Amendment 172

Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 11 May 2023.

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Lord Dodds of Duncairn:

Moved by Lord Dodds of Duncairn

172: Clause 44, page 35, line 25, at end insert—“(2A) The designated persons have an overarching duty to ensure that no memorialisation activities glorify the commission or preparation of Troubles-related offences.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment is intended to ensure that designated persons responsible for making recommendations about the initiation and carrying out of relevant memorialisation activities are under a duty to prevent the glorification of Troubles-related offences.

Photo of Lord Dodds of Duncairn Lord Dodds of Duncairn DUP

My Lords, in this group we have come to memorialisation. I want to say a few words on the amendments in my name and those of my noble friends. Amendment 172 is

“intended to ensure that designated persons responsible for making recommendations about the initiation and carrying out of relevant memorialisation activities are under a duty to prevent the glorification of Troubles-related offences”.

Clause 48 says that “designated persons” carrying out the Troubles-related work programmes

“must have regard to the need to ensure that—(a) there is support from different communities in Northern Ireland for the way in which that programme is carried out, and (b) a variety of views of the Troubles is taken into account in carrying out that programme”.

This focus on “a variety of views” is problematic given that, sadly, a significant number of people in our community repeatedly not only refuse to disavow violence and terrorism but go further and eulogise and glorify acts of terrorism.

They want to put on a pedestal those who carried out acts of violence. They do this through parades, vigils, rallies and the installation of memorials and so on at sports grounds, on housing executive property and on roadsides. This is to continue what has been referred to throughout these debates as the revision of history—the rewriting of the history of the Troubles, so that those in the security forces who stood fast in the way of terrorism are denigrated to a large extent in the eyes of some. The terrorists are elevated by some to have been engaged in noble acts of warfare.

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, referred to his experience. The sad reality is that we know the sordid, grubby, filthy acts of terrorism and violence that were carried out against innocent men, women and children daily in Northern Ireland, at times on the mainland as well and even on the continent of Europe in pursuit of the aims of violent men and women of terrorism.

Look at some of these daily events. Children witnessed the murder of their father or mother. Wives ran down lanes having heard the gunshots that cut down their farmer husband at the end of the lane. Consider the case of a young wife who had just given birth in hospital and who had been visited by her husband. As he left and went down into the car park, he was murdered. Then, at the funeral, they gloated over his murder. I know a young boy—now a man—who had lost his mother. His father was made to kneel down and was shot through the head in front of him; he ran down the lane to try to get help.

This is the reality of terrorism and what these people carried out, yet we have a situation where these people are eulogised and young people in Northern Ireland are shouting “Up the Ra”. We have a designate First Minister of Northern Ireland who says she wants to reach out to people but who continually goes to the eulogies of terrorists, continually defends the actions of terrorists and men of violence and puts these murderers on a pedestal. Until Sinn Féin disavows that, it will never reach out successfully to the unionist community or indeed to families on all sides of the community.

There will never truly be a peace process and a political process in Northern Ireland that is stable and enduring unless people move forward and stop eulogising violence. It is one of the main causes of community dislocation and the continued problems that we have in Northern Ireland. We are told continuously to move ahead, but these people continue to point backwards and eulogise the actions of terror. Today, in 2023, they are still doing it.

My Amendment 172 is intended to ensure that the designated persons will not have as part of their duties allowing terrorist activities to become the subject of glorification or justification—they should be under a duty to prevent this. They cannot be held to ransom by those who would rewrite history.

My Amendment 173 is intended to ensure that only innocent victims are included as victims in the memorialisation strategy under the Bill. It is critical that any Troubles-related work programme does not give credence to terrorists injured or killed by their own hand. They should not be considered victims in the same way as those whom they went out to maim and murder. The need to avoid drawing a moral equivalence between the victim and the perpetrator has been accepted as part of the Troubles permanent disablement payment scheme. We on these Benches and in the other place fought hard and long to ensure that that distinction was made, and Regulation 6 of the 2020 regulations made that part of the law. It is time that we saw this reflected in primary legislation. There should be a UK-wide definition of a victim that does not include the perpetrators of violence.

Photo of Baroness Hoey Baroness Hoey Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, said and his Amendments 172 and—in particular—173; it has been a long time coming, and we need to make that definition of victim the same across the United Kingdom.

I will speak to my Amendments 174ZA and 174A. Amendment 174ZA addresses a problem with the Government’s funding body, UK Research and Innovation—UKRI—councils. Many of us who are interested in legacy are concerned about what seems the one-sided nature of much of the academic research into our past and the way that UKRI funding has been monopolised by what seems to be a single legal view. That view is radical and investigates faults only with the United Kingdom state and its security responses during the Troubles.

I cite here Queen’s University’s transitional justice department, which produced the model legacy bill referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, and others. Almost alone, that department has received some £4 million in UKRI funding. It works in conjunction with the Committee on the Administration of Justice, a largely nationalist body in Belfast that encourages legacy litigation. I note with concern that the speakers’ list at the transitional justice institute’s seminars during the events at Queen’s University on the recent 25th anniversary of the Belfast agreement was drawn from one outlook only.

