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Ending Suspension

Part of Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 8th February 2000.

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Photo of Mr Peter Mandelson Mr Peter Mandelson Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:46 pm, 8th February 2000

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Having listened to the debate, I have no doubt how most hon. Members would sum up the views of the House. There are those in the House who reject the entire notion of inclusive government. They would rather not have self-government than share it with those whom they consider beneath contempt.

Those who reject self-government because they cannot bear the idea of sharing it with others do not speak for the majority of people in Northern Ireland, who have demonstrated beyond doubt that they like devolution, they like having their own Executive, and they like having locally elected people who are democratically accountable—local voices taking decisions on local issues, and people with local accents in charge of local affairs.

What unites most of us is not a rejectionist mentality. Most of us, of whatever party or leaning, want the Good Friday agreement to succeed. There are aspects of it that some do not like, but they realise that the agreement stands or falls as a whole. It must be taken as a job lot. It cannot be cherry-picked. It must go forward together or not at all.

Most of us in the House commend the Unionists for letting devolution happen, and we share their disappointment that decommissioning has not followed. I do not believe that any hon. Member would honestly or realistically deny that the original deal following Mitchell was that if the Unionists went first, others would follow, and that following devolution, a start on decommissioning would be made not long afterwards.

What also joins most of us in the House is that we are not obsessed with attaching blame to anyone. We are not interested in spreading recrimination for our current difficulties. We would prefer people to make the agreement work, rather than stand accused of acting in bad faith. Accusing people of bad faith and of letting others down gets us nowhere. I am struck and I feel encouraged by the marked absence of recrimination.