Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:10 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 9:10 pm, 26th June 1985

I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can say that people going to their church service is a coat-trailing exercise. I do not understand his mentality. He mentioned the Tunnel, which is a parade that goes to a local church every year. The hon. Gentleman is saying that it cannot go the way that it has gone for a 100 years, and must be banned.

I have told the Secretary of State that he cannot do this to traditional parades. I am talking not about protest parades or instantaneous parades to deal with some matter but about a parade that has gone on for 100 years. The parade in Castlewellan is a traditional one, and we should leave well alone.

We are told that the police will have difficulties, which is true. However, they have more difficulties when parades are banned. Far more police were brought into Castlewellan when the parade was banned—three times the usual number—than when it was carried out. I must speak up for the police of Northern Ireland. The police cannot live in the areas in which the voters of the hon. Member for Foyle are predominant. They can live only in Protestant and Unionist areas. In fact, at Rasharkin, in my own constituency, they have been driven out by the IRA.

Every policeman has been driven out of that area and must live among Protestants, yet how can those men live at peace among Protestant people when by a foolish Government act, dictated by Peter Barry, they get involved in confrontation with people who want to walk in traditional parades? This House had better take note of that message, because members of every section of the Northern Ireland community depend upon the police—in fact, they send for them—to protect them.

The police are being placed in an impossible position. That is unfair, and the Government should have second thoughts about this. It is not as easy as they may think. Traditional parades must be allowed to use the same routes as they have always done. Those who say that they will stop a traditional parade by force must be dealt with. If the Protestants said that they intended to stop the Hibernian march, the police would be sent to deal with them. Let us be fair and even-handed. That is all I ask, and the police deserve it.

I shall not go into detail about the state of some of the police stations on the border. They are a disgrace. A police representative told me, "We take young men and women from the best homes of Ulster who have volunteered to do the most difficult job that an Ulsterman can do, and we put them into pigsties." It is time that the Government did something about the state of border stations. They should get rid of the portakabins, and should give the policemen something to go home to after a hard day defending the people of Northern Ireland.

We have not had much joy from the Secretary of State. He told us that there will be no accommodation with killers, yet some of them are sitting in the council chambers of the Province. When we do something about it, he says that he believes that eventually "we will all act normally." One would be abnormal if one sat in a council chamber with a known murderer who says, "I want to kill you."

The hon. Member for Foyle said that Sinn Fein had a council chairman in Omagh. The Opposition Front Bench tell us that we should talk to that person, yet he said that if any Omagh council employee was shot by the IRA for wearing a police or UDR uniform such an employee was a legitimate target for IRA assassination. Am I being told that I or my party members must sit with that person, work with him in council committees and look up to him as chairman of that council? This House had better get the message — we shall never do it. If we cannot do it lawfully, as I believe we can, it will be up to the Government to take their own action, because the councils will become unworkable.

I smiled when the Secretary of State told us about councils working normally. Those councils are predominantly controlled by constitutionalists. That is why they are working normally. They are working normally in Ballymena, Ballymoney, Ards, Castlereagh and elsewhere. I support what was done by the Cookstown council. The matter cannot be discussed now as it is in the courts, but we shall see what the court decision is. Let all the councils be taken to court and let the law be tested. Let us see how strong the law is. If we fail, it will be up to the Government either to change the law or to put in commissioners if the councils become unworkable.

They have been dilly-dallying about that in Londonderry. It is surprising how people can be hoist by their own petard. When the Unionists walked out of Londonderry, Ministers told us that everything was working normally and that we did not need any commissioners. Then, when there was a rumpus, with other councillors causing trouble, the cry was, "We must have commissioners."

I am wondering whether the Minister will appoint Sinn Fein members to health boards. After all, he has under the Act a way out, and I hope that when the Minister replies we shall be told whether the Government intend to appoint them to health boards. That question should be answered tonight.

We have heard talk of speculation, but on one aspect there is no speculation. It is clear that the destiny of the people of Northern Ireland has been discussed between Dublin and Northern Ireland. A minority representative in this House knows all about it—because he goes there to be briefed — while the majority of people, including those I represent, know nothing about it. We are left out, yet they expect us, at the end of the day, to accept what they are doing.

I assure the Government that it will not be accepted. Nor need they tell me that they believe in the sovereignty of this House. Sovereignty involves not only legislating but applying laws. When there is a proposal to dilute the courts of Northern Ireland and to put on the bench there a judge appointed by Dublin, that is the beginning of the end of proper sovereignty over Northern Ireland. We shall have to wait and see what the proposals are, and the sooner we see them, the better.

If the talks continue in the way that they have been proceeding, if the speculation continues and the killings go on, and if the Government ban traditional parades, we shall be heading for a very serious crisis indeed. The sooner that this House wakes up to that, the better for all concerned.