The wording of my Amendment 174ZA stems from an Answer that I received on 8 November last year from the noble Lord, Lord Callanan. He said that UKRI funding on legacy

“is allocated according to research excellence as assessed by independent peer review”.

I am aware—I am sure that many noble Lords will also be—that peer reviews can often become what you could call “chum reviews”, especially when few other academics work in the same field. One academic, Dr Cillian McGrattan, wrote that

“the UKRI record does not bode well for the government’s plan to create a multi-disciplinary history that encourages the acceptance of ‘different narratives’ that transcend and challenge ethnic taboos; that is plural rather than single-identity; that is based upon the actual historical record rather than after the event collective and communal memories; and that fosters reconciliation rather than continued division”.

This lack of balance of legacy and justice at Queen’s University makes it essential that the Bill has more safeguards about academic diversity and fair funding—hence this amendment, which dovetails with others in the group that the noble Lords, Lord Godson and Lord Bew, have endorsed.

I turn to Amendment 174A, also to Clause 46, which speaks about the production of an analysis of patterns and themes in events during the Troubles, addressing in particular the experience of women and girls. This rightfully mentions what constitutes a majority of the population. My addition refers to researching the experience of the gay and lesbian community. This is a small minority—2.1% of our people, according to the recent census figure—but it figured centrally in disputes and debates throughout the decades of the Troubles, perhaps more so than any other group outside the two main communities.

The process from decriminalisation to now gay equality was effected in a long series of legislative steps, always at Westminster. My good friend Jeff Dudgeon, of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, was a successful plaintiff in Strasbourg against the UK Government in a case which ran from 1975 to 1981. He initiated what was to become a tortuous reform process, after decriminalisation by the Government in 1982. Some eight further pieces of legislation were involved over the decades.

I played my small part back in 1994. The issue then was the gay age of consent which, for England and Scotland, was brought down from 21 to 18 by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. John Major’s Conservative Government had, once again, left Northern Ireland out of the proposed gay law reform. I said then:

“I am sure that the House would not want homosexual people in Northern Ireland to suffer inequality under the law”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/4/1994; col.171.]

Tony Blair, who was then Shadow Home Secretary, helped me whip sufficient support from MPs across the parties, enabling my amendment to win by 254 votes to 141.

The particular reason why the gay community’s experience needs addressing is that it suffered—as we all did—from death and injury through killings, bombings and shootings by illegal organisations. It then had, separately, to face those organisations when they brought further death and destruction just to the gay community. That even occurred after the 1995 ceasefires, in the case of a police officer, Darren Bradshaw, who was murdered by the INLA in the Parliament bar in 1997. The BBC is currently broadcasting a series about it entitled “Blood on the Dance Floor”. The Reverend David Templeton was murdered by the UVF in the same year. Their killings followed a series of bombings of gay venues over 30 years by the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries, and of murders of gay men—often off the street—especially in the darkest days of the 1970s.

Academic research can provide not just a record of those events but a valuable analysis of how life amidst death occurred in the gay community. I sincerely hope that the Minister will see the justice in this amendment and make it one of the NIO’s promised additions on Report.

Photo of Baroness O'Loan Baroness O'Loan Crossbench 2:15, 11 May 2023

My Lords, this part of the Bill provides for history and memorialisation. It is about creating as true and honest an account as possible—one which has integrity—of what happened during our tortured, troubled past.

This is hugely sensitive. I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, has said. All I will add is that, given the fact that the eyes of the whole community will be on those who are attempting to deal with these matters, it is vital that there is equity and fairness for all.

I fully support Amendment 172 from the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, in particular. It is right that no memorialisation activities glorify the commission or preparation of Troubles-related offences. We see at regular intervals events from different sections of the community, not just the republican community, which glorify individuals who contributed to atrocities and occasions that caused immense pain to so many of us, but particularly to those whose loved ones died or were permanently maimed in the attack being celebrated. Such events cause great pain; they can reignite the terrors and agony of the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by so many as a consequence of these events. There is no justification whatever for the glorification of terrorism.

Photo of Lord Weir of Ballyholme Lord Weir of Ballyholme DUP

I rise to support the amendments tabled in my name and the names of the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, and others, but also to give a broad welcome to this group in its entirety—notwithstanding some of the major concerns that have been expressed by ourselves and others from across the Chamber about the overall contents of the Bill. From that point of view, no amendments can make the Bill itself acceptable. Nevertheless, actions that we can take to deal with the issue of memorialisation have a level of importance.

Memorialisation can be a force potentially for good, but we also need to be aware that it can also be a major force for further problems and further evil. If done correctly, memorialisation can be beneficial in helping to remember innocent victims and, one hopes, helping towards a level of reconciliation. If we get the conditions right, that can be something of benefit to society and, potentially, to some families. But there is a real danger that memorialisation can be got wrong, which is the thrust of the amendments that we have proposed. It is about trying to provide a level of consistency.

