Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 6:00 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I hope that noble Lords understand that I do not seek to reflect the views of the Catholic community. I give my own views based on conversations last week in Northern Ireland. It was the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, who, from the same Benches, told Her Majesty's Government that since the peace process began the key issue was intimidation. If the noble Lord reads what I have said previously in your Lordships' House and in another place, he will see that I have regularly criticised the knee-capping and intimidation campaigns of organisations like the IRA to try to impose lynch-mob rule. That is wholly unacceptable. I passionately believe in upholding the law and a police force which does that by consent. I believe that that unites everybody in the Chamber today.

Last week I asked a Catholic bishop why the hierarchy had not urged members of its community to play a greater role in the police force. He said that the hierarchy had never asked people to join the Garda. I said that that was not in itself an adequate response, given the circumstances in Northern Ireland. I support the observations made last week that the hierarchy in Northern Ireland must do more to encourage members of the nationalist community to accept the police service and join it. They should be convinced that the service is there for all members of the Northern Ireland community and participate in it. Therefore, in these unique circumstances the Church has a duty to underline the necessity of policing by consent and encourage Catholics to play a full part in that service. Patten recommended a neutral name, badge and flag.

The Secretary of State made clear in his remarks on 15th June that those were issues upon which he would act. He said that he remained absolutely determined to implement the Patten recommendations and achieve an effective and representative policing service which was accepted by every part of Northern Ireland. He is right. I believe that the Government deserve our full support for the proposals that they have placed before your Lordships' House. In turn, they deserve the wholehearted support of the Catholic community and its hierarchy in the creation of a police force which can serve both traditions in Northern Ireland in a fair, impartial and scrupulous manner.