Status of the IRA Ceasefire

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 29th April 2002.

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Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party 4:00 pm, 29th April 2002

I wish to advise Members how I propose to conduct the debate, which has been allocated one and a half hours by the Business Committee. Two amendments have been selected and published on the Marshalled List. Speaking times will be as follows: the proposer of the substantive motion will have 10 minutes to propose and five minutes to wind up. The proposers of each of the amendments will have seven minutes to propose and five minutes to wind up. All other Members will have five minutes each.

The amendments will be proposed in the order in which they appear on the Marshalled List, and the round of Members to speak will follow that order. When the debate has been concluded, I shall put the question that each amendment be made in turn. If amendment No 1 is made, I shall not put the question on amendment No 2. If this is clear, I shall proceed.

(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair)

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

I beg to move

Recalling the acceptance by all parties of the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence and the requirement in the Belfast Agreement for a commitment to exclusively peaceful means and being deeply concerned by recent violence, including murders and paramilitary actions, in Northern Ireland, England, the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere, this Assembly calls on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, following his recent determination on the status of the UDA/UFF ceasefire, to make a determination on the status of the IRA ceasefire and to make a statement indicating the consequent measures he considers appropriate.

At the outset it is worth recalling our present situation. We should never forget that Northern Ireland is clearly a better place to live in today, and we do not debate the motion at a time of heightened fear. Members of our new Police Service do not have to check their cars every morning. Shoppers are not stopped every time they pop into a high street store, whether in Belfast, Ballymena or Banbridge. Some may try to exploit the fears of ordinary people, but Northern Ireland is unquestionably a better place in which to live. It is the Ulster Unionist Party that has delivered this situation, despite the risks and the legacy of lawlessness and carnage inflicted upon us by the IRA and other paramilitaries.

However, we recognise that the Republican movement has taken some major steps. It has started decommissioning; its elected representatives sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly — a partitionist body; and it claims to have put its violent past behind it. Unfortunately, that claim is belied by events, and those events have given rise to the motion. The motion refers to recent events in Northern Ireland, England, the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere. A crucial point is that the motion calls on the Secretary of State to make a determination and to deal with it.

Two amendments have been tabled, and I should say something about them. I understand why the Alliance Party has tabled its amendment. It is right that we should be balanced, and the motion refers to Loyalist paramilitaries as well as to Republican ones. If the issue arises, I should be happy to tell my party to support the Alliance amendment.

As regards the DUP’s amendment, I must point out to its members that there is a serious issue here. I got the impression last week that they understood the issue, which is that rushing in with an exclusion motion is fruitless. An exclusion motion requires a cross-community vote, and we know from experience — because it has happened — that the circumstances in the Assembly mean that such a motion would not be carried.

On the other hand, our motion puts the responsibility where it ought to rest — on the Secretary of State. I thought that the DUP had realised that when it withdrew its exclusion motion. Unfortunately, the DUP amendment, instead of putting the issue at the Secretary of State’s door, puts it back at our own.

Peter Robinson was in error in his interview this morning when he said that if the Secretary of State made a determination on the IRA ceasefire, so what? It means so very much. If there were such a determination, the position of persons released under the early release scheme would be different. If the Secretary of State made such a determination and if the stories about Mr Padraic Wilson at the weekend, for example, were proved to be true, the Secretary of State would have the power to return him to prison. That is a point that the DUP missed.

However, I want to turn to the recent events and violence. We must acknowledge that there have been serious breaches of the IRA ceasefire, and the motion does that. Some people talk about evidence; others suggest that there is no evidence. There clearly is evidence on the Colombian front. I must pay tribute to the US Senate Committee on International Relations for the work that it has done on this issue. Some of the Northern Ireland media reporting of that work misreported the position seriously.

Clear evidence emerged in the course of the hearing that linked the IRA to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) the training given by the IRA to FARC and to the change that took place in the nature of FARC’s activities after that. It would be nice if I were in the position to go through the detail of Gen Fernando Tapias’s evidence. For Members’ sake, it might be good to bear in mind that the IRA’s friends on the US Congressional Committee — it has some friends on that Committee, such as Congressman King and others — accepted the standing of Gen Tapias at the hearing. They acknowledged that Gen Tapias is the man who professionalised the Colombian army — a man with a good human rights record. That man said clearly that the IRA has been involved in the training of the FARC organisation, and he produced evidence. He produced statements made by former members of FARC, which clearly involved the IRA.

For example, Geovanny Escobar Polanía gave a statement to the effect that in August 2002 a group of approximately 15 Irish citizens arrived in Bogota and mobilised via buses and private aircraft to various points throughout the FARC demilitarised zone. The purpose of their visit was to train FARC members in terrorism, explosives and military tactics.

In his statement, John Alexander Rodriguez referred to having participated in training directed by them. He also referred to flights of light aircraft with a shipment of 30 boxes of material, the instruction, production and handling of mortars, bombs, gas cylinders and intelligence and the handling of missile launchers. Mr Rodriguez even referred to himself as launching some of them.

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

Another person referred particularly to the training given by what he called "the three blondes", whoever they might be. I thought that might interest Members. He referred to their giving comprehensive training on the subject of Semtex. He said:

"Semtex is very interesting. It is something very important and they have it and know how to use it."

There is clear evidence on the operations in Colombia. That evidence was given, and was thus only available from, last week. We also have other material that one could go through in detail.

Members will be anxious about the concerns over Castlereagh, and the suspicion about the killing in the Dungannon area. If anyone tries to suggest otherwise, I recommend that he reads the letter in ‘The Irish News’ today from a County Tyrone Republican who made it clear that he has no time for the attempt by some Republicans to suggest that they were not responsible for that murder. People should look at that carefully. Furthermore — [Interruption].

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

My apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker, I did not recognise Mr Hussey. [Interruption]. I will give way. [Interruption].

Photo of Derek Hussey Derek Hussey UUP

I do not want to take up too much of Mr Trimble’s and the Assembly’s time. However, there is something else that we should be aware of regarding an incident in west Tyrone recently. I have a copy of the follow-up security report on the device used in the incident, and I quote:

"With the exception of the TPU and the Yugoslavian detonator, which are common types used by the Real IRA, all other component parts were assessed to be types used mainly by the Provisional IRA."

If dissidents were responsible for that attack, where did they get the materials used mainly by the IRA? Why are the dumps not sealed? Whether by intent or otherwise, are the Provisionals co-operating with the dissidents, or are they really one and the same? To put it in country terms, "the same sow’s pigs".

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

The Member’s point is very well made.

The important point to bear in mind about Castlereagh and the Dungannon killing is that there is suspicion, and it is based on intelligence — we do not yet have hard evidence. However, the Secretary of State can act on intelligence. His determination about the UDA ceasefire was made on the basis of intelligence. That is another good reason for putting the issue before the Secretary of State. It is his responsibility, and that of the Government, to maintain the integrity of this process.

It is now eight years since the first ceasefire and four years since the agreement. That is enough time for everything to be settled and enough time for Sinn Féin to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to peaceful means and not to be continuing with this sort of activity. I hope that the Assembly will support the motion, and I challenge the DUP to support it.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I beg to move amendment No 1: Delete all after "this Assembly" and insert:

"noting the Secretary of State’s determination on the status of the UDA/UFF ceasefire, resolves that the IRA ceasefire is no less flawed and determines to consider appropriate consequent measures."

