Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:10 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 9:10 pm, 26th June 1985

I shall leave it to the two Front Benches to sort that out. I know what the people of Northern Ireland think, and how the statements from the two Front Benches will be interpreted by them.

From listening to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) one would think that the SDLP is characterised by a sweet reasonableness. It is strange that in his city his party excluded every Democratic Unionist member from every committee when it first took office in the Londonderry city council. [Interruption.] I am talking not about the present position, but about the position when Democratic Unionists were first elected to that city council. They were excluded by the SDLP from every office in their first term.

The hon. Gentleman tells us that we should all be talking. The Secretary of State glided or, perhaps, skated over why the talks between the Unionists and the SDLP did not come about. It was a careful bit of scheming. He talked about the elections to come, but it has nothing to do with that. Let me put the record straight. For nine months the Democratic Unionists asked the SDLP to talk. The Official Unionists and the Alliance party asked the SDLP to talk. What happened? We were put off and told that the matter would have to be decided at an executive meeting. We were told this, that and the other. Then, strangely, on a radio interview the hon. Gentleman said that he would like to speak to the IRA army council. He knew perfectly well that if he spoke to it, the people whom I and the Official Unionists represent would not expect us to speak to him.

I told the hon. Gentleman face to face on Ulster television that if he spoke to the IRA army council, he would close the door to the Unionists. Yet the hon. Gentleman was happy about that. He was glad to close the door, slot the bolt, put on the chains and padlock them because he did not want to talk to the Unionists. Now the hon. Gentleman says that we should all be talking and that we should re-assess the position. He read a homily to me that I should reassess my position.

The hon. Gentleman was invited to send representatives to the Report Committee. Did he go? If he is invited to Dublin, he can go immediately. If he gets an invitation from the IRA army council, he can make himself conspicuously low key. He can disappear, get some man to drive up in a car, take him here, change cars and so on, and he can tell the Government that if they question him, they will get no information from him about where die army council men are. Yet he could not come to the Report Committee. Nor could Bishop Daley. He makes wonderful statements about us all re-assessing our position. He was invited to the Report Committee but not even he could come to put his point of view. Therefore, for the hon. Gentleman to hold forth in the House and to condemn Unionist representatives for not talking is a fraud and a deceit. We have said that we will talk, and we have asked for talks, but the door has been closed.

I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West that the Government's attitude is ambivalent on this issue. If Ministers refuse to talk to Sinn Fein, their officials should not be asked to do the dirty work. I want to make that clear in the House. But what has happened? The Government will not talk to Sinn Fein, but we are asked—the Loyalist people of Northern Ireland—to talk to Sinn Fein. I find it strange to hear the hon. Member for Foyle talk about targeting. I do not know of any SDLP councillors who have been shot dead by the IRA. I do not know where the list is. It is the Unionist people who are targeted by the IRA. They are shot dead, but what do we find? We find that the Government refuse to accept the recommendation of the Baker report or to ban Sinn Fein, which is the IRA.

The idea that the members of Sinn Fein are different from members of the IRA is an atrocious lie. They are one and the same. What is more, the godfathers are now identified. The IRA leaders are now councillors. We know who they are, and what they stand for. They have come out into the open. They have the cheek to say to us, "Recognise us. We are democrats. We want to do the decent thing." Those people have records of crime. They have been engaged in activities against the kith and kin of Unionist Members. We are forced to sit with such people They are out to plan more murders.

I was in the House when the Birmingham bombing took place. I know what the strong Left-wing Labour Members said. It was all right while the IRA was killing Protestants in Ulster. That did not matter. When they came home and started to kill their kith and kin here, those hon. Members denounced them strongly. They realised what they were.

The House has asked us to sit down with those people and treat them as councillors, enter into negotiations with them and to sit with them on committees. My party will not do that. What is more, an Act passed by this House gives us the opportunity to set up a committee. If it wants to exclude someone from that committee the council has the right, under the legislation, so to do. Does the hon. Member for Foyle think that we are fools and that we shall not take advantage of the legislation when those murderers are pushed down our throat by a Government who will not talk to them? If he thinks that the Unionist people will have them pushed down our throats he has another think coming. We shall not co-operate with them and we are doing what we can within the law passed by this House to exclude them, and we shall continue to do so.