Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:56 am on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Ken Maginnis Mr Ken Maginnis , Fermanagh and South Tyrone 12:56 am, 26th June 1985

In the few minutes at my disposal, I wish to deal specifically with internment which, happily, the Secretary of State has decided not to exclude from the revised Act.

As a legacy of Bennett, Ulster now has no proper way in which to deal with a suspect. When a suspect terrorist is taken in for interrogation, he simply sits without speaking, co-operating or justifying himself. He merely waits for two days—or if necessary seven days—until he is released. The effect on our police force is demoralising. What is the point of a policeman trying to exact a confession or explanation from a terrorist when he knows that in the final analysis he is likely to be complained about, as a result of which police time will be wasted investigating false allegations?

It is not that we do not know who the terrorists are in Ulster. The Secretary of State will no doubt confirm that on 29 November last year I asked him if he was aware that one Peter Sherry, who stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in a local government by-election, recently used his manifesto to forecast which people would be murdered, and three of those murders have already been carried out?"—[Official Report, 29 November 1984; Vol. 68, c. 1075. I later explained that Peter Sherry was walking free around the streets of the town in which I live planning further murders. The police knew it, yet when they brought him in for questioning they were unable within the seven days to get a word out of him and he was released.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that what I said last November has been proved to be true? Is Peter Sherry one of the terrorists who, with guns in his possession, was captured in the recent round-up? He brought his terrorism from the streets of my town to this country. That is what the police have to put up with.

That is why I want the Secretary of State to take a long, hard look at the provision on internment. Safeguards already exist, such as the provision of advisers, and other safeguards may be necessary. I regret that time does not permit me to develop the point, but if it is decided that a person should remain in detention, that person should come before the courts and prove his innocence. Let us put the onus of proof fairly and squarely on the person detained. Let him prove his innocence.