Victims’ Memorial Garden

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 1 October 2002.

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Photo of Mr Sam Foster Mr Sam Foster UUP 2:45, 1 October 2002

I beg to move

That this Assembly recognises the heartache and suffering of the families of victims who perished as a result of the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States and welcomes Her Majesty’s Government’s funding for a memorial garden in remembrance of those victims. Accordingly, this Assembly calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to extend the same respect to the victims who died as a result of terrorism in this part of the United Kingdom by financing the creation of a similar memorial garden in Great Britain.

Much comment has been made about victims over the years, and, of course, that has caused a great deal of heated discussion. The tabling of this motion comes on the back of recent press coverage of Rita Restorick’s request for Government funding for a memorial. Mrs Restorick is outraged by the refusal of Her Majesty’s Government to provide financial support for a memorial garden in Great Britain to commemorate soldiers who died as a result of terrorist acts during the Northern Ireland troubles.

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

Mrs Restorick asked the Government to pay for plaques for the trees in the Ulster Ash Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, at a cost of £72,000. At the moment, a plastic label engraved with the name of a victim is tied around each tree. There are 719 trees, each one representing a British soldier murdered in Northern Ireland. However, the Government said that they had a policy of not providing state funds for such memorials because "it would not be fair to be seen to support one group rather than another."

One can appreciate the difficulty that the Government face when dealing with the many requests for assistance. However, there is a clear lack of consistency in their actions, and they seem to have disregarded their policy.

On 13 August 2002, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced plans for a memorial garden to commemorate the victims of the 11 September attacks in the United States. The Government are contributing £1 million to the memorial at Grosvenor Square Garden in London. It is important to say that the victims of those terrorist attacks have a right to remember their loved ones that should not be denied. However, we should also be sensitive to the hearts of the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Essentially, the motion calls for equality of treatment: we wish to see parity of esteem. The families of the victims of 11 September should be able to remember their loved ones through a Government-financed memorial, and so too should the families of the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Security personnel and civilians who died as a result of terrorism should be recognised.

What have our Government done to remember the two people killed in the London docklands bomb in February 1996? In April 1993, an IRA bomb in Bishopsgate in London killed one person and injured 44. Just one year before that, three people were killed by an IRA bomb outside the Baltic Exchange in London. As far as I am aware, the Government have not directly funded any memorial for military personnel or civilians killed during the troubles.

There may be some confusion about whether we are calling for a separate memorial garden for civilians killed as a result of terrorism. The primary reason for the motion is to call on the Government to consistently adhere to their policy. For example, they should fund the plaques that Rita Restorick has been calling for. However, there is an argument that a memorial garden should be set up for civilian victims, funded by the Government.

While I was drafting this speech, I was amazed to find that the Government had consulted the families of victims of 11 September. What consultation have the Government undertaken recently with the families of the victims that I mentioned? The Government should not add to the pain and suffering of those families; they should be proud of those who, despite what some may suggest, lost their lives protecting everyone in Northern Ireland, regardless of which community they belonged to. I have a duty to those who were murdered because they paid the price for protecting me and you in this Province. Ironically, those soldiers protected the lives of people who will undoubtedly be opposed to the motion for political reasons. I hope that we will be able to have a sensible debate, and that we will not be dragged into the sectarian gutter.

It is vital to point out that, for the 719 British soldiers murdered, few murderers have been convicted. Families find it hard to deal with that pain, and our Government’s hypocrisy and double standards are only another kick in the teeth. While Her Majesty’s Government marked time, and, in doing so, offended many good and broken-hearted citizens, an event took place that was most offensive to those who had lost loved ones in the terrorist campaign. A gala dinner, held in Dublin some months ago, was organised by the IRA and graced — wait for it — by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Relatives were presented with a gold Easter lily for each of their dead.

That shows that an illegal army grouping is admired and recognised. Those terrorists who destroyed so many and so much over the past 30 years are seen as heroes because they destroyed so many people and broke so many hearts and homes. Meanwhile, all those innocents who suffer and sorrow over their loved ones wait in vain for some official recognition of the ash grove. That is due to an entrenched Ministry of Defence culture that says that when in the slightest doubt, it is best to do absolutely nothing. Nobody would ever say so publicly, but some officials, officers and politicians are bending over backwards not to offend the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

I think specifically of the many innocent victims who went out to do their daily chores and never returned to their loved ones. They had no intent to murder and maim. They did not go out in a premeditated fashion to murder anyone, whereas terrorists go out to destroy by whatever means.

I think deeply about the atrocities at La Mon House; Teebane; Greysteel; my home town of Enniskillen some 15 years ago; Kingsmills; Claudy, currently in the news due to the allegations coming to the fore; and Omagh, the worst atrocity in size. Those were terrible acts and inhumane deeds against a community. Are they ever pardonable? They are but a few of the brutal acts of aggression perpetrated against this community. Concentrate your mind on the blood, broken bodies and broken hearts in the aftermath. Those hearts and minds were torn asunder, never to be the same again. What a horrible thought. What an affliction upon so many innocents, yet recognition of those victims is begrudged.

