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However, that reflects the reality of society in Northern Ireland, which has two blocks of opinion within it. In the past, there has been insufficient

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confidence for political institutions to be stable and to work well. I hope that they will be stable and work well in the future. There will be difficulties running it, but we need not be too concerned about the internal problems that there may be in an Executive and between the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I rather suspect that, after the initial shock, people will find that they can work together, and indeed will probably do so better than they currently expect. The real problems will be not so much yesterday’s issues, but issues of a different nature. During the Assembly election campaign, it was interesting how much time was taken up talking about those issues that must be dealt with in the future.

Northern Ireland did not have Thatcherism; Thatcherism never really reached Northern Ireland at all. New Labour has not reached Northern Ireland. The attempts made under Thatcherism and new Labour to modernise public services were not made in Northern Ireland. Our public sector is in considerable difficulties. I am thinking not only of the problems of underinvestment in infrastructure, although they are significant. We still have a public system that operates from a 1970s outlook and on a 1970s model. Those of us who served in the Executive in Northern Ireland from 1999 to 2002 had the opportunity only to start to get some idea of the extent of the problem. I suggest to the DUP that it must ensure that officials dig up for it the needs and effectiveness evaluations that we put in place for certain departments. Those exercises were not completed; they were only just started. They are only just starting to scratch the surface, and they will be a good starting point for moving further.

I discovered when speaking to a direct rule Minister a couple of years after the reintroduction of direct rule in 2002 that the officials had told him that the needs and effectiveness evaluations had been completed. I am sure that the official system was quite happy to bury those exercises, but it is necessary to go back to them. The challenge is to try to modernise public services. The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, is quite right, and I am sure that other Members will make it again.

People may well want the Government to give the new Executive a good financial start, but the fact is that public expenditure in Northern Ireland is massively greater than in any other part of the UK. Yes, there are problems, but we are no longer at the bottom of the league tables for employment and GDP. We have improved. Other parts of the UK are not as well off as Northern Ireland, and there is a limit to the extent to which the begging bowl can be used. Yes, there may be an opportunity to deal with those problems now, but the real challenge of dealing with them will come in the next few years. The new Administration will have to grapple with the problems of modernising public services as this Government and previous Governments have had to grapple with them.

I hope that that will help to reconnect politics in Northern Ireland with national politics. The disconnect that has taken place over the years between the political processes there and in the rest of

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the United Kingdom has not served us well. I speak here as an Ulster Unionist. It is desirable for us to reconnect with national politics, because, at the end of the day, as was said, there are reserved matters that just happen to touch on the most important aspects of public services; namely, taxation and decisions on taxation and on public expenditure generally. The local Administration will be able to operate only within the context of the decisions that are taken here on taxation in public expenditure.

I am sorry that I spent a little more time on that aspect of the future, but that is the aspect of the future that society in Northern Ireland is increasingly focusing on and which Northern Ireland’s politicians will have to focus on. Some sections of the community and some politicians may still be thinking more about yesterday’s issues, but they are yesterday’s issues. It is necessary to move on. Yesterday, I saw people’s willingness to move into a different dispensation. It will not be easy. There will be problems and hang-ups, but there are those who are moving in that direction, and the further and the faster they move, the more they will be supported by society and the easier they will find it to be.

7.46 pm

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I hope that I might take two minutes to speak in the gap. We have just heard a most heartening and realistic speech from the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, who deserves a great deal of credit, and has been given it, for the events of yesterday, which we celebrate today. He paid a cruel price for having been right at the right time when too many of his friends were wrong at the wrong time.

I support the Bill with relief and admiration. I do so because direct rule is not second best; it is first worst. It induces in what I might call the political class a norm of destructive cynicism, and in my experience it induces among everyday people a sense of shame that for some reason they cannot be allowed to govern themselves. One of the saddest things ever said to me, repeatedly, in Northern Ireland was: “We are not all bad, you know”. I knew, of course, how good so very many of them are.

