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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I shall be extremely telegraphic. One point of detail should be made. I am afraid that I have to say to the noble Baroness that I do not accept that the statement that was made by the honourable Melanie Johnson, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in November 1999 referred to the draft rules that were quoted. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, it was clear that the expression "current rules" referred to the rules that were then binding on tribunals. The fact that a set of draft rules had begun to circulate two months previously cannot undermine that interpretation.
The noble Baroness said in her opening remarks that she was glad that we had an opportunity to debate this matter on a Prayer. I am sad, by contrast, that we have to do so. The right moment to debate this matter is not on a Prayer in your Lordships' House but during the course of the Bill--in the course of the primary legislation. The fact that we are not doing so is as a result of a statement that was made by a member of the Government, which innocently misled your Lordships' House. In those circumstances, I regret the fact that the Government are not prepared to withdraw the regulations and to reconsider the matter. I therefore wish to put the Motion to the House.
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
Baroness Park of Monmouth rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action is envisaged to help victims of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland, with especial reference to the problems of those who have relocated to the mainland.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the report we are debating, Relocation following Paramilitary Intimidation, was published in March this year. The evidence did not appear until late July. Meanwhile Sinn Fein/IRA has demanded, among other things, that convicted paramilitaries should be allowed to become members of the new Police Partnership throughout Northern Ireland.
The evidence for what has been happening to ordinary people in Northern Ireland, with the police and the courts powerless to protect them, comes from a number of public bodies, including the RUC, from academics, and from one courageous charity, the Maranatha Community, which receives no official funding, not even from the EU. We have created a plethora of new commissions, in particular a human rights commission, in Northern Ireland, and in the Secretary of State's letter of 1st August on the implementation of the Belfast Agreement we are told that new safeguards for human rights have been introduced and that progress has been made on the normalisation of security. That will be news for both the people and their oppressors.
Meanwhile--and this has been happening for years and years and has continued unabated since the agreement despite the Prime Minister's assurances of no more violence and despite the pledges in the agreement itself--whole families are regularly expelled from Northern Ireland, either to the mainland or to the South, or they are driven to move within the country under pain of death should they return. This is decided by a knock on the door from the paramilitaries.
Sinn Fein are doing this to their own people and the loyalists to theirs. This is not inter-sectarian rivalry nor a battle for freedom. It is calculated policy designed to intimidate their own people into accepting that the paramilitaries are the de facto authority which must be obeyed and against which there is no appeal and no defence. The people have to learn that they are the ultimate authority and that no-one may disobey them.
Once the paramilitaries presented themselves as the guardians; now they are unashamedly the oppressors; and the expulsions and intimidation are party policy, not the work of an occasional bully. Those who have had to flee have been told that they can never return. There is considerable evidence that those who have tried to do so have been severely attacked or killed. Many have been expelled for speaking out, for refusing to donate to a collection or to give protection money. Sometimes for a substantial sum they can buy the chance at least to stay somewhere else in Northern Ireland.
So what happens? Some night they are told they have an hour or two hours to leave forever, leaving houses, jobs, and taking the children from school. In one instance the father of the family was in hospital dying of cancer. After much negotiation, during which Gerry Adams was appealed to but he refused to help, one son was allowed back to see his father provided he left Northern Ireland again the same day. In another
When families flee there is a mortgage to settle and often, when the Maranatha Community has negotiated permission for a moving van to be sent in, the drivers have been threatened. Even if the family is relocated within Northern Ireland they cannot get to their GP. If they find, on going to the UK, that there is already a family from Northern Ireland which has been relocated in the same area, they fear that their children will meet at school and that they will be identified. Families arrive in Great Britain frightened, penniless and with no immediate support. Housing benefit takes weeks to come through and while jobless, how are they to live? Many have never been out of Northern Ireland in their lives, and they are under continuing threat. Many break down, and some commit suicide. No government agency understands their situation or is specifically responsible for them. Very often they have no relatives or friends in Britain and they are in immediate and desperate need.
Did any of this stop after the Belfast agreement? The answer is no. The paramilitaries want people to know that they are in charge and so they do not trouble even to wear balaclavas when they are administering a so-called punishment beating or an exile. They want people to know and they know that the victims dare not tell the police and that they can seek no redress. One young man was beaten with hammers and iron bars and sustained two broken hands, a broken nose and ankle and severe bruising. He was interviewed by the police and refused to make a statement. He dared not do so. Others prefer being beaten or shot to being excluded and will actually present themselves for that to be done.