All compassionate people will support the motion. Innocent victims are those who suffered at the hands of terrorists. Innocents do not go out in a premeditated fashion to murder and to destroy. It was not because of any commission or lack of commission on their part that they became victims.

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

I have received one amendment to the motion, which is published on the Marshalled List of amendments.

Photo of Paul Berry Paul Berry DUP

I beg to move the following amendment: In line 6, after "respect to the", insert: "innocent".

I commend our Colleagues for tabling the motion.

It is right and proper that we discuss this sensitive issue. The events of September 11 have drawn worldwide attention to terrorism as a gross and wicked evil that must be eradicated. When bin Laden and his cohorts blew up the twin towers on September 11, he also blew up the polite fiction of romantic terrorism, which was widespread in New York regarding the ferocious, murderous and bloodthirsty campaign of Sinn Féin/IRA. We had to suffer that murder campaign for 30 years, but, sadly, many turned a blind eye to those activities. It seems that the innocent who were made to suffer so much are at last getting some deserved recognition. However, even in this, we must tread carefully.

The amendment in the name of my Colleague Maurice Morrow and me seeks to make clear precisely who the victims are, and there is a need to do so. As one writer put it:

"this is in part because the mind-twisting of the terrorist feeds the moral confusion of the West’s" — the UK’s — "corrupted liberal orthodoxy. This sees a moral equivalence between terror and measures to protect against it. Believing there is no such thing as truth, it embraces lies instead and cannot distinguish victims from their victimisers."

There is a moral imperative to distinguish between those who perpetrate crime and those who are the innocent victims of that crime. Failure to do so leads to, and creates, injustice and moral confusion. The current vogue for making everyone a victim is a direct result of the denial of moral absolutes, which is the key feature of our post-modern age.

There is a difference between those who were murdered at Greysteel, Kingsmills, Narrow Water Castle, Claudy, Omagh and, regrettably, a host of other atrocities, and those who committed such crimes. Those murdered were people going about their normal activities, whether at the shops, at work, in their church or in a pub socialising. Those are the kinds of people who were hated by terrorists no matter what side of the community they came from. They were considered as legitimate targets and were thus killed or maimed. They deserve our tears, and they deserve to be remembered.

People who set out to kill, maim and destroy deserve no tears. Whatever political logic led them to such acts did not, and does not, justify the murder, death and destruction of our innocent people. Their names should be held in contempt, as they are by decent and honourable people. They committed atrocities and heinous crimes against innocent people, and their names should not be recorded on any memorial bearing victims’ names. Many people find it sickening that those who have been active in terrorism, or who have supported it, try to excuse themselves by claiming an affinity with, and to be included in, the concept of a victim.

There is no moral equivalence between a bomber and a victim. We hear the sentimental nonsense that we are all victims. That is nothing but an attempt to excuse the perpetrators and to shift the blame to the innocent victims — as if they were partly responsible for the crime. It is to say that victims were responsible for their own deaths or injuries at the hands of terrorists. That does a double disservice to the victim and is morally repugnant to all right-thinking people.

It is imperative that a distinction be made clearly today. If it is not, the Assembly will demonstrate that it lacks the moral principles to distinguish between right and wrong. Are we to say that there is a similarity between the terrorists and the workmen murdered at Teebane, or those murdered in the bookie’s shop on the Ormeau Road? I do not think so. So long as the command not to murder remains, the distinction between the victim and the perpetrator will also remain.

I have spoken to victims’ groups on many occasions. It always came across clearly that they did not want to be remembered alongside those who claimed to be victims but were really perpetrators of heinous crimes. It was also clear that terrorists, from whatever side of the community, had a choice. People in Greysteel, enjoying a pint with their neighbours and friends, did not have a choice about being murdered: it was placed on them, and crime and murder prevailed.

Terrorists do not understand exactly what has happened. They had the choice to go out and kill, or to not go out and kill. Sadly they went out and killed innocent people. Victims — from whatever side of the community — did not have a choice, whether they were worshipping God in Darkley Gospel Hall, or having a pint in Greysteel or anywhere else across the country. Gunmen came in and murdered them in front of everyone.

I support the amendment.

Photo of Dr Joe Hendron Dr Joe Hendron Social Democratic and Labour Party

On Friday 28 June I held my last surgery in primary care — I had been in practice for around 40 years. I could go on for hours, as could many Members, about the victims who were slaughtered and about the families who are still trying to pick up the pieces.

