First Day

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 6th May 1992.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 5:21 pm, 6th May 1992

I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment to your high office. I am sure that you will order the business of the House in the best interests of every Member and that Back Benchers especially will have your protection. I think that we entered the House about the same time and have served for many years, although I have more grey hairs than you.

The penultimate paragraph of the Gracious Speech states: In Northern Ireland, my Government will continue their efforts to eliminate terrorism through resolute enforcement of the law, combined with progressive economic, social and political policies. They will promote the re-establishment of stable institutions of government within a framework of positive relations with the Republic of Ireland. I welcome that statement in the speech from the Throne and the fact that the Prime Minister has confirmed the Government's intention to be resolute in the elimination of terrorism. The House will be aware that there is a new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. When he arrived in our Province he said: Terrorism will be defeated. We cannot tell when but the time will come when this evil will be ejected from our midst —pray God never to return … The entire Government from Prime Minister downwards is committed first and foremost to the defeat and elimination of terrorism from whichever quarter from within the community it may come. Those are strong words and they are welcomed by the entire right-thinking community in Northern Ireland, but to give them validity there must be definite action. The spiral of appalling killings in the Province at the moment becomes more and more horrendous as 1992 advances. That demonstrates that the security policies of successive Governments have not succeeded.

Already this year 47 people have been killed. We are not yet half way through the year but that figure represents more than half the total number of people killed in the Province last year. Since the current violence began in 1969, 2,999 people have died in Ulster. Those are sobering figures. Last year, 86 people were killed. Not content with the bombing of military targets and police stations, the terrorists have gruesomely demonstrated their desire to murder civilians and security personnel to bring about their hideous objectives. There have been horrendous killings of innocent mothers and children and of people going about their normal business. Such a sad and terrible litany of killing and mayhem shows that the Government must put their resolution into action, and such action must be shown to be eliminating terrorism.

I look forward to a change in some of the security policies that have so evidently failed. The supply of oxygen must be taken from the terrorists so that at long last it will be made clear to them that men of violence have no place in our society and cannot achieve their goals. I remind the House that the Government submitted to those men of violence when they signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Concessions as a consequence of violence encourage greater violence. Sadly, we in Northern Ireland have reaped the whirlwind of the Government's concessions to violence.

As the House may know, talks about the future governance of the Province have recommenced. I am sure that the House wishes those who take part in the talks well. They will not be easy because there are many problems and difficulties. At the last meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference on 27 April, the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said that Her Majesty's Government would rise from the table still reaffirming that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority living there wished it. I welcome today's statement by the Prime Minister that he is prepared to defend the union of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. As that statement is implemented, it will go a long way towards showing the terrorists that they will not win. Two years ago the previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said: Although the constitutional question has often seemed central to matters in Northern Ireland, I turn to it now in the hope of putting it to one side. We regard the position as clear. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom in national and international law. It is part of the United Kingdom because that is the clear wish of the majority of people of Northern Ireland. There will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland unless or until the majority of people there want it. That seems unlikely for the foreseeable future. I believe that most people in this House, and I number myself among them, would wish to see the Union continue, but the principles of democracy and self-determination mean that the people of Northern Ireland must themselves be the final arbiters.By virtue of its constitution the Republic of Ireland has since 1937 also claimed sovereignty over Northern Ireland. We do not accept or recognise that claim, which has no basis in our law or, equally important, in international law. That claim is, I know, seen by some in Northern Ireland, and in other parts of this country, as a major stumbling block to the development of constructive relationships. I do not regard it as helpful."—[Official Report, 5 July 1990; Vol. 175, c. 1140.] I welcome that statement, and its reaffirmation by the new Secretary of State. The House should be aware that when the talks were called an agenda was drawn up and agreed to by all the parties. The House will be aware also that there are three strands to the talks. The first strand is the constitutional politicians of Northern Ireland, the parties that they represent and the United Kingdom Government. The second strand is the constitutional representatives of Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland. It is to deal with the implications of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in regard to the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the attempt that underlies the talks to get a new agreement to replace the former one.