The people of Northern Ireland are in a desperate situation. Those who dare to confront or publicly disagree with the paramilitaries are at extreme risk, but they dare not, especially under threat of expulsion, co-operate with the police so that the matter may come to court. So the RUC can do nothing. It is a signal example of the wall of silence in the whole community that the Human Rights Commission testified to the committee:
What, moreover, has the Committee on the Administration of Justice done? Yet the international convention lays down that everyone has the right to freedom to choose his residence and the right to enter his own country. There has been a conspiracy of silence about what is happening. No victim dared give evidence to the Northern Ireland Committee. According to all the evidence given, the public has been totally silent through fear and intimidation. Yet
A very pertinent issue raised by the committee was whether the inclusion of local members of the community in the Police Partnership would help. Unfortunately the very people who are needed--the law-abiding citizens who have not been willing to be intimidated, or who have dared to report threats to the RUC--are those who have been driven out, while those whom Sinn Fein/IRA are demanding to have in those partnerships to represent the community are convicted paramilitaries. Thus the last hope of justice for the people would be effectively denied them were the Government to agree to this proposal in yet one more gesture of appeasement.
A deep anger is growing among the people about the failure of the Government and of the plethora of commissions that have been set up to give them the most basic protection against the paramilitaries, who grow in naked and wicked power from day to day and are unchecked. We have a police force and courts, but nothing can work while the victims dare not accuse their attackers and dare not testify. When will the political leaders of the paramilitaries be told that we shall no longer tolerate this monstrous tyranny?
They have the power to turn off the tap, and have done so when it suited them. But it seems that we dare not threaten the peace process. What peace process is that? I ask the Government to consider, first, setting up one single body in the UK to which all the exiles can go to have their problems dealt with centrally and sympathetically, and with a mechanism to get all the government agencies to work together, including education, housing, medical care, and so on. That has been done by the Spanish Government for victims of ETA bombings and has been strongly advocated by both the Victim Commission and the recent review of criminal justice. That is the Northern Ireland Committee's main recommendation.
Secondly, what about holding to account the political leaders representing the paramilitaries for their failure to honour the agreement? Gerry Adams denounces terrorism as unethical. Let him act on that. It is in his power to end the whole thing as far as the Catholic areas are concerned, and he and Martin McGuinness, sit on the IRA Army Council. The loyalist leaders must be equally leaned upon.
Thirdly, the Government should consider giving serious financial support to the Maranatha Community. Fourthly, they should require the Human Rights Commission to make a public statement directed to the EU and the UN that the people of Northern Ireland are being deprived of their rights by the unlawful acts of the paramilitaries. It is unequivocally terrorism and that should be internationally recognised.
Can we not use the law to arrest paramilitaries for the possession of guns and instruments of torture? It must be made clear that decommissioning includes the disarming of the paramilitaries on the streets of
The people of Northern Ireland are weary of the charade that is the peace process. The Government were ready to spend £44 million up to June this year on the sterile procedures of Bloody Sunday, while they do nothing to force the paramilitaries to end their tyranny. They are concerned about plastic baton rounds but not about the guns and iron bars being used to terrorise innocent people, and used not by the wicked police but by the people's own brave defenders, the paramilitary thugs.
The Government will no doubt say that nothing can be done if the victims will not report intimidation or testify in court. This is true. We have a Protection of the Person and Property Act. We have an excellent police force and dozens of bodies for peace and reconciliation. At the bottom of the heap are the men and women and children whose lives are ruled, as nowhere else in the UK, by brute force, terror, calculated violence and intimidation. They have no redress since, as all the bodies testifying said, they know that if the offence is reported to the police or even to the press, there will be further punishment for them and their families. Sadly anything that gets into the press does so only if the paramilitaries themselves wish to send a public message about their power. They have become more open about punishment because they know they are invulnerable.
Finally, I want to know what the Northern Ireland Executive, every one of whose ministers and members should be deeply concerned about this issue, mean by their proposed cross-departmental strategy--more joined-up government--and what services are to be offered to victims by April 2002, a commitment they made in March this year. I find it difficult to take seriously the Government's devotion to countering terrorism when I see what is happening in our own country.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, for instigating this short debate today and for the characteristic prescience that she has shown in her sense of timing. I particularly endorse her remarks about the need for a commission for victims and also what she said about the Maranatha Community whose founder, Mr Denis Wrigley, I have known for 25 years. He is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met and has always been a force for good in so many of the things in which he has been involved.
I am a realistic supporter of the Good Friday agreement; realistic because its fragility and inadequacies have been apparent since the process was first initiated by Mr John Major and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, who is here today, and entrenched by the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, and his three successive Secretaries of State.
My view of the process is not dissimilar to the view of democracy expressed by Winston Churchill who said that of all the awful options that were available, it was the least worst alternative. In my maiden speech in your Lordships' House four years ago, I questioned the authenticity of a ceasefire, then three years old, which still led to sectarian killings and punishment beatings. That brutality did not end in 1998, as the noble Baroness reminded us today.