As in previous groups of amendments, we are talking about the real danger of a glorification of terrorism, which must be prevented—certainly from anybody who seeks to benefit from this legislation. It is also the case that, if memorialisation is used as a back door to glorify or justify terrorism, it would be deeply damaging to society. It is not simply a question of rubbing salt in the wounds of the innocent victims and their families—although, if there were no other consideration, that would be a reason why Amendment 172 needed to be proposed and supported completely. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, indicated, it goes beyond simply dealing with the legacy of the past; it is about the implications for the future and the present day.

We have a generation growing up who did not experience the Troubles but who are clearly susceptible to the message that there was no alternative to violence in the past and that terrorism could be justified today and into the future. That is not simply an academic concern or one that might be moot. We have seen dissident organisations sucking in those young people to be directly involved in terrorism. That is the real danger for the future. Let us send out by this legislation, or at least through these amendments that we are putting forward, a very clear and unambiguous statement: there was always an alternative to violence. That is why, throughout the entire history of the Troubles, there was never a majority in either community for violence; it was opposed by the ordinary people throughout, and it was a minority on both the loyalist and republican sides who engaged in that terrorism and the wickedness and pain that it caused. It is critical that we send out the clear message that there was no justification for terrorism and that there was always a democratic alternative.

Allied to that, we cannot be ambiguous about those who went out to perpetrate the evil of terrorism, from whatever side they came, and those who were the innocent victims. Therefore, it is right that we draw this distinction, which is in line with some changes that the Government have made in other spheres. That is why Amendment 173 is also critical.

It is also the case—and why I welcome the amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Godson and Lord Bew, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey—that, overall, it is critical that memorialisation is approached with academic rigour and diversity, and a balanced approach that provides a fair and accurate summary of what happened. Again, if this is a one-sided process or one that in some way gives some level of light to those who would argue for violence in the past, it will do irreparable harm. Therefore, the academic approach that needs to be taken is critical.

I have a good deal of sympathy for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Godson, on an overall tone in regard to the Troubles. One thing that has struck me as a former Education Minister is that, unfortunately, at times, we see the ignorance of history. We see young people who simply do not know what happened. It is therefore important that we educate people in a neutral and fair way. There is no doubt that there are contested opinions and views as regards Northern Ireland but there cannot be contested facts. That is why we need to approach this with a level of academic rigour, and that is why I welcome the amendments.

Finally, there is an iterative process to be done, particularly with victims’ families, regarding memorialisation. It may well be that, as part of that process, there is the gathering of an oral history of the stories of the Troubles. It is important that people are able to do that through organisations with a good track record of fairness and balance, and organisations which we can trust. I declare an interest as a member of the Linen Hall Library, which for many years has taken a wide range of views and worked with all parties on reflecting the troubles in a fair and historic manner. It is a role that the library and others can play. We need to make sure that that is not one-sided or biased in any way, and in particular that we draw a clear-cut distinction between, on the one side, the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland who simply wanted to get on with their lives and the victims, and, on the other side, the perpetrators.

Photo of Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group, in particular those in the names of my friend the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, the noble Lord, Lord Godson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey. This is an important issue. The last time we were in Committee on the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Eames, was speaking about reconciliation, and we spent some time on that. Reconciliation will come only if there is an understanding that the things that happened in the past in Northern Ireland were wrong. To do that we need a factual history, because there has been a lot of rewriting of what has happened in Northern Ireland over the past 35 or 40 years.

Just this week, Gerry Adams was reported to have spoken in a podcast to Rory Stewart about the attempted murder of Baroness Margaret Thatcher back in 1984. When he was challenged by Rory Stewart about the violence, Gerry Adams said, “We never went to war, you came to me”. That is a skewed view of what happened in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s but a predictable source of rewriting of what went on at that time. But sometimes we have unpredictable sources of rewriting. It was distressing, not just for victims of terrorism but for many of us living in Northern Ireland, to hear the current Secretary of State, in an address to Queen’s University at the 25th anniversary event that the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, mentioned, refer to Martin McGuinness, a self-confessed IRA commander, as a man of courage and leadership. That was astonishing, and many victims voiced their opinion and distress at those comments. Ann Travers, a victims’ advocate whose sister was murdered by the IRA on her way home from mass, said that those comments insulted innocent victims of republican terrorists. And so it continues, this rewriting of what actually happened in Northern Ireland.

Last year, we had the putative First Minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, telling us that there was no alternative to the violence that happened in Northern Ireland—no alternative to terrorism: that there was no alternative to the bomb in Enniskillen in 1987, when people went to remember the dead of the World Wars; that there was no alternative to the attempted murder of my friend the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, when he visited his son in hospital; that there was no alternative to placing a bomb on the bus that I was going to school on because the man driving the bus was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. What about the alternative to lying in a hedge and waiting for police officers coming home from their day’s work, only to murder them as they stepped out of their cars?

