Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Conservative 6:30 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I wish to speak to my Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5, and to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rogan.

It has been a wide-ranging debate and we have heard most of the arguments before. What is sad is that progress is very slow. The situation does not change. Let us consider for a few moments the environment that pervades in Northern Ireland. How did we get to the peace agreement, the Good Friday agreement, the Belfast agreement, or whatever it is called? Why was it necessary? The main objective of the agreement was to stop Sinn Fein/IRA murdering people and to attempt to remove the motivation for loyalist terrorists to murder people. That is why we are there; let us be quite clear about that. Let us also be quite clear that this debate is not about one of the finest police forces in the world. It is about the name of a police force. Thanks to the Patten report, that proud name has been lifted from the force and put into the political arena as a football or rugby ball to be kicked around, unfortunately by politicians from all parties and several nations, with scant regard for the members of that proud force.

We need a police force in Northern Ireland. We have a serious crime situation. We have a serious terrorist situation, whether anyone likes it or not. It is vital that we have a fine, well-trained, well-equipped, loyal and neutral police force. That police force--what is today the RUC--has proved itself in recent years to be all of those things. I accept that in the days of my father and others in Stormont things were different. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned his maiden speech. I used Bernadette Devlin's maiden speech as a basis for my maiden speech in this House. I made the point then that she was right in most of what she said in her maiden speech. But the environment had changed. We had an equality commission and a fair employment commission. The environment over there had changed. There was not a need for that kind of uprising and trouble making. But, of course, the IRA jumped on the band wagon and attempted to pursue a campaign, which it did very successfully for 30 years, to unite Ireland by force. All sides have been protected and cared for by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The Good Friday agreement is about sharing. It is about an inclusive community. It is about bringing together various groupings who have been at war with one another and have been forced to create barriers between each other. It is about creating an all-inclusive society to live in this kingdom in a law-abiding manner. I suggest to the House that Her Majesty's Government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Armed Forces and people in many walks of life, from those who work in industry, the Civil Service and quangos to those who serve in the police force, have worked extremely hard to bring about that society. Who has not played a part in bringing about that society? Who has so far given nothing? The answer is the IRA--the terrorists--and to a large extent, although I know that people will talk to me about Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, the Irish Government.

To return to my theme of sharing, surely to goodness, if we are to have an all-inclusive society, we must have one police force. And surely to goodness that one police force must consist of people from all the different quarters of the Province. We need people from Derry, West Belfast, Armagh, Enniskillen, South Tyrone and elsewhere to make that an inclusive police force. That is vital. What is stopping it? The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made the point very clearly. It is the nationalist community and the Roman Catholic Church. I am delighted that many noble Lords and many people outside have, privately and publicly, put tremendous pressure on the Roman Catholic hierarchy in an attempt to get that changed.

However, the purpose of my comments tonight is this: the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not make any difference to the content or the performance of that police force. If the nationalist and republican communities--who, as I have said already, have agreed to serve in one of Her Majesty's governments--are prepared to join in, why are they not prepared to share in the name? That is the nub of our amendment. A shared name allows those who attach memories to it, to whom it means a huge amount and who believe in it, to feel comfortable. Let us also incorporate another name, the "Northern Ireland Police Service", which is new and has been created in the new image of sharing and community spirit. Let the two names come together in agreement. Do not let them become belligerent, bitter, antagonistic and obstructive. That is of no use to anyone.

I do not believe that the total removal of the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is right. A form of shared option is the correct course. In conclusion, perhaps I may lighten the tone of my speech by giving the Government a little piece of advice. Appeasement never won a race yet: "Bad horse, bred by good intentions, out of paralysis of will". The Irish people are a racing fraternity and they will understand that.