Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:45 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of William McCrea William McCrea , Mid Ulster 10:45 pm, 26th June 1985

Many people who have witnessed this debate for several years now feel that this exercise is annual repetition and mere ritual. Yet, on behalf of those who sent me to this House, it is important to remind the Government that many people do not accept that direct rule is an acceptable form of Government for Northern Ireland.

Indeed, this House would do better if it listened to reality rather than to speeches such as that from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has visited one Loyalist home that has suffered loss, followed one Loyalist coffin or stood at one Loyalist grave, as I have done. Since I last spoke in this House, I have stood beside the coffin of a man from my district council area. He was simply a part-time member of the RUC—a sound, solid, honest, hard-working farmer who in the evenings sought to help his country in Her Majesty's forces.

As Willis Agnew was sitting in his car last weekend dropping off his intended wife at her home, the IRA shot him in the chest. Not satisfied with that his head was then battered in, and although he was dead, the trigger was pulled again. That gunman is the type of person with whom the hon. Member for Hillsborough wants us to enter a courtship.

On behalf of my constituents and the Loyalists of Ulster, I must tell the hon. Gentleman, "Whatever you demand, the Loyalists of Ulster will never soil the memory of those who have stood between us and the enemy by parleying with that enemy." The British Government faced Hitler and defeated those who stood against freedom. Until the day I die, I shall make no apology for fighting Sinn Fein and the murderers of my people on every corner. I shall never betray the trust of those people, whether or not it is demanded by the hon. Member for Hillsborough.

The hon. Gentleman can parley with Sinn Fein if he wishes—[Interruption.]] The hon. Gentleman has clearly demonstrated that his sympathy for those hon. Members who face the IRA is nothing more than crocodile tears. He would do far better if he kept his thoughts to himself instead of soiling this House with such hypocritical statements.

As a representative of this House, which believes in democracy, it is my right to defend those who believe in the right to live, and I defend that right whether my constituents are Roman Catholic or Protestant. I remind the House that many Roman Catholics joined the Protestants of Ulster and went over the top to defend the right of a free people. They faced Hitler and all those who challenged freedom.

Hon. Members should not speak as though every Roman Catholic is a Republican. Many Catholics in Northern Ireland are committed Ulster British sons and daughters, are proud of their British heritage and have stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain in time of war. The history as described by the hon. Member for Hillsborough was the biggest load of rubbish that I have ever heard. Instead of coming out with Republican propaganda, he should see the reality and tell the true story of the situation in our Province.

Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) is not now in his place. He spoke of two discoveries that he had made on visiting Northern Ireland. The first was that the Loyalists would not give up their British identity. I am delighted that he learned that, even though he thought the knowledge might result in him losing his head, so to speak.

The hon. Gentleman said, secondly, that the Republicans in Northern Ireland had a dream. I wish to make it clear that nobody is suggesting that a person in Northern Ireland cannot have a dream. But nobody who dreams of a united Ireland has the right to turn the country into a nightmare and make everybody else go through the mightmare of one coffin after another. Such a Republican dream for the future is not shared by the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

I have found it strange that it should seem a sin to claim to be British when making speeches in this House. It seems a crime that I should say that I am a British Ulsterman. Crime or not, I am one. I was born into a strong Unionist family, a staunch British home, and I make no apology to anyone, here or across the water, for my Unionism or British standards and principles.

We are told by the hon. Member for Hillsborough that the people who commit murder are political folk. They are not. They are psychopathic killers. They are whole-hearted murderers with murder in their hearts. They wish to destroy not only Protestants, because the sacrifice made recently in Newry — including one person from my constituency who happened to be in the station when the bombs went off — included several honourable and decent Roman Catholics who had joined the RUC to do their bit to defend the people of Northern Ireland. Let us not have statements that have no foundation.

I listened carefully to the remarks of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), whose every word seemed to be swallowed by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), who appeared to glance at the hon. Gentleman several times during his speech, as though hoping for an indication of approval. Let us be clear that the SDLP's hand is far from white in the troubles of Northern Ireland.

I wish that the hon. Member for Foyle was still in his place, because he misled the House. He said that wherever the SDLP was in control in local government, positions were given to members of all die other parties. The SDLP joined Sinn Fein in taking control of Magherafelt, and not one position—not even one of the simplest positions—was given to a Unionist.

The Unionists offered the SDLP the position of chairman and vice-chairman of the council, but the offer was not accepted. The SDLP had made an agreement with the friends of murderers and would-be murderers and was only too happy to give the vice-chairmanship to a Sinn Feiner who has clearly shown his colours since then. The chairman of Omagh council said that council workmen were legitimate targets. The vice-chairman of Magherafelt district council is on record as having said in the Chamber that he would back to the hilt the IRA when it declared certain people to be legitimate targets for murder.

The SDLP put the Sinn Fein member into power and joined with Sinn Fein for all other appointments. The only two councils in the Province where the SDLP did not join Sinn Fein were in the constituency of the hon. Member for Foyle. He knows as well as anyone that he wants to keep his seat safe and ensure the dominance of the SDLP in Foyle. It does not matter what happens in the rest of the Province — let Sinn Fein take the lead. The SDLP's hands are soiled.

A motion was tabled condemning the vice-chairman of the council for stating that council workers who donned the Queen's uniform were legitimate targets for murder, but the SDLP abstained. It would not condemn its Sinn Fein partners. One can easily prove from the council's records that SDLP members abstained from a vote condemning the murderous intent of the Sinn Feiners on that council.

SDLP members join the murderers when it suits them, but when it does not, they stand aside. They were offered the position of chairman and vice-chairman on the Fermanagh council, but they would not take those positions because they had entered into an agreement with their Sinn Fein partners.

The people whom I represent are sick and tired of Ministers trying to paint the SDLP members as constitutionalists. Left, right and centre we are told that the SDLP is a constitutional party. The SDLP's hand is far from clean in these troubles. As the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) said, it was the SDLP that led the parades and the civil unrest at the beginning of the troubles.

The people of Northern Ireland will not sell their birthright to anyone. We are British and British we shall remain. The hon. Member for Hillsborough said that he would threaten us with a referendum if the rest of the people of the United Kingdom said that they did not want this measure. That does not stop me from being British. By the grace of God, I shall be British until the day I die.

My constituents want to live in peace and in a place that provides prosperity for their children and to everyone, irrespective of who he is. They do not want to live with the murdering thugs who destroyed their kith and kin. I have carried to the grave two coffins bearing members of my own family circle—a 16-year-old lad, who was not a member of any organisation, and a 21-year-old lassie, who was blown to bits by the IRA. As I said in my maiden speech, I assure the House that I shall never soil their memory or that of any other innocent victim of the troubles by putting my hand to any deal that will be detrimental to our position in the United Kingdom. Direct rule must end. The Northern Ireland people must be given devolved government. The British Government owe it to the long-suffering, patient people of the Province to stop dillydallying and to give properly devolved government to the Northern Ireland people.