The reality is that of course there was an alternative—there was always an alternative. That is why we need a factual history of what happened in Northern Ireland. I strongly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Godson. It is so important that we do not have a one-sided, warped agenda as to what happened in Northern Ireland. It is important for three reasons. First, for historical reasons and context, it is important to have the facts. Secondly, as we have already heard today in the context of memorialisation, it is important that the young people of today are not encouraged by what happened in the past or by glorifying those acts of terrorism. I was deeply disturbed when, after the attempted murder of Chief Inspector John Caldwell, there appeared posters in Omagh encouraging young people to become involved with dissidents. That is the consequence of glorifying past terrorism. Thirdly, it is important because we cannot have equivalence between those people who stood between the community and terrorism and those people who committed these dreadful acts and heinous crimes against the wider community in Northern Ireland.

I strongly support the amendments in this group. I hope that my friend the Minister will listen carefully to the very clear need to have memorialisation in an appropriate way and to have a historical, fact-based history of what happened in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour 2:30, 11 May 2023

My Lords, I support Amendments 174B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Godson. I apologise to the Committee for not having been here at the beginning of the debate, but I was buried in a Secret Squirrel Intelligence and Security Committee meeting for four hours, which I have just managed to break out of.

Almost on a daily basis, for many years through the Troubles, members of the IRA and its splinter groups went out to cause death and mayhem on the streets of Northern Ireland. On a daily basis, the police and the Army went out with the aim of looking after the security and safety of the people in Northern Ireland. There is no moral equivalence whatever, yet there seems to be a surge of information that paints a different picture of what actually happened. We need a clear, objective view of the things that happened there.

It was a dreadful period, as has been said by a number of speakers. People did not need to be involved in terrorism; they could have achieved things in other ways. This needs to be highlighted and shown, but we obviously need an objective and proper history of what happened, which people can read and have easy access to. For example, towards the end of the Troubles, the Army and police had learned lots of lessons and were doing things better, and the terrorist groups had been penetrated and all sorts of things were happening to them. These things need to be reflected in the history, so that we know what went on. It is very important that we have accurate, precise, unbiased history, so that future generations can understand this. Apart from anything else, they will understand that terrorist violence does not really achieve your aims; that needs to be laid out starkly.

Photo of Lord Godson Lord Godson Conservative

I shall speak to Amendments 174 and 174B to 176. I thank noble Lords across the Committee for their support for these amendments, including the noble Lords, Lord West, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and Lord Carlile of Berriew, in particular. I spoke at Second Reading about the memorialisation of the Troubles and expressed my concerns that the oral history project commissioned by the Bill will be politicised and will become another weapon in the battle to recast the Troubles from an anti-state perspective that seeks to justify the actions of terrorists and to denigrate the security forces, as noble Lords have pointed out. Any attempt at equivalence between those who upheld our civic values and law and order for those three decades and those who waged Europe’s worst terrorist campaign must be robustly guarded against.

One defence against this blatant revisionism designed to retell the Troubles as a conflict which republicans had no choice but to fight is the production of an official history based on proper and considered documentary evidence. The Government have confirmed that they are now committed to such a history, but there is still no mention of it in the Bill. No doubt, there are reasons for this: after all, legislation is not needed for an official history and there is still an official history programme for which, in theory, this could be produced. However, it needs to be said now that there are major problems in excluding an official history from the scope of the Bill. The official history programme budget remains small and is not designed for a project of this scale, nor to deliver it in time for it to realise the purposes which the Government have in mind.

The subject matter of the Troubles, as has been rightly pointed out, is vast, with official documents from many government departments in London and Belfast, as well as from the agencies—the RUC previously and the PSNI, perhaps, now—and the Army. It is a task for a team of historians, supported by researchers, requiring a level of funding well beyond the parameters and experience of the current official history programme. It would hardly dent the £250 million already set aside by the Northern Ireland Office for the legacy projects set out in the Bill, as stated in the UK government response to a question from the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg in June of last year.

An official history also needs to be published at a price that is in reach of ordinary readers and marketed to them, not least those in Northern Ireland, who deserve to be able to read it for themselves. This does not fit into the current official history programme’s publishing model, with limited print runs and prices, in some cases, of £40 for a paperback and £130 for a hardback—prices that self-evidently exclude the vast majority of the public. All this cannot be right; it would be a serious mistake and it should be rectified.

Producing an official history of the Troubles that can play its role in addressing legacy and reconciliation is possible only by placing the requirement for production of an official history within the Bill and giving the Secretary of State responsibility for ensuring that it is completed in time to be a support to the broader memorialisation strategy. Established on this basis, it will provide a major additional—and credible—strand of that memorialisation and will add much value across the whole programme. I believe that that would also be its chief legacy.

