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 am not suggesting that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough was the person interviewed after the meeting with Sinn Fein. If the person who was interviewed wants to withdraw, I should be happy.

Northern Ireland is in a very serious state. Some people say that they are always hearing that. If anyone is so blinkered as to think that Northern Ireland is not in a serious state he knows nothing about what is happening. The House had better realise the seriousness of the situation.

I shall dwell in a moment on the seriousness of the state of morale in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That is an important issue and the House had better consider it. Why is the situation so serious? The Secretary of State does not like the plenary sessions in the Assembly. He seemed to give the impression that he would like to gag the Assembly. I wonder why, because some matters of great import are revealed in that Assembly.

The House is saying to us tonight "You should all talk. The Protestants should all be happy. Everything is well". Some might say that the Democratic Unionists are bigoted. I find it strange that the Secretary of State could have a meal yesterday with a person to whom he said he would not talk. I find that amusing. I shall return to that and defend Mr. George Graham. The statement in The Irish News had to be withdrawn and The Irish News had to apologise. Perhaps we shall now have the proper statement.

Mr. Raymond Ferguson is not known to be on the extreme Right wing of the Official Unionist party. He spelt out in the Assembly why there was such a problem among the Protestants of Fermanagh. He said that people thought that Fermanagh had an overwhelming Republican community, but that it had not because the community there is split almost 50:50. At the election the Republican groups gained their majority by only 4 per cent.

What has happened? In the last 15 years, 74 murders have been committed in County Fermanagh. That is what Mr. Raymond Ferguson told the Assembly. He said: Seven of those murders were carried out by Loyalist organisations"— one was carried out by a member of the British Armyand of five out of seven of those seven murders, the culprits have been punished by the courts and are now in gaol. Of the other 67 some people have been apprehended … offences such as conspiracy or involvement at some insignificant level. But I am not aware of one case in which any of the perpetrators of those 67 murders have been brought before the courts, sentenced, and put in gaol for their crimes. That was said by a person representing the area. What can he say? I ask hon. Members what, if they represented that area, they would say when a person in their constituency was murdered. Everyone says "Keep calm. Don't do anything. Don't say anything." A constituent who is a member of my party has some strong words to say about Sinn Fein and the IRA but the Secretary of State has said that he can not meet him. Next week he will have to meet him as a member of the Home Affairs and Security Committee of the Assembly. I find that interesting.

I do not shed any tears when an IRA man is given his just desserts. I shed tears for the people he murdered, for the orphans and the widows. I shed no tears for IRA murderers. Evidently that is a crime. It seems that we are not supposed to say that. I advise hon. Members to read in the Library the report of what the Rev. Ivan Foster said in the Assembly and then to decide whether the Secretary of State should take such a stand.

I represent Fermanagh in another forum. What do I say to the people of Fermanagh when I visit them? Do I tell them that everything is all right and that the security forces are taking care of everything? What do they say to me? They draw my attention to the murders of Protestants and tell me that no one has been arrested for committing them. They ask, "Are we to sit peacefully by and allow ourselves to be murdered?" That is one issue that is causing serious concern among the people of the border areas and the House needs to think about it and to meditate upon it. If the murderers are not being captured and are not being brought to court, there is no hope for the people living in the border areas. Indeed, a deep hopelessness has set in.

Three outrageous atrocities have taken place in Mr. Graham's constituency of Newry. What are we to say to the people of Newry? Are we to tell them, "Everything is all right. Everything is wonderful. It is better than it ever was before."? It would be extremely difficult to enter the homes which I have visited to spell out that message. The Secretary of State and his Ministers do not go to the homes of the families who have suffered as a result of the atrocities. They do not face these people. They might send a letter to them, but that is all. They do not hear the message that we receive from them. The hard-pressed Protestants of Northern Ireland are facing atrocities day in and day out.

I was present when the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) spoke in a debate on Northern Ireland about having an inquiry into what happened at Killeen. It is time that an inquiry was put in train by the Secretary of State. I have had conversations with police officers and they feel that the Killeen incident could have been prevented. They have told me that such events were happening regularly and that there should have been a proper Army cover and presence. We are talking about police officers who went to their deaths. That is the factor that is troubling and worrying the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Foyle said that people should be allowed to walk when and where they like. Having said that, he expressed certain considerations. He should remember that it is councillors and Assembly Members of his party who are saying that people will not walk when and where they like. There are Roman Catholic traditional parades in North Antrim and they include areas that are predominantly Protestant. The parades have taken place for years and no one says anything to those who participate in them. The paraders have always walked through these predominantly Protestant areas and they will continue to do so. That will happen because it has always been the recognised and accepted practice. They walk through Portglenone and other areas in North Antrim that are predominantly Protestant. That is true of the Hibernian parades on 15 August and nothing is said about them. The hon. Member for Foyle spoke about the parade in the Tunnel area. Does he know the Tunnel area? Does he know how many houses are in that area? There are 70 houses in the road that faces the Tunnel area and 26 of them are boarded up. Does he know that? Is he aware that that is an area that Orangemen have processed along for over 100 years?