Ministers who have given such determined help to the achievement of this agreement deserve very warm congratulations. They have helped political leaders to come to terms together, which is something that we have been waiting for for a very long time. Those who participated in yesterday’s agreement also deserve congratulations, and I wish them great strength in resisting the lure of backsliding in the weeks and months ahead. Above all, I congratulate the people of Northern Ireland on the very real prospect of once again regaining control of their own lives.

7.49 pm

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, by the leave of the House, I shall make a few comments on the Bill. First, I welcome it enthusiastically. It has been said that yesterday was an historic day. That is a dangerous term. It was certainly a remarkable day, but you never take anything for granted in Northern Ireland, and

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we must wait another few years and then look back before deciding whether it was in fact an historic day. It really is the Belfast agreement with some minor changes, as the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, said. I am glad to hear praise for the leadership at the time of the noble Lord, Lord Trimble; he negotiated the Belfast agreement together with Sir Reg Empey, the present leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and me. I am glad to see it reaching the stage that it did yesterday.

The Government were quite right to extend the date until May—the basis of this Bill—for if the DUP and Sinn Fein had reached an agreement, it would have been outrageous for the Government to have rejected it. We should not be criticising the Government in any way for extending that date.

Yesterday was remarkable, as I say. Those of us who listened to the live broadcast by Dr Paisley from the DUP and Mr Gerry Adams for Sinn Fein were quite amazed at the words we heard: they were both statesmanlike in their own particular ways. For those of us who come from Ulster, it was particularly interesting and welcome that both of them invoked the will of God. I say this as one who suffered from the IRA—shot 10 times through my body—and I listened to people on Radio Ulster at 12 o’clock today, many of whose families had suffered deaths and injuries through the IRA. Most of them welcomed what happened yesterday; I underline that myself.

As always in Northern Ireland, there are one or two doubts in one’s mind. The English press told us that Sinn Fein was supporting the PSNI—well, not absolutely: there were conditions, which we will have to watch. It is certainly supporting the PSNI in civic policing, be it burglary, drunken driving or what have you, but there is still a cloud over its position on security and terrorism. Just two weeks ago during the recent election campaign in Northern Ireland, one successful Sinn Fein MLA, Ms Gildernew, the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said that if she saw the Real IRA running around with guns and bombs, she would not bring it to the attention of the PSNI. That worries us, as in the end it could undermine the success of what was achieved yesterday.

Sinn Fein has accepted its position in a Stormont Assembly within the United Kingdom. While it does not support Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom, it has now accepted it. In turn, as things develop in Northern Ireland and relations improve between it and the Republic—and between the Republic and the United Kingdom—I hope that the Dublin Government will move further toward accepting the realisation that more than 1 million people on the island of Ireland are British. A lot more has to be done by Dublin to accept and recognise that position.

This Bill restores direct rule for a limited period. I assume that it means that those of us who have been asking questions in the absence of devolution in Northern Ireland will still have the facility over the next few weeks to keep troubling Ministers on its

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internal affairs. Therefore, to be brief, I commend this Bill to the House and thank the Government for their response.

7.53 pm

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I intervene briefly in the gap simply to add my congratulations to the Government on their achievement. With my noble friend Lord Brooke and my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew behind me, we represent 12 years of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland. The Anglo-Irish agreement was signed within perhaps two weeks or a month of my arrival, starting a process that did not have universal admiration at the time but, I dare to suggest, made some contribution towards it. If the principle is of consent and that violence must now be put aside, with matters now being for the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland, that is the right basis.

I pay tribute to the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Trimble; I also recall John Hume, at the time of the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement, standing up and saying that it was now a matter of Irishmen persuading Irishmen. When I heard Mr Mitchel McLaughlin echoing those exact words yesterday, I thought that the message might at last have got through. I understand entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, said: there are very many bruised and damaged minds and bodies, and sorrows, in Northern Ireland. One of the most moving occasions for any Secretary of State is to go to the annual meeting of the RUC widows, and to remember all those who gave their service. This is a time to remember all those who stood against the terrorism that was trying to over-ride democracy at that time, whether it is the RUC, the Army or the resolute people of all communities in Northern Ireland; they deserve credit for the position that we have now reached.