Like other Members, I attended the funerals and looked into the graves — some of the people had been my patients. I remember attending to a young soldier on the Falls Road as he breathed his last breath. Everything that I have been taught and every feeling that I have makes me deeply resentful of taking human life, no matter whose life it is. No person has a right to take anyone else’s life — whether inside or outside the womb — and I feel very strongly about that.

In all my years in primary care I had much experience of dealing with families who have had someone taken away. It was usually the father who was taken, although occasionally it was the mother. We had the case of Jean McConville, the mother of 10, who has been mentioned again recently.

I also deeply resent the fact that young families are reared without their fathers every day of the week and every week of the year. It is not surprising that some of those young children, partly because of what happened to their fathers, become involved in the wrong activities, even paramilitary activities. I could go on for hours about that.

I have talked about those who have died; but there are also the injured bodies. I have known several policemen who have suffered horrific injuries. One or two of them are in wheelchairs, and their suffering continues. Children who are now adults still carry scars. However, it is not only about the scars on people’s bodies, but about the scars on people’s hearts and on the two communities in Northern Ireland. I think it was Churchill who said that the alternative to peace was war. However, the reverse is also true: the alternative to war is peace.

The Assembly has no control over demands made of the Government in Britain. The idea of a memorial garden for all the victims of the troubles is a good one in principle, but it must be achieved through a broad political consensus. The location of such a garden, its nature and style, and whom it should commemorate are important considerations. That consensus should involve Nationalists, Republicans, Unionists and Loyalists; otherwise it becomes a points-scoring exercise. We have only to think of Loyalist and Republican memorials and the strife, division and hatred that they cause. Consensus has not been reached, because the community has not come to terms with its history. Therefore, the question is premature.

All victims of the troubles should be acknowledged, both individually and collectively. We have supported the Executive’s extensive proposals for assisting victims. We have advocated the establishment, from public funds, of a centre for reconciliation, which would contain a state-of-the-art audio-visual archive in a central public building. Such a centre would allow visitors to hear testimonies from victims or their families. That has happened in South Africa. Moreover we would see what was happening in the process of cross-community reconciliation, and we approve of an annual day of reconciliation.

I often wonder what we can do for those who have died. My party has made proposals in that regard. However, some people would say that the mightiest voice of all is the voice of God, and I accept that. As a Christian, I remember the words of the old song:

"If those lips could only speak

If those eyes could only see".

If only those who have been killed could speak to us. I have no monopoly on what they might say, but I feel in my heart that they would not want revenge or war. They would want peace for their families and a future for their children. It is important to remember the dead, but let us help those who have suffered. I know that many are trying to do that.

Above all, the biggest tribute that we could pay to the dead of Northern Ireland — whether soldiers, police officers or civilians — would be to make the structures of the Assembly work. The Assembly is the future for the people, especially the children, of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Pat McNamee Mr Pat McNamee Sinn Féin 3:00, 1 October 2002

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Tá cúpla focal le rá agam. While the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement head for collapse, we have yet another selective motion on victims from the Ulster Unionist Party.

There are two parts to the motion. The first part deals with the events of 11 September. I have no difficulty in recognising the heartache, suffering, loss and grief of the families of all the victims of the attack on the twin towers. That part of the motion makes no distinction between any of the victims of that terrible event. It equally recognises Irish Americans, English Americans, other nationalities and ethnic groups; it makes no distinction between blacks, whites and people from other ethnic backgrounds; and it gives equal recognition to the manual workers who were carrying out maintenance work on the building and to the company executives who worked there — all of whom perished.

Photo of Esmond Birnie Esmond Birnie UUP

Does the Member accept that the point about the memorial in London is that it does draw a distinction? It draws a distinction between those who died in the twin towers as a result of terrorism and those who were sadly responsible for flying the aircraft into the towers — the terrorists. That is the crucial distinction. What the Member says, therefore, is not relevant.

Photo of Mr Pat McNamee Mr Pat McNamee Sinn Féin

I do not accept that my remarks are not relevant. All the victims of the events of 11 September are equally recognised in the terms of this motion. There should be no distinction between the victims. All the victims and their families should receive equal recognition.

However, the second part of the motion calls for the finance to create a memorial garden

"to the victims who died as a result of terrorism in this part of the United Kingdom".

Who will define terrorism? Members know what the Ulster Unionist Party and others mean by the "victims" of terrorism. They focus first on the victims of IRA and Republican actions and then, selectively, on the victims of other paramilitary groups. In doing so, they exclude the victims of British state forces and the victims of British collusion in this part of Ireland and in the rest of Ireland. The motion refers to victims in this part of Ireland and, in doing so, excludes victims in the rest of Ireland and in Britain.

The motion excludes the families of the victims of the Monaghan and Dublin bombings. That exclusive approach to victims is part of a wider and deeper problem in Unionism. We are eight years into the peace process, yet Unionists seem not to be prepared to accept that conflict resolution means a recognition of all victims of the conflict equally. There can be no hierarchy of victims.

