My Lords, anyone who lived through the years of Northern Ireland’s violent past will understand that we want to save the present generation and generations to come from such an awful fate. Practically every week I meet a family that still feels the hurt and endures the scars of the past, whether it be the widow who still grieves or the little boy or girl who has had to be raised without a father because their father was brutally murdered.
In light of the serious, severe threat for the future that has now been announced by the Secretary of State, we need to be very careful. If folks are glorifying acts of terrorism, young people can easily get sucked into this and think that it is just a bit of a thrill. The lives of those who get involved will be scarred. I am speaking about those who are actually involved in acts of terrorism, because their lives, their conscience, will never be the same again. Quite a number of them cannot live with their conscience and quite a number have done themselves to death.
The glorification of murder cannot be accepted. It is very sad when the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland excuses the years of murder and mayhem that the Province experienced, stating that there was no alternative. Ministers in the past have rightly said that there always was an alternative, and that was the pathway of democracy. But the reason Michelle O’Neill says this is that they are rewriting history. They want to excuse and cover up the bloodthirsty past that many of them have.
I am fearful that this is the mindset that, even today, political leaders in Sinn Féin engender in the hearts of their young people. From their earliest days, they have ingrained in their minds a deep hatred of Britishness and those who desire to remain British. When I was growing up in Northern Ireland, people could live together. They could have completely different political outlooks but nevertheless lived within one community. They lived and let live.
History reminds us that there is a small step from holding that hatred in your heart to its expression in acts of murder and brutality. It is disgusting that over recent months we have seen an increasing number of incidents where young nationalists and republicans chant “Up the Ra!”, whether it be at Gaelic matches, in bars or at west Belfast community events, glorifying some of the vilest past atrocities that many of us lived through.
Skulking behind a hedge in the darkness and gunning down a member of the security forces during the Troubles was not an act of bravery. Neither was it courageous to set up your workmate, who fed you from his lunchbox, only to plant a bomb under his van at work, as happened in West Tyrone to a young man I knew very well. In Nan Rices Bar in Newry, social media displays crowds of young people singing this republican propaganda. Can anyone imagine what the innocent victims of terrorism feel when they hear this laughter and singing commemorating some of the vilest atrocities in our Province? It opens up deep wounds that only those who have experienced it will understand.
There is nothing to be proud of in acts of terror of any community. We must therefore do everything within our power to ensure that terrorists are taken off the backs of the people of the Province and that the Government never again permit through appeasement, as they have in the past, terrorists to get a grip of the community. I wholeheartedly support the amendments in my noble friend’s name.