Amendment 5

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Eames Lord Eames Crossbench 5:15 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, not for the first time the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has put his finger on urgent issues to do with Northern Ireland. I congratulate him on his persistence in that approach. Today he has once more alerted the Committee to an urgent need that can be traced back to the fact that we have no local administration. The extra strain of business and of making decisions passed on to our Civil Service has been a consequence.

I want to speak particularly about the amendment to address the rising suicide rate in Northern Ireland. This is one more example of the legacy of our past, of what we have been through; it has cast its shadow not on that generation but on the new generation. I have had personal, recent experience of the rector of a parish coming to me, even in my retirement, to seek advice for the son of one of those involved in our Troubles. The son had only recently learned of some of the actions and involvement of his father, and this preyed on his mind so much, even in middle age, that he saw no alternative but to end his life. That is an exceptional case, I accept, but it does something to illustrate that this issue is not just for now: it is a legacy reaching back to us from the past.

The report to which the noble Lord referred is gathering dust. Lives are being threatened. Thank God that in some cases prevention intervenes, but if this Bill produces nothing other than a new recognition of human need—nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with “us and them” and all the usual phrases we have in Northern Ireland—then the opportunity could be seized to put pressure on those avenues that can directly relate to the human need, which is a legacy issue and an overlap. There is a crying need at the moment in Northern Ireland to address prevention of the taking of human life and I urge the Committee to remember that.