The section of the Good Friday Agreement titled "Reconciliation and Victims of Violence" states that

"it is essential to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation."

"Acknowledge" and "address" are the key words.

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

Please bear with me, Mr McNamee. Yesterday, during the debate on the Belfast Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre, which I thought was a crucial issue, I was disappointed that some Members were indulging in private conversations while Members spoke. This debate is also on a serious issue and, again, I am disappointed to find some Members carrying on private conversations.

Photo of Mr Pat McNamee Mr Pat McNamee Sinn Féin

Mr Deputy Speaker, I assure you that I am not engaging in a private conversation. What I have to say is for the public to hear. The Good Friday Agreement states that it is essential to "acknowledge" and "address" the issues of all victims. Republicans have publicly acknowledged the suffering of all victims, but I do not hear anything from Unionists thus far that recognises or acknowledges all the victims of the conflict.

In my constituency of Newry and Armagh, Peter Cleary was abducted and shot dead. He was unarmed and had been searched, and he was shot dead by members of the British Army. Majella O’Hare was a schoolgirl when she was shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment.

The motion seeks to exclude the families of those victims and to deny their loss and suffering. Many people are observing the current situation, the Ulster Unionist Party and the political institutions that arose from the Good Friday Agreement. There is a belief that Ulster Unionism is walking away from the agreement before it walks away from the institutions in January. Another paragraph in the Good Friday Agreement says that

"It is recognised that victims have a right to remember as well as to contribute to a changed society. The achievement of a peaceful and just society would be the true memorial to the victims of violence."

The DUP has tabled an amendment that seeks to exclude victims’ families further. It wishes to reduce the recognition of victims to "innocent" victims. Who will determine whether victims were innocent? Will the DUP decide? The DUP seeks to label some victims as innocent and, by implication, others as guilty. We have heard a great deal about the victims of Republican violence, and I acknowledge and accept the suffering that the actions of Republicans and the IRA have caused to the victims and their families. However, in recent months, Loyalist violence has been responsible for taking people’s lives, and for making women widows and children parentless. That violence represents the greatest threat to the peace process and the process of reconciliation.

I support a call for the British Government to finance a memorial garden to acknowledge all the victims of the conflict here over the past 30 years. Sinn Féin is willing to acknowledge the suffering of all victims, including those to whom Mr Foster and Mr Berry referred. However, it will not support a motion that seeks to remember some victims and exclude others.

Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Mr Norman Boyd Mr Norman Boyd NIUP

It is right and proper that Her Majesty’s Government provide and fund a memorial garden to commemorate the victims of the 11 September attacks. They were victims of appalling acts of terrorism against democracy and freedom. On 13 August, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at Westminster, referred to the memorial garden for the 11 September victims. She stated:

"Our intention is to provide a garden that will be simple, dignified and designed to the highest quality. It will also allow for privacy and seclusion for visitors. The families affected have, of course, been consulted and the design draws on their suggestions."

However, the same rights should apply to the innocent victims who died as a result of terrorism in Northern Ireland. It is essential that Her Majesty’s Government treat them equally. Regrettably, instead of the victims being treated with dignity and respect, Her Majesty’s Government are treating them in a disgraceful way for political expediency. It is a scandal that relatives of servicemen who were murdered in Northern Ireland must pay £100 each if they want a permanent memorial plaque erected in memory of their loved ones. A date has not even been arranged for the dedication of a memorial garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Some regiments have agreed to pay for plaques, but others have said that the cost is prohibitive, as they have lost so many men.

It is appalling that the victims’ families have been left to pay for memorial plaques for their loved ones who made the supreme sacrifice for their country against the evils of terrorism. A special dedication service for the innocent victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland was due to have taken place in September 2001 at the Ulster Ash Grove Memorial, but Her Majesty’s Government have yet to arrange it.

According to the ‘Daily Express’ of 29 April 2002, an Army source claimed that Ministry of Defence officials are worried about sending out the wrong signals by holding an official ceremony while the peace process is at a delicate stage. The Army source added that no one would ever say so publicly, but there are officials, officers and politicians who are bending over backwards not to offend the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. That is a scandal. It is essential that the innocent victims who were murdered as a result of terrorism here receive the same respect from Her Majesty’s Government as the victims of 11 September.

I support the amended motion. A distinction must be made between the innocent victims murdered by the evils of terrorism and the terrorists who perpetrated such atrocities. All decent, law-abiding people know the difference. However, the tablers of the motion displayed grave hypocrisy. They compounded the hurt of the victims of terrorists and their families by placing the political wing of the Provisional IRA in the Government of Northern Ireland.