Every time the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party indicts the IRA, he is indicting himself. He has accused it of crimes that we know it is guilty of. In his manifesto he asked the following question:

"Will paramilitaries be allowed to sit in the Northern Ireland Government?"

His answer was:

"No. The Ulster Unionist Party will not serve with any Party which refuses to commit itself by word and deed to exclusively peaceful and non-violent means."

He has indicted the IRA as still being engaged in terrorism today. He should be telling the Secretary of State to get on with the job by letting the Assembly do what it is entitled to do.

I do not need to repeat the indictment already made against the IRA. I advise Members to get a copy of ‘Terror International’ and read page after page of substantiated evidence — some in the courts — of the fact that the IRA is still engaged in violent acts and terrorism.

I welcome the fact that the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has awoken to the fact that IRA/Sinn Féin is engaged in intelligence gathering and murder. According to Mr Nesbitt, the Official Unionists now accept that the IRA is replacing old weapons with new ones from Russia. That is sad to state, when we have made attempts to remove the IRA. Mr Trimble tells us that he takes credit for the good things. Nothing can be good for Northern Ireland when the Minister of Education is an IRA/Sinn Féin man who was once the leader of the murder gangs across the Province. The Minister of Education comes from the same litter.

We must face the fact that the Secretary of State has no power. It is no use appealing to him, for he has no power to do anything. This is the House in which the power lies. I refer Mr Trimble to his own party president, Rev Martin Smyth, who spoke in the House of Commons on Thursday 25 April. He said that

"it is significant that, since 1998, senior members of the IRA, after signing the Belfast agreement, have been involved in international terrorism and continue to murder Roman Catholics in Tyrone and to target and threaten people in this House".

What did the Government spokesman say? What did the leader of the Secretary of State’s party, the party to which Mr Trimble is appealing, say? [Interruption].

With the Prime Minister beside him, and with his full authority, Robin Cook said that Mr Smyth’s comments did not "have a direct bearing" on this matter.

The Government have already decided on the matter referred to in the motion. They have decided that the IRA will stay in this Government.

In the Ulster Unionist Party manifesto for the 1998 Assembly elections, Mr Trimble said that there must be

"a clear and unequivocal commitment that ceasefires are complete and permanent; that the ‘war’ is over, and violence ended.

That targeting, training, weapons procurement and so-called punishment beatings cease forthwith.

That there is a progressive abandonment and dismantling of paramilitary structures.

That use of ‘proxy’ organisations for paramilitary purposes cannot be tolerated.

That disarmament must be completed in two years."

Those two years have now passed. Mr Trimble also asked

"That the fate of the ‘disappeared’ will be made known immediately."

On any one of those points, the IRA has not measured up to what Mr Trimble said they should do. The time has come, therefore, when the people of the Province must remove them from this Government and from this House, as far as executive power is concerned.

A Member:

Why do you not take the lead? [Interruption].

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Trimble, I will be very happy to resign when you resign, Sir. However, you will not resign, because you have bigger fish to fry.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. Members must resume their seats when the Deputy Speaker is on her feet. Order.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The leader of the Unionist Party decided that the debate would last for only an hour and a half. There is no time for me to — [Interruption].

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr Paisley has alleged that I decided that the debate would last for an hour and a half. I appeal to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to make it clear that Mr Paisley’s statement is totally untrue. It was agreed — [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. I thank the Member for raising the point of order. The Business Committee decided the timing of the debate. Please be silent for the Member to resume his speech.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The Members of the august body that did that were Mr Trimble’s parrots, and if he does not like his parrots, he should shoot them — but evidently he loves them. A few days ago, Mr Trimble was wagging his finger saying "Who are the fools? We have got decommissioning." I say today "You are the fools?" Mr Trimble told us that no Unionist in Northern Ireland could believe a Republican. He believed them, and he tried to fool the people.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

I call Mr David Ford to propose the No 2 amendment on the Marshalled List of amendments.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I beg to move amendment No 2: Delete all after "IRA" and insert:

"and UVF ceasefires." [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. The Member has the right to be heard.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

I welcome the support given to the Alliance Party’s amendment by Mr Trimble. We accept that there was some justification behind the original motion, but it clearly went over the top. It implied that guilt had already been decided while clarification was still being sought and that the UUP had the answer to the question it was asking. That did not seem entirely correct, and it was also partial. It ignored the threat to society from Unionist terror groups, and it concentrated solely on demands for action against Nationalist terror groups. I have sympathy with some of Mr Trimble’s views — clearly all the parties that assented to the agreement should live up to their obligations.

There are many concerns centring on Colombia, the Castlereagh break-in and other matters. There are many questions that the Republican movement has yet to answer. There are many conspiracy theories about Castlereagh, nearly as many as there are journalists working in Belfast, but no one can say whether they involve Republicans or rogue groups in the system.

Similarly, with regard to Colombia, some Alliance representatives went to Washington in March and met people from the House Committee on International Relations. It is absolutely clear that concerns were developing there and that evidence was being compiled for last week’s hearing. There were serious concerns about international involvement in Colombia in which it appeared that the IRA was implicated along with the FARC. Republicans must live up to their side of the Good Friday Agreement. They are contributing massively to the declining support for the agreement, because they are simply not being seen to deliver on their obligations.

There are far too many questions still around — questions over acts of violence, murders and international connections. I am concerned at recent suggestions that Palestinians may be using IRA-style pipe bombs, but, as a Member of the Assembly, I am much more concerned about Loyalists and Republicans using pipe bombs on the streets of Belfast. When the IRA has made moves on decommissioning, I have welcomed them. They have been a serious step towards promoting a culture of movement in favour of the agreement. They have been significant — at least in Republican terms, if not in the terms in which others have viewed them — and the IRA has expected people to have confidence in the process because of that. However, it needs to do more, and it needs to be seen to be doing more. It needs to be more open and transparent about the process because it is not just the Unionists who are concerned. There is widespread concern across the community, and that concern must be answered. Unionists cannot have it both ways.

I was interested in the line of questioning that was put to Dermot Nesbitt on ‘Good Morning Ulster’ this morning. He was asked "Isn’t the Alliance Party right to say that your motion is over the top?" He replied "No, we have the information." He was then asked "Well then, isn’t the DUP right?" He replied "Well no, actually, we do not have the information."

I paraphrase, but that was the way in which the motion was produced for the House. That is why it needs to be worded more satisfactorily.

Fundamentally, Unionists — specifically Ulster Unionists — have to decide where they stand on the agreement. What is their attitude to the Belfast Agreement? If the Assembly wishes to make an honest attempt to find out information from the Secretary of State, that is fine. However, if it is a halfway house to appeasing not just the DUP but also the anti-agreement elements within the Ulster Unionist Party, it is achieving nothing and is contributing to destabilising the situation. It is somewhat reminiscent of the attitude, as first adopted, on the day that Sinn Féin entered the talks in 1997. My party had discussions with Sinn Féin before it came into the talks, and we sought to involve it in the process and to assist it to move towards democracy. At that time, the Ulster Unionists complained about parties with paramilitary links, and then we saw them arrive in the talks accompanied by the PUP and the UDP.