Since the negotiation of the Good Friday agreement in April 1998, there have been more than 60 murders and about 1,000 violent incidents. There is nothing to be starry eyed about. According to the RUC--I am grateful to the Library for providing the figures--between 1998 and 23rd September this year, there were a total of 406 shootings. Republicans have shot 157 people. Loyalists carried out 249 shootings. Loyalists were responsible for 308 assaults and republicans for 174--a total of 482 assaults and an overall total of 888 shootings and assaults.
Many of those assaults were thought to be so-called punishments by paramilitaries on people within their own communities. Paramilitary attacks on children in Northern Ireland have almost doubled since the Good Friday agreement. Loyalist and republican punishment squads brutalised 47 under 18 year-olds in 1999 and 2000, compared with 25 in the previous two years. Liam Kennedy, Professor of Modern History at Queen's University, Belfast, has documented those details in his admirable report, entitled, "They shoot children, don't they?" He called for the immediate establishment of an anti-intimidation unit and for the scale of punishment beatings to be monitored by the Stormont Assembly and General John de Chastelain's decommissioning group.
That is very much in sympathy with the arguments that the noble Baroness advanced today. Professor Kennedy's report gives details of how up to 10 masked men--Provisionals--carrying guns and batons, burst into a housing estate in west Belfast. Their target was a 16 year-old boy with a reported IQ of 45. The boy had a troubled history, including severe depression since he had been abused as a child. They forced the boy upstairs to the bathroom and, in the words of his mother:
This sort of brutality, along with the abusive treatment of children attempting to reach the Holy Cross school in the Ardoyne, or the blast bomb that recently injured two schoolgirls in north Belfast, should have no place in a civilised world.
Traditionally, nationalists and republicans have instinctively opposed the institutions of the state in Northern Ireland, seeing them as the vehicles for unionist domination. Unionists and loyalists have traditionally feared engagement with the other side of the community because they believed it paved the way towards a loss of identity, liberties and rights. Failure to decommission weapons has simply reinforced unionist suspicion of the motives and the agenda of republicans. It has led to the withdrawal of David Trimble and his three Unionist Ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive.
In a world where we are pitting all our resources into the fight against terrorism, paramilitaries in Northern Ireland must be aware that international links with groups involved in terror and narcotics will hardly enhance their reputation here or in the United States.
Although we have heard similar language from Sinn Fein before, there are many changed circumstances. Since 11th September, I have received letters and e-mails from Americans telling me that they have given to Noraid in the past but that they will not do so in the future. Gerry Adams himself pointed to what he described yesterday as "the ethical indefensibility" of terrorism. But as the Irish Times stated in a leading article this morning, "Deeds must now follow words". We have had too many false dawns, too many pages being opened in Irish history, only to see them shut again in our faces.
In this context, since our debates on the Northern Ireland policing legislation, I have been in correspondence with Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland about the constructive role they must play in promoting models of citizenship and duty, not least full participation in law enforcement agencies.
We have been waiting with patience and understanding to see the first manifestations of the Good Friday peace process. Decommissioning would be the harbinger that would justify that wait. It would deserve to be greeted by unionists with what John Reid said yesterday must not be a "grudging or ungenerous" response. It will be a vindication of
A dog-in-the-manger response to yesterday's speeches would be historically illiterate. For the future, if delivered, decommissioning would transform the situation in every respect--not least in offering hope to those nationalists who continue to suffer at the hands of loyalist terrorists and those loyalists who have suffered at the hands of republican terrorists.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, many people in Northern Ireland and some libertarians on this side of the water will say that this Unstarred Question is untimely, that nothing should be said that will in any way aggravate the tensions which exist and the hope that will be had after the statement made by Gerry Adams yesterday. I do not propose to go down that road. I do not propose to canonise those who yesterday made the statement that they were going to stop murdering and killing people. I believe that they should have done that many years ago.
The noble Baroness has drawn attention to paramilitary activities in Northern Ireland. I have lived among them for many years and the reality is that, particularly in the city of Belfast, some areas are controlled by republican paramilitary organisations and other areas are controlled by loyalist paramilitary organisations.
In North Belfast there is a particular set of circumstances. For many years, North Belfast was an overwhelmingly Unionist constituency. Since then, with the intimidation that has taken place, it has become more marginal. There are loyalists in North Belfast who are trying to drive Catholics out of their area, and the IRA is trying to drive loyalists out of its area. Their intention is that that will eventually succeed in determining the vote in that constituency. There is no doubt about that.
The threats and the fears which exist in Northern Ireland today will not disappear as a result of the statement we heard yesterday or by decommissioning. The paramilitary organisations have their areas under their command and control and there is no way that they will give them up. I recall making speech after speech in this House predicting that that would happen. It was obvious to anyone in Northern Ireland that that is what would happen once the paramilitaries were allowed to get a grip.