The families of those murdered by terrorists are justifiably angry that their loved ones have died in vain. The tablers of the motion and their party must recognise that we have a duty as democrats to uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It would therefore be a fitting tribute to the memory of the innocent victims and a fundamental requirement of democracy to exclude terrorists from the Government of Northern Ireland with immediate effect.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP 3:15, 1 October 2002

I support the amendment proposed by my Colleague Paul Berry. It gives me an opportunity to highlight the issue on behalf of the innocent victims. There has been a shortfall in the Government’s attitude towards the victims of terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland. I wonder what the reasons are for not acknowledging people here; perhaps we are too far away. Many people think that the Government feel that they do not need to bother with us.

The catalogue of callous disregard for the innocent victims of terrorist activity in the Province is highlighted by the compensation procedure. Widows and parents of police officers were offered a few hundred pounds in compensation for the loss of their spouses or children. We recently heard how surviving victims who tried to obtain compensation have been treated for years. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the Government have never offered to build a memorial garden for the innocent victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

There is no sign to future generations of the hurt and pain that this country has felt for the past 30 years, except the feelings in the hearts of those who have lost loved ones. There is no monument to the people who were butchered for someone else’s cause, some by people associated with this Chamber, according to the headlines in yesterday’s papers.

I, and many Members, have lost friends at the hands of people who stated that the deaths and carnage were acceptable war losses in their fight for patriotism. What is sickening is that I can see the faces and names of my friends and many others. I have an RUC poster on the wall of my office — Members may have similar pictures in their advice centres — that has the pictures and names of all the police officers who gave their lives in the service of Queen and country, the people and their families. Each picture tells a story of sacrifice.

Neither outsiders who visit this country nor future generations will be able to recall the names or faces of the victims. That situation must be rectified now. We must have a more significant memorial than the poster in my office.

There is no Christian way to deal with the pain other than to respect those who lost their lives in this country by establishing a lasting memorial of some kind. The bombs and bullets used against the people of this country shattered not only lives and families, they fractured communities. Every gramme of Semtex and every ounce of lead used against the people of the Province deepened the polarisation of the country.

The Labour Government have not aided the healing process; they have snubbed the hurt, the bereaved and the angry. Many people are angry about their treatment of victims. The Labour Government recognise Her Majesty’s subjects who died in America — as do we — or those who died in other war-torn parts of the world. However, they have never proposed such recognition of the people from all parts of the United Kingdom and Europe who were murdered right on their doorstep. There is no difference between the victims of al-Qaeda, ETA or the IRA. We must ask why the Government have never proposed a memorial to the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Words alone cannot explain to others the pain and hurt experienced when a loved one has been brutally snatched from a loving home. However, a place of reflection and sanctity that honours the victims gives families a focus for their healing, or their anger at what has taken place. It is a permanent reminder of those who have been killed, so that their sacrifice is not forgotten and the abhorrent actions of those who work for a mythical cause are not brushed under the carpet and overlooked in all the rhetoric of the peace process.

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

Is it not significant that, in the British House of Commons, there is no memorial to the Rev Robert Bradford, although there are such memorials to Airey Neave and others? When a motion was tabled by some Unionist Members acting across the board, it was rejected.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP

I thank the hon Member for his contribution, which puts matters in clear perspective. There is selective recognition at Westminster. The murders of Airey Neave and Robert Bradford were equal in their horror and the impact that they had on their families, and they should have been recognised and remembered equally at Westminster as many of us remember them here.

In January 1970, during the Vietnam War, Major Michael Davis O’Donnell illustrated succinctly the thoughts of the ordinary citizens of this country when they are asked whether there should be a memorial to the victims of the troubles. His troubles were in a different place, and yet he opposed a faceless danger that was similar to that which the security forces and the innocent victims of this country have faced here over the years. The danger that he faced was similar to that faced by the ordinary people of Northern Ireland who died on our streets and thus became our heroes, and who remain in our past as a testimony to how much we have all suffered and how much we have lost. Major O’Donnell wrote:

"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always.

Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."

The veterans of the Vietnam War had to fight hard for many years — and I draw the comparison with Northern Ireland — before their memorial was built, 20 years ago this year. I do not want the families or the innocent victims of terrorism in this country to have to fight for long years to get an appropriate and lasting memorial to their loved ones.

Memorial gardens in different towns have been subject to the horrors of the troubles, and some of those memorials, especially those of soldiers, have been vandalised. That has happened to a memorial to four UDR men from the Strangford constituency who were murdered by the IRA some years ago outside Downpatrick. The IRA — scum that they are — destroyed and desecrated that memorial, which the families had visited regularly and at which they had laid flowers. For a short time it was a memorial to their loved ones in that part of the country. The IRA destroyed that; they are the sort of people who have no respect for the memories of those who have given everything for this country.

