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Terrorist Links

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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If he will make a statement on the links between (a) Sinn Fein and (b) the Provisional IRA and (i) Batasuna and (ii) ETA in Spain. [120568]

The political and ideological relationship between Sinn Fein and Batasuna are well attested, as evidenced by recent press statements from Sinn Fein.

The Minister will surely be aware, if she listens to her intelligence advisers, that ETA-Batasuna and IRA-Sinn Fein are identical and integrated organisations. In the case of our home-based IRA-Sinn Fein organisation, the Sinn Fein president and chief negotiator sit in the army council. The Minister should also be aware that under the definition of proscription of organisations in the Terrorism Act 2000, Sinn Fein should be on the list of proscribed organisations. Is it not time that the Government had the same courage as the Spanish Government and put Sinn Fein on the proscribed list until it acts as a democratic party?

The hon. Gentleman is right that Sinn Fein is the IRA's political wing and as such the two are inextricably linked. However—it is important for us all to bear this in mind—the Spanish do not regard Batasuna as supporting the peace process. Sinn Fein does support the peace process. Unlike ETA—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may disregard that if they wish, but unlike ETA the IRA is on ceasefire, and it is worth bearing in mind the difference in the behaviour of the two organisations. However, hon. Members will know, and will have heard the Government state many times, that ceasefires on their own are no longer enough to restore trust and confidence and to allow the re-establishment of the institutions. The IRA has to make it absolutely clear that all paramilitary activity, as set out in paragraph 13 of the joint declaration by the British and Irish Governments, will come to an end.

The Minister has admitted that Sinn Fein and the IRA, a terrorist group operating in part of the United Kingdom, are inextricably linked. Why, then, do the Government persist in trying to insert into all accountable Executive positions in part of the United Kingdom a group linked to and inextricably part of a terrorist organisation? Despite the Secretary of State's determination to close his eyes to reality, if he looks along this Bench in the House of Commons today he will see the reality—that the policy of supporting Sinn Fein in Government in Northern Ireland is supported only by a rump of the Unionist party as led by—

I repeat that, unlike ETA, the Provisional IRA remains on ceasefire. The cost to Spain in terms of ETA's continuance of its terrorist programme has been 46 deaths since 1999. The comparisons with the Provisional IRA deserve scrutiny. The Provisional IRA, in our assessment, remains on ceasefire. However, as I said earlier, and it bears repeating, ceasefires on their own are no longer enough.

The Minister will be aware that all the structures to deal with terrorism must work properly, whether in Northern Ireland or outside it. Will the Minister confirm that, as of now, necessary investigations into the criminal activities of loyalist paramilitary groupings cannot be properly processed by the police ombudsperson for the very good reason that the Government will not fund those investigations? Will the Minister take the opportunity now to tell the House that the Government will fund at least three investigations into not just serious irregularities, but murders?

I am afraid that I do not agree with my hon. Friend on the point that he has made. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland received the whole of the budgetary requirements that she put forward in the case that she made. We met her request in full. The cases that she takes forward are a matter for her to prioritise within the budgets that she is required to manage.

The Minister may maintain that the IRA "remains on ceasefire", to use her words, but the reality is that the current problems in Northern Ireland politics are caused by the IRA's failure to complete and the Government's repeated concessions to it. Is she aware of the recent poll conducted by Millward Brown Ulster, which clearly states:

"If the IRA was to disband, 76 per cent. of Unionists would support the Good Friday agreement"?
Is it not crystal clear where the Government's efforts must lie?

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's comments. The complete transition to exclusively peaceful means is the contribution that all paramilitary organisations could make and which the people of Northern Ireland deserve. As I have said previously, statements or words on their own are not enough. The people of Northern Ireland, in order to have the confidence that all parties engaged in the peace process are fully wedded to democratic means, need to see actions that follow through on the words that they say.