The noble Baroness, Lady Park, said that the police, the forces of law and order, could go into those areas and in some way establish law and order to take away the power of the paramilitaries. I should love to think that that was possible, but that is not going to happen. The IRA has stated through Sinn Fein that it will treat the new police service in exactly the same way as it treated the RUC. What does that mean? How did it treat the RUC? It murdered 302 of its members. The new police service, even with the new uniform and under new direction, will be unable to go into republican-controlled areas to try to bring about peace and to install law and order. That is not a possibility.
The IRA has also called for demilitarisation; for the taking down of Army command posts in South Armagh and in other areas. In other words, it is saying, "Get the British Army off our streets". The British Army will not be able to go into Turf Lodge, into Ballymurphy or into any of the other republican-controlled areas because that will exacerbate the present situation.
Since watching the news yesterday, I have been resentful of the near canonisation of Sinn Fein because it is now saying to its blood brothers, "We think you should decommission". The facts of life are that President Clinton did not fight the previous election, the Democratic Party lost it; and no one in the American Republican Party has time for terrorists--and that was before 11th September. Over the past few years, thousands, if not millions, of dollars have gone into the coffers of Sinn Fein. Indeed, this Government put forward very controversial legislation which allowed Sinn Fein to continue to obtain financial resources from America. I remember voting against it and predicting what would happen.
However, after 11th September the world changed for terrorism. It then became clear to members of Sinn Fein and the IRA that if they continued their terrorist campaign, America would clamp down on them: their visas would be revoked; they would not be allowed to travel to America and restrictions would be placed on their funding. That is the reason why the IRA is now talking about decommissioning. It is not because it has had a change of heart about murdering people; it is
The noble Baroness has again mentioned the specific case of a young man who was intimidated. Yesterday I had a telephone call from Belfast in which I was told that a young girl working in a particular restaurant in Belfast--it will be identified now that I have brought it to the attention of your Lordships' House--had had a disagreement, in which some harsh words were used, with another girl who was a supporter of the Provisional IRA. Yesterday morning, or the morning before, 10 or 20 women who were IRA supporters went to that girl's house and beat her up. She is now in hospital and will not be able to return to that house. That has happened in the past 24 hours, and such things will continue unless we do something.
I have never been a supporter of the edict that something must be done; it is too easy to say that. But if the IRA persists in preventing the forces of law and order going into republican areas and instead insists on maintaining control by force of arms against the wishes of the majority of the people in those areas, this situation will continue. One reads articles in this morning's papers about what will happen when the Taliban is defeated in Afghanistan and the tremendous responsibility of building up some kind of civilised society there. There is an uncivilised society in Northern Ireland at the moment and before it gets out of hand the responsibility of this Government is to try to do something about it.
I bitterly resent the fact that when there is a community clash, such as in the Ardoyne in North Belfast, or in Whitewell Road where Catholics are the victims, the spokesman for the Catholics gives his version and the spokesman for the Protestants will give his. Two of them are convicted murderers. Gerry Kelly is a convicted murderer who was responsible for the first big bomb at the Old Bailey in 1971. Billy Hutchison was convicted of killing two innocent people in Belfast. John White was convicted of killing my personal friend Paddy Wilson. These people expect to be accepted as spokesmen for the communities in Northern Ireland. Once people like that are accepted as bona fide community representatives, there is no hope for a resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict.
We have heard all day that there is to be a dramatic announcement by Sinn Fein. I note that General de Chastelain flew in from Canada last week. He seems to spend most of his time in Canada. I do not blame him for being unable to come to a resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. Are we to see how decommissioning is to be brought into effect? Will someone be there, or will we have a statement by General de Chastelain that he has seen the IRA concreting over some of its bunkers? I believe that the people of Northern Ireland, or their representatives, who have been so affected by these arms and ammunition should be there to witness the end of the conflict.
This Unstarred Question draws attention once again to the totally objectionable situation in Northern Ireland with the paramilitary organisations. I have witnessed it over the past 18 years that I have been a Member of this House and during my 18 years in another place. Rather than talk about it, something must be done. The Government must say to the spokesmen Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness that unless they stop their paramilitary murders, shootings and intimidation, there will be no more concessions to them.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is always a difficult act to follow. However, in the early 1970s I had some knowledge, through the Belfast Housing Aid Society, of the largest forced movement of population in Europe since 1945. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, for enabling us to debate the forced displacement of people that is still happening within the United Kingdom, despite the Belfast agreement of 1998. I apologise to the noble Baroness for having missed her opening sentences. I acknowledge my appreciation of the words of my noble friend Lord Alton of Liverpool. I believe that he put the issues into the wider context extremely well.
Punishment beatings, sometimes of a barbaric kind, shootings in the legs and arms and expulsions from Northern Ireland have continued in spite of the agreement. Most cases have arisen in urban housing estates where paramilitary control is tightest and normal policing is least in evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said. Some cases, however, have arisen in rural areas, but in all cases a high proportion of those affected are unemployed, whether permanently or temporarily. The victims include some petty criminals, drug dealers or pushers; others are independent individuals who have failed to bow to paramilitary tyranny.