We seek a place that is dedicated to those whom we have lost along the way — one place to which anyone can go to learn about the horror visited upon us for more than 30 years on the pretext of patriotism but which showed us how palpable evil really is. It is only right that the Labour Government afford the people of Northern Ireland the same respect that the victims of 11 September have been afforded in England, Wales, Scotland and elsewhere. After all, those victims have all been killed at the hands of terrorists, just as they have in this country. I support the amendment.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

I am honoured to support the motion. It is an important issue for the thousands of victims of 30 years of terrorist murder and mayhem, which blighted the landscape of Northern Ireland and which left many without a father, mother, brother, sister or other relative. As a former member of the security forces, I have long recognised the work being carried out to protect everyone in Northern Ireland. Today, memories of past atrocities are still vivid in the minds of many people, despite the imperfect peace. Although people can move forward, they can never forget their loved ones who died as a result of cowards and terrorists; nor should they.

I have not had the opportunity to visit the Ulster Ash Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire — established by private funds and largely the work of David Childs — but one day I would like to make the trip. However, I have been reading some comments about its appearance and the effect that it has had on some people who visited it. Rita Restorick commented that a figure or statistic on a piece of paper, which represents the number of military killed, does not hit the mind hard enough. She said that when one sees the small forest of trees, the loss and murder hits home much more.

Our Government’s policy on the matter of a permanent memorial to honour those who gave their lives is shameful. In Northern Ireland, more than 700 military personnel gave their lives on behalf of their country. However, our Government — the Government of their country — does not fund a memorial. That is hurtful and disingenuous to their memory.

Her Majesty’s Government recently announced their intention to create a permanent memorial to commemorate those who died as a result of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Although I do not object to that decision, the Government should look closer to home and seek to honour our own who lost their lives because of terrorists. We heard recently how the Ministry of Defence failed to fund permanent plaques on memorial trees in the National Memorial Arboretum.

In March, I was disgusted to hear that the families of IRA terrorists had been treated to a gala dinner in honour of members of the Provisional IRA. Imagine how the families of those brutally murdered by the same IRA men reacted when they heard those reports. They would have felt betrayed and disgusted.

In a recent newspaper article, SDLP Member Patricia Lewsley said that a traditional memorial would be too controversial. I refute that argument unreservedly. What is controversial about honouring those who died for the sake of their country in the war against terrorism? Certain officials have been quoted as saying that an official memorial would send out the wrong signals. It is time that our Government stood up for what is right and stopped courting paramilitaries.

In 1998 the Bloomfield Report, titled ‘We Will Remember Them’, recommended a memorial to victims in the form of a beautiful building with a peaceful garden. I reiterate that call and demand that our Westminster Government honour all those who have honoured us. They have let the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland down yet again. It is time to create a memorial garden.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell DUP

It is always a privilege to follow the vivid and lucid arguments of Mr Armstrong. I thank the proposers of the motion and the amendment, and I add my support.

The critical words of the motion are "heartache and suffering"; there has been much of that over the past 34 years, and it continues. Another important word is contained in the amendment, and that is "innocent". That word is a crucial part of the motion. Earlier in the debate we heard an attempted defence — if there could be one — of the spurious argument to equate those who plant bombs with those who suffer because of them. That argument attempts to say that he who pulls the trigger is as much a victim as the person who receives the bullet, which is nonsensical. If we took that to its logical conclusion, we should ask the American Government to pay tribute to the suicide bombers in the planes, as well as to the innocent victims who suffered in the World Trade Centre. That is utter and total nonsense.

However, there is, of course, political reasoning behind that.

It is one by which they try to ensure that people will eventually be persuaded that this was a conflict of equals — that the farmer who farmed the fields was as guilty as the person who hid in the hedgerow to kill him. They try to say that the bus driver in Londonderry was as guilty as the mob from the Provisional IRA — not the Continuity IRA, or the Real IRA — who stepped on-board his bus and attempted to kill him a few days ago. Their guns were anything but silent on that occasion.

The crucial word is "innocent". The community demands that the Assembly distinguish between people who suffer as a result of violence and those who perpetrate violence. There cannot be any equivocation in the moral argument between perpetrator and victim. I, therefore, heartily endorse the motion. I hope that the House will endorse it and that Her Majesty’s Government will fund such a memorial garden.

Photo of Mr Maurice Morrow Mr Maurice Morrow DUP 3:30, 1 October 2002

The tenor of the motion and the amendment was never to be that all victims were on one side. I recognise that there were innocent victims on both sides of the religious divide in the community. Many people from the Roman Catholic tradition were murdered. I condemn those killings with the same ferocity as I condemn the killing of those who are perceived to come from my community.

During my time in public life — around 29 years in Dungannon District Council — I have never sought to take the easy path of only condemning the killing of members of my own community. I condemned all killings. I live in what was then deemed to be the "murder triangle", where many innocent people were killed simply because of who they were.