With that in mind, I am proposing, in Amendment 174B, a new section to follow Clause 46, to ensure that a public history—this being the term recommended by Sir Joe Pilling, the former Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, in his 2009 review of the official history programme—is produced. The expression “official history” suggests that it is the Government’s view that is being put forward. Historically, that has never been the case: official histories are authored by leading historians granted access to official papers. A public history, recast as such, far better reflects what it is, and all this deserves to be in the Bill.

There are other matters of concern about the proposals for academic research set out in the Bill. A substantial role will be accorded to the UK Research and Innovation councils, which will determine the projects to be funded under it. Over the last 15 years they have financially supported the work of a small group of “transitional” academics at Queen’s University Belfast, referred to by several noble Lords. This is associated with the Committee on the Administration of Justice, a lobby group focused largely on state-perpetrated violence and abuse. This has created what Dr Cillian McGrattan of the University of Ulster, whose work has been referred to, has called

“a monopolistic capture of legacy ideas, ideology and policy within Northern Ireland”.

Not only are non-violent unionist and nationalist voices and their collective memory unwelcome, but the voices of those who were oppressed and manipulated by terrorist gangs in their own neighbourhoods on whatever side of the divide are unlikely to be sought, even though they are among the most affected communities. Were such a monopoly to be replicated in the academic research into the Troubles, as the Bill presently proposes, it would be contrary to two of the six Stormont House agreement principles: that it promote reconciliation and that it be

“balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable”.

To address these matters, I tabled Amendments 174, 175 and 176 to Part 4 of the Bill, requiring that memorialisation activity promotes a culture of anti-sectarianism, that the advisory forum is not dominated by any particular ideology or outlook and that in carrying out their duties the designated persons should have due regard to the historical records of deaths as required under Clause 24 of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Swire Lord Swire Conservative

My Lords, I crave your Lordships’ indulgence as a relatively new Member of the House—in fact, you can still smell the leather on my satchel. I came into the House only towards the tail end of last year, so I was not even here when this Bill came from the other place. As those who know me will be aware, I was a Minister of State for Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2012 and continue to have a passionate interest in not only what goes on there currently but what has happened in the past.

I am acutely aware of the divisions that a very one-sided approach can cause. As my noble friend the Minister will know—he was our esteemed special adviser at the time and was far more involved than I—I was a Minister of State during the publication of the Bloody Sunday report, on which David Cameron did extremely well, and the Finucane report we commissioned from Sir Desmond de Silva that followed in 2012. I gently point out that the Saville inquiry cost about £191 million by its end; we do not want to replicate that in this instance.

I support my noble friend’s eminently sensible amendments. I remember discussing all kinds of issues surrounding truth and reconciliation, such as whether to have a South African model—we went round and round in ever-decreasing circles. Critical for any public history of what went on is the co-operation of the bodies that were involved in some way, ranging from the DFA in Dublin and, critically, the Irish Government to the Security Service, Libya, the Church, Sinn Féin, former loyalist paramilitaries, perhaps the Royal Archives and Washington. We would want all these organisations to come up with any evidence that would contribute towards what we are all trying to get: an official version of the truth which everyone can subscribe to. Of course, not everybody will—there will be those who maintain their own versions of the truth, as we have heard today, but if we can get cross-party consent for such a history, we will move the dial on this.

I reiterate my support for the amendments. It was the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who said:

“Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being”.

This public history could be just such a mode.

Photo of Lord Bew Lord Bew Crossbench 2:45, 11 May 2023

My Lords, I rise to support the amendments in my name and the name of the noble Lord, Lord Godson, and to comment on Amendment 174B in particular; he has given a full exposition of the thinking that lies behind it. I would like to add one thing, and one thing only, to his exposition: the reference to the way in which the Saville inquiry created a kind of patent for this type of investigation. We definitely need a public history. I have long been an advocate of it; it is now a point in time when it is a job for a younger cadre of historian to carry out the work.

Let us stop and think what happens if we do not do that. I was a historical adviser to the Bloody Sunday inquiry, which led to the very eloquent apology given by David Cameron, to which the noble Lord, Lord Swire, referred. As a professional historian, you are often scrubbing around for documents, pleading with the Government and the Public Record Office for them. The amazing thing about the inquiry was that they were delivered to my door by trucks, and the material is still in my garage, now published by the Saville inquiry. It lays out a lot of really sensitive stuff: Cabinet minutes and discussions about Northern Ireland which were not then in the public domain—they mostly are now, but they certainly were not at the time of the inquiry —and intelligence documents about the debriefing of IRA informers and discussing the role of Martin McGuinness. These are really sensitive things which were released to me to work on. I produced an analysis which played into the statement to the inquiry by Christopher Clarke KC. In a Leverhulme lecture on contemporary British history, I was subsequently allowed to give my own take on what those documents meant.