Now, as in the 1970s, the first place to look for help and protection is the voluntary organisations. In Belfast these used to be the Housing Aid Society, the Peace People and Corrymeela; now they are more likely to be NIACRO and Bryson House, or Irish Community Care in Liverpool, or the Maranatha Community in Manchester. All these bodies have done valuable work in difficult conditions, preventing homelessness and destitution and struggling to get the statutory authority to cope with urgent human and family needs. The NGOs that I have mentioned, and no doubt others, deserve our thanks and praise.
The problems are real but their scale is not enormous. One voluntary body in Belfast had 100 cases referred to it in the first nine months of this year; the previous year had been somewhat similar. Sometimes it is possible to prevent punishments or expulsions by negotiating with paramilitary groups. This cannot always be done and some people are obliged to take refuge in England or Scotland.
The policies of English local authorities towards the displaced people vary greatly. The larger cities are usually the best. Others like Trafford Borough Council refuse all responsibility, even for people who live on the street or sleep in their cars. Some social security offices are helpful and others are not. I have heard of cases where families have had to wait for three months to get child benefit or four weeks to receive income support.
Housing benefit which is administered by different offices can cause problems, even once accommodation has been secured. Some families or individuals may already, while still in Northern Ireland, have used up their entitlement to crisis loans. When delays occur over benefits, social services are allowed to pay £1.50 per day for any child under three, or £20 to £30 per week for older children, but nothing for the parents.
We are faced with a situation not foreseen by those who framed the rules, namely, the situation of British citizens violently displaced within their own country. Will the Government consider what extra discretion and flexibility they can provide over the whole range of social benefits for those caught up in this situation?
Another need is for better medical care and for informed counselling for displaced people with acute emotional or physical problems. Will the Government make use of existing expertise, both in Northern Ireland and, in particular, in London with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. I ask that because, with few exceptions, it seems that intense trauma, such as often follows punishment attacks, is not well understood at health authority level in the regions of England.
Problems occur not simply because people have to move from Northern Ireland to Britain, but also for those wishing to return to Northern Ireland. Returns occur to safe areas and sometimes, by agreement with paramilitary groups, to the original areas from which the expulsions took place. If a family were to be housed in England it would often have no points for re-housing by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Severe intimidation, alas, is a fact. A committee of another place has taken copious evidence about expulsions. Until such time as order and tranquillity can be restored, I believe that it is the duty of the Government to provide remedies. Will they give guidance on best practice to local and health authorities and to social security? Will they consider establishing, as suggested by the noble Baroness, a single agency to assist those expelled from their own communities? Such an agency would ensure that those people received promptly the benefits to which they were entitled. Through the community re-integration programme in Northern Ireland it would help those who are willing and able to return.
It is not too much to ask for a single agency to cut through a great deal of misunderstanding and lack of understanding and to eliminate red tape. With a modest budget it could do much good until the evils of paramilitary power can be ended. I look forward to a helpful reply. I commend the idea of a single agency to your Lordships.
Lord Laird: My Lords, I too am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, initiated the debate today. I was most interested in what the noble Baroness had to say. I also pay tribute to other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I was particularly struck by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and by the remarks of my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, with whom I have shared much territory in Northern Ireland.
The problem of displaced people as a result of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland is much larger than has so far been reflected in the Chamber. It is actually massive. It must be addressed before any real peace can be secured. I propose to comment on the movement of populations under threat from paramilitaries inside the province. I am from the Unionist community and so can speak with authority about their problems. But let no one misinterpret my remarks as not recognising that both communities have suffered in this appalling nightmare. It is everyone's basic human right to live in a location of their choice.
The much publicised problems in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, already referred to, are an example of the difficulties of paramilitary violence. The causes of that conflict are many and very complicated, but boil down, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, to a battle for territory with the prize being control of Belfast City Council. A hard-pressed Unionist community has been subjected to ongoing paramilitary attacks. Its views, as with the views of everyone else in that area, cannot be ignored. Communities under threat of paramilitary violence are fragile and have difficulty in carrying on with their normal communal life. Victims' rights have been considered on an individual context. But we must also consider victims' rights in a community or group context.
There are about 50 towns and villages in Northern Ireland today where since 1970 as a result of paramilitary activity the Unionist population has fallen. In only one town in the entire province has there been a fall in the nationalist population--Carrickfergus. I shall highlight the problems through one example, that of Londonderry. In 1970 over 13,000 Unionists lived on the west bank of that city. Now there are only 1,000 left. They have long since fled following sectarian murders and sectarian bombing of Unionist businesses. The residual Unionist population left on the west bank is crammed into the Fountain Street estate where they are subject to regular ongoing sectarian attack. School children from the Unionist community are subject to attack when using public transport to travel to and from school. Many parents have to collect their children in taxis from the school gates and accompany them home to ensure their safety, with all the expense that that involves.
