Belfast Funeral (Shooting Incident)

– in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 16th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon , Newry and Armagh 3:50 pm, 16th March 1988

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have consideration, namely, the shooting incident at the funeral today in Belfast of the three people shot by security forces in Gibraltar. Right hon. and hon. Members may be unaware that the incident has taken place. After the funerals had been concluded peacefully and with dignity, there was an attack on the mourners. Three people have already been killed and 23 people have been seriously injured.

Over the past 20 years, we have seen many instances of the obscenity of violence. This one involves the desecration of consecrated ground in a cemetery. The type of sacrilegious act that we have seen today must revolt every person who is aware of the enormity of the type of crimes that we have seen. Those of us who have condemned and will continue to condemn every act of violence from wherever it may come must be aware of the implications of the terrible assault today.

Over the past 20 years, we have become the killing fields of Europe. On public television, on the first day of this week, the Ulster Defence Association, which is not banned or proscribed, clearly announced to the people of the North of Ireland that it was stepping up its campaign against the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. As a result of that, one young man was shot at his work yesterday morning and at least three people have been killed today.

In the light of that announcement and the horrific offences today, we must take this opportunity to ensure that the voice of the House is heard again calling upon the Government to ensure that that organisation, which is committed to bloody murder, is proscribed, as it should have been long ago.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Member has asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing an important and specific matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the shooting incident at the funeral today of three persons shot by security forces in Gibraltar. I have listened with great concern, respect and sympathy to what the hon. Member said. As he knows, my sole duty in deciding whether a matter should be given precedence over the Orders of the Day is to decide whether it meets the criteria laid down. I regret that I cannot find that that is so, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We understand that news of the awful events in Northern Ireland is still coming in. Will you confirm that, should the Government wish to make a statement this evening, you or your deputies will facilitate the making of a statement? In view of the grievous events in Belfast, the sooner the matter is reported to the House the better.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I fully understand the concern of the whole House about the matter. Of course I shall bear carefully in mind what the hon. Member has said.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I realise the difficulty of the situation and that statements are statements, but when tit-for-tat killings start, little can be done. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Secretary of State to use the available channels to get messages to the heads of the paramilitary organisations telling them that, unless they assert control, the bloodshed will go on for weeks, that the House has had enough of it, and that something must be done. The authority is in Northern Ireland, and the British security forces can play little part in this.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I fully appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said. His background will, I know, ensure that his comments will be carefully noted.