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Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley 12:00 am, 7th April 1970

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has been converted after five years. Five years ago, in March 1965, the hon. Gentleman and others—and this is documented—raised point of order after point of order on Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. The hon. Gentleman can read all this in two article of mine in the Irish Times two months ago. On that occasion those hon. Gentlemen—and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) in particular—tried to prevent the discussion of Northern Ireland

Turning to the events of last week, I refer to an article in The Times on 4th April which referred to how this arose. It referred to an Orange parade on Tuesday: which was not re-routed in spite of protests. Inevitably the parade was regarded as a provocation and equally inevitably during the afternoon a Republic tricolour was produced.According to the Roman Catholics, troops arrested the man with the flag and held him for an hour while local vigilantes pleaded for his release. O crowd gathered, and would not disperse even when the man was freed. The vigilantes asked for time to break up the mob and, they claimed, were only given five minutes.The 'snatch squads' moved in. It was a critical situation made more critical—and again one has to understand the history of Ireland and the plantations in Ireland. I understand—and this is no ill-reflection on these soldiers—that the fact that this was a Scottish regiment, dressed in a particular way, was something which, imaginary or otherwise, was nevertheless resented by those people in Northern Ireland. It is not so much the fact that matters as the effect which it has on people.

I ask my right hon. Friend, first, to see that any political statement about the use of force in Northern Ireland is made through political channels and, second, to consider replacing the regi- ment to let tempers cool down. I ask those in the civil rights movement to play their part in cooling tempers down, and I ask hon. Members opposite to play their part in fighting the most evil forces present in Northern Ireland today, the Reverend Ian Paisley and his friends.

What is needed in Northern Ireland is the reforms which are still paper reforms and which have not satisfied those who have asked for reforms over the last five years. The Prime Minister must keep his promise of July, 1964, to introduce new and impartial procedures for the allocation of housing and for the setting up of joint tribunals in which particular cases of alleged discrimination in public appointments can be dealt with. I think that the Race Relations Act ought to be extended to religious discrimination and applied to Northern Ireland. The enfranchisement of local government electors will be of no use whatever so long as Unionists retain their stranglehold in Derry because of the gerrymandering still allowed to exist there. Until the Unionists are prepared to yield up Derry to the majority of the citizens and until the Unionists are prepared to say that when there is a majority in a town against them that majority has the right to rule, there can be no peace in Northern Ireland.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite have their part to play as well as hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. When there is an amnesty for members of the R.U.C. involved in the Bogside incidents while people who were defending their homes are still lying in jail, as well as for my hon. Friend for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) who has a six months' suspended sentence over her head and a youngster who is serving two years imprisonment, and when it took John Hume, my hon. Friend and many others to raise the Devenny case again after the refusal to look into people who had actually been identified as being involved in that affair, is there any wonder why there has been discontent below the surface over this period?

The message to my right hon. Friend must be that we cannot sweep all this under a khaki carpet, necessary as it is to have British troops there to straddle the barricades and prevent violence. My right hon. Friend cannot hide behind the Northern Ireland Home Secretary. We must admit frankly that in this situation social justice in Northern Ireland will be imposed from Westminster or not at all.

I conclude by saying that if mindless violence takes over I believe that another fifty years of Unionist rule will become inevitable and this will be catastrophic. But if it is so it is the result of fifty years of misrule by those same Unionists. The Unionists must be prepared to give up their privileges.

We in this House, on all sides, must deplore violence from whatever side it comes. In this unhappy hour, whatever party we belong to, we must join in deploring that violence, from whatever source it may come. We cannot ask for that violence to be ended until paper civil rights become full civil rights, and until the logic of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is fulfilled in one respect at least—that every one of the rights and privileges we hold dear in this Parliament are extended to the people in Northern Ireland.

There is one electoral way in which this can be done in which I agree with the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and that is by the introduction of proportional representation into Northern Ireland to ensure participation by the minority community as well as the majority.

I make no apology for saying that one day I believe that through a slow process Ireland will again be one nation and that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West misreads the situation. However, it will come not by force but by persuasion and by people living together as neighbours in mutual trust without discrimination, without bigotry and with understanding that the common enemies of the Protestant and Catholic working man in Belfast are the hon. Gentlemen opposite.