I listened to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I am always impressed by what the noble Lord says. However, if the movement in the population of Londonderry during that period is not the biggest in
An estimated quarter of a million people within the Unionist community have been forced out of various areas of Northern Ireland. This experience explains the concern over the possession of illegal weapons. The Government did not help communities when help was needed. Government measures instead have reinforced the actions of those paramilitaries engaged in the displacement of people. Policies have made the situation worse in education, planning, agriculture and "equality" legislation. That means that the minority communities left in those areas become less and less viable.
Only in the former Yugoslavia has there been population displacement on a larger scale in Europe. The human rights issues involved in the Balkans have been recognised and steps have been taken to address them. They have not been addressed in Northern Ireland, not even in the Belfast agreement. In Kosovo, the NATO allies agreed that people should be allowed to return to their towns and villages, that there should be a programme of aid to support reconstruction and that arms should be taken out of society. That has not yet happened in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has undertaken little or no work in this important area. That commission has been one of the major disappointments over the past three years. With its rather one-sided agenda, it is perceived by the Unionist community as part of the problem, and certainly not part of the solution.
We need a programme to support the fragile victim communities and, if that is their choice, to help those forced out of their communities to return. Where people were forced out of areas, school rolls fell and the schools were then closed, making life harder for the communities. We need to look to the reopening of some of those schools.
Many farms in threatened areas have remained for up to 25 years unworked and unimproved. The rest of the farming community has been able to take advantage of various grant-aided schemes to improve their farms. Those schemes have now been withdrawn. We need a catch-up programme to give displaced farmers returning to their farms access to grants that have been withdrawn.
The Government's new equality legislation on the supply of goods and services will outlaw the sale of land and property solely within one religious community. But that legislation takes no account of the situation whereby many Unionists cannot, for reasons of safety, bid for land, properties or businesses outside their local community areas. One of the ways in which threatened rural Unionist communities that are at risk can survive and remain viable is by selling and keeping land and property within that local community.
Schools in the Catholic maintained sector have exemption from fair employment laws because of the confessional qualification required by teachers working in those schools. There is an unanswerable case for exemption to be extended to communities threatened by violence.
In the 1960s the government undertook a population projection. It would be interesting to compare that with the position today. I know of studies that show the positioning of IRA attacks and bombings which were aimed at ethnic cleansing. The slogan, "Brits Out" has a double meaning; Republicans do not want only the British government out of Northern Ireland, they seem to want to clear the land of all Brits--and because Unionists are Brits, they have been under paramilitary pressure for 30 years.
A report from the Ulster Scots human rights group, Fowk Richts, proposes a detailed 23-point programme of help for the victim communities. I have already delivered a copy to the Minister. I would urge the Government to look at the report and then to produce a programme for these victimised communities, both as groups and as communities.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, for introducing the debate. I think that the tenor of the debate has reflected that it really is impossible to talk about Northern Ireland without talking about everything. I congratulate the noble Baroness on her timing. It may be that this is the day when something develops on decommissioning. Indeed, something may have taken place even as we speak.
If we look over the Belfast agreement, we can see that it contains four headings in reasonably bold black type: decommissioning; police; prisoners; and reconciliation and victims of violence. I think it is important that the word "choreography" is used and that we move forward together on all those fronts.
In her contribution, the noble Baroness mentioned the plethora of commissions, but went on to suggest that another should be established. Indeed, perhaps there should. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke of citizenship. It is clear that that is another theme which will have to be stressed in Northern Ireland; namely, about people living together. When the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, suggested that some would say that it was untimely to debate this issue tonight, I also agree with him. That is because I believe that it forms a part of the choreography governing what ought to take place in Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to the voluntary sector. In Northern Ireland one of the best voluntary sectors in these islands is well established. That voluntary sector has kept going regardless of the various regimes that have been put in place. The noble Lord, Lord Laird, referred to the location of choice. I am sure that all noble Lords would agree with him that one ought to be able to live in one's location of choice.
The specific issue before us is what action we envisage taking to help the victims of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland, with especial reference to the problems faced by those who have relocated to the mainland. I think that it is important to examine the specifics as well as the generalities of that. Who has had to make a new life somewhere else? Is it the widow and children? Is it someone who has said, "I had better go because I will be next"; or, "They just missed me, so I am off"; or, "I have been given the nod, so I am off"; or, "I fear"? One might regard many such people as the "vanished victims", but they are still suffering.
Of course we must be careful in this area. The assistant manager of McDonald's in Belfast may well be promoted to become the manager in Bradford or Brighton. That person is hardly a victim. It will be difficult to spot exactly who are the victims, in particular when some of those victims are the victims of fear. We must decide how to define "victim" in those circumstances.