If the amendment is accepted by Mr Trimble and backed by his Colleagues in the Division Lobby, it will at least be a sign that they are starting to move away from the notion that there are "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists" or "our terrorists" and "their terrorists". I do not believe that that was their position when they tabled the motion, and the whole group needs to make that clear by its actions in the Division Lobby. There have been many incidents recently. They have gone from the Lammas Fair, through south Antrim to the streets of north Belfast nightly, raising questions about the actions of Loyalists, their attitude to the agreement and their attitude to their ceasefires. There is widespread acceptance that that needs to be looked at. I welcome the fact that Mr Trimble has joined in that today.

The motion, as it was tabled, bore the signatures of Mr Trimble, Mr Leslie, Mr Davis and Mr McGimpsey. However, I believe that it bore the fingerprints of Messrs Burnside and Donaldson. It is time that the Unionist grouping in the Assembly began to get away from those influences. The amendment gives the opportunity to do that. It gives the opportunity for Ulster Unionists to stop looking over their shoulders at the anti-agreement elements within their party. The amendment changes the motion. It seeks genuine clarification of the situation from the Secretary of State. I welcome the acceptance by the First Minister, and I look forward to seeing him, his Colleagues and other Members of the Assembly uniting around a reasonable policy. I commend the amendment.

Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party 4:30 pm, 29th April 2002

The SDLP will be opposing the DUP amendment because, in reality, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is an exclusion motion in the guise of softer words. It is a wrecking attempt that is based on party needs and not on compelling grounds. We could see that from the exchange between the DUP leader and the UUP leader.

In addition, we will not be supporting the UUP motion for various reasons. We have already seen on the Floor of the House this afternoon why we will not be supporting it. Is this a place where, amid all the sound and fury, there can be a proper debate and a proper conclusion to this serious issue? Will we have any more clarity at 6 pm than we had at 4 pm? Is this the best time and place to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion — [Interruption].

A Member:

Where else?

Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will come to that. Is this the best place, enabling some in here to grandstand and others to point fingers? The SDLP does not think so.

A Member:

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

I have only five minutes. Our approach is to try to protect what has been achieved in the Chamber and through the Good Friday Agreement, to advance legitimate concerns about the integrity or otherwise of ceasefires and to develop outcomes that develop confidence in ceasefires and the political process. That is why it is appropriate to make an assessment about IRA and UVF ceasefires and to seek assessments of the integrity or otherwise of those ceasefires from Governments. It is appropriate to determine, from police services on this island and elsewhere, whether ceasefires are being maintained.

Photo of Derek Hussey Derek Hussey UUP

Where did the security report that I have come from?

Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

I will come to that. It is appropriate to raise any issue, including this one, with the recently established implementation group through which the Governments and the pro-agreement parties have outlined mechanisms whereby issues can be properly discussed, considered and resolved.

The issue must be addressed with rigour, whether by Governments, parties, people, or by police services. If paramilitary organisations are active, we need to know their full nature, details and intentions. What we need is not speculation, but substance; not story telling, but evidence gathering. Only with rigour can we prove that ceasefires, wherever they may be, are being demonstrably dishonoured.

We must not fall foul of those who brief, leak and, perhaps, lie for self-protection. Elements in paramilitary organisations, British security agencies, the darkest places of Government offices and special branch have all done that in the past and are all capable of doing so now. In making a judgement in these matters we should not fall foul of these agendas. We must bring rigour to the process to ensure that our achievement — a new political and policing order — is not unduly damaged. Organisations that renege on ceasefire commitments must be called rigorously to account. What is known must be seen to be known, and what action is taken, seen to be taken.

I will consider current events using Colombia in its IRA context and the break-in at Castlereagh in a wider context. Gerry Adams claims that his non-attendance at the US Congressional hearing was vindicated. Is that really the case? The Congressional report concluded that the IRA had well-established links with the FARC. It stressed that it was implausible that the IRA would not have known about the links with FARC, adding that the IRA contribution has markedly enhanced FARC techniques. It is quite proper to challenge the reasons behind the Congressional report and its evidence, but it is not vindication. People here deserve more respect from political leadership. They want accountability, whether it is for the actions of the police in the North; of politicians in the South; or what illegal organisations do internationally or at home. Warm words cannot evade that requirement — be they from Gerry Adams, the IRA, the UDA, the UVF, the state, or anyone else. We need assessment and accountability for past and present activities. However, this is not the place or the time.

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. It is obvious from the debate so far that it has more to do with an argument in Unionism than with anything else. To people who are not sitting in the Assembly, the background is one of constant Loyalist attacks — in my constituency of North Belfast, for example — over the past 18 months. In the past couple of days death threats have been issued to Sinn Féin councillors and elected representatives and an attack on an ex-Sinn Féin councillor’s home has occurred, and four people have been killed by Loyalists in the past 18 months. Yet on the Benches opposite no motions have been proposed — there has been absolute silence.

I will go further. When there was some debate that there should be a determination on the UDA’s ceasefire, if my memory serves me right, members of the UUP argued against it. They said it would be a bad idea for the Secretary of State to take such a course of action. Add to that ongoing collusion, undercover surveillance and the bugging of houses. It is ironic that at the weekend there were leaked reports that Republican houses were being bugged as well. The recruitment of informers is ongoing — I know of a case where a vulnerable young boy of 14 was recruited and has been used for the past five years. There are beatings in North Queen Street and other places that we have seen in the media. When houses in South Armagh are raided, people like Peter Carraher are beaten up on the basis that there was a protest at one of the barracks. Plastic bullets are still being used. The last three kids who have been struck by plastic bullets were a 10-year old, a 12-year old and a 14-year old.

A Member:

What about blast bombs?

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

The UDA are at that too.

All the evidence and the circumstances of what happened in Castlereagh, which was mentioned in the debate, point towards the involvement of other intelligence agencies. We are in the ironic position whereby those who carried out the raid are briefing Members on the other side of the House, who are using that information as a reason for the debate. That is ridiculous, especially when one considers the death of William Stobie, an agent who was killed in mysterious circumstances, and that of Stephen McCullough, who was found dead at the bottom of Cave Hill after trying to give information. One could be forgiven for asking where is the Crown forces’ ceasefire.

Where are the stories coming from? I used the word "stories", and people are calling them leaks, but it is disinformation — and it comes from the securocrats in the system. That is not a new development, because those are the people who were against the peace process from the start and who have tried to undermine it ever since. Yet the people across the Chamber — and some on this side — take as gospel these intelligence reports, which have been used against the peace process from the start. Those who went into Castlereagh and took the alleged documents are the same people who are giving briefings and winding up the Unionists and other political parties so that they will hold this debate to try to undermine the peace process.

Against that, the IRA is now in the fifth year of its ceasefire; it is fully engaged with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD); it has allowed the involvement of international inspectors; it has agreed schemes; it has twice put arms beyond use, most recently on 8 April; it has said several times that it is no threat to the peace process; and it has proved its commitment in actual deeds as opposed to the nonsense of the other side of the House. [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. The Member is entitled to be heard.