I regret that southern Ireland has publicly acted in bad faith. On 27 April, after the most recent meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference, Mr. Andrews, the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic, had this to say about the talks: We come with our agenda, they come with their agenda and we discuss both agendas". Yet all the parties to the talks had the agendas put before them and were asked to say yea or nay. Why does the Irish Republic want the change? Mr. Andrews said that the legal basis of Northern Ireland's constitutional position within the United Kingdom was the Government of Ireland Act 1920. He said that that Act must be put upon the table, as it were, and that it must be negotiable. He asserted that it was on a par with the claim that is set out in articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Republic's constitution that the Republic has jurisdiction over Northern Ireland as part of Her Majesty's kingdom.

As a representative of the people of Northern Ireland in the House, I wish to make it clear that the Government of Ireland Act is a legal Act under which Northern Ireland stands as part of the United Kingdom. It makes no claim against anybody's territory. It states simply that the six north-eastern counties of Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom. However, the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic tells us that the Act is on a par with an illegal claim—not only is it illegal, it is immoral and criminal. Whenever an IRA man takes a gun and shoots a police officer, a soldier or a civilian he justifies that act by saying that he is trying to achieve the objective that is set out in the constitution.

The former Secretary of State said that the talks would take place without the dilution of United Kingdom sovereignty on the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said: the harsh reality is that whether or not Unionists have the academic right to a veto on Irish unity, they have it as a matter of fact based on numbers, geography and history and they have it in the exact same way as Greek or Turkish Cypriots have a factual veto on the exercise of self-determination on the island of Cyprus. Yet the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic, at this late stage, is prepared to impose another agenda, not agreed. I am glad that the Prime Minister said today that the Union is not negotiable. My hon. Friends and I, my colleague the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), and other Northern Ireland Members on the Opposition Benches will not be at any table to negotiate the Union. That is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, and only for them. They spoke once again in the general election, and they spoke rightly. The House should examine the voting figures in Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland voted for Unionist candidates in a way that straddled the religious divide. Roman Catholics vote for the Union as well as do Protestants. That should be put firmly to the House.

I have taken the opportunity to put grave matters before the House so that hon. Members will be aware of the difficulties that we face in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, Members of both Unionist parties are determined to do their best at the talks, within the agenda that is agreed, to help to bring stable government to Northern Ireland, a fair and stable form of government which means that everyone who wants to live in peace and to exercise his civil and religious beliefs will find the fullest opportunity to do so. It is to that goal that we are dedicated.

I am concerned with two other matters that appear in the Queen's Speech. First, there is the proposed lottery Bill. My view about a national lottery is well known. I do not think that any Government should say that they cannot finance what needs to be financed without the turn of the wheel of fortune. I do not believe in that. I believe that the Government have a responsibility to find a way properly to finance the causes that need to be financed. I have made my position clear in the House before.

As for the Maastricht treaty, I was rather amused when the leader of the Liberal party said that we must all conforms to a single system of election in Europe. None of the European countries conforms to a single election system. For instance, I am elected to Strasbourg on the basis of a different system from that on which I am elected to the House. I am elected on the basis of STV. That stands not for Scottish television, but for "single transferable vote". People say that that is not a fair system; they say that there should be a list system, or a combination of constituency and list systems. Europe has not perfected its system. When it has produced the perfect system, then it will be time for us to follow the same route.

My views on Europe are also well known. I am greatly disturbed by what is proposed. I heard someone say in the House that the European Parliament should have greater authority, but the European Parliament is not like this Parliament. In that Parliament, we have no Executive, and no Government responsible to that Parliament. We have Mr. Delors, who thinks that he is the new Napoleon and that he will rule Europe by diktat.

Those of us who have sat in the Strasbourg Parliament —and I have sat there for 12 years—know that the system there is altogether different. There, we have no Government; we have no authority. All legislation in Europe emanates from the chosen few in the Commission. I see that Mr. Delors now wants to destroy the Council of Ministers as well. He will put his hand to anything to get his way. It is time for the House to say to Europe, "Set your house in order."

It would be a strange irony, would it not, if a referendum in the Irish Republic brought down the Maastricht treaty? If that happens, as it may well do, where will Maastricht be? It will be buried in a Sadducee's grave, from which there will be no resurrection.