I never differentiated in my condemnation. When I condemned killings, I did not insert any "ifs", "ands" or "buts". I was clear and unequivocal in my condemnation of the killing of people whom I believed to be innocent and who were killed simply because of who they were.

I welcome the fact that the proposers of the motion have agreed to include the one-word amendment — "innocent" — because Members on this side of the House make a difference between innocent victims and those who perpetrate terror. I want to make it clear that there is a distinct difference. There must be a clear demarcation line between people who perpetrate such crimes and those who are on the receiving end of them.

I listened with interest to what Mr Armstrong said, although, I confess, I did not pick up everything. However, one point struck me. He said that the Government must stop pandering to terrorists. I agree. However, was it not his party that went arm in arm into the talks with those have been fully engaged in terrorism during the past 30 years to hammer out the Belfast Agreement? The Belfast Agreement brought about the Assembly. Therefore, those who were engaged in acts of terrorism have helped to keep Mr Armstrong’s party leader in Government. Had those two supporters, who would be aligned to a particular organisation, withdrawn their support, then Mr Armstrong’s party leader would not be in place today. I see that Mr Armstrong is telling me that he supports emphatically his party leader. Therefore, he is part of that pandering to terrorists.

In my estimation, 11 September 2001 was the defining moment for the free world. On that dreadful day, the world saw the awfulness of terrorism at first hand. Was it not ironic that terrorism should hit a country that has, to say the least, been ambivalent in its condemnation of terrorism in Northern Ireland? We have repeatedly seen television coverage of that awful event. Hardly a month goes past without its being reshown to remind us. As we watch the footage of those planes crashing into the high-rise buildings, the awfulness, rawness and dreadfulness of terrorism, whether in America or Northern Ireland, is brought home vividly.

We have had to endure 30 years of terrorism. I do not remember many presidents getting worked up about what was happening here. Indeed, I hold the previous President, Clinton, more accountable than any other world leader for giving encouragement, succour and support to terrorists in Northern Ireland. He helped to build them up, and they are now recognised as statesmen. They have been elevated to the same level as those of us who passionately believe in the ballot box — and the ballot box alone — to put people into power.

Some people sit in the Assembly and in the Government by virtue of the barrel of a gun. The rest of us do not have any private armies. Until those private armies are destroyed, we cannot hold out much hope for the future peace in this country.

I will be delighted when steps are taken to recognise the innocent victims. Not all victims are dead: many are still alive. The town of Claudy is back in the news headlines this morning. We have heard about a young nine-year-old lassie who was blown to pieces while cleaning the window of her father’s shop. If anyone was an innocent victim, it was that wee lassie. She epitomises what we are trying to say through the motion.

I urge everyone to support the amended motion, without any ifs, ands or buts. I say to those on the opposite Benches that we have no hidden agenda in bringing the amendment. We do not isolate victims and say that they all came from our side of the community, for that was not the case. There were victims on both sides of the community. All innocent victims should be recognised equally.

However, we draw a clear distinction between perpetrators and sufferers. It is imperative that the two are not mixed up, because to do so would be to be highly offensive. It would be an insult for the real victims if those who perpetrated crimes were remembered by the same memorial as those who are now in their graves because of those crimes.

I use but one illustration; I could use hundreds of others. For instance, how would the families of those killed in the fish shop on Shankill Road feel if the person who planted the bomb and the victims of that bomb were all classed as victims? It is not acceptable. We want to recognise the real victims, irrespective of which section of the community they came from, and I urge the Assembly to follow suit.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I am slightly disappointed at the attendance in the Chamber for this debate. Although I accept that the matter is not the direct responsibility of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, the junior Ministers have some responsibility in that regard, and I am disappointed that they are not present.

I thank all the Members who contributed to the debate, particularly those who endorsed the motion and those who proposed the amendment. This issue is clearly important and deserves the attention, not only of Members, but of Her Majesty’s Government, within whose remit it falls. The motion refers to the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and Her Majesty’s Government’s entirely appropriate response to them, which involves providing a memorial to the British victims murdered in that atrocity. I was pleased that many Members agreed that such a memorial should be provided to commemorate that dreadful event.

The motion is also intended to encourage and persuade Her Majesty’s Government to recognise the great sacrifices made by the people of Northern Ireland and by all those who died as a result of terrorism, in whatever form, in the conflict here. As was mentioned in the debate, recommendations were included in a report by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, but action has yet to be taken on some of them. I thank my Colleague Sam Foster, who has already said that the amendment should be included in the motion. The amendment helps to convey the intended message to the Government.

