Northern Ireland: Political Process

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:53 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 5:53 pm, 29th April 2019

I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of her statement. I share the horror of so many people about the death of Lyra McKee and the events that led up to it, and about the deaths and injuries inflicted on so many people that have had less attention. I really welcome the Government’s acknowledgement of the clear message of the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, as voiced so eloquently by Father Magill. That message calls for politics and peace, rather than violence and aggression. I say to the Secretary of State, however, that that clear message was being delivered long before the recent violence; it has been a constant refrain in Northern Ireland. The people have been asking for this for many long years, but the politicians here and in Stormont have failed to heed those calls. We should of course recognise those who did not fail and who brought hope. Perhaps ironically, they were often old warhorses from opposing sides of the stand-off that was Northern Ireland politics for so long. We all want to see their successors match that achievement.

What are the Government doing to bring civic society into the talks? Surely the people of Northern Ireland who are not involved in party politics should be part of them. Further, will the UK Government make a commitment that nothing will be done, either in these talks or in other proceedings, that might call into question the Good Friday agreement, or the UK’s good faith in protecting it? Will the Government do whatever is necessary to avoid a hard border? Finally, the Secretary of State said that she would not give a running commentary, but while I appreciate the need for space for all the parties to discuss the issues, I must point out that that is almost exactly the wording used during the Brexit negotiations. It strikes me that, in that instance, we would have been in a better place had the Government done more sharing and listened to advice in this Chamber.