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

The Nationalist community is asking what is the intent of the Unionist leadership, which has stalled the institutions and subverted the all-Ireland bodies. David Trimble has undermined Ministers in the Executive and insulted people in the Twenty-six Counties and elsewhere. He has not used his influence with regard to arms. The UUP cannot "out-Paisley" Paisley; it cannot "out-DUP" the DUP, and it should forget any idea of doing so. We heard about decommissioning and are now hearing about the issue of IRA disbandment.

This process is about people on the ground; it is about making politics work, and the pro-Good Friday Agreement parties should work towards that. There should not be trial by media — that is the evidence that was produced — nor should there be trial by Unionism. If books, papers and programmes are to be relied on, a book entitled ‘The Committee’ was published, which attacked David Trimble and others, so we should not take such matters too seriously.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

Many in the Unionist community are asking what is the real purpose of the motion that Mr Trimble and his Colleagues tabled and what would it achieve if it were accepted?

Mr Trimble wants the Secretary of State to determine the status of the so-called IRA ceasefire and to take "appropriate action", whatever that means. Mr Trimble has already heard the Secretary of State and is well aware of Mr Reid’s view that the ceasefire is intact. However, Mr Trimble has a different view. He made it clear when he emerged from a meeting with his friends in SinnFein/IRA last Friday that he had, in no uncertain terms, told Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness that nobody in the Unionist community believed a word that Republicans said when they denied the involvement of Sinn Féin/ IRA in recent terrorist events. That is Mr Trimble’s assessment of the situation.

Mr Trimble is right, but he should be aware that no one in the Unionist community understands why the Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP have Ministers in a power-sharing Administration, who govern the very people that Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and their colleagues terrorised for the past 30 years. Why are the Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP having this exchange concerning who is to blame for this sorry plight, with one saying to the other "after you"?

Mr Trimble knows that the Unionist community has had a bellyful of that nonsense. The message from that community is that he must lead the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives out of the Assembly. Whether the Ulster Unionist motion succeeds or the DUP proposes a motion next week to exclude Sinn Féin, the support of the SDLP is required to remove Sinn Féin from the Government. However, Mr Durkan calls the activity of Sinn Féin/IRA and the acts of terrorism "turbulence". It might seem like turbulence to Mr Durkan, who views it from a distance, but to those who have been murdered or terrorised or had their loved ones buried in unmarked graves it is more than turbulence.

It is a disgrace that those who say that they believe in democracy dismiss the activities of gangsters in such a fashion. Mr Durkan will meet his day of reckoning when they gobble up his party. He gave them oxygen when they were on their knees. When the RUC and the army had the IRA hounded into their corners in west Belfast like the rats that they are, the SDLP and Mr Hume brought them back, gave them credibility and brought them into the democratic process. The SDLP will regret that when the electorate deals with it.

Let us remember that Mr Trimble was the guarantor of the Prime Minister’s promises. Mr Blair promised that there would be no question of those who were not completely committed to the democratic process remaining in government in Northern Ireland. Mr Trimble knows that the Prime Minister has lied to the people of Northern Ireland. What is he going to do about it? He can try to pass the buck to the Secretary of State. Mr Trimble has assessed that IRA/Sinn Féin’s so-called ceasefire is not worth a tuppenny candle, yet he is prepared to continue to sit in government with its Members.

The people of Northern Ireland will tell Mr Trimble that that is not sufficient, because they know the true purpose of Mr Trimble’s new approach to those he has cosied up to in recent years. He realises now. He said that not a single Unionist out there supported what was happening in this process. Sooner or later he will be faced with an election. If the DUP’s challenge in the House of Lords succeeds, an election might be called before the end of this year. I say to Mr Trimble and his Colleagues, and even to those in the so-called anti-agreement wing of his party, that it will do no good to say that the party is under new management, change its leadership and attempt once again to sell policies that repeat the lies of its last manifesto. They told the public that they would not sit in government with those who were armed and were carrying on the violence.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

You have broken that pledge, Mr Trimble; now let us see you squirm.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Time is up. Order.

Photo of Mr Denis Watson Mr Denis Watson UUAP

I support the amendment tabled by Dr Paisley and Mr Peter Robinson. I am encouraged that the Ulster Unionist Members have deigned to attend such a debate at last. One could ask whether they have had a road to Damascus conversion at this late stage, but I doubt it.

Let there be no doubt that the pro-agreement element in the Ulster Unionist Party has closed its eyes and ears to what the anti-agreement Unionists have been saying for months. They will get little salvation when they go to the electorate having hardened their stance at such a late stage.

Had that party been present in the Chamber in March, when the anti-agreement Unionists called for the removal of IRA/Sinn Féin from government, they would have heard plenty of evidence to question the validity of the ceasefires. The month before that, the media was filled with accounts of the IRA’s involvement in the murder of Matthew Burns in Castlewellan in February. Since then there have been many more chilling reports of the latest discoveries of the IRA’s murky, underworld deeds. A trigger-happy gunman in Tyrone murdered a man on his taxi run. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that the Provisional IRA was the prime suspect for the planning and execution of that operation. Furthermore, it followed confirmation that the IRA was involved in co-operation with Colombian terrorists — despite earlier denials by Gerry Adams — and that its organisation has been importing weapons from Russia.

None of those events takes note of the daily gangsterism in which the paramilitaries are involved. We see the writing on the wall at Bawnmore, "White City will burn"; a man with strong IRA connections being questioned about the break-in at Castlereagh, and — surprise, surprise — found to be in possession of intelligence on the details of politicians and a list of security bases to be targeted for attack. That man was released from prison under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

Four years on, the Assembly must question whether anything has changed. Time prevents my outlining further examples. However, how much more evidence is needed to prove that IRA/Sinn Féin has peace on its lips but war in its heart? These people are in Government by day and involved in terrorism by night. Can the Assembly be expected to believe that the ceasefire is intact, despite cynical, token acts of decommissioning for the sake of political gain in the South? The evidence of the past month suggests not. What now of Mr Trimble’s assessment? He has, once again, been foolish in his analysis, while anti-agreement Unionists have been steadfast and true.

In what has been proven to be an inaccurate analysis of the Belfast Agreement, Mr Trimble and his pro-agreement Colleagues have been guilty of abandoning every election pledge. Clearly, the serious questions that he was going to ask Gerry Adams last week came — once again — to nothing. That is no surprise. However, the Ulster Unionist Party does not appear to learn from its mistakes. The motion is weak — typically weak. It merely calls upon the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the IRA ceasefire and to indicate the consequent measures that he considers appropriate. The Secretary of State has already declared the ceasefire intact. Therefore he will, no doubt, declare that nothing need be done.

Where does that leave the so-called peace process? The answer is where it has always been: at the whim, mercy and service of those for whom violence has always paid. I remind the members of the Ulster Unionist Party that they have already heard what their Colleagues in the Social Democratic and Labour Party have said and how they propose to vote. I urge Ulster Unionist Members to support the amendment in the name of Dr Paisley and Mr Robinson and to present a united Unionist front. The United Unionist Assembly Party supports the amendment.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

It strikes me — watching the demeanour of the Democratic Unionists — that they would have had quare fun in the air-raid shelters. They are the type of people who get happy at the thought of a crisis. The fun and laughter in the Chamber today does not portray the true picture. The Assembly is on the cusp of a crisis — one that is probably deeper than any we have had.