That is why I strongly support Amendment 174B: that type of openness should be the patent for any subsequent work or research carried out. The world did not fall in; I have tried to indicate that this material was sensitive—it included discussions between the most senior military officers in the days and weeks before Bloody Sunday. This was not low-grade stuff. We did it, we published it, we took an honest decision about what it all meant—there was other evidence that Lord Saville had to consider—and we had the final conclusion, reached by David Cameron. However, if we say, “That’s it”, we will be saying that the only real public history the UK Government are interested in is—let us be clear—one of the very embarrassing moments of British history and the British state’s role in Northern Ireland, and that we are not interested in the rest of it. We will reveal stuff, and spend money and resources for that purpose, but we are not going to discuss in the round what really happened, which will inevitably lead to other occasions which are less than glorious.

None the less, it seems to me a simple proposition: if you do not support this proposal for a public history, you are saying that we need to deal only with that one particular inquiry—that is all; the rest is closed. For some reason not clear to me, it is the only time we are going to open to scholars the sensitive material which will allow—as it did—a full evaluation of the political, military and other dimensions to Bloody Sunday. It is in the interest of totality and a broader approach to history that I strongly support Amendment 174B.

Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Godson, and Amendment 174B, to enshrine in law the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure the production of an independent public history of the Troubles. I came as a boy, accompanying my late father, General Bilimoria, when he was a lieutenant colonel attached to the British Army at the School of Infantry in Warminster. Even as a young boy, I can remember the high security, the fear under which everyone lived, and the sad stories of people we knew and heard about on a regular basis. Fast forward to when I came to London as a student in the late 1980s, and then when I started my business: we lived under this fear, on a constant basis, and we witnessed the atrocities and tragedies that took place right until 1998 and the Good Friday agreement.

Successive Governments—of all political parties, to be fair—have sought to maintain peace during the Troubles, and at what a price. It is important that we record and acknowledge the history of those awful and terrible years, and the Government correctly regard a public history as playing an important role in addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past. However, I hope the Minister will acknowledge that there is no mention of it in the Bill. It could in theory be managed through the Cabinet Office’s official history programme, but to my understanding that programme has been in a state of limbo in recent years. It is also insufficiently resourced to produce an official history on the Troubles—a topic that is going to be vast and require a huge amount of work from leading historians with substantial research support.

If the Government intend that the public history should support other academic research support programmes proposed by the Bill, we should note that these are to be concluded within seven years. Unless this public history is properly resourced through the Bill’s memorialisation programme, it is unlikely to be able to add meaningful value to other memorialisation activities within this timeframe.

We require an authoritative history to be produced in good time and to act as an absolute gold standard, and that this thoroughly informed history be communicated to the public, being both affordable and available to everyone who wants to read it. Additionally, it is a matter of equal concern to Ireland as well.

It is crucial that we support the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Godson, for an additional clause in Part 4 after Clause 46, and I encourage the Government to accept this change.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland)

My Lords, this has been an interesting debate; there is clearly a desire to have an objective record of a dark and troubled time, but it is a hugely sensitive issue that is going to present major challenges.

I absolutely agree that any history that glorifies terrorism or violence has no validity and can have no place. As the noble Lord, Lord Swire, said, people have looked at different examples such as in South Africa, and the genocide memorial in Rwanda is shocking and stunning and creates an impact. We also have to recognise that we have talked about the Troubles as a defined period, as if they just ended and the Good Friday agreement started, but we know that the divisions have not gone away. You even see in the Republic of Ireland newly elected representatives shouting, “Up the Ra”, so we are still in very difficult times.

I hear the call for an objective history, but I wonder how easy it would be to produce one and to ensure that it reflects the balance. I am not suggesting that it should not be tried, but we should not underestimate the challenges involved. At the end of the day, what would be the purpose of this history? The only fundamental purpose seems to be to ensure that, right across all sections of the community, it leads to a cry of “Never again”.

Photo of Lord Murphy of Torfaen Lord Murphy of Torfaen Labour

My Lords, this has been a very interesting and thoughtful debate. For 17 years before I entered the House of Commons I taught history, and I thought that it had prepared me for the various jobs that I eventually had to do. When I became Minister of State in Northern Ireland, helping to negotiate the Good Friday agreement, I realised that it had not prepared me at all for what was up against me. Month after month, virtually every day, was occupied by a history lesson, which I was not teaching but which came from the different participants in the talks—of course, there were very different versions of what had happened over the last 30 or 40 years before then.

Teaching history had also not prepared me for the extent to which—as has been touched on a number of times in this debate—almost every single family in Northern Ireland was affected by violence in some form or another, either by people or their relatives being killed or by physical or mental injury. It struck me when I went back to Belfast a couple of weeks ago for the commemoration proceedings that, within 24 hours of getting there, I talked to two middle-aged men about their own history. In both cases, coincidentally, their fathers had been murdered. One had been murdered by the IRA, and the other had been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries. That was a coincidence; I did not seek it out. It just happened. It is the background of that communal history among people from all communities in Northern Ireland which makes this task immensely difficult. I am not saying that it should not be attempted, because I think it should be, but it will not be an easy task. It should be done by ensuring that there is as much impartiality and diversity as possible, which is a difficult combination to get together, so that it is written. The sensitivity behind this is enormous.

