into which they may have entered.
So I ask: is it any wonder that they, the terrorists, despise the lot of us? Can Her Majesty's Government justify Clause 70, with its endearing rubric, on grounds other than what I call the "most favoured son" formula which the Parliament of the United Kingdom has been induced to swallow thus far?
On a similar occasion some weeks ago, I asked your Lordships--I apologise for the language--whether there is anything to which we will not stoop. Last week we completed the passage of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill. The IRA/Sinn Fein grouping has thrown that back in our face in the past 24 hours; and, worse, it has completely wrecked the plans for a new police service consisting of a 50:50 composition. Most, if not all of us, were in favour of a balance representing both sides of the Northern Ireland community in the new force. But Sinn Fein/IRA has this weekend warned Catholics not to join the new service. It has warned those who might volunteer and be suitable to serve on the new police body. Saying that they cannot advise nationalists to serve is code for intimidation--kneecapping and all the rest of it; we have seen it all before. People who serve on the new police board will be putting their lives on the line. There is no doubt about that.
The IRA has gone further and dragged the entire nationalist community into a virtual boycott of all the constructive passages of the Patten report. My comments apply equally to Clause 70, because the terrorist groupings will cheat and cheat again. They will not keep their word.
The Neill committee incorporated a Sinn Fein exemption into its fifth report. It will not benefit the Ulster Unionist Party, the Alliance Party, the Democratic Unionist Party or any other properly constituted democratic party except the nationalist parties, and in particular Sinn Fein. Much to my regret, Sinn Fein will dominate the nationalist grouping and the nationalist community in general, as has been proved over the past 48 hours.
I particularly support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, about the confidentiality of donors. If names are to be disclosed, Catholics will be limited in their financial contributions to supporting one party only--Sinn Fein/IRA. It does not take much imagination, particularly among those of us who come from Northern Ireland or have served there, to understand that that intimidation will be carried through to the ballot box.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, over the weekend I watched a video cassette that had been sent to me from Northern Ireland. It was a recording of an Ulster Television "Insight" programme. The programme contained a discussion about the relative merits of Sinn Fein and the SDLP and which one better represented the nationalist population in Northern Ireland. When the SDLP representative was asked why his party had refused to condemn many of the murders and atrocities carried out by the Provisional IRA over the past year, I was disheartened to hear him answer that it was in case it made the party sound like unionists. What a very lame excuse. Presumably the fact that I am supporting the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, makes me sound like a unionist. I do not believe that I do. I believe that the amendment should have been taken up long ago in the deliberations that have affected this country and its relations with the IRA.
Only this weekend we read in the Northern Ireland newspapers that the relatives of the victims of the Omagh bomb courageously took it upon themselves to come to a public house in the north of London, where, in a room above the bar, representatives of the Continuity IRA--the political arm of the Real IRA, which carried out that atrocious bombing that caused such tragedy in Northern Ireland--were collecting funds from the patrons, be they Irish or English. I take it that they were appealing to the Irish community in London.
How can that be justified? Again I refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. Eric Anderson, who has just resigned, was one of the most dedicated senior policemen whom I have ever met in Northern Ireland. He carried out all the investigations into that terrible tragedy and the people who brought it about. He has just given notification that he is going to resign because he cannot accept some of the recommendations in the Patten report. He knows the identity of those who carried out the bombing in Omagh, but he cannot bring them before a court because it is very hard to get evidence. Does anyone believe that he can be replaced? Does anyone believe that any other member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be able to carry on where he has left off? I do not think that that is possible.
It is a contradiction that the House appears unwilling to ban contributions that come from the United States to reinforce the armed rebellion among the different factions of the IRA. The Government are not expressing the view of the vast majority of the people in the island of Ireland by permitting contributions to be brought from America to support the different factions in the IRA--and making excuses for doing so.
Northern Ireland is allegedly a foreign country, but I know from my experience at the SDLP's yearly functions in the Republic that the amount that we received from people there to help our political objectives would not bankrupt the exchequer. We can push that aside. However, Sinn Fein/IRA receive
Lord Sanderson of Bowden: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Mackay. Having had the difficult honour of being the chairman of a political party north of the Border, I know the strength of the links between Scotland and Canada and the United States of America. I cannot for the life of me see why I, as a previous chairman, should be prevented from asking Scots over there for money to fight elections, when my colleagues in the Ulster Unionists will be able to do so. I hope that my noble friend will press his amendment most strongly.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, only a few days ago we read in the newspapers that the British and Irish governments had jointly approached the American Government to ask that the Real IRA be declared a terrorist organisation. That was done with the intention of closing up funds from North America to the Real IRA. It was a very clear step.
I believe that there is confusion in the minds of some Members of this House as to the money that goes, I suggest, illegally and completely improperly from North America to fund terrorism in the United Kingdom. It does not require the clauses which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, wants to amend to enable that flow of money to take place, even though for the past 30 years the British Government have done their best to prevent such a supply of money funding terrorism in Northern Ireland. The money does not have to be processed through a political party. The terrorists have only to raise the money, spend it in eastern Europe and then smuggle arms, weapons, bombs and explosives into Ireland to be used in Northern Ireland or in Britain.
Therefore, I do not believe that the argument that the Government are soft on terrorism--an argument that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, used in relation to the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and the Disqualifications Bill--is legitimate. Surely we are talking about money which is used for political purposes. Whatever the closeness of the links between
The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said that very little money for the SDLP came from the Republic. I believe that there is sufficient to make it important for the SDLP to raise its money there. The difficulty lies in the fact that there is no neat way out of the dilemma that has been posed. Sinn Fein happens to be a political party, both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. As such, it can raise money for its political activities in the Republic and it is then not difficult for it to use some of that money for political purposes in Northern Ireland.
There is no neat way out of the dilemma. That is why I believe that the Government are right to include the clauses in the Bill. And that is why I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, is right to suggest that the clauses should be removed. I repeat: it is a very difficult problem. The Government have done their best to find a way through it and I believe that they have succeeded. For that reason, I hope that these amendments will not succeed.
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