Amendment 116

Part of Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 29 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Weir of Ballyholme Lord Weir of Ballyholme DUP 9:15, 29 March 2023

My Lords, in terms of this group of amendments, I think most of us would be of the view that we do not regard the Bill itself as being acceptable, so this is not an attempt to turn something that is unacceptable into being acceptable, but there is, at least, a duty on us to try to make what improvements we can.

We do not agree with concept of immunity, but it is undoubtedly the case that, if there is some provision for immunity, it has to be on the strictest conditions. Therefore, provisions that are contained within these amendments, which rule it out in circumstances where somebody is preventing reconciliation or glorifying terrorism, is a step in the right direction. There is deep hurt caused to victims of terrorism and their families whenever they see those who have been engaged with terrorism glorifying it. I think this is not the intention of the Bill, but there is a danger that, if the Bill were to go through unamended, it could inadvertently facilitate these “terror tours” or “terror talks”, and unfortunately almost act as encouragement, because those who have previously been involved in those activities will feel they have a level of carte blanche to do that. It is important we do not see a rewriting of history.

It is also the case that the glorification of terrorism per se is wrong. It does not matter whether it is a glorification of republican or loyalist terrorism, or terrorism from another part of the world; it is deeply wrong. As others have said, this is not simply about the past; it is about the future also, and it is deeply concerning that at times we are seeing the casualisation of the celebration of terrorism, and the embracing of it, particularly by a generation who never experienced it.

I will give two recent examples which are not hearsay; one of them is on social media. Shortly after the Omagh shooting, police moved in to make arrests and they arrested a young man who was not even born at the time of the Good Friday agreement. Somebody videoed that occasion, when some of the neighbours were coming out and applauding the person as they were being arrested. That is deeply worrying. On another occasion very recently, a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of a product that is available not on some niche website or from a paramilitary-linked group, but from a mainstream, UK-wide online shopping facility. It was a card you could buy for £3.50. It had a picture of someone in paramilitary uniform, wearing a balaclava and a beret, and had the phrase “Tiocfaidh Ár Lá” on it. Underneath it said, “Happy Mother’s Day”, which is quite chilling. And that is the problem. We are, unfortunately, reaching a point where there is a normalisation of the glorification of terrorism, so I believe that these are important steps to take and I hope that the Committee can unite around these amendments.