However, I have difficulty with the amendment. The Progressive Unionist Party is not a party of exclusion; it does not believe that excluding people is the answer. It certainly does not believe that it is wise to table an exclusion motion in the knowledge that it cannot work. It is ridiculous to ask the Secretary of State to give a repeat determination. The Assembly must instead identify the problem.

The Progressive Unionist Party entered into a partnership in the full knowledge that the partner had told lies previously and did not have substantially bona fide intentions to accompany — in the view of my community — the process. However, the Progressive Unionists were prepared to take a risk and accept the challenge. The partner, on the other hand, is behaving with great infidelity. It is not a jibing or laughing matter. It is more than just the stunt of 30 names that cannot achieve anything. Parties must look into their hearts.

If you genuinely, truly, really, believed that someone was besmirching the process so much, you —

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

You would go to court.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

You would probably walk out and not afford the process any oxygen. In doing so, you would precipitate a crisis that would force the circumstances to be looked at again. It is simply the case — [Interruption].

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

The Member who heckles is very legalistic and can clearly interpret what would happen in the event of a complete walkout by the Unionist family. He fully understands — [Interruption].

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

Nevertheless, we could bandy about all the issues that have already been raised. However, the simple reality is that, for me, there was the IRA. Sinn Féin likes to call it "the army". For 30 years, the army was undoubtedly in the ascendant in its relationship with Sinn Féin. Many of us in the negotiating process struggled with and wondered about whether Sinn Féin would achieve the ascendant in its relationship with the IRA. Many of us believed, in the historic days of the Good Friday Agreement, that that had, indeed, happened.

The events that others have related show that that is not the case; that Sinn Féin is hidebound to the army, not the other way round. Therefore, those who propagate Republican opinion via the mouth are telling us how reasonable and decent the future can be and what fine democrats they will be. However, the IRA, or elements thereof, is undoubtedly doing something completely different. That is intolerable. It is not acceptable. My party will review its position in relation to this Assembly and the peace process.

The exclusion of Sinn Féin is not the issue, because any agreement that we create in the future — and some day there will be an agreement that works — will be of a similar style and nature to the one that we have. The question is, if there is a next time round, will those who operate it do so with greater honour and integrity? I know, perhaps better than most, that it is not easy to be in Sinn Féin’s position, but I will require some convincing that Sinn Féin did not, and do not, know what details the leadership of the IRA is placing on the activities of the IRA.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

The Member’s time is up.

Photo of Prof Monica McWilliams Prof Monica McWilliams NIWC

From what I have heard so far, it seems that the debate is one where rumour is fast becoming fact, and spin is being traded off as substance. We are in grave danger of spinning ourselves round and round in yet another crisis. Unlike others, the Women’s Coalition tried to avoid the knee-jerk reactions of the past two weeks and the jumping to conclusions time and time again. We do not know the facts.

It is rather worrying to see Mr Hussey reading from a "security report" on the Floor of the House. Often that is what raises the concerns. If we are to implement this agreement, we should share such information and not just pull it out because of a particular liaison with one part of the police in Northern Ireland. I am certain that the police have tried to avoid that in the past. That is why they have kept many documents to themselves, lest any political party make them its and its alone. It was a rather worrying introduction to the debate.

Photo of Derek Hussey Derek Hussey UUP

It is an official document.

Photo of Prof Monica McWilliams Prof Monica McWilliams NIWC

Indeed, that is why I said what I said, and why an implementation committee is urgently needed. We put forward the idea of an implementation committee right after we had signed the Good Friday Agreement, because we knew that, while doing a deal and making an agreement was easy, implementing it was going to be the difficult part.

If a party has access to information in official documents, let it share that information with us. Let us all engage in factual discussion.

Some irresponsible journalism has presented rumour as fact. A headline in the ‘News Letter’ last week read "Last days of peace?" David Ervine is probably correct: if a question mark is placed after "Last days of peace", what are we to think? Will we go round and round in this circle? Let those who remember the 1970s reflect, please, on what we now have and on what is precious. Part of the agreement concerned inclusion, and we must work hard at that to reassure those on either side that we are serious about our reasons for being here and for sharing power. If that has not been the case to date, we must rectify it urgently.

The Secretary of State should get his finger out. It is not enough for him to report to the media and expect everyone to be satisfied. He should call on every one of us, including the British and Irish Governments, even if the Irish Government are engaged in an election. This is more important. There should be truth and hard talking. Can any of the pro-agreement parties say that that did not happen at the last meeting? That meeting was scheduled to last one hour; instead, it continued for the best part of two and a half hours, because people began to challenge one another to see others’ viewpoints. Perhaps that is why so much confidence has drained away.

Some Unionists have said that they are 100% certain that the IRA was behind the break-in at Castlereagh. Others, however — including the police — have said that it was an inside job. If a criminal investigation is ongoing, surely we must wait for the report of its findings. Have we not done that in other criminal investigations? We damage the process by not waiting.

The Women’s Coalition will not vote on the motion, because it does nothing to advance serious discussion on how to resolve the issues or to get to the bottom of what has happened. Dissident paramilitaries and those who have been against the agreement from the beginning —

Photo of Prof Monica McWilliams Prof Monica McWilliams NIWC

— are probably clapping their hands in delight at the debate.

Photo of Robert McCartney Robert McCartney UKUP

Let me put Gerry Kelly and Monica McWilliams right on fact and fiction. It is a fact that three eco-tourists with established IRA connections, and in some cases records, travelled on false passports. The IRA’s engaging with Gen de Chastelain is a fact. It is a fact that Paddy Wilson, who is their engager, is also engaging in Colombia. The photograph of Paddy Wilson travelling under a false passport as a Mr Walker is a fact.

The terms of the motion highlight the hypocrisy of the Ulster Unionist Party. On 7 June 1996 Mr Trimble declared in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ that he would stop the talks if decommissioning of all arms did not start right away. Exactly one year later he was suggesting in the ‘News Letter’ that decommissioning should be pigeonholed.

He takes the biscuit for political hypocrisy, because he became First Minister only with the help of whom? — the PUP, also known as the UVF.

Why has this motion been tabled now, when the IRA has been in almost continuous violation of its ceasefire over the past few years? Murders of alleged drug dealers by Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) — an IRA alias — have simply been ignored.

Murders of claimed informers, such as Charles Bennett, have been dismissed as internal housekeeping. Executions of so-called dissidents, such as Joe O’Connor in west Belfast, or former activists, now disapproved of, such as Eamon Collins in Newry, have been swept under the carpet. Those who had the personal courage and physique to challenge the intimidation of the local IRA commander, such as Andrew Kearney, have been shot and murdered in their homes.

Beatings, shootings, forced exile, murder, organised crime, racketeering, targeting, training, recruitment and rearming have been going on for the past four years. Yet, until now, none of those caused the Ulster Unionist Party, which has suddenly become politically fastidious, to cease political habitation in Government with Sinn Féin, with whom the IRA is inextricably linked. The real reason for this unprincipled political opportunism is the possibility of an early election if the House of Lords confirms that Mr Trimble’s re-election as First Minister last November was indeed a pantomime, with Mr Ford performing nobly as the rear end of the horse.