Many victims’ groups are exploring ways to create lasting memorials to reflect the pain and great suffering that has been endured in the past generation, and many of those plans are advanced. Given the importance of this issue, it might be practical to build several memorial gardens in Northern Ireland so that relatives could access them easily. Memorial centres would complement any national or regional memorial dedicated to the innocent victims who were caught up in the conflict here. I trust that, as groups advance their local proposals, they will receive practical and financial support to construct those memorial gardens.

It is essential that soldiers from regiments based in the UK mainland and Commonwealth countries who died defending the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland be remembered in memorials created here. I represent a constituency in which many members of the security forces lost their lives, and I recognise that the memory of everyone who died should be cherished.

Some have questioned the purpose of memorial gardens. I see them as a place for quiet reflection, where relatives could express their grief, but also gain comfort, great support and encouragement as they seek to rebuild their lives. They would be seen as symbols of renewal and reconciliation and would generate hope and inspire people to look to the future. They could provide opportunities for training and employment, as well as allowing others to share the great deep emotions that the victims have unfortunately experienced.

In his opening remarks, Mr Foster referred to Mrs Rita Restorick’s campaign for a memorial in the Ulster Ash Grove. Bessbrook Mill is the main base for the security forces in south Armagh, and in its inner courtyard, memorial trees have been planted and named, and plaques have been erected to commemorate the past generation of soldiers who lost their lives. Unfortunately, given the nature of that installation, public access is restricted.

I thank Mr Berry, whose moral distinctions were correct. He outlined that there was a choice between right and wrong.

I thank Joe Hendron for his almost lone presence on behalf of the SDLP, and acknowledge his well-known opposition to all levels of violence, especially in the constituency that he represents here, and that he has represented in Westminster. I should like, at the very least, to acknowledge his presence and his contribution.

In respect of the comments of the Sinn Féin Member, Mr McNamee, if these institutions are heading for collapse, the fault clearly lies with the Republican movement. There is a very great difference between innocent victims and the victims of self-inflicted violence, which has been the pattern of Northern Ireland’s history in recent years. Furthermore, Mr McNamee referred to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I remind him that the text of the motion leaves that area outside this jurisdiction.

I thank Mr Boyd, and agree that it is scandalous that the Ministry of Defence does not move forward, even in respect of memorial payments in other parts of the United Kingdom.

I acknowledge the support of Jim Shannon, and I share his concern that the recognition of this issue is, in some places, highly selective, especially at Westminster.

My Colleagues Billy Armstrong and Sam Foster condemned the recent jamboree organised by the IRA, at which, apparently, medals were handed out. It remains to be seen whether that is the clearest sign so far that the war is over, but it seriously offended the law-abiding people from both of Northern Ireland’s main traditions.

I thank Mr Campbell and Mr Morrow for their clear support for the motion and for the amendment. Mr Morrow reminded the House that the Ulster Unionist Party had co-operated to some extent with what might be termed the Loyalist parties in the House, and he criticised the party for that. I remind him that when the Loyalist paramilitaries announced their ceasefire they expressed abject remorse to the victims of their violence. Rather unfortunately, Mr Morrow criticised my Colleague Billy Armstrong. Mr Armstrong wore the uniform of the security forces — something that cannot be said by every Member of the House — and helped — [Interruption].

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I am almost finished. He helped to play his part and was, in fact, involved in an incident that almost claimed his life and those of his colleagues. It is unfortunate — [Interruption].

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

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There was an implied criticism of Mr Morrow. Mr Morrow was a member of Her Majesty’s security forces; therefore, I do not want to hear any snide remarks from Mr Kennedy. He ought to have given way like a man.

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

Thank you, Dr Paisley. Strictly, that was not a point of order.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I did not address my remarks to Mr Morrow alone. I simply said that not every Member could say that he or she wore the uniform of the security forces. I have no record of service in the security forces but I do, at least, recognise that Mr Armstrong made a contribution, as did other Members. Therefore, that was an unfortunate misunderstanding.

The support for the debate heartens me. It has been conducted in a mature fashion. I am sorry that attendance levels were not high. However, the issue is important, and it is to be hoped that the Government will take note; take speedy action to resolve the situation; and move in this spirit to create a lasting memorial to the innocent victims of the conflict.

Question, That the amendment be made,

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That this Assembly recognises the heartache and suffering of the families of victims who perished as a result of the September 11th terrorist attack in the United States and welcomes Her Majesty’s Government’s funding for a memorial garden in remembrance of those victims. Accordingly, this Assembly calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to extend the same respect to the innocent victims who died as a result of terrorism in this part of the United Kingdom by financing the creation of a similar memorial garden in Great Britain.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. During the debate on credit card abuse, Conor Murphy questioned whether I had registered an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board between 1996 and 1998. The relevant Clerk has advised me that there is no need for former members of the Tourist Board to be listed and that the register lists current or expected interests.

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

That was not a point of order, Mr Kennedy, but it was proper to give you the opportunity to put that on the record.

Adjourned at 3.53 pm.