Encouragement of Terrorism Offences

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann 5:02 pm, 10th December 2020

At the outset, I feel that it is only right that I set out the motivation behind my request for this debate. I want this evening to take the House to the townland of Legananny, five miles outside Castlewellan in the parliamentary constituency of South Down in Northern Ireland—to a quiet, rural location, where both traditions lived together in relative harmony throughout much of the time now described by many as the troubles.

On 3 May 1985, William Heenan, a 52-year-old widower, went outside to feed some livestock in the yard. This was his home, along with his 12-year-old son, Sammy; sadly, William’s wife had passed away two years previous. It was the last morning that William would ever feed his animals. Sammy Heenan, William’s son, is now a grown man with his own family. I have known him for some time. He is a man of great character, great resolve and very strong faith. If his late father had grown old to see his son grow up, Sammy would have made him very proud. As a 12-year-old, Sammy’s life changed forever. This is his account of that morning in 1985:

“When I was a 12 year old child, I lived 5 miles north of rural Castlewellan. On that fateful morning on the 3rd May 1985 at 7am, I went out to find my father brutally murdered after I heard his final haunting and dying screams. He had been forced to his knees and shot twice in the top of the head at point blank range by a South Down PIRA gunman. The image of his face bloodied and unrecognisable as he lay on the ground that morning will be etched on my mind forever. After which I had to run to a neighbour’s house half a mile away to raise the alarm sobbing and in a state of utter despair.”

Sammy Heenan’s life story is replicated for many across Northern Ireland—mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends: murdered by terrorists. The broken-hearted remain, to live a life with psychological and physical scars that will never heal, and it is for those victims that I have asked for this debate today. Despite the scars, despite the lifetime of grief and of anguish, despite the trauma inflicted on them that no one should face, there are those within our society who glorify the terror that caused that pain, and who revel in the actions of those who planted bombs or shot people in the head. Sadly, Madam Deputy Speaker, some of them are Members of this House.

A little over five miles from the very spot where the IRA murdered William Heenan, in the town of Castlewellan sits the McNulty-Magorrian advice centre. It operates as the constituency office of the Member of this House for South Down (Chris Hazzard). For your information, Madam Deputy Speaker, McNulty was killed in a premature bomb explosion during an IRA attack on Castlewellan RUC station in January 1972, while Magorrian died after being shot by the Army in August 1974; both were Provisional IRA terrorists.

Given that an office has been named after two terrorists and a Member of this House is performing his role from that office, one would think that this Parliament—the bastion of democratic principles, the very place where parliamentary democracy was founded—would stop such an affront to democracy. This House knows only too well the barbaric actions of terrorists: Airey Neave, Ian Gow and Reverend Robert Bradford were serving Members of this House murdered by members of the same terrorist organisation that we have a parliamentary constituency office named after in South Down. Yet action is not taken.

I have raised this issue with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who has responded by saying she has no grounds to investigate, and, likewise, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says it is not a matter for it. By doing nothing, we facilitate—indeed, financially support—an MP who daily glorifies terrorists. I urge the Minister this evening to undertake to address this issue at the earliest possible opportunity.

In this instance, it is a case of doing what is right—of recognising the hurt and pain this causes innocent victims and saying, “This House will not facilitate or allow this to happen any longer.”