Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:47 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 9:47 pm, 26th June 1985

When the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) was talking about policemen being driven out of a village in his constituency, I was surprised that he did not attract the attention of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) to the fact that not one policeman now lives in the west bank area of Londonderry city. I believe that the last policeman to live there, Inspector Duddy, was murdered. When the troubles first exploded, there were nearly 100 members of the RUC living on that side of the river. That says a lot about the area which the hon. Member for Foyle represents.

With every passing year, we seem to go through tonight's operation more mechanically, even to the extent of hearing much the same words from the Front Benches. As the leader of my party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) pointed out, we seem to have the impression each year that a massive change will take place in the system of governing Northern Ireland before we reach the same point om a similar date the following year.

We know perfectly well, of course, that we shall return next year because the Northern Ireland Unionist population will not accept the power-sharing that is being assiduously demanded tonight by the hon. Member for Foyle and the Secretary of State, and as has been demanded over the years.

The Secretary of State appears before us tonight as "Honest Hurd" because he, more than any Secretary of State in recent years, has stood up and demanded bluntly that the Unionist population should accept a power-sharing set-up in Ulster. Apparently that is the right hon. Gentleman's conception of what constitutes political and constitutional progress. Indeed, he was "Sunningdale Man" in person. We were surprised to note how clearly he revealed himself, because that attitude was carefully concealed by his predecessors and others for many years and was cloaked around with many fair words. Not that that mattered much, for most of us are used to tearing away the veil of nonsense that so often surrounds reality in this House. We are not surprised that unbending demands are being made again.

The hon. Member for Foyle told us that he wanted political and democratic development. It is a queer concept of democratic development to give a veto to a minority. That is what we are really asked for. No one has yet managed to explain exactly how that development follows any democratic principle. I have puzzled over this matter for many years, and I look forward to the possibility of it being explained to me this evening.

We are always told that if we accepted power-sharing and gave the SDLP a place in government, the IRA would melt away. I think the Secretary of State said that the support would drain away. That is utter nonsense. If a place is given to the SDLP, the IRA will simply say, "We imposed sufficient pressure to extract that measure from the Unionists." That measure will not be extracted from the Unionists by those means. The Unionist population will not have anything extracted from them by murderers or political pressure, because we are not going down that road. The sooner the Secretary of State and the House recognise that, the sooner political progress will become possible.

The Government continue trying to buy off people with titbits. That only whets the appetite and makes the position much worse. The sooner the Government realise the truth—perhaps they already do—and act upon it, the better.

I have always feared giving concessions in the face of violence, because concessions tend to increase the violence and the pressure to strengthen the position of the nationalist population in Ulster. It is not yet generally recognised that the SDLP has managed to get itself into a position where it is driven by the IRA. The hon. Member for Antrim, North drew our attention to what has happened in some councils in Northern Ireland. That certainly should be brought to the attention of hon. Members. The SDLP has simply given a place to Sinn Fein, which has been described not only by itself but by others as the political wing of the IRA—the group that articulates the IRA's political objectives. Sinn Fein has managed to get itself into a position where the SDLP gives support for council posts. The SDLP is so frightened of offending those who support Sinn Fein that it supports the representatives of the gunmen before it supports representatives of democratic, constitutional parties and even before it supports its own SDLP members who, we are told, are members of a constitutional party.

This is an unusual, damaging and dangerous position for any political party. I see no particular need for me to weep if the hon. Member for Foyle and his party wish to clasp the rattlesnake of the IRA to their breasts. If that means the end of them, I would not regret it. I clearly recall their beginnings and their willingness to lead violent mobs in the streets of Londonderry and elsewhere. I hold no brief for them.

The hon. Member for Foyle said that all elected representatives should be treated the same.