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 Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough 10:45 pm, 26th June 1985

I thought that I had answered fully the first part of the first question, and I answered the second part earlier when I said that we believe that it is in the national interest to have on our western flank a nation that is at peace with itself, prosperous and a friend of our country, and that we should seek to achieve that unity through consultation with all the people in Ireland.

In relation to the second question, on negotiating with representatives of the IRA, I made the statement earlier that I had been on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph saying that we would talk with Sinn Fein, and talks mean talks. Talks, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough said, mean full and frank discussion. Had I been at those talks, my full and frank discussion would have involved telling them to set aside the Armalite and concentrate on the ballot box and the ballot paper.

I reiterate to the House, as we shall continue to do, notwithstanding barbs and asides, our total abhorrence of terrorism and all its works. To be sure, as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said earlier, we have seen the brotherhood of international terrorism recently in various events throughout the world. But terrorism is anathema to the very concepts of democracy in which we believe. Terrorism leaves widows and orphans, but does not find political solutions. It is very right and proper that in the debate that is to follow we shall draw proper attention to that. It must be stated very clearly that no members of the Opposition have accepted or accept violence.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North mentioned earlier 74 murders in County Fermanagh in 15 years. That situation is to be deplored whoever was the cause or the source of the murder.

The Opposition supports fully the continuation of direct rule. We accept that direct rule is the only option that we have before us tonight. It is essential for the governance of Northern Ireland. But direct rule cannot, nor should it be, used as a constitutional measure through which to discuss all matters which concern the citizens of the north and equally concern the citizens of the south.

I should like to end with a few lines of poetry: And not by eastern windows only,When daylight comes, comes in the light,In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,But westward, look, the land is bright. We hope to see the day when the lands to the west of us are indeed bright—bright in prosperity, with peace in the hearts of the people who live there; we hope that that peace will bring about prosperity and the partnership between the communities to which the Secretary of State referred earlier.