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rose to move, That the direction laid before the House on
My Lords, I beg to move that the direction made under Section 51B(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 made on
The direction took effect on
The direction follows the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission that was laid in Parliament and published on
The matters that lie behind the direction have been debated here on a number of occasions. My right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a Statement in the other place on
The then Secretary of State made a further Statement in the other place on
Your Lordships will know that there was a further debate in the other place on
I turn to the substance of the direction. It removes Sinn Fein's entitlement to payments under the Financial Assistance for Political Parties Scheme for 12 months from
There was support in the various debates that I have mentioned for action to be taken. The need for the direction reflects the problems that have blighted the political process in Northern Ireland; that is, ongoing paramilitary activity, criminality and untold incidents of sheer gangsterism. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made it absolutely clear that that has to stop and be seen to stop for there to be progress. As I said, it gives me no pleasure to have to bring the matter before the House. We very much hope that in the period ahead we shall see movement from the Provisional IRA that ensures that the final transition to exclusively peaceful and democratic means is achieved. That is our first priority, and it is our overwhelming desire.
On the assumption that that movement occurs, there will continue to be an important role for the Independent Monitoring Commission in attesting that the reality matches the commitments. Moreover, the Independent Monitoring Commission has a responsibility in relation to all paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, from whatever source it comes. It has published a more recent report on which the Government will pronounce in due course.
I want, therefore, to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the members of the commission for their reports and for the contribution that they make to promoting peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I commend the direction to the House.
Moved, That the direction laid before the House on
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that statement, which is really what it was. I welcome many of the words that he used. I am delighted to hear the tough words from the Government. Like the Minister, I am sorry that he has had to bring the direction before the House and that the position regarding Sinn Fein/IRA and the situation in Northern Ireland are as they are. Indeed, I was sorry that some time back Sinn Fein was granted the privileges that we are discussing. I argued against it on the sidelines but, as your Lordships know, that is the privilege of the Speaker of the other place and was nothing to do with us in your Lordships' House.
We are where we are. I am sad that we are still where we are, but I welcome the action that Her Majesty's Government have taken in this respect. I also welcome the strength of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, this evening. I support the Motion.
My Lords, I welcome the introduction of the direction tonight to make at least some point to Sinn Fein and its supporters that their activities and behaviour over the past couple of years have been beyond the democratic pale. Many of us hoped that Sinn Fein would move towards being a party supported, backed and operated in a purely democratic way. We were frustrated in that rather naive wish.
Recent events, including the Northern Bank robbery, have painted a nasty and unacceptable picture of Sinn Fein/IRA's methods of fundraising through theft and money laundering. In the past few weeks, I have outlined to your Lordships' House information about Sinn Fein/IRA's activities, which are now becoming known as "white-collar terrorism".
Money is of no object to Sinn Fein and its supporters. Four million US dollars were recently forthcoming from well meaning, if misguided, Irish Americans to what is widely believed to be Sinn Fein's intelligence-gathering operation in the Irish Republic, the Centre for Public Inquiry.
I note that the former High Court judge, Fergus Flood, is happy to allow his name to be associated with the organisation. Yet, he has refused to question the organisation's chief executive on why he travelled to Colombia on false passports with a well-known IRA member to collect £2 million—a part payment to the IRA by FARC terrorists for providing training and expertise on bomb making. Mr Flood's silence is deafening and will not go unnoticed. I support the direction.