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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for the fact that I allowed myself to be detained in a Committee Room so that I missed the opening phrases of the Statement. However, I can assure the noble and learned Lord that I have read the Statement from start to finish.
I was delighted that the noble and learned Lord was able to give the House good news from the police authority. That, in itself, is a form of power sharing. However, I regret that the possibility of retaining the substance of power sharing was not grasped. I had hoped that new direct-rule Ministers could have been
Can the noble and learned Lord give us an assurance that the north-south and east-west dialogue between this country and Ireland and between the North and the South of Ireland will continue at full strength? This is surely the wider context established by the Belfast agreement. It is vital that both dimensions of dialogue should be strengthened. If that can be done, the chance of internal agreement in Northern Ireland will be improved.
I have another thought; namely, that an analytical conflict resolution process facilitated by independent third parties could be helpful. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that such a process could assist the very necessary dialogue across the sectarian interfaces, notably in Belfast? If such a process proved successful there, I believe that it could be applied more widely.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Due to time running out, I do not believe that I gave full justice to all the questions put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for giving me the opportunity to return to those points. I can confirm that we shall continue to work in close co-operation with the Irish Government. Apart from anything else, by virtue of the 2000 Act, taken in conjunction with the Belfast agreement, we shall have to carry out the statutory review in due time in co-operation and partnership with the Government of the Irish Republic. Under suspension, it is clear that there will be no meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council. The implementation bodies are not affected by the suspension order. The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference will continue to work in close co-operation with us and the Irish Government.
We shall look at the institutional formats to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred. He spoke about third party intervention, which has occurred in past years and which can be either formal or informal. I have to say that the United States Administration have been extremely helpful. Of course, we have had third party involvement in Northern Ireland over the years; I have in mind, for example, Senator Mitchell.
It is most important for Her Majesty's Government, the Government of the Irish Republic, and the Administration in Washington to continue to work together as closely and as faithfully as possible. However, there comes a time when the institutions in Northern Ireland will have to stand on their own two feet. I still believe that this is not an occasion of deep gloom and pessimism as can be seen if one puts one's mind objectively to the part recitation that I gave of the
Lord Fitt: My Lords, since the promulgation of the Good Friday agreement in this House I have found myself in a rather difficult position. At all times I should have liked to support the Labour Government in their objective in Northern Ireland; but living in Northern Ireland and being aware of its politics for many decades, I always had sincere doubts as to whether that agreement was ever going to work.
When the Government called upon everyone to vote in the referendum to support the Good Friday agreement, a great friend of minea very prominent and eminent trade unionist and historianwrote a letter to a newspaper in Northern Ireland stating that he could not support the agreement for various reasons, which he then outlined. Over the years since then I have watched the unfolding of the situation in Northern Ireland and my friend has been proved right in every aspect of his objections. The main one being that the Good Friday agreement institutionalises Catholic and Protestant tribes. Where you have a Catholic as opposed to a Protestant tribe, you will never readily find agreement.
The agreement has created two Unionist parties, one more extreme than the other; and it has created two nationalist parties, one more extreme than the other. I have heard it said here today that it would have been possible for the Government to promulgate a motion at the Northern Ireland Assembly calling for the eviction of Sinn Fein because it had been engaged in violence. However, that would never have been passed by the Assembly, because the SDLP (the moderate Catholic party) could not afford to run away and desert the extreme Catholic party.
I know that the Minister, and other spokesmen for the Government, are saying in press releases and so on that we should not indulge in pessimism because the agreement can be resurrected. I have to stand here and tell the Leader of the House that I do not believe that the Good Friday agreement can be resurrected in its present form because the Unionist politicians will be playing to their electorate to get extreme votes and you will have the Catholic electoratethe Catholic MLA.
Here we have a continuation of the most divisive things in Northern Ireland politics. I agree almost line by line with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. The Government should find the means not to cling tenaciously to an agreement that has so often failed and is doomed to failure; they must try to resurrect some other constitutional means. This one has gone. I believe that it has gone for ever.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I always pay careful attention to what my noble friend Lord Fitt says. I recognise that he has a much greater reservoir of experience and of courageous political activity than any of the rest of us. I approach his comments with, I believe, appropriate regard. My noble friend said that his colleague, the historian, had written a letter to a
This is a difficult time, but it is not a lost time. I turn, for example, to the police service. The PSNI has cross-community support. It has 50:50 recruitment. My noble friend Lord Fitt talked about institutionalised tribes. The board and the Chief Constable have agreed a workforce plan for the next eight to 10 years. There is in existence in Northern Irelandnot, I believe, in the remainder of the United Kingdoman independent police ombudsman. We have had a review of the criminal justice system. We have had a successful passage of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act. There is an organised crime task force. A single equality commission has been established. Again, I do not think that obtains in the remainder of the United Kingdom.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I was pleased to hear the reference to the arrest of the IRA men who shot, beat and tried to kill Mr O'Breavty when he was driving a busload of pensioners. He was attacked after appealing in vain to Martin McGuinness for help, his nephew having been exiled from Northern Ireland for refusing entry to a bar to Mr McGuinness's son. I hope that Sinn Fein-IRA will be required to end the exile rather than pressing them further on the stale and unprofitable issue of decommissioning.
I realise that we shall have a review. I hope sincerely that that review will address itself to the violence on the streets carried out by the paramilitaries against their own people on both sides. I wish also to be reassured that from now on we shall hear no more about proposals to allow the "on-the-runs" to return to the community.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall not comment about the details of the arrest made this morning and about the shooting of Danny O'Breavty. I stress that everyonewhether we like or despise him or heris entitled to a fair trial in any part of the United Kingdom. What are or are not the facts about the attack on Mr O'Breavty on 29th September must be the subject of an independent inquiryit is called a police investigationand then an independent trial of which the judges in Northern Ireland have been exemplars. So I shall not be drawn into that matter. I am sure the noble Baroness will not be displeased at my not going into those details.
Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I listened with great disappointment to the Statement repeated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal. The Government have made the wrong decision. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, they should have continued with devolution in Northern Ireland.
Most people in Northern Ireland support the principle of devolution/administration of Stormont. There will be disappointment at the Government's decision. None the less, the greater number of people in Northern Ireland will welcome the fact that due to the continued activities of Sinn Fein-IRA, inextricably linked as they are, Northern Ireland now returns to direct British rule from London. That will be welcomed throughout Northern Ireland.
The comments of the spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Party concerned me in two respects, in particular his implied suggestion that politicians in Northern Ireland can be bought off by salaries and money. That is an insult to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland. It demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of nationalists and Unionists. Their feelings and political opinions are so strong that some have even paid the supreme sacrifice. They are not the kind of people to be bought off by simply doing away with their salaries. You will not solve the problems of Northern Ireland through the salaries of elected representatives.
I was even more concerned at his suggestion that Northern Ireland should cease to be governed as part of the United Kingdom: that the sovereignty of the United Kingdom should cease. I was concerned that the Liberal Democrats now suggest that Northern Ireland should become a condominium, jointly ruled by Dublin and London. I find that most upsetting and I am quite sure that members of the Alliance Party, linked with the Liberal Democrats, will find it equally upsetting. I shall be interested to hear the reaction in Northern Ireland when those comments are heard.
Four years ago, the Prime Minister sent a letter in his own handwriting to the people of Northern Ireland saying that those who were not exclusively committed to peaceful and democratic methods would be excluded from the democratic government of Northern Ireland. Why has the Prime Minister's letter not been honoured?
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