Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative 10:15 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment and the sentiments expressed. I know John Steele. He was, indeed, an excellent civil servant and official in the Northern Ireland office. I have not yet seen his report in full, only a quick summary, but clearly it is important. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House a little more about how the Government have received the report and what they intend to do about it.

I shall not try to gild, as it were, what has been said by my noble friend in support of the amendment, except to say that we all owe a huge debt to the widows and to the injured police officers--particularly, if I may say so in the light of our earlier debates, to the Catholic officers of the RUC. I remember several such officers with whom I became friendly, some in senior positions and some in junior positions. Life was in any case exceptionally difficult in those days if you were a Catholic officer in the RUC.

Among other things, I remember one officer telling me that he could not have a parish life. It was necessary for him to go to a different church to mass each week. If he had gone to the same church with his family there was a possibility of someone seeing him there and then seeing him in his police role, and that would have led to him being targeted. It was exceptionally difficult from that point of view.

It is true, of course, that the casualties and the murders among the Catholic officers of the RUC were much higher than among the Protestant officers. That is why there have been comparatively few Catholics in the RUC over the years. It is not only that someone is killed or wounded in an incident, there is the also the particular horror of knowing that a horrible death or terrible injuries have been deliberately caused by someone targeting the individual concerned. That adds an element to the wounding and death over and above that which might similarly have occurred in a car accident and so on.

As to the details of Amendment No. 72A, I am not exactly clear what the foundation will do, but it seems to me that this might well be one of the elements of its work.