I noted that a substantial sum of money, a figure in the region of £7 million, has rightly been put aside to be used in Northern Ireland as part of the European Peace II programme. Not long ago an announcement was made in this place that the Tim Parry-Jonathan Ball Trust has been allocated £250,000. Is that the agency that is to be used or, as the noble Baroness has indicated, should an agency be set up to root out the vanished victims who now live over here, across the Irish Sea? I believe that that would require another piece of choreography, to which the noble and learned Lord may well wish to respond at the end of our debate.
We have reached a time when the situation is developing. We all hope that it will not mean three steps forward and 2.9 steps back, but that it will mean three steps forward and then moving forward on other fronts. Perhaps the issue, especially of those people who have relocated to the mainland, is one that should be considered at this time.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, first, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth for introducing once again a debate on Northern Ireland. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. Looking around the Chamber--I have been in this job for a few years now--I can see many familiar faces. It is good to see that we maintain support in this House. Perhaps I may also welcome the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal to our affairs. It is a great honour to have the Leader of the House speaking for the Government on behalf of Northern Ireland. I hope that that is a reflection of the huge amount of effort, in my personal opinion sometimes for better or for worse, that the Prime Minister has put into Northern Ireland affairs. We are eternally grateful for that.
My noble friend rightly drew attention to one of the ugliest and most vicious aspects of life currently in Northern Ireland. This debate takes place against a backdrop of renewed optimism in Northern Ireland.
I hold no brief for Irish republicanism, nor do I in any way forget the acts of utter evil that have been carried out in its name. There are few of us in Northern Ireland who do not know someone who has been touched, or have not been touched themselves, by acts of terror. But anyone who knows the first thing about Irish republicanism history and the republican movement will understand the significance for republicans of what they have said and what I hope very shortly they will do. We on these Benches unreservedly welcome what has been said. At long last we can hope that the Belfast agreement will be implemented in full by all of its participants.
That will require a number of things to happen. First, it is clear that any act of decommissioning cannot be simply a one-off; otherwise we will be back here in another few months going through the same old ritual. This must be the beginning of a process that leads to all the IRA's arms being credibly and verifiably put beyond use.
Secondly, we cannot talk here only of IRA or republican arms. The so-called loyalist paramilitaries--the UDA, the UVF and others--have to act too. With IRA decommissioning there can be no possible excuse for the loyalists hanging on to their weapons for a moment longer. A particular responsibility now rests on the loyalist politicians and political leaders to use their influence on their paramilitary forces. In short, we have an opportunity finally to bring about a process leading to what the Belfast agreement describes as,
But a third thing must now happen too--I know I have a long shopping list; forgive me, but this is reality--and this is where I address myself directly to the comments of my noble friend Lady Park. Decommissioning is of course vital in itself, but it is only one aspect of what the Prime Minister described in his speech in Belfast on 14th May 1998 as the,
My party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, David Trimble and others have correctly described the Mafia subculture, spawned by 30 years of terrorism, that disfigures so much of life in Northern Ireland. We see so often on loyalist and republican estates the local paramilitary leaders taking on the law and order functions that should legitimately belong to the state.
I pay tribute at this stage to the work done by various individuals and the charities and church groups that work with those who have been expelled, helping in many cases to find them alternative accommodation in Great Britain. But these are mostly charity workers; they are not government-led to the best of my knowledge. I also acknowledge the work done on the issue of victims by the former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, and his commission, which was set up by the Government.
I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in regard to the Government's--perhaps "ineptitude" is too strong a word--priorities. They have set the priority for tackling this menace at too low a level. The overriding priority must be for the Government to tackle this evil and to root it out of society. That means looking again at how legislation may be framed to hit at the financing of paramilitary organisations.
It also means making absolutely clear that the rule of law will be enforced as rigorously and impartially in all parts of Northern Ireland as we attempt to enforce it on the mainland. We simply cannot tolerate the handing over of estates in Northern Ireland to the paramilitary thugs--they own large parts of Belfast today--and there must be no "no-go" areas for the police. Yet for many people--this is in no way a criticism of the police--that appears to be the reality of life in Northern Ireland today.
I have raised before my concerns about certain aspects of the new policing arrangements and Her Majesty's Government know them well. I shall not go into them again in detail on this occasion. Suffice it to say that I trust that the new Police Service of Northern Ireland, which officially comes into being next week, will have not only the resources but the ability to get on with its job and to police.
The IRA wish for convicted terrorists to be allowed to join the police force; they wish for convicted terrorists to be allowed to join the police board; they wish for convicted terrorists to be allowed to join the district policing partnerships (DPPs). It cannot in any context be sensible to have decent, democratic people judged by a bunch of thugs. Being policed by a bunch of thugs is not a runner today in this kingdom, I suggest. I should like encouragement from the noble and learned Lord that he supports that view.
