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

My remarks are larger than the Heenan family and the hurt caused to them. My hon. Friend is right that the glorification of terrorism anywhere is wrong and has repercussions for innocent victims.

When I told Sammy Heenan that I had secured this debate, he asked me to make this plea on behalf of him and the many victims of terrorism in South Down:

“How can we as a progressive society in 2020 continue to countenance the repugnant naming of an MP’s constituency office in the United Kingdom after two dead IRA terrorists? The symbolism attached to this office-naming is massive and morally obscene, thus inadvertently legitimising every terrorist act perpetrated against UK citizens. I implore this Parliament to exhaust every avenue in righting this grievous wrong, which continues to cause affliction to the innocent of our country. As a Parliament, please be cognisant of our traumatism and use whatever means necessary to ensure terrorist revisionism such as this ceases to be funded and tolerated.”

I cannot add any more to that, Madam Deputy Speaker.

It is important that, as we in Northern Ireland look to the future, those who want to revel in the evil deeds of the past, to seek to re-write that past and make acceptable the murder and mayhem terrorists imposed on our country, are not aided and abetted by our accommodation of such a perversion of what actually happened. To enable that in any way will only serve to bring about a generation who believe such heinous crimes to have been justified, acceptable and worthy of celebration.

Only this week, members of the County Armagh ladies camogie team—a Gaelic game, for those unfamiliar with the term—were videoed celebrating success on the pitch with repeated chants of, “ooh ah, up the Ra!”: a clear reference to the IRA, a proscribed terrorist organisation responsible for the killing of some 1,700 people. How utterly depressing. None of those girls was alive during the worst years of IRA terrorism, yet this chanting was part and parcel of their celebrations.

Closer to this place, earlier this year, London Young Labour tweeted a picture of the Falls Road mural dedicated to the IRA man, Bobby Sands. They wrote:

“On this day in 1981, socialist and republican Bobby Sands died as a PoW following a hunger strike during which he became an elected MP. We remember him and continue to fight for an end to imperialism and for a free and united Ireland.”

Madam Deputy Speaker, Bobby Sands was a bomber. Bobby Sands was not a prisoner of war. He was a terrorist—a man so consumed with hatred that he killed himself. Yet here we have a youth wing of the official Opposition in this place lauding this man. What does that say to victims?

There are many, many other examples of how this encouragement and glorification of terrorism happens in our society: the Policing Board member who describes the shooting of a prison officer in the head as one of the “best ops”; the Gaelic football grounds and competitions named after IRA men; and the Northern Ireland Executive Ministers who attend glorification events. Madam Deputy Speaker, if Members of any other party in this House were to do that for any terrorist event or organisation, it would not be accepted.

I have a young son, Charlie. I want him to grow up in a society that has values, that has respect for the rule of law, and where people are at peace with one another. Yet I look at a society today where the very encouragement and glorification of terrorism goes largely unchallenged. In such a society, real reconciliation cannot happen. For in such a society, those who suffer most, our victims, are not respected—they are insulted. Until this stops, until those who engage in this behaviour cease and recognise the hurt and the wrongs they do and have done, we will never have that real peace we crave.