On the economic problems that Northern Ireland may face, it would be a pretty daunted Treasury Minister or senior official who meets the First and Deputy Minister coming through the door to argue the case. That will be a pretty challenging occasion, of a kind that I should think they will not have experienced before. Northern Ireland may not do badly.

I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, that this is not a time for nitpicking arguments about what happened to the dates; what matters is what happened. We have all longed for that for all those years; if this is the final achievement of it, in spite of all the pitfalls and problems that undoubtedly lie ahead, this is a milestone—and I congratulate the Government, who are now in a position to try to take the next step forward.

7.56 pm

Baroness Paisley of St George's: My Lords, I am sure that this House will understand how delighted I am at the events that have taken place in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain over the past days. I am not unaware of the difficulties that lie ahead of us in Northern Ireland, nor am I unaware of the barriers

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that are still before us. Yet barriers can be surmounted, hills can be climbed and rivers can be crossed with good will and the help of God, as we look to Him for guidance.

The electors of Northern Ireland have spoken. It was no easy thing for the leader of my party to sit so close to a man who was the head of one of the most evil terrorist organisations known in the world, offering to share power with him in the future Government. I cannot forget the legacy that the IRA has left behind it, not only in Northern Ireland but in southern Ireland and in this country. Looking across the Chamber, I see the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in his place and I think of him and others who, like him, have been left with loved ones maimed physically and mentally. Only those who suffer in such a way know what that is, and understand truly the depths and degradation, and the suffering and anguish, which families go through as a result of terrorism. No one who has tried to detract from our stand, saying that we should not do what we are doing, ever brought an alternative to us. We asked for an alternative that they could offer us, and we would gladly have taken it, but no alternative was forthcoming.

Sinn Fein has come to the negotiating table with a lot of baggage, which has to be dealt with bit by bit. When I look at families who have been devastated, with the bodies still not returned to their parents or loved ones, it fills me with great grief and not a little anger. I think of families where little ones have had their mother or father taken from them and where the bodies are not as yet recovered. I think of the gallant forces of law and order—the RUC, the RUC Reserve, the UDR and all the other Army forces that have taken their stand to help us in Northern Ireland—and of the missing members in their ranks. We cannot forget that sorrow and we would be wrong to do so, because a nation or a country that forgets its past commits national suicide, which we cannot do.

I thank those who have spoken. I thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for his kind remarks. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord King, Lord Trimble and Lord Kilclooney, and others who have spoken in favour of what is taking place. I trust and pray the days that lie ahead will be days of humility and progress when we will see something done for the betterment of all our people and for what we ask for ourselves. What I ask for my grandchildren, I ask for every grandchild in Northern Ireland and in this United Kingdom. I think also about the soldiers of Great Britain who went to Northern Ireland and lost their lives, and about their families. It is inadvertent if I have left anyone out of my thanks, but I thank the House tonight for its indulgence, and I support this Bill.

8 pm

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I hope I will be forgiven for stretching the concept of “in the gap” a little, but we are dealing with legislation in a rather unusual way. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Paisley, personally for what she said, but I thank her far more on behalf of all the victims of the past 30 to 40 years. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, I will not crow about a

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missed deadline. It is not worth mentioning in the context of all that has happened.

I would like particularly to express my thanks—and, I think, the thanks of all noble Lords—to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for the way in which he has always handled these extremely difficult affairs, both when he was a Minister in the department and, perhaps in an even more difficult role, when he has not been quite so deeply involved but has always had to carry the can for whatever has been done. I am personally grateful to him and I am sure that the House is too.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I simply want to express my hope—against my judgment in many ways—that the new system of what I cannot call “power sharing” but I would call “power division”, which we see coming into force in Northern Ireland, will deliver a peaceful and prosperous future to that Province. It deserves it.

The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, said that he could not quite put his finger on the moment when the IRA/Sinn Fein endorsed the Good Friday agreement. Nor can I. I am not sure that the finger has yet been found that could be put on that moment. Perhaps it is in the future. We will hope so.

