Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:35 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough 10:35 pm, 26th June 1985

I emerge from these debates feeling more depressed than ever. If we are left with the two major groupings in Northern Ireland, it seems that there is no hope. We shall continue discussing the issue endlessly unless the British people intrude at some stage. Speaking from this side of the water, I feel that I am intruding on a recital of private grief. Listening to those who represent the two major groupings in the House is rather like being transported to Ulster. I should love the British people to listen to these debates. There is a sense of hopelessness and the two sides which have struggled this evening seem to feel that the struggle will continue for ever. They do not produce any plans that are designed to solve the problem.

I have considerable respect for the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux). He delivers his speeches with immense moderation, but his grave underestimate of the forces ranged against Unionists emanated from almost his opening sentence. He suggested that events in Northern Ireland reflect a desire on the part of those engaging in shooting and bombing to be wicked. That implies that they have no cause to do so. Those who are using the bomb and the gun are deeply convinced politicos, and to fail to understand that is to fail to understand their motivation. They will continue to fight because the Ulster Unionists want to return to the old Stormont regime.

Hon. Members talk about the past and the marching season. They talk about marching through an area—I do not know whether this is true—in the knowledge that it will be an act of sheer provocation for those against whom they are ranged. The marches continue year in and year out. One can visualise the rolled umbrella and the sash which father wore, which was worn by Willy and so on. They parade up and down with the pipes in the obscenity of the marches, but no solution of any kind is forthcoming from them.

When I used to speak to my constituency party it never wished to discuss the Irish problem, but for the past two years the local party has asked for a report on Northern Ireland. The subject has been asked for. The Northern Irish Members talk to us as if we are foreigners and the Ulster tail wags the Westminster dog. It is time that the British people began to intervene or it is clear that no hope is emanating from the Northern Ireland Unionist parties.

The political struggle that takes place seems alien to many, and there are those in this place who want to re-enact it all over again. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley told us that the Unionists had never done anything wrong. He knows that they drew a line around an area of Northern Ireland and proceeded to suppress the minority from whom they had taken land. Yet they contend that they did nothing wrong and that all the trouble came from nothing. Hon. Members laugh, but I ask those who do so to offer a solution to the problem. The barreness and the sterility of their argument means that debates such as this will go on eternally. There is never any admission of error.

If a referendum were held, we would have to come out of Northern Ireland straight away. At least 70 per cent. of the British people would say that it was time that we came out. The British people were ready to intervene, but time has gone on, and a sense of helplessness pervades us.