I make a very brief reference to the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, and what I thought was a very good speech in terms of her reference to the gay community in Northern Ireland and how it suffered in a different way. There is particular resonance in my own constituency’s history because my immediate predecessor as Member of Parliament for Pontypool was Leo Abse, who in 1967 was responsible for the legislation which decriminalised homosexuality in Great Britain. Many people never realised that it was not replicated in Northern Ireland; it took many years before that was to happen. So, I think that this should be part of the history project as well.

When the Minister winds up, I am sure he will give us some good thoughts on what we should do about an official history. He might suggest the odd historian or two—there are one or two in here who might be very good at it—but at the same time he must understand that these matters, important as they are, have to be dealt with using the utmost sensitivity.

Photo of Lord Caine Lord Caine Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Once again, my Lords, I am very grateful to all who have contributed to the debate on these amendments. We have heard a number of very moving contributions over the last 53 minutes or so. I was going to say that a number of noble Lords were, in my case, preaching to the converted—I do not need to be converted at all, and I agree with many of the sentiments that have been expressed throughout the past number of minutes.

Part 4 of the Bill builds in large part on the commitments made in the Stormont House agreement of 2014, such as the oral history initiative and new academic research, to help promote reconciliation and a better understanding of the past. A number of noble Lords will be aware that I was involved in all 11 weeks of negotiating that agreement in 2014. It underlines the importance of this work being carried out free of political influence, which has been one of our guiding principles—in fact, it has been our overriding guiding principle throughout.

To reiterate, in approaching these issues over many years, both this Government and I have been very clear from the outset that we will never accept any attempt to rewrite history in ways that seek to denigrate the contribution of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and our Armed Forces—the overwhelming majority of whom served with distinction and honour, and to whose dedication and courage we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. As I have said many times in this House and outside it, without their service and sacrifice there would have been no peace process, as was acknowledged by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister during his recent speech at the Whitla Hall in Belfast to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1998 agreement.

Politically motivated violence in Northern Ireland, whether it was carried out by republicans or loyalists, was never justified, and as the noble Lord, Lord West, and my noble friends Lady Foster and Lord Weir made clear, there was always an alternative to violence in Northern Ireland. We will never accept any suggestion of moral equivalence between the terrorists who sought to destroy democracy and those who in many cases paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the future of Northern Ireland would only ever be determined by democracy and consent.

My noble friend Lord Dodds of Duncairn and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, spoke about glorification, as did other noble Lords. We debated amendments on glorification on the third day of Committee, when I undertook to continue discussions with noble Lords. Of course I will do that and see whether we come to some agreement on changes to the Bill in that respect.

As I have acknowledged in this House before, we might never agree on a common narrative, as my noble friend Lord Swire pointed out—I look back fondly to my time with him in the Northern Ireland Office when he was Minister of State and I was a very lowly special adviser. Although we might not agree on a common narrative, what we can do, what we tried to do at Stormont House and what we are trying to do through the Bill is to put in place some structures that will help Northern Ireland move forward and which can encourage and promote a greater degree of understanding and reconciliation.

In that respect, I am aware of recent polling that suggests that only around a quarter of the population in Northern Ireland consider existing Troubles-related memorialisation strategies and memorials themselves to be a positive influence. The strategy in Part 4 seeks to address this by remembering those who were lost and ensuring that the lessons of the past are not forgotten.

As is highlighted in Amendment 173 in the name of my noble friend Lord Dodds of Duncairn, it is vital that victims and survivors have an opportunity to contribute fully to this process and a memorialisation strategy. That is why Clause 44(6) and (7) already require the organisations taking forward the strategy to provide opportunities for all interested persons—including victims and survivors, or those groups representing them—to contribute by sharing their views on existing initiatives or by suggesting new ones.

Clause 44(4)(a) further requires those expert organisations responsible for delivering the strategy to consider how initiatives promote or will promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland. This is intended to exclude initiatives that glorify terrorism or which are sectarian in nature from being promoted as part of this strategy. I hope that that offers some reassurance to noble Lords who have spoken.

For that reason, while I fully agree with the principles behind Amendments 172 and 173 in the name of my noble friend Lord Dodds of Duncairn, and Amendment 174 in the name of my noble friend Lord Godson, I do not think the additions are strictly necessary. However, I can assure noble Lords that my department will work with the relevant organisations to ensure that the initiatives in Part 4 are established in ways that are consistent with the overarching aim of promoting reconciliation, and that these important points are reflected in any terms of reference or guidance material. I am also happy to continue engaging with noble Lords and other relevant parties on their specific concerns and on possible instances where we can strengthen these key objectives.