It is a pity that we now expect to see those who should have been tried for conspiracy to murder taking office as Ministers in a Government in this United Kingdom. But, as the House knows, I hold some curious, old fashioned opinions about these matters, and I hope I will be forgiven for that. So tonight, I suppose, with those words, I am the ghost at the feast. I devoutly hope that I will be seen as the ghost of Ulster past and not of Ulster to come.

8.03 pm

Lord Morrow: My Lords, I should like to make some brief comments on the events that have happened in Northern Ireland. I suspect that this House will have gathered from those who have spoken that there is no euphoria about what has taken place. All the emotive words have been used; I will not try to add to them. The dictionary has been exhausted in trying to capture the events of yesterday.

I want to say very sincerely that, as I look around this House, I see people who have been direct victims of the horrendous 35 years that Northern Ireland has had to come through. When I was but a boy—I was not very big; noble Lords might say that nothing has changed in that respect—I remember very vividly the news breaking that the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, had been shot and was fighting for his life. John Taylor, as he was then, comes from a different party from me, but I well remember that he was then a Minister in the former Stormont Parliament. I thought to myself, “Where are we going?”. Little did I realise that we would have to come through 35 to 40 years of sectarian terror, which would be waged in a most ruthless way by the most sophisticated

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terrorist organisation of anywhere in the western world. But we had to go through it.

The people of Northern Ireland are very resilient. They had to be, because what was imposed on them made things difficult. I want to say in this House today that all the suffering was not confined to one section of the community. Both communities suffered severely at the hands of ruthless people.

If noble Lords feel that I am not euphoric or dancing in the aisles, you will understand why. I know, from bitter experience, the legacy that has been left behind. I could challenge anyone within the sound of my voice today to come to Northern Ireland and find a family who has remained untouched by what has been called the Troubles. There would be a lot of searching and I suspect that no family would be found. All our families have been touched, some of them directly. In my family, I remember the day I got the phone call. What was his occupation? He was a mere lorry driver, whose vehicle had a bomb planted in it and he was blown on to the street. There he lay like a dog.

Let us hope that we are moving on. It has been said that we are in for a battle a day. I suspect that that is right, but I hope the battle a day will be a different battle a day, and that the battles will be fought in the chambers of power where we will debate our differences and agonise over them in that way, rather than by the bomb, the gun and the bullet.

8.08 pm

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, this legislation, true to form, has characteristic high drama and is emergency legislation. We all know that we would not have expected anything else. We also have a mutation in the concept of the gap, which I hope will not be taken as a precedent. I do not wish to introduce a sour note but I very much regret the delay to 8 May. I can find no convincing reason for that. I ponder whether it is just that the political parties in Northern Ireland cannot give up their addiction for always ratcheting up demands at the 11th hour. We must also brace ourselves for more ratcheting up between now and 8 May. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, warned against the rattling of collecting boxes, which was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble.

We hope that events will pan out as planned. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, produced a catalogue of problems that will beset the new Executive and Assembly, and rightly pointed out that these will be quite different in character from those he faced when he was the First Minister. I also endorse the warnings given by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in this regard: the future will be very different in detail and substance from that which went before.

It is also right to acknowledge the parts played over the years by the leading political actors in Northern Ireland, London, Dublin and Washington. Senator Mitchell played a seminal role, as did President Clinton. Given the composition of this House and its political bias, no one has mentioned another significant act, so I shall raise it. I refer to the Hume-Adams talks which played a profound role in

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initiating the debate and dialogue in Northern Ireland for the better. We should acknowledge that, though I doubt if many others will.

There will be bumpy times ahead, to be sure, but we must hope that they do not destabilise devolution. We wish Northern Ireland well after 8 May.

8.11 pm

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I am delighted that what has happened has happened. In my contribution to the debate held some four or five weeks ago by the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, I outlined what I believed would happen and I am happy to tell your Lordships that what I said then is almost exactly what has taken place. I also asked that those in power—the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister—would continue to be patient and steadfast and keep their nerve. That they have done, and we are where we are today.


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