Mr Trimble’s current political lunacy, in claiming that the IRA’s second historical stunt amounts to a process of decommissioning, coupled with his having given credence to Gerry Adams’s assertion that Sinn Féin and the IRA are separate by asking Gerry and Martin, as democrats, to restrain those with whom they are inextricably linked as terrorists from behaving badly, raises questions as to the balance of Mr Trimble’s political mind. Grass-roots Unionists will recognise this charade as another performance by the purple turtle — a burst of assumed red-faced political rage before he rolls on his back to surrender. Sinn Féin should have been removed from the Executive long ago.

However, the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have a vested interest in keeping Sinn Féin here. The SDLP, which suggested via Mr Attwood that this is a battle between Unionists, ignores the fact that it has a battle with Sinn Féin. The SDLP has become even greener than the green, and it will never ever treat with democrats while it is in an unholy union with Nationalists who are committed to terror.

The motion is a fraudulent farce.

Photo of Mr Ivan Davis Mr Ivan Davis UUP

My remarks are addressed to the Sinn Féin Members; I do not intend to attack fellow Unionists as others have done today. Today’s question is simple: do Members ignore all that has happened in the past few months and pretend that nothing is wrong? Or do we, as elected representatives, reflect the deep concerns of the people of Northern Ireland and demand from the Secretary of State a clear determination on the status of the IRA’s ceasefire?

We must question the ceasefire status of a group that has gathered and stored information on political figures and has targeted people for the past few months. Those are hardly the actions of an organisation committed to purely peaceful and democratic means. Are we supposed to accept at face value the explanations and excuses that have been given for the presence of three senior Republicans, including Sinn Féin’s Cuban representative, in the jungles of Colombia? As Congressman Henry Hyde said, the reasons given are little short of an insult to our intelligence. We are told that they travelled to Colombia on false passports to study the flora and fauna of the region and to discuss the peace process with FARC, the world’s leading eco-terrorists. Is it purely coincidental that FARC has killed numerous people recently using IRA-style urban terrorist methods? FARC has developed those tactics and methods only since the Republican visit. I do not believe for a minute that that is a coincidence.

We will be failing in our duty as elected representatives if we do not call on the Secretary of State to make a determination on the break-in at Castlereagh. As he did with other ceasefires, he should make an honest assessment and then say what consequent measures he considers appropriate.

What credibility will the Assembly have if it does not endorse this motion? We can support the UUP motion and show that Unionists are united. Do we want to be seen to turn a blind eye to everything that has happened? What message would that give to paramilitary groups? It would suggest that they can do what they want and that the Assembly will take no punitive measures.

In addition to all the democratic rights about which we hear so much, we have responsibilities. Republicans have been ignoring their responsibilities for too long, and it is time that they faced up to them. Shipping in guns from Florida or elsewhere is incompatible with maintaining a ceasefire, as is killing or maiming people who happen to disagree with them. A commitment to purely peaceful and democratic means is more than a collection of words. It is a solemn promise which everyone in the Chamber, including the Republican movement, gave regarding the way in which they would conduct themselves in the conflict resolution process. Others have been held to account for failing to live up to the promises that they made; Republicans cannot be exempted from their responsibilities.

If this process is to flourish we cannot have one group of people playing by different rules. It is not possible to be partly democratic. A person is either committed to democracy, with all the responsibility that it entails, or he or she is not. [Interruption].

Photo of Mr Ivan Davis Mr Ivan Davis UUP

There are no halfway houses.

Bertie Ahern says that he does not believe that Republicans were involved in the break-in at Castlereagh because he has found them to be honest in the past. He must have a short memory. How honest were Republicans when they initially denied murdering Det Garda Jerry McCabe or when they denied responsibility for the Enniskillen atrocity, the disappearance of Jean McConville or the Birmingham bombings? How many drug dealers have been murdered by Direct Action Against Drugs?

Despite the honesty of Republicans, Bertie has made it abundantly clear that he will not form a coalition with them after the election in the Republic. However, people on this side of the border are expected to swallow everything —

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

The Member’s time is up.

Photo of Mr Ivan Davis Mr Ivan Davis UUP

We are told to ignore the evidence of our own eyes and ears. The trouble is that there are too many doctors on this side of the House who can diagnose the illness but cannot provide the cure. [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

Order. The Deputy Speaker is on her feet. Order.

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

This is the first time that the hon Member Mr Davis has spoken on Sinn Féin/IRA’s breach of its ceasefire. I have not heard the Member talk in that way in the past four years, and some of his Colleagues will be amazed to hear the views that he expressed. He cited the IRA’s breaches of its ceasefire and said that we cannot turn a blind eye to it or trust it. The Member will have no difficulty resolving that the IRA ceasefire is flawed and considering the appropriate measures to take. The hon Member is nodding. If he truly believes in what he said, I expect to see him in the Lobby with the DUP to vote for its amendment. If he is not in that Lobby, we will know that his words were hot air designed to distract attention away from the fact that everything that he said is true this week, was true last week, last month, last year and has been true for the past four years while he and his Colleagues kept Sinn Féin/IRA in the Government of Northern Ireland[Interruption].

5.15 pm

I hear the Member for East Belfast, Sir Reg Empey, chirping from the Back Benches. If he has something to say, perhaps he will get to his feet and say it as a man in a debate instead of leaving it to his Colleagues. [Interruption].

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

The hon Member is keen to speak now, but he did not take his chance to make a contribution to the debate. At the time of our exclusion motion, he, along with other Members, came to the Chamber briefly and then scurried off. They criticised the DUP for being engaged in stunts when we were in the business of moving the exclusion of Sinn Féin/IRA for many of the same reasons that they are now putting forward to support their motion in the Assembly today.

In relation to the so-called decommissioning event or stunt that the IRA carried out, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party — who, by the way, spent most of his time attacking fellow Unionists — asked only two weeks ago where the anti-agreement Unionists were, and who was looking foolish now. Now who is looking foolish? He was praising the IRA and criticising Unionists two weeks ago, and now here they are coming to the Assembly reading out a litany of crimes that were all in existence two weeks ago. Colombia is no recent invention of the media. This party and others, and the press, have been exposing what has been happening in Colombia for a considerable time.

Mr Trimble said two weeks ago in a speech in London that the IRA was still killing people in Northern Ireland. If he really believes that, why is he asking the Secretary of State to make a determination? He knows that the IRA is killing people. The SDLP knows that the Provisional IRA is killing people, because the hon Member for South Down, Mr McGrady, stood up in the House of Commons and named the Provisional IRA as the murderers of Matthew Burns in south Down.

We have heard from several Members that the IRA and the Republican movement, on numerous occasions, have denied involvement in events, only to admit them later, as identified by the widow of Garda Jerry McCabe amongst others. There is a whole list of these types of events. Therefore, given the involvement of IRA/Sinn Féin, why should we wait until the Secretary of State makes a determination? Why does the Assembly not take responsibility? Why do the Members on the Ulster Unionist Bench want to shuffle this responsibility off on to the Secretary of State when we have the power to table an exclusion motion and say to the Secretary of State that the majority of Unionists — the majority of Members in the House — do not believe that an organisation engaged in murder, violence, intimidation, gunrunning and promoting international terrorism should be in the Government of Northern Ireland?

