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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill Money

Volume 181: debated on Monday 19 November 1990

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Queen's Recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Secretary of State under that Act.—[Mr. Sackyille]

10.25 pm

I shall not detain the House for long. I wish to speak against moneys being provided under this Act for the expenses of the Secretary of State. Paragraph 1·12, on page 4, of the Colville report says:

"There is universal agreement that the struggle to eradicate terrorism in Northern Ireland must be conducted with the widest possible support from the community if it is to be successful. That is said by those, like the Workers' Party, whose recipe would include abolition of the emergency powers Act."
I adhere to that position in opposing money being spent in connection with the Bill and therefore oppose the measure itself. In no sense am I opposed to the community taking action to eradicate terrorism from its midst.

In a sense, a democracy is obliged to fight terrorism with one hand tied behind its back in terms of its policing and Army activities. It is the extent to which those limitations should be imposed that concerns us. A democracy is fully compensated for its limitations by its ability to operate by compensating techniques and extra authority. Instead of spending money in these areas, we should spend money in Northern Ireland on such things as instigating devolved government for the Province so that many of the measures that come before us for inadequate discussion can be more fully discussed in Northern Ireland itself. Because of the problems that that is liable to create in terms of majority rule, which has often trampled on minority rights in Northern Ireland, a Bill of Rights to guarantee social and political rights for all citizens is essential. Democrats have always argued that education is an important element in developing—

Order. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman knows that he is going very wide of the motion.

I am suggesting that it is inappropriate for money to be spent in relation to the Bill and that it would be far more reasonable if money were spent in various alternative areas which I am trying briefly to identify.

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot debate those alternative areas. He may refer to them, but he cannot debate them.

I was merely referring to them in passing.

I suggest that one of those areas is integrated education involving the two communities. That could develop through the teachers' training colleges, which seem to be the first possibility of an area in which we should move. More important than the spending of money is the expression of attitudes that need to develop in society so that nowhere is there any ambivalence about the right to life of people in Northern Ireland. All those who are bravely willing to stand up in Northern Ireland and advocate that that is a basic provision that should operate in a democracy should have the support of politicians. Rather than being involved in measures such as this, and the spending of money involved in the resolution, politicians should be speaking out on behalf of such people.

These brave people include Nancy Gracey of Downpatrick, who has organised a group called Families Against Intimidation. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) spoke of Catholics facing execution, kneecappings and other action by the IRA. Nancy Gracey's son was kneecapped by the Provisional IRA for joyriding. She has bravely been on television to express views that all hon. Members should wish to associate themselves with.

Recently there was another peace train initiative, with people travelling on trains between Belfast and Portadown that had been subject to disruption by paramilitary organisations from both sides of the sectarian divide. New Consensus, which operates throughout Northern Ireland, offers considerable hope for the future, and a body will be meeting in a Committee Room of the House on 27 November to try to extend its activities to Great Britain, so that there will be a support group standing for peace, democracy and progress throughout Ireland.

These groups require the oxygen of publicity. The Bill will deny the oxygen of publicity to Sinn Fein, but when Nancy Gracey appeared on a television programme to give her cause publicity, the Sinn Fein advocates used absolute nonsense to justify its activities. They have nothing proper to speak about, and their arguments can be countermanded by alternative arguments, and that should be part of the democratic process. Unfortunately, far too little attention is given to the people who stand out for peace, although they are arguing and advocating in their communities.

There are high hopes in the island of Ireland because of developments in the Republic of Ireland. The open hand of friendship has been offered by Mary Robinson, the new President, and has not yet been spurned by the different communities in Northern Ireland.

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman again that what he is saying, whatever its merits, has little to do with the motion.

I am suggesting that these avenues for expenditure are rather more appropriate than those suggested in the money resolution.

The repeal of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, which would further some of these developments, has been suggested by several hon. Members, and strong forces in Ireland, including Mary Robinson and Proinsias de Rossa, the leader of the Workers' party, have advocated such a course.

10.33 pm

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) thinks that the money spent under this resolution and the Bill would be better spent in the way that he suggests, not because I do not commend at least some of the organisations that he recommended spending it on but because the main expenditure made as a result of the resolution will continue to be for compensation—the biggest chunk of money— and payments for legal aid for bail applications. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would want to take money from either of these sectors, even to spend it on the good causes that he mentioned.

We know about Nancy Gracey and the peace train, and I have noted what the hon. Gentleman said. I am sorry that he failed to speak in the earlier debate, but he has now made his points.

Question put and agreed to.