On a similar note, while I support the sentiment behind Amendments 174A and 174ZA in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, I respectfully suggest that they are not required. The provisions of the Bill as drafted would not preclude relevant research into LGBT experiences during the Troubles—I join her in paying huge tribute to our mutual friend Jeff Dudgeon for the work he has done on this over many years—or indeed those of other parts of the community, should the academic community feel there is a particular need. Clause 48 also requires that the measures in Part 4, including academic research, take into account a variety of views of the Troubles. However, I am aware of the concerns that have prompted Amendment 174ZA and am open to discussing the issue further with the noble Baroness. We are committed to ensuring that this work is implemented in a way that is rigorous and fair and not biased in any way towards those with a particular political motivation to rewrite history.

I turn to issues raised by my noble friends Lord Godson and Lord Bew. Amendment 176 would require the relevant organisations in Part 4 to have regard to the historical record produced by the ICRIR. Again, while I fully sympathise with the aim of this amendment, the historical record cannot be produced until at least the fifth year of the commission’s operation, when the investigative case load will be finalised. Our intent is to establish the measures in Part 4 well in advance of that. Similarly, Clause 49(2)(b) already states that, in establishing an advisory forum, due regard must be given to the need for it to have a balance in terms of cross-community membership. Therefore, Amendments 175 and 176, tabled by my noble friend Lord Godson, are not necessary. However, I would be more than happy to discuss this issue further, as I share his concern to ensure that the work in Part 4 is not hijacked by any particular political narrative. I am entirely in sympathy with his objectives around this issue.

I am particularly grateful for the debate generated by my noble friend Lord Godson’s Amendment 174B, which was supported by a number of noble Lords across the House, about including a public history of the Troubles in the Bill. I am fully aware of my noble friend’s long-standing interest in this issue. I well remember a lunch at Hillsborough Castle back in 2010 or 2011, which my noble friend attended with the then Secretary of State. I am not sure whether my other noble friend was present on that occasion, but it included a number of academics, and my noble friend raised the very idea at the time some 11 or 12 years ago that he is pursuing through this amendment. So I pay tribute to his work around this issue and his enthusiasm for taking it forward.

As he and other noble Lords will be aware, alongside the introduction of the Bill in May 2022, the Government announced their intention to commission such a history as a separate and complementary project. The intention has always been for this public history to be established through the Government’s long-running and established official history programme, which dates back to 1908. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and my noble friend Lord Godson, the funding would be expected to come from the £250 million set aside for legacy mechanisms, rather than the Cabinet Office’s official history programme. Noble Lords will be aware that the programme grants historians special privileges to access all relevant information in government records and will provide an independent, authoritative examination of the Government’s policy towards Northern Ireland throughout the period of the Troubles.

I am happy to restate the Government’s firm commitment to taking this public history forward. Work on this is ongoing and I hope to provide further important detail in the coming weeks. On this basis, the amendment to the Bill is not strictly necessary, although I will reflect further and discuss this with my noble friend Lord Godson before Report.

I also assure noble Lords that this project will be steered by expert advice, including the important recommendations made in the Pilling report. On that note, I thank my noble friend Lord Bew for his ongoing assistance and advice. He gave us a fascinating insight into elements of the Saville inquiry, to which he was the historical adviser. My noble friend Lord Swire referred to David Cameron’s speech on Saville, which I had a small part in drafting. Overall, I think we did a pretty good job on that day.

Finally, there are technical Amendments 186 and 190 in my name. All that they seek to do is define the expressions of First Minister and Deputy First Minister for the purposes of the Bill. I hope that there is no issue with that.

In conclusion, we can all agree on the value of the measures in Part 4 of the Bill in principle and about the importance of promoting and encouraging reconciliation both for individuals and across society as a whole. On that basis, while committing to further engagement with all interested noble Lords between now and Report, I politely invite them not to press their amendments at this stage.

Photo of Lord Dodds of Duncairn Lord Dodds of Duncairn DUP 3:00, 11 May 2023

My Lords, on behalf of noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his response. In light of the fact that he has, as usual, promised to go away and reflect on the amendments, including those in my name and those of my noble friends, and to have further discussions, I am very content to withdraw Amendment 172.

Amendment 172 withdrawn.

Amendments 173 and 174 not moved.

Clause 44 agreed.

Clause 45 agreed.

Clause 46: Academic research

Amendments 174ZA and 174A not moved.

Clause 46 agreed.

Amendment 174B not moved.

Clauses 47 and 48 agreed.

Clause 49: The advisory forum

Amendments 175 and 176 not moved.

Clause 49 agreed.

Clauses 50 and 51 agreed.

Amendment 177 not moved.

Clause 52: Consequential provision

Amendments 178 and 178A not moved.

Clause 52 agreed.

Schedule 12: Amendments

Amendments 179 to 184 not moved.

Schedule 12 agreed.

Clause 53 agreed.

Clause 54: Interpretation

Amendments 185 to 197 not moved.

Clause 54 agreed.

Clauses 55 and 56 agreed.

Clause 57: Commencement

Amendment 198 not moved.

Clause 57 agreed.

Clause 58 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.