As far as the PUP is concerned, I listened to Mr Ervine talking about not being a party of exclusion, yet his party put its name to an exclusion motion just a few months ago in the Assembly. He talked about walking out. He walked out of Weston Park, but he soon walked back into the process. He is in no position to lecture anyone about the process.

If people on the Unionist side of the House really believe that the IRA is involved in Colombia, really believe that gunrunning from Florida has taken place, really believe that the IRA is engaged in murder, really believe — unlike Mr Cobain, the Member for North Belfast, and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mr Rodgers, who both denied that the IRA was involved and put the blame entirely on the security forces — they will join us in the Lobby and vote for the amendment and against the motion.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

Alex Attwood has already said that the SDLP will not be supporting the main motion, even as amended. Our reason for not doing so is that the Secretary of State does not need a resolution of the House before making a determination. A party does not need to bring a motion to the House to call on the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of any ceasefire. The SDLP previously called on the Secretary of State to make a determination in relation to the UDA ceasefire, and we did not trouble the Assembly with it. We were quite open and public in our calls for it, and pursued it on those terms. Some people who are calling on the Assembly to back this motion opposed our call then.

I will make it clear that we do not oppose any call by any party for a determination to be made by the Secretary of State, and any party is free to make that call. As some Members suggested, the Secretary of State, in his comments and observations last week, hinted at how he would respond to a call for a formal determination. If people believe that it would be helpful to have a determination by the Secretary of State on the ceasefire of the IRA or the UVF, and if Mr Reid were so persuaded, the SDLP would not oppose his decision to do so.

People, rightly, have many concerns about the nature and the level of ongoing paramilitary activity, including that of groups such as the IRA and Loyalist paramilitary organisations. They are also concerned about what certain members of the intelligence community are up to. We read in the newspapers about leaks and spins, with documents apparently being handed to MLAs, and so forth. That does nothing to reassure people that there are not wheels within wheels as regards the activities of the paramilitaries and the intelligence services. Let us be clear: there are also spins within spins in this exercise.

Many of us have legitimate questions about what is happening and about the implications of such activities. That is one reason that I agree with the comments of Mr Attwood and Ms McWilliams that the implementation group that the Governments established would be a suitable forum in which to air and share those fundamental concerns. The implementation group should not be convened as a crisis measure to deal only with the issues that we discuss today; it should deal with other matters. The recent report of the Oversight Commission for Policing Reform and that of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), on the second act of decommissioning, are among the plentiful material that could form that group’s agenda. There is plenty of material to provide the basis upon which parties could share their fundamental concerns about what is happening.

I do not give great credence to IRA denials. I am as aware as other Members are of previous instances of IRA denials that were subsequently contradicted by admissions or evidence. Equally, I do not place much credence on the spin of selective briefings by some members of the intelligence services. Therefore, we are all caught: we hear different claims from the "unbelievables" in different quarters of the conflict. Those of us who are unsure of whether to believe the claims of paramilitaries and intelligence services should concentrate on what we believe ourselves. Although others are back doing what they know best, we should do what we know best — protect the political process. We listen to the IRA’s reassurance that it poses no threat to the peace process. However, I am as frustrated as anybody else is by the IRA’s apparent belief that it alone is the arbiter of what defines the peace process and of what is good or bad for the process. We are the arbiters of the political process; we are here to guarantee it, and I will not allow paramilitary activity from any quarter to veto it. I will not allow the shenanigans of the intelligence services to handicap the operation of the political process.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Over the past hour and a half, we have had examples of too many armchair generals giving their opinions and exerting their spin, whether inside the Chamber or being quoted from outside it. Therefore, it is reasonable that the Assembly, in the present circumstances, should request, as a corporate body, that the Secretary of State make a determination on the state of the IRA and UVF ceasefires. We may be the arbiters of the political process, but we can advance that process only in an atmosphere of honesty. If we attempt to cover matters up, we will not make that advance.

The debate was not difficult to summarise: I discovered that Nigel Dodds, Cedric Wilson, Denis Watson and Robert McCartney do not like the Good Friday Agreement — well, that is really amazing. I was interested in Gerry Kelly’s comments when he criticised the original motion, though he made little reference to the amendment. [Interruption].

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

Some of the criticisms that Gerry Kelly made of Loyalist and Unionist paramilitaries were similar to those that I made earlier in the debate. However, ideas should not be denigrated on the basis of those who hold them, so in that respect I welcome Mr Kelly’s contribution.

We had a contribution from Monica McWilliams, which was thoughtful in highlighting the danger of building up a crisis. There is no doubt that we are in great danger of talking up the crisis and making too much of it. We must also recognise that we had a meeting of the implementation group, which failed to achieve anything significant in paving the way forward. If we do not find a better way of making those systems work, we will continue to be in the same kind of crisis as we have been.

I noticed that Alex Attwood felt that this was not something for the Assembly today, that it was all to do with the battle within Unionism. I said what I thought about the battle in the Ulster Unionist Party and the difficulties that appear to afflict Mr Trimble — the fingerprints of the MPs that are on the motion as well as the signatures. However, there is no doubt that when we look at the overall package, it is simply not acceptable for the SDLP to say that it would sit on its hands and ignore the issue.

Mark Durkan said that we do not need the Assembly to deal with this matter, that individuals could take their own counsel on it. That is true, but would it not send a powerful message if there were a vote across the breadth of the Assembly to put forward a simple and balanced request — not a loaded and biased one — for clarification from the Secretary of State, because the Assembly, as a body, was prepared to unite around such a call? If we were to do that, it would show that the Assembly was uniting to defend the integrity of the agreement and to ensure that we make progress together. Otherwise, we will simply dissipate our energies in a serious of nugatory votes over the next few minutes, which will achieve nothing.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Throughout the debate, and before it, I have attempted to discern the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party’s thinking when he tabled the motion. He knows only too well that the impact of the motion is to avoid doing something rather than to do something. It is an attempt by him to kick up the dust and pretend to be the tough man taking action. In fact, it is buck-passing at its cynical worst.

The people who have the power to take action are the people on the Benches in the Assembly. We have the power to take action, if we had the courage to do so. I call on all who want to take action against those who are involved in violence to ensure that they are no longer part of the Executive. I call on them to go to the Business Office and sign the exclusion motion, and then we can deal with the issue.

There is no need to take it up the hill to the Secretary of State and ask him to examine the issue and make a determination. Why on earth should they ask the Secretary of State to make a determination when they have already reached their conclusions? Why have they reached those conclusions? It has not been evidenced over the past number of weeks, months or years that they had done so.

When the leader of the UUP went on ‘Good Morning Ulster’ to indicate why he was proceeding with this type of motion and not the exclusion motion of the DUP, he gave only one reason, and I quote:

"I think the motion that we tabled is much more likely to produce progress and to provide an opportunity to pull people together within the Assembly, rather than drive them apart."

I have not seen much evidence of people being pulled together, because the SDLP, who no doubt he wanted to pull towards him in the debate, has not been prepared to take the action that it should.

When SDLP Members wanted a determination from the Secretary of State on the UDA/UFF, they were on their feet, here and outside, calling on him to make that determination. However, when the finger is pointing towards their own Colleagues in Sinn Féin/IRA, they are strangely silent. It is the most sectarian decision that SDLP Members have taken, and they should be ashamed of themselves in taking that position.