For too long there has been a perception, not only among paramilitaries but among law-abiding people too, that the political will did not exist to tackle the type of gangsterism to which my noble friend and other noble Lords have referred. There is a widespread belief in Northern Ireland that as long as bombs are not going off other criminal activities will be tolerated. They must not be tolerated. I beg that they will not be tolerated.
One aspect of the peace process that we are all optimistic about should be to ensure that as soon as possible the "exiles" we have spoken about, the victims, are free and safe to return home should they so desire. Surely their rights are considerably stronger than those of criminals who are looking for amnesty.
Decommissioning by the IRA and the loyalists will be another step forward towards normality in the Province. Gosh, I hope it happens very soon. However, intimidation, gang warfare, armed robbery and so on will still be rampant. There will still be victims; there will still be people who need help from both the Northern Ireland Assembly and Her Majesty's Government. I sincerely hope that that help will be forthcoming from both.
Matters are moving quickly at the moment. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that decommissioning is an aspect but not the entire story. He said that there is a huge job to be done. All of us who have had any connection with Northern Ireland, in whatever way--my own, relatively recently--would come to the conclusion that we must give full-hearted and generous continuing support.
Yesterday, Gerry Adams made a statement which had some optimistic aspects to it. I cannot quarrel with anything that has been said in this debate about the past in Northern Ireland. It would be an indecency to the House to pretend that the criticisms, comments and historical reviews are not accurate; they are. The one point that occurred to me in listening to Gerry Adams's speech was how deeply he referred to South Africa. He spoke of his conversation with Mr Mandela and a telephone conversation as recently as yesterday with President Mbeki. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said that there is a vast amount to be done. That is no exaggeration. I hope not to sound complacent--I know that others have suffered and I have not--but elections in South Africa took place only in 1994. It is not a perfect society, but it has been significantly transformed in a very short period of time.
Again, I do not intend to sound ungracious, but it must be said that we shall all have to make compromises. I recognise fully that it is easy for me to urge others to compromise. I have not been attacked at my place of work; I have not been driven from my home; nor have my four-year-old children been assailed by barbarians in attempting to go to school. It
I said that matters are moving quickly. The most up-to-date information that I have is that the IRA has recently put out a statement headed, "IRA decommissioning statement". It is signed as usual by P. O'Neill. Perhaps I may read out the last three paragraphs:
The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said that some might describe this debate as untimely. It is never untimely to hold a debate about a part of the United Kingdom where our fellow citizens have their legitimate expectation of an ordered and peaceful life wantonly attacked day in, day out. I agree with the noble Lord: it is a timely moment--perhaps even more timely than the noble Baroness thought when she originally tabled the Question.
A number of questions were asked about specifics and I shall do my best to deal with them. The Bloomfield report was commissioned by this Government in October 1997, and Adam Ingram, the then Minister, set up the Victims Liaison Unit. I know the delicacy of speaking of figures; it seems as though one is approaching these matters on the basis that money will cure, and it cannot. However, the Government have allocated £18¼ million for victims' issues. We have set up a family trauma centre for young people and their families affected by the troubles. The Victim Support Grant Scheme amounted to £225,000. We have donated £3 million of public money to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund, and a further £2 million will be available over the next two years.
I say with respect that all the questions and suggestions put forward need careful consideration. I undertake to bring all of them to the attention of the responsible Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Dr Reid.
Plainly, in resettling and caring for victims, we must seek to avoid any attempt to delude ourselves into losing sight of the fact that they are innocents and that the true vice is what caused them to move in the first place. I entirely agree with the comment that, if reconciliation can begin, people will need to remake shattered lives in so far as they can. Many never will. As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, said, they will need help in resettlement if that can be brought about. I thank the noble Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for their courtesy in alerting me to what they intended to say.
The Legacy Project was mentioned. It seeks to identify and meet the needs of victims of the troubles who are living in Great Britain, including members of the Armed Forces who served in Northern Ireland and their families, residents from Northern Ireland who have been forced out of their homes, and victims of attacks on the mainland and their families. We find that money spent in the context of voluntary organisations is often more subtly and thoughtfully used in these contexts than it would be through the usual state machinery.
A number of noble Lords rightly said that intimidation, blackmail, harassment and violence cannot in any circumstances be tolerated. The Organised Crime Task Force brings forward the agencies that are relevant in Northern Ireland--the noble Baroness is right; we must attack the funding by means of which the paramilitary organisations are able to operate.
I said at the beginning of my remarks that not an ungenerous word was spoken during the debate. I repeat that many of the compromises that will be necessary are not ones that any of your Lordships or I can view with equanimity. I hope that in the end--and this is all that one can reasonably say--the compromises will bring a greater prize.
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