The Provisional IRA has been involved in violence. That is not a matter of conjecture. It is not guesswork, spin or rumour; it is fact, and every Member in the House knows that. It is a fact that can be seen through convictions in the courts. Dead bodies are not rumours. The people on those Benches are in an organisation that is responsible for the death of all of those people, for the 250 shootings and punishment beatings — [Interruption].

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC 5:30 pm, 29th April 2002

Order. The Member will address his remarks through the Chair.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Madam Deputy Speaker, the Colombian incident is not a matter of rumour, it is a matter of fact. The gunrunning from Florida is a matter of fact, and everybody knows that. Members in the House need to face up to that reality. That organisation is not on ceasefire — it is getting itself ready for war. It is about time that the House realised that the Members sitting on those Benches are not peacemakers; they are people using a so-called peace process to get concessions from weak Unionists who are prepared to give them those concessions to keep the peace.

I read carefully in ‘The Sunday Times’ what the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party had to say after his meeting with Mr Adams. Mr Trimble said:

"I told them we were being seriously damaged by all of this and the way things are at the moment we would not be able to sustain the administration for very much longer. All you need is one more thing like Colombia or Castlereagh coming out and we will be sunk."

There you are. That is why the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party is concerned. He is not concerned about the duplicity of the Provisional IRA or the impact of the actions taken by the IRA; he is concerned only with his own position and how it affects his Administration. He is practically saying to the IRA "Cool it boys, or we are all sunk". That is the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party’s message to the Provisional IRA.

We all recognise that there is one reason why the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party is strutting around the Province beating his chest, and that is the proximity of an election. He fears that the case going before the House of Lords will expose him as an impostor and a cheat.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

The Member’s time is up. [Interruption].

Order. I will have dignity in the House.

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

There has been a huge amount of emotion expressed in the debate, not least from Unionist ranks. There has also been a huge amount of criticism coming from those Unionist ranks, and most of it is not against Republicanism but against David Trimble and the UUP.

It is important, in between the chanting from that corner, that we try to deal with the issues. We should not deal with them in an emotional manner — and we heard Mr Peter Robinson speak in that emotional, plaintive voice of his — but rather in a fashion that promotes some form of political analysis and some form of logical way forward.

As far as the IRA and Sinn Féin are concerned, the Colombian evidence is clear. Ms McWilliams said that there was no evidence. The evidence comes from the Committee on International Relations in the United States House of Representatives, chaired by Henry Hyde. [Interruption].

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

Mr McCartney’s remarks are beneath him, as they always are.

The Committee’s evidence states that

"two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), along with a representative of Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing, who was known to be stationed in Cuba and reportedly on the payroll of the Cuban Communist Party, were arrested … carrying false identification documents (passports) and were found to have traces of explosives on their clothing and on items in their luggage. Two of the Irish nationals were the IRA’s leading explosives engineer and a mortar expert."

It goes on to talk about the IRA involvement in training FARC, which it describes as

"the most dangerous international terrorist group based in this hemisphere".

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair)

It is clear that there is a case to answer. There may or may not be a case to answer about Castlereagh; I strongly believe that there is. There are claims that it is the work of securocrats. However, we are well versed in the way in which Republicans have conducted their debates and their arguments, where everything is deniable.

It seems to me that as far as Colombia, Washington and Castlereagh are concerned, a determination by the Secretary of State is the proper way forward. I have listened to the arguments about signing up to exclusion motions — we shall all have a vote next week, and we shall have another emotional rant, which is what we have been hearing. That vote will serve no purpose under the rules of the process.

I value that process. However, Republicans, the IRA and Sinn Féin have placed it in peril. Look at where we came from and the chaos that we left behind in trying to move to a future for the next generation and for ourselves. That future is now imperilled. We must use the process to move forward. A determination by the Secretary of State is the way forward.

If people are convinced that the IRA has broken its ceasefire, they should not have a problem with a determination being made by the Secretary of State. On the other hand, if Sinn Féin has no worries, why does it oppose the motion? It seems to me that both arguments are illogical. If that determination shows that the IRA has broken its ceasefire, there are consequences for all of us. The evidence and the facts are there.

In order to protect what we have achieved, as someone said, this is the way forward. The SDLP cannot walk away from this. It cannot all be blamed on securocrats. It is not deniable. It will not go away because Gerry Adams could not be bothered going to Washington, or because he was afraid to go. It will not be solved by Gerry Kelly’s simple attack on Unionism and Loyalism, and a failure to offer any explanation. The motion is about confidence in the process. The way forward is for all of us to take the decision that the motion requires as a first step. Nobody should have a problem with that.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin’s views, it seems to me, offer a logical argument for that next step. We shall then hear from the Secretary of State, take the next step and deal with this matter. We shall deal with it logically and unemotionally, because that is what society has charged us to do.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

I remind Members that if amendment No 1 is made, amendment No 2 will fall.

Question put

The Assembly divided: Ayes 29; Noes 59

Ayes

Fraser Agnew, Paul Berry, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Nigel Dodds, Boyd Douglas, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Robert McCartney, William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.

Noes

Ian Adamson, Billy Armstrong, Alex Attwood, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Eileen Bell, Esmond Birnie, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Annie Courtney, John Dallat, Ivan Davis, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Reg Empey, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Sam Foster, Tommy Gallagher, John Gorman, Tom Hamilton, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Derek Hussey, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, Lord Kilclooney, James Leslie, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Gerry McHugh, Eugene McMenamin, Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Sean Neeson, Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Danny O’Connor, Dara O’Hagan, Eamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, Ken Robinson, George Savage, John Tierney, David Trimble, Jim Wilson.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put,

The Assembly divided: Ayes 29; Noes 10

Ayes

Ian Adamson, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Eileen Bell, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, David Ford, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Tom Hamilton, Derek Hussey, Danny Kennedy, Lord Kilclooney, James Leslie, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Sean Neeson, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, David Trimble, Jim Wilson.

Noes

Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Alex Maskey, Barry McElduff, Gerry McHugh, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mary Nelis, Dara O’Hagan, Sue Ramsey.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin 5:45 pm, 29th April 2002

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Can you inform the House that, since the motion has now been amended, the Secretary of State will not be called on to make any statement — appropriate or otherwise — or to indicate any action that he intends to take?

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party 6:00 pm, 29th April 2002

That is correct.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 29; Noes 38

Ayes

Ian Adamson, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Eileen Bell, Esmond Birnie, Joan Carson, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Reg Empey, David Ford, Sam Foster, John Gorman, Tom Hamilton, Derek Hussey, Danny Kennedy, Lord Kilclooney, James Leslie, Kieran McCarthy, David McClarty, Alan McFarland, Michael McGimpsey, Sean Neeson, Dermot Nesbitt, Ken Robinson, George Savage, David Trimble, Jim Wilson.

Noes

Paul Berry, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Bairbre de Brún, Nigel Dodds, Oliver Gibson, William Hay, David Hilditch, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Alex Maskey, Robert McCartney, William McCrea, Barry McElduff, Gerry McHugh, Francie Molloy, Maurice Morrow, Conor Murphy, Mary Nelis, Dara O’Hagan, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Sue Ramsey, Iris Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Sammy Wilson.

Main Question, as amended, accordingly negatived.

Adjourned at 6.10 pm.